Gaming in 2018 has been pretty spectacular so far. At the end of March we published a list of the “best games of the year (so far)” that was packed with quality games like Moss, Celeste and Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. We had so much fun putting that list together that we decided we were going to do it at the end of every quarter and use the 4 articles we’d produce over the year as the basis for our Game of the Year discussions as well as some “Wild card” entries voted for by our readers – more on that later in the year.
So, we turned our attention to Quarter 2 of 2018 and deciding on just 10 of the “best games” was a tough one. There have been a plethora of high quality games released in April, May and June from AAA blockbusters to genre defining indie games, inspiration projects to landmark industry moments. In short, it has been a stunning 3 months. Without further ado, allow me to introduce our list of “The 10 Best Games of 2018 (So Far) – Quarter 2 Edition”…
1. God of War
Let’s start with the easy one. The adventures of Kratos had never been about narrative nuances. His quest for revenge, unbridled rage and near constant Deicide made playing as the young impetuous Kratos a cathartic but 2 dimensional experience. It took me entirely by surprise then that Sony’s Santa Monica studios had manage to revamp the character for a new age by giving him an adventure full of subtlety, symbolism, character development and, most importantly, heart. There’s so many granular details to unpack in God of War’s story – Kratos’ role in Atreus’ emotional maturity, a reflection on the antics of his past self and the acceptance of it as part of his character, the relationship between power and responsibility and so, so much more – that I thoroughly expect there to be an entire generation of students writing dissertations on it. The fact that the game can contain this plot strength while still delivering a jaw dropping world, deeply satisfying combat, exciting set pieces and boss battles worthy of the God of War name is nothing short of miraculous. God of War is easily one of the best games of 2018 so far and has raised the bar for third person action adventure games.
Plus, you get to punch through the top of chests instead of opening them. It’s a GOTY contender just for that, to be honest.
2. Yoku’s Island Express
Combining metroidvania platforming with pinball isn’t something new to video gaming but no game has done it as well as Yoku’s Island Express. When Rossko reviewed the game (awarding it a 9/10) he said “it’s polished within an inch of its life and plays as such, drawing you in with its sumptuous watercolour visuals and keeping you around for its wonderful pinball mechanics that makes exploring a delight”. This is something everyone at FNGR GNS agrees with making it one of the easiest choices for this list. There’s this levity and fun that permeates almost every aspect of Yoku’s Island Express that makes it a pure joy to play. You can’t help but bop along to the music, smile at the game play and marvel at the charm this game has. If you’ve yet to join the Express Delivery Service, it’s time to roll up a ball of dung and get in on the action.
3. Shift Quantum
One of the greatest additions to Shift Quantum – a puzzle platformer that ingeniously uses 2 different planes in which you can flip between – are the creation tools. It’s here, when you’re trying to create your own puzzles for others to solve, that you really begin to appreciate the game design mastery and mechanical intricacies that the core game makes look so easy. In my review for the game I said that it’s a “puzzle game that’s full of moments that’ll make you feel like a genius, will make you say ‘Of course! Why didn’t I see it before’” and that “if you like a good headscartcher, I highly recommend Shift Quantum”. What’s more, more than a month after finishing it, this is still a game I’m revisiting regularly (which is a bit of an oddity for me, I must say). Despite its familiar visuals, there’s nothing else quite like Quantum Shift and it’s more than deserving of featuring in this list of best games of 2018 so far.
There’s not many gaming experiences that have arrived in 2018 that rival a really good run out with Onrush. Pushing that Rush button, smashing through the field, swatting a bike out of the air before landing a barrel roll on a Titan below is stuff dreams are made of and something Onrush makes a reality. Unsatisfied with making just another racer, the Evolution Studios team joined Codemasters to create an uncompromised experience that feels unique in its tactical complexities and equally simplistic in its moments of cathartic destruction. Visually sublime and with meaty “car noise” that’s enough to make Jeremy Clarkson weep with joy, Onrush is a treat for the senses. Rossko reviewed it and said “Onrush isn’t trying to be anything other than an outrageously brilliant videogame and that’s exactly what it is. I love it. I absolutely bloody love it”. Needless to say then, it’s one of the best games we’ve played in 2018 so far and as far as we’re concerned, a real GOTY contender.
Dontnod don’t do anything by half, do they? Everything they’ve put out is complex in theme, narrative or with its mechanics and Vampyr is the epitome of all of those. Insanely ambitious, the atmospheric adventure tells a truly engrossing tale that comes with all the tailored storytelling of Life Is Strange and the world building chops that built the drastically underrated Remember Me. I described it as a “well crafted, expertly designed game that’ll be talked about for many months to come” in my review and that conversation is likely going to last long into our Game of the Year nominations come December.
Shop management simulators are not a new thing by any stretch of the imagination but Moonlighter redefines the genre by making protagonist Will his own Dungeon Delving wholesaler too. By day you’re managing the Moonlighter store, setting prices for products, ensuring villagers stay happy and making some profit to keep everything ticking over. By night, Will is off to raid procedural generated dungeons, searching for precious loot to stock the shelves with the next day. Our man Jan said that “everything in the game just seems to complement each other in a way that makes it feel just right” in his review so it’s easy to see why this Kickstarter game has become a sleeper hit with much more to come throughout the year.
While many long running game franchises are boasting about having ever growing maps and play areas, Minit does exactly the opposite. Built around a simple premise – thanks to picking up a cursed sword, the main protagonist only has 60 seconds to live in a looping life – this game is bound by its own limitations and is all the better for it, cramming a lot of game in not a lot of space. In my review of the game I described it as “a sublime concoction of old school RPG’s, innovative thinking, smart game design, a tonne of replayability and oodles of personality. Minit is the personification of a brilliant idea and the product of people who really know how to make a bloody good game”. It’s easily one of the best games I’ve played in the second quarter of 2018 and deserves a nod when those Game of the Year conversations roll around.
8. Laser League
How do you follow up on the success of OlliOlli 1 & 2 and the fun-as-all-heck Not a Hero? You make one of the most entertaining multiplayer experiences of the year and one of the best games of 2018 so far, apparently. Par for the course for the team at Roll7. Laser League is a combination of deeply strategic game play, Tron-esque visuals and distilled fun that stepped into fill that “The Next Rocket League” moniker that many previews had pinned to it. We were late to the party with Laser League but the reviews at almost every outlet tell their own story – 9/10 in Games Master. 9/10 at PSU. 9/10 at TSA. Even a 9/10 in Edge (which, in real terms, translates to a 12/10). Laser League is one of those games that’ll likely have a really great community surrounding it for years to come so if you’ve yet to get involved, now’s the time.
9. Fortnite: Battle Royale
It’s hard to ignore the cultural impact that Fortnite: Battle Royale has had on not just the gaming industry but main stream pop culture too. Walk into any high school class room across the UK and shout “Do the floss!” and half the students will stand up and dance. Footballers across the world celebrate goals with an emote from a game. You can’t open a newspaper without seeing at least one article on the game as everyone tries to get a handle on Epic Games’ latest sensation. Fortnite might not have been the first to bring the Battle Royale mode to the mainstream subconscious but it’s certainly defined it through rapid innovation. While it didn’t in Q2 2018, this past 3 months have seen FBR grow from a good game into an excellent one with new weapons, new modes, revamped and revisited favourites and a Titan sized cross over with Avengers: Infinity War. What’s more, the Battle Royale island itself is carrying its own environmental storytelling, visibly showing the scars of the events that all players have taken part in.
10. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
It was never going to be pleasant to say goodbye to Kazuma Kiryu, a character we’ve known and grown alongside for more than 2 decades, but we couldn’t have asked for a better send off for him than Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. A heart-warming adventure that contains all the hallmarks of a Yakuza game while going deep on the emotional gut punches, Song of Life deserves its 85/100 Metacritic rating. With PS4 releases of Yakuza 3 and 4 on the horizon and Yakuza Kiwami 2 coming West in August, this might not be the only Yakuza game to feature in our Game of the Year discussions either, if only for the Karaoke mini-games.
Honourable Mention: The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker
We’re all in on the FMV game resurgence that’s brought the genre back in a big way. Old classics (hey Night Trap) have been joined by excellent new contenders (The Bunker, Night Shift) to carve out a little corner of the industry for itself all over again and one of our favourites from the new breed is The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. Originally released in 2017 on PC, the game made its way to consoles earlier this year thanks to Wales Interactive and D’Avekki Studios and it blew our man Jan away. “The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is an immersive masterpiece with a stellar cast and an brilliant script which deserves to be lauded for all the right reasons” is the way Jan described it in his review. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of Tea but for any Lovecraftian FMV fans, this game is laser targeted to your tastes.
Have you for another suggestion? Think we’ve missed a Game of the Year contender? Head to the comments section to let us know.