It's easy to laud every one of our nominees, as is true for every time we try to determine our game of the year. Last year, I said that 2017 would be considered one of the best in a long time. In 2016, while not quite as glowing, I said it was a solid year for a little something for everyone. 2018 continues that trend of greatness and variety, adding more evidence to the pile that we are currently experiencing a gaming golden era. From mega-blockbuster action games to the unique experience created by one individual, 2018 had it all. Let's hope 2019 keeps it all going.
Here's the list of nominees (and here's the list of nominees for all categories):
- Dead Cells (Our Review)
- Forza Horizon 4 (Our Review)
- God of War (Our Review)
- Marvel’s Spider-Man (Our Review)
- Monster Hunter: World (Our Review)
- Octopath Traveler (Our Review)
- Phantom Doctrine (Our Review)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (Our Review)
- Return of the Obra Dinn (Our Review)
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Our Review)
Readers' Choice - God of WarGod of War is a near-perfect mix of fantastic game design decisions, artistic direction, and narrative, so there's no real surprise seeing the readers make it their game of the year. What's more surprising, however, is that in a year where Red Dead Redemption 2 also released, God of War received over 94% of our votes by the readers. Not much more needs to be said than that.
Fifth Place - Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
There really is not much to say about Smash Bros. at this point, other than how Ultimate is the quintessential love letter to the history of video games. To me, that is what sets it apart from other game of the year candidates; Ultimate, despite riding the similar rhythms of its predecessors, is a living monument to the past thirty-plus years of gaming.
If you think about it, all the nostalgic bullet points found in Ultimate pretty much hammer that aspect home. Every fighter has a history in their own right, every spirit and sticker a reference to a game franchise, every stage, every musical track, and even the spirit battles for characters—all themed to their original game and representing a small taste of what that game may have been. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a "gamers game," the type of video game that really caters to the hardcore crowd and offers players a chance to learn a thing or two about various franchises.
Outside of this, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is of course a solid fighting game that continues the traditions of the Smash Bros. franchise. With the large amount of content to sift through, plus promised content down the pipeline with downloadable content, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is without a doubt one of the best games to be released on the Switch, let alone one of the best games of 2018.
Fourth Place - Monster Hunter: World
By Luigi SavinelliMonster Hunter: World does not have many of the qualities that the other nominees for TechRaptor’s Game of the Year have. It does not have God of War’s storytelling, Spider-Man’s freedom of movement, or Red Dead Redemption 2’s obsessively curated details. Despite that, Monster Hunter: World gave me the most enjoyable experience with a video game in a long time.
There is something in the deceivingly simple gameplay loop of “kill monster, acquire materials, build better gear, kill stronger monster, repeat” that MHW does so well that it never gets stale. While the gameplay itself may seem simple, the game gives the player a huge margin of movement between those parameters.
The vast variety of equipment that the game dangles in front of the player always gives them something to look forward too. Every weapon category is distinct enough that working towards acquiring a new toy will always prove worthwhile.
What makes Monster Hunter: World special are, predictably, the monsters. While many of the enemies are old acquaintances for fans of the series, they’re at their most awe-inspiring here. It’s not only the sheer size, but the design as a whole makes every one of the huge monsters appear as a challenge, and a difficult one at that (at least when faced the first few times). The monsters also act independently of the player, roaming the map, bickering with each other and seeking refuge when hurt, contributing to the believability of the world as a whole and making the player feel like they’re on an actual hunt.
I know many people that never liked the Monster Hunter franchise who have lost themselves in Monster Hunter: World, a testament to the fact that this is one of the best titles of the saga.
Third Place - Marvel's Spider-Man
By Alex Santa MariaFrom Web of Shadows to movie tie-ins, I’ve played just about every virtual incarnation of Spider-Man over the years. Each game has its own charm, whether that be an obscure villain popping up or a unique take on a comic story. All these years of games feel like they’ve been leading up to Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. It’s really that good.
We’ve got pitch perfect swinging, the type that you remember from Spider-Man 2 (even if that game doesn’t hold up as well as you might hope). You’ve got alternate takes on characters and a rogues gallery with every classic foe you could want. You even start out fighting The Shocker, which is pretty much a tradition after the Activision games despite that character’s relative status as a D-lister in the comics.
Insomniac even brings their unique flair for weapons into the equation with Spider-Man’s gadgets. While it does dip a bit too heavily into the Superior Spider-Man era of the character, the gadgets are fun to use during combat and stealth, giving you plenty of high tech options. Every aspect of this game is faithful to the character and heaps of fun. It’s an engrossing superhero open world that everyone should explore.
Second Place - Red Dead Redemption 2
By Dan HodgesRockstar’s games have always been dense and ambitious, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is on another level. It sets a new precedent for how meticulously crafted an open world can be, down to the most mind-bogglingly minute details. Rockstar’s long-awaited sequel to 2010’s badass-cowboy simulator brings together a vast and beautiful world, a cast of grounded characters, and the most well-realized story the Grand Theft Auto devs have ever written.
Arthur Morgan’s story is one of the most compelling gaming had to offer in 2018. I don’t know anyone who didn’t grow to love the character’s fierce loyalty, strong convictions, and poetic soul (just check his hand-written diary if you don’t know what I mean by that). Although I was initially thought he would be a forgettable video game avatar, Arthur Morgan, brought to life fantastically by Roger Clark’s powerful and emotive performance, ended up becoming one of the best video game protagonists I’ve ever had the pleasure to control. Rockstar managed to make an engaging and surprising journey out of a character whose fate is pretty much set in stone from the start, and that’s impressive in its own right.
The world feels like a real place rather than just another video game sandbox, making you want to engage with its esoteric systems and essentially role-play the character of Arthur Morgan. NPCs have their own bespoke daily routines, your interactions (no matter how minor) may have repercussions 30 hours later, and, as cliché as it sounds, your choices actually have consequences. Treat someone well and they’ll remember, treat them poorly and you may regret it. From the stunning visuals to the myriad of deep and rewarding systems, there’s no end to the things that make Red Dead Redemption 2 impressive.
Winner - God of War
By Samuel GuglielmoGod of War. Jeez.
In 2005, God of War came out. It blew me away. In 2007 God of War II came out, and again I was left impressed. It happened again in 2010 with God of War III. However, that game ended with Kratos dead. There was a definitive ending. Sure it was followed by an iffy prequel game, and there was a pair of (actually quite good) PSP games, but for the most part I figured God of War was over and done with.
It is 2018. God of War is back. More importantly, it’s better than ever.
I genuinely couldn’t believe it at first. By the end of the starting combat encounter, however, I was sold. A completely new combat system brings out all the best parts of both the original God of War games and the more recent trend of combat in action games. Something as simple as a new camera angle and slightly slower but beefer attacks lend a whole new feel to the combat. Then you combine it with an insane list of special abilities, all of which can be upgraded and improved further, and there’s a deep combat system here.
That’s not even touching on Kratos’ son Atreus. I could talk about his use in combat (seriously, this is a kid willing to dropkick an ogre), but he’s really so much more than that. Atreus is a fantastic character, one who manages to bring out a part of Kratos we haven’t seen since the original game. If the first trilogy was about a human turning into a god, then God of War smartly subverts that by having him step back down into being human.
There’s so much it feels like I can say about this game. It took me a solid 40 hours to finish God of War, and every time I thought I saw it all, I would turn up new content. Poisoned randomized dungeons? Hidden optional bosses? Side quests? Dragons to free, arenas to conquer, and collectIbles to find? There’s a ton here, and I loved every second of exploring God of War’s world. It’s a world that has real care put into it.
Perhaps more important, God of War is a triumph that saved Sony Santa Monica. A studio that has been publically struggling with a sci-fi RPG that ultimately got axed and hasn’t seemed to have any solid direction for a while. An insane amount of hard work was put into ensuring the game was as good as it possibly could be, and the team did an astounding job on the game.
I could probably go on for 3000+ words on why God of War is one of the best games this year (in fact, I already did). What you need to know is this: Kratos is back, and he’s better than ever.
Also, he can rip a werewolf in half with his bare hands. Like, c’mon, that’s just some gnarly shit.
What would your pick be for our Game of the Year Award? What do you think we got right? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments below!