2018 has been a hell of a year. To be honest, for me personally, it’s been a rough one. So although I maybe didn’t play as much as I had hoped to, I still managed to play through some pretty amazing games this year. Let’s start with some of my highlights before we look forward to what’s coming in 2019.
My game of the year for 2018 was actually the first game I played, Celeste. Coming from out of nowhere, this game from the developers of TowerFall manages to take the Super Meat Boy concepts and perfect them in every way imaginable. Along with incredibly tight controls and interesting platforming challenges, Celeste also has an intimate and personal story that caught me off guard. Mental health issues are very prominent in my life so I related heavily to the story present in Celeste. This game isn’t for everyone but if you enjoy platforming challenges and overcoming very difficult but fair obstacles, you cannot do better than Celeste.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Obra Dinn is a game that stands out for its art style but oddly enough, I liked the game despite its artistic look, not because of it. In fact, I found it to be distracting and I kept wondering what it was actually bringing to the game.
No, what I loved about Return of the Obra Dinn is the trust it has in its players. If you haven’t heard of this game, it’s by the developer of Papers, Please and puts you in the role of an insurance investigator in the 1890’s. It is your job to determine the fates of everyone aboard a ghost ship, the Obra Dinn, that recently returned to port after years of being thought lost. Your only tool is a crew manifest and a pocket watch that allows you to see the moment of death for a person who’s body is found on the ship.
That may sound like a simple task but it is far from it. Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the hardest detective games I’ve played in years but it is also the most satisfying. The less you know about this game going into it, the better, but just don’t expect any hand-holding. The answers are all there but be prepared to think analytically about EVERYTHING and I strongly recommend keeping notes.
Playstation 4 players may have had Yakuza 0 for over a year by this point but for those without Sony’s console, we had to wait until 2018 to play the prequel to the Yakuza franchise. For me, it was my first foray into the Yakuza games and boy, was it a great choice.
I’ve long heard that Yakuza, in many ways, is the spiritual successor to Shenmue. After playing 0, I see what they mean but it’s more than that, I think. Yakuza is a reflection of what Shenmue should have been. The main plot has you switching between two characters, Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Kazuma, a relatively low level but promising member of the Dojima family, finds himself blamed for a murder he didn’t commit. In order to protect his family and friends, he accepts the blame and finds himself an outlaw from both the police and his former Yakuza family. Goro has been placed in charge of a popular nightclub as a form of punishment for a crime Goro committed against his Yakuza family. In order to win back his place in the family, he is forced into jobs he isn’t sure he can follow through with.
What’s interesting about Yakuza 0 is how it perfectly balances its very serious, if not a tad melodramatic, storyline with goofy and off-the-wall minigames and subplots. After reading the above plot summary, you may be surprised to learn that one side mission has you trying to stealthily buy porn. One of my favorite moments had me putting a chicken named Nugget in charge of my real estate empire. Yeah, that really happened.
Yet none of it feels out of place. When you want a break from the plot, you can jump into any of the game’s HUNDREDS of side quests and minigames, each with their own plot line, and do that for a while before seamlessly transitioning back into the game’s main dark mystery. Considering how cheap the game is on PC (It’s currently on Steam for $20. That’s not a sale, that’s just the normal price. This was a $60 PS4 release just last year!), you owe it to yourself to give this franchise a try, even if you haven’t played any of the other games in the series. ONE NOTE THOUGH! Yakuza 0 has no dubs! All voice acting is in Japanese with subtitles. The localization and subtitles are great but if you have issues with subtitles, maybe pass.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
It’s a new Smash Bros. Do I even have to explain this? Fine then. Smash Bros Ultimate is exactly what its name says it is. This is the Ultimate Smash Bros experience. Not only does it have a ridiculous amount of characters and stages and music, not only does it have the best fighting mechanics of any Smash Bros thus far, NOT ONLY does it celebrate gaming in a way wholly unlike any single product I have ever seen, but Smash Bros Ultimate also has the best single-player offerings made to this date in a Smash Bros- nay, in a fighting game, ever.
Since the game’s release, I have spent 20+ hours going through the adventure mode, World of Light, and only JUST finished it yesterday, as I write this. That’s just one mode! I haven’t even touched the classic mode, a mode featuring new mini-games, boss battles and unlockable spirits (i.e. enhanced trophies from the previous games) uniquely tailored to each of the 72 characters.
Is the game worth getting as a single-player experience? Maybe? I can tell you it’s the closest a fighting game has EVER gotten, that’s for sure. I’ve only had a couple of chances to play this multiplayer since its release and I still consider it one of the best games of 2018. Hopefully, that will answer that.
Ni no Kuni 2
Lol, just kidding. This game was atrocious. Let’s never talk about it again.
Valkyria Chronicles 4
Okay, I haven’t actually finished Valkyria Chronicles 4 but I just have to give a shout out to the glorious return of one of the best games of last generation. While 2 and 3 both felt like side offerings and Revolution was just… sad… Valkyria Chronicles 4 is exactly what VC fans have hoped for since the first game. I’m loving it so far and while I got distracted by other things when it came out, I am looking forward to picking it up again soon.
Those are my highlights from 2018. What’s that you say? I didn’t mention huge titles like God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Spider-Man? THAT’S BECAUSE I DIDN’T PLAY THEM! As I mentioned above, I don’t have a PS4 so God of War and Spider-Man were out. For Red Dead Redemption 2, I could get it for Xbox One but I honestly don’t play my Xbox much so I’m kind of waiting to see if it comes out on PC.
How about what’s coming in 2019 though? Here’s what I’m the most excited for next year.
Kingdom Hearts 3
I still remember getting out of school and running over to Gamestop to pick up Kingdom Hearts 2. After a friend finally forced me to sit down and play Kingdom Hearts 1, I was an avid fan. I played through Chain of Memories (both stories) and was so prepped for Kingdom Hearts 2. It completely blew me away. I loved every second of it and couldn’t WAIT for the third one.
That was back in 2005 (may have actually been early 2006 when I got my hands on it). I couldn’t drive then. Since then I’ve graduated high school, graduated college, got my first real job, got my first apartment, got another job, got married, bought a house and now, ONLY NOW, is Kingdom Hearts 3 finally (maybe) for sure (probably) coming out.
To say the train has left the station for me is a massive understatement. My love for KH died out after it made me hold the PSP for longer than an hour to play the atrocity that was Birth by Sleep. I played through both of the main games and remember them both very well and yet, watching a youtube video on the plot of Kingdom Hearts is completely foreign to me.
Despite my well documented anger at this series and frustration with Tetsuya Nomura as a game director, I’m fascinated to see what becomes of KH3. Will it live up to fan expectations? Is it going to be an incomprehensible mess? Who knows? I’m excited to see it either way.
Okay, this is my last love-hate game in this article but seriously, I can’t explain to you all enough how hard it has been to watch BioWare over the last two decades. To watch them forget, in real time, how to make games has been bizarre. Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favorite games of all time and before that, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 changed the way we think about video games. Do I even have to explain Dragon Age: Inquisition and far, far worse, Mass Effect: Andromeda?
I want Anthem to be great. I really, really do. I would love to see BioWare reclaim the mantle they let waste away. I’m not sure I have any faith this is going to happen. I still can’t shake that EA’s first thought, after showing Anthem’s trailer at E3, was to talk about how you can buy cosmetic items for real money. Again though, one way or another, I’m fascinated to see what happens with BioWare’s first new IP in a decade.
So those last two were kind of downers, right? Let’s talk about a game that I’m sure will be something awesome and special: Metro Exodus. If you haven’t played Metro 2033 or Metro Last Light, you are missing out. These are FPS games entirely focused on their single-player experiences. The best way I could describe them is survival FPS games. Closer to Dead Space or System Shock than Call of Duty or Battlefield.
They are based on novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky where Russia is beset by nuclear winter and the last surviving humans have made their way into the subway tunnels to eke out a meager existence. You have to make your way through the tunnels, fighting off creatures known as Dark Ones in order to get to the capital of Metro. Both games in the series so far have been fantastic and Exodus looks even more incredible.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I’ve been a fan of the Souls games since Demon’s Souls back on the PS3 and am ready for whatever FromSoftware has next for us with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Unlike many who tried Bloodborne, I haven’t gotten the chance to play any of FromSoftware’s other games outside of the Souls series so I’m excited to see what they can do when they stretch their creative muscles.
Sekiro, if you haven’t seen it, looks to take the Souls gameplay design ideas and place them in a ninja setting. Gameplay looks fast but as brutal as you can expect. I’m looking forward to dying all over again.
I love Advance Wars. I love everything about those games. The pick-up-and-play strategy, the light atmosphere, even the darker story of Days of Ruin. I loved it all.
I also love Chucklefish and frankly, if you don’t watch the games they develop and/or publish, you’re missing out. These are the folks who brought us Starbound, Stardew Valley, Time Spinner and Risk of Rain. Wargroove is the next game directly made by them and it looks to bring back the concepts of Advance Wars in a big way. I’m very much looking forward to this one.
Honestly, it’s been so long since Psychonauts, I can barely remember what I loved so much about that game. I tried replaying it recently but it doesn’t run well on modern OS’s and my Xbox has long since bit the dust.
Regardless, I know I did love it and I also know that I love Tim Schafer’s design ideas and I ALSO am very much wanting more 3D platformers after playing and loving A Hat in Time. So the promise of FINALLY getting Psychonauts 2 this year? Sounds perfect to me.
In The Valley of Gods
This is an interesting one to me. I loved the idea of Firewatch but I didn’t think it lived up to expectations. The dialogue was fantastic but the ending just killed the experience for me. That said, I’m more than willing to give Campo Santo another chance and so far, they look like they’re making good with their sophomore outing.
In The Valley of Gods looks to be another narrative adventure game (read: walking simulator for those opposed) in the vein of Firewatch or Gone Home. Taking place in Egypt, the game looks to double down on the best part of Firewatch, your relationship with Delilah. Not much is known about the story, which makes sense since the story is likely going to be the entire experience, but I’m excited to give the team another shot.
Dying Light 2
This one may be optimistic. We might not be seeing Dying Light 2 until next year but I still want to put it down as my most anticipated AAA game in years. I’m a well-documented fan of Chris Avellone (designer and writer of Planescape: Torment amongst many, MANY other amazing games) and to see him unleashed with the kind of budget Dying Light 2 is getting is a dream come true for me.
Yes, I’m as sick of zombies as anyone else in 2019 but Dying Light was a marvelous exception and 2 looks exponentially better than the first. If anyone else came on stage to tell me about the exciting possibilities of branching narratives, I’d tell them to go back to 2002. But Chris Avellone is a master of the craft. This is a dude who’s been doing branching narratives since 1998. If he’s excited about the narrative possibilities here then so am I.
There are many more games I could add to this list. Many of which might come out but probably won’t. Bayonetta 3, Death Stranding, Spellbound all immediately come to mind. Those are my top picks though. How about predictions for 2019? Well, here are some of mine.
No Bethesda or Pokemon
Despite Pachter’s prediction that Bethesda is going to release Elder Scrolls VI this year, I think he’s full of it. This honestly isn’t a tough prediction to make considering Bethesda explicitly said that it’s not coming until after Starfield and even that isn’t expected to come out on current gen consoles. Couple that with TB’s prediction about new consoles being announced but NOT released this year (which I 100% agree with), there is just zero chance we’re seeing Elder Scrolls VI this year. I’m also adding in there that we aren’t gonna see Starfield this year either.
My bigger prediction here is about Pokemon Switch. It was originally stated to be coming out in the second half of 2019. I’m guessing this isn’t going to happen. Would it be a huge win for Nintendo to get Pokemon Switch out for the holiday season? Yes it would. Could they just be holding off on announcing it until E3 time to make a huge splash? It’s certainly possible. But the fact that we have heard literally NOTHING about it other than it exists makes me think that they’re gonna need a bit more time to perfect everything. I’m guessing we won’t be seeing Pokemon Switch until 2020.
Final Fantasy XVI Announced
Final Fantasy XV was a huge game but it probably didn’t make as much as you’d think for Square Enix. 10 year dev cycles tend to rack up the costs. This is why we saw millions of expansions and all sorts of product placement in the game. They had to make up those costs somewhere, right?
This is the second time in a row they’ve made this mistake. Final Fantasy XIII took forever and I just don’t think Squeenix is going to make the same mistake three times over. Final Fantasy XVI is going to be announced this year and I predict it will be released in the next two years, tops. Unless they stupidly give it to Tetsuya Nomura again in which case, we’ll never see it again.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Quietly Cancelled
Again with my Squeenix predictions, folks, I just don’t think the Final Fantasy VII Remake is ever going to see the light of day. Best case scenario here, it finally releases and is cancelled after episode 1. Remember this was going to be an episodic thing??? Honestly though, I don’t even see this happening.
According to information we’ve gotten from the team, 2019 will be the third full year of the game’s development. This is more time than the entire development of the original game and again, this is just supposed to be for one episode! Even if it does release, fans of the original are likely just going to be pissed off and disappointed because as they’ve said, this is NOT going to be faithful remake to the original. They are taking serious liberties here. So, ultimately, who is this remake for? Fans of the original will hate it, new fans likely won’t pick it up because even a best case scenario has them waiting another several years for episode 2 and then who knows how many more episodes just to finish one story.
If they announce it’s cancellation, everyone’s just going to be pissed so my guess is that E3 will come and go without any mention of the game and the FFVIIR will go the way of Agent and Starcraft: Ghost, never to be heard from again.
The World Ends With You Sequel Announced
If you haven’t played TWEWY, do yourself a favor and pick it up! This fascinating game began life on the DS but has since been ported to mobile devices and the Switch. I, personally, have a deep love for the battle mechanics on the DS but I’ve heard the ports are great in their own ways.
While the game never really left the status of cult classic (Gamestop once offered me $75 for my DS copy back in the day!), we’ve seen a significant increase in brand awareness recently. As I mentioned, it was just recently ported to the Switch where it has apparently sold quite well. The iOS port was also very well received. This combined with some hints dropped recently by the producer make me almost certain we’re going to see a sequel announced this year.
Erdrick Will Be A Smash Bros DLC Character
I admit this prediction isn’t my original idea. I read this prediction on the twitter of Shesez, the man behind Boundary Break. The more I thought about it, the more I agree though. The DLC characters for Smash Bros are supposed to be unexpected. Joker from Persona 5 was huge but, in hindsight, it makes sense. You know, because Persona 5 is coming to the Switch (this hasn’t been announced. I’m just not even bothering to make this a prediction because it IS happening.)
It’s worth noting how absolutely massive Dragon Quest is in Japan. There are whole cafes dedicated to Dragon Quest. These games are huge and people practically treat it as a national holiday whenever a new game comes out. We also know Dragon Quest XI S is going to be coming out next year, what better time to release the famous hero of the first game on Smash? It may be surprising to people in the US but to Japan, they’ll wonder why it didn’t happen years ago.
I am almost certain that a Dragon Quest hero will be in Smash by the end of the year and I am quite confident it will be Erdrick.
Return of the Flight Sim
I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t know how much I think this is going to happen. IT SHOULD THOUGH! I do think it’s inevitable but we’ll see if it happens in 2019.
Someday though, someone’s going to get the bright idea to bring back X-Wing or remake Wing Commander and it’s going to be HUGE. Think about it, these games were massive way back on 90’s computers. You really can’t overstate the importance of games like Star Wars Tie Fighter, Rogue Squadron, Wing Commander or even Descent. If you play them now, you’ll see what I mean but you could barely even tell what anything was back then.
Imagine getting to play a modern version of X-Wing or Rogue Squadron? Honestly, I’m baffled at why EA didn’t announce this at E3 last year. Absolutely baffled. Rogue One had come out recently which had several great space battles, as did Star Wars Episode VII. Controllers are ubiquitous now so there wouldn’t be a high barrier for entry and they could easily make versions for consoles as well as PC. They could make specialty joysticks though to appeal to hardcore fans plus, as sad as this makes me, the opportunities for micro-transactions are endless. Multiplayer dog fights would be huge. They could even make this the killer app VR needs by making it VR-capable (although not required. That would be stupid.)
I honestly can’t even fathom why company’s haven’t reached this conclusion yet but I think it’s inevitable that they will and hopefully, fingers crossed, 2019 will be the year.
Alright, I know that was a long one but hey, it’s a whole year I’m covering here! Whatever happens, I hope you all have a great 2019.