With 2018 coming to a close, it’s time for the team at Sandbox to share our favorite games of the year! See some of our favorites from 2017 here.
Tony: This has been a great year for games – there are almost too many great games to even choose. The number one game this year for me has been Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee/Let’s Go Pikachu – followed closely by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – which even with it’s questionable choice of online matchmaking is great. There were also some great games that weren’t on the Nintendo Switch – for me the best of those were Monster Hunter World, which I played on PS4, and MapleStory 2 – which was a surprise hit in my house.
If we want to talk about greatest board game – there is only one contender for that and it is GloomHaven. The game is great and that’s that.
Val: It’s a tough call, but I have to go with the game that came to mind immediately — God of War. I was completely invested in the characters and their journey, and both Kratos and Atreus go through deeply personal triumphs and losses throughout. The stunning visuals, score, and action sequences kept everything interesting, but I was ultimately drawn to those character arcs above everything else. And this game gave us “BOY!” We can’t discount that.
Clara: So I guess this is where I inject some indie game love into the staff picks! 2016 and 2017 had clear winners for me (Ori and the Blind Forest and Hollow Knight, respectively), but 2018 is a bit of a mixed bag. I want to say Dead Cells is probably my game of the year because it’s so damn good, but it isn’t the game I sunk the most hours in by far. Besides being polished as heck, addictive, and wickedly replayable, as a streamer, I really appreciated the thoughtful (rather than obnoxious) use of Twitch integration. It’s a must-play on PC or Switch.
Just as up there, however, are Celeste (check out their lovely acceptance speech for winning Indie Game of the Year on The Game Awards), Wandersong (casual LGBTQ+ inclusion throughout, heartwarming story, clever and accessible gameplay), Subnautica (massive open undersea world with tons to do and plenty to be scared of), Wizard of Legend (probably my second favourite roguelite of the year – the co-op is great), Moonlighter (Chrono Trigger-style pixel art and addictive dungeon delving plus shopkeeping), Timespinner (the ‘90s vania tribute I’ve been looking for to follow up greats like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), and Speed Dating for Ghosts (short encounters with an incredibly diverse cast of unusual characters that will have you feeling the full gamut of emotions, written by a former BioWare writer/editor). The last one has a special place in my heart, and I recommend it to everyone as 2018’s surprise title of the year.
Honourable mentions also go to Iconoclasts, GRIS, and The Gardens Between. What can I say? I love metroidvanias and artistically beautiful games. I’m also really proud of the Vancouver indie devs for extra killing it this year!
Dan: Even though it was released in 2017, I think my GOTY has to be Fortnite. There was a stretch earlier in the year where I couldn’t go a day without playing a few rounds. The game’s accessibility, short game length, cross-platform support and being free-to-play make it so easy to jump in with friends. I just picked up Red Dead Redemption 2 this past weekend, and the game has certainly lived up to the hype in the limited time I’ve spent playing – I’m sure it would be a contender for me if I had more time with it. A final honorable mention would be Battlefield 1; although it came out in 2016, I just got the game this year, and it has quickly become one of my favorite FPS titles.
Tim: Two of my personal highlights for 2018 use mechanics to convey the main character’s emotional arc: Celeste and Florence. Celeste is about climbing a mountain that literally draws out the worst inside you, and as you rise and fall, the challenges and your abilities change to reflect your hero’s changing emotional state. Far easier, Florence is made up of a simple series of swipes, taps and shakes that make up the daily life of an everyday young woman and what is likely her first long-term relationship. But as the story evolves from love at first sight to the comfortably numb tedium of living together and everything that follows, the swipes and taps take on new energies. The result from both are games with stories that feel intrinsically linked to what the player is doing, rather than pasted over an existing game design (with wonderful art and music, as well).
Celeste also shares a lot in common with my final favorite of 2018: Marvel’s Spider-Man. Both are hardcore action games that aren’t afraid to slow down the pace and focus on developing their core characters, bouncing back and forth between lighter and heavier emotional tones. And both feature young adult protagonists who are good at heart, but wrestle with how to grow as people and deal with the consequences of their choices.
Rob: While I will always challenge my family to a (board) game of Labyrinth – it is soooo good – in the realm of video games this year my vote goes to God of War. The world was amazing, gameplay was great, depth was huge, variety was wonderful and just the overall production value was top-notch. I loved every moment of the game, and I could listen to Kratos speak forever (special shout out to his appearance on The Game Awards).
Shaun: As others have noted, this has been an incredible year for games, and for me particularly, the resurgence or revitalization of brands that meant a lot to me as a young gamer and consumer of geeky goodness (God of War, Super Smash Bros.) was a lot, and that’s why I think I give the nod to Spider-Man. Insomniac did such an incredible job bringing Spidey to life, with a fantastic story, fun, satisfying action gameplay, and combat, and a fully realized comic-book Manhattan that I’ve waited to swing around again since the 2004 Spidey game. It’s still very rare to have a superhero game come together on the narrative, gameplay and artistic/graphic fronts, but it really was a near-perfect package when all was said and done, and a game I poured double-digit hours into over the course of just a few short weeks. As fantastic as God of War is, and as fun and constantly evolving as Fortnite continues to be, nothing was quite as spectacular this year as Spider-Man.
Pat: It was difficult not to choose either God of War or Celeste as my Game of the Year. Each of these titles is a masterpiece and they deserve every bit of praise they’ve received. With that being said, only one game this year allowed me to journey across multiple dimensions as a superpowered chicken. Yes, my favorite game of 2018 is Guacamelee! 2. The sequel caught me off guard and I was genuinely surprised by how delighted I was while playing through it. The game builds upon its predecessor in all the best ways and made me smile more than any other game I played in 2018. It may not be for everyone but if you’re even remotely interested in metroidvanias, I cannot recommend this one enough. In a year filled with so many incredible games, I’m very happy I didn’t overlook Guacamelee! 2.
Josh: Eight years is a long time to wait for a sequel (well, prequel actually), but with Red Dead Redemption 2 it was well worth it. Never have I played a game where the world and its inhabitants felt more alive than Red Dead’s. NPC’s not only react to you, but it’s like they remember you.
Quick story – I beat up a guy in bar and stole his sweet racoon hat (don’t judge me). A few game days later I returned, wearing that guy’s awesome hat, and the moment he noticed it he jumped out his seat to fight me once again. That’s the thing about Red Dead, little anecdotes and stories like this come up all the time. Tiny moments that, when all added up, get you more sucked in to this insanely deep world. And that’s all in addition to the main story of the game, which is loaded with beats both jaw dropping and somber. Add in the impressive dynamic weather, hunting and fishing systems so deep you can sink in dozens of hours doing only that, horses that actually poop (Rockstar thought of everything), and you’re left with one of the most immersive games ever made and my favorite of 2018.