It was one hell of a year for video games in 2018. Several franchises dropped years-in-the-making installments, some gigantic announcements and sequels were made, esports and indie games took things to another level, and everyone yelled about Waluigi for a while. All in all, big wins all around. Except for the Waluigi thing. We stan a king and he is a king.
We wanted to take the time to single out the deserving games that made this year so wonderful, so Bill DiFilippo, Konata Edwards, Chris Barnewall, Bill Hanstock, and Ryan Nagelhout put together some categories and handed out some awards.
Without further ado, here’s the best of the best from 2018 in the world of gaming.
Game Of The Year
Bill DiFilippo: Spider-Man. I so badly wanted to say a game that deserves praise for being beautiful (and for being, objectively, the best game I played this year or any other year), like Red Dead Redemption 2, or a game that had a compelling story and main character, like God of War. But at the end of the day, I think of why I play video games, and it’s because I like doing things that are fun. For me, no game was more fun than Spider-Man, as flying around New York City and fighting crime never stopped being an absolute blast. I have yet to purchase the additional chapters that serve as Downloadable Content, but I cannot wait to do this, because I was legitimately bummed out when I finished the game. Other games might be better, but Spider-Man brought me the most joy, so it wins.
Konata Edwards: Spider-Man. Red Dead Redemption 2 and God Of War were excellent games that should win tons of awards, there’s just no game that spoke to me like Spider-Man did this year.
Chris Barnewall: Red Dead Redemption 2. The criticisms of this game are very fair. Red Dead Redemption 2 is slow, it embraces being slow, and it creates a sense of realism that many don’t want in their games. Some people just want to ride horses, rob banks, and be an outlaw without worrying about their stamina, or the status of their horse, or if they need to shave. But RDR2 embracing its slowness is exactly why it was my favorite game of 2018, because it made me embrace parts of the game I never thought I would. I’ve never sat down at a fire and just watched the flames burn while I relax in a video game, but I did that in RDR2. I’ve never just enjoyed a ride across the land while nature around me changed the way it does in RDR2. It’s those little moments that I was forced to embrace that ended up being my favorite part of the game, and it’s why Red Dead Redemption 2 is my Game of the Year.
Bill Hanstock: God of War. I spoke about it at length in my review, but this game was absolutely stunning. Story, gameplay, design — everything worked on every possible level. While Red Dead Redemption 2 is a remarkable achievement in terms of how a game is built, the story didn’t come close to matching the depth and breadth of God of War, nor was the gameplay anywhere near as fun. Similarly, if Spider-Man had had just a biiiit more story and balance, it would have had a chance of matching up against God of War for my pick as Game of the Year, because I didn’t have more fun playing another game this year. For the full package, though, it’s God of War, hands down.
Ryan Nagelhout: Red Dead Redemption 2. Everyone plays games at their own pace, but one of the most remarkable things about playing and discussing RDR2 is that the way everyone navigated through the game was actually interesting. Talking about the campaign of most games amounts to someone talking about a fantasy football league you’re not in: The concept is the same as what you’re doing, but somehow it’s far more boring. That wasn’t the case with RDR2. The drunken mission is great, and everyone loves telling stories of harrowing escapes from the law with hundreds of dollars on their head, but no one gamer happened to handle the individual bits and parts of the game the same way. There’s something to be said for a game offering a unique experience while still having its essential parts still on rails. I’ve been endlessly fascinated by what players do with Arthur once they escape the cold and get into the world, and it’s made me approach the game in a renewed way each time.
Multiplayer/Online Game Of The Year
Bill DiFilippo: Fortnite. It’s maddening, and getting owned by teens with gamertags like xXxVAPEBOI696969oOo sucks, and the fact that I decided to go into insane student loan debt instead of spending all my time getting good at gaming and learning how to be personable on Twitch is one of the great regrets of my life. But god dammit, I love playing Fortnite. It’s such a good way to kill a few hours with friends, and every update does something to keep the game fresh and new.
Konata Edwards: Red Dead Redemption 2. I’ve sunk about 20 hours into this and I’m addicted, even at the beta stage. This is going to take GTA V‘s online capabilities and turn them on their ear. It’s been so much fun.
Chris Barnewall: Warhammer: Vermintide 2. It’s a shame this game didn’t take off the way I felt it should have. Warhammer is a blast from start to finish and once you’re finished you’ll continue to play it to try and get new loot and create new fun moments with friends. If you miss the days of Left 4 Dead, then I strongly suggest giving Warhammer a try.
Bill Hanstock: Overwatch. I created these awards and I’m still not sure whether Overwatch counts, but I’m choosing to believe it does. Blizzard knows how to do two things better than anyone else: create broad-appeal games, and then continually work to make those games better. The Overwatch League is the most fun of any esports league, and the new characters and mechanics keep getting more amazing, for the fan art if nothing else.
Ryan Nagelhout: Fortnite. I am not good at this game and probably never will be. That’s OK, as I’ve long ago accepted that the teens are going to own me irrevocably and I am now well-prepared for that fact. But what makes Fortnite good is not how it changes ever so slightly or because it’s highly replayable. The cultural significance of this game has to count for something, too, and 2018 was the year that Fortnite became A Thing and brought a new light onto gaming. Grandparents know what Twitch is, Ninja is streaming in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and Drake might be lurking out there, taking you out from his hotel room in wherever Drake hangs out these days. Fortnite had a really big year, and even if it’s not your thing, you have to recognize just how huge the game has gotten.
Bill DiFilippo: Webslinging, Spider-Man. Swinging around in Spider-Man was a blast. The fighting mechanics were super fun, too, but webslinging was just such a breath of fresh air that there were times when I kind of ignored everything else and just traversed around virtual New York. Compared to the glacial pace that things move in RDR2, this was thrilling.
Konata Edwards: Webslinging, Spider-Man. Spider-Man swinging through New York City, along with the combat mechanics in the game, are new and feel absolutely necessary. The learning curve involved with both of those additions is such that learning the ropes heightens the fun of everything else you do in Spider-Man.
Chris Barnewall: Webslinging, Spider-Man. At one point this year I was sitting at a friend’s house talking about our lives and other random subjects while I swung around in Spider-Man. At no point did I ever get bored or desire to go fight someone or do a mission. I just wanted to keep swinging. It’s amazingly addictive.
Bill Hanstock: Webslinging, Spider-Man. Kratos’ axe was the early frontrunner for best mechanic, and then Spider-Man dropped and changed the current-gen traversal game forever. This is the first game in history where manually going from point A to point B is more liberating than tedious, and yes I am looking in the direction of Red Dead Redemption 2 as I say that. Tooling around a city has never, ever been more fun and downright exhilarating. Well done, Insomniac.
Ryan Nagelhout: Webslinging, Spider-Man I don’t have a PS4 right now. It’s web… singing, is it? Sounds musical. I’d like to try it sometime.
Character Of The Year
Bill DiFilippo: Kratos. In terms of the character I feel the strongest about, it was Micah from Red Dead Redemption 2, who sucks and I hate him. But despite the fact that I never played earlier versions of God of War, I was really taken back by the amount of depth Kratos had, both as a God and, more prominently, as the father of Atreus. It’s a beautiful, wonderful game, largely thanks to the character at the center of it all.
Konata Edwards: Dutch van der Linde. While it wasn’t gamers’ first time meeting Dutch, the journey with him in Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of the more interesting character studies into a villainous man with clear contradictions. He was part snake oil salesmen, part evangelist, and part horrible human being. I’ll never forget him.
Chris Barnewall: Kratos. Adding actual life and character into Kratos might be the greatest individual character achievement of the year. This is a character that was a brooding and angry man just known for slaying gods in his first three games. The most recent God of War explored him in a way that should have been impossible, and touched fans in a way that shouldn’t have been possible. Read it boy.
Bill Hanstock: Kratos. There wasn’t a more impressive achievement this year than turning I’ve-got-a-hard-dick-and-I-kill-people 2000s hero Kratos — previously the post-Duke Nukem poster boy for one-dimensional gamerism — into someone with depth, someone worth caring about. I’ll likely never be more impressed with a franchise pivot than I was with what Santa Monica Studios pulled off with Kratos and his poor cursed child.
Ryan Nagelhout: Pikachu. I went to a Pokemon event earlier in the year and people were lining up to take a picture with what’s clearly a person in a very small for a human but large for a Pokemon costume. Still, there was a queue for him because, god damn, do people love them some Pikachu. He got his own reimagining of the original Pokemon experience on the Switch and it was largely a success. He’s getting a weird detective movie. Pikachu has been loved by at least two decades of gamers now, and with Smash Bros. Ultimate, his reach grows even further. Talk to me when Kratos gets his own nationwide tour and people line up to take pictures with him because of his sentimental side.
Sports Game Of The Year
Bill DiFilippo: FIFA 19. The addition of new Kick-Off modes, the Active Touch system, Champions League, and the new, in-depth tactics that give you near-total control of how your team plays adds some life to a game that, like every sports game, needs a few tweaks every year to keep things fresh. Most importantly, my beloved Manchester City is very good in it, which is a big deal to me, because I’ll be damned if I use a team that sucks when I play online.
Konata Edwards: FIFA 19. The additional physics added to this year’s game, along with adding Champions League, only solidify what was already an excellent game.
Chris Barnewall: NBA 2K19. 2K has slowed down a bit from its heyday of a few years ago, but the two most recent installments where they’ve embraced the RPG format of My Player mode have put some new life into the series. The story elements have gotten so over the top that it’s almost comedic, and I 100 percent approve.
Bill Hanstock: Super Mega Baseball 2. It was either this or WWE 2K19, and pro wrestling isn’t a sport, so, well, Super Mega Baseball 2 it is.
Ryan Nagelhout: FIFA 19. I will bring my beloved AFC Wimbledon into Champions League and they will be kings of Europe. I just need to, uh, get a lot better at this game than I currently am.
Bill DiFilippo: FLUFFY. My first horse in Red Dead was named Fluffy. I loved Fluffy. It was a good horse. I am speaking in the past tense because Fluffy … well if you finish RDR2 you know and good lord did it ruin me.
Konata Edwards: Stallion 2. He was my Arabian Elite steed and an O’Driscoll killed him because I had a $750 bounty on my head at the time. Damn, I miss that horse.
Chris Barnewall: O’Driscoll-slaughtered stallion. The first time the O’Driscolls killed my horse I felt an anger that I’m not sure will ever be repeated. I will hunt them down and make them pay.
Bill Hanstock: Superfly. I named my first two horses in RDR2 Nathaniel and Superfly, because I am that Weird Al fan. Superfly was an absolutely beautiful horse, and I loved him and had mastered my bond with him. Then I didn’t realize there was a sheer-drop incline as I was out riding him and we both plunged over a cliff to our deaths, and apparently that means permadeath for my poor horse, and I then had to spend most of an hour trying to get to a cranny off the edge of a cliff to retrieve my saddle and all my belongings from around the dusty bones of my beloved corpse-horse. Great game, guys.
Ryan Nagelhout: Jeff. Naming horses extremely ordinary human names seemed rather funny at the time, and so the first horse I managed to tame in the wild I named Jeff. Jeff was also a Father John Misty reference of sorts, which of course he was. Jeff died when I put RDR2 in panoramic mode and went to grab a drink downstairs. By the time I came back I was half-dead near some rocks and Jeff was … actually I never found Jeff ever again. Maybe he evaporated, as we had fully bonded and Jeff was starting to really motor around from place to place for me. He is presumed dead, though, and I was further insulted when the game wouldn’t let my next horse name, Jack, pass through the profanity filter. I have since found better horses, but never a better Jeff.