Though it feels like it just started yesterday, we are somehow already halfway through 2018. While the first half of the year has come and gone, 2018 has already been full of incredible games that could be the best of any year, and there’s still plenty more to come.
With the second half of the year upon us, the DualShockers staff came together to look back at the first half of 2018 to highlight some of our favorite titles of the year so far. While our selections may not cover all of the incredible games that have come out so far this year (and even including a few from years past that received new content), these are just a few of the titles that have (already) made 2018 a year to remember for games.
Lou Contaldi, Editor-in-Chief
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
The gaming community at large has picked up some healthy skepticism for Kickstarter projects. Sure; some of the games end up like the critically-acclaimed Shovel Knight, while others limp out the gate like Mighty No. 9 or — worse — get lost in development hell. While we continue to wait for the full release of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, developer Inti Creates’ companion prequel is captivating. A true love letter to the original Castlevania, Curse of the Moon takes use of current industry trends and interweaves smart storytelling and gameplay ideas into something far better than a standard stretch goal.
Far Cry 5
There have been a handful of AAA games that have come out in the first half of 2018, but none have captured my attention quite like my stay in Hope County, Montana. There is some healthy debate on what worked and did not work in Far Cry 5, but it’s hard to deny one thing: I had a blast. Despite its shortcomings, Far Cry 5 was an entirely memorable experience thanks to a captivating villain, a head-spinning ending, and a world that ties everything together. It isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but sometimes I like to roll up my sleeves and mow down bulls and dig for some Rocky Mountain oysters.
It seems like a lifetime ago since VR was the hot topic for gaming; however, terrific experiences like Beat Saber and Creed: Rise to Glory exist in that wake. While Polyarc’s Moss may have squeaked under the table (pun intended) for many who picked up PS VR, it is without a doubt one of the best utilizations of virtual reality that I’ve ever tried. Unlike shorter player experiences that dominated the first year of mass market VR, Moss is a captivating adventure with both charming animation, smart fourth-wall breaking mechanics, and a mascot that should be virtual reality’s Mario.
Jordan Boyd, Community Manager
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best Dragon Ball Z game ever created, simply put, as it encapsulates the richness of Akira Toriyama’s original characters in every way imaginable. From the absolutely phenomenal art style, to the fast fluidity of every fight, I’ve spent over 150 hours in Dragon Ball FighterZ and I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Fighting EX Layer
Shockingly, another one of my favorite games this year has been Arika’s Fighting EX Layer. I’ve only just dipped my feet in the fighting genre this past year, and already I’ve gotten the chance to try out tons of fighting games old and new.
While I’m not familiar with the Street Fighter EX series, there’s something about this game that really resonated with me personally. Although it’s still technically in a sort of Early Access format on the PS4, I’ve had a ton of fun with the game, and have a lot of respect towards Arika for taking on something that’s fairly niche but beloved by a very dedicated group of fans. I hope more people will give this game a shot, if not now at the $40 and $60 price point, then hopefully later when it’s a bit more affordable and in a more complete state.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Some JRPGs can be rather slow to start and take multiple hours of gameplay before you really get into the thick of things: Ni no Kuni II is not one of those games. It pulls no punches and treats players to an absolutely wonderful tale of a king’s coming of age. Everything feels very rewarding in Ni no Kuni II and there’s so many things for players to accomplish. The game can feel a little bit too easy at times, but luckily Ni no Kuni II’s combat remains exciting and elevating throughout.
Tomas Franzese, Staff Writer
Celeste was a game I was cognizant of before release, but had no idea how much I would fall in love with it until I reviewed it. While Celeste initially just seems like your typical well-designed, tough-as-nails 2D platformer, it soon exposes itself as something much deeper, tackling relatable themes like depression, anxiety, and self-worth. At its core though, Celeste is still an excellently-designed platformer that seems simple on its surface, but can become much deeper to those who master it as well. If you are a fan of difficult-but-rewarding platformers and are interested in Celeste’s themes, definitely pick this game up.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
While Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite disappointed the series’ fans last year, Dragon Ball FighterZ from Arc System Works and Bandai Namco Entertainment was able to fill the void of a fast-paced, team-based fan service-y fighter. The game is highly accessible for a fighting game — making it friendly to newcomers — but it still has enough depth for genre die-hards. On top of that, the game has a ton of single player and story content for Dragon Ball fans to sink their teeth into, so everyone should come away from Dragon Ball FighterZ pleased.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is one of the weirdest games to release in 2018 so far, but that isn’t a bad thing. The game is a puzzle fighter that takes place in a world that revolves entirely around sushi, with the goal being to eat as many plates as possible so that you can launch them at your opponent. The game’s story is odd but incredibly charming, and once you get a hang of the controls, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido becomes fun to master. Games as original as Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido don’t come along often, so this hidden gem on Nintendo Switch and 3DS is worth checking out.
Ryan Meitzler, Features Editor
Like with Fortnite, Florence is the type of game that caught me by surprise. I’m not normally one to play mobile games (if ever, really), but coming from publisher Annapurna Interactive and having loved their previous titles like What Remains of Edith Finch, Florence left me with an unprecedented emotional impact that’s all wrapped up in an experience you can finish in under an hour.
Part game, part visual novel, and part living graphic novel, Florence tells the type of love story that we have certainly seen countless times over in film, TV, and other mediums. However, what really sets Florence apart from most other love stories is how it utilizes the format of a video game to make the core relationship between the two main characters — Florence and Krish — feel dynamic, relatable, and real, and all without the use of any dialogue.
Florence is a brief experience, but in under an hour, it encapsulates so much of the joys and tragedies of love in an engaging, artistic, and truly special way that few games (if any, really) have ever portrayed before.
Now technically-speaking, yes: Fortnite first came out last year. Normally I wouldn’t necessarily highlight games that released in the past on a list like this, but in the increasing era of “Games as a Service” and online-oriented games that are constantly changing (and changing the gaming marketplace), I would be remiss to not mention Fortnite and the waves it is making in 2018.
While Fortnite first launched last summer with a modest reception to its original “Save the World” mode, the party really got started with the debut of its “Battle Royale” mode last fall, and in less than a year Fortnite has become The Game of the Moment. After having first played the game through its recently-released Nintendo Switch version last month, I have to say: I finally see what everyone is talking about, thanks to its intriguing combination of battle royale gameplay with a building system that rewards creativity and quick thinking.
Of course, that’s all combined with the fact that the game is so approachable thanks to its cartoonish visuals and art direction, and and unprecedented level of constant updates and content that is helping to keep the game consistent and engaging. So, while Fortnite is not necessarily a game that came out in 2018, it is the game that is certainly hitting its stride this year, and I’m continually excited to see how it’s going to change in the months (and potentially years) to come.
God of War
I don’t know if there is necessarily more that I can say about Santa Monica Studio’s masterful God of War that hasn’t been said in our review of the game, but what I can add is that it has completely shifted my perception of a franchise (and character) that I often found myself at odds with, and God of War did that spectacularly.
Having played all of the prior God of War games (yes, including the “beloved” flip phone entry), the series was one that I enjoyed for its bombastic action and spectacle…and not much else. Kratos had the character development of a sheet of paper, and by the end of God of War III, I had found myself burnt out on the constant cycle of grief and revenge that the series was recycling itself around.
But lo and behold, God of War came this past April and changed everything. From top to bottom, the game’s level of polish and detail is nearly perfect, from its cinematic single-take camera approach to storytelling, to a depiction of Kratos that turned a raging, one-note demigod into a fully-formed character stricken by the heinous acts he committed. I never would have expected God of War to renew my interest in the series as well as it did, but it delivered far beyond that.
Logan Moore, Senior Staff Writer
God of War
What’s left to say about God of War that hasn’t already been said by so many others? Sony Santa Monica’s next installment in the God of War franchise resonated with me far more than I ever expected it to after I was so lukewarm about the original games. This is a game that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about even after earning the Platinum trophy almost two months ago: I would consider playing God of War again almost on a weekly basis at this point. God of War isn’t just one of my favorite games so far this year: it’s my personal favorite of this generation of consoles and is likely among my top 10 favorite games of all time.
League of Legends
Look, I know, this is absolutely not a 2018 release. Still; I can’t deny how much time I have put into both watching and playing League of Legends in the first half of this year. As someone who previously thought that MOBAs were the dumbest thing in the world, ingraining myself in both watching the North American pro scene of League of Legends to now playing a fair amount of the game every week has honestly been one of the gaming highlights of my year.
I’m ashamed that I’ve become the exact thing that I swore I’d never be, but I just can’t help it anymore — League of Legends is good. I blame my roommate for dragging me into this mess.
Video games are so consistently good nowadays that I had kind of forgotten what it was like to play something truly awful. Thankfully, Past Cure stepped in earlier this year to remind me of exactly that. Past Cure was such a disjointed mess in nearly every way that I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at times over the course of its story.
This game has everything: terrible writing, awful gunplay, characters with the emotional depth of a plank of wood, MTV’s Dan Cortese. I don’t recommend you play Past Cure for the narrative or gameplay experience that it offers, but if you find yourself in need of a laugh, then you can’t do much better than dive right into this disaster.
Giuseppe Nelva, Executive News Editor
God of War
The quality of God of War is absolutely astonishing, mixing a massive array of technical achievements with an engrossing story that makes you care, and absolutely likable characters. And yes, I would have never thought that I’d write the words “likable characters” in the same paragraph as “God of War.” Sony Interactive Entertainment Santa Monica raised the bar for action adventure games with God of War, and I can’t wait to see how the story will continue.
That being said, I also have a special mention for Conan Exiles. It’s by no means even in the same galaxy as being the “best game” of the first half of 2018 (or of any period you can think of, really). It’s a buggy mess and every patch breaks as many things as it fixes…and yet it’s the game that provided me with the most fun in the past few months. Maybe I’m just a masochist.
Michael Ruiz, Staff Writer
Lumines Remastered was the first time that I ever played the critically-lauded puzzle game; there was only room for one portable console in my life and the PSP was not one of them. However, it turns out that I’ve been missing out because Lumines is probably the best puzzle game ever created: dare I say, better than Tetris? Playing effectively was pretty challenging at first, but once I got my bearings and eventually started performing combos, I was having some of the most fun I have had in a video game. It helps that the game has a soundtrack that is not only fantastic, but factors into the gameplay.
MLB: The Show 18
Every year I pick up the latest iteration from the MLB: The Show franchise, and it never disappoints. MLB: The Show 18 continues that trend by bringing another solid entry exclusively for the PlayStation 4; for me, it is the epitome of video game comfort food. In between big releases from this year like God of War or Monster Hunter: World, I’ll play the Road to the Show mode for hours, playing every single game until I make it to the Majors. I’m on the New York Mets so that’s a bit disappointing, but if I’m the sole reason why the team wins the World Series for the first time in over thirty years, I’ll be happy.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
This is an odd choice for me. I should preface by saying that I have yet to finish Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom: in fact, I’m only seven hours in. However, this well-told tale of Evan and his group of misfits attempting to build a kingdom from nothing is both sad and heartwarming. It’s genuinely intriguing to see how Evan, in the face of adversity, matures as a leader. It also has some of the most gorgeous graphics I have ever seen. It is just one of a couple games this year that I am constantly thinking about every day since I started it.
Now that you know what our favorite games have been from the first half of the year, what have your favorite games of 2018 (so far) been? What titles are you looking forward to for the rest of the year? Sound off and let us know in the comments down below!