It’s time for my annual Game of the Year (GOTY) Award in which I spotlight the best games I played in the preceding year and then declare one to be the champion of them all. Because it normally takes me anywhere from a few months to a few years to get around to playing a game after its initial release my GOTY awards frequently don’t actually include games that were released the preceding year and this year’s award nominees are no exception. To be in contention for my GOTY award I merely have to play a game for the first time in the preceding year, so we have games from different years—and sometimes even from different console generations—battling it out to wear the crown. With all that said, let’s get to the nominees. This year I have seven contenders for the throne. Below are the seven games that stood out to me from last year, each with links to their respective reviews, and at the bottom of today’s post I’ll reveal my official 2018 GOTY.
Bound (released in 2016)
Artsy games don’t always grab my attention but Bound had me interested from the first time I played its demo at PSX 2015. Bound is a game about a young princess traversing a surreal dreamscape with the grace of a ballerina which I know sounds weird, and I’ll admit Bound is kind of odd, but it’s strange in the really intriguing sort of way. Somehow everything about Bound feels right and it was a good game to lead off 2018 for me.
Bastion (released in 2011)
The oldest game in contention for my 2018 GOTY, Bastion is one of those games that took me a long time to convince myself to play but when finally did I was hooked. In Bastion you are the Kid, a young man whose world has been upended by a disaster known as the Calamity and its up to you to try to put everything back together again. Colorful visuals and fun gameplay compliment Bastion’s novel storytelling mechanic, in which everything the Kid does is narrated, making for a game that can still stand out even among more modern contemporaries.
Rime (released in 2017)
Rime is one of those games that drops you into a world and then challenges you to figure out what happened. Without the aid of text or dialogue its up to you to guide a young boy around a mysterious island and piece together what his story is. While playing you’ll likely get strong vibes of games like Ico, Journey, and Myst, and although being derivative is sometimes a bad thing Rime is actually all the better for it since it’s trying to emulate some of the best games ever.
Child of Light (released in 2014)
A good, fantasy RPG that doesn’t take 100 hours to beat? Sign me up. Child of Light is the story of Aurora, a young ruby-haired girl who is reluctantly on a quest to liberate the fantastical world of Lemuria. Beautiful foreground and background art with impressive levels of depth bring Child of Light’s world to life and its RPG gameplay and mechanics are simple but engaging. Though surprisingly melancholy at times, there’s an undeniable charm to this fairy tale.
Battlefield 1 (released in 2016)
After several years of fading interest I finally got back into the Battlefield series with Battlefield 1. First World War locales and weaponry have been expertly recreated in Battlefield 1 and Battlefield’s signature gameplay is as good as ever. With what is likely the best singleplayer campaign to date in a Battlefield game [Author’s note: I haven’t played Battlefield V yet] and a robust multiplayer suite, Battlefield 1 is a breath of fresh air that I’ll be coming back to from time to time for many months to come.
Abzû (released in 2016)
Diving beneath the ocean’s surface, Abzû takes you on a mesmerizing journey through the wonders of the deep. There’s an undeniable sense of awe as you explore this submerged realm—both due to Abzû’s colorful visuals and its excellent orchestral score—and with no death, score, or time limit in the game, you can take a relaxed pace as you soak in everything Abzû has to offer. Beautiful, simple, and short, Abzû is a great game for a lazy weekend afternoon.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War (released in 2014)
Valiant Hearts does something that I’ve never seen in a game before in that it felt like I was playing through one of the old war documentaries that I enjoyed watching when I was young. Set during World War 1, Valiant Hearts tells the story of the Western Front from the perspective of ordinary people with close, personal connections to the conflict that are just trying to fulfill their roles and walk out of the war alive. Even if you’re not a history buff you’ll find Valiant Hearts to be an worthwhile game with a good story and you’ll finish it a bit more knowledgable about the conflict that ripped Europe apart and helped set the stage for World War 2.
Sometimes it’s hard to pick my GOTY but for 2018 the choice was clear. Child of Light outshone all of its competitors and is my 2018 GOTY. I liked it so much that it’s currently sitting in the #5 slot on the list of my Top 10 PS4/Xbox One Games. Child of Light is a great fantasy RPG and I’d highly recommend it to anyone. I said it my initial review and I’ll say it again—this game is magic.