It’s that time of year.. when the year ends. 2018 is coming to a close, and 2019 is round around the corner. But, the world of video games ever stops, every year we get some special toys to play with and why not celebrate the best the year has given us. You may have seen 12 different articles with 12 different games, but here you can see them all in order. Each game was voted for by the ETNL community, and eventually, we got a nice neat order of the 12 best games of the year.
So, let’s stop this rambling, and let’s get to the 12 days of ETNL GotY.
12. South Park: The Fractured But Whole (written by Jeffrey Blight)
The Fractured But Whole is a whole different game compared to the previous game (The Stick of Truth). It goes a lot more in detail with the characters you can play, with the social media aspect used to further enhance the story and progress. The combat has become more detailed from The Stick of Truth, which was decent, but very stoic and static. The new combat system allows for more rapid and fluid battles, while the puzzles within the game have become more accessible, but also more difficult (if you wish to adjust the settings). The game is very detailed and in-depth which is at total odds to South Park generally – given how its sense of humour is often very shallow and in your face.
Although it may seem that The Fractured But Whole is an evolution and that the RPG details are far more advanced, in essence, it’s not. If you’re hoping for even more crude humour and more “oh no, they didn’t” moments, prepare to be a little disappointed. While the fart jokes ceased to be funny very early on in The Stick of Truth, it’s more of that in this new game. You can also expect some cutscenes, like going to Mr. Mackey’s office to talk about your behaviour, characteristics, and looks, to be abominable. In the end though, if you’re a degenerate just like myself, you will find this game enjoyable if you played the first one.
Despite this, this is South Park and it still does make us all laugh, alongside how deep the RPG elements are this game just about made it onto the ETNL GotY list for these reasons.
11. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (written by Pierre Fouquet)
Originally released for the PlayStation, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy gives you the first three games in a gloriously remastered (or more like rebuilt) form. This is how your nostalgia glasses remember Crash Bash as, and the attention to detail given by Vicarious Visions really stops you from thinking, “actually I remember this being better?” In some parts, you think, “this looks better than I remember!”
There are some parts of the game, like the jungle levels or the factory levels, where your jaw really does drop. This is all without mentioning the fur. The detail in the fur is incredible. You can see each hair as it moves with Crash and blows in the wind – no really he looks so fuzzy and soft!
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy still holds up now, even with the 20-year-old (or more) games it still stacks up against more modern games. With only a few annoyances like the camera and controls for aiming feeling a little dated but this adds to the charm. Everyone knows this isn’t a modern game, so they go into it thinking differently and that alone allows Crash Bash N. Sane Trilogy to be 11th on the ETNL GotY list.
10. Shadow Of The Tomb Raider (written by Laura Krause)
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third and final instalment in the prequel series Square Enix began with the release of Tomb Raider in 2013. This series aims to tell the tale of how Lara Croft became the tomb raider we all know and love. It was a very fitting and dramatic end to this series, with TONS of content to absorb alongside the main story. The optional challenge tombs, puzzles, and collectables give the completionist gamer a great challenge and many hours of content to enjoy. The varying difficulty levels one could choose from in order to get the exact experience you wanted from the game. You designed the balance between combat/difficulty and enjoying the story.
While Lara’s character made some questionable choices and didn’t always seem like the Lara we thought we knew, the supporting characters in the game more than made up for that by being just as interesting and dynamic as the game’s protagonist. Finally, the graphics and audio/visual experience of Shadow of the Tomb Raider are even more stunning than the last two in the trilogy, and made exploring Lara’s world a rich and vibrant experience. While the game might not snag the title for Game of the Year, it is in the upper echelons of games released in 2018 which is why it’s 10th on the ETNL GotY list.
9. Far Cry 5 (written by Pierre Fouquet)
Set in the state of Montana, in fictional and rural Hope County, Far Cry 5 is all about saving the US from a Christian cult – you play as a US Marshal tasked to arrest the antagonist. A rather brave thing for Ubisoft to have done. The reason Far Cry 5 isn’t further up this list is simply that it doesn’t do a lot to change up the Far Cry (since Far Cry 3) formula, with only the crafting system – thankfully – toned back. No longer do you have to go around gathering 5 different pelts and some flowers to make a larger wallet, or bullet sack. In fact, you don’t even need to bother with the crafting, you can simply sell your pelts to buy everything – and they sell for a good amount.
The charismatic antagonist is once again the most memorable character in a Far Cry game. In Far Cry 5 he is a preacher Joseph Seed believing he has been chosen by God to protect the people of Hope County from the end of days (or called “The Collapse” in the game). He formed a cult named Eden’s Gate, who as you guessed it, cause more harm than good – and don’t do anything good at all. This, and the US setting, are a super interesting direction for the Far Cry series, so while the gameplay isn’t anything brand new, there are enough changes to improve the game just enough making it feel a little fresher – the freshness being the best boy Boomer. You can now get a few friends to help you out in fights, one of who is the aforementioned dog, Boomer, who helps pick up weapons and items for you (there are more but Boomer is the best one).
8. Nier: Automata (written by Pierre Fouquet)
This may be a re-release, but Nier: Automata is just that good. The world of Nier may be confusing, and a little odd – you play as a robot, named 2B, who is fighting to save humanity from robots. You have a friend, 9S – who ends up being called Nines – as you travel to earth from your space station to rid the world of the robot menace – yes, you are still a robot… However, even with this confusion, there is a deeply emotional story which twists and turns with each playthrough. Yes, you can complete Nier: Automata once and get a great experience, or you can complete it 4 more times and gain another completely new experience, as each playthrough changes how you play or what you experience – luckily, you keep your gear and abilities. This is amazing, but isn’t the only genius move of Nier: Automata.
Being developed by Platinum Games tells you a little something about the combat, and boy did they nail it. The combat is so fast and so fluid, it’s so satisfying, and at the same time can be bloody difficult. You don’t block either, as it’s all dodge biased – you just end up creating a ballet of death.
But… that’s not all. The game isn’t just a hack ‘n’ slash. It’s also a top-down shooter, a bullet hell shoot-em-up, side-scrolling beat ‘me up, and a platformer. It combines all these different gameplay styles so effortlessly and seamlessly that you almost forget it’s changed – as the controls you use don’t change.
Even Nier: Automata did originally release in February 2017, it’s release on Xbox One means that it can, and deserves to be, 8th on the ETNL GotY list.
7. Detroit: Become Human (written by Jeremy Smith)
Taking PlayStation owners by storm on May 25th this year was Detroit: Become Human. Developer Quantic Dream created what I (Jeremy Smith) consider to be the pinnacle of decision-based gameplay. They created one of the most thought-provoking narratives that I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing – I must add that it is also one that you will want to replay at least a few times in order to see everything.
Detroit explored heavy themes of abuse, love and attachment, equal rights, and self-identity. It even made me wonder if androids and humans alike could have souls. The swift pace of the game’s story and the many decisions that I was presented with created a storm of anxiety that I loved and just couldn’t get away from. It kept me engaged from the opening menu until the credits had rolled.
I questioned almost every choice I made. Almost every one of them seemed to have some sort of ramification that was buried into the narrative. Many games have spouted the claim that “your choices will shape your gameplay experience,” but none of them have done it like Detroit.
The futuristic setting is mesmerizing and compelling. The games many characters are written very well, and the acting/voice-work needs to be heard to be believed. The entire package is one of the most visually stunning video games of this generation – and 2018 was full of games that were extremely pleasing to the eyes. I must have taken over 200 screenshots during my journey, which then doubled as a digital photo album to help me remember all the highs and lows of the journey. A journey that made me feel a full range of emotions. I laughed, I smiled, and yes, I even shed a few tears during my time with this fabulous look into the future.
That alone makes Detroit: Become Human deserving of being 7th on this GotY list.
6. Octopath Traveler (written by Jeremy Smith)
Octopath Traveler achieved something in 2018 that no one thought was possible anymore. It sold over a million copies! A niche JRPG that is purposely paying tribute to the 16-bit era of the genre sold over a million units. I’ve always been on board for these types of games and it makes me so happy that I’m not alone.
With Octopath Traveler’s extremely unique visuals that combine the antiquated look of pixelated sprites with the ability to move around fully in a 3-D space, not to mention the very modern graphical effects that were given to the world. This is an old-school world that feels more alive than the games it calls back to. It looks like a pop-up storybook being animated before your eyes. The visuals, along with every other aspect, create a distinct charm that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
The world would be useless if there weren’t strong mechanical hooks to back it up, and that’s something Octopath Traveler provides. This is in the form of an extremely deep job-based combat system. It takes the job-class systems from the Final Fantasy and Bravely Default series – let’s not forget that several Bravely Default developers worked on this project – Octopath also blends them with a weakness-based system akin to the Persona games, in order to give you an enjoyable grind fest that will easily eat over 100 hours of your time.
The combat is strategic and truly requires the player to put some thought into their actions. It also encourages the player to experiment with every option that is available. The combat is the true star of the show in this game.
Octopath Traveler also throws a wrench into some typical JRPG tropes. There is no “big bad” that is trying to take over the world. You are presented with 8 separate tales that each have their own twists and turns. I will admit that none of these individual stories packed the punch of a Final Fantasy tale but they felt like a breath of fresh air in a genre that can sometimes feel like it is growing rather stale. I think that Square Enix is onto another franchise that could last 20+ years if they decide to move forward and evolve the series further.
Octopath Traveler is very deserving of being 6th on the ETNL GotY list.
5. GRIP (written by Pierre Fouquet)
Inspired by the 1999 PlayStation game Rollcage, GRIP is a super-fast paced racing game. There are guns, there is plenty of speed, and there is the ability to drive both ways up, on walls, and on ceilings. You have weapons, shields, and boosts. You have slight rubber banding, and aggressive AI. You have races, combat, split-screen, flips, tricks, crashes, and explosions. This is a game which feels like the classic racers of the PS1 and PS2, but with modern technology.
GRIP runs off the Unreal Engine 4, so you know it looks pretty and will run smoothly, despite the chaos and no matter how many players are in split-screen. But even with all of this, the game still needs to feel amazing to play and developer Caged Element nailed the feel.
The sense of speed is incredible. You tense up when going over bumps. You find yourself gritting your teeth when you see the end of a tunnel coming and you are on the roof. You cheer when you knock someone off the track, but growl at that person who they do knock you off. Yet, you are constantly having a blast, and laughing with your friends. If you are playing on your own, you are leaning into the corners and glaring at the AI but smiling.
GRIP isn’t surprisingly good, it is just amazing. It deserves to be in the top five of the ETNL GotY list.
4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (written by Jeffrey Blight)
The success the previous games had shows that Machine Games has got everything under control. More emphasis is now on the story and characters. Yet, Wolfenstein II also goes even more over the top than its predecessors, with sharp and crude jokes, but without being offensive.
The voice acting and the script are the biggest force Wolfenstein II has to offer. Running and shooting is a more important part of the journey and fits well within the game both thematically and narratively. There is a lot of diversity in enemies and mechanics per level, with the graphics and levels being well-designed and great in detail.
Starting off in a wheelchair is brave and was pulled off perfectly, with the game feeling very tacky and rigid. When you come back to your feet again, as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, you feel a sense of freedom and speed come back. It all makes sure that this game offers you a little bit of variety in a progressive story – not to mention how emotional the story gets.
All in all, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, has offered gamers more of what they were hoping to receive and thus allows this game to scale the top 5 of Game of the Year list. We can’t wait to see a new Wolfenstein appear on the scene, possibly in 2020. Great games only come around in scarce cycles.
3. Red Dead Redemption 2 (written by Pierre Fouquet)
One thing that Red Dead Redemption had was a beautiful and large map, yet it was mostly desert with a small section of forest. Red Dead Redemption 2 fixes this and then some. It has dense forests, deserts, rocky areas, rivers which feel like a river, and very snowy parts. This is not just for looks either, a nice touch with the snow is that when walking or riding through it your feet actually sink into it, making it harder to explore – just like in real life. Other games have attempted this, like Assassin’s Creed III, but they were not very successful as they didn’t really change how you approached it.
Something not new to games, but new to Rockstar, are the good guy/bad guy mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2. You can now choose how you want to behave in a lot of the story, and with random NPC encounters. A nice touch is that the game rewards you pretty well later on for doing good deeds, which is fantastic as normally being a ‘good guy’ leads you to having a harder experience.
Red Dead Redemption 2 gives you so much to do as well, without ever being overwhelming. If we take Fallout 4, for example, there were so many side missions to do you frankly fatigued quickly and fed up with it. However, in Red Dead Redemption 2 you are constantly excited about what to do next and find yourself actively going out looking for side missions.
The other thing Red Dead Redemption 2 has is some of the best writing Rockstar have ever done, not to mention in gaming generally – along with the story going places many games don’t as well. For that, Read Dead Redemption 2 earns the 3rd spot on the ETNL GotY list.
Note: This was written alongside ETNL Podcast co-host Rach.
2. Spider-Man (written by Pierre Fouquet)
Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man has been Spider-Manning for some time now, so it’s not another origin story thank god! (Thank you Spider-Man and Insomniac.) Of course, you play as Peter Parker – well as Spider-Man – as you fight for keeping the New York streets safe and even sometimes just help people out with finding what they have lost.
The world you are in is New York, the game is a modern open world game, the combat is very similar to the Batman Arkham games, and the story boils down to “fight the baddie bosses.” However, the way all of these are presented I something new and it’s done almost perfectly.
New York is the Marvel Cinematic Universe New York, so you will find Stark Tower among other landmarks which makes New York feel a little different. The combat is far faster, based around dodging, aerial combat, and using all your tools, as well as getting enemies separated from the group making the combat feel very different and flows in a way which feels totally different. Even the modern open-world trappings of “collect all the things” feels totally different. Collecting things doesn’t just give you XP, it gives you lots of backstory to the world, and characters (even if some of the things you find are totally stupid to find where they are).
The other thing that Spider-Man nails is the characterisation of Spider-Man. ETNL has had chats where people have mentioned it is the best representation of Spider-Man and Peter Parker in any media to date – arguably for sure but the fact it’s being talked about like that shows are well done it is. Even MJ turning up is fresh, in the way she pops up.
The story also goes places, and really leaves an impression, while some of it you can guess what’s going to happen (if you know the characters) the way it’s presented is amazing. The game also ends with multiple powerful moments which stay with you for a long time.
Spider-Man, by Insomniac, is something any PS4 owner must play it’s something truly special. That’s is why it is 2nd on the ETNL GotY list.
1. God of War (written by Pierre Fouquet)
Kratos is back, with a new perspective in both life and mechanically. God of War leaves Greece and takes you to the lands and the Gods of the Nord’s. The game starts off very slowly, showing off this new Kratos and introducing his son, Atreus, before going full God of War crazy for a while.
But this isn’t Kratos of the old anymore. This new Kratos is changed. He is no longer letting his anger control him but is controlling his anger and focusing it. He’s aiming to raise his kid to be better than he ever was. A rather noble goal we’d say.
The new perspective and ‘new’ Kratos marry each other perfectly. With the tighter perspective, and inability to jump at will, showing a focus from the character through the mechanics. Something most games don’t do, or when they do, it’s not done that well – God of War is an exception to that rule.
This is before we even get to the combat where every hit just feels amazing. The impacts thud due to the incredible sound design – not to mention the rumble of the controller further selling everything. Then you can also throw your Axe like Thor’s hammer, and recall it at will – again it feels amazing as you learn to use it effectively. You can also put your weapon away and use your fists to stun enemies, or just punch them to death. Everything feels great.
Then, with the story and the way it ends, without spoiling anything of course, the game ends on such a poignant moment which will stay with players for a long time. Somehow Santa Monica Studios managed to take a character who has pretty much no redeemable character (or much of any character) and turn him into someone you care about.
For that, God of War gets first in the ETNL GotY list.
That’s it, all of the 12 ETNL Games of the Year. Happy New Year everyone!
Then make sure to let us know your personal favourite games of the year well!