The Top 10 Best Games of 2018 (Q1)
2018 opened in riotous form, so to bring you up to speed on what you might have missed, here are our top picks from the first quarter of the year
It used to be that the early part of any year was something of a dead zone for gaming – a time to finally crack on with things you never got around to playing or picked up on the cheap.
But ever since 2010, when Bayonetta laid claim to the Game Of The Year gong in the very first week of the year, it's been a much more active period for new releases. 2018, not to be outdone, opened in riotous form, so to bring you up to speed on what you might have missed, here are our top picks from the first quarter of the year. Oh, and we've intentionally omitted re-releases and remasters here, but don't worry – the likes of Bayonetta, Owlboy and Burnout Paradise are all still amazing, in case you hadn't guessed.
Monster Hunter: WorldAvailable on PS4 / Xbox One
Long a cult favourite, Capcom's beast-busting series mauled all expectations back in January to finally break into the mainstream and become the most successful game in the publisher's history. Deservedly so, as well – streamlining previously convoluted mechanics and offering huge and beautiful open slaygrounds through which to chase incredible-looking creatures made this the boldest, prettiest, and most accessible Monster Hunter title to date. The success of skill-based action games like Dark Souls paved the way for the series to at last hit the big time, and this behemoth shows no signs of stopping now – Capcom is offering ongoing support for the game via regular free updates that introduce new monsters, quests, events, gear and more, meaning that hunting season never has to end.
Dragon Ball FighterZAvailable on PC / PS4 / Xbox One
ArcSys has been on the anime brawler frontlines for years now, with heavy-hitters like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear regularly throwing down with the best in the genre. This is the logical conclusion of that journey, with the studio applying its stylish fast-paced action and authentic cartoon-perfect visuals to one of the biggest brands in the anime world to stunning effect. It's perfect for both fighting fans and Dragon Ball freaks, and an absolute godsend if you happen to sit in the sizeable middle area of that particular venn diagram – it encapsulates the over-the-top action of the series expertly while using relatively simple basic mechanics (compared to Arc's own more complex fighters, certainly) to let anyone pull off the flashiest moves and combos.
MossAvailable on PS4 (PSVR)
The strong support for Sony's virtual reality headset continues, with this adorable adventure being the VR highlight of this year so far. It's a fairly basic and quite short adventure, but you're absolutely drawn into and made to feel like a part of its beautiful world by the need to interact with it directly in order to help little mouse hero Quill win battles, solve puzzles and navigate the environment. PSVR owners will likely have experienced something similar in The Playroom VR's Robot Rescue, and this feels like an elegant evolution of the gameplay possibilities explored there – we've never felt more immersed in a fairytale-like world as we did while playing Moss and although it may not last that long, it's an adventure that will stay with you for a good while to come.
ChuchelAvailable on Mobile / PC
The creativity and artistry of Czech studio Amanita Design is almost peerless, and each new project sees it push in completely a different direction. Following the quirky natural feel of the Samorost games and the steampunk splendour of the excellent Machinarium, this minimalist cartoon-style comedy adventure has a totally different flavour to Amanita's previous works while retaining some similar mechanics and characteristics. Some of its point-and-click puzzles might not make a lot of sense, but that's fine – each curious click or tap produces moments of hilarity from the hairy hero, with the almost Pingu-esque visual comedy guaranteed to get laughs out of adults and kids alike. No studio can say so much with no words as Amanita manages to, and we'll continue to throw money at anything to which the team puts its name.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant KingdomAvailable on PS4
When animation legend Studio Ghibli unexpectedly teamed up with prolific RPG developer Level-5 to create Ni No Kuni, it seemed like a wonderful one-off the likes of which we wouldn't see again. But thankfully, we were wrong. Ghibli's name might not be anywhere near the game, but its legacy lives on thanks to several key alumni working more directly with the developer to create a follow-up that evokes the same incredible fantasy feel as Ghibli's finest movies. With a better combat system than its predecessor and a neat town-building system akin to Level-5's earlier Dark Cloud games, we dubbed it one of the strongest JRPGs in recent memory in our review, and we stand by those words – it's truly a thing of beauty.
CelesteAvailable on PC / PS4 / Switch / Xbox One
One of the best surprises of 2018 so far, though perhaps we should have had more faith in the brains behind the arena-archery perfection of TowerFall. This is something a little different to that local multiplayer favourite, though – it's a hardcore twitch platformer in the vein of games like Super Meat Boy and N+, only one that actually has something to say when it isn't throwing spike-covered assault courses at you. There's a wonderful flow to the action once you get a feel for the move set, too, and finally conquering an impossible-looking screen is incredibly satisfying whether you smash it out first try or you lose count of how many failures paved the way to your eventual success.
Shadow Of The ColossusAvailable on PS4
“You said there would be no remasters in this list!” screams the heckler from up in the cheap seats. And there aren't. This is a ground-up full remake of the classic PS2 game for modern hardware, and the results speak for themselves. It's not just a visual overhaul, either – controls have been tightened up considerably and there's all kinds of additional content thanks to additional challenges, unlockables, and an in-depth photo mode that lets you save perfect snapshots of your favourite scenes in this captivating world. Those who loved the original will find a remake that truly does justice to what the original game attempted on hardware that wasn't up to the task, while newcomers will find a game that feels every bit like a brand new top-end PS4 release.
Street Fighter V: Arcade EditionAvailable on PC / PS4
The original release may have put a few noses out of joint with how little content there was, but Capcom has been tireless in updating and improving its flagship fighter and the end result is a very different proposition. Arcade Edition is the same fundamentally superb fighting game, only beefed up with everything that has been added over the last two years – a full story mode, a bunch of extra characters, stages and costumes, regular challenges, additional solo and multiplayer content and more. If you slept on the game before based on the negative reception to the package Capcom was offering, now's the time to jump in and see why the game's defenders have been championing it since launch. It's fantastic, and now that it has the extras to back up the excellent one-on-one battles, it's pretty much essential for fighting fans.
Pit PeopleAvailable on PC / Xbox One
Like Amanita Design, The Behemoth is a studio unafraid to explore new frontiers. But while Amanita tends to push new artistic angles with familiar gameplay, this team instead takes its trademark art style and sense of humour to new genres with each new release. We've seen it go from side-scrolling shooter Alien Hominid to arcade brawler Castle Crashers to arena platform-battling in Battleblock Theater, and now find ourselves here, in turn-based strategy territory – a traditionally slow and sombre genre which actually benefits greatly from the comic relief offered by The Behemoth's shall-we-say 'unique' brand of humour. No matter how chaotic or ridiculous things get, though, the core gameplay is still strong enough to keep you playing, even if it might put some people off with how aggressively wacky it is.
A Way OutAvailable on PC / PS4 / Xbox One
It's always refreshing to see novel new ideas in gaming, and A Way Out is... well, it's way out there by modern industry standards, but in a good way. This is a narrative adventure that can only be played in split-screen co-op, with the windows changing size and shape dynamically to highlight important story beats and interactions that one player/character might otherwise miss out on. While it doesn't quite tug at the heartstrings like director Josef Fares' previous work, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, it's still an entertaining playable buddy movie and something that feels totally original and unique. Local co-op is the best way for you and a friend to share the experience, but in a surprisingly generous move, buyers can also invite non-owners to join them via online co-op for free.
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