Firstly, on the off chance nobody has said it to you yet, Happy New Year!
Welcome to both 2019 and Ground Punch’s final list of Game of the Year contenders for the 2018 award. Looking back across our team’s personal lists there was only a small selection of games which showed up more than once, a testament to the variety of gaming experiences that the year offered up and a clear indication of the quality of those overlapping titles. While hardly a surprise below are the top three games we played in 2018, enjoy and we look forward to another year of punching the ground with you folks.
In third place for 2018, Santa Monica’s God of War reboot impressed us with a more nuanced, serious take on Kratos and his adventures. Paired with a completely reworked combat system and mythological playground, God of War burns brightly for a series which desperately needed some reworking to remain relevant.
“…a string of memorable, unexpected story beats and gameplay sequences from beginning to end, tapping into the new Norse setting’s pantheon of Gods to great effect, spinning an unexpectedly touching story about fatherhood, and setting future games up to go off in all kinds of interesting directions.” – Sam
“God of War is nothing short of one of PlayStation’s best exclusives to date and one of the best games of the generation. Santa Monica Studio’s revival of the long-dormant franchise brought the character of Kratos to new emotional heights without sacrificing the violent and visceral action and grand set pieces the series is known for. Through a renewed focus on storytelling throughout every aspect of the game, the team at Santa Monica transformed a previously comically one-note character into a father struggling with how to carry on after the death of his wife and how to handle the burden of raising a son in a world in which neither of them fully belong.” – Kelson
“I’m all about that axe. Throwing it. Calling it back. Bisecting the brittle skulls of Norse Mythology’s burliest baddies. And channeling the frosty magic of the north to freeze my foes — I never wanted to put the Leviathan Axe down” – Jake
2018 was a fantastic year to be a fan of Marvel’s Web-Slinging hero Spider-Man. Into the Spider-Verse took moviegoers by storm late in the year while gamers were treated to one of the most polished open world games of the generation Marvel’s Spider-Man. Developed by industry darlings Insomniac Games, Spider-Man allowed players to truly live out their Spidey power fantasies with swinging mechanics that feel all at once revolutionary and organic to use. Not only does Spider-Man control well, but it also presents a solid Peter Parker story with beats and characters that defied expectations and set the bar for open-world superhero games quite high.
“I expected to love swinging around Manhattan while Spider-Man quipped at an endless stream of thugs and evil-doers, but I didn’t expect to feel Peter Parker’s plight as strongly as I did. Insomniac Games’ take on one of the world’s most popular superheroes made me understand Spider-Man in a way I never had before” – Jake
“…what surprised me the most about Spider-Man was not how fun it was, but how much it got me to care about its story. Not being the biggest superhero fan in general, let alone of the tights-wearing spider-boy, I went into the game only expecting to get a fun time out of it, not a smartly-written adaption of the Spider-Man universe that actually got me into the character of Spider-Man AND Peter Parker” – Kelson
“A great balance of manual control and smart automation lets you fly between buildings at high speed, but also land on a dime at will, with minimal practice required. It’s entertaining to watch, entertaining to play, and shockingly easy to pick up.” – Sam
“It’s been a long time coming, and Insomniac Games has done more than enough to deliver a truly breathtaking superhero game in nearly every way, and I can’t wait to have more when the sequel comes out. Between this and the MCU, it’s a good year to be a Spider-Man fan” – Joshua
Very few games leave an impression quite as distinct as Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar’s epic Western absolutely captivated us in 2018 and inspired the most discussions internally. Was it impressively realistic or unyieldingly slow? A deconstruction of cowboy power fantasies or just a mishandling of them? A massive achievement in art and development or a prime example of poor developer time management? No matter where you fell on these debates one thing was sure, RDR2 demanded to be discussed and when it came down to it, we simply couldn’t look past it for our 2018 Game of the Year.
“Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t just my favorite game of the year, it’s easily among the best games I’ve ever played. Without reiterating too much of what I said in my review, Rockstar has made a game that not only defies all reasonable expectations, it often feels like it shouldn’t even be possible yet.” – Sam
“Its slow pace and painstaking attention to detail create the greatest sense of place to be found in any video game. All of this is in service of building its narrative, an emotional story of a family of outlaws coming to the end of their time together as distrust, betrayal, and the changing of the eras has brought them to the end of their rope.” – Kelson
“I don’t think I can say I like Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s more begrudging respect: a respect for the expansive, intricate world Rockstar crafted…(the game has) an incredibly diverse, deep and dynamic world that surprised me. I drew immense satisfaction from clip-clopping around vast open fields or and trudging up blustery mountain sides; every corner of the map promised a new mission, combat encounter or oddity.” – Jake
“The world feels alive, breathing in a new era of lawmen and industrial revolution and exhaling a dying wild west culture. What the game may lack in slower and slightly clunky gameplay it more than makes up for in its gripping narrative and exciting world.” – Joshua
“There has been much discussion, rightfully so, about the game’s almost alienating commitment to its vision of the West and while I respect those who are put off by it, I can’t help but feel as though they are missing a much larger point. RDR2 doesn’t care about catering to your understanding of fun or modern game design, it deliberately chooses to forgo the traditional power fantasy in lieu of crafting a tale about the heavy burden of a life lived outside the system and the self-inflicted wounds that inevitably causes” – James