It’s that time of year again, when our thoughts turn to all the games we’ve played in the previous 12 months and how best to rank them. In this list I will share what were, for me, the best games I played and attempt to explain why. The thing is, you won’t be seeing Red Dead Redemption 2 included in here! So, in no particular order, here are my Top 10 Xbox One Games of 2018 – excluding that behemoth!
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Lara’s back – and this time in a brand new adventure that spans pretty much the whole world and features lots of cool new locations and abilities.
With a very strong narrative thread running through – one that kept me playing right until the end – Shadow of the Tomb Raider was undoubtedly one of the best looking Xbox games of 2018. In fact, played on an Xbox One X, the visuals simply blew me away. Gorgeous vistas, views across the jungle to distant temples, silky smooth animation and a real wild feeling to the jungle levels were all highlights.
However, as it should be in a Tomb Raider game, it was the story that just refused to let me go. From the fate of Lara’s father, to the unexpected allies you have to work with, this was a real 5-star narrative. Puzzles, traps, crumbling temples and many varied enemies to kill made this a no-brainer for the list.
If you haven’t played Shadow of the Tomb Raider yet, stop reading this instant and go and do it!
Forza Horizon 4
I am a sucker for a racing game, and Forza Horizon 4 was always going to be on my radar.
The British setting, with races around familiar places like Edinburgh allow us to finally spend time driving on the correct side of the road, and it was this that fully sold FH4 to me. However, in a move that still surprises me to this day, seeing Microsoft make it available on Xbox Game Pass the day it came out, ensured that every man and his dog coule experience this utterly captivating racer – this act of generosity blew me away then, and still does now..
The game itself is stunning too – obviously – and with ridiculously over the top showcase events to take part in (racing a hovercraft or jet through the British countryside anyone?), and a new tiered approach to various different disciplines to master, there is a lot of game here for not very much money.
Throw in some drift and drag events, with their own leagues for the first time in Horizon, and this is undoubtedly the best racing game of 2018.
I have fond memories of playing Namco beat-em-ups from way back in my Playstation days, and I have stayed in touch with both their Tekken and SoulCalibur franchises. The news that a new entry to the SoulCalibur range was to be released excited me a lot.
And it was from here where I loved the fluid fighting style, the story and the way the characters now all interacted with each other, even going so far as to bring Geralt of Rivia in as a playable character. The speed of the action, whether online or off, blew me away, and even though a flashy reversal move victory is always a good feeling, doing it online to someone who has kicked your bottom all through the round to steal the victory will always bring a smile to my face.
Following the story mode and playing all the different matches with different conditions is another highlight and all this combines to ensure that SoulCalibur VI finds a place on this list.
Monster Hunter World
I’d never played a Monster Hunter game before World arrived, as I was always a little intimidated by the reputation they had for being hardcore. However, I decided it was time to man up and strap on what is frankly the most ridiculous sword since Cloud’s Buster Sword in Final Fantasy VII. Seriously, I wasn’t sure whether to cut the monsters or beat them to death with the weight of it!
However, getting out there into the wilderness, finding clues that helped me track a particular monster, and then finally confronting and taking it down was a real eye opener. Sure, if you ran in half cocked then you were going to end a big pile of monster droppings, but by eating the right food, and preparing properly – and enlisting a few friends to be on the safe side – Monster Hunter World happily allows you to take down monsters many times your size.
That’s just as well really, as the big bad in Monster Hunter World appears to be a monster you can go for a walk on! With great graphics, smooth gameplay, and weapons that seem to have a real heft to them, this game is a worthy entry on anyone’s list.
Dark Souls Remastered
When I heard there was going to be a remake of Dark Souls, I must admit to being a little concerned. Was they this just a cynical money grabber by From Software? Would anything new be added? Did I want anything new to be added? I have such good memories of the original game, that I didn’t want anything to ruin the feeling of beating Ornstein and Smough after a solid week of trying.
However, my fears proved to be unfounded. By remastering Dark Souls onto modern hardware and pumping it up to 60FPS, the game suddenly made sense in a way that it never had before. The combat flowed, parry points were easier to spot and act on, and as an overall experience the game just flowed better all round. Luckily, it wasn’t made any easier, which would defeat the whole object of a Souls game: you have to feel like you’ve earned any progress that you make in order to get that sense of accomplishment.
It is this hardcore nature that is still present and correct – just Dark Souls now feels like the game it was always meant to be, without being hobbled by the constraints of the hardware.
Remasters can be good, and in the form of Dark Souls Remastered, they can be great.
This is a fairly recent entry to my list, and mostly comes about thanks to the wonders of Xbox Game Pass.
A co-op shooter set in the early part of the century in Egypt, Strange Brigade is shot through with a very British humour that really appeals to me. Being able to follow a storyline with three like minded fellows while the narrator shouts “Tally Ho! A swift one two, eh?” is very good fun, indeed. Add in a horde mode and many many zombies to shoot, and the recipe is set for fun.
Between running away from the varied monsters and creasing up laughing at the narrator, myself and my team of friends have had a riot running around Egypt. Each level has a lot of collectables to hunt out too, so there is a good amount of replayability as well.
Multiplayer games – especially 4-player cooperative affairs – should always be celebrated, and having this in the list is a utter no-brainer.
Shalnor Legends: Scared Lands
Throughout 2018 I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with many types of game, and in Shalnor Legends: Sacred Lands, we find something which is no more or no less than a classic Zelda style game for the Xbox.
Shalnor Legends really tapped into my retro feelings about playing Zelda: A Link To The Past back in the day. An appealing story, lovely 16-bit style graphics and fun gameplay made this one of my favourite games of the year – and believe me, I played a lot.
The urge to explore every nook and cranny on the map to make sure you had found everything that there was to discover, coupled to old skool difficulty that saw you dumped back to your last save if you dived made this a joy to play.
To say this was the work of just one man was absolutely remarkable, and the love of retro style games that shines through Shalnor Legends is unmistakable.
A retro styled, side scrolling Dark Souls? Yes please!
The gameplay was the real hook with Dead Cells as each life taken would make you a little bit stronger, allowing you to survive for longer on the next run. Repeat ad infinitum was the order of the day with Dead Cells.
It’s a cycle of gameplay that is fun, with fast and furious fighting, dodging and jumping all mixed in together with a twist of the Dark Souls formula. Learning how enemies would attack, when it is possible to counter and when dodging is the best idea, is all part of the appeal. And again with the Souls comparison, even the weakest of enemies are capable of bringing the run to an end if you get cocky.
With a castle layout that seems to change every time you play, this is a retro styled game with a modern gameplay fusion, and the mixture works very well indeed.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is another one of those games that seemed to come out of nowhere… but it is again one where the story and gameplay were strong enough to grip me and keep me playing.
Following Senua as she descends into the hell to try and win back the soul of her beloved, the Hellblade charts her descent not only into hell, but also shows her battling mental illness. Expect to find twisted visions and battled even more twisted creatures, including bosses to earn the right to face Hel, the goddess of Hell.
It is these battles which are brutal, and the game over screen – something which you’ll see a lot of – is heart wrenching. Senua’s journey is a must play.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 builds on the legacy of Far Cry 3 and 4, and while it doesn’t do anything particularly new, the modern American setting and religious cult enemies resonate with the way the world seems to be heading these days.
Taking out the cult leaders is a rewarding task, with each one being in charge of different areas of the map, and it’ll only be by employing various tactics will you ever find success in Far Cry 5. But it is by exploring, searching out side missions, driving, walking, flying about the place, and even partaking in a fishing mini-game where the real fun begins – and you’re never short of things to do in Far Cry 5.
Bringing a buddy along for the ride – from a crazy old lady in a chopper to a big friendly bear called Cheeseburger – allows Far Cry 5 to be shot through with the trademark Far Cry humour that Ubisoft have excelled in – and things are no different here with what is basically an enjoyable romp through the American heartland.
So there we have it, my favourite Xbox One games of 2018 – games that every single gamer the world over should play. Although there are some glaring omissions – perhaps none more so than that of Red Dead Redemption 2 that I just can’t get excited about – I’m hoping that these might entice you to try a game you maybe wouldn’t have done otherwise.
So, in the immortal words of every games journalist ever, tell me what you think in the comments below. Did I get it right? Wrong? Should I try RDR2? Let me know what you think.