The best games of 2018 (so far)

The best games of 2018 (so far)

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The best games of 2018 (so far)

All the must-play games from the past few months

Jurassic World Evolution
Jurassic World Evolution

It’s only been a matter of weeks since the main event, but E3 2018 already feels like something of a distant memory as we bask in the afterglow of all its glorious game reveals. While you wait for all those new games, let’s look back at the best games of 2018 so far, including our two June Game of the Month additions. But first, you should make a point to download and play the brief, affecting vignette The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which is a promising prequel to Life is Strange 2. Vampyr might’ve bitten off a bit more than it could comfortably chew with its budget, but its a confident blood-sucking RPG that punches above its weight. The Crew 2 is a great ride via land, sea, and air if you’ve got a group of friends to make the most of the multiplayer, and The Sims 4: Seasons expansion adds plenty of fun activities to make the most of its wild weather and festive holidays.

At the end of every month, we comb through all our recent reviews to find the two games that qualify as must-plays. Consider these games to be the highlights of the year thus far – and if you’re looking for something to play while you wait for the rest of the new games of 2018, these standout titles are a sure bet.

June Game of the Month (Runner-up): Mario Tennis Aces”>

Mario Tennis Aces, a new Switch exclusive, comes packaged with an adventure mode that seriously takes tennis to new heights. Wimbledon watch out. You’ll be undertaking various challenges, smashing your way through boss battles and more to stop Wario and Waluigi from destroying the world with a special tennis racket that requires five power stones to reach its full potential… wait a minute, doesn’t that sound familiar? Anyway, if that all seems a bit ridiculous, there’s still normal tennis to get involved with too, albeit with some new power-ups that occasionally make Aces feel like someone brilliantly crossed Mario Tennis with Super Smash Bros. It might not let you just play straight sets, but this is definitely an iteration that the Switch deserves. Sam Loveridge

June Game of the Month (Winner): Jurassic World Evolution

Life always finds a way – it’s just that in Jurassic World Evolution, you are that way. If you ever thought you could bring Hammond’s dream to life, this is the game that’s going to let you test that theory, where you build the ultimate live dinosaur zoo / theme park of your own design. Build your park, find enough fossils to create a viable genome for a dino species, bring them to life, and try to keep your guests happy – and all in one piece. This is still Jurassic Park in game form, and not everything will always be smooth sailing. But managing all that, with a constant side serving of panic, is just why Jurassic World Evolution is a top-notch building sim. Developer Frontier has managed to balance the intricacies of constructing a theme park with the interactivity of looking after live dinosaurs, and it feels incredible. Lovely little nods to the films are woven into the gameplay, and even though the overall story can feel a little thin at times, you’re going to fall in love with your dinos over and over again to the point that none of that matters. Sam Loveridge

May Game of the Month (Runner-up): Moonlighter

Top-down Zelda-likes with gorgeous pixel art aren’t exactly in short supply – but Moonlighter stands out from the pack by borrowing some of Stardew Valley’s most ingenious gameplay loops (sans any actual farming). You play as shopkeeper Will, managing your stock and chatting with customers by day, then braving treacherous dungeons to harvest rare materials at night. The press-your-luck, roguelite nature of these dungeons offers a steep challenge that serves as a highly replayable hook, as you diligently fight off enemies and collect everything you need to craft the goods that’ll keep your shop thriving. Moonlighter knows exactly how to tap into that “just one more run” part of your brain – and once it has you, hours upon hours of questing will feel like they’ve gone by in a flash. Lucas Sullivan

May Game of the Month (Winner): Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human is like curling up with a science fiction version of those old choose-your-own adventure novels. Following three androids – the maternal one, the freedom fighter one, and the cop one – it tackles all the usual tropes about emotion and consciousness and sex robots, but with Quantic Dream’s signature storytelling. For all the slightly awkward moments – robot hand sex, anyone? – it’s a brave and compelling attempt to tackle big issues and match the movies when it comes to cinematic sparkle. Decisions feel like they really matter, and some genuinely startling set pieces will make sure that you stay invested as the three main characters evolve, build relationships, and maybe – if you make the wrong choices – die. Rachel Weber

April Game of the Month (Runner-up): Nintendo Labo

Nintendo Labo is one of those things that totally blows the concept of ‘what is gaming’ wide open. With Labo, Nintendo has given you a ton of cardboard, some instructions, and a license to create, invent and – most importantly – learn. With the Variety Pack you get several creations, from a motorbike and an RC car, to a fishing rod and a piano. The Robot Kit teaches you how to make a robot suit that you can actually wear and use to control a giant in-game robot. But regardless of which kit you buy, you’ll open up the Labo Garage, which is basically coding for beginners that you can use to create your own Labo games. And that’s where the real magic – and longevity – of Nintendo Labo lies. It’s just up to you to discover it. Sam Loveridge

April Game of the Month (Winner): God of War

We suspected this Norse reboot of a Sony classic would be great, but we never expected it to be so life-changingly intense. God of War is a tender story about family, but one with a massive, incredibly satisfying axe thrown in, and plenty of meticulously designed monsters to test it out on. Prepare for the real world to disappear once you start on this deep dive into myth and legend, for your screenshot library to swell with otherworldly landscape, and to fall utterly and totally in love with Kratos 2.0. Rachel Weber

March Game of the `h (Runner-up): A Way Out

It’s rare that a game actually can’t exist unless you’re playing with a friend. Usually, co-op is this optional, sometimes tacked-on affair for bigger single-player games, like Far Cry 5 – but with A Way Out, it’s everything. You play as a pair of prisoners – Leo and Vincent – who are looking to break out of the slammer and earn their freedom. Everything they do, you have to do with your co-op pal together. From breaking out, to fishing, or even playing Connect Four, every little action has been carefully created to make it feel like a shared experience. This isn’t just a co-op game – it’s the most innovative use of co-op gameplay to date, and if you want to go on an adventure with your buddy, this is the one to beat. Sam Loveridge

March Game of the Month (Winner): Ni no Kuni 2

Ni no Kuni 2 is an improvement over the first game in just about every way – and the original is pretty magical to begin with. Chief among the improvements in this open-world, action-focused JRPG is the amped-up combat, which plays out like a fireworks display of flashy attacks and quick-swapping between party members. The rich story revolves around Evan, a wrongfully deposed king looking to reclaim his throne and restore order to his kingdom. As with the first game, the vibrant, Studio Ghibli-caliber visuals are a joy to behold, and the sprawling world is full of activities with incredible depth, like the RTS-style battles of Skirmish mode and medieval urban planning in Kingdom Management. With its endlessly charming vibes and bountiful content, Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is basically too pure for this world. Lucas Sullivan

February Game of the Month (Runner-up): Fe

EA’s second unexpected indie punt has been something of a triumph. Emerging as a kind of lovechild between Shadow of the Colossus and Ori and the Blind Forest, Fe is a treat for the eyes, all pastel colors and polygonal angles, combining platforming and puzzle-solving. You even occasionally have to work out how to scale a colossal deer. Oh, and there’s some sing-song involved too, with the little fox protagonist learning new ways to communicate with the forest and its inhabitants as you progress through the story. It’s all utterly charming. Things aren’t all sweetness and light, though – Fe can also be incredibly frustrating, with flummoxing logic, strange navigational problems, and a distinct lack of explanation sometimes leaving you without a clue on how to progress. But when it does all come together, it’s an exhilarating joy for the eyes and ears – you just have to be prepared for a little ire every now and then. Sam Loveridge

February Game of the Month (Winner): Shadow of the Colossus

There aren’t many games that can feel as fresh and as special today as they did 13 years ago. Shadow of the Colossus’ latest HD remake on PS4 manages it effortlessly. Its tale of a young boy’s quest to bring his love back from the dead by killing 16 giant creatures still feels as ethereal and captivating as it did on PS2. The barren, atmospheric world tells its own story as you pound through it on horseback to take on the colossi one at a time, contemplating your actions as you go. Each creature-climbing attack is a unique moment of spectacle that few other games have ever so consistently achieved. What’s even more impressive is that under the updated, modernized controls and 4K graphics (with the option to choose between 4K resolution or 60FPS), this is built from the original PS2 code, proving that Sony and director Fumito Ueda nailed a timeless magical charm perfectly all that time ago. Leon Hurley

January Game of the Month (Runner-up): Dragon Ball FighterZ

Dragon Ball FighterZ accomplishes what so few games based on the Dragon Ball franchise have: it makes you feel powerful. That sounds like a pretty simple thing, but when we’re talking “I can blow up a planet by pointing my finger at the ground” levels of power, it’s actually quite a daunting task. Developer Arc System Works has mixed equal parts fan service and fighting game expertise, whipping up a lightning-fast and surprisingly brutal 2D fighter that plays as good as it looks (and it looks really damn good). If anything could get you to start practicing your Kamehameha form again, FighterZ is it. Sam Prell

January Game of the Month (Winner): Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter World has done one of those incredible things. It’s taken a series that’s been well known for being impenetrable to new players, and made it much more accessible. It’s still not the best for clarity or ease of use – just check out our Monster Hunter World guide and the video above for some examples – but it makes the hunt much more fun and welcoming for new players to jump in. And boy, will you want to. Each area is lush and vibrant, teeming with monster life, and every fight will feel you leaving exhilarated – if you win, that is. It’s an absolute triumph. Sam Loveridge

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