Feature: Game of the Year 2018: Max’s Top 10 PS4 Games

It has been yet another amazing year for games and I’ve been lucky enough to play and review some of its biggest releases and discover many of its indie gems. I’ve fought gods, colossi and those damned O’Driscolls. I’ve ventured to distant planets, ancient Greece and the Mexiverse. I’ve swung through New York, puzzled my way up The Penrose Hotel and holed about in Donut County. I’ve even escaped jail with my girlfriend and altered my perception of everything from reality to relationships.

Yet my backlog is heaving with so many neglected games; Detroit: Become Human, Spyro Reignited, Ni No Kuni 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Celeste and Yakuza Kiwami 2, to name but a few, which I promise will be given my attention, eventually. But for now, let’s celebrate a great year in gaming. I hope this list vainly affirms some of your own picks and brings your attention to games you may have missed, but before we see the full list here are a few honourable mentions:

A Way Out – Hazelight Studios (PS4)

This fun but flawed crime drama brought back the joy of couch coop. Playing this through with my girlfriend was a great experience, constantly encouraging us to work together to execute our escape. Creative set pieces and a surprisingly impactful ending redeemed the game’s other shortcomings, while the simple pleasure of sharing a story-based experience satisfied my nostalgia for a more wholesome era of games. More couch coop games in 2019 please!

Unravel Two – ColdWood Interactive (PS4)

Another excellent coop experience, Unravel 2 captures the charm of the first game while building on its elegant platforming mechanics with the addition of another Yarnie. While the sequel’s story feels less directed and thus less affecting than the original, this is a worthy successor, with the same gorgeous visual presentation, satisfying physics-based platforming and creative level design.

Planet Alpha – Planet Alpha ApS (PS4)

Planet Alpha is a vibrant indie gem. Gorgeous art design brings the outlandish flora and fauna of the titular planet to life, making it feel truly alien. The game’s difficulty, while unforgiving, makes mastering its precise platforming and inventive physics puzzles all the more rewarding. Moments of intensity and serenity are sublimely balanced on this beautiful, yet hostile world and this duality is reflected in an enthralling, enigmatic narrative.

Check out my review here.

Banner Saga 3 – Stoic Studio (PS4)

I came into this trilogy at its conclusion, yet Banner Saga 3 wholly absorbed me with its stunning illustrative art style and rich fantasy world. Excellent writing brings a nuanced cast of characters to life, and meaningful decisions give you impactful influence over how the narrative unfolds. Tactical turn-based combat and party management further deepen this engrossing role-playing experience. While I look forward to revisiting the prior entries in this unique fantasy saga, I am certain newcomers and veterans alike will find a lot to love in this calamitous final act.

Check out my review here.

And now for the top ten. Can you guess what’s at #1?

10.) Donut County – Ben Esposito (PS4)

I only got around to playing Donut County this month, but this short, simple puzzle game is one of my favourite indies of the year. Its bold art design and luscious colour palette perfectly suits the oddball world and story. Playing as BK, a donut shop owning raccoon, you begin sucking the town’s residence into an ever-growing hole. This destructive act is immensely relaxing and cathartic, and several inventive twists on the Katamari-esque hole mechanic keeping gameplay fresh. A dreamy soundtrack, dry humour and a huge amount of charm make your brief romp through Donut County unforgettable fun.

9.) The Spectrum Retreat – Dan Smith Studios (PS4)

Dan Smith’s inventive and unsettling puzzler pairs sublime puzzle design with an engrossing narrative to create an experience which harnesses its manifold influences into something truly unique and compelling. Working your way through increasingly challenging colour-based puzzle chambers, you ascend the sinister Penrose Hotel, trying to find both your reason for being there and a means of escape. The twisted lovechild of Black Mirror, Portal and Crayola, The Spectrum Retreat is an essential puzzle game which will perturb and perplex you in equal measure.

Check out my review here.

8.) Guacamelee! 2 – DrinkBox Studios (PS4)

DrinkBox Studios set a high bar with the original Guacamelee!, but thankfully its sequel manages to improve on every aspect, creating an exceptional Metroidvania which blazes along at a breakneck pace. Bright, bold art design and absurd, self-aware humour bring Juan’s adventure to vibrant life. Meanwhile perfectly attuned platforming offers the perfect level of challenge, and satisfying, ever-evolving combat ensures every second is joyous and rewarding.

Check out my review here.

7.) Gorogoa – Buried Signal (PS4)

Gorogoa is an astoundingly beautiful and inventive puzzle game, meticulously designed and hand illustrated by sole developer Jason Roberts. Four square panels interlock, overlap and interact in myriad ways, unravelling a fascinating series of narrative vignettes. Marrying charming art design, a serene, contemplative score and ingenious puzzle, Gorogoa is an utterly mesmeric experience, and one of the finest puzzle games ever.

6.) Shadow of the Colossus – BluePoint Games (PS4)

I consider Shadow of the Colossus to be one of, if not, my favourite game of all time. The impact it had on my 12-year-old self was profound, opening my eyes to the art of video games, establishing them as more than simply a fun pastime. This game convinced me that this medium was the most intimate form of storytelling, captivating me with its minimalism and provoking introspection about death and mankind’s impact on the natural world. This year’s remake filled me with much of that same magic, and thanks to the stunning visual upgrade, this world, and the creatures which inhabit it, feel all the more real. Gorgeous art design and a stirring score work together to full effect, heightening the feel of every devastating blow and accentuating the emotional heft of this sombre tale.

Shadow of the Colossus is simply one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever experienced. While I could gush on about my love for this game, I will instead implore you, whether you have played it or not, to experience this game in the full majesty of this definitive version.

Check out Jason’s review here.

5.) Marvel’s Spider-Man – Insomniac Games (PS4)

Insomniac’s Spider-Man is such a pure experience, perfectly capturing what it feels like to be the iconic web-slinger. The excellently paced story expertly balances Peter Parker’s parallel lives, seeing them gradually converge to immense emotional effect. The exploration of his personal relationships grounds the spectacular superhero action, raising the stakes and contextualising his struggle against Mister Negative and The Sinister Six. While it lacked some of the world building, side mission variety or fan service of the Arkham series, the game’s fluid and satisfying traversal and combat systems make its minute-to-minute gameplay thrilling and enthralling.

Check out Chris’ review here.

4.) Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – Ubisoft Quebec (PS4)

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey improves upon and refines everything that made Origins such a successful reinvention of the series. Its vast, richly detailed vision of ancient Greece plays host to a deeply engrossing and affecting personal tale of family, identity and redemption. and with over 70 hours played I still find myself returning to Odyssey, whether to enjoy the regular free content updates or to play the thus far excellent expansion pass episodes. Ubisoft seem to have learnt a lot from pioneering studios like CDProjekt RED in both how to create a compelling world and how reward its dedicated fans, and this series is vastly improved for it.

Check out my review here, and my review of the first episode of The Legacy of the First Blade expansion; Hunted, here.

3.) The Gardens Between – The Voxel Agents (PS4)

For me, The Gardens Between was the ideal respite in a year full of massive, blockbuster titles. This wholesome, nostalgic tale of childhood friendship is elegantly told through sublimely designed levels which use elements from the friend’s memories to create unique puzzle scenarios. Reaching each level’s end using the game’s unique time-manipulation mechanics is methodical and comforting. Serene music, stunning art design and a beguiling atmosphere make this the perfect rainy day game, equal in quality, originality and emotional impact to the likes of Journey and What Remains of Edith Finch.

Check out my review here.

2.) Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar Games (PS4)

Red Dead Redemption 2 epitomises the quality of presentation, world building and storytelling that has become expected of Rockstar Games. The scale, scope and intricacy of this vast open world and its manifold systems still manages to stagger me after 60+ hours. Never has a game world felt so alive and persistent; everything from hunting legendary Bison, to drinking with Lenny feels meaningful and integral to your experience. The sprawling saga of its narrative is expertly structured, written and acted, and stands as one of the greatest pieces of Western fiction alongside the likes of The Assassination of Jesse James, Deadwood and Blood Meridian.

Check out Chris’ review here.

1.) God of War – Sony Santa Monica (PS4)

God of War was the reason to own a PS4 this year. A glorious, generation-defining masterpiece, Cory Barlog’s inspired reinvention of the iconic series elevated video games as a medium to new heights. Kratos and Atreus’ relationship, expertly observed, written and performed, grounds their extraordinary journey through the Nine Realms. Norse mythology feels like the perfect home for Kratos, and the contrast of the fantastical with the relatable works symbiotically. Spectacular, visceral combat and sublime Metroidvania level design make every second of gameplay rewarding and engaging, while staggering, cinematic set pieces and intimate, poignant moments balance the macro and micro of this beautiful, nuanced adventure. Never have I felt so invested in a work of fiction, and by its end I was left in both awe and tears. God of War remains unparalleled, and if you only ever play one video game, make sure this is it.

Check out my review here.

And that’s the list. What do you make of it? Do you agree with the rankings, or do you think it’s all a load of tosh? Share your thoughts down in the comments section below.

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