While plenty of controversies have surrounded the industry in 2018 (Crunch! Loot Boxes! The person who approved The Quiet Man!) there was no mistaking what a damn fine year it’s been for actual games. There’s been fantastic big budget titles, instant indie classics, and VR having a banner year.
Even in the realm of horror games (and what we can call horror-adjacent), there’s been a fine selection and we at Bloody Disgusting’s Dead Pixels have selected 20 of the best games that tickled our particular fancy this gaming year.
A small note that there’s not going to be any games such as Red Dead Redemption II, Assassin’s Creed Odyessy or Tetris Effect on the list. As great as we think they are, it’d be an extreme stretch to pop them in here (though I’d imagine paying certain levels of Tetris Effect under the influence might do a psychological number on you).
Now, on to the main event! How many did you play?
Dark Souls Remastered (Multi-Format)
One of the most beloved games of the last generation, it always seemed likely Dark Souls would get a remaster at some point. in 2018, fans could return to Lordran once more, with the game even coming to a Nintendo machine for the first time.
It’s a bare-bones remaster (especially so on PC), but it is still Dark Souls, resplendent in its beloved challenging majesty.
Survival takes to the seas, and with it brings a novel twist on the genre. Subnautica sees you stranded on an alien world where the ocean dominates the landscape and all that is to be discovered lies beneath the surface.
Subnautica is a strong single-player survival game, and the intimidating unknown of its undersea world and the helplessness it inflicts on you make your plight a nerve-shredding survival horror. At least there are fleeting moments of unusual beauty to relieve the pressure now and again.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Multi)
We’re still waiting on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a spiritual successor to the 16-bit era of Castlevania games, but this year, we did get a small taste of what to expect with Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a spiritual successor to the 8-bit era of Castlevania games.
Curse of the Moon unashamedly pays tribute to the NES games of its ilk, with a few modern twists in its gameplay structure. After all the fear over the eventual quality of Ritual of the Night, it’s as much a surprise as it is a relief to get a game as good as Curse of the Moon.
It’s not quite as tough as its influences, but it is still a sizeable and unyielding quest.
Hollow Knight (Multi)
It was a good year for the 2D roguelike adventure, especially those you could dub ‘Metroidvania’ style ones. The hauntingly beautiful Hollow Knight was chief among them.
A largely monochrome world of battling insects filled with surprisingly deep and rich lore, Hollow Knight rewards your patience with detail, and you’ll definitely need that patience because Hollow Knight is a hardy challenge.
The Forest (PC, PS4)
Survival rears its head again, and The Forest is another great example of it. Stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash, you must survive a brand new hell where a clan of cannibalistic mutants rule and are out to make you dinner. There’s clear inspiration from The Hills Have Eyes and The Descent on display here and it’s all the more unnerving and raw for it.
While Subnautica‘s horror in the unknown, The Forest‘s is in the knowledge of what is out there and doing everything possible to keep away from it at all costs.
25 years to the day that DOOM graced the world with its greatness, DUSK shows up and comes across as the missing link between Id Software’s iconic shooter and Id’s other iconic shooter, Quake.
DUSK is a fast-paced throwback to 9o’s shooters that sees you rip and tear your way through cultists, goat demons and chainsaw-weilding bagheads. It starts off as a modern retelling of PC shooters circa 1996, but the deeper you delve, the greater its individual talents shine through with fantastic level design taking center stage.
Into the Breach (PC, Switch)
Subset Games garnered plenty of praise for its procedurally-generated spacefaring game FTL, and with Into the Breach, and its take on the world of turn-based strategy, and done wonders all over again.
You’re in control of an artillery unit that travels back in time to the start of an alien invasion in the hopes of rewriting history s they don’t destroy the planet. If the damage reaches critical levels, the team (whatever remains of them anyway) is thrust back through time to try again.
It paints a grim, yet defiant, picture where every little victory feels like it was against all odds and the ominous shadow of defeat and destruction always lingers closely.
The Persistence (PSVR)
2018 has been a great year for VR games, and naturally, VR horror is involved in that. The Persistence channels the sci-fi horror atmosphere of Dead Space and Alien Isolation but has the added bonus of putting you right in the action.
You are tasked with course-correcting a doomed space station that shifts and changes shape. The other big problem you’ve got is that the ship has a cloning machine on board in case the crew dies, and naturally, it’s gone haywire and started creating psychotic mutant versions of the crew and they’re stalking the halls between you and your objective.
The VR intimacy coupled with the ever-changing state of the station makes for one of the most dread-inducing games of the year.
Monster Hunter World (Multi)
After multiple entries on handheld consoles, Monster Hunter came back to the big time with Monster Hunter World, and got the praise and sales it deserved.
Monster Hunter World sees you indulge in a glut of deceptively strategic missions where you and your friends played a game of cat and mouse with the wildlife, and sometimes, you’re unwittingly made to be the mouse. The ecosystem of the game world is breathtakingly detailed, and learning about it helps you become a better hunter.
The thrill of finally felling a particularly tough beast is one of the sweetest triumphs in gaming, and usually, you can make a nifty hat out of a tooth or something!
Prey: Mooncrash (Multi)
This standalone expansion for 2017’s very good Prey sees you simulating the memories of the crew on a moon base where the Typhon (the main game’s shadowy, Venom-esque alien threat) have taken over.
There’s a variety of objectives from a variety of viewpoints and to begin with, you can only do so much in one run before your time inevitably runs out. The goal is to piece together the memories of the crew and rescue them all in one majestic, panicky run.
On every run, there’s a gargantuan beast lurking about the place that’s practically unstoppable, so most playthroughs are akin to the final twenty minutes of Alien or Aliens as you race against time from a doomed base before something gets you.
The Exorcist Legion VR (PSVR, PC)
All these years later and The Exorcist is still scaring people. In writing, in film, on television and now it’s in virtual reality.
The Exorcist Legion VR takes heavy inspiration from the events of The Exorcist III but is served in brief, interconnected chapters of unnerving terror. There’s a nice tonal shift between chapters, with slow-burn scares wrung out in different ways.
Shout out to its detective office episode hub, where you too can fumble the simple act of collecting a coffee from the vending machine. Truly the horror never ends.
Life is Strange developer DONTNOD’s first post-Arcadia Bay project sees them take to early 20th Century London for a morality-based action RPG with vampires.
Paying as a doctor turned creature of the night, you stalk the plague-ridden streets of London, encountering monsters and hunters alike as you seek out answers, and possibly a cure, for your unwanted vampirism.
There’s a few rough edges to combat and the visuals that don’t quite match DONTNOD’s ambitions, but on the whole, it’s a richly atmospheric experience. Plus, there’s just not enough vampire games around these days, so it’s nice to see a good one in Vampyr.
Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)
It’s such a joy to see the beauty of Shadow of the Colossus brought to a whole new audience this year. With a complete visual upgrade (and a few quality of live improvements to the way it handles), the 2018 remake shows just how magical the game has always been.
Each battle with these gigantic, majestic monsters is an audiovisual treat, making you feel so small and insignificant as you struggle to clamber up their titanic, intimidating forms. Quite simply, Shadow of the Colossus is still a masterpiece thanks to a smart and respectful remake.
Phantom Halls (PC)
A roguelike set in a haunted house? With a Scooby-Doo style team fighting off a selection box of monsters? Where every B-movie horror trope is given love and a gentle, playful mocking? And There’s Evil Dead 2 DLC??
You can see why Phantom Halls would be a favorite for Dead Pixels on premise alone, but it’s happily also a great game too!
There are two games on this list that can be finished in under an hour, yet pack plenty into their brief playtime. Paratopic is the first of them, and its short bizarre experience is one of 2018’s best surprises.
A grimy, surreal, lo-fi first-person adventure, Paratopic is more than a little inspired by Twin Peaks, but still manages to flaunt its individuality plenty during the 40 or so minutes spent in its company. To say too much would spoil it (it’s under an hour after all) and really, Paratopic deserves you going in as cold as possible.
September 1999 (PC)
And the other ‘short’ game on the list is September 1999, which clocks in under six minutes, but boy does it make an impact in that time. Its creator 98DEMAKE made 2018 a fruitful year with his brief and punchy titles which also included the surreal OK/NORMAL.
All I can say about September 1999 is it’s a novel way of handling the found footage genre in an interactive form, and that it definitely earns its horror chops. An expanded sequel is coming and even without knowing much about it, it’s already one of our most anticipated horror titles for the coming year.
Hitman 2 (Multi)
The bald-headed murder machine continues his fine form with this refined sequel that proves to be a more consistent and satisfying version of the 2016 Hitman (which is packed into Hitman 2 in an improved form if you already bought it previously).
Agent 47 has half a dozen more puzzle boxes of death to play within Hitman 2, including a superb mission in a leafy Vermont suburb that is amongst the best in the entire series.
The cherry on top is Ghost mode, where two players vie for the same targets in their own separate versions of the game map, and see who can eliminate all their targets first without panicking and botching the whole job.
Death Road to Canada (Multi)
Death Road to Canada is part text adventure, part zombie survival game, and these parts mash together to make one of 2018’s funniest, goriest indie titles.
The text adventure side sees you interact with other survivors on the fabled ‘Death Road to Canada‘ itself, determining how screwed you are by what qualities the people in your party have. Not got a dog lover among your party? Well, you won’t be getting that mean-looking pooch to join your merry band of zombie killers.
The survival part sees your group head into walker-heavy towns, buildings, and even sewers to look for supplies, survivors, and most importantly, gas for your car. Making your way to Canada is never easy and you’ll lose more than a few of your group over the many, many attempts, but when you do finally make it? Such a good feeling.
Dead Cells (Multi)
Dead Cells compliments Hollow Knight nicely. Offering up a different take on the same roguelike adventure template. It’s like classic Prince of Persia fused with Castlevania and it has a satisfying gameplay loop that sees a quick five minute run turn into hours with alarming ease.
What’s surprising is Dead Cells black sense of humor. With the player character being a sentient slime blob attached to a warrior’s corpse, the interactions it has with the decaying world are very unsympathetic and often hilarious in its coldness.
But it’s the hack n’ slash adventuring that’s the main draw, and Dead Cells‘ combat and traversal are utterly sublime, with plenty of grisly modifications to your arsenal to help you slay the castle’s monsters a bit more efficiently.
God of War (PS4)
Every little concern about God of War‘s new direction proved to be for nothing as arguably, Kratos has never been in better form than for Sony Santa Monica’s 2018 entry.
Despite being a more subdued ball of anger these days, Kratos still rips and tears into a catalog of Norse mythology with blood-soaked rage. The sensational opening fight against a mysterious opponent is an utterly breathtaking battle full of brutal slugging that leads to the ground itself being split in two through the sheer force of the two blood-soaked combatants.
Among the monsters, gore, and spectacle is a far more tender God of War, with Kratos struggling to protect his son Atreus from the truth of his lineage whilst the pair head on a personal quest to honor a promise. Also, you have the Leviathan Axe, which can be thrown like a boomerang and cleaves enemies in two. Y’know, just in case you worried the God of War was getting soft.