7 Best Games of 2018 to Buy for Yourself or a Friend

Rely on our handy gaming gift guide to find games for all types of people in your life (even yourself)

Marvel/Insomniac Games

2018 was a fantastic year to love video games. Month after month, those of us who devote way too much time to this lifestyle were treated to excellent, memorable games. But if video games are not a large part of your life: 1. Congratulations on saving a lot of money and 2. It can be difficult to know what to gift your loved ones around the holidays. In order to simplify things, I’ve put together a brief gift guide that cuts through some of the nonsense and gets at the heart of the matter. Here are the best games to buy a loved one (or yourself) before the year ends.

1. For that PlayStation 4 owner in your life

Although God of War was a completely amazing game, Spider-Man was the best PS4 exclusive to come out in 2018, and it will make a great gift for anyone on your list. It succeeds on most (if not all) levels, but more than anything else, it’s just plain fun to swing around a virtual Manhattan for hours on end. If they own a PS4 and already have Spider-Man, don’t let them sleep on the Nordic return of God of War. If they’ve already played that and don’t care too much about a mediocre story, there’s always the sci-fi, choose-your-own-adventure Detroit: Become Human.

2. For that niece or nephew who doesn’t need refined gameplay or story

If the young gamers on your list own a Nintendo Switch, then hook them up with Super Mario Party. The latest in the Mario Party series has a requirement for boundless energy and will keep the little ones busy and engaged for hours (and maybe even tire them out). If they already own Super Mario Party, they could have a lot of fun with the colorful and fun Kirby Star Allies. It’s a silly platformer that’s heavy on opportunities for co-operative multiplayer and light on difficulty.

3. For that person who finished (or gave up on) ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’

If that person on your list has completed the seemingly endless Red Dead Redemption 2 or has accidentally punched his or her virtual horse in the face one too many times and decided to jump ship, they’re probably looking to play something a little different to clean the mud off of their boots.

Pick up Hitman 2, a stealth-based assassination sim that may at first seem like a super serious game of cat and mouse. But it doesn’t take long before the game’s off-the-wall sense of humor and delightfully varied gameplay emerge. Your global assassin will soon be dressing up as a passionate hot dog vendor and using a fish as a weapon. Other good, recent games that might interest those looking for a change of scenery from the Wild West include Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Darksiders III (both on PS4 and Xbox One) or the fabulous new Diablo III: Eternal Collection port for Switch. Just probably stay away from Fallout 76.

4. For that retro-obsessed gamer who can’t let go of the past

If there’s someone on your list who thinks video games never improved after 1993 but still continues to buy new consoles, 2018 has been a very good year for them. Do everyone a favor and buy them Tetris Effect. It’s a refined, carefully weighted Tetris game, but with all of the psychedelic presentation of an incredibly good music visualizer. Tetris Effect has gotten rave reviews and has been hailed as one of the best iterations of Tetris. It’s also been lauded for being one of the best VR games, but more on that later.

If Tetris isn’t their jam, then the newly-released Castlevania Requiem might be. This port of the classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood released in October for PlayStation 4. And if they have a Switch and a passion for old Japanese RPGs, they will probably adore the very pretty and pixelated throwback Octopath Traveller. Probably don’t get them the PlayStation Classic.

5. For that person who bought a VR set up and doesn’t want it to collect dust

Virtual reality has had a slow start, to say the least. While the tech has continued to impress, it has consistently fallen short in compelling games that justify buying VR gear. This year, that needle finally started to move. The release of Astro Bot: Rescue Mission for PlayStation VR took a lot of enthusiasts by surprise at the beginning of October. It’s not only been called by critics as the best VR game out there, but some has even called it the best platformer of this whole generation. Moss, the story of a swashbuckling mouse trying to defeat an expanding evil, has also been widely received as a very solid PlayStation VR game. Additionally, Tetris Effect has been hailed as an excellent experience, letting you get up close and personal with its surreal visualizations.

6. For the Nintendo Switch owner who has a lot of friends

If there’s someone on your list who has a Nintendo Switch and loves playing games with other people, you should make sure they have Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This immense game comes with a mind-boggling array of characters, stages, music and options that will leave any popular Switch owner with hours and hours of fun with their friends. And if they need tips on how to throw a great Smash party, I wrote a guide for it. If they already have it, 2018 was a banner year for local co-op games on the Switch. Towerfall: Ascension is maybe my favorite local multiplayer game ever, outside of Smash. Additionally, Overcooked 2 and Killer Queen are great additions to any friendly gamer’s Switch library.

7. For the gamer who has played just about everything in 2018

It can be especially hard to buy for someone who seems to have played it all. But there are plenty of underlooked gems that came out this year they may not have found.  First and foremost, make sure they have played my Game of the Year Celeste, a tough-as-nails platformer that delivers an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve played almost 100 hours of it and will definitely go back for more. It received plenty of praise, but it could have definitely snuck under plenty of radars. Return of Obra Dinn, the retro-styled murder mystery follow up from Papers, Please’s solo developer, released in October and has been lauded as one of the best games of the year. It’s small enough that many may have missed it.  

Finally, for me, this summer was dedicated to Hollow Knight. It’s a compelling, beautiful and difficult action-platformer set in a long-dead kingdom of bugs. Its sprawling and immersive world hasn’t exactly gotten the most mainstream of attention, so that gamer on your list might have missed the many hours they could lose to this great game.

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