2018 has done it again with a hugely varied and high-quality number of video game releases. The Sick Critic staff has spent the last few weeks casting votes on their favorite games in several categories, including game of the year. You’ll find the winners, why they won, and a runner-up and honorable mention for each category. Who won game of the year? Keep reading to find out.
Best Visuals: Red Dead Redemption II
Why it won: Red Dead Redemption 2 encapsulates beauty, whether playing at a native 4k on Xbox One X or 1080p on PlayStation 4. Rockstar has developed a technical masterpiece with their latest installment of the series, pushing the boundaries for what was expected in graphical capabilities. While scaling vast mountain ranges, bustling cities, or the dense forests throughout the game, you will want to stop to soak in the high level of detail that Rockstar has managed to produce. Running on Rockstar’s iconic RAGE engine, Red Dead Redemption 2 seems to have solved some age-old problems in their open worlds, while raising the bar for everyone else. The inclusion of temporal anti-aliasing, adding volumetric and variable weather changes to sky rendering, and several smaller but well-defined systems complement each other to bring you an immersive experience of the Wild West. This is by far the best-looking game of the year and will likely remain so until Rockstar’s next project. – Devin (Publisher of Sick Critic)
Runner-Up: God of War
Honorable Mention: Forza Horizon 4
Best Original Soundtrack: Celeste
Why it won: This was the first soundtrack I heard from Lena Raine, and man did it make me want to listen to more of her stuff. Celeste’s soundtrack strikes the balance between varied and cohesive, having a variety of styles and instruments tied together by similar tones and motifs. The sheer quality of it, oh man. Raine is incredibly talented, and the melodies she creates perfectly match the tone of whatever level you find yourself in, be it the mysterious temple or the derelict hotel or the intense showdown at the end of the game’s second act.
She also makes great uses of samples and leitmotifs, like one of the songs using the same tone as protagonist Madeline’s “panic” text scroll noise. Songs will also sample each other, taking melodies and incorporating them into different tracks, making them sound completely different. Of course, Raine wasn’t afraid to get the soundtrack out of its comfort zone with songs like “Confronting Myself,” which is radically different than the rest of the soundtrack but by no means sounds like it doesn’t belong.
Also, holy shit, “Reach for the Summit.” As soon as the song starts it feels like it’s lifting you up, grabbing you by the hand and taking you running. Seconds in, it already cements itself as the perfect “final area” theme and only gets better from there. The final area is split into sections, and the song changes to match each one without losing the sense of inspiration and encouragement. It’s probably my favorite song of the year, period. I love it that much. – Max (Senior Editor)
Runner-Up: God of War
Honorable Mentions: Octopath Traveller, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Best Multiplayer: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Why it won: I maintain a firm stance in the undeniable importance of a multiplayer experience, and this importance has been proven time and time again with best-selling lists throughout the decades. However, cases like that of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate come as a rarity. A game that lives or dies on its multiplayer often has trouble making an impact on the industry of Ultimate’s caliber. I could discuss every nook and cranny of this game, but many of them would have nothing to do with the true reason that no other multiplayer game could outpace it. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, everyone is here: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, friends, and estranged cousins, and I’m not talking about their Miis. This truly is the game for anybody. With the diversity of the characters, it’s possible for anybody to pick up the controller and give it a try. The adjustable AI perfectly holds the hands of beginners and challenges more than its fair share of seasoned veterans. The controls, while still a little challenging to get the hang of for someone new, put all other fighting games to shame. This game truly has a very deliberate polish to it that so many other games sorely miss, especially all other multiplayer games of 2018. – Brandon (Staff Writer)
From the Sick Critic review: “I’ll address a question lots of people will be asking before they jump into the fray: “Is it as fast as Melee?” My answer is that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the perfect balance of weightiness and speed. The gameplay is fast-paced, precise, and encourages adrenaline-filled shouting when you add more players. I thought Brawl strayed way too much into floaty territory while Smash for Wii U struck up a great balance between Melee and Brawl. In my passionate opinion, this is the best Smash Bros. has ever been, gameplay-wise. Yes, even better than Melee.”
Runner-Up: CoD: Black Ops 4
Honorable Mention: Monster Hunter World
Best Sports/Racing Game: Forza Horizon 4
Why it won: The Forza racing games have always taken the unbelievable graphics of cars and environments and combined them with unparalleled racing simulation mechanics that are unrivaled by anything else we have in this genre. Forza Horizon 4 is no exception to this and raises the bar to what a racing game can be. Between gorgeous cars and the jaw-dropping landscapes of Edinburgh, to the fast-paced racing and nail-biting finishes that leave you on the edge of your seat, Forza Horizon 4 is a gem that should be in anyone’s game collection and once you play it, you’ll know why. – David (PR and Staff Writer)
From the Sick Critic review: “I want to reiterate that this game is my favorite racing game. I have never had so much fun racing with AI and friends before and I can’t wait to finish this review so I can get back to Britain, leaving a trail of burnt rubber wherever I go. Between the music, the cars, and the landscape, this is a Game of the Year contender for sure. This is definitely going to be a game I come back to, not only to see what other crazy DLC Playground Games can whip up but to continue to experience the seasons of Edinburgh and all the crazy beauty it offers.”
Runner-Up: The Crew
Honorable Mention: None
Best DLC: Destiny 2: Forsaken
Why it won: Destiny 2, it seems, has finally found its footing with this latest DLC release and fans are showing it. They finally addressed a lot of the issues that surrounded the base game and that still weren’t fixed in the two DLCs following. By far the best DLC since The Taken King from Destiny 1, Forsaken gives players a story everyone can get behind, a brand-new multiplayer mode that is sure to be a favorite of fans for the coming months, and tons of interesting loot to keep players grinding. Bungie has taken what fans have been asking for and applied it in a way only Bungie can do. Destiny 2: Forsaken shows that Bungie isn’t willing to give up on this franchise and it’s a reason you shouldn’t either. – David (PR and Staff Writer)
Runner-Up: Spider-Man: The Heist
Honorable Mention: Prey: Mooncrash
Best RPG: Monster Hunter World
Why it won: Monster Hunter World is massive. Quests are contained within quests; fourteen distinct weapon types can be mastered; a nearly infinite number of combinations of species can occupy areas and put character’s elbow grease to the test. And yet, there aren’t many moments spent killing time, where gameplay does not shine at the forefront. Monster Hunter World trusts that its sophisticated combat system (the best of its year) and a crafting system that constantly rewards players with stronger weapons as the stakes of each encounter heighten will suffice for a compelling 50-hour experience. The gamble pays off immensely, immediately establishing a gameplay rhythm that spurs on binge-playing and makes player evolution a natural occurrence.
Monster Hunter World’s combat tests the limits of your controller interface, accompanying each weapon with its own respective combo system and making the mere aspect of learning your weapon a gameplay mechanic that sustains the entire title. The map is expansive (linking six distinct regions) and refined from detail-to-detail, an endless list of crafting ingredients are available to be plundered instantaneously and develop your inventory. Monster Hunter World’s simple premise is a trojan horse for astonishingly thorough crafting and stat systems and a combat system that makes every battle its own encounter. – Zach (Staff Writer)
Runner-Up: God of War
Honorable Mention: Octopath Traveller
Best Performance: Yuri Lowenthal (Marvel’s Spider-Man)
Why he won: Yuri Lowenthal’s performance in Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 led to not only my favorite interpretation of Spider-Man, but of Peter Parker as well. Yuri nailed the characters’ complex relationship with each other. Peter’s interactions with every character he came into contact with tugged at my heart-strings and had me yelling with laughter. The nuances in his acting came through consistently as the game progressed and reached levels I haven’t seen since The Last of Us. Well earned. – Nathanael (Editor)
Runner-Up: Jeremy Davies (God of War)
Honorable Mention: Sunny Suljic (God of War)
Biggest Disappointments: Fallout 76, Metal Gear Survive, and Sea of Thieves
Why they “won:” It’s because we were,
Best New Original IP: Celeste
Why it won: At its base layer, Celeste is a by-the-numbers brutal platformer that allows the player to approach it from any conceivable angle, whether it be your first time playing games in this vein (Providing help with a very friendly Assist Mode), or you’re a seasoned veteran looking for another literal mountain to conquer. Dig deeper and deeper into the core, however, and finer details begin to emerge, like the several evolutions of one simple mechanic, the Metroid-Vania like level design creeping in slowly and smoothly, and finally, a narrative that serves as a warm blanket over the proceeding events. It’s these little spins on formula and accessibility that make Celeste one of the few true breaths on fresh air in 2018. – Sam (Staff Writer)
From the Sick Critic review: “Celeste is one of the best platformers you will ever play, period. Simplicity has never been so complex and rooted in mechanics before, and the variety of challenge is almost unmatched, surely reaching the top alongside titles like N+, Super Meat Boy and Shovel Knight. The only difference is that Celeste has an emotional gut-punch advantage over everything else.
Just buy this game, enjoy it, and understand it.”
Runner-Up: Detroit: Become Human
Honorable Mention: Dead Cells
Best Fighting Game: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Why it won: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate refuses to bore the players. Even with the most frequent items, Smash strives to put strategy first, in addition to the relentless fun. Nothing becomes too intrusive, nothing feels too challenging, and nothing feels too unnatural. Each and every fighter (except for Pichu, why main Pichu?) can be mastered with the right mindset from the right player. The crunchy sound effects and speedy mobility gives Ultimate a unique sense of accomplishment when you finally knock out your opponents. I can see Ultimate proudly compete with Melee as the best Smash Brothers game. Let the debates begin… but first, let’s settle it in Smash. -Peter (Staff Writer)
From the Sick Critic review: “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is undoubtedly the most complete game package I’ve ever sunk my time into. With a total of 74 playable fighters and over 100 stages (with three versions each) to fight on (among all the other dozen or so modes, hundreds of collectibles, songs, etc.), this game basically never ends. You’ll be playing this for the next five years, or however long it takes until the inevitable next Super Smash Bros. launches (it’s not like they’re gonna let the series die. It makes too much money).”
Runner-Up: Soul Calibur VI
Honorable Mention: Dragon Ball FighterZ
Game of the Year: God of War
Why it won: God of War took me on an adventure I never thought I longed for in a video game. The relationship Kratos instantaneously develops with you from the very beginning to the peaceful end firmly leaves a remarkable impact. The unexpectedly grounded atmosphere of a mystical world bolsters the power of the mostly invisible Norse gods and creates a mystery that gives the ancient Norse mythology the respect it deserves. I’ve never felt detached from the world Sony Santa Monica lovingly crafted. I wanted to hear more about the fables escaping from the wise Mimir. I wanted Kratos to learn how to be an independent father and teach his son how to be a man in such a perilous climate. I want to see which new threats Kratos will face in the (basically confirmed) sequels in this rebirthed franchise.
My jaw dropped the first time battling The Stranger, by far one of the best boss fights I’ve encountered in a video game. My jaw dropped a second time when Freya revealed the World Tree for the first time. My jaw dropped a third time when I found [redacted by editor]. My jaw dropped a final time when the credits started rolling. I couldn’t believe what I just played and I would do so much to play it for the first time again. God of War was a brave step forward for not only the franchise but for the entire AAA gaming industry that strives to put the dollar first instead of the game’s quality itself. An over 20-hour single-player only game should not be an uncommon venture, but thanks to the critical and commercial success Sony and other companies saw when God of War launched, I could only declare this game an artistic triumph that will not be ignored in the industry anytime soon. – Peter (Staff Writer)
Why it won: God of War combines everything we love about video games. Between the atmosphere, using Norse mythology to tell a gripping story of a child’s destiny, to the combat mechanics and how good it feels to grab the jaws of a werewolf just before he attacks you, and separate the bottom jaw, ripping it all the way down the front of his body (I got a little carried away). The voice acting makes you feel for what the characters are going through and the music playing in the background only adds to the overall immersion. God of War is a special game and is one that needs to be played by everyone. This is truly a masterpiece. – David (PR Manager and Staff Writer)
Why it won: God of War is the sort of rebrand that transcends the once deemed constraints of its IP. The franchise established itself as one with a cinematic flair early on but here it sticks the landing better than ever before. Landscapes are picturesque across the board and flattered by the cinematography and narrative pacing that allows them to stand out. The story recharacterizes Kratos’ “Spartan Rage,” providing his son Atreus as a foil, as much a focus of the story as Kratos. Kratos’ harsh exterior gives way to the need to protect and raise Atreus, the dynamic’s evolution progressing across the entirety of the extensive campaign.
Combat is more methodical taking a page from From Entertainment’s approach but meeting it halfway with the power fantasy hack n’ slash God of War became known for in the first place. Combat retains its impact while constantly unearthing new revelations about player ability. God of War is more than a high watermark for its own franchise, it’s the sort of step forward for AAA gaming often content to spin its wheels and stick to the script. – Zach (Staff Writer)
From the Sick Critic review: “God of War is nothing short of a masterpiece. The game has an emotional story that had me laughing, teary-eyed, and screaming HOLY SHIT multiple times. The game’s combat is one of the best systems I have ever played, deep and full of options. Atreus is also the best companion character in recent memory, as he is always willing to help those in need, perfectly placed into the combat of the game, and never needs Kratos to watch him. The progression system is top notch, I was able to create my own version of Kratos and I was continually rewarded with better equipment. God of War is also a technical marvel, with each location full of immense detail and life-like cut-scenes. Exploration was a joy as I learned more about the world while also finding better equipment each time I decided it was time to explore. God of War is full of things to do, but most importantly each activity feels meaningful, which kept me playing long after the credits rolled. God of War excels at everything, it‘s not only the best game on the PS4 but one of the best experiences in recent memory.”
Honorable Mention: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Word player, note manipulator, and logic breaker. My favorite game is The Last of Us. I’ll argue with you about it all day. Try me. “To the edge of the universe and back, endure and survive…”