Steven T. Wright reached out to a number of freelancers to discuss their favorite games from 2018. These lists are being hosted in Into The Spine, and all credit belongs to the authors. Make sure to follow Aron Garst’s work on Twitter.

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1. Into the Breach

Getting grid-based tactics right isn’t as easy as you might think. The genre used to be dominated by Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, with other gems showing up occasionally. Into the Breach not only nails it through its randomly generated eight by eight maps and unlockable three unit squads, but it also creates a replayable challenge that rarely gets old. It’s a bridge between 100 hour RPGs and something you can go back to any day.

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2. Spider-Man

The only thing open-world games should care about is attention, but for the longest time that attention has fallen to the wayside. Spider-Man fixes this. Collectables, challenges, and side missions are (almost) all engaging, limited, and focused. It’s easy to say that Spider-Man is extremely polished; it’s harder to say that it’s a game that actually values your time. If you spent more than 20 hours in New York it wasn’t to collect a hundred feathers. It was because you wanted to.

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3. Monster Hunter: World

The value of the gameplay loop can’t be overstated. I don’t care what the genre is, if you don’t want to go back to the core of the game then it’s not a game you’ll enjoy. Monster Hunter: World nails this. The story is crap, it had a somewhat limited amount of monsters at launch, and its systems can be somewhat tedious. Yet all I cared about was hunting down Jagras and Anjanaths for hours upon hours.

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4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I’ve covered competitive Super Smash Bros. for years. I grew up playing Super Smash Bros. 64 and Melee. Even with those in mind, I’ve never felt more immersed in a game, a community, and the sheer grind to get better than I have while playing Ultimate. The roster, the mechanics, the levels, and the joy just hit me like a bag of Nintendo GameCubes every time I play.

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5. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu

I didn’t pay a scrap of attention to the Let’s Go games until they had been out for a week. I didn’t care for the new catch mechanics, the simplified battles, and the heightened importance of Pokemon’s rock, paper, scissors mechanics. I was wrong. It may be nostalgia, but as I worked through these last stressful weeks of the year, all I thought about was going back to Kanto.

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