It’s that time again, we’re on New Year’s Eve and so it’s the perfect time to look back over the year and it has been an incredible year for gaming. I’ve not even played some of the bigger titles this year, owing to becoming editor for Rice Digital, and this was still a really hard list to nail down. Also, I tried to keep it restricted in terms of genre, otherwise I would have had just a list of fighting games and JRPGs. Enough of that though, let’s just crack on!
There have been a lot of retro-inspired titles this year, but most of them have only managed to nail the look of the era whilst failing to feel like a game from the era; Tanglewood, however, feels exactly like a Megadrive title. I was initially drawn to it for the adorable protagonist, but found a game that feels like a lost relic of the 16-bit era in the best possible way. Definitely pick this up.
 Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
I do love the Dragon Quest series, but after IX was disappointing and X never showing its face in the West, I didn’t have high hopes for XI. Luckily, XI really knocked it out of the park, returning to a more classic style and feeling overall like a big warm comfort blanket. The hero is a little bland as a character, but this is more than made up for by one of the most diverse character rosters in any modern JRPG.
 Hollow Knight
This was a title that I was waiting for with baited breath, as everything I saw about the game saw it placed right up my street. When it launched for Switch (suddenly, I might add), I purchased it and fell for the Hallownest and all of its quirks; and Hollow Knight quickly became one of my gaming obsessions of the year. Fair warning though, if you start this you will want to see everything, so make sure you have the time.
 Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late[st]
I’m a huge fan of anime fighting games, and French bread were responsible for updating the already phenomenal Under Night In-Birth this year with a robust visual novel story mode, and a set of wonderfully quirky new characters (with great new music pieces). The end result is what is possibly one of the best fighting games, let alone anime fighting games, and with the fantastic tutorial mode, anyone could easily jump in.
 Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee!
I did not expect this game to be on my Game of the Year shortlist. In fact, I wouldn’t have believed you that this would get onto this list ahead of Smash Bros. Ultimate. However, the Let’s Go! games are such joyous enhanced trips down memory lane, that I just cannot resist the charms of the adorable Eevee. I’ve spent far too much time in Kanto already and, as I haven’t caught them all yet, I’m likely to be spending more time there yet.
 Blazblue Cross Tag Battle
Combining the rosters of three series I love (and RWBY) was an absolutely inspired decision that has left me experimenting with different pairings all year despite constantly returning to the same couple I’ve had since it became available – Jubei and Carmine. If only the game didn’t get so much negative response with its DLC practices, it would have placed higher.
 Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
There’s a lot that can be said for the music of a game and how much that impacts my enjoyment of a game overall, which is only more needed in a game that has music as the central focus. I had a tough time deciding between P3D and P5D, and so it came down to the music in the end, with “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There” and “Blooming Villain” winning the day for the Phantom Thieves.
 Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Ys VIII came like a bolt out of the blue. I’ve never played any of the other games in the series but thought to try the eighth main instalment when it came to Switch. What I found was a wonderful and streamlined JRPG experience with a fantastic soundtrack and well-rounded (if a little trope-heavy) characters. Ys VIII was one of the few games I simply could not put down in 2018, and I can’t wait for Ys IX now.
 Dead Cells
Few games this year have captivated me as much as Motion Twin’s Dead Cells. The setting, visual style, and gameplay mechanics are utterly enthralling; even the difficulty level, initially a jarring and foreboding presence, just adds to the macabre charm of the game. Even though Dead Cells can feel like you’re making no progress for a while, but it is worth sticking with as there aren’t any other games quite like it.
 Octopath Traveler
I thought that the latest game from the producers behind the Bravely series, Masashi Takahashi and Tomoya Asano was going to impress, but I was blindsided by exactly how much Octopath Traveler succeeded in impressing me. Everything about this game from the score, to the visuals, to the fantastic characters is so close to perfection that I couldn’t recommend this game more. You need to play Octopath Traveler.
BONUS: Late to the Game – NieR: Automata
It honestly couldn’t be anything else, I cannot believe that I missed this game in 2017. A lot of people raved about this, but I was not prepared for how incredible this title would be. All of the different gameplay mechanics, enthralling and unexpected story, well-written characters, and remarkably beautiful setting all added up to a game that I don’t feel incorrect is calling one of the best games of this generation.
So that’s my list, but what’s yours? Also, what games are you looking forward to in 2019 (we’ve got a lot in Q1 already)? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments.