Over the next eight days, Hardcore Gamer will be revealing its Best of 2018 Awards leading up to our Game of the Year. Today we present you with the Best New IP, Sequel, Remaster, Surprise and Puzzle Game.
Judging the year’s best new IP can be a bit tricky at times. Typically it simply goes to the best original title with some truly great gameplay, but it should also go to titles that craft unique, dazzling and inviting universes that we gladly want to revisit again and again. And it does seem odd to give it to a game whose setting is a real-life Canadian mountain that you can physically visit as well, but Celeste’s take on the British Columbian peaks easily made for one of the year’s most memorable experiences. The world of Celeste practically reimagines the mountain as some sort of Eldritch location, a land full of surreal surprises, be it abandoned boom towns, living anxieties, crystalline caverns or showdowns against doppelgangers. And every new trick it delivers not only contributes to the stellar story, but also delivers a set of unique challenge for each portion of the game. And that’s not even getting into the unlockable bonus levels, achieved via trickier secrets. Celeste is set to get new levels in 2019, and while we don’t know if this will be new story content, gameplay ideas or hooks for a possible sequel, we can’t wait to start another ascent with this fresh face.
|Octopath Traveler||Dead Cells||The Messenger||Starlink: Battle for Atlas|
Following God of War: Ascension, it wasn’t clear what would happen with the God of War franchise. The 2013 title did little to inspire players who had already seen the end of Kratos’ journey. It was time to move on from Greek Mythology and move on Santa Monica Studios did. God of War is a reinvention of a franchise that had grown stale. From gameplay to story to setting, the developer tore down everything to create something new. The new Norse setting fits the new Kratos, a struggling father still haunted by his Greek past. Gameplay has been refined to be more focused and tactical, and the new up-close camera that shows every gory detail. God of War did everything Ascension didn’t. It gave us an intriguing story, developed Kratos into a deep and compelling character, and provided hours of enjoyable combat, puzzle-solving and secrets to hunt. There was no better sequel in 2018 than God of War.
|Monster Hunter: World||Mega Man 11||Super Smash Bros. Ultimate||Dragon Quest XI|
The PS1 Spyro days are long gone, but its fans still remember even though they’re all grown up and many have kids of their own. The series had a few attempts at revival with varying levels of semi-success, but without something major, poor Spyro was going to be best known nowadays as a guest star in Skylanders. That’s no longer a problem thanks to Spyro Reignited, which rebuilt the original trilogy from the ground up to meet modern standards while keeping everything from level design to Spyro’s abilities as close to pixel-perfect as possible. While modern-day view distances show just how small the PS1 levels actually were, there’s something refreshing about playing games where every square inch has to be meticulously planned because there’s just no room for waste. There is room for prettification, though, and after the rebuild Spyro’s worlds and characters looked simply amazing with fantastic art design throughout. It would have been much simpler to slap a modern coat of paint on the original games, but Spyro Reignited overdelivered every chance it got.
|Shadow of the Colossus||Yakuza Kiwami 2||Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate||Katamari Damacy Reroll|
If you want a quick summary as to Tetris Effect’s brilliance in its reveal, look no further than the revelation one finds during the mere first stage of its story-esque Journey mode. Vocal snippets cued to the rotating of blocks; line clears welcomed by upbeat sounds; background music building from an introductory overture to an impressive uplifting of vocals during its emotive chorus sections. Right through until the equally-enthralling – and rather tense – climax, though it may take cues from a game like Lumines in its reactive syncing of sounds and instruments, Tetris Effect is full of these wonderfully-revealing moments without ever taking away from the gameplay at its heart. Seeing such a wide assortment of musical genres, ideas and implementing of said sounds, come together was something to behold first-hand and admire thereafter. Even when at its more comical — when riggedy jazz piano, murmurs of astronaut chatter or even the cry of horses greeted you on your way to clearing a set number of lines in each stage, it was the surprise of seeing so many sounds work wonderfully in tandem with the focal aesthetic that truly made the whole experience worthwhile. To think Tetris, of all things, could house a soundtrack this grand was but the first of the game’s many revealing moments. The way it gradually built these compositions up, in a way you felt a part of, was Tetris Effect’s true show-stopper.
|Astro Bot: Rescue Mission||Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon||Octahedron||Yoku’s Island Express|
Anyone marginally invested in video games will know of Tetris — of its legacy and its lasting appeal more than three decades on. To claim Tetris Effect is further proof of the tile-matching series’ addictive qualities wouldn’t be wrong either. All manner of trying one’s best to line up a handy four-line clear only to slip up at the last second was never too far away. But Tetsuya Mizuguchi and company’s work this year not only improved upon the core gameplay itself with additional mechanics and modes alike, but Effect’s delightful synergy of sound and visuals spurred its players on to see where its primary Journey mode would take them. Whisking players from underwater ambiance to downtown jazz all the way to uplifting, cosmic-styled trance and electronica at its climax, Tetris Effect’s synesthesia-inspired aesthetic proved a fitting accompaniment to help players muscle their way through the game’s rhythmic changes. Regardless of how, if at all, you react and respond emotionally to the presentation itself, you can’t deny Tetris Effect went in vouching for something far more than yet another carbon-copy iteration on the falling blocks formality. Tetris will of course seldom lose much, if any, of the reputation it’s grown over the decades no matter the year, but Tetris Effect itself is proof that even the oldest of IPs can be bolstered by fantastic presentation and clever nuances in mechanics alike.
|Donut County||Evergarden||Transpose||Bring You Home|