Game Informer‘s forthcoming February issue contains list after list of Game of the Year awards. Along with our recommendation of 50 games you should not miss, one of those lists rounds up the top gaming moments of the year. Our discussion for this category focuses heavily on story, progression, victory, and sometimes the nuts and bolts that make up a game. But that list doesn’t say account for what makes this medium unique: its ability to create emergent stories. Sometimes a game’s world delivers an experience that is unique to a player, other times it’s the people you are playing with that become the focus.
I asked each Game Informer staffer to give me their favorite moment of the year. I wanted it to be that memory that jumped out; whether it was a plot twist in a game, an interview they conducted with a developer, a conference they attended, or a shared moment with friends. In other words, it could be anything. We all play games, and we know the power they contain. We turn to them for stories, community, competition, and above all else to be entertained. The list below offers a glimpse into all of these entry points. It’s one of my favorite lists I’ve assembled, as it gives you a great snapshot of how video games touched us in 2018.
Enjoy the list and please share your favorite moment in the comments section below.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 – Silence
When my kid falls asleep and my wife can no longer tolerate me, I slink away to my game room for hours of online multiplayer with friends. I’ve played with the same crew almost every night for two years. Our game of choice is Overwatch, but we’ve lately been smitten with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The only mode we’ve touched is Blackout, Call of Duty’s version of battle royale. We don’t compete at a high level, but do place fairly well when we are focused. Therein is the problem: we struggle with focus.
We find we’re at our best when we hunker down and wait for the enemy to come to us. This means minutes will go by with no action. We grow antsy in those moments, and, well, all hell usually breaks loose, but not in a way the game is designed to be played. Whether we’re lying in wait in tall grass or are huddled together in a small house with our guns aimed at the door, we become distracted by every little thing. Silence is our worst enemy. Someone will eventually lay down a spray or emote, and then everyone is doing it. Our conversations never really have a pause in them either, meaning we often miss the sound of footsteps heading our way. I can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve been ambushed while doing something stupid. When this happens, we roar with laughter, sometimes so loud I wake up my wife. I know this is a personal story, but when I look back on the year, that’s what I think of: mayhem with friends. Sure, I could pick a moment from Red Dead Redemption II or God of War, but I think it’s important to highlight how games bring us together and can create friendships. I never would have met these great people if not for Overwatch’s multiplayer. I now consider them some of my dearest friends. Kyle, Karrington, Phil, and the rest of the people in the group, thanks for all of the fun!
Red Dead Redemption II – The Walk Up To The Manor
In the wake of Red Dead Redemption II’s critical acclaim, it has proven to be a divisive game. Count me among the people who adore it. My favorite gaming moment in 2018 comes from a mission near the halfway point in the game called “Blood Feuds, Ancient And Modern.” It’s a powerful, action-packed sequence backed by chilling music and unforgettable scenes. Easily my favorite segment in a game since Mass Effect 2’s infamous suicide mission. But the best part of it comes before all the violence kicks off, as the gang walks up to a spooky manor in the moonlight Wild Bunch style, their bloody intentions growing more pronounced with every step. It’s an amazing visual that looks like a tragic painting and one that will stick out in my memory whenever I think about this fantastic adventure into the west. If you want my full spoilery write-up for why I love it so much, head here.
Return of the Obra Dinn – Understanding the Breadth of the Mystery
I had traveled into the middle of the ocean to investigate the disappearance of one of the East India Company’s transport vessels. The ship’s entire crew had gone missing and were presumed dead. As a shipping company investigator, it was my job to get to the bottom of this strange incident, but I was really much more than an insurance adjustor – I was a detective. And Return of the Obra Dinn challenged my investigative skills in ways no game has done before.
Early on, it became clear that the Obra Dinn’s crew had gotten into some kind of kerfuffle that lead to mutiny, but it didn’t take long before I realized that something far more bizarre, and supernatural, had happened on these dark waters. I first spied the giant spiders through cracks in the shipboards, and their hairy, angular bodies sent my brain spinning. In that moment, I realized that whatever had happened on the Obra Dinn was much worse than a common mutiny … and it was my mission to get to the bottom of that story.
Spider-Man – The Infectious Optimism of Peter Parker
The most memorable video game moment I had this year was playing through Spider-Man. This summer, I had barely touched games while going through a tough mental health crisis. Spider-Man released at the perfect time for me — I was starting to get better, and it was the first game I had played in months. Upon booting it up and seeing Peter Parker swing right out of his bedroom window into the city, I felt both hope and excitement. I enjoyed the game so much I finished it in the span of a couple days, glued to my TV the entire time. Between Peter’s dorky but lovable jokes and the gorgeous open world of NYC, I felt an unrelenting optimism that no other game this year could match.
Destiny 2: Forsaken – Facing Shuro Chin, the Corrupted
The Last Wish raid has plenty of solid encounters, but the second encounter against Shuro Chi is the clear standout for me. While most raid fights involve a high degree of coordination between teammates, the fight against Shuro Chi requires your team be on the ball and on the move constantly, as you move from chokepoint to chokepoint eliminating enemies, coordinate to solve simple puzzles, and do a bit of quick platforming, all on a single, strict timer, which can make it easy for your mistakes to catch up with you, but still allows for clutch moves that lead to close calls. It feels less like a “boss fight” in the traditional sense and more like being part of a SWAT team raiding a criminal compound, and highlights what makes Destiny’s style raiding so magical.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – The Boss Spirit Battle
It’s always hard to choose between best moments every year and I could probably write up a list of 50 given enough time. I couldn’t choose between these two, though, and had to include both.
In World of Light, Smash Bros. Ultimate’s adventure mode, a hidden path leads you a battle with The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3. Represented by Zero Suit Samus, The Boss fight tries to recreate the fight from the end of MGS3 with an incredibly aggressive AI who sees all your moves coming. After an hour of trying, I ended up using Snake’s C4 move in the air and fast-dropping onto it, sticking the C4 to his chest. With one more hit point than Zero Suit Samus had, I struggled with her and then detonated the C4 on Snake’s chest, defeating her and winning the match.
Hitman 2 – Clearing two challenges at once
During one of Hitman 2’s early missions, I realized I was performing the assassination the way I had already done so in a pre-release demo. Feeling like it would be boring to simply kick the target down a storage shaft again, I opted to put a remote mine against the opposite wall and let the target approach it while I walked away from the scene. The remote mine ended up being so perfectly placed and hidden that it blasted the target into the storage shaft, anyway, clearing the opportunity and explosion challenges at the same time.
E3 – A Crazy Week
While not necessarily my top moment of 2018, E3 this year was a particularly hectic and memorable one for me. I’ve attended the last several E3s and participated in the months of planning leading up to each one. It’s always a highlight of the year for me. However, I was set to be on the home team this year, staying in Minnesota to provide support to the GI crew on the ground. With one week remaining, schedules shifted unexpectedly and I was asked to go to the convention on a week’s notice. I was more than happy to do so, but that week leading up to my annual L.A. trip was wild. Getting my meeting list squared away with last-minute appointments was a massive task, but once I was in Los Angeles, surrounded by enthusiastic gamers, I immediately felt rejuvenated and ready for the whirlwind of a show.
Iconoclasts – The Ending
My biggest surprise of 2018 was an indie game from lone developer, Joakim Sandberg. Iconoclasts tells the story of Robin, an engineer who fights the evil religious authority, the One Concern. Early in the game they’re painted broadly as “the bad guys” but as you get deeper into the game, you learn more about the religion, and how it has affected the individual inhabitants of the world and the world itself in irreparable ways. All the evil that the One Concern performs is done in worship of a mysterious creature that periodically visits the planet on which Iconoclasts takes place. Through the course of the game, it’s never clear if this creature is real or if you will meet it, but you do while assisting one of the One Concern’s more sympathetic members, and it makes you re-examine everything you’ve learned about the One Concern up to that point. To explain exactly why it is such a shock would spoil the game, but it really made me think about faith and religion in a broader sense, which is something few video games have ever made me do. I enjoyed the game and its ending so much that it prompted me to reach out to Sandberg and discuss the story and its ending specifically, which you can read all about here
Subnautica – From the Deep
My top moment was the first time I saw a Reaper in Subnautica. Up until that point, while traversing the water could take me into some dark or scary places, there wasn’t any weight to it. Seeing the huge, shimmering form in the distance and then realizing it had spotted my fragile vessel and was coming after me was absolutely terrifying and added a new level of weight to my underwater expedition. That splash of fear can’t be replicated again!
E3 – Meeting Masahiro Sakurai
E3 is the most magical time of the year. This year was especially so as Nintendo went all-out in highlighting Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. As part of the spotlight, they held a Smash tournament a ways away from the standard E3 convention center. This was my first chance to play Ultimate, not in the tournament but in a little side room. After playing as the new Breath of the Wild Link with a GameCube controller, I was making my way out of the building when I spotted a commotion. Somebody was slinking through the back of the stadium surrounded by several bodyguards, each one stronger than the last and each at least over eight-feet tall. Between their broad shoulders I saw a familiar and youthful face. It was the creator of Super Smash Bros., Masahiro Sakurai. I realized this was my one shot at meeting one of my favorite game developers and went for it. I busted through the bodyguards like a football running back and offered a handshake, quickly thanking Mr. Sakurai for his hard work throughout the years. I lightly received a hesitant, half-strength handshake from Sakurai before his escorts pulled me away and shouted “no handshakes, no handshakes!” It was magical. I haven’t washed my hand since, much to the chagrin of my gunky GameCube controller.
Unravel Two – Weaving A Memorable Co-op Adventure
2018 was full of amazing adventures, from web-swinging around NYC to booting Spartans off the cliffs of Greece. However, one of my favorite moments was decidedly less epic and a lot more personal instead. I reviewed the original Unravel back in 2016, and unlike all the Yarny haters out there, I enjoyed the experience. I was looking forward to playing Unravel Two, and talked my wife into filling in as Yarny’s little blue friend. The addition of co-op makes a huge difference to the string-centric puzzles, but more than anything, it was just great to share the experience with my wife. She doesn’t play many video games, but figuring out puzzles together and talking our way through the trickier platforming sequences was fun for both of us. Despite all of the massive and spectacular open-world games I lost myself in this year, I still look back fondly on our time playing Unravel Two.