1. Taiko no Tatsujin: V Version
Taiko Team / Bandai Namco Entertainment
If there’s any game in 2018 I spent a generous amount of time enjoying, Taiko no Tatsujin: V Version for Sony’s PlayStation Vita is definitely number one on my list. For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, Taiko no Tatsujin is a series of rhythm games created by Namco to simulate the art of Taiko drumming. The mechanics are deceptively simple and the learning curve is steep but well-placed to test and challenge players.
The main reason why this game holds such a dear place in my heart is because the interface and general feel of Taiko no Tatsujin is just plain fun and happy. The game’s art style is simple yet adorable; with saturated colours and cute mascot characters, it’s hard to feel sad just looking at the interface. I also love that the rounds are kept fairly short and that it’s a game for the Vita, as the combination of short rounds and portability make it convenient for my current busy lifestyle.
Nostalgia is another factor this game made the number one spot because I grew up in Singapore where Taiko no Tatsujin is also an arcade game. When playing, I am reminded fondly of my childhood enjoying Taiko with my parents at the arcade as a treat for doing well in school.
2. Monster Hunter: World
Coming in a close second is Monster Hunter: World. I’ve been playing Monster Hunter games since Tri and the release of 4 Ultimate on the Nintendo 3DS. World, Capcom’s latest release for the franchise, is its most beautiful and immersive monster-hunting experience yet. The gorgeous environments respond to the actions of players and in-game creatures, and I find it incredible watching the monsters exist naturally in their surroundings.
It is obvious that a lot of time and care was put into the consideration of every detail and interaction within the game. For me, the most captivating part of the game is the creature designs. I love observing the behaviour of monsters and comparing them to animals in the real world; noticing where the designers gather inspiration. The combat also feels satisfying and the weapons wieldy. As someone who mainly uses a hammer within the game, all my strikes felt like they had an impact and I spent a lot of time crafting armour sets to boost my character’s abilities.
Hunting with pals is a blast in World; I love teaming up with my friends to take down these beasts! A couple of cool social features have been added, my favourite of which is squads. If there’s a group of friends you frequently play with, you can make a squad and even decide upon a squad name and flag.
Overall, I’ve never felt quite so spoiled playing a Monster Hunter game as I have playing World.
3. Monument Valley
Out of all the puzzle games I’ve played in 2018, Monument Valley by Us was truly the best among them. Admittedly, I probably didn’t play the game according to the intended experience; I finished it in one sitting. It couldn’t be helped! I was just so drawn in by the simple complexity of the Escher-esque aesthetic and the explorative aspects of solving the game’s puzzles. Accompanied by a delightful soundtrack, I’ve never felt so happy to solve meditative puzzles; each level left me wanting more!
Mountains / Annapurna Interactive
Florence is a game I wasn’t expecting to like as much as I did. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect; but I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Florence tugged at my heartstrings because of how real the story felt. I genuinely became invested in Florence and some chapters even made me tear up while playing; I wanted the best for her. It was so moving to watch her development and growth. Even the minigames felt super intuitive and I almost always knew just what to do. My favourite of all the minigames is the conversations where jigsaw pieces had to be put together to form dialogue boxes. As the conversation became more escalated, the more numerous the puzzle pieces, and vice versa. This did a wonderful job of pacing the narrative and reflected the complexity of conversation well. The artistic style was amazing too. Every detail down to the placement of specific colours and line shapes felt well thought-out and designed with intention. I could gush for a while about Florence, and I most certainly will if I’m able!
5. Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden, which I started near the end of 2018, is my first Persona game. I’ve been interested in the series for years but never had a way to play any of the games until recently. Truth be told, I haven’t finished Golden yet, but it’s quickly solidified a spot as one of the best games I’ve played this year! Right off the bat, I love how characters are based off the Arcana and mythology. Interacting with the characters is fun too as they genuinely feel like a group of best friends. Because of this, Golden has become a sort of comfort game for me. I can pick it up and play an in-game day or two to relax when I’m feeling stressed. The story’s plot is especially intriguing, and I can’t wait to solve the mystery! I’m very looking forward to playing other games in the Persona series.