Favorite Media of 2018

Yes, it’s finally that time of the year (see 201020112012201320142015, 2016, and 2017) when I take a look back at my favorite media from the past 12 months. As always, this is not a “best” list, but instead a survey of some of my favorite media that released in 2018 that I consumed over the past year. I don’t take in everything, so there’s absolutely tons of things that I haven’t gotten to experience yet that I might like even more than what I have listed here (and I might even make some updates over the coming weeks). The purpose in me doing this is to take some time to look back at the year, and remember all the great games, shows, movies, etc. that I really enjoyed. Each category is made up of an alphabetical top 5 (a “favorite 5” if you will), followed by a few honorable mentions.

Favorite Games
I think more than any other year, I had a bit more trouble putting this list together — and it has nothing to with the quality of releases this year. It’s in part because I didn’t play that many 2018 releases, which is partly explained by the fact that I got a PlayStation VR in the summer, and so spent a while playing a lot of older VR games on that platform. It also doesn’t help that Nintendo didn’t release much that I was particularly excited about this year. And of course, as always, there’s still loads I need to play. And where’s God of War? I really enjoyed it when I started playing it, but never got around to finishing it (got to about 10 hours), and I haven’t felt the urge to return and finish it — I think it’s a good game, but it just didn’t excite me as much as it did others. Also, I’m sure that if I would have played Yakuza Kiwami 2 it would be included, but after already playing Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and 6 this year, I wanted to take a break (but as you can tell, I love that series so much). Super Smash Brothers Ultimate makes my top 5 because I have so much fun bringing my Switch to work every day to play a few rounds with colleagues at the end of the day (I don’t particularly want to play it alone at home).

  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)
  • Dragon Quest XI (PS4)
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)
  • Super Smash Brothers Ultimate (Switch)
  • Yakuza 6 (PS4)

Honorable Mentions: A Way Out (PS4), Far Cry 5 (PS4), Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition (Switch), Hollow Knight (Switch), Into the Breach (Switch), Lightfingers (Switch), Magic: The Gathering Arena (PC), Onrush (PS4), Quarantine Circular (PC), Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4), Spider-Man (PS4), Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch), The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PS4), Yoku’s Island Express (Switch)

Favorite Mobile Games
I don’t play a lot of mobile games these days, and it all happens on my iPad (except for Pocket-Run Pool, which I did play a lot on my phone), but I still had a lot of fun with these games. To be honest, my top game would be Gorogoa, but it officially released in mid-December of last year, so I don’t include it. For Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, I only played the first few chapters on mobile, but ended up buying it on Switch and continuing there.

  • Alto’s Odyssey
  • Donut County
  • Florence
  • Hidden My Game by Mom 3
  • Pocket-Run Pool

Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, Reigns: GoT

Favorite Board Games
This is a new category, and the only one where I’ve decided to cheat a bit in terms of time of release. After getting rid of my entire card/board game collection when I left Japan, this is the year that I finally got back into playing regularly and building up a new collection. I feel like I didn’t buy enough games that were released in 2018 proper to just share that, so I’m sharing favorites that were released in 2017 as well. There’s tons more I’d like to play from this year though, and I expect them to hit my table in the coming months.

  • Breaking Bad: The Board Game
  • Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
  • Gloomhaven
  • The Quest for El Dorado
  • Ultimate Werewolf Legacy

Honorable Mentions: Deadwood 1876, Founders of Gloomhaven, Keyforge: Call of the Archons, Kingdomino: Age of Giants (expansion), Magic: The Gathering, The Legend of the Cherry Tree That Blossoms Every Ten Years

Favorite Movies
As with last year, with all of the old movie marathons I do, I tend not to spend that much time watching new movies, and so my list isn’t as fleshed out or exhaustive as it could be — going through what came out this year, I already have an incredibly long list of things I want to watch (and I expect I’m going to love Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse when I see it). But in terms of what I did watch that came out this year, here are my faves.

  • Mandy
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

Honorable Mentions: Apostle, Annihilation, A Quiet Place, Batman NinjaBird Box, Black PantherDeadpool 2, Flavors of Youth, HalloweenHereditary, Incredibles 2Ready Player One, Sicario: Day of the SoldadoSolo: A Star Wars Story, Summer of 84, Teen Titans Go! to the MoviesWon’t You Be My Neighbor

Favorite Movies of the 1980s
Last year I watched a crazy amount of movies from the 80s (from 1985 to 1987), and so thought it would be fun to list top 5s for each of those years. This year, I only recently started marathoning films from 1988, but here are my 5 faves for the year.

  • Akira
  • Coming to America
  • Die Hard
  • Heathers
  • They Live

Favorite TV
I think my biggest discovery and love this year was the treasure trove of international crime dramas on Netflix (like The Break, The Chalet, The Forest, and Trapped, among others). Although not included in my top 5, they made up a lot of my favorite viewing this year, but I still enjoyed a lot of other things.

  • Cobra Kai
  • Everything Sucks
  • Jack Ryan
  • Killing Eve
  • The Terror

Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon, Better Call Saul, Black Mirror: BandersnatchBodyguard, Castle Rock, GameCenter-CXGLOWHannah Gadsby: Nanette, Lost in Space, Norm Macdonald Has a ShowSaturday Night Live, Star Trek Discovery, The Break, The Chalet, The ForestThe End of the Fucking World, The Good Place, TrappedUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Westworld

Favorite Anime Series
I definitely watched less anime this year than last year, and it was pretty easy to come up with a top 5 — but these really are all series that I highly enjoyed.

  • Devilman Crybaby
  • High Score Girl
  • Ito Junji: Collection
  • Lupin III: Part V
  • The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These

Favorite Web Series
Not much changed since last year, I still enjoy the same series, although I’m now including the Nintendo-produced “Let’s Play” series featuring comedy duo Yoiko (GameCenter-CX‘s Arino and his partner, Hamaguchi).

Honorable Mentions: People Make GamesShut Up & Sit Down

Favorite Music
As the years go by, so does the reduction in new music that I end up spending a lot of time listening to, to a point where I have more trouble filling up this category. There is a lot that comes out that I enjoy, but I just listen to the albums a few times, and then never end up revisiting them, which makes it hard to say that they’re favorites. I do listen to music constantly (“no music, no life”), but it’s very eclectic, spans decades, and I’d say this year I’ve developed more of an obsession for classic jazz (hard bop). But here are albums that came out this year that I did really like.

  • Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (John Coltrane)
  • DJ-Kicks (Mount Kimbie)
  • Strangers in Dub (Burt Kaempfert Meets De-Phazz) (De-Phazz)
  • The Beatles (White Album) [Super Deluxe] (The Beatles)
  • The Pool (Instrumentals & Remixes) (Jazzanova)

Honorable Mentions: All Nerve (The Breeders), Do the Get Along (Holly Golightly), MassEducation (St. Vincent), Sparkle Hard (Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks), The Pool (Jazzanova), The Sunshine Beat, Vol. 1 (Tahiti 80), Time ‘n’ Place (Kero Kero Bonito), Woman Worldwide (Justice)

Favorite Comics
Each year I feel bad that I’m not reading more independents when it comes to English-language comics, but yeah, what I read regularly is the super-hero stuff. And this year again, the majority of my sequential art reading happened more on the French-language side, as I continue my weekly (sometimes more) visits to the library to pick up books new and old.

  • Action Comics/Superman
  • Batman
  • Doomsday Clock
  • Mister Miracle
  • The Green Lantern

Honorable Mentions: Dark Nights: MetalG.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, HawkmanHeroes in Crisis, Justice League (as well as Justice League Dark and Justice League Odyssey), The Punisher

Favorite BDs
As mentioned above, my comics love these days continues to be on the French side (bandes-dessinées), as I continue to catch up on releases, reading through series. So because of that, I’m not reading as many new releases as I normally would, but these are still all books that came out this year that I really enjoyed. (The series name is followed by the book’s title or number.)

  • CentaurusTerre d’angoisse
  • Il faut flinguer Ramirez – Acte 1
  • La jeunesse de ThorgaleLe drakkar des glaces
  • Retour sur Aldébaran – Épisode 1
  • Tyler CrossMiami

Honorable Mentions: Alix SenatorLa Puissance et l’Éternité, Amazonie – Épisode 3, CarthagoLéviathan, Journal d’Italie – Hong Kong 2 OsakaI.R.$Les seigneurs financiersMutations – Épisode 1

Favorite Podcasts
My list of podcasts has changed a bit this year, with my top 5 now including two new gaming-related shows I started listening to this year (Kinda Funny Games Daily and Kotaku Splitscreen). After skipping the second season of Serial, I quite enjoyed this year’s 3rd one. For Retronauts and What a Cartoon, these I don’t listen to regularly, but instead check for episodes with a topic I’m interested in. And I really do wish Noclip would release more episodes of its excellent podcast (just as good as its video documentaries).

  • 8-4 Play
  • All Songs Considered
  • Kinda Funny Games Daily
  • Kotaku Splitscreen
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour

Honorable Mentions: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Monocle 24: The Stack, Noclip, On Margins, Retronauts, Serial, The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook, What a Cartoon

The Last of Us Remastered

I had the original game on PS3 and never managed to play more than about 4 hours or so. I kept telling myself that I’d go back and play more, but as much as I loved the Uncharted series, this game just didn’t really speak to me — I wasn’t really into the drab post-apocalyptic city setting, or playing a zombie game. And so that was that, and I sorta forgot about it. But it’s a game that kept getting mentioned all the time as a classic, which happened even more once they officially announced the sequel. I kept telling myself I should try revisiting it, and eventually picked up the Remastered edition on PS4 during a sale. But again, I had a hard time pushing myself to play it. I don’t know what got over me last week, but I finally decided to give it a go, and wow, I’m sure glad I did. I ended up playing through it in about 3 sittings, a couple of them being 5+ hour sessions. I did need to get through more than half of the game before I really got sucked in — pretty much around the time you skip from summer to fall — but from then on I was absolutely hooked (I especially loved the winter period). What I especially liked in the second half is that it started feeling less like a zombie game, and more like a story about these two people encountering various challenges — and the fact that the outdoor setting started becoming so varied was very welcomed as well. I do feel a bit uncomfortable about how things ended — I don’t support at all Joel’s decision, or the way he handles it (by killing everyone around him) — but it doesn’t take away from the rest of the enjoyment I had for the game. I do plan on playing the sequel, and just hope it’s not just the killfest we’ve seen so far.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

Just played through this in one sitting, and thought it was fantastic. I liked Life Is Strange as well, even though I’m only on episode 3 of that (and I really do need to get back to it to play the rest), but I think I preferred this. Just a great little self-contained experience, with a wonderful “feel,” and really beautiful environments (like that opening scene with the Sufjan Stevens song playing). The only thing I thought was lame was the phone unlock puzzle — it’s the only one I couldn’t solve, and when I looked it up online, realized that there’s no way I would have solved that, and it makes no sense narratively. But it doesn’t change that I loved playing this, and I can’t recommend it enough — and hey, it’s free.

God of War

Although I’d had a lot of fun playing the series in the past, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. I didn’t play the last game that came out, and wasn’t particularly excited for this new entry. But then all the crazy good buzz started filling my timeline just ahead of its release, and that got me excited to play it. I finally got the chance (I managed to snag a copy from our studio’s lending library), and after having played the first 4 hours last night, I definitely see what all the fuss is about — and I’m sure I haven’t even touched the best parts yet. But even from what I’ve played, you can tell that this is a special game, and although it still paints itself as a God of War game, it’s a beautiful evolution, with a more mature story, that comes with more interesting storytelling, and more of an “adventure” feel — meaning more exploration (here in the form of puzzle sequences), and not just a series of battles (which is what the old games felt like, even if some of those battles were truly spectacular and fun to take in). I’m also digging the RPG elements, like skill upgrades and weapon improvements, which is good incentive to try and pick up any and all resources available. Definitely looking forward to playing more.

Florence

I finally played Florence this morning, and yeah, as everyone has been saying, this is such a wonderful little game. It feels more like an interactive story/comic than a game, but whatever you call it, it’s a joy to take in, with superb visuals, storytelling, and music. Certainly one of the best mobile game experiences out there.

Rainbow Six Siege

I joked recently that I was Clancy’s bitch, and it really does feel like that. So yes, on top of recently revisiting Ghost Recon Wildlands, and then currently playing The Division, I’ve also started getting into Rainbow Six Siege. My history with the Rainbow games is that I was a huge fan of the two Vegas games — in fact, I considered them to be my favorite FPS games, as I loved the mixing in of tactics in a shooter (instead of straight run and gun). At the time, I was really into Clancy games (the Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter games, and Splinter Cell too), but Vegas, especially the first one, was tops for me. I also loved the “Terrorist Hunt” mode, playing it with friends (in split-screen). So Siege comes out over two years ago, and I didn’t really bite because I didn’t think I’d be into a multiplayer-first Rainbow game. But as we all know, the popularity of the game has grown, and I figured it was about time I dipped my toes back in. What I’ve discovered is a game that still has the fun co-op terrorist hunts, and over the past week I’ve been having a blast playing  the new Oubreak mode, which reminds me so much of Left 4 Dead (another game I loved). I’ve even joined a team at work to play in the studio’s gaming league, and so yeah, I’m having a blast playing this. Interestingly, I think the other aspect I’m attracted to is that all of the operators (the character/class you pick when you play) are basically the equivalent of G.I. Joe characters, and G.I. Joe was my favorite toy as a kid (and the Larry Hama-written comic too, which I still read to this day).

Ghost Recon Wildlands

As I mentioned in my post about The Division, I’ve been going back and finishing games recently, and another title I revisited was Ghost Recon Wildlands. This was a game I really was enjoying when I first played it a year ago upon release, and the only reason I veered off it was because of too many games to play at the time (i.e. the release of the Switch). I kept meaning to go back to finish it, and that’s something I finally did recently. Getting back into it, I was again having a blast — the gameplay reminds me so much of Mercenaries 2, a game I really loved. I only did the easy ending (not killing all of the subordinates), and I think I still want to play more and get the full ending (but my current The Division obsession is preventing me from doing that).

The Division

This is the second time I write about playing The Division. The first time was two years ago, when I picked up the game upon release. At the time, I liked it, but was finding it hard to play solo, and although I did play at least 10 hours or so (maybe more), I ended up stopping after a while, only reaching level 16. Recently, I’ve been in a mood to revisit old games that I haven’t finished, and I decided I’d revisit this and see if it would grab me a bit more. Well, that was about a week or two ago, and I’ve now played well over 60 hours, and I can’t stop. I don’t know what happened this time — maybe it was all of the updates they’ve done over the past two years — but I’m having such a great time playing it now, and even after finishing up all the story missions, I’m still having fun progressing in the end game (currently at “World Tier 2”). I do wish I had some friends still playing this to do more multiplayer with, but I’m managing to do fine by soloing, while using matchmaking occasionally for big missions. I haven’t gone this deep into a game since the first Destiny, and I’m curious to see if I’ll end up beating the time I put into that game. The only thing making me feel slightly bad is that there are still other games I want to go and play (and finish), and this is getting in the way.

Star Wars Battlefront II

Multiplayer and loot boxes aside, what excited me about Battlefront II was that they were including a proper story campaign, and that’s what I wanted to take in. I played through that campaign back in January, and although at first I was a bit disappointed by the relatively quick turn of the main character to the rebel side (I thought that playing as someone on the Empire side felt novel and interesting), I’d say I had a pretty good time playing through it. The combat is what it is — I don’t hate it, but I’m not particularly drawn to it — but I thought they managed to tell an enjoyable story that takes place during that time period, and I also liked the story DLC that was released after that pushed things forward much more in the timeline.

Thumper

Not only have I been wanting to play Thumper for a while (yes, a recurring theme in the posts I’m writing today), but I wanted to play it even more after I watched a GDC talk by one of the creators (a post-mortem on the game’s creation). I figured it was something I’d pick up for Switch, but I ended up getting it on PS4 during a sale instead — as much as I like playing games on the Switch, the fact that I like to experience as many games as possible means I need to be a bit thrifty on my purchases, to maximize what I can justify buying (and I’m already pretty lucky that I can rent most AAA releases from our studio’s gaming library). But yeah, Thumper, fantastic visuals, really cool soundtrack — which is of course important for a rhythm game — and I’m glad I’m playing it. It’s surprising how difficult it can get considering the limited number of interactions you tend to do while playing, but that’s part of the genius of the design. I’m in no hurry to finish it, and enjoy going in every once in a while for a few runs.