The best games of 2018 (so far)

Red Dead Redemption 2

You probably saw this coming. Our two Game of the Month picks for October 2018 were clear from the get-go, as they both offer massive open worlds rife with rich stories, nuanced characters, and oodles of fun stuff to do. They're both such great, five-star experiences that we just couldn't pick one winner - so we've opted for a tie this time around. Those weren't the only games with perfect scores this past month, mind you - there was also Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, an expansive Gwent campaign with an enchanting narrative and deeply gratifying card battles. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 offers some of the finest FPS multiplayer around, including the Blackout battle royale mode, while Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a family-friendly space war that might actually play better without its costly toys-to-life accessories. Sports games also had a strong showing in October: FIFA 19 and Football Manager 2019 excel in their respective representations of The Beautiful Game, while WWE 2K19's wrestling shines thanks to the best career modes in years. 

At the end of every month, we comb through all our recent reviews to find the two games that qualify as must-plays. Consider these games to be the highlights of the year thus far - and if you're looking for something to play while you wait for the rest of the new games of 2018, these standout titles are a sure bet.

October Game of the Month (Winner): Assassin's Creed Odyssey 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 5/5

It's amazing that a game arriving just a year after Assassin's Creed Origins can better it in so many ways. Take everything you love about Origins - whether it's the kickass protagonist, RPG elements, rich side stories, or even the romance - and dial them all the way up to 11. Welcome to Assassin's Creed Odyssey. This huge game gives Assassin's Creed fans choice for the first time. Choice of which character you play as, narrative options, different potential suitors, and more. And that's all accompanied by the deepest AC journey you've ever seen, with side quests given just as much weight as the main story missions, to the point that you can spend an entire evening following a plotline that's not even part of the main three story arcs. It's a glorious world to get lost in too, with Ancient Greece's marble buildings and varied flora and fauna making for quite the stunning playground. And when you've got enough RPG elements to ensure you're tweaking and modding your loadout for hours to come, there's plenty to get involved with. This really is the ultimate Assassin's Creed game. Sam Loveridge 

October Game of the Month (Winner): Red Dead Redemption 2 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
GamesRadar+ review score: 5/5

There was never any doubt that Rockstar was going to deliver a truly top-class experience with its frontier fable. But even those of us who had been sipping on the rattlesnake-flavored Kool-Aid for years couldn't have foreseen just how immense and magnificent Red Dead Redemption 2 would turn out to be. It's a game that breaks all the rules - it dares to burn slow in a world of instant gratification, it lets the restrictions of authenticity dictate gameplay, it tells its story at its own pace, not yours (and delivers a more involving experience because of it). This isn't a game you binge and forget - it's an adventure that you live within for as long as you can. Rachel Weber 

September Game of the Month (Runner-up): FIFA 19 

Platform(s): Switch, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5/5

Fashionable as it may be to hate on FIFA's myriad licenses and alleged pay-to-win elements - incorrectly, as it's never been easier to earn in-game currency - at its heart, FIFA 19 is a football sim with appeal for both purists and casuals. Tweaked fundamentals such as heading edge it closer to the real thing, new Champions League elements add pizazz, the presentation is immaculate as ever, and Ultimate Team remains sports gaming's greatest mode. Look past your preconceptions to find a sports behemoth at the peak of its powers. Ben Wilson 

September Game of the Month (Winner): Marvel's Spider-Man 

Platform(s): PS4
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5/5

It was always going to be about the swinging, something Marvel's Spider-Man does with such effortless cool as you arc between buildings and soar over New York City traffic. From the first moment you start moving, it’s a joy that never ends. But, more importantly, there's a level of quality that the game keeps up throughout almost every element. The characters are charismatic and charming, drawing you into the story because you care what happens to them; the combat is fun and reactive in a way that encourages experimentation; and the missions are creative and varied, pulling you through the world in search of adventure without it ever feeling like a chore. Structurally, it might feel familiar (it's so Arkham), but the overall quality sets a new standard for superhero games. Leon Hurley 

August Game of the Month (Runner-up): We Happy Few 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4/5

We Happy Few makes other games' dystopian worlds look like a trip to Disneyland. Set in an alternative post-WW2 Britain where children have been taken and an antidepressant called Joy is mandatory, this open-world game mixes classic survival crafting with three interwoven storylines that'll keep you hooked until the very end. While this thriller is packed dark comedy, don't expect to come away feeling uplifted unless you're very, very high on Joy. Rachel Weber 

August Game of the Month (Winner): Two Point Hospital  

Platform(s): PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 5/5

It turns out puns and pandemics make for an almost perfect game. There are very few simulation games that can make balancing the books of a medical establishment into compulsive playing, but this evolution of the formula from 1997's Theme Hospital pulls it off. Build a hospital, staff it with misanthropic weirdos, then keep it running (and profitable) as new diseases are discovered, ghosts appear in your restrooms, and electric storms threaten your very expensive medical machinery. No matter what bizarre problem you're solving, Two Point Hospital makes it an absolute treat to be managing all these medical and managerial conundrums. Rachel Weber 

July Game of the Month (Runner-up): The Banner Saga 3 

Platform(s): Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: N/A

The epic that started with a Kickstarter back in 2012 has now reached its momentous conclusion, as Norse-themed tactical RPG The Banner Saga 3 marks the end of a grueling trilogy. 'Grueling' in the sense of dire circumstances for the characters who have survived this long in the somber story, and in the sheer difficulty of the missions that can leave your favorite party member permanently dead. But if you're at all partial to grand viking tales, gorgeous hand-drawn art, and strategic placement of units on a gridded battlefield, The Banner Saga 3 is a fitting final episode for the series. Though it may make you feel weathered and woeful at times, The Banner Saga is a journey well worth taking. Lucas Sullivan 

July Game of the Month (Winner): No Man's Sky 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 3.5/5 (original version)

No Man's Sky was never a bad game, really, but it sure wasn't the endlessly enchanting space adventure that many hoped it would be. Among the most disappointed was developer Hello Games, which over the past two years has steadily released big updates that added much-needed depth to the nigh-infinitely broad game of interstellar exploration. Given that history of support, it would be unfair to say that No Man's Sky Next, which arrived on July 24, made it the game we always wanted in a single stroke. But between enabling true multiplayer with friends and strangers, vastly improving planetary/lifeform diversity, expanding freighter and base options, and more, it sure did a lot. The best part? Hello Games says this is still just one more step. Who knows what's going to come next? Connor Sheridan 

June Game of the Month (Runner-up): Mario Tennis Aces 

Platform(s): Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: 4/5

Mario Tennis Aces, a new Switch exclusive, comes packaged with an adventure mode that seriously takes tennis to new heights. Wimbledon watch out. You'll be undertaking various challenges, smashing your way through boss battles and more to stop Wario and Waluigi from destroying the world with a special tennis racket that requires five power stones to reach its full potential... wait a minute, doesn't that sound familiar? Anyway, if that all seems a bit ridiculous, there's still normal tennis to get involved with too, albeit with some new power-ups that occasionally make Aces feel like someone brilliantly crossed Mario Tennis with Super Smash Bros. It might not let you just play straight sets, but this is definitely an iteration that the Switch deserves. Sam Loveridge 

June Game of the Month (Winner): Jurassic World Evolution 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4/5

Life always finds a way - it's just that in Jurassic World Evolution, you are that way. If you ever thought you could bring Hammond's dream to life, this is the game that's going to let you test that theory, where you build the ultimate live dinosaur zoo / theme park of your own design. Build your park, find enough fossils to create a viable genome for a dino species, bring them to life, and try to keep your guests happy - and all in one piece. This is still Jurassic Park in game form, and not everything will always be smooth sailing. But managing all that, with a constant side serving of panic, is just why Jurassic World Evolution is a top-notch building sim. Developer Frontier has managed to balance the intricacies of constructing a theme park with the interactivity of looking after live dinosaurs, and it feels incredible. Lovely little nods to the films are woven into the gameplay, and even though the overall story can feel a little thin at times, you're going to fall in love with your dinos over and over again to the point that none of that matters. Sam Loveridge 

May Game of the Month (Runner-up): Moonlighter 

Platform(s): Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5/5 

Top-down Zelda-likes with gorgeous pixel art aren't exactly in short supply - but Moonlighter stands out from the pack by borrowing some of Stardew Valley's most ingenious gameplay loops (sans any actual farming). You play as shopkeeper Will, managing your stock and chatting with customers by day, then braving treacherous dungeons to harvest rare materials at night. The press-your-luck, roguelite nature of these dungeons offers a steep challenge that serves as a highly replayable hook, as you diligently fight off enemies and collect everything you need to craft the goods that'll keep your shop thriving. Moonlighter knows exactly how to tap into that "just one more run" part of your brain - and once it has you, hours upon hours of questing will feel like they've gone by in a flash. Lucas Sullivan 

May Game of the Month (Winner): Detroit: Become Human 

Platform(s): PS4
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5/5 

Detroit: Become Human is like curling up with a science fiction version of those old choose-your-own adventure novels. Following three androids - the maternal one, the freedom fighter one, and the cop one - it tackles all the usual tropes about emotion and consciousness and sex robots, but with Quantic Dream's signature storytelling. For all the slightly awkward moments - robot hand sex, anyone? - it's a brave and compelling attempt to tackle big issues and match the movies when it comes to cinematic sparkle. Decisions feel like they really matter, and some genuinely startling set pieces will make sure that you stay invested as the three main characters evolve, build relationships, and maybe - if you make the wrong choices - die. Rachel Weber 

April Game of the Month (Runner-up): Nintendo Labo  

Platform(s): Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: N/A 

Nintendo Labo is one of those things that totally blows the concept of 'what is gaming' wide open. With Labo, Nintendo has given you a ton of cardboard, some instructions, and a license to create, invent and - most importantly - learn. With the Variety Pack you get several creations, from a motorbike and an RC car, to a fishing rod and a piano. The Robot Kit teaches you how to make a robot suit that you can actually wear and use to control a giant in-game robot. But regardless of which kit you buy, you'll open up the Labo Garage, which is basically coding for beginners that you can use to create your own Labo games. And that's where the real magic - and longevity - of Nintendo Labo lies. It's just up to you to discover it. Sam Loveridge

April Game of the Month (Winner): God of War  

Platform(s): PS4
GamesRadar+ review score: 5/5 

We suspected this Norse reboot of a Sony classic would be great, but we never expected it to be so life-changingly intense. God of War is a tender story about family, but one with a massive, incredibly satisfying axe thrown in, and plenty of meticulously designed monsters to test it out on. Prepare for the real world to disappear once you start on this deep dive into myth and legend, for your screenshot library to swell with otherworldly landscape, and to fall utterly and totally in love with Kratos 2.0. Rachel Weber

March Game of the Month (Runner-up): A Way Out 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5/5 

It's rare that a game actually can't exist unless you're playing with a friend. Usually, co-op is this optional, sometimes tacked-on affair for bigger single-player games, like Far Cry 5 - but with A Way Out, it's everything. You play as a pair of prisoners - Leo and Vincent - who are looking to break out of the slammer and earn their freedom. Everything they do, you have to do with your co-op pal together. From breaking out, to fishing, or even playing Connect Four, every little action has been carefully created to make it feel like a shared experience. This isn't just a co-op game - it's the most innovative use of co-op gameplay to date, and if you want to go on an adventure with your buddy, this is the one to beat. Sam Loveridge 

March Game of the Month (Winner): Ni no Kuni 2  

Platform(s): PS4, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5/5 

Ni no Kuni 2 is an improvement over the first game in just about every way - and the original is pretty magical to begin with. Chief among the improvements in this open-world, action-focused JRPG is the amped-up combat, which plays out like a fireworks display of flashy attacks and quick-swapping between party members. The rich story revolves around Evan, a wrongfully deposed king looking to reclaim his throne and restore order to his kingdom. As with the first game, the vibrant, Studio Ghibli-caliber visuals are a joy to behold, and the sprawling world is full of activities with incredible depth, like the RTS-style battles of Skirmish mode and medieval urban planning in Kingdom Management. With its endlessly charming vibes and bountiful content, Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is basically too pure for this world. Lucas Sullivan

February Game of the Month (Runner-up): Fe 

Platform(s): Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 3.5/5 

EA's second unexpected indie punt has been something of a triumph. Emerging as a kind of lovechild between Shadow of the Colossus and Ori and the Blind Forest, Fe is a treat for the eyes, all pastel colors and polygonal angles, combining platforming and puzzle-solving. You even occasionally have to work out how to scale a colossal deer. Oh, and there's some sing-song involved too, with the little fox protagonist learning new ways to communicate with the forest and its inhabitants as you progress through the story. It's all utterly charming. Things aren't all sweetness and light, though - Fe can also be incredibly frustrating, with flummoxing logic, strange navigational problems, and a distinct lack of explanation sometimes leaving you without a clue on how to progress. But when it does all come together, it's an exhilarating joy for the eyes and ears - you just have to be prepared for a little ire every now and then. Sam Loveridge

February Game of the Month (Winner): Shadow of the Colossus 

Platform(s): PS4
GamesRadar+ review score: 4/5 

There aren’t many games that can feel as fresh and as special today as they did 13 years ago. Shadow of the Colossus’ latest HD remake on PS4 manages it effortlessly. Its tale of a young boy’s quest to bring his love back from the dead by killing 16 giant creatures still feels as ethereal and captivating as it did on PS2. The barren, atmospheric world tells its own story as you pound through it on horseback to take on the colossi one at a time, contemplating your actions as you go. Each creature-climbing attack is a unique moment of spectacle that few other games have ever so consistently achieved. What’s even more impressive is that under the updated, modernized controls and 4K graphics (with the option to choose between 4K resolution or 60FPS), this is built from the original PS2 code, proving that Sony and director Fumito Ueda nailed a timeless magical charm perfectly all that time ago. Leon Hurley

January Game of the Month (Runner-up): Dragon Ball FighterZ 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch (coming September 2018)
GamesRadar+ review score: 4/5 

Dragon Ball FighterZ accomplishes what so few games based on the Dragon Ball franchise have: it makes you feel powerful. That sounds like a pretty simple thing, but when we're talking "I can blow up a planet by pointing my finger at the ground" levels of power, it's actually quite a daunting task. Developer Arc System Works has mixed equal parts fan service and fighting game expertise, whipping up a lightning-fast and surprisingly brutal 2D fighter that plays as good as it looks (and it looks really damn good). If anything could get you to start practicing your Kamehameha form again, FighterZ is it. Sam Prell 

January Game of the Month (Winner): Monster Hunter World 

Platform(s): PS4, PC (coming Fall 2018)
GamesRadar+ review score: 5/5 

Monster Hunter World has done one of those incredible things. It's taken a series that's been well known for being impenetrable to new players, and made it much more accessible. It's still not the best for clarity or ease of use - just check out our Monster Hunter World guide and the video above for some examples - but it makes the hunt much more fun and welcoming for new players to jump in. And boy, will you want to. Each area is lush and vibrant, teeming with monster life, and every fight will feel you leaving exhilarated - if you win, that is. It's an absolute triumph. Sam Loveridge 

As if your backlog wasn't big enough already, you can check out our list of the best games of 2017 to see what set the precedent for this year's releases.