Tech columnist Marc Saltzman gives his take on the best family-friendly video games of the year.
“Fortnite” and the trend of “battle royale” may have commanded much of the attention paid to video games in 2018, but plenty of other releases arrived to occupy lovers of the interactive medium.
From multiplayer fighters to single-player role-playing games, 2018 had games for everyone and every type of player. We even saw a few popular franchises release some long-awaited new titles.
With the calendar turning toward 2019 and the game industry getting ready for its next generation of consoles for the next decade, USA TODAY’s Eli Blumenthal, Brett Molina, Marc Saltzman and Mike Snider offer a look at a few of their favorite video games of the year that was.
(Free to play with in-game purchases, rated T for teen ages 13-up, for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and mobile devices)
Technically, it launched more than a year ago, but 2018 has undeniably been the year of “Fortnite.” It introduced the masses to the “battle royale” – a competitive match where the last person standing wins – combining it with “Minecraft”-like building to reach a mainstream audience few video games achieve. And it kept reeling in new players and veterans alike with fun events including the May meteor striking the game’s island landscape in Season 4. “Fortnite” also sneakily taught a generation how to dance. See those kids at a wedding doing “the floss”? Thank “Fortnite.”
“God of War”
($39.99, rated Mature for ages 17-up, for Sony PlayStation 4).
Fighting deity Kratos has a new look, new weaponry and a new addition to the family, son Atreus, in the latest in this action-adventure series. The game’s new camera angle frames a larger-scale Kratos, who wields a magic ax that returns when flung, as Thor’s hammer does. The scale itself is massive, too, and longtime fans will need to learn new fighting tactics to conquer some massive enemies. Luckily, Atreus wields a bow and arrow and is a helpful sidekick. And the story between him and Kratos brings another dramatic element to a dazzling game.
“Monster Hunter: World”
$30 and up, rated T for ages 13-up, for PS4, Xbox One and PC).
While a much bigger deal in the East – until now – the “Monster Hunter” franchise has finally received the commercial and critical acclaim it deserves in the West, thanks to the latest in the series, “Monster Hunter: World.” The action-heavy role-playing game doesn’t shy away from what made its predecessors so buzzworthy — banding with others to take down giant monsters, by utilizing different tactics depending on the task at hand – but this latest game adds a compelling narrative, better weapon crafting and looting opportunities, smooth online multiplayer support and great graphics.
($40 and up, “FIFA 19,” “Madden 19,” “NBA 2K19” and “NHL 19”; “MLB The Show 18,” $20 and up; rated E for various consoles, except “NHL 19,” rated E 10+ for 10-up).
Every year, sports games see roster updates to add a layer of freshness to their predecessors, perhaps with a graphical refinement or new game mode as well. In 2018, however, all five of the major sports titles produced some of their best work to date, particularly in the area of gameplay to make each seem like its most realistic and refined version yet.
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”
($59.99, rated E10+ for the Nintendo Switch).
Nintendo always has a high bar to beat when it comes to new additions of its most popular franchises such as “Zelda,” “Super Mario” and “Mario Kart.” In December, it added the long-awaited next title to its “Super Smash Bros.” line, and “Ultimate” not only lives up to that bar but exceeds it. “Ultimate” brings together characters from the fighting game’s nearly 20-year history. From the iconic characters to the HD cartoon battles, “Ultimate” is one of the best Switch games yet and a great reminder that not every multiplayer game needs to be a “Fortnite”-like “battle royale” to be fun.
“Red Dead Redemption 2”
($60 and up, rated Mature for ages 17-up, for PS4 and Xbox One).
This open-world explorable game from the makers of the “Grand Theft Auto” games lets you rob, cheat and steal your way through the turn-of-the-century Wild West as part of an outlaw gang. You can also hunt, fish and play poker, in addition to bounty hunting. And once you finish the massive game, there’s a “Red Dead Online” game that owning this gives you free access to.
($40 and up, rated Teen for 13-up, for PS4).
Not since the Batman “Arkham” series has a video game better depicted life in superhero tights. The latest endeavor from Insomniac Games (“Ratchet and Clank,” “Sunset Overdrive”) features an experienced Peter Parker balancing his personal life with his responsibility as New York’s friendly neighborhood hero. You’ll encounter foes such as Doctor Octopus and Kingpin, break up local crimes and joyfully swing all over downtown New York City. But the surprise feature is a photo mode where players can capture their adventures in stunning detail. He really does whatever a spider can.
($20 and up, all ages, for PS4 and PlayStation VR).
It’s a new spin on an old game, but, boy, is it fun. And at less than $20, it’s a steal. Published by Sony Computer Entertainment America, “Tetris Effect” is playable in 4K on PlayStation 4 – or better yet, in virtual reality via a PSVR headset – and adds a new level of immersion to the classic puzzle formula. You know the drill: Rotate the tetrominoes so that they create (and then destroy) a solid line, so you don’t rise the pile up too high. Between its accessible, easy-to-pick-up-but-hard-to-put-down gameplay and mesmerizing visuals to its pulse-pounding music and multiple modes, “Tetris Effect” may be the best game of 2018 (you never played).
Follow our reporters on Twitter: @eliblumenthal, @brettmolina23, @marc_saltzman and @mikesnider
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