Top 10 Best Nintendo Games of 2018 [Best Recommendations]

Nintendo followed up their incredible 2017 with a surprisingly quiet year. This was not a year with a lot of big releases for the system. That’s not to say it was a bad year, but it definitely didn’t feel as big as 2017’s critical darling quadruple combo of Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Xenoblade 2.
At least that’s the common sentiment. When you actually look at Nintendo’s output as a whole in 2018, it was surprisingly solid. Many games people originally wrote off as filler titles performed well above expectations and Nintendo, of course, ended the year with the atom bomb of a release that was Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. So let’s take a gander at some of the best games Nintendo had to offer in 2018!

10. Nintendo Labo: Toy-Con Garage

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo EPD
  • Release Dates: April 20th, 2018 (NA)

Do you remember the simple joys of childhood? Your parents would buy a brand new TV, and you’d spend more time playing with the cardboard box than you would actually watching TV? The Toy-Con Garage allows you to live out that exact situation with your Switch! Get started on your own amateur game design by figuring out different ways to combine cardboard with the HD rumble you can only find on the Switch!
It’s a shame that Nintendo put so much focus on the various pre-made games for the Labo because, really, when the novelty of assembling the cardboard runs out, there’s not much to it. Rather, the actual development technology of Labo is absolutely fascinating, with a small but dedicated fanbase coming up with increasingly interesting games just using their Switch. People have even figured out how to make escape room-style locks that can open up little flaps on the cardboard!

9. Dragalia Lost

  • System: Android/iOS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo EPD, Cygames
  • Release Dates: September 27th, 2018 (NA)

Alberia: a nation where its royalty makes pacts with dragons. Unfortunately, one day, the Holy Shard that protects Alberia begins to lose its power, and as a result, monsters are on the rise. The current heir to the throne, the Seventh Prince, is responsible for getting Alberia back in order, but there’s just one little problem: he hasn’t formed a contract with a dragon yet! He’ll need to go through with his Dragon Selection Trial before he has any hope of saving Alberia first!

Hey, it wasn’t all Switch this year for Nintendo! They had a surprise mobile hit this year with Dragalia Lost, fulfilling a unique niche within the mobile market. So many mobile games are afraid to mix up their gameplay beyond simple turn based games or games that require very simple movements. Dragalia Lost is a full action RPG that’s a snap to control just using a touch screen, which is a huge achievement just for that fact alone!

8. Kirby Star Allies

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: HAL Laboratory
  • Release Dates: March 16th, 2018 (NA)

Something weird is going on in Dreamland. All of Kirby’s friends have suddenly turned evil, but he’s remained the same. Turns out they’ve all been corrupted by the power of the Jamba Heart, all thanks to a ritual performed on a far off space station called Jambanda. Well, Kirby’s not going to take this sitting down! He actually got hit with a Jamba Heart himself, but instead of corrupting him, he can purify others and turn them into his friends!

Kirby Star Allies is probably the weakest of HAL’s recent Kirby output, but it’s still a wonderfully colorful and vibrant platformer. The Kirby series has a delightful art direction, and this is the first chance it’s really had to show how good it looks in HD. The platforming is a bit simple, but, eh, if you’re a Kirby fan, you probably already knew that. It’s great fun if you’ve got an afternoon to kill with your friends with its 4-player co-op mode. Each Star Ally barring Bandana Dee, Dedede, and Meta Knight represents each Kirby game, making it an incredible celebration of Kirby’s history!

7. Mario Tennis Aces

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Camelot Software Planning, Nintendo EPD
  • Release Dates: June 22nd, 2018

This ain’t your traditional tennis game. In addition to following all the traditional rules of tennis, you’ve also got a super meter to keep track of. With it, you can perfectly aim your shots, slow down time to catch up with the ball, or even perform a super move that can break your opponent’s racket. Whoever exhausts their opponent’s racket supply first is the winner… or you could just win the old fashioned way too!

Hey, you got my fighting game in your sports game! Mario Tennis Aces is a daring re-imagining of how we look at sports games by recontextualizing tennis with the super meter management and skill moves we expect out of a fighting game. No longer is Mario Tennis just a casual party game, but an in-depth competitive sports game that few thought possible.

6. WarioWare Gold

  • System: 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Intelligent Systems, Nintendo EPD
  • Release Dates: August 3rd, 2018 (NA)

Wario settles in for some pizza after a nice night of plundering only to discover something truly horrifying: he’s out of money! He’s going to need to, “earn” some cash quick. He comes up with the perfect plan: start up a gaming tournament and force all his friends to make the games for him! However, not everyone is content with this, as a strange little girl has a grudge against Wario for some reason. The nerve! What did Wario ever do to anyone anyway?

Hey, let’s not forget about Nintendo’s other major system on the market! WarioWare Gold is Nintendo’s last hurrah for original 3DS software before they finally pull the plug on it next year, so it got lost in the shuffle. Nevertheless, it’s a huge return to form for the delightfully kooky minigame collection and is arguably the best to date with an addictive currency system that keeps you playing beyond just shooting for high scores.

5. Super Mario Party

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: NDCube
  • Release Dates: October 5th, 2018

It’s Mario Party as you remember it! No longer are you bound to the confines of an uncomfortably long road trip, but instead have the freedom to travel the board as you please! However, while you’re competing for coins and rushing to buy stars, keep in mind that you can also snag some friends along the way. Every character has their own special die in addition to a basic 1-6 one, meaning you’ve gotta learn to force probability and strategically use your various dice to come out ahead.

This would make the list regardless solely due to being the first traditional console Mario Party game in 10 years. People have been clamoring for a new, no-frills Mario Party game for what feels like an eternity, and we’re happy to say that NDCube finally knocked it out of the park with Super Mario Party. The addition of allies adds a whole new layer of depth to the mechanics, and frankly, we’re just happy to be playing a mini-game after every turn rather than when the game feels like it’s time!

4. Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu & Eevee

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokemon Company
  • Developer: Game Freak
  • Release Dates: November 16th, 2018

Well, you may not be in junior high yet, but it’s about time you quit mooching off your mother. Thankfully, Professor Oak has been waiting to give you your own Pokemon so you can set off on an adventure. Your goal? Catch as many Pokemon as you can and become a Pokemon Master! It won’t be easy though; you’ll need to take on the 8 Gym Leaders scattered throughout the Kanto region and then fight the Elite 4 if you want a chance! You better be quick about it too, because your rival is right on your tail!

Pokemon Let’s Go is an interesting turn for the Pokemon franchise. It’s a move away from the competitive focus the series has taken recently and focuses more on the core function that your average fan really enjoys: catching Pokemon. To do so, it takes a page from Pokemon Go and makes the actual catching of Pokemon a little more enjoyable than “Weaken a wild Pokemon and throw Pokeballs at it until it’s finally caught”. There’s more process to the actual mechanics of catching, making for an enjoyable reimagining of the original Pokemon Yellow.

3. Xenoblade 2: Torna - The Golden Country

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Monolith Soft
  • Release Dates: September 14th, 2018 (US)

Jin wasn’t always trying to bring an end to humanity. There was a time over 500 years ago when he quite enjoyed his life as a Blade. He developed a very close bond with his Driver Lora and other people in the ancient land of Torna. Of course, not all is well. Malos has begun his reign of destruction and no one but Mythra can stop him, and unfortunately, Jin and Lora are doomed to get caught in the crossfire.

Technically, Xenoblade 2: Torna - The Golden Country is an expansion to Xenoblade 2. However, considering that it got its own boxed retail release separate from the season pass, Torna counts as its own release. And why wouldn’t it? Many consider it a superior title to the original game! It’s more focused battle system and story, combined with its more toned down character designs, made for a potent combination to make a strong 30 hour RPG that you could play and appreciate without ever having to play the original game!

2. Octopath Traveler

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo (US), Square-Enix (JP)
  • Developer: Square-Enix Business Division 11, Acquire
  • Release Dates: July 13, 2018

Ophelia just wants to save her father. Cyrus is looking for the archives to his school’s library. Tressa is seeking to fill out a diary gifted to her from a once famous pirate. And so forth. There are over 8 different heroes to choose from, each with their own story. And while you’re playing, they’ll all meet up at one point and form a party! Who knows? Maybe it’s because all of their tales are connected somehow…

Big budget experimental RPGs are in hard supply these days, so the fact that Octopath Traveler came about and was a huge success is nothing short of a miracle. It’s got a gorgeous HD retro style that combines pixel art with modern art direction so it looks like how we envision classic JRPGs would look like today, a strange storytelling method that’s ripped straight out of Saga Frontier, and a relaxing grindy battle system that’s great for just relaxing after a hard day of work.

1. Super Smash Bros Ultimate

  • System: Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Bandai-Namco Studios, Sora Ltd
  • Release Dates: December 7th, 2018

Ignore Disney: this is actually the most ambitious crossover event in History. 75 playable characters that span across 6 different Japanese powerhouses of game development, a fanservice-laden story mode that’ll keep you busy for more than 30 hours, Nearly 1000 different music tracks to choose from over 100 different levels throughout the history of Smash Bros. Games just don’t get any bigger than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

But the craziest thing about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? If you took away the glitz, the glamour, the hype, and the crossover aspect, it’d still be an easy contender for Nintendo’s 2018 Game of the Year. The core Smash Bros mechanics are just a joy to play, and Ultimate has somehow managed to create one of the most balanced fighting games while also having the genre’s largest, most diverse cast to boot. Its title of “Ultimate” is no joke: it really is the ultimate Smash Bros game, and with more fighters and stages getting added throughout the year, it’s only going to get bigger.

Final Thoughts

We did not consider ports for this list, so sorry Donkey Kong and Bayonetta fans; we couldn’t fit them in. We also only considered games that were published by Nintendo; otherwise, you would have easily seen Celeste and Mega Man 11 ranking high. The above games, however, definitely speak for the quality output that Nintendo truly had for this year, and shows that even without considering these games, Nintendo had a strong 2018.
Disagree with our choices? Really wanted to see Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze claim just one more “Best platformer” away? Well, let us know in the comments below!

Mario-Tennis-Aces-gameplay-700x394 Top 10 Best Nintendo Games of 2018 [Best Recommendations]


Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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