Following our list of the 50 best games of 2018, we are now counting down our top ten releases across the year and reflecting on our time with each game. We follow Marvel's Spider-Man at ten and grimy indie gem Dead Cells at nine. Now we look at Nintendo's ebullient, punchy celebration of video games. Let us know your experiences with the game, if it deserves its slot and what might have taken its place. To join the conversation simply log in to your Telegraph account or register for free here.
It’s fair to say that after its rip-roaring debut year in 2017, featuring two of the finest games ever made in Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo’s Switch hasn’t had quite as stellar a 2018. How could it? But its brilliance as a machine endures, hosting a slew of outstanding indie games across the year that might not have received quite as much attention should they not have appeared on the home-and-handheld hybrid (hello Dead Cells, Into the Breach and Celeste).
But for bona fide Nintendo-crafted classics; not quite as strong. It is perhaps fitting, then, that the machine’s best exclusive of 2018 comes at the tail end of the year and throws everything but the kitchen sink at being the very best game it could be. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a rip-snorting celebration of video games, with added brawling between famous faces, bursting at the seams with characters, stages, daft items and distraction.
Its fundamental appeal is obvious, Mario and pals thrown together for a dust-up in shifting, colourful and often perilous arenas. Princess Peach thwacking Bowser with a baseball bat, Sonic and Pac-Man slapping each other around, Solid Snake blasting Mr. Game and Watch with a rocket launcher. Its brilliant daftness, as ever, belies the fact that there is a deep, competitive fighter underneath all of this. One of spatial awareness, precision and reaction.
In a sense that’s what makes Ultimate’s 74-strong (and set to grow) roster so bewildering. Not all characters are equal, naturally, but it is remarkable how such diverse characters balance out against each other while retaining their original spirit. How is it that Jigglypuff can sit alongside Street Fighter’s stoic martial artist Ryu and make some sort of bizarre sense? Maybe only director Masuhiro Sakurai and his team truly know the answer.
It is in large part down to the roster that Smash has been my most played game since it arrived at the start of December. There is something deliciously moreish about unlocking new characters (you start with only eight), and taking them into battle. Even if they are old favourites for Smash veterans, any appearance from characters from games as wide ranging as Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing rarely fails to make you smile. It is this cycle of gleeful reveals, plus the ensuing variety it offers, that I am yet to pick a ‘main’ character to focus on and. The result is I am getting swatted aside in online battles more often than I’d like. Not that it stops me trying.
I have some more objective reservations about the effort it takes to unlock the roster, which demands more time than some casual players might care to take. That, plus its dedication to make sure that few games are too niche to mine for characters or the bonus ‘spirits’, means that I’m not entirely convinced that Smash is for everyone in the same way that, say, Mario Kart is. But then again, that hasn’t stopped Ultimate becoming Nintendo’s fastest-selling home console release ever in Europe.
What a delight that is. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a deliriously entertaining, smartly-crafted and, perhaps above all, an extraordinarily generous video game. Its core appeal is bolstered by an enormous amount of solo modes to dive into and fully pliable multiplayer matches that can be as wacky or straight-laced as you prefer. Well, as straight-laced as Super Smash Bros. can get anyway. This is the kind of thing that keeps a game close to your thoughts and fingertips, be played at home for a multiplayer session on the big TV or dipping into the sprawl of solo endeavours at the bus-stop. If that kind of thing doesn’t define the merits of a Switch game, I’m not sure what does.
The Telegraph's best games of 2018... and now it's time to have your say
What has been the standout game for you this year and why? We want to hear what your top picks are from 2018 and why it made your year. Fill in this form for a chance to feature in our readers' rundown. We will tally up the votes and run a Telegraph reader’s list alongside our 50 best games and our critic’s pick of the top ten games of the year.