Whether we're talking about indie devs working on pixel-perfect platform games or huge first-party studios working on jaw-dropping platform experiences, it's time to celebrate the studios that have delivered some of the finest experiences of 2018.
5. Dontnod Entertainment
It's been a big year for French studio Dontnod, regardless of how you feel about Vampyr, which admittedly has some of us shrugging our shoulders, while others are more enthusiastic. Nevertheless, they got Vampyr finished and released, and they also released the free narrative experience The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, as well as the first episode of the long-awaited Life is Strange 2. The latter saw the developer take some bold steps away from the characters, setting, and mechanics of the first game as we followed brothers Daniel and Sean Diaz in what can only be described as an escape from the calamity that struck their lives in the very beginning of the first episode. In a way, it's a road trip where the journey becomes the main theme, while Arcadia Bay was central to the story of the first game.
Add to this that we're likely to see the first episode of their next episodic narrative, Twin Mirror, within the first quarter of 2019 (a game revealed at E3 this year), and it's easy to see that 2018 was a banner year for the developer and why there continues to be so much affection for their work amongst the team here at Gamereactor.
It feels rather nice to be able to put Rare in this category after what can only be described as something of a walk through the desert for the British development powerhouse that delighted us with countless classic games on Nintendo's early consoles. After having spent much of the last decade working on Kinect titles, it came down to the risky proposition of a pirate-themed multiplayer game called Sea of Thieves, that seemingly had a hard time finding its way across the waves and into the hands of gamers.
Sea of Thieves is one of those rare (pun intended) experiences where the sum of the individual parts equal something far greater than each taken on their own. Simply put, Rare created a great backdrop for adventures that were largely authored by players, and more specifically, groups of players. In many ways, the game has transformed the studio as it now embraces the concept of games as a service, and as we do love a good comeback story this list would not be complete with Rare.
3. Matt Makes Games
Towerfall Ascension was the game that made everyone sit up and take notice of Matt Thorson, but the game that truly elevates Thorson and co-creator Noel Berry to indie greatness is Celeste. It's a game that also puts the rather unimaginative studio name, Matt Makes Games, firmly on the map.
The concept for the game was born during a game jam, and the full game was released in January of this year across PC and all major consoles - a feat in itself for an indie developer that self-publishes. Since releasing its been praised universally, and recently picked up Best Indie Game and Games for Impact awards at The Game Awards. Offering a gripping and deeply personal story of Madeline and her struggles up (and down) a mountain, this is an experience that will stay with you for a long time. Having established Matt Makes Games among the very top of indie developers we cannot wait to see what's next from Matt Thorson's outfit.