In the past year, the gaming community experienced unprecedented growth and popularity — Drake and Scooter Braun invested in and now co-own the 100 Thieves esports organization; Ninja became the first esports player to be featured on ESPN magazine’s cover; and Twitch streamers garnered hundreds of millions of watch hours. With this growth came video games that shattered records and combined mainstream and gaming cultures.

Here are the top five games of 2018.

  1. “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4”

After the letdown that was “WWII” (2017), which failed to successfully revive classic boots-on-the-ground gameplay, developer Treyarch’s “Black Ops 4” takes a different route than any other game in the franchise. Treyarch ditched a traditional campaign and instead put their efforts into their own battle royale mode, Blackout. The game mode is addicting, balanced and competitive — all signs of a good battle royale. Multiplayer is fast-paced and, in the new health system, players have increased health, which they can regenerate by pressing a button. This addition changes gameplay flow and rewards good accuracy and smart play. With 2018 being the 10th anniversary of Treyarch’s famed zombies mode, “Black Ops 4” zombie mode is more in-depth than ever and contains its own challenges, weapon camos and story. And Treyarch stays on top of all three modes — the developer consistently updates “Black Ops 4” and listens to its community, posting patch notes on its Reddit page. “Black Ops 4” is the most enjoyable and replayable installation since “Black Ops 2” (2012) and sets the bar high for future installations.

  1. “Spyro Reignited Trilogy”

The original Spyro trilogy for PlayStation is my all-time favorite, so when developer Toys for Bob announced it would remaster it, I was simultaneously ecstatic and scared. I wanted the remaster, but I wanted it  done correctly. Once I delved into the game, I was happily surprised. The artistic design represents characters and environments in modern graphics while maintaining the look and feel of the original games — the new designs improve the original settings. Beast Makers feels creepier and darker, while Summer Forest feels brighter and more magical. Stewart Copeland’s remastered soundtrack adds more depth to the original with extra beats and greater mood-changes, and the option to revert to the PlayStation soundtrack maximizes the nostalgia. “Spyro Reignited Trilogy” represents exactly what a remastered game should be: an update that improves upon graphics and refines gameplay mechanics while reproducing the underlying sentiments of the original game.  

  1. “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”

“Super Smash Bros.” has been a Nintendo staple since 1999, pitching gamers’ favorite characters against each other in two-dimensional battles. Featuring every character from every Super Smash Bros. game, as well as new ones such as Inkling and King K. Rool, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is, by far, the biggest game in the franchise. Additionally, the game includes some hidden gem features. For example, spamming the same move repeatedly will render it less effective, making those Sonic spin dash spammers a little less annoying. Every character is viable, if the player knows how to use them correctly, making for a wider range of usable characters per player and more enjoyable and varied competitive tournaments. “Ultimate” innovates past installations while maintaining the classic feeling that “Super Smash Bros.” has always had. Nintendo has made a phenomenal party-game that caters to young and old, and gaming novices and veterans.

  1. “Red Dead Redemption 2”

Set in a fictional Wild West, “Red Dead Redemption 2” offers the best that an open-world action-adventure game can. An in-depth and intriguing story about the Wild West’s downfall presents characters that are easy for players to become attached to and a consistently thrilling story. Accompanied by refined gameplay mechanics, accurate physics and beautiful graphics, every gamer should play through this exemplary game. “Red Dead Redemption 2” is unmatched — nowhere else will you find a bear battle so intense or landscapes so breathtaking. Its developer, Rockstar Games, has taken every aspect that gamers love about “Red Dead Redemption” and improved upon each one in this near-perfect game.

  1. “Fortnite Battle Royale”

Since last January, I can’t go anywhere without hearing adults, kids or newborns talking about “Fortnite” — and for good reason. Fortnite hopped on the booming battle royale genre at the perfect time, releasing a free-to-play game that anyone could enjoy and incorporating a game-changing building element that sets gameplay apart from any other shooter. “Fortnite” developer Epic Games has consistently responded to community feedback and released updates that make the game more fun and competitive while maintaining balanced, skill-based gameplay. By incorporating popular culture in emotes and outfits, such as the floss dance and hamster back-bling, Epic Games has ensured that there are always new items and unlockables for players to strive toward. Additionally, the game’s balance of silliness and competition makes it perfect for Twitch streamers such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Turner “Tfue” Tenney, giving viewers endless reasons to both laugh and sit at the edge of their seats.