If we ever put up an article about an EA game, or a battle royale, or pretty much anything, come to think of it, one of the most common refrains is to hear folks bemoaning the death of single-player gaming; the proliferation of games as a service, loot boxes, and all the big baddies coming to steal your lunch money. But is there actually any truth to it?
Let’s take 2018 as an example. Arguably not the strongest year in games but a decent one all the same. But, I think we can all agree that any game that averages a review score of 80% or higher probably qualifies as being well-received. So, we used review aggregator OpenCritic to determine how many games got great reviews over the last year, as well as how many were predominantly single-player. The results may surprise you.
Approximately 147 games averaged a score of 80% or over on OpenCritic in 2018. That’s a game with strong reviews every 2.5 days of the year, give or take.
10 of these 147 games scored 90% or higher, and can legitimately claim to have fantastic reviews. Of these 10 games, only two could be argued to have a multiplayer focus - Forza Horizon 4 and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. However, both have lengthy single-player campaigns that last dozens of hours.
If I were to strip out the multiplayer-focused titles and remove each and every single game that features a paid loot box, here’s the full list of games that averaged a score of 85% or higher:
|Game||Average Review Score|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||96|
|God of War||95|
|Nier Automata: Become as Gods Edition||92|
|Shadow of the Colossus||92|
|Divinity Original Sin 2 - Definitive Edition||91|
|Mark of the Ninja: Remastered||90|
|Return of the Obra Dinn||90|
|Hyper Light Drifter - Special Edition||89|
|Astro Bot Rescue Mission||89|
|Injustice 2: Legendary Edition||89|
|Sonic Mania Plus||89|
|Bayonetta 1 & 2||89|
|Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire||89|
|Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age||88|
|Into the Breach||88|
|Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition||88|
|Just Shapes & Beats||87|
|Diablo 3: Eternal Collection||87|
|Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom||87|
|Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Edition||87|
|Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom||87|
|Yakuza Kiwami 2||86|
|Civilization VI Switch||86|
|Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology||85|
|Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition||85|
|Total War: Warhammer 2 - Rise of the Tomb Kings||85|
|Football Manager 2019||85|
|Two Point Hospital||85|
|Dark Souls Remastered||85|
|428: Shibuya Scramble||85|
|Assassins Creed Origins: The Curse of the Pharaohs||85|
That’s 48 games there that averaged reviews of 85% or higher and are single-player focused. I took out Smash Bros, Forza Horizon 4, Monster Hunter World, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition and Dragon Ball FighterZ for their multiplayer focus. Yes, some are remasters and re-releases, but the overall picture shows the wealth of quality on offer here, and none of these games in this list feature a dreaded loot box. There are a further 100 games that score 80-84%. The way that doom and gloom culture can pervade the news, you’d think the sky was falling on gaming. Yet the evidence says otherwise. Clearly, there’s room for single-player games to exist alongside the likes of Apex, Fortnite, DOTA 2 and Rocket League.
We're less than two months into 2019 and we've already had Metro Exodus, Resident Evil 2, Far Cry New Dawn, Slay the Spire, Sunless Skies, Kingdom Hearts 3, Civ: Gathering Storm, Wargroove, Dirt Rally 2, ApeOut, Eastshade, Ace Combat 7, Trials Rising, Battlefleet Gothic 2. The quality's there, maybe people just aren't finding it?
Let’s take a trip back to a golden year, just in case my rose-tinted spectacles are failing me. Back to a wondrous time called 1998, when Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life, Grim Fandango, Resident Evil 2, Gran Turismo and Baldur’s Gate launched. Removing repeats, fewer than 50 games averaged 85% or higher. The results are nearly identical. There’s a heck of a lot of sports titles in this list though, including NFL Blitz, All-Star Baseball 99, NBA Live 99, NFL GameDay 99, Madden NFL 99, FIFA 99, NHL 99, NBA Live 99 (again!), ISS 98, 1080 Snowboarding.
My point being that the quality and quantity of great games is still here, and arguably even stronger than they’ve ever been before. And yet the pervading narrative is that single-player games are dying a sad death, replaced by an army of battle royale clones. The evidence kind of points in the other direction.
Or do you disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the supposed death of single-player games and the rise of games as a service!