Abby Russell is a Content Producer at Giant Bomb and a comedian in real life and on the internet. Some of her favorite work at Giant Bomb this year was the Resident Evil Playthroughs, her PAX West Panel with Jan Ochoa, and Six Crazy Frights. You can follow her on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM.
As I sit in front of a crackling yule log, sipping my hot toddy, I think of this year's games. The standouts for me were games I didn't see coming, small indie numbers that excited me, or made me laugh, or just plain kept me from getting bored. The bigger, more anticipated games were the ones that disappointed me, or just didn't keep me as engaged as I hoped they would. This very much feels like a year before a big new console release, but that doesn't mean it was bad. Please grab some hot cocoa, and a cozy blanket, and check out my favorite games I played this year.
10. Dicey Dungeons
Okay, I’m gonna be honest here, I had a blast prepping this game for the Quick Look and then promptly never played again. But it’s not the game’s fault! Dicey Dungeons rules! Every time I finished a run and felt like maybe I was done with the game, they would introduce a new Dicey character who would change how I played the game entirely. The cute game-show style charmed me from the go, too. I just wish it wasn’t only on the computer! I can never get into a game where I have to sit at my desk (ignore #2 below). I wanna sit on my comfy couch, not my slightly-less comfortable desk chair when I’m gaming! I can't wait for this game to come out on the Switch next year so I can put it on my 2020 Top 10 list, too!
Another deck building game, you say? Well don’t mind if I do! I've never played as many deck building games as I did this year. In fact, I don’t think I had played any deck building games before this year. But I love em! I’m a deck builder now, and Steamworld Quest was a good deck building game! I liked how small each deck was, forcing me to constantly change up my hand and vary how I played. I also appreciated that each character in your party felt truly different from one another. The way their abilities combo'd with the different characters kept the gameplay feeling fresh. I just wish that the boring story and the flat world didn’t get in the way of the fun deck building and satisfying combat.
I almost didn’t put this game on my list at all. I really, really wanted to like Control more than I did. Every time I went in to play, I was excited by the visuals and intrigued by the world. But then I would come across a tedious boss fight, fall in a hole, and then have to deal with a long loading screen and a checkpoint that leaves me at an area with just far away enough that I wanted to stop playing. But there’s so much I love about Control, too! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a third person shooter with a more realized aesthetic. When I encountered objects, people, and sections of the game that showed me a glimpse into this fascinating and often humorous world I was intrigued! I just wish I was as excited for the gameplay.
As a big wimp when it comes to any game that’s even remotely scary, I did not expect to enjoy the Resident Evil 2 remake as much as I did. Despite it being a remake of a 20-year-old game, RE2 feels surprisingly modern. The puzzles were solid, the graphics were good, and the gameplay felt tight and deliberate. And as we all know, some Resident Evil games age better than others.
A lot of people made fun of the Ring Fit when it was first announced, but I was excited from the start like the rube that I am. There are so few ways for me to get a full body workout in my tiny brooklyn apartment, and the Ring Fit manages to do just that. With just a pilates ring, a leg strap, and an ass that just won’t quit, I am able to do a wide range of challenging, targeted workouts. And the light RPG the workouts are packaged in is just enough to keep me motivated to keep going.
I love a good Call of Duty game and, baby, this is a good Call of Duty game! I didn’t really bother with the campaign, but I really loved all of my time I spent with the game's PvP modes. Nothing much new can be said about Call of Duty at this point, but there is something so satisfying about a CoD that just seems to get everything right.
Yes, this game came out in 2016, but I didn’t play it until this year. This is my list and anything goes! Stardew Valley occupied a large part of my brain for a good quarter of the year. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I only farmed. Sometimes I catch wind of a new patch or update and I am tempted to fall back off the wagon into repetitive farming bliss.
This game came across my radar at a time when no other games were keeping me engaged. The moment I started playing it, I was immediately hooked. The flashy art style, the quirky randomly generated character traits, and the satisfying gameplay all kept me playing just more ship, one more mission, one more run. Void Bastards was a good reminder for me that video games are, in fact, good!
It’s no secret that I love the Sims dearly. I’ve been asking the sims to marry me for years, and one day she will return my affections. When it comes to my relationship with the Sims this year, boy did she treat me right! I was blessed with: Island Living, an expansion pack that basically tackles conservation and pollution cleanup while still being tropical and fun; StrangerVille, an unexpected narrative pack with killer style; Realm of Magic, a pack that wasn’t for me but i did enjoy making mac and cheese in a witches cauldron; and Discover University, a much anticipated pack that absolutely met my expectations. With the regular, free quality of life upgrades the Sims releases, it’s easy to play this game indefinitely. But having so much new content this year alone (this doesn’t even mention the stuff pack released this year, and the Get Famous expansion released late last year), I was happily engaged for hour upon hours with my one greatest love.
1. Outer Wilds
Often when I play games, I am engrossed in its world while playing it, and then I rarely think about that game again afterward. Ever since I finished Outer Wilds, I can't stop thinking about it. This game asks questions about mortality and the meaning of life. With a repeating time loop that resets your world every 22 minutes, the only thing that changes each expedition is knowledge gained. There were so many moments and events that I saw repeatedly in the time loop that were meaningless to me, until I eventually gained the knowledge that unlocked their story. I had countless moments where my breath caught in my throat and my heart raced. I have never had a game make me feel this way. I have never had a game that so immersed me in its story before. I never felt like I was given a bunch of exposition or an info dump, by the end of the game I felt I had a full picture of this world and the humanity that inhabits it.