Hey there, everyone! I finally found some time to write some thoughtful stuff about video games! I've been very excited to share my thoughts on this fantastic year (in gaming) with the rest of the internet. I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much I did writing it!
10. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This game’s praises are overstated, but it’s still pretty good. It’s no Wind Waker, but it’s good. I don’t typically go in for Zelda games, but Breath of the Wild had the same sort of freedom that I appreciated about WW. Climbing may very well be the best part of this game—scaling large obstacles never stops being a daunting task, as your ambitions grow along with your stamina bar. The shrine puzzles are a good as any other puzzles I’ve encountered in a game this year. The story is non-existent and it would be generous to call the combat decent, but the scale and ambition on display in Breath of the Wild deserve high marks.
9. Gang Beasts
I must admit up front that this game has made my list largely based on its quality as a streaming game. I have put some hours into this game but, while I’ve largely enjoyed it in that time, most of my fun with Gang Beasts has come from watching other people play it. Unfortunately, I’m no longer in a phase in my life at which I have a couch full of friends ready to play video games at a moment’s notice. If I were, there is no doubt that this would be my favorite game of the year. Still, I have gotten more joy out of watching people duke it out in Gang Beasts over the years than I have from actually playing most games that have been released this year.
8. Horizon: Zero Dawn
It’s a shame this game came out so early in the year, or else it may have landed way higher. The more time I’ve had to think about this game, the further I’ve fallen from it. In the great story vs. mechanics debate in video games, I invariably fall on the side of story. What’s strange then is that the story isn’t what hooked me on Horizon. I cannot remember ever having been so thoroughly enraptured by a game’s mechanics. Taking down some of the world’s largest beasts is as satisfying as it is difficult. I kept loading this game up after getting the platinum trophy just because I wanted to conquer some more Thunderjaws. Sure, the story in Horizon is better than most game stories, but that’s not exactly a high bar to clear. Ashly Burch and Lance Reddick turn in phenomenal performances that kept me jacked in, even as the intrigue around the larger plot had begun to die down.
7. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
I wanted to like this game much more than I do, but in retrospect anything short of halting the rise of real authoritarian governing practices in modern American government would have been at least somewhat disappointing. The characters are great, the story is good, and the gunplay is serviceable. BJ Blazkowicz is somehow one of the best characters in video games right now. Causing immense amounts of harm to Nazis is coming back into style in a way I can appreciate, but it’s only momentary catharsis. Everything MachineGames pressed onto this disc amounts to a great work of art, but this serves as a reminder that games can only do so much. It’s still good, crazy fun while it lasts, though.
6. Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
I am (thankfully) not a father. Dream Daddy gave me a pretty good idea of what the best-case scenario of fatherhood could be, and it was touching all the way through. The many heartfelt moments are embedded a game which is, at its core, a comedy. Humor and comedy are perhaps one of the most important things in my life, and Dream Daddy is the funniest game I played this year. That already earns it a spot. There’s a great deal of value in works of art that use comedy for purposes other than deflection. It’s easy to brush issues aside to make a quick joke, but it takes greater skill to make use humor to make an inclusive statement. It has been said before, but Dream Daddy creates a world in which people are not divided by their differences, but rather celebrated for them. It would have been very easy to develop this game as a juvenile joke at the expense of marginalized communities, but instead Game Grumps delivered an honest, hilarious look at parenting and dating.
5. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Before this year, I thought that tactical strategy games just weren’t for me. I’d tried the XCOM revival, but it just didn’t click with me. When people describe this unlikely crossover as “XCOM for babbies,” they usually do so in a derogatory manner, but I can only view it as a compliment. While it may not be as deep as its gritty counterpart, Mario + Rabbids experiments with movement and combat abilities so fantastically that Firaxis could stand to learn a few things from it. I also feel compelled to address the fact that this game made Rabbids likable, both for their personalities and combat utility. Rabbid Luigi is my very best friend. Kingdom Battle is more accessible than XCOM has ever been, and it helped ease me into the tactics and mindset required to excel in what is quickly becoming one of my favorite genres in gaming.
4. Doki Doki Literature Club
I’m as surprised as anyone that there are two VN/dating sims on my top ten, but here we are. I have been jumping at any and all opportunities to talk about this game, but this isn’t where you’re going to find my most fleshed out impressions. I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t played it. If you don’t like anime, don’t worry, because I don’t either. If you’re worried that the heavier subjects in this game might be handled poorly, don’t worry, they’re not. If you’re worried about not being able to handle what’s specified in the game’s content warning… yeah, you should probably listen to that instinct. Doki Doki gets real, but its story is supported by superb writing that feels true to my experience of dealing with illness, both in myself and others. This game made me do things that I’ve never had to do in a game before. This game made me feel a deeper, more volatile emotional connection with fictional characters than I’ve ever felt before, and that is worth celebrating.
3. Super Mario Odyssey
I have a strange feeling about this one. Super Mario Odyssey is my third favorite game of the year and, while I feel fairly confident in saying that, I don’t really have too much else to say about this game. I’m not usually one for Mario games—I actively dislike every 2D and 3D Mario game I’ve played except for Galaxy. Odyssey took me on a trip and it was just a pure joy to play. I came very close to going for all moons, but I’ll have to settle for being three short because I don’t want the tedium and frustration required to lock up those last three to tarnish my memory of this splendid game.
2. Persona 5
I thought this would be my game of the year. Until about a week ago, it was. This is not so much a slight on Persona as it is praise for my actual game of the year, but I wouldn’t fault you for assuming otherwise. This game has gotten a bad rap, and it is one which I do not fully comprehend. People look back on Persona 4 with great fondness (as do I), but it seems to have unfairly colored their expectations of its sequel. Persona 5 takes the series in a different direction, and that direction is what is so remarkable about this series. Each new Persona game is guaranteed have a clear directorial vision that it will unwaveringly commit to, and Persona 5 seems to be the most successful in that execution. It goes without saying at this point, but P5 absolutely oozes style. The UI is iconic, the character models are appealingly rendered, and the score is a great fit for the world we are given, on top of it being the best score in a Persona game (and therefore probably my favorite game OST ever). These are all aspects of the series that have been done well in the past, but which have only now been mastered. This is far and away the most playable game of the series. Palaces take the place of randomly-generated dungeons, which creates a new sort of intimacy with the various cognitive worlds present in the game. The combat is no longer a mind-numbing slog. The confidant system offers tangible progression for out-of-combat efforts, rather than hoping that your sense of self-satisfaction in smooching a waifu is enough to get you through the game as the series has done in the past. The larger story is… not great, but that has never been a strength here. What truly matters in a Persona game is the cast of characters, and this one is fantastic. The party members are lacking (save for Makoto, Futaba, and Ryuji), but the expanded cast of confidants is remarkable, offering stories within a wide gamut of sub-genres from teen melodrama to political thriller. I get the impression that most end-of-year analysis of Persona 5 will, much like this piece, start on the defensive, but that doesn’t change its status as a spectacular game.
1. Night in the Woods
This happens to me every time. I spend most of the year confident that the highly-anticipated AAA epic that actually lives up to my outrageous expectations will end up being my favorite game of the year, only for it to be undercut by a soft-spoken indie darling. These games have a way of growing on me as the year wears on. Life is Strange unexpectedly surged up my list in 2015, beating the likes of Fallout 4, MGSV, and Batman along the way. Night in the Woods didn’t have as steep a climb, but it still had to beat out some hearty competitors to get here. I didn’t spend the most time with this game (in fact, I spent far more time with certain games which I dislike) and I didn’t even have more fun with Night in the Woods than I have with some of these other games, but it has stuck with me the longest. The world and characters created by Infinite Fall are, without qualification, the most authentic I’ve ever experienced in a game. The mom is a mom. The teens are teens. The crimes… criiiiimes. This game is the product of a distinct time and place: here and now. America’s crumbling infrastructure and working class are the stars, and our protagonists are seeking small comforts in this wasteland. The most engaging narrative of the year, and perhaps of the medium, is here. The way in which the game’s central conflict shifts as the narrative reaches its conclusion is truly astounding—it mimics the work’s overall themes of reversion and isolation in manner which offers revelatory insight into our characters and the nature of the narrative at large. Perhaps that is what makes Night in the Woods such an outstanding piece of art—it is not simply a quirky take on coming-of-age tropes, but an expression of the futility of such stories in a world that is forgetting us. Scott Benson and company are here to say that there’s still a place for us.
aaaaand as a bonus, here's every single other new game I played this year, in order of how much I enjoyed them! Thanks for being a great community-- I hope y'all have a great 2018! <>
11. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
12. Thimbleweed Park
13. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
15. SUPERHOT* (PS4)
16. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe*
17. Slime Rancher
18. Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
19. Fire Pro Wrestling World
20. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
21. The Sexy Brutale
23. What Remains of Edith Finch
24. NieR: Automata
25. Mighty Gunvolt Burst
26. Splatoon 2
28. Passepartout: The Starving Artist
30. Snake Pass
32. Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin
33. Disc Jam