2020 Dad Games Of The Year

10. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics

I was thrilled that Nintendo revived Clubhouse Games, one of my favorite DS time-wasters. A pile of classic games, well executed with some adorable window dressing, and it's even better with multiplayer on the Switch's docked mode. I'll keep this one on my Switch's memory card for eternity.

9. Bugsnax

The perfect example of a brand new category of games I've invested more time in over the last couple years: those I'm mostly playing because my kids are into them. Bugsnax's trailer charmed the pants off of me, but after a few hours I had had enough and I wouldn't have finished it, except that my kids begged me to every day.

And I get it: the Pokémon-but-food creatures are adorable, and the goofy characters and art style captured their interest quickly. Catching the creatures - which is the bulk of the gameplay - involve a series of puzzles and a lot of trial-and-error, often frustrating, but quite satisfying once you figure it out. The story - surprisingly focused on interpersonal relationships between friends and romantic partners - was the other thing that kept me going, solving the mystery of the missing pioneer. I was impressed that the developers represented same-sex relationships and nonbinary identity so effectively with what are essentially Muppet-type characters.

This was and wasn't what I had expected out of Bugsnax, and while I couldn't wait to get it over with so I could play other stuff, I enjoyed the heck out of those critters.

8. Hades

I spent a lot of time trying to get good at games that actively discouraged me from doing so. Hades' presentation and minute-to-minute action have been good at distracting me from being crazy frustrated at the consistent lack of progress that usually encompasses my roguelike experiences. I played Hades in early access in 2019 and then on the Switch in 2020, and while I loved the combat, art, and music, it wasn't enough to get me over that hump to try to finish it. The frustration eventually overtook me.

7. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

I cleaned house on the last Spider-Man and could not wait to tear through this one. The added combat techniques - electricity and invisibility - combined with polishing up the physics and control made the gameplay experience markedly better. The music was far more interesting, too, with less orchestral nonsense and more dope beats. Once again, my son, for whom Miles is the true Spidey, was a huge driver to play through this game; the story was what really had me, though, the interplay between Miles and the Tinkerer was pretty compelling. Had some wild bugs but not near the disastrous experience I've seen on Twitter!

6. The Last Campfire

A surprise Hello Games joint! Some Journey-esque spiritual vibe combined with some Zelda-esque environmental storytelling, and a charming storybook world. Did its business and moved on, without wearing out its welcome. This was a joy to play.

5. Minecraft Dungeons

Lotta Minecraft fever in my house, both my kids play often, together, solo, and with friends and family. So an isolinear dungeon crawler in the same style felt like a no-brainer. The entire family, my wife included, got into this game, which quickly exposed the absurd difficulty curve as you add players. Fortunately the kids didn't get as frustrated as I did having to replay levels after getting quickly wiped by OPd mobs. The visuals, enemies, worlds, and weapons were fun and clever adaptations of Minecraft standards. Patching improved (but did not completely fix) the horribly useless currency and trading systems - you try explaining to a five year old why you can't just give him an item in your inventory for which you have five duplicates. Performance on the Switch was pretty bad too. We saw past that, though, and found a ton of family fun and a newfound love of loot farming.

My biggest complaint is the difficulty curve. A lot of grinding has been necessary for what amounts to Diablo Jr, and the last boss is so hard I think my son's given up on the game altogether.

4. Windbound

The trailer for Windbound sold me a bill of goods - Survival/roguelike Wind Waker/Breath of the Wild. And some of that was present: a colorful, peaceful world with interesting characters and lore, with a perfectly functional crafting system, lovely music, and okay sailing. Somehow it ended up being far more than the sum of its parts, and despite having fewer weapon options than it should, and some frustrating control and physics, I couldn't put it down. Scanning the horizon for towers, scrambling to fix a broken boat, and exploring new islands never got old. This is one of the only narrative-based entries on this that I can see myself going back to.

3. Cyberpunk 2077

I've loved William Gibson's work for a long time, and while there've been a lot of dystopian-future-hacker-ninja games, this one's really nailed what I picture when I read Neuromancer. A little too closely - I know Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG, but it does copy a lot of Neuromancer wholesale. I don't mind, though, as it makes a helluva game, taking the best elements of Fallout, Grand Theft Auto, and The Elder Scrolls into the setting. I love exploring the environments, the challenge and tension of combat, the loot, and the visual aesthetic. I'm so happy seven years of development wasn't wasted, and that this game met my expectations.

2. Boomerang Fu

Stuck in the house all year, the four of us have been enjoying a lot of family video games. Minecraft Dungeons and Super Mario Party are lengthier commitments, and so Boomerang Fu really took over as the couch co-op game of choice. We've put a LOT of hours into what is at its core a delightfully simple but perfectly designed arena combat game that gets nowhere near the recognition it deserves. The food characters are flawless, the physics are well tuned, and it is well suited for human or bot matches. I can't wait for a sequel, where I'd love to see more arenas, power-ups, characters, and different music. Give me more!

1. Ghost of Tsushima

Absolutely was not prepared to fall in love with this sprawling adventure, or to play it to near 100%. Easily the best art direction I've ever seen in a game - I took a billion screenshots, everything was so gorgeous. Incredible music, fairly rote but still compelling story, excellent and engaging combat. Certainly felt like it started at Breath of the Wild and then outpaced it. Easily my favorite PS4 game and possibly the best in the generation?

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Top 10 games of the '10s

10. Minecraft: The first video game I played with both of my kids simultaneously. Its value as a limitless virtual Lego set is incredible for our family's creative growth.

9. Doom: The best shooter I played this decade. Fast, clever, intense, but never too serious, just how I like 'em.

8. Journey: A spiritual experience, the only time I've gotten that from a game. Still holds up.

7. Mass Effect 2: The trilogy is the best scifi story I've ever experienced in a game, and this is still the best entry in the series.

6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Fantastic gameplay execution of the series' tactical stealth action ethos, and wrapped up the series' story as well as it could be done.

5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: A direct sequel to one of my all-time favorites, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and quite a love letter to that Hyrule. Improves on the essential Zelda mechanics in all the right ways.

4. Hitman: A slick, deftly executed murder playground. Hitman is the game that got me watching game streaming on Twitch, and I've loved watching Dan, Brad, Drew and Vinny play it just as much as any series I've watched on TV/Netflix.

3. Super Mario Maker. Nintendo really delivered a longtime dream for us 80s kids. I got to build my own Super Mario Bros. 3 levels, and years later it's still so much fun to fire up.

2. No Man's Sky. Bought this game twice (PC + PS4), 200+ hours across both releases. The vibe of exploring and space flight is intoxicating and continues to call me back every few months.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The series had to be broken to be rebuilt as this absolute masterpiece. At times terrifying, thrilling, exhausting, and exhilarating, at some point I will be brave enough to axe my fully-loaded save and start it again.

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2019 Games Of The Year.

What's not on this list?

Outer Wilds. Maybe I'm a crusty old jerk for giving this game an hour and then tossing it based solely on the clumsy movement and flight controls? All I know is that I was promised a narrative masterpiece combined with the space and planetary exploration of No Man's Sky, and then when I found out that it was basically The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask I ran away. I will most certainly give it another shake when I'm bored this year.

Untitled Goose Game. On paper this game checks all my boxes - whimsy, geese, being a nuisance, and stealth action. It just wasn't all that fun to play, though. Too little information was given about how to do each piece... and figuring it out was more excruciating than satisfying.

Void Bastards. I've soured a lot on run-based games. Rehashing well-treaded ground is a huge turnoff in all but my absolute favorites. So despite the incredibly strong aesthetic I couldn't spend more than a few hours on this.

What is on the list?

10. Tetris 99. Winning a match in this game is one of my greatest gaming achievements this decade. I hate the fact that I can't change the music or visuals easily - it'd be such an easy add, as evidenced by the fact that it's locked behind rewards. I love pretty much everything else about this excellent riff on the best puzzle game ever made.

9. Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to). I think some of the best work my gaming PC was put to in 2019 was writing encouraging notes to folks in this world. And I got a few bangers from others to boot. I'm so happy this game exists, and I'd love to see it expand - more tunes, stickers, and ways to interact with others.

8. Control. This'd probably be higher on the list if I'd finished it, but the checkpoint system has me actively fearful that I'll get killed and lose 20 minutes of progress. So much so that I stop playing for days or weeks. I've put it aside several times, despite loving the vibe (government law enforcement mixed with the supernatural and with science, a la X-Files/Fringe) so much. I could watch an entire seven-season television series in this world. I love the vibe more than the bad run & gun gameplay and poorly executed metroidvania exploration for sure.

7. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. My third fave Star Wars game behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast. The Souls-like elements - refilling health at a save spot respawns enemies, specifically - were not appealing; and as someone who plays a lot of console games via PS4 Remote Play, where time-restricted parrying is much tougher, I had a hard time with a lot of the boss fights. The camera sucked, the platforming and sliding were painful, and there were a ton of glitches and performance issues. But it was a very satisfying Star Wars story, something I'm always down for, and when the combat wasn't cheap, it was fun.

6. Cadence of Hyrule – Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda. A delightful blend of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Crypt of the NecroDancer. Just long enough and challenging enough. Amazing music. So happy it got made.

5. Rage 2. Got flack for being unoriginal, but I hadn't played any of the other open world shooters from which it cribbed (i.e. Borderlands) so I found it refreshing, with just enough style to complement the absolutely fantastic combat. I mostly drove around for 30 hours knocking out enemy outposts and I was actually pretty bummed to see it end.

4. Super Mario Maker 2. What it lost in its creation interface, it gained in an improved set of level elements and scenery to add. The lack of web integration to share levels online (especially compared with Super Mario Maker) is unforgivable in 2019 but expected from Nintendo. I still had a ton of fun making levels with my kids, playing other folks' stuff, and digging into the story mode.

3. Luigi's Mansion 3. The first game my son and I have finished together cooperatively. It's perfectly crafted for this experience, with Gooigi the best designed-for-kids co-op companion I've ever seen. It's charming, colorful, thrilling but not scary. There's so much to interact with, so much attention to detail. The boss fights had nowhere near enough QA, and there's a lot of missing instruction that make something so obviously designed to be played by/with kids really frustrating. But we got past it and my son and I bonded over some awesome moments where he stepped up and took out some critical ghosts, or solved puzzles that I couldn't. What a treasure.

2. The Outer Worlds. I couldn't put this down, mostly because I loved exploring the different planets and environments, and because the combat and loot were really satisfying. A great, relatively succinct story that I'm eager to replay with another set of companions and choices and maybe even weapons and skills.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. A near-perfect remake of one of my favorite Zelda games, the first one that I replayed over and over. As much as LTTP or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are superior technically, there's so much in Awakening that are more meaningful to me. Playing the instruments in front of the Wind Fish for the first time still gives me chills. But what really cemented this was the impact on my kids. The adorable clay-character art style grabbed my kids, and my son really fell in love with the Zelda universe because of it. He listens to the soundtrack on his own, went full bore as Link for Halloween, and he and his sister dreamed up stories, wrote comics, and built Lego worlds based on Marin and Link and this world. Watching him drawn in by this game just like I was when I was a kid is a memory of 2019 I'll always love.

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2018 Games Of The Yeeeeezus

Poopy-di scoop:

10) WarioWare Gold is the "best of" version of this series I've been hankerin' for. There's just endless fun and joy in this package. My only wish is that there was a Switch version. Someday, Dr. Crygor.

9) Donut County is the first game my 3yo son beat before me. He picked up the ipad, stole my saved game, and went to town. And he can't read, so he missed the best part of the game, the Trashipedia. He did catch the second best part, though, Quack Anthem.

8) Yoku's Island Express is the pinball/Metroidvania mashup I never knew I wanted. Don't make people watch you play, this, though, it's maddening when you can't hit the shot exactly right and you try 1000x and they lose their minds.

7) Overload is a beautiful rebirth of Descent, one of the reasons i was hashtag pcmr in my teenage years. Oh, if 14-year-old me could have seen it in 4k. I'm so happy I got to Descent again.

6) God of War is the fatherhood tale that showed up during a critical time in my own fathering of my aforementioned son. It's amazing for all the reasons you've heard, and also, because it helped me realize that sometimes I sound like Christopher Judge to my kids and that it's probably a little much.

5) Dead Cells was on my list last year but it was in early access. I think I enjoyed the game more then, but I played it more after it went 1.0 because it was on the Switch. I could take it anywhere. And I did. And that made me get frustrated and give up on it much more quickly when I realized, I love this, I love the loop and the minute-to-minute action so much, but I'm never gonna want to sink enough time into it to finish it. I loved it while it had me in its grip.

Side note, ATM, Hades is shaping up to dethrone Dead Cells' place in my heart.

4) Marvel's Spider-Man was really hard to put down after I finally got the hang of the combat. I was really unhappy with it for the first few hours. I was kind of bored with it in the last few hours as well as I strove to eliminate every task icon off the map. The middle 20-25 hours were darn fun. It gave my son a nice playground with which he can take his slowly growing Spider Man fandom for a spin, to boot.

3) Tetris Effect is, on paper, the culmination of many personal gaming storylines. I fell in love with Tetris in 1989 when I opened up my Game Boy on Christmas morning. I've kept up my skills and feel halfway decent at it. I also picked up a PSVR this year and I enjoy the work of Tetsuya Mizuguchi. And so Tetris Effect did really satisfy, but I was soured initially with technical issues in the VR version. Despite that, I still envision myself taking it out for many regular spins (heh).

2) Hitman 2 is so good for the same reasons that Hitman is. The simultaneous super-serious storyline and delightfully wacky scenarios and objectives are chocolate and peanut butter. I can't wait for tons more content in this engine and in these maps. And I still have a few dozen hours left to play around in Miami and the suburbs, racking up more objectives.

This year I realized my benchmark for a longtime favorite games: how many times will I say "OMG, this game!!!" out loud while playing it? The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had a whole lot of 'em. So did Half-Life 2 and Super Mario Galaxy. Hitman 2 had probably 2 or 3 of them, a pretty decent showing. And that's when I knew...

1) Astro Bot Rescue Mission gets first place on my list because it had more "OMG this game!!!" moments for me than any other this year. I wouldn't be surprised if ASOBI Team had poached talent from Nintendo EAD. ABRM is as polished as any 3D Mario title from the past 20 years, as innovative, creative, and delightful. Nintendo's gotta be kicking themselves for letting Sony put out the best Mario game since Super Mario Galaxy. I can't wait to replay this game a bunch of times, and eventually let my kids at it and watch their faces light up (literally and figuratively) in the same way mine did the entire time I was in the world. Bring on a sequel.

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I was most disappointed in Sea of Thieves, it had so much promise and delivered on almost none of it. The sailing was outstanding. Everything else was empty and meaningless. I didn't want a multiplayer game, but I bought it thinking, maybe they'll add compelling single-player story content. They didn't, and I'm sad.

I gave Return of the Obra Dinn a few good swings but I just couldn't get into it. The graphical style grated on me a bit too much and every aspect of it felt laborious, and while I'm sure there are folks to whom that will appeal, it ain't me.

I enjoyed Celeste and Moss, they almost made the list, but I haven't finished either as of this writing. If Astro Bot is Mario in VR, Moss is Zelda. I'm really, really glad I got a PSVR. I thought it might be a bust but I've had a ton of fun with it.

I loved the Shadow of the Colossus remaster, it was my first time through it, and it bowled me over.

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Here we go - 2017 G's O T Y

The last time I remember feeling "there are so many good games to play, it's exhausting" was a decade ago. At the end of 2007 I had no kids, disposable income, and was hip-deep in Valve's incredible collection The Orange Box when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Super Mario Galaxy, and Mass Effect dropped. And while I don't quite think 2017 stacks up to 2007, I've had no shortage of killer games this year - as well as one of the most finely crafted gaming platforms ever, in the Nintendo Switch. I've split duty this year between my Switch and my PC with a little time spent on my 3DS - I've skipped the PS4 and XB1 for this generation, so far.

The Switch scratches every itch. As a Dad Gamer(TM) I need to be able to put a game down at the drop of a hat (or in my kids' case, a kitchen chair) - reliable standby is a must. I want portability, so I can play in any room, but I also want a more cinematic experience for some games, so give me 1080p on my TV and a nice solid controller as well. Give me a clear, intuitive GUI. Give me lots of Nintendo classics as well as tons of smaller indie experiences. Four of my top 10 games were on the Switch (almost five). I haven't been this pleased with a console purchase since my Game Boy. My biggest worry is how Nintendo is gonna top it. Salut, folks.

And cheers to my top 10, as well:

10) Destiny 2, PC. Looks amazing in 4K, controls, movement, and combat feel perfectly tuned. I did not spend time doing any multiplayer stuff, as it's not my bag, but the single-player story is just fine. It's exactly the future-scifi FPS experience I want.

9) Flinthook, PC. I can't remember all of the metroidvanias I've played in the last few years. The highlights, like Guacamelee! and Shadow Complex, have not been run-based roguelites. Flinthook gets on this list due to the fantastic space-pirate (not Space Pirate) setting, the playful vibe of the art and writing, and the dope-ass grappling hook that becomes the center of the platforming. I won't ever finish this game, as I don't have the time or patience, but I got a lot of out my time with it.

8) Metroid: Samus Returns, New 3DS XL. Mercury Steam Entertainment S.L. didn't have the pedigree I was hoping for out of the devs of the next 2D Metroid, but I've been dying for one since Metroid: Zero Mission, and while AM2R was a wonderful experience, I hoped for something I could put on my 3DS or Switch. Mercury Steam nailed this Metroid II: Return of Samus remake. The animation was slick and gorgeous, hopefully setting a style trend for future Metroid games. It felt like a true next step and I loved my time with it, even though it did drag on for a bit towards the end. I'll have to put Metroid Dread down with Dre's Detox as the masterwork I'll never see, but I am really happy Nintendo went to the trouble to put this one out.

7) Splatoon 2, Switch. My kind of multiplayer shooter - fairly nonviolent, approachable, satisfying. I put about four heavy weeks into this game's base multiplayer mode, Turf War, and got about 75% of the way through the single player content before moving on. Loved popping off a few matches every night and having it on the Switch meant I could do so in bed, or docked using a GB ethernet adapter. This was the PoC on the Switch's dock for me, watching it move seamlessly between the portable mode with wireless and the joy-cons, and the dock with ethernet and the Pro Controller. I love that it just works.

6) Dead Cells, PC. My preferred metroidvania roguelite for the year. Meaty combat, procedurally-generated exploration, and beautiful pixelly visuals. The player feels so capable, with the great variety of weapons and the drop attack. I put tons of hours in before realizing it was coming to the Switch next year - can't wait.

5) SteamWorld Dig 2, Switch. The first one was fantastic and this improves on it in every way, from the story to the constant stream of fun capability upgrades. This and Splatoon were the positive palate cleansers for me at the end of a long day. I loved the goofy machines and the pleasant presentation. Turns out if you put colorful gems in a rock I will stay up all hours of the night digging them out through "just one more area".

4) Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, PC. I never finished the first one, simply because the pacing was bad enough that after I lost my initial save I didn't want to play through the beginning hours again. But the community raving about the story and specific incredible "they went there!!!" moments pushed this up on my priority list. I didn't find it as difficult as others have said, but I did run into a lot of trouble finding objectives and completing missions. I probably hate exploring the U-Boat hub world more than I should, but I was hooked enough on the story and combat that I just wanted to be delivered instantly to the next piece. I can see myself replaying this next year. Also, props to MachineGames for the rad reskin of Wolf3D.

3) PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, PC. The best pick-up-and-play setup since Tetris. I feel like I've progressed in my combat skills, and that as a 38 year old adult I'm patient and thoughtful enough to avoid rushing into deliberately risky situations, but I never push myself so far that I get outmatched by a teenage cyborg with unbelievable reflexes. There's so much potential in this game, I can't wait to see what it looks like in a few years. I'll keep at it at least until I land a chicken dinner.

2) Super Mario Odyssey, Switch. There's more creativity and innovation packed in this single game than you'd see in a hundred average games. Much like Galaxy, this is a brilliant, never boring, always surprising , flawlessly crafted platforming experience. I genuinely could play an entire 6 hour game based solely on the Pokios. The way it celebrates our collective history with Mario stole my heart. I'm a little sad so much content is locked behind discovery of 500 moons, because as soon as I had credits roll, I lost all of my desire to look for more of them - probably from the weeks of wild binging I went through to finish it. I really can't wait for my kids to get to the point where they can play this.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Switch. Zelda somehow made me love an open world. Climbing, surviving, seeking out and solving bite-sized shrines, loading up gear, I wanted to just see everything in this world. Much like @jeff I doubt I will ever play through it all from the beginning again, it's just too enormous of an experience, but the months I spent on my Switch digging through this were absolute joy, and the console's flexibility made it easy to play day and night.

Come on 2018! I'm most excited for Metroid Prime 4, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Anthem, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, and Sea of Thieves.

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More 2016 G'sOTY

You know, like attorneys general.

Games that bounced off of me

Hyper Light Drifter was on my highly anticipated for 2016 list, lookin' all hot like A Link To The Past, soundin' all pretty and with its ghostly tech aesthetic. When I finally ended up grabbing it, I found the controls weren't responsive enough to keep up with what I wanted it to do, and in a game demanding pinpoint accuracy, it wore on me quickly. It's also intentionally obscure in its instruction, hiding narration, story, and tutorial info behind glyphs you end up staring at for like ten minutes and you're still thinking WTF does this mean? So when I accidentally spent a bunch of currency on an upgrade I didn't want, and couldn't go back to an earlier save to roll back the change, I gave up.

Headlander has all the ingredients of an Igavania I should love. It's funny, it's got an 80's throwback graphical style, and it's scifi/spacey. Again, the controls killed it for me. I found it too cumbersome to set up the ricochet shots that were the core of the combat. The embarrassment of riches Double Fine included as witty NPC dialogue turned out to be too much - I wanted to hear it all but also felt pressed to move through the map too quickly to keep stopping; it should have been spread out more. I just didn't ever want to go back to it. I played the PC release of Shadow Complex instead.

Mirror's Edge Catalyst failed to run on my HD7700 card when I first bought it; when I finally upgraded, I found it as bland as I'd sadly heard. The first game was a choice morsel, just a little too short, leaving me wanting more. On paper Catalyst should be dynamite, but as I end up feeling in most open world games, too many choices about what to do and too little shuttling me to the next objective means I am bored, listless, and end up turning it off. I (personally) need more direction.

And like the other three on this list, Quadrilateral Cowboy should have been tops on my list. You're using CLI input to control devices and stealthily break into secure facilities and steal stuff. I work in information security and have spent the last decade as a pentester; it's right up my alley. But the visuals were completely unappealing - perhaps a shallow sentiment but a true one - and the core gameplay was just too clumsy. Hacknet is a great example of how to do this right.

Pile of shame

In 2017 I plan to tackle the following which would have otherwise likely been on my 2016 GOTY list:

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Abzu

Dishonored 2

Rise Of The Tomb Raider (the PC port)

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Most anticipated for 2017

... you know I can't even think of a ton of stuff I know is out next year. Mass Effect Andromeda, I guess?

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2016: Great for games, Garbage for pretty much everything else

Winding down at the tail end of the consistent bummer that was 2016, fondly remembering my favorite games from this year is sure to warm my heart and put a satisfied smile on my face.

10. Superhot. What a goofy, charming, interesting shooter. I would call the tone gleefully unsettling. I got my puzzle fix in a few unexpected ways this year.

9. Firewatch. Loved the exploration, the 'radio play' vibe, the setting, the just-right amount of drama and seriousness in the story. Would love to play this in VR someday.

8. Overwatch. It wasn't quite the sensation for me as it was for many, many others; that said it was the first online shooter in a while that in which I felt, however briefly, competent, and I could still have fun playing it even though I lost all the time. The serious players have already eclipsed me in skill by orders of magnitude so who knows if I'll revisit it.

7. Inside. Mechanically flawless, chilling, and with actual jaw-dropping moments. I had to push myself through a few of the more trudging puzzles. It was worth it. The last 30 minutes, mumbling "What the f%$& is happening", means I won't forget this game for quite a while.

6. The Witness. Grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Loved the world, loved being stumped and using pencil + paper to supplement a game, something I haven't done in a while. Loved finishing it and walking away satisfied.

5. Street Fighter V. Despite the lack of an Arcade mode (grrrrrrrrrrrr), the technical flaws, the rootkit, and my persistent hesitation to play fighting games online, I can't quit SFV. The fighting's too good. The new systems are great. They got the feel of a Street Fighter perfect.

4. Titanfall 2. Why did I play this? I never touched the first one. The promise of cool mech fighting was put off by having to play an online FPS. But a great campaign sold me, and while the multiplayer still befuddles me, I've enjoyed my time with it a ton and look forward to lots more.

3. Hitman. I've only finished a handful of missions, and those only recently after the Steam autumn sale that knocked the price of the DLC down a ton. I certainly enjoy the gameplay, the incredible attention to detail and the creativity of the team that built Hitman. But this is #3 on my list because I've been entertained more from watching @brad and @danryckert play this game than any other "internet videos" I've watched all year.

2. No Man's Sky. 50+ hours and I still want to occasionally pop in, warp to a new system, walk around a few planets, maybe build some gear, or just see what's out there. I played about 45 hours on a video card that could barely support the game, and loved it; after getting my 1070 I feel like I'll be hanging out in this galaxy for another hundred. I don't have a lot of chill games that give me the experience NMS does - big scale, space flight + planet-side exploration, no rush, no pressure. It was never going to be my gaming savior. The Foundation update borked a few things, but added enough that I'm looking forward to building out my base and my crazy Star Destroyer freighter. Good on you, Hello Games, throw them haters in the brig if they actin' up.

1. Doom. There are few things that give me as much gaming joy as a great single player campaign, and Doom's one of the best I've ever seen. I love the frenzied rush to figure out what weapons I should use to approach a particularly grueling firefight. I love the big swings in health and ammo count. The satisfaction of finishing a group of enemies off, and then thinking man, I wish that had gone on longer - that's never happened for me in an FPS before. Doom got it so right.

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Some Games Of The Year™ for 2015!

My background and life circumstances really end up dictating what I'll play in a given year: I have no current gen consoles (just a PS3/Wii and my trusty gaming PC), and I have two young children and zero free time.

So there's a notable absence of any current-gen console exclusives (eg The Taken King, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, etc). And I get time for maybe one or two triple A releases a year.

Enough 'splaining, on to the list, all of which I played on PC:

5: Mortal Kombat X. Just like with Mortal Kombat I loved the story mode, as it forces the player to use fighters they wouldn't normally use for a few matches, and it's just on the good side of B-Movie scifi/action campy. Like the movement/combo additions and changes from MK9, and I especially enjoyed the different "styles" for each character.

4: Downwell. This was the year I got into roguelikes - because of the glut of releases in the genre, plenty ended up being more fun than punishing. Solid, simple gameplay that can be honed and eventually mastered and make the player feel badass. Great weapon variation, sound, and unlockable colors (a feature for which I am a sucker). Crypt of the NecroDancer is an honorable mention on my "good roguelikes from this year" list, too.

3: Axiom Verge. Looked forward to this for a long time before its release, and while I admit to feeling disappointed with the final product it was still a fantastic Metroidvania. It certainly suffered from too much story. I adored the visuals, secret rooms, and dozens of guns and gadgets.

2: Sublevel Zero. The most brilliant roguelike I've seen, one I feel like I could replay a million times. Graphics that look "retro" but feel unmistakably modern. Excellent procedural generation of levels and powerups, you always feel at the mercy of whatever weapons and ammo you come across, but it never feels unfair. As a lifelong lover of 6DOF's like Descent I glommed on hard to this one.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Put 120+ hours into this, more than I've dumped into any game in years. A less in-your-face story than in years past but still compelling enough to keep me gunning for the 'true' ending. Didn't care for the base development stuff but damn if I didn't have to unlock the highest tier versions of the weapons I loved, get the infinity scarf, and knock out every side mission. I started looking out my car window on my daily commute for plants and shipping containers in empty fields. MGSV got its hooks in me pretty hard.

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