GOTY 2018

I did not finish a lot of game from this year and I didn't even play many of the titles showing up on other people's Game of the Year lists. So here is my weirdo list of games I played this year with the first three games being actual 2018 titles and the last two being games I scrubbed off my backlog.

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Also, here are my previous GOTY lists:

PS: The only reason Dragon Quest IX isn't on here is because I haven't finished it yet. That game is fantastic and should be played by any and all JRPG fans.

List items

  • I feel like I could simply say that Valkyria Chroinicles 4 is my game of the year because I’m a fan of the series and I’m happy that Sega finally made a true sequel to the first Valkyria Chroncles instead of making a smaller scale handheld title or a spin-off. However, leaving it at that sort of sells VC4’s achievements short. The game polishes the franchise’s mechanics in a lot of subtle ways making 4 the most solid entry in the franchise in terms of gameplay and small additions like the Grenadier class drastically changed how I played the game, making the title feel fresh despite being very similar to VC1. The narrative can be criticized for being rushed in a few places but the story really hits some emotional highs. The title is ultimately not about winning a war like Valkyria Chronicles 1. The characters, in many ways, fail their mission. The game is essentially about confronting failure even when you gave it everything you had. While the story and game itself can easily be dismissed for a lot of the game’s “anime elements”, or even its budget presentation, I really loved it and I listened to “The Minstrel Boy” like a hundred times after finishing it. Valkyria Chronicles 4 seems to have come and gone due to it releasing next to a lot of big mainstream titles but for me it was the highlight of my year in terms of games.

  • I don’t like “splat-formers” or really games that are super punishing. I also don’t usually get hyped for indie games that have stories about overcoming anxiety or confronting your inner-self because pretty much every indie anything in any medium are about those things. However, what makes Celeste work so well for me was that the gameplay and story complimented each other so perfectly. I wanted to overcome the game’s challenges because of the story and all of the emotional moments in the story felt earned because the gameplay was making feel what Madeline was feeling. Plus the presentation is adorable, soundtrack is amazing and even though the story is serious it never got so heavy that it lost its sense of humor. A great experience all around.

  • 428 is a confusing thing that is hard to communicate why you should play it besides simply stating that’s its good. After all, its main claim to fame is that it got a perfect 40 from Famitsu 10 years ago when it was released in Japan, back when Famistu scores still meant something. One could say that it is a visual novel and recommend it to VN fans but its presentation is live-action, with a look closer to a Ken Burns documentary rather than any popular visual novel, so it doesn’t really have that “anime appeal” that most VN fans are perhaps looking for. Plus the game itself doesn’t really play quite like a visual novel due to it technically being a “sound novel”, a term and genre that the West basically has zero experience or understanding of. The game’s narrative feels like it is trying to appeal to an older more mainstream audience that maybe enjoys Japanese dramas, or at least something more like the Yakuza series. 428’s story also doesn’t have any huge “OMG, earth shattering crazy plot twists” like other popular equivalents like Zero Escape or Danganronpa (although it certainly has plenty of twists). So the game doesn’t really have any of the common bullet points to sell it to the type of people that would normally play a game mainly about reading but let me try and sell it anyway. 428 is basically a gamified choose-your-own-adventure book. The story follows five different protagonists each with their own stories, some are serious while others are comedic, who all eventually come together to solve the mystery behind a kidnapping and stop a terrorist organization. What the game does so well is that the story starts with dozens of plot points and characters that all seem random or unrelated and brings them all together. The way the story unfolds and reveals the hidden connections between everything is really cool. So many visual novels I’ve played in recent years have horrible pacing issues but 428 is almost masterful in how it delivers it story with it perfectly stringing the reader along and leaving just enough bread crumbs to keep you wanting more. The way you navigate through the game’s time-chart to redo choices in order to get every character to the next hour is fun and gave me similar feelings to puzzling together a case in Ace Attorney. And while the game may seem to just be a collection of JPEGs and text at first, the huge verity of photographs is impressive and the way the developers control the pace of the narrative through the text and simple images is artful. 428 is a game that does so much with so little and honestly feels like a game that people will look back on and wonder why it didn’t get more attention in 2018. Practically no one was talking about 428 this year but it was an amazing experience for me and I hope more people will give it a chance.

  • Raw Danger has plenty of flaws but its unique disaster setting and melodramatic story mixed with silly dialogue choices was incredibly charming to me. This game stuck with me all year and was a joyful experience to play.

  • Watching the credits to Trails in the Sky SC left like finally fulfilling a long-forgotten promise. I’ve been playing games in the Trails series since 2011 when they were first being localized but for various reasons it took me 7 years to finally see the conclusion to the first game’s story. Finishing Second Chapter was fun, nostalgic and liberating in a lot of ways and was a very memorable gaming experience from this year.