It’s that time of year once again where everyone has a good time putting together their easy-to-write and easier-to-promote “Game of the Year” lists and I have a big sulk about the whole concept. Ranking any media released locally in your part of world during an arbitrary 12 month period doesn’t contain much value in of itself; and even from the perspective of “it’s just a bit of fun” I find forcing everything I enjoyed (often for different reasons) into a battle to the death inside my heart to decide a winner isn’t exactly the ideal way to appreciate any of them.
However when you step back and think about it a huge part of the appeal of “GOTY Season” is it’s an unquestionable excuse to inject everyone around you with a hard dose of 5–10 of your opinions. Despite it being par for the course for a personal platform like Twitter people feel anxious about flopping out a conga line of their random takes; but if some Indonesian teen throws together a “Like This For 1 Transformers opinion” image in Paint and it just so happens to find its way onto your timeline then your opinions are a party where everyone invites themselves!
So with that in mind, since it’s already justified and ’tis the season, why stop at ranking 5 or 10 games? Why not force ALL your opinions onto any poor sap who clicked this and talk about every game you played this year? Why not also limit yourself to 100 words per game so you don’t waste your weekend accidentally writing a full review for each game or embarrassing yourself by actually explaining your opinion?
I don’t have an answer to any of those questions, so hey let’s just do it! And so this can’t be confused for any kind of ranking list the games are in alphabetical order.
A Way Out
I see what you did here Josef Fares, if this was called “The Way Out” it would’ve been right at the bottom but since it’s “A Way Out” I’m forced to talk about it first. Well joke’s on you because I’ve wasted half your slot writing out a meta joke so unfunny even Sonic Boom fans wouldn’t retweet it. Also for someone who’s passionate about games being better than movies you sure like copying movies a lot! I haven’t even seen the Shawshank Redemption! Your game is pretty cute though, the ending caused us a lot of laughter and screaming.
Blazblue Cross Tag Battle
The hype for BBxCT was a cause for despair when I realised there’s enough people in the world excited about the concept of Blazblue characters meeting RWBY characters for this to be a commercial success. It says a lot for Arc System Works’ marketing that in the current climate of Street Fighter V hating they managed to release their Capcom Fighting Jam with half the characters locked off behind paywalls and somehow get away with it. Aesthetically the game is an ugly, pointless crossover, but it is annoyingly quite fun. Can more tag fighters rip off this button layout please?
I hated that Mystery Layton game from last year so thought this would be a nice palate cleanser, then somehow this goofy Pokémon game also turned out to be a collection of mostly unconnected mysteries with an unresolved “WHERE’S MY DAD” plot and now I feel gaslighted. The experience is like playing a point n’ click adventure with the walkthrough taped to your monitor and the story is not worth it but the integration of Pokémon in a more realistic human world is fun and the gruff voiced Pikachu is definitely funnier than Ryan Reynolds will be in the movie.
Detroit: Become Human
FOR THE RECORD I only watched the Best Friends (RIP) playthroughs and I did not touch or purchase it. In many ways it’s the best Quantic Dream game because of the structure; giving the audience a peak behind the curtain rather than hiding behind a vague promise of “choices matter” is almost fascinating. But that also makes it the most frustrating David Cage game, and all of that is undermined by this blithering moron’s failure to sensitively or effectively explore a single theme or idea in this game,
But hey; worst twist in anything ever! Congrats Dave! Stop making games.
It’s not an intense mind bending puzzle game by any means, if Jonathan Blow designed this he wouldn’t even reach the bottom of the label on his piss bottle. Instead it has that Ghost Trick quality where puzzles feel like little toys that are fun to play with and snap together into little set pieces the more you understand them while Donut County bounces back and forth from toys to story across its two hour run time with a song in its heart. It’s no Katamari, but it is at least charming and good enough to receive that unfair comparison.
Dragon Quest XI
I’ve never touched any game in this series for more than 20 minutes and have little to no experience with “old school” JRPGs, yet starting Dragon Quest XI felt like throwing on a comforting blanket. I stopped playing it about 12 hours in due to life events and other games coming out, but I feel confident that I’ll go back to it someday and it’ll feel just as snug. Still I would’ve likely finished this game already if the music wasn’t god awful. Don’t @ me, if you type “Dragon Quest XI soundtrack” into Google the first suggested search adds “mod”.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
I didn’t play this nearly as much as I should have! It’s too scrubby at low level play and too difficult to get into higher level play to fill that Marvel-sized hole in my life, but it’s remarkable how fun touching this game is. Two players can jump into opposite corners, spam fireballs and supers and still have an amazing time that looks appealing to fans of the show, that’s how you get casuals into fighters not obnoxious single player content. Oh god this had a story mode didn’t it, I didn’t play that either…I should get back to this!
Fire Pro Wrestling World
I’ve barely touched the create modes so I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to discuss Fire Pro. The game still lacks that pick up and play quality that wrestling games forgot about a decade ago, but it’s deep as opposed to messy or gimmicky that even playing it while it’s incomprehensible is a giggle…especially if you turn on the landmines. Don’t know how much I’m going to get into this without any wrestling buddies to play it with ( =( ), but I will pretend to play it 24/7 if it convinces more companies that aren’t Yukes to make wrestling games.
Kirby Star Allies
I played this at launch and haven’t touched it since so I think my opinion only applies to about a third of the game now. Most Kirby platformers come in two forms; cutesy “comfort food” with a gimmick and genuinely great action games (Planet Robobot)…Star Allies is the former. Well the majority of it is…the part at the end where it turns into Bayonetta is undeniably awesome and if I’m being honest the only part of the game I remember. Still, the only game on Switch I’ve played predominately in handheld mode, so it is at least good comfort food.
Mario Tennis Aces
If this was an award show this would be a front runner for the “This Came Out This Year??” category, and a surefire pick for the “Wait, This Came Out THIS SUMMER??” category. Look, I love competitive games, but if your trailer for a Mario Tennis game is a six minute breakdown of all the new mechanics you’ve probably gone too far. Mario with zero casual appeal is not a good fit, and a bunk single player campaign didn’t help it stick in hearts or minds either. Probably brilliant at high level, but not coherent enough for anyone to care.
I already wrote over 2000 words on this game I don’t know if I have 100 more in me! 2018 might have been the year that finally put the nail in the coffin of my personal interest in big budget mainstream games, and of the three main offenders (the other two being Red Dead and God of War) Spider-Man was the best one by virtue of being the least masturbatory. It’s decent enough alright, but it’s a corporately approved clown costume painted over the skeleton of ten year old games. I’m afraid the best Spider-Man game is still Dead Rising.
Mega Man 11
The soundtrack sucks! This is not an asterisk! I’m sorry! Music is hard woven into the aesthetic and personality of the series and having music that’s not just -bad- but so generic and joyless is inexcusable, anyone who tries to pretend this doesn’t matter is the worst kind of fanboy. Mega Man 11 is okay, the Speed and Power gears at their best add new verbs and playstyles to the established formula…but more often than not they feel like band aids for inconsistent level design. I also think Bounce Man’s stage is awesome, so maybe I’m from the Berenstein universe.
The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
2018 sure was the year of games I liked but can’t remember the title of to save my life, I wonder if the island of memories is near Donut Country or somewhere in the Paratropics. SWERY is back in full swing and reminded me how much I love good cinematic sidescrollers (please come back to games Eric Chahi) even when the puzzles are a bit wonky. It’s thematically wonderful and extremely important, If I was tied to a chair and forced to pick a GOTY at gunpoint this would be the floor tile where most of my urine would settle.
This gets gold stars on principle for being an Nintendo product that’s unquestionably aimed at children and 20-something manbabies are shoved into the bin. Although it didn’t stop this 20-something manbaby buying two sets and building all the toys with my 20-something girlbaby. What is possible with a few sheets of cardboard, some ingenuity and the most gimmick riddled gaming controller ever causes constant gasps. The combination of parent bonding, construction, customization and game design make this an amazing children’s toy. However, an expensive, time consuming toy that only hateful rich Tory kids will have…so gimme back those gold stars.
I bought this soon after launch knowing it was a game destined to have its price slashed a month after it came out. This happened three days after I bought it, and didn’t have time to play it during that period. I ended up trading it in for a fraction of what I paid for it and now the game is a “free” addition to my library via PlayStation Plus. This illustrates how good Onrush’s core concept was that I didn’t want to wait despite foreseeing all of this. Finally someone made Burnout properly instead of making an edgy Outrun.
I’m somewhat acquainted with designers Jessica Harvey and Doc Burford so I’m half tempted to waste hundred words listing a bunch of stuff that inspired Paratopic that I know for a fact weren’t influences just to annoy them…but if I did that I’m less likely to be retweeted. In writing this list I’m realising how foggy my memory is on some games I played for dozens of hours, yet small pockets of horror and violence and even long uneventful driving sequences from this 40 minute experience are baked into my brain. 100% recommended also SILENT HILL DAVID LYNCH WOOOO BABY
Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee!
Yea we got the Eevee one you goddamn Pikamarks, you got a problem with that? You wanna go? WELL THEN LET’S GO Eevee is an arguably much needed stripped down Pokémon game that sits comfortably in Nintendo’s new “manbabies be damned” stable. For experienced players your opinion on Let’s Go Favdog will depend on how important battling is to you, personally this game was a little too streamlined and easy to hold my attention. I will say I find the encouragement to catch literally every single Pokémon distracting, that’s taking the tagline a little too seriously! Think of the ecosystem.
Red Dead Redemption 2
I wish I had waited a little longer to play Red Dead Redemption 2 as I’m writing this while recovering from a horrific gum infection where the tooth pain made it impossible to sleep for several days, and dragging myself through this bludgeoning beast of a game hootin’ and tootin’ its way through its impossibly long final chapter and epilogue probably would have overwhelmed me enough to help the codeine knock me out. I have such complicated feelings about this grotesque amalgamation of hundreds of years of people’s lives that I’d rather think about my screeching pain than revisit them.
Shadow of the Colossus Remake
Come and sit under the learning tree kid, listen to me, if you’re going to play this version you need to go with 4K30fps mode. It’s not Devil May Cry, you’re not losing anything in those frames, but you are losing a lot by turning the Colossi into weightless plastic-looking mascots. Also the classic controls do not “suck”, using the top button that points upwards for ascending only “feels wrong” if you assume all games should have an homogenised language for inputs.
It looks nice, but we need to stop trying to “fix” games by turning them into different games.
Sonic Mania Plus
My opinion has not changed much that despite some dodgy levels Sonic Mania is on the good side of nostalgia bait releases, it’s the ultimate argument for embracing fanfiction. I’m not as hot on this version though, not that’s any worse since it’s the same game with a few added bits and pieces, but what they added leans into the more cringy side of fan service. Well, what I mean is Mighty and Ray both kind of suck and aren’t that fun to play, and their inclusion feels more “woah OBSCURE REFERENCE lol” than inspiration. It should have been Amy!
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
This speaks to the necessity of both contextualising criticism and revaluing games; before I revisited the Spyro through this remake I thought the series was pretty consistently good, now I think Spyro 1 slaps, Spyro 2 blows and Spyro 3 is a weird decent enough compromise between the first two. This is a faithful remake too, much better than Vicarious Visions’ effort last year, but it’s so good it’s kind of pointless. Crash and Spyro are two of the best aged early 3D games anyway and didn’t *need* remaking, videogame history needs to be easier to read and not rewritten.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
I’ve mostly grown out of this impulse now but I purchased this game to have it sit on my shelf. Having an arcade perfect port of Third Strike is important to me as that game is absolutely a work of art. Not that I’m interested in hopping online and having matches with people on it anymore especially in a version so light on features. Preserving these games in their original form and all the little changes across versions is important work and this is a valuable release, this did feel a little hollow compared to the Mega Man collections though.
Super Mario Party
Does it make me the world’s biggest jerk to suggest this was the major disappointment of the year? Nintendo seemed to acknowledge people weren’t as into the recent games and this felt like a fiery reimagining to kick start a new lineage of parties and…it feels as soulless as what they crap out on 3DS. The economy makes no sense, new dice and buddies are unbalanced even by Mario Party-bullshit standards, bonuses do nothing, rubberbanding rarely happens, unlocking content is annoying, board design is uninspired, new modes have limited appeal, presentation is needlessly slow and still no online! Sad face.
Super Stuff Bros. Ultimate
Christ, I couldn’t even type out the roster in less than hundred words. This is the Ultimate tribute to the gamer’s love of Stuff. The amount of Stuff in this is incredible, but even with this extraneous effort the first question posed by the audience is “so uh…where’s the rest of the Stuff? No not that, that’s not the Stuff we want”. I kind of hate this a lot, but I won’t argue that it’s good Stuff. Hopefully enough Melee players have had children since the Wii U game and will be less insufferable to play against online this time.
Taiko no Tatsujin Drum N’ Fun
Paying £100 for a rhythm game might feel daunting (relax, I only paid £90) but since they make versions of this where you don’t have the drum just think of it as a collector’s edition where the packaged bonus is the subtitle. I played a demo of this game on the PlayStation 4 with a Dualshock controller and let me assure you there was neither drum nor fun. It’s the 80 billionth one of these what do you want me to say, I got it because we didn’t have one and it has Sugar Song and Bitter Step on it.
Allow me to confess; I don’t often get much out of “experiential” games. I don’t think it has anything to do with taste, I’m just a dysphoric pie splatter of thoughts of feelings trapped inside a sack of flesh which I find uncomfortable and distressing, I don’t know if any collection of polygons and sounds can help me “transcend” that…especially not with a TV strapped to my head slightly rubbing against my gross face. I’m not going to claim that Tetris Effect isn’t beautiful though, my creamy splatter can appreciate some good Tetris, and this is some smooth ass Tetris.
I finally get a physical copy of WarioWare Twisted in the house and Nintendo go and remake half of it on their console that I forgot has a gyroscope built straight into the dang thing. Every single WarioWare game is a microcosm of beautifully legible good game design, sometimes so good it’s a shame it’s here, and this is a celebration of all the best bits. I like how the game lets you suck and carry on, hey Nintendo you should make a Rhythm Heaven like that! It’s obvious you want to since you made the final boss basically that.
Of all the terrible games WWE have released in the past decade this is…another one. Okay, this is one of those entries that if you were buying the games every 5 years or so (like a smart person) instead of every year you might think it was good if you overlook the clunky action and playpen rings. For everyone else it’s another update to the asset pool for the character creation modes so we can spend hours making our perfect meat hunks (James Bralant), watch them stumble drunkenly to the ring to wrestle like they’re underwater then turn it off.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Even in hundred words you’re not going to get me to smack talk a Yakuza game even if it’s a weaker entry. A new engine meant a lot of compromises and step backs from the wonderful Yakuza 0 which built on nearly a decade of work that had to be scrapped almost entirely for this. The story isn’t exactly bombastic finale material, it’s smaller in scale and the goofball twists often fall into the wrong brand of silly for this series (boring). Still it has its moments, the fishing minigame is incredible and Beat Takeshi and Okada are in it.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
The full Kamarucho is back, the side content is back to slightly disturbing quantities without the game being over polished to the point of discomfort, and the bomb ass combat is back to standard being more involved than tossing dudes around to show off the fancy new physics engine. I haven’t played the original Yakuza 1 and 2, and although veterans will probably decry some changes Kiwami 2’s excessive extras where a lot less distracting than the first remake where it was obvious the original experience had been devoured. Also the soundtrack bangs.
I need Judge Eyes YESTERDAY.
SOME EXTRA TIDBITS JUST FOR FUN
For the sake of completion here’s a few extra blurbs on games I didn’t play or look at extensively this year but feel like talking about a little anyway because hey you made it this far through my flippant short form opinions, you can probably handle uninformed flippant short form opinions! I’m going to drop the hundred word gimmick now otherwise some of the following paragraphs would have me-level stretchmarks.
God of War: Worth mentioning as it was one of the Three Games That Ruined Games for me that I talked about earlier but didn’t play. The whole “one take” gimmick is awful, it’s one of the most egregious examples of big budget posturing in history. It’s like these games know they can’t keep up with any other medium (including smaller games) artistically so they stretch their tech dong out into an arbitrary hurdle then backflip over it for some easy headlines.
It wasn’t only the game itself that exhausted me, the discourse, backlash and backlash to the backlash was also an isolating moment for me. I can’t talk about this any more though without being put in alt-crit-Twitter jail though.
Return of the Obra Dinn: I haven’t played it and I’ve deliberately avoided knowing too much about it. I will played it soon, I’m 95% sure I’m going to love it! So it would feel rude not to mention it.
Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze: This got a rerelease on the Switch this year which got some traction for its NEW FUNKY MODE, unrelated to this I broke open my Wii U copy and played some co-op with my girlfriend which I can confirm is the DIVORCE MODE. Seriously this is not a co-op game, the way the camera tracks to one person and respawns enemies that are off the screen is horrible, do people disagree? I don’t know but we couldn’t get through two levels without screaming at each other, let me get the god damn collectibles…
SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy: If you’re going all in on being an embarrassing tittay game you could at least remember that you’re supposed to make the tits unlockable not the original costumes. The graphics and redesigns are so bland you can barely tell who the characters are on the select screen. Still let’s make sure to give the devil its due, if you’re able to look past all of this surface cringe there is still a good ol’ tag fighting game underneath that completely sucks.
Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk: I have nothing to say about this. I’ve always wanted to play one of these and I’m just putting it here to remind myself to buy it at some point. It did come out here right? Oh man I better check.
Paratopic: this entry is for my itch.io copy that I bought but never played. If Jess or Doc happen to be reading this then YEA, yea I did buy your game twice. FOR YOU. Also: sup.
Deltarune: I haven’t heard anything about this…and that’s really impressive! Other than the occasional remix on Youtube little to no evidence of this game’s existence has entered my online peripheral vision. Normally I would worry that means it hasn’t made much of an impression, but with Undertale’s fanbase I can only imagine the hush hush attitude has been born out of pure politeness…which is kind of wonderful. I’ll play it soon, I like Undertale okay, I’m sorry to be so basic.
Judge Eyes: Get yourself some new typewriters Sega I need this translated like 8 years ago!
Blade Strangers: Turns out that having a bunch of random characters in your game counts as a “crossover” these days, and I thought Cross Tag was ropey in concept. I understand that people get a kick out of seeing something they like acknowledged and adapted into another thing, but with zero thematic or aesthetic purpose when you do this with a fighting game’s core roster (especially when you don’t do anything interesting with the characters) it just turns into a collection of stuff…and not in the Smash Bros way. Maybe the game’s good I don’t know, I find it really hard to get invested in it.
Forza Horizon 4: A beautiful, incredible driving game that takes place in an idealised British countryside so perfect and wonderful it gives you less reason to go outside, and as a Brit that’s all you could ever ask for.
HAPPY NEW YEAR if you’re reading this in the week this went up, if you’re from the future please forgive my outdated pleasantry it is 3:30 in the morning and I’m not going to come up with a real ending for this.