Honorable Mention/ Games I liked but didn’t finish in time:
Dragon Quest XI
I’m currently sitting at the 60-hour mark on DQXI at the time of writing this. I love a lot of it, however, Dragon Quest XI wears its JRPG tropes almost like a badge of honor, it’s another story of an unlikely hero and his band of travelers trying to save the world from evil. It knows what it is and what it wants to be and I respect that, but I was hoping for a little bit more as my first real foray into Dragon Quest. But again, I heard some stuff changes post-credits so I could change my mind. But as of now, it’s fine and I’m glad a JRPG like this shows it can still exist in the big, Triple-A space.
Astrobot Rescue Mission
I’ve played the first 2 worlds of Astrobot and I can’t wait to get back to it. In some ways, I don’t think there’s been a game this year that I jumped into and was immediately having so much fun with. It’s also my first real sit-down-and-play experience with VR so that might also have an impact. It’s cool as hell and really uses modern platforming mechanics in a smart way. It being combined with VR just adds to an already enjoyable experience. I’m still thinking about the “mine-kart” level I just did, and I’m losing my mind over it. If I was able to finish it in time of writing this, it would definitely have been on this list.
10) Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee
Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee felt like returning home. Back to the days where I’d come home from school, sprawl out on my couch, and get lost in the world of Pokemon on my Game Boy. The series has been an important cornerstone of my life and will continue to be as each new generation comes.
I’ll totally admit I was wrong when I first saw this game and thought the motion controls would make this an unenjoyable experience for me. While they had their frustrating moments, I’d take it again if that meant we got more of the awesome living Pokemon world they created. However, returning just to the original 151 has lost some of its appeal for me as these Pokemon almost feel like they’re the overworked minority of the Pokemon generations. All that being said, Let’s Go made me excited for the future of the games on Switch, and I can’t wait to see how the 2019 game turns out.
9) God of War
If you would have talked to me back in March, God of War probably would have been my GOTY. Granted at that point not many other games were out, but the relationship Kratos and Atreus had struck a chord with me in some ways. Remembering being a younger kid with not a particularly great upbringing, and trying to figure out my own path came thru with Atreus. He made some really dumbass decisions, and that’s okay cause he’s a dumbass kid who doesn’t know. Ultimately, Kratos stole the show. I never thought I’d care about this horny ass mass murderer but here I am.
He’s started his path to change and knows he can’t hide from his bad past anymore, and I’m excited to see where this world they want to build goes. It could be good or bad really, but I want to see it. It’s always exciting to see larger games like these that have so many critical conversations around it because it makes the game only more interesting to me. It’s a game I want to replay with all these different perspectives now in mind.
8) Red Dead Redemption 2
I was extremely skeptical of Red Dead 2 since it was announced. I’m the type of person that likes to keep good stories as is. Red Dead Redemption had its moment and is a fantastic game for its time. When they started talking about adding more “survival” game type mechanics, I groaned. Red Dead 2 felt unnecessary, but again I’ll admit when I’m proven wrong. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a fantastic story with intricate characters and very unnecessarily intricate controls.
I loved Arthur Morgan and watching him just try and keep everyone together to a fault. Dutch’s fall from grace was exciting to see unfold and twist. It kept me going through some of the not great parts of the usual Rockstar open world tropes. I loved getting lost in the world, trotting along a path, greeting a passerby, and having a mission unfold from a simple hello. It was great and sucked me into the world in a way most other games have not.
I truly wanted to live out Arthur’s life. But when I’d finish a mission and be miles from my horse, It was hard to not lose my immersion and see the machinery behind everything. The easiest solution was usually to just make the long trek back to camp and start the next mission, which would then spawn my horse there and continue on my way. Just let me whistle my horse Rockstar, you elitists.
7) Monster Hunter World
Before January I couldn’t have told you literally anything about the Monster Hunter franchise. But like many others, World captured me and got me into this series. I loved exploring these environments not only for the beauty but how they crafted them all to make sense for the Monsters themselves to live in. From first finding the Great Jagras pit in the Ancient Forest to being deep underground in a giant monsters remains running from a terrorizing Radobaan as it barrels down its path it all just made sense.
Combine that with the streamlining of the controls and simplifying of the hunting mechanics and it let me experience the other facets of Monster Hunter. Its silliness and campiness were finally able to come through and it all clicked for me. World will always have a special place in my heart as it’s also my first Video Review for the site, and really my first ever edited video piece I’ve let out into the world for people to see. It reminds me where I’ve come from in terms of production skills and I’ll always cherish it for that.
Gris just came to me at the right place/right time really. In this year of dense mechanics driven games, Gris was something that was powerful in its simplicity and beauty and it just really stuck
with me for that reason. It’s simple, absolutely gorgeous, and just a good time. It was a great end cap on a challenging year.
I recommend it to anyone having a difficult or stressful time in their life to just sit down and get lost in this game.
5) Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is in some ways the JRPG I’ve wanted for years. A marrying of classic JRPG systems with new fresh takes on combat systems and storytelling. Octopath’s combat system is fun and engaging. Playing the game of figuring out enemies weaknesses and then exploiting it by unleashing a devastating combo felt good every time, and especially when it came to bosses which were mostly designed around that. It always felt like a little satisfying puzzle to solve within the combat itself. While I definitely can see the case of that being tedious for some, I couldn’t get enough of it with the 80+ hours I put into the game.
Octopath has its issues. The visual style didn’t always work for me, and the lack of party interaction was noticeable. But in some ways, that’s why I loved Octopath so much. It tried something different, it told one-off stories for each character, and I felt the most connected with a party of characters in a JRPG’s than I have in years because of it. Seeing Alfyn grow up and learn the difficulties of life warmed my heart. Seeing Primrose seek out her revenge at any costs was powerful. Not all 8 stories were the best or as memorable, but they still all resonated with me in some way, and more than most JRPGS that follow the same tropes over and over again. I loved that they tried to make something new from the old even with its stumbles.
Iconoclasts is just one of those special little games for me. It wasn’t on my radar till earlier this year even though it’s been in development for years. It took a style of game that I love and played a lot of this year, and made it feel new again. It focused on the story of this game’s world but layered on the sense of discovery usually found in a metroidvania in a super fun way.
The boss battles always had me surprised and impressed with its use of all the simple mechanics and how your partner characters would take part. Using my wrench to zip across a line to traverse a stage in one scene, then using it as an attack later just made sense in the progression, and was satisfying to pull off in every regard. Seeing Robin take up the mantle of mechanic regardless of the consequences made her a cool character to root for. Meeting the various characters like Mina the rebel and Elro her brother made you invested in her world right from the start. The journey they all take together is emotional and thought-provoking, with a lot of fun Sci-Fi twists. For some reasons I can’t quite nail when writing this but Iconoclasts just keeps reminding me of Paper Mario Thousand Year Door, a very important game to me. I feel like the more I move away from my time with Iconoclasts the more I’ll appreciate it, which is the same feelings I have about Paper Mario in some ways. I know I’ll return to this game one day and I’ll fall in love with all over again.
3) Super Smash Bros Ultimate
I feel like it’s not really a surprise that Smash is pretty high on my list. I mean, I literally hosted a podcast talking about every bit of news for half of this year. It’s everything I wanted it to be and, definitely in many ways, more. It’s the most content there’s ever been in a Smash game, it’s the best Smash has ever felt. And it’s the most incredible collection of gaming history that’s really kind of out there in some ways.
The attention to detail on each character, assist trophy, and stage is near untouchable in its love and respect for a franchise. With my weird love of all those things, I can’t not just be enamored by Smash Ultimate.
I love the music. It’s made me emotional not only hearing all the new remixes for these franchises I love, but seeing all the names of composers and performers being put up front and center, and realizing how much of an incredible compilation and collaborative effort that Smash is. You just don’t see it anywhere else in video games and other mediums. I love Smash, I love the hype, I love the respect and attention to detail in Smash that it strives for. It is a game and series that will forever speak to me on every level.
2) Return of the Obra Dinn
As someone who can enjoy solving a cool murder mystery, Return of the Obra Dinn has about 60 of them and presents them in a way that feels like an entirely new game genre. The way they overlap and emphasize all the little details of these crazy murder dioramas is incredible and surprising. Matched with its amazing visual style and use of music, its large cast of characters, and it’s abstract storytelling. Return of the Obra Dinn is dense and will probably be very overwhelming to some.
You’ll come into scenes and not even realize what information is there. What clothes a crewmate is wearing, or even where they’re sitting might matter in solving who they are and how all the events unfold. I devoured all of this game in one sitting taking in every nook and cranny. It’s not for everyone but I think everyone should at least try it cause I think people that stick it out will find something super special. There’s nothing out there quite like Obra Dinn and I love celebrating something like this.
Spider-Man felt like a weird nostalgia trip in some ways. The open world tropes people groaned about in this game, I loved. The cookie cutter Marvel movie format that people groaned about, I kind of loved. Okay, it was maybe a bit much, but I was just enamored with Spider-Man.
Every movement Spider-Man made, every Peter Parker and Mary Jane interaction, every villain reveal or twist just felt well executed to me. I didn’t want to stop swinging around the city and exploring its rooftops and streets for anything that I could find.
I picked up Spider-Man on release day Friday and beat it and platinumed the game Sunday that same weekend. I just couldn’t get enough of this world. I didn’t really read a lot of Spider-Man comics. I’ve seen most of the movies, which are fine. But Marvel’s Spider-Man just made everything work for me and gave me an appreciation for the character and the world that’s been built around him all these years. Finding backpack’s that would tell little stories in Peter’s life impacted me in a way I was surprised by.
It made me appreciate that in the sea of open world games with the same mechanics from countless other open world games, they can still be well-executed, fun, and overall satisfying. Being Spider-Man was just fun and exciting. And it allowed me to be introduced to a new world that so many love and appreciate and I’m grateful for this game to do that and make me a fan myself.