Everytime GOTY comes around, it is always a moment of self-reflection for me. To celebrate the high moments, but also to relive the emotions of the lowest points of the year. 2019 has had more low moments for me personally, but the high moments were so high and seemed unattainable. I left a toxic workplace, and got a job which has brought happiness which has resulted in the year to turn around for me.
I’ve also burned a lot of bridges this year, people who I once respected began to show their true side to me and I removed them out of my life. This also lead me to go to some of the darkest places I have ever been in. However, I have grown and nurtured more relationships which have allowed me to find more success and those relationships have allowed me to grow as a person. I feel that all of those moments have allowed for to find more success by straying away from that toxicity and relying on the people who will help me grow more, which is something I can never repay those folks.
There is never a moment in time when I realize how fortunate I am to be writing for such a great and fantastic website, and surround myself with people who are much more talented than I am. I have been blessed to find a core of people who will support me, and it makes me so happy to call all of these people my family.
Runner-up: Resident Evil 2
Now, this is a game which I played because everyone was talking about it. I chased the zeitgeist. This is also my first Resident Evil game. I also only completed one playthrough because I’m a coward, but truth be told I don’t play games of this type. To be clear, I don’t being scared, and watching or playing horror games and movies. However, I am grateful that I played this game. The thoughtfulness of the environments, the fantastic lighting, and superb sound design really carry this game for me.
There were moments in this game, where I heard Mr. X in the next room and almost shit myself. Not even to mention when I first encountered lickers and verbally screamed and yelled, “Fuck this, fuck this, fuck this.” I haven’t been scared this good in a long time, and I have no plans to do this anytime soon. While I may have been scared shitless playing this game, I had a great time. I quite literally stepped out of my comfort zone, and had a blast. The moments where my adrenaline was pumping, and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears were surreal. These were times when I was challenging myself to persevere and push through.
The time I spent with RE 2 gave me some of my favorite memories of the year, to wading my way through the sewers, to unraveling the mystery of the police station, and running away those bizarre plant things in the lab. This was an experience which I dipped my toes into once, and will never do the B storyline because I have had my fill. However the news of the Resident Evil 3 Remaster has me worried that I will once again chase the zeitgeist.
Runner-up: Cadence of Hyrule
I love music. It’s probably the thing I spend most of my time listening to, and it’s always been such a big part of my life. Cadence of Hyrule has the best music this year, and the soundtrack blew me away. I was unfamiliar with Brace Yourself’s Crypt of the Necrodancer, but when Cadence of Hyrule was shown off I was enamored. The art style and recognizable music was something which immediately stuck out to me, and when I was finally able to sit down and play this game was special.
When I first started to play the game, the rhythm mechanics began to throw me off. Granted, I am someone who doesn’t have any rhythm, but having the option to disable that mechanic and play the game in a more slowed tactical fashion was something which really stuck with me. I really found my stride with the game, and still allowed for me to have a very enjoyable time with the game. The new take on the Link to the Past story was quite refreshing and brought new life to the series. The one thing Cadence of Hyrule left me with was wanting Nintendo to offer their original IPs to other studios to do new and interesting things like Cadence.
Runner-up: Need for Speed: Heat
I have a complicated relationship with the Need for Speed franchise, I remember watching my Dad playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted back in 2005 and it was a blast to watch him explore this city and drive around like a mad-man at times. It would be seven years later until I played my first NFS game, and it was a game with the same title as the one which I watched my Dad played, Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Once again, it is seven years later when I am playing a new NFS game.
Need for Speed: Heat is a game which is weird for me. I love the world, the music, and the cars, but I could care less about the story. This is where the game falls apart for me, I just want to drive around this city and race other drivers but then the story muscles its way into the stage and I lose interest. The driving feels so damn good, and the whole game revolves around this Day / Night cycle which allows for you to gain money in the day for new parts and at night you rank up in order to buy those parts. It’s a genuinely good loop, and feels extremely rewarding at times.
I didn’t even get close to beating NFS: Heat, but the time I had with it was really fun. Not even to mention the dope soundtrack which feels like it came out this fictional Miami called Palm City. It mixes Latinx, reggaeton, and hip-hop music to make the world give of more of that vibe.
Runner-up: Destiny 2: Shadowkeep & Forsaken
When Destiny 2 dropped in 2017, it hooked me much like how the first did. However, it didn’t stick with me as much as the original did. Earlier this year, Forsaken and the other DLCs for Destiny 2 went on sale for cheap, and I decided to jump back in. Seeing the Tangled Shore and the Dreaming CIty for the first time was one of my favorite moments of this year. The colours, vibes, and design of these locations felt like they existed in this universe and felt tailor made for what Bungie has been building for. I spent so much time exploring the Dreaming City with my HUD turned off because I just wanted to take it all in and not be bogged down by the interface.
Forsaken rekindled my love for this franchise, and it wasn’t long before the next expansion would be releasing, Shadowkeep. During my time with Destiny 1, the Moon was my favorite location. Something about it always made me interested in exploring it, the desolation felt natural and the simple color scheme made the location come alive. So, when the first trailer dropped for Shadowkeep and it was revealed that the Moon was coming back as a location I was ecstatic.
It felt great to return to this world, and since playing Shadowkeep it has kept me hooked. Whether it be just turning on a playlist and have fun exploring the spaces trying to find a good angle for photos or just jamming out and shooting some baddies. Destiny 2 is an experience which I play solo, and it has yet to wear on me yet.
Runner-up: Sayonara Wild Hearts
What an experience. Sayonara Wild Hearts has everything, killer soundtrack, dope look, phenomenal story and to top all of that, fucking Queen Latiftah. Everything about this game vibed with me, and to say that it was something which I wasn’t expecting to love as much as I did is an absolute understatement. When I played the demo for the game at PAX East, it was the style which stood out to me on the noisy show floor. However, when I sat down with the final game and played it without any background noise, it was incredibly special.
When I played it, it was after a long day after work and I wasn’t feeling super great. Then as the story began to unfold in front of me in the dark, I felt my heart beating more and more. I played the entirety of the game that night, and by the end of the journey I found myself in tears. Part of me wants to blame that on how I was feeling in that particular moment, while the other part of me recognized what the protagonist was struggling with. I had such a strong emotional connection to the game in that moment, and it just floored me.
Runner-up: Pokemon Sword / Shield
Everyone remembers their first Pokemon game, for lots of people that was the Kanto and Johto regions. For me it was the Hoenn region, the infamous third generation of Pokemon. Some of my earliest gaming memories were playing Emerald with my brother as we shared a save and discussed who we wanted on our collective teams.
The same feeling that I felt way back when I was a kid playing Emerald for the first time has suddenly come flooding back to me. Me and my brother have been discussing who is on our respective teams, and let me tell you nostalgia is a real powerful thing y’all.
I have dabbled with other Pokemon games since Emerald, but this is the first one where I feel an actual connection to and feel compelled to see it through. The team that I am building is giving me satisfaction of watching them grow, seeing my Dreadnaw, Conkeldurr, Hitmonchan, Xatu, Flygon, and Ninetales grow and evolve alongside me is a great feeling. I am still not fond of doing the grinding aspect of Pokemon, but it’s easy to just watch wrestling and turn my brain off while I do that.
I have only just gotten to the eighth gym, but there is something to be said about the connection I have to this franchise and its link to my childhood. The more time I spend playing this game, the more I feel like that kid who was playing Emerald for the first time and simply just being in awe of the world and designs. I am incredibly eager to finish Shield, and discuss the differences with my brother and chat about the time he spent with Sword.
Control was my first time playing a Remedy Game, because I was too scared to play Alan Wake, I watched my brother playthrough that game at the time. It was one of the first times that I realized that game mechanics could be used in very interesting ways, and watching the trials and tribulations of my brother play that game was really special.
When I played the demo for Control at PAX East, I was not impressed in the slightest. However, when I was reading and editing Mike Burgess’ review of the title for the site, I got behind his enthusiasm because the final product seemed like something completely different than the demo. I decided to purchase it, to understand Mike’s love of it. To say that I was blown away by Control is doing as a game is an understatement.
It wasn’t until I encountered the first sequence with the Oceanview Motel. That was the moment where I realized that this game was doing something very special with perception. Every time I had to go back to that particular space, I was filled with joy. The game plays with perception in incredibly unique ways, and not to mention the fact the enclosed space of the Oldest House might be one of the coolest locations in games.
Runner-up: Manifold Garden
As much as I ramble on about how much I love Immersive Sims, I actually equally love puzzle games. Manifold Garden is a game which I practically no expectations with, I saw some images and GIFs floating around on Twitter and decided to try it with my 30-day trial on Apple Arcade.
The look alone is absolutely stellar, and the game focuses on shifting perspective around the four cardinal directions and playing around with gravity in a very complex way. The game slowly introduces you into the puzzles by making you walk up walls and shift your perspective to make you walk on those walls. When this action is taken, the color shifts. Each wall you can walk on has its own distinct color which gives the game a very clear language which is understandable.
The verbs the game gives you are extremely simple, pick up objects, place objects and shift your perspective in the corporeal plane. The way it lays out this language is incredible, there is no voice telling you what to do, but instead a simple prompt which appears once. It expects you to understand the language, and in fact the solitary nature of the game is one of the best aspects of it. There was a moment when I was in a level and it was raining, and all I could hear was the rain hitting the windows and my footsteps. There was no music, just those two sounds, and it was absolutely incredible because the emotions hit just right.
Runner-up: Metro Exodus
When I first played Metro Exodus in February, I really liked the time I had spent with the game. However, it’s not until that I begun to replay it for GOTY season, that’s when I realized that I really love the game. Exodus is slow and methodical and every moment feels different the next. Lots of games of this type feel dependent on player interaction, but the best ones don’t depend on that.
The more time I sunk into Exodus, the more I realized that the focus wasn’t on the mechanics nor the grander overarching story of having Arytom and crew find a new home. It’s a story of helping those who are down on their luck, and what you do to influence that world. It’s a game that wants you to leave the spaces and the world in a better place than the one you entered it.
The three open spaces in Metro Exodus feel extremely different from each other, and they each embody a different theme. The first zone represents the idea of nature retaking the natural world, the second embodies the idea of the loss of humanity, and the third represents a rebirth of humanity and nature. The distinctness of each zone is really something special. Everyone you interact with is different, and the more time I inhabited these zones the more time I wanted to find every little detail I could.
GOTY: Life is Strange – Season 2
Life is Strange Season 2 is an experience which stick with me till the end of time. It’s many things, it’s a coming of age tale, it’s a story about how we leave our impact on the ones we hold dear, and most importantly it’s about family and the bonds we form. Everyone who knows me that family is something which I hold dear, it’s a word which is sacred to me. It’s a word which means protection, loyalty, safety, hope, and faith to me. I remembered when I played the first episode of LiS Season 2 in December of 2018, their was so much which stuck with me. Dealing with the sudden loss of a parent and feeling the need to protect a sibling and escaping everything to start a new life. It was bold, and wasn’t holding anything back. It set-up what this long journey that the Diaz brothers would endure to go to their father’s hometown of Puerto Lobos.
The two brothers, Sean and Daniel, are two characters which I really resonated with. As someone who has an older brother who is just two years older than me, we have a special bond because of our age and there were times during our upbringing were times when where we felt like outcasts to our neighbors and peers, so all we had was each other. We have had our share fair of fights, but at the end of the day we still share a strong bond because of those memories which have been forged.
Growing up in San Diego and being only thirty miles from the international border, I have always heard of the hardships that some of my hispanic friend’s relatives have endured to guarantee that their children have a good life. I have friends who still live in Mexico and drive across the border every day to get to work, and they have told me the stories of people in the United States who give them shit for doing so. It’s a culture which is extremely present down here, and gets brushed under the rug because of the fact that the city is so pretty and has gorgeous beaches. These issues have been present in my whole life, and I have done my best to help my friends and strangers who I see endure this. But I know that my good deeds cannot undo the damage which is already done.
The way this season handles race is a little corny at times and feels forced at times because of the fact that the protagonists are half Mexican, it’s worth noting that the attempts are genuine. These themes are only present in the first and final episode, but it is good to have a game acknowledge these problems instead of just doing nothing with it. The theme which takes the center stage is the ethical imprint that we make on the ones who are still learning about the world. My brother has taught me a lot about the world, he taught me to diffuse situations, to never fight because fighting only brings trouble, and many other life lessons. When I was controlling Daniel, I was trying to do the things that my brother would try to teach me. I tried to teach Sean To never steal, to never swear (I break this one pretty often), to always tell the truth, to raise my voice when people are enduring injustice, and most importantly to always do the right thing.
The moments in episodes Two through Four are incredibly memorable because that is where this theme shines the brightest, and episode Four in particular is about redemption. Finding a way to undo the damage and repair the bridges, and this was probably my favorite because it showed me the incredible lengths that this family will go to help and protect the ones we love. The end of that episode brought me to tears, because I could see my brother doing the same thing that Daniel was doing for Sean. The final episode was the end to the journey, and this journey came to a close by making a sacrifice, and this sacrifice was much different that the first season of Life is Strange. The jig was up, and there was no way that Sean and Daniel could get to Puerto Lobos together. I chose to give up Daniel to the feds and have Sean live a normal live.
This was the decision which felt right, because after all Daniel was trying to get away from it all and get Sean the life he deserved. The thing which will stick me about my decision is that this sacrifice is something that I could see my brother doing for me and me doing the same for him.