Like a Christmas Eve Miracle, here’s my list.
It’s a Top 8, because the white man denied me 10.
What a strange year. I didn’t get a chance to game as much as I’d like because life got in the way, so I really took the time I could game seriously and was pretty selective in what I played. There was some aspect of each of them that did something for me and that’s why they’re here. Spider-Man let me play as one of my favorite super heroes. Dragon Quest came around at a time where I needed something familiar and something light. God of War was one of the most personal games I’ve ever played, and mirrored some struggles in my own life when dealing with the death of my mother. Celeste really was a metaphor for how life can beat the shit out of you, but it’s only temporary and your bruises and beatdowns end up being badges of honor when you get to the top. Red Dead let me get lost and just wander in a place and time that doesn’t exist anymore, without any real structure and that’s something I needed.
So with that in mind, the list below isn’t really a top 10 list, I didn’t try to rank these, but rather wanted to put up a list of what games impacted me this year and deserve recognition. No real order, except for God of War, which I’ve written about pretty extensively here.
God of War – PS4
Seriously. Read what I wrote.
Red Dead Redemption 2 – PS4, Xbox One
I swear to god, this game is one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played. I probably spent 20 hours just hunting and exploring, not even concerned with missions. I’ve never been in a world that felt so realized and so functional in the simulation it was trying to create. See a small pond with fish? Go ahead and fish. Want to hunt? Go ahead and hunt. Want to rob, steal and kill? You can do that too. Walk around camp and you’ll hear people talking. People will ask your opinion, people will ignore you, people will ask you to go get something. I’ve never played a game that felt like it really existed even if I wasn’t playing it. Red Dead does.
Keep in mind, if you play this game, it’s a slow burn. It’s almost like the game revels in the fact that it’s slow, but the payoff is worth it because of the world, the characters, and everything in the game interacts and interlocks to create a game that is far more than the sum of its parts. This is THE western game with production values that eclipse anything that’s out and probably will come out for the next decade.
Marvel’s Spider-Man – PS4
It’s basically an Arkham clone but you’re Spider-Man. It doesn’t do some things as good as Arkham does (The combat isn’t as good as the Arkham games, stealth missions suck, and hide outs are just wave after wave after wave of enemies) but man, the one thing this game nails is how great it feels to be Spider-Man. Traversal as Spider-Man feels INCREDIBLE. It also doesn’t hurt that the game is GORGEOUS and the story is pretty damn good. If you love Spider-Man or super heroes in general you absolutely should play this game.
Insomniac, where is my black suit? C’mon.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – PS4, PC
Anyone that listens to Day Zero update has heard me wax poetic about Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest is RPG gaming’s comfort food. It doesn’t really do much that’s new, but everything it does, it does it exceptionally well. The characters are well realized, the world is gorgeous, and the game rewards you for sticking with it. There’s nothing world shattering about what this game is, but it’s an example of how great jRPGs can be and how there’s still a place for turn based combat.
Dead Cells – Multiplatform
This is a game about refinement and one could argue refinement is why we got Dead Cells. Starting out in Early Access, Dead Cells was refined and refined and refined in the same way the game expects you to refine your tactics with each run. Despite having a really awful difficulty spike in the last 2-3 levels, this is one of the only rogue-likes I actually like and that’s purely based on how good the game FEELS. It looks like a Castlevania game mixed with Dark Souls. The controls are fantastic, and the constant mix-up of different weapons and builds you can come up with each run make this a game that’s very easy to lose yourself in.
Celeste – Multiplatform
Don’t mistake the platforming and challenge as a game that’s only superficial. There’s a story here that’s very effecting and one about triumph in the face of mistakes. The story may wreck you, the same way the mountain will. What’s important is you get back up, and you keep pressing on.
The Messenger – Switch, PC
Like a weirdass mix of Ninja Gaiden and our boy Thomas’ Happ’s Axiom Verge, the messenger feels like a mix of both of those games with something else. Just like dead cells, the movement in this game feels great. Being able to warp between the 8 bit and 16 bit aesthetic (similar to the light world/dark world mechanics in Link to the Past), this game feels like a throwback but manages to feel fresh and modern.
Shadow of the Colossus – PS4
No filler, no fluff, just a world with a story that’s there if you want to find it, and each boss is a puzzle and struggle. No markers slapped all over the map, no micro transactions, just you, the world and the beings in it. This game is every bit as mysterious as it was in 2004. A timeless classic that deserved to be revisited.
Witcher 3 is still better than all of these games tho.
While I’m at it, here’s my Shit List.
Forza Horizon 4 – Xbox One, PC
WTF is this bullshit? Take the perfect arcade racing game and make it worse. Who thought this was a good idea?