A choice quote from my last article. Doesn’t seem to really match the title, but that is by design, so let’s get started. Near the beginning of December the Game of the Year (GOTY) tradition started and the lists of individuals and gaming press outlets started rolling in. At first they were a really nice addition to my twitter feed but after a while they started getting me a little jaded. Particularly lists that featured the work of Minit and GRIS. Not because either of those games are bad, rather because I hadn’t even heard of the former, and the latter I hadn’t had a chance to play. I started to get my grumpy old man hat on. What a privilege! How dare you have the gall to be able to afford, both financially, and with respect to your time, over 10 games then rank them in some subjective list. Talk about some late-capitalism first world non-sense. I need to tell the world about why GOTY lists suck!
These lists did get me thinking though, did I play 10 games this year, what ones did I like, does it even matter? I started digging through my (apparently extremely bad) long term memory and began realizing very quickly that working out when I played something was pretty hard to remember. It ended up being an exercise of checking credit card statements, Messenger logs and the Nintendo eShop to track down when I purchased games, and subsequently when I played them. With all that intriguing leg-work done I had a game of the year list, so I figured I should publish it.
What exactly was my criteria for my Game of the Year list? It was pretty simple really, I had to have played at least 1 hour of said game in the 2018 calendar year. Surprisingly I played 15 games this year and they are sorted alphabetically below:
- Battle Chef Brigade
- Captain Toad Treasure Tracker
- Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy
- Death Squared
- Far Cry 5
- Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Mario Tennis Aces
- Pokémon Go
- Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee
- South Park The Fractured But Whole
What did this say about games for me this year? Clearly this was the year of the Switch. As someone who has exclusively played PC games for well over a decade this was a novel change. The Switch just has so many things going for it and despite often having cheaper offerings on Steam I purchased everything except EXAPUNKS, Far Cry 5 and Fortnite on my Switch. There was also a large focus on predominantly longer single player games. This is decidedly weird because I tend to play mostly competitive shooters or really short indie titles.
Interestingly two mobile games made it onto my list this year with #SelfCare and Pokémon Go. I’ve written about #SelfCare before and Pokémon Go has largely been reintroduced into my life because of Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee. Despite me initially picking this game up as a “companion” to help me finish off my Pokédex the rewards for walking around hatching Pokémon has become quite addictive and I find myself doing it as an excuse to exercise now despite not really needing to play the game anymore.
Disappointingly I only finished two games on my list this year, down from about five last year. This might be due to the changing nature of the types of games I am playing, but to be honest I just ended up getting burned out on most of those titles. I know I will go back and finish some titles. Captain Toad I am tantalizingly close to finishing but doing a 100% completion of that game was starting to get grating. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is high on my to-finish list but I just find it hard to sit down after a hard day of work and then play a hard turn based game, maybe I should finish it these holidays.
What were my top games then? Below will be an alphabetically sorted list that represents my top 5 gaming experiences this past year. I decided not to rank them because, quite frankly, their exact order isn’t overly important.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker is a fantastic example of what many gamers, including myself, missed out on by not picking up the Wii U. This game is a fantastic collection of diorama’s to explore, most are fairly straight forward and going for a completionist run in this game is less about skill and more about being willing to play through the same level three or four times. Which I definitely have been willing to do. I’m in the fourth chapter and feeling a little burned out but this was just a charming play at your own pace sort of game and I am really glad I picked it up.
The internet seemingly hates Fortnite, the game that has found its way into almost every crevice of society. From the school yard to professional sports arenas I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about Fortnite if they know even a little bit about digital games. A game with a fan base as rabid as Fortnite will definitely have a lot of, dare I say it, haters. But dollar for dollar no game has given me the same amount of enjoyment that Fortnite has in a long time. As someone who has played since Season 1 I have only ever had to buy one Battle Pass, earning enough to pay for my next one with in-game rewards every season. In a world where it is super easy to be greedy the fact that Fortnite have decided to keep this model and gouge users on their skins instead is something I can personally get behind. Each season has given me a reason to get back in, and this game was the one that really made my Twitch channel take off so I will always have a soft spot for the product in my heart. Like it or hate it, Fortnite is here to stay and is (for the most part) a fantastic way to kill time with friends and play either seriously or for laughs.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
If Fortnite was the game that grew my Twitch channel numbers then Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the one that grew my audience engagement. There is something about this game that makes for really passionate fans. Whenever I played Mario Kart online my viewers would want to join me, teach me how to play better or sometimes just wipe the floor with me. I wanted my streaming to be a social outlet for me, something I miss now my regular gaming group find it harder to get online at the same time. Mario Kart did that for me in such a profound way that I simply had to include it on my list. The online races felt surprisingly fair and I enjoyed getting the trophies on all the modes except 200CC. 200CC is unfair and I don’t ever want to look at it again. Another example of a game I would never have played if it only came out on the Wii U.
Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee
I’ve wanted to love a Pokémon game since Pokémon games existed. For whatever reason they never clicked for me, I think they were always a bit of a grind and too long. I even bought a 3DS specifically to try and get back into the Pokémon franchise which was a massive fail. The combination of this game being shorter than its predecessors, easier, and the impetus for me getting back into Pokémon Go puts this firmly in my top five. Hardcore fans might find this a little lacking, and I totally understand but it is the bits that it is lacking in that make this the most accessible Pokémon game to date.
South Park The Fractured But Whole
I won’t lie, toilet humour can be pretty funny. So funny I am willing to put up with it for over 20 hours? You bet! The Fractured But Whole is a fantastic follow up to The Stick of Truth. The combat system has been evolved, the power up system is simplistic yet enjoyable and the story is more of what made the first game stand out. The difference here for me is that The Fractured But Whole is much more of a known quantity where as The Stick of Truth came out of nowhere. I think for this reason many people were much more critical of the writing and general plot of this game than they were of the first despite them both being equally strong. I was left with an extremely bad taste in my mouth when this game ended and found it a little insulting. The poorly handled sequences that have you ending up in the credits almost had me take it off my list but I just can’t stay mad at this game. RPG’s (much like Pokémon) are something I’ve wanted to love but tend to struggle with. Much in the same way Pokémon let’s Go Eevee removes parts of the game that detract newcomers to their style of game play the South Park series does the same for RPG’s.
So what did I learn from writing my GOTY list this year? It probably is a little privileged to be able to play and rank games each year. With that being said though it is a good time to take stock of what games I played, why I enjoyed them and how much I was able to make them a part of my busy schedule. I do have a few regrets though. So I guess GOTY lists don’t suck after all, seems I got negative for nothing. My list might not mean much to anyone, but it does to me and the catharsis of writing this was reward in itself.
- The Nintendo Tax or the Switch Tax make experimenting with games harder than I would like. I agonize over every purchase because the cost for me to not liking something is pretty darn high. Steam has conditioned me to be used to that race to the bottom for pricing and paying $80 for a game just feels a little weird. In a world where I am less likely to refund my indie enthusiasm is much lower.
- Forcing myself to finish one game before moving onto the next is another weird hindsight regret. It has stopped me from grabbing the hot new indie hotness because “If I don’t finish this I will never come back to it”. The irony there is I ended up getting massive burn out this year and didn’t really finish much of anything. After I finish with this draft I am purchasing Minit, Donut County and GRIS, all games I have had on my radar the last few weeks. Yes I will be getting all of them on Switch.
- Selling my games hurts. My console friends tell me it is just what you do, if you have the money to buy games new and at release you should get rid of them, give someone else the chance to play games at a cheaper price point and use it to help make your hobby more sustainable. I totally get that mentality and I am trying that today with some of my Switch favourites from last year to make room on my shelf and prop up my eShop fund for the coming year.
So what were your GOTY lists like? Send me a link, I’ve love to have a read!