End of Year Awards: Part 2 (Game of the Year List)

Me again. First things first, let me say a big Happy New Year to all of you. I hope 2019 brings you everything you want and more…..

Back to 2018, on a personal level, I had quite the year; becoming a father for the first time, witnessing my team finally win their first Stanley Cup. It’s truly been the most amazing, emotionally draining, stressful, joy filled year of my entire life…here’s hoping 2019 is a little more….predictable?

Anyway, here’s my favourite games of 2018. I’ve chosen not to rank the list because, I love all of these games. If they’ve made this list, I think you should play them. Also why 5? Well, I’m a big into punishing myself for no reason whatsoever. I jest of course. No, 5 games made the list because it forces me to really think through my choices. And that I did. If you’d have told me in June that God of War would miss this list, I wouldn’t believe you.

Oh one more thing. Don’t forget to go look at Part I of this article, where I hand out some awards.

Red Dead Redemption II – PS4

As I wrote in my previous article, RDR2 is a game that frustrated me constantly. It pushed me to the point of giving up multiple times, especially early on. Heck, I was happy to sell the game at a loss; so disappointed and put out by the game that just stopping was a viable and all-to real possibility. Yet I persevered. I kept moving forward; Arthur’s story pushing me on through the tedium of those first ten hours.

Eventually, after far longer than I think it should take, I started to see the gold in RDR2. I began to appreciate certain aspects of Rockstar’s design ethos. Suddenly the under-the-water feel of Arthur’s movement blended into the background, the often anger-inducing horse controls disappeared, the slow animations weren’t as obviously time wasting. I began to live in this world, to accept it for what it was; wort’s and all.

Red Dead Redemption 2 might be one of the finest games ever made. However it is that way because the development team had a vision, and they stuck to it in ways that we just don’t see in this area of entertainment. As such, you’re always going to lose people along the way. I was nearly one of those people, but somehow, someway the game drew me back in.

I’ll likely never play this game again, it’s too long, to frustrating. That being said however, I’ll remember the moments, the awe-inspiring visuals, the editing and production values (I know – BARF – Treat your workers better ffs). I’ll remember the plot, the characters and their story. I’ll remember my horse. I’ll remember Arthur, his character arch from rough and tumble outlaw to caring, compassionate cowboy with a heart of gold and too little time. I’ll remember Red Dead Redemption 2 for an awful long time. And that’s why its on this list.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Switch

I owned a WiiU. I never got to Captain Toad. However with the games release on the Switch, I knew I had to take a look. And I’m delighted I did.

Captain Toad is a small game. You navigate these tiny little worlds, solely focused on collecting stars and coins. It’s a puzzle game; an absolutely adorable one. Turns out that’s actually, kinda my thing.

That’s really all there is to say about Captain Toad. It’s an adorable, charming puzzle game that more of you should play.

Florence – Mobile

Florence is a mobile game. It’s a mobile game in which you swipe, scratch and tap your way through a young woman’s story of a love, heartbreak and moving on.

From the games opening your hit with a wave of some of the most visually interesting art design I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’m out of line when I say this; Florence looks like a Studio Ghibli film. It’s truly stunning; simple, but insanely effective. If RDR2 is technically stunning, Florence takes home the award for best use of hand-drawn animation. It’s flawless.

The game isn’t entirely its visuals however. No sir. It’s soundtrack is an absolute delight. So good in fact that I’m considering listening to it away from the game; I never do that, ever.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the games core; it’s love story. It’s not flashy, it’s not overly sentimental, it’s just sort of real, you know? The way the game uses its interface as a metaphor for those moments in a relationship where it’s all-going-wrong are so well handled I was considering it for Moment of the Year in my previous post.

I can’t emphasis this enough. Florence is a beautiful game. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears, but more importantly it’s arguable one of the more real takes on what a relationship in 2018 (19..) feels like. The good and the bad, the joy and the heartbreak. The excitement and the dejection. It does all of this without a word of dialogue and barely any legible text.

Also it nearly had me in tears. Go play Florence. Please.

Pokemon Lets Go – Switch

If you’d have told me at the beginning of the year that a Switch Pokemon game aimed at the Pokemon Go fans would be on my top 5 of the year list, I’d have laughed out loud. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Pokemon, but everything about this game seemed to go against what I thought I wanted from a Pokemon game.

I was wrong. Let’s Go is not only my favourite Pokemon game, it’s brought the series back to me in a big way. Is it perfect? no, but it does something that no other Pokemon game has done since I first picked up Pokemon Blue as an 8 year old; it made playing Pokemon fun again.

Let’s Go moves those overly tiresome mechanics that actively pushed me away from previous games and replaces them with a streamlined take on what makes Pokemon games so much fun for so many. I want to collect Pokemon, I want to battle them and I want to do it all without having to focus in on micro-managing my roster.

Pokemon Lets Go has given me renewed optimism for what this franchise has going forward. There’s a new game out in 2019. Here’s hoping its more Lets Go than X and Y.

Marvel’s Spider-man – PS4

Here’s the thing about Marvel’s Spider-man. It’s a popcorn game. What I mean when I say that is this. It doesn’t ask too much of you, it doesn’t task you, or challenge you in any great way, it just wants to help you have fun. And I had a bucket load of fun in Spider-man.

Swinging around New York never gets old. It’s been said before, but if you can nail that mechanic (and they did), you’re halfway there already. Throw in some Arkham-inspired combat, some lush visuals and a central character who we actually give a crap about, and you’ve got yourself a pretty damn good video game.

If Red Dead Redemption II was about asking the player to make sacrifices in order to find the enjoyment; Spider-man is the antithesis of that. It drops you in this world full of fun little offshoots, and let’s you go beat them up. It doesn’t ask too much, it just wants you; the player to have a fun time. And I guess that’s kind of true to Spider-man himself no?

Be awkward, save the day; Spider-man.

Honourable Mentions: Astrobot: Rescue Mission – The Gardens Between – Quarantine Circular – God of War