It’s been a while since I’ve done a Games of the Year, but with Village Monsters released and no travel for the holidays I finally had time to tackle it again.
Here are some selected games of this year that I enjoyed.
Best Game that Should Have Been Bad But Wasn’t
Runners Up: Death Stranding
It’s impossible to overstate how bad Days Gone should have been. A zombie game… that’s an open world… with survival elements… and cover-based shooting. Uh huh. Was this game designed via a Markov chain?
But it works. It all works. Much of it is held together by Deacon St. John – an utterly fantastic protagonist that realistically depicts a shattered man in a depressing situation.
The lore is incredibly cool, the story is way longer and more interesting than you’d expect, and the gameplay holds up for the entire length. I really couldn’t have asked for anything else.
Worst Game that Should Have Been Good But Wasn’t
Runners Up: Staxel
What a stinker.
In many ways The Outer Worlds is the bizarro version of Days Gone: on paper this should have been an absolute hit. I mean, the makers of the “good” Fallouts getting together to make their own universe free of the constraints of publishers? That seems mathematically impossible to screw up.
And yet screw up they did. They told a story about evil capitalists yet settled on a message of “eh, could be worse”. They created a world with lore that was at best overwrought and at worst nonsensical.
The companions were hot garbage, world reactivity was nonexistent, and the gameplay was somehow even worse than all of that. And the end of the game… holy crap. How did this game even get approved for release?
At least the title screen had cool music.
The “Confirmed By Hideo” Award
Runners Up: N/A
Death Stranding is not the best game I’ve ever played, but it certainly is the most compelling.
Part of me hated this game before it even released. Kojima isn’t the easiest guy to root for at times, and it was hard to tell how much of the game was genuine and how much was a “let’s see how much money we can blow on actors and weird shit.”
But it was in fact completely genuine from top to bottom. The story, the gameplay, all the social aspects – ugh, I loved every moment and cried like a baby when it was done.
It’s impossible to be cynical about Death Stranding.
The “It’s new to me!” Award
My Time at Portia
Runners Up: Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana, The Messenger, Yakuza 0
It’s not easy to blend genres together, particularly when said genres are tricky to do on their own. Yet Portia somehow manages to do so repeatedly.
This one game is part Harvest Moon, part Minecraft, part Factorio, and part free-to-play MMORPG from the early 2000s.
I can’t say Portia handles all these blends masterfully, but it’s still an extremely good effort and a very addicting game. It was constantly surprising me until the very end.
Game I Most Regret Not Playing
The Outer Wilds
Runners Up: Disco Elysium, Katana ZERO
Every time I remember The Outer Wilds is an Epic exclusive I get sad all over again.
One day I shall play what seems like an absolute banger of a game, but it’ll be whenever that dumb exclusivity period ends.
Game of the Year
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Runners Up: Death Stranding, Judgment
I have played 315 hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. That’s a lot.
I have killed hundreds upon hundreds of bandits, beasts, and a dragon or two. I have watched something like 100+ relationship cutscenes – often multiple times due to multiple playthroughs – and I’ve never once skipped one.
Three Houses is a top 10 game of all time for me. The gameplay loop is expertly crafted, the voice acting is maybe the best I’ve ever heard (respective to its size), and it’s just so much god damn fun. Is it too much to hope that every Fire Emblem from here on out mimics this Persona-esque formula?
All I know is that I wish it never had to end. btw Edelgard did nothing wrong.