I wonder if 2018 will be the year I get back into video games? The past few years, being a gamer has become something of a secret shame, since you could argue that the alt right came out of the Gamergate controversy. Plus, video games are the most time-demanding media to make a hobby out of; it takes way more time to play a game than it does to check out a show or a watch movie or listen to an album… I guess reading books maybe take longer. Anyway, after watching the Last Jedi backlash, I’ve been reminded that all fans are terrible and just because other, bad people like a thing doesn’t mean I can’t like it too (I hope).
So I wish I had played more games last year. I regret not getting to play Divinity: Original Sin II the most, it looks so good and I never even bought it. I had a policy last year, it was my New Year’s resolution, to only buy a game if I was going to play it that night. Even with that, I still ended up with copies of Splatoon 2 and Persona 5 that I never got around to because I’m a sucker for that Prime 20% discount thing. I hope to do better this year.
Honorable Mentions (games which would have made my list had I played more of them)
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
I like the Fire Emblem series and tactical RPGs in general, but I rarely commit the time to play these epics, especially since they’ve been mostly handheld lately. Fire Emblem Heroes wisely not only brings the series to mobile, but streamlines the gameplay significantly. You only bring four heroes into each battle, there’s no permadeath, the story is broken into replayable levels. It’s good stuff, and I haven’t stopped playing since it came out, even if the gashapon approach to unlocking characters is extremely aggravating. I just wish the game didn’t yell its title every time I open the app. That’s very startling!
I need to buy a pair of glasses for my VR headset. The last few pairs I’ve owned are too wide-brimmed for the Vive, so I’m forced to use one of my oldest pairs when I jack in. Games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew make that investment seem worthwhile, as they deliver an enthralling experience that would be so boring on a conventional setup. In this game, you play as one of the bridge officers on an original series-era starship and navigate through dangerous scenarios by scanning debris, battling Klingons, and blasting into warp when necessary. It’s extremely Star Trek without forgetting to be a fun game too. Let me tell you, that first time I commanded my way through the Kobayashi Maru, I knew this would be on my list.
Probably the biggest trend in the last year of VR games was re-releasing beloved games for HMDs. I didn’t even try most of them (as much as I liked Doom and Skyrim I didn’t really want to pay to play them again) but Rez Infinite I had to get. Originally released in 2001, each iteration of Rez has been about trying to give players a feeling of synesthesia (remember the Trance Vibrator?) and this latest version takes this trippy classic even closer to that goal. With VR’s sense of presence and immersion, this game is the actually gives you a chance to feel the music. And hear color. And see smells? No, not that last one.
Gundam Versus, the lazily titled latest entry in the Gundam Versus franchise, finally made its way out of arcades and, miraculously, out of Japan. It forgoes all the fun customization stuff of the Gundam Breaker and even the campaign elements from the first home console releases of the Versus franchise, way back in the PS2-era. Instead, the 2017 version focuses entirely on being a tight, unique fighting game, one that has developed a small but loyal community. With plenty of mobile suits to play as and fun single player challenge modes, this is definitely something fans should try. Like how Taco Bell fans have to try whatever the latest special is, you know? Like, even if you don’t think you’ll like it, they made it for you. You kind of owe them.
If you asked the community how they feel about Destiny 2 today, they’d tell you it’s the worst thing ever. That’s because Destiny people are crazy obsessed and rightfully feel scorned by the sequel’s bungled endgame incentives and competitive modes. However, I had a lot of fun playing through Destiny 2 for the first time, all the way through it’s more coherent and childish story. And the second time, when I switched over to PC, was fun too. And then I haven’t really played since, what with the first DLC being pretty underwhelming and all that. Whatever, I still feel really good about it. I’m sure patches and even DLC will eventually fix the problems, I just hope the fans haven’t totally burned it to the ground by then.
My favorite MMO is Guild Wars 2, and Path of Fire was the great expansion it deserved. Heart of Thorns, the first expansion from a few years ago, was kind of frustrating to play through on release, even though it got better later. This time, however, ArenaNet nailed the story and the progression right on release. Mostly, I’m grateful for the new mounts, which I think are the most fun of any MMO I’ve played. There’s a solid variety to them, each providing a new way to traverse the world. They’re delicious like a pack of Starburst. If you ever dipped your feet into the now-F2P game, it’s a great time to return.
Horizon Zero Dawn came out at the same time as the Switch and Zelda and suffered for it. I’m not even talking about the business side of things, I’m saying I had a hard time getting into this game because Zelda was so good. And I feel bad about it because it’s a different, complex game that felt a lot like what Monster Hunter would be if it was really a proper open world with a story. On top of that, it’s one of the best-looking games of the year, and, while that doesn’t make a game great, it helps a great game seem even better. God, to think of all the time I wasted of Mass Effected: Andromeda.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus isn’t really as political as some people made it out to be. Yes, it is about nazis and that’s weirdly relevant now, but there’s not a ton in here that you’d think actually was controversial. In the game’s first scene, your character flashes back to his childhood where, in quick succession, your father beats your mother, berates her for being Jewish and an immigrant, beats you for making friends with an African American kid, punts your dog, and, as if that wasn’t enough, straps you down to a table and tries to make you shoot your dog. It’s like, yeah, I get it, this guy sucks. And then the rest of the game you kill bad folks as your body is ripped to shreds. It’s really cathartic, and, well, I guess maybe this is about as subtle as a game where you can dual wield machine guns can be. But no way this is actually controversial right? That’s just marketing.
Super Mario Odyssey is an exceptionally designed game, I say as someone who doesn’t know much about game design. Once Mario gets his possessed hat, you’ve unlocked everything he can do in this game. But it never gets old because the game constantly throws you into new environments, with new enemies to take over, and new obstacles to overcome. You’ll be a dinosaur one minute, a giant stack of goombas the next. Nothing ever gets a chance to become boring. Moreover, since everything progresses based on simply the quantity of moons Mario collects, if you ever get stuck you can just go do something else. It’s an incredible joy of a game, and I say this as the one Switch owner who thought maybe he didn’t need to buy this on release. I was wrong, and I did buy it on day one, by the way.
I honestly hadn’t been that invested in the post-Majora’s Mask Legend of Zelda games. I never finished Twilight Princess, and I skipped the only other home console release of the last decade, Skyward Sword, completely. Breath of the Wild completely won me back. It takes the ideas of recent games as varied as Minecraft and Dark Souls and melds them into a new experience that somehow feels totally appropriate for Link. The game is gorgeous to look at and it’s piano-driven soundtrack is as pretty as it is memorable. I didn’t review it on the blog, but this is a five-star game. Getting to play it on an airplane and in a hotel room were easily the coolest gaming moments of 2017 for me as well. It made me feel like a real future boy. Man, this is such a good game! Remember sneaking around that desert dungeon disguised as a woman? Or getting hit on by the fish prince? Or how exciting it was the first time you accidentally turned a pile of rocks into a giant stone monster? Yes, this is definitely my favorite game of the year.