Games of 2015

For whatever reason, I didn’t beat, or even play, that many games this year. While I didn’t play any AAA games, it sounds like there were some great ones (Witcher 3, Mario Maker, etc). I was busy buying a house, transitioning into a new role at work, and dealing with some health issues. 2016 hopefully won’t have any of that, so I should be able to play more games! Unfortunately, none of the games I played stood out as games that I’ll remember in 10 years. Regardless, here’s the list!

Most gorgeous game I played: Ori and the Blind Forest

Not only was this game the prettiest I played this year, it’s one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. I was surprised when I heard they used Unity to make it as I didn’t think Unity was capable of driving a game like this. As for the gameplay, I love me a Metroidvania game, and this is no exception to the rule. The gameplay itself isn’t that inspiring, but it’s worth dealing with to appreciate the stunning visuals that this game constantly throws at you.

Game I thought I wanted but realized I didn’t: The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

I’ve loved everything Binding of Isaac related for several years now, so when I heard there was an expansion to Rebirth (which I played over 140 hours of), I was excited. When I finally got it and started playing, I realized that I had already played pretty much all of that game that I wanted to. It had a couple of new mechanics and game modes, but nothing really inspired me to play it the way that the previous two games did. It’s like getting an ice cream shake after you’ve already eaten an ice cream sundae. Sometimes, you just can’t eat anymore ice cream.

Game that moved me (emotionally and physically) in 5 minutes: Bounden

I only played this game for a total of about 5 minutes at GDC, but it was one of the most distinct experiences I’ve ever had with a multiplayer game. You and another person hold the same phone and contort your bodies in dance moves in order to beat levels. I played it with the guy who made it, and it was surprisingly emotional; after we finished, I felt like I had had a moment with my partner in a way that I’ve never felt after playing a video game. I danced with a stranger and felt a closeness with him that is very rare with someone I just met. Bounden is not a particularly good game, but I’ll remember that experience for a while.

Game that finally made me hate Free 2 Play mechanics: Trials Frontier

First off, this game has better controls and handling than any other mobile game I’ve ever played. I thought gamepad type controls on a mobile phone would always be a disaster, but I was completely wrong. I never felt like the game cheated me and I always felt in control. That is a HUGE accomplishment for Red Lynx. If I could have purchased this game for $40, I would have done that. Unfortunately, this game reveled in its F2P mechanics. It had timers, an energy mechanic, crafting, multiple currencies, daily challenges, a leveling system, and a multiplayer component that required constant monitoring. The game was structured so that you could do everything without paying money, but it would take you AGES to do it. Some upgrades took over 144 hours to complete. I found myself playing the game constantly so that I could collect parts to upgrade my bikes so I could compete online. Instead of advancement being based on skill, it was based on time and money spent. It felt cheap and I realized I wasn’t enjoying playing it, even though I played it more than any other game this year. Trials Frontier is a good game wrapped in shit no one wants to deal with.

Game that made my wife almost kill me: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

I’m always on the lookout for games my wife and I can play together, and I thought Lovers would fit that bill. It’s cute, it’s co-op (instead of being versus), and it has cats in it! Unfortunately, the way this game plays in co-op mode is similar to how it feels to drive in a country that doesn’t speak your language while completely lost with no GPS. The game is quite cute and the weapons are neat, but the gameplay is a bit lacking. Because of how the spaceships are set up, I always found myself piloting and having the AI fire for me. I wish that the ship was a bit more automatic in how it responded to threats instead of having to manually dictate what should happen. Overall the game is quite polished, but just not quite what I wanted out of it.

Favorite game of 2015: Snakebird

If there was any game that I played this year that could be said to be fully polished, it’d be Snakebird. This game has to be polished considering you’re going to be spending most of your time cursing while playing it. I have never played a puzzle game that makes me feel inept on the fourth level before. Snakebird is incredibly cute and easy to pick up, but oh so fucking hard to actually beat. After playing a single level for an hour to beat it, I would feel hugely accomplished. One of the things I disliked about the game was that I often knew how to beat a level, but it required very specific movements. I would get frustrated and look up the solution only to find out I had it correct, I just had to turn left once instead of right in ONE spot. I don’t think this game is for everyone (it’s one of the hardest games I’ve ever played), but I enjoyed the time I had with it.

For reference, here are the games I beat this year:

Android
     Botanicula
     Knights of Pen and Paper
     Lara Croft Go
     Sky Force
     Trials Frontier
     You Must Build A Boat

PC
     Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist
     The Talos Principle

Xbox One
     Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
     Ori and the Blind Forest

Here are the games I played but didn’t beat (or couldn’t “beat”):

Andoid
     Alphabear
     Bounden
     Framed
     Leo’s Fortune
     PDTA
     The Firm

PC
     Action Henk
     Gunpoint
     Snakebird
     The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth

Playstation 4
     Axiom Verge

XBox One
     Life is Strange

Games of 2014

I completely failed at Last Year’s New Year’s resolution (which is why I try not to make them), but I am going to do an end of year writeup.

Similar to last year, I only played two AAA games and tended to focus more on indie games that had unique gameplay or themes. I had a bunch of games that I started at the end of the year, but didn’t really get into because the first game in my list destroyed my ability to play anything else. With no further ado, here are my most memorable games of 2014!

Game I couldn’t stop playing: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

This game was a short term addiction. I played it for 157 hours in the span of two months, got 100% of the achievements (which only 0.9% of players accomplish), and got ridiculously good at this game. I played the original in 2011 for at least 100 hours, so it’s easy to say that Rebirth was a huge step up for me to have played it as much as I did. The entire game was redone to make it a silky smooth experience and a bunch more was added that the original didn’t have. I can’t recommend this game enough; it’s a combination of The Legend of Zelda original meets fucked up Christian theme meets bullet hell meets randomization. Fantastic stuff.

Game that made me question everything: Desert Golfing

I thought this two color game would be something easy to write off. I thought it’d be a waste of time. All you do in this game is try to put the ball in the hole. The game doesn’t change. So why am I still playing? Does the score matter? It doesn’t seem to. Does it matter if I fuck around and don’t try very hard? I seem to be getting good at this game. Wow, that was a difficult hole, but I made it! This doesn’t really seem to have a purpose. I don’t get it, why am I still playing this game? This is quite relaxing, I almost feel in a zen state. Wow, a cactus!

Best looking game on the Playstation 3: The Last Of Us

Not only was this game stunningly gorgeous, it was also an amazing experience. I loved the dynamic of the two main characters – it felt much more real than most games do. I actually cared when they got hurt. The zombie theme got a little old, but the game kept me enthralled all the way to the end. I highly recommend this game, especially if you can pick it up on the PS4. For 2015, I’ll have to try out the DLC as I hear it’s quite good.

Game I was most disappointed in: Super Time Force

I loved Capybara Games’ last big release: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, so when I saw trailers for Super Time Force I was ecstatic. It looked like everything I wanted in a throwback to the old Contra and Metal Slug style games. Unfortunately, it turned out to not be anything like what I thought it was going to be. It was more of a puzzle game about how to progress through a level and save your guys than it was a bullet dodging side scroller. Sounds fun, but in practice it didn’t play nearly as well as I thought it should have. Most of the heroe’s abilities I didn’t care about, which made the game feel lackluster even though it had exceptional quality all over the place. Sadness.

Best choose your own adventure game: The Stanley Parable

The way this game was made astounds me. You can beat it in the first ten minutes you play it, but that doesn’t stop you from replaying it over and over and over again. It is very polished and was a delight to play. Some of the situations I found myself playing through in The Stanley Parable were completely unique from any other game I’ve ever played. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if the game was fucking with me or if I was in on the joke, but I enjoyed it all the same. Everyone will like this game, and if they don’t, they have something wrong with their sense of humor. So very good.

Favorite game of 2014: Papo & Yo

I didn’t know what to expect from this game since I got it out of a Humble Bundle and hadn’t heard of it before that. I watched a trailer before playing that showed me a cute style, but not much else and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t have possibly guessed that Papo & Yo would affect me the way that it did. There is a very, very short list of games that have been able to make me feel a specific emotion powerfully, and Papo & Yo is high on that list. The gameplay is a bit light, but the childlike wonder of the game shines through like no other game I’ve played. The makers of this game were going for something specific, and they hit it out of the park. I don’t think this game is for everyone, but it is easily the most memorable game I played of 2014. Even though I played The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth 50 times longer than I played Papo & Yo, this game is more memorable to me.

For reference, here are the games I beat this year:

Nintendo 3DS
     Shovel Knight

Android
     Hitman GO
     Monument Valley
     Pixel Dungeon
     The Room

PC
     Antichamber
     Papo & Yo
     The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
     The Stanley Parable
     To The Moon

Playstation 3
     The Last Of Us

Xbox 360
     Super Time Force
     Trials Fusion

Here are the games I played but didn’t beat (or couldn’t “beat”):

Nintendo 3DS
     Cave Story

Andoid
     Desert Golfing
     Threes

PC
     1001 Spikes
     DOTA 2
     Joe Danger 2: The Movie
     Legend of Grimrock 2
     Never Alone
     Risk of Rain
     Road Not Taken

Games of 2013

I beat 19 games this year, which is more than any other year since I started keeping track in 2006. What’s most interesting to me is that there’s only one that I wouldn’t consider indie (The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds). I’m really close to beating Dishonored, but I didn’t get around to finishing it before the year ended. I think it’s mostly because I don’t actually spend a tremendous amount of time gaming these days, so I really like shorter games that I can finish in a couple of play sessions rather than giant RPGs or something similar. I also tend to like new games (not sequels) because I value unique gameplay over almost everything else. I love seeing new game ideas done well or a tweak on something old to make it feel fresh. Sequels rarely deliver that, so I tend not to play them as much.

Now for the awards!

Worst Game of the Year: Starseed Pilgrim

I picked up this game because Jonathan Blow said it was one of the best he’d played in a while, and I generally value his gameplay opinions. Starseed Pilgrim is one of those “I can’t tell you anything about the game because it’ll ruin it” type games. It’s also an exploration game. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly painful to play, and not in a Dark Souls type of way. It’s just more frustrating than enjoyable, and even though I found myself getting decently far, I wasn’t really having fun. I was incredibly disappointed with this game, especially because of it’s high praise from Blow.

Most Enjoyable Game That Made Me Work: Papers, Please

Remember when I said I enjoyed new gameplay ideas done well? This is the shining example of that. I had fun doing work, and it was all because of the environment that existed in the game. Am I going to be arrested for letting someone through a checkpoint when I shouldn’t? Who is the quirky guy that keeps giving me obviously fraudulent passports? What is the “right” thing to do? I know a bunch of people didn’t like this game because it felt like work, but I think that was an absolutely necessary component of the game in order to get you to feel the pain of the decisions you had to make. This game is going to be one in which people will point at it many years down the line as something truly unique and charming.

Game I Love Watching More Than Playing: DOTA 2

I really only played maybe 10 matches of DOTA 2 last year, but the number of hours in which I watched people play it has to be over 1000. I love incredibly complex games that also require teamwork and a ton of skills, so DOTA fits the bill. What I don’t like is how my behavior changes when I play those styles of games. I get angry at people and frustrated to the point where it ruins my day. Watching people play, however, rarely does that. Putting The International‘s finals on my big screen TV and watching them was one of the highlights of my year. That was such an amazing tournament to watch. Competitive gaming has come a long way. The game itself is a testament to how Valve can still put out quality games. Everything about it is top notch from how well it’s balanced to how it looks and how well supported the community is. Having played DOTA for over 8 years now, I have to say I’m still not tired of it. Such good stuff.

Best Throwback Game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

My favorite game of all time is A Link To The Past, so I pretty much had to pick up A Link Between Worlds. This is the first game I’ve played for more than five minutes on my 3DS, and while I enjoy the system, I don’t think it’s something I’d have bought for myself. The game itself is quite fun, but I was slightly annoyed that the layout of the world in ALBW is incredibly similar to ALTTP. That being said, I enjoyed myself immensely and recommend this game if you like 2D Zelda games.

Best Multiplayer Game: Towerfall

The OUYA console is a piece of shit, but my coworker picked one and brought it to work to play Towerfall. If you ignore the system it’s played on (by getting ps3/xbox controllers), this game is an amazing multiplayer game. The depth to a simple mechanic of having limited arrows, one hit kills, and powerups is quite amazing. Towerfall reminds me a bit of Super Smash Bros. in the best possible ways. I can’t count how many times we had people pick up the game for the first time and fall instantly in love. I’m excited to see that it’s coming to the PS4/PC in 2014 as more people need to experience this game.

Favorite Game of the Year: Thomas Was Alone

The premise of you being a bunch of blocks with different abilities seems weak at first, but then when you actually play the game, you realize how well executed it is. The game is gorgeous, and that’s a really strange thing to say considering it’s mostly just blocks and simple levels. The way the story is told, and the puzzle mechanics that are created from these simple blocks are really well done. In the same way that I have Bastion’s narrator’s voice forever stuck in my head, I have Thomas Was Alone’s as well. The game was a delight to play the entire way through; I wish I could do it again anew. I highly, highly recommend Thomas Was Alone.

For reference, here’s the list of games I beat this year:

Android
     Clash of the Olympians
     Ridiculous Fishing
Nintendo 3DS
     The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
PC
     Dear Esther
     Gone Home
     Hotline Miami
     Legend of Grimrock
     Little Inferno
     Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine
     Papers, Please
     Rogue Legacy
     The Swapper
Playstation 3
     Guacamelee
XBox 360
     BattleBlock Theater
     Brothers
     Dust: An Elysian Tail
     Mark of the Ninja
     The Walking Dead: Episode 2

Here’s the other games I played but didn’t beat (or couldn’t “beat”):

Android
     Candy Crush
     Kingdom Rush
     Punch Quest
OUYA
     Towerfall
PC
     Don’t Starve
     DOTA 2
     NightSky
     Starseed Pilgrim
XBox 360
     Bioshock 2
     Runner 2