During last year’s list of favorites I started off by commenting on how the year was garbage culturally. I had absolutely no clue how bad 2017 was going to be comparatively. On year later with my career things have balanced out a lot emotionally and am actually feeling hopeful for future opportunities again. On the opposite side of work, the games went for this year were bananas in the best sense imaginable. It’s been a non-stop slew of quality releases for all types of players. I feel like I managed to play a great mix of what interested me on the new release horizon, as well as dipping back into older releases that I missed.

As with most years from working in an industry bombarded by the holiday season’s demands – (I work adjacent to retail) a lot of what closed out 2016 actually started off my 2017. It’s always a nice release after wrapping up a hectic work schedule when I can start off the year with the best releases of the previous one.

Here we are together at the end of the year which means a look back at my favorite games of the year. As with previous years my rules are simple for what qualifies…

  • Choices are NOT limited to what was released in 2017. Platform ports, remasters, backlog, etc make it too complicated to just restrict options to recent releases.
  • Choices must be the first time I’ve played them in that form. What I mean by this is Final Fantasy XII (PS2) and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4) are two different releases for me.
  • These are my personal favorites and are not indicative of anything beyond that. Technological, cultural, or sales achievements are not weighted in my choices.

Continue reading

During last year’s list of favorites I started off by commenting on how the year was garbage culturally. I had absolutely no clue how bad 2017 was going to be comparatively. On year later with my career things have balanced out a lot emotionally and am actually feeling hopeful for future opportunities again. On the opposite side of work, the games went for this year were bananas in the best sense imaginable. It’s been a non-stop slew of quality releases for all types of players. I feel like I managed to play a great mix of what interested me on the new release horizon, as well as dipping back into older releases that I missed.

As with most years from working in an industry bombarded by the holiday season’s demands – (I work adjacent to retail) a lot of what closed out 2016 actually started off my 2017. It’s always a nice release after wrapping up a hectic work schedule when I can start off the year with the best releases of the previous one.

Here we are together at the end of the year which means a look back at my favorite games of the year. As with previous years my rules are simple for what qualifies…

  • Choices are NOT limited to what was released in 2017. Platform ports, remasters, backlog, etc make it too complicated to just restrict options to recent releases.
  • Choices must be the first time I’ve played them in that form. What I mean by this is Final Fantasy XII (PS2) and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4) are two different releases for me.
  • These are my personal favorites and are not indicative of anything beyond that. Technological, cultural, or sales achievements are not weighted in my choices.

Continue reading

This is the last piece of a 3 part list – The first covering Nintendo, the second was Sony & Microsoft. I’d recommend reading those first for the initial 100 games when you get a moment. For now though, lets enjoy the wonders of what Windows PC, Mobile, and Sega have offered over the years with the final 40 games I’d recommend you take into a bunker with you to endure the fallout of our inevitable Trumpacylpse. If you read either of those posts, the following is largely unchanged if you want to skip to the good stuff and scroll down to the list.

Lists are hard. You try your damnedest to round out to whatever number sounds good to you but something always seems off. Raise the number to include more then it feels like filler. Rattle off what’s already been established and what’s the point? Sure I could just print a list of the best video games ever. How different would that list really be though? As time goes forward we seem to further homogenize our views of what’s worth playing and what’s not into a cycling list of the same few games, just in a new order. Still I read them all and scrutinize despite knowing the strings involved behind the curtain. I can’t deny that I love making lists though so I decided to give myself a challenge. It started as listing a few scribbles on paper and grew into this semi-complete list of 140 games that sit before you now. Criteria and rules?

  • 5 games per system/designation. IE; Gameboy Color = Gameboy, and PC is broken down by decades starting in the 80’s.
  • Unless there’s a paradigm shift in how the game is played, one entry per series across all platforms.
  • The list should compose of games that highlight the variety of the system, not necessarily “the best”.
    • Subnote – if I didn’t create this rule, virtually every choice of mine would have been RPGs
  • The games must be approachable in their current state today in 2017, not as they were at release.
    • Some games don’t age well and because of this will not be included.
    • This also means games that were amazing with a multiplayer focus may have been lobbed off
  • I’m going off of NA releases, and heavily bent towards games I have either first or second hand experience with. Sorry, no “but this limited print of an import JRPGs that influenced everything ever and OMG HOW DID YOU NOT INCLUDE THIS ON YOUR LIST”. Tangible, real, accessible games only.

By all means, feel free to state your arguments as to what should/shouldn’t make the cut. Just remember this isn’t a “best games for the platform” as much as it is a “this is why this platform was great”. The five games are unranked and represent a set to be plopped down in front of a group of players that’ve never experienced it in hopes of highlighting the range offered by that platform. That being said, these lists are meant to compliment one another and if you isolate them it might be confusing to why these games were chosen. A good example of this is you won’t find Super Mario 64 (OMG WHY?!) – Because I felt Super Mario Galaxy better represented the Wii yet the two games are similar enough to not need both games muddling up the lists.

Without further ramblings – Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of it all now. The lists of games and a bit about them… Our final list like I said is filled with Windows PC games, Mobile, and Sega platform games.


Windows PC

  • The 80’s
    • Battle Chess
      • Built on the foundation of a hundreds of year old board game, Battle Chess was the first iteration I really latched onto of the game. Why? Humor and humanity of creating animated chess pieces that actually fought when you took a piece. It inspires you to try new pieces out to try and see all the animations and really expanded my approach to how I used pieces by the time I was done.  Like old school Warner Bros cartoons, it remains charming in modern times despite it’s age.
    • Oregon Trail
      • Verified as still awesome back in 2015 when it popped up online in a playable form via web browser. Managing resources and learning of your families’ untimely demise one by one trying to make their way out West had me in a “…lets see what happens next” state of play about 10 minutes in.
    • Sim City
      • God games have grown a lot over the years, but the original Sim City still holds its own offering an approachable stepping stone into the genre. Not overburdened with the detail work found in later entries, you can build and design to your hearts content without a wavering focus.
    • Maniac Mansion
      • Adventure games have always proven a great comfort for it’s players. Maniac Mansion is no exception with it’s ridiculous humor and somewhat edgy take on games at the time. Yes, you can microwave a hamster until it explodes. No, you will likely never see this in a major release ever again. That’s one small tinge of events that occur that will leave you puzzling your way through this colorful memory.
    • Pool of Radiance
      • Dungeons & Dragons is responsible for keeping the torch of fantasy alive through periods of relative silence. Pool of Radiance was one of the first great PC games tackling the world with what would become known as the gold box games. A pretty accurate representation of D&D proper, this lets you dive deep into dungeons with a party of hardened adventures reassured by their magic and steel. It’s great to return to and explore the best offered digital experience in the 80’s for fantasy fans.
  • The 90’s
    • Worms 2
      • Ropes. This game was ALL about the ropes. The online community splintered from traditional play into what was known as “roper” level sets that had virtually no land to stand on. You were expected to fling your worm one hitch to the next while dropping bombs on the spec of land your opponents stood on. Even without the online community today it remains an instantly playable game wrapped in strategy, goofiness, and simplicity.
    • Baldur’s Gate
      • Kicking strong in the 90’s still, Dungeons & Dragons as a property found itself to the very capable hands of Bioware and Black Isle Studios to build the foundation of some of the best RPGs on PC ever. Baldur’s Gate was built on the grandest scale, allowing your band of allies to roam the country surrounding the mega city of the titular Baldur’s Gate. Through mountains, dungeons, fields, and swamps you face off against everything you’ve ever lost sleep over… Beholders, dragons, orcs, mindflayers, bugbears, and the deadliest of wizards. Of course all of that would be for naught if not backed by a well crafted story and pantheon of memorable characters at your side… which hey, did I mention Bioware?
    • Dungeon Keeper
      • Those dungeons I have so much fun crawling through? What if you were the bad guy who created these nefarious palaces of traps and trolls? Dungeon Keeper places you in just that scenario as you lay the path to lead heroes to their doom. Once dead, collect their loot to further invest in your dungeon as stronger heroes are surely around the corner ready to try and conquer your growing home. It never felt so good to be so bad.
    • Half-Life
      • Not sure what to say about this that you don’t already know? Legendary sci-fi game on PC that made Valve the powerhouse of PC gaming it is today. Gordon Freeman is a man of few words, but a lot of this game speaks for itself as you navigate through the collapsing science center of Black Mesa.
    • Warcraft 2
      • Kind of the same vein as Sim City, an early iteration in the genre seems to be the most accessible as it constantly iterates for it’s existing fanbase while alienating newcomers. Warcraft 2 strikes that perfect balance of breadth and simplicity that lets anyone sit down and give it a go with an real time strategy experience… which today remains a genre pretty much exclusively found on PC.
  • The 00’s
    • Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
      • You can keep your Oblivions and Skyrims, as Morrowind was the peak of Elder Scrolls. Ripe with flaws and flagrant abuse of the system, it created a world that felt more exotic yet real than either of it’s sequels. You could level up as powerful as you wanted to make the game a breeze, or keep it a challenge as you naturally played through at your pace. The game let you kill any NPC, including key players that would break the campaign. It had the decency to outright tell you when you made that mistake, but there’s some merit to a game that truly welcomes you to truly do as you wish within it’s walls of code. An open world that’s true to it’s name.
    • Battlefield 1942
      • Vehicles, vehicles, vehicles. True to reality bullet trajectories. You need to lead your shots, plan for drop over a distance. There was a great feeling when you learned to excel at a certain gun kit depending on your class. It wasn’t a game about grabbing the most powerful weapon available and being the quickest with your reflexes. You needed to have a plan for how you approached enemies, there had to be a purpose to your actions. You needed to be familiar with the vehicle or firearm you had.
    • The Sims 2
      • The wonderful people simulator that lets your inner architect build your dream home, or create the perfect death trap for all the stupid people in your life to vent from daily life. Nothing quite like living the ab fab life glitzing up your home while balancing your personal happiness, work, and a social life. Gotta work hard to get that new TV after all.
    • Bioshock
      • There’s always a lighthouse. There’s always a man. There’s always a city. Bioshock hit the ground running with it’s dark mysterious setting and kept the creepy factor on high. It’s tone remains one of it’s key identifiers that’s hasn’t been replicated since, even by it’s own sequels. Bonus points for the cool interactivity between your powers and environment. For example, electrocuting water, luring enemies through gasoline to make them flammable, or shooting bees at them to send them fleeing to the nearest hostile Big Daddy to be slaughtered. Between the versatility of your powers and upgrade options for your weapons there were plenty of solutions when making your way through Rapture.
    • Civilization 4
      • Civ is one of those series where until you play it, it’s hard to get why it’s so good. Turn based world building? What’s the big what about that? Well, sit down to start and after 14 hours pass by of “just one more round…” and you’ll get it. Very few single player games can claim to devour your time so freely and without warning. Build empires. War with rival nations. Use science to traverse the stars. Create wonders.
  • The 10’s
    • Minecraft
      • Endless crafting, endless resource collecting, endless combinations of ideas and expression. Build condos, recreate Middle-earth, traverse nether realms, recreate functional calculators using mechanisms in game. Play with friends, install mods, face the Enderdragon. Survival and creation has never had such a perfect melding.
    • Overwatch
      • Sure it’s fairly recent and some may say it’s unproven, but very few shooters offer such customization and welcome in new players with their friendly UI and level learning curve. New players have a fair shot of countering expert players with the right mix of skills or teammates. Add in the fact that it’s simply bursting with personality and popculture references – everyone has a character that they love to call their own.
    • Xcom: Enemy Unknown
      • We all love stomping aliens, don’t we? This clever strategy shooter lets you build a team of space marines in a world where death is permanent as you set the charge against evil creatures of the stars. Brutally difficult, you will cherish every turn as wasting any opportunity is almost a guarantee of losing a party member for good. Endlessly replayable as it seems almost no two encounters ever feel the same.
    • Diablo 3
      • Save the town. Rescue villagers. Delve into the depths of crypts in this world of demons and angels. Unlock new powers, get new loot. Do it over and over while playing with a friend and endlessly powering up your character with customizable weapons and trinkets. There’s always the next step to go on or new ability to power up.
    • Life is Strange
      • Choices matter here. A puzzle-ish time bending episodic adventure game where you’re constantly meddling via supernatural means in a small town’s fate. There’s bad people at play as young girls go missing and you take it upon yourself to discover the truth behind it all while trying to reconnect with the friend you left behind.
  • Mobile
    • Super Hexagon
      • Perfect quick fix game that has you looping round after round. Anyone that sees it in action instantly gets it and wants to take a stab at it. Electronic beats and pulsing levels help set the energy level as you press onward for just a few more seconds for your record.
    • Lifeline
      • Ideal use for a mobile device is texting, right? What if the person you’re communicating with is an astronaut student marooned on a planet and you were their only link to the outside world? Lifeline is exactly this as you anxiously await the next message from your marooned pal as real time has to pass between messages. Did your recommendation to sleep by the nuclear reactor for warmth keep them alive or mutate them? You’ll have to wait until the next morning to see if your decisions helped steer them to doom or let them live just a little bit longer.
    • Jetpack Joyride
      • A sidescrolling endless runner where you bob and weave through various hazards for hundreds or thousands of meters. You get to tweak your load out, pilot robot dragons and motorcycles. Each time you play you work towards a few goals that help you unlock more fun stuff to play with. It’s a blast and fun way to test your reflexes with plenty of power ups to remove the frustration if you ever hit a wall… literal or metaphorical.
    • TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 1
      • This is really where it all got started for the new direction of adventure games. TTG’s first major outing with a licensed product really lead with it’s best foot forward as you handle a few puzzles, but mostly gut-wrenching decisions with merely a few seconds to decide. Often those choices result in the death of someone with you either now or later… but eventually your decisions always come back to haunt you in this dog-eat-dog world of TWD.
    • Fallout Shelter
      • It’s weird how this could have been easily dismissed as just advertising the full experience of Fallout 4, yet it surpassed that by miles. In Fallout Shelter you get to run a human farm… er, I mean, vault for survivors – Beefing up the defenses in case of outsider attacks and keeping your occupants happy and healthy with hobbies and food. How long can you keep them alive? How big can you grow your vault? The answer is always “…just a bit more”.

Sega Platforms

  • Genesis
    • Mutant League Football
      • Football is a fun sport bogged down by enthusiasts that snark at the idea that you have no clue who just got drafted or why that’s important for X team. The unwelcoming hosts of the world wrapped in stats, names, legends, and ever changing rules can make it hard to appreciate the actual game. Well say no more, as MLF creates a fantasy league (no, not that kind) of mutants with no history or minutiae to get lost in. Simple rules (which can be bent), the ability to kill the ref, and a sense of humor to tear apart the reverence of the NFL makes this an instant classic and infinitely more approachable than any incarnation of Madden.
    • Mortal Kombat 2
      • A wide cast of characters, tons more finishers, and a broad style of play. MK2 really opened the series up for combos and dominated the arcade scene. Sit down with a friend and it still holds all that charm years later. Trading back and forth between victories and losses, creating tournament brackets, or implementing goofy meta rules kept this game fun for every weekend gathering.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 3
      • Platforming with attitude! Seriously though, Sonic 3 offered some creative level tracks with catchy tunes. It just felt good to play. Sure all you do is go from the left side of the level to the right with a bit of rise or fall, but damn it when you’re on a roll (ha!) and speed through a zone it feels like the world is your oyster.
    • Ecco the Dolphin
      • Splish. Play as a dolphin in a massive ocean world as you battle sharks, discover hidden paths, sonar your way through the depths, and of course fling yourself out of the water at high speed to leap over rocks as you save Earth from aliens. Ya know, because that’s what dolphins do.
    • Earthworm Jim
      • Continuing with the trend of animals reimagined as heroes, Earthworm Jim was the wildest of the bunch. The levels included a lot more action platforming with various weapons and midlevels where you ride a rocket down a tunnel. It was so much more than your standard platformer, and that was before you added in hilarious feats like tossing cows or facing off against Queen Slug-for-a-Butt to save Princess What’s-Her-Name. It’s a weird one totally worth revisiting.
  • Saturn
    • Nights into Dreams
      • Few games manage to be magical in the way Nights was. Your jester looking avatars fly freely through the sky through rings to some of the zippiest and uplifting music this side of Mario Bros. It’s an experience of adrenaline and pure wonder taking form as a video game.
    • Legend of Oasis
      • Admittedly Saturn is a bit of a weak spot for me when making this list having very limited time with it myself, so I opted to dig into the RPG scene to see what I’ve missed over the years. The sequel to Beyond Oasis is one that kept my attention long and proper as an action RPG in a time where they were few and far between. Tucked somewhere between Golden Axe and Secret of Mana this was a pretty good time and definitely worth your time today
    • Tomb Raider
      • Lara Croft making her debut entry on a Saturn? I bet you had no idea. Needless to say raiding tombs is what she did. It’s almost foreign in design compared to what the latest iteration of the series has become, TR is almost as much a survival game as it is an action puzzler. Sure you have guns and can shoot wolves while flipping over them – but really your best option is to flee from danger instead of facing it head on. Making jumps just barely and clinging from ledges make for some epic moments of gaming. If that isn’t enough perhaps you’d like to face off against a Tyrannosaurus Rex with only dual pistols?
    • Virtua Fighter 2
      • What better way to waste the day away with friends then good ol’ fashioned beatdowns and ring outs? You have your choice of such memorable characters as Not-Ryu, Weird Old Guy, Chinese Girl, Ninja Man, and Token Black Guy. Seriously though it packed a lot of fun for a 3D fighter after having found their feet in this second iteration.
    • Virtua Cop
      • This is another great way to spend the day with friends. Grab a pair of light guns and go to town on a rail shooter akin to House of the Dead, another Sega venture. Once you see screenshots of it you’ll instantly remember the collapsing targets to indicate the enemy was about to attack. Gun games become a lot more fun when they aren’t just gobbling up your quarters. VC is still worth the price of admission if you come across it.
  • Dreamcast
    • Powerstone
      • Imagine if you will… a big ol’ 3D arena with you and three friends just smashing the crap out of each other. Add in terrain that can be used as weapons. It’s kind of like Smash Bros, only better as you’re in a fully 3D environment complete with depth of field. As proven time and time again, it’s hard to top being able to smack around a bunch of friends in a fake world.
    • Phantasy Star Online
      • Before there was Destiny, you had PSO. Space adventures where you build a character from a few races, bend your class a bit, customize your look, then go on adventures with friends via online play. Which shockingly enough, there are pirate servers still alive and kicking for PSO right now in 2017. An action RPG with laser guns and robots alongside a few buddies and climatic boss battles to end each mission. Good times.
    • Marvel vs Capcom 2
      • Alright, I get it – There’s a lot of fighters on this list. I can’t help it that it’s an age old genre that’s been proven at this point. Get together some buddies and graph out some tournaments and it’s instant memories. MvC2 is the cream of the crop when it comes to 2D fighting games though so I’d be remiss to not include this here. A huge roster of characters crossing from beloved franchises of Marvel and Capcom. Ranging from awesome choices like Gambit, Venom, or Akuma to bizarre deep cuts like Servbot, Amingo, or Shuma-Gorath – It got even better as you got to choose a team of 3 to really keep the strategy at the forefront of the battle… Or you could just troll with Cable, Iron Man, and Wolverine.
    • Ikaruga
      • Shmup at it’s best with this revival of the genre. Switch colors of your ship to absorb enemy fire as you survive the worst bullet hell known to the West at the time. It’s been released on various other platforms since then and I’ve still never managed to get past stage 3. I’ll be damned if I don’t return to it every year for a few weeks trying to best myself still.
    • Shenmue
      • A beautiful open world RPG set in 80’s Japan, you get caught up in the daily life of Ryo as you try to avenge your father and save your girlfriend while working on the dock and collecting capsule toys. It’s a rarely seen style of game where the pace isn’t super urgent, letting you enjoy a slice of life in a meticulously crafted setting filled with plenty of distractions. The closest parallel I can think is Persona 4/5 if they didn’t lock you down to a calendar system… and ya know, sans demons.

 


So there ya have it. Kind of a “140 games you need to go play before you die” list. Trust me, it hurt not including some of my personal favorites or hugely celebrated hits. Somehow Final Fantasy 7 didn’t make the list. Have fun with what’s here though and die a well cultured gamer.

This is part 2 of a 3 part list – The first covering Nintendo, and the last will cover Windows PC, Mobile, and Sega. I’d recommend starting there for the first 55 games, and For now though, lets enjoy the wonders of what Sony and Microsoft have offered over the years with the next 45 games I’d recommend you take into a bunker with you to endure the fallout of our inevitable Trumpacylpse. If you read the first post, the following is largely unchanged if you want to skip to the good stuff and scroll down to the list.

Lists are hard. You try your damnedest to round out to whatever number sounds good to you but something always seems off. Raise the number to include more then it feels like filler. Rattle off what’s already been established and what’s the point? Sure I could just print a list of the best video games ever. How different would that list really be though? As time goes forward we seem to further homogenize our views of what’s worth playing and what’s not into a cycling list of the same few games, just in a new order. Still I read them all and scrutinize despite knowing the strings involved behind the curtain. I can’t deny that I love making lists though so I decided to give myself a challenge. It started as listing a few scribbles on paper and grew into this semi-complete list of 140 games that sit before you now. Criteria and rules?

  • 5 games per system/designation. IE; Gameboy Color = Gameboy, and PC is broken down by decades starting in the 80’s.
  • Unless there’s a paradigm shift in how the game is played, one entry per series across all platforms
  • The list should compose of games that highlight the variety of the system, not necessarily “the best”.
    • Subnote – if I didn’t create this rule, virtually every choice of mine would have been RPGs
  • The games must be approachable in their current state today in 2017, not as they were at release.
    • Some games don’t age well and because of this will not be included.
    • This also means games that were amazing with a multiplayer focus may have been lobbed off
  • I’m going off of NA releases, and heavily bent towards games I have either first or second hand experience with. Sorry, no “but this limited print of an import JRPGs that influenced everything ever and OMG HOW DID YOU NOT INCLUDE THIS ON YOUR LIST”. Tangible, real, accessible games only.

By all means, feel free to state your arguments as to what should/shouldn’t make the cut. Just remember this isn’t a “best games for the platform” as much as it is a “this is why this platform was great”. The five games are unranked and represent a set to be plopped down in front of a group of players that’ve never experienced it in hopes of highlighting the range offered by that platform. That being said, these lists are meant to compliment one another and if you isolate them it might be confusing to why these games were chosen. A good example of this is you won’t find Super Mario 64 (OMG WHY?!) – Because I felt Super Mario Galaxy better represented the Wii yet the two games are similar enough to not need both games muddling up the lists.

Without further ramblings – Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of it all now. The lists of games and a bit about them… For part two we’ll be looking at Sony and Microsoft’s catalog of platforms.

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From the Art of Video Games exhibit.

Lists are hard. You try your damnedest to round out to whatever number sounds good to you but something always seems off. Raise the number to include more then it feels like filler. Rattle off what’s already been established and what’s the point? Sure I could just print a list of the best video games ever. How different would that list really be though? As time goes forward we seem to further homogenize our views of what’s worth playing and what’s not into a cycling list of the same few games, just in a new order. Still I read them all and scrutinize despite knowing the strings involved behind the curtain. I can’t deny that I love making lists though so I decided to give myself a challenge. It started as listing a few scribbles on paper and grew into this semi-complete list of 140 games that sit before you now. Criteria and rules?

  • 5 games per system/designation. IE; Gameboy Color = Gameboy, and PC is broken down by decades starting in the 80’s.
  • Unless there’s a paradigm shift in how the game is played, one entry per series across all platforms
  • The list should compose of games that highlight the variety of the system, not necessarily “the best”.
    • Subnote – if I didn’t create this rule, virtually every choice of mine would have been RPGs
  • The games must be approachable in their current state today in 2017, not as they were at release.
    • Some games don’t age well and because of this will not be included.
    • This also means games that were amazing with a multiplayer focus may have been lobbed off
  • I’m going off of NA releases, and heavily bent towards games I have either first or second hand experience with. Sorry, no “but this limited print of an import JRPGs that influenced everything ever and OMG HOW DID YOU NOT INCLUDE THIS ON YOUR LIST”. Tangible, real, accessible games only.

By all means, feel free to state your arguments as to what should/shouldn’t make the cut. Just remember this isn’t a “best games for the platform” as much as it is a “this is why this platform was great”. The five games are unranked and represent a set to be plopped down in front of a group of players that’ve never experienced it in hopes of highlighting the range offered by that platform. That being said, these lists are meant to compliment one another and if you isolate them it might be confusing to why these games were chosen. For example you won’t find Super Mario 64 (OMG WHY?!) – Because I felt Super Mario Galaxy better represented the Wii yet the two games are similar enough to not need both games muddling up the lists.

Without further ramblings – Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of it all now. The lists of games and a bit about them… For this post I’ll keep it to all things Nintendo.

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While 2016 was an absolute garbage year culturally, it was also an… interesting year for me personally. My career advanced which threw my lifestyle completely off-kilter. This lead to the majority of the back half of this year being lost to me gamewise, leaving a ton of upcoming or recent releases that in normal circumstances would be top contenders for going into my GotY considerations. Pokemon SunMoon, Final Fantasy 15, Dragon Quest Builders, World of Final Fantasy, Darkest Dungeon, TTG’s Batman, Battlefield 1, and The Last Guardian are all games I imagine will be high in my rankings next year once I have time to spend with them. Hell, Final Fantasy 15’s Episode Duscae demo alone was one of the most exciting things for me to play in 2015, and they’ve had over a year to polish the game since then. I’d be honestly shocked if it doesn’t take top nods from me next year. Both that and Persona 5 are expected to be high on this list for my 2017 wrap up. Oh yeah, then there’s also a little known obscure release called Mass Effect: Andromeda getting in on that as well. Next year is looking like RPG heaven to me.

Yet we’re not here to talk about the future. This here is a retrospective on what I’ve played through 2016. Staying consistent with 2015 and 2014’s rules – Games on my list do not have to be released in 2016 to be eligible. The games on my list are limited to titles that have been played for the first time during this year. As previously discussed it’s increasingly difficult to qualify what’s a release this year versus another. Perhaps something released on PC in 2014, but was just brought to PS4 in 2016? Perhaps it’s a game that released in Japan in the 90’s yet is just now hitting NA as part of a collection? Between remasters, ports, rereleases, localization, etc – Applying an arbitrary year requirement on a hobby that often has us going back into yesteryear to experience the wide breadth of gaming is just asinine. I’m always working a backlog, I’m always discovering old games I never knew existed or had a chance to play due to time constraints, and always checking out remastered or enhanced versions of games I loved years prior. So my criteria is simply one rule… If the first time I’ve played it falls between January 1st and December 31st of this year, it’s fair game. This includes remakes/remasters as their own entry. Hell, this year almost had both an original release from over two decades ago and it’s 2016 release on the list. After all if I’m making a list of the games I’ve enjoyed the most this year, why not?

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PSP-1001 Straight OnI’ve had a long history of spending hours with handheld gaming. Thinking on it I’d have to say it goes all the way back to the original GameBoy. I’m sure for most that’s where it starts in one form or another. Nintendo really put some legs on that machine, stretching it out until 2001 when they finally released a successor in the form of GameBoy Advance. For some perspective on just how incredibly long of a shelf life it had, before transitioning to complete support of the GBA Nintendo had sold the original NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube while selling original GameBoy games. Sure there was a flurry of redesigns with the GameBoy Color, GameBoy Light, and GameBoy Pocket – All of which were spruced up form factors that shared the same gaming library. Nintendo established a firm lock on the handheld market and created a rich legacy of portable experiences. Several other companies tried to jump in with their own offerings, all of which were met with weak sales before eventual abandonment. Atari Lynx, Sega GameGear, Tiger’s Game.Com, Bandai WonderSwan, and the side talking Nokia N-Gage to name a few.

There’s a good reason why Nintendo has held the market as tightly as they did. Personally I have a ton of fond memories with the original GameBoy. Even before Pokemon took the world by storm, I dumped tons of hours into both of the Super Mario Lands, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Tetris. That torch carried into the GBA’s remodel (the GBA SP) as it was the only system I owned for awhile. I remember spending countless nights playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance or one of several SNES era ports/spiritual sequels like Metroid Zero Mission or Mario Kart Super Circuit. Nintendo always stacked a potent and varied catalog of games that pulled you into that tiny sub-3″ screen. Speaking of which having a backlit screen and rechargeable lithium-ion battery made it the perfect solution to play in bed. Eventually they had to lose some steam though and the DS released to an eager audience with no new content. Thankfully Nintendo had the foresight to include the ability to play GameBoy and GameBoy Advance cartridges to help carry new owners through that drought. It wasn’t until the DS Lite launched that it really caught fire by it’s own right and eventually grew to become the best selling handheld system of all time at 154m units sold. Between the DS and the Wii, Nintendo was banking enough money to buy an island made of pure gold. Times were good and Nintendo remained untouchable in the handheld space. There’s always another side to every tale though…

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Another year of gaming has come and gone. 2015 was a helluva year for releases too. As per usual I was mostly behind the times catching up with all the big releases of last year so some of the bigger titles escaped me for now… Fallout 4, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Bloodborne at the top of that list. Most of those will make plenty of other’s Game of the Year lists I’m sure so I’ll likely be playing them next year anyways. This year for me was a lot more about reclaiming that feeling that makes gaming so appealing for me. Just enjoying fun experiences, adventuring, falling in love with a world and it’s characters, and having joyous feelings in the process. With the mood I’ve been vibing with all year not many GrimDark titles really caught my eye enough to spend some time on them. I opted to focus on playing what was speaking to me, not necessarily what I was told I needed to be playing because it’s a GotY contender. For the most part it’s been an awesome year of games for me because of it.

Now: The criteria for my list. I’m staying consistent with last year’s requirements but appending them a bit. Games DO NOT have to be released in 2015, they only have to be first played that year. With the rate games release, the way they release, and ports work this day and age it’s silly to discount a game I missed in 2013 because it was PC only if it only became available in 2015 on PS4. Keeping with that spirit I feel my favorite experiences of the year shouldn’t be tied down to the period they were commercially available. I’m sure I’m not alone with only playing a handful of current releases each year either. So for example in 2014 I wasn’t able to get around to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. This ended up being a game I played in Spring 2015 for the first time. Simply stated – If the first time I’ve played it falls between January 1st and December 31st of this year, it’s fair game. This includes remakes/remasters as their own entry. After all if I’m making a list of the games I’ve enjoyed the most this year, why not?

Huge shock to me as this year was dominated by episodic series, as three of my top 10 were story-driven series. I think they’re slowly becoming my modern equivalent of RPGs by offering a competent story with characters I’m invested in, but in digestible bites during my adult life. Anyways with 44 games completed this year, here are my favorites of 2015.

Rocket League

Bronze Medal – Rocket League

Kicking off this list for the bronze is the ultra-polished indie hit, Rocket League. Getting a huge boost of players by being offered as a PS+ freebie and allowing cross-play with PC users really helped getting the conversation going around Rocket League. For me it really became the perfect “pick-up and play for 15 minutes” game amidst whatever heavy open-world games I may have been wrapped in at the time. In a nutshell RL has you playing soccer with a team of 1-4 RC cars equipped with nitro boosters and excessively fun physics. As usual with physics driven games the joy really comes from learning exactly how the world’s objects plays against each other. Figuring that out and working with transferring momentum, flying off of the walls, or using a rocket-fueled rush to crush a shot into the back of the net just feels amazing. I got so captivated during my time with this that I ended up writing a guide as I pieced together how to approach it, translating the techniques that worked for me so others would be willing to jump up and have fun. If there was ever a game that really embraced the ridiculous heights you can explore with the medium this would be it. Also a nice rarity these days is it offers the ability to play split-screen so you can couch co-op with a buddy. It’s already available on PC/PS4 and is soon coming to X1 so really you have no excuse not to try this out at some point if you’ve somehow eluded the elated euphoria from this exciting experience.

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