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.
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?
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.
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.
2014 was a heck of a year for me. Lot’s of life transitions and health issues to deal with. It was also a time of reflection and gaming. What gaming meant to me, what I value in games, why I play them… It’s basically the reason why I started keeping this blog. The way I felt about games over the past year have changed, or at least changed back. I’m approaching a lot more of what I want to play and a lot less of what I feel I guilted into playing. I put to death the idea of a backlog in lieu of a philosophy of just playing whatever I want to play, however long I want to play it. Two of the titles I’ve clocked in enough time to clear 10-15 other game campaigns. In previous years I would have gotten itchy about spending too much time on one game. In 2014 I learned just to keep playing until I didn’t feel like playing anymore. It’s definitely paid back in dividends for my fulfillment during game time.
But onto the reason we’re here today, a review of 2014 games that I enjoyed. I’m making no attempt to be objective in my analysis, but purely addressing the amount of fun these games brought me. As a small recap I’ve completed the campaigns of 36 different games this year (some multiple times), but these are my standouts. The only restriction I’ve enforced is limiting the games to a 2014 release on that platform I played them on. With the way things get ported or updated and given the availability on platforms I’ve always found it unfair to lock a game’s eligibility to the original release year. Sometimes the experience is altered entirely by the new platform, as Deus Ex: Human Revolution proved on the Wii U. Either way, here are my favorite titles of 2014.