It’s that time of year again where we quietly post everyone’s nominations for Game of the Year.
In music the snobby-joke is that “I only listened to that band when they were underground”. You can’t really say this in the world of video games though. “Mario Odyssey? Oh, no, I exclusively only play the Lost Levels of Mario”. But in 2017 we may finally have the hipster underground scene int he form of Itch.io. This year many I times I slurred over my self-roasted coffee the words “Oh you’ve not heard of it? It’s a small game on itch. You should try it some time”.
Itch is a breeding ground of indie games scrambling to the top of the pile to try get a breath of indie-publisher money. And standing triumphantly on the pile of voxel-shooters and rougelike-platformers is Raft. Why not head over and read why I enjoyed it so much HERE.
Rime was released two months after Zelda : Breath of the Wild. It was a painful following-act to perform. It’d be like waiting in the wings with your musical spoons looking on as Queen are on stage successfully resurrecting Freddy Mercury for a one-off performance.
But Rime shouldn’t have to live in any shadow. Under the surface the game is more akin to Journey than BOTW. Rime plays out like a surreal art show. I feel sometimes like it was made for thirty-somethings like myself; those of us who have a spare hour every couple of evenings to game over a freshly poured red wine. It’s soft, gentle, and at times feels like a weekend away in the countryside. Exactly what I needed to help ignore the debt collectors at the door.
3. Sniper Elite 4
In video-games there is a basic game design mechanic of ‘small-input big-pay-off’. One swipe of a bird in Angry Birds and watch a town crumble. One shot of a metallic ball in Peggle and watch an annihilation of musical-pegs. It’s a simple formula that when used effectively can be incredibly addictive.
Sniper Elite 4 knows this and so it gratuitously rewards the player for bare-minimum activity. A sloppy sniper shot results in a ballet of wiggling-organs that would make an open-heart surgeon blush. Bullets travel through the target’s skin, bones, and into precious organs that only a few moments prior were happily digesting Sunday lunch. All of this displayed to the player in enough medical detail for them to be able prescribe to the victim the correct medical dosage of painkillers to deal with the hell they just inflicted on them. I’m surprised the bullet doesn’t also travel in time to take out the targets ancestors for extra showmanship.
Sniper Elite 4 is the perfect ‘bad-game’. It’s the one you get embarrassed about when your Mum walks in. It’s the game that after a hard evening of cocktails at the local videogame-art-gallery soiree, where you argued with a man over whether you can have a transcendental experience playing Breath of the Wild, you sneak home, shut off the lights, and shoot nazis in the testicles while giggling like a school girl.
2. Mario Odyssey
“It’s not great because you can become an onion, it’s great because once you become an onion, you notice how many possibilities you’ve just opened up”
Dunky is right on the money with his video review. Since the days of Mario 64 Nintendo has followed a tried and true approach; get the most out of your mechanics, but don’t overuse them. What I enjoy most about Mario 3D games is that gameplay can almost entirely change every few minutes. One moment you are riding the desert on a sand-cat and the next you’re in a 2D platformer travelling upside down. Other games are different and can barely squeeze in a fraction of the play-approaches a Mario game does. Don’t like shooting stationary gun positions in Call Of Duty : WW2? Too bad, cause you’re gunna do it a hundred times more by the end of this game.
It’s hard to hate anything in Mario Odyssey because by the time you are reaching to write a blog piece complaining about something in the game and entirely new mechanic comes along that brings a smile to your face. It’s a glorious game that will be remembered for decades.
1. Legend of Zelda : Breath of the Wild
Someone asked me if I’d been on any holidays this year. As I listed in my head the few places I went I almost embarrassingly listed Breath of the Wild. But that’s exactly the effect this game had on me; I felt like I’d been on a holiday playing it. BOTW takes you to a new land so alive of experiences and fulfilment that it’s sad to leave.
Overhearing conversations around the game is like listening to two people who have vacationed to the same place. “Have you seen the ninja temple in Gerudo desert yet?” “ooo no, I’ve been mostly swimming in Lake Hylia looking for treasures”. And with good reason. BOTW’s world is so alive and balanced it’s hard to imagine it was born out of a games designers mind.
Zelda : Breath of the Wild is the Citizen Kane of gaming. It’s utterly fantastic and every gamer needs to experience it.
Honourable Mention : GTA V
The medium of gaming is constantly expanding. When a book ends, it ends. When a film ends, it ends (except for lesser sequels or thinly-written tv-tie ins). But games are more and more prolonging their initial release. Patches, season passes, DLC, e-sports, HD-remasters, and fan-made mods means a game can live on for years after it’s release.
GTA V was released in the tail-end of 2013 and yet to this day is still riding high in the gaming charts. This is because of Rockstar providing a steady plethora of DLC for the Online aspect of GTAV continuously over the years. As a result for myself and my friends it has become our fall-back game to play. Sure, we’ll give Zombie mode in Call of Duty a blast for a week or two, but we always come back to GTA Online.
GTAV is still to this day the most fun co-operative experience I’ve ever played. It’s not with out it’s problems of course. Using a oujia board is often a more effective method of connecting to an online game than relying on Rockstars servers. But when you are waiting to enter the massive gaming world of GTA V with cars, racing, flying, swimming, fighting, tennis, heists, bank-robbing, last man-standing, bunkers, CEO missions, Micro Machines racing, sumo racing, team death-match, capture the flag…it’s worth the wait.