This past year was a pretty good year for games. Although this year wasn’t as good as some of the best years like last year and 2007, there were some great games. Here are the top 10 games I played over the past year.
The two no. 10 games on my list are “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu” and “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee.” They are basically the exact same game so I’m putting them in the same spot. These games are complete remakes of the original Pokémon games, and it was amazing to see them in high definition. Every scene, city and Pokémon was gorgeous and it was so much fun to see them in this new light. The music was also stellar. Hearing the soundtrack, which sounds exactly like I remember it sounding years ago, was surreal. There are two reasons it isn’t higher, however, and they are the two most important aspects of the game: the catching and the battle mechanics. I hated how the game had me catching Pokémon. As a series veteran, all I wanted to do was battle wild Pokémon, and that just isn’t the way the game works. It also made me mad how motion controls are completely required. The battling is also completely stripped down, taking away held items and abilities, which eliminates most of the strategy involved in the battling. Overall, I like the outer parts of the game a whole bunch, but the inner parts of the game are the reasons it’s only my tenth-best of the year.
The next game on my list, at no. 9, is “Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.” Though not a direct sequel to the first “Ni No Kuni” game, it does have a similar look to the first game, but the games are completely different in how they play. The first played like a Pokémon game where you collect different monsters to fight for you. This game plays like a hack-and-slash game where you can use combos on the enemy. I loved this change and it is a much better game than the first because of it. The story is also interesting, and I loved a lot of the twists that occur in the story. The characters are also fun to interact with, and the way the player meets each of those characters is great. The look of the game is great too, as it takes after the Studio Ghibli films. However, it’s unfortunate it doesn’t do it as much as the first game. I was disappointed the game didn’t have the kind of cutscenes the first game did. Also, I did not like the army battle mechanic in the game either. Overall, this was a fun RPG which I recommend to anyone who likes the JRPG genre.
“Dead Cells,” which is a Metroidvania roguelike, is at my no. 8 spot. Dead Cells is one of those games that is just fun to play. It has some of the best feeling controls in any game I have ever played. Everything just makes sense from the way the player dodges and attacks to the way each weapon, skill or ability has a different way they control. There are massive great swords, small daggers and lightning bolts the player can shoot out of their hands. I am not a big fan of roguelikes, due to the fact that a lot of them don’t have any way to tangibly see your progress. You may get better at the game, but you’re not gaining any rewards for your progress. This one allows the player to unlock different weapons which you can use at the beginning of each run. This is a great reward and allows the player to try each weapon and see which their favorite is. I also loved the different areas the game is in, as it takes the player not only to the regular thoroughfares like a sewer and castle but also to more interesting places like a clock tower and the rooftops of a deserted castle. It is my favorite rogue-like ever and a good Metroidvania game as well.
“Hollow Knight” may be a couple years old, but this year it was finally released on the Nintendo Switch, so I’m counting it as no. 7 of the year. This game is also of the Metroidvania variety, and it might be one of the best in the genre. It tasks the player with controlling a little bug and exploring a massive world full of difficult enemies. I’ll compare it to “Dark Souls” because it has difficult bosses which take a while to figure out, as well as a depressing atmosphere. I loved both of these aspects in the game. I also loved the Metroid aspect in the game. The different abilities the player gets and then can tangibly see their benefits in the world was amazing, and I loved them all. The look of the game was also one of my favorite parts about it. The game has a dreary type of look, and the enemies reflect that too. There are only a few characters which actually help the player, and one of the best feelings in the game was finding one of these characters after a long trek through unexplored territory. It was a difficult game, but also an absolute joy to play because of the feeling of beating a boss which took hours or seeing a new sight which you hadn’t thought possible.
The next game on my list, at no. 6, is “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.” This game is a blast to the past. It feels like a game which was made decades ago in its game play and story, but the game looks great and stands against others from this year. The game play is turn-based like games from the 90s, and I am not mad about it. Too many games try and create a new style and see if it sticks, and I’m glad this game went back to the basics. The story is also interesting, and it allows the player to see many beautiful places on their way to the end. The different environments all feel unique, and far apart from the last place the player visited. This diversity and how traveling changes the way each area looks allows the world to feel even bigger than it actually is. The way the colors pop in each of these areas is a lot of fun to see and made me want to keep playing the game. Overall, this is one of the best RPGs I have played this year, and I can’t recommend it enough.
In the top half of my list, at no. 5, is “Red Dead Redemption 2.” Even though it has a two in the name, it is a prequel, and it completely justifies its existence. I have big problem with prequels, and the game suffered from none of those problems. The story is stellar and one of my favorites in the last few years. The characters are what make this game work, and the whole cast is superb. I love the main character, Arthur Morgan, and his struggles in the game, and his counterparts in the Dutch van der Linde gang. Each of the characters had a reason for existing and being in the narrative, and it was enjoyable to see how they all interacted with each other. Also, it is arguably the best-looking console game out there. There may be a racing game out there that looks as good, but I don’t think there’s a game as big and as good-looking as this one. The soundtrack of the game is also amazing. Each track perfectly evoked each situation it was placed in. The shooting sequences had music which made the player feel like they were the bandit, while traveling was filled with nice, somber tunes. Overall, this is one of the best games Rockstar has ever made.
No. 4 on my list is “HITMAN 2.” This is a direct sequel to the reboot of the popular assassination franchise from two years ago. The first thing I love about this game is the locations are amazing. There are not as many as the previous game; there are five full locations and one training location, whereas the previous one had six full ones and two training. Even though there are only five full maps, the ones there are sprawling, expansive maps with a lot of different ways to take out the targets. My favorite map of the bunch, which is one of the last ones in the story, throws out everything the player has been taught and does something new, which is why I loved it. The game also adds a couple mechanics which may not seem like much, but they make it more interesting and replayable. It adds foliage, which the player can hide in, and a briefcase to smuggle items in. They also change the way the player is able to go about taking out their targets, adding even more replay value to an already almost endlessly replayable game. The story of the game might not have been as high-budget as the last game, but what does happen is very interesting, and I hope there is another game in this series, just so I can see how the story of Agent 47 plays out.
At no. 3 is “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” This game is one of the most fun games I’ve played in years. Just the minute-to-minute game play is outstanding because of the way they mastered the web-slinging mechanic. Web-slinging is the most important aspect of the game, and they completely nailed it. I loved it so much, and it only made me want to keep playing the game. It also made traversing the world and doing the side missions very enjoyable as well just because I wanted to keep web-slinging. The city of New York was also impeccably made, and I didn’t know if I was watching a movie or playing a game at points. The story and characters were also much better than I thought they would be. I was pleasantly surprised by how realistic the depictions of Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and all of the other characters in the game. Their struggles, other than the fact that one of them was Spider-Man, felt real to me, and there were times in the game where I related more to them than those in the movies. The story wasn’t anything grandiose, but it was definitely worth the time, and I hope they continue the series because I would love to see how they continue the narrative.
The runner-up in my list is the fourth main game in the popular PlayStation franchise, “God of War.” This game takes place in a different mythological world, Norse mythology, but the interesting aspect is it’s not a reboot, it is still the same Kratos from the other “God of War” games. I love this aspect of the game, and although it doesn’t explain how Kratos was able to get to another mythology, I am excited to find out those answers. The game’s story is one of my favorites of the year as well. It is a simple one, Kratos and his son are traveling to the highest peak in the realms to spread his wife’s ashes. That’s it, but the occurrences on the path to the peak transform Kratos into someone much different from the one at the beginning of the game, and I adored this. The game play is also different, taking a third-person approach instead of the style of the older games, and I prefer the new approach wholeheartedly. The different approach also allows the game to really utilize its tracking camera, as the game never cuts away, and I loved this aspect of the game.
The best game I played this year was one from the beginning of the year, and it is called “Celeste.” In my review from the game, I wrote to my future self to make sure to remember this game months down the line, and here it is, sitting at the top of my list. This game encapsulates a lot of what I love about video games: a fun and simple story, a stellar soundtrack and most importantly, a game that is an absolute joy to play. The game play is simple: use your dash ability to make it across each small room, but the way the game utilizes the dash ability and the overarching level themes make it endlessly fun to play. I loved the different themes, like wind pushing against and toward the player, and they changed up the game play to make sure it never got old. The music is also perfect for the different levels in the game, changing up the beat when the player needs some extra adrenaline and slowing it down when there is a somber moment. When I played this game for the first time, all I expected was a nice, little, game with simple game play, but what I got was a game with stellar controls, game play and music and also one of the best games I’ve played in the last few years.