2018 has been a prolific year for me. I’ve finished dozens of games, way more than in any other year in my life. I feel very accomplished having so many under my belt. That being said, I find myself unable to discuss all the games I would like to, or make all the recommendations I would want to. So I’m going to give to you a marathon of quick reviews / thoughts for my other gaming highlights that may not get an award this year but nevertheless still deserve mentioning. Let’s go!
AM2R [PC]: Yes, I know, I’m 2 years late to the party. AM2R is the fan remake of Metroid 2 that was in the news waaay back in 2016. But to just call it a fan game would be a disservice. This is an amazing passion project. In some ways AM2R is even better than Nintendo’s official remake of Metroid 2. It conveys a perfectly cohesive world and builds upon the source material to a great degree. In some ways it misses the mark, but this is still a must-play for any Metroidvania fan, if for some reason you haven’t done so already.
The Stanley Parable [PC]: It’s not so much a video game as it’s a parody of video games (but also a parody of itself?) that dives headfirst into philosophical questions about the nature of free will. Be prepared to both laugh and experience an existential crisis at the same time. This game is accessible and short enough for basically anyone to play, but I would especially recommend it for those who enjoy British humor like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And with the port coming to consoles soon, I’d definitely keep an eye on this game if I were you.
Teslagrad [PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita, Mobile]: Teslagrad is a charming Metroidvania with more puzzles than combat. It does a great job immersing you in a world inspired by Tesla’s electromagnetic experiments. I felt very smart figuring out the puzzles, and I loved earning each new power-up. My biggest complaint is that the boss fights are tedious. Our protagonist dies in one hit, so you’ll end up redoing a boss several times after figuring out its weakness. There are better Metroidvanias out there, but if you’re jonesing for one, then I’d recommend it. Just be prepared to have some patience with this game.
Bastion [PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita, Mobile]: YES, I KNOW, I’M LATE TO THE PARTY. Bastion is a top-down action RPG that was one of the first big indie games back in 2011. It was an enjoyable game. At first the story was confusing, but it turned out quite touching. Recommended for fans of action RPGs like Diablo.
Axiom Verge [PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Vita]: Aka, the legal AM2R. Seriously, this game takes after Metroid so much it just barely escapes copyright infringement. That is both a strength and a weakness for this game. I can see how some fans would love the “return to form” that Axiom Verge offers, but it follows Metroid so closely that it feels a bit derivative. My biggest gripe is that the world is too disconnected to get me truly immersed. That being said, I enjoyed the level design, the glitch mechanic, and the convoluted story. It’s a solid recommendation for any Metroidvania fan who still hasn’t played it.
Fortnite [PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile]: Everyone’s favorite scapegoat for bad parenting is a… passable online shooter. The building mechanic is certainly a unique addition, but it feels too shallow to make anything truly interesting with it. I had fun playing doubles with my brother-in-law, but by myself Fortnite was not very compelling. I put it down when I realized I was going to need to put a lot of time into the game in order to get wins, and that was just not worth it to me. I still have it downloaded on my Switch, just in case a friend wants to play, but on my own time I’d rather play other games.
Enter the Gungeon [PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch]: I wanted to like Enter the Gungeon more than I did. I love the theming of this game: the hordes of gundead, the silly weapons, the characters, the puns… it’s a charming game from bullet-head to foot. However, this is also a rogue-lite game, meaning death is permanent, and you have to start the entire game all over again when you die. When paired with its randomized bosses, Enter the Gungeon became a slog. I played it for about 10 hours total before calling it quits. I recognize that this is a well-made game, but rogue-lites just aren’t for me. If you’re a fan of that genre, though, then you can’t go wrong with Enter the Gungeon.
Dragon Quest Builders [PS4, Switch, Vita]: This is a sure-fire recommendation for anyone who likes Minecraft but wishes it had more structure. Dragon Quest Builders is a fun sandbox experience with a slight retelling of Dragon Warrior 1 to serve as a story. It’s a perfect marriage between foraging / crafting and a traditional RPG “leveling-up” system. In my opinion, it’s more fun than Minecraft, but I am an RPG fanboy, after all. I’m quite interested in the sequel coming out sometime next year.
Warframe [PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch]: Look, if you really want to play a free online shooter, I’d say get Warframe over Fortnite. It’s superior in every way: better controls, an actual story, no annoying kids on voice chat… And unlike Fortnite, it has RPG elements and gameplay customization, so it’s fun to play by myself. A word of warning: Warframe is an M-rated game. You can turn off the M-rated content (i.e. blood & gore) like I have, but it still merits mentioning. However, just like Fortnite, I doubt I’ll go very far with this game, as it appears I’ll also need a buttload of time to invest in it, but I’ll keep it on my Switch just in case friends want to play a mission or two.
Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee [Switch]* The Pokemon Fanbase, as much as I like it, is a fairly closed-minded group. I understand the misgivings about putting the Go catching mechanic in a main game, but to be perfectly honest… I like Go’s catching mechanic. So Pokemon Let’s Go was an overall positive experience for me. The few minor features that are lost from the main series (i.e., held items, abilities) are made up for with the game’s fantastic additions (i.e., co-op and Pokemon following you). However, the game lacks polish, especially with the visuals and animation. It’s the best-looking Pokemon game yet, but it’s not exactly an impressive-looking Switch game. More to come in an analysis.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate [Switch]* By far the best Smash Bros. game yet! I love all the new additions that this game makes. As a fan of the Subspace Emissary in Brawl, I am quite a fan of this game’s single player campaign, World of Light. However, be warned, this mode is more like an RPG disguising itself as a Smash Bros. game, which won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Also, even with my fiber internet, the online matches are spotty and inconsistent, which is a significant letdown. After all these years, Nintendo still doesn’t get online. I would also warn you that the roster is… massive. I mean, you hear 74 fighters and you think that’s a lot, but… it’s an overwhelming amount. Take it like a trip to Disneyland: one ride at a time.
*I technically didn’t finish these games yet, so opinions may change as I progress.
And that’s that! This year was such a good year, all things considered. And based on the recent Nintendo Directs, it appears 2019 will be even better than 2018 and 2017 combined.
Speaking of 2019, I wanted to update everyone and let them know that for the next two Mondays I won’t have posts — at least big, long-written posts — due to the holidays. I’ll be taking a little hiatus to spend time with family and prepare for the coming year.
I hope you all have a happy holidays, and I will see you next year!