Well-deserved acclaim at that. This is a title with some incredible pixel art design, a treasure trove of content and enough charm to reduce your Pikachu’s attack by six stages — all made by one person, ConcernedApe.
I bought the game alongside my friend Samantha, who was one of my close friends to recommend it years ago when I had no time to join the fad.
We’ve gone through cycles of playing different co-operative games together in the past. From brief stints with Don’t Starve Together to an innocuous MMORPG called Aura Kingdom, as well as hundreds of hours invested in Terraria just a few summers before she moved away.
Unfortunately she’s been a little more busy with work so far this summer, and we haven’t gotten the chance to play a lot. But I started my own single-player file to learn the basics so I wouldn’t be a complete disgrace.
I fell into the game hard. I’ve been up playing until 3:00 a.m. a few more times in the last week than I’d care to admit.
Originally I intended to write a review of the game for my blog to justify all the hours I’ve poured in. But I’m three years late to the party and everything I could say has already been said.
Plus it would more or less just be hundreds of words gushing about what a mastahpiece it is, and that can’t be very exciting for a three-year-old game.
You can honestly judge for yourself based solely on the trailer:
However, something strange happened with this game.
Even though I resigned myself not to write a review, a totally different craving bore its way out of my subconscious mind after watching my single-player character get married to my Stardew love, Emily.
There was a particular string of events and cutscenes leading up to the marriage that I thought flowed together like an unintentionally beautiful story…
And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
My blood ached with the desire to show my adoration for the game by doing what I do best: Writing.
The other day I announce my intention to ruin my credibility by writing a Stardew Valley fanfiction, totally abandoning my original book for an afternoon to use digital ink on flourishing personal video game experiences instead.
I always feel like it’s cliché for me to throw one of these lists together since it’s something EVERYONE does. But the more I think of it as a window into what I love, the less bad I feel about it.
After all, looking at my 2017 list pretty much just reminded me that I had to cop-out with mobile games and Jackbox because I played so few games. Pretty wild.
This year I don’t have that problem luckily! Just remember the most important rule of all with a list like this:
This is all my opinion, so don’t get your panties in a twist if I don’t talk about your favorite game (there are plenty of experiences unfortunately still sitting on my wishlist).
Don’t Starve and the number 9 game on this list may have been higher, but they’re both technically re-releases of games that I played years ago. So to be fair to newer games, I decided to keep them on the lower end.
Don’t let the low score deceive you, however. I love Don’t Starve as much as anything else on the list, if not more for nostalgia’s sake!
Alongside The Binding of Isaac, Terraria and FTL (and no I haven’t had the chance to play Into the Breach yet… Sorry Kyle), this Tim Burton-styled survival game was one of the most played titles in my Steam library years ago.
I can still vividly recount stories of playing the game in my 10th grade Journalism room, which would later become my 11th grade AP Language classroom.
It was a strange transition.
The important thing to know is that this game meant a lot to me, so when it got a re-released on the Switch I knew I had to jump back on the train.
It’s a really solid port, even if the Switch controls take a little time to adjust to.
I also officially “beat” the game for the first time this year! So the port gets some brownie points for that.
Add the portability of playing a game with such a unique world and art style on the go, and I’ll absolutely recommend Don’t Starve any day.
Ah yes, Minecraft.
Just what is there to say about Minecraft that hasn’t already been said?
It’s the survival/building blocky simulator that took the world by storm, inspired a trillion clones and now serves as a permanent cash cow for Microsoft. I absolutely adored Minecraft for years on both my desktop computer and Xbox 360. I even downloaded the Technic Modpack back in the day after watching the Yogscast.
While the game disappeared from my radar, the Switch brought it back to life for my friends and I.
As soon as this port dropped we all jumped on and had a ball playing over the summer. Now that I can capture pictures off my Switch I should go back and show you all some of the amazing stuff we built together.
Unfortunately, once the game shifted to be the all-encompassing Microsoft edition (and once the semester started) we all dropped off.
But if nothing else, Minecraft remains a great cooperative option for us to play together going forward.
Wizard of Legend is the first of what I would consider a Renaissance of indie games on the Switch that kept me gaming more than I usually would this year.
I love Wizard of Legend. Especially considering the dev team (Contingent99) is made up of two people, the fact that such a beautiful and fun title exists in the marketplace is a true testament to gaming culture in 2018.
It’s a fast-paced roguelike dungeon crawler that lets you blast out massive elemental attacks as though you’re the Avatar. AND it’s couch co-op.
Unfortunately, the game’s content is admittedly a bit shallow. As an experience Wizard of Legend rules, but once you’ve collected all the spells, you’ve kind of seen everything.
It’s a game I’ll happily return to and play again, and I by no means regret spending my money. But there just happen to be some better, similar games on this list.
I might have put this higher if I had gotten around to it sooner.
Pokémon Let’s Go is the amalgamated child of a Generation 1 remake and the capturing style of the mobile title Pokémon GO that took the world by storm a few summers back.
It’s about as casual a Pokémon experience as you can get, and for long-time fans such as myself there are very strange choices made (like who decided to only make PC access from the bag?).
But that being said, it’s an absolutely gorgeous Switch game, and every time I interact with Eevee my calloused heart melts.
The biggest selling point of Let’s Go for me is that it’s a couch co-op game I can play with my sister. If we weren’t only about five hours and three badges into the game, it might easily top this list because of the fun we’ve had yelling at the screen so far.
If you have a younger sibling (or romantic partner?), this is the game that perfectly bridges the gap between forced co-op and pretending to let them help in a single player title.
Like I used to do a lot, admittedly.
I have mixed emotions about Kirby Star Allies.
As a long-time fan of the Kirby series, I was really looking forward to the pink puffball’s next generation console game. That said, I wasn’t disappointed by how much of a fun Kirby game it was.
Anyway though, as fun as the game is, it’s seriously lacking in terms of difficulty and narrative — even for Kirby, who isn’t usually known for those elements.
Because of that I don’t feel like I can pick up the game as often as Squeak Squad or Super Star Ultra. But that being said… A ton of DLC came out for the game after I put it down, and I admittedly haven’t tried most of the new Dream Characters.
So hey, maybe it’s a lot better than where I left it the first time! Just based on my experiences now however, it seems like a solid fit for number 6.
What I will say is that much like its predecessor Undertale, Deltarune has a ton of mental staying power. It’s arguably the game I played for the least amount of time this year, but I hold it in high regard because I keep humming that glorious battle theme and thinking about all the possibilities of future installments.
It’s a game you just need to experience to understand. If you’re a fan of Toby Fox I’m sure you already have, but even if you haven’t played Undertale it might still be worth a look for fans of wacky fourth-wall comedy and Final Fantasy-esque gameplay.
Enter the Gungeon is kind of the game I wish Wizard of Legend was.
It’s a remarkably similar, being a roguelike dungeon crawler, but something about the way Gungeon’s five randomized levels are utilized makes them feel so much more fresh over a long period of time than Wizard of Legend’s three two-act levels.
Perhaps it has to do with the art style? Both are gorgeous examples of sprite work, but Gungeon’s aesthetic of gun puns galore seems more entrancing and unique.
Perhaps it has to do with the weapon variety? All of the spells in Wizard are great, but their numbers pale in comparison to just how many guns and combination effects are in Gungeon.
Perhaps it has to do with the supplementary content? Wizard boils down to collecting the spells and costumes, but Gungeon has a series of underlying story “quests” and NPCs who give you extra tasks to complete while you unlock more weapons and power-ups.
Both of these games are wonderful, but Enter the Gungeon stands much taller in terms of its content and replayability. A testament to the breadth of skill from a studio like Dodge Roll under Devolver Digital.
Much like Minecraft, what is there to say about Super Smash Bros. that hasn’t already been said?
But that alone shouldn’t have skyrocketed the game to number 3 on my list, right?
I’ll admit, I’m giving Smash Ultimate some proactive credit. Simply because it’s Smash Bros., I know for a fact it’s going to be relevant for years in professional, competitive settings and among during casual friend hangouts.
Plus there are DLC characters already in the works, and I’m dying to play as Piranha Plant!
So yeah, Smash Bros. is a super fun game that I’m really glad is going to live on for years. As a result, it garners top billing.
… But really, what else did you expect from a Nintendo fanboy like me?
Hollow Knight is easily the best game I’ve played this year.
It has a darker art style, sense of humor and scale that create one of the richest worlds I’ve played with in years. Even the horrid Deepnest, a place I still shutter thinking about months later.
The gameplay is tight, offering a metroidvania experience which truly gets more fun as you advance through it by empowering the player’s exploration and combat abilities.
It’s also remarkably open-world in spite of needing certain abilities to advance in different areas, as my friends Jonathan and Juan each went through the game in completely different ways than I did.
The story is somber and open to interpretation. There are hints of different things going on that can only be discovered through a player’s curiosity.
Hollow Knight is also full of great characters who at times embody well-known tropes, but at other times subvert them in heartbreaking ways. One of my favorite characters is a bug girl who simply dies unceremoniously.
My love came from simply imagining the larger role that she could have had which was tragically cut short. That’s good implicit storytelling.
The game is seriously unique and I would say anyone should experience it.
There’s also a whole host of DLC available that makes the game even more impressive! When it dropped on the Switch this year, I knew it was something I had to play based on the recommendations of a ton of my friends, and boy did it not disappoint.
Hollow Knight seriously would have been my favorite game this year… If something else hadn’t stolen my heart in a different way.
So. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate came out on Switch this year.
I’ve been a Monster Hunter junkie since my first experience playing 4U on the 3DS. The series scratches all of my gaming itches: Impressively designed beasts to admire, fitting battle music for every situation, luck-based schedules of reinforcement with item collection and (of course) lots of armor and skills to facilitate hours of pre-planning and designing.
However, what made Gen Ultimate surpass every other game I’ve played this year was how the Nintendo Switch made it perfect bait for my friends and I to spend hours hunting.
Yeah, I no-lifed this game super hard as my stress relief.
The crazy thing is, even with all those hours put in I still have a dozen different armor sets in mind that I want to build. Even for weapons I’m trying outside of my favorite Hunting Horn style!
It may not be the deepest game from a narrative perspective, or the most novel game from a mechanical perspective…
But with nearly 100 large monsters and infinite possibilities to dick around with friends, Monster Hunter succeeds at being the game I’ve had the most fun with this year. As well as being the game I know I’ll continue to love in 2019!
In case the pattern wasn’t clear, 2018 was a great year for my Nintendo Switch. That console has really come into its own far more than the Wii U ever did (particularly with indie games), and I’m so glad to see it.
That said, let me know what some of your favorite games of the year were! I obviously don’t own a PS4 or an Xbox One and couldn’t put any games from those libraries on the list, but I know there were some phenomenal showings all across the board.
Here’s to 2019 being as great a year for gaming as 2018 was!
As the holiday season and the year 2016 come to a close (very conveniently at the same time in this case), I feel like I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on some things. As I mentioned in my last post about Carrie Fisher’s passing, the general attitude seems to be that 2016 can’t end soon enough. Globally, the world is a bit of a mess. In the United States, the incredibly divisive presidential election we just completed left everything feeling a little bit fractured and not-so-unified. In the world of popular culture lots of people who were well-known and highly adored by the general public passed away.
It’s understandable why people feel the year was so bad, and admittedly there’s some of that I’ve gotten bogged in too over the last couple months. However, for me personally, the year really hasn’t been all that awful. In fact, it’s been a fairly great year all things considered.
One thing I always find interesting as a gamer is reflecting on what games “defined my year,” as it were. Granted I didn’t necessarily diversify my interests a whole lot, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of things I played.
Toward the beginning of the year, I was still riding some of my Wii U hype. I just got my system as a present last Hanukah, in fact, so games like Super Mario Maker were still huge time sucks, moreso than they are now.
Another thing that I’d gotten for Hanukah in 2015 also continued to take up my time, and that was The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes.
While the game wasn’t a traditional Zelda game like we’d all been waiting for in the relatively soon-to-be-announced Breath of the Wild, it was still a blast to play. The game had some awesome multiplayer functionality both with friends and with strangers, and to this day I don’t think I’m over how hilarious it is to spam the cheerleader pom-pom Link emoji.
On top of that, you could literally dress Link up as a cheerleader and it was one of the most viable costumes in that game. Not sure I ever thought I’d be so gung-ho to get Link to cross dress in all honesty, but I was.
Also earlier on in the year, while I was still getting into the swing of the Spring semester, I remember binging every Shantae game that’s been released thus far.
Not only did I play the original Shantae for the Game Boy, I played Shantae: Risky’s Revenge and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. I fell in love with the series fast thanks to the lovable characters, the quirky and fun writing, the beautiful animation style and of course the music (composed by Jake Kaufman, who also produced the music for another one of my favorite games in the same general style: Shovel Knight). I literally played through all three in a row and loved every minute of it, even if none of the games were necessarily all that beefy.
Doing a little bit of research, it looks like the latest installment in the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, has been released just recently, but it apparently slipped under my radar somehow. I’m wholeheartedly Ret-2-Go with that game as soon as I can pick it up, as there are a few too many games in 2016 that I unfortunately missed despite wanting to play them. Didn’t have quite as much time to devote to these things as I would have liked.
Next on the list of my year’s rundown is the first in what I would consider my ‘return of old gaming loves’ trilogy. That, of course, was Fire Emblem Fates. All three together technically, but Birthright was undoubtedly my personal favorite.
There’s a few things I’ll never forget just leading up to the games being released. First, I’ll never forget the hunt my friends and I went on trying to find some of the special edition three-in-one game cartridges for Fates that was a resounding failure but had some great moments. Like getting literally laughed at by a guy in a Game Stop one time. That was awesome.
I’ll also never forget getting the first game, Birthright, as it was actually a gift that was given to me by the editors of the News section on the Daily Titan, Micah and Brianna, as thanks for being their assistant for the Fall 2015 semester. Seriously, check it out, I still have the note here:
It was really awesome, especially considering it apparently took a lot of work to build up to the reveal, including using my friend Kaleb as a spy to figure out which version of the game I wanted more.
Fire Emblem took up a huge chunk of my life from there on out, as I went on to play all three versions. In a row. In hindsight, admittedly not the best idea, but I’m really into the games so it was the decision I made at the time. Birthright was incredible, rose-colored glasses or not, Conquest literally made my just about cry on multiple occasions from how unnecessarily difficult it got to be at times (Seriously, screw the port level. If I never play that game again, the port level is to blame) and Revelations was… Admittedly underwhelming.
I meant to talk about it on here a little bit, but beyond just being burnt out on the games by the time I hit the third, there were a few things that really sort of killed the experience for me unfortunately. First, I padded it out too much for myself. I tried to grind all the characters up to have a ton of diverse skills rather than planning ahead what I would’ve wanted, and it wound up being far more effort than I was honestly willing to put in. Second, they killed off my favorite character in what was literally the worst possible way in my opinion. I have a huge, huge rant still built up about it because the moment was so caustic for me, but this isn’t really the time or the place, so perhaps I’ll still come back to it later. Third, there was another game coming on the horizon that left me rushing to finish, which took away a lot of my enjoyment toward the latter half of the storyline. Who knows, maybe if I go back to it now I’ll have a better time, but for now Birthright will continue to be the high point of my memories for Fire Emblem Fates.
The second game in my personal trilogy was Monster Hunter Generations.
I talked about it on here a bit, so I don’t think I need to go into too much detail, but this game sucked away quite a bit of my time as well. Though I’ve only been playing Monster Hunter since the last major release, Monster Hunter 4U, it has quickly become one of my favorite franchises.
The seemingly near infinite levels of customization thanks to a wide range of monsters and a progression-based-on-skill system is something almost totally unique to Monster Hunter in my gaming experience, and it ticks boxes like crazy for me. There are very few games that I get super in depth about building sets and doing hours of research into said sets and also things like lore, but Monster Hunter is definitely one of them. It’s also one of the favorite games of my friend Juan, so we always have a good time going on extravagant hunts as a super powered duo, Hunting Horn and Charge Blade in hands.
Granted, I’ll admit that the game wasn’t quite as invigorating as MH4U for me, since that was the game where I truly had a skill curve to learn and overcome so I could truly become a master, but Generations was still a blast to play through and through.
Last, but certainly not least, comes what must be an obvious entry on this list. Hell, there’s only one game that really defined not only the latter half of my year, but also most of what I’ve built my blogging experience on so far.
And that game is, of course, Pokémon Sun and Moon. Because technically they go together even if they’re two separate games. Because Pokémon works like that.
Really I’ve said more than enough about these games in many, many posts over the last year, so I don’t think I need to waste too much time on it right now. Not only were the games beautiful and fun experiences in themselves, surpassing what I consider to be some of my favorite and some of the best constructed games in the series thus far, they reinvigorated the love of competitive Pokémon breeding that I fostered in Alpha Sapphire and got me back into the Pokémon YouTube communities I followed around the same time.
I have been and will continue to do some breeding in the games, especially once the Pokébank opens in January, and I’ve considered doing more competitive battling in 2017. There’s an official battle competition coming up pretty soon that I’m pretty sure I’ll be entering, so I’m sure there will be plenty more posts in the future on the subject as well.
Beyond those massive entries that took up my time, there are a few other games that permeated my year’s experiences. The 20th Anniversary of Pokémon for me included the continued playing of Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon Picross on my 3DS, which were my puzzle game obsessions that I’ve only recently seemed to kick.
The summer was undoubtedly defined by Niantic’s Pokémon GO, the game which really felt the most universally unifying during the sub-par situations of the year surrounding it.
My whole family was playing the game together and I still remember wandering El Camino College hatching eggs after my summer classes there. Though I wound up a little disillusioned with the game, and still haven’t jumped in to catch the start of the Generation 2 Pokédex, I still can’t imagine Pokémon GO won’t hold a place in history in some way or another.
Also hitting the mobile gaming scene this year was Super Mario Run.
I gave my thoughts on the game in depth a little while ago, and as a small follow-up I will say that having spent money on the full game has made the experience even better for me. I’ve gotten really into collecting all the colored coins in single player on long road trips and I have a pretty well developed town so far. As a first jump into the mobile scene for Nintendo, I can personally say that Super Mario Run has been a success, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
I also replayed quite a few older Steam games that I adore but haven’t touched in some time this year.
My friend Samantha and I played Terraria for a long stretch of time together, progressively getting better and better as we learned and built more complicated structures and items together. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth ate up huge chunks of my time in brief intervals throughout the year, as it’s always an addictive rogue-like experience that I’ll never get tired of. The same could be said for FTL, which I can only describe as a real-time rogue-like spaceship command and battle simulator. For anyone who hasn’t heard of the game it can be hard to explain, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time.
My 2016 was defined by more than just the video games I played, however. It marked the end of my first year at college. It also included my first semester as an editor for a college paper, one which I feel went really well considering all the crazy things that happened politically while I was in charge of the News page.
2016 was where I really feel like I got into the rhythm of driving and being able to get myself places. It was also the first year where I got to vote for a serious election – despite how divisive it might have been as far as an election went.
However, because of my time as a journalist, I felt like this was the first time I really got to apply what I was doing and learning to a real-world event. Literally the more I learned, the more prepared I felt to vote in November.
On top of that, I feel like I really learned a lot just in general. Two semesters and a summer intersession at college had me taking classes all over the proverbial spectrum at two different schools: Cal State Fullerton and El Camino College. Not only was the subject matter of the things I learned interesting, I also got to explore more places at the same time, which I also enjoy doing.
I got my first few relatively well-paying jobs in 2016 between being an editor on the Daily Titan and working for Boom: A Journal of California. Thanks to that, I’ve felt more independent than I ever really have before.
In 2016, I went to New York for the first time in I honestly don’t know how long.
I used to have a lot of family living out there, but now most of my close relatives live here in California, so I rarely ever get to go out to the East Coast anywhere that isn’t Florida. The trip was amazing and so much fun, and I really felt like I got close to a lot of my friends and colleagues in the newsroom that went with me.
I also got to relive a part of my Dad’s childhood by finding his old high school.
So, all and all, I’d say that trip was probably one of the most memorable parts of the year for me.
I got to visit SpaceX for the first time this year, and though I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside, it was still a phenomenal place to see. Seriously, some of the stuff they have going on in there is incredible.
In my opinion, I really started to come out of my shell a little bit more in 2016, and that helped me meet and interact with some people who I can really see myself continuing to talk to for a long time to come. Both those in and out of the newsroom.
2016 was also the first year I’ve let my beard grow out. It started as a No Shave November thing we did for the Daily Titan, but in the end I wound up getting such a positive reception that I kept the hair grown out.
Seriously, what a difference a little bit of hair will make. I look totally different from one picture to the other, if you ask me. Probably helps that I had more hair on top of my head to cover my forehead in the first picture too… But that’s another story.
Finally, 2016 was where I really got into blogging. Yeah, seems like a silly thing to cap this whole list off with, but you are literally reading this on my blog. I started this blog back on February 18, a day after my birthday, thanks to some school assignments I had to do. My Communications 233 class required us to have a blog that we posted 20 things on of any subject we chose. Naturally, I chose to make this a blog about video games and about my journalism experience.
Though it started as an assignment, one that I literally had to come up with ways to finish by coming up with admittedly silly things to post, I’ve come to really love doing this. Writing is a passion of mine, and getting the chance to write more often has been wonderful. It’s also been a way to voice my opinions and thoughts on various subjects, which I don’t tend to do in a largely public forum like this very often. I may be a relatively small blog still, but I feel like I’ve found somewhat of a rhythm thanks to Pokémon Sun and Moon, and I’m looking forward to writing more on whatever comes up in 2017. As goofy as it might be to say it, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to try and write more next year, so I hope you all stick around to see whatever it is I come up with to write about.
Really, from the bottom of my heart thank you to everyone who’s following my blog, everyone who’s read anything I’ve wrote and to all my family and friends who have helped me explore, encouraged my writing ambitions, and worked to make sure I put my best foot forward. If you have any of your own favorite memories from 2016, or if you just want to send a good riddance sendoff to the year, feel free to share them down in the comments below.
I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and here’s to 2017 being a happier time overall than 2016 seems to have been!