It's been the year of the Switch for me. I love that thing. It allowed me to cram a surprising amount of gaming into my last year of undergrad - "enabled" might be the right word. There were times when I couldn't put it down, hence the disproportionate number of Switch games below.
If you want to keep track of my attempts to get through my horrendous backlog of games, check out The Checklist.
These are the games I haven't finished yet, but am having a damn good time with so far.
This game is full of neat twists on original Sonic gameplay - and on its soundtrack. It looks like they finally made Sonic good again - and then immediately made it bad with Sonic Forces. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
For a while this year, Giant Bomb's Persona 4 Endurance Run replaced Netflix for me. This made me want to play Persona 5 a whole lot, despite not owning a PS4. So my friend Tasha and I have been playing through this together in fits and spurts, in those rare moments when we both have time. We've only finished the first dungeon. We might be doing this for another couple of decades. The visual style is really cool and I'm still jamming out to the soundtrack.
Puyo Puyo Tetris is insanity like I've never seen before. The multiplayer is sheer unabated chaos - there's a mode where you just play either Tetris or Puyo against each other, one where you flip back and forth between them, and one WHERE YOU PLAY BOTH ON THE SAME BOARD. It's ridiculously stressful and ridiculously fun. The single-player story mode is really weird - shoutout to all those storied Tetris characters that finally got their day in the sun.
Old Game of the Year
NieR seems crazy in a similar way to Wolfenstein, except way blown out and much more philosophical. I'm holding out for a Switch version.
Lachlan's Top 5 Games of the Year
Mario Kart 8 continues to be my favourite racing game ever. It doesn't hurt that I can play as Link riding a motorcycle. Also, that said motorcycle is painted like the Master Sword and looks like a horse.
This game... it's really, really something. The gameplay itself is nothing particularly special, even if the shooting is pretty satisfying once you start dual-wielding shotguns. But the story, the cutscenes... man. It's something to see, it really is. It balances emotion with sheer ridiculous bombast in a way I've never seen before, in a game or a movie. Combine that with some genuinely engaging writing, interesting characters, and moments that left my jaw hanging, and this ends up being more than worth playing.
The original Steamworld Dig leapt into my heart by combining the things I like about Motherload (digging for ore through squares of dirt and returning to the surface for upgrades) and Super Metroid (exploration gated by found abilities). This game took that even further, expanding the exploration and the playtime drastically and adding some neat progression features. I don't like how the main character looks compared to Rusty, the protagonist of the first game; and the story, despite being extended, wasn't quite as neat; but the movement upgrades you earn Metroidvania-style make getting around the world a grand old time. The grappling hook and jetpack deserve particular mention for making the platforming a joy.
Between this coming out at the peak of my end-of-year assessments and Zelda releasing in week one of first semester, it felt like Nintendo was trying to wreck my university career. It failed (barely). Odyssey is a hell of a game, with a fine mixture of new mechanics and Mario nostalgia - plus some awesome moments and one heck of a soundtrack. My friend Joy, who has barely touched a video game in her life, couldn't put my Switch down the whole time she was visiting me this summer, all thanks to Super Mario Odyssey.
My excitement for Breath of the Wild had been building ever since a new Zelda was rumoured for Wii U. Little hints and teases dropped a couple of times a year, enough to keep me intrigued. It was announced for 2015. Then 2016. Then 2017, and now it was a Twilight Princess-style dual launch on the Wii U and the then-unrevealed NX. That trailer with the main theme sent tingles over my skin every time I watched it - and I watched it over and over. It might be the most excited I've ever been for a game - so excited that I caved and preordered a Switch so I could play it. So I went to the midnight launch of the console, got the thing home, and didn't stop playing until roughly thirty seconds ago.
I'm exaggerating, but not by a whole lot.
I have so much to say about this game that I almost can't say anything. It captured me the same way Skyrim and Minecraft once did, compelling me to play far more at any one time than any human should. It does something very new yet still manages to retain the spirit of a Zelda game. I think it has the most interesting open world I've ever played in, with a sense of wondrous exploration unparalleled in my experience. Despite having a kind of disappointing story by the standards of previous Zeldas, it's easily my favourite game of the year.