All right, the literal last article I wrote on my blog was this same exact awards list for the last year. It’s clearly been a productive year for me. It legitimately has, just not with this whole blog thing. Check out my portfolio to like, see some of that stuff. I also wrote some more awards for Rice Digital’s Annual Gaming & Anime Awards, which are a bit different to this one but still worth a read (for my opinions, anyway).
Without further ado, here’s that new stuff.
Game of January
Resident Evil VII
What cruel person invented January this year? With games like Resident Evil VII, Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 0, Tales of Berseria, and probably more — this month was incredibly off the hook. And, unfortunately, far away enough from this year’s award season to mostly not end up being considered probably. Despite all these greats, Resident Evil VII was something special. A stunning return to form for the series. While I enjoyed playing through it myself alone, I also had tonnes of fun playing through it with other people, and picking through all the little extras and pre-release material with them too. Steeped in atmosphere, it always put a smile back on my face when I return to it for just how good it feels.
The Series is Back (and not Resident Evil) Award
Tales of Berseria
It really wouldn’t be fair for me to not give Tales of Berseria some kind of award. Zestiria was a bit of a dip for the series, and despite really enjoying my preview time with that game, I ended up bouncing off of it on release. Berseria on the other hand sucked me in hard, with a fantastic story, terrific characters, and a dark tone that never felt “edgy dark”. It also had a really, really great quality PC port. I feel like Japanese games either go one of two ways: a fantastic PC port, or just abysmal. I loved it so much, I kept hold of preview code I received for the game and ended up playing the whole thing through to review.
Game of February
Horizon Zero Dawn
I feel like I probably didn’t love this as much as many other people did, but I do have to admit it has something about it that makes it pretty special. Aloy is a great character, marvellously captured by Ashley Burch’s performance. The world is fantastic, varied, and interesting. The combat is at once complex, but also wonderfully simple — packing a little bit of that Monster Hunter flair but without letting you feel overwhelmed most of the time. But… the story itself wasn’t very good and felt a bit (I don’t know…) PS2-era-y? Jak & Daxter-y? As it got towards the end, anyway. The movement was much more clunky than I thought it would be, given it does lean on some climbing sections, and it spent way too long in boring metal bunkers. BUT STILL. There’s something about it that is really quite something, and it deserves its place.
The Dark Souls But Not Dark Souls Award
When we first saw this one we were all like “hey, this looks a lot like Dark Souls.” And, in the end, it was a lot like Dark Souls. But it also innovated a huge amount in its own way. The stances in particular were a lovely touch, having your samurai change style to use different attacks, and respond to the stances of other enemies. Yeah, this was a good one.
Game of March
Sure, it’s Switch season, but one PS4 (and PC) release stood its ground, beating off the competition — even Zelda. I feel like I’ve been spending a tonne of time talking about how great NieR Automata was lately. In fact, it won our Reader’s Choice Awards at Rice, so I had to write a lot about it there. And sure, it has its issues — some bits suck, and playing as 9S does feel a bit repetitive. But it’s a super great and smart story that touches new ground for that sort of android-human thing. And also, it sets a new bar for combining Action and JRPG, thanks to the top tier collab with the folks at Platinum. Not too JRPG-y, not too action-y — and a whole lotta fun.
Everyone is Correct, It is Very Good Award
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
I mean, it was. I reviewed it. Very good. Love that open world. The way you play around in it, explore things, find your own solutions. Yup, yup, yup. Weak dungeons, though. Feels a bit empty if you’re looking for constructed straightly designed dungeons like those, and I think the series loses out a bit by not having ’em. Could’ve made those a bit more substantial. Ayup.
Game of April
This released in September 2016 in Japan, so I literally had this in my list last year too (I played through it in Japanese originally). The English localisation isn’t perfect, but it’s still a really, really great game no matter what language you play it in — the best in the series.
I Could Probably Play This Forever Award
Puyo Puyo Tetris
If you thought you could play one puzzle game over and over forever, then try two! On top of the individual game modes, it also mixed them together in ways that actually manage to feel fresh! Find someone roughly your equal at either, and you can throw down the VS gauntlet for long periods of time indeed!
Game of May
Just like the first Injustice game, Injustice 2 once again raises the bar for a fighting game that also has a great single player story mode. As far as mechanics go it’s not my favourite system in the world, but boy is it very playable. The multiverse mode gives you persistent challenge gauntlets to playthrough online, and there’s lots to keep you coming back. It’s a very good package indeed, and one that keeps growing with DLC.
At Odds With Itself Award
I liked a lot Prey was doing. The story is great, and the mimic enemies are cool and unique enemies of the sort we’ve not seen in games before. But eventually a lot of it starts to drag. The Guts area isn’t fun; the section where you’re hunted by droids no matter where you are is annoying; and the mimics eventually become trivial distractions and the stronger enemy designs are uninspiring. It’s at its best smaller, with you exploring the lives of the people who once worked on the space station, and coming up with your own approaches to problems. When it gets too big, it doesn’t manage to stick with what I loved about the beginning.
Okay, I Did Play It For About An Hour This Year Award
And it was okay.
Game of June
I love the way Tekken 7 feels. It’s still a complex fighting game, but the basics are so much easier to understand in this one than they have been in a Tekken game before.
Necessary Localisation Award
Seiken Densetsu Collection
Even though the third Secret of Mana never came west, I’d still like to see this collection head over. In fact, that’s even more reason. We need lots of JRPGs on Switch stat, and I’d love to see old ones make up the bulk of this.
Game of July
Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Age
The best Final Fantasy just got better.
Thank God We Finally Got to Play It Award
The Silver Case
One of Suda 51’s earliest games, The Silver Case only made it to the west this year (on console anyway, I think the PC version came out the end of last year). With a couple of epilogue chapters unique to this release, it’s a great crime visual novel that’s really some of Suda’s best work.
Game of August
I don’t have to justify this. It’s the perfect follow-up to the classic Sonic series that not only replicates the joy of the originals, but builds on top of that foundation to deliver plenty that’s new too.
Masterful Fake Sequel Award
The cleverest trick Majima ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Or that he did exist. More than he did at first? Basically, even though it’s a remake of the first game, Yakuza Kiwami manages to tweak a lot of small things to make it feel like a great sequel to the series’ prequel, Yakuza 0. It’s very cleverly done.
Game of September
SteamWorld Dig 2
I loved the first SteamWorld Dig, but this one great expands on it. It’s bigger, better, and just feels much nicer to play. You’ll be mapping out your own way through various caves, digging your own tunnels, and searching for answers.
Game of October
Super Mario Odyssey
For my money it’s better than Zelda, though it has a similar design philosophy of rewarding player exploration. The thing with Mario is that it’s just much, much denser — giving you smaller levels packed with hidden power moons that rewards you for poking around. Whether it’s defeating the big boss of the level, or fiddling with a suspicious cactus, you’re getting moons.
Game of November
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp
It lacks the depth of a true Animal Crossing game, but the core loop of picking up things for animals is still great in this breezy, dreamy world that can be a great getaway throughout your day.
Should Have Played it Earlier Award
Hakuoki Kyoto Winds
The same could be said for many visual novels. It’s great that these kinds of otome games still exist among the more shallow releases that permeate mobile storefronts these days. Sure, it’s still cashing in on older unlocalised releases from Japan, but hopefully the support means more fully featured games like Hakuoki and others can still continue to be made — whether that’s for a western release, or anywhere at all.
Game of December
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
A huge JRPG experience that can fit in the palm of your huge, Switch-sized hand. It builds on top of the rest of the Xenoblade series excellently — delivering on the huge scope and exploration that is the series’ hallmark. The story has plenty of cliches, but still finds many ways to surprise. The combat too is excellent, though it takes forever to fully explain everything and unlock the full scope of the systems.
Game of the Year
Well, yep. I struggled to try to justify not picking it in the end. But I did. Sorry. It’s really good. Play it.