Best of 2018

January 9, 2019

More years, more games! Look­ing back, I can only say one thing: Geez, I played a lot of games this year!

Like last years’ lists, this just list games I played this year, not nec­es­sar­i­ly games that released this year, in no par­tic­u­lar order. Also, only itch embeds this year because I’ve played a lot more games on itch, but also because all Steam embeds from last year’s list broke and I’m too lazy to add links/embeds for every­thing this time around.

It’s long, so you can skip straight to the Hon­or­able Men­tions and Books. Also, here’s 2017’s list.

Pipe Push Paradise

My favorite puz­zle game this year. It’s real­ly clever and brings back a lot of mem­o­ries from oth­er puz­zle games. This dev also released Hid­ing Spot this year as well, which is also a real­ly good puz­zle game, which is a bit rougher around the edges but still every bit as inter­est­ing and smart.

My favorite Puz­zle­script game this year was Slid­ing Ground (from Ros­den’s amaz­ing one-puz­zle-game-a-day project). Hanano Puz­zle 2 also deserves a men­tion.

The Zium Garden

My favorite walk­ing sim this year, although The Crows Crows Crows Com­mu­ni­ty Muse­um was a close sec­ond. Basi­cal­ly what it says on the tin, it’s a vir­tu­al muse­um that you can explore and admire with­out noisy oth­er guests, and also hous­es art not pos­si­ble in phys­i­cal spaces. Check it out!

Tacoma

An excel­lent con­tin­u­a­tion on Gone Home. You’re asked to inves­ti­gate what hap­pened to the crew of a desert­ed space sta­tion by watch­ing back AR record­ings. Soon you’ll fig­ure out how the inhab­i­tants made the ster­ile envi­ron­ment of the Taco­ma feel more home­ly, and what’s real­ly been going on in there.

Runner3

I was a big fan of Runner2, and Runner3 is a real­ly inter­est­ing con­tin­u­a­tion of the series! It has a lot more weird­ness and inter­est­ing lev­el designs, and as a result there’s a bit less quan­ti­ty and a lot more qual­i­ty over­all. It received a nice update adding a lot more con­trol over the dif­fi­cul­ty set­tings, so try it!

Also, has no one been fig­ur­ing out the secret of that radio tow­er yet?

Celeste

Celeste is the best thing that hap­pened to the genre in eas­i­ly five years. It feels real­ly nice to play, lev­el design is real­ly tight, has one of the most orig­i­nal and not-gim­micky feel­ing lev­el mechan­ics, and there’s an awe­some sto­ry to serve as metaphor for all of those. And it has a nice Assist Mode that makes it real­ly acces­si­ble for new play­ers in the genre. And that sound­track.

Dr Darley and the Prisoners at Santa’s Workshop

I played the first game in the series (Dr. Dar­ley and the Case of the Deboned Chil­dren) last year and thought it was pret­ty neat. The sequel improves the nar­ra­tive in near­ly every way with an awe­some sound­track, real­ly good jokes, and fun­ny Dutch stereo­types.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Smash Bros actu­al­ly released in the year it was announced! I don’t think I have any­thing to add on what the crit­ics have already said, except that its UX is top-notch yet again (just look at that main menu). I do hope Saku­rai gets to work on some­thing new after this, though.

Lumines Remastered

I missed Lumines when it orig­i­nal­ly released due to it being PlaySta­tion only—glad I final­ly get to play this one. Basi­cal­ly it’s a Tetris-style puz­zle game that only allows you to drop 2x2 blocks that can only have two dif­fer­ent col­ors of blocks. They dis­ap­pear when you place them in 2x2 squares (or larg­er rec­tan­gles) when the beat mark­er moves over, which is synced to the music. And that music is real­ly good!

Persona 5

Per­sona 5 just oozes style. Its sto­ry is pret­ty good, and I like the per­sis­tent dun­geons much bet­ter than Per­sona 4’s gen­er­at­ed ones. This game is a mas­ter­class for UI design and nar­ra­tive as well.

Opus Magnum

This is anoth­er real­ly good puz­zle game. I was eying Zachtron­ics games for a while, and this is the first one that seemed acces­si­ble enough. It’s puz­zle dif­fi­cul­ty ramps up real­ly well, and the amount of cre­ativ­i­ty allowed in solu­tions is lib­er­at­ing when com­pared to Sokoban-likes. And it’s also an excel­lent excuse to show off my solu­tion GIFs:

Opus Mag­num — Pre­ci­sion Machine Oil (300G, 51, 20, 2018–04-04–17-42–13)
Opus Mag­num — Water­proof Sealant (2018–03-01–13-14–45)
Opus Mag­num — Face Pow­der (2018–02-09–00-21–13)
Opus Mag­num — Refined Gold (2018–03-01–12-45–22)

Furi

A shoot-em-up with only boss bat­tles! Does that sound awe­some to you? Then you’ll prob­a­bly like this.

The Legend Of Zelda

The orig­i­nal NES one! I did obtain a orig­i­nal NES this year, but since I still only have one game on loan for it, I start­ed play­ing Zel­da with the Switch NES app. I think the Zel­da games on the Game­Boy are still my favorites, but see­ing the true clas­sic Zel­da for the first time allowed me to tru­ly under­stand the core of the series. And save states make the gam­bling minigame real­ly easy!

Honorable Mentions

Oka­mi HD: I decid­ed to replay it this year, and am pret­ty amazed how time­less it is. There were some good parts in there that I’d for­got­ten in the years since I first played it.

N++: Basi­cal­ly on the oth­er side of the pre­ci­sion plat­former spec­trum from Celeste, N++ focus­es high­ly on quan­ti­ty over qual­i­ty. And it’s pret­ty good at that, although it’s game feel and lev­el design can feel much more frus­trat­ing.

Jack­box Par­ty Pack 5: Jack­box keeps re-invent­ing what par­ty games should be and they’re doing a real­ly good job at that. Jack­box con­tin­ues to be a pop­u­lar game of choice on my LAN par­ties.

Fe: The atmos­phere in this game is real­ly nice. I real­ly wish it focused more on walk­ing around look­ing at pret­ty envi­ron­ments than stealth game­play. Climb­ing trees and then fly­ing away feels real­ly nice and makes explor­ing the world (espe­cial­ly the more ver­ti­cal areas) real­ly fun.

RiME: Anoth­er explo­ration-heavy game which was also real­ly relax­ing and mys­te­ri­ous. I did­n’t real­ly like the puz­zles, though.

Taiko no Tat­su­jin: The Switch is get­ting some real­ly good rhythm games, and this was the most promi­nent one to release this year. I have a cou­ple of friends who love osu!‘s Taiko mode, so invit­ing those over to play it on launch day was a no-brain­er.

Pin­ball FX3: I think I got around ten tables this year, most­ly because they final­ly start­ed get­ting dis­count­ed. The design of most cab­i­nets is real­ly good, although it varies from table to table how easy it is to learn the rules and get stuff done. Which makes the RPG-inspired table my favorite, prob­a­bly.

Hol­low Knight: It’s a good metroid­va­nia. It’s hard in all the right ways.

Dan­dara: Also a metroid­va­nia, but you’ll be jump­ing through spaces with­out grav­i­ty, jump­ing from wall to wall. The game is inspired by Brazil­ian folk­lore and that real­ly feeds every­thing in the game. Some of the stuff in this game is annoy­ing, but most of it is awe­some.

West of Loathing: Good jokes. Seri­ous­ly, just about every­thing in this game is one big joke. If you’re into that, this comes high­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Goro­goa: This was a real­ly good vaca­tion game. (Where oth­er peo­ple bring books on vaca­tions, I bring both books and games!) The game does a real­ly good job at mak­ing every­thing mys­te­ri­ous, includ­ing the puz­zles. Nor­mal­ly I hate point-and-click style puz­zles in favor of more log­i­cal­ly based puz­zles (like Sokoban), but this game strikes a very good bal­ance between the two. It’s pret­ty simil­lar to Framed (1 and 2), which I also played and feels very sim­i­lar but with more con­sis­tent rules.

Child of Light: Start­ed replay­ing this on Hard mode, which is actu­al­ly pret­ty hard when you don’t play it in New Game+. Still pret­ty sur­prised by how well it hold up over the past years.

Night in the Woods: There are some real­ly good skits in this, and while explor­ing the town can become a rou­tine after a while, it’s real­ly nice to get into the flow of meet­ing every­one every day. Get it on itch.

Just Shapes & Beats: The sto­ry mode in this is amaz­ing, and the online mode can be fun to play in bursts. It’s also still receiv­ing updates, so there’s some­thing to look for­ward to every now and then.

Shan­tae: Half Genie Hero: It’s a decent game where the art and music is very good and the rest is just so-so. It does have a huge deal of expan­sions (I got the boxed Switch ver­sion with all of them includ­ed), and while there’s so much con­tent recy­cled between the expan­sions, some­times in inter­est­ing ways, but often it can feel like a chore with lots of back­track­ing.

Type­shift: This has become my go-to mobile game, replac­ing Nitrome’s Leap Day as my first pick. The dai­ly puz­zles can be real­ly fun to fig­ure out togeth­er with some­one else.

Alto’s Odyssey: Zen mode can be super relax­ing to play on the train after a busy week. I don’t real­ly care about the oth­er modes, since you can crash so quick­ly! I usu­al­ly play until the (amaz­ing) music has looped around two to three times.

Books!

I real­ly like Nicky Case’s year­ly book lists (here’s 2018’s), so let me add the three books I liked the most this year:

The Happy Brain (Dean Burnett)

I real­ly liked The Idiot Brain (the pre­de­ces­sor for this book, which I read two years ago), so my brain instant­ly rec­og­nized the sequel in the store and moti­vat­ed my body to part with some mon­e­tary gain in exchange for some facts about our gray mass. This time, it’s less about weird & ran­dom facts about the brain, and more about coher­ent info about how your brain works to keep you hap­py, and which things it needs to keep you moti­vat­ed.

You might be able to take some life lessons out of this, but most­ly, it’s fas­ci­nat­ing, fun­ny, and real­ly relat­able. My favorite part of these books are absolute­ly the fun­ny metaphors, and how well they can get the point across. Both books are a good rec­om­men­da­tion if you want to fig­ure out how you work, and also how oth­ers work, why you think you’re dumb while you can actu­al­ly be quite smart (as well as the oth­er way around), and more!

Over straatnamen met name (René Dings)

This is a Dutch book about the design of street names! (I’d trans­late the title as “Name­ly about street names”.) Street names sound real­ly bor­ing (espe­cial­ly if you live in the US, where appar­ent­ly Sec­ond Street is the most com­mon street name), but it’s actu­al­ly a real­ly well thought out area of design.

From this book, I learned that streets can only be named after per­sons if that per­son has been dead for at least five years (to pre­vent that per­son from becom­ing evil and ruin­ing the street the name belongs to), dis­tricts have a spe­cial coun­cil for street names that meet a cou­ple of times a year (that you can sub­mit sug­ges­tions to), and there’s even a neigh­bor­hood in the Nether­lands with streets named after Tolkien char­ac­ters! After this, I was even able to find a list with street names for my own home vil­lage, and they reflect the his­to­ry of the town like a mir­ror.

How Emotions Are Made (Lisa Feldman Barrett)

What if every­thing sci­ence thought about emo­tions was wrong? This books goes into huge lengths to describe why our cur­rent under­stand­ing of emo­tions severe­ly lim­its our abil­i­ty to cor­rect­ly judge emo­tions from facial expres­sions and body lan­guage alone, how lawyers give out larg­er sen­tences just before lunch because their hunger is cloud­ing their judg­ment, and how basi­cal­ly every­one is mis­in­ter­pret­ing their own emo­tions (like the author her­self get­ting fever­ish dur­ing a date, only to find out the next day she actu­al­ly had a fever).

Basi­cal­ly, the book argues that a new frame­work for emo­tions is need­ed, where emo­tion con­cepts in dif­fer­ent cul­tures are respect­ed and peo­ple can make their own emo­tions by assign­ing words for a feel­ing. For exam­ple, I have an emo­tion con­cept for the feel­ing I have when my train departs from the sta­tion, since it feels real­ly calm but also con­clu­sive, and the actu­al motion of the train also makes me feel a bit fun­ny. I don’t feel like I agree with every­thing in this book, but it put my mind to work good enough to deserve a place on this list.

Next year

I am not real­ly look­ing for­ward to any games next year (maybe Baba is You?), although now I have a NES I’ll prob­a­bly start dab­bling with retro games more. I expect my usage of itch to con­tin­ue, and my usage of Steam to decline, just like last year. I got a load of games for my Switch this year, and that will prob­a­bly be a con­stant next year! (Also, I still wan­na play Gris!)

Also, I hope to final­ly be able to release new side projects to fol­low up Mobil­i­ty. Stay tuned!


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