My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2022

The ten games I’m most excited about in 2022.

Last year we saw the effects of a multi-year pandemic delay many games into 2022, and create horrible shortages on new platforms and video cards.

Hopefully things improve this year. And the best way to stay optimistic is thinking of all the awesome video games soon to come!

Here are the top ten games I’m most excited about as of January 2022.

Continue reading “My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2022”

My Top Ten Games of 2021

My top ten video games of the year.

Sometimes I play video games. Sometimes. My delicate balancing act between freelance writing, running a Patreon-funded YouTube channel, and being a stay at home dad with the youngest entering the terrible toddler years has given me less and less time to devote to gaming.

We also got new puppies this past year, which I definitely don’t recommend alongside a new baby.

Lots of cute, and lots of poop.

So much poop.

doggies

And there’s the whole ongoing COVID pandemic, which is gradually receding into the background radiation of our lives as we collectively (and worryingly) become numb to the news and the death toll.

But I still managed to play a few games this past year. At least ten of them!

Before we begin my Game of the Year countdown, let’s take a look at my Most Anticipated Games list from January 2021. Here’s a reminder:

  1. Baldur’s Gate 3
  2. Monster Hunter Rise
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Back 4 Blood
  5. State of Decay 3
  6. Endless Dungeon
  7. Griftlands
  8. Bravely Default 2
  9. Humankind
  10. Songs of Conquest

Five of those games didn’t release this year. I did play the other five, though only the trial/demo for Back 4 Blood. That’s a better rate than last year!

Did any of my Most Anticipated Games make my final top ten? Let’s find out!

My Top Ten Games of 2021

10) Slipways

Played on: Steam

Slipways is a brilliant little indie puzzle game about creating trade routes between planets. The controls couldn’t be simpler: hold down the mouse to reveal new planets or asteroids, click on planets and choose their supply and demands, and drag routes between them.

The simply strategy is instantly compelling thanks to the complex supply chain between planets. Almost no two planets can supply each other; often I’ll need to create complex, interweaving chains of four or more planets. Add in faction side quests, space stations, and limited time, and you have one of my favorite indie games of the year.

9) Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

Played on: Switch

The first Monster Hunter Stories on 3DS was a fun spin-off that combined the monster-battling genre dominated by Pokémon, with the hugely cool monsters of the MH series.

The Switch sequel expands the story and graphics, while only slightly refining the solid tactical combat and monster-fusing gameplay. Its hampered by awful pacing in the early game, however, taking forever to unlock the more interesting elements of the gameplay. Still, the series maintains a much-needed halfway point between the light simplicity of Pokémon and the hardcore complexity of the SMT/Persona series.

8) Solasta: Crown of the Magister

Played on: Steam

D&D has never been more popular than right now, yet officially licensed video games remain rare and mostly underwhelming in recent years.

Though it does some neat stuff with bringing custom player characters to life, I wish Solasta: Crown of the Magister had better production, voice acting, and writing. Despite its flaws, it’s easily the best D&D 5e game we’ve had yet, expertly replicating 5e turn-based combat far more accurately than upcoming D&D game, Baldur’s Gate 3 (which I’m still very much looking forward to when it finally hits 1.0).

7) Bravely Default 2

Played on: Switch

I have a mixed relationship with the Bravely Default series. On the one hand, I love how they feel like old-school, 90s era JRPGs with modern conveniences, such as speeding up combat animations and seeing enemies directly on the map. The job system of combining and synergizing all the classes is rewarding and enjoyable, and I really dig the simple, Chibi-like art style.

But on the other hand Bravely Default 2 is absolutely a gigantic grind to unlock all the cool jobs and abilities, and like most JRPGs, my patience begins wearing out around hour 50. Not my favorite RPG series, but the sequel still deserves a spot on the top ten list.

6) Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Played on: Steam

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous more than scratched my itch for an epic, party-based tactical RPG. In fact, it’s way too much for me, as I may very well retire after 50 hours of live streamed gameplay, only having finished the second act of five!

This stand-alone sequel is way better than the first game (Kingmaker), and features excellent writing and story-telling, memorable characters, and the amazing ability to seamlessly swap between real-time and turn-based tactical combat, giving me the best of both worlds.

5) Gloomhaven

Played on: Steam

Would you believe the official digital adaptation of one of the best board game RPGs ever made had been in Steam Early Access for two years? Gloomhaven finally hit 1.0 in 2021, and holy crap am I impressed.

Between my completed physical copy and our run on Tabletop Simulator, I have played hundreds of hours of Gloomhaven, and this version is still absolutely worth the time. The monster AI and the 3D graphics and animation are a huge plus, not to mention including the entire 90+ scenario campaign, as well as an additional 100+ scenario Guildmaster mode, with its own interesting system of unlocks and progression. And all of it features online four player co-op.

This is a game I’ll be playing a lot more of in the months to come — check out our new run through!

4) It Takes Two

Played on: PlayStation 5

I was late to the party with this co-op 3D platformer that recently won Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2021. This is not a genre I usually enjoy, but It Takes Two is perfectly designed from the ground up for two players working in tandem through a variety of clever puzzles and interesting locations, whether we’re operating magnets underwater, racing down ski slopes, or battling through a toy castle.

It’s a bit like Honey I Shrunk the Kids meets Portal, wrapped up in a satisfyingly heart-warming story. If you have a gaming partner, you have to play It Takes Two.

3) Monster Hunter Rise

Played on: Switch

I’m prepared to admit I’ll never love a Monster Hunter game as much as my first, 2018’s Monster Hunter World (and my #1 game that year).

But the Switch follow-up is a worthy successor. What it lacks in graphics Monster Hunter Rise makes up for with fun new additions: the Palamute (a cute doggie mount!) and the wirebug (new attacks + mounting monsters!). The gameplay loop of attacking big boss monsters with impressive AI to get more powerful gear is just as fun in World, and I still dumped over 70 hours into Rise. I’m looking forward to the big expansion coming in 2022!

2) Pokémon Unite

Played on: Switch

Pokémon + MOBA is a winning formula, yet I never thought I’d be seduced by a free-to-play Pokémon game. I’m glad to be wrong.

Pokémon Unite is a refreshing, fast-paced MOBA of 10-minute matches, simple controls, and a sports-like scoring system. New Pokémon have been added at an impressive pace, and though Aeos Coins come slowly, I haven’t quite felt the need to drop any hard cash. Yet.

But the real treat is being able to play a competitive multiplayer game with my wife and oldest child together — in fact we literally got my wife her own Switch mainly to play Unite with us!

1) Humankind

Played on: Steam

Despite my love of strategy games, an actual 4X strategy game rarely dominates my end of year top ten list. But 2021 was a strange, stressful year, and Humankind provided a refreshing refuge.

Humankind changes just enough from the Civ formula to make it fresh and exciting, starting with changing cultures upon entering each new era, as well as satisfying tactical combat and intriguing district management. It’s not without some flaws, mostly when it comes to balance, but of all the games on this list, this is the one I’m most likely to return to and play for just one more turn.

End of Year Awards

Most Played: Monster Hunter Rise (70+ hours)

Best Multiplayer: Pokémon Unite

Best Cooperative Game: It Takes Two

Biggest Surprise: Humankind

Most Disappointing: Back 4 Blood

Best Early Access/Beta Game: N/A

Best Original Music: Humankind

Best Art Design: Spiritfarer

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Best Writing: Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Slipways

Most Improved Sequel: Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Favorite New Game Mechanic: Seamlessly swapping between real-time and turn-based combat (Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous).

Most Innovative: It Takes Two

Best New Character: Ember (Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous)

Favorite Moment: Playing Pokémon Unite with my wife and daughter.

Best Industry Trend: D&D (or D&D-adjacent) RPGs!

Worst Industry Trend: COVID delaying many games into next year

Didn’t Have Time to Play: Jurassic World Evolution 2

Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Bravely Default 2, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Favorite 2020 Game of 2021: Marvel’s Miles Morales

Total Games Finished in 2021

  1. Immortals Fenyx Rising
  2. Children of Morta
  3. Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
  4. Smelter
  5. Monster Hunter Rise
  6. Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition
  7. New Pokémon Snap
  8. Legend of Keepers
  9. Cyberpunk 2077
  10. Persona 5
  11. Heroes Chronicles: Conquest of the Underworld
  12. Solasta: Crown of the Magister
  13. Roguebook
  14. For the King (first scenario)
  15. Marvel’s Avengers (+1st Hawkeye DLC)
  16. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
  17. Marvel’s Spider-Man (+City that Never Sleeps DLC)
  18. Marvel’s Miles Morales

Thanks for reading, and let’s all have a good, or at least a better, 2022!

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2021

The ten games I’m most excited about in 2021.

We’re all hoping for a better year in 2021. This will be our first full year with the next generation of consoles courtesy of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, with confirmed sequels like Horizon Forbidden West and Halo Infinite, and not-so-confirmed sequels like the next God of War, and the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Here are the top ten games I’m most excited about as of January 2021, including a few delayed games you may recognize from last year’s list.

And if you missed it, my Top Ten Games of 2020.

Continue reading “My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2021”

My Top Ten Games of 2020

My ultimate year-end top ten gaming list for 2020.

What can I say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? It’s been a shit year, shadowed by a still-ongoing global pandemic that affects everything in our lives.

With social distancing, video games became more important than ever. This year saw the release of new consoles from Sony and Microsoft, a monumental occasion that only happens once every five or six years. The Nintendo Switch continues to dominate, though you’ll find far fewer Switch games on this year’s list compared to last year.

Indie gaming remained my bread and butter – especially a stellar run in the middle of the year when I live streamed new releases like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Desperados 3, and XCOM: Chimera Squad.

Before we begin my Game of the Year countdown, let’s take a look at my Most Anticipated Games list from January. Here’s a reminder:

  1. Baldur’s Gate 3
  2. Cyberpunk 2077
  3. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  4. Desperados 3
  5. The Last of Us Part 2
  6. Empire of Sin
  7. Final Fantasy 7 Remake
  8. Songs of Conquest
  9. Humankind
  10. Warcraft 3 Reforged

Three of those games wouldn’t launch in 2020 (BG3, Songs of Conquest, and Humankind), though I did live stream the Early Access version of Baldur’s Gate 3, and enjoyed it quite a bit – bugs and all.

Four of them I wouldn’t play this year. With everything going on, I wasn’t ever in the mood for the bleak violence of The Last of Us Part 2. Empire of Sin and Warcraft 3 Reforged both received poor reviews to keep me at bay. Only FF7R did I just not have time to pick up. Oops!

That leaves only three other games on this list that I did play – and all three made my list!

Without further delay, here are my top ten games of 2020.

My Top Ten Games of 2020

10) Streets of Rage 4

Side-scrolling Beat ‘Em Ups were all the rage in the early 90s, and the Streets of Rage series was always the best – I still own my copy of Streets of Rage 3 on the Sega Genesis.

Streets of Rage 4 is the beautiful marriage of classic game design with modern sensibilities, like retrying a level at the cost of a lower score, rather than a Game Over screen. Fun story, attractive art, unlockable skins, and a killer soundtrack makes this everything I wanted from a sequel, in a series I didn’t know I wanted more of.

9) Monster Train

Monster Train is this year’s Slay the Spire, a roguelike deckbuilder that sucks hours of my life as I unlock new cards and try new strategies. Unlike Slay the Spire, Monster Train focuses on fewer but more meaningful battles, with three different lanes to play monsters and spells, and defend against those awful angelic armies.

Multiple factions focus on different strategies, like the tanky, defensive Awakened or the spell-focused Stygians, and each run includes choices on upgrades, artifacts, and random events. The one thing holding it back – it’s currently only on PC, and would make an awesome Switch game.

8) Journey to the Savage Planet

I’ll forgive if you missed this first-person sci-fi adventure back in January, but know this, Journey to the Savage Planet is one of the best games of the year. It’s basically Metroid Prime with a much cheerier disposition, and focuses on exploration over combat.

It’s a metroidvania where you gradually acquire upgrades and new tools to explore new regions and alien landscapes filled with secrets. It’s also legitimately funny and features two player co-op. One of the most underrated games of the year.

7) XCOM: Chimera Squad

Chimera Squad was the biggest surprise for me this year. An XCOM spin-off that was only $10 on release? Chimera Squad replaces the custom, killable soldiers of the main series with integral party members, each with their own set of skills, not unlike an RPG.

The story is set in an interesting post-war time period that sees aliens and humans trying to work together amidst domestic terrorism. The scaled-down combat still leaves me wanting a proper XCOM 3, but Chimera Squad remains a successful and enjoyable spin-off.

6) Desperados 3

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was on my Top Ten list back in 2016. Developer Mimimi returned with Desperados 3, which is basically the same real-time stealth-tactics game in a Western setting.

The story and characters continue to impress and keep me engaged, and each of the large, lengthy missions are intricately designed for multiple viable strategies. With lighting-fast reloads, it’s a stealth game that rewards experimentation and puzzle-solving.

5) Cyberpunk 2077

A lot has been said about Cyberpunk 2077. The oft-delayed, open-world, sci-fi RPG-shooter launched with a bevy of bugs that sets a new low standard for preorders, rendering the last-gen console experience nigh unplayable. Thankfully I’m playing on a mid-range PC and, despite some glaring flaws and limitations, am enjoying the hell out of this game.

Night City features a ridiculous amount of content on every city block, the perk system makes leveling fun, and I’m really enjoying the main campaign and all the quirky characters I get to work with. This is not cyberpunk via Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto, and the hype was grossly misplaced, but it’s well-deserving of a spot on my Top Ten list.

4) Ori and the Will of the Wisps

It’s been five long years since I fell in love with Ori and the Blind Forest. Ori and the Will of the Wisps meets and exceeds all my expectations for a sequel, with the same lovely art style and emotional storytelling of a forest spirit on a grand adventure.

The sequel maintains the fluid platforming that defines the metroidvania series while providing a ton of new abilities and weapons, and the welcome feature of quickly swapping loadouts. We’re also provided with a much richer world, with actual NPCs to interact with and complete quests for, along with a hub area to build up to earn rewards. Giving me exactly what I want, along with welcome new features, is the definition of an excellent sequel.

3) Immortals Fenyx Rising

Yes, Immortals Fenyx Rising is Ubisoft’s unapologetic clone of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It says something about my gaming tastes when Immortals ranks #3 on my game of the year list (Breath of the Wild was my #1 in 2017).

It checks all the right boxes for a Zelda-like open-world adventure: dozens of mini-challenge dungeons, nearly endless collectables that increase health and stamina, and a colorful world with the perfect amount of distracting content at every distance. The writing is also delightfully funny and cute thanks to our omniscient narrators, Zeus and Prometheus, and Greek Mythology is always a fun theme to explore in a game.

2) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

Xenoblade Chronicles technically released back in 2010, but this HD remaster released in 2020, and I played it for the first time, and it’s making my top ten list, damn it. While I loved JRPGs back in the 90s, I’ve fallen off since then, with very few exceptions. I adored Xenoblade Chronicles X back in 2015, and with the Definitive Edition, finally had a great excuse to experience the original game.

I was not disappointed. I love the MMO-style zones and real-time, cool-down based combat. I missed the bigger open-world, giant mechs, and plethora of exchangeable party members of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but the original features a much, much better story with more memorable characters. I recently picked up Xenoblade Chronicles 2 as it’s looking like I finally found a modern JRPG series that I enjoy.

1) Hades

I’ve been a fan of Supergiant Games since Bastion, and both it and Transistor made my game of the year lists in their respective years. Pyre fell short for me, but Hades has to be my new favorite game from one of the best indie developers around.

Hades is a roguelike arena brawler. As the angsty son of Hades, Zagreus is trying to escape the underworld. On each run he can choose from one of six weapons, acquiring many different abilities, buffs, and bonuses from Greek gods and other infamous characters. In a smart evolution of the roguelike genre, death is common, but the story marches forward as you learn more about Zagreus’ plight and the tales of those around him.

Supergiant’s exemplary art, music, and character design has never been better – who would have thought an indie roguelike would feature one of the more gripping stories of the year? Even successfully completing a run doesn’t end the story, motivating me to continue to talk to my compatriots, unlock more abilities, and experiment with an endless combinations of weapon attacks and bonuses.

Honorable Mentions: Fae Tactics, Iratus: Lord of the Dead, Genshin Impact

End of Year Awards

Most Played: Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (overall it was my 3rd most played this year, behind older games Pillars of Eternity 2 and Persona 5)

Best Multiplayer: Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Best Cooperative Game: Animal Crossing: New Horizon

Biggest Surprise: XCOM: Chimera Squad

Most Disappointing: Dungeon Defenders Awakened

Best Early Access/Beta Game: Baldur’s Gate 3

Best Original Music: Streets of Rage 4

Best Art Design: Hades

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Cyberpunk 2077

Best Writing: Hades

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Fae Tactics

Most Improved Sequel: Wasteland 3

Favorite New Game Mechanic: Talking to the denizens of the House of Hades between runs.

Most Innovative: Hades

Best New Character: Megara, Achilles, Nyx, Theseus…basically everyone from Hades.

Favorite Moment: Beating Hades the first time

Best Industry Trend: Greek Mythology

Worst Industry Trend: Unavailable new consoles!

Didn’t Have Time to Play: Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Cyberpunk 2077

Favorite 2019 Game of 2020: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Total Games Finished in 2020

  1. Bloodstained Ritual of the Night
  2. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon
  3. Remnant From the Ashes
  4. Guild of Dungeoneering (Let’s Play live stream series)
  5. Borderlands 3
  6. Titanfall 2
  7. Kunai
  8. Invisible, Inc (Let’s Play live stream series)
  9. Pokémon Sword
  10. Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Let’s Play live stream series)
  11. State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition (Let’s Play live stream series)
  12. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
  13. Biped
  14. Assassin’s Creed Origins
  15. XCOM: Chimera Squad (Let’s Play live stream series)
  16. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
  17. Streets of Rage 4
  18. Steamworld Dig 2
  19. Heroes Chronicles Chapter 1: Warlords of the Wasteland
  20. Desperados 3 (Let’s Play live stream series)
  21. Will Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town
  22. Borderlands 3: Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot
  23. Hades
  24. Journey to the Savage Planet
  25. Monster Train
  26. War for the Overworld (Let’s Play live stream series)

Thanks for reading, and have a happy New Year!

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2020

There are video games releasing in 2020, and I know at least ten of them.

There’s still so much we don’t know about 2020 in the gaming world, but we do know it’s going to be huge, with both Sony and Microsoft launching new consoles this holiday. So many launch games have yet to be formerly announced, while big games releasing in the first half of the year have been in development for a very long time, including Cyberpunk 2077, The Last of Us Part 2, and the Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

As of mid-January 2020, here are my top ten most anticipated games of the year.

Continue reading “My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2020”

My Top Ten Games of 2019

My ultimate year-end gaming post of lists and accolades.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when game journalists come together to provide their hot takes on Game of the Year! I’ve been doing a personal top ten list for years, and enjoy comparing them to my Most Anticipated lists (from January) and Mid-Year lists (from June). I like lists.

Before we kick things off, let’s review my Most Anticipated Games of 2019 list, published January 2019. Keep in mind many games that released in 2019 weren’t even announced yet, while others were delayed into 2020.

  1. Pokémon Sword and Shield
  2. Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  3. Desperado 3
  4. The Outer Worlds
  5. Warcraft 3: Reforged
  6. Anthem
  7. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  8. Wargroove
  9. Kingdom Hearts 3
  10. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

I also published a Top Five Games of Mid-2019 list in June, which is usually a pretty strong indicator for my final top ten list:

  1. Wargroove
  2. Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  3. Slay the Spire
  4. Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest
  5. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

Finally, here were my top five most anticipated games for the second half of 2019 (alphabetical) as of June 2019:

  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  • Borderlands 3
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
  • Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield

Now it’s time for my final end of year ranking. It was a heated battle for my favorite game of the year in 2019. For the first time ever I made it through the year without a clear #1, but in the end came away with a satisfying answer.

My Top Ten Games of 2019

10) Remnant: From the Ashes

Remnant: From the Ashes squeaked onto my top ten list at the last second, when my friends and I realized we hadn’t been playing any co-op games in awhile, and picked it up during the Steam Autumn Sale. Remnant is a game I have a yet to play single-player, and have no real desire to try, but I’ve had an excellent time playing cooperatively. It’s best described as Left 4 Dead meets Dark Souls; challenging, intricate third-person combat, with an important focus on watching your teammates’ backs. Some boss battles alone have taken us entire evenings to conquer, but we always have a good time doing it.

9) Planet Zoo

Even an impressive, well-polished zoo theme park game can’t quite compete to my love of dinosaurs with Frontier’s Jurassic Park Evolution (My #6 Game of 2018), but Planet Zoo is certainly good enough to warrant a spot on my Top Ten list. Planet Zoo combines the advanced animal AI from JPE with the advanced park management and customization from Planet Coaster, making it Frontier’s most impressive park sim to date. Planet Zoo‘s animal AI is as impressive as it is maddening, turning a theme park sim into part-time babysitting, but I can’t help but love the attention to detail, the emphasis on conservation and education, the gorgeous graphics, and multiple gameplay modes. 

8) SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

I’ve enjoyed Image & Form’s previous SteamWorld games, and respected the hell out of the fact that they’re all different genres, from Metroidvania to 2D XCOM. SteamWorld Quest is yet another genre, combining satisfying deckbuilding and card battling within a brightly colored side-scrolling RPG. It’s well-balanced and perfectly paced at around 20 hours, leading to one of the rare card games that actually has a legit story and characters.

7) Slay the Spire

Of all the games on my Top Five Mid-Year list, Slay the Spire is the only one I’ve gone back to play since, and I a big reason is because it’s the perfect game to play on the Switch. The rogue-like deckbuilder is incredibly addicting and balanced to a razor’s edge for each of the three classes. I love playing through a run while cooking dinner and watching TV, testing out new strategies and card synergies, and seeing how far I get. I may not end up dumping dozens of hours into it, but I do plan on playing this one off and on throughout the next year. 

6) Pokémon Sword and Shield

It’s no secret that the first main-line Pokémon game on a home console has been divisive for fans. Hell I wrote up a list of all the things I love – and hate, about Pokémon Sword and Shield. But there’s no denying that I’ve enjoyed the hell out of my time with the game. The Wild Area alone is amazing, a tantalizing tease of a truly open-world Pokémon game that I’ve been dreaming about for years, spending hours just wandering around catching pokémon, and the new Gen 8 pokémon are some of the best we’ve had in several generations. If Sword and Shield are the start of a new era of Pokemon games, we have a lot to be excited about.

5) Wargroove

My favorite game of the mid-year fell a few places to the more flashier AAA games of the latter half, but Wargroove is still a phenomenal strategy game. It completely rips off Advance Wars in all the right ways, from its pixelated art style to its hard counter units, but with an original story and fantasy world filled with fun characters and factions. The campaign is astonishingly huge, and that’s on top of skirmish modes, puzzle modes, and a level editor, for all the pixelated warfare you could ask for.

4) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

I didn’t know what to expect from the Switch-exclusive third game in a series that hadn’t seen a release in ten years. I loved the co-op beat ’em up Marvel Ultimate Alliance games and X-Men Legends games from the GameCube and PS2 era. I’m more than pleased to reveal my undying love for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.

MUA 3 captures exactly what I loved about the older games – a customizable team of dozens of Marvel superheroes battling waves of bad guys, with just enough RPG elements, powers, and challenges to keep me locked in. MUA 3 dropped the ball a bit with its horrendous camera when playing couch co-op, otherwise this could have easily been my #1 game of the year.

3) Age of Wonders: Planetfall

As soon as Triumph Studios announced their next Age of Wonders game, it rocketed near the top of my Most Anticipated list. Age of Wonders 3 (2014) was a fantastic turn-based strategy game that revitalized the series, and Age of Wonders: Planetfall did not disappoint. The sci-fi strategy game keeps the solid 4x strategy while streamlining colonization with sectors and expanding the tactical depth of combat, along with a meaty campaign mode. Also, the factions include undead cyborgs and amazons riding laser-mounted alien dinosaurs – hell yes.

2) The Outer Worlds

When Fallout: New Vegas released in 2010, we knew Obsidian Entertainment was capable of crafting an excellent Fallout RPG off of Bethesda’s first-person open-world style. The Outer Worlds is proof that they can make their own first-person RPG, and it’s a damn good one.

The Outer Worlds brilliantly combines the best parts of Mass Effect (memorable party members; zipping around to different planets) and Fallout (snarky world poking fun at capitalism; rewarding exploration and slow-mo combat) to create a game that’s the opposite of innovative, but a very enjoyable AAA experience.  All of this works because it has legitimately great writing, with party members I actually cared about, and a shockingly down to earth story that doesn’t rely on big bad killer robots or genocidal aliens. Best of all, it distills all the good parts of those big RPGs down to a very well-paced 20-30 hour game.

1) Borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 is an amazing game and a worthy sequel to one of the best games of the previous generation. The writing isn’t quite up to the high standards set by Borderlands 2 (and its equally excellent DLC), but the new characters are solid, and the gameplay offers tons of welcome improvements, such as multiple (and customizable) abilities per character, separate loot tables for parties, and alt firing modes on top of the ridiculous amount of guns. The threequel smartly doesn’t try to fix what sure as hell wasn’t broken: fantastic co-op looter-shooter gameplay.

The Borderlands series means a lot to my wife and me, and we actually played through all of Borderlands 2 again before Borderlands 3 came out. I’ve played BL3 for 50 hours so far, and 40 of those hours have been with split-screen co-op, and have enjoyed every minute of it. Borderlands 3 is my #1 game of the year.

2019 End of Year Awards

Most Played: Fire Emblem: Three Houses (68 hours)

Best Multiplayer: Apex Legends

Best Cooperative Game: Remnant: From the Ashes

Biggest Surprise: Remnant: From the Ashes

Most Disappointing: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Best Early Access/Beta Game: Gloomhaven

Best Original Music: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Best Art Design: SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Borderlands 3

Best Writing: The Outer Worlds

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Most Improved Sequel: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Favorite New Game Mechanic: The Wild Area (Pokémon Sword and Shield)

Most Innovative: Slay the Spire

Best New Character: Parvati (The Outer Worlds)

Favorite Moment: Helping Parvati with the perfect date (The Outer Worlds)

Best Industry Trend: Multiple Big Nintendo Switch game releases in the Summer!

Worst Industry Trend: BioWare, are you okay?

Didn’t Have Time to Play: Phoenix Point

Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Favorite 2018 Game of 2019: The Bard’s Tale 4: Director’s Cut

Backlogged Games and Let’s Plays Finished in 2019

  1. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
  2. The Bard’s Tale IV: Director’s Cut
  3. The Stanley Parable
  4. Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
  5. Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements
  6. The Banner Saga 3
  7. The Banner Saga 2
  8. Rise of the Tomb Raider
  9. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you next year with my most anticipated games list of 2019!

My Top Ten Games of 2018: Full List and Awards

My ultimate year-end gaming post of lists and accolades.

Every year is a great year for gaming, but 2018 in particular was full of big payoffs for blockbuster games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Red Dead Redemption II.

Despite working as a freelance writer who covers games, I definitely didn’t play all the games I wanted to this year. But I still came away with a list of 10 fantastic games that I absolutely loved.

This was the year I finally acquired a Switch, though not until November. As everyone already knows it’s a great system and the gaming world feels better with Nintendo succeeding. You definitely saw some Switch games on my Top Ten list!

On the flip side, the Nintendo 3DS has been all but retired, and this is the first time in years at least one 3DS game isn’t on my game of the year list.

This year I hit 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel and started a Patreon to help expand my video content. It’s been a blast and I want to personally thank all my Patreons for allowing me to spend more time doing DMs Guild Reviews, Let’s Play live streams, and of course our star attraction: the weekly live play D&D campaign.

As of December 2018 my channel has now grown to 1,300 subscribers, and for the first time this year, I did my Top Ten Games of 2018 countdown list via videos.

To recap, I’ve compiled my complete list of top ten games of 2018 below.

My Top Ten Games of 2018

10) Dead Cells

Metroidvanias and roguelikes are two of the most overused genres, and buzzwords, in indie gaming, but it’s still a genre I tend to love. Dead Cells is anything but a tiresome retread, pulling the best elements of both genres into an instantly likable neon art style of colorful death.

9) Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

I’m an easy target for any game that features tactical, XCOM-like turn-based combat. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden had the dubious potential to become a budget XCOM – which I probably still would have enjoyed. But by combining solid tactical gameplay with rewarding stealth mechanics and shockingly good voice acting Road to Eden carves its own space in the genre.

8) Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!

Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are charming and delightful recreations of the original Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow games. Adventuring through a fully 3D Kanto is a delicious nostalgia fest but it’s the little improvements that really kept me hooked, like being able to swap your party out on field, drop-in co-op, and not having to teach the critical Hidden Machine skills just to get around.

7) Frostpunk

frostpunk

Thanks to its incredibly immersive atmosphere, haunting string soundtrack and compelling writing. Frostpunk is more than just a thematic city builder. It’s one of the best games of the year.

6) Jurassic World Evolution

I admit that 2016’s Planet Coaster is ostensibly a better, and more robust theme park game, but I’m a huge sucker for dinosaurs and Jurassic World Evolution is the closest thing to a Jurassic Park dream game I’ve been waiting over a decade for.

5) Into the Breach

Out of all the games on this list Into the Breach is the one I plan on returning to the most.  Its delicate tactical balance splashed with just the right amount of RPG elements make it more than a worthy follow-up to Subset Games’ previous hit, FTL.

4) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

smash bros.

It may be too early to tell if Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best of the series, but it’s certainly one of the best games of the year. With over 70 fighters, 100 stages and hundreds and hundreds of music tracks it’s well-deserving of its ‘Ultimate’ designation.

3) Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

If you’ve ever sighed wistfully and declared that they don’t make them like they used to in regards to traditional RPGs, Dragon Quest 11 is here to grab you by the arm and usher you into a gloriously sincere world of monsters and charm.

2) Red Dead Redemption II

If I had to choose one single game from the last console generation as my absolute favorite, there’s an excellent chance I would settle on Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar Game’s sequel is bigger and deeper than anyone could have imagined.

1) Monster Hunter: World

I never expected to like this game, let alone fall in love with it. After my first week of playing I feverishly told my friends they had to pick it up, and what followed was dozens of hours of both solo and cooperative greatness as we mastered our favorite weapons, familiarized ourselves with the colorful hunting grounds, and studied the deadly dance of each monster so we could craft better gear and do it all again.

 

Every year in January I publish my top ten most anticipated games of the year. Now it’s payoff time as we get to remark on how close – or embarrassingly far off, my predictions were!

Here’s a quick rundown of Most Anticipated Games of 2018, published last January.

  1. Red Dead Redemption II
  2. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
  3. State of Decay 2
  4. Jurassic Wold Evolution
  5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  6. Spelunky 2
  7. Into the Breach
  8. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
  9. The Bard’s Tale IV
  10. Griftlands

Four out of ten made my Game of the Year list – same as last year! Three of these games didn’t come out this year: Bloodstained, Spelunky, and Griftlands.

That leaves us with three games: Pillars of Eternity 2, State of Decay 2, and The Bard’s Tale 4.

Out of those three I only played one of them. Despite the first Pillars of Eternity being my #1 Game of the Year in 2015, the sequel shockingly failed to grab me in a meaningful way. I actually replayed part of Pillars 1, along with The White March DLC (part 1 anyway) to prep for the sequel.

But when I finally got around to playing Pillars 2, I just didn’t get sucked in like I was expecting, and the whole pirate/ship theme is a bit jarring. Thus, Pillars 2 wins the rather dubious honor of being my most disappointing game of the year. It’s not a bad game, but I was expecting it to be one my favorites of the year.

As for the other two, I didn’t play them. I read mixed things about State of Decay 2, a game that has been on my most anticipated lists for years (I LOVED the first one). But I also don’t have a modern Xbox console and I’m not super keen to use the Windows 10 store.

As for Bard’s Tale 4, I just didn’t have time for you (winning another dubious award). So many games, so little time! I’m still very interested in how this one plays and really want to try it next year.

I also publish a Mid-Year list in June, celebrating my top five games, as well as my five most anticipated games for the latter half.

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year:

  1. Monster Hunter: World
  2. Into the Breach
  3. Jurassic World Evolution
  4. Frostpunk
  5. Jurassic World Alive

The mobile game Jurassic World Alive fell off for me as I actually got back into Pokémon GO thanks to Pokémon: Let’s Go. The rest remained strong going into the finals, with no game able to dethrone the greatness of Monster Hunter: World.

Here were my top five most anticipated games for the second half of 2018 (alphabetical):

  • The Bard’s Tale IV
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  • Fallout 76
  • Red Dead Redemption II
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Red Dead and Smash are obvious inclusions. Bard’s Tale and Bloodstained  were Kickstarter games I’d been looking forward to, and both I already mentioned above.

As for Fallout, well, I’m a big Fallout fan but Fallout 76 appears to have some major issues as Bethesda stumbles a bit with its first multiplayer game. Given all the very excellent multiplayer games and modes that released this year, I’m okay with skipping it.

2018 End of Year Awards

Most Played: Monster Hunter: World (102 hrs)

Best Multiplayer: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Best Cooperative Game: Monster Hunter: World

Biggest Surprise: Monster Hunter: World

Most Disappointing: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Best Early Access/Beta Game: N/A this year!

Best Original Music: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Best Soundtrack: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Best Art Design: Dead Cells

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Red Dead Redemption II

Best Writing: Red Dead Redemption II

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Most Improved Sequel: Monster Hunter: World

Favorite New Game Mechanic: Swapping out Pokémon on the fly in Pokémon: Let’s Go

Most Innovative: Into the Breach

Best New Character: Sylvando (Dragon Quest 11)

Favorite Moment: Drinking with Lenny in Valentine (Red Dead Redemption 2)

Best Industry Trend: Fantastic AAA single player games

Worst Industry Trend: Nintendo’s disappointing online functionality

Didn’t Have Time to Play: The Bard’s Tale IV

Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Red Dead Redemption II

Favorite 2017 Game of 2018: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Backlogged Games Finished in 2018

A new section I’m adding to my already lengthy year end post – the backlogged games I played (and hopefully finished) this year. I never have enough time to play through my backlog, but this year I made a better effort than the last few years.

My biggest accomplishment was playing through every single Uncharted game, having never before played a single game in the series. Hit the link for my Final Thoughts on each game.

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you next year with my most anticipated games list of 2019!