Instead of creating a giant list of the best games of the year, resulting in fighting and tears, SideQuesting opts instead to let our esteemed Editors share their favorite 5 or so of the year. These are generally new games, but remakes (and heck, even old games if they get updates) are viable to be included.
Dali rounds out the group and drops in his favorites of the year. Read on below!
Super Mario Odyssey
Joy. Pure joy. That’s what the latest Mario game brings for me. A lot of smiling, glassy eyes and gleeful giggles are a regular occurrence every time we play a session. The Kingdoms are fun and lively, colorful (even when not) and full of variety. Throwing Cappy around feels great and natural (it’s the best innovation in the series in a long, long time). The replayability is endless, as not only do we have the challenge of collecting all those hundreds of Power Moons, but there are plenty of secrets and nostalgic hat tips (ha! pun!) to classic Mario gaming. The photo “Snapshot” mode has filled up my microSD with vacation shots that I plan on showing my family one day.
And that end sequence? Holy moly! HEART EMOJI FOREVVVVERRRRR!
SteamWorld Dig 2
Speaking of nostalgia… While the SteamWorld series isn’t actually all that old (it started on the DSi with a tower defense game), the iterations have become better and better. Any alternate history where robots and steampunk take over the Earth is a-okay with me. SD2 is the first real “sequel” in the series, taking the first game and adding in tons of ideas that had to be initially cut, like tools, better weapons, characters and augments. Even with all that stuff (and giant levels!) it’s the game’s simplicity that scratches the itch best, with familiar controls and a surprisingly adept physics engine for a 2D platformer.
SteamWorld Dig 2 lets me get zoned out, lost in the labyrinths as I hunt for any tiny speck of ore I can find.
Resident Evil VII Biohazard
I play this game almost exclusively in VR. It’s the first time any virtual reality experience felt worth sinking prolonged time into at once, even up to a couple of hours; that obviously meant that my eyes and head were tired, but it was worth it. The fear that the game presents — more than just jump scares — requires being consistently involved, and the fast pace that the story unfolds in keeps us digging for clues and solutions. It’s enough of a departure from the action track that previous RE games took that it feels like a wholly new franchise, more of a psychological thriller than a zombie one. It may have a few instances of VR-induced motion sickness, but it’s single-handedly justified the PSVR purchase for me. Here’s hoping that it inspires sequels that send us to more terrifying places.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Though it’s not the first Mario game on my list, Kingdom Battle was perhaps the one that flipped the proverbial table. A turn-based game set in the Mushroom Kingdom wasn’t something I was expecting, and definitely wasn’t expecting it to be good, but here we are. Not only is it a competent treatment of the Nintendo IP, but it’s an equally capable tactical game that often provided a great challenge. And hey, it’s fun! A game with Rabbids is really, really fun! Kudos to the Ubisoft team behind its development, because it shows just how well-crafted a mixture of some quite different ideas can be when a strong vision is behind it.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Nintendo Switch had a stellar year. It was the device that I found myself playing the most, surpassing the previous console in my life, the PS4, as my go-to for gaming. It kicked off its existence with Breath of the Wild, a game that forces me to constantly put aside my pre-programmed ideas of how to solve Zelda puzzles by reverting my mindset back to that original NES game: try everything, because more than one thing could work. And, it just might work on accident.
That’s the core of the game that affects me most. Yes, there’s a suitably legendary plot and equally wonderful characters, but the world is built on physics — actual goddamned physics that let me do everything and anything, to experiment with what I have and what I find, to mold the experience in my own vision. It’s the in-game moments when we solve puzzles not by what we’re narratively angled towards but by dumb luck or trial and error that we feel like we accomplish something unique. To this day, I’m convinced that no one else was able to make it across the first ice field like I did, or to capture horses like I did, or to even lead a horde or Bokoblins into a ravine (and their death) like I did.
The legend this time isn’t the story woven for us, but the one we weave ourselves.