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.
Up next is JJ, who’s favorites have an aura of nostalgia in 2018
My favorite games any given year tend to fall into a category of nostalgia at their very core. Spider-Man and the X-Men are the earliest comic book memories I have. There is a lot to love about Peter Parker when you’re a young nerdy kid trying to just get your stuff done. Spider-Man 2 is honestly not a very good GAME. It’s a wonderful toy and a great virtual action figure if you just judge it on the merit of the swinging mechanic everybody loves. Comic games for the most part are just simple efforts that are dioramas designed for you to showcase the powers of whatever hero they have plopped down in the world the designers have created. Not every game is that way. I genuinely love the X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. That Wolverine Origins game on the 360 and PS3 was PRETTY dope even though it does basically fall into that category of “you’re just a Wolverine action figure.”
And then you have the Rocksteady Batman Arkham games. A franchise that went above and beyond in not only giving you the best virtual Batman action figure you could ever want with all kinds of bells and whistles, they also do everything they can to make it feel like you’re Batman. Not that you’re guiding Batman through hallway after hallway of Joker goons. You’re actually Batman, being a detective and being really really good at whatever martial arts BS he is trained in that lets him know when a dude is about to hurl a fire extinguisher at his head. Now take all of that and just make it Spider-Man. That sounds demeaning in a way. I’m sorry. It’s not though.
It’s like Insomniac learned every lesson from Rocksteady and made it work better for Peter Parker. The combat is vaguely the same, a little faster as it should since you aren’t a tank man but a young adult in spandex. The sixth sense that Batman has for reversals fits much better for Webhead and the story, while not trying to create their own completely unique mythos, strays further enough from the source that it feels fresh and treats the history of the character with respect while also not feeling like it has to be tied down to the convoluted history of the cast. You feel GOOD playing it. Everything is smooth and the mechanics are all fun to play with. Once you are fully powered up, the rhythm of the combat is virtually unparalleled and the locomotion of getting around the city is some of the most fun I’ve had in a game in several years.
Forza Horizon 4
The first Gran Turismo came out two days before my birthday in 1998 and my parents took me to Toys ‘R Us to pick up something and I bought it completely on a whim. I can honestly tell you I have no idea why I bought it. I have no memory of it before buying it and don’t even remember reading about it in EGM or whatever I was reading then (To be fair it was probably Nintendo Power I was reading so that would explain a lot) and I loved it. I’m talking about Gran Turismo because before that I wasn’t really into racing games. Arcade stuff was basically it. But it was a game my dad and I would play because he was a car person. He understood what the things meant and what they did and playing that with him is a great memory. I love tinkering with every minor component to try and make my car as unruly as possible.
This is a long and meandering story to tell you that sim racing has become my most cherished genre of game and I wasn’t sold on Forza Motorsport right away, but over the last few years, I’ve been swayed. Just like how Playground Games has turned me around completely from not really caring about open world racing games to anxiously looking forward to what they have planned next and this year they have outdone themselves with a phenomenal looking game with a rad setting and still some of the tightest racing that you can find anywhere that walks a very thin line between simulation and arcade. The Forza franchise is why I bought an Xbox One and the developers of both Motorsport and Horizon make sure that I never feel like that purchase was a waste.
I’ve been playing Tetris for close to 30 years. I couldn’t even wager a guess at how many hours. I very much remember getting a Game Boy with Tetris bundle for Christmas and I still have that copy of the game. Tetris is my most played game ever. On a plane? Tetris. In the back seat going to the restaurant? Tetris. Actually in the restaurant being a pain in the ass? Tetris. I went to PAX West this year and my number one stop this year that I just had to see before leaving was Tetris Effect in VR. I think about Tetris A LOT. I have a photo of me with Alexy Pajitnov because he was at PAX West one year and OF COURSE I’m going to meet this man.
So in walks Tetris Effect. A flashy, hypnotic entry into the franchises wild history. Mizuguchi made sure you can tell he was involved in this game from the second you start playing and I love it. All of your trademark Tetris stuff is here. You have fast drop, holding, T-Spin, all of it. But this time around it’s a game married to sound design. Every board gives you a new style. The blocks are different designs (No new shapes. If you try and create a new shape, your Tetris is 100% a failure), the sound effects are different, your actions within field of play are manipulating the soundtrack and this is all fantastic in its regular non-VR presentation but it REALLY shines in VR and with headphones. You feel yourself playing to the rhythm which feels foreign at first considering you’re mostly just used to playing Tetris with Type A. You feel yourself getting caught up in it and desperately wanting to see the next board. I found myself getting emotional once. I don’t know what the hell that was about but I think that alone makes it worth mentioning.
I hate Hitman. Well, hated. I tried to get into the franchise a couple times but it never clicked with me. I never felt like I was being the character the game wanted me to be and I just wasn’t having any fun. I think the smartest thing the Hitman reboot from 2 years ago did was launch episodic. There is probably a less than zero chance I was going to grab it at 60 dollars from a retail store. Ten bucks or whatever it was to grab the tutorial and the first mission was an easy sell for me to see what people were talking about. I loved it. The second episode came out and with the scope of that map, everything clicked. I was onboard. I rarely feel like I’ve ever ruined my chance. I am very patient in this game. I waited on a rooftop for about 20 minutes in Hitman 2 because I knew I had a two second window to snipe a target and not get caught so long as I just waited for his path to double back around.
Hitman 2 is an absurd package. Did you buy the first game? Well, then it’s all in there. Even if you didn’t, the price to just add all that in there is nominal. And they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s not episodic this time, which is fine. But I also do miss just playing through the same map over and over again waiting on the new content, but that’s on me. Not the game. I could still do that. But I just wanted to get to the next map and see what crazy Rube Goldberg Murder Machine I can whip up in this suburban neighborhood. You aren’t too punished for absolutely blowing it either. The game basks in its absurdity. You can completely fail at what you were trying to do, run away like a complete idiot, knock out a man with a fish and steal his clothes and everything is fine. You can just march right back in there and try again. Virtually all of the changes they’ve made in this game since the last one have mostly been quality of life and it’s absolutely just a complete blast to play and will keep playing it well into 2019.
I bought this game the day before I was set to get on an airplane to go to Florida from Washington state. Easily the longest flight I’ve ever taken. Typically my travels are occupied with the aforementioned Tetris and a Mystery Science Theater episode or two. But both the flight there and the flight back I was absolutely preoccupied with Dead Cells. I don’t know what it is. Sometimes these kinds of games that aren’t usually in my wheelhouse just grab me and this is one of them. Like Binding of Isaac. I have put an unreasonable amount of time into that game. A 16 bit-ish rogue-like Castlevania? I guess that’s what it is? With just a hint of Dark Souls? I love playing it regardless of the fact that I am just the absolute worst at it which I think is probably the most glowing review you can give something. You’re just a mass of cells trying to get other cells and those cells are currency to buy upgrades but if you die, you lose all of it. I’m all in. I’ve been all in. The game is currently paused on my Switch right now waiting for me to come back. It’s fine. I’ll get further this time.
Look here, pal. I don’t care that this is an arcade game from 1994 or that the PS4 remaster came out last year and I bought it then. A Switch version came out this year and I bought that too so it counts and Windjammers will be my Number 1 game of the year anytime it comes out. If it comes out next year on iOS, guess what? Game of the Year 2019. It’s a cut and dry situation.