When I finished up with 2017, I really didn’t know what to expect out of 2018. Well, that picture of a chicken is me. Stuffed from all the greatness. (It's also Bomb Chicken, one of the many, many great games I played this year). It turned out to be one of the most surprising years in gaming I’ve ever had. Some big ones I was excited for turned out to be duds. Some of the most memorable experiences I had came from places I didn’t even know existed. I even finally got a PlayStation 4. I’ve had such an incredible year with the games I’ve played it’s really hard to believe, but here we are. Just like last year, I’m going to break it down into 4 categories: Stuff I played joyously, stuff I wanted to play but didn’t get around to, stuff I was disappointed by, and stuff I’m excited to play next year. Wow, this is a lot of stuff!
Let’s start with the games I played joyously, which like last year is the biggest category. I love being able to type that sentence. Seriously, the amount of quality content that came out in 2018 is bonkers. I have to start with Celeste, because I think it was the first new game I played this year. It also is the one that stuck with me the most. I’ve talked about this game a whole lot, and with good reason. It was just unbelievably good. After that I hit up Dandara, who’s only crime was not being Celeste. It was the back to back combo of these two games that really set the stage for 2018’s indie cavalcade of greatness. I didn’t know it at the time, but this year would be a nonstop juggernaut of incredible indie content. I replayed Xeodrifter because it came out on Switch and I will always jump at the chance to play that delightful little Metroid-lite game. Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 hit the Switch and I finally spent time with them. (Bought them on Wii U, never played them). I finished the first game, which was a blast, and I started 2, which improves on the first in nearly every way. Platinum really knows how to make action games. I discovered a cute $5 game on the eShop called Kamiko, and I’m super happy I gave it a try. It’s kind of shallow, but it’s also all of $5. I spent a few days playing it and those days were very fulfilling. I was fortunate enough to jump all over The Pinball Arcade when it launched on Switch, and I managed to get almost all the tables I wanted before they were removed from the eShop. I’m so glad I did because I have spent (and continue to spend) a crazy amount of time playing this thing. It isn’t perfect, but it’s close, and having my two favorite tables, Taxi and Twilight Zone, available for me to play anywhere at any time has been like a dream come true. It’s a real shame the rights went the way they did because more Switch owners should have the opportunity to play these great tables, but from a personal perspective, I couldn’t be happier.
Both Mega Man Legacy Collection and Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 landed on Switch earlier this year, and I giddily ate them both up. I trounced all 10 mainline Mega Man games on the collections in a matter of days, and I still like to boot them up from time to time and attack some of the cool challenges. And speaking of the Blue Bomber, Mega Man 11 happened! I know a lot of folks were a little underwhelmed by this game, but the stuff it did right it really did right. I was constantly pleasantly surprised by it, and it’s one of my fondest memories of the year, even if the game did finish a little on the weak side. I’ll tell you what didn’t finish off weak, Runner 3. In fact, they released a free update a few months ago that addressed all the problems people had with the game when it launched. Some of the most fun I’ve had this year came from unlocking everything Runner 3 had to offer, and it’s a game my wife enjoys too, so bonus! I was also introduced to the developer Nitrome via a brilliant game called Bomb Chicken. I absolutely obsessed over this one, and I put it into the hands of as many people as I could around its release. Such a blast, pun very much intended. West of Loathing made me laugh harder than any other thing this year. The first spittoon I encountered quite literally had me in tears. Someday I will go back and replay this game, and I have no doubt I will love it just as much as I did the first time.
Through a couple acts of almost unfathomable kindness, I found myself the owner of a Playstation 4 and a copy of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Horizon was everybody else’s game of the year on SAG last year, so it had been pretty built up in my mind. I’ve been impressed with it so far, albeit not nearly as much as most other people were. But more than anything, it’s been incredibly memorable. Not just because the game is really well made, but because the only reason I’m able to play it is via some very kind and generous people. I also finally got to play the first PS4 game I ever bought, which I just so happened to buy before the concept of me ever actually owning a PS4 was even a remote reality, but I’ll get to that in a different category. Switching back to the Switch, I finished off Blossom Tales and it impressed the pants right off of me. I hope there’s more on the way from these guys because that game was a gem. And speaking of gems, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was a really pleasant surprise. I completely forgot this was part of the whole Bloodstained Kickstarter, and they knocked this out of the park. It’s like Castlevania 3 had a kid, and I am here for it. And while we’re on the topic of paying homage to NES games, The Messenger. Oh, The Messenger. Second funniest game of the year after West of Loathing, and the most wonderful tribute to Ninja Gaiden, Metroid, and I guess the late 80s/early 90s I could have asked for.
An unexpected bonus for me this year was finally beating Snake Pass. My kids formed a random obsession with it after seeing it on my Switch menu screen and I just wound up having to put the time into finishing it. The last few levels were ridiculously hard, but I’m glad I did it. I’d love to see what a “sssssequel” would look like. (HA! Snake humor!) While we’re on the topic of my kids’ obsessions, I wound up playing a ton of the brilliant Bridge Constructor: Portal. I haven’t tackled the last few levels because wow this game gets complicated, but it’s so, so good! Thanks to a demo, I bought and was subsequently thoroughly impressed by Just Shapes & Beats. I expected to enjoy it, but I didn’t expect to be so affected by it. I also picked up Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle on sale. I haven’t played a ton of it, but I was pretty impressed by what I did. It’s weird seeing Mario through the lens of a AAA 3rd party publisher’s eyes, but it works shockingly well.
Splatoon 2 has been in near constant rotation since its release, and the Octo Expansion’s crapload of extra levels has proven to be well worth the money. That’s going to last me a very, very long time. Overcooked 2 is more Overcooked, and that isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s awesome having multiple games I can play with my wife. Dragon Ball Fighter Z, though, she wouldn’t touch with a 30 foot extended Power Pole. (A little Dragon Ball humor there for you). I loved it. I’m not great at it, and I probably won’t ever truly get my $60 worth out of it, but the time I spent with it I don’t regret in the least. The story is very stupid and fun.
Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu! is an absolute treasure in my house. It’s very fun in its own right, but of all the games my son enjoys watching me play, this one he actually engages with. He helps me choose attacks in battles, he names the Pokemon, and he’ll even pick up a Joycon from time to time to catch a wild Pokemon. To a much lesser extent, I had a similar experience with Starlink: Battle for Atlas. I picked this up on sale on Black Friday and he had so much fun rearranging the ship while I played. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with this one next year. Yoku’s Island Express is another one my son really enjoys, mostly because he loves pinball and this game is a weirdo pinball platformer. It’s also incredibly fun and beautiful. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is unsurprisingly awesome. I haven’t spent a ton of time with it because of Smash Bros. and Katamari, but it’s one of the first games I plan on beating in the new year. Oh, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out and it’s darn near everything I hoped it would be, and Katamari Damacy: REROLL came out on the same day and my wife has been playing it obsessively. You know, when I’m not playing Smash Bros. and Katamari obsessively myself. Space Dave went on sale I think for a dollar. I loved Whoa Dave, and Space Dave is a delightful cheap little follow up. There was EVEN MORE PICROSS THIS YEAR, TOO! Picross S2 is even cooler than the first one, but I made myself stop until I finished off the old one. But more Picross is always welcome. Very, very welcome. What’s also always welcome is games from Studio Pixel, and not only did I replay most of Cave Story on Switch this year, but I finally got to play Kero Blaster, which was, well, a blast.
Last but not least, we have the retro stuff. I finally got an official home version of the original arcade Punch-Out!! With Arcade Archives: Punch-Out!!. I love all the screen options. There’s some weirdness, like how fast the ref counts when someone gets knocked down, but it doesn’t really take much away from the game, even if I am pretty sure it’s not very accurate. Then we got the NES and Famicom apps that came with the Switch’s Online service. The service itself isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but I LOVE these apps. Especially the Famicom one. Getting to finally mess with the Japanese versions of Zelda and Metroid have been super cool, and the emulation is beyond spot on. It’s easily the prettiest I’ve ever seen these games look.
That was an insane list of games there. I can’t believe I played that many games that I genuinely enjoyed in one year, but there was so much more I missed. So let’s talk about the games I wanted to play but didn’t.
I actually went out and bought Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and haven’t even opened it yet. I was so impressed with DOOM I had to pick up whatever they released next. I’m sure when I do get around to it I will be happy with my purchase. Guacamelee and Guacamelee 2 both hit Switch and I bought them without a second thought. I plan on hitting these games before March. At least that’s the plan. I never finished Octodad on Wii U, and when it hit Switch I promised myself I’d buy it. I didn’t, and I want to try and fix that this year. Same thing with Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. I haven’t played any of the DLC yet, with the exception of a little bit of Plague of Shadows, and it’s super high on my list of things to do. Similarly, Super Meat Boy has been on my Xbox 360 since it came out and I never finished it. Then I bought it on Wii U and never finished it. Its Switch release is going to be the one. I’m sure of it! I really wanted to get both the Street Fighter Collection and the Capcom Beat ‘em up Bundle, but these were both sitting in this limbo of being just a little too expensive for me at those specific moments, especially considering that they’re both games better played with others, and I don’t have others to play with. Heavy Burger is insane. I will buy it and play it. A couple of my friends (including Dan) said I should play Jotun, and then I forgot all about it because 300 other games came out at the same time. I still have Ikaruga on my GameCube, but I sure would like to have it on my Switch too…
I enjoyed the Sushi Striker demo, but I didn’t think I was going to get $50 worth of fun out of the full game, so I decided to wait to see if it ever went on sale. It’s a Nintendo-published game so it won’t, but I still wish I had found a way to play it, if only for its completely insane story. Speaking of stories, here’s one you heard just recently yet again! I bought Okami on PS2 and never finished it. I bought it again on Wii and never finished it. Okami HD on Switch will be the one! I just have to buy it first. While on the topic of cult favorite games I need to play, Undertale hit the Switch this year and even after years of people telling me I just HAVE to play the thing, I didn’t pony up the cash for it. Mostly because my backlog was deep enough at the time, but I want to know what the hubbub is about, so I promise to one day get to it. Dead Cells looked amazing to me, but the $24.99 price tag sort of put me off. I’ve been paying attention to its sale prices though. I will absolutely play this game this year. Same with Hollow Knight. Exact same situation, except instead of the price being the issue, it was the game’s look. I can’t put my finger on what it is that turns me ever so slightly off, but it’s there. I’m going to ignore it though because I’ve heard so many good things about it. Miles & Kilo is another game I discovered via demo, and I really loved that demo! But I didn’t get around to buying the full game because I bought Just Shapes & Beats instead.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a game I’m sure I’d love to spend hundreds of hours playing. But I think that’s just the problem, it’s a time sink that I’m not sure I have the time to sink into it. And speaking of time, that’s why I never caved on re-buying Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Adored the game on Wii U, but I’ve already beaten it. It seems foolish to spend time playing this again instead of the mountain of new games I’ve never touched. Both South Park: The Stick of Truth and South Park: The Fractured but Whole hit Switch this year and I was very interested in trying these. I don’t get to play RPGs much anymore and these games seemed right up my alley. Plus I haven’t paid any attention to South Park in years, and I’d be curious to see if I still find it funny. Octopath Traveler landed and I never even found the time to play the demo. I’m not completely sold on me really liking this game all that much, but I really wanted to at least give it a go. Of course, there was both Mega Man X Collection and Mega Man X Collection 2, and I didn’t even sniff them. You know your backlog is way too deep if you can’t even be bothered to re-buy Mega Man X again.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker got a Switch port with some new levels. I loved the original. Just didn’t get around to this version. Owl Boy was another indie that looked right up my alley that I passed on because of price. I’m confident that wasn’t a very good choice, but I’ll just have to keep it on my list and get to it eventually. My newfound PS4 opened the doors for some games I’ve wanted to play through for years. And wouldn’t you know it, I bought Shadow of the Colossus on PS2 and never finished it. I apparently bought it again of PS3 and never even opened it. Now it’s on PS4 and I’m out of excuses. I really should have made time for this one. 99 Vidas was a game Dan told me about that I should have bought and I didn’t. And I’ve never given the Crash games a fair shake, so I wanted to give the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy on Switch a go. But the biggest ones I missed out on were Spider-Man and God of War. These have been getting a ton of accolades, all deserved I’m sure, and I haven’t gone anywhere near them. If I had infinite time and money, these would have been played when they came out. As it is, I’m just going to have to put some effort into finishing Horizon and working these two before 2020.
So what about the games I wasn’t in love with? Like last year, it’s again thankfully a short list, but it’s never fun to be disappointed. And the first one I’ll mention was a huge surprise. Kirby: Star Allies looked like such a good time, but it was just… short. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a bad game at all. I had a lot of fun with it. But it was a full $60 game and it felt really light. Like, criminally light. I’m told the free DLC has filled the game out a bit, but I don’t see myself going back. I’ve been a big fan of the obscure PC game D/Generation for years, so when D/Generation HD finally hit Switch, I was elated. But it’s awful. It’s ugly, soulless, and just plain bad. It’s still the same great game at its core, but this is just about the worst way to play it. So you can imagine that when they released D/Generation: The Original, I was thrilled. But it’s not the DOS version, it’s the Amiga version. Which is fine, I guess, but it’s not the original’s lead platform, and it doesn’t sound very good at all. This poor game’s legacy treatment needs to be corrected.
I bought and played a bunch of Yooka-Laylee and it’s… eh. I really wanted to like this game in a way I was never able to love Banjo-Kazooie, but I couldn’t. It’s got a ton of great character, but this just isn’t for me. Mario Tennis: Aces was much better, and honestly a game I had a crapload of fun with, but that single player campaign! What happened? Why is it so… nothing? Everybody wants a full, proper single player campaign like in the Mario Tennis games of old. I don’t understand how they keep dropping the ball. And speaking of dropping the ball, Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong finally brought the arcade original home and they get the walking sound effect wrong. Completely and distractingly wrong. I’m still glad I own it, but I really wish Hamster would patch it. Such a terrible oversight.
Like I said earlier, I was finally able to play the first PS4 game I bought, which was Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back. I have a soft spot for the Bubster, and with the people involved in this out-of-nowhere sequel, I had hope that it would be at least competent with a good personality. It was neither of those things. It was just so run of the mill, so bland, that it wound up worse than if the game had just been straight up bad. But the biggest disappointment of all was Save Me Mr. Tako!. This game broke my heart because I can tell the game dev poured his heart and soul into the project. But it’s not good, no matter how much I wish it was. I put way too much time into trying to find the good in this game, and it’s one of the few titles I’ve decided to just flat out quit on. I will never see the end of that game, and I’m going to have to be okay with that because it just isn’t fun to play.
This has gone on for way too long already. If you’re still reading, thanks! If not, I understand. So I’m going to just plow through the games I’m excited for next year. Here we go. Toe Jam & Earl: Back in the Groove, Super Meat Boy Forever, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Chicken Wiggle Workshop, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, Untitled Goose Game, Yoshi’s Crafted World, Animal Crossing, the new Pokemon, Bayonetta 3 (if it comes out), Metroid Prime 4 (again, if it comes out), Gunman Clive HD Collection, Resident Evil 4, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, Doom Eternal, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and that insane new Bubsy game from Choice Provisions.
And there you have it. 2018 in a very wordy nutshell. I still can’t believe these last few years. Going back and thinking of what my life in gaming was like in 2016 was so bleak by comparison. I swear, gaming is going through a real renaissance right now, and we’re in the middle of a time that will be remembered for generations. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put together a fresh spreadsheet to keep track of what I’ll be playing in 2019. What was your year in gaming like?