That was really going slowly wasn’t it? Something something kill your darlings. I really like doing the individual posts, but sometimes real life impedes the progress, and I’m really just ready to start writing about things from this year now. So…let’s speed this up a bit.
Game of the Year 2016 – #07: Sonic Dreams Collection
Sonic Dreams Collection is a weird thing, and I can never tell if people believe me or not when I tell them about it. It’s a surreal nightmare about what happens when modern, awful internet humor takes an actual form. The Light side of this is Undertale. The Dark side is Sonic Dreams Collection.
You’ll run around and see what jank Sonic and his friends can get up to. A little snuff, a little torture porn. You know, usual Sonic stuff. If you’re into super duper weird weird weird things, Sonic Dreams is like a dopamine drip for the half-dozen or so hours you’ll spend consuming everything it has to offer, be it through actual gameplay or YouTube videos or whatever. It’s fascinating, but not too surprising it’s as good as it is due to the pedigree of its creator. Never stop Arcane Kids, never stop. You make the world better (worse) every year.
Game of the Year 2016 – #06: Bloodborne
Who would have thought a Souls-like would be this far down, huh? From delivered on making a new Soulsy thing for the most part, but fell short in a lot of ways I never thought they’d be able to. Samey environments, not much character customization…some poor boss fights. But still, the highs of Bloodborne outpace almost anything else this year. Where were you when you realized that there were aliens in this game? I remember, boy do I remember.
This isn’t even close to a bad FromSoft game, it’s just a weird one, and one that stretches itself a little to thin. My response in going back to this one is a lot different from the others in the series. Usually I’m like “I can’t wait to try new stuff, and man oh man I can’t wait to get to (cool area).” But that stuff just doesn’t really exist here. And it sucks. The core of Bloodborne is so, so damn good, I wish it was as expansive as the other Souls games. As it stands, this is my least favorite of the modern From series, but still one of my favorite games of the year. Still have my hopes up for Dark Souls 3, though. Geez that thing looks cool.
Game of the Year 2016 – #05: Until Dawn
This is the horror game we deserve. I can’t believe we got it.
Imagine all of the horror tropes you’ve seen in a movie. Done? Okay all of those are in here.
Until Dawn successfully and cheesily navigates through every single horror idea in surprising fashion. Some “teens” go up to a house on a mountain, bad juju, everyone dies. But they way it happens…you should really see for yourself. If there was a moment I wasn’t wide-eyed and grinning in Until Dawn, it’s either because I was laughing so hard or screaming at a spooky thing jumping at me.
It’s like if Heavy Rain knew it was pretty dumb, and just fucking ran with it. If that isn’t enough to sell you, well, I’m not sure what more sugar I can talk. “Godspeed pilgrim.”
Game of the Year 2016 – #04: Castle in the Darkness
This is a very me pick. You don’t have to tell me.
Okay, so you’ve played Metroid and Castlevania games, right?
Cool, then you pretty much know what this is. Except it’s like…a really, really good one of those.
Tons of secrets, hidden areas, fun bosses, weapons and abilities. I spent hours pouring over every…single…thing in this game trying to wring it dry. And I still could easily play through the whole thing again right now, if I weren’t so dead-set on finishing Game of the Year stuff. So, yeah. You probably haven’t heard of this. You probably played Ori and the Blind Forest or Axiom Verge instead. Those are both awesome games. This one’s way better.
Game of the Year 2016 – #03: Rocket League
It’s been months and I still can’t stop wanting to play more Rocket League.
Is there a better feeling in gaming this year than scoring a goal in Rocket League?
Maybe scoring an aerial goal in Rocket League.
Other than Jackbox and that pictionary thing on Game & Wario, anytime anyone’s wanted to play a multiplayer game this year, it’s been this. The driving feels perfect. The jumps feel amazing (when I can nail them which is .0001% of the time, but still). Everything about Rocket League is just…right. And it made me care about a pseudo-sports game, which I have rarely ever done. Can you all believe this thing was free when it launched? I still haven’t paid a dime directly to the developer for it…I should probably get on that. But the maps are free, new car parts keep coming at no charge, and new game modes are starting to pop up now, too. Rocket League is a hell of a thing, and I guarantee you it’ll be one of a handful of things I’ll still be playing, way into 2016 and beyond. In a year when a lot of games felt like iterations, Rocket League was a much needed novelty that became so much more.
Game of the Year 2016 – #02: Super Mario Maker
I keep thinking about Super Mario Maker. Almost as much as I keep playing it.
Mario Maker is one of those things that I can’t believe exists. I keep remembering a tweet I saw when the game first came out “Can you believe we get to do this?!?” and I still can’t believe we get to. Nintendo has made the best level creation tool of all time, and somehow made the best educational game of all time in the process. And somehow it’s still an awesome game to boot. Making levels is fun, playing levels is fun, forcing your friends to play your levels is fun. Watching people make levels is fun. Skipping through awful levels is fun. Experimenting with trying to break the game is fun. Being at work and searching for new levels to bookmark is fun. Dreaming about what updates might come next is fun. Super Mario Maker is fun. It embodies pure joy.
I’m not sure what to say about Mario Maker that I haven’t said before. I wish we could somehow play it portably on the 3DS, but I’ve got faith that Nintendo’s upcoming system will let me do that somehow. I just want to play Mario Maker everywhere. I want to sketch out levels, and think of new things that have never been possible before. Above all else, Super Mario Maker is a near-infinite possibilities generator. It’s like, real real cool, yo.
Game of the Year 2016 – #01: Undertale
You have to give Undertale time to grow on you. Quite a bit of time. After my first playthrough of Undertale, having seen an ending, I thought “That was cute.” and put it down for a couple months. Metal Gear Solid V was calling my name, as were a number of other huge releases Undertale decided to launch in the middle of.
Yeah, I thought Undertale was great even from that first playthough. It made me laugh a lot, it had a lot of cool moments, and that “final” boss is a huge subversion of what you expect the game to be able to do. But it didn’t feel as special to me as it seemed to everybody else.
After seeing more and more about the game on tumblr, after hearing the internet blow up over the game, and having a friend convince me to give it another go, I played through the “Genocide” run. Your second playthrough of Undertale opens up the world in ways the first rarely even hints at.
The characters grow, and feel more like real parts of this world rather than silly actors making dumb jokes. And the game hides a lot of this behind its first playthrough, which I’m not sure is the best idea. If I hadn’t been pestered to see the rest, Undertale wouldn’t have even come close to my Game of the Year. But then I did the Sans fight. I murdered Undyne in cold blood. Then I went on a date with her. We accidentally burned her house down a little bit, but it was all cool. I learned more about Alphys, I found out about Gaster. I read forums for hours, watched fan animations on YouTube for weeks. Once you start unpacking what’s deeper inside Undertale and jump into how much the community fawns over it, it’s hard not to be just as sucked in as everyone else.
Every single part of the game comes together in ways you don’t expect. I’ve heard something describe Undertale as “Toby Fox thought of Everything: The Game” and that’s the best description I’ve seen. That doesn’t only mean that he crafted the best soundtrack and characters of the year, but no matter how you poke at Undertale, it always finds a way to acknowledge you as a player, and poke right back.
Undertale is one of the most creative, funny, and heart-wrenching games I’ve ever played. If you thought it was good but not great, find the time to go back and try another playthrough. Undertale’s true nature is hidden below the surface.
Thanks everyone for a great year, as always! I ended up being pretty pumped with how this year’s games turned out. Let’s hope next year (PersonaPersonaPersonaPersonaAlsoMaybeNX) is even better!
Let’s get 2016 started right.