I hate endings. They’re mostly never good. So, you know, forget about that. Instead of doing a list of games to signal the end of this pretty awful year, I’m going to take those same games and say, hey, if you haven’t gotten around to playing these, maybe you should try ’em out in the new year. They’re kinda neat.
1. Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein kind of came out of nowhere and impressed with its self-confidence and clearly set sights towards its goal. It knows what it is and what it wants to be. It’s a ridiculous game about shooting nazis (sometimes, in space!) and robot-nazi-dogs and it owns that and thus it’s able to, with surprising skill, craft a story that, while obviously not groundbreaking, makes room for women and the disabled and people of color to be treated with some basic humanity while also being a solid FPS. Wolfenstein does the least it could do, and, being what it is, thus puts everyone else in the AAA space to shame.
Fitting, I think, to put this after Wolfenstein. It’s an FPS in the classical sense, with a fast-paced trawl through a dungeon-esque arena teeming with demonic and otherworldly entities. It’s but a small slice of hopefully something more to come, but it’s wonderfully creepy and melancholy.
Look, it’s got it right in the name: Joy. And that’s what this coming year should be about, y’know? Anyway I can’t really describe Joylancer as anything other than fucking awesome. Lulu Blue’s review of it says it all really. It’s an artistic accomplishment, thrill, adrenaline, finesse, vibrancy, life. It doesn’t simply draw on retro aesthetics, it learns from and expands on them. It’s!!! REALLY GOOD!!!
4. Pix The Cat
If you have a PS4 and haven’t played Pix The Cat, stop reading this list and go buy it. Pix is basically Snake, but Pasta Games has taken that old formula and distilled it into pure joy and thrill. It’s happiness condensed into one weird little cat-creature and hundreds of baby ducklings, bursting with color that brings you right back into the arcade.
Dynetzzle is this really unique puzzle game that I haven’t seen before; but maybe it’s just me, because I have a hard time going around and digging things out. It’s this really cerebral experience and tests your ability to conceptualize 3d objects. It’s also way less complex than it looks. It’s hard to put down not because of cynical addictiveness, but because the sense of accomplishment is tangible.
6. GUN GODZ
Another classical-style FPS, GUN GODZ takes an entirely different approach from In The Kingdom. It’s the pop rendition of the alien dungeon and is just damn fun. It screams out the rhythmic action at the heart of these kinds of shooters, the soundtrack the star of a show plenty respectable all its own.
It’s you, a ball, a hole, and a desert. It’s humble and unassuming; it’s cruel and indifferent. You can’t start over, you can’t reload or take back your mistakes. You get that ball into that hole whatever way you can and you live with it. I have never gotten this pumped up and devastated by golfing before.
8. The Last of Us: Left Behind
Left Behind is the best part of TLOU because it’s about two teenage girls going to the mall and having fun. It’s sweet, it’s tender, I can’t imagine playing TLOU and not playing Left Behind. If this is the closest AAA gaming will get to reimagining violence into innocent play and discovery, you know, I’ll take it.
9. Mario Kart 8
MK8 isn’t by any means a significant departure from the rest of the series: you’re a Nintendo character and you race karts. While ol’ Ninty might fall back on nostalgia to line its pockets, it does it well, with finesse and care. Behind Double Dash, MK8 is the best in the series, with excellent tracks and joyful and bombastic music. The online racing can’t be missed. Also, Link’s face.
Honorable Mentions (as in, I haven’t gotten around to playing these yet and by god I will make sure I do because I feel terrible about it hahaha…ha..haha..)