I have created a text file every year since 2010 that lists every game I played that year and the order in which I enjoyed them. Now that my blog is operational and I started the #GamesOfTheYear tag in 2017 I felt it was time to look back at those text files and record them here for posterity.
I am going to attempt to not write too much about each game because otherwise it will take me weeks if not months to transcribe all of these text files. My goal is to write a simple one or two line description of the game and what I think I felt about it back when it was first played.
1. Monster Hunter X
I was introduced to the Monster Hunter franchise in 2013 and became infatuated with it immediately. In 2015 that infatuation grew into a full blown addiction. Not only was there an amazing North American release (which was my second favourite game of the year) but there was another game released only in Japan that I broke down and imported. Monster Hunter X (which would eventually be released in North America as Monster Hunter Generations) is undoubtedly one of my favourite games in the franchise because it is so focused on combat.
One of the hallmarks of the Monster Hunter franchise has always been its plethora of weapons and armors skills. You could spend a hundred hours with a weapon and still never truly master it. MHX decided to dial this up to 11 by adding four unique "Hunting Styles" to every weapon to drastically change how you play. Want to focus on leaping attacks? Choose Aerial style. Want to perform insane counterattacks after you dodge? Choose Adept style. Combine this ludicrously deep combat system with four new flagships and the largest catalog of monsters to hunt in the entire franchise and you get a game that can be played forever. Even though I could barely read the Japanese text I still put hundreds of hours into this game.
2. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
In any other year Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate would be my favourite game but unfortunately it had to go up against its Japanese cousin and MHX's "Hunting Styles" are just too damn good. I still put hundreds of hours into MH4U but the second I picked up MHX it was impossible to go back. Not being able to take to the sky at any moment with Aerial style is not a world I want to live in.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This gameplay trailer was what originally got me excited for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The graphics, the world, the characters, the voice acting, the combat, the quests. Everything looked amazing and what is even more astounding is the actual game exceeded all of my expectations.
In my opinion, The Witcher 3's greatest strength is the design of its open-world. It feels like a real living, breathing world that exists outside of the player rather than revolving around them. Games like Skyrim or Final Fantasy can feel very sterile because it becomes incredibly obvious that the world has been designed around the player. In The Witcher 3 I felt as if I was just another denizen trying to survive in this fantasy world.
What really hammered this feeling home was how unique and engaging the quests were. Very rarely would you walk up to a quest giver and they would say "oh legendary champion who I've heard so much about, you are the only person who can help me!". Every character had their own motivations and you could chose to assist them but the quest would not always revolve around you. Add to this smart writing and stellar voice acting and you would routinely find side-quests that were more interesting than the main ones because of the characters you interacted with.
There were a couple of weak points. The bosses were shit like most AA games and the ending felt a bit forced. I was hoping my choices would have a bit more of an impact but it didn't feel that way.
Oh I haven't even mentioned Gwent yet! A deck-building minigame that I played more than some other games this year.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will go down as one of the greatest video games I play in my entire life and if you're interested in how it was made I highly recommend this documentary by NoClip.
4. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
It took over five years but I finally got to complete the StarCraft II trilogy with Legacy of the Void. I wrote about the second episode, Heart of the Swarm, in 2013 and basically all of the same things apply. The mission design is tight and the RPG-lite elements to customize your units are super fun.
But what I liked most about this game was the story. It was so cathartic to get to the end almost 17 years after playing the original StarCraft. It feels like a Tarantino or Guy Ritchie film where all the loose threads come together and the protagonists have their massive final confrontation with the antagonists. There is nothing I would change about this game. It was the perfect end to StarCraft.
5. Mortal Kombat X
I usually don't play fighting games because I find it almost impossible to motivate myself to learn a character's moveset. I'm not one of those people who can go into the sparring mode and play for hours on end. I had heard that NetherRealm Studios injected story into their fighting games but I was not prepared for Mortal Kombat X. I was enthralled from the very first fight and completely devoured the story mode. The kicker was that after I finished beating the story I immediately wanted to play through the challenge modes because I became attached to characters whose movesets I wanted to master.
6. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
I have no idea why Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is so high on this list. I only remember playing it for about a dozen hours before getting bored because it turned into MMO-like fetch quests and the story essentially disappeared.
7. Killing Floor 2
Do you like shooting zombies? Do you like wave shooters? Do you like playing with friends? Buy Killing Floor 2 and enjoy murdering waves of zombies with your friends. There really isn't anything else to say other than it is a ton of fun and can get super challenging.
8. Elite: Dangerous
Elite: Dangerous is a very weird game that is not going to appeal to most people. If the words "Space Trucker" tickle your fancy then you should read up on this game. But if you don't like the idea of filling up your ship with resources and trucking it 30 minutes of real time to another space station then you're probably not going to like Elite: Dangerous. It does have an extremely fun dogfighting element to it but unfortunately to participate you need a good ship which means you need money which means space trucking.
9. FIFA 16
We've been over this before. It is a FIFA game. If you want to play soccer than FIFA 16 will fill that void.
10. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege is a competent class-based, multiplayer shooter that had all sorts of problems at launch. The amount of hours I put into trying to fix a "Strict NAT" so I would stop being dropped from games was way too high. But six months after launch I was playing this game with my friends every night for multiple hours. Even now, almost three years after its launch, it has a higher player count than ever before. Based on when I made this list, Rainbow Six Siege does deserve a place this low but it has done a ton to earn back player's respect.
11. Halo 5: Guardians
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Halo 5: Guardians was an all-around poor video game. Extremely campy story (even for the Halo franchise) and an uninspired multiplayer that disregarded the unique elements of Halo to try to become more like CoD and Titanfall. I only have three memories of Halo 5: being killed in one hit by a boss, another cliffhanger ending, and not wanting to play the multiplayer because I didn't want to spend real money on cards to get a rocket launcher to destroy a tank.
Great job 343 Industries!
12. Batman: Arkham Knight
I have said this before but if I had a list of my favorite games from 2009 Batman: Arkham Asylum would be right near the top. This is why it is so painful to watch Rocksteady Studios flush the Arkham franchise down the toilet.
They just keep moving farther away from their Metroidvania roots to a generic open-world game that is not fun to traverse. Whoever greenlit the batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight should be blackballed from the video game industry. Every time I was forced to use it the game's fun just ground to a halt. Add on top of that a litany of bugs (I fell through the floor multiple times) and a story "twist" that was so choreographed I wouldn't have been surprised if they stole it from a fanfic. Maybe about 30% of the game was the fun combat and gadget-play that I liked from the previous games.
13. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
"If I could go back in time I would tell myself to not play Metal Gear Solid V. About 40% of the game is fun. The rest is tedious."
There really isn't much to add to that tweet about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It had some incredibly fun missions that were sandwiched between boringly traversing the world and watching cutscenes that are essentially the mad ravings of Hideo Kojima. I honestly don't understand why people give Kojima money. The dude is insane. If a game he wrote was released under a pseudonym it would be universally panned but because it is Hideo Kojima people lose their mind.
I was surprised to find Bloodborne at the bottom of this list because through rose-colored glasses I remembered it as a decent game. Then I did a search for "Bloodborne" on my Twitter Timeline and all of the bad memories came flooding back.
- 40 second loading screens.
- Literally making no progress for the first three hours of the game.
- Bosses that have 1-hit kill attacks.
- Grinding for blood vials because when you die you don't get any back but you can't attempt a boss again until you have them.
- Bosses are more about luck than skill. There is no consistency to their attacks so sometimes you just get lucky and they don't use their super powerful attacks.
Dark Souls 2 was one of my favourite games of 2014 and (spoiler alert) Dark Souls 3 was a great game of 2016, but Bloodborne completely missed the mark. I'd have been more productive if I just got kicked in the nuts every time I picked up the controller.#GamesOfTheYear