Now that that pesky best game design tidbits list is out of the way, let’s get right to the main reason you’re all here: to read yet another best games of the year list. I’ve played a lot of fantastic games this year, and I personally had a harder time narrowing down a list to just ten games than I have in previous years. In fact, I’m starting off with four honorable mentions before we even get to the list. For most people that keep up with the industry, you probably will not be surprised with the inclusions on this list. However, the order of them is what may shock and appall some, so be sure to let me know what you agree and disagree with. Without further ado…
Very few games strive to be hard these days. With an era focused on storytelling and gameplay, developers tend to makes games easy enough so that a large audience of people can enjoy them. However, that leaves much to be desired in the way of real challenge. Games like Dark Souls have brought back the idea of a difficult yet rewarding experience, and it seems indies have also taken heed of this idea. Titan Souls is a breath of fresh air in a sea of over-the-top action and filler content. There’s very little else to what the crux of the core gameplay has to offer, but what that presents is a truly addictive and challenging experience that is bogged down only by my plea for more.
I must admit, I originally picked up Ori and the Blind Forest solely because of its art style and soundtrack. I knew nothing about the actual gameplay of the game, but its presentation caught my eye immediately. Luckily for me, underneath the animation and charm is a fantastic Metroidvania experience that only disappointed when I had to let the credits roll.
E-sports have been hitting an all-time high in the last year or two. Whether it’s a huge fighting game tournament like EVO or just competitive Call of Duty, multiple genres are being played to their best for money and glory. However, the one that’s grown the most and may be the most important e-sports genre is one that is virtually unknown to hardcore gamers and casual players alike. MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, have absolutely exploded. Last year’s Dota 2 tournament The International 4 had the largest total prize pool ever for a gaming tournament of $10 million. Dota 2 is one of the most-played games on Steam, and League of Legends is one of the most popular video games, competitive or not right now, rarely leaving the top spot on video game streaming service Twitch.tv and boasting 27 million players per day and 67 million players per month. The MOBAs are dominating e-sports and gaming alike, but personally I never got into them. However, there is one game that has changed my perspective about this genre, and that game is the bridging concoction Hi-Rez Studios has created, called SMITE.
Experimental games can go either way, but I suppose that’s the point of it being an experiment. What it’s trying is new and could either be great or a failure. Ubisoft seems to be the company lately that’s not only willing to put out big budget sequels, but also to try new and unique experiences. Grow Home is their latest attempt and while not lasting very long, it did leave a very lasting impression on me that has kept me thinking about it days after finishing it. The game sprouts early, and ends up blooming into a memorable experience by the very end.