One of the most fascinating things about being into video games, is while anyone looking in sees the latest big game in stores and the zeitgeist on social media, plenty of people invested in the hobby can simply be catching up on releases that aren’t the big talking point within the community.
So while any other “Game of the Year” post around the internet might be focused on what games released this year captured the most attention, we wanted to just talk about the game that affected us the most when we played it this year. Some of the games listed below came out this year, some of them are remakes or remasters, and some are just games that we only got to play starting this year.
The team at Stew Review are excited to share our favourite gaming moments from this year, with a series of posts covering each major subject we cover on the site in the next couple of days. And don’t forget to leave comment with your favourite 2018 gaming experience!
Celeste really took me by surprise. Truthfully, I wasn’t going to play it when I first heard of it, as I was fatigued and weary of pixel art games. But Ollie insisted that I would love it, so I took a chance and fell in love with it. A journey of mental health and awareness that I haven’t seen tackled like this in gaming before, along with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Even the challenge of the game can be adjusted, though dying in the game is very low stakes. I can’t recommend Celeste enough, especially for anybody who struggles with anxiety or mental illness.
It won’t come as a surprise to anybody that knows me that I have a deep passion for The World Ends With You. It’s been my all-time favourite game since I first played it on release in 2008, when I was only 13 years old. It’s an eclectic experiment in game design, storytelling, and musical expression, and it’s one of the most breathtaking experiences in gaming to this very day. I had the pleasure of reviewing its Switch port, dubbed Final Remix, for Vooks earlier this year, and it brought me such pleasure that my friends were almost definitely sick of hearing me talk about it. If there were ever an example of videogames being art, TWEWY, in all its forms, would be it. Its music is unique and a joy to listen to, its visuals are vibrant and full of life, and its gameplay, while a little complex, is one of the most compelling arguments for building a game around the platform for which it’s released. If you’re an artist, a musician, or a game designer, you owe it to yourself to play TWEWY — be it on Switch, DS, or mobile — if only to experience the raw emotion that went into crafting such a unique experiment.
While I’m still playing through this one, I can definitely say it’s my favourite game this year. For me, the bite-sized (at least for an RPG) chapters for each character feel a lot less overwhelming to me than a lot of other games, so it’s been fun to switch between characters and go on their journeys with them; journeys that feel more personal than the common ‘save the world’ narratives. I started with H’aanit, the huntress, but I’ve come to care about all the other characters just as much as my own. The combat and leveling system is done in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a chore, and I especially love the music and beautiful ‘HD-2D’ graphics.
My most played games, and in a way favourite games, of the year would probably have to be Fire Emblem Heroes and Pokemon GO. Nintendo Mobile games are quick and easy to get into, and in the case of FEH is a bit like a “lite” version of their console counterparts. I’m a big fan of the Fire Emblem series but due to the rising costs of older consoles and games, as well as the fact that more than half of the Fire Emblem series never saw an official western release, FEH gives the much deserved love and attention to older games of the series. FEH also provides a quick “pick-me-up” sort of gameplay when you just want to play FE in short bursts during your day without having to get too involved into more “heavy” elements such as plot, reclassing, grinding, and so on that the console FE games provide.
Pokemon GO on the other hand is a different kind of beast. PoGO’s gameplay is easy to get into and pick up for short bursts which has lead to a boon of new Pokemon fans both young and old. I recently got back into PoGO during the middle of this year as I made new friends who were happy to give me gifts (and later trading regional Pokemon at PAXAUS) and motivation to play again after originally dropping the game a bit after the 2016 release. I started small by just visiting Pokestops, and catching Pokemon to fill my Pokedex but this quickly turned into visiting the city every week to join local raid groups. I also managed to drag my family into playing and it has become a regular family time activity. My first ever visit to PAXAUS also lead me to check out the “I Choose You! The Community & Health Benefits of Pokemon Go” panel which I found to be a refreshing insight into how video games can transform people’s lives for the better – I know I’ve found PoGO to be very beneficial for my mental and physical health, and has provided my family a fun activity to get together for.
Side note: You can catch the PAXAUS panel on YouTube here from ZoëTwoDots’ channel (one of the panelists)
I think my favourite game is probably WonderBoy III: The Dragon’s Trap. Or maybe the relatively recent HD remake, The Dragon’s Trap. Considering the games available to me at the time I was first introduced to the hobby, there was so much that this experience had to offer: a fully realised story; a vibrant, expansive world that felt alive and inhabited; a groovy soundtrack; and some of the best thought out enemy design I think I may have ever come across. Its no wonder why, of all the games I played during my formative years, this is the one that has stuck with me.
I’m also bringing Pokemon Go to the table! I got into Pokemon Go when the craze first hit back in 2016 – and while I’d love to brag about never dropping the game since, that unfortunately isn’t true. Pokemon Go had a myriad of problems over the course of its run. Specifically, an abundance of technical issues that rendered the game unenjoyable, or flat out unplayable on more than a few occasions. I did eventually come back around on the game though, and I’m so, so glad I did.
Prior to Pokemon Go, I really wanted to get more active and exercise more on a regular basis, but nothing ever really clicked. I would get tired of jogging and sit ups and even just regular strolls pretty easily, and even though any kind of exercise was always good and effective, my motivation to keep at it would never last. I decided to try Pokemon Go as a platform for exercising, and it’s been the most effective thing in my life.
For the most part, because of Pokemon Go, I’ve been managing to take walks on a regular basis – which is something I’m so incredibly thankful for. My body is the healthiest it’s been in my life, and I think a big part of that is because of this silly little mobile game about catching digital creatures.
On top of that, Pokemon Go has really helped me get closer to my friends. I managed to convince a few of my pals to redownload the game, and the days we’ve spent playing the game together are ones I’ll remember for the rest of my life. The addition of Community Days and the in game Friend system are godsends, and I’m so grateful that this whole, wonderful package something I’ve been able to experience with so many others.