Video games, I still love them… I think. No wait, I absolutely still love them! It’s just modern games that are getting on my nerves. In 2018 I played fewer total games than any year in the past and fewer “new releases” than ever before. Instead, I spent most of my time playing older titles, timeless favorites, retro games, and some grindy stuff with friends online.
It’d be impossible to rank them in typical categories like Graphics, Story, or Game-as-a-Service so in lieu of all that I’m just going to recap everything I played in 2018 (just like I did in 2012). These are just some quick thoughts on the games I spent a reasonable amount of time with, or ones that stuck with me over the months. Let’s take this one fiscal quarter at a time, closing out the year with Q4: October through December or The Fallening.
P.S. The 📅 emoji denotes a 2018 new release.
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
After spending all that time with Breath of the Wild I decided I should at least attempt Everyone’s Favorite Zelda™, A Link to the Past. The grandeur of the experience may be lost on me at this age because it didn’t stick for long. It also had some pretty steep competition in October…
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4) 📅
The foregone conclusion that this would be just like GTAV — an endlessly engaging world of emergent and entertaining possibilities — pretty quickly flew right out of the window. The story and related missions contain some of the most boring video game tropes I’ve ever experienced. The only saving grace is the detailed world and the personality of Arthur Morgan.
Like Breath of the Wild, I ignored much of the game’s diversions as I set out to explore the amazingly detailed and gorgeous world. Ambient encounters and Stranger Missions pepper the landscape and they were more memorable to me than anything that happened with the actual plot. Along the way I was mostly able to play the game the way I felt Arthur would’ve lived, especially given the turn in his third act. I only wish they’d given him a way to ride off into his own sunset and ignore the story. At launch, Red Dead Online was also a major letdown.
Also played in October: Just a little GTA Online (PS4), Rime (PS4), XCOM 2 (PS4)
November was largely eaten up by Red Dead Redemption 2, holiday gatherings, and taking care of our new house, but I also squeezed in some time with this peculiar PlayStation game. It’s extremely odd and a little confounding but it has one interesting hook: all of the action taking place around you builds a unique soundtrack. Firing on enemies, dropping traps, and picking up “sparks” all add a satisfying musical component to the game.
Also played in November: City Crisis (PS2), Pilotwings Resort 3D (3DS)
Wave Race 64 (N64)
When sick, people crave comfort food. When I was recovering from a diverticulitis episode I was craving a comfort game. Something old and familiar to take my mind off of work, the house, and all the uncomfortable pain of life. Wave Race is my comfort game and it was great loading it up for the first time in a number of years.
The water physics is still better than anything before or since. It’s so much more than just the surface you’re racing across, it’s part of the course and the undulations can be both unexpected and predictable depending on your timing. It can make as big a difference as opening up a shortcut or unexpectedly push you through a corner without slowing down. It doesn’t take long for me to blast through the game nowadays but it’s a solid punch of nostalgia that still makes me smile.
Intelligent Qube (PS1)
I’ve always loved Intelligent Qube’s style, music, and gameplay but I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with it for more than 3 or 4 stages until 2018. I finally kept at it this time and made it all the way to the secret Final Stage where my dreams of completion were ultimately dashed against its ridiculous challenge. Well, I came as far as I’ve ever been so I’m still counting it as a triumph!
Beetle Adventure Racing (N64)
Here’s another triumph! I’ve been trying, off and on, for the better part of 20 years to unlock this game’s final course. But the only way to even see it is to take the lead in the game’s most challenging championship and conquer the five tracks before it. In 2018 I finally had the gumption to stick to it and after a few days of trying, I’d done it. I took a few victory laps to check out the course’s numerous shortcuts before kicking this one off the ol’ video game bucket list.
Earth Defense Force 5 (PS4) 📅
EDF! EDF!! This totally mostly fresh EDF experience remixes the things we love while adding new layers to both its progression system and (quite literally) to its giant insect aliens. Layers of chitinous skin now explode off of ants, spiders, and even robots to reveal charred innards while painting the environments in vibrant colors a la Splatoon! It’s a small improvement compared to other modern games but it adds so much to the impact of culling these armies of opponents.
Meanwhile, over 150 new weapons are doled out to each of the 4 classes and picking up duplicates now results in upgraded variations. For the Air Raider class who has a diverse arsenal of guns, airstrikes, turrets, and vehicles, these changes are huge. We’re now about 40 hours into the game, nearing the end of our first playthrough of the 110 story missions and still loving every big, dumb, explosive second of it!
Age of Empires II HD (PC)
I picked this up alongside Europa Universalis IV to play with a new-found friend but AoE is definitely more my scale of strategic combat. AoE2 isn’t quite as appealing as the long-defunct Age of Empires Online, but it is just as satisfying to build up a civilization and overwhelm the enemy factions with swarms of military units. This music is killer too!
Also played in December: Katamari Damacy REROLL (Switch), OnRrush (PS4), The Iconoclasts (PS4), The Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis)