Typically when I see a trend which many other bloggers are promoting via their posts, I try to stay away from it. While I love a good collab as much as the next guy, things like thirty day challenges or tagging events have never done it for me. I stay away from end-of-the-week posts and tend to only do updates at the six month and year marks rather than doing one every single month…though I did do them monthly when the blog was younger – it’s like birthdays for infants versus birthdays for toddlers. So I figured the whole “game of the year” trend was one I was going to avoid too. However, I’ve never seriously sat down and reflected on my year of gaming before, and I decided that it might be worthwhile to consider where I’ve been before I think about where I’m going as the new year starts up. So with that in mind, we’re going to have an official Adventure Rules Video Game Recognition Ceremony!
Here’s the rules: there are no rules. I’m just gonna smash the games I’ve played this year into some categories that kind of make sense and pick my favorite out of each category. I’ll do a short description of each title and why it’s nominated/why it should win, and then a blurb about the ultimate reason why the winner ended up taking the cake. Here are each of the category names, in case you want to skip straight to your favorites:
- Worst Unfinished Game
- Best Game with Modes
- Best Tabletop Game
- Best Legendary Game
- Best Ace Attorney
- Best Role Playing Game
- Game of the Year
So grab your popcorn, STOP VAPING, and get ready for an award ceremony where Red Dead Redemption won’t win a single thing – it’s the Adventure Rules Video Game Recognition Ceremony!
CATEGORY: WORST UNFINISHED GAME
Not every game we start gets to see the credits roll, and out of the fifteen video games I have played this year only three didn’t get finished. And while I can pretend that in 2019 I’ll get around to knocking these titles out, in all likelihood at least one of them will never leave my backlog. But the question is, which of these is the least likely to make a comeback? Which of the games I never finished is the worst of the bunch? Here are the nominees:
METROID: SAMUS RETURNS
Article: Metroid: Samus Returns and the Three Clue Rule
Samus Returns was my first outing with the Metroid franchise that didn’t involve the word Prime in the title. I enjoyed the early hours well enough but it got to the point where the whole backtracking thing started to get on my nerves. I get that there’s a whole game genre built around this design method, but having to scour the same locations over for small details that I might have missed or having to return to the same area again and again with new weapons each time chipped away at my patience. I eventually got bored enough with the game that I simply sat it aside, and after owning it for nearly a year I haven’t touched it since the first week or so.
Article: Confession: I Am Terrible at Dishonored 2
There has never been a video game as difficult for me to start as Dishonored 2. I tried to purchase this game not just once, not even twice, but three different times before I finally managed to get ahold of it. After having it shipped to the wrong house and stolen (separate occasions, by the way), when I finally got the game I just needed some time to let it breathe. On top of all that, once I started playing I made the mistake of investing my runes poorly and severely limiting my ability to complete one of the game’s chapters. To finally finish this title, I’ll have to start over again from the beginning – and golly am I not sure I want to do that. I loved the original Dishonored but it feels like the Outsider is conspiring to keep this one forever in my backlog.
PHOENIX WRIGHT: SPIRIT OF JUSTICE
Article: Church and State in Spirit of Justice
Folks, I played a lot of Ace Attorney this year. A LOT. Four of the fifteen games on my video game list are Ace Attorney titles. I played Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth back-to-back, took a break before playing Dual Destinies, and then tried to start Spirit of Justice right after Dual Destinies ended. I finally hit my burnout point midway through the second trial (so the first real trial), and I’ve been having a difficult time getting motivated to start up again. A big part of that is not wanting to repeat the second trial from the beginning, as the starting investigation is one of the longest I ever remember from the franchise.
And the winner is…
METROID: SAMUS RETURNS!
While Dishonored 2 took forever to finally have a place on my shelf, I know that once I get started and make some better decisions about my powers I’ll have a much better time with the game. And since the writing of this article, I not only picked up Spirit of Justice again, but I actually finished the rest of the game! Of the two games that I haven’t revisited yet, Samus Returns is the one I played the most, so it is the title I am most confident that I actually do not like. The other games I do want to eventually finish, but as far as I’m concerned this game can stay on my backlog forever.
CATEGORY: BEST GAME WITH MODES
Also known as “Three Games Which Don’t Really Go With Anything Else and Consequently Were the Last Ones Left,” this category is all about titles that have multiple game modes as part of the experience. Having modes can be a good thing when those modes work in tandem to improve the complete experience, but a couple of poor modes can really drag a game down. Which title managed to avoid that trap and deliver a great experience? Here are the nominees:
HYRULE WARRIORS: DEFINITIVE EDITION
Article: Modes Make All the Difference – My Two Experiences with Hyrule Warriors
Hyrule Warriors is a title I wasn’t sure I would like when I first heard it announced – a Zelda game where you just bash in monster’s heads in giant waves, with no puzzles to speak of? However, once I played Dragon Quest Heroes I felt I could find enjoyment in the musuo genre, and I picked up Hyrule Warriors gladly. What Heroes didn’t prepare me for was the game’s Adventure Mode, where you move along a map in the style of the original Zelda and defeat monsters for unlockables while finding secrets on the map. I didn’t end up enjoying this mode, but it adds a lot of single-player content for the game for those who enjoy the hunt for secrets.
MEGA MAN 11
Article: Mega Man 11 is a Fantastic Entry Point for Series Newcomers
Most of my experience with Mega Man titles comes from the RPG side of the series, but this title taught me that I can learn to appreciate the platforming challenges of classic Mega Man. The game’s challenge mode became a stalwart ally for me, allowing me to practice tough bosses over and over so I didn’t have to beat their level repeatedly just to develop the necessarily skills to win the battle. Challenge mode also offers some post game content by pushing you to beat the various levels with restrictions like limited jumping or never firing your weapon.
SUPER MARIO PARTY
Article: Super Mario Party Could Be Twice as Good with Half the Modes
For many who have been playing Mario Party since the very beginning, the core Mario Party experience comes from navigating game boards while playing mini games for coins so you can purchase stars. Super Mario Party diverges from that trend by offering lots of unique experiences across multiple modes, with river rafting and dancing both featuring significantly in the game. Because each mode has its own minigames, it can sometimes feel as if certain modes received too few minigames to give the mode any longevity.
And the winner is…
SUPER MARIO PARTY!
Boy, article titles can be misleading, eh? While I may have knocked Mario Party’s modes in the past, none of them are actually bad – they were each simply given too few resources. River Survival and Sound Stage need more minigames, and Mario Party needs more boards, but all of the modes are fun to play. Jumping around between them keeps the game feeling fresh during an extended play session, and because the modes appeal to different playstyles you have options for players who would rather be cooperative or competitive. There’s even a great mode for single player, too!
CATEGORY: BEST TABLETOP GAME
Once per week on Adventure Rules (most weeks anyway) I talk about my second hobby, tabletop gaming. I don’t get to indulge RPGs as much as I do video games, but because they are rare these games hold a special place in my heart. This year I got to try out three tabletops that I had never played before, so this category will compare them all against each other to determine which one has been my favorite!
Article: FATE Accelerated Promises the World, but that Broadness is its Achilles’ Heel
I’ve had the rules for FATE sitting around for quite some time. I’d read over them and understood the basics of the game, but it wasn’t until a buddy asked me to run the game for his combined bachelor/bachelorette party that I got to experience it at the table. As a universal game, you can create anything you imagine in the FATE system, and the aspect mechanics give great creative freedom as well as a useful tool for describing anything in the game.
Article: How Ryuutama Challenged Me to Grow as a Game Master
Ryuutama has been on my radar for years, so when a buddy got it for me as a birthday gift so we could play together, I was quite excited. Our campaign got off to a rocky start due to some poor early-game decisions that led us in a direction where we weren’t having much fun with the rules. However, we’ve had two sessions now since rebooting with a new setting and characters, and the time I’ve taken to study the style of travel fiction has helped a lot in enhancing our Ryuutama experience.
THE WYRD OF STROMGARD
Article: First Impressions for The Wyrd of Stromgard, a Dungeon World Expansion!
I love it when game designers reach out to me to cover their product – it’s one of the coolest parts of blogging as a hobby, and it has connected me to some games I may have never gotten the opportunity to play otherwise. The Wyrd of Stromgard is a Dungeon World expansion that adds a Norse flavor to the setting, monsters, and characters. Both the myths and the authentic Viking history contained within the rulebooks pages are excellent inspiration for campaigns, and this is a game that my players and I are excited to see grow from its current state into the final version.
And the winner is…
I love it when a roleplaying game challenges me to learn new skills as a game master, and Ryuutama has pushed me. At first I was an unwilling participant in that process, but once I moved past my desire to run the game my way and embraced the media touchstones for this game, it opened up my understanding of how to create engaging sessions built around the concept of a journey. Turns out that whole “it’s not about the destination” thing has some merit to it!
CATEGORY: BEST LEGENDARY GAME
This year I got the opportunity to play not one, not even two, but three video games which I’ve heard great things about over the years. Each one is a legend within its genre, and to finally be able to say that I’ve played them feels pretty good. Of course, there’s a danger to visiting a game with so much hype surrounding it. Which of these games has stood the test of time and continues to be a legend even now?
Article: More Than Breath of the Wild, Okami HD is the Zelda Game I’ve Been Wanting for the Switch
Okami has been compared favorably to Zelda plenty of times over the years, and the comparison is quite fair. The vast fantasy world, quirky characters, and puzzling dungeons all evoke the feel of Zelda, but there’s a mythology and storytelling to Okami that makes it truly special. Add to that the lovely art style and catchy tunes, and it’s easy to see why the story of Amaterasu rose to the status of legend in the first place.
ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW LEAF
Article: My Love/Hate Relationship with Animal Crossing’s Real Time Gameplay
This may not immediately strike you as a legendary game, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf is considered by many fans of the genre to be the pinnacle of the series. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it from Animal Crossing fans, and the passion in the fandom for Isabelle to make an appearance in Smash Brothers – as well as the desire for an Animal Crossing title on Switch – makes it easy to see how this game had such a powerful impact on its fans. Playing it for myself certainly increased my own hype for the Switch title!
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
Article: I Finished Shadow of the Colossus and I Don’t Know How to Feel
When it comes to gaming legends, Shadow of the Colossus is true to its name – it is a giant, unknowable and intimidating. It tells a story that is grand in scope but vague enough to leave you hungry for more. While the concept of doing nothing except finding and killing sixteen colossi may make the game seem simple, there is nothing about Shadow of the Colossus that is suited by that word. Even after the credits rolled, I still found myself wondering about this game, pondering its implications. It is easy to see how it achieved its status of legend.
And the winner is…
While I can certainly understand why people love Animal Crossing and Shadow of the Colossus, I did not love them. The real time mechanisms of Animal Crossing put me under pressure to play daily, at times which were not convenient for me, and I came to resent that pressure when other activities sounded more fun or relaxing. And Shadow of the Colossus may have had a great story, but the clumsy mechanisms and tedious design very nearly stopped me from wanting to finish the game at all. Only Okami with its beautiful art, familiar yet creative gameplay, and moving story managed to capture my heart. While I see how all three of these games earned their reputations, only Okami is truly a legend in my eyes.
CATEGORY: BEST ACE ATTORNEY
Remember earlier how I said that I played A LOT of Ace Attorney this year? I finished enough titles in this series to have a whole category solely focused on my favorite murder mysteries! Ace Attorney is the perfect storm of things I enjoy: great music, compelling story, hilarious characters, and challenging mental puzzles. But of the three that I completed in 2018, which one proved to be my favorite? Here are the nominees:
APOLLO JUSTICE: ACE ATTORNEY
Article: Grooving with Ace Attorney: How Music Drew Me to a New Favorite Series
Apollo Justice is the fourth entry in the Ace Attorney franchise, a game which introduces us to a new cast of characters years after the events of the original trilogy. Phoenix makes an appearance not as the protagonist, but as the mentor to our new hero Apollo. I really enjoyed seeing an older Phoenix with a sharper mind on display, as well as having a prosecutor who – while annoying – ultimately was on the side of justice rather than being corrupt like they are often portrayed.
ACE ATTORNEY INVESTIGATIONS: MILES EDGEWORTH
Article: The Protect List: Top 5 Ace Attorney Characters I Will Keep Safe Forever
Miles Edgeworth is one of my favorite characters in all of Ace Attorney, so having an entire game focused on him is a great way to get my attention. While I certainly miss the trial system from the main series, the characters and music in this game are turned up to 11, and I love that instead of supernatural powers Edgeworth actually solves crimes using logic and reason. Who would have ever guessed that would work?
PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY DUAL DESTINIES
Article: The Dark Age of the Law – My Thoughts on Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies
In Dual Destinies, Phoenix finally returns to the courtroom alongside his apprentice Apollo as well as a new member of the Wright Talent Agency, Athena. Dual Destinies has an interesting structure which introduces you immediately to a significant plot point and then doubles back to show you how everything got there. With three attorneys to switch between, this game features a vast set of special abilities as well as some compelling cases to solve. I particularly enjoyed the DLC chapter, which had some much-appreciated fanservice in the form of an appearance by one of my favorite characters.
And the winner is…
PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY DUAL DESTINIES!
I waffled back and forth on this decision for quite some time. I even started to type a paragraph explaining how Apollo Justice was the winner for this category. After all, seeing Phoenix after his fall from grace and learning about the petty but wicked man behind it all was a fascinating story. But what finally led me to choose Dual Destinies is the way in which the story that was established in Apollo Justice is led to its conclusion in Dual Destinies – we see the long-term impact of how the defaming of Phoenix Wright led to a dark age of the law, and how Phoenix steps back into the ring to bring that age to an end. Combine that great storytelling with a couple of strong cases and some of my favorite music from the series, and this game just barely manages to squeak by with the win. Honestly, since I finished Spirit of Justice after I originally wrote this article, I think that game will actually be my favorite of the new trilogy, but I didn’t want to commit to that fresh off of the finale – this will be a much easier decision to make after the games have had time to settle in my brain.
CATEGORY: BEST ROLE PLAYING GAME
When it comes to genre, there’s really no contest – the RPG is my favorite type of video game. Optimizing character builds and party composition, composing battle strategies, and experiencing fantasy worlds with grand stories; many of my favorite games are RPGs because these mechanics appeal so much to my playstyle. I played three RPGs this year that are all quite different from one another, so choosing which one was the best will be a tricky proposition! Here are the nominees:
DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS
Article: Dragon Quest Builders on the Nintendo Switch: First Impressions
Dragon Quest Builders wasn’t on my radar until I tried out the demo for the game. Once I had a taste, I knew I had to get the full package. While Builders may appear to be a simple Minecraft clone on the surface, it’s guided by compelling episodic storytelling and structured with quests to give you a more focused experience, with the freedom to get creative if that’s your preferred method of playing building games. While the RPG elements here are much lighter than other Dragon Quest titles, optimizing the construction of your town isn’t all that much different than figuring out the ideal build for your party of adventurers.
Article: Earthlock is My Kind of RPG – Could it Be Yours?
Yet another game I discovered thanks to a demo, the kind folks at Snowcastle Games were kind enough to gift me a free copy of the full game as a thank-you for my review of the demo. Earthlock has lots of familiar mechanics from other roleplaying games and it easy the most classically-inclined RPG I played this year. From the turn based combat to the talent trees to the party bond mechanisms, Earthlock combines elements from lots of other games into a fresh and engaging combat system that takes a solid amount of strategy to master.
MARIO + RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE DONKEY KONG ADVENTURE DLC
Article: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Character Guide – Donkey Kong
I loved Mario + Rabbids when I originally played the game back in 2017. The game incorporates some fresh takes on the turn-based strategy genre that make it feel like nothing else I’ve played. Just the act of moving along the board is a thrill as your characters slide through enemies, launch each other to ideal vantage points, and then fire upon enemies with their kooky weapons. The Donkey Kong DLC takes that original formula and adds some new elements with vine swinging, enemy tossing, and new types of win conditions in order to make this game feel as fresh as it did the first time I tossed Rabbid Luigi behind an unsuspecting Piranha Plant.
And the winner is…
MARIO + RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE DONKEY KONG ADVENTURE DLC!
It feels strange to give an award to a DLC, but Mario + Rabbids is easily one of the best RPGs I have played in recent years. The Donkey Kong Adventure is a refreshing take on the formula, giving you two new characters to work with who feel unique from any of the original cast. Donkey Kong in particular, with his bwananarang and his ability to toss enemies into each other, adds plenty of fun strategies that kept me so engaged that I finished this expansion in only a couple of days.
CATEGORY: GAME OF THE YEAR
Here we are at last, the one you’ve all been waiting for. Choosing which of the fifteen video games I’ve played is the best one of the year was a tricky proposition, as many of these titles were excellent in their own unique ways. And of course, my game of the year may not be yours – chances are if I had the chance to play everything that came out this year, my options for the top spot would be a totally different selection. But I can only judge based on what I have already experienced, so let’s talk about the three games I ultimately considered for the award:
DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS
This game may not have won its category, but a big part of that is because what appeals to me about Builders is not the RPG aspect, but the building aspect. Creating my own town in each of the four worlds was lots of fun, and each community has unique tools that makes it feel distinct from the other areas in the game. And while the overarching story of the game may have been standard fare for Dragon Quest, the individual stories of each area were often compelling and I loved in the second world in particular. With the DQ Builders sequel just around the corner, I won’t be surprised if this series ends up on my list again next year!
PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY DUAL DESTINIES
If you had asked me a little over a year ago what my three favorite series are, I probably would have told you The Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, and Paper Mario. These days, that list now includes the Ace Attorney franchise. Phoenix and the cast of hilarious and endearing characters at his side have risen among the ranks with each game I played, and I count these stories among the best I have experienced. Dual Destinies brought back the title character in an impressive way while also connecting his story to that of his young pupils. It is one of the strongest entries in the franchise in my view, and that has earned it a nomination for Adventure Rules game of the year!
Okami was a legend when I was a teenager, so once I heard it was coming to the Switch I knew I had to get my hands on it. I didn’t know going in that the game was modeled after one of my all-time favorite franchises, and I certainly didn’t know that the story of a goddess once again coming to the rescue of her people would strike such a cord with me during a time when my own faith is standing on rocky ground. Whether I was solving puzzles with brush techniques or laughing at the ridiculous antics of some truly unusual side characters, Okami kept me engaged from start to finish in a way that few titles do.
And the winner is…
I played some solid games this year, but none of them hit me quite like Okami. Everything about the game struck a chord with me, from the dungeon designs to the fun cast to the boss battles which were puzzles as much as they were combat encounters. Okami looks and sounds beautiful, tells a wonderful tale in a fantasy setting that feels unique compared to the many Euro-centric titles out there in the world, and delivers a gameplay experience that gels perfectly with my preferences in adventure games. I may be late to the party when it comes to appreciating Amaterasu and her adventurers, but I’m happy that I finally got the opportunity to experience the game in full.
That’s gonna be it for me, adventurers! I hope you enjoyed the award ceremony, and I’d love to hear your own thoughts about my choices. After all, chances are you played different games than me this year – which ones struck a chord with you the most? Let me know in the comments!