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December 23, 2019 9 min read
Dan Ryckert is the Senior Content Producer at giantbomb.com. He got married at a Taco Bell, hosts a podcast with his wife Bianca, set two Guinness World Records, and owns a sweet WWF New York jacket. You can follow him on Twitter.
Oh hey folks! My name’s Dan and I work at Giant Bomb. For a lot of 2019, I thought that it was a pretty weak year for games. In the last few months, however, several games came out that made me realize that there was plenty of good stuff to be found. I’ll start with some…
While I’m a lifelong sucker for almost all of Nintendo’s first-party franchises, one that I’ve always respected more than enjoyed was Luigi’s Mansion. The methodical pacing of the first one turned me away before I finished it, as did the more meandering nature of Dark Moon. Despite Luigi’s Mansion 3 being very much in the same vein as its predecessors, I think it’s the format of the “mansion” itself that made this one my favorite by a long shot. Every time I reached a new floor, I loved the feeling of not knowing what theme would be revealed when the elevator doors opened.
On top of all the fun themes and gags, the addition of Gooigi was fantastic. It works well as a single-player mechanic, and it really shines when you jump into the well-implemented co-op. Luigi’s Mansion may not be a mile-a-minute thrill ride or a deep puzzle-solving experience, but it had me smiling throughout its many floors.
Mike Mahardy raved about this game to me for like two weeks before I tried it out. This situation is always a crapshoot for me, because his recommendations are usually something I wind up loving (a great book, bar, or the #1 game on my list this year) or something I can see the value in but just can’t seem to stick with (Rainbow Six: Siege, Warframe, etc). This time, it was the former.
I get easily hooked into action-heavy roguelites like Dead Cells and Rogue Legacy, and Void Bastards fit snugly into that category for me. The hook of unlocking new weapons and filling out the upgrade screen grabbed me to the point where I never minded dying. Even if death sent me back to the beginning of the galaxy map, that just gave me another chance to hone in on the missing parts I need to build another goofy weapon. It was also the critical component to my best sick day in years, as I laid on the couch for like 16 hours straight and beat the game by the end of it.
As someone who likes exercising but works best within the confines of an easy-to-follow routine, the gamification of exercise is a concept that has always been very appealing to me. My stupid brain loves chasing the carrot of XP meters, and I’ve loved the idea of leveraging that instinct in a way that gets me in better shape rather than keeping me sedentary on the couch for longer.
Unfortunately, game consoles have never really gotten it right. Wii Fit wasn’t nearly intensive enough to make a real impact, and others (EA Sports Active, Nike+ Kinect Training, The Biggest Loser, etc) weren’t consistent enough with their motion tracking.
Ring Fit Adventure is without a doubt the best exercise game I’ve ever “played.” What seemed like a silly gimmick at first (thanks to its goofy, out-of-nowhere announce trailer) proved itself to be a genuinely solid workout. Not only are the high-quality accessories accurate and fun to use, but the light RPG elements make the “game” part of Ring Fit Adventure solid as well. It’s not Final Fantasy or anything, but choosing the right “attack” (workout) to use against the various enemies and bosses gives some fun context to sitting on the floor and doing thirty leg lifts. I love when Nintendo decides to get weird and try wild ideas, and this is one of my favorite examples of that.
I’ve played every Gears of War game (yes, even Judgment) to completion and I couldn’t really tell you anything about the story that you couldn’t glean from the trailers. There are big evil bugs and everyone looks way too beefy and I think there’s a government now that uses killer robots. None of that matters to me, because Gears is the series I go to if I just want to get a bunch of creative weapons and fuck up a million bad guys.
This is plenty of fun in the campaign, which serves up area after area of waist-high walls to spray Lancer fire over. It’s even better in Horde mode. It’s pretty much the same thing as previous Horde modes, but it looks better than ever and you can be Batista and Sarah Connor. I don’t ask for a lot from video games, so playing a mode that offers up wave after wave of bad guys while Batista yells lyrics from his WWE theme is just a great time in my book.
In the past, I’ve said plenty about why Link’s Awakening is the Zelda game that never really clicked with me. I don’t like the Game Boy screen, managing items was a pain thanks to the lack of buttons, blah blah blah you get the idea. This Switch remake fixed any problems I previously had with it, so now I can properly enjoy one of the best top-down Zelda games. That’s enough to get it firmly on my list.
Like a lot of the staff, my enthusiasm for Remedy’s latest trailed off a bit at the tail end. That said, everything about the world they’ve created and the way it's presented is too good for it to not land high in my games of the year. Everything about The Oldest House, from its shifting environments to the font work to the writing of the collectibles hits the perfect tone of weird for me.
I was really excited about the powers at first, because I like just about anything that reminds me of Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. The abilities don’t get as wacky as I’d have liked them to, but that levitate ability opens things up in a really fun way. I do wish that the combat upgrades would have factored in more and spiced things up by the end, however.
It’s not perfect, but Control is bold and weird in ways that I had a ton of respect for. Without a doubt, it’s my favorite Remedy game.
I have a lot of nostalgia and love for old Resident Evil titles, but the gameplay side of things didn’t really click into place for me until 4 took the series into a more action-heavy direction. That led to diminishing returns with 5 and the dreadful 6 before coming back with a vengeance in 7, but that’s beside the point.
This remake of Resident Evil 2 is pretty much the perfect Resident Evil game for me. It has the excellent setting of the police station, the more restrained storytelling of the older games, and the tension brought about by limited ammo and relentless enemies. But it also has the over-the-shoulder perspective of 4, the quality of life improvements in the controls and the map, and some absolutely incredible visuals. Top to bottom, this is an absolutely excellent Resident Evil experience. Can’t wait for Nemesis.
For almost a decade, Call of Duty was regularly one of my most anticipated releases every year. From COD2 launching with the 360 to...let’s say around the mid-2010s period of Ghosts, Advanced Warfare, and Black Ops III, I poured countless hours into multiplayer and replayed campaigns numerous times over.
I loved the WWII games until I hit WWII fatigue, but Modern Warfare and the near-future settings of the early Black Ops games really did it for me. Starting with Black Ops III, however, the setting kind of lost me. The games started getting too future-y, too robot-y, and too hero shooter-y for my tastes.
Returning to Modern Warfare was a move that intrigued me, but I wasn’t 100% sold on Infinity Ward returning to their former glory after being underwhelmed by Ghosts and Infinite Warfare. I’m not sure if it was staff moves or the classic setting reinvigorating the studio, but holy hell did they pull it off with this one.
I love the campaign. It’s filled with a lot of really clever, tense setpiece moments. I also love that there were like three different missions that reminded me of Zero Dark Thirty. That said, the reason that I’m still playing this game voraciously is the multiplayer.
I don’t play a lot of online multiplayer. I don’t like putting on a headset and organizing a bunch of people to get together at a certain time. Modern Warfare is so good that I’ve wanted to do that just about every night, and I’ve gotten into a groove of playing with friends and family on a regular basis with no signs of slowing down. It simplifies things in a way that I appreciate, from doing away with hero abilities and overcomplicated loadout systems to making it easy to adjust loadout options mid-match. This game even made me learn what a Battle Pass is, and I think I like it?
For the first time in years, I’m excited to learn the ins and outs of maps, experiment with different guns and loadouts, and obsessively chase challenges in a Call of Duty game. I’m so glad to have it back.
Oh man. I don’t even know where to start with this one.
OKAY, so...remember Symphony of the Night? That’s been firmly in my all-time top ten for a long time. Like a lot of people, I think the best I hoped for with Bloodstained was for it to be a pretty faithful spiritual successor to its obvious inspiration. Well, it totally succeeds on that front, but then it dumps a metric shit-ton of weird-ass new stuff on top of it. It’s bonkers and broken in the absolute best ways.
When I say “broken,” I don’t mean it in the usual way people use that word when describing games. It’s not especially buggy or cheap. It just gives you like 5,000 ridiculous powers that you can mix and match in ways that let you become absurdly powerful and effective if you put enough thought into your character build. Having trouble with a boss? Maybe you’ll have better luck if you flip the screen around and throw monkeys at it in between taking potshots at its head with a lightsaber. Or maybe you should equip your wolf hood and ninja gear and spawn a shadow clone while unloading on it with a chisel gun you got from a demonic carpenter.
Oh, and there’s a weirdly in-depth cooking element to this game that’s pretty important if you want to become as strong as possible. I usually hate grinding in games, but by the end you have so many ridiculous mobility upgrades and abilities that it didn’t bother me at all to zip around the map trying to gather the right ingredients to make a pizza.
In the late game you can turn the entire castle upside down repeatedly and at will, you can hold a button to basically fly wherever you want at blistering speed, you can stop time, you can upgrade your MP recharge enough to essentially have infinite abilities, you can warp through walls, you can steal every book from the library of Alucard’s voice actor and fight him to the death, you cut the moon in half, and you can use the Rhava Velar to do stupid amounts of damage to whatever mid-solo metal guitarists or cats of Kickstarter backers you come across.
It’s like Igarashi got a late severance package from Konami that contained David Hayter and all of the irreverent wacky bullshit that Kojima left behind when he decided to make an awful “falling over while holding a baby” simulator.
A lot of people will be vague when describing the moments that make this game truly special, and they’re right to do so. It also makes it hard to talk about.
That said, it’s one of the best games to talk about with others that either have played it or are currently playing it. It was fascinating to hear Abby say that late in the game, she hadn’t encountered one of the first things I stumbled across. Or when several people at the office couldn’t believe that I hadn’t made a fairly obvious connection that I should have learned the first of thirty times I fell into a black hole. In talking to many of my friends about our time with the game, I’ve yet to find one that had the same path as mine or each others’.
I can’t think of many games in history that allow the player to forge their own path and have their own unique experience as much as this one does. Every time I woke up on Timber Hearth, I’d hop into my ship and take off into orbit, not knowing what new discovery or realization I’d come to before the universe exploded (or, more frequently, I suffocated in space or jumped off something that was a bit too tall).
The universe of Outer Wilds may at first seem huge or directionless or empty. As you learn more and more about the planets, the history of the Nomai, and the nature of the universe, however, you discover that the story is actually remarkably tight and well-told. It starts so vast and mysterious, but by the stunning end you feel like you’ve tied all the threads together and accepted where things have to go from there.
Outer Wilds is a remarkable achievement that gave me experiences and moments unlike anything else I’ve ever played in a video game. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s an unforgettable ride for those that stick with it to the end.
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