As I’ve gotten older, I have less free time (stop me if you’ve heard that one before, right). I’m one of millions of Gen X and Millennial children who grew up with games as a daily part of their lives, a main hobby, ageing and maturing alongside with the rest of the industry. And with less time for anything to do, and exponentially more content and media and art to consume than any time in the history of civilization, everyone has to make sacrifices and decisions. Okay, maybe that sounds more dramatic than it really is, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that everyone I know cannot have a conversation about anything they experience or like or want to recommend because we are all too fractured as a society to embrace the same things. With the exception of sports and Game of Thrones, I don’t watch the same shows as my friends, or see the same movies, or read the same books, or listen to the same music, or really do the same things. The games we play barely crossover, and if everyone isn’t up to drop $60 on the same title at the same time for co-op, it’s a total waste. Especially since now there is a division between discs and digital, which plants a flag in the ground on whether you keep or return the game you intend on playing. It’s maddening, and I know why so many people want to go back to a simpler time; and that isn’t even getting into the quality of old versus new, don’t even get me started on how this console generation compares to the previous ones.
And now I sort of despise the way I play video games, because I try to cram in as many podcasts and YouTube videos in as I can possibly fit into my head and my schedule. And that means turning down, or off, the audio completely on games to double dip and multi-task. It’s my version of listening to the radio during the gym, or the drive to work, or whatever you normal people in the world do with your time. For me, it’s intentionally playing games in a way that fit my lifestyle, for the worse, out of convenience, and I hate it but I can’t stop doing it.
Instead of taking on different titles, I’m mostly now just looking for idle side quests to complete as I fly through my back catalog of pods, that help me catch up on everything else I’m missing that I deem critical, like politics or the NBA. And out of all the open world games that I grinded through, the second best one was Horizon: Zero Dawn (the first is further down on the list, you already can tell what it is). And it ended up right outside my top ten, which shows you how good this year was (for the first 8 months at least).
If you watched that video I did (above this) about satisfying gameplay loops, then you’ll know why I dig Horizon so much. And if you don’t have the time or can’t be bothered to, basically the main hook of games like this and Far Cry 3 is enjoying the constant running around and exploring and finding things to do, things to kill, animals to skin, items and abilities to upgrade, quests to complete, which help the former which feeds back into the cycle to complete the latter, and so on and so forth. If you can make a pretty game that is somewhat interesting with tight controls and a unique spin, then you’re pretty much set, but Horizon took things a bit further when it came to the art direction and story and world, and mostly the fact you fight giant robot dinosaurs. With bow and arrows and traps and shit. It cannot be simply stated how fucking awesome that is, but also how fresh is it considering you’d think someone should have already done this concept. But oh well, Horizon ended up being the Turok reboot I always secretly wanted, and I didn’t have to play on an N64 controller to get it. But I did have to endure the PS4 controller, which I really don’t love playing with, so onto the other honorable mentions!
Honorable Mentions: Gorogoa, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Tacoma, Yooka Laylee, A Hat in Time, Hand of Fate 2, Prey, Hellblade, Absolver, Hollow Knight, AC: Origins, and a ton of other little small indies I liked a lot but didn’t love
Also: The SNES Classic does not count
Considering my time with the greatest console maybe ever, and the greatest game maybe ever, there is just nothing like holding a SNES controller and flying through Super Mario World. There is literally nothing else like it, and since it’s my favorite game of all time and takes me back to my glory days of the ‘90s I refuse to not include it on my end of year list. I won’t put it above actual new games that came out, but still, I’ve never gone all the way through Super Metroid before and now I have, and I’m better off for it, that shit is lit as fuck (as the kids nowadays say). You will be too if you can find one. I don’t have much else to say, it’s pretty much what you’d expect it to be, the classic edition mini SNES, and worth every penny. Now only if it had Super Mario All-Stars, TMNT IV Turtles in Time, and Mario Paint, then it would be number 1 on this list. But it doesn’t count. Not even going to use the Star Fox 2 argument, that game is not good.