Games for 2018

Donut County

This is my clear game of the year. My wife and I both tore through it and then our toddler got surprisingly into it. For a few months she would ask to “play the donut county one?!” and was able to complete a few of the leves herself (“snake” and “rabbit”).

Horizon Zero Dawn

In our household this became known as the robot dinosaurs game. I put this down at some point in 2018 and wish I hadn’t. I no longer remember where I was or what I was doing; however, while playing it I was enjoying it quite a bit. Super fun stealth combat and a beautiful world to run around in.

Dark Souls Remastered

I am a sucker for Dark Souls and really enjoyed replaying this on more modern hardware than the Xbox 360. They added nothing to the game other than making it look prettier and run at 60fps, which is honestly fine by me. Praise the sun!


Take a saturday afternoon and play this in one sitting. It’ll take you 3ish hours and it’s very worthwhile. It’s an extremely inventive puzzle game with gorgeous art made–somehow!–by one person. It’s stuck with me even though I played it very early in 2018.

Destiny 2

I played a few hours a day of Destiny 2 for about a month straight when it was a free game on ps+. On paper this is a game I shouldn’t like at all, but turns out that Halo-like first person shooter mixed with diablo-style loot grinding is very fun.

I was surprised how little the game asked me to spend money up until I needed to buy expansions to do more story stuff. And this is where it went off the rails for me. I bought Curse of Osiris because it went on sale. It wasn’t good, which I’ve since learned was a near-universal opinion. Then about a week after buying it they started including all the expansions in a bundle and it felt like I was being penalized for buying expansions at the wrong time. it was enough annoyance to kill my momentum and I stopped playing. That said, monetization issues aside, it’s an amazing game that also happens to be not super compatiable with my dad-of-a-toddler lifestyle.

Parasite Eve

Parasite Eve still rules and Aya Breya is still great! It’s painfully 90s and really does deserve a remaster. Square put out just a shocking amount of good games between 1997-1999: List of Square Games

Games I Enjoyed Enough to Put On a List: 2017

I wrote one of these last year and found that it sparked some good conversations and also that I checked it throughout the year to remember what the heck I played in 2016.

Always blog so you can remember it later.

In 2017 my wife and I bought a house and our baby became a toddler, which means my time for gaming was drastically reduced while we packed, unpacked, did projects, and wrangled a suddenly very mobile little child.
Also, Scope Creep Studios, the videogame studio I run with a few friends, released Night Lights Toddler Toy, a simple toy app we made for our toddlers. It was supposed to be a simple few week project that, of course, took a few months to get launched.

The Second Half of Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

After loving the first part of this game I put it down for almost a year. I’m glad I did. In fact, this is the first game I’ve played in which I wish I’d just waited a year to play it in the first place. They seem to keep shoving in features and story tweaks into the game with every patch to the point where I’m not when you call the game “finished” vs. “minor improvements”. It’s a fascinating historical problem that I hope academics figure out how to deal with. For those living through it can be obnoxious. If I was younger I’d eat it up. Bring on the content! Now though I do not have time for that and would rather play the game when its “done” (or at least closer to the developer’s vision than hitting a release date set by Marketing).

That’s enough griping about a game I really enjoyed. Huge over-the-top setpiece boss fights, frenetic combat, emotional road trip bros, and the general whiplash of going to “the world is ending because of the gods” to “monologue about Cup Noodles” completely won me over. Final Fantasy is at its best when the stakes are impossibly high but you instead spend hours, say, playing a snowboarding mini-game. It’s melodrama rolled in the banal and I love it.

Obduction (PC)

It’s a very pretty and mysteriously charming game that only Cyan seems capable of really pulling off well. I got bogged down about halfway through by house whatnot. I don’t love playing this sort of game on a PC though because it’s a lot of sitting and thinking I’d rather do on the couch, plus I had a few hard crashes that took me out of the experience. Going to pick up the ps4 port in 2018 to finish it.

The puzzles I did get to were, of course, well designed and integrated into the world. The in-game world seems to expand and also come into focus as you learn new information through the puzzles. A vast setting coming into focus as you wrap your mind around its rules and places. Riven did this incredibly well too and Obduction has a similar feel.

Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

I almost forgot to put this on the list somehow! I think it occupies a different space in my head than other games. It’s inherently a social game. The only time I played by myself was to unlock more tracks for us to play together. My wife and I would play after our daughter would go down for bed. We even had a friend over to specifically play it for a game night. My mother-in-law played with us once too!

And then recently our daughter started asking to watch us play. She and I even tag teamed an adorable, although frustrating, lap in which she handled accelerating and I handled steering. Needless to say she took her power seriously and refused to accelerate at all … we eventually finished a lap in 11 minutes by me sneaking in button presses.

Universal Paperclips

The first draft of this post included it twice I liked it so much.
I’m a sucker for clicker games and this took up an entire weekend. It’s a refined clicker/energy mechanic game, which is to say after you get past the initial flurry of clicks you likely are barely ever madly clicking again. Just managing your spreadsheet of inputs and outputs and enjoying the ride as you accumulate resources as you race towards your goal.

What I liked most about it was that it had a fantastic sense of humor and progression curve. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly got its hooks in me fast.

Honorable mention here is Realm Clicker, a game that Andrew Brooks showed me on New Year’s Eve that I played incessantly on NYE and New Years Day itself. It didn’t make the list as its own game because it doesn’t have an easily accessible ending like Universal Paperclips. I hit a point where the game started playing itself with me checking in now and then. I’m quitting cold turkey before it becomes a chore. It’s really good though.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)

I’d played this one a while back and it’d been long enough to have forgotten most of the puzzles. I love the fiction of going into towns where people are so obsessed with puzzles that they will stop whatever is going on to give you one. The story is mostly a glue to give you opportunities to meet weirdos who NEED you to solve a puzzle before they can tell you an important factoid. Lovely music, lovely artwork (heck, they had a Color Design Team on this game), and a solid lineup of fun puzzles.

10 More Bullets (iOS)

A very simple game that I played in one extended sitting. You have 10 bullets left and are trying to use them as best you can. You slowly upgrade as you collect resources until every time you fire the game explodes in a cascade of debris from ships. Really satisfying.

Night in the Woods (PS4)

Delightful writing and wonderful art. Plus it says something about the experience of coming home after being away in a way I don’t think I’ve encountered in other media. The ennui of adulthood setting in and trying to recapture something you will never get back. I didn’t love the game-y platformer parts of it. I did love the little mini-games peppered throughout it though. I’ll likely play through it again in a year or two purely for the writing.

This game was also very wrapped up in the experience of following their kickstarter updates and the creators on social media. I’m not sure it’s possible to divorce the game from the backer updates and twitter exchanges. The creative team on the project seem like cool and thoughtful folks and I’m excited for whatever it is they do next.


A PS+ freebie that hit me at the right time during house buying and moving. I found this to be an utterly relaxing experience. I meandered through it slowly and my toddler watched now and then and pointed out fish. Soundtrack is delightful too. It’s not a hard game by any means, but I never felt like it was wasting my time being overly clever about how I should progress to the next rich environment. It’s a hangout game. A game you want to inhabit for a while. Most of the games on this list are hangout games in some way, actually…

Hollow Knight (PC)

A very moody metroidvania with inspiration from Dark Souls and a style all its own. I picked this up on a recommendation from a friend towards the end of 2017. The first part of it was fine and then I picked up a few of the movement based items and it started to shine. The art direction is highly controlled and the soundtrack is lovely. You don’t feel like you need to rush through it (although I’m sure a speed run would be impressive). My complaint with it is that it’s stingy with save points. Likely no more stingy than, say, Super Metroid itself, but dying in Hollow Knight often than not leads to me to quitting until tomorrow rather than diving right back in.

Dungeons & Dragons and 7th Sea (Tabletop)

Another big change to “gaming time” was that I started running (a few) D&D games. After years of swirling sort of around the tabletop RPG hobby we got a group together. My wife had finished up listening to The Adventure Zone’s Balance arc and I asked her if she wanted to play. I volunteered to be the DM and quickly am realizing that I really enjoy prepping and thinking through what would be fun for everyone. We’re playing through the Starter Set, which is 20 bucks and so well designed I recommend it to anyone and everyone who has been curious but not sure where to start. Or talk to me in person and I’ll talk your ear off.

Videogames learned a lot from tabletop games, and in turn tabletop games seem to have (finally?) picked up on certain things (like approachable rulesets) from videogames.

I’m also playing in a 7th Sea game which has consistently been some of the most fun role-playing I’ve been involved in. It’s a system designed to make you feel like a sea-faring swashbuckling (and/or sorcerous) hero while telling interesting stories.

Notes on other games

What Remains of Edith Finch? and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter are like tailor-made for Chris, but I haven’t had a chance to play them. I’m putting bets that they’ll both be on my 2018 list. Firewatch too, which I keep forgetting about.

And for reference’s sake, here’s a list of friends who have written 2017 wrap-up posts. I’ll add to this as y’all get yours published. It’s nice to go back to these when wondering what to play:

Games You Should Play 2016

Here are some games I played in 2016 that I think you might like as well.

Games are split into what I’m calling a commitment level. Unlike say books or movies I think it’s completely fair to put a game down when you’re stop getting what you’re looking for out of it. Some games are the sort that require more than a few hours to get anything out of. You wouldn’t play an hour of Final Fantasy XV and think you’ve seen everything there is to see. You might do that with Leap Day though.

Low Commitment

The majority of games I played this year were on iOS and iOS is the place for low commitment games.

Snakebird by Noumenon – this is a brutally hard puzzle game wrapped in an adorable package. The solutions to each puzzle are often simple in retrospect, but involve many intuitive steps to get there. It’s the sort of thing where you might spend a few days figuring something out and then finally it’ll click and you’re left with this tremendous sense of accomplishment. The controls are very simple tapping and swiping with infinite time between turns. If you enjoy difficult logic puzzles you should pick this up immediately. Snakebird is available on many platforms

Hidden My Game by Mom by hap Inc. – it’s charming. Little escape rooms where you’re attempting to find your gaming system that your mom has hidden from you. It’s very Japanese, very cute, and very delightful. Sometimes the answers make sense, other times they don’t, but the point is to try things and enjoy the outcome. From here I played through most of the developers’ back catalog. They reuse their aesthetic and assets from game to game such that they all feel like they’re inhabiting the same cute world. Hidden My Game By Mom is available on the iOS App Store

Leap Day by Nitrome – this is arguably better than Mario Run while being a similar concept (your character keeps running and you control the jumping). Leap Day’s hook is that there’s a new level every day. This does involve tight timing and platforming skills. I found it to be a very approachable game to pull out and play for 10 or 15 minutes here and there. Leap Day is available on the iOS App Store and on Google Play

Human Resource Machine by Tomorrow Corporation – it’s coding exercises wrapped up in an odd and forgettable story. If you have a degree in Comp Sci or are a professional developer this might feel like work, or like a set of warm ups. What I liked about it was that I was playing it alongside some other friends. We’d swap screenshots of progress and complain about levels. It’s the sort of game that shouldn’t have a multiplayer aspect, yet strangely lent itself to sharing stories and solutions. Nothing is timing based, in that you need to do quick actions in a row, but the interface is mildly complicated. I started on my iPhone and eventually moved to our iPad which was much more convenient. Human Resource Machine is available on many platforms

Pokémon Go by Niantic – when Pokémon Go was at its height it was electric. You’d walk down the street with your phone out and there’d be twice as many people outside all with their phones out smiling. We had a slack channel devoted to sharing progress and stories. There were endless blog posts and stories written about how it was changing society and gaming forever. A lot of that didn’t come to pass, but I do think it opened the door to companies trying more with alternative reality games. My enthusiasm about it has cooled quite a bit, but a few days ago I had to sidestep two 10 year olds who were excitedly trying to catch a Pokémon on Main street. If I had to wager a guess, I think we’ll see cycles of interest in Pokémon Go waxing and waning based on weather and updates. Pokémon Go is available on the iOS App Store and Google Play

Medium Commitment

Kentucky Route Zero Act IV by Cardboard Computer – Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realism play experienced via videogame as delivery mechanism. The controls are simple, the story is dense, and I think when it wraps up with Act V–whenever that is–it’ll stand as one of the greatest game stories we have. A more reductive way of looking at it is that it’s really good interactive fiction. You can buy a season pass for Kentucky Route Zero which will give you Acts I-IV now and V when it comes out

The Legend of Zelda (Zelda 1) – the original Zelda holds up fantastically. I put it in my NES recently just to test things out and found myself playing it. It’d been years since I’d attempted an actual playthrough. On the original hardware–without the aid of the internet or savestates–the game takes on a completely different feel. You start to feel every hit as you’re fighting to keep your hearts intact, you realize you don’t quite know where dungeons are and since you can’t look it up you’re just going to have to wander for a while. It’s a surprisingly consistent experience if you pay attention to what the game is telling you there isn’t a whole lot you’ll miss. Play it with someone and draw a map! Officially you can play this game through the Virtual Console. I’d recommend an NES and the cartridge if you can swing it though

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture by The Chinese Room – gorgeous soundtrack, beautiful visuals, and a story that I can only describe as “adult” in that if you were a teenager you’d miss all of the nuance. It deals with death, love, hate, being an outsider all through vignettes backed by an operatic score. Games like this make me excited for the medium. I’d recommend this one to people interested in stories if if they’re non-gamers. You do need to be able to navigate through a 3d space with a controller, but there’s no real timing or enemies to speak of. It tells a story in a world that feels very well realized. My wife and I played this together and enjoyed it quite a bit. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is available on the PS4 and on Steam

You’re in for it

These are games that I can’t recommend to non-gamers. I think they’re good, but they assume a level of proficiency with videogameyness that I wouldn’t force upon anyone who didn’t want to deal with it.

Dark Souls 3 by From Software – it feels like the logical endpoint of the Soulsbourne games. It’s confident in what it is and does it extremely well. The story is silly and over-the-top high fantasy. You could go back and play the other ones if you wanted to, but really you only need this one. I loved it, I really did. A friend, Andy, and myself sent emails back and forth with each other as we were going through it. We even took on a few of the bosses together while on voicechat. It was a tremendous amount of fun. Dark Souls 3 is available on anything with an actual graphics card

FF XV by Square Enix – I’m only 10 or so hours into this big wacky, dumb, lovable game, but I don’t want it to end. It’s a string of meandering sidequests set in the framing of a roadtrip with four bros. And these bros really love each other so very much. The characters are more fleshed out than any other final fantasy while also coming across as more grounded. The fact that one of the character’s main contribution to the storyline is taking pictures that they then present to you at the end of every in-game day is just brilliant. This is candy. Utter candy. It’s an anime as a videogame. It’s not difficult, but it is cool. Final Fantasy XV is on PS4 and Xbox One and probably later on Steam

The Witness by Thekla – a high-minded game of logic and perspective wrapped up in story that is quasi-philosophical diatribes and quotations from the world’s philosophers. My wife and I played this together swapping the controller back and forth. There are series of puzzles based around kinds of logical puzzles. It worked really well to play it like this as there were entire sections that one or the other of us “got” while the other didn’t. There were a few puzzles we looked up. One I’m annoyed with myself for not figuring out, another based on sound that I still don’t understand the solution. It does some fascinating things with perspective that I really enjoyed. The Witness is on PS4 and Xbox One with an iOS port coming