This year has brought all sorts of great design and excellent experiences through a multitude of titles. From fighting off beasts to fulfilling the childhood dream of creating levels, gaming has seen some truly awesome innovations. Reflection is an important part of advancement. Therefore, I’ve collected my favorite games released this year.
Note, the games in this list are ones that I’ve personally played and are in no particular order. I also try to include games that brought something different to the overall library of content available.
Super Mario Maker
Creating levels in a classic NES setting is something I’ve always wanted to do, but always lacked the tools, knowledge and gumption to fully realize it. Luckily, Nintendo reworked its development engine into a game with Mario Maker. The result is the most absurd game on the console, oozing with possibility and merit. Years from now, we will surely see game-design courses using this software to teach concepts. It’s sure to be a game I come back to regularly, just to see what’s been made.
The Forgotten City
The Forgotten City is a Skyrim mod, proving that amazing gaming experiences can come from anywhere. During my playthrough of this narrative-driven mod, I spent 6-8 hours straight, completely immersed. Few games have put me in that state of pure concentration. The puzzles are intriguing, the characters are endearing and the whole experience feels amazing. It’s astounding that such excellence is used to create a free product. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the developers of this one for future projects.
Monster Hunter Ultimate 4
There has been but one game to sit for months in my 3DS and that’s the newest Monster Hunter. I wasn’t sure about portable hunting, but with the innovations adding layers of depth to an already solid combat system, I’m hooked. It’s also a game that’s a blast to play with friends over the internet or across the room. Capcom has also been abnormally considerate with its additional content, releasing tons of challenges and rewards for free. Monster Hunter Ultimate 4 is a must on the 3DS.
Sure, the first trailer didn’t blow me away, but Bethesda’s presentation at E3 left me drained from excitement overload. It quickly became a game of pure experience, setting out with nothing but Vault 111 stitched on my clothes and a need to explore. Sure it doesn’t have the most gripping writing and action seems to be the cure-all solution to problems in Boston, but Fallout 4 consumed me and my peers in a way few games do. Scrounging for duct tape has never been so immersive.
Bloodborne, from a design perspective, has a lot in common with games like Castlevania and Megaman on the NES. Everything in this game was created with purpose. Enemies attack in particular ways, telegraphing their intentions. Weapons function in unique ways. Exploration and mastery of the combat system is required to succeed, even in early levels. Each area has its own feel. The narrative is told in hints through descriptions and subtle visuals. There is nothing like it. I’ve only scratched the surface of Bloodborne, just recently defeating Vicar Amelia, but it has impressed me since my hunter rose from that hospital bed. Just like the Eternal Night, Bloodborne will perpetually be a milestone in game design.
Each of these fantastic games offer something that stands out in a marketplace flooded with content. Of course, there are some amazing games I haven’t gotten the chance to play yet, like Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt or Undertale, but that’s why I love this medium so much. It’s an art that continues to evolve, both in technology and execution.
Who knows what journeys gaming will take us on next.