I don’t keep it a secret that I am not a fan of ordered lists and deciding on a game of the year. It is at the time of game of the year awards that I am reminded I play quite a few games that nobody else on the team plays. Whole genres and series are ignored because a) they happen on PC only, b) they involve strategy or myriad other reasons. Thanks to being democratic, many of my favourite games fall off the lists very quickly. No, I am not trying to proclaim myself as some hipster that only plays niche games, but it is worrying when some of the better games I played last year hardly got a mention and their sales numbers reflect that these games were only enjoyed by few people, a lot less than they deserve.
So this list includes games that I wish more people played because they are worth the time. Whether they are just niche or released at the wrong time or no hype or the mars was in retrograde or whatever, here is a list of recent games I want more people to play so we can talk about them. (Or like Marko calls it, my GOTY list again.) This is all based on a highly scientific data collection process, by which I mean based on what I see people talking about online or in groups. If you have played these games, let’s talk.
Using the name Prey gave the game a lot of baggage as people who played the game many years ago expected more of that and many of the big elements that made Prey memorable (portals, spirit walking, etc) were left out of the game. I didn’t have any of that holding me back, so when Dawid told me he thought I would like it because it is a thinking person’s shooter, I added it to my wishlist. Enter a Bioshock / Dishonored in space, or a Deus Ex with thriller elements.
This singleplayer game is a stealth game all about outfoxing your opponent and discovering the story for yourself. What happened here? Piecing together what happened to you and the space station while learning of their stories, the rivalries and small tragedies and relationships on board is a right treat and working out how to enter locked rooms or trick the enemy into an environmental hazard is just as satisfying as upgrading that shotgun and sneaking up behind someone for bonus sneak attack damage. The game gives a heady mix of anxiety and reward as you are worried about what lurks around the corner, but the rewards you get for exploring make it all worth it. New emails, fabricator plans, precious items to upgrade and unlock new abilities and hunks of junk to turn into more useful objects all wait as rewards for you making it past or through the Typhon threat.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of those success stories from crowd-funding that is worth paying attention to. The original game made close to $1 million on Kickstarter, showing that the CRPG genre still has a strong following of people willing to throw money to be engrossed. When the Kickstarter for the sequel was announced, I knew I had to get in on that action. They managed to make the game bigger, better and prettier and with the entire game being voiced with a matter-of-fact narrator, you get to sit back and enjoy stories as they unfold, listening to the various characters. Divinity was an amazing co-op experience and I can’t wait to go back to try playing with a different party, making a different build to see the full extent of the combat system and more of those gorgeous spell effects. Any game that makes you want to replay straight after spending 90 hours with it? That is special.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
Oh Death of the Outsider, you were robbed. Robbed I say. Here we have the absolute badass tragic assassin Billie Lurk, masterfully voiced by Rosario Dawson (yes, Claire Temple) and where is everyone? The sales numbers I have seen for this game are tragic, which is pretty sad. Who can say no to more Dishonored, to going on a mission to kill the Outsider, a god-like being? Billie’s powerset isn’t as extensive as Corvo’s, but it makes up for this by being streamlined, multi-purpose and sometimes downright brutal. Being an assassin means this game isn’t judging you based on who you kill or spare. Billie is beyond those moral hang-ups, meaning the game focuses more on why people deserve to live or die.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Oh look, another CRPG! Torment: Tides of Numenera took niche to a whole other level. The spiritual successor to a 1999 game, Planescape: Torment, TTON had a different idea in mind: they wanted to make a game for a specific group of people, people who would back the project and provide input on large playable demos. TTON made over $4million on Kickstarter and raised even more on its own website. This game wasn’t out looking to make a success, if it launched to positive reception it already would be a success, because it was a game that the backers wanted. As a result, sales figures for this game on console and physical versions that weren’t backer rewards were very low. Basically, if people hadn’t played Planescape: Torment, I had very little luck finding people to discuss this magical game with. Many people were turned away by how wordy the game is. I mean, it has 1.2 million words in it, making it longer than many books. That being said, Torment: Tides of Numenera is the best book I read last year and if you can sit patiently and get into it, weird terms and all, I bet you will want to hop on Discord or the comments and have a long chat about this gem.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
This is probably one of the best selling games on my list, but I have seen too many people skip the latest AC offering, thinking it will just be more of the same. Origins is a rebirth for the series, bringing us back to how exciting things were when Assassin’s Creed II came out. A whole new combat system, RPG levelling and inventory and one of gaming’s best couples make this game something to savour. Small details like watching corpses slowly get buried in the sand of the desert or a guard takes the bodies of fallen comrades to a nearby internment site. From watching the dust you kick up affected by the wind to looking at the marks on the sides of low-lying buildings from when the Nile floods, replenishing the fertile soil in the farmlands, there are so many small details to fall in love with.
Endless Space 2
I feel like every time I mention 4X, the rest of the writers look at me with eyes glazing over. “4X? What is that? Oh, that strategy stuff?” That kinda thing. I try to explain FIDSI to them and the glaze gets so thick I have to check for a pulse. Endless Space 2 lets you take over the galaxy a star system at a time, colonising and terraforming worlds to make your empire, then creating ships that suit your needs to scout, destroy and colonise some more. The Endless games have many quests to follow while playing, which means the game feels different enough every time you play it and each race has a completely different way of playing. Some ignore a certain resource altogether, others force planets to work harder through fear as they eat the population and scour the planet like locusts. There are so many variations that keep me going back, but I have nobody to share my stories with.
That is my list, for now, in no specific order and very far for being complete. Do you have a recent game you feel was overlooked, something that made your soul sing, but you couldn’t find another person to share the resonance?