This year when it comes to picking the best game of the year, I have one major thought running through my head. Why did I trade my PS4 in for a Wii U all those years ago? Another thought ran through my head? Can I include something that isn’t a video game? Why not, right? It’s my list. Writing these lists it has occurred to me how little media I consume compared with critics in these respective areas. However, I’m not a critic. I consume media just the same as anyone else and that perspective is still valid.
Jurassic World Evolution: I’ve mentioned previously on this website my love for Jurassic Park Operation Genesis. Zoo Tycoon but with dinosaurs is just a fun idea. Why? Because I’m still a five-year-old child at heart who enjoys these creatures. Jurassic World Evolution is an updated and more polished concept that takes the ideas of Op Gen and makes them look their finest. The game is a little let down by the fact that most parks will look the same at the end of the day but keeps things interesting by progressing through the various islands. There are improvements I would like to see (more space, a sandbox mode without unlimited money) and perhaps an iteration of the most underwhelming aspect: the factions. There are three factions: science, entertainment, and defence. Promotion of the game talked about the dangers of favouring one over the other but it never becomes a meaningful choice, the worst it gets is one faction sabotaging the power station. You can keep them fairly balanced too without too much work. I might have been more interested in it if choosing a path altered the look of your park’s dinosaurs. However, with that said, Evolution is an enjoyable game and hopefully a step towards something even greater in future.
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate: You remember the Wii U anecdote at the top of this? Yeah. Perhaps the game that got the most play time on that system was Super Smash Bros 4. Smash 4 was deeply enjoyable with friends. Ultimate, however, is much better. Everyone is here. The underwhelming Smash tour has been tossed out. An enjoyable Classic mode and World of Light are just two of the highlights. Starting with a slate of eight characters and unlocking the remaining ones is enjoyable, if frustrating at times. What can I say about this game except that it is the most complete and exciting version of Smash which is a high water mark. I hope that its balancing of its characters is enough to unseat tired old Melee from people’s minds.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall: I played a lot of Civilization VI this year. Adding to this was the expansion of features that Rise and Fall brought to the table along with its cast of leaders. Loyalty, while frustrating when domination is on the table, is an interesting mechanic when it comes to empire building. Governors and their upgrades make for some interesting choices. Ages are a compelling mechanic on top of all that, adding bonuses depending on how successful you were during those turns. The history timeline is also a fascinating look at the development of your civilization across the game. I can’t wait for next year’s Gathering Storm expansion to change the game once again.
Dungeons and Dragons: It feels strange putting this on the list as the game itself is technically from the early 70s. Even its most recent iteration in 5th edition premiered in 2013. There was a book released this year but labelling this entry as D&D: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes would feel weird. I wanted to put this game on the list because I started a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons this year with a group of friends. Every other week we meet up and go on a fun romp. Every person at the table gave me some great experiences this year. From a city siege to a heartfelt moment between father and daughter; from breaking a staff to attempt to kill an archdevil to a one-on-one duel for control of an airship. These are moments that I loved this year and all it took was some paper, some pencils, some dice and some friends. They also made me laugh like hell. So as the elves say: ‘Sup.
Super Mario Party: The game I had the most fun with this year. There are so many things that make this entry work. The smaller boards mean less deliberating and faster movement around the whole board. The cheaper stars mean closer matches. The varied mini-games. That’s just the main party mode, however. Sound Stage offers a fun rhythm game that gets hectic and enjoyable with the Remix mode. River Survival offers a host of enjoyable co-op games interspersed with rafting. Partner Party is a co-op experience with interesting movement mechanics. Each character comes with a unique dice that makes them interesting to play. Perhaps the only disappointment is that there are only four maps to choose from. Other than that, there’s not much more I could have wanted from Super Mario Party. There’s always fun to be had with the unpredictable beast that is Mario Party.
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