Like a box of mint Matchmakers or an ultimately disappointing episode of Doctor Who, posting my top ten games of the year has become a Christmas tradition for me. I’m hoping that if I keep at it it’ll reach levels of national adoration; like when her Maj’ sticks on her sparkly hat and begrudgingly agrees to give us three minutes of her time.
I hope all four of you that actually give a shit enjoy these words and perhaps play these games. Just to distract me for a few minutes from the gasping black void of emptiness that is the point of all this, and indeed, the purpose of my very existence.
Happy New Year!
10) Life is Strange (PS3/4, XB360/One, PC)
Teenage girl friendship simulators that feel like a cross between Twin Peaks and Mean Girls are bloody everywhere these days, but this is the best of bunch. With a photography college setting and a twangy, folksy soundtrack there is a danger that the hipster levels will make your PlayStation sprout a fully waxed moustache, but the neat time travelling story and gut wrenching twists are well worth a few hours of anyone’s time.
9) Affordable Space Adventures (Wii U)
Sticking you behind the controls of a clapped-out, shitty space shuttle and then sending you off on a cheap interstellar package holiday, this does a marvellous job of simulating what it might be like if we ever get an Easyjet Galactic. Starting the engine by jabbing at the various buttons on the touchpad is one of the most awesomely geeky things I’ve done this year (and that’s quite an extensive list), while its five hour playtime doesn’t so much as break the forth wall as blast it into the nearest sun. A lovely little thing that probably makes more use of the Wii U’s odd grab bag of features than anything Nintendo have produced themselves.
8) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS3/4, XB360/One, PC)
On reflection, probably my least favourite Metal Gear, The Phantom Pain is still bloody good even if it’s not quite bonkers enough. Which seems like a ridiculous thing to say when you’re receiving sniper support from a mute in a bikini who breathes through her skin. Or when you’re attaching a balloon to a zebra and launching it a hundred feet in the air so you can stick it in your zoo in the middle of the ocean. Or when you task a fifty strong research and development team with inventing a cardboard box in a slightly different shade of brown. Or when you infiltrate Afghanistan for a stealth mission in the dark of night by arriving in a helicopter that’s blasting out Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ at full volume. I wub Metal Gear.
7) Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PS4, XBOne, PC)
Sometimes after seeing the latest mindless, right wing bollocks dribbled out on Facebook I have an irresistible urge to shoot Nazi zombies in the face. Fortunately, the unashamedly old school Wolfenstein is just the tonic for when you want to turn your brain off and make bad guys explode. Nicely brief and frantic with a cheeky, knowing glint in its eye, it’s the perfect counterpoint for all the chin stroking, high culture games I normally find myself playing.
6) Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Twenty five hours in and I still don’t have a fucking clue what’s going on, but taking on gigantic space dinosaurs in a massive stomping robot under the glare of eight fuck off moons is pretty damn cool. The most alien world I’ve ever visited, like Salvador Dali and David Attenborough took some LSD and got the crayons out, X is so bafflingly huge that it’s impossible to not be amazed by it. This also has the dubious honour of having the years most inappropriate and hilariously awful soundtrack, which eventually endears yourself to it by occasionally sounding like the kind of thing the Wu Tang Clan would have produced when they were five.
5) Guitar Hero Live (PS3/4, XB360/One, Wii U, PC)
If you told me at the start of the year that I would prefer the most recent Guitar Hero to the most recent Rock Band I would have removed my glove, slapped you round the face and challenged you to a duel. And yet here we are. The decision to have your band mates played by actors and to have the whole thing filmed from first person actually works and makes it even easier to fool your brain that you’re a massively successful musician and not just some 33 year old who has wasted their life pressing brightly coloured buttons on a toy guitar rather than using the hundreds of hours to pick up a real one and do something worthwhile. Sigh. Anyway, this is excellent *billandtedguitartwiddle*.
4) Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
Managing to make ten years of LittleBigPlanet completely irrelevant overnight, Mario Maker would be the best game of all time were it not for the fact that 98% of the levels are clearly made by people suffering from ADHD. But when you do stumble on the crackers made by mini-Myamotos you’ve essentially got an infinite game of Super Mario World, which obviously is bloody brilliant. Making a level yourself is so simple and intuitive that even I can shit out something remotely playable and watching my children huddle round the pad cackling to themselves as they try and make something I can’t beat was both heartwarming and terrifying in equal measure.
3) Splatoon (Wii U)
Nintendo’s brave adaptation of Oliver Stone’s brutal 1986 Vietnam flick discards the films unflinching portrayal of the duality of man in favour of mutant, ultra trendy, squids spraying brightly coloured ink at each other. And it works fantastically. The single player would easily have been a indie darling had it been released on Live Arcade but the multiplayer, oh my God the multiplayer, is an utterly sublime piece of online battling that solves about five or six of the genres problems in one foul swoop. Relentlessly entertaining, and perhaps the most Sega-like game Nintendo have ever made, this would have easily taken my Game of the Year had it been released any time in the last five years. But this was no ordinary year…
2) Rocket League (PS4, PC)
Combining cars and football might sound like the most boorishly laddish thing imaginable, but by making the vehicles rocket powered and capable of doing somersaults, Rocket League transforms into one of the most beautifully approachable yet difficult to master games in years. The key is that producing a decent goal doesn’t rely on player stats or some hidden attribute in the background figuring out if you’re lucky or not; everything you do here is down to your own skill. When you play Fifa or PES you’re just a kid in the playground pretending to be your favourite player. But when you play Rocket League, you actually ARE that player; it’s just he’s sitting behind the wheel of a dune buggy blasting 100 foot through the air, travelling at 150 miles per hour and the car is wearing a top hat and the exhaust is shitting out rainbows. Unbelievable, Jeff.
1) Bloodborne (PS4)
Defeating one of Bloodborne’s bosses is the closest I’ve ever come to a cardiac arrest; the rush of adrenaline followed by the wave of relief feels like taking every drug all at once. Cautiously making your way through its world is so unbelievably tense, that I managed to accidently get a six pack from all the involuntary stomach crunches. Piecing together the dark, gothic storyline from scraps of paper and item descriptions makes you feel like Luther, except cooler because you’re swinging a huge fuck off axe. Bloodborne isn’t just the best game I’ve played this year, it’s a contender for the best game I’ve EVER played. It’s mind-blowing, superlative-exhausting, frandly-blooblargh brilliance. Stop reading this rubbish, smash your phone against the wall and go and play it now. It’s that good.