Category Archives: Best-of Lists

The best original Xbox games to play on your Xbox One

The announcement at E3 this year that OG Xbox games would be made backwards compatible with Xbox One got me thinking. What original Xbox games are still worth playing in this future year of 2017?

Well, I came up with a list of ten, which went up on Kotaku UK today:

10 of the Best Original Xbox Games to Play on Your Xbox One

It was tricky getting it down to 10, and some eyebrows may be raised by the fact that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is missing, but I wanted to highlight some of the lesser known Xbox games, and ones that did something really unique.

Out of all of them, I’d be keen to play GunValkyrie again – boosting around and blasting giant insects was a blast.

How about you lot? What OG Xbox games do you want to play again?

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The five best games of E3 2017

E3 is finally over, after a seemingly endless stream of barely watchable conferences, Earth-shattering game announcements, utterly desirable plastic figurines, tepidly received hardware, surprisingly sweary trailers, zombies, androids, gods and superheroes, visions of the post-apocalypse (and zombies), more visions of the post-apocalypse (and Nazis), and visions of Mario *being* a dinosaur (no Nazis or zombies).

But did we get any of the things we wished for? The Manor folk are on hand to run through their top five games from this year’s E3 – Professor GreilMercs already listed his highlights, but here are the picks from the Baron and Lucius.


Baron Richenbaum Fotchenstein

#5 Marvel vs.Capcom Infinite

This game just hits me right in the Marvels and cranks the classic video game character nostalgia up to 11 with what looks to be a super fun and ridiculous single player campaign. This is the most excited I’ve been about a fighting game in ages.

#4 Doom VR

In theory this could be the best of all, because I loved the new Doom so much and was already thinking about playing it again and wishing it was VR capable, and here we are. I’m hoping that the teleport movement in the trailer isn’t the only option though, and slightly worried that the transition from non-VR to VR controls might be a little tricky for a game with so much fast movement and jumping involved.

#3 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Looks to be more of the same of the last one, but that was a ton of fun so I’m quite alright with that.

#2 The Evil Within 2

A sequel to the greatest horror game of this generation besides Resident Evil 7? Of course I’m interested in that!

#1 Metro Exodus

If this can really live up to its promise of an open world set in the beautifully decrepit Metro universe, and the high production values of the previous games tend to make me believe that it can, then this could end up being the game of the year for me. Sci-fi, horror, first person shooting, and a huge world full of content? What more can a man ask for?!


Lucius P. Merriweather

#5 Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido

This new IP was announced quite late on in E3, but it quickly became one of the games I’m most looking forward to. It’s an action puzzle game from the makers of NES Remix, and it looks wonderfully absurd – you have to collect sushi from the conveyor belt in front of you and fling the dishes at your opponent. But the best thing has to be the music – check out the trailer to see what I mean.

#4 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein: The New Order was a wonderful surprise after a string of lacklustre Wolfenstein titles – the story was compelling and the gameplay was a refreshing return to old-school health packs. The sequel – now set in a  Nazi-run America – looks just as good. Can’t wait.

#3 Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Well this one was a bit of a surprise. Thanks to leaks, we knew there was a Mario/Rabbids crossover game on the way, and most people groaned at the news, expecting some sort of dull mini-game compilation like the previous Rabbids games. But instead we got XCOM and Mario with a gun – I don’t think anyone saw that coming. What’s more, it actually looks really, really good.

#2 Super Mario Odyssey

We all knew that Odyssey would be good – there’s nary a dud game in the Mario back catalogue – but from the footage revealed at E3, it looks like it’s shaping up to be something extra special. The ‘possession’ mechanic is a wonderful idea, and the sheer variety of ideas on display is breathtaking. I mean, you can possess a dinosaur. A DINOSAUR. Roll on October.

#1 Monster Hunter World

This game came as something of a surprise, as it’s heading to PS4 and Xbox One rather than Nintendo’s machines. What’s more, it looks utterly stunning – after sampling Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate in HD on the Wii U, I’m looking forward to another HD monster hunt with even shinier graphics. It seems Capcom have given the mechanics a long-overdue shake-up as well, so this looks like almost a new start for the series. Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will make its way to the Switch as well…

Special mention – It didn’t quite squeak into my top five, but I want to give special mention to Griftlands, a cartoon-style RPG from the makers of Don’t Starve where the emphasis is on charming and swindling your way through the game. Looks very promising…


And that’s it! Thanks for reading our coverage of E3 2017 – if you missed anything, you can find all of the posts archived here. See you back here next year! We’ll leave you with this wonderfully infectious tune ‘I’ll Be Your 1-Up Girl’ from Super Mario Odyssey…

(Apparently it’s sung by no less than Pauline, who’s now the mayor of New Donk City…)


UPDATE FROM LUCIUS – D’oh! I just realised I completely forgot to mention the new Metroid games, which were specifically on my wish list! Seeing as we have no footage of Metroid Prime 4 whatsover, it’s hard to put it in my top five, but I reckon Metroid: Samus Returns should go in at number 2, nudging out Sushi Striker at number 5 (sorry Sushi Striker). I played Metroid II recently, but it was a struggle to get used to the old-school gameplay (there’s not even a map for chrissakes), so I can’t wait to play the remake. Samus Returns seems to add some nifty innovations, too: check out the fancy counter move in the gameplay trailer below. Day one purchase, I reckon – and it’s been far too long since we had a new 2D Metroid.

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The Top Ten Wii U Games

Ed’s note: We’re proud to welcome Professor GreilMercs to The Manor, one of several new regular contributors. Check out his stuff at http://ivgacademy.com/index.php/blog.


Late last year, almost exactly four years after its launch, the last Wii U rolled off the production line. During its short lifetime, the Wii U was often misunderstood, not helped by a mangled marketing campaign and general confusion as to how to best utilise its unique second screen. History will no doubt view it as Nintendo’s folly, but despite its small install base and relatively slim catalogue of games, it was home to some of the very best titles of its generation.

We spent a long time trying to come up with a definitive top ten list of the best Wii U games, which turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. Here’s what we came up with – be prepared for a few surprises…

10. Toki Tori 2+

GreilMercs (review) – The first Toki Tori  game (originally for the Game Boy Color) ranks as one of my favorite puzzle games ever, so I had high hopes for its sequel. The game is perhaps a bit too ambitious and sprawling, but the core mechanics are solid. Toki Tori, a yellow chicken who serves as the game’s protagonist, only has two moves, stomping to repel creatures and whistling to attract them. These combine with a menagerie of colorful characters for Toki Tori to interact with (including birds, crabs, and bats) and lead to a surprising amount of variety to the puzzles. The game is at times a bit frustrating and obtuse, but it’s oftentimes relaxing as well, and overall it’s a lot of fun and quite memorable.

9. Mario Kart 8

Lucius – When Nintendo announced Mario Kart 8, I wasn’t too excited. The last couple of entries in the series didn’t set my world alight, and I wondered whether it was time the series was put out to pasture. But my god it’s good. The course design is what makes it so special – swooping, whirling roller-coasters utterly packed with detail, all swishing by at terrific speeds in a whirl of colour. The game barely left my Wii U disc tray for the best part of a year – thanks in part to the generous, excellent DLC, which finally saw characters from other Nintendo series welcomed into the line up. And the music! Such amazing tunes… All in all, it’s by far the pinnacle of the Mario Kart series, only let down by a slightly subpar Battle Mode.

GreilMercs (review) – To be honest, I found Mario Kart 8 to be fairly underwhelming, and I didn’t feel like the HD graphics and anti-gravity mechanics brought much new to the series. Still, it’s a solid multiplayer game (despite its lack of traditional battle arenas), and the weightier physics of the karts added a bit of realism – well, as much as can be said for a game in which you can carry around a Piranha Plant and shrink opponents with a lightning bolt. The DLC, which expanded the Kart world to include other Nintendo IPs, added some variety to the proceedings. The game has only been bettered with its rerelease on Switch, which is certainly the definitive version.

8. Super Mario 3D World

GreilMercs (review) – Super Mario 3D World fulfilled the promise of 3DS’s Super Mario 3D Land, and completely fulfilled the development team’s goal of marrying the straightforward 2D gameplay of the classic Mario games with the variety and freedom of the 3D games, not to mention including a fun and smooth multiplayer experience. The game adds more new mechanics and power ups than most of the games in the series, including the Double Cherry, Goomba Mask, Cannon Box, Light Box, a Piranha Plant you can carry, and, of course, the Cat Suit. Playing as the reunited cast of Super Mario Bros. 2 with their trademark special abilities is a blast, and the secret unlockable character was a great surprise and feels right at home with the rest of the group. The game feels like a successful and satisfying culmination of Nintendo’s 2D and 3D Mario games, and it will be fascinating to see how they top this one.

Lucius – I just couldn’t get into New Super Mario Bros. U, and I feared that perhaps I was falling out of love with Mario games – but then this beast came along and reminded me why Mario is so bloody great. The sheer number of ideas on display is astonishing – it will introduce a new mechanic but then discard it after just one level, before bringing in something entirely new on the next one. You could easily build an entire game around one of the ideas used in just one level of Super Mario 3D World… and in fact they did just that. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is an excellent spin-off game in its own right, but in Super Mario 3D World the Toad levels are just one tiny facet of a glorious whole.

7. Super Mario Maker

GreilMercs (review) – I generally shy away from games that focus on creating levels and such, but of course I had to check out Super Mario Maker. The lack of a story mode or sense of progression is offset by the sheer amount of variety of the official and user-submitted levels, much more than you might first think given the finite number of elements available. Although there are a lot of disposable submissions and boring “don’t move” Rube Goldberg-type levels, it’s not hard to find users whose creations easily rival Nintendo’s own level designers. The best levels are the ones that take the familiar Mario elements and make something new with a distinctly non-Nintendo feel, such as head-scratching puzzle levels. The game is surprisingly fun, and a refreshing change of pace from the Newer Super Mario Bros. series, which has for far too long been the default 2D Mario game experience.

6. Xenoblade Chronicles X

Lucius (review) – I’ve put around 130 hours into this game and finished the main story, but there’s easily enough content to keep me playing for another 130 hours – or more. The game is simply HUGE. And because of this, it nails the feeling of exploration, as you push your way ever further into the depths of unfamiliar and hostile continents. Like its predecessor, the sheer scale of the monsters you face is flabbergasting, and you’ll regularly be dwarfed by dinosaurs the size of buildings. After spending most of the game running away from these behemoths, there’s an enormous sense of satisfaction at returning towards the end of the game and smiting them with suitably souped up weaponry. Special mention should also go to the crazy story, which starts off with the Earth being destroyed – as openers go, it’s a strong one.

 5. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

GreilMercs (review) – The lead-up to any Smash Bros. game is full of speculation and ridiculous amounts of hype, and the lead-up to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (and 3DS) was no exception. It would of course be impossible for everyone’s favorite character to be included, but director Sakurai did a great job of adding another batch of new and surprising characters to the roster, many of whom had unique mechanics, such as Rosalina and Luma, Little Mac, Shulk, and Wii Fit Trainer. The game is overflowing with modes, including a surprisingly fun board game type multiplayer experience. Although the game isn’t as much of a step forward as Melee or Brawl, it’s still a game that you could (and people do) easily spend hours upon hours mastering, or just pick up every once in a while for some fun with friends.

Lucius (review) – I had an absolute blast with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U when I first got it. The unimpeachable roster of characters was undoubtedly the highlight, with everyone from Captain Olimar to the dog from Duck Hunt being represented, and there were even a few surprising debuts from non-Nintendo characters, such as Sonic and Pac-Man. The sheer range of playing modes on offer is astounding, and the trophies are brilliant bites of nostalgia, referencing all sorts of long-forgotten Nintendo lore. In the end though, I just found the game wasn’t for me – my interest in fighting games has waned dramatically over the years, and my friends found the multiplayer chaotic and too confusing to enjoy. That said, I can still appreciate that this is easily the pinnacle of the Smash series.

4. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Lucius (review) – This was my first Monster Hunter game, and it dug its claws in deep. It’s a hard game to get into, but thankfully I had my MH-loving sister on hand to guide me through the game’s complexities and arcane stats. Once I’d got my head around the idea that the only way to ‘level up’ was to make better armour from bits of the beasts you slay, I spent many happy hours gleefully chopping my way through monsters with an eye on the next fancy outfit I had in mind. And speaking of monsters, the sheer variety of them is phenomenal – and they don’t go down easy, either. Each hunt is a tense game of cat and mouse, first tracking the animal down and then gradually learning its attacks, before carefully laying a trap or going in for the kill. There’s nothing else quite like it out there, and I for one am an eager Monster Hunter convert.

GreilMercs (review) – I missed out on Monster Hunter Tri for Wii, so Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was my first real experience with the series. I was wary of the series’ infamously high difficulty curve, but it actually wasn’t too bad, and I spent many an obsessive hour playing the game and then studying up on the nuances of the game’s mechanics online. The gameplay loop, of fighting monsters to gain parts to make better weapons and armor to fight tougher monsters to make better weapons and armor (…) is addictive, and although I definitely feel like I’m missing out on the multiplayer side of things I still had a lot of fun playing solo.

3. Hyrule Warriors

GreilMercs (review) – I was pretty obsessed with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, but that did not even begin to compare with how obsessed I got with Hyrule Warriors. I’d always been wary of the Dynasty Warriors games because every review I’d read of the games stressed how repetitive the gameplay is, but Hyrule Warriors has so many characters and weapons and adds so many other objectives that you hardly notice it. Levelling up characters, defeating enemies in order to collect materials, and working through the story mode is pretty fun, but completing the adventure mode challenges to unlock new characters, weapons, and costumes is where the game goes from fun to seriously addictive. The Zelda trappings are what tie everything together, and the amount of fanservice is simply fantastic, fulfilling fans long-time fantasies of getting to play as series’ favorites, such as Midna, Ganondorf, Zelda herself, and… Tingle?? A complete surprise to me that it ranks so high on my list of favorite Wii U games, but it’s really that good.

Lucius – I only played the 3DS version of this game – Hyrule Warriors Legends – but bar a slight graphical downgrade, it’s essentially the same experience. And what an experience it is. Fusing the musou gameplay of Dynasty Warriors with the Zelda universe was a stroke of genius, and the generous list of characters to play with, along with a massive Adventure Mode that takes place on the original Legend of Zelda map, rounds off an extremely generous package that shows real love for the fiction. Like all musou games, the gameplay can become a little repetitive, but slicing down armies of soldiers with one swipe of the Master Sword always brings a smile to my face.

2. Pikmin 3

Lucius (review) – My only complaint about this game is that there simply wasn’t enough of it. I burned through the whole thing in a few days, all the time with a joyous grin plastered across my face. The move to HD has been an absolute boon for Pikmin, and the sumptuous environments are worth exploring simply to see the detail that’s been put into them. And the fruit! Surely if there was a prize for Best Looking Fruit in a Video Game, Pikmin 3 would win the contest without problem. Seriously, that fruit is beautiful. I actually remember spinning around a 3D model of an apple for about 15 minutes, just marvelling at its pores. Fruit aside though, this game easily bests the previous two in terms of fun and strategy – it’s just a shame we had to wait nine years for it. Hopefully Pikmin 4 will be a little quicker in coming.

GreilMercs (review) – I’d played and really enjoyed the first Pikmin game and had been pretty bored with the slow pace of Pikmin 2, but I got ensnared by Pikmin 3‘s absolutely perfect progression and found myself finishing the game in a ridiculously few number of sittings. The gameplay isn’t much different from its two predecessors, but this is a case where Nintendo’s level of polish really elevates this game to its lofty position among the Wii U’s library. The Wii U’s GamePad is super handy, and this was one of the few Wii U games where I felt the boost in graphics really improved the overall experience. The multiplayer modes are quite fun also.

1. Splatoon

GreilMercs (review) – The impact of Splatoon can perhaps best be described as doing for shooters what Mario Kart did for racing games: made them fun for everyone. The game is a sublime mix of fresh parts within its core gameplay, including providing multiple objectives  (painting turf vs. splatting enemies) and multiple styles of movement (moving as a kid and shooting with your gun vs. hiding or swimming in the paint as a squid, including up walls). There are tons of modes and weapons, and the neon aesthetics, funky music, memorable new characters, and fun and colorful street style combine with the superbly elegant, “just one more round” gameplay to create a fantastically fun experience. Easily the best new IP from Nintendo that appeared on Wii U, or any Nintendo system for that matter. The only weak link was a somewhat ho-hum single-player campaign, although that may be remedied in the forthcoming sequel on Switch.

Lucius – OK, confession here. Despite owning this game, I’ve only played about half of the single-player mode, and I’ve never tried it online. And yet here it is at number one. Why? Well, for a start, Prof. GreilMercs is VERY EMPHATIC that this is clearly the best game ever released on Wii U, and who am I to disagree with him? For another thing, online shooters are never going to be my cup of tea, but I can easily appreciate just how important and ground-breaking this game is – trust Nintendo to come up with a highly competitive FPS with no blood or violence. It can be done! Plus the Inklings are a simply awesome piece of character design – I have two of them in amiibo form sat staring at me on my desk right now. The single-player game is also wonderfully designed, full of ingenious levels and satisfying mechanics – just the act of shooting your ink gun is a joy. So, like Smash Bros., this game may not be my personal favourite simply because of its genre – but I am very, very glad it exists.

Honourable mentions

We debated for ages about the running order of the top ten. Here are some of the games that got pipped at the post: Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE#, New Super Luigi U, Bayonetta 2, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Little Inferno.

You’re probably wondering why on earth Breath of the Wild isn’t at number one, let alone not even in the top ten. Well, controversially, Professor GM isn’t a massive fan of it, and Lucius hasn’t played it yet, so it was mercilessly chopped from the running early on. We seriously considered a place for Little Inferno in the top ten right up to the end, having both enjoyed it immensely, but finally we decided it was a bit too slight to muscle out the big boys. Lucius also fought for Affordable Space Adventures to have some representation, but it was eventually nuzzled out of the running by Toki Tori 2+.

So what do you agree with on our list? Let us know your own top ten in the comments below!

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Lucius Merriweather’s Most Agreeable Games of 2016

As ever, my gaming time was at a premium this year, but even so I managed to plough through a fair portion of my gaming backlog, finally finding time to play games like Journey and Uncharted 2.

Despite buying a PS4 in September, I still didn’t play that many games released in 2016, yet the new games I did manage to play left a lasting impression. And there are dozens of 2016 releases that I can’t wait to play through in the coming year, among them the newly rebooted DOOM – which Sir Gaulian has been raving about in his best of list.

The Best Games of 2016 That I Actually Played

the-last-guardian-tricoThe Last Guardian

It was worth the wait. I’m currently halfway through The Last Guardian, and it has reawakened feelings I experienced when playing through the sublime ICO and Shadow of the Colossus: namely, an uncanny sense of isolation and wonder, combined with a strong emotional bond with my companion. And speaking of the companion in this game, Trico is simply amazing to behold – at times I have genuinely believed he’s a real creature that’s somehow become trapped in my PS4.

no_mans_sky_foundation_update_base_buildingNo Man’s Sky

It’s not for everyone, and Hello Games didn’t quite deliver on the rash promises they made in the lead up to No Man’s Sky‘s release, but I’ve immensely enjoying pottering around the universe they created. There’s sheer joy to be had in simply roaming the galaxy and stumbling across its many weird and wonderful creatures. And those 70s sci-fi inspired planetscapes are genuinely poster-worthy. Plus, with the latest expansion, you can now build your own space shed for intergalactic pottering.

pokemon_go_-_screenshot_of_mapPokémon Go

Despite being fairly broken at launch, Pokemon Go was phenomenally popular, and with good reason: the urge to catch ’em all in the actual real world is overwhelmingly strong. I gave up on gym battling fairly early on, but I still play the game regularly in the hope of completing my Pokedex. And thanks to frequent updates, the game is now actually stable and full of great features. Most importantly, it got me back into mobile gaming – speaking of which…

super-mario-run-toad-rallySuper Mario Run

Much has been written about the game’s divisive £8 price point – there’s a good summary here – but to me this game has been incredible value for money. Unlike the initially broken Pokemon Go, Super Mario Run has the extreme polish that you’d expect of a fully fledged Nintendo game – and Toad Rally is utterly compelling. It turns out that competing against your friends for coins and Toads is exactly the ingredient that Mario needed all along. I wrote off 2D platformers earlier this year, but Super Mario Run is the game that made me fall in love with them again.

steamworld-heistSteamWorld Heist

Technically this came out in December 2015, but I’m including it here because I didn’t play it in time for last year’s list – and because it’s bloody fantastic. The universe of SteamWorld Dig is reimagined in space as a side-on, turn-based shooter – like a 2D XCOM with steam-powered robots. The design is incredible and there’s a warm sense of humour percolating through the game – I can’t wait to see what Image & Form come out with next.

BUBBLING UNDER: Deus Ex GO, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, Really Bad Chess.

The Best Games of 2016 That I Would Have Played If I’d Had The Time

fire-emblem-fatesFire Emblem: Fates

I’m gutted that I missed out on the lovely special edition of this game – I’ve been coveting Sir Gaulian’s copy. I adored Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I’m fresh from a playthrough of the GBA game Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, so I’m itching to throw myself into Fire Emblem: Fates. The general word seems to be that it doesn’t quite hit the highs of Awakening, but I haven’t played a bad Fire Emblem game yet.

tokyo-mirage-sessionsTokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Again, I wish I’d been quick enough to nab the special edition of this game. And rather than going down in price, the base game is now selling for more than its RRP in many places, reflecting the limited number of retail copies, no doubt. Still, I can’t wait to play through this unique crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem – next year I’ll be watching online game shops like a hawk, ready to swoop in when the price is right.

ace-attorney-spirit-of-justicePhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

I was disappointed that Capcom didn’t bother localizing the intriguing Sherlock Holmes Ace Attorney spin-off, but at least we have this game, the sixth in the main series. The fifth was a huge return to form, and Spirit of Justice seems to have kept up the series’ standards, judging by the good reviews. I can’t wait to see what Maya has been up to all these years.

virginia-screenshotVirginia

I spent a good portion of this year playing through the wonderfully odd and obtuse Deadly Premonition, so what a coincidence it was when another game inspired by Twin Peaks was released at the same time I was exploring a different version of murder in small-town America. The idea of a story with no dialogue is hugely intriguing – and the fact that this game is only a couple of hours long means that there’s a good chance I might actually find the time to play it in 2017.

BUBBLING UNDER: Uncharted 4, INSIDE, Dishonored 2, XCOM 2, The Witness, Monster Hunter Generations, Firewatch, DOOM, Titanfall 2, That Dragon, Cancer, Hitman, Duskers.

[As written by Lucius Merriweather on the cusp of 2017.]

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Sir Gaulian’s Most Agreeable games of 2016

For me the year 2016 in videogames is notable for a couple of reasons.

The first is that this year marks the moment Forza Horizon shtick wore out its welcome, and that despite its slavish dedication to paying homage to Australia’s unique auto history, I couldn’t force my way through the now by-the-numbers open world racing of Forza Horizon 3.

I played the fewest games in 2016 I probably have in any other year of my adult life. Which makes this a rather hard post to write. I haven’t followed what’s been happening in the world of video games terribly closely – which has been wonderful truth be told – but if there was a year to be ‘out of the loop’ this was it.

Because although I’d made a conscious decision to completely block out video games media and coverage, when snippets did creep their way to my attention through the information cracks and crevices in modern day living, it felt like I’d been picked up and sent way back in time. A return to Willamette Shopping Mall? A trailer featuring Watch Dogs’ T-bone?  Rocket-launching Revenants? In many ways – whether it be through the return of some of my favourites from years past or the release of games long in the making – my abridged experience of 2016 felt like a year designed to remind me personally of the things I love about video games. And the things I love about video games were encapsulated perfectly in my favourite games of the year.

Doom

Classic Doom always will hold a very special place in my video game lexicon. It is the one game I’d say without reservation every human being should – if they have any interest in pop culture of any kind – at least experience once in their life.

I’d probably say the same thing about this year’s Doom.

Doom is quite simply the same as it ever was. It’s prettier sure, and there are some more modern day trappings sprinkled across the top, but Doom is now as Doom was then. It’s impossible to know what would or could’ve been, but I can’t help but feel that if the Masters of Doom had the latest technology in the 90’s, this is what they would’ve unleashed upon an unwitting society.  It’s fast, it’s violent, it’s frenetic, and it’s fantastic.  From the moment the first zombie-soldier shuffles on to the screen, it feels just as it did more than 20 years ago. The masters may have changed, but Doom is back in a big way.

DOOM_Mars

 

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 is perhaps the perfect follow-up to what I still consider one of this generation’s finest video games. Although I found Chicago the more interesting place to hack, San Francisco is clearly the more logical place for cyber-shenanigans, what with most of the world’s social media hailing from the city by the bay.

The feel and flow of the series’ storytelling also got a significant overhaul; which despite not being as brooding aired as much of modern humanity’s dirty laundry as the grittiest pop culture yarns, with gender, sexuality and racial discrimination all getting subtle yet powerful cameos in such a clever and understated way that it’s not far-fetched to hope it paves the way for smarter representation of social minorities in video games.

But it was the story about how a ragtag bunch of activists bond – and I mean really become friends who care for one another – that wins the game my highest of praise. Watch Dogs 2 is a thoughtful game wrapped in a veneer of fun and frivolity, a game that successfully tackles some of western civilisations’ greatest challenges from living in a hyper-connected world, and a game that treads that fine line between preaching and informing.

The fact Watch Dogs 2 is incredibly fun to play is nothing short of a miracle, and why it’s without a doubt my favourite game of the year.

wd2

 

So there you have it; a shorter list than most previous years, but one that is filled with two games that for mine have packed a far harder punch than any in previous memory. Please let us know your favourite 2016 games in the comments.  Happy New Year and I hope to be around these hallowed halls more frequently in 2017.

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Lucius Merriweather’s Most Agreeable Games of 2015

Better late than never. Following Sir Gaulian’s rundown in the middle of December, here’s my list of the creme de la creme of 2015 – a year in which I found myself playing my 3DS and Wii U more than anything else, despite all of the exciting goings on elsewhere. Indeed, 2015 felt like the year that the ‘next-gen’ consoles really got going, with games like Fallout 4 and Arkham Knight finally providing bona fide reasons to invest in a PS4 or Xbox One.

But having said that, I’m still working my way through tons of brilliant games from yesteryear, and if any game defined my 2015, it was Xenoblade Chronicles, a Wii game from 2011. I reviewed it back in September after spending well over 100 hours playing through its enormous campaign, and it’s easily the game I played the most last year. Other notable games I finally got around to playing included Alien: Isolation and Heavy Rain, along with the brilliant Remember Me (which I’m currently playing through and loving every minute). But in terms of games that actually came out this year, this little lot have been keeping me busy…

The Best Games of 2015 That I Actually Played

Monster-Hunter-4-Ultimate-key-artMonster Hunter 4 Ultimate

After being introduced to the series with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the fourth game, and I even got a snazzy limited edition New Nintendo 3DS XL to play it on. The latest entry is a big improvement on its predecessor in terms of the single-player campaign, and I love the new verticality to the levels. Basically, when I wasn’t playing Xenoblade in 2015, I was playing this.

affordable space adventuresAffordable Space Adventures

Few games have really taken full advantage of the Wii U’s idiosyncratic control system, but this game used every facet of the console’s quirky controls to brilliant effect. As a single-player game it’s fine, but with two or three people it becomes an absolute riot. Who’d have thought that being an engineer could be so much fun? Don’t answer that if you’re an engineer.

code name steam eagleCode Name: S.T.E.A.M.

I’m a sucker for turn-based strategy games, and the 3DS is perfect for them – Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is still one of my favourite games on the system, and I loved Fire Emblem: Awakening.  So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this: a strategy game based on H.P. Lovecraft’s monsters along with various heroes from American literature. The lack of a map was initially jarring, but it quickly proved to be an inspired decision that really encouraged careful exploration, and Eurogamer rightfully highlighted Code Name STEAM as one of the great ‘Unsung Games of 2015‘. Yes it’s a little unbalanced, and those chunky visuals are an acquired taste, but it’s still a true gem.

trailer-project-zero-maiden-of-black-water-trailer-annuncio-release-eu-18227-640x16Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water

I was tempted to put Splatoon in this slot, but to be honest I played Project Zero far more, even though on the surface it’s a ‘weaker’ game. It’s repetitive, yes, and it’s hardly revolutionary – but it rekindled my love for a genre that’s almost been forgotten, and now I can’t wait to seek out a few more survival horror games that I missed along the way. Dino Crisis 2? Parasite Eve II? I reckon they might still be worth a punt after all these years… and imagine if they remade them.

BUBBLING UNDER: Splatoon, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Box Boy!.

The Best Games of 2015 That I Would Have Played If I’d Had The Time

fallout_4_63529Fallout 4

I tramped around Fallout 3 for what seemed like years. I laid waste to Megaton, discovered creepy skeletons in an abandoned bunker, put a tree man out of his misery and got up to all sorts of larks on a battleship. Fallout 4 looks just as bizarre and wonderful, even if it’s as buggy and clunky as ever. But then again, the bugginess and clunkiness is almost part of the charm. Almost.

xenoblade-chronicles-x-wallpaperXenoblade Chronicles X

I came this close to buying Xenoblade Chronicles X on day one, having spent a good chunk of my year playing through the prequel. In the end though there are still far too many games on my backlog that I want to get through, and I know this game will be another 100-hour-plus adventure. It does look brilliant though – I’m scheduling it in for sometime in 2016, for definite.

batman arkham knightBatman: Arkham Knight

The emerging consensus seemed to be that this game wasn’t quite as good as the first two – but it still looks bloody amazing. I can’t wait to step into the shoes of the caped crusader once again, but I also feel like I should play through Origins first, if only for completeness. That there old Batmobile looks fun though, don’t it?

guitar-hero-live-screenshotGuitar Hero: Live

At one point you couldn’t move in my front room for plastic musical instruments: I played my way through about five Guitar Hero and Rock Band games before the genre seemed to fizzle out. It’s been a good long while since that happened, however, and guitar games feel like they’re ripe for a return. Rock Band 4 looked fun, but Guitar Hero: Live had the killer idea of using live concert footage to make you feel like you’re noodling away on an actual stage. I’m looking forward to making a proper tit of myself as I thrash away on this in my living room.

life is strangeLife is Strange

Dontnod Entertainment is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the hottest game studios in the business. After Remember Me was released to generally great reviews but reportedly poor sales (I can’t find any official figures, but one thread claims it sold just 140,000 copies), it was great to see Dontnod getting a well-deserved hit with Life is Strange – and it also vindicates the developer’s decision to press on with using female lead characters after their previous game was rejected by publishers who whined that “You can’t have a female character in games” (seriously). Life is Strange sounds genuinely different and innovative, and the only thing that stopped me buying it is the nagging guilt that I’m still only halfway through the equally wonderful The Wolf Among Us – a game I’m determined to see through before I start any more episodic adventures.

BUBBLING UNDER: Steins;Gate, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam Bros., Resident Evil Revelations 2, Her Story, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Soma, The Talos Principle, Just Cause 3, Sunless Sea, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

[As written by Lucius Merriweather in the miasma of the New Year back-to-work week.]

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Sir Gaulian’s Most Agreeable games of 2015

What a cracking year 2015 was. One for the ages I reckon. Marriage of course, topped that for me, as I was lucky enough to marry my teenage sweetheart. But hey, those video games really came to the party this year didn’t they, and in timely fashion too as both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 hit their respective strides in a big way. And the Wii U, well that just continues to bubble along and make itself a welcome presence in every household it has touched to date. All 10 million of them. Good bloody times all ’round, really.

But as has become a bit of a trend for this ageing chap, video game time is but a portion of what it once was, and I’ve played only a handful of games I’d have liked to have. But the games that I did play, well they were all for the most part, great.  And from that selection, there were a handful that stood a head above the rest, that were so fantastic in fact that you’d be as silly as a bum full of Smarties to miss out on.

Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX

I’m not sure I was ready for just how adorable the 3DS incarnation of Hastune Miku is.  I liked the vocaloid rhythm game shenanigans of Hatsune Miku on the Playstation 3, tapping along to the weird electronic pop music complete with weird synthetic vocals, all the while enjoying the music more than I know I ought to.  Enough to buy two games of it in fact.  But the last thing I thought I’d want from these fun, challenging music games, is a virtual live-in diva of my own to look after and simply just hang out with and share a drink or two.  After all, it’s all about the music.

Well as it turns out it’s exactly what I needed from a Hatsune Miku game, because over the last handful of months, Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX has been at my side practically everywhere I go.  I’d replay songs not to get higher scores, oh no, but to buy premium sushi to share with my roommate Meiko.  “How about we share some sushi?”, I’d say out loud to my virtual on-screen buddy, garnering odd looks from my wife sitting not one metre away.  “How about we play some Reversi now?”, I’d ask, much to her excitement.

I’m embarassed to admit just how attached I became to my live-in buddy Meiko.  But the ‘relationships’ I developed with the adorable bunch of characters made the music that much better, and watching Meiko bust a few of her own choreographed moves on the dance floor, well that made me feel like a proud as punch parent.

Did I mention the music is also pretty good?

MeikoHM

Rise of the Tomb Raider

For twenty years I’ve been a loving and committed travelling companion in Lara Croft’s adventures, accompanying her from the mountainous heights of Peru to the Arctic Sea, and beyond.  Her exploits on Yamatai in 2013 were a favourite of mine, offering a lush and stunning world to traverse explore, with a nice glaze of combat to add just a tad more flavour.  As much as I loved that game, I’m in no way afraid to admit that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a shitload better, even if it is just a bigger, prettier and more refined version of what came before.

There’s also a lot more tomb raiding in Rise of the Tomb Raider, which serves as a nice reminder that Lara Croft is a seasoned antiquarian, and conservator of anthropological history.  Something that’s easy to forget amidst her seeming wanton destruction of artefacts and historically significant structures.

Rise of the Tomb Raider may not throw Lara into completely uncharted territory, but when the core experience is as good as this latest series reboot, sometimes bigger is just better.

 Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate is a beautiful visual novel masterpiece. Although at times it hides it behind a thin veneer of whimsy and goofiness, Steins;Gate is the greatest time travel story I’ve ever read, bar none.  Its characters are endearing, its dialogue funny, and its premise at times ludicrously Japanese: but its all in service of a story that is more ambitious and grounded than almost every other video game on the market.  Spoiling any element of Steins;Gate beyond telling you it’s about the accidental discovery of a method of time travel by a bunch of teenagers would be doing it, and your own journey through its narrative, a disservice. But rest assured if you can read, and you have the means by which to experience Steins;Gate, it is should be bloody-well compulsory to do so.

Forza Motorsport 6

Forza, Forza, Forza.  It’s become my rock at this time of year.  It is the series that keeps me out of the sun, stuck to the lounge, and glued to the screen over the summer months.  It’s the game that I’ll sneak in a race or two whenever I get the opportunity.  But most importantly for me it’s the game that just gets better and better with every entry. Forza has quite simply never been better and it’s the little things like night racing and wet weather that make it so.

Wet tracks may not seem on the surface to be a game changer, but the first time you experience aquaplaning at high speed, you’ll appreciate just how advanced Forza’s physics engine has become. And feeling your tyres rapidly lose grip through the controller’s haptic feedback is a very special experience indeed.  But it’s also a brilliant feedback loop that makes regaining control of your car, or easing off of the accelerator to avoid a loss of traction, intuitive.  The game may have driving aids for inexperienced drivers, but with the way the car communicates with the player through various sensory devices, it practically implores everyone to experience driving at its purest.

Racing is the one genre I just couldn’t live without.  But we’re almost at the point now where Forza is the only racing game I need.

Until Dawn

It’s very nearly 40 degrees celsius outside, but while surviving the terror unfolding at a snow-covered Blackwood Pines lodge, I’d have sworn it was as cold as ice.  Until Dawn sucks you in with its premise, holds you with its story, and strangles you with its atmosphere. Words alone quite simply cannot describe how expertly and lovingly crafted the game is, not only as an homage to the slasher genre, but as a progressive and revolutionary piece of interactive fiction.

Until Dawn is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.  As a horror game it was effective, playing on the tropes of the slasher film in a way that kept me second guessing myself and what the genre would expect me to do, desperately trying to keep my ragtag bunch of teens alive.  The first time your decisions lead to the death of a character is traumatising, matched only by the relief at a split-second decision that saved another’s life.  It’s a fine line between life and death for these characters, and knowing that any one of them can die at any moment, creates a tension unmatched in the medium let alone the genre.

But as an experience it was something really, really bloody special, certainly unmatched in its medium irrespective of genre.  Until Dawn wasn’t just unnerving owing to its sense of dread and terror, it filled me with a sort of psychological unease, convincing me at times that I was somewhat sociopathic and that my irrationality was playing out within the game. In  Until Dawn, Supermassive Games has not only made the best cinematic video game experience to date, but it has raised the bar for video game psychological horror, and in doing so outplayed all but the very best in silver-screen slasher flicks.  

It was immersive, it was beautiful, and it was compelling.  Until Dawn is, quite frankly, a future of video games I’d be more than willing to accept.

Simply put it’s my favourite game of the year.

While 2015 draws to a close, there are still a handful of choice cuts from the year I’d love to sink my cleaver into, from blockbusters Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Fallout 4, to a few smaller but just as tender pieces of meat such as Nobunaga’s Ambition and Wasteland 2.  But before we get carried away with next year, why don’t you let us know in the comments what your favourite games of the year are, and why everything I’ve written above is absolute nonsense.  It is the internet, after all.

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