Welp, it finally happened. I've been half-joking for a few years at the end of these posts that next year's list might not be ten games, and here we are. I couldn't make a list of ten games simply because I have not played ten games that released in 2018 for long enough to feel comfortable placing them on an end-of-year best-of list.

As per usual, no hard requirements other than a 2018 release date is needed for a game to appear here, and this list is in no particular order.

Pokémon Let's Go Eevee

I caught a shiny Koffing. He's adorable.

(And Let's Go Pikachu as well, I guess, but that's not the one I played.)

I guess this is now the second full-on remake of the original first generation Game Boy games. Aside from a few key differences, it's those games again. You know the drill. The story isn't quite the same, and your player character isn't Red or Green this time around (and your rival isn't Buttface Blue), but if you're otherwise familiar with the gen 1 games, you know what to expect here. The big change is how the game handles its wild critters.

There are no more random encounters. Instead, you see 3D models of pokémon populating the area you are in, and you simply walk up to them (or they'll walk up to you) to initiate a "battle" with them. This actually goes a really long way to making the various locales of Kanto feel a lot more active and "alive", if you'll permit me the silly buzz word. At the same time however, I feel it removes a lot of the surprise from the game. One of my favourite things about playing the Pokémon games of yore was entering a new area, triggering a random encounter, and having no idea what weird inhumane abomination/cute cuddly animal was going to appear on my screen. Some of that is still there, especially when you see something like a massive Onyx spawn in front of you, but it's not quite the same. On the whole, it's probably a positive change though, almost solely for making the overworld feel much less static than it was in previous games.

There are no more wild pokémon battles. Instead, you get a catching mechanic taken straight out of Pokémon Go, that mobile game you might have heard of, including everything right down to throwing berries to make pokémon easier to catch. It certainly tends to streamline the whole catching of pokémon thing, but I'm glad it seems to have been confirmed that it won't be in the mainline, new generation game coming next year. It's well-suited to the more, side-game type affair that Let's Go is.

If you're a Pokémon fan, or have any sort of reverence for those original Game Boy games, you should probably give this game a bash. The updated visuals for the various sights of Kanto, and the revised versions of those classic tunes do a fantastic job of tugging on those nostalgia strings.

Return of the Obra Dinn

The game certainly has a look to it.

So, this is the obligatory "game I haven't spent as much time playing as the rest" entry. Partly because some stuff came up that took my attention away not long after buying it, and partly because this game makes me feel like a total dunce. A game almost always preempted by "the new game by that bloke what did Papers Please", Obra Dinn is a detective/puzzle game like nothing else out there.

The setup is thus: It's 1807. The Obra Dinn, a ship belonging to the Honourable East India Company has returned to port after having gone missing, and all of her sixty crew and passengers have expired. Your job, as an insurance adjuster, is to work out the fates of everyone aboard: you must place names to faces and what (and who, if applicable) killed them. To help you with this, you have a list of the crew's names, rank and nationalities, a couple of photographs, a map of the ship, and a magic pocket-watch that lets you see a frozen-in-time vignette of a person's last moments. 

It's a simple enough task: who are these people, and how did they die? The game gives you all the information you will need to deduce these facts, but the game won't hold your hand in any way: it's all on you, the player. You will have to rely on your own investigative skills and deductive reasoning to figure it all out. For example, the first body I was able to correctly identify quickly due to picking up on his Scottish accent (something that wouldn't have been as easy to say, an American player) and that his uniform suggested a high rank. But there are a handful of other ways to arrive at the same conclusion. You have to follow trails through multiple vignettes just to identify one person. You make to make use of clues such as what they're wearing, how they talk, how they refer to other people, and plenty of other subtle cues. It's one of those games that makes you feel incredibly smart when you have that eureka moment and figure out the identity of that one guy you couldn't place, and equally as fucking stupid when you struggle to do the same for plenty of the others.

Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night / Persona 5: Dancing Star Night

You came to the wrong neighbourhood.

Remember a couple of years back, they did a rhythm game spin-off/sequel to Persona 4? Well, they're at it again, only this time with the characters and tunes from Persona 3 and last year's 5. I'm putting these games as a single entity on this list because honestly, that's how they should be consumed, IMO. Each game, individually, just isn't quite worth the full £40 asking price, in my opinion. These games got an English release late this year, but I played them in Japanese, because Amazon Japan was at one point selling the limited edition that came with both games and the soundtrack for, after shipping and import costs... about £40. Which is the right price, I feel. I feel a little guilty placing a game(s) on this list that I'm now going to be fairly critical about, but I did get enough time and enjoyment out of them to warrant their inclusion here, I think. I just have some misgivings about the Persona rhythm games on a more mechanical level.

Remember how, in Persona 4: Dancing All Night, there was an entire story mode, with unique characters, plot and a decent length? Remember how, in Persona 4: Dancing All Night, despite it being an obvious cash-in, there's was a lot of obvious love put into it, lots of neat references and stuff around the periphery of the rhythm gaming? Yeah, there's not a lot of that in 3 and 5. There are no story modes. There are cutscenes: there is a premise, some sort of justification as to why SEES and whatever-you-named-your-squad-in-Persona-5 are dancing, but, based on my very limited grasp of the Japanese language, it's pretty flimsy. The Persona 3 gang are dancing because... they were all summoned by Elizabeth into the Velvet Room in a dream, so they can just let loose and dance? I think? I know enough Japanese to say confidently that the word "dream" definitely appeared numerous times during that opening cutscene, but not much else. There are also a bunch of Social Link/Confidant scenes you unlock after hitting certain requirements where you just hang out with the various characters for a bit (and eventually, can enter and look around their bedrooms). It seems like some nice, fanservicey stuff, but nothing that offers anything of real substance. 

The games just feel a bit soulless compared to 4's dancing counterpart. A lot of the nice charm and fanservice around the edges of that game are missing from these two. The song offerings are fine. 3's is clearly the stronger lineup here. The best songs in 5, in my opinion (both to listen to and to play) are the ones that are just lifted wholesale from the original RPG. The fancy Japanese LE I bought also came with a download code to play a HD PS4 version of Persona 4: Dancing All Night, and the differences are clear. Aside from a few graphics looking a little pixely (it was originally a Vita game, after all), it's obvious how much more care went into that game. There's a sense of style and cohesion to every aspect of Dancing All Night, right down to the menus, that's just missing from these new offerings. 

I've also some issues with the rhythm gameplay that pertains to all three games, but I've already harped too much on a game(s) that's supposedly one of my best of this year. I will say this however: it is possible to clear (as in, make it all the way to the end of) a song, only for the game to give you a failing grade. That is, and will always be, fucking stupid. This is in addition to the game having a (barely relevant if you're halfway competent) mechanic that fails you if you miss too many notes. There are fundamental issues with the game design that I feel that the games are only held up by their connection to Persona, and the charm that that imbues. If you're a big Persona fan (as I am) and a casual rhythm game fan, you can do a lot worse than these games. But otherwise, maybe wait for a (hefty) price drop.

Red Dead Redemption II

My Arthur is a very dapper man.

It seems that Rockstar's latest offering is this year's example of a game that was released to almost overwhelming universal acclaim, only for a few weeks to pass and for people to double-back and go "Wait a minute! This game isn't any good at all!". Well, lemme tell you what, feller. This game is good. It's very good. The part where you, well, play it though, is perhaps the least good part of it.

Though I never finished it, I was a fan of Red Dead Redemption The First. Free from the shackles of Grand Theft Auto's exhaustive satire, attempts at social commentary and just overall silliness, Red Dead was free to tell a much more serious and mature story, and that aspect is something that Rockstar have absolutely doubled down on for this new one. It does that thing that prequels like to do where, by nature of it being a prequel and the story being mostly a foregone conclusion, puts most of its focus onto its characters, and RDR2 does this so spectacularly well. We know, by virtue of RDR1 existing, that Dutch's gang doesn't make into the second decade of the 1900s. But we don't know the details of why that is, who the major members of that gang were (besides those will a role in the first game) or what happened to them. 

And it is through this storytelling that Rockstar have created in Arthur Morgan, not only their greatest protagonist, but perhaps one of the best protagonists in gaming as a whole. Arthur's characterisation, his entire arc, beginning from little more than an unquestioningly loyal thug/Dutch's hand, to, well, certainly not that, is perhaps one of the most compelling performances I've witnessed in a game. Rarely have I cared so much about a character, been so utterly enthralled by them, and been left thinking about them so long after their story had concluded than I did Mr. Morgan. His journey, his Redemption, if you will, is something to be experienced.

Almost every other aspect of RDR2's presentation is top-notch. The other characters aren't quite as compelling as our leading man, but a few certainly come close. The performance of Dutch in particular is a highlight, oozing a charisma and a caring, father-like demeanour that from the very outset has you understand why so many people follow him without question. The acting all round is top tier. The soundtrack is also sublime, with some incredibly affecting vocal performances playing at key moments in the story. And of course, special mention going to the open-world itself, quite possibly one of the most realistically gorgeous worlds ever made for a video game.

It's a shame then, that all of these outstanding aspects of RDR2's presentation are marred somewhat by the part where it's a video game that you play. If you're familiar with Rockstar's previous open-world games, you'll have come to expect their brand of sluggish movement controls and dodgy shooting, and they certainly seem to have focused on that aspect, but not with the aim of making it snappier. Controlling Arthur feels like you're controlling an actual person, for better or worse. He has weight, he can't turn on a dime. Which is fine, for a nice atmospheric stroll down the street to the saloon, but considerably less fine if you're wanting to do anything with any sense of speed or accuracy. The amount of realistic, but lengthy animations from doing almost literally anything from crafting a meal at camp to picking up your hat all adds up quickly. The controls in general are also far from great, and while I've not had as much of an issue with this as others have, I absolutely have accidentally shot somebody that I didn't mean to because I hit a button expecting it to do something else.

Red Dead Redemption II is absolutely something to be experienced. But your tolerance for muddy controls will definitely affect said experience. If you couldn't jive with Geralt's movement in The Witcher 3 before they patched in better movement controls, well, you might not be in for a fun time. Fantastic, exciting, emotional and moving, but perhaps not fun.

Tetris Effect

This is some very pretty Tetris.

Y'all like that Tetris? Of course you do. Tetris is damn near close to as perfect a video game as there will ever be.

A Tetris game being one of the best games of the year is a shock though because, as good as Tetris is, it's very much a known quantity. A Tetris game being good isn't particularly surprising or even particularly noteworthy because, well, it's Tetris. Of course it's good.

So I think that speaks volumes about just how fucking good Tetris Effect is.

Tetris Effect is brought to us primarily by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, that guy what's known for making real trippy games with an emphasis on interactive music. You know, stuff like Lumines and Rez. And that style works so well when it's built around the core that is Tetris that it's a wonder that we've never really seen any attempt at it before. Something about the eclectic soundtrack reacting to you rotating and placing tetrominoes, coupled with the visuals is just... cool.

I'm not going to harp on too much about it. I didn't have some profound emotional reaction to Tetris Effect. I didn't ascend to a higher plane of existence. It's just a really, really good Tetris game, and sometimes, that's all you really need.

God of War

Menus for days.

I have never been a God of War fan. I didn't dislike the series, I just felt little towards it other than apathy. "Kratos is an angry Greek man who kills everyone and everything because he is angry" was about the summation of the games' story in my head. So that this latest entry not only offers a pretty great story experience, but also turns Kratos into something resembling a character with depth and nuance is astounding. 

The shift in gameplay design is interesting as well, from the zoomed-out, button mashy combat of the previous games, to the more close-up, grounded combat of this game. It fits well with the very grounded (in comparison) story that they're telling. Kratos's wife has passed, so him and his son, Atreus, must journey to the top of a mountain to spread her ashes. It's a very simple and intimate story that would seem completely out of place in the earlier games.

The setting is also different. Kratos has seemingly travelled north, away from Greece, to a realm inhabited by the pantheon of Norse deities. This idea is perhaps my favourite part of this game: the idea that different religious pantheons and their gods all exist in the same world, and can be travelled to from one another. In this game, Kratos interacts with the likes of Jörmungandr and Baldr, but the idea that, some future God of War game could be set elsewhere is cool as hell. Kratos in Egypt, with Amun and Osiris making appearances, or in Japan with Amaterasu and Izanagi showing up? That would be incredible.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Best screen in the game.

I'll be honest: I've never been a huge Smash fan. As someone who's fairly heavily into competitive Street Fighter and other traditional fighting games, I've never really taken the competitive Smash scene seriously. I mean, it's hard to, where you have to turn off a bunch of shit like items and only use certain stages to make it "competitive". 

I do, however, think that Smash as it is originally envisioned by it's creators, as a fun party game to mess around with your mates with, is very good. It's a very good game that nobody should be taking seriously. Throw in a bunch of Nintendo characters and a bunch of weird items and just let loose, as God intended.

Smash Ultimate is kind of overwhelming. There's like, 70-something playable characters, ranging from Nintendo mainstays to weirder third-party folk like Solid Snake and Simon Belmont. There's a seemingly limitless supply of other characters in the form of "spirits", that you unlock and then equip to provide bonuses and effects when playing in different modes. The ways in which the game creates allusions to a bunch of characters that aren't in the game is great. For example, if you go through Ryu's classic mode (an arcade mode equivalent), one of the fights is against a green Diddy Kong, on a jungle stage, while Blanka's Theme plays in the background. The amount of cool little details in this game is amazing.

I will never (and don't care to) git gud at Smash Bros. I don't need to. I already have plenty of other fighters to scratch that itch, and Falcon Punching the shit out of Mario is fun enough as is.

Warframe

Mesa is my favourite warframe. Hit 4, everything dies.

So, Warframe isn't really a 2018 game. It's not really an any year game, since it's still technically in open beta. It was first playable in 2013, but I don't think anyone was putting that version of Warframe on their 2013 GOTY lists. So, the best time to put Warframe on one of those lists would be in the year where you were first truly sucked in by it, which for me, was this year.

I played Warframe back in 2013. I even have a nice little Closed Beta badge on my in-game profile. But I didn't play very much of it. I messed around with it here and there, spent maybe a week or so doing co-op missions with a friend, then fell off. There wasn't a whole lot there. "I'll check back sometime in the future and see what's up", I thought.

Fast-forward five years, and Noclip's two-part documentary covering the history of both Warframe and its developer, Digital Extremes, released earlier this year. That was the point where I went "huh, maybe I should see what's up with Warframe these days". And, almost 400 hours of playtime later, here we are. There's a whole lot there now.

Warframe is a weird game. It's one of the best free-to-play games I've seen, on account of the fact that: nothing gameplay relevant except inventory slots require real money to acquire, all of the best stuff worth acquiring with real money is just cosmetics, and the fact that the real-money currency is trade-able, creating a fairly large and robust player-run economy. It's weird: The game will prompt you spend the real world currency on many different screens: to buy weapons when viewing your collection of them in the arsenal, to pay to rush the construction of blueprints you've constructed, to buy almost anything in the in-game market, and it's almost never worth it. Acquiring new weapons, warframes, etc for free, with the exception of a handful of very grindy examples, isn't actually that difficult. Paying to skip in a game where grinding is the core doesn't make much sense.

And for a game about grinding, the stellar gameplay makes it so that grind almost never becomes boring. The incredibly fast and fluid movement makes it feel great to zip through entire levels, and feels like no other game out there. The very large variety of weapons and warframes with unique effects and abilities makes it very simple to switch it up if you feel things starting to get stale from using the same loadout for too long. There are a lot of things to do in Warframe. Some of it better and more fleshed out than others, but the sheer variety is staggering, and often overwhelming to new players. But if you get over the initial learning curve, Warframe will keep its hooks in you for a long time to come.

 

And so, that's it once again for another year. Will 2019 be the year where I do some writing that doesn't involve my favourite things of that year? Probably not. I didn't do a top anime of 2018 list this year because I literally only watched three episodes of a single 2018 show. I would however, maybe like to do a post in the new year talking about some of the non-2018 stuff I watched, but don't hold your breath for that. I am nothing if not incredibly lazy and unmotivated when it comes to this blog. 

I think that 2017 is going to be one of those years that will be remembered for just having a plethora of fantastic game releases for a long time to come. Spoken in the same conversations as years like 1998 and 2007. The early part of this year in particular was just chock-a-block full of really great games. I don't play quite as much games as I used to, and have in the past struggled to even come up with 10 games to put on these lists, but this year I managed it with games to spare! There were so many great games I didn't play because I was too busy playing other, also great games! So, here is the Top 10 2017 Games That Were Definitely Pretty Decent.

Tekken 7

AKUMA IS IN IT

I have a long, but sporadic history with Tekken. Back when I was but a wee sprog, Tekken 2 was one of the games I played a lot of during the PS1 era. I have fond memories of Tekken 3 releasing, and my dad spending days phoning up the local video-rental shop to see if their one copy of it was available to borrow. Eventually, it was, and it was great. Of course, I wasn't particularly good at them, nor really understood any fighting game fundamentals (and wouldn't until a few years ago when I started getting really into Street Fighter IV), but mashing my way to victory against easy-level CPU was a good, fun way to spend many hours of my pre-teen years. I also spent a lot of time doing the same with the PS2 and PSP versions of Tekken 5. Fast-forward to this year, and Tekken 7 is finally here. It's... a little sparse in the single-player content. I can't play Tekken as well as I can SF, so I actually found myself a little wanting for solo stuff. There is a fancy single-player story which is... very silly, but still pretty fun. Simply put though, it's still Tekken. It looks and plays like Tekken, which is all you can really ask for.

Also, Akuma is in it.

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy

This is what PS1 games looked like, right?

Crash Bandicoot 3 is one of my favourite video games of all time. This game could've been a remake of just that, and it still would've made this list. The fact the first two games are also in here is just icing on the cake. The remade visuals are pretty much perfect, invoking that "this looks exactly how I remember it as a kid!" feeling.

The only real knock I can give it is that the platforming physics for all three games are based on the third. This generally isn't a huge problem, but, for the first game in particular, which demanded a lot more precise platforming challenges from its players, makes it a little bit of a tougher game than the PS1 originals. A lot of fun hours packed in this package, and it launched at sub-£30! Best Value™!

NieR:Automata

This game gets me.

As always, I never rank these end-of-year lists that I write. Of course, that doesn't mean I don't have some semblance of an order in my head. So, let it be said that Nier: Automata is not only my game of the year, but my game of the generation thus far. Sure, the game isn't perfect. The game's combat definitely has a lot of depth available to it, if the player wants it, but the game never really invites the player to delve deeper, especially on the normal difficulty. The game's world, while, in my opinion, is pretty great, could definitely do with some fleshing out and polishing (there are a few invisible walls strewn about in places you'd think there shouldn't be). The game's plot, while enjoyable and certainly goes some places, isn't totally outstanding. The side-quests, some of which have some truly incredible writing and worldbuilding, are usually little more than fetch-quests. The pacing of the second "playthrough" could've done with some work to trim it back a bit. The game absolutely has faults. But then you have Ending E. Quite simply, the most profoundly emotional sequence I have ever experienced in my over two decades of playing video games. It's such an amazing, incredible thing, which I absolutely won't spoil, that, above all else, works because it is a video game. Transplanting that moment into any other medium (including simply watching a let's play) without losing any of its impact, is impossible. And that should be celebrated. Nier: Automata takes such advantage of it's existence as a video game for storytelling purposes, that I can only hope that other developers take inspiration from it to create truly unique story experiences that are unique because they are video games. Nier is filled with so much heart that, for all of it's faults, I can't help but utterly adore it. This game is so, so much more than the sum of its parts.

Also, the soundtrack is fucking sublime. One of the few I've felt compelled to physically buy a copy of. Keiichi Okabe is one of the best composers currently in video games.

Persona 5

Look at this dope-ass battle menu!

Persona 5 might be the most stylish video game I've ever played. The fact people were going completely fucking apeshit over footage of menus during early trailers should say it all. This game looks and moves like no other, especially among games in its genre. Turn-based combat is almost always a slow and deliberate affair, but Persona 5 makes it fast and punchy, not just through the unparalleled UI design, but also seemingly obvious decisions like mapping all the top-level battle options (attack, magic, items, party, etc) to a single-button press. While the overall visual aesthetic of P5 feels like an evolution of the previous couple of games, it's such a massive improvement that it's almost as if they skipped a game or two in that progression. It's incredible. Shoji Meguro's always impeccable soundtrack (this time focusing on jazz, compared to P3 and 4's hip-hop and J-Pop, respectively) slots in perfectly, with a whole host of superb standout tracks. The story while, maybe not ending in a way I was particularly liked, was still overall great, with a framing device that I personally thought was amazingly cool. I spent damn near one hundred hours playing Persona 5 to completion, and I had to try real hard to not immediately becoming totally invested in a new game plus playthrough. It is a damn good game, one of the masters of its genre. I can't wait to have my mind completely blown by what Persona 6 might end up looking like.

Also Haru is best girl, for those of you wondering.

Hollow Knight

original content pls dont steal

The debut game from Team Cherry, a new Australian developer who have made pretty much the best metroidvania game in recent memory. A really nice, hand-drawn art-style, set in a deep, dank, dark underground fallen civilisation populated by bugs, both humanoid and less so. From a storytelling and lore perspective, Hollow Knight takes a lot of cues from Dark Souls: hard exposition is scarce; a good deal of the storytelling is done through environment; friendly NPCs are sparse, and they mostly talk in riddles. The whole game is dripping in atmosphere. The gameplay itself is also great. A combat system that, while fairly simple, is tough but not punishingly so, and new movement abilities are decently paced so that, by the time you're nearing the end of the game, you rarely feel like you're not in complete control of your character. The world map is huge, though I will admit, making your way through it can be tedious at times (since backtracking is a staple of this genre). There are also a couple of issues I have with the mapping system, but these are two niggles in what is otherwise, a very exceptionally well made and enjoyable game.

Also, the devs are supporting it greatly, with (so far) two decently-sized content expansions released for the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

BotW has some real pretty vistas.

So, this will be the part where I say for the first time on this blog that I bought a Nintendo Switch. For all intents and purposes, it is my first Nintendo home console. Of course, I own a SNES, an N64 and a Gamecube, but those I all acquired during a retro collecting phase; I never had them when they were the current hotness. Nintendo handhelds, however, I've grown up with all the way since the original Game Boy, so naturally I'd eventually end up with a Switch, Nintendo's latest handheld/home console hybrid. I have been mostly using it as a console however, hooked up to my TV.

I bought it for this game.

Breath of the Wild is a triumph. It is the greatest open-world game ever made, and I sincerely believe that. Previous entries in the Zelda franchise (namely, the very first game and Ocarina of Time) pretty much created their respective genres. BotW however, looks to an already well-established one, and polishes it to near-perfection. This game is a true open-world experience. You are only given one concrete goal: Defeat Ganon, something which the game leaves completely up to you in how you approach. The entire world itself is expertly crafted in such a way, that, no matter what where you look you will see something interesting to do or a cool place to go. There is always some reward for anything you do, even if that reward is simply a breathtaking view after climbing to the top of a mountain. As someone who loves exploring for the sake of exploring in games, BotW feels like it was made for me. There are climbable towers: however, upon scaling them the game doesn't just jizz a bunch of waypoint icons onto your map like every other open-world game with towers: it simply fills out the topography of the local area. You then have to use your newly-acquired vantage point to visually check out interesting waypoints yourself. Such a novel concept!

I honestly could speak a lot more about BotW: the game's writing is full of charm and a really goofy sense of humour; the combat is fun and challenging, with an unbelievable amount of options at your disposal; the way the game utilises its amazingly understated soundtrack is nothing short of masterful. However, I've already waffled on for much longer than I usually do about a game in these end-of lists. All I will say is that Breath of the Wild was easily worth the £300+ I had to pay in order to play it.

Destiny 2

Have you played Destiny? 2 will feel pretty familiar.

Honestly, there's been so much negative press and drama surrounding microtransations and base-content eventually getting locked behind DLC and shaders being consumable and other such silliness (not that any of those complaints aren't valid, because they are) that, to a lot of people, Destiny 2 being on a top 10 list is quite possibly sacrilege. But as somebody who, on-and-off, put a whole lot of hours into the original Destiny and mostly enjoyed it, and who also played solo and never even did a raid, the sequel is a much better game from that perspective. When you stop caring about the end-game and maxing out your light level and efficiently farming with all three of your characters (and again, caring about that is absolutely fine), Destiny 2 is a very, very enjoyable game that you play for 10-50 hours and then... just put down. Like most any other game. In a time where a lot of "games as services" are vying for your gaming attention all the time, Destiny is, in my opinion, ideally a game you play for a relatively short amount of time, and then maybe come back to later, if the new content intrigues you. As a fairly casual Destiny player, having a story campaign that... well, exists, as well as being more generous with legendary and exotic loot (because again, I'm not the hardcore player who's going to grind to collect all of it) is a marked improvement over the first game. Destiny 2 is an enjoyable shooter and for me, someone who as the years go by is becoming generally less interested in shooters, is all it needed to be.

Doki Doki Literature Club

DDLC is... well, it's a visual novel. I don't want to say anything else about it because, if you aren't aware of what DDLC is, I'd absolutely hate to ruin that for anybody. I'm not even going to attach a screenshot to this entry.

All else I will say is that it absolutely is one of the most memorable and affecting experiences I've had this year.

It's only a few hours long. It's also free. Heed the warnings the game throws at you, but otherwise go in blind.

Just Monika.

Undertale

Biting social commentary.

Usually, there's always at least one game on my list that is technically cheating, due to being a re-release of a previously released game. This year it's Undertale. I never got to talk about it in 2015's list because I hadn't played it back then. It released on PS4 this year though, which means I can talk about it!

Undertale is another game that is best experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible. It takes your expectations from playing an Earthbound-looking JRPG and subverts them in lots of really interesting, funny and surprising ways. It's one of the most consistently funny and charming games I've ever played, while also not holding back on some emotional punches. The gameplay is a neat mix of JRPG combat and bullet-hell games. The soundtrack is also god-tier, with Toby Fox putting on an absolute masterclass on how to use leitmotifs.

The fanbase is, to put it generously, a little over-bearing. But things that gain such fervent fans usually do so for a reason, and Undertale absolutely earned it.

Super Mario Odyssey

These guys kinda suck tho

With the Nintendo Switch being my first real Nintendo home-console, it would stand to reason that would mean Super Mario Odyssey is the first 3D Mario game I've ever really played. And you'd be right (I've played 2D ones, don't worry). And boy, what an impression to make. I initially was a little weary of the amount of acceleration Mario has on his movement speed, but eventually became comfortable with it: the controls are on-point. I have little prior experience to base this on, but this is probably the best Mario has ever felt to control, a character who I'm lead to believe has usually controlled very well. Visually, the game is a marvel both technically and stylistically. The large amount of different worlds, all with very different looks come together into a veritable smorgasbord of great art-design. The music is fucking dope. Everything about Odyssey is just an absolute joy to behold and feels like the embodiment of Nintendo's philosophy: that games should be fun and enjoyable for everyone.

As far as honourable mentions go: Horizon: Zero Dawn is a pretty good open-world game that made the mistake of releasing at the same time as Zelda. I'm super interested in seeing where the story goes, and the world Guerilla have built is really intriguing, but I hadn't played enough to feel comfortable including it on this list. Chaos;Child is the latest visual novel from the folks that what did Steins;Gate, but being a long, solely story-focused VN, the fact I haven't finished it means it wasn't going to be on this list. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a really good game in the "do a thing to collect resources then sell those resources to buy upgrades that let you do the thing better" genre. I look forward to finishing it. Golf Story is a really silly, fun 2D golf/RPG-hybrid thing. It's mostly story-based with a bunch of quests and stuff, and you can tee up wherever the hell you like, it's great. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the third big Switch game I bought this year is... well, it's Mario Kart, it's great! But the single-player offerings are pretty sparse (and, outside of the 200cc mode, almost completely devoid of any challenge) and while online-multiplayer is fine, it's not going to hold my interest for long periods of time. Quake Champions seems like a pretty good Quake game, but I'm capital-G Garbage at arena shooters, and it still had some (mostly netcode related) issues when I last played. There's probably other games I'm forgetting, so that'll be your lot.

And that's it for 2017! Pretty fantastic year for games, as I said at the top, lets see what next year brings!

Another year, another top 10 post. This year, a lot of the anime I watched was stuff that didn't actually air this year (whether it be catching up on semi-recent seasonal stuff or just backlog shows), so I wasn't exactly spoiled for choice when writing this year's list. It's also why there's a conspicuous absence of the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu after gushing over the first season last year, because I've simply not got around to watching it yet. Nevertheless, this list is still full of stuff I'd happily recommend. As always, a Japanese airing or home-media release is the only qualification required for The 2017 Top 10 Japanese Cartoons that were Pretty Okay.

Interviews with Monster Girls

Demi-chan wa Kataritai / 亜人ちゃんは語りたい

Pretty sure I've said this exact line myself a few times in the past.

Starting out with a show-stopper. I don't rank these lists, but this show might be my favourite of the year, for no other reason than I simply connected to it in a way I never have with any other show. Unlike with other shows about monster-girls, you know, the boobalicious ones with actual snake ladies and centaurs and spider girls and whathaveyou, the ones here are... mostly normal. Every "monster-girl" in the show is basically just a metaphor for various conditions, disabilities and social anxieties, and how they deal with them in their everyday lives. Being diabetic (that is to say, someone who is mostly "normal" but not quite), I related to the show in a very personal way, something that I've never done with any other show.

The show's overall message of being comfortable with yourself, as well as accepting what makes people different, while not particularly deep nor heavy-handed, is nice nonetheless. Interviews with Monster Girls is ostensibly a cute-girl-slice-of-life show, so obviously won't be in everybody's wheelhouse, but certain people will be able to get something out of it they wouldn't from most other shows, and for that, I absolutely commend it. For a show about "monsters", it ends up being very human.

Miss Kobayashi's Maid Dragon

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon / 小林さんちのメイドラゴン

Just a dragon and a salarywoman getting drunk in the woods, nbd

From Kyoto Animation, the masters of pretty TV anime, their latest is a little different from their more recent output: it's an adaptation of an property they don't own, and the visual style is more stylised and cutesy compared to the more realistic looking shows they've become known for in recent years. Our protagonist, Kobayashi, is a twenty-something office worker who, one night, got fucking wasted, strolled into the woods, discovered a dragon exiled from its own realm and offered for it to come live with her. The next morning, naturally remembering none of the previous night's adventure, Kobayashi is greeted by a massive dragon outside her apartment, that promptly shape-shifts itself into a cute, busty girl in a maid outfit... with horns and a tail. The dragon, Tohru, took Kobayashi up on her offer from last night and decides she wants to be her maid.

What follows is a comfy, supernatural-laced slice-of-life show, which, when younger dragon Kanna joins the fray, is primarily focused on the strange but lovely little family unit that Kobayashi has found herself in. KyoAni's penchant for cute comedies is shown in full-force here, and is absolutely recommended if that's the sort of anime you're into. The opening and ending songs are also hella catchy.

Little Witch Academia

Akko's stupid, dumb face is the best.

From those lovable bozos at Studio TRIGGER, Little Witch Academia is basically just Harry Potter: The Anime. Except, if Harry were a cute Japanese girl, and also a total idiot with no magical prowess whatsoever. Atsuko "Akko" Kagari decided she wanted to attend Luna Nova Magical Academy after seeing a magic show as a child. She struggles due to her non-magical background compared to her peers from prestigious magical families, but if nothing else, she has a bottomless well of determination and manages to make a bit of a name for herself regardless... though mostly because she's a bit of a dimwit who keeps finding herself in ridiculous situations. The first half of the show is a mostly episodic affair, before the main plot kicks into gear proper during the second half.

A full TV show borne from the two short films TRIGGER had made previously, it retains all of the charm of those while offering a more meaty character and plot experience afforded by the increased runtime. Due to its setting and subject matter, LWA is probably the most un-anime anime on this list and also completely family-friendly, something you could show to almost anyone who enjoys a good, lighthearted adventure.

Made in Abyss

Don't be fooled, this isn't all cute fun and games.

One of the more popular standout titles from this year, and with good reason. The setting is based in a city that surrounds a giant, gaping hole in the Earth, the titular abyss. The abyss extends a completely unknown length down into the ground below, though is roughly segmented into layers, each with their very own unique ecosystems and dangerous flora and fauna. More importantly however, is the curse of the abyss: ascending in the abyss has various psychological and physiological tolls on the body, worsening the deeper from which you ascend. It eventually reaches a depth where, escaping the abyss is impossible: the effects of ascending from the sixth layer are death or "loss of humanity". The story centres on Riko, a young rookie cave-raider who, in the first layer, discovers a strange robot boy who she names Reg. The plot kicks into gear when news reaches the surface that Riko's mother, a legendary cave-raider and White Whistle (raider ranks are based on the colour of whistles they possess) has made her "last dive": she has descended to a layer from which return would be impossible. Riko and Reg set off on a one-way journey into the abyss to find her mother, dealing with the trials and horrors they encounter along the way.

Visually, Made in Abyss is a strong contender this year, with a somewhat cutesy art-style that belies its generally much darker nature and tone. Also accompanied by an absolutely stellar soundtrack, it's no surprise that this show was one of many people's highlights for the year.

Blame!

Looks good, as far as CG anime goes.

Apparently not the first adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei's stunning manga, this one is produced by Polygon Pictures, fairly well known at this point for producing full 3D CGI anime that doesn't look like total ass, such as Knights of Sidonia (another of Nihei's works) and Ajin, previously. The film does a pretty decent job of portraying the atmosphere and architecture of Nihei's original work and while it isn't the full story (there is apparently a sequel in the works), the movie ends at a pretty natural stopping point. The plot and world of Blame!, a massive, continuously expanding city is super interesting, though important details are tantalisingly sparse, leaving me looking forward to the next instalment. Maybe not one for you if you're not into broody, mostly silent, badass protagonists though.

Also, Biomega adaptation when??

The Ancient Magus' Bride

Mahoutsukai no Yome / 魔法使いの嫁

This derpy axolotl-sprit-thing is the cutest and I want one

Chise Hatori hasn't had a particularly good life. As a Sleigh Beggy, she naturally attracts all sorts of spirits to her, not all of them good. After her father leaving, and her mother killing herself, Chise eventually also tried to commit suicide, but was stopped by someone who convinced her to sell herself into slavery, in the hopes of finding someone who would care for her, a choice she readily accepted in her deep depression. Eventually, she is bought for the princely sum of £5 million (this is another show this year set in Britain) by one Elias Ainsworth, the titular ancient magus. Rather than buying her for any reasons particularly untoward, he seemingly bought Chise for the intention to make her his apprentice; Chise's natural spiritual affinity give her great magical potential. Thus far, the story has Chise learn magic and deal with encounters with the various spirits and faeries that inhabit the nearby, sleepy locales of the UK, whilst also learning to come to terms with and repair her damaged self.

Brought to us by WIT Studio, the folks that also made smash hits like Attack on Titan, the still ongoing Ancient Magus' Bride is an absolutely stunning show, with some really enjoyable world-building and plenty of nuanced, enjoyable characters.

Your Name

Kimi no Na wa. / 君の名は。

is this real life??

The latest film from Makoto Shinkai, if you're at all into anime and aren't aware of Your Name, that must be a pretty large rock you've been living under for the past year or so. Making its way to the 4th spot of Japan's highest-grossing films ever, it's been a massive success both in as well as out of Japan. The film tells the story of Mitsuha, a schoolgirl living in a small, rural town in the mountains, and Taki, a schoolboy living in the heart of Tokyo, who suddenly find themselves swapping bodies for the duration of random days. Initially each thinking of their experiences as very realistic dreams, the two eventually realise what's happening and begin to leave notes for each other. The films starts out with the comedic hijinks you'd expect from a couple of teenagers randomly swapping bodies, it eventually a shifts into a more serious and gripping tale.

As expected of Shinkai's works, Your Name is absolutely fucking gorgeous, with both the rural and urban locations shown in exquisite detail, though I will admit that his previous work, The Garden of Words is still his best looking in my opinion, though that's somewhat to be expected due to being well under half the length of this latest offering. Short of anything by Studio Ghibli, Your Name is probably the most notable anime film for a good while, so you probably owe it to yourself to give it a watch.

A Silent Voice

Koe no Katachi / 聲の形

Sometimes, you just want to punch a young schoolboy in the face.

The second production from Kyoto Animation on this list, this time a feature film and while not quite on the same level of hype and success as Your Name, A Silent Voice is definitely one of the standouts from this year. Directed by the young Naoko Yamada (K-on!, Tamako Market), who is quickly becoming considered one of the greats in her industry, the film deals with the type of heavy topic seldom dealt with seriously in anime: bullying. The film centres on Shoko, a deaf girl, and Shoya, the boy who used to bully her in primary school. The early scenes of the film, set during their early childhood at school are fairly powerful, incredibly hard to watch without getting very angry at the characters making Shoko's school life a living hell. It's equally impressive that the film manages to make the audience accept Shoya's sincere attempts to redeem himself as a young adult, who had become crushed under the guilt to the point of suicide.

As expected of a KyoAni production, particularly one with a theatrical budget, A Silent Voice is a looker (though, some of the post-processing effects could stand to have been toned down a little). I eagerly await to see what's next from the aspiring young director.

Girls' Last Tour

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou / 少女終末旅行

Though the character art is very simple, there is some stunning background and shot composition here.

Girls' Last Tour is the story of Chito and Yuuri, as they explore the post-apocalyptic ruins of a civilisation that was ended because of... who knows what? That doesn't really matter. Society is long gone, but our two protagonists aren't. Super atmospheric and fairly slow-paced: a combination I've come to enjoy a lot as of late. Armed with just some basic supplies and their trusty Kettenkrad (a WWII era tractor-truck-motorbike-vehicle thing), they continuously push forward on their journey through a massive city built on multiple layers. The show shares many similarities with simple, cute, slice-of-life shows, but also likes to get a little introspective and philosophical, with the girls often having conversations on such topics as: what is a god to someone who has little to no experience with societal concepts like religion? A particular favourite of mine is episode 9, where the girls meet a cool little robot bro and a cute little fish, which prompts musings on what it means to be alive and the meaning of "empathy".

The show is brought to us from White Fox, know for shows such as Steins;Gate, Katanagatari and last year's Re:zero, the former two of which are big favourites of mine. Girls' Last Tour is a show with a lot of nice, lighthearted moments, a lot of amazingly poignant ones, and plenty of others that are a combination both. A little shout-out to the ending animation as well, which is entirely animated by the author of the manga the show is based on, and in the same style. It's great. This show is great. It's a shame a lot of people will discount it due to the inclusion of roughly 0.2 seconds of dabbing featured in the opening...

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Netojuu no Susume / ネト充のススメ

This pretty much exactly mirrors my own monitor setup

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. Visually, it's average at best. MMO-anime are also dime-a-dozen at this point. However, MMO Junkie is good because it's a sweet romance show that not only has some real progress, but also starring characters that aren't high-school students! That's a novelty in and of itself. You'd be hard-pressed to find many (or any) contemporary shows whose protagonist is a thirty-something woman.

MMO Junkie is the first production I've even heard of from its studio, so I'd be iterested in seeing whatever it is they so happen to tackle next. Anime could certainly do with a few more comfy romance shows that are a little bit removed from can't-spit-it-out highschool kids.

And so, those were the best animes what I watched this year. Nothing too surprising or out of the ordinary. Like I said, I didn't watch a whole lot of stuff from this year: in fact, if I remember right, I only watched a single other thing that wasn't on this list. My on-disc backlog is also starting to reach frankly ridiculous levels of large, so there's a very real chance that this list next might be clipped down from ten entries. It might not even be the same format, it could very well end up being simply "best anime I watched this year", regardless of when they were produced.

See you in 2018!