My games of the year are not like other games of the year; I don’t have much time to play games, and tend to sink a lot of time into the games I do play. This is in part because I am part of that silent majority: the middle-aged woman gamer. In a given year, I play probably ten games that are new to me—this is a list of those games, ranked by how much I enjoyed them and how good I thought they were.
10. Life Is Strange: These kinds of lists are so subjective, aren’t they? I have friends who raved about Life Is Strange, but I tried it several times and it just didn’t stick with me. Maybe it’ll blow my mind a few years from now, but in 2015, I just didn’t want to spend any more time in high school. Accurately representing a shitty time and place, 10/10: but I just don’t want to go there with you, Max.
9. Sunset: I played Sunset all the way to the end, and I’m terrible about finishing games. With a few changes, it could have ranked much higher on my list—a quiet exploration and discovery game from the point of view of someone from an underrepresented demographic—a black, working-class woman. The premise of the game, too, is a good one; while working as a housekeeper for a prominent political figure, you interact with the revolution just by doing your job. But in practice, the game goes too far, eventually shoving fistfuls of goofy plot twists at you. Sunset also offers you the option to try to sleep with your boss or not to try to sleep with your boss; since this seemed like content versus not-content, my character seduced her boss. It’s handled tastefully, but I was disappointed by the fact that, after sleeping with the gentleman as soon as she met him (you never see the apartment’s owner, but exchange notes and signs), my character didn’t seem to feel at all weird or conflicted. It’s a weird situation! Oh, well. Lot of wasted potential here.
8. The Dream Machine: An unusually animated point and click adventure game about a machine that feeds on dreamers: What could be better? The game is being released episodically, and the last episode has not been released, but what I’ve played so far has been just the right kind of uneasy-making, the way that dreams can be. Adventure game logic also bears a strong resemblance to dream logic, when you think about it. Wandering through almost horror, trying to understand how to make a bloody Mary in a dream: I like it.
7. Contradiction: Spot the Liar: I should tell you right off the bat that I did not play this game; I watched Giant Bomb East play it. But based on that Let’s Play, I would buy a sequel in a heartbeat. The game isn’t pristine, but I have always been a sucker for human bodies in videogames—ask me sometime about my addiction to LPs featuring games like The 7th Guest, The 11th Hour, Night Trap, Ripper, Phantasmagoria, MODE, et alii—and Contradiction has nothing but. The transitions, as you go from place to same place to same place, are short and clean; the plot goes appropriately bananas; and the acting is exactly the right kind of hammy.
6. The Shivah: Another point-and-click adventure game, this one features a rabbi, plagued by self-doubt, leading a failing synagogue, and solving a murder. The game’s dialogue options allow you to determine what kind of response you will give: e.g., honest, apologetic, rabbinical. It’s a very short game, but well put together, and without any of the cat-hair mustache problems associated with the genre. Mostly you need to talk to people and pay attention to them, using what you learn to put your world in order.
5. Until Dawn: The is the other game I did not play! Although I feel almost not at all bad about this one, since I watched four playthroughs like a complete lunatic. I’m delighted that this game exists; it knows and loves its genre, and is itself a wondrous slasher game. Really, the ability to make the viewer personally responsible for each teen to die is perhaps all that the genre was missing (besides feminism).
4. Dragon Age: Inquisition: I played the heck out of this game. I’ve sunk about 150 hours into it so far, but making this list led to my buying the DLC, so expect that number to rise soonish. I mention the hour count in part because the complaints I heard about the game from critics frequently involved the game’s inability to come to the point—they wanted to be able to get through the game in a timely fashion. That is not a want that I have; I don’t play that many games, and like games that I can just play and play (other personal favorites in this category include Arcanum and DotA 2). DA: I is stuffed full of things to do, people to meet, livestock to rescue—and I love almost all of it. It’s a great game for spending really ridiculous amounts of time on. Okay, the writing is uneven, and Cullen in particular suffers from poser person syndrome—but the game offers real choices, big plot options in which either choice ends up being good and interesting and worthwhile.
3. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist: It’s a small game, and quick, but I was open-mouthed with delight playing this game. It’s funny and surprising and the sort of thing easily wrecked by too much explanation, but it’s free! Take an hour and see the world!
2. Why Am I Dead at Sea?: You may, at this point, have deduced that I like adventure games and games about people; if you’re with me, boy, do I have a game for you. WAIDaS is an adventure game in which you play as a ghost, possessing people and talking with them in order to understand what happened to you—and what is still happening onboard the ship. The people onboard all have their own secrets, and finding them out was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.
1. Undertale: I’m not sure what else I ought to write here—by now, surely you’ve heard about Undertale. Most of what makes the game interesting is spoilerrific, but I can say that I found the combat fascinating if very difficult, the music and characters memorable and great, and the writing unparalleled.