It’s that most wonderful time of the year for my round-up of what I loved most in video games! Instead of a traditional top 10 list of games, I’ll share specific things I enjoyed from some of the games I played, and why they were the best at what they did. =)
Best Concept: Drinking with the Devil in Afterparty
In Night School Studio’s new game Afterparty, you play as a pair of outsider college kids named Milo and Lola who unexpectedly find themselves in hell. They can’t remember how they died — and they certainly don’t understand why they were sentenced to hell instead of heaven. The only way out is through a rare challenge: outdrinking Satan himself.
It’s a great concept, and it plays out really well as you explore the neon colors of hell’s party scene. Each bar has a different theme, including special drinks that grant you extra dialogue options; for example, you might become a boozy flirt or start talking like a pirate, depending on your order. And really, the whole idea of hell being a place where demons have day jobs torturing humans and then, by night, unwind by partying it up at clubs and pubs is refreshing and hilarious.
Most Well-Rounded Character: Parvati in The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds is a fantastic RPG with old-school points and perks, along with an expansive sci-fi world to explore. One of my favorite things about it is the crew you get to explore the galaxy with — and the best character of the bunch, in my opinion, is Parvati Holcomb.
As your first friend in this new world, she’s already special. Add to that her nerdy personality and big heart, and you have a truly winning companion. Her moral compass even got me to rethink some big decisions I was making, inspiring me to be a better person! She has a rare combination of innocence — there’s a great scene of her getting drunk for the first time — and incredible intelligence. She’s also ace, or asexual, and her romantic relationship with another character is a unique representation of what it’s like to be asexual. You can read about her writer Kate Dollarhyde, who is also ace, and her experience writing Parvati in this great Vice article.
Creepiest Co-Op Experience: Man of Medan
Around Halloween this year, I played The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan with my husband, which ended up being the perfect game to play at the spookiest time of the year. Developed by Supermassive Games, the devs behind the teen horror hit Until Dawn, it whisks you away to a creaky ship from the 1940s which seems to be haunted, after a storm hits and pirates kidnap you and your friends. Besides escaping from the pirates, you’re also trying to figure out what happened on this strange ship so many decades ago.
There are two ways to play co-op; my husband and I opted to each choose a few characters to control. The game lets you know when a new character is taking over by including his or her name onscreen, as if you’re starting a new chapter — which means it’s time to pass the controller to the player owning that character’s experience. Unfortunately, I felt like my characters died right away, so I didn’t get to play quite as much as my husband did. But it was still a fun co-op experience to take turns as different characters, making choices for them as we tried to escape from this creepy ship and pirates. If you liked Until Dawn, this is next in line as far as party horror games go!
Dreamiest Hero: Cal from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Wearing sexy ponchos and letting the wind blow his thick red hair, the Jedi hero of Fallen Order is my latest video game crush. As the playable character in the game, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time running around Star Wars planets with him, exploring ancient ruins, meeting famous characters from Star Wars lore, and wielding my lightsaber (which is customizable, too). While there are a few dialogue options that let you add a little of your own choices to Cal’s personality, for the most part he seems to be a daring young man who wants to do what’s right. Add that to his good looks, and he’s the whole package.
Weirdest World: Control’s Oldest House
The Oldest House is the name of the paranormal FBI headquarters in Remedy’s game Control. And it is a weird place — almost haunting. Although the building looks like any old skyscraper office in New York City from the outside, inside you’ll find something strange around every corner. Sometimes it’s office workers frozen and floating in mid-air. Other times, it’s strange videos explaining paranormal items or activities. Some offices are crumbling as if giving way to another world, and you never know when you’ll encounter the Hiss who are taking over parts of the building. You fight with your supernatural Service Weapon — along with some special powers — and your job is to find other objects of power.
Control presents one of the weirdest worlds I’ve ever encountered in a video game — and that uniqueness is exactly why it’s so fascinating. I read every codex entry I came across and watched every training video in every office that I could. Play it just for the experience of exploring this strange and terrifying building.
Best Game for a Laugh: Untitled Goose Game
My husband and I spent a couple of afternoons playing this game. Even in our short time with it, we had a blast waddling around picturesque settings as a noisy, obnoxious goose. Untitled Goose Game, an indie hit by House House, wants you to complete pranks as the goose, like stealing things from hapless humans, trapping a boy in a phone box, or posing as a statue so someone straps a bow on your neck. You can see a few seconds of what it’s like on my Twitter here.
The objectives are hilarious, but even more fun is just running around clicking buttons on your controller to honk at everyone until they shoo you away. If you need to blow off steam and have a laugh, this is the game to play.
What were your favorite games this year?