Before we get started, I want to clarify to anyone who has stumbled upon our GOTY awards that we are a Nintendo-focused site, and our awards reflect that. This doesn’t mean that we don’t love and play games on other platforms, but for the sake of these awards we stick to games that appear on Nintendo platforms only.
Also, for these awards we define eShop as anything that seems more focused on the eShop than retail (indies, etc.), while our regular awards apply to games that seem more focused on a retail release. There is no clear line between the two and we do the best we can to put games in the categories that make the most sense!
We’re trying something new this year with awards for best visuals, audio, and narrative. We may eventually expand those awards to be more specific by platform, or move eShop titles off into their own awards for these three, but this year we just put everything together, so anything from a Switch retail game to a 3DS indie could make the cut.
So let’s get to it!
We had a nice mix of Switch retail and indie games nominated for this award, which will hopefully be a trend moving forward.
Not quite: GRIS (25 points) Night in the Woods (16 points) Celeste (10 points)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate just barely edges out Octopath Traveler for the win. It might be the tech, the nostalgic, or the wicked opening cutscene, but Smash Bros. makes our eyes happy. Hollow Knight is the top scoring indie game, and GRIS, Night in the Woods and Celeste fill out the rest of the spots nicely.
Whether on a technical level or simply having soundtracks that make us nod our heads to the beat in approval, there were a fair amount of games with excellent music this year around.
Not quite: Undertale (20 points) Night in the Woods (16 points) GRIS (5 points)
It’s kind of hard for anything to compete with a soundtrack full of excellent remixes from our favorite Nintendo games and more, so Super Smash Bros. Ultimate grabs another win. Octopath Traveler came close with that classic Square Enix feel, and Celeste rounds out the winners circle with one of the best indie soundtracks in a long time. Undertale and Night in the Woods aren’t too far behind, while GRIS falls short, perhaps due in part to its late release date.
Whether it makes us laugh or cry or feel a variety of other emotions, we all like a good narrative in our games from time to time.
And the winner is…
Octopath Traveler (40 points)
Runner-ups: Night in the Woods (37 points) Undertale (25 points)
Octopath Traveler and its story that expands across multiple characters takes it in a very close one, edging out indie darling Night in the Woods and its sinister small town mystery tale. Undertale and Celeste aren’t too far behind, while the Radiant Historia remake and GRIS bring up the back of the pack.
There were really only two new mobile Nintendo games this year, so let’s see which one of those two was the best!
And the winner is…
Dragalia Lost (33 points)
Runner-up: Pokémon Quest (20 points)
Newcomer Dragalia Lost manages to beat out a Pokémon game with its sweet action RPG gameplay that fits nicely on a phone.
It may have been a slow year for the 3DS, but as Grant would tell us, it was far from dead. A lot of our nominations were ports / remakes, but a few new games made it into the mix as well.
And the winner is…
WarioWare Gold (23 points)
Runner-ups: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (22 points) Luigi's Mansion (20 points)
In another very close race WarioWare edges out Bloodstained by a single point, with Luigi’s Mansion right behind breathing down their necks. Dillo and Radiant Historia tie for fourth and poor Kirby sits alone in the back of the room.
Switch eShop Most Wanted
This is a tough category since a lot of eShop stuff is not announced very far in advance, but we still have some exciting looking games we know about on the way.
And the winner is…
Untitled Goose Game (54 points)
Runner-ups: Killer Queen Black (24 points) Super Meat Boy Forever (18 points)
Not quite: Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition (14 points) Mineko's Night Market (11 points) Samurai Gunn 2 (9 points)
The wacky looking Untitled Goose Game (actual title) overwhelmingly won our award, beating out second place multiplayer brawler Killer Queen Black by more than double the points. NWers really want to play as a goose! Super Meat Boy Forever takes third, with Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition, Mineko's Night Market and Samurai Gunn 2 not too far behind.
Switch eShop GOTY
This was a pretty huge year for the Switch eShop, with many indies dropping some amazing content.
And the winner is…
Hollow Knight (45 points)
Runner-ups: Celeste (34 points) Yoku's Island Express (29 points)
Not quite: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (28 points) Night in the Woods (21 points) GRIS (11 points)
Hollow Knight was a big hit here at Negative World, standing up there with the best of the Metroidvanias. Action platformer Celeste takes second, and the pinball meets platforming game Yoku's Island Express edges out Bloodstained for third. Night in the Woods isn’t too far off and GRIS lags behind a bit again.
Switch Most Wanted
We don’t know a ton about every upcoming Switch release, but we know enough to get excited!
Not quite: Yoshi's Crafted World (27 points) Bayonetta 3 (16 points) Shin Megami Tensei 5 (11 points)
Metroid Prime 4 is easily our most wanted Switch game, nearly doubling the points of second place Animal Crossing. Most of the voting took place before the big announcement of Nintendo restarting development with Retro Studios on board, but the results would probably be the same either way. Luigi's Mansion 3 solidly fills out our top three, with Yoshi's Crafted World not too far off. Bayonetta 3 and Shin Megami Tensei 5 picked up a few points as well.
It’s been a slow but decent year for the Switch retail releases, including a certain huge game that was definitely the front-runner coming into this award.
And the winner is…
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (89 points)
Runner-ups: Octopath Traveler (43 points) Super Mario Party (25 points)
Not quite: Nintendo Labo - Variety Kit (21 points) Fortnite (17 points) Mega Man 11 (12 points)
It should probably come as no surprise that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate easily takes our 2018 Switch GOTY award, smacking down all other competition. Ultimate truly does live up to its namesake as the best Smash Bros. yet. Octopath Traveler also puts up a decent showing, and Super Mario Party edges out the Nintendo Labo for third. Fortnite and Mega Man 11 can’t quite keep up
Man, am I the only one who feels like I woke up in November and realized how slow this year has been? My 2017 Switch high got me through most of 2018! God, Breath of the Wild was so good...
...I'm glad Smash is out, but I haven't played as much of it as I expected to. Same goes for Mario Party and even Mario Tennis to a certain degree. Octopath Traveler was very cool, but about halfway through doing Chapter 2's it started to get repetitive for me; I could see myself returning to it from time to time thanks to its episodic nature, and seeing that somebody somehow beat it in 45 minutes during AGDQ has piqued my interest quite a bit (what mysteries does this game hold!?), but at the end of the day artificial difficulty imposed by experience systems just doesn't sit right with me.
Nintendo Labo was amazing and I'm disappointed that more of a community didn't form around it, those first few weeks where people were constantly making cool stuff were so inspiring.
I actually really enjoyed the Octo Expansion. Its whole vibe and mission layout struck me at a perfect time, nailing a few levels before bed was a perfect way to wind down this summer before going to my real human adult job the next day.
Still at a weird spot with video games as a whole. I bought Kingdom Hearts 3 the other day, which was the only game that I'd been looking forward to, and have no desire to play more of it. I have a few friends who are looking forward to Animal Crossing and Pokemon later this year, so hopefully those games are fun and we can have a neat little community thing going on.
nate38's top 10 games played in 2018! (that'd be all of them, sadly) (aside from Sonic Mania Plus, which I excluded because it wouldn't be fair to everyone else) Games released in 2018 have ***Asterisks Nintendo system games are in Red(including mobile Nintendo titles and games confirmed for Switch in the future)
10. Broken Age -- Finished the game. Pretty good, but I can see why people were let down, especially by Part 2.
***9. Deltarune -- Finished the game. It's like Undertale, but...not quite. I don't know, it was fine, but it didn't have nearly the impact its predecessor did for me.
8. The Witness -- Finished the game, a couple puzzles stumped me long enough to give up and just look up the solution. Interesting, sometimes fun too.
***7 Part Time UFO -- Finished the game, all medals, all costumes. Cute phone game, wish I could play it with a regular controller.
***6. Spider-Man -- Finished the story, all side missions, Taskmaster challenges, Black Cat stakeouts, backpacks, and landmarks. It might be the best Spider-Man game ever made, but I wish they'd take the series in a direction further from the typical superhero game, rather than closer like they did with this one.
***5. Mega Man 11 -- Finished the game on Normal mode, may end up playing the Challenges and hard mode later on. Quality Mega Man revival for a fair price.
***4. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon -- Finished the game on Normal Mode, Nightmare Mode, and a Normal solo run. One of the better Classic-vanias, with the best bosses for sure but underwhelming platforming.
***3. La-Mulana 2 -- Finished the game on Normal mode. Made it about 50 hours before I started looking up where to go online. A bit too similar to the first game, but there's really nothing out there quite like these games, so it still feels unique.
***2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate -- Finished Classic Mode with all characters, 100% Adventure Mode on Hard, acquired all Spirits, finished all Challenges, and got handful of characters into Elite Smash. I don't know if I'd call it the "Ultimate" Smash experience, but it takes the best parts of Smash 4 (online play, competitive balance) and makes them better*, and that's all I really need to keep playing it for hundreds of hours. *mostly
1. Super Mario Odyssey -- 999 stars. I didn't think the 3D Mario Sandbox was ever coming back, and even when Odyssey was revealed I was skeptical it could capture the appeal of Super Mario 64. I'm very happy to have been wrong.
2018 Games I plan to play later Marble It Up! Celeste Return of the Obra Dinn God of War Iconoclasts Yoku's Island Express Pool Panic (which I bought on sale and started playing this weekend)
2018 Games I wish I had the time / money / energy for but probably never will :( GRIS Into the Breach Hollow Knight
I also played The Witness in 2018 and it's one of my favorite games I've ever played. Masterpiece in my opinion.
And I enjoyed Deltarune too! But yeah, it's just Episode 1, I'm not expecting it to blow me away yet. After playing the Undertale demo waaaay back in 2013, I was pretty shocked when everyone was praising the full game so much a couple years later. Then I finally played it and adored it, it was creative enough all throughout but it only really shines for me in the endgame stuff.
You guys should make up for the lack of The Messenger love in 2019. It's a really swell game.
It wasn't a stellar year for Nintendo first-party stuff on Switch (Smash is the only Nintendo-published game I bought), but I played my Switch a ton last year. 2017 was basically all Zelda, Mario and Splatoon. 2018 didn't have those same highs, but I played a much higher quantity of games. Great indie stuff like Hollow Knight, The Messenger and Celeste. Some older games I played for the first time such as Skyrim and Rocket League. I can't remember the last time non-Nintendo software really carried their console lineup through a year like this. I think that really bodes well for the Switch going forward. 2019 is going to have a pretty deep first-party lineup I feel like.
I'm serious! In 2018, the 3DS was only "mostly dead." There is a big difference between "mostly dead" and "all dead."
"Mostly dead" means "slightly alive."
Between first party efforts like Captain Toad, Sushi Striker, Dillon's Dead Heat Breakers, Kirby: Battle Royale, Luigi's Mansion and WarioWare Gold, we also had some pretty solid third party efforts including Jake Hunter: Ghost of the Dusk, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, and The Alliance Alive. Not to mention some pretty solid downloadables as well, including hits like Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and SteamWorld Dig 2.
We must have similar taste then, Portal 2 is one of my all-time favorites as well. Check out Stephen's Sausage Roll, it's very different from the other two but showcases all the quirks of its systems so beautifully that I'd put it right up there. Most games praised for "telling their stories through mechanics" use their mechanics as a metaphor for some deep message, but this is the only game I've ever played where the mechanics are the story and it's still fascinating, like an elegant math problem. There are 200 levels and every single one has a unique solution that makes you think about the game in a new way. Highly, highly, recommended.
Not really, it isn't something like Fez where you need pen and paper to take notes, there's no cryptography or ARG-style puzzles or anything. It's great about easing you into new mechanics and then progressively making them more complicated. There are a couple of (really rewarding!) sections that require you to laterally come up with a particular insight in order to make any progress, but everything is optional, if you get stuck at any point you can always wander somewhere else and work on puzzles over there instead. If something makes NO sense to you at all then 90% of the time you just don't have the knowledge to solve it yet, and you develop a pretty good feel for whether you're supposed to be able figure something out or not.
Graph paper is useful for The Witness at times, though.
It's not really obtuse at all. It doesn't tell you how to do anything, but it allows you to essentially teach yourself how to solve the puzzles on the island. I've always considered it a knowledge-based Metroidvania in terms of its progression. Instead of doorways gated by needing an ice beam or super missile, they are gated by your own knowledge. It's one of the best-designed games I've ever played, in all phases.
The "double the votes" on MP4 vs. Animal Crossing Switch makes me wonder, for old time's sake, about the eventual sales. I'd wager AC will outsell MP4 at least 2:1, but if it was 3:1 or higher I wouldn't be surprised. Animal Crossing may not win out on internet message boards, but dang if it isn't a beast out in the real world.