GameLuster’s Game of the Year: Runner-ups

Our staff picked their single favorite games of the year in a separate story, but there’s always room for honorable mentions. Below, some of our staff list their runner-ups for Game of the Year. Note that GameLuster’s final, single pick for Game of the Year is still forthcoming.

Austin Suther’s runner-ups:

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate : This truly is the ultimate Super Smash Brothers game. It comprises all the characters we’ve learned to know and love over the years. The spirits are interesting and unique, and their classic mode has a nice little twist to it. I knew I loved Smash, and once again I’m hooked. (Read Austin’s review here.)

Red Dead Redemption 2 : It’s probably the best looking game ever made. Not only that, it has some of the most realistic characters ever to be seen in a video game. The dedication to realism might have turned some people away, but it definitely adds to the immersive experience I hoped for from Rockstar.

Into the Breach : From the creator of FTL, I knew it was going to be a hit. It’s such a unique strategy game that feels like a puzzle at the same time. The twist that instead of defeating these kaiju with huge mechs, you just need to stall them – that is a unique take on the mech vs. giant monster genre that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Read Austin’s review here.)

Monster Hunter: World : It deserves all the praise it’s been getting. Initially the series seemed too niche for me, but I soon fell in love with it once I played this one. The monsters are awesome, each one so unique and interesting to fight. There’s just TONS of content here that it almost feels like a crime to have only payed $60 for it. But damn, it was worth it.

Michelle Kruse’s runner-ups:

Donut County : This was a truly flawless game that I had the joy of reviewing this year. I very nearly gave that game a 10 out of 10 because of how stupidly fun it was to play. Annapurna Interactive put out some real gems this year and I think that is worth recognizing in a year where a lot of indies got to flourish thanks to the success of the Switch and continual rise of mobile gaming. (Read Michelle’s review here.)

Monster Hunter: World : This should also be recognized for its phenomenal achievements in bringing so many people to the franchise for the first time. A game series that always felt so niche on the DS and 3DS was finally brought to life on consoles and PC this year with the massive success of that game. Monster Hunter: World turned an extremely fun RPG into a beautiful experience with environments I want to explore for forever. Capcom has also done a great job in continuing to support Monster Hunter World throughout the year, keeping myself and others coming back.

Brennan D’Elena’s runner-ups:

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate : This year’s Smash reinterpretation sets the bar for not only the franchise itself, but Nintendo’s first party lineup as a whole. The amount of care and detail that went into this rendition shows with its overwhelming (and often times nostalgic) roster, stages and music. The World of Light and Classic Modes are also excellent single-player focused counterparts to the multiplayer and plethora of other Smash modes.

Spider-Man : Insomniac’s take on Spidey has been nothing short of spectacular. Swinging around NYC has never felt more relaxing, and the near rhythmic combo-centered combat system felt enhanced by Spidey’s range of suits, powers, modification, skills, gadgets and more. The plot feels like classic Spider-Man as well, with series mainstays like MJ and Aunt May, but new characters like Miles Morales, feeling right at home. Insomniac’s use of Spidey’s magnificent rogue’s gallery is a noteworthy feature, and a finely-tuned sequel could pave the way for even more web-slinging.

Robert Scarpinito’s runner-ups:

God of War : Sony Santa Monica actually made me care about a franchise I had little interest in with this semi-reboot. The dedication to a one-shot camera angle combined with the almost claustrophobic field of view really puts you in Kratos’ shoes. His struggles are your struggles. His satisfaction when his axe returns to his hand is your satisfaction. (Read GameLuster’s impressions story here.)

Red Dead Redemption 2 : While I have a lot of problems with this game, it’s impossible to deny its impact on the gaming landscape. Everyone talked about it when it came out, whether it was Rockstar’s truly insane attention to details or the nuances of Arthur Morgan’s character. (Read Robert’s review here.)

Dead Cells : Playing Dead Cells is what pure joy feels like. It’s a simple game to pick up and understand, but it tests you very quickly. This game scratches a lot of itches all at once within 20 minutes of a play session. Serendipitous loot synergies, beefy hack-and-slash combat, and a killer soundtrack make Dead Cells one of the best indie games on the market. (Read GameLuster’s review here. See our video review here.)

Celeste : Yeah, this game is hard. It will test your skills and patience, and you’ll die — a lot. However, the feeling of finally beating a room that added 50 points to your death counter? That’s something no one can take from you, and it’s a high that not too many games go for nowadays. Throw in a surprisingly heavy story and a handful of earworms and you’ve got something that rivals major AAA games. (Read GameLuster’s review here.)

Simon Smith’s runner-ups:

The Longest Five Minutes : It takes a lot for a nostalgia driven game to take my interest, especially if it a turn based role-playing game, but The Longest Five Minutes got to me. While the gameplay is less then engaging, the game’s clever story structure and characters pulled me through its ten hour length. Telling a non-linear story of your adventure as you fight a demon lord in the present and making critical choices – please, if anyone attempts this style again, sign me up.

Spider-Man : While Spider-Man may not have the best history with videogames, Insomniac proved why them being given the license was one of the smartest moves Sony has made in years. Not only is the game a legitimately great action title filled with the greatest attack combinations and awesome uses of Spider-Man skills but it also told a great story which, while obvious at times, also went somewhere I didn’t expect on a few occasions.

Detroit: Become Human : Few games this year made me get attached to a character but Detroit: Become Human certainly did. I felt the pain of the three primary characters as they struggled against an unaccepting world. I got upset the time I got Connor killed, I cried at the sudden realization that at the end through all my struggles I managed to get Alice killed and left Kara alone. I fought to bring peace to the world citing that violence only brings more violence. Every moment I was with this game I was emotionally enthralled and worried that a single mistake would be devastating. I cared about all three characters and was proud to be on this journey on them playing purely good, even if it did sometimes hurt.

Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee : I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have my initial doubts with these games. Taking the mechanics from the mobile game and tying it with the classic style, how on Earth would this work. Luckily Let’s Go understands the fun of Pokémon which, at least for me, is primarily in the journey to reach the top, and this was a great way to re-experience Kanto. I just wish the catching system wasn’t complete rubbish that makes zero sense, good thing this didn’t hold me back from journeying back through Kanto and going back to my childhood again.

Haley Sampson’s runner-up:

Detroit: Become Human : While I didn’t love this game as it wasn’t the deepest in story, it tackled a lot of real world issues that made me rethink the world we live in today. I cried a lot during this game as the story caught me off guard. Also, the actors were outstanding and their performances are ones that shouldn’t go unnoticed. (Read Haley’s review here.)

Elizabeth Christopher’s runner-up:

Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee : While I was initially dubious of the differences that Let’s Go brought to the series, the game managed to go beyond my expectations. The catching mechanics are very fun, and have a nice twist, and the catch combos to find rare Pokémon is addictive. The game has so many little cute touches (like the Pokémon following you) that make exploring a joy. The only reason it didn’t make it to GOTY for me is because it’s still Kanto, with both a region and monsters that have already been seen before. Some of the new changes also were a bit disappointing, such as the watered-down battle system, but I am glad that the system is more similar to the traditional Pokémon battle system than Pokémon GO. Still worth a play for both rookie trainers and lifelong Pokémon fans alike!

Didn’t see your favorite game featured here or in our staff’s Game of the Year picks? Sound off in the comments below!

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