It’s that time of year again! Each year, DigitallyDownloaded.net recognises the best, most interesting, most artful and most creative games across a wide range of different categories, and 2018 was no different. In fact, this has been one of the best years for releases, from big blockbusters all the way down to the tiniest of indies.
As always our selection process is as follows: Games released on any platform between December of the previous year (2017 in this case) through to November this year can qualify. If a game was released on one platform last year, and then a different platform this year, it can still qualify for awards (as has been the case in a couple of examples this year). The game doesn’t necessarily have to be released in the western market, though for obvious reasons we’ll reward games that are accessible and available for English-speaking players ahead of those that are too hard for most people to experience. The entire DDNet team comes together to shortlist, and then vote on the award winners in each category – awards are not based on reviews or review scores (because that’s one person’s opinion), so it’s entirely possible that the winner of a category will have a slightly lower score than a silver or bronze medalist, or a game that didn’t even make the finalists.
The Nintendo Switch cas grown to become the prefered console for many of us at DDNet. It’s a console that combines the convenience and portability of a handheld console, while providing the rich home console experience. And, while Nintendo is always going to be dominant on its own console, there’s so many brilliant third party games to play too… just consider that Civilization VI (which was unfortunately released too late to be considered for an award this year) is only available on the Switch, as far as consoles go. So, here are the three games that stood out the most in what was an incredible year for Nintendo’s new powerhouse.
You could argue that Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a little too similar to the original in terms of narrative tone and design. But then you’d be saying that Valkyria Chronicles 4 is just like one of the greatest tactics JRPGs of all time, so to complain about that would be just silly. It’s true that Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t take too many risks, but the way it hones in on the deep, rich themes and near-perfect action that were so memorable from the first title makes this one every bit as powerful and memorable. About the only thing it’s missing is Alicia!
It has been a long, long time since a Taiko drum rhythm game has been localised into English. This is despite everyone who has spent time in Japan playing these in the arcades over there, and the cut-down minigame in Yakuza 5 being an stand-out hit. It looks like the people at Bandai Namco finally paid attention, localising Taiko’s Nintendo Switch debut, and you know what? It’s absolutely brilliant.
Full of charm, humour, colour and panache, Taiko no Tatsujin is a delight from the very opening moments, to dozens and dozens of hours later as you work to master the most difficult tracks. You’ll never get frustrated though. Taiko’s just too adorable for that.
Octopath Traveler is what would have happened if sprite-based games had never been replaced by 3D visuals and worlds. It is a delightful game on every level; inspired by the retro games of the past, Octopath Traveler is also very modern, very current, and interesting from start to finish. It plays with narrative, giving you eight rich stories to follow, and offers a deep combat system that’s difficult to put down.
Incredibly immersive and beautiful, Octopath Traveler stands as proof that there’s plenty of value in “traditional” JRPGs yet. And by all accounts the sales of the game suggest that there should be many more of them to come.