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.
It’s the last year that the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS will appear in the DDNet awards. Both consoles have a couple of releases scheduled in 2019, but it’s fair to say they’re well into their twilight, and the industry has almost completely moved on from both devices. But we love both consoles, and the games they have provided us over the years, so for one last time; here’s the best games that were released for the last two dedicated handhelds we’re likely to see.
The Nintendo 3DS has certainly proven itself to be a brilliant console for JRPGs over the years. Indeed, for quite a while there it was the go-to device for developers that wanted to produce something a little experimental, or had a JRPG in mind but minimal budget, so could work with the relatively humble 3DS hardware and produce something with a smaller team. Radiant Historia in many ways epitomises what the 3DS offered JRPGs. It’s a modest-looking, but incredibly well-written and smart game, with wonderful characters and a brilliant time manipulation mechanic.
Just as the 3DS was the home for JRPGs, so too was the PlayStation Vita the home for visual novels. It’s truly incredible how many VNs found their way onto the console full translated (and that’s actually only a small fraction of what was released back in Japan). The Vita’s screen size, and the quality of that screen was perfect for the reading experience that VNs tend to require. Death Mark, released this year, also happens to be one of the best VNs ever created. An intense horror narrative that plays on Japanese ghost stories and urban legends, combines with gorgeous art and some great detective-style gameplay.
I don’t think anyone understands how Detective Pikachu came to be – who could possibly have come up with the concept of a talking, investigating Pikachu, and how that idea could then be turned into a multi-media franchise with a film on the way (and yes that film trailer looks awesome). But here we are, in a world with Detective Pikachu, and this game is so great. It’s lighthearted and easy for kids to get into, but at the same time it’s got a wicked sense of humour and charm that adults can enjoy. Certainly, it is the most distinctive and interesting game that was released on the 3DS this year, and it was well worth dusting off the 3DS for, if you happen to be one of those who have put old faithful into retirement.