Get Hyped for GOTY Season!
So, how was everyone’s 2019? Let’s say mine was… educational? Challenging? That’s a nice way to put it. Speaking of different ways of putting things, this list will be organized by what I got out of the games I’ve played before. In other words, by best replay value, to me, this year specifically.
I’m the kind of person whose bookshelf contains largely books I’ve already read rather than books I have but have yet to read. And I’m much the same way with video games. Perhaps it’s more like serial monogamy than discipline, but who can say, really? Sometimes it’s not about the game itself, but when or how you play it. And this has been very true for myself this year.
I tend not to be particularly interested in what’s new in the industry, so replayability was definitely the name of the game for me in 2019. All the games I’m picking here found me again after at least one initial playthrough, and I want to talk about why they did and celebrate them for it. And, for good measure, I’ll throw in some other repeat pieces of media I’ve enjoyed yet again this year towards the end of the piece. Cheers!
Anna’s Top 5 of Games Replayed in 2019
One of my personal signs of great artwork is the ability of the piece in question to give you, “the viewer” as they say, something new to experience even when the piece becomes familiar to you. For whatever reason, these games did that for me this year even though they haven’t always. Let’s talk about why that may be, shall we, my dear reader?
What can I say? This is a wonderful game. Man, when you need a little time to wander around a vague and beautiful world, Journey is the perfect pick-me-up. It’s no mystery why I replayed Journey this year, nor why it stood out to me from other games I played in 2019. This game never fails to foster contemplation in me. Colors to sounds to floaty movement, Journey always gives me something to chew on.
There have been times I’ve sat down to play Journey in search of the same experience I had when I first played it. But now I understand that approach to be deeply flawed. Replayability in my mind is not a matter of achieving the same thing twice. To me, replayability means getting something new and additive along with what you know. Or, in some cases, contrary to what you know.
This year I went out of my way to play the game’s levels — which flow so effortlessly together during a standard playthrough — out of order. Not a revolutionary idea, but it turned out to be one that helped me better appreciate pleasant, but somewhat unfulfilling or disconnected, journeys in games. Or, perhaps, to be more mindful of those levels in other titles. I love when a game is greater than the sum of its parts, and that perspective hinges on completing a game. Replaying Journey has helped me change my perspective on what I value in a game and how I might consider a game’s success in the future. It doesn’t have to be about the whole.
Should this game rank higher on this list? No! I had more fun playing other games, and fun is the most important criteria.
4) Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility
Here we have an example of a game I loved as a child that I can now say I love just as much as an adult. Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility lets me play as a female character; lets me make magic rainbow recipes to save the Harvest Goddess, who appeared to me in my character’s dreams; and lets me mine for days on end without dying or getting a penalty as long as I have medicine.
Why does this replay make my list? Because I like it more than I like any other Harvest Moon, or even Stardew Valley. It’s a simple game. Not overwhelming in scope, and the pacing and controls are very well done. It doesn’t let you be gay or customize your appearance as much as Stardew Valley in particular, which is a serious bummer. That being said, it addresses a number of my gripes about these types of games:
- Friendly NPCs
- Same-day tool upgrades
- Tool upgrades via ores or money
- Reasonable skill progression difficulty
- Music is extremely pleasant, it isn’t annoying or absent, etc.
Tree of Tranquility lacks a number of conveniences, such as fast travel or teleportation. It also suffers from the occasional clunky menu. But all said, it’s just the right size and balance of flavors. Turns out not all your tastes change from when you were a kid. An excellent replay for sure!
3) Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Shout-out to Red Rescue Team, but I’m all about Blue. This game is honestly everything I ever wanted from the Pokémon franchise, both now and as a child. Do I always make my partner a Mudkip? Yes. Do I always name my rescue team Team Muddybuddy. Yes. He is muddy and he is my buddy — what of it?
Fun things in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team:
- Lovely art and sprite animations
- Cute story
- Great post-game
- Fun gameplay
- Move linking, party management, cool dungeons, etc.
- A Pokémon personality test (come on, that’s so delightful!)
What really makes this a joy to revisit is the personality test, which lets you enter the Pokémon world as a different little pocket monster every time. That, and the ability to pick a new partner (were I not solidly committed to my muddy buddy). It’s so endearing to see the new expression cards as the dialog flows for every Pokémon you play as. Not to mention how fun and challenging it is to explore new types and move-sets while dungeoneering! This game has more replayability in the traditional sense, so it gets the middle slot on my list this year. Super fun, super replayable!
Celeste should rank higher on my list simply based on the number of hours I’ve put into it. Ya girl pulled a Cuphead again (I S-ranked it and wrote a thing!) and has completed the C-sides of all the levels. We got a good good game right here for me to want to do all that myself instead of looking it up on YouTube. But why did I come back to it? Aren’t I bored of the pattern recognition needed to complete the stages of each level?
It’s the writing. As fun as it is to try to beat your best time making all those precise jumps and dashes, what draws me back to Celeste is ultimately the writing. The story hits me differently every time I experience it, and if you recall, that ticks some boxes on my great art test.
Not to mention the fact that completing those jumps helps my brain make the happy chemical sometimes and it could use all the help it can get with that!
1) Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I promised myself when I bought the game I would never deal with the Korok seed nonsense.
I have collected 810 goddamned Korok seeds. This game made me the hero of the wilds with a magical destiny, which I fulfilled a few times in different ways. And it made me want to collect hundreds of pieces of virtual fucking poop so I can get a golden shit statue. Wha–? NO. HOW DID IT DO THAT?!
Probably with the outstanding map and those good, good movement controls.
Not only has this game made me want to collect acorny pseudopoop, it has inspired me to cook more in real life. And I’ve played the main quest differently every time. And I’ve played the DLC differently each time I’ve done that. Breath of the Wild hands downs wins the top spot for my best replayed game of the year purely because of how many ways you can play it and how much fun I’ve had figuring out how many there are.
There were some films and shows and things that I would just like to touch on while I’m here. They aren’t as interactive as video games, but they fit my theme of replayability this year. Each of them are things I have experienced outside of 2019 and each of them taught me something new. Or perhaps I just saw a new side of them. Either way, here they are!
Hot Fuzz, Film
A brilliantly shot and cast “buddy” cop (they are DEFINITELY husbands in my mind) film. This bad boy helped me consider the nature of lawful good versus chaotic good from the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG vernacular. Be warned of some blood and violence in this one. It is a buddy cop film, after all. There’s gonna be some fighting!
Steven Universe, TV Series
One of the best series I think I’ve ever watched? Steven Universe has significantly contributed to my library of language and reference with which to discuss different types of love, personal growth, singing as art/expression, and more I’m sure. Cartoons are a big interest of mine and something tells me this will be one of my lifelong favorites.
Dodie Clark, Singer/Songwriter
I just can’t get enough of Dodie’s beautiful voice or her charming music videos. Her work is engaging, her lyrics are succinct and enchanting, and I’m just becoming a huge fan. Though she does hide some of her songs on her YouTube channel instead of putting them on her EPs. Sneaky bitch (only joking).
Winnie the Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Quest for Christopher Robin, Film
Children deserve good stories and good media. I believe this movie is an awesome way to express how fear and anxiety can warp your perception of the world and your worries — and, more importantly, that fears dissipate. If you are looking for a simple story with cute songs and everyone’s favorite tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff, I’d recommend this film to you.
Well, as always dear reader, thanks for making it to the end! I would love to hear about your gaming this year or about what you hope it’s like in 2020. Please be sure to watch this space for more GOTY lists from the other lovely folks here at The Punished Backlog. Be excellent to each other and have a pleasant tomorrow!