The end of the year means Game of the Year Awards aplenty for every website out there. Giant Bomb, Kotaku, Gamespot, Polygon—they all do it. Even one of our resident gaming podcasts, The Stone Age Gamer Podcast, partakes in the fun. While all the new games get love, some older fan favorites might fall through the cracks because time marches on. What we’ve done here is assembled internet personalities, speed runners, authors, Youtubers, streamers, podcasters, and staff members to pick their favorite game that they played that didn’t come out this year. Welcome to the Geriatric Joystick Award for 2019!
GiitchWiitch: Illusion of Gaia [SNES]
For as much of a fan as I am of Soul Blazer, and despite owning Illusion of Gaia, I never really played it beyond the opening area. Something about the idea of starting a big RPG and having to read dialog put me off. But recently the Illusion of Gaia randomizer was released in a functional form (and is getting way more features daily) and my partner had absolutely adored the game, so she recommended we load up a seed and get lost in the game for a bit.
Now, I adore randomizers. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this particular phenomenon, it takes the source games and shuffles all the items and key progression stuff throughout the game itself, always keeping it solvable, and sometimes strips out some plot scenes and invents new ways to wander the game world, often making most linear games more of an open world experience. These make for super fun races.
So, we dipped into the Illusion of Gaia rando and I had an absolute blast. I enjoyed the gameplay I was experiencing and while the story beats were out, I was having so much fun just solving seeds of it that I just had to go and play the vanilla game.
So I grabbed my Illusion of Gaia cart and just played through the game. It was a lot more serious than I expected and definitely had some super dark and super light moments, but it was so much fun. With the exception of the bosses, which ranged from wildly unexciting to easy to absolutely brutal (looking at you, vampires), I was having a blast with the game. Enough that I started to learn the speedrun. I’m still early in that process of learning the run but it’s been fun to learn. I hope to have that committed to memory early next year and get a run or two done so I can at least get a name on the boards.
So, for the game I enjoyed the most in 2019 that absolutely did not come out in 2019—it’s gotta be Illusion of Gaia.
GliitchWiitch is an incredible speedrunner that put her skills to the test at last year’s Pain in the Ass-a-thon against ‘Super Ghouls and Ghosts’ and took that game out without even breaking a sweat. Check out more from her over on her Twitch.
Ferg (From the “Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast”): Malagai [Atari 2600]
One of the more interesting games I played this year on the Atari 2600 is Malagai. It was released by Answer Software in 1983 and is pretty hard to find, but in my opinion isn’t as bad as most rare games are. It looks like a basic one-screen maze game at first blush, but it’s much more than that. There are three differently shaped and colored alien Malagai roaming the maze, and you have to catch each one in the order that they appear at the top of the screen. If you’re playing the default variation, the airlocks at the top of the maze will blink, and you have to open the airlock with the key you ostensibly got from the Malagai. If you choose the wrong alien, your compartment at the bottom will blink and you have to return there to “reset” the Malagai. After you’ve captured one, they all turn into the same shape and color and will kill you if you touch them, so you have to tread carefully through the maze. You have a limited amount of time to catch the Malagai depnding on the difficulty switch, if you don’t get them in time you can return to your compartment to reset. There are three different mazes in the game, and they will repeat unless you don’t lose any lives, then the game will end after the third maze.
I enjoy maze games, and I also like games that don’t really make any sense until you read the manual. By this time in the life of the Atari 2600, there were dozens of companies making games for it, and many of them were not good. I think whomever programmed this game put some time and thought into it and it shows in the gameplay. There’s even a possible ending, which was a rarity in 1983.
One thing that many people don’t like about Malagai is the sound. The Atari’s sound chip is not the greatest, and this game, in addition to a constant background theme, has cacophonous sounds for each of the directions in which you can walk. I appreciate any attempt at game sounds on the 2600, but I also understand that some people are annoyed by this. If you want a copy of this, good luck; they’re hard to find and expensive. Just take a walk to your local emulator and give it a shot, you may be glad you did.
Ferg is the host of the “Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast“, and an incredible personality that should not be overlooked.
James Carolan: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
My submission for the generic game of the year is Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. The series began in 2010 with the original game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, that started a series of game spin-offs and anime. Danganronpa 2 is surely the best in the series, and maybe the best game I have played all year. For those who don’t know the premise of Danganronpa, it stars a cast of high school students who are locked in a killing game against the evil known as the ultimate despair, where they are “motivated” to kill each other until only one survives. The game is part dating sim, part Phoenix Wright investigation, and part Professor Layton puzzles as a trial commences with every murder to see who is responsible for the dirty deed.
The second game expands on the first’s solid idea by changing the location from a high school to an exotic island and improving on some of the puzzle and court mechanics. But most importantly, it adds to an already colorful cast of characters in order to throw in so many new surprising twists and turns that it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout every murder and trial.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the third installment, was certainly a runner-up for my best pick, as I am someone who enjoyed its so-called controversial ending, but I feel its formula is peaked at Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.
James Carolan is one of the executive producers and hosts at non-productive.com a podcasting network broadcasting all things Geek since 1996. He loves movies, television, anime, video games, and so much more in the world of pop culture. You can find out more about Non-Pro at Non-productive.com and on facebook at non-productive or follow us on twitter @non-pro. James can be found personally at @bombchuxox on all social media
Jnich87: Metroid [NES]
One of my fondest memories of playing video games as a child was playing Metroid on the NES. My dad and I would get lost exploring this world and even used pen and paper to draw our own maps. We had no clue where to go and the game doesn’t give you any indication except to “kill the Mother Brain.” While searching the world of Zebes, you really get a sense of loneliness with the black backgrounds, dark environments, and amazing music. Enemies are powerful and can destroy Samus very quickly but with enough exploration and perseverance, you can find the power-ups necessary to be victorious in your mission.
The replayability alone was superior to other games. You can collect every item or very few items. You can choose to fight Ridley or Kraid first. No other game had a female as the lead character during this time. This game even has a genre named after it today with many games tweaking and perfecting this original formula. Not many titles have left an impression like Metroid did over 30 years ago, which is why I still enjoy this game today.
Jnich87 is a charming speedrunner with a great community. Give him a follow over on Twitch and enjoy his journey to be the fastest!
Mutant Musings: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair [PS4]
Patti: I’ve been wanting to play the Danganronpa games for years after seeing screenshots on Tumblr. I bought the first two games on PSN and was going to start them, and then figured I would ask Jonathan if he wanted to play with me. I’m really glad I waited and we got to experience them together. The games play as a mature version of Phoenix Wright where your classmates get murdered and you have to solve the cases and present evidence in court. But it’s so much more than just that. You get a feel for all of the characters and start to bond with certain ones. There were a few times we cried during our playthrough because we loved the characters so much and didn’t want to see anything happen to them. I actually brought my PS4 when we went on our anniversary vacation so we could play because we both got super hooked. Danganronpa 2 was my favorite of the games. The characters were the most likeable and I felt like the story was absolutely genius.
Jonathan: A point-and-click murder mystery, 2012’s Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is an incredible sequel to 2010’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. High school kids are trapped in a mysterious location and must participate in a killing game in order to have a shot at survival. The first game was fantastic and I didn’t believe that the series could get better. I distinctly remember saying aloud, “How do they expect me to possibly care about new characters after that?” Well, I cared, and maybe even cried. What the first game did well, Danganronpa 2 perfected. The mystery was more mysterious, the suspense was more suspenseful, and the characters were more interesting and endearing. Even the setting was an incredible improvement as it allowed for a natural and interesting plot advancement, while also allowing both the player and the characters to feel natural senses of surprise when a new area became available. The twists and revelations at the end of the game are absolutely mind-blowing. I’m also being purposely vague because if you’re reading this but have never played Danganronpa, you have to go into it with no knowledge of what is going to occur. The first game is wonderful and necessary in order to play the second, but this sequel is certainly superior. Patti and I spent roughly seven months playing through the entire Danganronpa series this year, and out of all the games, this is the best.
Mike Sheridan: Nioh [PS4]
My choice is 2017’s Nioh. Nioh is an action RPG hack-and-slash similar to the “Soulsborne” games. It’s loosely based on historical events, and I say “loosely” because obviously nobody was out there fighting Yokai in 1600’s Japan (as far as I know). You play as William, a man trying to get his guardian spirit back from the game’s villain, Edward Kelley. Yes, the main antagonist in Nioh is named is Edward Kelley, which c’mon, I know he’s based on a real person in history but what kind of bad guy name is Edward Kelley? Anyway, you take William from England to Japan, gathering up other Guardian Spirits to help you along the way. You make some friends and take down a lot of Yokai and other evil beings. From start to finish, Nioh rewards you for everything you do. Every kill, every level you increase, every new technique you learn for each different style of weapon you are using, all of it. Flimsy villain names aside, this game is near-perfect, and if you are into Soulsborne-type games, you should definitely check it out.
I know a few of you out there are surprised I didn’t pick a Castlevania game—sorry about that.
Find Mike on early episodes of “The Stone Age Gamer Podcast” and streaming on our Twitch Channel!
Brett Weiss: Beauty & the Beast [Intellivision]
My favorite Intellivision game of all time is Beauty & the Beast, which is not based on the classic fairytale or the Disney film. Rather, it is a climbing game/non-scrolling platformer that is super slick and arcade-like, more so than just about any other game for the console. You guide a quickly moving hero called Bashful Buford as he climbs the side of a multi-tiered skyscraper, walking across ledges and climbing up windows that open and close randomly. The goal is to reach the top, where a large, ape-like bully called Horrible Hank holds Buford’s girlfriend, Mabel, captive. Birds, rats, and boulders make the game a challenge, as do the aforementioned windows, but they can be jumped over (in the case of boulders and rats) or otherwise avoided. Mabel releases hearts you can catch that make you invincible. This is a key strategy, especially in later, more intense rounds. Reaching the top rewards players with a King Kong-like ending: the bully falling to his “death,” then the action continues at a more difficult pace. The game borrows from Crazy Climber, Donkey Kong, and Popeye, but I actually prefer Beauty & the Beast, which was an Intellivision exclusive, to any of those classic arcade games. It may not be a tale as old as time, but I sure play it time and time again.