This article is an opinion piece and should be treated as such. The views expressed within are mine, and mine alone.
Since finishing my article about Ryu all the way back in July, I’ve been hard at work on a new article, an art project of sorts that I thought would be perfect to share with my friends here at Source Gaming. One that I hope will raise some interesting discussion, and hopefully inspire more people to reciprocate. My Games of the Year from 1980 to 2016.
I can’t take credit for the idea, as my twitter friend @thekhaos is the originator of this. After I witnessed the Game of the Year doodles he posted to his twitter page, it really got me thinking. What resulted was an extremely enjoyable exercise, I actually learned a lot about the kinds of games I enjoyed above others. Most importantly I had great deal of fun revisiting these memories.
Please note that the opinions found in this article are mine alone, and that the choices made were of ‘favourites’, which can often differ from quality. It’s personal. I did not allocate ‘rules’, but did have some guidelines:
-From the year of my birth (1992) onwards, all games were chosen based on the releases they had in my own region (England).
-If multiple games were equally strong contenders for the spot of Game of the Year, but one of those games already had a game from its series in the list, then the unique IP got the nod. I did not limit it to one-per franchise though.
-Rereleases and remakes were generally not considered, though there is an exception (2015).
If you’d prefer to see all the pictures together, you can see them on my DeviantArt page. Please also be sure to check out my brother’s own Game of the Year sister project, done in the exact same style as mine.
A huge amount of time, love and effort went into this (well over 100 new sprites!), so I’d like to thank you in advance for allowing me to share these with you. For brevity’s sake, I have spoiler tagged the anecdotes beneath each game.
Picture Depicts: Pac-Man fleeing a Ghost
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]What can be said about Pac-Man that hasn’t been said before? Pac-Man is without a doubt, one of the most influential games ever made, and for good reason. It introduced some of the most important gaming tropes of all time, including power-ups, cutscenes and stealth-based gameplay.[/su_spoiler]
Donkey Kong – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: Mario (then known as Jumpman) jumping a barrel thrown by Donkey Kong. 100 Points!
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Donkey Kong, like Pac-Man are in their own league. Their importance to the entire industry can never be overstated, and they’re still damn fun games too. Donkey Kong introduced the world to two of Nintendo’s greatest characters of all time. Expect both the Mario and Donkey Kong series to pop up again on this list.[/su_spoiler]
Q*bert – Gottlieb
Picture Depicts: Q*bert and Coily
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]
Another title from the golden age of arcade games. The goal of the game is to land on the platforms to change their colour, all the while trying to avoid Coily. Unlike Mario, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man, Q*bert never really managed to keep up with the times.[/su_spoiler]
Mario Bros. – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: Mario hitting the POW block!
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Truth be told the early eighties generally had 1 standout game for me per year. Mario Bros. is that game for 1983. Mario Bros. was an early example of a simultaneously multiplayer platform game, something we wouldn’t see again in a Mario title until the Nintendo Wii. It also marked the debut of Luigi. So bonus points there![/su_spoiler]
Duck Hunt – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: The Duck Hunt Dog famously taunting the player for missing
Genre: Light Gun Shooter
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]As a kid the extent of my access to games that pre-dated the SNES era relied almost solely on the dozen or so games that my two older brothers had accumulated for their NES. One of those games was Duck Hunt. The use of the light gun accessory, the characters and memorable setting makes this one of the most memorable, and one of my favourite NES titles.[/su_spoiler]
Super Mario Bros. – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: Mario in level 1-1, and the Goombas
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Mario rears his head for the 3rd time in this Game of the Year list, this time for the incomparable Super Mario Bros.. Compilation buddies with the aforementioned Duck Hunt, this is the game that defined and shaped not only the platforming genre, but video games as a whole.[/su_spoiler]
Rampage – Bally Midway
Picture Depicts: George the Giant Gorilla terrorising a civilian
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]For those of who you are unaware, Rampage was a 3 player action arcade game that positioned the player in the role of one of three giant monsters: George the Giant Gorilla, Ralph the Giant Wolf, and Lizzie the Giant Lizard. The goal was to survive a military onslaught while destroying the city, climbing buildings and eating innocent civilians. It was rather tongue-in-cheek, reeking of the kinds of brilliant humour that you’d find in other Brian Colin games such as General Chaos. There’s also a movie starring ‘The Rock’ allegedly hitting theatres next year…[/su_spoiler]
Double Dragon – Technōs Japan
Picture Depicts: Jimmy lee squaring off with Abobo
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Double Dragon is one of the first examples of a great Beat-Em-Up, and one that would help shape some of the games that we’ll see in the coming years in this list. It enjoyed a huge deal of success, and saw numerous sequels and spinoffs, including a cross-over with Rare’s Battletoads. This game saw Brother’s Jimmy Lee and Billy Lee using their Martial Arts prowess to rescue Marian from the Black Warriors gang. Plus, that soundtrack just reeks of 8-bit goodness.[/su_spoiler]
Altered Beast – SEGA
Picture Depicts: Werewolves on stage 1
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]I guess I was pretty lucky as a kid. I had access to a NES, SNES, Megadrive and an Amiga. All of which were technically before my time. It’s too bad that my eldest brother was super protective over his Megadrive, so I only got the chance to play it if I could sneak on it while he was out. He only had a handful of games for it, one of which was the SEGA classic – Altered Beast. The main draw of Altered Beast was collecting the power-ups to transform your character into a mythical beast. There were 4 beasts in total; a Werewolf, a Weredragon, a Werebear and a Weretiger. The transformation marks one of the most satisfying moments in any game I’ve ever played, and I’ve gone on to personally own Altered Beast on at least 3 separate systems of my own.[/su_spoiler]
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Konami
Picture Depicts: Leonardo hacking and slashing some Foot-Bots
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]My brothers between them bought a total of three Arcade game cabinets and kept them in the garage. The games were; Turtles, X-Men and The Simpsons. Three of the best Arcade games ever made. I was like a kid in a candy store. I imagine I got more use out of them than anyone. Whether it was taking my friends down there to have a marathon of 4 player Arcadey-goodness, or just going in there to play pool (I would still turn the arcade’s on, just to bathe in the noise), the ambience is something I’ll never forget. Nothing will ever top that feeling.
4 Turtle simultaneous play, tackling the likes of Rocksteady, Bebop, Baxter Stockman and the Shredder. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license has produced a great deal of quality games over the years but rarely reached the heights of the 1989 Arcade game.[/su_spoiler]
Snake, Rattle ’n’ Roll – Rare Ltd.
Picture Depicts: Rattle & Roll eating some Nibbley Pibbleys
Genre: Isometric 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]The first of several Rare games to make my list. Snake Rattle ’n’ Roll is genuinely one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. Not even in from the point of view of the game itself being difficult. It’s difficult just controlling which direction the characters move. It makes for some extremely funny scenarios. The game itself is rather simple. You eat Nibbley Pibbleys to make your tail grow long enough to weigh down the scales to open up the level exit![/su_spoiler]
Three Wonders – Capcom.
Picture Depicts: Lou & Siva, with Firestorm, Corkscrew and Chili taking on the level one boss in Midnight Wanderers, Balgoss
Genre: Platformer, Shoot-‘Em-Up & Puzzle
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Three Wonders is a criminally under-rated mixed-genre Arcade game. What made Three Wonders so special is that it lived up to its name. To call it a game doesn’t really do it justice, as it is in fact 3 games in one. The first game, Midnight Wanderers sees Lou and Siva, on a quest to find a magical Chariot, and to save Lou’s girlfriend Sena who has been turned into stone by the evil God, Gaia. The events of the story that unfold in Midnight Wanderers are continued on in Chariot. Lou and Siva use the chariot obtained at the end of Midnight Wanderers to battle the dastardly Lars, superior of Gaia. The third game is an unrelated puzzle game starring two different characters – Don and Pull, comically titled Don’t Pull.
I first discovered Three Wonders through Lou’s inclusion as an assist in Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes.[/su_spoiler]
X-Men – Konami
Picture Depicts: Cyclops & Dazzler, against final boss Magneto
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]The Simpsons may have narrowly missed being named the 1991 Game of The Year, but the 3rd in my holy trinity of Arcade games secures its spot for 1992. X-Men holds the distinction of being the first video game I ever played.[/su_spoiler]
Zombies Ate My Neighbours – LucasArts
Picture Depicts: Zeke & Julie in level 1: Zombie Panic!
Genre: Run & Gun
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Zombies Ate My Neighbours is a cult classic game for the SNES and Megadrive. The game entails its two protagonists, Zeke and Julie wondering around suburban neighbourhoods in their attempt to save civilians all the while battling ghouls that include Zombies, Vampires, Aliens, giant babies and plenty more.
There is a sizeable arsenal of weapons to swap between, perhaps none more memorable than the holy-water uzi. You can even turn yourself into a Werewolf if you pick up the right potion![/su_spoiler]
WWF RAW – LJN
Picture Depicts: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Genre: Sports-Based Fighting
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]There have been so many great, and so many terrible wrestling games made in the past few decades. The quality difference from one to the next is unbelievable. Just look at WCW vs. NWO: Revenge, and then look at WCW: Thunder…
WWF Raw was the third, final and best entry in LJN’s SNES WWF game trilogy. It featured 12 of the top superstars from late 1993/early 1994, and remains one of the strongest rosters in the history of wrestling games for its size (thanks to the likes of Owen Hart and Diesel). The gameplay was tug of war-esque for grappling. The game also gave you finishers, signature moves, weapons and new modes such as Survivor Series. I still maintain that this game has the most fun Royal Rumble mode of any wrestling game.[/su_spoiler]
Ristar – SEGA
Picture Depicts: Ristar, the shooting star
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Ristar is a game that eluded me in my youth. I never got to experience it until I got my hands on the SEGA Megadrive Collection for the Xbox 360.
Made by Team Sonic, Ristar is in my opinion a far better gameplay experience than any Sonic game. Ristar was unfortunately released at the end of the Megadrive’s life and never got to soar to the heights he perhaps could have.[/su_spoiler]
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble – Rare Ltd.
Picture Depicts: Kiddy Kong riding Ellie the Elephant, and Dixie Kong
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Diddy’s Kong Quest could be the best platform game ever made. I even completed a picture for it for the year 1995 that I thought about using, but ultimately this is a list of ‘favourites’ and not a list of ‘bests’.
Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble remains my favourite of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy to this day thanks to its most extreme contrast of characters in Kiddy and Dixie, as well as its awesome hub world and what are essentially my favourite level settings.[/su_spoiler]
Diddy Kong Racing – Rare Ltd.
Picture Depicts: Diddy Kong, Banjo, Conker, Bumper and Timber racing
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Diddy Kong Racing mixed the fast past, smooth action of Mario Kart with a story mode, new characters, vehicle variety and that good old Rare-charm. What resulted is the only racing game in history to ever compete with, and arguably win the supremacy battle with Nintendo’s own Kart series. There are two kinds of 90s kids. Kids who preferred Diddy Kong Racing, and kids who preferred Mario Kart 64.[/su_spoiler]
Banjo-Kazooie – Rare Ltd.
Picture Depicts: Banjo & Kazooie collecting a Jiggy in Mumbo’s Mountain
Genre: 3D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]I don’t think anyone who knows me can be surprised with this result. Despite 1998 being one of the most stacked years for quality video game releases of all time (seriously: Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes are but a few of them), none come close to the love that I have for the bear and bird.
Banjo-Kazooie consisted of 8 wonderful worlds of collecting jiggies, notes and jinjos, while traversing the witches castle to save Banjo’s sister. Rare took the 3D platforming crown with this game.[/su_spoiler]
Pokemon Red/Blue – Game Freak
Picture Depicts: Pokemon Trainer Red with his Charmander vs. Pokemon Trainer Blue with his Squirtle
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]In 1999 Pokemon finally came to the countries of Europe and a 7 year old me was hooked from the start. The cards, the anime, the movie and most importantly; the games.
I had both Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue, so it was impossible to pick just one here. I don’t think Banjo-Kazooie even defined my life at this age as much as the Pokemon craze did.[/su_spoiler]
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes – Capcom
Picture Depicts: Spider-Man vs. Felicia
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was basically a half-assed mashup of the entire Capcom vs. Marvel series up until that point. It included all of the playable characters from Children of the Atom, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes with some additional characters, highly detailed stages and 3vs3 team-based gameplay.
It featured an unprecedented 56 playable characters in total, one of the biggest and best in fighting game history. No wonder it has kept me playing for 16 years.[/su_spoiler]
Conker’s Bad Fur Day – Rare Ltd.
Picture Depicts: Conker bouncing on the Sunflower’s big breasts
Genre: 3D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]What began life as a cutesy 3D platformer along the lines of Super Mario or Banjo-Kazooie soon evolved into a game that turned that idea on its head. Inspired by an insurgence of offensive humour found in shows like South Park, Conker made a huge impression with me from day one.
Conker continuously introduced new mechanics, challenges and characters all throughout the game making it one of few games that’s still as fresh to play at the end as it was at the beginning. It is one of my three favourite games of all time, alongside Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie.[/su_spoiler]
Luigi’s Mansion – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: Luigi in Baby Chauncey’s bedroom
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Christmas 2002 was a damn good one. I remember getting a Nintendo Gamecube along with Super Mario Sunshine and Luigi’s Mansion, two of the best, most defining games of the Gamecube era. Luigi’s Mansion completely overshadowed even the gloriously brilliant Mario Sunshine, even despite its short length. Finally, Luigi wasn’t standing in his brother’s shadow![/su_spoiler]
The Simpsons: Hit & Run – Radical Entertainment
Picture Depicts: Homer Simpson’s reckless driving
Genre: Open World Action-Adventure
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]The Simpsons: Hit & Run is a typical example of why this isn’t a list of the ‘best’ games, such a list would clearly result in a game like The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker getting the spot.
Hit & Run was a love letter to fans of The Simpsons. A Grand Theft Auto clone starring The Simpsons, with all kinds of gags and references to the show. What’s not to love?[/su_spoiler]
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – Intelligent Systems
Picture Depicts: Paper Mario and Yoshi vs. Rawk Hawk
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]I first played The Thousand Year Door on my brother’s Gamecube in his room during my time after school. It was kind of an odd period because my brother was extremely ill. He’d be drifting in and out of consciousness while he watched me play it.[/su_spoiler]
Resident Evil 4 – Capcom
Picture Depicts: Leon S. Kennedy and Ashley Graham travelling through Salazar’s castle
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Survival Horror
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Resident Evil 4 marked a dramatic shift in direction for the Resident Evil series. It moved away from the old tank-controls for a more tight, dynamic control scheme and traded scare-jumps for purely horrific circumstances and villains. What could have been a huge disaster ended up resulting in one of the greatest and most influential games of all time.
A prime example of why game developers should not be afraid to take risks.[/su_spoiler]
Dead Rising – Capcom
Picture Depicts: Frank West fighting zombies with his big trademark baseball bat
Genre: Sandbox/Survival Horror
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Dead Rising is ‘one of those games’. By which I mean, a game that I can just play over and over again. I HAVE played it over and over again. I’ve done everything there is to do in this game, even the rather unpleasant 7-day survivor achievement. Frank ‘I’ve Covered Wars ya’ Know’ West has even become an all-time favourite character of mine.
Unfortunately The direction Capcom has since taken the Dead Rising series is something distinctly lacking everything I loved about the original. The time constraints, survivor saving and b-movie charm have all disappeared to appease the Call of Duty crowd as of Dead Rising 3.[/su_spoiler]
Super Mario Galaxy – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: Bee Mario in Beach Bowl Galaxy
Genre: 3D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Mario took to the stars in Super Mario Galaxy in one of his most memorable outings of all time. The concept of Galaxy allowed for some of the best level design in the series. Only heightened by the incredible 50-person orchestral soundtrack.[/su_spoiler]
Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo
Picture Depicts: Wolf, Sonic, Ivysaur and Olimar reaching for a Smash Ball
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]What’s a list without a little controversy, eh?
While I’m sure this makes every Melee purist out there squeal with disgust, Brawl is where the Smash Bros. series really hit its stride for me. Sakurai and his team provided a much more well-rounded complete feeling game than they had in previous Smash entries. An excellent cast of newcomers, the Subspace Emissary, cutting edge visuals, Assist Trophies, Final Smashes, online play. This is pound for pound the best Smash Bros. game to date.[/su_spoiler]
Ghostbusters: The Video Game – Terminal Reality
Picture Depicts: The Ghosbusters! Ray, Winston, Egon and Venkman
Genre: Third Person Shooter
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]The two Ghostbusters movies are some of my favourites of all time and even though we’ll never get that third movie, the video game eases the pain. This game is as close to Ghostbusters 3 as we’ll ever get, it was even penned by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.
Being put in the roll of the newbie was a great way of framing the game, there were plenty of nods to the two films, and you even got to revisit some of the more iconic settings and villains. The game was topped off nicely with a 4 player online mode![/su_spoiler]
Red Dead Redemption – Rockstar
Picture Depicts: John Marsten defending his home ranch
Genre: Open-World/Third Person Shooter
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]I remember being really excited for Red Dead Redemption ahead of its release. I’ve grown up since the age of 5 around horses and the western riding scene, so I had a deeper appreciation of the work that went into it than probably a lot of people did.
I’ve always had kind of a mixed opinion on Grand Theft Auto games. On the one hand, they can be really fun to just play, and there’s so much quality instilled into them. But on the other hand, the stories can be kind of psychotic and make for uncomfortable viewing at times. Red Dead took all of the positive elements of the GTA series, and set it in the wild west. John was a likeable protagonist. Even just riding your horse from a to b was a fun experience.[/su_spoiler]
Rayman Origins – Ubisoft
Picture Depicts: Rayman and Globox
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]After fizzling out in favour of 3D platformers following Super Mario 64, the 2D platformer came back in a big way in the early naughties spearheaded by New Super Mario Bros.. Rayman Origins (and its followup – Legends), are great examples of platforming done right. It was a return to form of sorts for Rayman, after taking a backseat to the Raving Rabbids spinoff for some time.[/su_spoiler]
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion – Dreamrift
Picture Depicts: Mickey, with his paintbrush and Oswald!
Genre: 2D Platformer
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]So 2012 wasn’t really a great year for me when it comes to game releases, in fact it was the hardest year to decide for, because the pickings were so slim. I haven’t played Kid Icarus: Uprising (yet), and have never touched an Animal Crossing game in my life.
It pretty much left me with choosing between Epic Mickey 2, and the superior (but only single player) handheld Epic Mickey game.[/su_spoiler]
Disney Infinity – Avalanche Studios
Picture Depicts: Sulley, Jack Sparrow (Crystal) & Mr. Incredible (Power Disc)
Genre: Toys To Life
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Disney Infinity primarily comprised itself of two halves. First you had the Toy Box, a Minecraft-esque build-your-own adventure kind of deal, which honestly never interested me. I would use the Toy Box generally just to mess around and play with people online, but the main source of fun I found from Infinity was in the form of the playsets. The playsets were essentially separate games that took about 8 hours each to play. The first game had a total of 6 of them; The Incredibles, Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cars, Toy Story and The Lone Ranger. These playsets were well made, and offered the player a great deal in variety. The quality really dipped in the 2nd Infinity game especially, but overall I’ll look back on the series fondly.[/su_spoiler]
South Park: The Stick of Truth – Obsidian Entertainment
Picture Depicts: Douchebag (avatar) deciding between joining Cartman (KKK) or Kyle (Elves)
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]If The Simpsons Hit & Run was a love letter to fans of The Simpsons, then Stick of Truth was like 15 love letters to fans of South Park. With or without the South Park license attached to it, Stick of Truth had an extremely compelling set of gameplay mechanics. Interspersed with all the trademark humour, wit, characters and in-gags featured in the show. As an experience it was like playing an episode OF the show. South Park couldn’t have been captured more brilliantly in video game form.[/su_spoiler]
Xenoblade Chronicles – Monolithsoft
Picture Depicts: Shulk, Reyn and Riki in Gaur Plains
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]Xenoblade Chronicles is a masterpiece of storytelling. Nothing defined my 2015 more than this game, as it took me around 5 or so months to play from start to finish (it’s damn long). It will forever be the measuring stick to which I hold all story-centric games in the future. It also features one of the most brilliant soundtracks of any game I’ve ever played.[/su_spoiler]
Star Fox Zero – Nintendo/Platinum Games
Picture Depicts: Fox McCloud in his Arwing
Genre: On Rails Shooter
[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler” style=”fancy”]It may be a little presumptuous of me to declare Star Fox Zero as my favourite game of 2016, as the year is not over yet. There are still a total of 4 games on my radar yet to be released. However with Yooka-Laylee, South Park: The Fractured Butt Whole and Sea of Thieves all getting delayed until next year, it does look like Star Fox will take the spot for this year when all is said and done.
While it has been in my estimation unfairly criticised for its control scheme; I believe Star Fox Zero is exactly the Star Fox sequel I’ve been waiting for since the N64. You can read more at my Star Fox Zero review.[/su_spoiler]
What are your favourite ‘Games Of The Year’? Sound off in the comments and drop us a tweet on twitter @MLFoxwell, and @AllSourceGaming.