- It may have been a slow gaming year again, but some big titles found a way to overcome my inertia. Here are the games that refused to let me ignore them.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - When I first received my Nintendo Switch as a Christmas present, Breath of the Wild was the game I was most looking forward to playing. And... I didn't like it very much. I ran around a bit, followed the story line, but it just wasn't clicking for me. I thought it would go back on the shelf, unfinished.
But then my brother played and finished the game himself and encouraged me to try again. I don't know what changed. Whether I was in the right headspace or I just figured out what the game wanted of me, it finally clicked in a big way. Breath of the Wild is an explorer's dream. The world encourages you to wander around and check everything to see what is hidden there. In a way, this is the closest a Zelda game has come to replicating the feeling of the NES The Legend of Zelda.
- Hades - I have been a fan of Supergiant Games since their inception. Their first game, Bastion captivated me entirely with its riff on the action-RPG and the studio's now-signature narrative and musical excellence. Unfortunately, although their next two games didn't hit me the same way, Hades has hit me just right. Its combat feels right out of Bastion, but with a run-based, Rogue-lite underpinning that has me always eager for "one more run." Even though Hades is in early access, it is stuffed with systems and content that, bar an ending they haven't completed, would be a release game for any other developer. It seems that Supergiant is not satisfied with "good enough" and Hades is all the better for it.
- Zen of Sudoku - I purchased Zen of Sudoku in 2007 and have played it for over 279 hours. When I need to unwind and let my brain take a rest, this is my go to game. It comes up on my list this year because 2019 just demanded it. (In looking up these stats, I see that I also purchased Bookworm Adventures around that time for three times the price and only played for four hours. Woof.)
- Marvel's Spider-Man - I'm a little surprised that I've never played a Spider-Man game before. Spidey is hands-down my favorite superhero. But a combination of platform issues and reticence to try something different has always kept me away. Thankfully, the praise for Marvel's Spider-Man overcame all of that and I was treated to a distillation of everything I love about the character. And although I am awful at the combat (even on the lowest difficulty), the joy of swinging through the city is enough to earn a spot on the list.
- alphacross - My affinity for crossword puzzles assuredly can be traced to my grandmother. She did the crossword every day, in pen as is proper. Just recently, I was looking for something to keep me occupied and discovered alphacross on the Google Play Store. It is everything I need from a crossword puzzler without a bunch of the crap you usually get from one of these apps. It's just a subscription to as many puzzles as you can manage and the tools to complete them. I have been rediscovering the special language of crosswords that comes from seeing certain clues repeat over time. I have also been cursing the puzzle designers who are always too clever by half. But from time to time when I work on another puzzle, I remember what it was like to sit at the kitchen counter and do the crossword with my grandma.
- An honorary mention goes to the board game The 7th Continent which would have taken a spot had I need to fill out the top five. A survival adventure game about ridding yourself of a terrible curse, I spent countless evenings with my daughter learning the continent and dying horribly again and again. We're sure to win one day.