Along with holiday parties, festively fugly sweaters, and tons of treats I totally shouldn’t be eating, the end of the year always brings with it a sobering realization: I work with a bunch of crazy people. That’s the only logical – and frankly generous – conclusion I can reach every year as I listen to my coworkers spout obviously wrong opinions for DAYS on end during the blitzkrieg of meetings that decide our Top 50 list. Sometimes the arguments for or against any given game are so absurd that I feel like a robot trying to process a logical paradox – all I can do is scream “DOES NOT COMPUTE!” over and over as I run out of the meeting room with sparks shooting from my ears. That’s not a joke, people – it literally happened during last year’s Breath of the Wild debate!
Luckily, I’ve discovered a sanity-saving workaround to the dilemma – I simply disavow the results of our year-end list completely and make my own damn awards instead. I am not bragging when I say they are without a doubt the best awards ever, because not only do I unilaterally pick all the winners (so you know they’re right!), but I also make up the categories too! So, without further ado, I present to you the second annual Not 50 Awards!
…and yes, I know “Not 50 Awards” would’ve been a better name for my subversive take on E3’s Hot 50 awards, but I already named those The Dubys, so just roll with it, okay?
Desert Island Award: Tetris Effect
I feel sorry for people who don’t get Tetris. To them, it’s just a mindless puzzle game where you endlessly drop dumb shapes into a well for no reason, and yet idiots won’t stop gushing about it being the best game of all-time. Explaining to them how Tetris Effect takes that perfect experience and somehow makes it even perfecter would be impossible. Basically, it adds crazy visuals and music that syncs to your movements. See?! If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it!
Thankfully, I do get it, and I could play Tetris Effect FOREVER. So congratulations, Monstars, you made an amazing Tetris game! Not like that’s a hard thing to do. Well, unless you’re Ubisoft…or EA…or THQ – wait a minute, how do so many people screw up Tetris?!
Best Progress Derailer Award: Mahjong (Yakuza 6)
Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of story-driven games? Well, I got news for you: All the BioWare and CD Projekt Red and David Cage games in the world ain’t got sh– on Yakuza. By my estimate, Yakuza 6 has roughly one BILLION hours of story cutscenes, each immaculately choreographed and voice-acted. Seriously, you can’t walk five feet in Kamurocho without triggering some ridiculous, character-building cutscene with a random stranger (usually a pervert) that ties into the Yazuka lore Sega has been building on for 15 years.
All that wouldn’t mean much if the story isn’t good, but guess what? It is…probably? The truth is I don’t know, because as soon as I opened up the Mahjong mini-game in Yakuza 6, I became hopelessly addicted. I know there’s a little girl with an even littler baby that I should be rescuing or something, but I can’t pry myself away from the Mahjong tables – the only time I leave the parlor is to shake down random thugs for more betting money, because I still don’t fully understand the rules of Mahjong. Actually, is it too late to change my Desert Island award?
Best Catalyst For Self-Reflection: Horse Rides (Red Dead Redemption II)
Last year, no criticism of a video game broke my brain more than the widespread and oft-repeated argument lodged against Red Dead Redemption II: “The horse rides take too long! Wahhhhh!!!”
Oh, I’m sorry, you mean the horse rides through the most meticulously detailed and positively gorgeous open world ever created in the history of video games? In a game where escaping the trappings of modern society and finding your own path in a dangerous, changing world is half the effing point? You’re telling me that we all waited eight long years for Rockstar to craft its most ambitious and immersive game yet, and your main complaint is you can’t speed through it fast enough?!
If Red Dead’s horse rides are detracting from your enjoyment of the game, here’s a humble suggestion: Use that time to ask yourself what in the holy hell you want from a video game! To dash from one objective to the next as quickly as possible while the designer pats you on the head for being an efficient gamer? Or to lose yourself in a world and story and role that you can’t experience anywhere else?
Besides, it’s not like the horse rides are super demanding anyway – if you turn on cinematic mode, the horse will even steer for you! Not well, mind you, but it’s something!
Never Wanna Hear About It Again Award: Dragon Ball FighterZ
Look, I’m thrilled Dragon Ball FighterZ turned out to be a great game, and I’m even more thrilled that Dragon Ball fans are thrilled that it’s a great game – everything is very thrilling and great! I just don’t ever want to hear another word about it ever again. It was like three straight years of build up and character reveals and trailers – it’s too much for non-Dragon Ball fans!
To be fair, I kinda did this to myself when I voluntarily analyzed every Frieza’n character in the game, and I’ve been trying to push all of that arcane knowledge out of my brain ever since. For Gotenks’ sake, please don’t make a sequel!
Undeserved Genius Award: Into The Breach
This award may sound like an insult, but it really isn’t. Despite its giant-mechs-smashing-equally-giant-bugs-to-gooey-bits premise, Into The Breach is one of the smartest, thinkiest strategy games I’ve ever played. It’s like four-dimensional chess, only with buttloads more missiles. To be honest, it’s way too smart for me, but it still makes me feel like a genius every time I successfully clear a level without taking any casualties. Hence, the Undeserved Genius award. In fact, creating a game that makes non-geniuses feel like geniuses is probably a sign that you are in fact a genius, which in Subset Games’ case is praise that IS deserved. Good lord, I feel even dumber after writing this – just go play the game already!
Forget The World And Blow Sh– Up Award: Just Cause 4
I guess this the only logical follow-up to the last entry, but I really don’t have anything else to add; you can already watch 25 absurd videos that outline my intensely stupid love affair with Just Cause 4.
Low Expectations Award: Detroit: Become Human
You may have noticed that Detroit: Become Human was included in G.I.’s Top 50 list. You may have also noticed that Detroit: Become Human did not garner a single moment on our Top 10 Moments list, or a single character on our Top 10 Characters list – in fact, it wasn’t even brought up as a contender in those categories. If you’re wondering how a purely story-driven game can make the Top 50 without having a single standout moment or character worth championing, SO AM I.
Instead, the arguments in Detroit’s favor were couched in language like, “I mean yeah, the story is totally overwrought, but it’s got some interesting ideas!” and “Sure, the racial allegories were heavy-handed, but they weren’t as bad as Beyond: Two Souls’ Najavo sequence…” Is this really all it takes to make David Cage fans happy? What kind of Stockholm Syndrome are we dealing with?!
On the bright side, one of Detroit’s protagonists handily earned an entry on our Top 10 Dorks list, which is an award I can totally stand behind. Who says I’m not a team player?
Really Gotta Play More Award: Monster Hunter: World
First let’s dispense with the formalities: Yes, I named my cat “Kat” in Monster Hunter – what’re you gonna do about it?!
Anyway, I played a bunch of Monster Hunter: World when it first came out, but then Joe transformed me into a Bohemian peasant with the wave of his review wand, and I never quite got back to the beast-slaying action. It’s been riding high on my pile of shame ever since, earning it this year’s Really Gotta Play More Award. On a side note, this was the Not 50’s most competitive category, with close runners-up including Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption II, Yakuza 6 – you know what, this is a lot more depressing than I anticipated, so let’s just move on…
Damn Fine Game Award: Spider-Man
Poor, poor Spider-Man. If it weren’t for that darn Kratos, Insomniac’s open-world webslinger would’ve easily nabbed G.I.’s Best Sony Exclusive award this year. And let’s face it – it could win the Best Microsoft Exclusive award pretty much ANY year. I originally wrote that as a joke, but then decided to test it out by looking up our old awards the year Insomniac released Sunset Overdrive, and sure enough, it won the Microsoft award – and that game was basically Spider-Man without the webs!
The fact that Spider-Man got completely overshadowed in G.I.’s awards is a testament to how strong Sony’s line-up is, and what a great year for games it was in general. I’m guessing that doesn’t lessen the sting for Insomniac any, though. Luckily, the Not 50 award categories are fluid, so we have no such problem! Enjoy your Damn Fine Game award, Insomniac – you guys earned it!
Also, I realize my choice of screenshot undermines everything I just said, but I just can’t pass up a ridiculously immature fart joke. The game is great though, really.
Girl Power Award: Kassandra (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey)
Look, I know girl power is a total cliché; having a tough-as-nails female protagonist who is basically just a gender swap of a male hero isn’t innovative or progressive, and it’s not particularly good storytelling. If we really want more diverse representation in games then female characters should be more than just ass-kicking heroines – they should be realistic, multidimensional, relatable, and even flawed.
All that said, I’m totally giving Kassandra a great big Girl Power pass this year, because as it turns out, Spartan-kicking soldiers off cliffs and humping your way across Greece is SUPER FUN. If you played through Odyssey with Alexios as your protagonist, you win this year’s You Chose Poorly award.
F— Yarny? F— YOU Award: Unravel Two
If you’re unaware of the backlash over the original Unravel, let me get you up to speed. Unravel was made by a small indie studio called ColdWood Interactive, but since EA published the game – and EA is obviously an evil megacorporation that’s run by Satan – the adorable protagonist and heartfelt message about the connections we make in life were clearly just a manipulative ruse to make more money. I mean, it’s impossible that anyone at EA could’ve just seen the game and thought it was a project worth supporting without some dark, ulterior motive that takes advantage of gamers, right? This is EA we’re talking about!
Or you could ignore all that noise and just enjoy the damn game. That’s what I did, and ended up finding a touching little platformer with some interesting physics-based mechanics and puzzles. Unravel 2, which landed with a thud this year that a yarn doll isn’t even capable of making, added co-op into the mix, which elevated the puzzles to a whole new level. I played through Unravel 2 with my wife and it was one of my favorite gaming moments of 2018. If you want to deprive yourself of that experience over your misguided hate of a corporation, I feel sorry for you. Everybody else should try it out.
Best One Night Stand Award: Call of Duty: Black
out Ops 4
I’m not a huge battle-royale player, but I tried out Black Ops 4’s new Blackout mode one night shortly after release, once again for the enlightenment of this column’s readers (YOU’RE WELCOME). I had a blast, and actually did surprisingly well, landing a second-place finish in my last match. I also haven’t gone back to it since. I still have Black Ops 4 installed on my PS4 and want to put more time into the game, but ultimately I’d be okay if I never get back to it. Sometimes one night of intense fun in a video game is enough. I don’t really have a joke here, it’s just plain true.
Best Open World Award: Red Dead Redemption II – BY FAAAR
This totally seems like it should be a real category in the Top 50, but somehow it’s not! Red Dead faced plenty of competition this year, from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s sprawling take on Greece, to Spider-Man’s massive rendition of Manhattan. And yet, as much as I love those games, they’re not even close to the level of depth, detail, and interactivity of Red Dead’s remarkable vistas. So stop trying to fast-travel through them already! Sheesh!
Other than Red Dead’s lack of giant naked statues, its open world is just perfect.
Irrational Fear For A Sidekick Award: My Beautiful Horse (Also Red Dead II)
Sure, Palicos are adorable cat companions, but I feel absolutely nothing when a giant monster stomps mine into a pancake. Atreus? He can get his prepubescent butt kicked off a cliff for all I care – I’m not his horribly unqualified father. When it comes to my beloved horse in Red Dead, however, I will
park hitch her up a mile away from any mission objective that seems like it could be even remotely dangerous. In fact, I have literally dismounted and put Arthur in the line of gunfire to protect her before!
Part of my irrational concern for my four-legged soulmate comes from not really understanding how Red Dead’s horse mechanics work – if my horse dies, will she respawn back in the stables? Or will she gallop her way to horsey heaven? I don’t know how it works, and I never will, because my horse is never going to die! Arthur isn’t the only one bonding every time I feed her, pet her, and braid her stupid hair!
Best Role-Playing Game Award: MOAR Red Dead!
This actually is a real Top 50 award category – I simply disagree with the group of contestants. We officially named Assassin’s Creed Odyssey the best RPG of 2018, which I absolutely supported and still do. However, if we want to talk about actually inhabiting a character and playing a role, Red Dead once again completely blows every other game out of the water.
I went into Red Dead wanting to be the bad guy, a black-hat outlaw who shoots up train coaches and robs banks and guns down the sheriff in front of the whole town while I twirl my moustache because that’s what bad guys do for some reason. Instead, I’ve spent countless hours lugging hale bales around camp and saying howdy to every passing stranger like a yokel, because that’s what FEELS right for the character I’ve transformed into.
Occasionally, my immersive cowboy fantasy is complicated by the fact that missions sometimes force you to do bad things – another complaint I’ve seemed lodged at the game. However, that criticism fails to recognize that Arthur is also uncomfortable with his actions, but doesn’t really have a choice either. In other words, I’M FEELING THE SAME EMOTIONS IN REAL LIFE AS MY CHARACTER IS IN THE GAME AS WE BOTH STRUGGLE WITH THE ACTIONS WE’RE FORCED TO DO. That’s insane, and way more affecting than doling out stat points or leveling up gear in what we traditionally think of as an RPG. Can we just get rid of genres entirely at this point?
Dumbest Call Award: NOT Red Dead II?!! (G.I. Staff)
If you saw my list in the Editor Top 10s this year – or just noticed the trend of these last few made-up awards – you probably guessed that I didn’t agree with our Game of the Year pick. And in some ways I get it. God of War is a masterpiece. I love the direction Santa Monica Studio took with Kratos, and everything from the writing and voicework to the gameplay and level design are all topnotch. Really, you could shout praise about God of War at my face all day long and I wouldn’t complain or disagree with you.
But the sheer ambition and scale of Red Dead is simply on a whole different level, and I’ve genuinely never played another game like it. Sure, the game had some horrific, spontaneously combusting-horse glitches when it first launched, and there are the *throws up in mouth* pacing issues people have complained about. But it still feels like Rockstar set a new benchmark for video games in 2018, and I don’t see it being topped anytime soon.
Also, I got to be a cowboy, dammit!
GOTY Award: Pure Farming 2018
And finally, the category we’ve all been waiting for! This year’s illustrious Goat Of The Year Award is quite the trip…a trip of goats that is! See, that’s what a group of goats is called – you know what, never mind, just look at all those adorable baby goats! Pure Farming 2018 wasn’t really on my radar before, but now that they’ve added free goat DLC, it is clearly a game with goats! Congratulations, little cuties, you did it!