For the past two Decembers, it’s been my pleasure to join you all on a walk down memory lane. We take a look at the highs and lows of the Games With Gold program, discuss a few games you may have missed, a few you didn’t and disagree with me about, and then we all leave comments about how bad the value is and how you already own all of the games. I also hand out awards to the deserving games that carry the torch of GWG quality or lack thereof. It’s a special time of year, and I’m glad you’re here with me for the third season.
Before we get started, need a refresher? I’m here to help. Here are links to our articles from 2016 and 2017. And here are the titles that you might have picked up for Xbox One and Xbox 360 this year:
Refreshed? Great. Here comes the awards list with one disclaimer — I didn’t play all the games this year, that would be an impressive task. I’m just here to tell you what was the best. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Honorable MentionsThe IDARB Award
Every year, the IDARB Award goes to the easiest completion in the bunch regardless of quality. The first year we did this, it went to Goat Simulator, a game no one would consider good. Last year, it went to Gone Home, a game some would consider pretty good. This year, we’re stepping up the combination of quality and easy to another level with Never Alone. This is a game that’s light on gameplay — just a bit of platforming and puzzle solving — but it’s full of heart and information. It’s a respectful look at Iñupiaq culture, a people from northern Alaska. The developers worked with Iñupiaq storytellers to create the game and the result is a magical tale that can teach us a lot about the culture on top of the 1,000 G. It’s an experience worth lauding.
The True to Itself Award
Overcooked Screens 2
This is an award that goes to a game that knows what it is and just works perfectly. Overcooked! is a cooking party game and it’s wonderful. It’s kind of like if Mario Party had a cooking minigame that was actually good, longer and the whole game was based on it. So it’s nothing like Mario Party really, but maybe you get where I’m going. This is a little indie title where you play as a bunch of animals cooking food, accidentally throwing it in the water from a moving raft and hopefully getting 3 stars before the kitchen catches on fire. It’s frantic to be sure, and you’ll have plenty of laughs with your co-op partners when one of you ruins everything. But with a bit of strategy and patience, getting those three stars is an award worth having.
The Best Game I Didn’t Play
Like I said, I don’t play everything. But luckily, other people play other games and I’m happy to let them speak for me. This year, Mark stepped in to share his favorite title of the year: Dead Space 2. But don’t let me do the talking, here’s what he's got to say about it:
Microsoft was able to secure this terrifying sequel after already giving away the first game the year before. They even went on to finish off the trilogy in Games with Gold later in 2018, but we don't need to talk about that lesser finale. Dead Space 2 is the last great game in the series, and bravely built on the world and the scares that The Shame Award
Kevin so anxiously avoids fans so fondly remember. This is a series that died too soon, and if you play or replay Dead Space 2, you'll see just how great it would be to have it back in our lives. Here's to keeping that hope alive.
The Shame Award is given to a title that shamefully should never have been put up as a GWG title. Why would such a game still make it to #5 on our list of best games? Because it’s free to play! That’s right, this year Microsoft gifted us with a free free to play game. And yeah, sure what was actually free was the God pack, a $25 value or something like that, but that’s not very fun to complain about. As for SMITE itself, it’s a MOBA that works perfectly on Xbox One. You’ll go to a lane, level up and then wander out of your lane and die, all the while complaining about how your teammates are the absolute worst. It’s the traditional MOBA fun we all love packed right into a console package. That’s worthy of a spot on this list.
Vanquish is a special game. It’s from Platinum Games, a team known for making some really weird and mediocre stuff, for not making Scalebound and for making some of the best action games ever created. So they’re kinda all over the map. Vanquish may not be a true action game, but it’s definitely inspired by them and it’s definitely not mediocre either. Weird? Well that’s a given. It’s a third person cover shooter than encourages you to not be in cover. Think of it like Gears of War mixed with Bayonetta. You see, when you sprint in the open and slide, you enter slo-mo and can annihilate your foes. It completely changes the style of gameplay in the best way possible, adding an element of intense recklessness and aggression that puts traditional cover shooters to shame. In case you were wondering, I beat Challenge 6.
The Best Xbox 360 Game
I know, I know. You hate this game. You’re also wrong. This game is the successor to last year’s best GWG game, and it has a lot going for it. You’ve got a fantastic cast of characters you can get to know in traditional BioWare fashion. You’ve got a blank slate character with plenty of impactful choices to make as you customize Hawke to your liking. The story carries on the tale of that world, fleshing out the races and moving forward in a captivating and relevant way. Best of all, the gameplay moves away from slow pseudo-tactical action to full-on action hack and slash. It doesn’t get better than jumping into the fray with your daggers and annihilating your foes with huge crits from special attacks. Yeah, it’s not perfect. But that doesn’t matter — it’s still excellent. We can’t all be unicorns.
The New Horizons Award
The first Forza Horizon inspired this award back in 2016, where it was called the Open Borders Award. It goes to the game that opens up a genre to a new group of players, and this second entry carries on the legacy of the first and so I’m naming the award after it. This is a game that anyone can pick up and enjoy even if they wouldn’t normally like a racing game. It’s not arcade, but it’s not a simulation either. Its handling is just the right amount of unrealistic to make soaring across open fields feel wonderful while still keeping the races tight and full of skill. That’s combined with a great soundtrack full of tunes for everyone, a beautiful location in southern Europe and so much content it’ll take hundreds of hours to complete. Each one of them will be worth it.
The Beyond a Classic Award
The Best Xbox One Game
The Beyond a Classic Award is an award for games that excel in a genre dominated historically by only a few franchises. Shadow Warrior is the embodiment of this award. It tackled the DOOM-style FPS with grace and impeccable design, bringing hardcore FPS action together with challenge, a quippy hero and modern convenience. A year later, DOOM came out and was said to do the same thing, but for my money, I’d say Shadow Warrior revitalized that genre first and did it better. Lo Wang is hilarious, the demons are badass and fun to fight, the stable of weapons is both crazy and balanced and the level design is just perfect. I’d call this the best FPS available on Xbox One. I already wrote an article about how it’s a hidden gem and it’s certainly the best Games With Gold title for 2018 that you probably didn’t play yet.
And with that, we've wrapped things up. Did I miss anything? Did I get it all wrong? Is this PUBG all over again? You can let the world know in the comments below!