Ringing in the New Year is a great opportunity to reflect. It also is a time to dream of new and immense possibilities available to us in the coming year. The last few years I have practiced this by blogging my gaming goals, analyzing the releases I am excited for, and making a few crazy predictions. Let us begin by seeing how far we come this year.

2018: The Year of the 100 Hour Games

Wii U Feature ImageEach year I set out a list of games in my backlog that I am going to aim to complete in this next year. Often I bite off more than I can chew with family schedules and work. Thankfully, armed with my 2ds, I am able to play games on the go now.
To my surprise, last year I received a gift card to do whatever I wish with. Usually all my money goes to necessities, so naturally I decided this money would go to video games! I scoured the internet for deals, trying to maximize my limited gaming budget. The Switch was dominating, which resulted in a sharp drop in price for the Wii U. I found deals at Gamestop to be able to get my meager budget a plethora of games. I picked up a Wii U bundled with Smash Bros and Mario Kart. My kids love NintendoLand, or Mario Chase as they call it, was added to the bundle on the cheap. I picked up Mario Wii U (complete with Luigi U), and topped it off with Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I had to splurge on the last one, but with going so cheap with the rest paid off. While many questioned Nintendo to release BotW on multiple platforms, I appreciate the budget saving move.

Zelda Breath of the WildZelda: Breath of the Wild dominated my time as soon as it arrived. I played through my first 10 hours only to have my used Wii U game pad break. As there are no cloud saves, I had to start the game over from the beginning. Most games I would have given up on. With Breath of the Wild, I was excited to take new routes and find new things. Addicted, I spent all available hours searching the landscape for new clues, shrines, seeds, or simply enjoying the views. Breath of the Wild is one of the first games I have ever experienced that was fun just to explore and not necessarily “accomplish” anything. After completing all 120 Shrines, I decided it was finally time to finish the game. With the Divine Beasts at my back, I quickly dispatched the last boss. When I was done, I wanted more time in the world. I wanted to find new secrets, ride mythical beasts, and beat Lynels. I have not gone back yet, but the wild will call me again.

2019 recap 1Xenoblade intrigued me as it released late in the Wii cycle to a surprising amount of fanfare. My brother-in-law had been working on the game for years. I would always tease him about when he would finally just finish the game. Only after playing 30+ hours did I understand what took him so long. The game was good, but slowly wore you down and became difficult to play at times. Throughout the year, I continued to pick it up for an hour here or there to grind my characters. I finally beat the area boss, collected my cut scene reward, and started my cycle over with new area to explore. While the battle system was active, after so many hours even a deep battle system begins to feel repetitive. Zelda was a great break from the monotony. Finally, as I got to 90+ hours, I entered my final battle. I over leveled (because I could not handle having to go back and grind again) so that I dominated my first attempt of the end fight. The story and gameplay were very solid. I enjoyed the game overall, but was thrilled to begin a different game. While I wanted to jump into Earthbound, I knew I needed a break from role-playing games, so I began Zelda Ocarina of Time.

My third and final one hundred hour game was Stardew Valley. I have not completed my “three years” yet, and I keep repeating days when I die in the caves. While the game is fun, addicting, and unique, I only jump in periodically.

Several other mainstays racked up the hours on my gameplay clock, including Mario Maker and Starcraft 2. I am ashamed to admit it, but PokemonGo was probably on in my pocket upwards of 200 hours. The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second is deleting it from your phone. Finally, Crosstix helped me cross off several games this year, including A Way Out, Toejam and Earl 2, and Overcooked 2. We beat all three of these during our 24-hour marathon.

Games to Beat 2019:

In an effort to enjoy more games this year, I am aiming for shorter games than the 100+ hour behemoths that I have been engaging. Spreading my playtime around with some retro games will help crank up the completion rate.

Stardew Valley

Stardew ValleyBefore knocking off some classics, I have to finish out the Stardew Valley. The game has been a blast to play. Finally getting to purchase virtually any item I want, and redesign the farm the way I want, is a fun spot to be in. The last few milestones before Grandpa visits will be getting married, finishing the community center with my final fish, and breading slimes. This fantastic game will be a repurchase on a mobile platform for me in the future.

Zelda: Ocarina of Time

2019 recap 2Zelda OoT was the perfect change of pace for me after Xenoblade. The active combat, puzzles and exploration are well done and have held up over all these years. Playing the game on the New 2DS has been awesome. Quick spurts to work through dungeons break up the game into bite size chunks. As I play, I have been asking myself if this is the greatest game of all time, as it was widely thought to be when I first played it. I am hoping to write a review to evaluate OoT’s legacy once I complete it.

New Super Mario Bros. U

The final game that I have started and aim to finish is the New Super Mario Bros. U. The level design has been smooth and simple to play. I envy switch owners as playing this game in short increments on the go sounds perfect. After cruising through five worlds in a few short nights, this one should not take me long to cross off the list.

Earthbound

2018 EarthboundThe last unicorn game from my childhood remains. I have wanted to beat this game forever. Now that I finally own it, I still procrastinate. I was afraid to play Xenoblade after Earthbound as I figured I would enjoy Earthbound more. Essentially, I am saving it for dessert. Second, I have come to realize that I can never go back and experience my favorites for the first time again. Once I play it, I can never have my first time again. Logically it is a silly reason, but subconsciously I still hesitate.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask

2019 recap 3This might be the year of the Zelda for me. As Ocarina of Time used to be a consensus #1 game of all time, whispers have begun to surface in the dark corners of the internet of Majora’s Mask being a better overall game. I aim this year to put that theory to the test for myself. Is this an underrated gem, or the just a great sidekick to the famous Zelda games?

Last year I had two other games on my list that I failed to get to. I am hoping to put in the time and effort to beat these NES classics this year. Keeping with the Zelda theme, I still hope to defeat Zelda 2. I also want to boost my gamer cred and beat a challenging game. I have never beaten a Castlevania game. I used to play one on my Game Boy. Rarely did I pass the first level. This year, I aim to redeem my 8-year-old self and show Castlevania who is boss.

Most Anticipated Games of 2019

While being a retro gamer is a huge help on the budget. The tradeoff means not being able to play the latest and greatest when everyone else is. I may not be able to play any of the upcoming games, but I will be intently watching and seeing which ones will become future purchases. Here are my top games to watch for 2019.

Kingdom Hearts 3

kingdom-hearts-3I had this game on the list last year. It has been a bumpy ride trying to figure out when KH3 would come out. Valve had me scared that this would join the curse of the three and would never come out. Thankfully, it will be coming out this month. The settings all look gorgeous. For the aesthetics alone, this is a highly anticipated game. Gameplay and story will dictate if this game can stand the test of time.

The Last of US Part 2

Story is crucial, and to the Last of Us Pt 2 it is likely the centerpiece. I did not want to believe the hype on the first. Then I played it and was hooked. While trailers all look incredible, I will be following this one intently to see if it will stack up to its predecessor.

Luigi’s Mansion 3

2019 recap 5Another game that was appearing to have the curse of three all over it, and how fitting too, is Luigi’s Mansion. The surprise GameCube hit has been a cult favorite (sorry I just cannot help myself with the puns!). Twitter even blew up when a Smash Bros trailer featured Luigi dying. Now, a modern follow up promises a new adventure for our favorite sidekick. Will this game kick the bucket, or be scary good?

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

2019 recap 6Crash Bandicoot is back. I for one am fascinated if any game can break into the Mario Kart monopoly. It is incredible to have one game completely dominate the entire genre. There are other racing games, but no other kart game seems to have made inroads on Mario’s dominance. The game is a remake, which will have to navigate a delicate balance of honoring the old, while competing with the modern Kart amenities.

Dreams

Media Molecule burst onto the scene with Little Big Planet. The series was creative, interactive, adaptive, and ultimately became a Mario Maker like community. Their follow up games were well received but did not hit the same highs as LBP. Dreams features a way to take over characters in the game, like Mario Odyssey. The Media Molecule has the same principles guiding their development, play, create, and share, that they had with LBP. Single player campaign is envisioned as a training ground that teaches players the mechanics so they can create for themselves. Can they catch lightning in the bottle a second time?

Battletoads

2019 recap 4Another dormant franchise returns! Legendary for its tough as nails gameplay, bordering on sadistic, Battletoads has a lot to live up to. This is a perfect opportunity for Rare to recapture their place as an excellent developer. The pessimist in me is warning of all the other dormant franchises that are not able to recapture any of the past magic (Blaster Master, Ducktales, and Toejam and Earl). Beat ‘em ups have not translated as well, but if Rare can recapture their old magic they just might be the ones to revive the genre.

2019 Predictions

Nintendo has an Ace up the Sleeve

Mario maker1Over the last few years, Nintendo has delayed any announcements until close to the game’s release date. Several smaler titles are already announced for 2019, such as Yoshi, Luigi, and Fire Emblem. The major release rumored for 2019 does not have a release date, Pokemon. I personally would not be surprised to see the next core title pushed to 2020. There is a surprise waiting, but the question is what is it? Metroid Prime is unlikely too. Animal Crossing is slated for 2019 spring. So what will be the big holiday releases? Mario is always a safe bet. My prediction is that we will get either Mario Maker 2 or New Super Mario Brothers Switch for the holiday season.

No New Consoles, but PS5 and Xbox Two 1080 will be announced

Xbox One XRumblings of new consoles have begun to surface. As Microsoft is lagging behind, they will likely be the one to first push the reset button. E3 is the likely place that they will reveal their console intentions. My bet is on Halo Infinite being a launch title for their new machine. I would also bet on another exclusive being available in their launch window. I doubt these titles are ready yet, especially another exclusive as they just purchased a few new studios. Sony will not be in a huge rush, but is likely looking to come out roughly the same time as the Xbox. Sony will not want Microsoft to have the spotlight. In following Microsoft in the previous console announcements, Sony effectively stole the thunder for the Xbox One. I speculate that Sony would like to announce console and games this year also, but wants to give their staff more time. This would be a good reason for their avoiding E3. As soon as the presentation is ready, they can release like Nintendo has done with their directs.

Ultimately, Microsoft will push their play anywhere focus. Their next console will link with their PC online store in an attempt to bridge the gap. The sense I get is that Microsoft is aiming to take down Steam more than Sony.

Valve Will Release a Game

2019 recap 7Valve has stated that they are back to working on some games. With the release of Artifact, Valve released its first game in what felt like decades. There were minor projects like VR free games (demos). Then several projects done in “collaboration” with other companies. It felt like the only way Valve would make a game was if another company was willing to do all the work for them. Dota 2, in 2013, was their last major release. With the purchase of Firewatch developer Campo Santo, it appears Valve is serious about new content. It is unlikely any release will have a three in the title, but Valve being back will hopefully bring new exciting games.