Join the Pass the Controller team as they choose their top five games for the year, starting with Editor James Parry.
This year has been unusual. Not because I’m rapidly facing my own mortality as I finally hit 30 years of age, but because I gained not one but two new consoles. The Nintendo Switch was an eyebrow-raiser from when it was first announced and the reality proved to live up to the intrigue of its concept.
On the scale of known quantities, I knew what I was signing up for with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Having not owned a Nintendo console since the Wii era, I knew the Mario Kart series was something I needed to own to fulfill one of the Switch’s vital functions - local party play.
More than a few couch split screen sessions were had, an increasingly rare feat in the modern gaming world, and (perhaps with the help of some alcohol) fun and merriment ensued.
The reliable experience I was looking for was delivered across the board with a level of design and polish fitting Nintendo’s top quality first party offering, speaking of which...
4. Splatoon 2
The only shooter on my list, much to my surprise, is the sequel to a game I’d heard good things about but never played. Splatoon 2 set the barrier of entry low, a welcome feature for any follow-up, and has a skill ceiling which can be difficult to spot at first glance, thanks to its cartoony presentation.
There are certainly some curious design decisions, which only Nintendo could get away with. Limiting maps to two at a time on an arbitrary rotation? Nonsense! Only a handful of modes, gated by yet more arbitrary-ness in the form of level requirements? Preposterous!
Despite these quirks, the game is just such simple, sit down and play fun which you can find real depth and satisfaction in if you have the commitment (and time) to devote. The fact this is one of two games which not only drew in me, but also my other half, is telling of how slyly it introduces new players.
Get inked with the video review.
Putting this game on the list seems almost redundant at this point. Official Game of the Year from The Game Awards aside, every member of the team who has picked this one up has gushed (and will no doubt gush further) about just how great a game this is.
It is fantastic, of course, (hopefully my own gushing review told you as much), but it has its flaws too. Why make weapons so brittle that I scarcely want to use them? Did the world truly need to be as vast as it was to have the same effect? Why only let me decorate my map, MY MAP, with just 100 icons?
The puzzle elements were certainly a highlight though, in the way they challenge you to look again at how things might work, and step right up to the limit of frustration before finally relenting. A beautiful and expertly crafted game like this needs no higher praise than managing to get away with the least convincing (and, arguably, necessary) cross-dressing of the year.
Return to Hyrule with our video review.
Joy. That is how to sum up Super Mario Odyssey in one word. Plenty of Mario games have you living in fear of lava or racing against a timer, when those same elements crop up here they have a sense of levity to them (I mean, you can literally become the lava after all).
Hundreds more moons than needed to progress can make the pursuit of them accidental as much as hard-fought, which keeps everything exceptionally well balanced as you progress through the game. Don’t like the feel of a level? Never mind, you can basically skip it without much impact.
Even dying is only a temporary setback, far more than any other title in this list, and the game encourages you to explore and embrace the world as you go, not just one world either, but a technicolour spectrum of some of the most inspired level design the 3D platforming genre has to offer. Having all that with you on the go? Even better.
Portability is a big reason why this game makes it to the top of my list. As a standard game you can just plug into in front of your big screen at home, there’s still an excellent game to experience, but it’s when you let it slowly overtake your life, stealing moments at every turn, that it really goes that step further.
Crashing two different IPs together is no mean feat, particularly when one is as world-renown as Mario, and Ubisoft have done an exceptional job. While visually Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle doesn’t quite reach the caliber Mario’s own quest does, and, you might argue, nor should it, but the presentation is smooth and the gameplay gripping.
Creating something which looks easy but can actually be quite challenging is somewhat of a recurring theme of this list, and Mario + Rabbids does the best job of it, giving you what you never knew you always wanted. A surprising, addictive experience which is just the right length and difficulty to suck you in without it becoming too much, and paves the way for greater things going forward if Nintendo continue to let others play with their toys.
Want more? Here's our video review.
Do you agree with James’ choices? Let us know your own highlights from the past year below or in the forums.