With the end of 2018 fast approaching, and the promise of huge amounts of food and a warm fire to come, it’s time to wrap up and give out a different kind of end-of-year award. These ones go out to the games that are a bit different, in some cases games that aren't even particularly good, but all of them are the kind of thing that can get a little lost when everyone's rushing to praise the best and brightest.
Most Brilliant Soundtrack to an Average Game — Far Cry 5
Something didn't quite land about Far Cry 5. It had all the elements you'd expect, and perhaps that was the problem. The way the game was trailed promised a look at the dark American underbelly of cults and evangelicals, the kind of folk who are either ranting about gays or picketing abortion clinics in the name of Jeebus. In the Trump era it felt like a subject ripe for exploration, but the game in this regard proved a real disappointment.
Apart, that is, from the Hope County Choir, a fictional concept overlaying the work of composer Dan Romer. Far Cry 5's soundtrack is absolutely outstanding because it uses music in the same manner as religions do: to propagate the cult's message, spread myth, and make people feel fantastic about it at the same time. Just listen to 'Oh John', a track extolling the virtues of the game's cult leader, and you'll hear how completely this artist mastered the brief.
This soundtrack deserved a game that understood these themes equally deeply. It wasn't to be, but this OST remains one of the year's real highlights. Oh, and driving over people while listening to it is pretty great too.
The Most Unrelentingly Positive Game Award — Super Mario Party
The Mario Party series of video games, which mix board game elements and mini games to create a chaotic party experience, have always been a mix of playful fun and playful anger, cheering along as things go well and cursing the computer’s randomised rolls for helping or hindering your chances. However, Super Mario Party on Switch went out of its way to be unrelentingly friendly.
Every time you win a mini game with another player, give them a little high five to congratulate them. Every time you land on an Ally space, make friends with a new character who rolls dice to help you. Share your items with your co-op partner, roll dice together and share your end results, everything about this game was just screaming smiles and friendship.
It’s still annoying when an AI player throws a mini game you should have won, or you get a bunch of low rolls in a row. But it’s hard to stay mad when every character seems like they’re such good friends, and having such a lovely time together.
Office Productivity Killer Award — Minit
During the course of 2018, we here at Kotaku UK especially loved Minit, a Zelda-style top down adventure game with a twist.
The idea of Minit is that, after touching a cursed sword, the player is doomed to die every sixty seconds, respawning back in bed. You have to complete an adventure in these tiny time increments, working out how to use that time to achieve just one bit of permanent progression to help your next run.
The game is incredibly well designed, in a way where shortcuts, progression items, and secrets piled on secrets help you do more and more with your time, until you're eventually beating the final boss from within a minute’s run from a comfy bed.
Minit is pretty short, with speedrunners getting playthroughs down to around 25 minutes, but on a first playthrough it’ll offer a solid few hours of exploration. It’s a game that makes a lot of smart choices with a relatively small amount of content, and is constantly pushing the player to work out how on earth they’re expected to do things so quickly.
The 'My Brain Hurts' Award — Return of the Obra Dinn
Lucas Pope's exceptional sleuth-em-up Return of the Obra Dinn has an original and innovative core mechanic, an absolutely gorgeous art style, and has been assembled in such a manner that it can only be called a work of art. You've simply never played a mystery game like it.
But... jeez Lucas, give us normal-brained folk a bit of a break sometimes yeah? This game had us using notebooks, constantly revisiting old death scenes, and eventually just getting more and more confused as our piddly little minds struggled to comprehend its magnificence. What a game (here's our spoiler-free review) but, wow, you need a stiff drink and a lie down after a few hours in this.
The Best Worst Game Award — Sea of Thieves
Sorry Rare! It's simple really: Sea of Thieves is a tonne of fun when you've got a jolly crew together, and something to do. It's not really the game's fault if you don't always have the former around, but the latter remains a problem. Sea of Thieves felt sparse at launch and, despite strong post-launch support, is still lacking in things to do. So even when you gather a crew now, they're all moaning about having to do the same stuff. Yes I know you've killed a thousand skeletons mate, but shut up and man the cannon.
It's so good when things actually come off and the game delivers the kind of experience you know it can; it's sad that, more often than not, it's not quite as fun as you're hoping. That's why it's the best worst game on the high seas.
Innovation That Was a Real Innovation — Xbox Adaptive Controller
Released back in September, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was Microsoft's attempt, working with charity Special Effect, to craft a modular controller that could be mass produced, and affordably allow Xbox One and PC gamers to pick up the pieces needed to create controllers which work better for them. It might be bigger A and B buttons, a button you can press with your chin, a nunchuck style analogue stick you can hold separately from the rest of your controller, foot pedals, or any host of other available parts that help make custom gaming setups more readily available.
While there have been some small teething issues with the device, overwhelmingly we found gamers were incredibly pleased with the device. The Xbox Adaptive Controller is a major step forwards for gaming accessibility, and one that heralds a more inclusive future for the industry as a whole.
Forget all the other crap about Fallout 76. Lowering the quality of bags that you've already sold to people? Even Scrooge himself would have thought twice about that one.
Game With The Most Cameos I Have Never Heard Of - Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Look, I consider myself a pretty big Nintendo game fan, but I’ve been playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and I have no clue who like half of these spirit characters I come across even are. Like, I might recognise them vaguely, but these characters are some deep cuts I couldn’t even begin to guess anything about the lore or plot importance of.
I know about the existence of Cupid as a character in fiction, but what the heck is this Sennen Kazoku game the winged love angel was apparently a part of? There’s a dog called Inuji Darumeshi, and he owns a sports shop? Wait, that’s not a Minecraft pig, it’s from a Gamecube game called Cubivore?
While I love the level of fanservice in Smash, I can’t deny half the time I have no idea what the reference I am seeing is meant to be. There’’s just a lot of this game flying right over my head.
Game That Literally Injured Me Award — Nintendo Labo
Normally, when it comes to video game related injuries, I tend to think about thrown or miss swung motion controllers. 2017 for me was a year defined by injuries sustained while flailing around in VR. But, in 2018, the biggest injury i received gaming was caused by a box of cardboard.
Yes, I got injured by Nintendo Labo. How? Well I made it to age 27 without learning this, but turns out you can get a cardboard cut the same way you can get a paper cut, and they bleed like heck.
I didn't do this while making my own bootleg Labo kits, before you ask, but using the official parts.
Thankfully I didn’t blood soak my cardboard too badly, but dang this can cause some injuries if not carefully handled. Of all the platform holders, I never expected it would be Nintendo that wounded me.
Finest Character Creator Award - Soul Calibur VI
We're not saying Soul Calibur VI has the best and most in-depth character creation tool we saw this year... but it certainly has something going on. The game can produce a pretty good looking approximation of Mercy on the one extreme, while at the other we're dealing with truly nightmare versions of Sonic the Hedgehog or Marge Simpson. Trust us, some of these have to be seen to be believed.