The Vooks Awards 2018 – The Best of Switch, Nindies, 3DS and more
It was always going to be hard to top 2017, but with it, all behind us – 2018 wasn’t too shabby itself. Nintendo’s second year on the Switch, a booming indies scenes on the console and the 3DS chugging along meant there was a lot to play. A lot of great stuff to play in fact.
The Vooks team late last year cast its vote, and earlier this week we asked you as well for your opinion. Below is the best of the game on the Nintendo Switch and 3DS as voted by us, and by you. As always we’ve got a couple of novelty awards and we can’t forget that there are other games on other systems, so we’ve voted for them too.
And surprising no one here’s the first award – our favourite Switch game of the year…
Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo)
From the moment that the Smash logo was but a mere glimmer in Inkling’s eye, we knew that it was going to be a tough ask for anything to compete with Super Smash Bros Ultimate for the glory once the end of year accolades began to roll around. After multiple hype-filled Nintendo Directs, Nintendo’s sublime brawler not only lived up to expectations but smashed them out of the park. With an absurdly large roster, perfectly tuned fighting mechanics and a surprisingly enjoyable single player suite, Sakurai and team have delivered the ultimate Smash Bros experience that more than lives up to its namesake.
Joint Runner-up: Pokemon Let’s Go (Nintendo/Pokemon)
This pair of titles faced a fair amount of skepticism between announcement and launch, but the end result has to be one of the most pleasant surprises of 2018. Reviving the original Kanto region fondly remembered by most Pokémon fans, Let’s Go provides the most accessible and visually stunning game in the series to date.
By deftly walking the line between Pokémon Go and more traditional Pokémon games, the games combine mechanics of the two to offer an experience with something for all but the most ardent Pokémon purists. Many changes are extremely welcome, with the ability to see Pokémon in the overworld allowing me to choose what and when I wanted to encounter is my favourite change in the series in over a decade. The resulting improvements to flow and pacing makes for a smooth and brisk style of gameplay that made it hard to put down. Whilst the catching mechanic is not as enjoyable or intuitive as simply swiping the touchscreen on your phone, it’s a serviceable compromise and works well to break up the deluge of battles you’re faced with in the Kanto region.
It may not be for everyone but it’s been wonderful to see Pokémon finally clicking for so many new players with this instalment, and personally, it’s the most fun I’ve had with a Pokémon game in years.
Joint Runner-up: Pokemon Let’s Go (Nintendo/Pokemon)
It’s no secret that Kanto is my least favourite region, in part due to its sheer prevalence throughout the series’ history, and in part because it’s just not that interesting compared to everything that came after it. Needless to say, a remake of Pokemon Yellow was not high on my list of desires in 2018. But against all odds, Let’s Go very quickly became one of my favourite games of the year, thanks to its refreshing mechanics, surprisingly challenging battles, and the sheer amount of charm poured into every little detail of the world. For the first time in my life, the Pokemon world felt alive and thriving, it felt lived in by both people and Pokemon alike. And that’s a pretty spectacular feat for the first main series Pokemon game on home consoles.
Joint Runner-up: Octopath: Traveler (Square Enix)
It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes Octopath Traveler so great. Its art style is phenomenal, its soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and its mechanical systems are nothing short of flawless. Sure, the story isn’t exactly mind-blowing, and the game’s progression leaves something to be desired, but these flaws can be forgiven due to just how much Octopath wants to be played. It draws you in with its visuals, ties you down with its battle system, and spits you out 80 hours later with a smile on your face and a sense of accomplishment.
Readers Choice Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; Runners-up: Pokemon Let’s Go & Octopath Traveler
With a whopping 42% of the vote, you readers choice game of the year is of course – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It never looked like it wasn’t going to win frankly – the real battle was the runner-up which was a tie. Both Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Octopath Traveler came in second with 15% of the vote each. With 28% of the vote left with various other games, nothing else came close to these three.
Winner: Celeste (Matt Makes Games)
On paper, Celeste isn’t my type of game. I’m not a very patient gamer, and I’ll usually play something on easy to just play through a story. Games which punish you and make you repeat your actions, normally aren’t my thing. So why was Celeste different for me? Is it because you can turn down the difficulty or modify the game to make it even easier? Those options are there, but I didn’t use them. Celeste frustrated me, it made me swear and at times I hated it. I was at times tempted to dumb it down, just to finish the game’s wonderful story, but when it tells you the game is intended to played that way, I respected the developers and played it as it should be played. I could have weakened and chickened out, but that would betray what Celeste is about overall, and finishing it, even without all the strawberries I could see that. Celeste is a magical game, one that has a story to tell not just through cutscenes and talking, but with your journey playing it as well. Celeste was released in January in 2018, and it’s stuck with me the whole year. It’s not often a game released so early in the year wins at the end.
Joint Runner-up: The Messenger (Sabotage/Devolver Digital)
The Messenger was 2018’s best example of a retro genre done in a modern way and each and every part of it showed why. The hook of being a time travelling ninja, never really wore itself out, with the game coming together in ways you might not have seen coming at all.
Not only was the gameplay tight, with some controller contorting segments, but the bosses, characters and, honestly, everything else, just made the experience one you could enjoy playing. The game also offered a challenge for those players, seeking to showcase their shinobi skills and the satisfaction of completing them all, is euphoric.
Likely what held it back for some players, was in its length, the game was quite long and made only worse by the constant need to backtrack to collect everything. While exploration is wonderful and something I love to do, without a sense of direction, it made for some bland moments, which took away from the rest of the game.
Readers Choice Winner: Hollow Knight (Team Cherry)
This was a close one, but in the end, you picked Hollow Knight as your readers choice with 55.7% of the vote. Celeste was just a mere 10 votes behind. The next closest game was a while back Overcooked 2 taking third, Undertale and Dead Cells not far behind that. In all 33 different games were nominated, more so than the main Switch game of the year award. Congratulations to Team Cherry!
Winner: Detective Pikachu (Nintendo/Pokemon)
When I played (and reviewed) Detective Pikachu earlier in the year, I didn’t think that maybe 2018 wouldn’t be the biggest year for Detective Pikachu. Now with the trailer for the movie released, Detective Pikachu might just find an even bigger audience this year and that’s a good thing. Despite being overly simple in parts, there’s a heart to Detective Pikachu you won’t find in many other games, it’s also the first attempts I can think of taking Pokemon and telling stories within the world – but not actually be about traditional ‘Pokemon’ things.
The Vooks team voted and was a three-way tie for second place, which should tell you one thing – there weren’t a lot of 3DS games this year!
WarioWare has been a wildly fun mini-game series, especially the earlier entries. One of the biggest shames was that some entries used certain mechanics that would make them hard to release on newer hardware. With more notable games being WarioWare Twisted on the GBA using a tilt sensor built into the cartridge, and WarioWare Smooth Moves using the Wiimote. After some less inspired entries in the 3DS twilight years, we’ve finally been blessed with a follow up in Warioware Gold. Over 300 minigames from across the series, with older games cleaned up (not that they needed them) and a surprising amount of Wario talking, being his usual money grubbing self. For fans of the series, you’ll recognise most of the games and there are some new ones to enjoy. For people new to the series, it’s essentially a best-of collection, jam-packed with minigames on a more recent system. WarioWare is just fun, unbridled fun with bizarre and zany minigames that are full of creativity and fun to play. The only downside to this release is that being able to revisit WarioWare, in general, makes me hope for a Switch version, even better if there’s a party mode. Fingers crossed!
Readers Choice Winner: Luigi’s Mansion (Nintendo)
This was another close vote, but your choice and winning by just 7 votes was Luigi’s Mansion! Runner-up was Wario Ware Gold, which stuck with everyone throughout the year. The Vooks team pick of Detective Pikachu was a while back in third. The only other game to collect more than a singular vote was Sushi Striker. It’s hard to imagine, but this could be the last year the 3DS games more than a handful of games. What a trooper.
Watching the Nintendo E3 Presentation in my hotel, was cool and intense is about the only way you could describe the information dump that we were given. But it was walking into the show floor, walking down to the Nintendo booth and seeing that massive wall, complete with the now iconic artwork, that really sold it, everyone was here in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Each game had a character that people loved to play, even if it was not their main and learning that we no longer had to find a new character, because the one we liked from the last game is gone, was astonishing. As more and more people filled the Nintendo booth, the hype level just kept increasing each time the wall showed the artwork, especially as they would highlight a character and then showcase them on the art.
They say if you’re going to do what everyone else is doing, you’d better do it better than anyone else. That sums up Spider-Man perfectly, a game that borrows unabashedly from its fellow AAA brethren but does so with such mastery whilst wrapped in one of the finest narratives gaming has given us in recent memory.
Far more than the sum of its parts, Spider-Man offers up a playground that is joyous to be a part of. A huge part of open world games for me is the amount of fun that can be found by simply existing in and navigating through the sandbox, and swinging through the exquisitely detailed streets of New York as Spidey is unparalleled in this regard. It’s easy to lose track of time by traversing around, diving down at full speed and brushing the hood of a car as you pull up your swing and leap into the air. The sheer delight of navigating the streets makes up for the slight tedium that can set in as you stop your 30th random street crime.
Throw in some incredibly satisfying combat, stunning visuals and a character-driven story with some of the best performances around (as well as the equally excellent DLC), and Spider-Man is one of the best gaming experiences of the year.
Over the years Spider-Man games have been pretty consistent in their release as well as consistently average, not horrible, but far below the bar that was set back in 2004, with the release of Spider-Man 2, but Insomniac blasted that trend completely.
Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4 was not only the best love letter to the character in digital form, but to fans of Marvel because it showed that the gaming world can also provide some actual depth to characters that were created on the page. Having Spider-Man/Peter Parker out of school completely, also changed up how we approached the character, now he was someone like us, working, trying to find that balance in life and because of that, a lot of people connected to him, much like Stan Lee envisioned when the character was first created.
Swinging around New York City was one part of the game, but at its core, the game would have felt lame if it was not perfect and it was. Launching from rooftops might seem a little far-fetched, but the resulting speed and height only resulted in enhancing the swinging.
God of War
Instead of a rage-filled Demigod out for revenge, Kratos is now a father living out in the middle of the wilderness of the realm of Midgard. His wife has recently passed which sets in motion the main objective in the story; to take her ashes to the highest point in the realm. What sounds like a fairly straightforward journey becomes a quest spanning several realms fighting the Norse Gods while trying to raise a Son.
God of War games were always more about spectacle and bloody and gory fights, and the newest entry delivered on those. But in between those moments was a more personal and human story. Kratos long used to being an instrument of death and destruction, but now has to raise his Son who couldn’t seem any more the opposite. Visually amazing with a story that manages to be epic and personal on a much smaller scale, while also reinvigorating a franchise. A new entry to further the plates they started spinning, another entry can’t come soon enough.
Andrew Searles, Ollie Brandt, Luke Henderson, Paul Roberts and Daniel Vuckovic contributed to this article.