Wednesday Column

“Best Games of the Year: A Personal Retrospective”




InfernalMage “The following is a contributor column by The Infernal Accountant Mage.”

I was born in 1986 and have been gaming pretty much since I can remember. I’m not going to pretend I had the easiest childhood in the world – in fact, I’m not going to pretend it was anything but tough and that my difficulties weren’t due to other people being sh-tty most of the time. I’m an only child, a geek, I’ve got some vision-related disabilities (so I was the kid who couldn’t play sports in school) and I was a military kid who moved every three years (so I was pretty much permanently “the new kid.”) Those are all categories that make one a prime target for abuse, especially as a kid, and much like today it wasn’t really possible to expect much from adults when it came to solving problems like that.

Growing up, video games represented an outlet for venting frustration and stress and, perhaps, an escape; there’s some irony in this given the considerable societal stigma that was and still is attached to enjoying video games. Maybe that wasn’t an escape into the fictional world of games, but it was certainly part of a growing awareness that there was more to life than people, adults and kids alike, being awful for reasons that I wasn’t yet equipped to understand. Later, they would represent a means of expressing myself in a world that wasn’t really interesting in hearing me as I began writing about them. Later still, games offered me a means of connecting with other people in a space where I wasn’t immediately expecting to be treated poorly.

I’m older now. To grown-up me, gaming represents a sort of defiance; that social stigma regarding games that I mentioned still holds strong, and for practical reasons, it’s still not something I’d discuss with an employer or a new acquaintance. Still, thumbing my nose at a society that never did much for me to begin with, at least not without taking its pound of flesh in return, holds some appeal. Every time I enjoy a great new game, much like every time I travel someplace amazing or experience something new and exciting, it’s a tiny withdrawal from the vast bank of happiness that accumulated with interest over those dark years. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “screw you, got mine,” but I’ll certainly say “sorry, I’ve already paid.”

With that, I’ve decided to write an essay of varying length on several of the games that have helped me make it this far. The below list includes the topic of discussion I will be addressing with each; we’ll be progressing in order with a new post each Wednesday. Given the personal nature of this list, I have at times gone a different direction from Well-Red and used the North American release dates of these games, both because that’s where applicable since that’s when they would have been relevant to me and because it allows me to talk about more releases that are close to my heart. I’ve also taken the liberty of covering a couple years multiple times because it’s my list and I do what I want.

1986: Dragon Quest (Gaming with Family)
1987: Final Fantasy (RPGs and Feeling Smart)
1988: Super Mario Bros. 3  (Gaming in Film and Television)
1989: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [NES] (Growing Up as a Gamer)
1990: Super Mario World (Games Broadening One’s Horizons)
1991: Street Fighter II (Personal Growth Through Fighting Games)
1992: Night Trap (Stigma and Censorship in Gaming)
1993: Secret of Mana (Persistence: Spiky Tiger and the Value of Sticking To It)
1994: Final Fantasy VI (How I Approached RPGs: Then vs. Now)
1995: Pang! 3 (Arcades and a Time Before Emulation)
1996: The House of the Dead (Arcades and How They’re Gone)
1997-1: Blast Corps (The Value of a Game When You Can’t Afford Many)
1997-2: Final Fantasy VII (Flawed: A Long and Enduring Love of Gaming)
1998-1: SaGa Frontier (Mysteries, Unknowns and the Undiscovered)
1998-2: Pokémon Red/Blue (Maintaining Your Identity When The World Wants You Broken)
1999-1: Final Fantasy VIII (Unpopular Opinions and the Gaming Community)
1999-2: Persona 2: Innocent Sin (Gaming and “The Consumer”)
1999-3: Legend of Mana (A World Without Walls: pt. 1)
2000-1: Vagrant Story (Respect for the Player)
2000-2: Grandia II (Moving, New Places and Games as Comfort)
2001: Phantasy Star Online (MUDs and Online Gaming)
2002: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Games that Endure; Games that Don’t)
2003: Ikaruga (Seeking Perfection)
2004-1: Drakengard (‘This Game is Not For Me, And That’s Okay’)
2004-2: Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (The B-List and Rentals)
2005-1: Jade Empire (Morality and Evil in Games)
2005-2: Lumines (My First Job)
2006-1: Auto Assault (Voice Chat)
2006-2: Gears of War (Dawn of the Modern Age of Gaming)
2007-1: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (Maintaining your Identity: pt. 2)
2007-2: Hellgate: London (Expectations Against Reality)
2007-3: Persona 3 (The Rise of Shared Gaming)
2008-1: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Gamers: The Community)
2008-2: The World Ends with You (Games that Speak to You)
2009-1: Damnation (Anything Can be Good)
2009-2: BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger/Bayonetta (Perfection: pt. 2)
2010-1: Monster Hunter Tri (Becoming a Real Boy, pt. 1)
2010-2: Nier (pt. 2)
2010-3: Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (pt. 3)
2011-1: Brink (And Sometimes There’s Nothing You Can Do)
2011-2: Bastion (A World Without Walls: pt. 2)
2012-1: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (Finding Your Way in a New World)
2012-2: Fez (There Are No Heroes)
2013-1: Tomb Raider (Sometimes Adventure Finds You)
2013-2: Pokémon X and Y (Maintaining Your Identity, pt. 3)
2014-1: Transistor (A World Without Walls: pt. 3)
2014-2: XBlaze Code: Embryo (Writing About Games)
2014-3: P.T. (Fear)
2015-1: Bloodborne (A World With Walls)
2015-2: Undertale (The New Generation)
2016-1: Overwatch/The Technomancer (You Aren’t Welcome Here Anymore…)
2017: Assassin’s Creed: Origins (…But Maybe You Can Still Stick Around)


The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at


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15 replies »

  1. I can definitely relate to the use of video games to vent frustrations. Yay for only children!

    Your list, your rules. Looking forward to this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Ellen! Thanks for the comment.

      My partner, who moved in with me a couple years ago, is always pointing out how drastically our perspectives differ on things due to my being an only child and her having two sisters; it’s not something I ever really thought about at first but it absolutely does seem to have a big influence on who you are as a person Just as a silly example, I’m incredibly picky about the layout and neatness of our place (MY place, says selfish kid me, while grown-up adult me knows that’s not true and that it’s not very nice to think like that!) while she’s a little more whatever. Definitely took some getting used to.

      As a kid, gaming was definitely one of the ways I made up for sometimes just Not Having Other Kids Around. As you said, I’m sure you can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list of games. Assassin’s Creed Origins really was something special, a revitalization of the franchise that I didn’t expect. Zelda just barely squeezed past Horizon and it to get my GOTY for 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Origins was my Game of the Year for last year when we did our lists on Popzara, the other site I write for. I’m not even sure if there’s one specific reason why – it just really clicked with me on a lot of levels. I loved the main character, the setting, the way it executed on all the fundamentals of great open-world design in such an impressive manner; 2017 was such a great year for games that it’s definitely saying something that it managed to impress me so much regardless.

      Other great ones from that year, incidentally – Zelda and Horizon, as you said, along with Persona 5, Resident Evil 7, and my favorite sleeper indie hit Heat Signature.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These are some amazing games, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes from each of these games in your essays. A lot of these games were therapy for me and number of people I know, too, so I really dig the frame you’ve put around this list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel like games like Morrowind where you get to roleplay a little bit (even if that’s not your thing, you’re kind of forced to by creating a character and selecting traits) can be very therapeutic. Morrowind and Oblivion were both great escapes for me. I freely admit I didn’t have anything bad to escape from, but being a teenager is already full of confusing moments, and escaping into Tamriel was always a welcome distraction from real life for… days at a time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to talk about this more in the (far, since this is a weekly column!) future when we get to Morrowind, but when I was thinking about that game, the thing that interested me most is that the characters I’d create and play would change based on how I changed as a person. When I first played on the original Xbox, for instance, I made a big, heavy-armored Nord warrior who used a giant two-hander because, well, I just got my Xbox, I want to go kill some monsters! A few years later I’d tried again on PC and made the most wizardly of mages since I was somewhat older, somewhat more patient and more-than-somewhat more interested in making my character a godly butt-kicker. My most recent playthrough, and indeed the archetype I tend to play in most of the Elder Scrolls games now, was with a sneaky thief; not necessarily the strongest or the most overpowered of options, but instead a class that requires you to think and puzzle your way through situations to get ahead. That’s what interests me these days, so my choices reflect that.

      I feel like that’s the case for a lot of people when they play such freeform games – the choices you make reflect the state of your head at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

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