Gabby DaRienzo's Games of 2018


Greg Lobanov

I may be a bit biased because we’re friends with the developers, but I think if I had to pick only one favourite game of 2018, it has to be Wandersong. Wandersong is a music-themed adventure game where you play as a Bard, using your singing to solve puzzles and interact with the world around you. The game is super bright and cheerful, features gorgeous music, art, and SFX, and a huuuuge cast of incredibly well-written characters. Wandersong also handles some pretty hard-hitting topics like depression and toxic masculinity and does so very thoughtfully. I was really surprised by how deep Wandersong gets, and I cried numerous times playing through it.


Return of the Obra Dinn

Lucas Pope

Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person mystery adventure game where you play as an insurance investigator who must uncover what happened to the crew of the Obra Dinn — a merchant ship that was previously declared lost at sea. The player is only given a mysterious and magical compass that reveals a vignette of the moment a person died and a book in which the player must write down who the body belongs to and their cause of death. Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the best detective games to exist, and I spent an entire day playing through it — scribbling down notes and replaying vignettes over and over to deduce the cause of death or disappearance for each person. The game is quite cleverly designed in both how it reveals certain information to the player (a lot of the information is never revealed, meaning the player will need to make deductions and guesses), and how it confirms to the player that they’re on the right track. I was obsessed with this game — both in its content and how brilliantly it’s designed.


Speed Dating for Ghosts

Copychaser Games

Speed Dating for Ghosts is a visual novel dating sim where you play as a ghost at a speed dating event, meeting other ghosts, learning their stories, and going on dates with each of them. Again, I may be biased because the game is developed by one of our good friends (and Andrew helped out with a bit of programming on it), but I genuinely believe Speed Dating for Ghosts has some of the best game writing I’ve seen in years. Each of the dateable ghosts has their own unique personalities, and the game jumps from laugh-out-loud-funny to tearing-up-moving moments without ever feeling out of place. My personal favourite ghosts are Leon and Hattie.


Grace Bruxner Presents: The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game

Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker

Grace Bruxner Presents: The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game is a short, sweet, and silly game where you play as a detective frog who must solve the mystery of a ghost on a haunted island. The game is pretty short (I played through it in under an hour) and is fairly straightforward and unchallenging to play, but the writing is absolutely hilarious and the characters are so silly, I laughed out loud multiple times playing through it. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game proves that you don’t need to make something super complicated or challenging in order for it to be Good. This is the “Goodest” game I’ve ever played.


Katamari Damacy REROLL

Monkeycraft Co / Bandai Namco

Okay, confession time. The first time I had ever played a Katamari game was in 2018. After playing through Donut County (which gets an honourable mention on my GOTY list), Andrew suggested I might like playing the Katamari games — and he was right. I became obsessed with We <3 Katamari and Beautiful Katamari (which were the only games Andrew had at the time), loved how beautiful and stylized the art was and how charming the characters were, and played through the entirety of both over a weekend. When Katamari Damacy REROLL (a remastered version of the first Katamari game) came out at the end of 2018, I bought it immediately and played through the entirety of that in a single sitting as well (which felt extremely good to play through on the Nintendo Switch specifically). I guess I’m a little late to the party on Katamari, but I’m glad I was able to play through it (and its sequels) finally this year.

Gabby can be found on Twitter! She is also half of Laundry Bear Games, a talented artist, and one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2019!