For the last few years, I’ve been selecting my favorite games of the year to allow readers to catch up on any must-haves they might have missed. 2015 was the first time I started doing it, with Her Story easily squashing all the competition. 2016 brought us the adorably brain-melting Snakebird and gorgeous Samorost 3. The insane year of 2017 was almost a tie between INSIDE, Gorogoa, Mushroom 11 and twelve other phenomenal games. While I’m not sure anything can compete with 2017’s endless stream of amazing releases, 2018 was still a strong contender, as you can see from my weekly roundups. Since I’ve once again narrowed it down to almost 40 games, I’ve decided that this time I’m going to split them into genres. As a puzzle and adventure fan, you’ll see that those lists are the longest, but I didn’t want other games to get lost in the shuffle. You can click on a genre to jump to the ones you’re most interested in. And I hate to ask, but if you appreciate the work I put in here at AppUnwrapper, please consider supporting my Patreon.
The Eyes of Ara
First, let me take some time to discuss my Game of the Year. This was very hard to pick. There were so many top-notch puzzle games released this year, some that I still play daily. And I could have easily chosen one of those. But I kept thinking back to 100 Stones Interactive’s The Eyes of Ara, and the way it captured exactly the kind of experience I would hope for if I were exploring a giant castle in real life. At first, it seems like just another 3D adventure game with clues and puzzles scattered about, and I wasn’t all that impressed. I got stuck early on and almost didn’t go back to it. But then I realized that my problem was that I didn’t look down at my feet to see a puzzle, and that’s when the game captured my heart. See, in The Eyes of Ara, you need to be incredibly observant, because puzzles, clues, and secret passages can be hidden anywhere. Pull out a loose brick and you may find a lost coin. A journal entry might appear to be only progressing the story, but turn out to be hiding an important clue in plain sight. I don’t normally tolerate hidden object scenes or pixel hunting in my games, but I absolutely loved scouring this castle for every last secret. Most of the hidden extras are not necessary to finish the game, only to unlock a bonus area. So those not interested in putting in the extra effort can still enjoy the game for its core puzzles and story. The puzzles themselves are logical, and except for one or two, I was able to complete them all using the clues found around the castle. I appreciate how the game doesn’t hold your hand or drown you in an abundance of information. Instead, you’re rewarded for keeping your eyes open. Solving a tricky puzzle, unlocking a new area, or discovering a hidden passage was always satisfying and exciting. And even though the game was ported from PC, the developer took pains to make everything feel great on a touchscreen, whether you’re playing on a larger iPad or a smaller iPhone. Instead of moving with a joystick, you tap on items to get closer to them. It’s similar to the Room series in that regard, and it works great. Journal entries and other clues are also added to your inventory so you don’t have to worry about keeping a notepad nearby. You can tell a lot of love and attention went into this game, and it wasn’t ported over to make a quick buck. On top of all that, there are seasonal puzzles that unlock only during certain holidays like Halloween and Christmas. So just when you think you’ve found everything, there’s more! If you like puzzle adventure games like the Room series or Myst, you owe it to yourself to play The Eyes of Ara. And if you need more convincing, you can read my full review here.
Click here to see the rest of my favorite Adventure games of 2018 or select another genre below.