These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

In the mid 2000s, I was in a weird spot. I was working a crappy job at a crappy company for crappy pay. I’d given up on school, given up on making art, and given up on making games. I tried to be realistic about my life: it was enough to eke out a living and never pursue my dreams, because my dreams were silly.

Then I played Cave Story.

It would still be years before I would sit down and force myself to learn game development, but seeing a game that well-crafted made by one lone developer – the great Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya – spoke to me. The fire was lit again.

Over a decade later, I sat down to play through another one of Pixel’s games, Kero Blaster. The art looked more rough than Cave Story’s, the game was strictly linear compared to Cave Story‘s expansive semi-open world, and the story had far less depth, but despite all this, the game captivated me.

For a while, I tried to identify why this was the case, what deeper feeling was pulling me along. The longer I played, more of the game’s brilliance shone through – things like the tension in a well-designed level leading up to an engaging boss fight or the joy of unlocking a new weapon that redefines your playstyle.

Above all else, I found the simple pixel art and chiptune soundtrack wonderfully delightful and funny. I found myself cackling as my boss slowly transformed into a goofy monster. I found myself humming along to the music while blasting refrigerators into oblivion. I found myself intensely gripping the controller while fighting a bird perched on an alarm clock.

Kero Blaster, like Cave Story before it, brings me back to the childlike joy of making and playing games. It’s the kind of game I imagine me and my friends making – it’s kind of silly, you might even consider it a little ugly, but it’s got some deep refinement in ways that make it a priceless treasure and one of my favorite games this year.