Presenting the 3rd Annual TGPZ Awards!

By Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
December 18, 2019

 
The time of year has come for spectacular sales, family joy, and award shows galore! We here at TGPZ always love a chance to bicker and dispute the ups and downs of gaming for the past year. In the end, after hours of being cramped in a conference room, tears are shed, friendships torn, and bones broken, but we emerge with the definitive list of games worthy to be praised.… Okay so really I email everybody and they vote like civil people that don’t even live in the same state as me, but it comes up with just as good of a list!

This year was tricky, as not only did it include many great releases from 2019, but also last year we cut it off just before the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which would have been a strong contender. Since it couldn’t make the ballot last year, we are happy to say it will be taken into consideration.

Before we get into the specifics, we would like to take a moment to thank you, our readers, for making this all worth it. This is a complex article to assemble every year, but it is so worth it to begin a discussion with all of you! Be sure to join the conversation on the TGPZ Discord, or hit us up on Twitter or the comments below.

But wait! There’s more!

This year we not only decided on our favorite games, but we turned the conversation over to the fans on our Facebook page, Zelda Realm! With a few quick polls, we managed to get your opinions on some of the key categories! These are the winners of the fan votes, and this was taken collectively as one vote for the category, then counted among our writers’ votes. It seems a little lop-sided toward Zelda games, but hey, it’s your votes, so you can’t complain! In fact, Zelda games took home the gold in five categories:

Game of the year: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Best Soundtrack: Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda

Best Indie Game: Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda

Best Story: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Best Graphics: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Thank you again to anyone who voted, and to those interested, you can still comment on the polls on our Facebook page and get in on the discussion! In fact, you can still even vote in the polls since I’m not sure how to turn that off. We obviously won’t count votes that came in after the article was published, but have at.

Now without further ado, waffling, or rigmarole, we present our staff picks, with help from all of you! We hope you enjoy the Third Annual TGPZ Awards!

Best Action Game: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Releasing at the tail end of last year, many of us were regretful we could not add it to our list, but now it has its time to shine! This same situation actually happened last year with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so don’t go telling us we’re copying Geoff Keighley. We did it before it was cool.

Ultimate is almost unanimously praised as the definitive entry in the series, as it combines every character from past games, nearly every stage, and goes the extra mile to bring us many of the characters we never thought possible. Our glorious leader, Hick, says “You can’t deny its intense action. I also enjoyed the campaign that was a new addition to the franchise.” He gets it spot on. There is no action game more hectic than Smash, and this entry is at the top in that regard, only perhaps rivaled by Melee. With the size of the stages, the number of characters and items, and the speed taken into account, however, I believe this is the most hectic fighting game EVER. It is absolutely worthy of its title as the TGPZ Best Action Game!

Best Adventure Game: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Honestly it is a little surprising to see that a Zelda fan site took two whole categories before mentioning a Zelda game. But in all seriousness, this is one of the best games in the series, and one of the best remakes of all time. Most of us here at TGPZ agree it is simply a wonderful game, whether we were revisiting it or experiencing the dream for the first time. I could spend hours talking about just why it was incredible, but founding member Red put it excellently, so I’ll let him take it away.

“1993 was an amazing year for games. We got DOOM, Myst, X-Wing, Secret of Mana, and many more classics. But one game stood out for me more than all others that year – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Game Boy. It remains, to this day, my favorite handheld game of all time. Fast forward to 2019, and my love for Link’s Awakening hasn’t changed a bit. The remake for the Switch remains extremely faithful to the original while updating the visuals to a disgustingly cute diorama art style that really fits the world and its characters. With a strong (and somewhat underratedly dark) story, memorable characters, and a beautiful new coat of paint, exploring Koholint Island and unraveling its secrets remains a charm to this day. It was my best adventure game back in 1993, and it is my best adventure game in 2019.”

Best Horror Game: Luigi’s Mansion 3

Hick got a kick out of this game! “I didn’t play the first 2 so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this game. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. The floors were beautiful and I really enjoyed the combat system. Some controls were questionable at times which brought it down a little.”

While it is certainly not a traditional horror game, it hit many of the more comical notes of the paranormal professions. Between a fun storyline and silly multiplayer mini modes, this was one of the highlights of the year for me and my five-year old as well. This is a perfect family game, and you can’t say that about DOOM 3!

Best Indie Game: Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda

The second winner from the Zelda series, though this time an unexpected indie spinoff/crossover/sequel/thingy. The announcement of this game got me into the original Crypt of the Necrodancer, and I was far from disappointed with either game. I’ll let Crow, one of our writers and a good buddy o’ mine, take it away.

Cadence of Hyrule is a game whose entire mechanic for movement and combat is based around music, so it’s only natural it be the winner here. The soundtrack features a wide array of instruments and tempos, fueling the sense of combat. The overworld combat music is easily one of the best scores of any game I’ve ever played, and to this day I still listen to it standalone because it’s just that good and sticks with you even after beating the game.”

Best Graphics: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

“This one was tough as there were some beautiful Nintendo games this year. I think the art style is what helped it win this category. The overworld was breathtaking and I actually liked the blurred edges.”

These are once again the words of Hick, our gamer-in-chief. I also like the blurred edges, it makes it feel like I’m daydreaming of my childhood. This game has a supernatural ability to take me back to the good ol’ days; it not only reminds me of them, but it seemingly enhances the memories I have because of how identical the size and shape of every enemy, item, and obstacle manages to be. The attention to detail here is astounding, and it goes the extra mile for those of us who grew up with this game. It combines the old and new to make for one of the most wonderful art styles of all time.

Best Sound Design/Soundtrack: Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the Necrodancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda

The game with all the nostalgic Zelda remixes is again a shoo-in among us. Maybe it’s unfair, but you have to admit Brace Yourself Games did the series right by crafting some of the best versions of the most iconic tunes from the series. Our favorite fanfic fanatic, Usmania, was among those who voted for this game (which was actually everybody except Red), and he has a great description of why we all love this game:

“We’ve been so used to the normal blood and thunder of the Zelda series, but Cadence of Hyrule gave us something rather different. Enemies who used to fly at Link in battle now dance towards him to the beat! The remixes of fan favorite tunes coupled with the Holy Grail of a playable Princess Zelda makes Cadence of Hyrule earn my vote!”

Best Story: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Personally I have been a Zelda fan as long as I can remember. One of my earliest gaming memories is playing Link’s Awakening. At that time, I remember little of the story except the simple presentation at the beginning. I never managed to get more than a few dungeons in as a kid, but I understood that there was some larger mystery going on.

Upon revisiting the game in the mid two thousands, I uncovered the larger plot, and since that time it has been my favorite Zelda story to date. It seems on the outside like a happy-go-lucky tale of adventure, but beneath that slick exterior lies what I consider the darkest story in the series.

The remake of Link’s Awakening does not add to this story, but I believe the updates make it more accessible, and the new graphics add a helpful level of polish to the presentation. There are few scenes in gaming more awe-inspiring than finding the mural in the Southern Shrine, or finally meeting the Wind Fish and seeing the hidden scene if you managed not to die. This game is light on cutscenes, but they are heavy in their presentation, and convey a bittersweet tale far better than the 8-bit original.

Best PS4 Game: Death Stranding

My personal game of 2019, Death Stranding is creepy, mentally exhilarating, and you never know where the story will go next. Taking a drastic departure from traditional action game formulae, I did not even slay my first enemy until about ten hours of gameplay. The combat was introduced far later in the game than you would expect, but it did not suffer from that; the gameplay beforehand was terrifying at points, and this cerebral experience could not be replicated with any means of defending yourself.

Crow had much to say about the game as well. “Hideo Kojima, the mad genius behind the Metal Gear Solid franchise, has let his creative madness be unleashed in the critically acclaimed Death Stranding. With fears of mystery leading up to it’s launch, and no favors being done by a certain three-letter review site, this game came out swinging with a deep and twisted story, and gameplay that does a good job combining action, stealth, and exploration, feeling lonely but not empty in a world that has been shattered. Like any Kojima game, it takes a little bit to really get going, but the payoff is substantial, and serves as an excellent launch point for Kojima Productions to see some lasting success.”

Here’s to the only game that makes travelling as fun as it is in Breath of the Wild.

Best Xbox One Game AND Best DLC: Forza Horizon 4: LEGO Speed Champions DLC

A little salty about the current state of Xbox’s lineup, Hick had this to say about a DLC I didn’t even know existed. “Not a full game as it was only DLC, but Xbox isn’t releasing crap right now so I’m putting it down. I also really enjoyed it. I thought the challenges were plentiful and not tedious. I loved building things out of Legos and also crashing into them.”

I’m glad it was good, but honestly shocked at the lack of impressive releases this year. Whatever, next year we (probably) get Halo Infinite, so perhaps the wait will be worth it?

Best Switch Game: Pokemon Sword/Shield

Honestly I did not see this one coming, but a well-deserved spot on our awards list goes to Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield! Usmania also voted for it in the story category, which many will agree is among its stronger points. “The concepts are pretty novel for your orthodox Pokemon game, a rival trying to live up to familial high standards, a mysterious legend and nice little sub-plots.”

My favorite part of this game has been the feeling of discovery, which I have not felt in a Pokemon game for far too long. In the last several generations, the games have had a tendency to show off most, if not all, of the Pokemon, towns, gym leaders, and other mechanics in prerelease media. I like seeing some of it, and understand it is important to advertise the game as different from past titles, but having the mystery of finding new Pokemon is among the most satisfying feelings. This is heightened by the new Galarian Form Pokemon, which are certain creatures from past regions that have biological differences in this part of the world. Finding an old favorite reimagined is very fun, and finding something to like about a Pokemon you never cared for before is even better. Between the mystery of discovery, the stupendous story, and the carefully crafted core gameplay the series is known for, Sword and Shield are not only Switch game of the year for TGPZ, but one of the strongest entries in the twenty-year-old series!

Best 3DS Game: Persona Q2

I literally put this category on as a joke in the voting bracket I sent to our writers. There were very few 3DS releases this year, and with Switch being so hot, who has time and effort to play something on a system that is “so last gen?” Apparently Crow did. Here’s what he had to say about Persona Q2:

“With the advent and continued success of the Switch, the 3DS has fallen to the wayside of Nintendo and will likely die in the next year or two. As with Xbox, there was very little to reliably choose from in this category, but Persona made sure to make the most of it with a side story expanding on the cast of the cult hit Persona 5. Q2 is a relatively small game by Persona standards, but features a cute chibi-like art style and a new kind of gameplay that still suits the franchise, and is a worthwhile add for anyone still looking to expand their library of DS games.”

Special Shoutout: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

This game did not win any category, but it was nominated more than any other game this year, so I thought I would give it a mention. I have not played it myself, but from everything I have heard, I think I might have to check it out when I get the chance. I’ll let Red take it away before we close off the awards this year.

“You get to mow down hordes of stormtroopers as a Jedi, need I say more? Seriously though, the blend of Souls-like melee combat and Force powers is pulled off excellently here. The number of powers at your disposal help keep the combat fresh throughout the game. Also, enemies and combat encounters are varied enough that you rarely feel like you’re fighting the same battle over and over. The boss fights can be a real challenge, but they regularly deliver a great spectacle.”

“Great combat, expansive Metroidvania style exploration, beautiful graphics and sound, and a strong story all add up to make Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order one of the best Star Wars games ever, and it is my Game of the Year for 2019.”

Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

In an unsurprising plot twist, a Zelda game wins Game of the Year among a group of Zelda fans! This is only odd because somehow Pokemon is a better Switch game in our voting system, but not as good of an overall game. There’s probably a plot hole we missed somewhere back there that explains how that is possible. I mean it’s no less likely than Sekiro losing the Game Award for Direction, Art Direction, and Soundtrack but still coming out as Game of the Year. What I’m saying is every award show has plot holes, so don’t look too deep into it.

I had a hard time picking, personally, and I would have been happy with any of the games our staff voted for. The nominees (and I use that term loosely) included Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Death Stranding, Life is Strange 2, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Resident Evil 2. With an insanely good lineup like that, I think the real winner this year was the gamers. Almost every one of our writers had something to say, so I will leave you with our various thoughts on the TGPZ Game of the Year.

“There is no excitement that competes with a new Zelda release. I was curious how the art style would work out and I think they nailed it. They changed some things but not too much (I’m looking at you Majora’s Mask 3D). It was just so much fun to adventure around the island of Koholint again.”
–Hick

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a remake of a beloved Gameboy game from the 90’s, created in an adorable top-down toy-like graphical style. Given new life on the Nintendo Switch, Eiji Aonuma wanted to recreate this game in the way he always imagined it: a big world on a small scale. This game was able to couple the charm of the new graphics, with the action and adventure Zelda has always been known for, in a way that was easy to maintain, but fun enough to not want to put down (even though you can at any time). It’s still fun to explore dungeons, and now you can explore ones of your own creation with a dungeon maker (that hopefully will lead to the creation of a Zelda Maker game).”
–Crow

“It was tempting to put Fallen Order as my winner for best story as well, because it tells an excellent self-contained story with plenty of twists and reveals, but at the end of the day, the story of Link’s Awakening just edges it out. It seems cookie-cutter at first: adventurer is in a shipwreck and stranded on a mysterious island. About a million stories have started out this way. But as we explore Koholint Island, we learn that something much darker is going on. When the truth is finally revealed, it adds a tragic level to the story that isn’t always present in Zelda games. Throw in Link’s budding relationship with Marin and the fun interactions between other characters, and Link’s Awakening delivers one of the most memorable and heart-felt stories ever, and gets my nod (barely) over Fallen Order.”
–Red

“This game is great, go buy it.”
–Me