2019 was an exciting year for games. Gamers around the world watched events in awe as Keanu Reeves took the stage at E3 and Reggie Fils-Aimé took the stage at Cornell. Every day the library of games — across PCs, consoles and mobile devices — grows bigger.
But of course, you’re a college student like me. You don’t have time for any of that. So you just look longingly at ads and count the days until winter break. And what a weird and wild year for ads it has been.
So in lieu of a “Top Five Games I Enjoyed This Year,” (It would just be a list of games that came out in the past few years, that I only got around to playing this summer, like Breath of the Wild and Wandersong) I present to you my Top Five Games of 2019 I Haven’t Played (Based Solely on Their Advertising):
This was the one trailer I wasn’t expecting during Nintendo’s E3 presentation. I thought the next big Marvel game we’d get would be 2020’s Square Enix Avengers game. But then Ultimate Alliance showed up with a Miles Morales, Kamala Khan and Gwen Stacy team-up in a trailer already packed with beloved characters, and I was sold. By the time the end card promised “Content from X-Men,” I was already trying to add it to my wish list. Yes, I’m the type of person to point at a character reveal in the end credits scene of a Marvel movie and whisper “I know who that is!” in the middle of the theater. When you look at the unending sea of superhero movies and shows flooding the market and wonder, who are they making these for? Shouldn’t this have ended with Endgame? The answer is me, I’m the one they’re making them for. I’m also in it for the gameplay too, of course, as the multiplayer team-up mechanics stir up fond memories of playing the old X-Men side-scrolling beat-em-up arcade game, but to me, the sensory overload of familiar characters meant for a successful E3 presentation.
Later Alligator is an indie game from the animators behind the Baman Piderman web series. I follow a lot of comics and animation Twitter accounts, so the hype leading up to this game was all-encompassing. The whole thing is animated in gorgeous 2D, following cartoon alligators around “Alligator New York City” in the most charming way possible. The whole thing is punctuated with glowing reviews from the creators of Undertale, Night in the Woods and Potter Puppet Pals (among other things) — I’m not kidding when I say every artist on Twitter knows each other. I’ve probably spent more time replaying this trailer than I’ve spent playing any game this semester.
If it wasn’t for Death Stranding, AI: The Somnium Files would take the cake for weirdest advertising campaign of 2019. Advertising for this Spike Chunsoft game started in early 2019 with the mysterious upload of YouTube videos, appearing to be from a virtual idol “A-Set.” These included music videos and “vlogs,” each getting more and more creepy in content. The pink-haired idol would joke about getting kidnapped and visit scary spots until one day, she actually did appear to get kidnapped and murdered by … a man in a polar bear costume. This campaign was so strange, so different from the industry’s normal tool of the minute-and-a-half teaser at E3, that it sold me on the game (although it certainly helped that I was familiar with the studio’s previous project, Dangan Ronpa, and knew that they would deliver on the bloody, creepy and just plain weird).
Watch any of this game’s lengthy, enigmatic trailers, and you’ll probably end up more confused than when you began. Norman Reedus — yes, that guy from The Walking Dead — and Mads Mikkelsen – yes, that guy from Hannibal — traverse gorgeous terrain accompanied by an uncannily smooth baby as you’re introduced to characters with names like “Die-Hardman.” It’s a glorious, confusing work of art in itself, made even more maddening by the fact that I don’t own a PS4 and can’t play the game. Death Stranding will remain a mystery to me, but I’m okay with that. Every time I learn something new out of context about this confusing, beautiful, uncomfortable game, the world gets a little brighter.
Listen. How can a silly untitled game beat the heavy-hitting Death Stranding? Untitled Goose Game, the 3-D indie treasure where the goal is simply to cause as much chaos as possible, has gotten more traction than any other game on this list. My evidence? I’ve heard non-gaming friends talk about this game just as much as gaming friends. At a Sun event earlier this year, one of the alumni even mentioned that his outlet had covered it. If this game can come up naturally in a professional setting, its advertising has succeeded. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of comics, Twitter animators or eccentric actors to enjoy this trailer. You can just fantasize about what we all want to be in life: a horrible goose.
Olivia Bono is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On the Level runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.