Fanbyte Game of the Year: Best Small Detail 2018

It’s the end of the year, which naturally means it’s time to choose our game of the year. We weren’t content with just picking one game for one category, though. Fanbyte has a whole week of Game of the Year 2018 winners and runners-up. Each day, we’ll feature a new set of categories with a new set of games that we appreciate for different reasons — leading up to the Fanbyte Game of the Year winner itself.

Our current category is “Best Small Detail.” This award doesn’t go to a game itself, but to some thing — some tiny, easy-to-overlook element — that helps make the rest of the game sing. We talked about the roiling water in Sea of Thieves, the crunch of a BattleTech mech’s arm exploding into shards, and the unexpected hilarity of Donut County‘s “Trashopedia.” But these next two games ultimately contained our favorites.

Nonviolent Games

Runner-Up: Return of the Obra Dinn‘s “You Solved It” Sounds

Return of the Obra Dinn is a grim game. You play an insurance claims investigator aboard the titular ship — trying to figure just why and how every soul aboard died or disappeared. The game only arms you with a notebook and the ability to view a person’s last few moments of life. But the satisfaction of crossing names off your list, by correctly intuiting three of their fates at a time, is as potent as any loot game or shooter.

Every correct conclusion gets punctuated with a cello twang in perfect sync with the game’s minimalist UI. The regular music pauses, the notebook comes up, and an on-screen message congratulates you on a job well done. Most great puzzle games make you feel like a genius. These small details, however, directly underline that sense like a smug wink at the camera.

Despite the dire subject matter, it’s impossible not to feel pleased with yourself when Obra Dinn shovels so many subtle congratulations past your shit-eating grin. It’s easily one of the most satisfying details in games this year.

-Steven Strom, Managing Editor

chill playlist smash ultimate

Best Small Detail 2018: Your Switch is an MP3 Player in Smash Ultimate

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a shelf in your childhood bedroom more than a video game. It’s a game that takes a central conceit created two decades ago and expands upon it until there’s no sense of a singular “game,” rather than a collection of feelings wrapped up in about 25 different modes.

I can’t remember the last time I played a game where I couldn’t identify its sole intended method of play. This variety invites the player to explore its many nooks and crannies. And in the Smash Ultimate “Vault,” I discovered 800+ music tracks from the series’ past. 

It’s already enough for over a day’s worth of music, all playable in-game, but Smash Ultimate takes it to another level entirely. The platform fighter provides a fully-featured music player. I was able to create a “Chill” playlist with ease, which I find myself reaching for even with my Spotify Premium account on practically every device I own.

switch mp3 screen turn off

It’s also great for pulling out the rare dud in the game’s remixes. My Mega Man playlist removes the 3-4 so-so mixes in the game so I can focus on the winners.

My favorite detail, or at least the gutsiest and most extravagant one, is the ability to turn off the Switch’s screen and control the device like the biggest Zune you’ve ever seen. Is this practical? No. Hell no. Is it satisfying and decadent? Does it drive home the fact that Super Smash Bros Ultimate isn’t just an impeccably balanced fighting game, but a museum for some of the greatest monuments of the medium? Hell yes. Such a wildly unnecessary but welcome detail is our finest of 2018.

-John Warren, Editor-in-Chief