This year we wanted to take a play from every extra-long Twitter thread of self-love, but having our writers focus on their incredible work from this year. So here are 26 stories selected by their writers, showing off their immeasurable talent with short explanations of why they have selected these pieces.

We love our writers. And here’s some of the best of their writing this year.

The Burnt Offering

The Feels

I like this one partly because I dreaded writing it, because I had no idea how to go about tackling the subject matter, and partly because I think about the idea of stories becoming manifest in reality a lot and, paradoxically, it is nice to have some of those thoughts on paper at last. - Stu Horvath

What happens when a horror story tries to manifest in the real world?

Documentary Sunday

The Bleeding Edge

I am really proud of the extra research I did to contextualize my review here. - Megan Condis

The FDA has failed for decades in its duty to oversee medical technologies, with women disproportionately falling victim.

The Heavy Pour

New Gods

Every now and then I like to step outside my own obsessions and make a little fun of them (and myself). Fandoms can be toxic and conventions can be grating, but each year I go to NYCC I find people of all ages as cheery as children. Ultimately, it's worth it to find the magic in the mundane. - Sara Clemens

New York Comic Con is a monument to hype with amusements deliberately designed to part fans from their money and/or time, but Sara would hate to miss the fantasy.

Here's The Thing

I Hate My Dream Job

I've ranted and raved about most of this nonsense privately, but it felt really good to finally get it out in the open. Cathartic, even. - Rob Rich

After years of dreaming of getting paid to review videogames, Rob finally got that chance. Then, after almost a decade, he realized that he hated it.

Assassination Nation has Blood in its Teeth

I like the imagery I pulled for this piece, about seeing a movie on the last day it was available in theaters, a movie about rage and violence and men being terrible and women finally getting to fight back. - Amanda Hudgins

The moral of Assassination Nation is that high school boys are terrible and you should kill them.

The Harmful Misconceptions Behind We Happy Few

I'm still shy about sharing my "hot takes," but the ignorance fueling We Happy Few's development lit a fire under my butt. I just had to highlight what I thought was an injustice in representing mentally ill people, being one myself and all. - Alyse Stanley

Compulsion Games’ recent release rebukes psychiatric drugs in its attempt to build a commentary around them.

This Mortal Coyle

Top Ten Characters I Hate

I enjoyed the change of pace writing about characters I hate instead of characters I love. And being mean to characters whose feelings you can't hurt is fun now and then. - Deirdre Coyle

September 2018 is the first anniversary of This Mortal Coyle and, to celebrate, Deirdre Coyle lists ten characters that make her blood boil.

The Gay Normalcy Fantasy

I came out as gay this year, and as it turns out, I had things to say about queer games spaces. - Jeremy Signor

Sometimes we just want to escape into a power fantasy. For many gay people, there’s power in the fantasy of normalcy.

No Accounting for Taste

Studio Ghibli and the Climate Crisis

It's tough to stay hopeful in the face of climate change so I am trying to find and appreciate media that offers hope while still recognizing the challenges. - Adam Boffa

A pair of ‘90s Ghibli films reveal the depths of our environmental problem but refuse to give up hope.

Collision Detection

Whether its NFL or RPG, A Party Trumps Its Players

Of all the pieces I've written this year, I think this one makes the strongest and most focused argument around a single idea. - Ben Sailer

How communities and players lose sight of the people behind their beloved teams.

The Boxes and Paraphernalia of Captain Spirit

It's a piece about a game I feel very strongly for, and its themes and ideas are something that's much easier to translate to paper than other pieces I've written. - Khee Hoon Chan

Objects carry with them an innately human connection; but in Captain Spirit, what’s left behind when these items are taken away also conjures an achingly compelling narrative.

No Accounting For Taste

The (Sort Of, But Not Really) Radical Politics of Infinity War

Probably the closest I've ever gotten to writing a fun piece for Unwinnable, and it's still grim. I'm working on it! - Adam Boffa

To see the radical message in Avengers: Infinity War, all we have to do is ignore everything about it.

The Heavy Pour

Our Town

Ruminating on mystery while writing this videogame review made me think of how I have a few of my own still skirting around the edges of memory, which surprisingly made the game's story more powerful in retrospect. The act of writing can be a hell of thing sometimes. - Sara Clemens

Nothing says summer like mystery, and the point-and-click adventure Unforseen incidents stirs up half-remembered recollections of murder cases and childhood towns.

Feature Excerpt

Remembering Doom on SNES

Writing this piece was a satisfying exercise in working out some complex (and often conflicting) thoughts about my favorite videogame growing up, an improbable title that few others enjoyed but had an immense impact on me personally. - Ben Sailer

Doom for the Super Nintendo was an incredible feat of technical trickery. It’s also my favorite game of all time that I never want to play again.

Ill Considered’s Sublime Echolocation

Writing about music is such a fuckin chore sometimes. Most of what I read just feels like PR patter, a sales pitch, or overt fawning that doesn't translate. I do my best to avoid this type of aimless pomposity, probably failing most of the time, but every few lunar cycles the band comes along that just winds your clock, you know? I think I got a half-step closer to transmitting that feeling of a nuclear-hot tune in your brain via words with this piece. Who can say for sure though. - Levi Rubeck

I watched Lost Highway alone at midnight, on a sweltering Northern California summer evening, and when it was finally over I only really retained two thoughts.

The Mathematical Brilliance of WarioWare

I like this piece because I wanted to try out something new - drawing parallels between math rock and Warioware - and I think to a certain degree, it managed to convey what I wanted to say. There aren't a lot of sites that would let me try out strange angles like this, so it was a piece I became pretty happy with. - Khee Hoon Chan

The annals of math rock is a motley of multifarious influences, from the understated sounds of minimal music to the aggressive intensity of post-hardcore.

Gingy's Corner

Where Are the Disabilities in Visual Novels?

I wanted to draw attention to the lack of representation in visual novels and explain why it's so upsetting that we don't see more diverse casts in OELVNs. I feel like this piece is a start to that. - Gingy Gibson

Nearly seven years after its release, Katawa Shoujo is still the most prominent visual novel with disabled characters.  That’s not a good thing.

The Burnt Offering

False Memory

I feel like I project a certain aura of self-seriousness, so I think this one is my very favorite bit of writing from this year because it reveals that I am, in fact, an idiot. - Stu Horvath

Whats the French phrase for the feeling you get when you watch a classic movie you’re sure you’ve already seen only to find you never have? In English, it’s probably “disorienting embarrassment.”

Documentary Sunday

AlphaGo

I enjoyed musing about the potential of AI to re-contextualize a game built around a metaphor for governance and war for us. In the midst of all of this talk about teaching robots about ethics and morality, maybe we are ignoring the fact that the robots might have something to teach us? - Megan Condis

What if artificial intelligence reveals a different way for us to be human?

Here's the Thing

Monster Hunter and the Mainstream

Mobile games rarely receive the same attention their PC and console counterparts do, let alone critical analysis. The games I chose to talk about, Another Lost Phone and Bury Me, My Love, were great games in their own right, and I delighted in dissecting them to find their common threads. - Alyse Stanley

Monster Hunter: World is a prime example of how a series can change itself to appeal to a mainstream audience without forsaking long time fans.

Rookie of the Year

Halt and Catch Death

I think it’s one of the classic Marrone ruminations on death and the beauty of life, plus some damn good TV criticism 😉 - Matt Marrone

I used to believe I was immune to regret. I wore it like a tacky t-shirt. Now I know I have a virtually endless string of regret. Not bad choices, necessarily. Just so much taken for granted.

A glitched out yellow and orange image of three men playing

Dispatches from GDC 2018: Day Three

This year I was able to attend GDC 2018 for Unwinnable as press. It was an interesting experience, one where I walked around in the wet and the cold and wrote a bit about games but mostly about the experience of being there. I'm happy with most of these dispatches, but Day 3 is the one I like the best. - Amanda Hudgins

Amanda goes to GDC with a press pass. This is a Day Three of her experience.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Betrays the Heart of Storytelling

Probably one of the most critical pieces I've ever done for Unwinnable, and I'm damned proud of it. - Jeremy Signor

Storytelling is dynamic. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine makes it feel static.

A young white boy standing in front of a television, holding copies of Final Fantasy II and Metroid 2. The photo is blurry.

Your Spoony Speedrunner

Speedrunning really made no sense to me until I started to consider this piece, and I really struggled with how I might convey this without sounding dismissive. Going through one of my most treasured game experiences felt like the best way to confront new and old ways of experiencing this medium, and I feel like for once I managed to say what I was thinking without standing in my own way too much. - Levi Rubeck

To watch Final Fantasy IV get flayed so fluently, with a mind-boggling grace not unlike a stolen car getting stripped for parts in seconds…

A text message conversation. From the other person reads "I could be in Europe tomorrow" and a response that reads "You could also be dead tomorrow"

Digital Voyeurism – A Familiar, if Strange Game

Mobile games rarely receive the same attention their PC and console counterparts do, let alone critical analysis. The games I chose to talk about, Another Lost Phone and Bury me, My Love, were great games in their own right, and I delighted in dissecting them to find their common threads. - Alyse Stanley

We’ve come to regard phones as such intimate extensions of ourselves. That’s why taking the helm of another’s device is at once instantly familiar and strange.

Gingy's Corner
A young brunette girl with a bright blue bowtie surrounded by a cadre of attractive Japanese male characters, one iwth long blue hair, one with short red hair, one with short gray hair and one with yellow blonde hair

A Culinary School Sim, with Dating Elements

I enjoyed playing this VN even though it was pretty rough, and feel like I gave my only firm but fair review here (everything else was either love or hate). - Gingy Gibson

Let’s start our month of regret with Pastry Lovers, the world’s premiere broken English baking otome.

 

Writer’s Choice: Favorite Unwinnable Stories 2018
No best of the year list is complete without a shout out to some of your other favorites, so we asked the writers to select some of their favorite pieces that are on the site from other writers. (Some of these stories were self-selected by the writers for the above section, so we just combined the commentary)

The Unstable Sexuality of Joji

This piece is so so so so good. It delves into the emasculation of Asian men and the odd sensuality of Joji, who is so out of it and so comfortable in his sexuality, that it seems almost attractive. I wish I wrote this piece, but I'm not capable of doing that, so thank you Amanda. - Khee Hoon Chan

He’s got a dangerous sort of attraction, a wild romanticism that calls out for attention in ways that the standard Asian male stereotype isn’t necessarily ready to handle.

The Kentucky State Fair

Amanda's writing is as refreshing as iced cold sweet tea. A fellow southern queer myself, I really connected to her experience, especially the dichotomy between how her grandparents were and the memory of them she still wishes to please. And her writing is really just so, so good. She could spin a tale out of nothing and I'd be riveted. - Alyse Stanley

I’m one of those rural queers you never hear about. You haven’t heard of me, only of the places I’ve been.

Analyzing the Historical Context of The Last of Us Part II’s Violence

Brilliant through and through. Planning on assigning it to my graduate students next year. This line in particular is so so so good!: In the pursuit of portraying a realistic world, The Last of Us Part II actually reproduces a version of the world dreamt up by colonial administrators and the academics who aided in their destruction of cultures around the world. A world where violence naturally takes over, proving that central governments are the only way for humanity to organize themselves. I have seen no signs that the game tries to address the historical implications of this representation. However, this setting has a lot of potential to explore different kinds of ideas. - Megan Condis

Colonialism haunts the post-apocalypse.

The Uncomfortable Thoughtlessness of Spider-Man

It opened my eyes to an aspect I hadn't considered, that despite doing my best to look critically at games, the fun of wheee and whooo swinging had completely eradicated. To me, all the very best writing does that, it teaches you something, but without necessarily taking on the tone of admonishment. - David Shimomura

I love how David always challenges how things in games are portrayed, and this is just another example of that. - Jeremy Signor

Spider-Man works hard to portray Peter as a guy good, but it fails to find nuance in incarcerated populations, foreigners and the ecosystem of New York itself.

here’s 2300 words on twilight and new moon

This headline is an obvious undersell, a deceptive dare to get me, the non-Twilight demographic, to engage. From there, Amanda strips away whatever preconceptions one might have of the kidult vampire series, for fans and otherwise, like a surgeon peering into an arrhythmic heart. It's a compassionate but exhaustive series of incisions that splays open the relationships that center these works without resorting to side eyes or plaintive pleas. Amanda tackles this work for what it is without resorting to notions of value, making a case for meeting these works on a level beyond titillation, for Twilight and popular culture in general. This article made me want to watch Twilight movies, which brings me great internal confusion, the highest mark of critical clarity I can think of. - Levi Rubeck

Twilight at its core, is barely functional as a romance, but deeply fascinating as a tragedy where two distinct cultures interact and implode around each other.

Procreation of the Wicked

A blood-curdling breakdown of a middling game through the lens of a more established and deeper rooted body of work. - Yussef Cole

“They rip him apart as he grins, nerve-endings aflame with the liquor of pain, finally accepting an eternity of obliterative bliss.”

Another Look

Hood Cyberpunk

It was one of those pieces where the idea wormed its way out organically and made for a fun writing process. - Yussef Cole

I loved the way this piece used personal experience to illustrate a broader point about a major blind spot in the narrative perspective of not just a game, but an entire literary genre. It nails everything that good games criticism should be. - Ben Sailer

How the genre's formative works focus on white men, and what it could mean if they didn't. - Deirdre Coyle

Cyberpunk stories don’t generally want, or need, to change society. It seems, rather, that they’re perfectly content partying in the rubble.

Feature

The Origins of Assassin’s Creed

One of those must write pieces I had bouncing around my head for months. Just need the time and research to complete. Thankful to Stu and Unwinnable editors for giving me the platform. - Yussef Cole

Really great consideration of a game through historical & personal contextualization. I really admire pieces like this that go outside of the traditional perimeters of gaming as a field in order to better discuss gaming. - Adam Boffa

This is hard, because there are so many stories I loved this year, but I have to go with Yussef Cole's "The Origins of Assassin's Creed." The process of editing this one was so thought-provoking and the final product such a rewarding read that it made me interested in videogame in a way I haven't been in a long time. - Stu Horvath

Yussef Cole explores the complex relationship between Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Egypt and blackness.

Exploits Feature

Art vs. Artist

This made me really think about the conversations we have about divorcing the artist from their art, and if we should. - Gingy Gibson

There comes a point where death is too good for the artist.

This Mortal Coyle

Bea Santello

This character got under my skin so deeply, which made her easy to spill my guts about. This piece deals with some of my most loved character traits in any mode of storytelling—mental exhaustion, gothiness, and grief. - Deirdre Coyle

A jewel in Deirdre's always-excellent column, her analysis of Bea Santello from Night in the Woods cuts straight to the heart of what makes great characterization: reality. As she deftly articulates, Deirdre doesn't just find Bea to be believable when she encounters her in-game, she knew her before she ever started playing. - Sara Clemens

My favorite of Bea’s qualities is that she’s tired.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Myth-making and Historical Accuracy

In a year of angry hot takes about games that are racist and terrible, there's something so wonderful about this piece which manages, quite beautifully, to be quietly damning. I love it. I love the way it lays out all of the information as if to say, "come to your own conclusion" but really it's just laid you a pathway straight to truth. - Amanda Hudgins

“Making Henry believable is a process of selection – of sorting out what’s important to Deliverance’s designers and what isn’t. It reflects, in its own small way, their priorities.”