When it comes to surprise hits, Untitled Goose Game ranks pretty high on the list. Developed by indie studio House House, Untitled Goose Game certainly doesn't sound like the type of game that would amount to "Best of the Year" material, but the game became a surprise smash when it released on Nintendo Switch in September. In it, players are cast in the role of a goose, one of nature's most foul-tempered (or is that fowl-tempered?) creatures. As the unnamed goose, there is a list of tasks in each area that essentially boils down to irritating the people of a small town. It's as great as it sounds.
The reason Untitled Goose Game has managed to earn itself a spot as one of 2019's games of the year is simple: it's just plain fun. Anyone that has ever dealt with geese before can attest to the fact that they really can be mischievous and frustrating, and there's something inherently joyous about being able to take on that role. It's the kind of concept that feels truly unique to video games, and it really speaks to the strength of the medium as a whole.
Since the dawn of FMV and cut scenes, there's seemingly been an effort to make the video game industry closer to the movie industry. As graphics continue to improve and games employ Hollywood actors for both voice work and likenesses, the line between what constitutes a game versus an interactive film can often get muddied. An experience like Untitled Goose Game is a celebration of games as games, and no matter how you feel about where the industry is going, there's something to be said for that.
Everything that works in Untitled Goose Game can be summed up by its minimalist approach, including the game's title, or lack thereof. When Untitled Goose Game was first announced, many questioned whether the game would receive a more "traditional" name. Thankfully, the folks behind it kept that lack of name. Like everything else regarding the game, it simply fits.
The graphics and music are equally subdued. The game isn't a powerhouse in the graphics department, but the style, with its muted colors, really fits the game's mellow tone. There are no "deaths" in Untitled Goose Game. When a person in town catches the goose (you) doing something bad, they simply take the item away, or fix the situation, regardless of how much honking you might do. In that manner, it's almost kind of realistic in its depiction of humanity's relationship with nature (though I suppose some humans might decide to boil an irritating goose if pressed enough). The music adds to the atmosphere, with some gentle piano that starts to play when the Goose gets busted.
When it comes to "Best of the Year" lists, they're often populated with major franchise iterations, because those are often the games with the biggest production values and end up played by the largest number of people. Despite the small development team and budget, Untitled Goose Game managed to find itself a major audience, breaking through not only as a successful video game, but also as a certified pop culture hit.
It's not unheard of for an indie game to breakthrough in the same way Untitled Goose Game managed; games like Shovel Knight, Undertale, and more have gone on to become some of the biggest games in the world, despite their smaller budgets and origins. With its fun and unique gameplay and its minimalist style, Untitled Goose Game has not only earned its place on the list of the best games from 2019, but it has also more broadly earned a seat at the table with the industry's indie greats.