2022 Community Game of the Year

Just the quick list:

1. Immortality
2. Marvels midnight suns
3. Elden ring
4. The pedestrian
5. Stanley parable ultimate deluxe
6. Stray
7. Return to monkey island
8. Immortals Fenyx rising
9. Spiritfarer
10. Ghost song

Many thanks to pyxistyx, Stealthpizza, bobbywatson, and MulderTPC!! Your votes have been tallied, and a special shout out to pyxistyx, because it looks like I'll have to play The Excavation of Hobbs Barrow, it looks very cool!!

I can't have Marvel Snap be my only nomination for this year!

I dabbled and bounced off a couple of very old 'new to me' games, but I should be able to spend some real time with Immortality before the cut off.

Mostly just played Guild Wars 2 when I've had time as usual.

So anyway, this is just me persuading myself to try play something else for the rest of the month.

I don't have time to write more descriptions, y'all are lucky to get this much.

1. Spiritfarer - Android
Simply the most delightful, cozy, and heartwarming game I have played in a long time. You must help some wonderful animal spirit characters complete some quests before they can rest and then take their spirits to the next world, all while crafting and expanding the boat you use to sail around the spirit world and some light platforming elements to gain some resources and light farming, fishing, milling, and smelting. It's so chill and sweet and exactly what I need after a long day. Also it's free with a Netlfix subscription!

2. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga - Xbox One
A great remake from start to finish, and one of the first games my daughter attempted to play with me. She loved jumping up and down, punching blocks, and telling me where to go. Split-screen, 3rd person view was a little weird at first, but worked after a while.

3. Diablo: Immortal - Android

4. NEO: The World Ends With You - PS4

5. Cloudpunk - Xbox

6. Eve Echoes - Android

7. Marvel Snap - Android

8. Slice and Dice - Android

9. Clusterduck - Android

10. Token Ranbu ONLINE Pocket - Android

Mixolyde wrote:

8. Slice and Dice - Android

I love hearing of people who enjoyed Slice and Dice. It's such a great mobile game. I need to pick it up again because I haven't played it since the last major update.

Prepare for my self-indulgent ramblings!

I'm pretty happy to see the end of 2022. There were some cool stuff - probably the biggest on a personal level was my eldest kid starting kindergarten, which has been a huge boom to her personal development and personality. Her growth has been incredible and I couldn't be more proud of the person she's becoming.

On the flipside, I have been having something of a mental health crisis. Probably the less said about that the better (aside from the fact that I'm getting better). Here's hoping for a better 2023.

Just the list.


1. Immortality
2. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
3. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
4. New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe
5. Elden Ring
6. Ghostwire: Tokyo
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
8. Bowser's Fury
9. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
10. Binary Domain

The list with too many words.


1. Immortality
Each year there's one or two games that I play that become more than just a fun way to pass the time. The sorts of games that I'll think about when I'm not gaming, ones that stick with me. This year, it's Immortality. This is the game that Sam Barlow's been threatening to make since he went indie. Where Her Story and Telling Lies were somewhat testing the limits of the FMV genre, Immortality pushes those limitations to the extreme. Transcends them, even.

The premise is fairly simple. Marissa Marcel is an actress who filmed three movies, none of which were released. And that’s all anyone knows about her. Years later, footage from the films (plus footage from rehearsal, casting, script readings etc) are discovered. It's your job to piece together what happened to Marissa. You do this by unlocking more clips via match-cut - i.e. click-on, say, a clock, and you be taken to another clip with a clock. It might not sound like much, but let's just say there's levels to it. This game is about a lot more than just Marissa Marcel.

To say anything more specific than this is dangerous, because this is a game best explored on your own, with as little knowledge as possible. (And on that note, DO NOT READ IGN'S REVIEW! They completely spoil the single greatest reveal in the game.) Give it a an hour or two, feel your way around.

So I'll leave it at that. A truly unique experience - one of those rare games that stays with me long after I've finished with it. And given the final words of the game, that's entirely appropriate.

2. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

It took waaaay too long for me to understand some of the fundamentals of the systems in the game. Don't drink and learn a new JRPG, kids! But when it all clicked, it was a great feeling. It doesn't help that the tutorials in this game are either misleading or plain wrong, and there's no way to re-watch them.

It's quite a different combat concept. Whereas the first game was mostly about learning a characters place in the team party, this game is about building up your various meters across the whole team in order to reach a huge final payoff. It's quite a unique approach (at least to me), which may be why I took so long to figure it out.

The world is absolutely amazing, as you'd expect from Monolith Soft. The world is an endless sea, with land-masses built on the backs of Titans - creatures that are anything from small to gargantuan. It's constantly amazing to look at.

The characters are endearing - even the ones that originally might seem grating. Except Tora. Well paced too - there's constant movement, twists, revelations, resolutions and character development. Despite the huge amount of world-building, it’s all in service of telling the story of these characters. And it’s just so consistent – rare in a game of this size and scope.

Regardless of any positive things I have to say about this game, I will be glad to never hear "meeeh-meeeh-meeeeeeeeeeeh" ever again.

3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Apparently Jungle Freeze is Retro Studios making a DK Country game with all the extra ideas they couldn't stuff into DK Country Returns. Similar to Mario Galaxy 2's take on Mario Galaxy, I guess. And it shows. They’ve taken the already brilliant DK Country Returns and built a whole new game full of interesting ideas and new features. It does the classic Nintendo thing where each level introduces a new mechanic or feature, teaches you how to perfect it, then turn it on its head. And it does it for each level. Surely must be one of the best all time 2D platformers.

4. New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe
Another that was originally on the Wii-U. I know the New Super Mario Bros have something of a reputation for being low effort, yet solid games, so I was expecting to have a bit of simple mindless fun. What I wasn’t expecting was a game that takes all the best ideas of Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World, adds a bunch of new stuff and wraps it all up in a nice, slick package.

If I was forced to rank 2D Mario games, this one would probably #2 behind Super Mario Bros 3.

5. Elden Ring
This is a hard one for me to rate and write about. I just haven’t put enough time into it. For some reason, I bought this and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 around about the same time. I tried to keep them both going at the same time, but eventually this one lost out to Xenoblade. I just like Xenoblade a lot more.

But this is still a damn impressive game. I’ve had a rocky history with Dark Souls. I loved the first, until I hit a difficulty wall that I just couldn’t pass, so I stopped. With 2, I lost interest fairly quickly. Never bothered with 3. Still, this intrigued me a lot until I eventually gave in. I’m glad I did. It delivers what I loved about Dark Souls, but also makes it a little more player-friendly. You have more control over how difficult the game is, and it’s much less punishing on death.

6. Ghostwire: Tokyo
This is a bit of a hard one to rank, as it does so much good, but really falls short in a lot of other ways.

I was keen to play this after spending last year playing both Evil Within games. This one’s quite different though. It’s not a horror game per se, but it’s horror themed. It’s also an open-world FPS with magic instead of guns. For the first third of the game, you’re actually quite limited in how much you can explore, seeing as the world is covered in instant-kill fog.

Combat actually feels quite solid. I don’t know how to describe it, like it’s tangible, kinetic, visceral or something. Like you feel the attacks you perform.

Really appreciate that it’s an open-world collect-a-thon with a relatively short running time – you can finish in around 20 hours or so. Very heavy on the Japanese culture and folklore too, so much so that parts of it felt almost educational.

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Much has been made about how faithful this is to both the original cartoon series, and the Turtles in Time arcade game. And that is true - it is super faithful and is sure to be a treat for all TMNT fans. But you could strip all of that away and you'd still have one hell of a beat-em-up. It does exactly what I want out of a beat-em-up - it's shallow enough for button mashing to be viable, deep enough for harder difficulties/huge combo's. There's lots of variety and really beautiful artwork, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Just a big load of fun.

It's not just a 90's throwback though - it does a lot to modernise the game. And a large part of that modernisation means there's no cheap and nasty, quarter-stealing impossible bosses in this, as was common in a lot (all?) of 90's arcade beat-em-ups. Just that alone makes a huge difference. It's a game that wants you to see everything it has to offer.

8. Bowser’s Fury
I guess one way to explain how great Bowser’s Fury is, is that I let my mum borrow it something like 10 months ago and she hasn’t given it back yet.

I’m not convinced the open-world structure would work well for a full size 3D Mario (would be happy to be proven wrong though), but I like it in bite-size form. It really elevates the ‘virtual playground’ feel that the 3D Mario’s often have.

9. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Possibly the ultimate version of Mario Kart. That’s probably all that needs to be said, I guess.

I guess maybe it's a little too much? There's something to be said for the simplicity of MK 64, where you didn't need to pick a driver, kart/bike, wheels and wings and consider how each of those options affects the other.

10. Binary Domain
I played this because I wanted to mindlessly shoot stuff, and had heard this was a real hidden gem. I can confirm it kind of is. It's great, but not quite 'hidden gem' territory, but it's also not mindless. It has a fairly generic storyline, hitting most of what you'd expect from a story featuring robots that are borderline indistinguishable from humans (i.e. a watered-down Blade Runner). The shooting has a cool mechanic where you can shoot off a robots head/limbs and they respond accordingly. This never gets old.

There's also this squad mechanic where you build trust with your teammates through making the right conversation choices and by performing well. Theoretically, the more trust they have, the more they'll follow your orders. Except the orders you give are pretty shallow and meaningless. Also, half of your team will disappear for most of the game for story reasons. There's no warning this will happen so without knowing beforehand, it's almost a gamble as to who you'll actually have time to bond with. This affects the ending too, which is a bit of a shame. Still, even though I didn't get the 'best' ending, I actually preferred it to what the actual best ending was intended to be.

Anyway, this is a high quality yet mid-tier (if that makes sense) PS3 cover shooter from the same team that made the Yakuza games and if just that alone is not enough to tempt you, then you probably won't like this game. But if that does raise some curiosity, it's worth checking out. Hopefully you'll like it just as much as I did.

Honourable mentions:


Super Metroid
This didn't make the list, because I'd played it before. It gets an honourable mention because this is the first time I've actually finished it. It moves a little clunky, and the controls are overly convoluted (seriously, the GBA ones had less buttons but less convoluted controls), but it's an absolute masterpiece of level design. The way the game teaches you how to play and tells a story, all with no tutorials or dialog is a standard that modern games still aspire to. It's not just an old game that holds up, it's still one of the best in genre.

Riley & Rochelle
A logic/deduction game that tells the story of two 90’s music stars and how their lives intertwine. It’s a niche game, not for everyone, but it’s exactly my niche.

This is a game of two halves. I really loved the first half, I wasn't too interested in the last.

Basically, I loved it when it was a very mysterious and interesting take on 2D Zelda. But it reached a point where it became some kind of meta puzzle thing, like the last parts of Fez, or The Witness, and that's where I abandonded it. Don't get me wrong - the puzzles are extremely clever, but they're just not my thing. It's something I just looked up videos of later and said "oh man, that's neat".

I love the 'instruction manual' gimmick. Where you find pages of the instruction manual for the game, in the game. It does some really great things with this mechanic. I just wish it wasn't so invested on the whole meta thing.

Lucifer Within Us
A great little mystery solver with some novel ideas. With only three levels, it's quite short, but they do a lot in that short run-time. I really wish it was fleshed out into a full game, but that's likely to never happen.

Astalon: Tears of the Earth
Yeah, it’s a retro-styled metroidvania, hardly original. But it’s a really good one! Has some really interesting ideas that are probably a little spoilery to talk about, but if you’re a fan of the genre, well worth looking into. Another one of those 'the less you know, the better' sort of things.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Story
It's a lot of fun, with a huge amount to see. It's just all a little too same-y though. Good for switching your brain off and having a laugh though.

Grapple Dog
You're a dog with a grapple hook! It's a bit Sonic, a bit Wario Land. I didn’t play this one anywhere near as much as it deserves. Hopefully next year.

Short list:


1. The Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
2. Norco
3. Last Call BBS
4. The Last of Us 2
5. Hitman 3
6. Crusader Kings III
7. Black Book
8. Hades
9. The Excavation of Hob's Barrow
10. Prestige Tree

Long list:


10. Prestige Tree
I would never have expected a free, browser-based clicker game to make my top ten, but here we are. Most clicker games are exercises in patience or, more likely, tedium and in-app purchase purgatory. Prestige Tree, on the other hand, is more like a logic puzzle. It rarely takes more than thirty seconds to accumulate the required points to take the next step, but the challenge is in figuring out the correct settings to reach the next unlock.
It’s impossible to overstate just how badly this game ate my brain for the week or two it took me to finish it. I had it open on my phone so that I could play it every time I had a spare moment. Even looking up the link to add it to this post sucked me back into playing again. Send help!

9. The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow
A great adventure game in the classic point-and-click style, but thankfully without any nonsensical, time-wasting puzzles. The story is a simple yet effective classic Lovecraftian horror. The writers do a great job of bringing the remote English village of Bewlay to life and filling it with an array of memorable characters.

8. Hades
I’m very late to the party on this one, but it deserves the praise it’s gotten. The mechanics are perfectly balanced and refined so that even on your hundredth run, it still feels fresh and challenging. I’ve seen the credits and the epilogue, but I’m still playing to get all the achievements, max out all the relationships and squeeze every drop of gaming juice out of this one.

7. Black Book
The mechanics of this game are pretty fun: a card-based battler inside an RPG complete with companions, side quests and branching story paths. What sets it apart is the setting. Black Book is based in rural Eastern Europe in the late 1800s, and you play a novice witch in an era when the modern world is just starting to encroach on these remote villages.
The sparse but evocative art, the detailed descriptions of traditional witchcraft practices, and the inclusion of authentic folk music create a haunting and memorable sense of time and place. It’s great to see this done for a setting that has rarely, if ever, been treated in video games before.

6. Crusader Kings III
Or, as I like to call it, Cousin f*cker Simulator III. Sure, the idea is to guide your dynasty through the medieval era, expanding your duchy into a kingdom and then into an empire. But we all know that this game is really about: that crucial moment when your heir dies unexpectedly and your daughter inherits the throne. Unfortunately, all her children are members of another dynasty (damn male preference inheritance!), which means you’re about to lose the game unless you change something fast. And the only way to quickly earn enough prestige to change your inheritance law is to discreetly murder your spouse and get remarried to your 12-year-old cousin. Guess I’m f*cking my cousin!

5. Hitman 3
The formula is getting pretty old now, but it still delivers. On the one hand, there’s the satisfaction of gradually exploring and mastering each new map until you feel ready to attempt the Silent Assassin, Suit Only challenge. On the other hand, there’s the constant deadpan comedy of watching Agent 47 disguise himself as a fashion model, winemaker or nightclub DJ and play the part in his signature monotone, delivering murder-related puns, And finally, killing your target in an appropriately ludicrous way.

4. The Last of Us 2
I get the criticism: the constant violence and ugliness of the game’s world does become oppressive, and the overarching story was quite predictable. But nevertheless, it still really worked for me. The climactic moments gave me chills and left me with a lot of moments that, for better or worse, will stay in my head for a long time.

3. Last Call BBS
Zachtronics were the masters of programming and logic games. Their final release was a collection of small-scale games that would have been quite slight on their own, but bundled together, were a lot of fun. The traditional programming puzzles, 20th Century Food Court and Chipwizard Professional are the obvious high points. 20th Century Food Court especially has a lot of fun with its goofy setting: A historical theme park where people of the far future attempt (poorly) to recreate modern-day foods.

2. Norco
The bones of this game might be that of a point-and-click adventure, but the genre is actually just a vehicle for an eerie, surreal journey through a dystopian near-future. The writing is fantastic, and its beautiful pixel art and haunting soundtrack (featuring the brilliant Thou!) create an incredible sense of atmosphere.

1. The Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
Handily my best gaming experience of the year. The developers have really finely honed the approach of the base game. The time loop conceit means that every bit of progress in the game is something that you could have done right from the beginning, if only you had had the right knowledge, leading to numerous ‘mind-blown’ moments. The puzzles are also smartly designed, so you get that really satisfying feeling of being clever when you solve them. Plus, the story is much deeper and more moving than you might initially expect from the light-hearted, goofy tone.

Points for effort
Troubleshooter: Abandoned Children has a bit too much anime bullsh*t to make my list, but man, am I in awe of just how much game they’ve managed to jam in here. Gameplay systems stacked upon systems and a huge, sprawling cast of characters in an epic 100+ hour story. *Slow clap for the developers*

What a weird year. On any given day I could swap around the order of the top 4, but then it’s a real steep drop-off after that point. I also note that there is not a single Switch game on my list for probably the first time since 2017, and that's because it's been entirely taken over by my kids.

My daughter (10yo) played Animal Crossing a few years ago, but otherwise had not shown much interest until one of the boys who she swims with started talking to her about Breath of the Wild, which she has now gotten really into. It's been amusing watching her run into what I'll call 'the language of gaming' for the first time. In addition to struggling with the 3d camera controls initially, she also did things like:

  • Refused to read the diary of the old man on the plateau because that's private.
  • Refused to steal from even the bokoblin camps because obviously it belonged to them.

I was convinced that she'd never make it off the plateau, but she's actually managed to take down 2 of the Divine Beasts at this point. Then my 5yo has been obsessed with Mario Kart ('Mario Car') and Cars3, which is a terrible racing game that appears to have no idea that it's a game for little kids and thus has none of the racing-aid options that you get in other games. Luckily, he also fought through his 3d camera control issues and no longer needs me to help him play the game.

Top 10:

Just the list:

1. Midnight Suns
2. Conquest of Elysium 5
3. Baldur’s Gate
4. Citizen Sleeper
5. Aggressors: Ancient Rome
6. Divinity: Original Sin 2
7. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
8. Tunic
9. Avernum: Escape from the Pit
10. MLB: The Show 22

More detailed descriptions:


1. Midnight Suns (PC): This one is a bit of a shock. Not only do I have no history with Marvel properties – the first Toby Maguire SpiderMan in the late 90s is the only Marvel thing I’ve ever seen – but I was also pretty skeptical that Firaxis could pull off the writing required for an RPG. Early reviews describing this as more Fire Emblem: Three Houses and less XCOM almost put me off buying it entirely. But I did buy it, because the XCOM games are some of my favorites and at the very least I assumed I’d get some enjoyment out of the tactical engine. And I have! The Slay the Spire + Into the Breach combat is incredible. There’s no better feeling than surveying the combat arena and what’s currently in your hand of cards and slowly putting together a plan that’ll allow you to clear the entire arena in one turn. The combat here really is good enough to support its own mode/game. I’d definitely pay for a new mode with a Slay the Spire style campaign where you pick 3 characters and go through a series of tactical battles.

Anyway, the fact that I’m enjoying the combat portion isn’t really a surprise given who the devs are. The surprising thing is that I’m loving the between-mission RPG story stuff. I feel like the smartest decision Firaxis made was in realizing how dumb the very concept of superheroes is and leaning all the way in. It would have come across much worse had they gone the other way and made everything super-serious and dramatic. Also, having no history with these characters means they might as well be the made-up characters in any other RPG I’ve played, which has been great.

2. Conquest of Elysium 5 (PC): A distilled 4X/wargame with automated battles between very asymmetric factions. Oh, and it looks like it’s still using the art assets from the original release in the late 80s. As a long-time listener of Three Moves Ahead, I knew of Illwinter’s games, but pretty much entirely in the context of the Dominions series, which has always seemed too complicated and focused on multiplayer, which really isn’t something I have time for. When 3MA covered Conquest of Elysium 5, I was immediately fascinated by the design, and was looking for something to play in short(er) chunks and it sounded perfect. I posted some longer impressions here, and re-reading that now, I think it pretty accurately captures how I feel about the game.

I recently had a Dragon Age video on in the background as I did some work and I was reminded of how fleshed out the lore of those games was. But at the end of the video my thought wasn’t that I should play those games again. Rather, I thought ‘I bet the Demonologist in CoE5 has some pretty cool summon spells to play with’.

3. Baldur’s Gate (PC): Yes, the original. Or the enhanced edition of the original anyways. Fallout was actually the first of these older cRPGs that I played, but even that wasn’t until ~2010 or so. I tried Baldur’s Gate shortly thereafter and played for about an hour before moving on to something else. But this year, I finally finished Pillars of Eternity (see below), and that experience spurred me on to check out some of the classics. I’m not done with the game yet, but I’m closing in on the end of chapter 4, so I think I’ve got a decent chance of completing it. Interestingly, I’ve found the combat in this game far more readable than in Pillars, a game in which I eventually dropped the difficulty to story mode just to get through it.

I’ve also mentioned in one of the cRPG threads that I’m now fascinated by the alternate history in which I actually bought this game back in 1999 rather than just reading the back of the box every time I was in my local CompUSA and then got really into cRPGs rather than strategy games.

4. Citizen Sleeper (PC): As mentioned in the intro, on any random day I might have listed this as my favorite game of the year. There’s not really a ton of gameplay here – it’s basically a short dice-based time management game with sci-fi story on top. A very well-written sci-fi story that had me hooked from the start.

5. Aggressors: Ancient Rome (PC): I’ve owned this one for a few years at this point, and only put about 10 minutes into it because I was really put off by the grand-strategy-ness of it when I was expecting a Roman-themed 4x. I took another crack at it this year while in the right head-space and found a surprisingly enjoyable strategy/wargame. It’s definitely a grand strategy game, but with just enough 4x-ness to make it easy for someone with way more 4x experience to get into. There are also two distinct modes – one learning more towards the 4x side of things, where everyone starts with a city or two on a random map, and one that’s more grand strategy, with factions starting in real-world locations with a set number of territories. Both are fun, and the grand strategy mode is lighter and easier to get into than something like Imperator.

6. Divinity: Original Sin 2 (PC): I played 20 hours of this and got into chapter 2 before putting it down because of a bunch of small annoyances: the in-game economy seems to depend on you stealing stuff constantly, how terrible the map is, the poor journal/quest log, the fact that the story (such as there is one) failed to grab me, etc. It was pretty much just the combat that pulled me through act 1. Despite the complaints I have, finishing up Pillars of Eternity and heading that direction with Baldur’s Gate has gotten me into enough of a cRPG mood that I do want to go back to this one, but I think I’ll play the first game first, assuming a decent sale price sometime soon.

7. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun (PC): This game got real hard, real fast. It was an interesting experience until that point, though. I have no history with the Commandos games, so wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s basically an RTS where you have just a few units who do stealthy things. Pretty puzzle-y too. It feels real good when you perfectly execute a plan to take down multiple enemies simultaneously, but on the harder, longer levels it’s a whole lot of reloading quicksaves and trying to get things perfect. Maybe something I’ll return to at some point to see if I can get a bit further.

8. Tunic (PC): Cute. The game’s puzzles were maybe a bit too obfuscated for its own good. I did appreciate the accessibility options that were provided given how difficult some of the bosses could be. I never finished it, but enjoyed my time and don’t necessarily feel like I missed anything by not finishing.

9. Avernum: Escape from the Pit (PC): I’ve always appreciated Jeff Vogel’s openness when it comes to the realities of being a small indie developer, but until this year had never actually played one of his games. As part of my cRPG kick, I picked up and started playing this one. I’m continuing to progress through it, but it’s big and I’ve always been playing other games in addition to this one, so it might take a while. But it’s enjoyable and has all the things I think I’d look for in an indie cRPG. Like Baldur’s Gate above, I can imagine these games really blowing my mind had I been exposed to them back in the 90s.

10. MLB: The Show 22 (Switch): It has been at least a decade since I last played a version of The Show, and I definitely played it on the worst possible system, but I got it at a deep discount and … I dunno. It’s fine. I guess I don’t really know what sports games are anymore. There are like 30 modes in this game and most of them tie into the ultimate team (or whatever The Show calls their version of it) stuff, which might be of interest to me if I understood what it was other than a way to get people to part with more money. I also found that my opinions about the game of baseball being played here hadn’t changed much – that is, I don’t think The Show replicates the feel of baseball very well. The Super Mega Baseball series, of all things, does a much better job at producing something that despite looking cartoony, feels like I’m watching an actual game of baseball. I think I’ve talked myself into dropping this game down a few notches (was originally 6 on my list).

Honorable Mention:

  • Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC): Probably my actual game of the year had I not played a few hours of it last year before bouncing off. Half-way through this year I figured out that I was repeatedly playing a few hours, getting really into the story, and then going off to do some side activity and putting it down for several months after getting bored. So I decided to just play through the main story, and I ended up playing through all the non-DLC side content as well during that time and ended up really enjoying it. The game was beautiful, combat was … fine, but what really kept driving me forward was the story of how the apocalypse came about. This was the first time I’d come across this particular story and I thought it was great.
  • Pillars of Eternity (PC): I put 60 hours into this game back in 2018, and then the iMac I was playing it on died and I found out the hard way that Steam cloud saves for this game weren’t transferable to a different OS. At the beginning of the pandemic I rebuilt an old Mac Pro and then much later realized that I could download the game on there and then transfer the save over to my PC manually. It turned out that I was very close to the end of the game, so a few hours later I had reminded myself why I liked the game enough to put so much time into it previously and finished the game up. I’m looking forward to playing Pillars of Eternity: Deadfire in 2023.
  • Dark Souls 3 (PC): I think I put about 20 hours into this and have generally enjoyed it, but it’s never hooked me like the original game did. It also didn’t actively push me away like Dark Souls 2, so I guess that’s something. I imagine I’ll keep playing this off-and-on for a while, and maybe at some point it’ll show up on one of these lists like Horizon did above.
  • Imperator: Rome (PC): Put 10 hours or so into this at launch and then didn’t pick it up again til my time with Aggressors this year made me interested in seeing how this game turned out by the time Paradox abandoned it. And having now put in more time than I did initially, I’m pretty bummed that they did abandon it. Version 2.0 is a very enjoyable grand strategy game, and the only thing that’s really missing is giving flavor to the parts of the map that aren’t the major nations in the game. Luckily, the mod community is out there doing the work.

Enjoyed, But Need to Play More:

  • Jade Empire (PC): The only BioWare game missing from my play history. I put a few hours in earlier this year when I was looking for an RPG to play but it didn’t really scratch the itch I had so I moved on to more classic cRPG type games.
  • Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (PC): Saw the guys at Nextlander play this for a bit and that combined with my current (sloooowwwww) progress through Star Trek: TNG put me in the mood to pick this up when it was on sale at gog over the summer. It’s a pretty cool concept for an adventure game set in the ST universe, where each scenario you play through can be thought of as an episode of the show. I played through the first and only moved on because the laptop I was playing it on died and I haven’t replaced that couch-computing experience with anything yet.

The Rest:

  • Distant Worlds 2 (PC): Ugg. I didn’t even care that the economy was broken or whatever. I ended up most upset with the fact that they took the original game’s dozens of factions and dropped it to like 8 total so that they could include handcrafted narratives for them, a feature which I’m sure nobody asked for. The first game generated its own narratives by being an amazing systems-driven strategy game. If the original didn’t look terrible on a 4k monitor, I’d be playing that. Instead I’m playing neither of the games.
  • Immortals: Feynx Rising (PC): The game looks and sounds great, but the game suffers from Ubisoft’s open world design. A million icons for the same 4 activities in a fairly small world just pushes me away, as it has here for the second year in a row. Maybe when my daughter finishes Breath of the Wild I’ll see if she’s interested in this and then I can just watch her play.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved/Quake2 RTX (PC): I was briefly in the mood for an FPS, which is something I can’t say happens too often since they usually make me sick. Halo seemed alright, but I had a lot more fun Quake2 and then I moved on to other stuff.

Previous Lists:

Just the numbers.


1. Sifu
2. Horizon Forbidden West
3. Hardspace: Shipbreaker
4. Immortality
5. Slipways
6. Wildermyth
7. Nobody Saves the World
8. Mass Effect 2
9. Elden Ring
10. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

I explain why...


1. Sifu

It's a tough-but-fair martial arts brawler whose combat system hides a rhythm game under its trappings. It breaks you down, then makes you feel like a stupendous badass when you that one boss starts to seem a lot easier than they used to be. In other words, it's this year's Sekiro. It also has some of the most stunning visual design I've seen in any game, especially some of the sequences in the art museum. It's a small game but it's perfect.

2. Horizon Forbidden West

It caught a lot of criticism and oddly enough, I agree with almost all of it. The story doesn't have quite the same hook as the first game because the nature of the world has already been explained. The revamped combat piles on a lot of complexity: not one but two new mana bars, plus a new melee system that never clicked for me.

However, I dare you to point to another game this year in which you shoot pieces off of robot dinosaurs. Many of the setpieces and boss encounters top the original. And while the added systems do complexify the combat, they also achieve the intended goal of forcing me to change up my tactics and discover depth that I didn't bother with in the first game.

3. Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Slicing up spaceships in a zero-g physics playground, accidentally throwing yourself into the furnace when you miscalculate. The satisfaction of a job well done as you neatly pull a reactor without blowing yourself up. If that doesn't interest you, I don't know what else I can tell you. Oh wait, how about a story that will make you just angry enough to push through and win, building up to a delightful finale.

4. Immortality

Technically, there's not a lot of "game" here. There's that trick, and the other trick, and that's pretty much it. But the "oh wow" moments are the best in any game this year, and I had a lot of extra fun reading all the theories and analyses after "finishing" (and realizing there was much more to see, and jumping in again...).

5. Slipways

Where to start: reading the instructions, a page-by-page affair with animated examples. It's just simple enough and just fast enough that I could scan them, get the general idea, play several turns, and scan them again for what I missed. And that was it. The step-by-step tutorial is the industry standard these days but I found it refreshing to just jump in. There's even a generous undo button, so you can ask, "what if I try...?" without torching a run.

Which is all to say that this game has as bite-sized set of core mechanics. Some call it a "3X" because you explore/expand/exploit a growing network of worlds, without ever running into alien empires to fight. It's just you, your budget, and the limited patience of the people who might one day live on all those planets. Oh, and the the council assignments, and the tech tree, and all the curveballs it throws in the story campaign. Many of them suspend or upend the core resource balance, letting you feel like you're getting away with something even as you're barely balancing everything. It's been a long time since I've seen such elemental simplicity grows into such a tangled tree of interesting decisions.

6. Wildermyth

In last year's thread I called this my, "How did I miss this?" of the year. Now that I've played it... yeah. Emergent storytelling is my jam and this is has it in spades. The key, shared with my beloved Crusader Kings (I just said I like emergent stories), is that when you play through setbacks the story gets better as a result. A dying character can retreat and take a penalty for the rest of their career... or they can go out in a blaze of glory, giving the rest of your team the bonuses they need to turn a dicey situation around. We'll remember their name even when the survivors are into the next campaign.

After a while, the mechanisms do become visible beneath the surface, but even so it starts me wondering what could become of these ideas if the big-budget studios would dare to play with them. Until then, we have this.

7. Nobody Saves the World

Game industry take note: this is how you do a skill tree and an experience system. There are always multiple paths open to level, and they always involve exercising the mechanics that you've just unlocked. Which is something you were doing anyway. And then you mix and remix those mechanics to build the best character that works for you, feeling extra clever when two skills click perfectly together. And then a dungeon's local rules change the balance, so you open the hood and tinker some more.

My only quibble is that I don't care much for the art style, where just about everyone is a sad-sack caricature of an adventure character. I get they're here to deflate some heroic fantasy tropes, but I actually like looking cool.

8. Mass Effect 2

Yes, this is the first time I ever played it, part of the Legendary re-release.

It took me a few months of on-and-off attention to grind through the first game. I zipped through this one in a few weeks. The first had a sleepy intro; this one starts off with the fireworks. I usually like to skip a certain percentage of side quests, but after a few character missions I decided the variety, creativity, and sense of wonder were so strong that I was in for the rest. The result feels more like an anthology than any other Bioware game I've played (Mass Effect 3 comes close but the overarching plot is "louder" in that one, for better or for worse).

I'm still not sure what to say about the combat. I understand that there are people out there who like cover-based shooters. I am not one of those people.

9. Elden Ring

It's not Sekiro. (See Sifu, above.) Last year I played Sekiro for the first time, loved it, and wondered if I had finally been converted to FromSoft fandom. Yes and no. There's no denying the open world and the Dark Souls formula go together like peanut butter and chocolate, allowing you to break off and explore somewhere else when you get stuck (but why do I always end up poking around Caelid?).

But I don't think Souls combat is ever going to win me over the way Sekiro's did, and I don't know what to think about how my sidequest experience improved markedly after I started playing with a walkthrough open in my lap. (Talk to this person, now find they've warped over to this other area that you never would have thought to revisit, now defeat this seemingly unrelated boss BUT NOT THAT OTHER ONE THAT WILL FAIL THE QUEST...)

Forbidden West came in for a lot of criticism for its excessive handholding, but Elden Ring can be just as aggravating in the other direction. If only someone would make an open world game that offered some guidance without becoming overbearing. (Someone did, it was called Breath of the Wild, everyone loved it.)

10. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Easily the best in the series (Pirate's Curse has its fans but I choose Shantae's transformation dances over loot-based advancement). The dances are back, and there are a lot of them. There are also a lot of little shout-outs to some classic NES shooters and platformers. The story is scatterbrained even by Shantae's standards, but that's fine.

There are also a lot of alternate game modes that shout, "we hit all our stretch goals!" Play as the villain, play as your friends, play in a ninja costume, play in your pajamas... They're fun to try, but since you start with your full suite of powers you don't get that progression reward cycle. I still haven't gone back to finish them.

Highly Honorable Mentions


Mass Effect 3

This one falls somewhere between the first and the second for me, which I gather is the conventional wisdom. There was more strong storytelling, but the anthology approach that worked so well in 2 feels a little awkward here, considering there's a full-scale war raging the whole time. And there's so much self-referential humor, I had to stop and roll my eyes a few times. I gather most, but not all of that comes from the Citadel DLC, which was the trilogy blowing kisses at the audience on its way off the stage. Actually, it was kind of fun as I played (both this and ME2) to try to guess which quests were DLC and which where in the base game.

Triangle Strategy

This game sure likes to hear itself talk. The battles are pretty good, though.


Infuriating and captivating. If I had finished it, it might have found a spot in the top ten. It really does feel good to play, even when I'm fuming about the death of a promising run. I'm still plugging away...

Citizen Sleeper

The stories and board game-esque mechanics are great. My only problem, ironically, is that I became so fixated on one particular story that, once I got its happy ending, I didn't feel a need to explore any of the other possibilities.

I Was a Teenage Exocolonist

I could quibble with of the game mechanics. Skills seem too separated from the card-based resolution system, and some skill bonuses are vital while others are just, "uh, okay." But in the end I played through three times to see different events and outcomes. The alien world is colorful and weird in a good way, and its mysteries are fascinating. And the characters are charming and sweet. I don't want anything bad to happen to them, which might explain the multiple playthroughs...

Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Some light puzzling that only occasionally stumped me, and rarely for long enough to slow me down (the phone booths are a clever idea, especially with dad trying to grab the phone). Some amazing boss fights, more for the spectacle than for the challenge. And a very warm and encouraging story about anxiety and imposter syndrome. Its "yes you can" message has me doodling in Procreate again.


It's only been out a week, but I can tell you it's not just a city-builder in space. There's a big story, which ties into the unlocking game mechanics. It's also unforgiving. There's a particular order you'll need to build and do things, and you can lock yourself into a resource death spiral without even knowing it. But between the story, and the satisfaction of mastering that deeply complex resource system, I'm finding it's worth a few retries.

Also, its resource discovery system feels like what Bioware was reaching for with the Mass Effect 2 planetary scanner, which I was not expecting.

Death Stranding

In the plus column, this is the best open-world traversal I've ever experienced. The rest of the game industry trends toward easier traversal: you can climb anything in Assassin's Creed, Elden Ring has that double-jumping horse, and Forbidden West tried to improve the climbing with decidedly mixed results. So it takes a madman like Kojima to say, no, traversal should be harder, and thereby more rewarding.

I was almost ready to put it in my top ten, but the writing really wears me down after a while. At first I was on board for its endearingly earnest physically realized metaphors, but it just got sillier as I went along, and I was laughing at it by the end.

billt721 wrote:

Honorable Mention:


[*]Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC): Probably my actual game of the year had I not played a few hours of it last year before bouncing off. Half-way through this year I figured out that I was repeatedly playing a few hours, getting really into the story, and then going off to do some side activity and putting it down for several months after getting bored.

Given the general rules of the GotY thread, I think this should / could count as your #1 for this year.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
billt721 wrote:

Honorable Mention:


[*]Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC): Probably my actual game of the year had I not played a few hours of it last year before bouncing off. Half-way through this year I figured out that I was repeatedly playing a few hours, getting really into the story, and then going off to do some side activity and putting it down for several months after getting bored.

Given the general rules of the GotY thread, I think this should / could count as your #1 for this year.

I shoulda been a bit more explicit on the number of hours there. If I bounced after 1 or 2 while still in the tutorial area, that'd be one thing (like say, Baldur's Gate above that I put about an hour into a decade ago), but this was like 15 hours. That's way beyond my 'new to me' threshold.

Maybe I was dumb(er) back when it came out or didn't read the tutorials, but I really liked the combat in Jade Empire after learning how the combos worked and how the passive abilities of your party work if you have them in support and not attack mode. I don't remember if this takes a while, but I thought they also did a nice job with the twists the way they used to around that era.

Thanks for the write ups! Enjoy reading and looking into these games.

As always, putting these games in a final order pained me greatly. In many ways they all belong in the top five and several of them deserve to be crowded into the number one slot. My write up for each game is in the spoiler tags. One or two are my impressions of the game itself, others are something a bit different that was inspired by the game concerned. I attempted to keep each item smaller and more ‘bitesized’ this year, with mixed results.

On my list I’ve added a note to indicate which games were played co-op as it can often make a huge difference to how enjoyable a title is. A game a friend and I had a lot of fun playing together might have flaws or shortcomings that are harder to over look when played solo.

Names only list:


1. Elden Ring
2. Ghost of Tsushima
3. Days Gone
4. Wordle
5. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
6. Slay the Spire
7. The Ascent
8. Darkwood
9. Stray
10. RÖKI

1. Elden Ring (solo and co-op)

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Published 1954)


Health Warning: This write up contains at least one ridiculously long sentence. Take breaths where necessary.

If you told me that, behind a particularly obscure illusory wall in Dark Souls, there was a dark hallway that led to a ladder which, if climbed, took you up through a hatchway into an abandoned chapel and that, standing in the debris strewn interior of that chapel, there was an npc called Bertrund who, if I could offer him the severed big toe of Bertrundi his twin brother, would, whilst giggling to himself in a disconcerting manner, ask me to continue the quest his brother had been singularly obsessed with and that, when I consented to complete that quest in his brother’s stead, he would proceed to unlock and slowly push open a door which would allow me to step through into the earliest areas of Elden Ring, dominated as they are by the vast, golden Erdtree, I would, on some level, be inclined to believe you, so perfectly has Elden Ring recaptured the spirit of that first Dark Souls game.

In the many castles, dungeons, mines and crypts scattered throughout Elden Ring’s gorgeous world, the core gameplay I’ve come to adore in From games is present and correct. That exquisite tension as you move forward into the intimidating unknown, searching for an as yet undiscovered point of sanctuary. The growing stakes of each encounter as the amount of currency you’re carrying grows and your reserves of health dwindle. It’s a style of exploration that is thrilling but one that can, over the course of an entire game, become quite stressful. Thankfully, in Elden Ring, that constant low level tension is diluted by an open world in which, whilst mounted, there is always the option to gallop away from any enemies you don’t like the look of.

Retaining the core elements of the From formula whilst vastly expanding the game world in intelligent and considerate ways has resulted in Elden Ring gaining a exponentially larger audience than previous From titles. It’s been a delight to witness the game’s meteoric rise and a joy to hear the experiences of new players, to read the reviews, follow the multifarious streams and generally bask in the enthusiasm and positivity surrounding the game.

What a world
Very occasionally a game will come along that recaptures the excitement and intensity of your earliest gaming experiences, a game that is so fun and engaging that it makes you question how much you were actual enjoying all the other games you played recently and reminds you just how glorious video games can be. Elden Ring is one of those games for me.

Every time I galloped my goat horse across the various spectacular regions of the world it felt like a true adventure. One on which I was, from moment to moment, intrigued, horrified or delighted by what I found. From sleeping dragons startled awake by my noisy arrival to friendly, book reading giants; from castles full of homicidal appendages to a beautiful song, born on the wind from an unknown source. Every new zone was more impressive than the last and I couldn’t wait to witness and interact with the astonishing vistas, intractable enemies and invaluable treasures that awaited me.

The ruby pommel atop of this finely honed Zweihander is the co-op. From the moment Spikeout and I finally figured out who needed to write on the ground with what mummified body part and which oddly named powder the other needed to scatter in order to see said writing, we were having a blast. There are countless highlights from our many co-op sessions: Shymlark confidently demonstrating a seemingly impossible jump across the rooftops of Stormveil only to plummet spectacularly to his death, Spikeout and I having a disconcerting amount of success taking out a steady stream of invaders in Liurnia of the Lakes, climbing the worlds tallest ladder with Shymlark in order to challenge the Falling Starbeast in it’s still soldering impact crater; eventually defeating it by inflicting it with scarlet rot then dodging it’s devastating, gravity based attacks long enough for it to die of ‘natural causes’ and helping Spikeout to take down the golden sentinel knight who, with an excessive amount of tenacity and zeal, guarded the entrance to the Royal City of Leyndell and finally getting to stand and take in the vastness of said city, sprawled magnificently, as it is, at the base of the Erdtree.

Below are three videos that will hopefully offer a small taste of our adventures. The first two feature Shymlark and I learning the Malenia fight and the third is a fight Spikeout and I had against an oofing great (technical term) dragon that was interrupted, in a very calculated manner, by a low down, dirty invader.

Language warning: NSFW language, including several impassioned references to testicles.

2. Ghost of Tsushima
Makabe Rokurōta: How about a duel?
Hyoe Tadokoro: With pleasure.
- The Hidden Fortress (1958)


I shall express my overwhelmingly positive feelings for Ghost of Tsushima through the medium of poetry. More specifically, through haiku of varying quality. Having wrestled with a few I’ve come to realise that haiku are basically self inflicted word puzzles. You know roughly what you want to say, you have nowhere near enough syllables to say it in and you need to bridge that gap artfully, so that the resulting haiku doesn’t read like the poetic equivalent of a bulging suitcase that someone had to sit on in order to get it closed.

Riding with the wind,
as Jin, on a sea of grass,
a world before me.


Both swordsmen stand still;
the katana’s swift work done.
Blossom gently falls.


I ride a forest path,
..sunlight glinting through bamboo..
slowly, on horseback.


Bear in a thicket.
The samurai draws his bow
too late! Mauled to death.


As Jin’s bare backside
descends into a hot spring
his thoughts turn to home.


By Tadayori’s grave,
amid the chrysanthemums,
duelling blades spark.


Glowing green firefly
or insistent yellow bird.
Which should I follow?


Low sun, veiled in mist.
On the glistening mudflats
distant Mongols hunt.


In the drenching rain,
as waves clash with stubborn rock,
a duel on the shore.


Old memories bloom
as I ride with Yuriko.
Youth, sadness and love.


Paper prayers drift.
A samurai is waiting.

3. Days Gone
What the **** is wrong with that bear?!
- Beth, Cocaine Bear (2022)


Easy street
I arrived in the small town, centred around one, long, vehicle cluttered main street, with practically no ammo for the rifles and the pistol I was carrying. I had previously cleared the town of freakers (basically fast moving zombies) though so I wasn’t anticipating much need for them. I’d been tasked with finding a young girl seen surviving alone somewhere in the town. Once located I was to see if she was willing to relocate to the relative safety of a nearby settlement.

I found signs on the river bank were she could have recently gone to drink or fill water containers. From there I was following a trail past the ‘Hungry Jim’s’ pancake house when shouts, jeers and the roar of poorly maintained motorbike engines informed me that rippers had arrived in town.

Rippers are like minded community of heavily armed raiders who careen about the countryside on blood red motorbikes saving all they encounter via the twin gifts of torture and death. I ducked behind a car just too late to avoid them spotting me. After a smattering of reasonable aimed gunfire from both sides I decided I needed to prioritise a sniper who was overlooking the lower part of town from a hotel further up the street. The long range fight, waged around the edges of a small family car, left me with an empty sniper rifle. My assault rifle was already empty so I drew my pistol.

Any time I strayed out into the open for a brief moment several rippers would take shots at me. I’d hastily return fire but to little effect. I used Molotov cocktails to set the odd enemy alight but throwing Molotovs is more art than science and I missed more often than I hit. I was soon out of the materials I needed to make more. Half way up the street I developed a strategy of picking off an outlying ripper, quickly running to the body, looting it for a few bullets then sprinting back to cover before the others could get off too many shots. At one point an overly enthusiastic ripper killed two of his compatriots with a hastily thrown pipe bomb but, even with that unintentional help, I arriving at the top of the street with three empty weapons. Whilst fighting the last few rippers I was reduced to hit and run tactics and a two by four I found in a partially constructed building (so literally, hit and run.)

The house in which the girl was living had been thoroughly boarded up. At first there seemed to be no way in but, after a brief search, I founding a ladder on the ground that showed signs of frequent use. Resting the ladder on the side of the building I used it to climb to a low roof. Once there I saw an unboarded window. I found the girl in her dilapidated bedroom. Her name was Lisa and she was living there in the forlorn hope that her parents might return to collect her. It took some time but I persuaded her to follow me back to the bike at the other end of town.

The bodies I’d left in my wake had drawn freakers in considerable numbers but, by sticking to shrubbery and other cover, we avoided them. Considering my bare inventory and the fact that I only collected half a dozen bullets for my pistol on the return journey, I was ready to head out of town and replenish my supplies at a friendly vendor. A few feet away from my bike we heard a low rumbling sound from over by ‘Hungry Jim’s’ and a huge grizzly bear ambled slowly around the side of the pancake house. The instant it spotted us it charged.

On my second attempt at killing the bear I managed to hit the it with two fiery explosions in quick succession. It reeled from the blasts and I had time to fire my remaining shots into it’s head. In response the bear, still fully ablaze, charged me with renewed vigor. As I ran around the outside of the pancake house I desperately rifled through my inventory and found an overlooked pipe bomb. Retrieving and lighting it I threw it at a spot where I thought quick moving animal would be when the fuse ran out, I missed the bear completely but almost succeeded in killing myself. Luckily a group of freakers took exception to the bear barging past them and started ineffectually mauling it’s hairy flanks. As the bear turned it’s attention to this new annoyance I rescoured my inventory. I have a tendency to loot random items from tables, etc even whilst being chased by wild animals and I realised that I now had enough materials to make one Molotov cocktail. As quickly as I could I crafted it and threw it down near the bear. For a moment it looked as if the reignited bear, who was easily swatting down the small group of freakers, might shrug off this second immolation but, after a few anxious seconds, it suddenly raised it’s head, let out a bellowing roar, collapsed to the ground and lay still.

I found Lisa holed up in the gas station. We topped up the bike with petrol then hit the road. The settlement I was taking her to was safe but very far from ideal. However that, as they say, is a story for another day.

4. Wordle
Choose your next words wisely.
- Valkyrie, Thor: Ragnarok (2017)



5. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
It's kinda nice not being the only spider-person around.
- Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Enter the Spiderverse (2018)


Some of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced in recent games relied as much on a smile, a look or a gesture as the words being spoken. Chloe and Nadine steadying each other with a touch on the arm as a gentle gust of wind blows across the narrow stone ridge they are standing on, Kratos realising that he isn’t going to be able to persuade a confrontational stranger to leave in peace, Abby and a resilient Yara, who has just woken from a life saving operation, sharing the subtlest of smiles and Miles sitting down with his mother for a much needed heart to heart.

All these moments exist thanks to exceptionally talented actors and directors, the latest performance capture technology and teams of skilled animators who work with the data generated to transfer those performances into the final game. The results of all these efforts are increasingly subtle and effective.

When I first started playing console games animation was, to put it mildly, less refined; yet, whilst savouring Sam Fisher’s sneak animation in the first Splinter Cell or the swift and confident parkour of Ezio in Assassin’s Creed, I quickly came to realise that animation in games, even tiny, insignificant gestures like Kratos flipping his axe around before putting it away or Nate resting a hand on a nearby wall, brings me a disproportionate amount of pleasure. It’s exciting to witness the increased focus on it’s benefits for gameplay, character and story.

What thrills me about Spider-Man: Miles Morales, beyond the scenes that show Miles’ close relationship with family and friends and his love and care for the wider community, is how the game distinguishes between Peter (in the first game) and Miles’ Spider-Men purely through their movement during gameplay.

Peter is a supreme athlete. He’s been web swinging (a singular skill) for so long that he instinctively understands the exact force required to project himself through the air whilst remaining control. Miles’ swinging, by comparison, is a complete nightmare. He doesn’t have anywhere near the same experience and regularly ends up swinging backwards or upside down. There are times, between swings, when his legs will pedal frantically in the air or his arms will pinwheel as he tries to rebalance himself.

The contrast between their fighting styles is also clear. Watching Peter fight, when I’m was playing well, was like watching an excessively violent, olympic standard gymnastics display as he flipped, slid and leapt around his bewildered enemies. Miles, although full of similar athletic and acrobatic ability, occasionally misjudges his own strength and speed. A punch or a venom blast will see him thrown too far forwards and he’ll end up rolling or skidding across the ground. That and his unique power set, give his fights a different flavour and helps to ground him as a Spider-Person at the very start of his superheroic learning curve.

I feel extremely lucky to be witnessing such massive leaps forward in the fidelity and sophistication of animation in the medium. There are so many exceptionally talented animators working in the industry today and I can’t wait to see and experience what they create for us next.

6. Slay the Spire
That last hand nearly killed me.
- James Bond, Casino Royale (2006)


I was thrown off for an entire weekend when I beat Slay the Spire. It was an outcome so far beyond what I considered possible that it felt as if some fundamental aspect of reality had given way. That I’d hit junction point between two universes, one, my own mundane realm, in which, whilst playing some rogue-like or other, I would experience my usual cycle of hopeful starts and dispiriting defeats until I walked way and another, wildly improbable universe, where I triumphed in spectacular fashion. It was as if, on that otherwise unremarkable Friday, I had jumped the tracks at a universal junction point and barrelled head long into a new, dazzling realm of infinitely expanding possibility.

To commemorate my first, mind boggling ride on the inter-dimensional express here are the trinkets and my favourite cards from that winning run with ‘The Silent’:


7. The Ascent (co-op)
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
- Batty, Blade Runner (1982)


Terms of Procurement
The sky was the colour of blueberry ice cream melted into the tarmac of a seldom used car park. Beneath it’s glowering canopy resided Fulcrum. A city of ovoid tower blocks which, when viewed from a distance, resembled dozens of bright neon eggs in a nest of decaying concrete tower blocks and rusty ironwork.

Higg, his chrome face plates beaded with water from the persistent rain, watched as Shy wove his way through plastic clad pedestrians and rain besieged market stalls. Hunched shoulders were his friend’s only concession to the ongoing deluge. The pair greeted each other with barely perceptible nods then set off through the glistening, litter strewn streets towards a neighbourhood avoided by anyone with an overly sentimental attachment to their limbs and internal organs.

Once they had navigated the narrow back streets bathed in disconcertingly colourless light, Higg and Shy stepped into a familiar alleyway and, after a short walk and a cluttered right angle turn, approached a side entrance to the Gökyüzü Percept Chamber. With FSVR engaged the interior of Gökyüzü was a universe of perpetual bliss populated by gracious, otherworldly creatures spinning and frolicking to the beat of a boundless rhythm; without FSVR it resembled a crowded and unusually energetic opium den.

The side door was guarded by a tall, shaven headed woman in a neat, plum coloured suit. “Is he in?” Shy asked.
“He is indeed,” the woman replied, looking down at them with irises of iridescent gold, “Checks first. Open your ident ports gentlemen.” She lightly flipped through the accessible parts of their brains for a second or two then glanced back over her shoulder and nodded. A reinforced steel door slid ponderously aside.

Solomon Utensil was more android than man and more avaricious gang boss than android. He was perched on the edge of a green leather sofa eating dumplings from a bowl. Behind him was a large call window set to restless opalescense. At either end of the sofa, standing in silence, were the aspect hunters, his intimidating bodyguards.
“I’m fine,” Shy said.
Higg had the look of a man who would quite like a dumpling but deemed it prudent to keep that fact to himself.
“I need you to do a little recovery job for me and it has to happen today. I’d appreciate it if you could retrieve my reality splicer from a gang in the Twilight Hives.”
Higg and Shy looked at each other and, for a brief moment, appeared to be attempting to communicate solely through expressions of puzzlement and mild alarm. They turned back to Utensil.
“I… we... certainly. We can do that but, to clarify,” Shy stumbled, “What, just so we know what we’re looking for, what is a reality splicer exactly?”
Utensil’s chopsticks halted on their short journey from bowl to mouth. A dumpling, trapped between the casually held sticks, steamed gently. “You don’t know what a reality splicer is?”
“Not really, no,” Shy admitted. One of the aspect hunters snorted. Higg looked at it’s oddly contoured face unsure if the sound was suppressed laughter or a hiccup in it’s convoluted breathing apparatus.
“How have you been hightailing public sensors all this time? You must used one when you’re skip pacing or time folding?”
Higg and Shy had the distinct look of two men failing to hide the fact that they had no idea what he was talking about.
“You haven’t… Misha Nogha.” Utensil shook his head in disbelief, “Ok. Well. All you need to know is it’s an open helmet with four pairs of psynodes running front to back. You know what psynodes look like I take it?”
“Big……. nodes?” Shy offered tentatively.
“I’ll send you a render… and the serial number.” Utensil leaned back a little. “I have a stoop tracker in the splicer’s ganglian torque. I’ve connected you to the signal. Go and do what you do best.”
“We’re on it.” Higg said. Shy turned to leave, Higg followed. As they reached the door Utensil called after them, “The Cyberjack’s leader is Victor Conduit he was a quantum wrangler in the confluence war. Took down a dozen tessellation precincts all by himself. He’s probably the best blueglass in the business there’s no way you’ll take him cortex to cortex. Once in the Twilight Hives get to his remote copra stack and subvert the neural coupler, that’ll leave him with a reduced PI. The stack will be guarded by at least half a dozen andronic jumping spiders. Those f*ckers are small but they’re fast. You’ll need infinisec nades, seekers and, ideally, some kind of nonstick coating to stand a chance against them. Either that or hack their capacitation chambers before you alert them to your presence. Got it?”
“Yes,” Shy said. Higg nodded in an exaggerated manner.
“You sure? I don’t want you interfacing with me mid firefight asking me what a copra stack is and how to subvert it. You understood everything I just said?”
“Clear as day,” Shy said, “Get to the hives, subvert the Copra stack and we’ll have an easier fight with Victor Conduit.”
“Hacking capaticaton chambers,” Higg added, “Always the best way to deal with andronic jumping spiders.”
Utensil didn’t look entirely convinced by their responses. “Go! Have the splicer back here by the end of the day and there’s 300 eprol in it for each of you.”
“Did you follow all that?” Shy asked as they headed back down a set of narrow stairs.
“We’ll figure it out as we go. There’s no elaborate combat scenario that swarms of exploding waspbots and the liberal application of ballistic weaponry can’t simplify.”
Activating their assault modules the pair followed the stoop tracker’s signal back through the alleyways and out onto the neon soaked streets.

8. Darkwood
The night has it’s price.
- Mae, Near Dark (2016)


The first moment that fully sold me on Darkwood occurred as my little character, viewed from a top down perspective, paced nervously around the bare boarded rooms of a dilapidated home base. He was illuminated by two flickering, generator powered lamps. If I listened carefully I could hear the quiet footsteps and muffled mumblings of unknown creatures tentative explored my defences. I was hoping that the generator, based in a small outhouse, had enough fuel to keep the lights on for the entire night and wondering, if said generator spluttered to a halt, whether I’d survive going out to refuel it or if I’d be better to stay, cowering in complete darkness. My morbid strategising was interrupted by a series of bangs on the barricaded window near by. The window glass rattled in it’s frames. That loud and unexpected noise simultaneously scared the crap out of me and sold me on the game, top down perspective and all.

A second, related moment occurred on a different night. Intermittent, ethereal light from lightening strikes briefly illuminated the falling rain and the trees outside my barricaded base. The tense wait for dawn was nearly over when I heard the sound of wood scraping across floorboards as a large wardrobe, that I used to block a hole in the outer wall, was pushed slowly aside.

Below, for your delectation, is a little horror story, inspired by Darkwood’s intense and brooding atmosphere.


9. Stray
The country’s nice but I’m more of a city cat.
- Jiji, Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)


Despite it not being a game about a cat who works as a courier at parcel delivery service for robots (as I had decided, based on the first trailer and no other evidence, Stray definitely was) Stray turned out to be exactly what I wanted from a ‘little cat navigating a city of robots’ game. The puzzles could have been a bit more robust in places but over all it was a charming adventure with a very satisfying ending. Fingers crossed for a sequel where our feline hero secures the funding to set up it’s own parcel delivery service called, to pick a name at random, ‘Ginger Delivery.’

Here’s a painting of my cat:


Here’s a picture of my cat:


Here’s a picture of my cat in a crab apple tree:


Here’s a video of my cat in a crab apple tree:

Here’s a strong recommendation for a documentary about cats:

10. RÖKI
Me? I've had so many names. Old names that only
the wind and the trees can pronounce.

- Pan, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)



In 1984 and 1985 a friend and I (I’m on the right in the picture above) twice travelling all over Europe on month long interrail passes. The passes allowed us to travel for free on any train as long as it ran in a European country. The lovely adventure in RÖKI, which features creatures from Scandinavian myth and folklore, has inspired me to share some digital paintings based on our experiences with many of Europe’s most iconic mythical creatures.

(This project got a bit out of hand but, once I had the idea, it really had to be done in it’s entirety. Creating these digital paintings brought me a great deal of pleasure and personal satisfaction this year and during the course of my investigations I reconnected with an old friend and we shared some fun memories.)

A night on the town


As we travelled from country to country and city to city we would find the cheapest possible places to stay. Many were seedy and disreputable, some were basic but charming. In one French town we stayed in a cheap hotel at the heart of the Mythological Quarter and spent a wonderful night watching and interacting with an incredible array of warm and friendly creatures and folks who lived together in that lively community.

Beneath a Dragon


On our way down from the Swiss Alps, heading towards the border with Italy, we were awestruck by an enormous red dragon that landed on a viaduct the train was passing under. I leaned out of a window to get a better look (In the unlikely event that you find yourself on a train that allows you to open and lean out of the windows, don’t! It’s extremely dangerous.) I was told by the conductor that it was definitely a alpine dragon as lowland dragons tend to be much smaller and don’t have the ‘arrowhead’ on the end of their tails.

Escaping the kraken


To reach Norway we had to hired a small boat in Denmark and sail across the Baltic Sea. On the way we were investigated by a Kraken. It was a pretty terrifying experience at the time but, thankfully, we managed to sail under and between all the tentacles. We were both relieved that we didn’t, in the end, hire a bigger boat.

Stargazing with Moomins


One night we attended an ‘Edge of the Forest’ star gazing course run by Moomins. We each had our own personal Moomin as a guide. To be completely honest, I had a hard time understanding anything my Moomin said but it was a lovely evening all the same.

On the lookout for trolls


As we travelled up towards Finland we were warned to be on the look out for wild trolls. Whilst out on a short walk from the hostel where we were staying, a huge troll managed to take us by surprise. Fortunately, he turned out to be quite friendly and let us go on our way after we played a few rounds of ‘I spy’ and told him our best jokes.

None of the above, beyond the introductory paragraph and the bit about staying in the cheapest places possible, is true of course (especially the part about sailing from Denmark to Norway in a tiny boat. Doing that, without experience or the right boat or the proper equipment, seems like a bad idea.) Here are the fading printed photographs that the digital paintings are based on and the true stories that accompany them, as far as memory and research can reveal:

A night on the town

I wasn’t sure where this photograph was taken. The next shot in the album, presumably taken on the same night, was the small church shown below. I Googled: ‘Church on tall rock Europe’ and, amongst the results, was this church that had enough details in common with the one I photographed that I’m confident it is the same establishment. It is the Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe (St. Michael of the Needle,) near a town called Le Puy-en-Velay. Once I had the name of the town I even found a modern day photo of the fountain where we posed. There was a distinct and frankly disappointing, lack of unicorns.


Down the mountain

This is the one shot where I used part of the photograph (made to look as it was painted with a few light brush strokes) in the final painting because the realism of the train made the scale of the nonexistent dragon that much more impressive. In reality the only thing that was on that viaduct, a few moments before this photo was taken, was our train. In order to lose height quickly, as trains descend from the alps, this section of track is a complete loop called the Brusio Spiral.

Land Ho!

This photograph rests in the album between a picture of the Atomium, an incredible building in Belgium and the Little Mermaid statue in Denmark. Which means it was taken in a park somewhere between Brussels and Copenhagen. I suspect it was in a park close to the Little Mermaid statue but I wasn’t able to establish that for certain.

More importantly we didn’t, of course, hire a boat and set sail. Almost as unbelievably, during the night, our train was loaded onto a ferry, presumably in sections and was transported across that way. Below is a shot through the train window. After the crossing (it was a little odd to be feeling the sway of the waves whilst sat in a train carriage) we were unloaded and the train resumed it’s track born journey.


A person of note

I’m pretty sure we didn’t know who this was a statue of when the photo was taken. To us it was just a mildly amusing photo opportunity. After a brief search on both our parts we found that the statue still exists to this day (it’s looking suitable weathered) and apparently it is of a much loved writer and singer called Evert Taube (see the album cover below.) Interestingly it looks like the statue was installed in 1985 the same year I posed next to it. Looking at those loose blocks of stone in my photograph, I wonder if the installation had only just happened a few days prior.


A random town

We were on the train, travelling through Sweden towards Helsinki, when my friend told me a story he’d read about a man who got off a train at a random station. The man met a stranger on the platform; mystery and intriguing ensued. We decided to do the same. The town we stepped off at was Boden (my friend remembered the name of the town. I didn’t) and it turned out, at least to our eyes, to be a standard modern town of almost supernatural normality. We had a wander about, patiently waited for the next train and resumed our journey without incident.

Whilst we were there we took the 1985 version of a selfie which involved finding somewhere level and stable to set the camera, setting a thirty second mechanical timer then running back into shot and posing (several of these shots were taken the same way. My friend’s head can’t be seen in the playground boat picture because he had thirty seconds to get from the camera to the boats wheel and he’d literally just arrived when the timer ran out.) In my continuing efforts to never to take a straightforward photograph I was pogoing up and down on the spot. The camera, helpfully, caught me at the top of a bounce.

Evert Taube’s statue isn’t the only thing that has aged significantly over the ensuing years. Here is a photograph taken of me this year via the security camera at the self service tills in my favourite supermarket.


Honourable mentions

This is my Everest.
- Nish Kumar attempting to retrieve a ping pong ball 
from a vertical pipe full of holes using only cocktails, 
Taskmaster (Season 5 Ep 3)

Operation Tango (co-op)
So much for my promising career in espionage.
- Q, Skyfall (2012)

One step, one punch, one round at a time.
- Rocky Balboa, Creed (2015)


This is part of a write up I did when DOOM was sitting somewhere in the middle of my top ten list (I eventually had an attack of conscience having realised that I’d played way more of the game than I previously thought, prior to 2022.)

Having dipped back into the original DOOM, which was published close to the end of the last century, I have a fresh appreciation for the role it’s music plays in the game’s apparently limitless appeal. Mike Gordon’s score expands on those few expertly chosen, synthetically rendered notes and fleshes them out into what, by comparison, is a rock concert of a score. Alongside visuals and gameplay the soundtrack drags DOOM bodily into the modern era whilst paying pitch perfect homage to the hefty, paroxysmic delights of the original games.

Here is a 2017 GDC talk and a smattering of video’s from Mike Gordon’s own YouTube channel that illustrate just how much thought and care went into the soundtracks creation. The last video is from Doom Eternal but it’s a treat to hear about the creation of the metal choir.

Mike’s future projects include: Atomic Heart a game I an extremely excited for and Routine a game I could easily be persuaded to be more excited for than I currently am, especially now I understand that it’s likely to be adorned with a killer soundtrack.

If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies,
nobody left to kill it and then it's won.

- MacReady, The Thing (1982)

Deep Rock Galactic (co-op)
Ripley: How many drops is this for you lieutenant?
Lt Gorman: Thirty eight…. simulated.
- Aliens (1986)

Colour is my day long obsession, joy and torment.
- Claude Monet (1840–1926)

Far Cry 6
We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.
- Ethan Hunt, Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)


This is an account of one of my favourite fights of the year. I wrote it up when I thought Far Cry 6 might make my top ten list.

It was late evening when I jumped out of a dirigible boat onto the smooth sand of a secluded beach. As I walked inland I spotted, over by a few low, wooden buildings, a lone soldier with a symbol over his head indicating that he was willing to sell me valuable intel. My weapon was holstered (a significant and very welcome addition to the game) so as not to alarm him or any other soldiers in the area.

As I started walking over to the bribable guard a gun fight broke out in the darkness just beyond some high hedging. I couldn’t see anyone involved; only the occasional muzzle flash was visible through gaps in the hedge. The soldier I’d been hoping to have a quiet word with drew his weapon and started firing in that direction.

I was trying to decide whether to draw my weapon and who to shoot if I did, when, to my right, I noticed two fast moving forms. They were racing across the sand towards a civilian. As one of the creatures reached up, grabbed the guy’s arm with it’s jaws and dragged him to the ground I realised that I was looking at two very aggressive and fast moving crocodiles. The croc not preoccupied with ravaging the unfortunate bystander came at me. I scrambled to unsling my shotgun.

Panicking and aiming wildly I missed two shots at the fast approaching croc. It briefly grabbed my arm and yanked me downward. I punched the beast as hard as I could and it snapped at me again. Grabbing it’s muzzle with both hands I pushed it’s head to the ground. Before it could pull free I drew my knife and stabbed down between it’s eyes. The short but alarming struggle over I could now respond, with an appropriate level of urgency, to the live grenade that had just plonked down in front of me. As I scrambled to get clear the grenade went off. The blast threw me into the waiting jaws of the second croc. Suddenly locked in another life or death struggle I couldn’t help but notice a second grenade landing close by. The croc and I wrestled for a moment or two then it’s head snapped upwards just as the grenade went off. Miraculously, even though the croc was killed outright, I was spared the brunt of the explosion. I climbed to my feet and staggered down towards the sea.

When I stopped to pull a jagged piece of metal out my arm (with a pair of pliers that I carry for just such an occasion) I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets zipping past my head. Turning I saw the soldier who I had originally hoped to buy intel from and presumably the person who had been so rudely lobbing grenades at me, firing in my direction with his uzi. I levelled my shotgun and blew him off his feet.

As I stood there, slowly recovering my composure, I realised that there were no longer any sounds of distant gunfire and the beach had returned to it’s former tranquil state.

Games that keep on giving

I can’t list my favourite games of the year without mentioning two, both of which featured on last year’s list, that have continued to provide endless hours of entertainment this year.

Divinity: Original Sin 2
Highlights include: A turn by painstakingly thought out turn, prison break from a cave system full of ridiculously powerful creatures. A tricky fight with a tomb full of terracotta warriors, who kept getting the better of us despite being slow and generally easy to break and an encounter that, with one man down, we were starting to lose until we charmed the powerful enemy leader then watched, awestruck, as he resurrected our fallen party member, healed him back to full health, shielded and buffed him.

Orcs Must Die 3
Highlights include: Discovering that a pricey organic floor tile, which slows and damages those crossing it, will, over time, slowly spread until it covers the entire floor. Going from feeling frustrated and ineffectual during a ‘crowd control traps and weapons only’ daily challenge to, after lots of practice, locking the orcs into their starting areas with the little green fellas having the brief pleasure of being flipped, levitated, charmed and dazed before we blasted them into oblivion. And to top it all, getting a ridiculously high score on Scramble (a mode that has series of five maps to get through. Each map being accompanied by a random, often diabolical, debuff and a choice of one of three buffs) which gave us the final trophy we needed to simultaneously unlock the game’s platinum trophy. Trophys aren’t something I generally care about but it was very satisfying to acquire one for a game Spikeout and I have played endlessly and thoroughly enjoyed.

Thanks to Spikeout, Shymlark, ThatGuy42 and all those who share their Wordle results with me for another year full of fun co-op.

The games I enjoyed watching others play

Demon’s Souls
Forgive me father, for I have chinned.
- Rory, Retry: Sekiro Episode 7 Genichiro Ashina

Fall Guys
Peachy keen, jellybean.
– Rizzo, Grease (1978)

billt721 wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:
billt721 wrote:

[*]Horizon: Zero Dawn (PC): Probably my actual game of the year had I not played a few hours of it last year before bouncing off. Half-way through this year I figured out that I was repeatedly playing a few hours, getting really into the story, and then going off to do some side activity and putting it down for several months after getting bored.

Given the general rules of the GotY thread, I think this should / could count as your #1 for this year.

I shoulda been a bit more explicit on the number of hours there. If I bounced after 1 or 2 while still in the tutorial area, that'd be one thing (like say, Baldur's Gate above that I put about an hour into a decade ago), but this was like 15 hours. That's way beyond my 'new to me' threshold.

I'm willing to go as far as 20% or so of the total game if I just don't "get it" and haven't had it on a list before, but then "really discover it" in the current year and end up loving it.

EDIT: Ok, finally had some quiet time to read your post Higgledy. Amazing work! You just set the bar much higher for everyone else this year, especially with the Wordle and RÖKI writeups.

Pretty sure I started a game Dec 27 or something but counted it for the next year since 75% of the game was in the next year, once or twice the last few years.

Can't believe I forgot about Wordle! Oof.

I'm going to wait until the very end of the year. I have a bunch of games that are near completion but spoiler alert my GOTY will be Assassin's Creed Odyssey by a wide margin. Otherwise it's been a weird year for me in regards to gaming.

AUs_TBirD wrote:

EDIT: Ok, finally had some quiet time to read your post Higgledy. Amazing work! You just set the bar much higher for everyone else this year, especially with the Wordle and RÖKI writeups.


I haven't finished the year yet thus my list isn't ready...but I am excited to say I have my son's 2023 GOTY List!

(Eleima he's not a member of the forum and his list doesn't comply with the rules of not having played a title in a previous year, so it's just for curiosity sake for those wondering what a 13yo played this year; no need to count it in the rankings)

He started high school this year and despite his close friends going to different high schools, he kept up with many of them at birthday parties, on Discord and playing games together online. His cohort missed out on a lot of the "coming of age" camps/getaways due to COVID in years gone by but they've kept together online and added various friends of friends to their circle which is always a pleasure to see.

Some of these titles were already in my library, the bolded ones are what he purchased / downloaded this year:

1 Stardew Valley
2 Horizon Zero Dawn
3 Ark Survival Evolved
4 Terraria/Tmodloader
5 Warthunder
6 Generation zero
7 Unturned
8 Kerbal Space Program
9 Faster Than Light
10 From the depths

Honorable mentions:

Airships Conquer the Sky
Project Zomboid
Citizen sleeper
Bloons tower defense 6

He gamed a lot. 17 Steam titles purchased, countless other installations on Epic and Games Pass. I'm a bit jealous! The Steam family sharing function is going to ensure I get double the value out of his purchases...

Surprisingly, he got a lot of mileage again out of Stardew Valley - I think it's partly because as his peers get older, they gift each other Steam gift cards and get their friends to buy titles to play multiplayer. The boys went fishing, mining and just generally splitting tasks.

I was surprised a slower paced game was something they decided to play together - previously they were trying out CS:GO, Apex Legends, Battlefield and some COD - which they still play - but it was also good to see a few building type games (Kerbal, From the Depths, Airships Conquer the Sky).

I can't wait to see how his gaming preferences will continue to develop in coming years. He's definitely not so much into turn based strategy as I am or RPGs!

Higgledy I'm not just bowling smoke up your ass because your a friend but blimmin hell man your write ups & art come together to create something really special. Honestly I can't imagine the time that went into creating all of that & so eloquently worded too.

Your Slay The Spire piece was one of my favourite ever, you so perfectly encapsulated the art of each relic & card. You literally captured my look to a tee, I appreciate the work that went into that, I'm very grateful indeed. The kunai & shuriken relics together in the same run are a true power fantasy especially if you have shiv cards, I've had many runs similar to what you described there.

I felt like I'd went on a journey reading your write up on RÖKI, the art you created brought a childlike wonder & reminded me of being a kid enraptured with movies like The Never Ending Story, or remembering books like the BFG by Roald Dahl. Seeing you in your younger years is also really cool.

Okay, so thank you Mixolyde, halfwaywrong, jontra, billt721, Agathos, Higgledy, and Bfgp's son for your lists, the votes have been tallied and counted, and we're already at 131 games!! Amazing!!!
I super duper appreciate all your lists, but I have to say... Higgledy, your write up is a thing of beauty! Wow!
As an aside, loved seeing a nod for Touken Ranbu Online (even if it is a "weird *** mobile game" ), love for Jade Empire. Just all your lists, thank you so much, it's truly a treat to see all the joy.

Eleima wrote:

Okay, so thank you Mixolyde, halfwaywrong, jontra, billt721, Agathos, Higgledy, and Bfgp's son for your lists, the votes have been tallied and counted, and we're already at 131 games!! Amazing!!!
I super duper appreciate all your lists, but I have to say... Higgledy, your write up is a thing of beauty! Wow!
As an aside, loved seeing a nod for Touken Ranbu Online (even if it is a "weird *** mobile game" ), love for Jade Empire. Just all your lists, thank you so much, it's truly a treat to see all the joy.

One of those "why am I still playing this weird mobile thing? Well, one more fight won't hurt..." Until I started to plateau and uninstalled it for other shinier (Spiritfarer mostly).

Here's the long, drawn out version of my Best of 2022 List!



Prodeus is a much longer game than I anticipated and I’m still working through this slavishly faithful homage to DOOM-era shooters. For one reason or another I have never been able to dump a consecutive number of hours into this game. I think it lends itself much better to short play sessions despite some levels being quite windy and maze-like.

But the thing that set this game apart for me was just how fluid and faithfully old school the level design was. From the constant key-card hunting to the stereotypical environmental hazards, monster closets and secret rooms, Prodeus checked all the boxes you’d expect any competent DOOM clone to check and then some. The all-important weapon design was on point and the immaculate feel of the shotguns alone probably single-handedly carried this game to greatness. I look forward to finishing this up in 2023!



Loopmancer is a gorgeously rendered, side-scrolling action roguelike made in the Unreal 4 engine that deals with time loops and is set in a generic, pan-asian cyberpunk metropolis. It’s driven by a laughably silly narrative: a bizarre combination of sloppy writing, sloppier localization and a winking self-awareness that makes the entire package oddly charming and endearing.

While I only completed a single run of at least a half dozen possible endings, I still got my fill of Loopmancer and was pleasantly surprised by the game’s depth and tightness of controls. Yes, there are more artistically profound or more technically competent action roguelikes out there but none of them will make you burst out laughing or raise your eyebrow in bemusement quite like Loopmancer will.



It would have been very easy to write this one off as just another Call of Duty. And indeed, in many ways MW2 very much is “just another Call of Duty”. But then I reflected on my time playing through the single-player campaign and I couldn’t help but recall so many memorable moments that harkened back to the glorious, bombastic days of the original Modern Warfare trilogy of campaigns and some other moments that reminded me of the best action movies. The MW2 campaign managed to stuff in so many of those familiar beats and set pieces yet it also struck out into some new gameplay territory with its stealth-survival missions and it was mostly successful in those efforts.

The verdict is still out on the multiplayer front as I’ve barely put in enough hours into the standard MP modes let alone the Spec Ops missions, DMZ, Warzone 2.0 and now the first-ever Call of Duty raid. New games are extremely expensive now so the value proposition and overall quality presented by MW2 cannot be ignored.



I admit that Tainted Grail was my January comfort game this year. It was right after the winter holidays when no new games were on the market and my backlog wasn’t looking too tempting either. This game can be best described as a love child between Slay the Spire and Diablo 2. It’s a roguelike, deck building card-battler but unlike its more light-hearted brethren, Tainted Grail goes for a very dark and brooding aesthetic and setting that is itself loosely based on Arthurian legends.

The game features a wealth of classes that play very differently from each other and that employ many of their own unique cards and even core play mechanics. Battles can be very daunting in this game, especially in the early going when the deck is still sparse and full of filler and you’re facing off against 3 or more opponents at once. Healing and other resources are scarce and it’s not until you unlock vendors back at the village and learn to dial into your class’ strength and get its particular engine revving with key card combos that the beauty of the game really reveals itself to you.

The world in which Tainted Grail is set is beautiful too…if your idea of beauty is unending bleakness and suffering. Traveling on the overworld map gives the impression of embarking on one of those solo adventure gamebooks and the non-combat encounters not only provide side quests and random bonuses should you take them on but also much needed lore and texture to flesh out this dark world.

My tip? Stop using the starter class as soon as you can!



You can’t trust everything you read on the Internet. This is in fact the best “7/10” game I played this year. PC launch issues aside, I found The Callisto Protocol to be a very enjoyable survival horror romp on the Xbox Series X, with only a single crash to dashboard to stop me in my tracks. Glen Schofield and his crew at Striking Distance Studios had gigantic space boots to fill with a brand new sci-fi horror IP and spiritual successor to Dead Space. And while The Callisto Protocol didn’t break new ground, it was supremely confident in its own identity, knew exactly how it wanted to depart from the Dead Space formula and developed a very tight and focused game experience around that identity.

The Callisto Protocol’s reliance on melee combat has been contentious for fans and critics alike but I enjoyed it quite a bit, seeing as firearms became equally viable tools later into the campaign. Their mechanical approach to melee combat was questionable, sure: granted it’s been years since most gamers my age have played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and who knew that those were the exact same muscle memories that would be targeted by Callisto?

Puzzles? Unless you can do them well and pace them out nicely as palate-cleansers in your action game, then I don’t need them to pad out the play time. Story-wise, the game ended abruptly but left me wanting more, which is an excellent sign for a new property ending on the cliffhanger that it did. In the end I played the game not so much for the bloody horror of it all but to experience some great moments of tension and suspense as well as feeling like a battle-hardened, zombie skull-bashing rock star by the time I reached the finale.

All in all, I respect many of the Youtubers and critics that poo-pooed this game but I can safely say they were mostly wrong about this one and I’m glad I took a chance on it, 5-, 6- and 7 out of 10s be damned.



I may not even be ¼ through this game but I don’t care. I’m still putting Yakuza on my list!

Yakuza: Like a Dragon won me over with its writing. It’s a simple tale on the surface about your typical washed up gangster and his journey towards redemption. But it’s the game’s almost reverential treatment of its entire cast of quirky yet-oh-so-everyday characters that gives the narrative so much texture and heart. And this game has so much heart! There’s almost a child-like sincerity to it despite the very mature subject matter presented in the main storyline and the various subplots. It’s such a delicate balance to walk between silliness and tragic pathos but they pull it off here. Amazing.

And the transformation of Yakuza’s action beat’em up formula into a turn-based JRPG? Absolutely brilliant. I really hope I can carve out more time in the new year to give this game my full attention and see it through to the end.



Vampire Survivors was the most unassuming $3 Robotron/Smash TV clone I never knew I needed in my life. It’s an insidious time-waster of a gem that takes everything you love about progression systems and theorycrafting and distills it down into the purest, simplest shot of gaming addiction. The charming 8-bit, low overhead aesthetic lends the game to portability and as of this writing you can play Vampire Survivors on any PC created in the last decade, on console, on the Steam Deck and completely free on mobile (it’s also included with Game Pass).

What I’m trying to say is: there shouldn’t be any technical barriers for enjoying Vampire Survivors. This is a brilliant little game that should not be missed.



Elden Ring was probably my most streamed game of 2022. I have yet to finish it and I will likely never get around to watching the end credits roll but it was undeniably one of my most thrilling game experiences this year. It was also one of the most frustrating and confusing and for a while I grappled with whether I even liked the game. The one-shot deaths! The massive, aimless world map! The crazy ridiculous bosses!

As with any FROM Software joint, the more time I spent wandering their uncompromising fantasy worlds, the more competent I became and the more rewarding each passing minute of gameplay. The fun has truly been in the journey because I honestly don’t know when I’ll have the time or motivation to dedicate myself to finishing this beast. This is such an incredibly thick, ambitious Souls game that I honestly don’t know where Miyazaki and his gang of mad lads will take the genre they pioneered next.



Darktide is simply the most fun I’ve had playing a horde co-op shooter since Left 4 Dead in 2007. I had brief dalliances with Fatshark’s previous game, Vermintide 2, with which Darktide shares an abundance of DNA with. While a more mature and complete game, Vermintide 2 never got its hooks fully sunk into me due in no small part to my general ambivalence to the Warhammer Fantasy universe. As if directly reading my heart’s darkest desires, Fatshark saw fit to take this same formula and transplant it to the Warhammer 40K franchise, a world I very much have a fondness for.

Darktide captures all the flavour and grittiness of W40K but from a more grounded and downtrodden perspective. You are not an exalted Space Marine or an all-powerful Inquisitor for once. You’re essentially a prisoner - a Reject - forced into conscription into an endless war against heresy within the bowels of a strategically valuable Imperium hive city.

They’ve upped the RPG-ness of the proceedings with a detailed character creator complete with backstory decisions that really don’t affect anything aside from your avatar’s random dialog barks during gameplay. While this is a nice touch for immersion, the real star of the show is the immaculate moment-to-moment gameplay. The focus is still on messy and frantic melee combat but they’ve balanced the need for ranged aggression so well that switching between close combat and gunfire is about as seamless as it was in 2011’s Space Marine from Relic Entertainment. In fact it’s even better in Darktide as these mechanics are baked into the class roles - of which there are a total of 4 so far at launch - and further expressed by its dazzling arsenal of pistols, shotguns, rifles and other exotic weaponry.

There’s an incredible amount of depth to plumb in Darktide despite appearances of it being a melee mash-fest. Teamwork is critical even in the medium mission difficulties and numerous build options unravel for each of the class archetypes as you collect new weapons and unlock Feats (i.e. passive skills) for your characters. This is a game that may still be a bit light on endgame content but nonetheless a supremely replayable and enjoyable one that I’ll keep returning to in 2023 if only to chase better and better gear or to fully level up a new character class.



French developer Sloclap did what I thought was impossible: breathe new life into the old and tired beat’em up genre. They introduced some innovation by way of a brilliant aging mechanic and a punishing level of difficulty - die and retry until you get it right - usually reserved for Soulslikes and roguelikes. The bones of their fighting system were also rock-solid, taking some cues from their previous title, Absolver, but sanding down the more obtuse mechanics to create a more streamlined and cinematic flow to the melee combat. The result was an incredibly challenging brawler that heavily punished mistakes and hesitation but rewarded patience and perseverance. And it was all wrapped up in some of the most striking level and art design I’d ever seen in this style of game. Case in point: play through the club mission and tell me I’m wrong.

Sifu may have been criminally overlooked at this year’s The Game Awards and may very well continue to be snubbed by major media outlets as they roll out their “Best of 2022” lists. But you would be unwise to ignore it if you’ve yet to give it a spin. It not only pays homage to martial arts cinema and the classic beat’em ups of yore, it paves a bright new future for the brawler genre as a whole.

Thanks for reading!

My Eleima-friendly Top 10 List (in order of firstness):

1. Sifu
2. Warhammer 40,000: Dark Tide
3. Elden Ring
4. Vampire Survivors
5. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
6. The Callisto Protocol
7. Tainted Grail: Conquest
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
9. Loopmancer
10. Prodeus

Higgledy wrote:

The games I enjoyed watching others play

Demon’s Souls
Forgive me father, for I have chinned.
- Rory, Retry: Sekiro Episode 7 Genichiro Ashina


Just the List, sh*t got cray cray

1. Unpacking
2. FAR: Changing Tides
3. Road 96
4. Carrot Weather (yes it is a weather app, yes, it is a game too)
5. Wordle

Honorable Mentions: Games that would make the list if I had more time to play them, and will probably be on the list next year...

God of War: Ragnarok
Citizen Sleeper

McChuck wrote:


A massive gap in the Finchy family tree/lore filled!

Not a big year for me; I'm only going to vote for eight.

1. Inscryption (multiplatform, played on PC)
2. Hades (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)
3. Arcade Paradise (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)
4. Spiritfarer (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)
5. Horizon Forbidden West (Playstation 5)
6. Mutazione (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)
7. Actraiser Renaissance (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)
8. Valkyrie Elysium (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

I played a few others (The Chant, Deliver Us the Moon, Kentucky Route Zero, Live A Live) but liked none of them enough that I'd vote for them.

My preference for physical media means I'm still waiting on a number of games that might otherwise have made it in this year. (Waiting on fancypants versions of Cult of the Lamb, Stray, Weird West, and more.)

More words:


Inscryption (multiplatform soon, played on PC)

I don't even like collectible card games; but this twist on them was dripping with atmosphere, provided a ton of strategic fun, and had an interesting story that could get ARG-y but stood well enough alone.

Hades (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

I don't even like Roguelikes, but what can I say that hasn't already been said about Supergiant's superlative take on the genre? It has the lavish art, thoughtfully balanced play, and interesting story everyone expects from them.

Arcade Paradise (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

Although I'm not finished, this is hitting the "grind" sweet spot for me. Balance your time in a 90's laundry/arcade management sim. There are a ton of original retro-style (mini)games (including pool, darts, and whack-a-mole in addition to a ton of classic arcade inspired fare) to play... when you can find time between washing clothes, picking up trash, emptying hoppers, and more.

Spiritfarer (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

Although it could drag a little long, the "cozy management sim about dying" is relaxing and emotional without being emotionally manipulative.

Horizon Forbidden West (Playstation 5)

As many have noted, this one feels a little overstuffed, and possibly suffers from "second in a trilogy" syndrome with the story. But "almost as good as Horizon Zero Dawn" is still better than a lot od games.

Mutazione (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

"A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural," there's little "gameplay" in this interactive story, but... it's an interesting story full of original ideas.

Actraiser Renaissance (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

I loved the original, and I enjoyed this update with tweaked gameplay (including the addition of Tower Defence segments) and improved visuals and music.

Valkyrie Elysium (multiplatform, played on Playstation 5)

Once I got past the initial disappointment (I have great fondness for the series but it did not translate well to 3D) it was at least a fun, competent brawler.

I'm going to post my top games now, and add the text later. Eleima, I will clearly indicate this in my second post.

1. Hades
2. Citizen Sleeper
3. Prodeus
4. A Memoir Blue
5. Norco
6. Football Manager 2022 Xbox Edition
7. Total War: Three Kingdoms

The Short List and Preamble

Here’s the short version of my list for tabulation purposes:


1. Elden Ring
2. Pentiment
3. Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker
4. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
5. God of War: Ragnarok
6. Citizen Sleeper
7. Final Fantasy 7 Remake
8. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe Edition
9. Vampire Survivors
10. Stray

11. Genshin Impact (Sumeru Content Patches)
12. V Rising
13. Tunic

Usually I wait until the very last moment both because I want to squeeze in time to play as many games as possible and because I’m constitutionally incapable of being brief and concise when writing, well, anything.

When the deadline rolls around this year, however, if all goes well I’ll be halfway around the world on vacation for the first time since before the pandemic, and so I won’t have time to luxuriate in writing this list the way I would prefer to. Or, that’s what I’m telling myself now — we’ll see just how well I actually mange at the whole brevity thing as I continue here.

But regardless, here's the list I've got as of today. (Of course I'm sure I'll end up playing something on the airplane or whatever that I decide ought t be here, but I suppose if that happens it will have to wait for next year's list.)

(As always, I have a LOT more screenshots that I selected to potentially use here — if you’d like to see them, you can check here and here.)

My 2022 Game of the Year

Elden Ring

I suspect this will be a VERY common refrain this year, but I can’t see any possible way to not call Elden Ring my game of the year. It’s just so impossibly good and expansive and beautiful in the most ugly, f*cked up way, and I did every single thing possible in this game, and then did almost half of it over again.


That also might be a common refrain, but what makes it special for me is that I’m at most a medium Souls game guy. I played Sekiro all the way through and loved it (it was my game of the year that year!), but that was definitely a slightly different beast, and up until now I’ve bounced off when trying to play the “core” Souls series. But, as with so many others, the addition of a truly open world exploration experience as well as the addition of more flexible tools for tuning my interaction with of the challenge that these games offer worked for me in a very big way, and really unlocked my ability to fully appreciate what these games do.


I’m still not sure I’m going to ever go back and play the earlier Dark Souls games, but with my newfound appreciation I’m now 100% down for any future Elden Ring or Sekiro sequels — and I’d be very, very interested in a PC port of Bloodborne finally materializing, given the way folks talk about that game. I’ve finally, finally reached the point that I sort of assumed would eventually come — I get it completely, I subscribe to the Miyazaki newsletter, and I now keep my membership card for the Souls cult on me at all times.


The Runners Up

I really have no idea how to order the next few games, because I really like them all, but for very different reasons and in very different ways. So, let’s just say that in my heart the next four games are tied, but I will rank them based the biggest thing that they DO have in common: the deep emotional responses that their stories stirred in me, through a shared interest in using the vast and unique power of interactive storytelling to convey the richness of the human experience.

Here more than even for Elden Ring I really wish I had the time to write essays about how wonderful each of these games were in that respect, but just know that this was a year full of me doing a lot of deeply cathartic crying while playing video games.

2. Pentiment


A charming, delightful, and moving literary adventure and mystery game that presupposes that maybe sometimes the only right answer in life is that empathy and human connection are more important than being right and proving a point. This game earns its place as first runner up this year because on my entirely arbitrarily selected sorting mechanism of emotional impact, this game delivered in quality, quantity, and consistency in a nearly unprecedented way.


Really, from the middle of the second act to the very end of the game, I was more enthralled and invested in every aspect of the narrative I was participating in than I have been in any piece of media in a very long time, with nearly every successive story beat (minor or major, and even small little background details) overwhelming me with well earned emotional responses for a variety of reasons that would all very much be spoilers to elaborate on. And as I mentioned in the thread for the game, while I’m not generally one to worry too much about spoilers, this is one game I really think is best played with as little foreknowledge and expectation as possible.


And speaking of that thread and the fact that somehow I had to create it more than a month after the game’s release, the other reason I’m placing this game second on my list is that clearly not enough people have given it a try. Seriously folks, this is a GWJ-ass GWJ game. A f*cking narrative adventure/visual novel set in a small alpine town during the renaissance where you play as an artist who tries to solve mysteries using his education and charm, with resonant themes about the power and importance of local communities. Are you starting to see what I’m talking about here?


Look, I get it, this is the year of Elden Ring — hell, it’s the top entry on my list this year too — so this was never going to be the community’s game of year for 2022. But I tell you, if there’s any justice in this world it WILL be GWJ’s 2023 “Best Game We Shamefully Missed Last Year of the Year.”

3. Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker


I think I’ll put FF14’s latest expansion next because it’s the only game this year that made me cry (like, deep sobbing cry) with a quest to deliver a sandwich.

Maybe I should just leave it at that?

Endwalker delivered on an absurd promise, bringing emotionally satisfying closure to a story that’s been building through five games’ worth of updates over nearly a decade of development. While it maybe didn’t hit quite reach the spectacular heights of narrative success present in some of the previous expansions, it did give me everything I wanted and more.


Like, with MMOs there’s always a bit of a devil’s bargain you make, right? And I’m not going to say that FF14 doesn’t make some form of it. But generally speaking, in order to get the scope and grandeur and connectivity and ongoing support and development that is the promise of an MMO world, you accept that you’re going to be giving up having story and characters that really work and connect and hit deeply and meaningfully. But as I’m sure I’ve discussed in these lists over the past few years as I was playing through the base game and previous expansions, that is NOT the case with FF14, especially beyond the base game.


All throughout the same decade where the various non-MMO Final Fantasy games that were released continued to disappoint and disillusion me about what was once my absolute favorite series in gaming, the folks making the MMO were over here doing the truly great epic fantasy storytelling and world building populated by interesting, complex characters that I was missing, chapter by chapter, book by book. And Endwalker does what even many great fantasy novel series fail to, and brings it all to a conclusion in a way that’s simultaneously absurd and audacious but also grounded and real and affecting.


And while I haven’t yet played the patch content that has been released over the last year since the core of the expansion, I’m itching to make some time to return to what is now far and away my favorite Final Fantasy game and see what new developments have happened for me and my fantasy friends now that we’ve finally put a bow around saving all of existence from nihilistic oblivion.

(Insert obligatory meme about how generous the free trial is here.)


4. Xenoblade Chronicles 3


So, let’s do Xenoblade next. No sandwich crying here, but definitely lots of “anime kids struggling to break free from overwhelmingly powerful forces of oppression and learning the depth and breadth of human experience it was denying them” crying, which is also pretty good, but much less surprising.


If you’re familiar with what this series is and does and you like it, definitely play this one. In most ways, it’s probably the best one they’ve made so far. It’s also more accessible and playable than previous entries, so if you THOUGHT you’d like the series but struggled with some of it’s eccentricities, this might be worth giving a shot to see if the ways they’ve smoothed out the formula will work for you. However, if you’re just not down with hyper indulgent, extremely long winded, anime as hell JRPG ass JRPGs, this is not a game that’s going to change your mind.


Anyway, I’ve f*cking loved the games these creators make all the way back to Xenogears, even when they were at times objectively trash and broken in many ways, so I continue to be so happy and grateful that Nintendo has now given them the resources to make four pretty damn good ones. I do wish that didn’t come with the Faustian bargain that the games would only exist on Nintendo hardware, and thus be forever a decade behind the times in terms of the technology available to realize their grandiose visions, but I suppose it’s just one of those things that is what it is.


5. God of War: Ragnarok


So this one also had a good amount of “people freeing themselves from systems of oppression” crying too, and sometimes those people were giant flying jellyfish, and that was very cool. Also, as you might expect, there was a good deal of “parent child relationships being strained but leading to important personal growth” crying, and “people righting past wrongs and making genuine efforts to be better people who do better for the people and world around them” crying, and you know I’m down for all of that.


But, in many ways it’s just more of the same good thing that was the 2018 God of War (which is great, of course) and doesn’t really trigger the same instant love nostalgia centers in my brain that the Xeno games do, so it gets ranked a bit lower here.


6. Citizen Sleeper


Maybe I should have put this one a bit higher up the list here? I’m not sure. What I do know, however, is that as the poster child for 2022 being the “year of the narrative banger” it does not disappoint. Yes, in some respects it’s not too much more than a VERY pretty and engaging interface wrapped around a twine game, but:


1. Don’t hate — Twine is an amazing democratizing force in the world of game development, and some of the most interesting interactive narrative experiences I’ve ever had over the years have been Twine games.

2. It’s kind of like the folks from Friends at the Table decided to write a game, that’s f*cking incredible. Hell, I would be entirely unsurprised if you told me that the development team here actually DID include some of the folks involved in Friends at the Table, and either way I pretty much heard Austin Walker’s voice in my head most of the time while reading the dialog and narration in the game.


7. Final Fantasy 7 Remake


Finally made some time for this one, and you know what? It’s pretty good!

I do feel a little bit bad for the folks who really just wanted to play FF7 with pretty modern graphics and cleaned up gameplay, of course, since clearly they will never be getting that. Also, I’m right there with those who just felt slightly let down by the fact that it feels a bit small and unfinished in more ways than just that it only attempts to be in conversation with the first sixth or so of the story of the original FF7.


However, I’m super thrilled by the fact that they took the chances they did and made some truly unexpected and weird choices instead of just delivering the easy, expected thing, and I’m VERY interested to see what comes next in the “Remake” series.


8. Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe Edition

It’s actually Stanley Parable 2, but it’s a funny joke to bury it it in what looks like a remaster of the original game. Worth the price of (re?)entry alone for that hot new hole content.

9. Vampire Survivors

Definitely the best game of the year that can be played with a single finger. (Also, kind of funny that apparently it can bring many modern PC gaming rigs to their knees with NES level graphics.)

10. Stray

Cyberpunk kitty cats and sad robots are a very winning combination. It may be somewhat run of the mill in terms of game design, but it’s chill and a pretty and fun both to play and to look at.

Near Misses

Genshin Impact (Sumeru content patches)


As I’ve said for the last few years on these lists, Genshin Impact is the best game I will never recommend to anyone. It’s a spectacular mixture of Breath of the Wild style open world exploration and tight, expressive character action combat, and it has maintained genuinely impressive game as a service update cadence and ongoing support. Indeed, by hour count it’s quite likely the game I played most this year, although FF14 and Xenoblade certainly were strong competitors there. As with last year’s Inazuma update, they’ve once again added an entire game’s worth of new world to explore and ongoing story with the addition of the new Sumeru region.


But, it’s also a gacha game. Compared to others I’ve dabbled with (even from the same developer), it’s FAR more free to play or low payment to play friendly, but the core of its business model remains incredibly predatory and dangerous for just about anyone, but especially for people with impulse control issues or tendencies towards gambling addiction. So, if that at all is you, please stay as far away as possible.


V Rising

A really solid Diablo Tree Puncher, where you’re a vampire and kind of a dick, but so is everyone else, so I guess that’s okay?


Charming art style, and the instruction manual gimmick is REALLY good, but ultimately the game just didn’t hold me.

Guardians of the Galaxy
I played the first few hours and liked it for all the reasons other folks have been pleasantly surprised by it, but then dropped off it for some reason and even the promise of it growing into a Mass Effect-like action/narrative experience didn’t quite pull me back.

This Year’s Pile

And, here’s all the games I would have played (or played more of) with more time, that I expect I would have very much enjoyed from what I’ve seen and heard. As ever, it’s a big list this year — hope I’ll have time for at least a few of them before I find myself writing another one of these posts.


Chained Echos
Throwback JRPG that looks like a love letter to SNES and PS1 era JPRGs like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears. It only came out in the last few weeks so I didn’t have a chance to check it out, but I have every intention of giving it a go.

One of the big “year of the narrative banger” games that I didn’t manage to make time for. Maybe via game pass streaming to my phone while I’m on vacation though?

More year of the narrative banger stuff that I missed out on, and from what I hear maybe also the most interesting take on survival horror in a long time? Also very interested to check it out.

Horizon: Forbidden West
I only just managed to get ahold of a PS5 last month for God of War, and I was waiting to play this one on better hardware than my old PS4. Maybe sometime early in the new year then!

Marvel’s Midnight Suns
I dunno, maybe? I’m like, a medium X-com guy, and a medium Marvel guy, so there’s a chance, but I find the base aesthetic presentation really unappealing so it’s hard to get excited for it.

Previous Years’ Pile

And, mostly for my own record keeping, here’s the games that remain on my radar from before this year.


Spiderman and Spiderman: Miles Morales
As often happens with Sony exclusives, I skipped these when they first came out with mild intent to come back to them at some point in the future. Might finally do so sometime soon now that they’re available on PC (and I finally own a PS5, which also provides another upgraded option).

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
I bought it on the strength of recommendations when it was new, but still haven’t made time for it.

Umarangi Generation
The hipsters loved this so much that I couldn’t resist buying it, but I also still haven’t made time for it either.

Sounds like more hipster sh*t I would totally enjoy. Just, never made time for it.


Persona 4 Golden
Given how much I loved Persona 3 and 5, I should really play this one past the first month or two in the story – and now that it’s on PC, I have no good excuse.

Lone Echo (1 and 2)
The VR games that have got away (so far). Hopefully I’ll remedy that soon.

Ori 1 and 2
Why haven’t I played these yet?

I don’t play tactical/strategy games often, but when I do they often involve giant robots, so this seems like I should give it a try. Also, can I please have another Front Mission game? Thanks!

Previous Lists


Lumines Live, Final Fantasy 12, Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, Zelda: Twilight Princess, Oblivion, Gears of War, Chromehounds, Viva Pinata, Dead Rising, Saint’s Row

Mass Effect, Rock Band, Halo 3, Bioshock, Persona 3, Portal, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Forza 2, Super Mario Galaxy, Crackdown

Missing link!
WoW: Wrath of the Lich King, Rock Band 2, Fallout 3, The Witcher Enhanced Edition, Far Cry 2, Burnout Paradise, Fable 2, Left for Dead, Gears of War 2, Saints Row 2, Persona 4, GTA4

Missing link!
Borderlands, Assassin’s Creed 2, Dragon Age, Forza 3, Shadow Complex, Batman Arkham Asylum, Uncharted 2, Flower, Red Faction Guerrilla, Left for Dead 2

Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 Brotherhood, Red Dead Redemption, WoW: Cataclysm, Halo Reach, Just Cause 2, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Fallout New Vegas, Dragon Quest 9, Heavy Rain

Skyrim, Forza 4, Xenoblade Chronicles, Portal 2, Witcher 2, Dead Space 2, Batman Arkham City, Bastion, Dragon Age 2, Saints Row 3

Missing link!
Mass Effect 3, Forza Horizon, Journey, Dishonored, Borderlands 2, Dragon’s Dogma, Xcom, Guild Wars 2, FTL, Mark of the Ninja, 1000000

Forza 5, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Assassin’s Creed 4, Mass Effect 3 DLC, Bioshock Infinite, Rogue Legacy, Gone Home, Tomb Raider, GTA5, Forza Horizon Rally Expansion

Dragon Age Inquisition, Forza Horizon 2, Elite Dangerous, Transistor, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Link Between Worlds, South Park Stick of Truth, Shadow of Mordor, Threes, A Story About My Uncle

Elite Dangerous, Witcher 3, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid 5, Forza 6, The Beginner’s Guide, Halo 5, You Must Build A Boat, Ori and the Blind Forest

Elite Dangerous, Forza Horizon 3, Witcher 3 DLC, Abzu, Final Fantasy XV, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Firewatch, The Witness, Inside, No Man’s Sky

Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Destiny 2, Nier: Automata, Mass Effect Andromeda, Persona 5, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mario Odyssey, Forza 7, Dishonored 2

Red Dead Redemption 2, Destiny 2: Forsaken, Tetris Effect, God of War, Forza Horizon 4, Into the Breach, Assassin’s Creed, Pyre, Gravity Rush Remastered and Gravity Rush 2, Rez Infinite

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Control, The Outer Wilds, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, Death Stranding, Valve Index, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, The Outer Worlds, Keep Talking and No One Explodes

Game of the Decade 2010 - 2019
Mass Effect 3, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Elite: Dangerous, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Destiny 2, Red Dead Redemption 2, Nier: Automata, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood, Forza Motorsport 4

Final Fantasy 14, Hades, Pistol Whip, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Genshin Impact, The Pathless, Gris, Half Life: Alyx, Ghost of Tsushima, Cyberpunk 2077

Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers, Inscryption, Outer Wilds: Echos of the Eye, Metroid Dread, Forza Horizon 5, Death Loop, Persona 5: Strikers, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, Dragon Quest 11, Loop Hero, Genshin Impact (Inazuma content patches), Honkai Impact, Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Elden Ring, Pentiment, Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, God of War: Ragnarok, Citizen Sleeper, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe Edition, Vampire Survivors, Stray, Genshin Impact (Sumeru Content Patches), V Rising, Tunic

Dude... you even included your previous year's lists. That's epic!

RE: Citizen Sleeper... this one seemed right up my alley but I guess I wasn't in the mood for a text-based action management adventure when I gave it a spin during the summer. Your praise for it has piqued my interest again and I may give it another shot!