In both 2020 and 2021, we invited past contributors of the site to talk about the games they played during the year. Now, we have extended the invitation to 50 writers, including a few special guests.
Don’t forget to support all these talented folks! Thank you for tagging along through 2022.
See you next year.
South of the Circle
When we remember, we revise. Perhaps the biggest lesson that I’ve learned this year. And South of the Circle typifies this lesson.
This game reminds us that no matter our intersection in society, we are all both privileged and south of some circle of privilege. And the legacies of our intersections cascade into the present and beyond.
Quick Time Events may be reviled, but they are effective when tied to specific states of mind or mood. They taught me here that relying on emotional reasoning is often a flawed exercise. Our decisions, identities and memories are never truly binary.
By Phoenix Simms
Recommended read: The Prince of Hades Laughs with a Mouthful of Blood
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
In Sianne Ngai’s critical work Our Aesthetic Categories, she outlines “the cute” as one of the main organizing emotions of twenty-first century capitalism. I thought about this a lot when I started Kirby and the Forgotten Land, a game whose protagonist is literally the ultimate consumer. What I wanted out of Kirby was a relaxing time with a game meant for kids, and that’s exactly what I got. But I was more impressed than I thought I’d be by the game’s aesthetic sensibility, its use of the series’ usual building blocks to create a cozy, delightfully varied bubble full of things to collect and perfect. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, but what I really liked was the passive cuteness washing over me: look, a sponge cake! Orb Kirby! A vending machine!!!
But this game’s cuteness takes place in ruined theme parks, frozen cities, and abandoned industrializing beaches, a setting which seems to nod back, however unintentionally, to Ngai’s capitalist affects. I have to wonder why this entry of Kirby, similar to Pokémon’s historic emphasis on human-nature relationships, felt moved to include a vision of ruined environments rewilding themselves as a stage for a cute pink monster to trample through. It’s a setting that could easily feel basic on the one end or didactic on the other, but instead it just feels fun — even if we don’t find out the story behind the ruins.
By Emily Price
Recommended read: ‘Norco’ is a sci-fi Deep South dystopia about mundane, corporate evils
The Case of the Golden Idol
So many video games trade in power fantasy: fire the hugest guns, cast the biggest fireball, dominate whole kingdoms. Rare is the game that gives you the power fantasy of feeling like a genius. The Case of the Golden Idol is a feat of game design and intuitive-yet-elusive mystery plotting. Every chapter presents you with a swiss watch of intrigue and conspiracy — unpacking every new twist and ulterior motive is the most engrossing, rewarding experience in 2022 — and the thrill of cracking the case is the year’s best power fantasy.
Citizen Sleeper is a perfect arc. My playthrough felt authored almost even though there are a number of ways Sidereels vines and machinery could’ve taken me. I could never stop thinking about how perfectly it all floated into place, not in the way that everything went well but that everything ebbed and flowed. The precariousness, the awkward first meetings with people, the good graces of those around you, and the streaks of poor luck, all the sorrow and silences I’m familiar with were here, and after all our lived experiences like those, at the end of this year I want to say to you all, “I’m still here, I’m still alive, I’m with you.”
There Swings a Skull: Grim Tidings
The world is melting, and two gay old men are among the few left to see it happen.
I’ve always felt that love is its strongest in spite of something. Choosing to stay and make things work even if it’s hard, even if you’re hurting, even if the sun and the crooked mayor and a horde of hungry spiders stand in your way. When our supposed authorities won’t protect us, who will? We have to rely on each other, as many marginalized people have before us, and will after us. There Swings A Skull: Grim Tidings is a call to action and a love letter to the people hurt most by the whims of billionaires and negligent governments — in just four hours, it reminded me to keep the ones I love close, no matter how the world around us begins to decay. Maybe that’s enough.
Sky: Child of Light
You’re resilient. Your cape may tatter, your movements may grow sluggish, your color may fade. But you won’t die. You’ll survive. Stand by another’s light to recover. Read other’s encouragement left in candles. Your color will brighten again. Your cape will re-inflame. Then you’ll soar in the sky, and glide on your feet, through forests and mountains, beaches and tundras. Ignite your potential while chasing spirits of the past. Learn their echoes. Lift their memories to the stars. Keep going.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins
“With the memory of their struggle buried deep in their hearts.”
A fitting epitaph for a doomed band of adventurers in search of Chaos — an experience that defies its pre-release memes and shitposting to deliver something both thrilling and heartfelt. Through all the gruff dialogue and Limp Bizkit, Jack and his companions’ doomed journey spirals down and folds back on itself enough times that you can’t help but despair for the lives they’ll never get to lead again. Now, the fact that all this sadness is punctuated by the crunchy and flexible combat that Team Ninja is known for is a treat all on its own.
I spent a cozy Saturday afternoon in the winter completing this indie game, sipping sakurambo tea. Since I skipped out on the Pokémon Snap remake, this game was my first chance to reapproach the format, and it brought back fond memories. But, this time, instead of Pokémon friends, I was taking pictures of Weird Little Guys.
Penko Park achieves what you think it will at first glance — being a Pokémon Snap-like with eerie creatures. It has creepily charming characters and art and a gameplay loop that keeps you digging in for more. Sit down with your favorite hot beverage and enjoy a long afternoon with this game.
World of Warcraft: Dragonflight
An MMO doesn’t have to be a theme park; it can be a place. Dragonflight seems to have helped Blizzard remember that. Soaring through the skies on my dragon is glorious, but the side stories are what have captivated me. I’ve listened to an old dragon reminisce about a past life in a place he barely recognizes; repaired a dragon whelp’s plush duckie, adorably named Happy Duck, who was damaged after she crashed into a tree learning to fly; found a job for a loving dog in a world that demands he have a purpose; helped two centaurs propose, unknowingly, to one another; and convinced a friendly, misunderstood yeti to play dead so a child who lost his mother could take credit for “slaying” him. Much of this happens without violence in a genre famous for having you kill.
It’s these little moments that keep me coming back. I’m not saving the universe. Not fighting. Not a hero. An explorer, a traveler, a person, helping where I can. Like I’m part of the world.
By Will Borger
Recommended read: Into the Howling Dark: The Last Days of the Xbox 360 Halos
A Little to the Left
A Little to the Left feels like doing small-font sudoku on a moving bus – equal parts satisfying and frustrating. But regardless of where you land on the scouring spectrum, this household puzzler does, in fact, make tidying feel fun. Who knew peeling a digital sticker could feel so good? Beware, though. Conversations can start to feel a little too realistic when you’re playing in tandem with a partner. Unresolved cleaning gripes may start to rear their head. The calendar puzzle was a healthy reminder of why our best attempts at a shared schedule never worked out. And who the hell stacks a bookcase like that, anyway?
Growing up I was the only girl, born between two brothers. I often found myself desperately searching for a connection to them, which eventually came in the form of FPS games. From Halo to The House of the Dead, we played it all; but as we got older, I found myself on the sidelines, feeling like the odd man out. It wasn’t until the release of Splatoon 3 this year that I finally felt that connection again – I was added to the gaming group chat reserved for my brothers’ friends, and they text me almost every day to play Grizzco (my area of expertise!). It’s incredible how such an adorable, cartoonishly vandalistic game like Splatoon could bring back the family I remembered.
It is to my continuing frustration that the western games space does not “get” Splatoon 3. It’s out here refining on a sublime, stylish competitive shooter with a story that’s learned all the right lessons from Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion, and we’re still over here asking if the series is “treading water”, if the third entry is “too little, too late”. Splatoon 3 is a dense shooter filled with unbelievable drip. It should be in conversation with the shooter greats like Doom and Titanfall 2. It is a cultural phenomenon on its home turf, and that it isn’t elsewhere is an enduring shame.
By Nat Clayton
Recommended read: In celebration of Olympus, the pinnacle of battle royale maps
Also, consider wishlisting A Highland Song!
There are many things anyone could mention about Splatoon 3, like its impressive visuals and completely enjoyable gameplay. But what stood out to me was the breathtaking style that oozes on every detail, and how the community embraces it to the fullest. Here, the style becomes much more than clothes put together — it becomes a driving force to communicate without the need for words.
It may not seem like much at first, but I find it quite interesting how they show that the importance of your wardrobe as a form of expression can transcend entire species.
Tonight, Together is a game of exhausted, fleeting relief. A legendary Necromancer has died, creating a brief lull in the machinations of a dystopic regime. You’re attending a hastily thrown-together celebration party. As the evening wears on, you chat to old friends and flames and dance with them, while slowly unspooling thoughts about the city beyond and your shared pasts. The game’s washed-out 3D world is contained by a small rectangle of pink plastic, like the mirror in a make-up case. Soft, elemental lightshows gently discolour the surrounding blackness. There is no urgency to the flirting: you aren’t playing a Get Laid simulator, just enjoying an overdue feeling of closeness to another body. Nor is the dancing a test of skill: you sweep the mouse cursor haphazardly along trails of collectibles left by your partners, who occasionally screw up moves or drop belongings for you to return. The whole thing feels both delirious and deliberate in its desire not to overwhelm: it’s no triumphant rave, but a low-stakes comedown game for people who are thankful but hurting. A little pre-dawn window of weary love and replenishment for the struggles to come.
I should have hated Neon White. I thought its fast-paced platforming would frustrate me and its card-based guns would remind me of my abysmal aim, but Neon White felt surprisingly streamlined for players like me. Thanks to instant retries and bite-sized levels, dying never felt too penalizing, and when I was forced to repeatedly retry levels for medals, Machine Girl’s frantic soundtrack pushed me through. (I even looked forward to cringing at the game’s Danganronpa-esque dialogue between levels.)
Playing Neon White made me appreciate two genres I’ve continuously written off. Better yet, it turned me into a freak — someone who cares about shaving milliseconds off times, locating every level’s collectible gift, and hanging out with my weird dead friends who wear corsets while racing across heavenly rooftops.
By Amelia Zollner
Recommended read: How Splatoon fans discovered the secret of ‘Fuck You’ Tuesday
As a kid, I worked through challenging parts of video games with the help of my friends. On blacktops rumors spread; in basements, we overcame insurmountable odds. Each day brought new discussions and discoveries borne through our individual experiences. I found myself brought back to these feelings during my time galavanting around the Erdtree. In the Lands Between, my friends were my guide. Elden Ring revived a sense of play, discovery, and community I hadn’t felt in a long time. It feels nostalgic without succumbing to the stasis of navel-gazing that so many projects fall into. Oh, the stories you will have playing this game. Good luck, traveler.
Dragon Quest V
In a genre historically structured around the idea of a hero whose condition as such is metaphysically bestowed upon them, Dragon Quest V found a way to distinguish itself by questioning what a hero is made of. Is heroness an intrinsic aspect of a being or the unfolding of a genuine desire to go after what one believes is true and right? To answer this question, Dragon Quest V allows itself to be not only optimistic but also romantic about things without the feat of sounding naive. With patience, the game tells the main character’s life story to show that everyone has the potential to be the hero one might need to be.
By Paulo Kawanishi
Recommended read: Far Cry 6’s guerrilla fantasy paves over real Latin American trauma
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist
It’s been a while since I’ve played a game written like literary fiction, but I Was a Teenage Exocolonist nailed it. Its colorful descriptions and characters were just two reasons that kept me glued to the screen into the late hours of the night, wondering what dark incidents would befall my colony and how my friends would grow up. Each person felt relatable and unique without a single one feeling like a gimmick or an iteration of another. It helps that the game never resorts to pages of exposition to educate its players. Instead, it lets them discover most of its intricacies through their interactions.
I’ve only played through two lifetimes, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there are other surprising story bits hiding in its 29 different endings. There’s just something special about feeling like you could live through a different life again and again.
By Jessica Reyes
Recommended read: The Next Pokémon Game Desperately Needs to Break the Silence
I’m a city boy, through and through. I grew up in a council flat in London’s bustling Little Lebanon and never feel more at home than when I’m surrounded by tall buildings and snaking my way through narrow streets. That’s why the world of Cyberpunk 2077 has pulled me in so completely. I know that it’s a facade, that I can’t enter most stores or meaningfully interact with most of the citizens, but I still adore just existing on the streets. Wandering around the alleyways, plazas, and rooftops has become my favourite pastime. I’m going to be exploring Night City for the entire Christmas break.
By Issy Van Der Velde
Recommended read: After Going To My First Esports Tournament I Finally Get It
Frog Detective 3
Frog Detective 3 is a game that makes me happy. The Detective in all his naive and kind-hearted glory. His conversations with other characters, all playing it straight while delivering goofy gags. The fourth wall-breaking interjections from Frog Detective’s creator. His magnifying glass, which after three games still has no functional use, his surprisingly fun scooter and his sticker-covered notebook with character profiles. They all make me happy. The fact there is a place for short, sharp, silly and charming games such as Frog Detective 3 and its predecessors – that certainly makes me happy.
In a year that saw the North American release of a brand new Cotton game, Hazelnut Hex comes along and completely steals the show for me. It’s an excellent horizontal shoot ‘em up with gorgeous pastel colors and a lighthearted story about saving breakfast (and your friends). The fundamentals of the genre are incredibly strong here, and the challenge is engaging without being overwhelming. I’m still chasing a 1CC run for this game, but I’ll gladly sink as much time as needed so I can live in this colorful world a little longer. Just remember, winners don’t skip breakfast.
By Joshua Delaney
Recommended read: That One Room in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The Past Within
The Past Within may be a short experience, but its unique gameplay gives it longevity.
The best way to describe the title is as an asymmetrical multiplayer point-and-click escape room where two players must communicate effectively to solve puzzles. One of the best aspects of it is that it doesn’t require an online connection. When you begin, it asks questions that ensure the players’ instances are synchronized.
The game is consistently mysterious, as one player is in the past and the other in the future, both trying to uncover the narrative through environmental storytelling.
The best part, however, is yelling shapes at your friend, getting increasingly frustrated at each other’s puzzle-solving pace. Once you get to the end, there’s a simultaneous feeling of relief and dread because you’re left wanting more.
Playing it reminded me of early quarantine days.
My friends and I would find any kind of game for visual stimuli as we focused on talking about our day. It’s weird to feel nostalgic for those days, but playing The Past Within elicits that sensation.
Dorfromantik is a game of two severely conflicting sides. On the one hand, a deeply relaxing game, on the other, an incredibly stressful one.
In many ways, Dorfromantik is a somewhat modified Tetris, albeit with a more interesting style. Hexagonal, city themed tiles pop into view, and you are tasked with slotting them together as close to perfectly as possible. Get it right and your city thrives. Get it wrong, however, and everything falls apart.
It’s a beautifully annoying game. Wonderfully easy to play on a rainy afternoon, but a tremendous challenge to master.
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
Fatal Frame 2 was the first of the franchise I played and it was a bit underwhelming. The item management, puzzles and exploration expected from a survival horror game are all competently done, but the story has too much tell and not enough show, the camera-based combat feels dragged out, and I was only scared maybe twice. My biggest takeaways are the excellent-looking and eerie, if not outright scary, environments and the Kusabi. The Kusabi is a great monster design — if he works on his ectoplasmic cardio, I’d like to see him in Dead by Daylight.
By Bryan Mangan
Recommended read: The Brauner Climax
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut
During lockdowns throughout the past few years, I was a delivery driver. While at first it felt a bit silly to come home from my delivery driving job to then continue to deliver things in a video game, something supposed to be an escape, the irony was quickly lost on me as I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Death Stranding provided a novel experience, through both its gameplay and story; the Director’s Cut gave me another reason to revisit it this year with more delivery orientated goodies and general quality of life improvements.
This strategy game where outcomes persist across playthroughs sees my table less often than I’d like. A gaming group mainstay hates it, complaining that one’s road to victory often remains unclear until it’s too late. He can’t figure out what to do.
Yet I love Oath precisely because of that frequent indecision and uncertainty. For Oath is ultimately a game about history – of being in its midst, and enduring its judgment. No other game forces you to think in such terms, or more effectively captures the nebulous periods wherein world-changing decisions are made.
In Oath, the path to realizing military, economic, and political goals is seldom apparent, and few wins prove as lasting as you’d expect. Even successful strategies that shape future rounds can eventually be unwound, and failed endeavors soon disappear into obscurity. Such is Oath’s most bitter lesson: To be judged by history is to be forgotten. The game always leaves you questioning whether you made the right choices – or asking, Right according to whom?
Nights At the Gates of Hell
Jordan King’s follow up to Bloodwash takes the love of genre films and moves the focus from giallos to Italian zombie films. The movie is swaddled in references, reverence and parodies of its inspirations, making it a banquet for fans of Fulci, Mattei and others. The low-poly, neon VHS aesthetic sells this even further, while also lending a doomed atmosphere that is made terrifying by excellent sound design and a keen eye for imagery and setpieces. The game is a master class in combining suspense, camp and humor, perfectly encapsulating the appeal of the films it references. Also, how many zombie games kill the player from a single bite since the infection would take over? Remember: Aim for the head.
Trombone Champ is belly laughs in the afternoon, visceral gags triggering uncontrollable bodily responses.
It is the raucous joy of revelling in embarrassment with friends, family, the watchers and authors of YouTube Let’s Plays.
It is memories of dreading school band practice — embouchure misbehaving, body uncoordinated, mistakes galore, desperately chasing the music, fearing the clarinet’s next squeak — an anxiety so personal it’s as if the game is uttering a secret known only to me.
Trombone Champ reaches a part of me inaccessible to other games. It is laughter, sympathy, and cheer in the face of our absurdly inadequate selves.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Very little about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is poetic when you’re a button masher like me. I’d like to call it strategy, but occasionally I catch myself f-smashing nothing three times in a row. Whoops.
This year, the skill tree in World of Light had me thinking about resilience. With unlockables like Perfect-Shield Recovery, I built myself up, bit by bit, to take on mini-bosses like Giga Bowser and Ganon. And maybe there was something poetic in that — just enough for the most unexpected poem:
In Which I Compare Resilience to a Shield
Not just any shield, either,
not a bronze Spartan shield,
a wooden Deku shield,
or even patriotic vibranium—
I’m picturing the shield
from Super Smash Bros.,
a transparent bubble that shrinks
when I take a hit. Resilience
comes when I drop shield—
that’s when I regenerate,
recharge, those moments
when I can unclench—
and it isn’t long, then,
until I’m ready for another bout.
I am finding less and less time to sit down for games, so the three minute match length of Marvel Snap is really doing it for me. It’s refreshing to play a competitive game without having to commit to a 25 minute Overwatch match, or a 40 minute League of Legend battle. While the games are quick I should warn you it is very easy to just keep playing! I keep saying to myself that I should play something else, but then I think “it will only take a couple minutes, one more game,” and before I know it the day has been spent, it’s time for bed, and I’ve fully neglected all the tasks I had to do. The fact that I am writing this when I could be playing Marvel Snap? Truly a miracle.
Initially, I only meant to indulge Marvel Snap as a brief curiosity. I saw my fellow writers over at Comics XF talking about it in our Slack, plus a few Twitter mutuals talking about it. A month later, Marvel Snap is now so much more to me than 3-4 minute card game matches with superheroes. It’s using a strategy with your favorite characters. It’s quick thinking when a key card boosting location is made useless. And it’s a game that lets me bond with my fellow comic book critics.
As someone who mostly sticks to single-player adventures, I can’t believe that my most played game of 2022 is a multiplayer game. One that features Rick Sanchez kicking the bejeezus out of Gizmo from Gremlins, no less.
And yet, here we are. Thanks to its layered fighting mechanics, incredible fan service, and thoughtful implementation of every character underneath the Warner Bros. sun, MultiVersus has cemented itself as not only my favourite game of 2022, but as one of my all-time favourites in the fighting genre.
MultiVersus might be IP soup, but it’s good IP soup.
Milk outside a bag of milk outside a bag of milk
Getting out of bed. Showering. Eating. Feeling okay. In theory these should come naturally. But for a lot of people completing any one of these tasks, let alone all of them, is a daily battle. Even when your thoughts are screaming at you to get something done because it will make you feel better, it just doesn’t feel possible. Milk Outside a Bag of Milk Outside a Bag of Milk portrays this struggle beautifully, utilizing the mechanics of visual novels along with gorgeous visuals to tell the story of a woman coming to terms with her own thoughts.
One of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had was playing the original Legend of Zelda with my friends on Discord. Instead of using internet guides, we decided to only use a digitized copy of the instruction manual and each other as our only reference outside of the game itself.
Tunic recreates this exact feeling, reminding us the adventure extends far beyond the reaches of the TV screen.
God of War Ragnarök
I knew as soon as I threw the Leviathan Axe in God of War Ragnarök that I wasn’t going to like it. The magic from 2018’s was gone. Perhaps my opinions of God of War’s combat were tainted by Elden Ring earlier in the year or perhaps with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice a few years prior. Ragnarök feels like it hasn’t evolved since then, but I have. I’ve graduate college, I’ve moved out of my parent’s place and I’ve finally started freelancing for real this time. I’ve moved on. And I think it’s time for God of War to do the same.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak
From Japanese yōkai-inspired monsters and a feudal Japan-style village to creatures reminiscent of western horror and a story about saving the kingdom with a band of stalwart knights, the shift from Monster Hunter Rise to its expansion was jarring indeed. But Capcom managed to pull off a vampire dragon and a gargantuan serpent from the bowels of the earth that reminds one of the Devil. The setting of Monster Hunter might have changed drastically since its beginning in 2004, but the future is looking much, much brighter. It’s good to know that Capcom fans are still eating good in 2022.
Apex Legends lore has always interested me in that it seems to hinge on very adult fears — outliving your child, watching a loved one lose their memory, mourning the loss of a lover- and, while the handling of some of its more political themes is, well, clumsy, it’s always clear that the personal has a lot of heart in it. The triumphant hope in Horizon’s realization she makes it home to her son, the moment when Mirage opens up to Vantage, a kid competing for her own mom, about how he competes for his, so that she’ll remember him, the stark vulnerability when Bloodhound tells Fuse they’re scared.
The lore isn’t Apex’s main attraction, and, arguably, takes a back seat most seasons, but sometimes we get a glimpse into the humanity behind the game that, for me, sets it apart.
Signalis is a direct inverse and response to Silent Hill 2. The former takes place in a far-flung fascist future complete with androids and unknowable space entities, very much out of step with the small-town Americana of Silent Hill. And while Silent Hill 2 focused on the sins of a man faced with the fruits of his resentment, Signalis is a heartbreaking treatise on the toll love can take in a fraying world. More than a throwback, it displays a mature understanding of the themes the genre thrives on, and expands its palette by stretching in a new direction.
ValiDate: Struggling Singles in your Area
Having been long over visual novels, I was half excited and half scared for ValiDate’s release. Popular novels always have some aspect of being problematic, leaving me uncomfortable and wishing I didn’t invest time into these games. However, Validate left having the small younger queer child in me hugged and validated.
As someone who only grew up with seeing queer but very white media – as a brown fat bisexual woman of color, I was always struggling between if I was “gay enough,” or if I was the right type of gay woman. In ValiDate, I saw myself, my friends, and very real situations that I’ve experienced, that are only unique to people if you’re someone of color. I love this game, and see myself revisiting it many times.
Return to Monkey Island
Clever and colorful, Return to Monkey Island should be celebrated as a seminal glad dad game, an answer to the obsession with bygone trilogies and their overserious men. Return instead gives us Guybrush Threepwood, a pirate nincompoop who doesn’t always do good, but makes good. Guybrush will never get the respect of a mighty pirate, but nevertheless amounts to a terror of the seas. A veritable walking catastrophe who will puzzle his way through your whole system of government if you don’t give him what he needs. And he’ll do it with immense cheer and curiosity. Because that’s what Monkey Island is about.
Potionomics is one of my favourite games this year, but there’s a flaw in the brew. Selling potions takes time. Travelling takes time. Talking to your friends takes time. Charming, lovingly animated characters call to you in siren song; but if you hang out with them too much, you’ll crash against the cliffs of capital. Falling behind leads to an XCOM-like death spiral that’ll drown your enterprise faster than you can say ‘hocus pocus’. It’s a shame, because Rafta is so beautiful, and it deserves to be explored with the same love that went into crafting it.
Boomerang X makes you feel like a deadly and agile hornet. Your movement hinges on a bladed weapon that is flung forward, allowing you to slingshot to its mid-air location and inherit its momentum as you dart around hazardous arenas full of enemies. Your abilities are slightly expanded as the game progresses, including a time-dilation mechanic that’s a life-saver in frantic battles, but the core verbs will carry you through to the final encounter of the mysterious, honey-combed island. Also, you get to meet a cute millipede explorer who greets you with a many-legged wave.
I cannot exactly say that Pokémon Scarlet is a good game. The ninth generation of Pokémon is jank. Shiny Pokémon spawn in walls, the end-game raid battles are frequently lost due to devastating bugs, and I have personally seen many Igglybuffs render in only to promptly be fired into space.
Nevertheless, Scarlet fits like an old, comfortable glove. The open world, four-player cooperative format is delightfully ambitious for a series that often feels stale. The cooperative play salvages the game for me, especially with the multiplayer sandwich building that feels like a cross between QWOP and Jenga. The game is a brilliant diamond in the rough with a lot of heart underneath the jank and technical issues, and one I will sink hundreds of hours into.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Taking the first step into an evolution course, Pokémon Legends: Arceus was an instant and pleasant surprise, that essentially fulfilled my childhood dream of playing an open-world Pokémon game on a TV screen. Of course, it’s not completely open-world and lacks a degree of polishment that’s absurdly painful.
Nonetheless, the spin-off game portrayed that which makes Nintendo’s franchise so inebriating, whilst exploring an underused and richly chaotic mythos. Seeing familiar faces in relatives of ages past is absolutely heartwarming, leaving so many questions unanswered and stimulating our own ability to find magic in all the smallest things through wondrous imagination.
Pentiment is a Renaissance murder mystery RPG, although calling it a mystery doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the game. In many ways, Pentiment is a contradictory game: it is a timepiece about why we look back at our history; an adventure game about the limits of definite knowledge; a combat‑less RPG where death takes almost everyone that appears on screen. But the true protagonist of Pentiment is the fictional town of Tassing.
Through Tassing, we see Lutheran word spread through Germany and revolutionary pamphlets reach the townsfolk. For Tassing, we try to uncover the conspiracy that, by refusing its past, almost manages to destroy the city itself.
Ten Tales From The Adamant Gambit
A future between, stretching out into the stars, moving and dying as they do. Very few things really last, but the things that do carry little changes, marked and etched with minsicle decisions. This craft, moving through the stars, it is ours. It will feed on our bones to make something new.
By Grace Benfell
Recommended read: Killing Our Gods: Faith Remains in Final Fantasy X
Tactics Ogre: Reborn
Given how many games are available today, it’s easy to forget that the medium remains ephemeral. Countless titles languish on long-dead platforms, forcing fans to maintain old hardware or hope an unofficial modern port has become someone’s passion project. Tactics Ogre was locked behind the gates of PSP exclusivity until Tactics Ogre: Reborn not only brought the classic to the masses, but eschewed a quick cash-in for a loving update. Playing it after 12 years is joyous, like catching up with an old friend. There were better games released this year, but no game was a better reminder to not take this precarious artform for granted.
By Mark Hill
Recommended read: This Is How It Feels to Build a Video Game and Watch It Die
Norco’s beauty lies in its scope. It’s a text-heavy adventure game that is both hyper-specific and speaks to grand truths. It employs some of the best literary writing in a video game to show how the residents of a Louisiana bayou, speaking in cajun accents, have been ravaged by the entropy of smokestacks and business. The main story involves its fair share of monsters and cults, but the most resonant thread is how, over time, human beings can deeply affect each other, and the world, through our actions. It’s a story full of small, compromised triumphs, nagging contradictions, and somber ambiguities — things we don’t often see in video games.
Twitter is a dumpster fire, yet here we are. People using social media likely came across a similar adage that points out how the moral assessment of such participation is a foregone conclusion, and that this cycle is inevitable, because we are bound to stay. Participation, reflection and conclusion repeat themselves despite the latter discouraging the former.
Participating on other platforms, like Mastodon, appears compelling as we rely on our animalistic desire of seeking the company of others (social) and be stimulated (media.) Yet, getting there necessitates learning the territory, managing appearances, exchanging contacts, and so on and so forth, only to end up with morality’s foregone conclusion: What cycles do we go through with such (morality) plays that render the whole endeavour as grind?
I have broken the universe, bent its natural laws into weapons against unholy nightmares. Over the event horizon I have plunged, not into doom or despair but transcending in glorious combat. I have not become a destroyer of worlds but a destroyer of destroyers. I beat back entropy with a radiant discoball, bending light, space and time itself to music only I can hear. Composed to invisible rules of a game whose lessons I teach myself, one brief attempt after another. I don’t give up. I keep learning. I cannot be stopped. I am the Hyper Demon.
By Samantha Greer
Recommended read: Paper Girls lets its teens actually confront — and live with — death