My Year in Gaming: 2022

The passage of time is a crazy thing. Somehow, this blog has now been humming along for over five years, and I find myself writing my sixth massive year in review recap. While the number of posts I make per year might be dwindling somewhat, the amount of games I am playing sure is not. It’s a record breaking entry in the books as I tackled 137 games this year. This increase in quantity may have overwhelmed my ability to complete games, however, as I only finished 56 of those, down from 78 last year.

The main reason for the major uptick in games played this year despite having two far more mobile children to chase around comes from my number one gaming trend of the year – handhelds! Thanks to the quirky Playdate, the retro tinker’s dream the Analogue Pocket, and the sleek retro Evercade EXP there was a whole new world of games for me to try (and I did not even own the biggest handheld of the year – the Steam Deck).

Aside from introducing many ways to enjoy games from the comfort of your own bed, the gaming year as a whole was pretty solid. It featured an unstoppable juggernaut in Elden Ring, several massive sequels in God of War Ragnarök and Horizon Forbidden West among others, and a slew of excellent AA and indie titles to make sure everyone’s backlogs stayed full despite some notable delays from games such as Starfield and Breath of the Wild 2.

We have a lot of ground to cover, so it is time for the main event! If you would rather skip the older games, you can jump straight to Games From 2022 or My Top 10. Also, if you’re interested in previous years’ rankings, you can find them for 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Note: A “+” next to a game means that I beat it, completed at least one game in a larger collection, or finished first in a battle royale game.

Games Released Prior to This year

Chicory (Switch)+

I rang in the New Year for 2022 not with champagne and fireworks, but with paintstrokes and dogs with self-esteem issues as I put the finishing touches on this charming and colorful indie shortly after midnight. Even though it did not quite hit me as hard as it did most reviewers, I still highly recommend checking out this super unique title about bringing color back to the world.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Switch)+

One of my absolute favorite games of the year, 13 Sentinels combined a gripping anime/Terminator/Matrix inspired, time traveling mystery with a fantastic mech/kaiju based strategy game. I waited for this to release on Switch, because it seemed like it would be perfect on that little handheld, and it truly was. I positively tore through the game, and it would have easily been a Top 3 game for me in any recent year. All of the characters really pulled me in, but a special shout out goes to the wonderful Natsuno and her incredible E.T. storyline.

Boomerang X (Switch)+

This game shares a lot of the frenetic first person gameplay DNA with one of my top titles of the year, Neon White. It was a terrific, fairly compact adventure that consisted of intricately designed combat challenge rooms, tons of graceful motion puzzles, and one incredibly innovative boomerang.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

After more than a year away from the best kart racer since Diddy Kong ruled the land, I finally jumped back in to perennial good time, Mario Kart 8. My two major outings with it could not have been more different, however. First, I mercilessly dominated my wife’s family during a vacation, and was convinced I was the greatest ever and had not lost a step. Then, I played with the Gamers Week Podcast crew and spent most of my night getting thoroughly whooped by Blue and friends.

Overboard (Switch)+

Snappy and zany are the only words to describe this brilliant little narrative jaunt where you have until your cruise ship docks to figure out how to pin your husband’s murder on someone else, collect the life insurance, and tie up any loose ends. Thanks to a great fast forward mechanic, subsequent playthroughs to clean things up are a breeze, and the dialogue and characters are almost Knives Out-levels of gloriousness. While not a true “time loop” game, fans of the genre will have something to absolutely love here.

Stardew Valley (Switch)+

This delightful indie farming game is one of my favorite games of all-time. My first playthrough felt so perfect that I was afraid to start a new farm because there was surely no way the second time around could be as enchanting. Thanks to developer Concerned Ape adding tons of content over time, I was proven to be quite wrong, and the 85 hours I put into farm 2 may have been even more relaxing and rewarding than my original farm. This definitely seems to be a game I could restart every 3 years or so for another 60+ hours of pure magic.

Mario Party (Switch)

Whenever my nephew and I get together we have to spend a few rounds teaming up in Mario Party to collect as many stars as possible and banding against computer controlled characters like Waluigi and Daisy, who clearly cheat. My visit in May was no different, as we played well into the night and came out on top every time.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Switch)+

I am convinced that this Wii U port is the finest 2D platformer on the Nintendo Switch. The feel of Donkey Kong Country from the SNES days lives on, while being updated to pure modern bliss. This was my second time playing through the game, and it only further confirmed its greatness, straddling the perfect difficulty and constantly amazing with its fresh takes on classics.

Portal 2 (Switch)

Upon its initial release, I spent countless hours laughing at the absurdist humor of Portal 2 and struggling to solve its intricate physics based puzzles. I have sought to revisit it for years and even own it on Steam, but I have been waiting and hoping for an inevitable Switch release to dive back in. More pressing newer games got in the way, however, so I need to find time to make my way past the initial tutorial level and carefully explore the halls of Aperture Science.

Cuphead (Switch)+

I was a little underwhelmed my first time through Cuphead several years ago. I loved the jazzy animation, but the gameplay just missed the mark for me. After downloading the DLC and devouring it (more on that later in the post), I decided to give the main game another try, and it completely blew me away this time. I am even proud to say that I managed to beat the notoriously difficult game while suffering less than 100 deaths. I definitely foresee more playthroughs in my future.

Retro Bowl (Switch)+

This discount title was a fun homage to Tecmo Bowl that added just enough team management to help it stand out and keep things interesting for a whole season. The plays themselves are more complex than those in the classic game, and there are some touch controls you can utilize as well. If only it had Bo Jackson, it would be legendary.

Sonic Mania (Switch)+

It felt so good having a quality Sonic game in my life again. In every way, this was the true spiritual successor to the ever-brilliant Sonic 2 that 90’s kids have been waiting decades for. There are plenty of well constructed tributes to memorable levels of yesteryear while also adding tons of new content (a Puyo Puyo boss battle!) to feel both fresh and familiar. Plus, most importantly, it is hella fast.

Golf Story (Switch)+

As one of the breakthrough early Switch indies, Golf Story will always hold a special place in my heart for showing me just how fun the Switch could be. I was well overdo for a replay, and the golfing RPG was just as brilliant and funny the second time around. Here’s hoping the recently released sequel, Sports Story, can live up to its proud heritage.

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (Switch)+

I know a few people who absolutely adore the Xenoblade series, so I thought I should give it a try with the highly acclaimed third entry releasing this year. I was beyond shocked how much this was exactly my jam, as I found this to be one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. It is the ultimate embodiment of what a great PS2 RPG was (think Final Fantasy X), and I never tired of the endless side quests and seeking out the perfect team combinations.

Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch)+

Once a year, I do a playthrough of the gorgeous visual album that is Sayonara Wild Hearts. Each year feels just as magical to revisit as the first time, and almost all of the soundtrack remains unequivocal bangers.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Switch)

I will never fully understand how combining Mario, weird Minion rip-offs, and XCOM works, but it just does. The encounters are challenging and invite experimentation, and exploring the strange world is oddly entertaining. I am also amazed at how little the Rabbids ended up annoying me. Now, I just need to make some time for the sequel, Sparks of Hope, that has been sitting on my shelf for a hot minute.

Axiom Verge (Switch)

I really wanted to love this Metroidvania, but it just made me wish I was playing the source material instead. Movement felt a little too floaty, and the big boss battles seemed a little broken. I hear better things about the sequel, though, (which conveniently came in the same collection), so maybe I just need to give that one a shot.

R-Type (Switch)+

At one point this year I started craving shmups, and I helped quench that by diving into the R-Type series. While I usually think of shmups as TATE (think portrait) games, I knew the optimal experience on the Switch would be something more horizontally situated, and R-Type delivered everything I desired and more. The high score tracking of seeing how many lives it takes you to get through each level was also an incredible replay incentive. Most importantly, though, it featured the one thing that every remaster should include – the ability to switch between original and remastered graphics which was mesmerizing.

R-Type II (Switch)+

Take everything I said about the original R-Type and put it here. I found the second game to not be quite as replayable as the first, but it was a still a great time that helped me in my time of shmup need.

Spelunky 2 (Xbox Game Pass)

Last year, I got crazy into Spelunky, a superb Rogue-like where you explore various levels of a cave/hidden society and die thousands of spectacularly unexpected deaths. The sequel very much hits many of the same notes as the original (in a very good way), but it also expands the whole affair a little too long testing my patience for dying and eventually causing me to quit before finishing it.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Xbox Game Pass)

Some college buddies of mine have a weekly Halo night that I occasionally partake in. Unfortunately, I never really got the appeal of the original Halo games in college, so I mostly got destroyed until they explained to me to use the pistol and to turn my damn flashlight off already. Still, my devil may care attitude comes in handy for some very tense and lengthy capture the flag matches that are always the high points of the evening and happen at just the right number of beers in.

Max Payne (Xbox Series S)

One day I found myself craving some good old fashioned early 2000s slo-mo bullet time action, so I figured why not go directly to the source and play the preeminent game to ever feature the mechanic compliments of the Xbox’s backwards compatibility. The game still looks and plays remarkably well, and the laughable noir story will keep a Max Payne style smirk on your face throughout.

Guardians of the Galaxy (PS5)+

It’s a shame this game did not receive more fanfare upon its release. While it has the music-heavy Marvel feel you’re familiar with, the characters and story about family hold their own apart from the MCU. The combat and banter emphasize being part of a tight-knit team with some Telltale Games style decisions to be made that impact your relationships. The chapters are all breezy 60-90 minute strolls through the galaxy that are the closest you will get to having a Guardians Disney Plus series.

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS5)+

Aloy’s first foray into the robot dinosaur apocalypse is one of the tightest paced open world games ever created. In anticipation of the sequel’s release, I not only replayed the original, I platinum-ed it and its stellar DLC. The world it builds on top of Ashly Burch’s strong performance is so compelling that I have no doubt I’ll be back to replay it again when number 3 comes out.

Wordle (iOS)+

We all had our Wordle phases this year. While on an extended family vacation, my wife and I managed to get everyone hooked on it, and for a month or so every morning featured updates from our relatives about how many turns it took them to guess the word. My father-in-law also thought he was clever by managing to slip the word into the daily conversation, but he mostly just pissed off whoever hadn’t finished yet and got it spoiled for them. Eventually, I lost interest after my stats got lost during the transition over to the New York Times, but I’ll never forget the escapism of those early months of the year.

Yars’ Revenge (Atari 2600)

Having never owned an Atari 2600 before, I was excited to finally add one to my collection. While I cannot say that most of the games hold up all that well (probably due to my gaming history beginning with the more advanced NES), one title unabashedly still rocks 40 years later. Howard Scott Warshaw’s 1982 debut Yars’ Revenge is the pinnacle of early 80’s gaming. The gameplay and graphics are remarkable for the era, and finishing every level by getting that pinpoint final shot from your cannon has all the excitement of the trench run in Star Wars and makes me think to myself “Great shot! That was one in a million, kid.” every single time. I highly recommend playing a version of this game in a more modern collection, so you can have a far superior controller.

Yars’ Revenge Game Boy Color (Analogue Pocket)+

The Game Boy Color port of Yars’ Revenge is a loving tribute that is extremely cleverly designed. The original relies on a large open space battlefield to work, and translating that to a Game Boy screen could have been a disaster. Thanks to some clever UI and using a two screen approach, the results are a blast, and I got revenge through all 256 addictive levels of the game in a single night.

E.T. (Atari 2600)

While Howard Scott Warsaw may have created one of the best games ever in Yars’, he is probably better known for the infamous E.T. that he built in a staggering 6 weeks to meet holiday schedules. The actual history is a fascinating read, and the game itself is surprisingly better and more ambitious than it gets credit for. Still, it definitely could have used more development time, so that you did not repeatedly fall into holes as much. But truthfully, we are all better for it having been released in this state.

Pitfall (Atari 2600)

One of Activision’s first games, Pitfall brings a grand scope and sense of adventure that really pushes the 2600. Swinging on ropes, jumping on crocodiles’ heads, and avoiding scorpions with Pitfall Harry is still incredibly thrilling all these years later.

Pac-Man (Atari 2600)

I am so sorry that my oldest daughter’s first video game will go down as this god awful port of one of gaming’s finest. The controls, sound, and graphics all make it abundantly clear that the 2600 was not powerful enough for a true Pac-Man adaptation. But that sweet, sweet siren’s call of money was too strong, and we must now live with this. You can find a pretty good history of bringing the phenomenon to consoles and some resulting legal battles on this episode of Gamers Week Podcast.

Renegade (NES)

This is the first beat-em-up that I remember playing as a kid, and it turns out I am just as bad at it now as I was all those years ago. The genre owes a lot to this game, and it pulls off some sensational things on the NES (motorcycle fights!). If you’re looking to kill 15 minutes, go watch someone skilled at the game absolutely blast their way through it on YouTube.

Battletoads (NES)

Rash, Pimple, and Zitz are the coolest 8-bit amphibians ever created and the most worthy blatant rip-offs of the ninja turtles that ever there was. The game still looks sharp and is pretty fun if brutally difficult. Maybe one day I’ll hook up my Game Genie and see it through finally, or maybe I’ll die many explosive deaths in the Turbo Tunnel once more.

Friday the 13th (NES)

I have begun a new holiday tradition. On each Friday the 13th, I will attempt to kill Jason and save the campers in this much maligned NES release. The game itself actually tries some cool things with day/night cycles, lots of different areas, and switching between counselors and perspectives. Unfortunately, the ambition is not matched by the enjoyment produced as the end result is just kind of confusing.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (NES)

For my birthday, I decided I was going to spend my day off attempting to do something I had never done before – beat Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Hell, I had never even played the Mike Tyson version. While I did not succeed in my quest, I had an absolute blast battling against some of the best fighters ever pixelated due to their cleverly designed attack patterns and occasional 1980’s brand racism. Several days after my birthday, I did succeed in getting to the Tyson match, but I just did not have the patience to master it. One of these days, I’ll finally be the champ of champs.

Yo Noid (NES)

Part platformer, part math based pizza eating game, all 80’s coked out marketing ploy – Yo Noid may have some rough edges, but it is a fascinating time capsule to revisit. You may not want to avoid the noid.

Gremlins 2 (NES)+

The original Gremlins movie may be the more fondly remembered entry, but for my money, 1990’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch is the far superior film mostly for letting little Gizmo turn into Rambo. You’ll be happy to hear that the game also does that as you’re firing flaming arrows at giant spider gremlins by the end of the game. And what a game it is. the stages are broken down into several compelling areas, and the boss fights are all pretty solid. The difficulty is up there, but it never feels unfair.

Darkwing Duck (NES)

Let’s get dangerous! The terror that flaps in the night actually has a decently solid platforming entry on the NES that succeeds at capturing the essence of the cartoon. While I didn’t get too deep into it, it seems like the kind of game that would be fun to learn to speedrun.

Captain Skyhawk (NES)

Every time I start up an NES game and discover it was published by renowned board game designer Milton Bradley it cracks me up. They really were trying to control all of our entertainment in the 80’s. Captain Skyhawk is a serviceable Top Gun rip-off, and the levels alternating between overhead and behind the plane combat make for some good variety.

Street Fighter 2010 (NES)

While clearly a cash grab on the Street Fighter name, 2010 feels interesting enough thanks to its strange Bionic Commando as a fighting game approach to things. Plus, it gets bonus points for truly nailing what the year 2010 was like.

Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES)

The first two Donkey Kong Country games are among my favorite on the Super Nintendo, so I was thrilled to finally give the third a try. Regrettably, I just could not get into it as the new character Kiddy Kong did not do it for me, and the game felt like too much more of the same. I am hoping to revisit it and prove my past self wrong.

Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES)+

Every fighting game is still trying to reach the heights of Street Fighter II, and the Turbo edition is the definitive version of it. 30 years later, I still play it exactly the same way every single time by taking Ryu to victory with all the hadoken, shoryuken, and hurricane kicks that my fingers can muster. And every time it is the friggin’ best.

Batman Returns (SNES)

It’s Final Fight with the caped crusader at the helm. The game captures the feel of the Tim Burton Christmas film and impressed me with some of the “cutscenes”. This definitely seems like one to revisit and conquer one day.

Star Fox (SNES)+

Correcting one of the many missteps of my youth, I finally sat down and devoted time to beating Star Fox. The branching paths and squad interactions (yes, I even heart Slippy) must have felt revolutionary at the time, and they still combine to add plenty of replay value to a relatively short, if difficult campaign.

Earthbound (SNES Online)+

It is a shame I did not find this game during my teen years because I feel like I would have become obsessed with this trippy RPG, but I most definitely would not have appreciated it upon its release as it would have been way over my head. Playing it through for the first time as an adult was beyond beguiling, and I hope to check out the rest of the series and become one of those people that shouts at Reggie every year about releasing Mother 3.

American Gladiators (SNES)

This game has all the 90’s patriotic spandex glory you could hope for. Sure it doesn’t make sense what you need to do for more than half the games, but the bewilderment is part of what makes the experience so special. Left with no other recourse, I splurged and spent $15 whole dollars to add a manual and the glorious box in anticipation of one day being able to ultimately win the challenge and make Nitro and Laser bow before me.

Bubsy (SNES)

Somehow I had never played the largely ridiculed Bubsy, so when I found a thoroughly beat up copy at the game store I knew I had to make it mine. The game itself is not as bad as I would have imagined, but the million ways to die in one hit really up the frustrating factor. Still, one day I will try to make my way through it.

Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball (SNES)

I had long heard tales of the jankiness of Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball but had never experienced the utter befuddlement for myself. Sure enough, this dystopian future basketball league delivered what I wanted in spades as the odd use of a single button for both passing and shooting seemed to make the wrong choice every single time, and after about 5 minutes, all the players just disappeared from the court. Excelsior, sir. Excelsior.

Shaq Fu (SNES)

There are more than a few games in my collection that I own because they are supposed to be among the worst games ever created, so I was thrilled to see Shaq Fu on sale for a mere $10. Sadly, the resulting kung fu fighting basketball legend game is more boring bad than “so bad it’s good”.

Cliffhanger (SNES)

Sylvester Stallone faces off against John Lithgow in an over-the-top beat-em-up with brief mountain climbing and avalanche interludes. Yeah, of course I had to make it a part of my collection.

Judge Dredd (SNES)

I need to make it a goal of mine to own every video game starring Sylvester Stallone. Judge Dredd has you playing as the supreme fascist behind “I am the law!” where you spend levels choosing to either arrest or execute all criminals until you meet your level goals (please let me know if you don’t immediately blow away the criminals). It’s kind of confusing, but it does at least look good and has interesting weapons.

Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing (Sega Genesis)+

Last name: “Ever”. First name: “Greatest”. Much as I had done countless times as a Sega Kid, I took a no-name fighter from last to champ in this bruiser featuring mild RPG elements. There’s not much more I can say about the journey than I already wrote about it previously. It truly was one of my finest epics.

Read the Epic Ballad of Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis)

There is nothing quite like that first level in Sonic. Trying to get your bearings as you traverse the Green Hill Zone to a bopping soundtrack at speeds faster than any other video game before it remains exhilarating. Even if it is a little rougher than its masterpiece of a sequel, it was clear Sega had something truly special on its hands from the beginning.

WWF Royal Rumble (Sega Genesis)

My one foray into the ring was exactly the 90’s wrestling fix that I sought. After choosing Brett “The Hitman” Hart as my character, I only lasted a paltry 3:24. However, watching the rest of the chaos unfold was far more entertaining as the eventual champ Razor Ramon (RIP) managed to eliminate The IRS for the win.

Cool Spot (Sega Genesis)+

Of all the games that I have fond memories of from my childhood, I assumed a game based on a 90’s soda mascot would be one of the ones to have aged the worst, but, much to my astonishment, it was still damn good. The platforming is solid, and there are some very weird and nonsensical levels that kept me entertained as well as collect-athons that did not feel like chores. Now if I can just find a game starring Orlando Jones saying “Make 7, Up yours!”….

The Adventures of Mighty Max (Sega Genesis)

Who am I kidding? I knew this was going to be a disaster of a game when I bought it, but the thought of playing a game based on the wonderful pocket worlds of Mighty Max was too much to resist. Unfortunately, the game is even worse than I imagined as it has perhaps the single worst jumping in any video game. The weight of it just feels completely off and only makes a bland game seem like more of a trainwreck.

X-Men (Sega Genesis)

You can play as everyone’s favorite Cajun mutant, Gambit, which, as a kid made this game an instant classic. While this side-scroller does not necessarily hold up as well as I hoped it would, being able to switch between the 4 main mutants (Cyclops, Wolverine, Gambit, and Nightcrawler and call in help from others such as Jean Grey and Archangel still makes for one of the better comic book adaptations of the 16-bit era. Just remember to “reset the computer”.

Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (Sega Genesis)

Hey you can also be Gambit in this one and Spider-man! It’s also not as good, but it makes up for that by being extra goofy.

Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Genesis Online)+

The GOAT beat-em-up holds up well to this day, and is a common revisit for me as it can be beaten in a single sitting. Blaze and Skate remain among the most bad ass characters ever, but the enemy and area variety (especially the baseball stadium) are what keep me coming back.

Resident Evil 2 (PSOne)+

For Halloween, I wanted to revisit my favorite Resident Evil game, and it held up astonishingly well. The cheesiness of the early titles is there, but also I was impressed at how much more action oriented it was than I remembered with larger hordes of zombies and an ammunition depot that must have made people cry with joy after the resource starving of the original. What really surprised me, however, was how much I enjoyed the B-run with Claire. After completing my A-run with Leon (as I always do), Claire’s B-run pulled me in thanks to the Tyrant roaming the halls, significantly harder enemies to fight, and the very creepy police chief. By the time I blew up the Tyrant and annihilated Dr. Birkin’s final form on the train, it was clear that this game was a classic for a reason.

Herc’s Adventures (PSOne)

Yet another game from my childhood that I don’t think gets nearly enough love today, Herc’s Adventures is a Zelda-like isometric adventure game infused with the incomparable humor of LucasArts. With 3 very different characters to control (the mighty Herc, the brave bow-wielding Atlanta, and the fast and sneaky Jason) there are plenty of ways to tackle the wild representation of Ancient Greece and its gods. Much to my dismay, this scratched up disc eventually hit a point where it stopped loading, and several attempts to resurface it did not succeed. Maybe one day I’ll grab another copy and see it through.

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (PSOne)

The stealth genre came into its own during the PSOne era (::cough:: Metal Gear Solid ::cough::), and Tenchu was a tremendous part of that success. While the levels may be comparatively empty to modern games, the thrill of figuring out your infiltration route and pulling it off remains. The reward is some fantastic cheesy dialogue and incredible pixelated blood spurting that does the game’s M rating proud.

Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (PSOne)+

I know a lot of people hate this Star Wars fighting game, but I weirdly adored it as a kid. It having lightsabers would have been enough, but the fact that I could play as multiple versions of Luke with his specific colored lightsaber for each was the height of gaming detail for young me. After purchasing this cheap on eBay, I am happy to report that my nostalgia won, and I still enjoyed this very janky game.

Apocalypse (PSOne)+

I remember thinking this action game starring a very pixelated Bruce Willis and 90’s darling Poe was so incredible as a kid. Playing it as an adult, it’s still a decent amount of fun mostly for the extreme cheesiness (you will hear Bruce Willis say “open up a can of whoop ass” so, so many times), the music videos playing in the background, and the knowledge that assets from this game were used to prototype the first Tony Hawk.

Pong: The Next Level (PSOne)

I cannot believe I scored a complete-in-box Pong: The Next Level for only $5. I would have gladly paid upwards of $10 to own this amusing attempt to regain relevance by Atari that shockingly has some pretty neat levels and some that are insanely difficult. It’s just not enough to sustain your attention to see it all the way through.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64)

One of my holy grail games, I finally found a copy of the somewhat pricey and very naughty tale of a drunken squirrel at my local retro game store. I only put an hour or so in, but it definitely felt exactly like I expected it to and came off as a slightly less polished Banjo Kazooie trying to make up for rough edges with raunchiness.

God of War (PS Plus)

Leading up to the release of God of War Ragnarök, I debated playing through the entire series as my only previous exposure was with the 2018 PS4 title. By virtue of the revamped PS Plus service, all of the games are now at my streaming fingertips. The original was highly amusing for 4 or so hours with plenty of hack-and-slash action to go along with a surprising amount of boobies, but I felt as though I had experienced what I came for and did not need to put any more time into it.

Donkey Konga (GameCube)

Who amongst us hasn’t gotten drunk and purchased a pair of GameCube bongos? Thanks to finally getting the tools to play it properly, I spent a few hours with Donkey Konga and was super impressed. There is a great variety of songs and difficulties that had me sweating and smiling.

Donkey Konga 2 (GameCube)

While mostly more of the same, there’s still a lot to love in Donkey Konga 2 as more pop songs are added to the mix this time. My only qualm is that some of the covers are a little (read: very) rough and distracting. Still, this shiz literally slaps.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube)+

For almost 25 years I have known in my heart of hearts that the best Zelda ever is the N64 opus Ocarina of Time. Now, after finally playing Link’s cel-shaded GameCube adventure, I am not so sure. With top-notch writing, an art style that still impresses two decades later, and the early building blocks for later titles being clearly laid down, this was at least the most joyful game in the series if not the greatest. While some late game fetch quests may have derailed the pacing a little, the entire journey and sailing those open seas was truly epic.

Super Mario Land (Analogue Pocket)+

As soon as my Analogue Pocket arrived after a year of waiting, I had no doubt what the first game I needed to play on it was. Super Mario Land is so refreshingly weird (the submarine, plane, pyramids, and bugs!) and short that I love revisiting it frequently. It felt right at home on the Pocket, and seeing it on that beautiful big screen was a wonder.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Analogue Pocket)+

I love that even after all these years there are still “new to me” old Mario games. I greatly enjoyed all the improvements this made over the original while keeping a lot of the random quirkiness that distinguishes it from the NES titles. The graphics got a major upgrade and pushed the limits of what I thought a Game Boy could do. Overall, it reminded me of a mini Mario 3. Plus, it introduced freaking Wario!

Wario Land II (Analogue Pocket)

I am mostly saving this sequel until I can make my way through the original Wario Land, but what I have played so far looks impressively vibrant on the magnificent Pocket screen. Wario truly feels like his own character, and the game seems to be taking things to an entirely new level of weird, which is really saying something considering how out there Super Mario Land games are.

Kirby’s Dream Land (Analogue Pocket)+

No game made me happier than my playthrough of Kirby’s first adventure. The two or so hours it took me to make my way through the fairly easy but utterly charming Dream Land with that wonderful green Game Boy filter of the Analogue Pocket brought me back to being 6 again and put the biggest smile on my face.

Tetris (Analogue Pocket)

I still can’t decide if this or Tetris on the NES is the definitive version of the game. While laid up in bed one day recovering I put my skills to the test and found that level 13 was about the max of my ability as it would all inevitably go wrong out of nowhere there. Still, I plan to pop this into my Pocket frequently to keep those tetromino dropping skills sharp.

Shantae (Analogue Pocket)

The half-genie series is one I have always wanted to get into, and thanks to a recent Limited Run Games release for the Game Boy Color, I decided to start at the beginning. So far, this seems like a really colorful and fun platformer with some light RPG elements that should be right up my alley.

Kid Icarus of Myths and Monsters (Analogue Pocket)

With my previous exposure to Kid Icarus coming purely from his stint on Captain N, I thought it was about time I figured out what his whole deal was. This Game Boy title is a pretty solid platformer with very good for Game Boy graphics that I will have to play around with more in the future.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Game Boy Adventure: A Bogus Journey (Analogue Pocket)

At least one purchase every time I visit the retro game store has to be of the “I had no idea this existed. This looks absurd” variety, and one very special trip this was the chosen one. The game itself has that single room classic arcade feel where you must jump and climb past obstacles and enemies while collecting items until you can reach the next level, and as an added bonus you get chased by historical characters such as Einstein and Teddy Rosevelt. It might not try the hardest, but you’ll definitely want to party on for at least a few levels.

Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble (Analogue Pocket)

Having never owned a Game Gear as a child, I was determined to use the Analogue Pocket to right that wrong. I heard a few people say this was the best Sonic game on there, and sure enough it feels true to the main Sega series and plays fast and clean.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (Analogue Pocket)

I mistakenly thought this was a Game Boy Advance port of the PSOne Final Fantasy Tactics, but instead learned it was a spin-off. Still, the A Kid in King Arthur’s Court story and diverse jobs available make this a fantastic game to play in small spurts right before bed on my Analogue Pocket.

Kirby Planet Robobot (3DS)+

Leading up to the release of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I wanted to play something to reintroduce me to the series that I have not kept track of since the 90’s. I had heard plenty of praise for this 3DS title, so I gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised to see how much crazier the world of Kirby had gotten complete with mech suits and tons of new copy abilities. I hope this gets a Switch port one day, so even more people can partake in this gem.

Metroid Prime Pinball (3DS)

The final game in my quest to own a complete-in-box version of every Metroid title was this rather fun 3DS cart. The pinball works great across the two screens, and the levels are well designed on the Metroid Prime experience. While still a fairly silly spin-off, it kind of makes sense in the wonderful world of Samus Aran.

IREM Arcade Collection I (Evercade EXP)

This is a bit of a weird collection. The Evercade EXP’s big selling point is “TATE Mode” that lets you hold the system in portrait mode to mimic the layout of many older arcade games especially shoot-em-ups. Yet the pack-in cartridge features a bunch of landscape mode shmups. While an odd choice, the games are still quite fun for the most part. However, 10 Yard Fight is the most mind numbingly strange interpretation of football ever put into a game. I know programming real football wasn’t doable back then, but seriously what the hell is this even?

Data East Arcade Collection I (Evercade EXP)+

One of my favorite things about the Evercade is that it allows me to get history lessons on all these defunct companies that I never would have known about otherwise. The Data East collection is my favorite with total bangers Burger Time (my mom’s favorite game of all-time), Lock-n-Chase (the best Pac-man clone with the coolest new spin), Sly Spy, and much more.

Intellivision Collection I (Evercade EXP)

Of all my Evercade collections, I think the Intellivision one may be the most disappointing. The first video game system I remember as a kid was my parents’ Intellivision, so I couldn’t wait to see what those games were actually like. My guess (and heart’s hope) is that the lack of the weird phone controller that the system was famous for makes the gameplay not really translate so well to the Evercade.

Capcom Collection (Evercade EXP)

While there is no fancy cart for it, the built in Capcom Collection features plenty of goodies that take advantage of the previously mentioned TATE Mode on the Evercade including the 1942 series, Commando, and Mercs. Throw in Arcade versions of Final Fight and Street Fighter II and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Fall Guys (Switch)+

I was very in to Fall Guys during the initial month or so of its release several years ago, and I decided to see how it translated over to the Switch when I heard some of my internet friends talking it up upon its recent port. It was a lot of what I remembered with a few new, amusing games thrown in. Truly the highlight was when trying to survive to the end with your friends, and I will happily throw my bean back into the ring the next time someone asks to partner up.

Fortnite (Switch)+

Before my first kid was born, I thought I had retired from Fortnite. 4 years ago I was unremarkably solid at the battle royale to rule them all but eventually grew tired of trying to keep up with the major weekly changes to the game. When the Get Played Pod crew made each other play the game thinking they would hate it and instead all got obsessed with it, I opted to jump back in and give it a look. I was shocked to discover that despite the many changes I was able to hop back in and immediately understand what to do, racking up more wins in the few months I played this year than I had previously. Thanks to big events including Star Wars Week and tie-ins with seemingly every major intellectual property (my main avatars are Ash from Evil Dead, Spider-Gwen, and Chloe from Uncharted), Fortnite has carved out a nice niche for itself as the one true functioning metaverse that is actually a joy to be in.

Games From This Year

God of War Ragnarök (PS5)+

This is perhaps the game that I am the most torn about from this entire year. Everything about it screams masterpiece, but the whole just did not work for me like I wanted it to. After being pleasantly surprised by my 2018 GOTY, God of War, I went into this with insanely high expectations that the story and pacing just could not meet even if the combat took things to another level.

Read my review of Ragnarök

Pupperazzi (Xbox Game Pass)

This very cute and simple concept (you take pictures of adorable dogs and get likes for them) was a perfect Game Pass game. I got to play it for a few hours and just bounce off of it as soon as the charm wore off and the shallowness of the gameplay became apparent. Still there is lots to love, and I bet this would be great to play with kids.

Windjammers 2 (Xbox Game Pass)

Who wasn’t asking for a sequel to an obscure Neo Geo title that none of us played back in the 90’s? Windjammer 2 is a thrilling and vibrant beach frisbee based sports game that keeps that 90’s vibe going strong. I had a lot of fun playing this for about a week or so, but then grew tired of getting my butt handed to me by the computer and gave up. Still, because it was on Game Pass, it was a total win.

Pentiment (Xbox Game Pass)

I genuinely thought Pentiment was going to be my jam. The medieval book art style is striking, and the writing is biting. But the slow pace, lack of voice acting, and incredibly slow reading (seriously, don’t write each letter one at a time) prevented me from being able to get into it.

Mario Strikers Battle League (Switch)+

The anime heart of Mario Strikers is strong. Scoring ridiculous goals akin to performing super moves in Dragon Ball Z never ceases to please, but the game just feels as though it is missing some additional features. You can smash through to the credits in about 3 hours, which opens up a much harder difficulty for some replayability, but really I just wanted a story mode like all the other Mario sports titles provide.

Splatoon 3 (Switch)

I was super excited to delve into Splatoon with the latest entry as a few of my Twitter friends constantly sing the series’ praises. For about two weeks, I thoroughly enjoyed myself especially when teaming up with people I knew to paint the battlefield with our squid ink, but constant server issues and plenty of other games eventually got in the way.

TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection (Switch)+

After 30+ years of failing to beat the original NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this collection finally gave me the one tool I have always needed – a rewind button. While the ecstasy of defeating Shredder and returning Splinter to his human form (seriously, that’s somehow a thing in the game) were surely highlights, the entire collection absolutely kicks shell with fantastic beat-em-ups and platformers to enjoy with some modern quality of life improvements. In a pleasant surprise, it is not just the stellar games that make this collection notable. There is also a lot of care put into the collection with additional materials that make this worthy of its source material.

River City Girls Zero (Switch)

I am certainly appreciating this recent trend of porting over or remaking games that had never been released in the U.S. before. On the heels of the popularity of 2019’s River City Girls, we finally get to enjoy the Super Famicon exclusive Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka that was focused on the boyfriends of our River City Girls trying to clear their names for a crime they did not commit. The new content in the form of cutscenes and songs are a lot of fun and probably the best part of the entire package. The game itself serves as a funky time capsule but does not quite hold up to other 16-bit beat-em-ups due to a lack of enemy variety and some overly punishing bosses. Still, some striking locations (the schools and amusement park) and the inclusion of motorcycle levels make it worth checking out for anyone interested in the origins of Kiyoko and Misako.

Marvel Snap (iOS)

During a glorious stretch of sleeping on my oldest child’s floor when she became scared at bedtime, I needed some mobile games to play to keep me entertained. I decided to give the buzzy Marvel Snap a try one night, and I really liked what I saw of this deck builder. The cards are all gorgeous and funny, and the basics are easy to grasp to get started. In the end, though, I realized my sleep deprived brain was not up for the task of learning all the ins and outs to actually be good as I faced other real humans, and I stepped away from the game.

Sega Genesis Mini II

I am a complete sucker for a good mini system, and the Genesis’ second foray into the mini market may be even better than its first. While there are a ton of great Genesis games on there (Streets of Rage 3, Splatterhouse 2, and a whole lot more), the real highlight is having Sega CD games. The cheesiness of the full-motion-video games is something I desperately miss, and having such an easy way to play them is a joy. I even decided to put this console up in my guest room, so any visitors can enjoy it too.

Whitewater Wipeout (Playdate)

The first game in the Season Pass for Playdate is an appropriate introduction to the quirky little handheld. Hard to master, but easy to grasp, Whitewater Wipeout does a fantastic job of providing an arcade-y experience that utilizes the crank and encourages replays seeking ever higher scores.

Casual Birder (Playdate)

This bird picture taking game has the heart of Golf Story and features a well-executed use of the crank to focus your camera. As one of the first games to be delivered on the Season Pass, I did not give it the proper attention as I was seeking out a million other things to try, but I plan to revisit it soon.

Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure (Playdate)

This is a fun crank based puzzler where you have to change the direction of the crank to either move forward or backwards and avoid obstacles on the way to a date with your girlfriend, who is becoming increasingly angry at your tardiness. The game makes excellent full use of the crank as there are moments requiring precision and some where you just have to crank until it feels like your arm might fall off. Ultimately each level got a little too complex for the breezy time I was looking for, so I put it down. But hopefully I will finish the final half of levels the next time I show my Playdate some love.

Pick, Pack, Pup (Playdate)+

This match 3 game is fairly simple but struck a chord with me since I can’t remember the last time I played a game like that which didn’t have 50 million mobile Gacha mechanics. While the individual levels are addictive, the Amazon warehouse satire is where the real charm lies in this game. Even as the gameplay started to get a little stale, I knew I had to see it through to its fittingly bonkers conclusion.

Omaze (Playdate)

At times, it’s super soothing making your way through the mesmerizing circular mazes. At other times, it’s nerve-wracking as you find yourself being chased and having to make split second decisions. Either way, it is always diverting and a good secondary thing to have going on while watching TV.

Lost Your Marbles (Playdate)

Yet another maze based crank game, Lost Your Marbles is more about the whacky misadventures of a scientist than the mazes themselves. The next time I am looking for a longer game on the Playdate, this will be high on my list of what to play.

A Joke That’s Worth $0.99 (Playdate)

Early on in my Playdate ownership, I purchased a bundle of games on to get a better idea of what was out there and support some indie devs. Joke is an interesting tittle that has you use the crank to essentially play hacky-sack to keep a character in the air for the length of a joke. Every time you fail, the joke must start anew, and eventually your patience will wear thin.

A Balanced Brew (Playdate)

Another game from that collection, Brew has you using the crank to attempt to balance a unicycle as you get coffee. Alas, it never quite felt intuitive and did not take up much of my attention.

Fish’n Feathers (Playdate)

This is one of the more addictive 80’s arcade style games on the Playdate. You play as a little penguin who has to catch fish. Any fish you let hit the ground will remove a tile and make it harder for you to move. If a fish hits you, it’s game over.

Necro Crisis (Playdate)

Combining House of the Dead with Duke Nukem one-liners, this gatling gun shooter excels at providing one of the most fun uses of the crank in Playdate’s inaugural year. The game gets high marks for graphics and sound, but still, it could have benefited from things like high score tracking for added replayabilty.

Reflector (Playdate)

In Reflector you play as a cute little alien in a tiny UFO that must use its shield to reflect projectiles into one another to clear them out. There is a certain Asteroids-ness to it all that works well, but the real joy comes in the excellent Challenge mode that brings creative ways to tackle the game.

Skwish (Playdate)

The award for game name best matching the sound of the main mechanic goes to Skwish – a puzzle game where you have to squish your dot into and out of colored barriers to reach a final destination. It reminded me a lot of Baba is You without all the god-level power and control.

Tapeworm Disco Puzzle (Playdate)

Yet another arcade-y puzzler, TDP features a tapeworm that must carefully navigate traps to collect cassette tapes and help trapped creatures be set free. The fact that you have a limited length makes the puzzles interesting and tests the old noggin’.

Generations (Playdate)

This tile matching game from the makers of one of my favorite Playdate games, Shift (more on that in Honorable Mentions), has a great mechanic of matching up pictures of similar age groups until you complete an entire “generation” of a family. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to figure out which groups match which across genders, and my poor eyes suffered dearly.

Flipper Lifter (Playdate)

A true standout of the Playdate Season Pass, Flipper Lifter combines Elevator Action with cute penguins for a very frantic crankingly good time. The game could use a little bit of an RNG polish as runs can be completely destroyed by random slowness of penguin spawning, but if you can look past that, you will have more fun than a hotel full of penguins.

Echoic Memory (Playdate)

One of the most unique games on the Playdate relies on audio cues instead of the crank. You play as a factory worker who has to match melodies to progressively more and more distorted versions to quality control record players while unraveling a story about memory itself.

Zipper (Playdate)

This grid-based strategy game finds you attempting to infiltrate an enemy fortress as a ronin and cut down your enemies with carefully planned moves. The result is thrilling and outright gorgeous on that exquisite reflective screen, but the lack of quick saves between rooms made me eventually tire of trying to complete a full run.

Executive Golf DX (Playdate)

I love a non-traditional golf game, but Executive Golf DX did not scratch my itch. You make your way either up or down a massive building playing golf, but the levels felt frustratingly cramped and not overly enjoyable. If you’re looking for something in a similar vein that is much better, may I recommend last year’s excellent Golf Club: Wasteland for the Switch.

Inventory Hero (Playdate)

This is the Playdate’s version of Loop Hero where your focus is more on equipment and item management than controlling your character who auto-fights and moves. It was a lot of fun for a couple of playthroughs, but once I got far enough it felt like I had seen it all.

Forrest Byrnes: Up in Smoke (Playdate)+

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or Playdate specific about Forrest Byrnes, but the title nonetheless proved to be a welcome distraction for its 90 minutes or so of playtime where you must carefully use your platforming skills to stay ahead of a forest fire and save campers to unlock amusing Smokey Bear inspired posters.

Honorable Mentions

Tunic (Xbox Game Pass)+

This mystery filled Zelda-like is better in concept than execution, but when your concept is nearly flawless it does not really matter. You play as an adorable fox who uncovers bits of a game manual that teaches you all the things you can do and is filled with secrets to uncover. Collecting those pages of the manual are easily the best part of the game as the action and somewhat confusing exploration sometimes let it down, but it is still a game that I highly recommend everyone check out.

Nintendo Switch Sports (Switch)

We were all hoping for essentially Wii Sports on the Switch, and that is exactly what we got. Playing online was clearly the highlight, and I even spent a couple of months in an online bowling league that had me wanting to throw my joycon through my TV in that true Wii spirit. While I did eventually put the game away, those first few months with it were among the finest of my long and storied virtual sports career.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course (Switch)+

It is clear that the brother creators of Cuphead used the 5 years since the game’s release to perfect the formula. The new levels are even more striking than the original (partly due to getting rid of the run and gun ones), and the new playable character, Ms. Chalice, puts a novel spin on things. Additionally, the bonus levels that are purely parry based are some of the most fully realized in the entire game. I personally would love if StudioMDHR dropped a handful of new levels every few years to keep this astonishing world going.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Switch)+

There is one boss battle in this game that is basically Kirby Dark Souls, and if that doesn’t convince you to play this then nothing will. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time sucking up cars and vending machines as the world’s cutest pink hero, I think my favorite memories of it were watching my nephew be amazed at the game when he played through it.

Stray (PS5)+

The cat game everyone was excited about delivered on its promise of letting you be a cool little cat in a post apocalyptic world. Solving puzzles by scratching things, knocking shit over, or stepping on keyboards really hit the spot, and I never tired of pressing the “meow” button to have my cries heard.

The Last of Us: Part I (PS5)+

Including this here might be a bit of a cheat since it is a “remake” of a 9 year old game, but dammit I loved spending more time with a spruced up version of my favorite game. The updated graphics and engrossing 3D audio genuinely transformed it into a fresh experience. I had such a good time being made to feel awful by the game that I beat it twice and got a rare Platinum trophy. Hell, it even made me want to replay TLOU2, a game that did not do it for me my first time through. The power of the Joel-Ellie dynamic is just that strong.

See my cheerful picture journey through The Last of Us: Part I

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration (Switch)

After years of being fed poorly made money grab collections, it was a breath of fresh air to get some truly lovingly assembled compilations. Atari 50 gets a special spot in the honorable mentions because it felt like visiting a well-curated museum furnished with incredible timelines, video interviews, and other artifacts taking you on a tour through the history of Atari. They even added some revamped and new games to the mix that really hold their own and are as fun as anything else in the collection. You will probably spend more time learning than actually playing the games, but being able to dive into each for a quick little 10 minute or so play session after each history lesson was fantastic.

Bloom (Playdate)+

No game better showcased the narrative powerhouse that the Playdate can be. In Bloom, you run a flower shop and try to navigate the complicated relationships with your parents (who think you’re still a college student) and your girlfriend. This was the rare Playdate game that encouraged you to visit it multiple times a day for many consecutive days (to pick and plant your flowers). The end result was downright beautiful and one of the most memorable stories of the year.

Shift (Playdate)

The Playdate excels at match games, and Shift is the best of the lot. You push and pull white and black dots to match up entire rows and make them disappear, but each move requires energy to do so that is only replenished on successful clears, so you need to get good at streaks to keep things going. Fortunately, the game lets you crank pieces to the left and right as well, adding an extra dimension to the puzzle.

My Top 10

10 a) Demon Quest ’85 (Playdate)+

Easily the most earth-shatteringly awesome title to emerge from Playdate’s inaugural season was the demon-summoning reading comprehension puzzle game Demon Quest ’85. You play as a high school student who has uncovered a book on demon summoning and must process the clues within to figure out what music, food offering, and human mediums from amongst your classmates will entice it to appear and do your bidding. The puzzles themselves are remarkably clever but the writing of the interactions with the demons and the choices you must make of what friends to help out, whether or not you should help your cat find love, and if you should participate in the apocalypse are what lands this in my Top 10.

10 b) Live a Live (Switch)+

About half of the remake to an obscure 90’s JRPG that only released in Japan previously could be an all-timer. The brilliantly executed Street Fighter, Akira, Wild West, and Ninja chapters hold up against any other 16-bit games and completely dazzle with the HD-2D graphics popularized by Octopath Traveler. What prevents this from being higher up on the list are the final two chapters. While they present an interesting story that brings everything together and deviates from traditional beats, they also manage to literally “grind” the pacing to a halt as a consequence of the sudden introduction of random encounters.

9) Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes (Switch)+

In a shocking twist, this marks the second consecutive year of having a musou game in my Top 10. The hack-and-slash elements of taking on thousands of enemies at once were top notch and true to the Fire Emblem core, but the real highlight was getting to spend more time with my beloved children of the Golden Deer. The relationship building, while somewhat more shallow than the main Three Houses game, was still an absolute delight, and the new main protagonist Shez was far more interesting and badass than Bayleth. Throw in an alternate universe story with compelling twists, and this was everything I hoped it would be.

8) Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)+

Aloy’s second adventure does not quite reach the heights of her first, but it is still a rollicking grand time hunting robot dinosaurs and exploring the wilds with your friends. As often happens in sequels, there is too much bloat that detracts from the excellent pacing of the original, but there are plenty of wonderful moments to discover (Vegas!) and an unexpectedly even more Sci-fi heavy story that has me intrigued to see where they go next. Interestingly enough, my opinion of this game improved after playing God of War Ragnarök. I realized that this world was immensely more alive and the one I would much rather revisit, and I started to gain a better appreciation of everything the sequel added.

Read my full review here

7) Pokémon Legends: Arceus (Switch)+

This was the Pokémon game I have wished for since I was a kid. The areas to explore were massive and inviting without being overwhelming. The story was fun and frivolous. The Pokémon themselves were delightful, and, most importantly, just being able to throw Poké balls to capture new Pokemon instead of having to battle it out every time was a fantastic addition.

6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (Xbox Game Pass)+

When a development team truly understands the assignment, pure magic can happen. Shredder’s Revenge was precisely what Turtle fans envisioned when this retro-inspired beat-em-up was announced. The art style was spot on, the levels were excellent call-backs to the most memorable ones from the 90’s, and using the original voice actors really took it into the stratosphere. Everything about it was so tubular or dare I even say radical that I refused to put it down until I had beaten it with all seven of the main characters. The perfection did not end there, however. Finally getting my physical copy from Limited Run Games solidified the outrageous levels of “Cowabunga, Dude” happening by including a coupon to a free pizza from Pizza Hut.

5) Rollerdrome (PS5)+

Tony Hawk meets Jet Set Radio in a dystopian future in this sublime and highly atmospheric combat rollerskating game. From the opening moments when you skate out into the unknown and see that stark “ROLLERDROME” pop up in giant letters, the mood is immediately set and never lets up. The gameplay requires you to pull off tricks to reload your weapons making each encounter a little puzzle to figure out the optimal path to take to aim and reload. While this may have worn thin over time, the addition of challenges that must be completed to advance to the next level really upped the ante. I don’t think I’ve ever quite hit a flow-state like when I finished an entire level in a single combo.

4) Vampire Survivors (Xbox Game Pass)

The “Just one more run” game of 2022, Vampire Survivors nearly convinced me to buy a Steam Deck, but fortunately an Xbox port was announced before I could pull the trigger. At first glance, this Castlevania inspired auto-battler might seem overly simple. I have even seen it described (fairly accurately) as an interactive screensaver. The simplicity, however, is what makes it so good. You merely move your character around the screen collecting experience gems while your attacks go off automatically. As you level up, you have decisions to make about what power-ups to choose that will affect your survival skills. You start as just a little pixel dude walking around and end by, as the tagline says, becoming the bullet hell, mowing down thousands of enemies at once as the screen fills up with a cacophony of attacks and monsters. I kept expecting to tire of this game, but each run provided its own unique affair as there are plenty of combos to experiment with.

3) Sifu (PS5)+

There comes a point in the second level of Sifu where you either get good and fall in love with the game or fail and bounce off. Just as I was ready to abandon this brawler, something clicked, and I was hooked. The combat is spectacular and features beautiful set-ups that are as thrilling as the Daredevil hallway fight, but the real tension comes from the central mechanic that has you age the more you fall in battle, affecting your stats and ability to upgrade. While the entire game hits you harder than a two-by-four to the face, the sublime third level is a work of level design artistry that belongs in a museum like the level itself. What unquestionably makes the game stand-out, though, is just how replayable it is. You will end up challenging yourself to see how little you can age each level and trying again and again to get that flawless run in. As I wrote up this massive post, this was the game I most wanted to return to.

2) Neon White (Switch)+

The most fun game of the year has to settle for the second spot on the list. Neon White is a speed runner’s dream for people who have never speed run in their lives. You play as a fallen assassin who must eliminate demons in heaven in hopes to receive a permanent stay for yourself. You do this by picking up weapon cards that let you fire at demons or perform a special move by discarding them leading to intricate order of operations puzzles where you have to figure out how to get through faster and faster until you earn the highest medals supplanting even the devs’ times. Getting the highest medals and seeking out off-the-beaten path collectibles add a ton of replayability, and I found myself among the Top 100 players in the world by the time I called it quits.

1) Elden Ring (PS5)+

I like to consider myself a veteran of the FromSoftware “Soulsborne” stable of games. From Demon’s Souls to Sekiro, I have devoted hundreds of hours and thousands of deaths to the Japanese studio’s distinct brand of learning to overcome the most challenging bosses you have ever been faced with, and I have loved almost every second of it (so much so that both Bloodborne and Sekiro are featured on my Top 25 Games of All-Time). While I consider the posture fighting based Sekiro to be the best game in the bunch, I think Elden Ring might have just been the most memorable experience I have had thanks to being the first FromSoftware game I played at launch. The reason for this can be summed up in just four words.

Try Finger, But Hole

Playing a FromSoftware game at the same time as it was erupting around the world (Elden Ring sold nearly as many copies in its first month as the entire Dark Souls series had in its lifetime combined) was unlike anything I had witnessed with a game before. The world is purposefully mysterious and obtuse with secrets around nearly every corner and no clear path forward. By design, this makes it a much more communal undertaking as players leave helpful messages for others to find lighting the way or warning of danger (or straight up lying and sending you to your death).

As time marched on, and my friends/coworkers slowly began becoming Elden Lords, the sense of communal accomplishment and celebration was palpable. Slack channels and Twitter were filled with stories of wonders discovered that sounded like the fever dreams of an extremely excited child. The entire thing felt as if we were back in grade school swapping overly-exaggerated stories on the playground except they weren’t exaggerated. The world was that grand and powerful. It was somehow the perfect Dark Souls game with hundreds of bosses to throw yourself at spread around a world that was even more interesting than Breath of the Wild. In over 95 hours of gameplay, I never once got bored and never once stopped finding new things to amaze me. And just like that, this year’s GOTY was one of the easiest decisions I have ever had to make.

And that’s a wrap on my year in gaming for 2022! Even if it only had one true masterpiece, it was still a highly entertaining time and another year of unsustainable rapid expansion for my retro collection. Here’s hoping 2023 brings yet another legendary Zelda, a few more retro consoles to my collection, and a whole lot more handheld adventures including a few of my own that I am working on for the Playdate.

2 thoughts on “My Year in Gaming: 2022

    1. I really need to try the Monkey Island series and it seems like the new one is a good starting point (and on game pass!)

      My Soulsborne rankings
      1) Sekiro
      2) Elden Ring
      3) Bloodborne
      4) Dark Souls
      5) Demon’s Souls
      6) Dark Souls 3 (I know I’m in the minority here)
      Need to play DS2


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