Heyyyyy everybody, it's time for my list! I totally didn’t procrastinate and put this off until the very last minute!
I know that some folks out there only want to see the games and the order so we’ll get to that first. I’ll save the sappy stuff for the end!
Here’s the Stuff that Didn’t Make the List:
- Void Stranger - There’s some weird juice under the hood!
- Resident Evil 4: Remake - Okay. Mike was right.
- Pikmin 4 - These little freaks are fun
- Venba - I LOVE COOKING WITH MY MOM
- Slay the Princess - Love the story but I got too squeamish
- Octopath Traveler 2 - THERE’S TOO MUCH GAME
- Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 - I didn’t spend enough time to load any children into the Spirit Canon
- Dave the Diver - Jesus Christ it was so hard to cut you off of my top 10.
- FF XVI - I hate that you're the best Kingdom Hearts game.
Did you ever check out the Pixar movie Soul? You know how someone that was content they would just enter into a flowstate when they were in tune with what they were doing? I can’t say that I loved every second of Cocoon but I definitely clicked into some type of flowstate while playing Cocoon where I’d see a puzzle and immediately lock in to the solution. I can’t say that I’ve experienced that with too many other games! But maybe there’s another game this year that I entered into a “flowstate” with.
You’re playing as a little bug dude and Cocoon does so well with playing with scale. I notoriously listen to audiobooks, podcasts, etc while playing games but I had to pause all of that while playing Cocoon because of all the brilliant sound design in each of the worlds.
A gigantic fear and anxiety of mine is not being able to speak the language of somewhere I travel to or being completely lost because of the language differences. Even traveling to different parts of the US I get a little antsy because I know about the varying dialectical differences. Chants of Senaar taps into that fear and anxiety and quickly quells them. You’re never in any major danger while navigating the world so it makes learning the language and dialect a pleasant quest. Chants of Senaar makes the task of learning a language so satisfying because you’re quickly filling up your notebooks with your own translations to words and runes.
I played an obscene amount of Monday Night Combat and Team Fortress 2 and I haven’t really enjoyed too many class based or competitive first person shooters since. There was a short stint where I was enjoying Overwatch, then overpaying for Fortnite, and most recently rediscovering the majesty of Titanfall 2 but I didn’t have much interest in regularly checking out a competitive game. That was until Bakalar messaged our Slack saying that unfortunately it looked like The Finals was fun and he was so right.
The Finals somehow taps into the pure fun that I had when I played Team Fortress 2 and Monday Night Combat. There is no greater joy for me than shooting my grappling hook through a window and stealing a cash out or using the grappling hook to quickly zip away to heal up. The rounds are so short and fun that I can’t get too upset when my team loses because I’ll queue up for another round. Also, I love miscellaneous pouches that have no discernable function other than adding to my immaculate drip.
My boy Michael Higham puts me onto a lot of things. A lot of those games are expansive adventures that sometimes catch me at the wrong times where I can’t fully dive in. I swear I’ll get into FFXIV or try to finish Octopath Traveler 2. But Michael’s hype for A Space for the Unbound was too palpable to let this one slide.
This is such a special game that tackles loss, friendship, and familial trauma in a tight narrative that easily would have jumped up my list if this year wasn’t as stacked as it was. I’m so here for more games coming out of Southeast Asia.
I’ll be honest, there are portions of this game that are not fun to climb. It gets super clunky and sometimes I got stuck on odd geometry where I’d have to hard restart the game. That being said, I wound up absolutely falling for this game while I was climbing up the mountain. When the climbing was working it worked so well. I enjoyed the little puzzles of figuring out the geometry of a climb and trying to efficiently get up. Also space whales in a game are an automatic placement for me dawg
I LOVE TILES. I LOVE PERSONA. VERY GOOD GAME. CHECK IT OUT. WOULD HAVE LIKED IT MORE WITH HARD TILES. STILL CHECK IT OUT.
I’m not good at games. I also haven’t played too many Souls games and most of my varying plights have been documented on this website have me bashing my head in frustration. I have no idea why Lies of P clicked with me. Lies of P is a terrific Soulslike that reminds me of the world of Bloodborne and I also enjoy twists on old Fairy Tales so I was all about getting my P-Organs juiced up. This game is rough. It’s brutal. But it is one of the very first Soulslike games that I was able to enter into a flowstate and nail the rhythm of it. P quickly gets a lot of different weapons that add to the way you tackle the world. You also feel so cool sharpening your sword in the crook of your arm! Even if you aren’t able to get to the end of the game or if Soulslike games aren’t your jam, I NEED you to check out the after credits stinger of this. WHAT?
Sometimes more of the same isn’t bad! Especially if what you’re getting is building upon an already amazing and spectacular game. This is probably the most impressive first party Sony game in my eyes. From the level of attention to the version of New York, the ability to swap characters in an instant, and even to a pretty entertaining story – you can’t help but constantly smile (just like all of the characters in the game) as you’re zipping through New York. They even throw in a mission that is pretttttty close to my favorite scene in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2
I wrote a piece for Lexi’s site Start Menu about how much this game meant to me this year and I suggest you check it out!
The quick download though is that I was feeling really really burnt out from the job and life in general. Playing through games started to feel like a major chore but Tears of the Kingdom rekindled the love for video games and reminded me to continue to be my most authentic self.
Okay strap in.
This is where a “Jan Monologue” would have happened this year during the Game of the Year talks. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I didn’t have to pull the straps down or resort to whatever gimmick I was trying to incorporate this year into the deliberations because plenty of other folks like Alan Wake 2 also!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this game since completing it. I haven’t dipped back into the New Game+ yet, but I’m still marinating on everything from AW2 in my own Mind Place.
This was the rare year where there were two games that absolutely dug their hooks into me and I embraced the splendor before me. I know folks may be weirded out because I’ve stated on the podcast that Tears of the Kingdom is one of if not my favorite game of all time now. How could another title dethrone that for the number one spot?
Easy. Somehow appeal to everything that makes me tick!
There’s a darkness to Alan Wake 2 that is terrifying yet so alluring. Having your creativity be the fuel to something dark or using the darkness inside of you as a catalyst for your art really hit home. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a major artistic slump for the past year and some change. Picking up a camera or trying to edit something together has filled me with such dread that I can’t move forward. But after playing AW2 and seeing how the darkness and horror is utilized to create and majorly affect the world I couldn’t stop playing. Alan’s journey through the darkness was a reflection of the struggle that I’ve been having with trying to create. Hell, there’ve been so many times where I thought I was dog crap at my job and started to just let the doubt consume me. But just like Saga pulls Alan out of the darkness, this game did the same exact thing to me.
I don’t know if it was intentional but I started to get the vibe from the game that it was subtly showing the doubts that it carried by having such a large gap since the original game. Would anyone want this? Would anyone still care? But it fiercely traipses on to prove to itself and to me the player that the wait was worth it. The grueling hours of writing, drafting, and other parts
You have to go to the dark side. You have to explore the darkness of your soul to create something, anything worthwhile. You have to wade into the abyss and stare into the void until you find what was calling you.
Even Saga’s story had me enthralled. You’re someone that dedicates a lot of yourself to your job. You want to succeed. You’re thrown into incredibly odd situations and you HAVE to survive. I also absolutely adore the desire to get in touch with your heritage. I’ve had that longing to be closer and more in tune with my own family. I’ve shared that feeling of plainly feeling disconnected due to miscellaneous circumstances and I honestly wish that random family members would pop into my mind palace to sing songs or whatever else. All the while, Saga keeps a cool head and barrels through to the next issue.
Lastly, but most definitely not the last reason AW2 is on the top of my list: COFFEE. WORLD.
Thank you Remedy for making a game that has haunted me in all the best ways possible.
LASTLY! LET’S GET TO THE SHOUUUUUUT OUTS!
Hey. I don't care if I get accused of being sappy too much or too positive. I am proud to work with all these folks and they deserve their flowers. I'M IN MY FEELS AND IMMA FEEL 'EM.
Let's go baby:
Bakalar - This doesn’t get said enough and I know I’m glazing everyone, but I’m gonna make sure you get the glaze too, we’d be dead in the water or INCREDIBLY directionless without you at the helm. You advocate for me and for the team so hard all the time. You listen to me and my dumb ideas about shirts. You continue to try and pull the thought that I inevitably forget out of my brain. But the biggest thing is that you trust me and that matters to me a lot.
Grubb - You’re an absolute powerhouse of a person. I have no idea how you operate at the level that you do and I admire that ability to be a solid leader, team member, and family man so much. There are so many secrets hidden in those curls!
Dan - I don’t wanna put you over too much brother brother, but I cannot express enough how much your creativity and can-do spirit is a North Star. The enthusiasm for life is so infectious that even though I’m absolutely exhausted I’d still think about watching Face/Off.
Emma - I’ve sung your praises every opportunity that I’ve had and I’ll continue to do it. Emma, you’re a killer and an inspiration of what a producer and a leader should be. I’d be lost in a pile of SDI cables and clibbards without your expertise.
Tam - The pure definition of cool. Thank you Tam for dropping knowledge darts left and right about virtually everything. You also keep me on my toes with your shenanigans. I am absolutely blessed to call you a friend. AMEN 🦅🦅🦅
Lucy - I don’t understand how you can spin all of the plates that you do and stay an incredibly thoughtful friend, an organized and cool headed leader, and honestly one of the funniest people that I’ve ever been around. I’m still sorry for looking over to you and nonchalantly saying, “Biscuit Bitch?”
Mike - You’re an absolute gem of a person. I remember being so scared meeting you the first time that you’d be mad that we took Grubb from GamesBeat. I’m so happy that I’ve gotten to know how warm and sweet of a person you are.
TurboShawn - Shawn, you have no idea how much you’ve helped me out and helped to lighten the load of everything. I’d literally be drowning without you around to help organize things and help with videos.
Niki - GOD I am so happy that I’m getting the chance to work with you. You’re literally one of the sharpest and funniest people that I’ve gotten to know.
Shitley - Thank you for coming to the rescue when I panickedly slack you if you can pop onto a podcast or stream an hour beforehand. You help keep me in check and are an incredible source of support. Thanks for always reminding me to sparkle and shine
The Homies - Big BIG thank you and so much love to the homies Michael, Jesse, Moises, Kam, Jake, Jean-Luc, and everyone else that I might have forgotten. Thank you so much for your friendship, your help, your support, your hype, and so much more.
The Community - When Grubb says y’all are the best community out in games IT IS TRUE. Thank all of you for continuing to support the site and the team. Whether you’ve been here for a short while or a long while I am forever grateful for you.
Every Member of GB that I’ve ever had the blessing to work with: Thank you doesn’t even begin to express how thankful and grateful I am for taking a shot on me. Thank you for trusting me despite all of the typos, fudged up uploads, messed up audio, lost files, and other blunders I’ve made. I hope I’ve made you proud.