Ranking Every Game

I'm going to rank every single game I play from now (01/20/2019) on.

Ground rules: if single player, I need to beat the main campaign For single player games that don't have a clear end - certain roguelikes for example - it will be a judgement call based on when I feel I've put enough time into it. Multiplayer games will follow these same rules. For both of these, I will note an estimated hour count. Early Access games are not eligible for this list, even if I've put a bunch of time into them - I'll just add them when I feel I've played the final version long enough. I will also note the date that I added the game to the list, in the hopes that this will reflect my inevitably changing tastes.

Obviously, this list is entirely subjective and nothing on it is permanent. The main thing I'm thinking about is memorability. There are so many times on Giant Bomb's GOTY for example, the games that make it on are undoubtedly good, but then the next year rolls around and some (even the Best Game) have had virtually no long-term impact. I'm trying to think about which games I'll be talking about for a while, and what reflects my taste. Often I play a lauded game that's understandably likeable, but that has virtually no personal impact; I'm trying to fight the inclination to order things based on community-wide likeability, and instead get to the heart of what speaks to me personally.

A NOTE ON SPOILERS: they'll be here. Sorry.

List items

  • Added: 10/21/2019

    Truly an all-timer. Outer Wilds feels of a kind with Breath of the Wild in some ways - a game about seeing something vast ahead of you, and slowly chipping away at it until it becomes familiar. But where Breath of the Wild was (reductively) a refinement of and reckoning with many trends of the 2010s - open-world gameplay, survival mechanics, crafting - Outer Wilds feels like a prototype for what games can be. You can reduce it down to an equation of games it's sort of like, but it fails to capture what makes it so exciting. It is minimalist beauty and organic, player-driven gameplay by way of smart UI and painstaking level design. It is both cosmic in scale and intimate in feel, making incredible use of its odd cozy spaces and ramshackle tech design. It is the most I've leapt out of my chair from DISCOVERIES in a game, even moreso than explicit detective games like Obra Dinn or Her Story. And by the end of it, I was both deeply touched by its warmth and incredibly excited for the future of games influenced by it.

    UPDATE 11/18/2020: Well, I ended up having the wonderful experience of watching my friends struggling through this game and got to see its many joys once again. After being able to see and reflect on it, this is a number 1 that feels more true to me, much as I love the other games hovering around this spot. It's just incredible, and I'll be hard-pressed to find a game that can unseat it.

  • Added: 01/20/2019

    Estimated playtime: 200 hours and counting.

    I've never played a fighting game this much; I've never had a competitive game last me this long. It's been almost a year and I still play this game nearly every day. This is the best Dragon Ball game of all-time by a wide margin; it is also my favourite fighting game of all-time, to the point where I don't see how anything other than a direct sequel could even come close. If Toei prevents a sequel from being made, or the competitive scene from flourishing past this first year, I'm going to be sad about videogames in a way I haven't been since the Dreamcast closed up shop when I was 11 (I cried, lol).

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Estimated playtime: 20 hours, one 4-hour island victory under my belt.

    Strategic perfection, and the only reason I haven't played it more is because it stresses me out.

    UPDATE 03/30/2019: Have now put probably 20-30 more hours into it, and what really strikes me about it is its incredibly smart progression system, where new squads beget new ways of thinking beget a more full understanding of the game's possibility space for all squads. The game is just so tight, and the more I play it, the more I adore it.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    The greatest co-op game controlled by a single player ever made. Supremely clever on its own, but working through it with my partner was the truly unforgettable experience.

    On my original 2018 GOTY list tweet (https://twitter.com/AmateurDan/status/1077417769371688960), this was lower down by a few spots, but since then, it's been the 2018 game I've thought about the most and I'll likely continue to do so.

  • Added: 02/08/2019

    I completed this game in April 2017, and my HowLongToBeat record shows my playtime as 50 hours, completing roughly half the shrines. It is now two years later and my Switch reads my playtime as "80 hours or more". This is not to fawn over the length of the game - which is substantial - as length does not equal quality. Rather, this is to illustrate that despite beating this game near when it released, I've continued to peck away at it since. This is very rare for me; typically when I've completed a game, it gets put away, never to be touched again. But BotW wriggled its way into my mind and hasn't left since - it occupies a tiny room up there, refusing to be evicted, ready to venture out into the world when the mood strikes. It will stay up there at least until I find all the shrines, and probably for longer afterwards. It might never leave.

    The reason I've allowed myself to put it on this list despite "completing" it a while ago is that I finally got around to playing through the Champion's Ballad DLC (which is excellent, and lengthy - a microcosmic version of the base game that simultaneously gives you reason to explore more of that base).

    UPDATE 11/18/2020: Moved this down a couple slots because some of the other choices at the top feel more personal to me. It's possible I just need to go back and play some more of it honestly. Open up the doors of that room again. We'll see.

  • Added: 01/27/2019

    Estimated playtime: 13 hours in Early Access, 7 on 1.0, one victory each with 2 of the 3 classes.

    This and Into the Breach are a toss-up, which is appropriate because they're very similar games. The only reason Slay the Spire is higher on the list at the moment is because it's easier to play casually, and thus easier to fit into my life whenever the mood strikes. Contradictorily, everything that I like more about Into the Breach is the reason I'm more likely to play Spire. Its audio is weaker, which means I feel more comfortable listening to other music while playing. Its unlock system isn't as well-considered as Breach's, so I can boot it up whenever and not worry about my individual run performance too much. Into the Breach is a tighter, sharper, deeper experience, and that's exactly why I boot up Spire more often.

    UPDATE 03/30/2019: I got heavily back into Into the Breach and I can't in good conscience put this above that anymore. Change places!

  • Added: 06/13/2020

    Taps into such a personally significant childhood camping nostalgia that it's hard for me to shake. The game adeptly recognizes the camping experience as one whose absence of activities allows you to focus harder on the relationships around you; it crystallizes pre-existing bonds and allows you to form new ones. The quartet of characters are so well-realized with so many small parts that relate to me - Ben's reluctant emergence to a brand new hobby, Mord's hyperactive imagination, Cloanne's need for social isolation, Brad's desire to be the Cool Uncle. Every character is likeable and generous in their own way, and the slice-of-life aspect of it means we can recognize this as just one moment - a significant one, perhaps, but not THE significant moment of any of their lives. In that way it's free to just be chill and funny and show a bunch of nice intimate conversations. I don't think I've played a game with more grins-per-capita.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    So specifically tied to the feature set of the Nintendo DS that there is simply no way the Switch version could ever capture what makes it so brilliant. Still fresh after all these years.

  • Added: 05/24/2021

    Astounding game that burns with righteous anger at the comfort-inducing, capitalist-apologist, class warfare ideology of neoliberalism and the rich warmongers that throw gobs of money at the army to solve every problem from their shelters while everyone else is dying. It does this with class and elegance, using its core photography mechanic and incredible set design to present a clear narrative and ideology without any narration or character dialogue. That it also values player expression and teaches the basics of photography in such a way that I'm flirting with the idea of developing it as a hobby is just icing on the cake.

  • Added: 04/26/2021

    A game so good that even a shoddy translation can't ruin it. FF7, in contrast to the dominant environmentalist ideology of the 90s, righteously points the finger at corporations for displacing communities, expoloiting natural resources for profit, and leaving a (literally) scorched earth behind. This is a shockingly radical game to come out of a major studio in 1997, and it's no surprise that it is sadly relevant enough in 2021 to demand a remake. Best-in-class music, set design, and cutscene direction still hits today, and its clever character turns are hard to shake. Despite some gameplay friction - largely assauged by internet guides and modern port conveniences - I truly love it.

  • Added: 05/24/2021

    Something about Dark Souls has been hitting hard in pandemic times. I've had 4 friends independently obsess over these games in the past few months. I think it has to do with its dank atmosphere that matches how so many people are feeling, stuck in their homes and not needing to shower or put on nice clothes for anyone, mixed with the sense that this is something you can dig deep into in various ways, between the base difficulty, various viable builds, and suggested-yet-obscured lore. Completing one of its labyrinthine areas can feel like an event that punctuates the day-to-day repetition of our mundane lives. If you squint hard enough, beating a boss in Dark Souls is sort of like grabbing drinks with your friends after a week of full-time office work.

    I too got the bug, and it turns out Dark Souls is extremely good. After 4 failed attempts to get into this game, having my friends for guidance finally allowed me to push through, ensuring I didn't spend too much time wandering around for the path forward and recreating the community-based vibe of these games when they're new. I probably don't need to tell you that Dark Souls is meaty and satisfying to play, with obscenely good enemy and level design. What I will tell you is that it's less intimidating than it at first seems, that it's just a videogame with rules and strategies that it telegraphs relatively clearly, and that if you max out your Strength and Endurance and find a big enough axe, the game becomes almost trivially easy.

  • Added: 04/24/2020

    Playtime: 18 hours (on just my own account, so probably closer to 25 in general)

    Still the best Party Pack of the ones I've played thoroughly. Such a nice balance between games that require a bit more effort and ones that are good chill fun. And every game is a winner - Tee KO takes time to get to the punchline but it's worth it, Trivia Murder Party is a cleaner trivia game than YDKJ with some real tension, Quiplash is a great warm up/cool down, and Fakin' It takes some effort to learn but is so rambunctious in play. Even Guesspionage, the weak link, has something to offer - sometimes you just wanna sit around with some friends and learn some weird facts.

    When I think about games as a way to connect with others - not as a narrative, not as a dexterity test, and not as a collection of interweaving mechanics - the Jackbox games are the top of the list. Their importance has only grown in the time of social distancing, with streaming tech, group-friendliness, and simple controls coalescing to make these games an essential, consistent online activity for my core friend group. And Party Pack 3 is the best of them all.

  • Added: 03/01/2020

    Sags in the middle and there's too much Open World Content, but it's filled with outstanding writing, quests which twist wildly in various directions, dialogue choices with interesting consequences, and a main character you can really root for.

    What really pushes the game into the stratosphere is the two DLC packs, one of which is essentially a really good sidequest with a main quest budget, the other which gives you a whole new vibrant map to explore, and both of which fill in mechanical gaps from the base game.

    I wish The Witcher 3 was more confident in some of its gameplay mechanics. As concessions to a mainstream audience, the combat is too easy on the Normal difficulty and doesn't require you to interact with what makes these games cool, and the default mini-map gives you so much information that you spend the whole time looking at it unless you go out of your way to turn it off - but the game has been designed for the mini-map, so the open world can be tough to navigate without it. And the whole thing is pretty janky.

    But man, Geralt is maybe my favourite videogame protagonist of all-time, Gwent is so fun that I spent around 15 hours playing it, and there's a quest in the Blood and Wine DLC where you take shrooms and start having conversations with your horse. After almost 2 years and 126 hours, I was sad to see it end.

  • Added: 12/02/2019

    Estimated playtime: 40 hours? Not totally sure.

    Moving from Dragon Ball FighterZ to this, a much more fundamentals/footsie-focused fighting fest that feels fantastic to futz with, was hugely refreshing. Without being able to dominate people with flashy combos, it's a lot easier to learn what your weaknesses are and truly grow as a player. Special mention should be given to how well SNK has balanced this game - not doing it too often, and removing cheesy things so that players need to actually play the damn game (RIP pre-patch Galford teleports). It's no-frills but feels exactly like how you want one of these games to feel - weighty, tense, tastefully violent. And it's pretty newb-accessible to boot.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Completed the main story plus Chapter 8. Played through a few B-sides but they require a level of pixel-perfect platforming that I'm simply not interested in, so I gave it up. Will likely take its place amongst the pantheon of great platformers for good reason, but the music (which, surprisingly, is not as strong a listen outside the game as expected) and writing is what ties it together.

  • Added: 01/06/2020

    It's Mario 64 dude! Super happy to finally fill this gap and the game holds up really well. Once you get the hang of his slippiriness, moving Mario around is a joy and the levels are so tight despite having multiple paths and types of challenges. It's all about efficiency, and Nintendo nails it here. Mario Odyssey tried to go back to this style of level design but it has too many moons, too many gimmicks, too much perfunctory bullshit and rarely challenges you - Mario 64's challenges by contrast are nearly always just the right amount of demanding (the odd opaque mission description or secret star notwithstanding). I had a blast playing this game on-stream with people who grew up with it.

    Also quick note - I played the fan-made PC port which is highly customizable and rules. I was able to get a texture pack that stayed true to the original game's visuals but just crisped them up (something Nintendo bafflingly did not do on the Switch port) and also had full camera control. I'd recommend it! People who think Mario 64 is dated are wrong!

  • Added: 06/22/2020

    Extremely clever distillation of crowd-control-heavy character action games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but masks it by being two-dimensional, input-simple, and immediately approachable.

  • Added: 03/31/2019

    This is a hell of a thing. Easily one of the funniest games I've ever seen - and god, it's just so detailed! - but strangely poignant in how it captures the wonderful naivete of the early public internet, and comments on the dubious motivations behind its creators. Once you've unlocked everything, the final puzzles get too esoteric for my tastes, with the game being less about discovery and more about making connections between dense sets of already-explored pages. As such, I found myself just wanting the game to end in its last couple hours, and headed for some hints to speed things up. So it's not as strong a detective game as something like Obra Dinn or Her Story, but it makes up for it in audacity.

    Sidenote: I would love to see how kids who missed this pre-social media vision of the internet respond to this game.

  • Added: 2021/07/17

    Better than anything it influenced. It's mechanically boilerplate and full of friction, from its low inventory limit to its generally high difficulty. But while I was often frustrated, its feels purposeful; after all, this is a game about children on an overwhelming journey. When the game turns around and acknowledges that the path has been arduous, it means something because it's true, and it's so saliently childlike in its perspective and tone that it conjures up my own memories of those first exciting and terrifying steps towards independence with my friends - walking to the mall to see a movie, going camping in the outback, traveling across the country for a music festival. Sometimes, Ness gets homesick and loses the will to attack in combat, and the only thing that can fix it is to call home. That's childhood, and adolescence, and even sometimes adulthood, even when you've spent so much time dreaming about a different life.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Beat the final boss one time. Wasn't inclined to try the higher difficulties. Pretty much perfect at what it does, might go back back to it to try out new balance changes and such.

  • Added: 02/01/2020

    A really impressive pivot to a new protagonist and new style of gameplay. I don't know if I love Ichiban the way I love Kiryu but I was certainly more invested in his story, which the game goes to great lengths to set up and make good on. As a JRPG it's a little crusty - it feels good but isn't particularly deep, and the job system could use some tweaking. The whole thing is a chaotic experiment, and I'd love to see a version of this that was built from the ground-up as a JRPG rather than hastily pivoted to. While the localization is extremely vibrant and playful, the writing stumbles by trying to be About Stuff more and not fully having the language to cap it off. But it all pretty much hangs together with the usual fine selection of dramatic gravitas, just-deep-enough minigames, and goofy sidequests. It's taking all my willpower to not move right onto the next Yakuza game on my list - Kiwami 2 - but I think a small break from the series is warranted.

  • Added: 11/18/2020

    After playing through two Yakuza games, it's safe to say that I just vibe with them. Kiwami doesn't reach the high highs of 0 and its main story shows its age in its pacing. But it benefits from being shorter, more contained, and by the events of 0 adding depth to characters that would've been sorely lacking without it. I found myself engaging with the side activities more simply because completing them seemed more achievable than 0's, and not having two different cities and character loadouts to worry about means you really get comfortable with Kamurocho's layout and Kiryu's skillset. Even though Kiwami can feel padded at times - Majima could pop up less often, no doubt - I never left a play session feeling unsatisfied and my slow playthrough let me just luxuriate in the whole thing. I'm so excited to play through the entire series, eventually.

  • Added: 11/22/2020

    Plays like one long Pheonix Wright investigation where, instead of lazily tapping on every pixel of your screen, you get to wander around a stylish open world and find secrets. These two aspects of the game can rub against each other - do I really need to be double jumping my way around this island? Can't I just skip to the dialogue? When am I going to finally stumble on the hidden item that solves this final unresolved lead? - but it mostly hangs together. I was impressed with its clarity on who the bad guys are from the beginning (the ruling class and the system of their creation that serves to prop them up), and very much enjoyed meeting its characters, discovering its lore, peeling back the layers of its mystery, and especially grooving out to its incredible soundtrack.

  • Added: 08/08/2020

    Absolutely devastating 5 minute tone poem. Played through it a couple times since the first playthrough and really can't get over how effective it is. I, too, wish my brain was better at picking which memories to retain.

  • Added: 07/21/2019

    Quotidianly beautiful, a small-scale tragedy. Could stand to be a couple hours shorter, but its combination of brawling, life simulation, mood, and charming (if sometimes roughly translated) character writing is highly successful.

  • Added: 05/24/2021

    Hey, Myst is good! Not as complicated as I expected - when I first saw that you'd be going through a series of "ages" I'd thought there'd be a lot of puzzles involving changing something in one age to affect something in a different one. What I actually found was more quaint: you go to an age, solve one or two big environmental puzzles, then return back to the hub world and repeat. Way less pretzel-y than its reputation would have you believe, especially if you've got a few friends to work through it with. The hazy vibe of Myst still works (maybe even moreso now that its graphics are crusty), boosted by the non-actor FMV clips addressed directly to the player. Screw the Mazerunner section but otherwise Myst is highly-playable, and worth doing so!

  • Added: 12/24/2020

    One of the smartest combat systems of all-time wrapped in really funny writing and transparently radical politics. The only reason this isn't higher is that I didn't realize it was episodic and was pretty bummed when it ended after beating a boss and learning a bunch of cool new moves.

  • Added: 05/24/2020

    Playtime: 22 hours (on just my own account, so probably closer to 30 in general)

    Gotta give it up for the grandpappy. Can't be understated just how much the Jackbox changed the multiplayer game landscape for me. It made it easy to play games with friends who don't usually play games, but the ones who do love it too. Anyone can hop in and have some laughs and controlling the game with your phone is a feature I would've expected to be imitated in the ensuing years.

    There are better packs - YDKJ's 4-player limitation cripples it, Lie Swatter is simply not good, Wordspud is.....weird - but its still good fun.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    It's more Smash Bros, and it feels great; likely the best one overall. Adventure mode made me put more time into this than I otherwise would've, considering I've given up all hope of ever being good at this game in a competitive sense. Sometimes the bug hits you and nothing will satiate it except the systematic Smashing of endless Bros.

  • Added: 12/01/2019

    Just really enjoyable. A decent-enough shooty game buoyed by outstanding flavour text, charming character performances, excellent pacing and a brooding brutalist aesthetic. I would've liked the final bits of the game to be a little more interesting than a bunch of difficult shooting section, but otherwise this game is so engaging that it makes me want to go back and play all of Remedy's other games.

  • Added: 08/24/2019

    Completed secret 4th route. As a game of systems, this is the strongest the series has ever been. The cycle of socializing, training, and battling is intoxicating, and it's so easy for time to melt away while playing; this is a One More Turn game of the highest order.

    But in truth, I was pretty done with it by the end, and I took the shortest route through. The school is less lively after the time jump, and what was once an integral part of the game loop becomes padding - your students don't grow as quickly, and suddenly you're not making choices; you're just waiting for the choices you made ages ago to bear fruit. What seems like an exhaustive number of possibilities for character growth gets smaller as there are revealed to be only a handful of Master classes and viable routes for each character. At the same time, the strategy layer only gets simpler as your characters level up - proper positioning matters less as your units are able to zoom around the map, place themselves at a chokepoint, and wait for AI opponents to rush up to them, signing their own death warrants one-by-one. Maps are pretty boring throughout and more objective types are desperately needed - the few moments where they do stretch out create more absorbing tactical moments.

    The characters in Three Houses are broad-stroked, but peel back their layers through mostly-solid interactions. Despite this, they don't "pop" the way the characters in Awakening did. I'm not going to remember most of these characters the way I think back fondly on Lucina, Vaike, Sully, or Donnel. It compensates for this with a more interesting overarching plot, which concerns a mess of allegiances between groups of good-natured kids with irreconcilable worldviews. I love that the game doesn't shy away from making you kill off characters you like, and as result how every route - even the secret one - is bittersweet. At the same time, splitting the story makes every route incomplete, with mounds of lore found in other routes that you simply won't get in yours. They clearly want you to play all the routes, but as someone who beat this game in 50ish hours and is tired of it, that just sounds exhausting.

    TL;DR Three Houses is very good but Awakening still has the edge because it's tighter and more charming.

  • Added: 06/06/2020

    Release Version: S

    First Dragon Quest I've ever played and I doubt I'll be reaching for another one any time soon; XI is dense and long and took a lot out of me by the end. This is a supremely confident game - a product of a core creative team sticking together for 30 years and 11 games. It doesn't break the mold (after all, it created it), but it's incredibly refined. It's the basics done at their highest level - the best fried rice you've ever had. The combat has enough strategy to chew on, the characters are likeable with interesting skillsets, and the plot goes surprisingly hard when it wants to. And everything's wrapped in that amazing Toriyama design sense, rendered and animated with so much care. I really appreciate how the game is not incredibly combat-heavy, happy to stay echill and shuffle you along from one plot beat to the next without much friction.

    And...it all falls apart in the last 10 hours or so, where in order to be powerful enough to beat the final boss, you're forced to complete every end-game encounter and sidequest. These ask you to engage in esoteric combat strategies that grow increasingly rigid along with the difficulty of the game, sucking away the laissez-faire attitude that makes it such a good pre-bed wind-down game. I was begging for it to be over and numb when I hit credits.

    I also need to talk about the music in this game. Even fully orchestrated as it is on the Switch version, this is some of the worst JRPG music I've ever heard. It's just hero themes everywhere, loud brass blowing up your eardrums at all times, undermining important moments with reused tracks. At first it's pretty charming but by hour 70 it makes the rotten final hours even worse.

    Still, a miserable final few hours can't dismantle its otherwise consistency. This will probably be the only Dragon Quest game I ever play but I'm glad I got to experience it.

  • Added: 02/23/2019

    Release version: REROLL

    When pressured on my favourite game of all-time, We <3 Katamari is my typical answer (it would be interesting to see where it lands on this list, and I hope a remaster happens so I have an excuse to play through it again). This is the first time I've played through the original and it's clear that We <3 Katamari is better in every way. Soundtrack, visual style, writing, and level design are all better-developed in the sequel. That being said, there's something elemental about rolling this huge ball over suburban Japan; even in its barebones state, Katamari is a charmer.

  • Added: 01/23/2019

    Not the Halo campaign that I remember the most, but upon a replay (co-op, Heroic), it's clearly a very strong one. Generally it feels wide but not deep - more concerned with giving the player a new gimmick every mission than exploring a single moveset. Benefits a lot from co-op as there are quite a few vehicle sections. Really curious to see how this campaign holds up versus all the other games in the Master Chief Collection - there will be some whiplash going from this to Halo 1 (sidenote: it's really weird that they released this one on PC first instead of starting with the actual first game).

    This would probably be a little higher if I liked the multiplayer more. The skill system has always rubbed me the wrong way, and multiplayer playlists (at least in MCC) are more focused on hardcore shooties than weird chaotic game modes. I haven't played Reach in a decade or more, I don't think there's any skill-based matchmaking and everyone I've played with online is ridiculously good at it, to the point that it's alienating as a casual player. I was always more partial to 3's though, so we'll see if that holds true or if its just nostalgia talking.

  • Added: 07/21/2019

    Small game that asks big questions about community, guilt, and acceptance. Wish the final choice was framed ever so slightly clearer (I interpreted it differently than the game did) but have continued to think on it after completion. Note there: I beat this game a few months ago but had to add it to the wiki, and forgot to check whether that had been approved or not until now.

  • Added: 07/26/2020

    Finally crossed this one off the backlog after bouncing off of it multiple times. I don't think it's as good as many of its followups (i.e. the first two Paper Marios and first three Mario & Luigis) but it's really impressive how Squaresoft laid the groundwork for every other Mario RPG here. The combat would immediately be refined in Paper Mario but the writing is sharp as ever and the new characters it introduces are extremely memorable (even if Geno is overrated by the fandom). And it's like 20 hours long, which more JRPGs should be - no room to dilly-dally, just a dense package of constant forward-momentum, with just enough optional bits to allow for valuable exploration.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Sometimes you just need to watch some balls bounce off stuff. Also there's a cute excited ghost worm!

    UPDATE 02/23/2019: I had to wipe my phone and lost all my save data as a result. Ended up playing through this whole game again and somehow enjoy it even more now; I've unlocked all the upgrades and play its endless mode on my commute to/from work nearly every day. as such, I've moved it up a few spots from its original placement.

  • Added: 01/03/2021

    Family is more clever - I prefer its "figure out the family tree" logic puzzle to Rivals' "put the events in the right order" - but external elements make me put it higher overall. Namely that I played through it with some friends, that my familiarity with Wilco and Uncle Tupelo makes me greater appreciate its musical pastiche, and that it's New Game+ mode is very clever.

  • Added: 08/08/2020

    Wonderful detective game - clearly influenced by Obra Dinn - with production value that surprised me considering it's a short free game. Here you have a well-acted radio segment and fake music tracks for 5 or 6 different fake bands. It effectively illustrates a pre-Wikipedia perception of information-gathering on music scenes, requiring primary text research - interviews in the dominant magazines at the time, live radio interviews, scraps of riders and correspondence. I was most impressed by the small stories told within its larger one, and the way individual personalities could be inferred by the career outcomes seen therein.

  • Added: 05/24/2021

    Scope Creep: The Game. I am almost positive that the development cycle of FF7R involved the team originally thinking they were going to make a ~100-hour remake of the entirety of FF7, then spending way too long building out Midgar and realizing they made a big mistake. The pacing in this thing is wild, and it's barren for a 30-40 hour long JRPG, with a very small world map, few side quests, and not enough equipment to sustain a full game's worth of Content. The game's extremely high fidelity (sidenote: FF7R is the first time I've played anything on my new TV with HDR, and it looks amazing) often paradoxically serves to LESSEN the impact of moments of the original game. In comparison to FF7, a game that is just about the same length and that covers the entirety of the Remake's story in about 5 hours, it's empty calories.

    Despite all that, it nails most of what it needs to. The combat is weighty and interesting; the characters are well-rendered and bounce off each other endearingly; and while some worldbuilding additions are excessive, others suggest wrinkles that I wish were explored even more.

    I spent a lot of this game being on-the-fence, but it basically won me over in its final few hours. The ending of FF7R is too slippery to really know what Nomura and co. have in store for future iterations (by the way, please play the original before this, because it makes zero sense otherwise, and even then only sort of made sense to me, a person who literally beat that game before playing this one), but I am now - somewhat against my better judgement - along for the ride.

  • Added: 03/30/2019

    Completed the game on Devil Hunter, a few missions into Son of Sparda now. Will likely pick away at it over the next few weeks.

    It's really easy to think that people (myself included) love these games because of their stylish, deep combat systems. This is only part of the story. Devil May Cry came along at a particular time in my life where Dante's brand of unflinching anime cool was exactly what I was looking for, and as a result, the characters and lore - albeit slight - left an impression. I'm not going to say that these games are thematically rich or filled with complex characters, but I care about them in a way that goes beyond their labyrinthine gameplay systems. The best of them - 1, 3, and yes, DmC - pairs swagerific characters with dense, explorable locations to not just make fun combat experiences, but holistically great games.

    DMC5 is not one of these. The word I'd use to describe it is "unfocused" - having to juggle 3 main characters leads to weird pacing, both in a game and plot sense. There are precious few moments of legitimate charisma, the environment design is uninspired, and dramatic reveals never play right.

    Still, as a sheer combat experience, this is probably the best these games have ever been, with three characters who have their own unique depths to plunge and some smart quality of life changes. I particularly appreciate two subtractions - time as a level rank element, and buying healing items in the shop - which create a more frictionless experience. I wish you spent more time with any of these protagonists - truthfully, I prefer when these games let you play as one character throughout, and they should just fully pass the torch to Nero at this point - but the demon-slashing feels great. That's gotta count for something.

  • Added: 05/19/2019

    Very light card-battler/JRPG with that exceptional Image & Form pacing. It's very chill - the battle system is deep enough that you'll be searching for deck optimizations frequently, and the difficulty is tuned such that you can't coast your way through but will only sweat a little bit. I wish the exploration was more interesting, and needing to grind in order to finish the last couple challenge battles is a bummer.

  • Added: 02/13/2021

    A great example of how the entire package of a game can affect it. The core of Megamix is the same head-bopping gameplay as always, but in the UI its given up slick minimalism for an ugly look that I actively disliked - simple 3D envrionment with 2D cardboard cutout figures in front. There's all this additional cruft that's been added to the core experience: three different in-game currencies, a goat-feeding minigame, a plot with dialogue, a score out of 100 per stage, an extra point for hitting a particularly tricky rhythm perfectly. It all detracts from the core experience, making it unnecessarily fussy and creating irrelevant extrinsic rewards. Since Megamix is a compilation, only about half of it is new stuff (and even then only because North America didn't get the first game on GBA - if we did it'd be only 25% new), with the rest being a mixture of games from the previous entries, so the surprise and charm of the series is largely missing.

    But.....it's still Rhythm Heaven and I'll cherish even its weakest entry. I haven't played one of these in a decade, but the stages have carved out such a space in my memory that seeing them again is like jamming out old songs with a band that broke up long ago. Sure, it's more nostalgic than exciting and the parts don't challenge you like they used to, but it feels good to sink into those old rhythms, and to hang out with your old friends. You know the ones: Badminton Cat And Dog, Interviewed Wrestler, Karate Guy, Ghost Bassist. Maybe one day, if life and time allows, you'll get a chance to write some new songs.

  • Added: 08/15/2020

    The mechanics of Orwell have been expanded and it trades length for variability, which works nicely. In general it feels less contrived and more dynamic. Weirdly I leave this one feeling like both it and season 1 don't have much to say, and they end up feeling like not much more than (depressingly engaging) simulations of the types of surveillance that are already happening. It's no doubt chilling but I'm left wanting a RESPONSE to these issues, not just a reflection. Some of this may be due to hindsight. In 2020 the evil of world governments is more transparent than ever - they don't need to resort to the type of clever subterfuge shown in these games when they can just be nakedly evil and have people support them regardless, or have so much consolidated power than any mass resistance towards them is easily ignored and quashed. In that way, the games are, through no fault of their own, outdated. This season is occupied less with the systematic supression of the truth, and more with what it means to live in a world where manipulation of the truth makes it unknown; whereas in 2020, the truth is obvious, and people simply choose to ignore it.

  • Added: 08/08/2020

    Another great entry in the "detective" genre, which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. In contrast to games like Her Story or Obra Dinn, Orwell is a more indebted to visual novels as well as to the dictatorship workplace simulation of Papers, Please. It uses its brilliant input system as a method for both solving a central mystery and making choices based on it. As a piece of science fiction it is sadly relevant to our current moment of mass internet surveillance with small but effective diversions into imperialism. I was a bit let down by the resolution of its central mystery but otherwise found it very effective - looking forward to the second game.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Another game that has stuck with me a surprising amount, considering it's open-world approach is dated and it's a pretty clear 7/10. I read A LOT of 2010s-era Spider-Man comics after playing this, and it does an excellent job of remixing a bunch of ideas from those comics. The politics in this game are terrible but the rest of the writing is surprisingly strong. Suits good; swinging good.

  • Added: 11/24/2019

    Found this quite engaging, though I played it on iOS and it both looked a little grimy and crashed pretty often. Deftly weaves together the intersecting threads of Big Tech, the gig economy, poverty, and mental health through astute writing and endearing characters. I have my issues - its light "survival" aspects are lenient and, as a result, never interacts too heavily with the player's decision-making process. The FeelGrid mechanic is interesting, but I didn't find it affecting my dialogue options too much, so as a conversation mechanic it didn't do much for me - certainly not as much as contemporaries like Ladykiller in a Bind. The game seems to find it pretty significant though, as it culminates in a goofy "boss fight" which makes it itself obtuse through uncharacteristically sloppy text. And the central relationship which the game banks on didn't do much for me.

    However, the cab conversation which serves as the meat of the game is excellent, with characters that develop nicely over time and a real sense of intrigue towards every new ride. Like Alice Bell at RPS (https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2019/10/02/neo-cab-review/), I wish there was an endless mode where I could just keep picking up rides until I'd exhausted all the conversations, because I missed a lot and would've liked to learn more about many of the passengers I met.

  • Added: 07/19/2020

    Really impressive action game from a solo dev. The way it builds and changes from level-to-level is outstanding and while a couple segments certainly frustrated me, by the end of the game I was left with nothing but positive feelings regardless. Looking forward to the additional chapters currently in the works!

  • Added: 02/22/2020

    I've never actually beaten an old adventure game but I imagine this is what they feel like - a small, charmingly-illustrated world aching to open its mysteries to you. It's a focused piece, with legitimately unique little puzzles and detective work that iterates on the "present contradictory evidence" gameplay of the Phoenix Wright series. That part's actually brilliant - by making you create a statement out of two pieces of evidence, it removes those moments where you know the solution but can't figure out how the game wants you to prove it. It also doesn't penalize you for wrong guesses and provides a hint system that pushes you where to go without giving you all the answers, and it doesn't overstay it's welcome.

  • Added: 01/20/2019

    Completed the first half of the main campaign on Hard, bumped it down to Normal for the remainder. Found it more enjoyable on that difficulty despite enjoying this type of character action. I like this game, but like with the first one, was left wanting more. I could go back to hard and finish it there but the difficulties aren't as well thought-out as Devil May Cry's. The plot is total nonsense and stylistically these games don't hit me as hard as those do.

  • Added: 09/07/2020

    Estimated playtime: 60 hours

    Animal Crossing games are weird because, since there's no ending, you only ever astop playing them once you get bored or frustrated. That means that I'm leaving the game with pretty negative thoughts and need to spend a decent amount of time remembering how it was at the beginning of lockdown, showing my partner the ins-and-outs of Animal Crossing, working together to make island design choices, leaving gifts buried in holes outside each other's houses; reveling in the reprieve of a fake vacation getaway when our real one had been cancelled. For all the ways that these games have been a vehicle for player expression over the years, there are a bunch of intentional, frictional design decisions made in the interest of forcing the player to slow down and enjoy the grind of easy living. New Horizons marks a breaking point where the increased level of customization you're allowed rubs against its core design tenets in a way that can no longer be resolved. That makes it a game that expands on the Animal Crossing formula in some pretty astonishing ways, but left me wanting and unsatisfied in the end.

    Frankly, I don't even know if I can commit to a real-time game anymore. I have a full-time job, hobbies that I practice every day, and a partner I live with. Adding one more obligation to the list is untenable. This is no doubt part of my frustration with the game - a disappointing realization that the adult life I have structured (and that has been, in many ways, forced upon me by forces outside my control) simply does not allow for time to devote to a videogame with no ending.

  • Added: 12/15/2019

    Absolutely loved this game's animations and writing as I was discovering new things; it's like a more clever Activity Centre game (am I the only person who played these obsessively as a kid?). However, it also wants you to essentially 100% it, and its structure is such that that may mean doing repeat playthroughs where you're mostly seeing the same stuff. I got stuck in a situation where by the end of my second playthrough, I'd beaten all but one of the minigames, which then necessitated an entire third playthrough where I literally beat the one minigame I'd missed and then had to just kill in-game time until the end rolled around. I really wish the second playthrough had no time limit, and you could just explore until you were done.

    Also, one of the minigames is a slide puzzle, which is terrible as always. But then the game kindly offers to just solve it for you, which is great! But then to FULLY get 100%, you need to beat it for real, which sucks again. Developers, please stop putting slide puzzles into videogames.

  • Added: 12/02/2019

    Every time I play a traditional Zelda game I wonder when the bullshit is going to hit. This one is basically frictionless until about halfway through, which is pretty good by Zelda standards! I like the trading-up items mechanic that runs through the game and the simple fact of being able to jump in one of these (even if it's actual usage is a bit shallow). It looks and sounds great too, and has delightful writing.

    The game falters when it becomes obtuse - even with hint-giving locations throughout the map, it eventually becomes difficult to find your way. And the more advanced dungeons have clever ideas but execution that is more annoying than thrilling - looking your way Eagle's Tower. The game also desperately needs to mark which staircases lead where - yes, this is circumvented by being able to put stamps down, but I'm a big dummy and didn't even think to use stamps for that purpose until really late in the game. And it wasn't fun to have to do so! Just give me this information!

    This game was really hyped to me and has a reputation as "the weird one", but I was left wanting it to be weirder. I can see, academically, why this label has stuck to it after all these years, but in 2019 I don't really FEEL it.

  • Added: 03/10/2019

    Beat the campaign on the standard difficulty, didn't feel inclined to go the step higher. Pure flow gameplay. Less like Hotline Miami than it looks, though similarly gets by partly on ssstttyyyyllleeeee. Turns out drums are good.

  • Added: 11/03/2020

    Been a long time since I've finished anything, partly because I'm splitting my attention between too many things and partly because an injury has prevented me from playing much at all. Anyways, this is an interesting Zelda-like that could do with less janky hitboxes. Really appreciated its surreal creepy vibe, which reminds me of being introduced to weird solo indie games by a friend in the darkness of my parents' basement. Excellent soundtrack. Like with Zelda, got unmotivated whenever I got lost in its large hub spaces, but a decent-enough map system and the speed at which you navigate the world pulled me through. Didn't get what the game was going for in terms of theme or the tone of the writing, but enjoyed my time with it; definitely some clever stuff here, enough to make me interested in checking out the team's other games.

  • Added: 12/24/2020

    Abstract narrative about relationships and late-night snacking. Found it very poignant as a fellow late-night peanut-butter snacker.

  • Added: 2021/06/26

    Yeah I'm changing how I'm doing dates since it actually makes more sense to put the year first, considering I'm hoping for this to be a.....long project. I'm not updating any of the old ones because that's too much work.

    Anyways. Oxenfree feels very much like what it is - a promising studio's first project. I really like what it's doing presentationally, and I would've thought it's dialogue system was genius if I hadn't played Ladykiller in a Bind previously, which is very similar but is A) fully text-based which means there's less opportunity for the sorts of technical issues that plague Oxenfree pretty frequently and B) wrapped in a structure and setup that encourages you to act catty and manipulative. By contrast, something is missing here: I think the main character, Alex, is supposed to be acting like a jerk, but there are dialogue options that let you act her as someone rightly confused, inquisitive, and basically kind. As a result the whole game falls apart - I can see what it's going for but it doesn't come together coherently; it's too in love with its characters to make them mean when they need to be. Similarly, the fact that the game sees fit to give you a way to both bring Alex's dead brother back to life, and to keep the characters in a time loop at the end (twist!), which you can then truly free them from in later playthroughs (double twist!), softens the game's themes drastically in favour of letting the player be an almighty god who can simply solve every problem. This is why we videogaming.

    Still, I was absorbed by the playthrough, and outside of a few clumsy moments, Night School clearly have a pretty good ear for dialogue. I'm interested in playing the follow-up to, Afterparty, which seems to drop any pretense of themes or weight and instead appears to just be chatting and having a good time. I can definitely see Night School nailing that, because that character work is easily the best part of Oxenfree.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Just really funny and pleasant, and with some light but astute social commentary. Could've used more holes. The actual best soundtrack of 2018.

  • Added: 03/15/2020

    Wanted something short to kill time while COVID-19 self-isolating on a lazy Sunday. This certainly did that! I love its lo-fi 3D aesthetic, and also appreciate how well the island flows between parts. Flight feels nice too. Didn't get too much from it other than that but it was a breezy way to spend an hour.

  • Added: 08/08/2020

    Very cute single-screen adventure game! This lady sure loved her cats.

  • Added: 08/26/2019

    Completely forgot that I beat this game when it came out. Took me SOME TIME to figure out its gameplay, and when I did it felt more like the game was getting easier and less like I was getting better at it (to wit, the thing that made me "get" it was that I had more health and a weapon which swept a few spaces in front of me). The randomized nature of the map also meant that I went to the Lost Woods first, which really sucked; I'm not sure how much it gets from this other than a more interesting speedrun. Still, pretty enjoyable once you get into it (and the music slaps, obviously).

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    A lovely Sunday read.

  • Added: 01/24/2019

    Yeah man, it's fine. Liked this a lot more before I tried to clean up the endgame. Just read this essay and leave me alone: https://deorbital.media/the-game-of-the-generation-58ab544630cb

  • Added: 09/29/2019

    Combat is cool, but the mech customization doesn't quite go deep enough and the writing is total nonsense. What the game chooses to show rather than tell is baffling; there are way too many characters and none of them are interesting. The game is at its best when it lets you do mission-after-mission of speedy anime mech action, but it constantly slows you down with static cutscenes. It looks and sounds great, and there's a solid base here, but it needs some refinement.

  • Added: 06/22/2020

    Starts off as a pretty cool take on Papers, Please mechanics but quickly grows tiresome as the gameplay stays static throughout and lacks the various tensions of that game. It's hard to know exactly how your actions affect the game's invisible numbers which dictate your ending, and the gallery post-completion which says that over 90% of players got the bad ending shows that I was not alone in this confusion.