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Old Man's Top 11 Games of the Year

I'm an old man. I have a child. If I'm lucky, I have a couple hours to play games at night, sometimes getting some good chunks in on the weekend.

In a year that was relatively light on major releases, this year was the year of finding out I like Souls-type games--really, really like them--and also devouring some smaller, indie games with excellent stories, the most prominent two somehow both diving into Christian Theology, one into the theology itself, and one with our relationship to theology.

List items

  • I generally "substantially complete" a game and then put it down forever. That is, I do all the significant side quests, but once its done, I might as well uninstall.

    That was not the case for Elden Ring. After I finished, I immediately jumped in to new game plus...then I did it again...and again.

    After this year, I understand why Souls fans consider any image of a monster to be a spoiler. Hearing singing, then finding a group of bats huddled around a giant bat with a woman's head was one of dozens of experiences of discovery that you don't seem to get outside of a Fromsoft game.

  • This game was close to being my game of the year.

    I grew up in a household with a complicated religious background. One aspect of that was my dad asking me to read bible passages and asking me to report on them. Later, I studied european history as my undergraduate major.

    To say this game was up my alley is a major understatement. Fleshed out, incisive writing about a deeply religious community in 16th century Germany, its relationship to the Church, its relationship to God, I can't believe this thing was made. And of course there are some murders. By the end of the game I felt like I knew each of the dozens of villagers--including those passed--and the game rewards you at the very end with a reward that is impossible to describe, and if I did, you would not believe I am calling it a reward.

    It would be my game of the year if it allowed for multiple save files. The game's structure encourages replaying to see all the narrative options, but makes replaying a chore as you can't skip through the non-voice-acted dialogue quickly enough.

  • If Pentiment is a game about Catholicism, Norco is Protestantism through a distorted lens. Someone could write a whole comparative lit piece about going from 16th century Bavaria, with a lush soundscape of nature sounds and church bells, to a near-future decaying industrial South through a magical realist, low-grade horror lens.

    The writing in Norco is poetic and taut--except where it isn't, which ultimately keeps it from being further up in this list, as the late game ends up trading what could have been visual transportations for written explanations of what was going on. I'm sure that's a product of budget and the game being essentially a one-man production, but it was disappointing that some of the most interesting moments of the story were not portrayed visually.

  • Midnight Suns is a very solid tactical game, with a pretty solid S-link/Fire Emblem relationship simulator laid on top of it, but MAN there is too much content. Make these games shorter.

  • I played a LOT of Hearthstone. The core gameplay of Snap is better than Hearthstone. Probably the game I've played the most by hour amount which is remarkable for a game that came out like two months before writing this.

  • The only first person platformer I've ever liked and it was a doozy. Basically created the Sonic feeling of going fast, plus light puzzle solving, all wrapped up in a Suncoast video vibe. Would be higher but ultimately the story didn't go anywhere and the characters weren't deep or surprising enough to invest in.

  • After Elden Ring, I was craving some souls action and this was the game that I chose. Really great and cool. Unfortunately I'd already watched someone play it so I knew everything that was coming, but that didn't take away from the viscerally exciting combat.

  • I almost listed this as Overwatch 1 as a joke. They really, really didn't do anything for years huh? Overwatch 2 came and added basically nothing to Overwatch 1 but it was a good reminder after years of sitting out that Overwatch 1 remains an awesome game.

  • Excellent writing, but unfortunately the various tradeoff economics ended up being very stressful for me and hurt the game as I dug myself into holes by accident.

  • As I got myself hyped up for Elden Ring, I played The Surge 2 (which was on game pass) to get me in the Souls mood. The parry and customization systems in this game are very cool, and parrying stuff felt good through the end. The writing was hilariously bad though and the difficulty curve seemed off.

  • The first half of Immortality would have been a 10/10, top 5 game for me. An utterly engrossing FMV investigation game, shocking in its production quality and effort. Unfortunately the meta story didn't end up going anywhere interesting, and for some reason the game just did NOT want to give us the ending so my wife and I spent like 4 hours trying to find ANYTHING to progress before we finally got it. Left a truly terrible taste in my mouth.