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My list of Top 8 games (that I played) in 2022 is complete!

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Top 5 Games (that I played) in 2021

For me, this year was a time of tremendous reflection, nostalgia, and longing for accomplishment and fulfillment that I wasn't getting through work or relationships in the same ways as the past.

As I sat and took stock of the list of games that I played in 2021, I noticed that the games that meant most to me were the ones I could complete and feel very accomplished by doing so. Funny how that works when you're not feeling fulfilled in other areas of your life, huh?

Anyway, for me that means most of the games I loved this year were shorter than your average big budget game and tended to be indie games. More and more as I grow older, I crave single-player games that meet the following criteria:

  • Can be played in short bursts (15-30 mins) with meaningful progression made most of those sessions
  • Are under 20 hours to complete the primary path of the game, with optional extras to extend the content if I desire
  • Have unique mechanics or riff on standard mechanics in a new and unique way

The best part is, I feel like a lot of games coming out these days meet this criteria. And the top 3 of my list definitely do. Shoutout to Loop Hero for also basically meeting this criteria.

Runners up:

Here are my thoughts on the 5 games that captured my attention and kicked the most ass for me this year.

List items

  • [PC]

    I love this game so much. It's a near-perfect balance of mechanics that all play well together and can be traced back to great games like Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls, as well as having its own identity as an isometric ARPG. I love how much progress can be made when played in short bursts, which is basically the only way I play games these days.

    I completed a save file at 100%, which I found to be easier to do than in most other games I'd played. But perhaps that's just because of how clear ACIDNERVE made the objectives for completion. You accomplish 100% by completing the main story and epilogue and ensuring you've rounded up all powerups and collectibles. However, I noticed that 100% did NOT account for the 2 missing achievements I had on Steam, one of which "demanded" I complete the entire main story using only the umbrella weapon that you can grab in the hub area at the start of the game. And I was SO into it that I took that as a genuine challenge and beat the game all over again before touching another game.

    The dialogue is so genuine and genuinely funny at times. These are the games I treasure most. The ones that make you feel like the people behind it are human and gave two poops about how people actually react/feel. Plus the music, art, and style of the game really make a complete package that I could recommend this game to almost anyone.

    If you're somehow not convinced yet, it's also got a character named Pothead. How could it be a bad game with a character named Pothead, I ask you?

  • [PC]

    Listen, this game is sitting at #2, but it could very easily be my #1 game this year. As a former fledgling Magic: The Gathering player, recovering Hearthstone addict, and all around fan of trading card games (TCGs) and the single-player experiences that have been inspired by TCGs, THIS GAME IS EXTREMELY FOR ME. And you, if you've ever liked Magic, Slay the Spire, Pokemon TCG, etc.

    Inscryption surprised me as a game I could love because I was very worried from moment one that it was determined to spook me. I am easily spooked, but not too squeamish, so this game ended up riding the line of spooks and suspense that I am comfortable with and leaning more on the grotesque at times to amp up the discomfort factor. There are no real jump scares (outside of maybe a moment at the end of the first act), and I am thankful for that.

    Otherwise, this game is a smorgasbord of fun and gimmicky card game mechanics that really lets you build your own experience with the game. I'm not in the business of revealing spoilers, so we'll say this game takes a few turns - some expected, most not - and I think anyone who enjoys games with metanarratives and/or cards and strategy will have an amazing time playing this game.

  • [PC - Echoes of the Eye DLC]

    Part I - Finishing the base game

    I played this game back in 2019, its original release year, and I was floored by the spectacular visuals, incredibly fun physics mechanics, and the rich story that unfolded as I completed loop after loop of the game. But it took me until they announced Echoes of the Eye, a paid expansion for the base game, to actually FINISH the game. As I've already stated, I am not into scary games and generally avoid them entirely. And 95% of Outer Wilds IS NOT SCARY, but there's a particular, crucial bit that scares and stresses the begeezus outta me. So, despite wanting to see the end I just fell off the game and chalked it up as another maybe-I'll-get-back-to-that game.

    For me, the announcement of EotE was met with a mix of elation and terror as I realized… on one hand, more of the things that made me love the base game and potentially new things were on offer. On the other hand, I knew despite how separate the DLC might be from the base game that I had to see the ending of the base game for myself.

    I knew it would be a tough ask of myself to come back to this game nearly two years later and try and pull off the final stages of the game with little context to go on, other than what I could glean from the in-game ship log. But, with the help of a friend who sat with me on a stream to gently guide and encourage me, I completed the ending. Honestly, I'm not sure I would have had the drive or will to push through on my own. Shouts to you, G.

    Part II - Echoes of the Eye DLC

    Then this same friend and I started the DLC together in one of those rare moments in gaming where we got to kind of discover all the secrets and mind-boggling revelations together. Instead of furiously searching for the answer online to a puzzle or question, I usually texted my friend first and anxiously/excitedly awaited his response. This went on for a few weeks as we made our ways through the new content... actually let's clarify something: this DLC is far closer to an actual sequel to the original game than just some add-on content. It's an experience that fully stands on its own, but is of course enhanced by and enhances the story of the base game.

    It's worth noting that the game warns you that there are sections of the DLC that are spooky, and *the anticipation* was actually more spooky than the actual spooks themselves when I got to that bit. I found my time with EotE less spooky and daunting than Outer Wilds.

    This experience brings with it so many new and fun things to discover that really took me back to the same feelings I had playing the original game. This is one of those games where the lightning definitely struck twice, as they somehow captured those feelings and expanded on them simultaneously. The layers these games have for you to discover is unreal.

    Echoes of the Eye is worth every penny and then some. Very few games deliver on their promises completely, and maybe that's part of what makes Outer Wilds so incredible; Outer Wilds doesn't tell you much of anything outright, and allows you to discover all that it has to offer on your own. Play this dang game. Play it ASAP.

  • [PC - Ultimate Edition]

    There seems to be a trend this year, in that I seem to be more okay with or even *want* to experience dread/minor spooks in games. This one was sort of "forced" on me, considering it was the January game for our Video Game Book Club, but after a while I didn't feel the pressure because I was enjoying myself s'dang much.

    I was a little wary of playing Control because there seemed to be some light horror/suspense elements (objectively light, mind you, but for me light = v scary), but I ended up feeling more of a sense of dread instead of horrified or spooked. In a good way, I think? It certainly leaned more into a suspenseful/dread-laden tone than a straight up horror tone. I can jive with that. Especially with how gorgeous and genuinely awesome this game is.

    That's what continually drew my attention to this game: its unapologetic and extremely consistent style. 60s/70s retro-future tech and midcentury modern office furniture, trippy, angular visuals in visions and alternate realities, and the slick UI with incredible depth in the notes/audio logs you acquire made every minute in Control fun to just *look* at. And on top of that, the gameplay is absolutely stellar!

    As I've told many people since playing it: Control is the best "superhero" game I've ever played, beating out the likes of Saints Row 4 and any traditional superhero game by a country mile. And the gun play ain't half bad either! I'd still like to finish the DLC of the game, as I've heard great things.

    Control rips from start to finish.

  • [PC - Thanks Game Pass]

    Yo listen. They made a good Halo. End of story.

    Nah but for real, this is the Halo that the last few entries in the series wish they were, if I'm to believe the discourse around this topic online. I haven't played a Halo regularly since Halo 3, and I honestly think that this feels like those games, but with a more modern gameplay experience. They struck the balance of the good stuff that made Halo great and put it in a open-ish world environment, made collectibles that are fun to find, and the multiplayer is pretty great so far.

    It's still semi-unbelievable that I'm playing a brand new Halo game on my PC. I haven't had an Xbox since the original, so the novelty of this has still yet to wear off.

    Honestly this game is hitting my top five list partially on the *promise* that this game will only get better and better in the next year as they add some needed elements. That aside, it's easily captured my attention and is my new shooter of choice.