Return of the Origin of My GOTY List 2: The Final Revengeancing

Games! They're back! Maybe they never left!

Before we get into the list proper, here are some honorable mentions of games that would have, should have made my list but for whatever reason: just didn't...mostly because they didn't come out this year, but some did!

Overwatch- I just...can't fully stop playing this game. Every now again I'll come back, strap on the neon rollerblades and run audio medic support for a group. Whether randos or friends, it's always good times.

Dead By Daylight- A battlepass addition, and several more updates keep this game fresh, and slotting in a place for lore to FINALLY be developed beyond character bios actually did more to bring me back into the Entity's Game than anything before.

Disco Elysium- I haven't gotten a chance to play this yet, but everything I've seen and read about it means I'm probably going to be kicking myself early next year and wondering if I could somehow slot it in. C'est la vie.

Stardew Valley- the little game that could just won't quit. A massive patch adding still MORE content to the already-endlessly replayable core game is so...so...well, I started my 4th farm, and let's leave it at that.

Star Wars: The Fallen Order: Cal Lightsaber- The biggest thing that stopped this from getting onto my top 10 was that this was a STRONG year for games, and when it came out I was already in deep with about 3 others. I think this game does a lot right, not just as a Star Wars game but as a more approachable Souls-like, to open up the genre to a less intensive style. But something about it just didn't compel me to immediately return and complete it, and I can't quite place what.

The Outer Worlds- Some people said this game's writing was too over-the-top and ham-fisted, but I'm not sure those people have worked big box retail/service in the last decade, because it seemed INCREDIBLY accurate and real to me. Something about it, like Star Wars above, just didn't grab and compel me. I love the writing and characters, the gameplay is completely fine, and the story is great, but there's just something that stops me ravenously coming back. That having been said, I love that Obsidian finally got a chance to get it right on their terms.

Bloodborne- Just watch this video. I cannot put this game down, despite having beaten it years ago.

Ring Fit- This game probably should be in my top 10, by all rights, but it just feels weird. It's more of a game than any fitness app, but without the fitness/real-world aspect, it's staggeringly mediocre in every way. However, the fitness aspect can't be divorced from it because it is VERY effective and elevates everything else. What would normally be an also-ran game setting and characters become delightfully charming and even a little witty, so long as they don't keep you from running, jumping, and stretching for too long. As someone who has a decent level of fitness, it still pushes me just as hard as I need it to, it's charming, it's compact, it's honestly wonderful if you're looking for fun, customizable fitness.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3- X-Men Legends and Ultimate Alliances came out at a time when I was never short on couch-co-op friends, in college and either in an apartment or house with 3+ avid gamers, so there's a ton of nostalgic, happy feelings packed into the franchise. Fast-forward to now, and my co-op in games has ceded to a co-op in life, an upgrade to be sure, that has left me in a less forgiving mood for some of the gaping flaws this game has. And they are there. And they are gaping. The currency is completely busted, the inventory management is a joke, the powers don't really change as they get stronger, they don't REALLY get stronger, just get alterations, and the ranged enemies are so ludicrously overpowered you sometimes feel like you're playing a stealth game with insta-kill guards...and I just. Can't. Stop. Playing it. The DLC has been fun, though light on narrative, and the characters ACTUALLY do feel very varied from character-to-character, if not across levels. Cap's shield feels different from Cable's shield, who feels different from Iceman's, which is to say: a lot of the moves are the same on the surface (projectile, AOE melee, AOE energy burst, one-hit melee, combo-melee, etc. etc.) but in its own strange way, the game gives you the freedom to mix-and-match to your comic fan's heart's content. Whether you find a solid 4 to stick with or switch out on a whim, there's something so delightfully straightforward about this game...but the flaws keep it from achieving anything close to real greatness.

List items

  • Remedy has been trying to marry gameplay and story for a very long time. They got closest with Max Paynes 1 & 2, but Control feels like the game they’ve been trying to make, and perfect, since those. While it can be frustrating and even a little aimless, it is never dull and I never stopped wanting to see more and play more of it. One of the only games I actually went back after the main story and did all the side stuff (rather than doing it all beforehand), because it leaves off such a tantalizing moment that going back in actually felt like something the character would do. A game that spoke to me on a personal level without confronting personal demons is a hard thing, but with its perfect blending of horror and humor, nobody's done it better in a long time.

  • Murder mysteries tend to live or die on their ending, only the absolute best can give you a journey so satisfying, the ending ceases to be a major part of one’s enjoyment. Judgment came extremely close, offering a variety of side activities, missions, and hilariously weird interactions, that I ALMOST stopped caring about the central mystery. But every time I went back, I was sucked immediately back in. The more free-flowing combat helped keep things moving forward, and I didn’t even finish all the side stuff, but at its core is a compelling mystery with some legitimately great twists and a resolution that feels earned, and incredibly, darkly relevant. The game also takes a great many tropes and turns them on their heads in ways that I was always delighted by. Without giving too much away, there's one particular side story involving a "plain" friend of a drop-dead gorgeous love-interest that goes completely against how that trope is used every other time, and that's just one example of numerous times this game overcomes what could have been dull, rote writing.

  • It would have been enough to just put out a competent fighting game with a cool story mode and be done with it. They didn’t need endlessly replayable, cycling single-player gameplay, ever unlocking more costumes, accessories, and the ever-ignored augments for various characters. It didn’t need a fun little side activity of crawling through the Krypt to unlock even more, and it certainly could have sold us a great deal more of all that if it had truly wanted to. Instead, we get what feels like a turning point for the franchise, both storyline-wise and in terms of the game itself. MK11 has its missteps in stunt casting, but everything from that story mode to its DLC characters (best Terminator game of the decade, for sure) has been so damn good, that the flaws become easier and easier to ignore. And it has kept me coming back, both offline and on.

  • My first foray into Resident Evil came when watching a friend in jr. high play the first one on his hot, new Playstation. Despite the highly blocky characters, the ludicrous FMV cutscenes, and the plodding, tank-like gameplay: I was hooked. Resident Evil 2 got its hooks in me but good, and actually scared me quite a bit more than 1, so this remake had a lot to live up to. Surpassing those expectations in every possible way was not even a remote possibility in my mind, but everything they add feels necessary to modernizing it without taking away a single thing. The map is worth an entry all its own, Mr. X is a force to be reckoned with, but the thing this game does best is return campy humor to Resident Evil. From 5-7, there's been a self-seriousness that has done the game no favors, particularly as it becomes increasingly like its own fanfiction, and the loss of camp humor has made that so much more eye-rolling. But every Leon does, bumbling his way forward, and Claire's iron-jawed determination even in the face of the walking dead are played equally for laughs and are equally hilarious. Which helps cut what is razor-wire tension and stops the game from becoming too grim. The fact that it plays as well as it does is a welcome return to form as well. I had been reticent about moving and firing, the last time this series tried that was RE6, and the less said about that the better. But by reintroducing such a claustrophobic setting, your motion's not always guaranteed and the feeling of risk VS reward is still there and still very effective.

  • Over 100 hours and 2 of the 3 houses played through, for this game not to be MUCH higher speaks volumes of the strength and staying power of the entries listed above this. For the first time in the series' history, that I've played, the plot had what I would consider excellent twists and turns, with heroes and villains being recast and turned over in ways that feel organic rather than done for shocks. And the cast of characters is compelling from top to bottom, something past games have certainly struggled with as well. Even characters that first come off as irritants or jerks eventually have a certain degree of hidden depth revealed, or at least motives for being the way they are. The tactical gameplay feels more merciful with the time rewind, but that feels more like it was introduced to reduce the rigamarole of quitting, loading, and getting back into the game, rather than something designed to make the game easier. More respect for the player's time is something I'm always up for.

  • The Meowth turns into a viking warrior. The little baby lizard turns into an angsty teen metal head rocker. The little futbol rabbit kicks a fire futbol. This game is so great and shiny and wonderful, and I absolutely love it, dex and all.

  • Cards on the table: I'm still in the process of exploring this one. That it scores this high is a testament to how compelling, whimsical, intriguing, and, surprisingly, terrifying this game is. I have not played a game in a very, very long time that causes my entire body to tense and my heart to race like this one does.

  • For a solid month, this game absolutely dominated my friendgroup. The idea of Resident Evil's "Mercenaries" mode extrapolated into a game with Dark Souls-style storytelling and Gears of War dodge-rolls was such an appealing package, and was so compelling that it absolutely grabbed us in tendrils of horrible wood. The repetitious boss patterns (almost all of them were just a powerful enemy with infinite minions) holds it back from clawing its way further up the list, but it's far too replayably fun to fall too far.

  • Symphony of the Night was more influential past its time than anyone could have guessed. It didn't invent the exploratory platformer, but it certainly put the Vania, it Metroidvania. Over a decade later, Iga's vision for what makes a game not just great, but FUN is still so clear and resonates so loud that it cannot be ignored. And, like Resident Evil, this game is surprisingly funny and the humor works surprisingly well.

  • The follow-up to Until Dawn doesn't quite capture the wild unpredictability of the first game, but at a more modest price point, and length, this still gave me a couple of very fun nights and made me more than interested in whatever Supermassive continues to do in this vein.