Looking back at this year as a whole, I would describe it as a good year but not a great year. It’s an easy year to make a top 15 but a hard year to come up with a top 3. As much as I like all of these games, I have a hard time being passionate about any of them. With that being said, let’s throw negativity out the window and try to celebrate what made video games good this year.
I love a good racing game and this scratched a particular itch I didn’t know I had. 20 years ago, I loved playing Destruction Derby on the PS1 and haven’t played a demolition derby game since. As fun as it is to drive around and smash cars, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of variety in the track designs so after a dozen hours I started to get bored with the game.
I love the Yakuza series and this game is a breath of fresh air in regards to the storytelling and the characters. Instead of playing as an idiot Yakuza member, you play as a smart/witty private detective as you’re uncovering murder mystery. That aspect of the game is amazing but the gameplay started to weigh on me. After playing through Yakuza 0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6 in the last couple of years the combat has started to grate on me. Additionally, the new gameplay aspects are equally frustrating. I didn’t find it fun to search for clues in areas and hated the trailing missions. Great story, great characters but not so great gameplay.
This was one of my most anticipated games going into the fall, I just kept thinking this game could be something special. It ended up being a little divisive for me, when the game works it’s great but the constant frame drops, the poor checkpoint system and unnecessary difficulty spikes led me to find this game frustrating at times. This game has some of the coolest moments of the year, some great highs but also some low, lows.
This is my favorite story of the year and that’s in spite of me not liking one of the 2 main characters. I liked Lola as a character but I was not a big fan of Milo. It’s just a fun story about these 2 characters that have found themselves in Hell and they want to get out. The only way out is by having a drinking contest with Satan which is a very unique concept and I think that’s why the game stuck with me.
11. Resident Evil 2
This is a game where I recognize why people consider it great but it’s not quite clicking with me. I find the shooting to be subpar which for the most part is not a big deal but then there are moments where the action picks up and that’s when the game falls apart for me. Also, I’m not blown away by Mr. X, I don’t find him scary or terrifying. For the most part, I find him to be an annoying obstacle that’s not allowing me to complete the task because I have to run away from him. Even with these complaints, I finished Leon’s playthrough and instantly jumped back into the game to play through Claire’s playthrough. It’s good, I like it but I do have some issues with the game.
10. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
I know this is considered a bad game but it clicked with me in a way that The Division 2 and Borderlands 3 didn’t. I loved the loop and the grind of jumping into the open-world running around for an hour. Completing tasks, collecting loot and then at the end of the hour, going through everything I collected and changing my loadout for the next time I’ll play.
9. Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair
This game does an amazing job being one of my best surprises of the year by coming out of nowhere and being good. The original Yooka-Laylee is one of the most disappointing games of all time for me. I love Banjo-Kazooie and Yooka-Laylee just didn’t come together. The developers Playtonic went back to the drawing board and decided that the Banjo clone didn’t quite work but maybe a Donkey Kong Country inspired game will. The exciting aspect is, it does work and I love playing through the game. With all of these positive things I can say about the game, it doesn’t quite stick the landing. They f**ked the ending and the impossible Lair is too hard. It’s frustrating and extremely disappointing that I 100% the game but I can’t finish it. Talking about this game makes me sad because it should be at the top of the list but they didn’t stick the landing.
8. Super Mario Maker 2
Boy, the energy for this game dropped off. People were initially very excited and then the enthusiasm for the game just died a couple of weeks after the launch of the game. I don’t quite understand why but I had a similar experience. For almost a month, I went home every day and I put something on the TV, played through Mario levels in handheld mode. For the first time in my life, I started to appreciate Mario in a way that I have never done before. It led me to finally deciding to play through Super Mario World and about halfway through the game I realized that I still don’t like Super Mario World. Super Mario Maker 2 is a good game though.
7. Pokemon Sword/Shield
I like Pokemon, this is certainly not a good Pokemon game but even a Sub Par Pokemon game is one the best games of the year.
6. Gears 5
I am a big fan of the Gears of War franchise and Gears 5 is another solid addition. Narratively, this is the best franchise that has seen. We’re finally answers to questions we have had since the very first Gears of War. Gameplay-wise, it plays like a third-person cover shooter. This game would be much higher on my list if it weren’t for the open-world areas in Act 2 and 3.
5. Crackdown 3
This game’s fun, f**k anyone who says otherwise. I love running around the world and jumping overbuilding as you’re playing the game you’re finding more agility orbs which makes you run faster, jump higher and further which in turn makes the game more fun. This is the most fun most I had this year and up until September, it was my Game of the Year.
4. Devil May Cry 5
Speaking of fun, Devil May Cry. It’s just a fun action-packed ride throughout. The gameplay is fantastic, the depth of the combo system is way above my skill level but even someone like me who is bad at video games can chain together some combos and have a great time. Also, a quick shoutout to the story and the cutscenes. It’s not a well-told story but its a fun story.
3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
I love Naughty Dog, they are probably one of my favorite developers in the business. Some developers left Naughty Dog and joined Infinity Ward a few years ago and you see the Naughty Dog influences in this game. This is one of the better stories a Call of Duty game has told. Almost every single mission is action-packed and memorable.
2. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I have a low tolerance for exploration-based, I typically find them tedious and not fun at all. There is something about this game that gets the exploration formula right for me. I loved running around the world, going into every room I could, looking for secrets and slowly getting new abilities so I could explore more of the castle. I think I might be a Castlevania fan which means I need to try some this year.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Zelda is one of the biggest franchises in the industry and it feels like almost everyone adores the franchise. I’ve always felt like an outsider in that sense because I love A Link to the Past but other than that, I haven’t been a Zelda fan. Breath of the Wild is okay but I don’t think its a Game of the Decade or anything. But anyway, here comes Links Awakening and for the first since I was a very young child playing A Link to the Past a Zelda game clicks with me. This game is incredible and has quickly risen to be my 2nd favorite Zelda game of all time. It’s charming and absolutely lovely.