I didn’t play as many games as I’d have liked this year, as it was a pretty transitional one. It was my first year back in the UK after a decade-plus living in Europe, and a lot of my time was spent mentioning that to people.
However, the games I did play all made a mark, usually through their fantastic writing and engaging storylines. I’m a sucker for a good RPG, and as such, the genre makes up a sizeable chunk of my ranking. It’s a good warm-up for 2023’s exciting RPG offerings.
10. This Way Madness Lies
Named after a line in King Lear, this game sees a team of students attempt to save Shakespeare’s different worlds from a menacing threat. The unique kicker is that they also have Sailor Moon-esque magical girl powers. As usual for the creators of the excellent Cosmic Star Heroine, TWML comes with a hefty dose of humour, a heartwarming story, and well-written characters that stay with you long after completing the game.
9. Elden Ring
I’m probably going to get a whole lot of hate for placing this one so low. Elden Ring really is a marvel — and my most-played game on PS5 this year — but it’s also one I gave up on after 120 hours. I see the appeal for those who enjoy the masochism of Soulslike games, but for me, it’s the fragmented story that finally broke the camel’s back. I took a break because of open-world fatigue, and because it’s so easy to lose track of what’s going on, I just never went back. However, it is a world that’s worth hanging out in for its chaotic, apocalyptic beauty.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
As an ‘80s child, I grew up on the Turtles. I had all the toys, the duvet cover, and a massive, custom mural painted on my bedroom wall. I spent most of my time in the arcades at the caravan park playing the Turtles coin-op games. So, I was hyped when Shredder’s Revenge was announced. It was well worth the wait, and an excellent co-op brawler that truly brings people together.
7. Live A Live
I am so, so glad this finally got an official global release. Live A Live is an RPG that everyone should play, with a fantastic story, beautifully-remade graphics, and a banging soundtrack from the legendary Yoko Shimomura in her Square debut. Discovering the hidden bosses is a joy, and it’s a game I can see myself replaying over and over. The addition of voice acting heightens the impact of what can be quite a dark story at times, too.
6. Final Fantasy 7 Remake (On Steam Deck)
Yes, I’m cheating here. I’m framing this one purely through the lens of playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake on Steam Deck, and it being a huge triple-A title that challenges the Deck’s capabilities. Despite my deep love of FF7, I never managed to finish it the first time around on PS5, but I breezed through it on Valve’s portable PC with next to zero technical issues and enjoyed an incredibly smooth gameplay experience. If this is the future of handheld gaming, I’m sold.
5. Cursed To Golf
You wouldn’t expect a golf game to operate more like a platformer, with power-ups, branching paths to complete holes, and a hefty dose of whimsy. Cursed to Golf ticks all those boxes, is incredibly replayable, and alongside its challenging gameplay loop has a comedic heart of gold. It’s a game I’ve found myself coming back to whenever I have a few moments and want something more low-key than cards or huge open worlds.
4. God Of War Ragnarok
Sony Santa Monica’s big action epic has been the only game I’ve Platinumed this year. I loved God of War Ragnarok overall — it builds strongly on what made the 2018 entry great, namely an engrossing plot and breaking up the world into digestible sections, and I barely put it down from start to finish.
However, the pacing lets it down at times, and some parts just felt forced. Sequels don’t always have to be bigger, either in size or scope, but Ragnarok sadly falls into that trap. I’ll still queue up for the next one, though.
3. Marvel Snap
Marvel Snap is a fantastically designed game that is incredibly easy to enjoy. Unlike many card games, it doesn’t require you to learn overly complex systems, and it’s by far the most accessible game out there when you have just a few minutes spare.
Making a cup of tea? Snap. Doctor’s waiting room? Five games of Snap because they’re always late calling you in. I’ve probably put more hours into Snap than anything else this year, even if I am rubbish — it’s just that fun. It’s a bonus to see it not have oppressive monetisation, too.
2. World Of Warcraft: Dragonflight
This was my GOTY until the very last minute. I’ve had more fun this past month in Dragonflight than in any other game this year, something completely unexpected. It’s been a return to what I originally loved about WoW in my no-life years, just getting lost in a world with endless possibilities for exploration and interaction.
I’m not a rush-to-max-level, hardcore raider kind of player, instead preferring the smaller, understated moments. I’ve become deeply invested in questlines rather than just passively doing them, and the Dragon Isles themselves are beautiful. Dragonflight has filled a hole I didn’t know existed, so credit where credit is due.
1. Citizen Sleeper
I’ve played and enjoyed games, but it’s been a very long time since one got inside my head quite like Citizen Sleeper has. Some of my colleagues have been banging on about it for a while, so I decided to download it on a whim last weekend. I’m not sure what I expected.
Since then, I’ve not been able to play anything else. I’ve rejected every opportunity to get off the station because I don’t want it to end, spending countless cycles just farming mushrooms and scrap. I’ve pored over every word of the impactful conversations and stories, and I’ve regretted so many decisions I’ve lost count. It really is an outstanding piece of art, with a gameplay loop that gets me, and one I’ll be repeating for a long time to come.
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