top of page


17. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

I played my first Crash Bandicoot title last year when I picked up the N. Sane Trilogy. What originally began as a light-hearted romp as a silly little orange critter through a jungle soon devolved into a teeth-grinding trek through frustratingly unclear enemy hitboxes and obnoxiously treacherous platforming. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back was a game I wasn't entirely thrilled about taking on next after my lukewarm reaction to the first. And after finishing it... Yeah, it's just as bad. If not worse.

This is one of those games that thrive off of the "haha! fuck you!" death philosophy where so many of your deaths feel unearned and annoying in their setback. Hosting so many of the same irritating issues as the first game and often kicking those irritants up a few notches. Not to mention the zany slapstick cartoon deaths that Crash suffers whenever he fails that initially seem like a bit of the game's quirky humor but gradually seem more and more like the game rubbing your repeated failures in your face. Maybe it is just a case of me being really bad at this franchise but I can't help but feel this game preys on your frustration with its own stilted game design.

I don't hate Crash Bandicoot. As much as it likes to draw ire, it's still at the end of the day a silly little scrimblo-bimblo 90's mascot platformer that's not completely unfun and it's not always entirely devoted to making you want to pull your hair out. I found the best way to enjoy this game is when you're not paying it your undivided attention. Preferably preoccupied with watching something or talking to someone on call and not giving the game enough of your mental capacity to really piss you off.

Worth Playing?: If you're interested in this franchise then I'm guessing you probably already have. So outside of that, probably not.

16. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards was the first game I played through the Nintendo Switch Online N64 library. Mostly attracted to its short run-time, I was expecting something light and breezy. Unfortunately for me, what I got was kind of the opposite. Specifically, Kirby and his movement. Kirby controls like a brick, moving sluggishly across the game's six worlds. I'm a big subscriber to the idea that movement and mobility are factors that can really make or break a game and Kirby 64 certainly fails in that department. The game's difficulty is also very inconsistent, spending the vast majority being mind-numbingly easy and allowing you to steamroll through whole levels with the help of any one powerup while on other occasions (pretty much exclusively if you're unlucky enough to face a boss sans powerup) you'll find yourself having to retry an annoying number of times.

The game isn't devoid of positive qualities, though. It was always neat to experiment with the different powerups and the game even has a unique mechanic that allows you to combine two different powerups together for a cool hybrid effect that combines both. Disappointingly, though, this is actually very hard to pull off and I only had to opportunity to explore this mechanic two or three times during my whole run, causing one of the only innovative elements of this game to come off sorely underutilized.

The locations, while cute and pleasant, are mostly unmemorable and most of the boss battles were more irritating than enjoyable (barring the final boss, that one I will say was creative and a pretty nice touch.) While Kirby 64 isn't 100% bad, I will say that the negatives tend to outweigh the positives.

Worth Playing?: Nah. There are better Kirby games out there that are past the awkward growing pains of Crystal Shards.

15. Toree 3D

Toree 3D is a 3D platforming game where you play as a little yellow duck with sunglasses named Toree. And that's pretty much it. It costs 99 cents to play and it's an okay game. The levels are decent, Toree controls quite well making the parkour across different moving platforms and obstacles pretty breezy, and the whole game can be finished in under an hour. There's not much to this game and thusly there's not a lot that needs to be said. The major appeal of this game is that it's dirt cheap and not actually complete shovelware garbage. It's cute and the soundtrack's pretty good but it's not all that memorable for how simple it is and quickly it's over.

Worth Playing?: I mean, it's a dollar. Why not?

14. Slime Rancher

I feel bad ranking Slime Rancher so far up in this ranking because it's, by all means, a completely well-made and enjoyable game. This sort of game simply just doesn't really fit my niche, y'know? Despite that, I can recognize and respect that this is definitely a good game. It does what it's trying to do really well and with an excess of charm. The gameplay loop of collecting, exploring, and farming is consistently appealing even during long sessions of play.

I was surprised to see how much this world had to offer in terms of exploration. The map is actually fairly sizeable and adventuring out and discovering new areas with new kinds of slimes and everything was consistently my favorite part of the game. It also has a nice "economic curve," or however you'd denote the farming sim equivalent of a level curve, the system by which you exchange collected resources for better machines and such.

It does feel a bit held back by some QOL limitations like a relatively ungenerous inventory size and fast travel being pretty late game leaving you to spend a lot of time traversing the same familiar areas over and over again. Those complaints are pretty menial though and easily ignored in the grand scheme of this game as a whole picture. A picture which, I'd say, is a very pleasant one.

Worth Playing?: Yes, especially for fans of farming sims unlike me.

13. Florence

Florence is a slice-of-life interactive story game that tells a very cute and intimate story through a unique language of visual metaphors and charming illustrations. It's very short and sweet and won't take you much longer than about forty minutes in total to complete. Similarly to Slime Rancher, I by no means dislike this game but it places so far back simply because it doesn't offer as much as the other games on this list. But just because this game isn't an eighty-hour-long AAA title doesn't mean it can't succeed at telling a touching story which is exactly what Florence strives to do.

It's clever with its story-telling and emotionally impactful even in spite of its brevity, in no small part due to its art and music which perfectly personify Florence's characterful sweetness and craftiness. Its story is one that will guide you through a whole range of emotions including some more depressing emotional themes that make slice-of-life stories like this so much more interesting and gripping.

In our modern climate of increasingly long-form media, it's nice to have a self-contained story that wraps itself up neatly in under an hour. Florence is a very pleasant breath of fresh air that, while fleeting in its short run time, is still a memorable experience

Worth Playing?: Maybe not at full price but if you happen to spot it at a discounted price during a sale or in a bundle then yeah, it's worth an hour of time.

12. DOOM 64

I think I got DOOM 64 as a bonus for buying DOOM Eternal? I'm honestly not totally sure because DOOM 64 showed up in my Steam library one day and I never bought it or received it as a gift so that's my best guess. Anyways, after sitting neglected in my backlog for a few years I finally decided to knock it off my list.

The way the Doomslayer glides across the map and brandishes his artillery with such efficiency and polish keeps the actual gunplay of this game fresh and fluid despite its age and helped me understand how the DOOM franchise was such a staple even in its earlier days. Weaving about while filling all different sorts of infernal beasts with bullets was consistently enough fun to keep this title just above slipping farther back into the former half of this list. The thorn in 64's side is its constantly perplexing level design. It relies heavily on things like collecting three different colored keys to open gates or flipping switches that open a gate on the other side of the map that you might not have even seen yet. I found myself time and time again hopelessly lost in this game's maps after clearing out all the enemies in the room and left to aimlessly wander until I stumbled upon the right hallway or gave up and looked it up online.

While it does have an undebatably retro charm and the slick DOOM gunplay that has made the franchise a perennial staple of the FPS genre, most of this game's runtime is spent running in circles around its confusing labyrinths with very few clear answers on where you're meant to go next.

Worth Playing?: Much like Kirby 64, there are far less obtuse and far more modern titles in this franchise that are significantly more worth your time.

11. Cuphead

Cuphead is another title that has spent a few years left uncompleted in a neglected corner of my Steam library. Cuphead is not an unpopular title, causing waves with its release and garnering a huge online presence back in 2017. And it rightfully deserves such a reaction as this game is an absolute achievement in game development featuring beautifully hand-drawn animations and a wonderfully bombastic soundtrack to complement a brilliantly realized idea of playing through a classic early 20th-century cartoon.

The game is one of those proudly wears its uphill difficulty and unkindness towards its players on its sleeve. You'll spend try upon retry upon retry upon retry memorizing each new boss's attack patterns and perfecting your movements to a tee until you can finally secure the victory. This gameplay loop does become a bit repetitive and I've never been a fan of this genre of ruthlessly difficult games. Luckily for me, I had my much-better-at-the-game friend Ollie (shoutout, love you boo 😘) to piggyback off of in two-player co-op to finally get to the credits.

I will admit, it was satisfying to finally wrench those dubs from the spiteful claws of each of this game's harrowing bosses but despite that and the game's fairly polished gameplay, I still found myself a bit put off by the harsh boss-rush style. It's a true challenge to sit through this game until the end and while it's worth it to see what zany character ripped from a 30's rubber hose cartoon the game is gonna throw at you next, it's hard to sit with the game for more than maybe an hour or two at a time.

Worth Playing?: Yes. In spite of my gripes and slightly harsh ranking on this list, this is one of those games I feel everybody should experience just to give the lovingly crafted hand-drawn animations and expertly orchestrated soundtrack that capture the old-time cartoon vibe they strive for so well the due respect it all so rightfully deserves.

10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

Shredder's Revenge is undeniably a simple game, being at its core a remaster of the original arcade cabinet title. That core, however, is one that Shredder's Revenge proudly and lovingly touts for all to see. It's not ashamed of what it is and why should it be? The retro-style pixel art invokes the arcade age of gaming while sporting new layers of polish that make it consistently a treat to look at and watch as the turtles whip out all sorts of sick maneuvers. The beat 'em up side-scrolling gameplay doesn't leave a whole lot of room for astounding depth despite the multitude of button-press combos the game advertises, but where I had the most fun with this game was its opportunity for up the six-player co-op multiplayer.

While it was admittedly a clusterfuck and often difficult to tell exactly what was happening with six different player characters, usually each performing a different kind of flashy martial arts technique, on-screen as well as a whole load of enemies at any one time, the hectic chaos of collaborating with five other people to complete each level was an enjoyable experience as well as a unique one as games that offer compatibility with more than two or four players at once are pretty rare.

The gameplay did become pretty repetitive after a while but nothing beats the triumph of overcoming a particularly annoying boss with the help of a team of your friends experiencing the same ups and downs as you play through the game together. Couple that with the awesome pixel art, character animations, the classic 80's TMNT charisma, and of course some banger tracks, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge was easily one of the most memorable and wild video game experiences I had this year.

Worth Playing?: If you have some good friends to play it with.

9. Splatoon 3

I was very on the fence about picking up Splatoon 3. I had played the first Splatoon back on the Wii U and admittedly enjoyed my time with it. However, as a game that's foremost a Nintendo online multiplayer third-person shooter with a story-driven campaign mode as only a secondary feature, Splatoon has never particularly been totally my cup of tea. I adore the aesthetic and the world of Splatoon and all its quirky and stylish charm but I'm not one to devote myself to an online shooter, especially a Nintendo-borne one.

Another factor I was wary of was how Splatoon didn't seem to boast too many unique upgrades between installations. I steered away from Splatoon 2 because it just seemed too similar to the original and from all the people I saw calling it "Splatoon 1.5" online I'm sure I'm not alone in this sentiment. Splatoon 3 seemed to be in a similar boat. Being twice removed from the original title now, it still seemed a bit lacking in new features.

I loved the first Splatoon's story mode even if it was a bit brief to make room for the multiplayer to take the spotlight. And after Splatoon 2 got a significant singleplayer update with the Octopath Expansion DLC, I had higher hopes for 3's story mode to pick up some slack and offer something a bit more substantial. And now after playing it, can I say it gave me what I was looking for? Ehhhhh, not really. It was still pretty much the same Splatoon experience as before with an enjoyable but sadly quite brief story campaign. To be fair, Splatoon is online multiplayer-centric so expecting the dev team to shift all of their resources into the campaign was a bit of wishful thinking but still, for as much potential this franchise has for singleplayer puzzle platforming I wish we'd see more.

Worth Playing?: Did you enjoy the last two Splatoon games? Then yeah, probably. If you're not a recurring fan and are hoping for a good place to hop back into a franchise you enjoyed for a bit years ago like me? Then maybe give it a second thought.

8. CrossCode

CrossCode is probably the title on this list I may have been the most attached to as it's easily one of the games I played the most of as well as the game I definitely played over the longest span of time. Y'know when you end up playing a game for so long in such a concentrated period of time that you end up sort of associating that game with that period of your life even if it is only a few months? Yeah, that's CrossCode for me.

Anyways, about the actual game, CrossCode is a game that takes place inside a fictional in-universe MMORPG. This unique narrative framing device allows for some innovative storytelling which is aided by the game's cast of enjoyable and lovable characters. The combat is very fresh, taking elements of traditional turn-based JRPG combat and interpreting them into a real-time brawl that's very open-ended and fun. There's a massive skill tree that lets you advance both projectile and close combat attacks, guarding and dodging techniques, and movement abilities. On top of all of that, there's an elemental system with four different elements that all have unique playstyles that the player can freely swap between so long as they don't overclock their elemental powers by spamming them, forcing the player to attack with elements more sparingly and fight in a more tactile way.

Between a very well-designed and enjoyable combat system, unique environments and places to discover and explore, and a touching story with characters you'll grow to love, CrossCode is easily a unique and worthwhile gaming experience. It can tend to be grindy and have some pretty noticeable pacing issues with the story progression and level curve (even with how well done the combat is in this game I did find myself growing a bit weary by the end with how long this game is) but in the context of other JRPGs that it draws clear influence from it's far from the worst offender.

Worth Playing?: Totally, but if you're averse to longer or grindier ARPGs maybe approach with caution.

7. Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread happens to be my first time breaking into the Metroid franchise, so I was excited to see what this game had in store for me. I was pleasantly surprised by the way this game absolutely hooked me and kept me coming back for more of it's immersively eerie and haunting world to further my expedition with Samus.

As an obvious part of the Metroidvania genre, this game has a lot of the typical issues many similar games of the genre have. Lots of backtracking, unclear directions, and a map that, while functionally enjoyable, was often confusing to navigate. I spent more time staring at the map overlay than actually absorbing the graphics of ZDR. The controls were also often dubious and not well optimized.

With the few downsides out of the way, let's talk about the many things this game does right. The bosses are challenging and fun to encounter, always pressing the player to push past their skill level to truly take the win. The ominous atmosphere is inescapably thrilling, especially during the predator-and-prety EMMI segments which were always a hair-raising fight for dear life. This game does a lot right and so much of it I can't help but adore.

This game had me under it's spell and I found myself sitting down with my Switch multiple times a day to get more of Metroid Dread. It's a game with a healthy dose of challenge and while it has a few flaws that aren't necessarily title-specific it's still a definite standout out of the game I completed this year.

Worth Playing?: Yes, maybe not if this is your first video game, but otherwise yes.

6. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

My experience with Kirby has been turbulent at best, Star Allies and the aforementioned Crystal Shards being the only other two games from the franchise I've played through and neither leaving me particularly hungry for more of the pink puffball. Thankfully, Forgotten Land manages to break the trend. Forgotten Land's praises have been sung quite frequently on this website, including in my own March mega review. It's Kirby's first trek into the world of 3D platforming and he executes it with flying colors.

Enjoyable level design is a consistent feature throughout, as well as fun bosses and power ups that held up a high standard of being interesting to use and upgrade every time. This game is a delectable treat from start to finish. It even offers a nice appeal for collectathon lovers in the Waddle Dees strewn about the world for you to collect for completion. The mouthful mode gimmick was a bit hit or miss but it's a relatively small gripe in the shadow of a game that's consistently a good time otherwise. In spite of my less-than-great history with Kirby, I can't deny that this is a solid game all around.

Worth Playing?: Yes. Forgotten Land boasts the oft-rare advantage of being a game welcoming to both beginners and long-time series fans.

5. Pokémon Scarlet

Scarlet and Violet were probably my most anticipated releases this year. Hot off the heels of the revolutionary Legends Arceus and with the resoundingly underwhelming Sword and Shield before that, Scarlet and Violet was sort of a Schrodinger's Pokémon game, promising a to marry Sword and Shield's traditional formula with Legends Arceus's refreshing upgrades in a product of unpredictable quality. And despite landing itself comfortably at number five on this list, my first impressions after months of anticipation was one of dissapointment.

The first official open-world region of Paldea was dishearteningly barren and the game does little to encourage you to ever explore off the beaten path and indulge in the open-world aspects of it's enviornment. Coupled with it's infamously poor performance (the game often chugs especially during weather effects or when rendering multiple models and it crashed on me more than once throughout my playthrough, once directly after beating a gym leader, forcing me to redo the battle) and dropping many of the QOL and game design changes that made Legends Arceus such a breath of fresh air for the franchise, the ninth generation of Pokémon was met with hotly contested controversy on the internet.

Regardless of their rocky reception, Scarlet and Violet have a lot to offer their players. With five Team Star bosses, five rogue titan Pokémon, and the typical eight gym leaders, the player has a whopping 18 different goals to cross off before the credits even roll, providing an abundance of opportunities for the trainer to scout out and complete in whatever order they so desire. They also tell a surprisingly compelling story, absolutely the best of any main line Pokémon title, and your cast of rivals are characters I actually enjoyed instead of rolling my eyes and preparing to mash 'A' anytime one shows up onscreen.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is a "two steps forward, one step back" scenario for the Pokémon franchise. It's an imperfect mess that fails to retain so many elements that made Legends Arceus such an incredible game but it's got miles more heart and soul to it than Sword and Shield could ever muster. In spite of its flaws, this is a genuinely good Pokémon game and one I enjoyed thoroughly this year.

Worth Playing?: While there's definitely an argument for why a $60 AAA release like this has no excuse to be so underbaked and sorely lacking in polish, it's still an exciting Pokémon experience that any fan of the franchise could enjoy.

4. Pokémon Legends Arceus

Hey! Speaking of! Would you look at that? Pokémon Legends Arceus is another game that's seen a lot of discussion on this site, and rightfully so. Legends Arceus was the revitilization the Pokémon franchise had been in dire need of for half a decade, accomplishing so much with it's revolutionary free-form playstyle allowing the player to explore and dive into danger however they please. Legends Arceus's Hisui outdoes Scarlet and Violet's Paldea in terms of rewarding exploration and distinctive landmarks; it was simply a more compelling region to adventure around and discover more of where Paldea had areas I had still yet unseen after the credits rolled because I just didn't have much reason to seek them out.

The world wasn't the only thing Legends Arceus did well, though, offering much-needed updates to the Pokémon combat system with the addition of "Quick Style" and "Strong Style" moves, freshening up the battles and opening up a whole new world of depth unknown to the franchise. It also introduced Noble Pokémon, giving a whole new meaning to the term "boss battle" inside a Pokémon game and offering the player a dynamic encounter with a powerful wild Pokémon that was actually thrilling to experience. On top of all of that, the way the game sets you free and allows you to independantly approach and interact with wild Pokémon, whether it be attacking them or throwing a pokéball from a distance, makes the classic formula a million times more feel-good and snappy.

Despite its numerous welcome changes to the classic Pokémon gameplay formula, Legends Arceus still does fall victim to some of the classic Pokémon trappings. Most notably the tendency to sit the player down and spoon-feed them unnecessary information dumps for long segments on end. However, it does so much right that I honestly found myself craving for the game to go farther, to innovate more, to deviate further from the norm and push their experimental new experience to even greater heights. Pokémon Legends Arceus was probably the most important game for the franchise in the past decade and I pray that we see another game of this caliber from TPC some time soon.

Worth Playing?: Yes, especially if you're one of the many long-time series fans who have been asking for something new and different. This is the game for you.

3. Sonic Frontiers

I'm honestly a bit surprised Sonic Frontiers managed to snag the number three spot but it'd be wrong of me not to admit just how much fun I had with this title. In a post-Breath of the Wild world, I've seen many open-world games strive to capture that same magic that Nintendo did six years ago. Strangely, of all games to do it, the latest installment in the Sonic franchise had me feeling the most reminiscent of that lightning-in-a-bottle feeling than any other game had since. Embodying that irresistable urge to explore and expand the boundaries of the world you're placed in accompanied with the classic style of Sonic the Hedgehog, Frontiers gave me something really special that I didn't necessarily expect to see.

As I said in my last review, it is a bit rough around the edges and could have used another layer of polish or two, but that doesn't slow Sonic down as he tears through the Starfall Islands, springing through a world that offers a compelling sense of progression and exploration and sprinkled with jungle gyms and enemy encounters for Sonic to trapeze through. The way you control Sonic as he speeds about and deals with all these different unique challenges is consistently fun from the start to the end credits. The game throws a whole line-up of unique and interesting baddies at you to conquer, each one with a new and enjoyable design that abets its own gimmick.

The boss battles are all heart-poundingly bombastic, accompanied by hard metal songs as the blue blur goes Super Sonic to combat absolutely monolithic threats. The Cyber Space segments, which harken to Sonic's traditional gameplay, while excellently soundtracked sometimes tended to be the worst part of the game, although it was always satisfying to finally check all four mission boxes for completing each segment.

Frontiers was a break-out star for me this year, telling a somber Sonic story yet not skimping on the high-octane hedgehog action. Putting Sonic in an open-world initially sounded dubious in concept but I'm happy to say that the idea payed off and gave me one of my favorite games of the year.

Worth Playing?: Yes, easily my new favorite Sonic title.

2. Neon White

I know this is number two and not the number one spot on this list; despite that, Neon White might be the one game I'd give my highest recommendation to this year. Neon White gave me an experience truly unlike anything else I had experienced before, jettisoning me through a breakcore-enhanced speedrun tour of a conceptually unique and visually compelling afterlife.

Gameplay is both smooth and seamless all while oozing with style and suavity. The cast of characters trend tropey and even dorky at times but are still easily some of the most lovable, charming, and memorable characters of any game I played this year. And the whole game is saturated by the bumping Monster Girl soundtrack that shoots the adrenaline straight through your veins as you flip and blast your way through the beautiful environments of Neon White.

It's a game that those who consider themselves too cool for anime might be wary of for the ways it indulges in the blazing and unabashed bravado of the most cheesy shonen while maintaining a stone-cold coolness to it. In the endlessly more artful words of one of my personal video-essayist idols, Jacob Geller, "I've seen so many takes talking about how uncool the characters of this game are, and I just have to say 'you think Neon White doesn't know that? You think they did it by accident?' [...] White and his found family of other damned souls are truly, wondefully cringe. White is an unabashed sword weeb, Violet belts out karaoke renditions of My Chemical Romance, no one wears fewer than three belts. The characters of Neon White aren't supposed to be cool-- they're posturing, insecure dorks, and the joy of the story is helping them gradually drop the mask. [...] Of course it's cringe, we're all cringe! It's 2022! Get over it. Aim for the heavens."

The biggest drawback of Neon White is that unless you're performing a completionist's run, the story's conclusion ends up very underwhelming, as the game hides it's "true ending" behind 100% completion. While the big 100% isn't entirely unreachable, it's still a sour anticlimax for many first time players who most likely won't be aware of the lofty prerequisite.

However, the one big nitpick aside, Neon White is something truly unique and excels so very much at all the things it tries to do with so much style that I can't help but list it as an easy favorite of this year. I sincerely reccomend checking this game out as it's a new favorite of mine for sure.

Worth Playing?: Absolutely. Trust me, this game is something special.

1. Halo Infinite

It feels like cheating to place Halo Infinite at the number one spot on this list being a 2021 release that I got at the very end of last year and played through New Year's meaning it only barely qualifies for this list by a margin of about 48 hours. That on top of the fact that Neon White is a very, very close second makes it a close call. However, there's no denying the mastery of Halo Infinite and how it perfects the franchise formula in a game that left me starstruck long after the credits rolled.

Managing to not only improve upon Halo's gunplay but also it's narrative story-telling ability in a world that offers the player so much opportunity and exploration while still upholding a compelling and coherent story route through it is sort of like the perfect storm for any game let alone Halo. I adored the Chief's companions through this adventure and it even made some of the past stories seem deeper in retrospect with how well they handle not only Master Chief's character but his relationship with those around him. And the grappling hook? You cannot go wrong by adding a grappling hook to a game. It only stands to improve the experience and Halo Infinite is a textbook example of that.

I think this title is honestly a bit underrated, bogged down by it's barebones (yet still fun) and controversial multiplayer. I really think more people ought to give this game a shot since it's so often overshadowed. Infinite manages to tell a touching story in a Halo game while improving upon the combat and level design to the nth degree and wrapping it all up in a neat little grappling hook bow that made this game one of my new favorites and the top dog of the year for me. Especially after marathoning through five other Halo titles beforehand to really exentuate how far this franchise has come and how amazing Infinite truly is.

Worth Playing?: Yes. This is one of the most consistently enjoyable and polished narrative FPS games I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

19 views2 comments
bottom of page