Pauncho Smith: This was the Kirby game I had been yearning for since Kirby Super Star on the SNES. Tons of abilities (including some screen-clearing "SUPER" versions of some classic powers), snappy controls, and numerous secrets to find, it's undoubtedly one of Kirby's finest adventures.

Remnant: The first traditional, console Kirby game since Kirby 64 and it ROCKS. Kirby Triple Deluxe and Kirby Planet Robobot were great too, but this one set the new Kirby standard in my book.






Zeloz: An impressive and absolutely adorable concentration of emotion; it took about 30 minutes to reach 100% completion, but that's all it needed to turn on my tear ducts. It's an impressive work of yuri/GL/WLW warmth that also delves into the pain of abandonment and the shortsightedness of infatuation. Also, time travel.

John: A lovely little queer fairy tale with wonderful art and some cute formal hooks.






FreezingInferno: It's a little obnoxious with its difficulty in a lot of places, but that could just be how I played it. Even with that annoyance factor, it's still a Dark Souls game and it's still got that same level of craft and deliberate difficulty at its heart.

Pauncho Smith: I beat this game by summoning other players and letting them kill the bosses for me. No apologies.






Zeloz: It's SMB1-style Mario, but with Marisa Kirisame! Not terribly compelling on its face, even for Touhou fans, but platformers that really convey the same weight and structure of the original Super Mario Bros. are few and far between; most tend to ape more of Super Mario World's style, with branching paths and an overworld and comparatively lax platforming. And while MLL doesn't really exceed SMB1 in any regard, there's just something charming and admirable in its adherence to antiquity.

Carmichael Micaalus: This game is really, really cute! It's friggin' adorable! And it's super hard! Seriously though; I really enjoyed this one. Both playthroughs are real good.






Pauncho Smith: I set the difficulty to "Casual" to beat the final bosses and I don't feel bad about it at all.

jetstorm4: One of my favorite games in the SMT series, and one of the first I played. The dungeon crawl here feels good and each area does well in delivering a story that shows while humanity may be destroying itself, the mission is the most important. Mastema is still my favorite.






Pauncho Smith: I quite appreciated how well the game balanced its puzzle elements with the twitch platforming required to finish many of these stages under par; doubly so with the remixed stages you accessed after your first run.

Rainiac: Another one of those puzzle platformers that is easy enough to casually play through, but the real meat of the game lies in trying to beat all the target times. 'Accidentally' sending Patricia Wagon slamming into the screen is oddly satisfying (even though it costs you a heart each time it happens).






Pauncho Smith: The rouge-lite approach is played out now, but damn this just feels good to play.

Nate: The Frezno of Video Games: Perfect and keeps me going back for more.






Zeloz: If this does end up being the one notable Nintendo-published Wii U game to never migrate to the Switch, I might be the only one to mourn, but not really for anything concerning it's gameplay. I just really, really like the Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack. You know what'll prolong some of the excitement coming out of a Promare viewing? 8 goddamn hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X's OST to tide you over for the following workday. Black Tar covers all my eyeballs and earholes.

jetstorm4: Since its reveal, Xenoblade X was a game I was waiting for. I still think it was completely worth the wait. Of the games this decade, I probably spent the most on a single playthrough with this game (and maybe the most time I put into any game). The improved battle mechanics of Xenoblade combined with the mechs made it a mix I haven't gotten from another game since. I would love more of this at some point.






Remnant: "There's a Scyther in the neighbor's yard! Let's go get it!" (my kids and I throw on our shoes and run out the door). Seeing this game unfold at launch was a unique moment in gaming history. And getting back into it in 2020, it's been an invaluable tool for making socially-distanced walks around the neighborhood more fun.

Nate: I'm just gonna leave this here, it's the most social I've been in my life and slowly getting to that place where it's like "maybe people do kinda like me" while throwing balls at things.






Pauncho Smith: It's your classic JRPG, not as they were, but as you used to imagine them. Some take issue that the stories of your 8 character seldom intersect, but the battle system is one of the most engaging I've ever played, not to mention the phenomenal soundtrack and immaculate presentation. Having characters carry little lanterns while exploring caverns and dungeons was a nice touch too.

jetstorm4: This game got (and still gets) a lot of love from a couple of groups I've noticed: One is everyone who loves the art style and wants other games to look like it (I'd prefer a little less bloom personally), The other is the RPG Maker community that seems to have taken many of this game's mechanics for projects of their own which is something I can appreciate! This game is very good! It has a couple of structure issues and could use some actual dungeons but when it's in the thick of things it's a very good RPG!






Nate: This was my favorite Final Fantasy game, but we never got the Zodiac system over in the west, UNTIL NOW! It's way superior and I still love seeing what a Numbered Final Fantasy from the Vagrant Story team looks like, and it's soooo good, like, the tech aspects and how it ran on the PS2 was just amazing. UGH! Why didn't we get this until now? Bastards.

LastZimOnEarth: When I first play FFXII when it first came out on the PS2, I tried my best to play through it over the course of three years yet gave up after my PS3 ate the virtual memory card, which left me with lukewarm feelings towards the game for years. It was playing this remaster that made me finally fully appreciate everything that it does right. I really love how the Gambit System allows the characters to perform actions depending on the conditions that are programmed so to speak. Not to mention the fantastic environments and the refreshingly grounded political narrative. Also, Vaan is fine and a necessary character in the story despite what other people say. The newly added fast-forward and auto-save features don't hurt, though.






Nate: It fixed a bunch of the problems of the original, was still fun and wacky, but it felt like it was missing something the original had.

Pauncho Smith: Not losing even an ounce of the vulgarity, twisted humor and ultra-violence of the original, Desperate Struggle is everything that a sequel needs to be. The boss fights seal the deal here, from Margaret Moonlight's catchy-as-hell battle theme, to the tear I shed after my encounter with Captain Vladimir.






Polly: Rhete's original Xalaxer was a revelation. Polly said, "MAKE IT BIGGER AND COOLER," and then he did and Polly is always right is the lesson to learn here, and also that Super Xalaxer is some of the most manic shmuppy fun you'll ever have.

John: Rhete's most perfect game, a pristine 15-minute journey of meticulously considered encounter design that pushes its fantastic conceit as far as it can go. Stage 7 is transcendent.






Rhete: Yeah sex is great but have you gotten a goal in Rocket League.

Iffy: I'm not very good at it, but I've had a blast with this game. Soccer and cars is an awesome combo.






Carmichael Micaalus: If I had not played this less than a month from making this list, there's a strong chance I would have placed this even higher. It builds on the first in both refinement and story, and was probably some of the most fun I've had recently. And the true end? Goes hard.

jetstorm4: Blaster Master Zero 2 is special to me because of what it represents. Aside from the PlayStation Blaster Master which is better than it seems, Zero 2 is the first time a Blaster Master was followed up on and successful in delivering something that felt new to the series. Using new mechanics and focusing more on tank side-scrolling segments, this game is a wonderful time that leads to an incredible true end and climax.






Zeloz: As a fan of both games (moreso Tetris now than Puyo), I'm still shocked the game manages to blend the two as well as it does. Also, the Tetris crew's all adorable and I love them.

Nate: Speaking of puzzle games I love, this game combines the fun of Puyo Puyo with the blocks of Tetris. It's way more fun than I could make it sound.






Polly: Dontnod's take on the psychological thriller about time travel is an emotionally engrossing highschool tale starring a character who's just about as elegant with a time travelling power as you'd expect. The game explores some truly dark territory with a cast of characters that feel believable enough for you to care how things end up for them. Discussing the long-running choices you make in this game that ultimately matter quite a bit with friends proved to be an eye-opening experience that left me with quite a bit to think about once the final credits had rolled.

Rhete: I still think about some of the fucking choices this game forced me to make.






Pauncho Smith: While I still think the name could've used a little work, this is still a very fun, very deep RPG with loads of party customization and a near-endless barrage of dragons to fight. Not to mention the light dating sim elements and the honest to goodness cat cafe the game gives you. What's not to love about that?

Beepner: A solid traditional RPG in its own right, with a pretty simple base-building mechanic and some robust party customization. The mechanic of dragons that can invade battles in progress can make things go wrong for the player pretty quickly, and you'll really have to have your shit together to overcome some of the game's major bosses. It's a shame this game isn't more well known.






John: Brough's take on Sokoban is one of his best puzzles and also one of his most narrative-heavy games. Corrypt is a tragedy; you can't uncover all the secrets of its world without also destroying it. It's the most emotionally affecting to me of Brough's work, and for that it's one of my favorites.

Atamine634: A brilliantly clever puzzle game that also inspires unlikely emotions.






Nate: Castle of Illusion was a game I loved as a child and hearing Sega was going to reimagine it was exciting. What came out was a game that was full of love for the original by the people who loved it. It's probably the best remake/reimagining ever, and I really wish more people had played it so we could've got a Quackshot remake.

Rainiac: A worthy remaster of the original Castle of Illusion, and one which sadly flew under the radar of a lot of people when it first came out. The souped-up graphics and use of 3D roaming in certain areas enhance the overall experience rather than detract from it.






Zeloz: While it doesn't quite hit the same adrenaline highs as its immediate successor, Mario Kart 7 is still a fine racing game in a series whose entries age about as well as a car past its warranty. Controls are tight, drifting feels delicious, and some of the stages are pretty impressive for an early 3DS title. All things considered, it's still one of the best kart racers to come out of this decade, and that's even considering how good Sega's own entries in the genre got.

Pauncho Smith: This was the game that came pre-loaded onto my 2DS (the first one I bought anyway), and it wasn't too shabby. Bonus points for not including any of those redundant baby characters (although I'm not sure who was chomping at the bit to play as a Wriggler).






FreezingInferno: They'll never make a Fire Emblem like this again. The gonzo "black sheep" mechanics imported from the 1991 original this is a remake of, mixed with the accessibility of modern-day Fire Emblem, created a game that I bought on impulse and actually got sucked into. It helped me gain an interest in the series, an interest that still has me taking cautious baby steps towards the harder games in the series. There will never be a Fire Emblem with these particular innovations again, though, and while that saddens me it also makes this game very special to me.

jetstorm4: The Actual best Fire Emblem game from the 2010s. As a remake of the second Fire Emblem game, who knew how to make Fire Emblem good was to remove the Weapon Triangle, add dungeons, make the cast good, remove the children, and make the story solid as hell!






Rhete: A Touhou spinoff with a really unique spin on the formula: the ability to freeze bullets into huge blocks of ice. It's really fun to use, timing your freeze to chain across bullets and covering the entire screen feels great. The extra stage in this one felt impossible to me at first, but with enough practice I was able to overcome it as well, which was a very enjoyable time.

John: The freeze mechanic is just so cool and fun! The game does such a good job playing with and expanding it, and the brisk three stage run-time means it doesn't wear out its welcome. It's a very unusual structure and flavor for a Touhou game, but it's one I immediately vibed with.






Nate: The same as it's older brother, SMTIV, but with a different style, and slightly different execution.

Pauncho Smith: Often derided as the "Persona" game of the mainline SMT series, it backed away from some of the headier themes of previous games, but furious gameplay and morose atmosphere is still very much present, along with a number of additional side characters who more than make themselves useful in battle.






Pauncho Smith: How improbable was this port? A meaty Sega Saturn RPG from 1997 that didn't see a Western localization and release until 2012. Quite a while to wait, but the cyberpunk flair is strong here, and Nemissa's the best goth girlfriend a hacker could ask for.

jetstorm4: I told myself I wasn't going to put many rereleases and remasters in my entries, but I couldn't ignore this one. I love the style this game has, preferring it over the modern day settings of Persona and the Post-Apocalyptic designs of the main series. The game is a fantastic look into older SMT and how that series had paced itself at the end of that era.






Polly: Brothers is a game that fully encapsulates the feeling of being on a big-budget Disney-esque adventure as you guide two brothers on a journey to find a cure for their ailing father. From its humble beginnings in the opening village, to its emotional climax set deep in the heart of darkness, Brothers charges confidently into its vision, effectively making you feel like a part of the experience with its dual analog/two-character control scheme.

Pauncho Smith: You'll never forget the first time you used the right analog stick to walk.

Beepner: Puzzle solving by controlling two characters with each stick usually sounds like the kind of thing I'd pass on, but Brothers weaves a visually imaginative world with an emotional story told mostly with character expressions and a made-up language. You owe it to yourself to play through this at least once.






Polly: This is a game that when I finished playing it the first time my first two thoughts were, "holy shit, that's real good," and "holy shit, my friend made that!" Fugitive takes a fun concept and a solid set of platforming challenges and strings them together to create a satisfying as hell thirty minutes you won't regret having experienced.

Zeloz: A sharp, excellent platformer that uses the Game Boy action-platformer aesthetic to carry a sense of mounting dread as the little spaceman descends into a well-fortified planet to rout out the titular character, losing bits and pieces of themself along the way. It's equal parts fun and thought-provoking, and the ending hits real suddenly if you're not careful.






Polly: The fourth in the Lonely Wolf Treat series is a bit of a surprise as we're now given the perspective of another wolf from Treat's pack who has gone to track her down after she ran away. In this episode we become more intimate with the series' world through the eyes of a naive and kind wolf named Trick. Trick's little adventure and what we learn about Treat's past are the clear highlights here that help make the events of Dreaming Treat land as solidly as they do.

John: My favorite of the Treat games. I feel very close to Trick, and of all the games this one feels most like a complete journey.






John: "RPGmaker horror adventure game" is an extremely storied and rich tradition... this is my favorite one. It's been too long since I played it for me to write anything substantive here. But there are moments and settings in this game screwed into my subconscious like a rusted bolt, and their screams at me to place the game high on my list are too loud to ignore.

Atamine634: An RPG Maker horror game that won me over not with scares, but with charm and likable characters. It has a fantastic grasp of its atmosphere and features an art style that feels its own.






jetstorm4: This was the second Legend of Heroes game I decided to play, and what a choice. This was the one that shook me and gave me the feeling I was absolutely looking for once again after playing Cold Steel 1. It's setting, characters, story, gameplay elements all melded into a perfect form for me and gave me a very heartfelt game and I had to discover what else was there for me on the continent of Zemuria.

Iffy: My lowest-rated Trails title, but only because the others are that damn good. It took me a while to warm up to this one, but the characters and world are really well done and the payoff is completely worth it.






Nate: It would be really cool if this magically or accidentally went back up in the store for Halloween... Please? My PS4 crashed, I lost it.

Atamine634: Kojima made a game that went on to be the most influential horror game of the decade when it was nothing but a playable teaser for a cancelled game that Konami removed the demo for after only 7 months of availability. Props.






jetstorm4: I said before this is the greatest JRPG from Square-Enix (Emphasizing the name Square-Enix, not Square or Enix ;D) and I still stand behind that. Dragon Quest XI is incredible, one of the best RPGs I've ever had the pleasure of playing. While it's quite long, especially for its true ending, it's a journey I'm willing to go back to at one point for sure.

Still, Fuck Koichi Sugiyama.

DoorCurtain: The original music made for the game sucks! Which is unfortunate, because the soundtrack of Dragon Quest XI is in part a compilation of the best songs from previous entries in the whole series. Fuck Sugiyama. Anyway, this is the best adventure the Dragon Quest series has given me. It almost feels like a metanarrative about what the nature of being a Dragon Quest game even is, which is fitting for a game meant to celebrate so much of the series' history. The battle system is the best in the series, combining the skill point system of Dragon Quest VIII with a fun upgrade tree system that feels fair, if a bit stingy. This is the first RPG in a long time where I bothered to level everyone up to level 99, in part because I wanted to prove myself against the grueling superboss that tested the battle system to the very limit. Not many RPGs do that.






Rhete: This is a Tetris game that you can play in VR and it's freaking amazing. The final level is so good that I can only call it a transcendent experience, and it's made me cry almost every time I've played it.

Psychic_Heist: When you just can't load up on psychedelics and have Charli XCX soundtrack your life's ruminations on being a Tetris piece just looking to fit in, you do the next best thing: Tetris Effect.

jetstorm4: It's Tetris but the music is fantastic. Not that other Tetris music isn't good, but this one feels very well done. It's not the best Tetris game I've played but it does what it does very well.






Polly: Roguelikes don't often come as swift, punishing, and frantic as Nuclear Throne's strongest moments do. This is a game where everything is dialed up to 11 at all times and the full breadth of the Vlambeer just drowns everything else out. It's a game where you're always scrambling for survival, and when you get that first Throne kill you REALLY feel like you've earned it after the sheer hell this game can put you through.

Ghosty: You pick a character! You pick up guns! You shoot things! You die! You shoot some more - and you die some more!

A game that is more fun than it has any right to be - even though it might not be that fun when you first try it! I love the character designs and the little world of this game, and the tidbits that tie it all together. Much more likeable than spaceships. Even though I like a certain game with spaceships a lot as well. Did I mention this game has guns? Out of all the "Rogue-lites" I played, this is the one I like best.

F**k Lil' Hunter though!

Beepner: With action roguelites you tend to be at the mercy of the weapon drops the game decides to give you, and at least for me there's a median progression in this kind of game that I don't often make it far beyond. But when you do get a killer loadout in Nuclear Throne, you get that good feeling of laying waste to everything in your path coupled with that nervous thrill that the enemy spawns are going to screw you over as you push just to see now much farther you can go.






Rhete: Battle Royale Tetris is an idea that absolutely should not work but somehow does. This game is intense and vicious, multiple players ganging up to drop garbage blocks on you is scary, but it also multiplies your ability to throw garbage back at them. As players get knocked out the speed and music keep getting faster, and the intensity when there are only 10 or fewer people left is absolutely insane.

Nate: I'm actually kinda impressed that they made Tetris innovative again.

Rainiac: Who would have thought that Tetris and battle royale would mesh together so well? Each round starts out at a relatively relaxed pace, but gradually ramps things up until your brain is practically screaming. Finally obtaining that elusive Tetris Maximus was one of my biggest gaming accomplishments of the entire decade.






Nate: So, never played RE2 growing up, and I gotta say, I don't think I need to play the original. This one is amazing, scary, intense, and just a little silly right where it needs to be. It's great that they're revisiting the series, but I also want to see what they do with the continuation, after all we had like 69 ports of 4, do we really need a 4make?

Pauncho Smith: A really solid re-imagining of the 1998 Playstation classic. Was a little bummed out that many of the differences between Leon and Claire's routes from the original were virtually nonexistent (often attributed to the game having a rushed development).






Zeloz: I could easily talk about the first Mario Maker here, as my memories of that game feel quite similar to the feelings I have for this one; there's an undeniable excitement to seeing what levels your online friends have made and dialing them in to try them out, and to watch GIFs of impossibly clever hacks of the game's engine, and to watch speedrunners race each other on ridicuous courses designed specifically to frustrate and create tension.

What is unique about SMM2, however, is how much more widespread this wave of user-generated Mario madness became when it was introduced to the Switch, and how subsequent updates have expanded what kinds of levels can be made. Even just speaking as someone who plays custom levels rather than creates them, this game is an incredible testament to the power of not only user-generated content, but to its propagation through social media as well. It's a nice snapshot of what makes games of this generation so unique to that of past generations.

FreezingInferno: Mario Maker, on the go, AND I can still make and share levels online? Holy shit! It's a great revamp of an already great concept with some new additions (I enjoyed the story mode), and if I'd played more of it I might have put it higher. That's on me, but Mario Maker 2's still wonderful and something you can always come back to thanks to the robust community and endless content.






Pauncho Smith: How do you freshen up the well-worn rougelike formula? Turn it into a rhythm game and slap on a killer soundtrack and a variety of different modes to play through and characters to use. Necrodancer left such a major mark, it's seen crossovers with both Danganronpa AND Zelda (in the form of Cadence of Hyrule). Not bad for an indie developer.

Rainiac: There's no way rhythm games and dungeon crawlers should go together as well as this but Crypt of the Necrodancer pulls it off with panache. Moving with the beat of the music feels very organic and you can easily find yourself playing for hours at a time without getting bored.






W Peaches the Rayven: When I saw the gorgeous fantasy world, the unique anime-inspired character designs, and the tactical battles of this game that my favorite streamers were into, I knew I had to have it.

I haven't beaten this yet so I may have one of my usual temperamental judgment swings, but so far I think this game is earning the hours I have sunk into it. Personally, I picked up my first Switch cartridge to kill time while recovering from surgery, and damn did it make the painful hours fly by.

I also remember feeling genuinely devastated at the first huge plot twist, so the characterization feels very well-made, though larger-than-life. This is very much an anime that you can play.

The strategy isn't too deep - hit the baddies before they hit you, make sure your tanks soak up the inevitable counter-attacks - but it does take some grey matter to come out without making yourself look like a fool, and the leveling up system means that even if you turn off perma-death there are consequences for your actions. This game left a major impression on me as we closed out the decade, and I will be playing and dreaming of it throughout this next decade.

jetstorm4: While I think the multiple second halves can lose some of the appeal of this game, the first half of the game is a very well paced game and gives you multiple things to manage as you raise your students to become vengeful war machines by the journey's end. The fantastic soundtrack gives this a wonderful feeling as the game goes on.

Zeloz: With as much Byleth/Edelgard content I've liked/retweeted, I can't not put this in, even if I haven't actually played it as of writing this list. The wholesome yuri content from the fandom sparks joy in my life.






Nate: Finally, a first person shooter with some personality and a healthy dose of cynicism.

Carmichael Micaalus: If it wasn't for the fact that a) I had to update my BIOS to play this, and b) the new game plus suffers real bad from exponential power creep, this probably could have broken into my top ten. (But the fact it does suffer from that made creating this list a lot easier, so hey -- silver lining.) Still though: vast improvements from the first, controls feel good, still a lot of fun. Gaige is awesome.

Peaches the Rayven: I don't always consider myself an FPS fan. I sank many hours into Halo 1 and 2 as an Xbox fankid, of course, but the Doomensteins don't always really, really stick in my mind as grand storytelling or addicting gameplay. I poke at them, have my fun, and I'm finished.

But not here. I loved leveling up the various characters, tweaking their special abilities as I learned how to best use them in combat, quoting the game's darkly humorous dialogue, and crashing the vehicles. It felt kind of off at first, knowing the endless waves of baddies would always be in the same places and digging through various rewards that felt like so much randomly-generated trinkets, but it did pull me in and I found myself carefully deciding my four favorite guns, switching to new classes, and provoking the Goliaths for fun.

For as much crap as I give MMORPGs, apparently all it takes for me to plunge into one is for there to be a lot of guns and cute sci-fi girls. Maybe I should have gotten into Phantasy Star Online...






Polly: It's been called "the best visual novel ever," and I think this twisted time travel tale definitely makes a good run at it. STEINS;GATE is full of solid characters and a winding narrative that dives deep into the supposed "taboo" of time travel and actually deals with its consequences. The game frontloads a lot of science and build up but the payoff is ultimately worth it.

Pauncho Smith: Boy does this one ever take a turn. Starting out as a type of "Weird Science for Otaku", the story kicks into high gear and you're left to make a number of incredibly gut-wrenching decisions in order to avoid a tragic future. This one is mandatory for fans of visual novels.






John: Melos's solo game isn't as warm and overtly cathartic as his collab work with Marina, but that's not necessarily a problem. It's just a different flavor, one I really agreed with personally. All Our Asias is subtle and meandering, a deliberate unsentimental exploration of identity that ends as quietly as it begins. It's also completely gorgeous -- the dream Chicago locations are some of my favorite spaces I've ever explored in a game.

Atamine634: All Our Asias is a haunting trip framed as the story of a son entering his dying father's dream world carrying a narratively challenging story examining the fragility of familial bonds and race, the difficulty of immigration and business, the challenge of political activism and implementation of utopian collectivist ideals, and the life changing effect of loss and grief, all centered around our protagonist's quest for identity. All Our Asias deconstructs things many find comfort in, but it doesn't provide comfort in any of them, making it one of the bravest games I've played for forcing this self-reflection on the player.






Carmichael Micaalus: The only Rune Factory game on the 3DS, RF4 brings us full circle with the story and enemies of the series. While incredibly fun, I do wish they hadn't locked the extra chapter behind RNG.

jetstorm4: I don't think there's a more "good feeling" title on my personal entries or even among games at all in the 2010s. A special game in my heart for a series I now love more as I've played others. I'd still say 4 is the one that does it for me the most and is my favorite life-sim game I have ever played.






TenguGemini: A very weird superhero origin story.

Atamine634: I wasn't the biggest fan because of the lackluster narrative, but it deserves credit for its inventive concept and likable heroine.

Iffy: A bit rough in places, but this game was fun and innovative with very loveable characters.






Rhete: A gorgeous 2D action explorey game with a story that just goes for it. This is one of the games that made me realize that millennials don't just see the end of the world as a far off worry, they know it's already here.

Carmichael Micaalus: Someone on the writing team fully believes in the trope of "never give them what they want until it's what they no longer desire" and they use it. effectively. The game is beautiful, and I enjoyed the story, but I didn't care for how the game would introduce new mechanics for every boss that were basically "well, figure it out! Whoop, you died." (I have a real low tolerance for that kind of stuff, though.)

Pauncho Smith: Almost Treasure. Almost Metroidvania. It works.






John: A short, dense visual novel with four endings. Three are oppressive, real, inevitable. The fourth is sublime catharsis. We Know the Devil is the world as it is, and the world as it can be, if we're willing to reach out for it.

Zeloz: I went into this not really knowing what to expect. A lot of my Twitter mutuals seemed real excited for it, it touted itself as a queer horror visual novel, and after moving away from my parents for the first time, I was very much in the mood for a visual novel.

And then I played it, and got through all the endings, and teared up a little. And then I read other people's reactions to the game and teared up a little more. At the time, I also felt a little strange for being so moved by other peoples' (particularly trans folks') reading of the story. It seemed REALLY weird feeling some sort of kinship with the gender-ambiguous Venus and relating a lot to their experiences and self-doubts. "This is a game by queer people, for queer people," I thought to myself, "why do I, a heterosexual cis male, feel so moved by it?"

Well, that got me to thinking some more, particularly thoughts that I felt were unthinkable when I lived in an ultra-conservative household, and that thinking led to questioning, which led to experimenting, which led to a bunch of other messy stuff and essentially, what I'm saying is this game more-or-less kicked off a slow journey that led to who I am now: a useless lesbian with a newly-found capacity for self-appreciation.

So, yeah. I don't know if its held up in the half-decade it's been since I last played it, but it's kind of an important game for me.






Carmichael Micaalus: Terraria would be way higher up on my list if it didn't piss me off so much at times. One of the very few games to just skate the love-hate line with me for so long without ever actually falling to one side or the other. I absolutely love the graphical style, the controls feel right when moving about, and just the general mechanics of the game are what I'm after in a building-style game. But some of the difficulty jumps and forced invasions just piss me off like nobody's business.

FreezingInferno: It's like 2D Minecraft, only I actually gave a shit and really got invested in this back in the day. I hear it added tons more stuff over the years, so that's lovely if you want to get your creative fix on.

lieronet: I've played through several runs of this game, and it's always felt like a different game every time. The post-launch support for this game has been enormous, with the final, final, this-time-we-really-mean-it-guys last content update dropping soon.






Atamine634: My relationship with Skyward Sword is probably the most complicated one I have with a videogame. I was so immaturely butt-hurt by the traditional direction the series went in I despised it at release, but upon reflection I've learned to appreciate and love the things it did well like its art style, level design, and inventive ideas like the timeshift stone and in the process I tempered my maturity and love for the Zelda series. Strangely enough, Skyward Sword more than any game ignited my eye for game design and game criticism through spite and somehow became a game that's close to my heart for my continued picking at it.

jetstorm4: I am that person who likes Skyward Sword, and thought it was a well-playing and responsive game too. While the linearity was a turn-off for many, most other Zelda games and RPGs are exactly like this. This was one of the only Zelda games where the plot became something significant, and allowed the team to create set pieces (some used more than they should have been) to further that story along, something Zelda doesn't do much of these days...

DoorCurtain: The internet turned on this game pretty quickly, huh? I know I did when I realized it was the Zelda game I dreaded the thought of replaying the most. Nonetheless, as overly handhold-y and guided an experience as Skyward Sword was, it still delighted me when I first played it. While Breath of the Wild felt like a love letter to people who missed the exploratory aspect of the Zelda series as it became more and more linear, Skyward Sword still had real love toward fans who loved basically everything else about the Zelda series. When the motion controls actually worked, the swordplay was very fun to mess around with, and at the time the control scheme felt real cool in general, like holding face buttons to summon a ring menu with which you used the Wiimote to pick something. Smooth and intuitive! The dungeons are genuinely great, which is something people forget about it, and the final "dungeon" with the rooms you could rearrange was super cool. Until Breath of the Wild came out, it had my favorite version of Zelda, too, even the bar for that was admittedly low (Spirit Tracks was also good, but ultimately her personality was just "what if you found out the princess was a regular girl?" Which still isn't very original).






John: I got a streamer friend to play this game; we wound up spending about forty five minutes playing the game, then just as long afterwards chatting and unpacking it. It's just a very dense, eerie, well-done, meta-as-hell haunted house story, and some of the scares in it cut me to my core.

Atamine634: One of the best and most inventive horror games of the last decade and one of the best ghost stories in the medium.






Remnant: "Nintendo is gonna make a brand-new first-party IP. And it's gonna be a third-person shooter. And it's gonna be online-focused." If you'd told me that before this past decade, I would've believed you less and less with each complete sentence. But they did all that with their signature Nintendo charm and it worked like gangbusters.

TenguGemini: The only online shooter I have ever cared at all about.

DoorCurtain: What a super fresh concept for a game: a shooter where the goal isn't to shoot the most people but to cover the battlefield as much as you can. Splatoon was one of the most approachable shooters I've ever played as a result: even if I sucked at shooting other squids, I could still help out in the most important way regardless. The game's lore and sense of style oozed confidence, making it one of the few Nintendo IPs they didn't decide to unceremoniously abandon. Stan Marie.






Polly: Labyrinth of Touhou 2 is an improvement over the original in literally every way. The presentation is lightyears ahead of its predecessor, as is the slightly retooled new combat system, and the various systems that handle character customization and progression. There's just a lot of really smart quality of life improvements that make engaging with the dungeon crawler genre feel less labored and clunky, yet all the customization you'd want is still there. This game features some of the most fun, strategic, and incredibly difficult boss fights I think I've ever experienced in an RPG. Nearly all of them are tough nuts to crack, and it'll likely take more than a couple tries, but it's the scurrying back to Gensokyo to revisit your team composition and skill point distribution that's going to matter in the end. I felt every single major boss fight win in this game. Even if they can be frustrating at times, the elation felt when you see that boss sprite poof out of existence after a hard fought victory never once wore off.

Carmichael Micaalus: Carmichael Micaalus' Game of the Decade. The metric I've used for my own list is how much I enjoyed the game, and how much it had an effect on me. Labyrinth of Touhou 2 is responsible for jumpstarting my Touhou art, which lead into writing a series spanning over 180,000 words and still going. While I won't say this game changed my life, it certainly has had an impact on keeping my creative energies strong. The game itself is basically the perfect dungeon crawler for me; it's hard, but it doesn't confuse hard with punishing. Even when I hit walls, my eventual victories felt good instead of frustrated and wanting to move on. If you like Touhou and you like dungeon crawlers, look into this one.






Rhete: This game just feels so damn GOOD and TIGHT. While it's definitely possible to mash your way to victory by leveling up, Rogue Legacy has the chops to stand as an action game as well, as the ultra hard super bosses that they added later on show.

Carmichael Micaalus: The words "rogue-like elements" have always been a bit of an anathema to me, enough to make me give a hard pass on games people will heap praises upon. Rogue Legacy is one of the very few exceptions to the rule, allowing you to unlock things to use for later runs, so ventures into the castle are never a complete waste. (Or if they were, you likely only lost a couple minutes instead of 30 or 40.)

Pauncho Smith: Would've liked it a little more if they cut down on some of the pointless, goofy shit with your progeny.






Rhete: A landmark game in creating a world that feels alive and lived in. I spent a over hundred hours here exploring everything I could and doing every quest I could find.

Peaches the Rayven: Get it out of your system right now and make your jokes about physics glitches and Todd's endless ports.

Elder Scrolls seems to be the series that you either hate to love or love to hate, but I... well, I like that I love it or love that I like it. I don't know what gives a game that feel of a great adventure to me, but I can tell you that this one definitely does. I loved exploring the frigid landscapes, feeling out how this fantasy version of Scandinavia felt different than anything I've played before as two factions of a proud warrior kingdom disputed how to handle becoming a part of a cosmopolitan Empire.

This one is hard to talk about. I've heard so many stories about people learning to use magic in one hand and an axe in another, laughing even as a giant knocked them flying like a 250-yard golf drive, or even effortlessly assassinating someone right in front of a town guard through the use of a Fury spell. There are just too many moments, and the game sets you up to encounter them in unique ways each playtrhough, that I can't sum up how satisfying it was to sink into this game world.

Morrowind will always hold a place in my heart as my first great 3D RPG, and this game got smaller in some ways, but the ways it got bigger earn it a very strong place on this list.

Remnant: This was definitely my Game of the Year for 2011. Well over 200 hours across all characters. Other open-world fantasy RPGs have since left it in the dust for me, but damn if it wasn't addictive and engrossing in the early part of the decade.






Ghosty: This game feels real good to play. The animations are nice and weighty, but never feel like they get in the way, the time slowing and time stopping feel real good to use and the bosses are a lot of fun! I think I prefer this game to Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. (I need to finish that one.)

Atamine634: I never beat the last boss but I played enough to know Touhou Luna Night is a great action game that mechanically takes clever turns with its protagonist of choice.

Iffy: One of the best 2D action platformers I've ever played, with very impressive art and gameplay gimmicks.






Nate: The 3DS really needed more RTS games featuring demonic Pokemons trying to kill Satan. That's all I'm saying.

Pauncho Smith: A juiced-up version of the DS original, Devil Survivor Overclocked pulls no punches, and will make you strain and struggle to eke out a victory by the skin of your teeth. If you can endure every nasty trick the game pulls, you'll be rewarded with a gripping story, multiple routes and endings, and of course, sweet and crunchy strategic demon-based combat.






Rhete: I loved the road trip vibe, and the camaraderie among the 4 boys, bolstered greatly by the fantastic English dub that feels incredibly natural. The game really gets great once it drops the open world in the back half, and becomes a roller coaster of locations and crazy stuff happening. And then the ending is just inexplicably fantastic.

jetstorm4: While going to be known now as an unfinished experiment by Square-Enix, I think the base of this game is still a good, if flawed, time. The later part of the game is where it really is. Once the game becomes more linear, it feels stronger, if not rushed from time to time. Still a good road trip all around.

Remnant: Final Fantasy VI, VII, IX, and X rank among my most beloved games of all time. I've re-visited them all relatively recently and they still hold up remarkably well for me despite the uneven or downright disappointing things that have come since them. I'd long-wondered if I was just over post-Sakaguchi Final Fantasy completely. But then Final Fantasy XV managed to really nail the basics of getting me invested in the characters and their world such that, by the end, I was genuinely touched as the fates of the characters unfolded. Final Fantasy XV is a good game overall with some aspects and moments that are genuinely great. If Squeenix hadn't shuffled key plot and character developments off-screen in the core game to make a so-so movie and some character DLC (which may be good, I haven't played it), Final Fantasy XV may have been a fantastic game and much higher on this list.






Polly: While Hotline Miami 2 might not be quite as strong as the original game from an overall level design and player expression standpoint, the stronger focus on narrative and writing are what still make the game a winner for me. Like the first game, it's easy to just let the creepy drugged-out vibes wash over you as the ultra-violence carries you toward a fitting finale.

Pauncho Smith: Not sure bigger, sprawling levels was the way to go, but at least they gave you a chainsaw.

Beepner: These games are best taken as a whole package, but the first one only takes an afternoon to beat, provided you don't get stuck on too many hard sections. Wrong Number is the installment that establishes Hotline Miami's surreal dystopian world and shakes the player for being complicit in its violence without being preachy or sly about it.






TenguGemini: I am a huge fan of Mega Man, so it should be no surprise that this is on my list. I had a blast with this game.

FreezingInferno: A bit of a letdown from Mega Man 9, as well as a last gasp of Mega Man for a good while there. Still, what is here is a nice Mega Man game, on par with something like the 90's NES Mega Mans. Even that level of quality is still wonderful, and so here's Mega Man.

Pauncho Smith: I almost forgot this came out during the last decade.






Polly: Final Fantasy XIII may have its issues, but as the decade went on, the initial hostility this game received waned a bit and I feel it's more appreciated now than ever. This is a game that tickled the Xenosaga receptors in my brain in the best possible ways. I'm that bitch that's here for technobabble, in-game databases, awkward and challenging battle systems, and straightforward dungeoning that's just really pretty.

eatthepen: The JRPG form -- not really a genre, but close enough -- went on a wander in the wilderness in the late 00s, through a jumble of attempts to adapt to increasing technology costs and the attendant expectation of ever-greater naturalism and realism. FFXIII is the clearest result of the lessons learnt on that wander. It repudiates those expectations and demands by identifying the core of specifically Squaresoft/Square Enix's lineage: precisely and comprehensively designed sequences of incremental progress and intense drama. This is maybe the finest-tuned game I've ever played, and I keep learning new details of how its systems underpin and back up its character stories. It's not 'realistic', it doesn't pander to western expectations of 'freedom', it does what it does on its own terms and nothing has ever done that better.

Atamine634: Not as bad as people make it out to be, but also its structure is weird and drags in places. It's a good story with good characters but I also thought so much of it felt designed by committee. But beyond that, the battle system XIII introduces is actually a great simplistic battle system for a cinematic RPG and the mythology it introduces was always compelling from the start.






Rhete: This game is crazy and anime in a way I absolutely loved. It feels like the developers knew they weren't going to ever get to make another one, so they just slammed every idea for Gravity Rush 2, 3, and 4 in here, and then even gave out a fairly beefy story DLC for free after launch. The game world is beautiful, and the gravity mechanic is super fun. It's basically a game where you fly around and divekick aliens and robots, what more could you want.

Atamine634: Was also disappointed with the sequel, but again, it deserves credit for taking its inventive concept and building off those enjoyable mechanics while crafting a more engaging world to fall through in the process.

Iffy: Probably the most unique title on here, and a franchise that I hope returns someday. I knew the gameplay would be fun, but I didn't expect to fall in love with the characters as much as I did.






Polly: JoyMasher's follow-up to Oniken is a hugely ambitious take on games like Ghouls & Ghosts, Rastan, and Castlevania. While it may not reinvent the wheel in any way, JoyMasher are masters at taking established formulas and adding their own flavor to them, and in Odallus' case that'd be with clever and engaging level design and huge, tough, grotesque bosses that don't know when to quit. Odallus is more than mere imitation; it leaves its own bloody mark in the world of dark and moody platformers.

FreezingInferno: A wonderful Joymasher game in the style of, say, a Demon's Crest. Stage-based exploratory platforming with a fantastic sense of art detail and great powerup progression. Absolutely wonderful and well worth a play.

Beepner: I kind of miss that 16-bit era design motif where you could have hidden nooks and crannies to explore while still working with discrete stages. While several modern indies do this (some on my very list!), Odallus wraps it up in that grimy, oppressive atmosphere reminiscent of Faxanadu or Wizards and Warriors, with sprawling verticality to its stages like Vectorman or Wolfchild (how's that for a deep cut?).






FreezingInferno: Perfection. A wonderful gem of a game about making friends in a new town, solving crimes, defeating monsters, and generally helping those closest to you with their anxieties and struggles. Primarily in the form of defeating monsters, but also in the form of growing closer to them and maybe even giving them a smooch. It was a joy to play, a moving and poignant experience, and one that actually made me cry as the credits rolled and I had to say goodbye to my video game friends I'd grown attached to. It's my personal game of the decade. It was that good.

Zeloz: I really liked the quality-of-life improvements the game made overall to the original, even if some of the new content seems to be largely insubstantial or bad (I've heard NO good things about Marie or any of the new music). But, at it's core, it's still Persona 4, which is a pretty good game. Portable even! A sorta Persona 4 Portable. Now with handy VHS-like fast-forward for the cutscenes! I don't see myself doing another P4 run soon, but if I do, it'd very likely be with this version.

DoorCurtain: I wasn't a fan of a few of the changes made to the day-by-day formula from Persona 3 (which, due to FES not releasing in the 2010s, is disqualified) like the ability to beat dungeons in one sitting, or how characters don't have meaningful arcs lasting the entire game like P3 did since they have social links that are ultimately optional now, or how Yosuke is probably the worst "bro" party member between P3, P4, and P5, or the very backtrack-y nature of the dungeon narrative arcs around Kanji and Naoto, but putting all my negativity for the game aside, it really is a joyous romp. It's difficult to forget how much the game wants you to just be happy and enjoy being in this group of friends as you live in a very uneventful town, solving mysteries together. The battle theme is one of the happiest I've ever heard and honestly, after how grim Persona 3 could be, it felt like a breather to play something so comparatively delightful.






John: I prescriptively wrote in another blurb that language is the best medium for talking about trauma. Problem Attic is a convincing counter-argument.

It's a glitch-logic puzzle platformer where the rules change from room to room. It's challenging, but it mostly stays approachable thanks to the constrained nature of the play space. The rules may be in constant flux, but you're always locked in one room until you solve the puzzle, so it's rarely overwhelming.

There aren't a lot of words contextualizing the play, just abstract visuals and a haunting soundtrack. From the title and rare bits of exposition, it's clear the game takes place in the mind of someone who's wrestling with a lot of trauma (and also gender identity issues). These aren't unusual topics for games to discuss -- what makes Problem Attic special is how it avoids narrativizing them, instead using music and a strong formal language to make you feel certain states of mind very intensely. In seven years the only game I've played that did so as effectively was Yume Nikki (which explicitly inspired Problem Attic).

This game made a very strong impression on me in 2013. It felt inscrutable, larger than life. Revisiting it in 2020 I felt like I had a much stronger understanding of what it was doing... which only really added to my respect for it. In the seven years between playthroughs I've had to untangle trauma knots in my own brain, and the game speaks to me on a much more personal level now. Instead of looking at the game as a mysterious nightmare, now I just feel the relief of knowing someone else feels this way.

Atamine634: Problem Attic remains the most powerful use of very little I've ever seen in the medium. It's one of the most troubling, anxiety-inducing experiences I've had with a game, but the sense of catharsis Problem Attic leads you too was one of the most impactful moments I've had with a game last decade. Story time: first time I played Problem Attic I played through an hour until I got stuck on a particularly hard puzzle with some of the most dread inducing music I've ever heard in a game. I was impressed, but was so emotionally intimidated that I decided not to come back to it until "the right time." A few months later I start deteriorating mentally and emotionally and on one particularly bad mental health day I got the bright idea to return to Problem Attic because fuck it, if I'm feeling this anxious I guess there's no point putting off Problem Attic if that's just gonna be my mood for the night. And I experienced something I never had before. This intense and antagonistic game eased my troubled mind in a way I still think about. Perhaps it was a mental anxiety conduit that made me forget my own anxieties by being overwhelmed by the game's anxiety. For one, this is an endorsement of the capacity of abstract art to allow a person to bring their own experiences to the work, but also how emotionally powerful a work of abstraction can be.






Rhete: A fun as hell racing game and nearly endless Sega fanservice. I mean for god's sake this game has Burning Rangers level!

FreezingInferno: Some of the most fun I've ever had with a racing game. There's a whole lot of shit in here to open up, and the variety of options makes one wish that Mario Kart had more to it than just "now race".

jetstorm4: This is a fantastic racing game. Each track makes its own story as the race goes on for each lap, changing things up and having your vehicle change for those moments in big setpiece moments. If you enjoy Sega and that feeling, you need to play this at some point.






FreezingInferno: In the brief period between this and Shovel Knight coming out, this thing lit my world on fire. Shovel Knight kind of blew it away for me, but I still cherish the memory of this. A breezy and cute little game that still means a lot to me. (Hey, it came back on digital storefronts too recently, that's nice.)

Pauncho Smith: They got a little carried away with the collecting and the cut scenes BUT HOLY HELL THAT NEW MOON THEME IS GODLY.

Rainiac: A classic NES platformer given a fresh coat of paint in the form of vibrant cartoon-style animation. The original voice cast return to give the game an aura of authenticity, and the core gameplay is still excellent 25 years after the initial release. The game is available to purchase digitally again after being delisted for a time, which is good news.






Polly: An auto-scrolling nightmare from John Thyer taking direct inspiration from Ecco The Dolphin's hellish penultimate stage "Welcome to the Machine." It captures a lot of that same atmosphere and is just as claustrophobic, but thankfully plays about 255x better!

Atamine634: Devilishly cheeky and terrific use of claustrophobic level design.

DoorCurtain: John knows how to make good games, and his abstract artsy forced-scrolling shooter is very memorable. As I played, I felt my eyes dart around as I noticed yet another wall, yet another obstacle, yet another centipede to maneuver around to survive. It's difficult to make games that, to me, feel easy, while simultaneously grabbing my full attention the whole time I'm playing, but John did it.






Pauncho Smith: I only played this as the female protagonist, but that's actually for the best as there are no transphobic jokes in her route, and Aigis is totally infatuated with her. I think she has the superior battle music too.

Psychic_Heist: Let me ask all you "Persona" fans out there? Was your first "Persona" game something like spiritual enlightenment? For years I'd known about "Shin Megami Tensei/Persona" but didn't dive in until I was looking for an RPG to play on my PSP. This game BLEW my mind (ironically its characters do a similar thing) with its occult influenced story, the high school life simulator, visual novel like aesthetics, and groovy as fuck soundtrack. "Persona 3" would introduce me to a JRPG series that would challenge the throne that "Final Fantasy" sat on in my heart.

Beepner: This has become my preferred version of P3 simply for the direct commands and the overall breezier world-traversal (and you can play as a girl!).






lieronet: Dark Souls 3 is set in a world that yearns for death but has been refused that mercy, and I can't think of a better note to end a franchise on.

Atamine634: Dark Souls 3 is special to me because the whole of the thematic narrative of Dark Souls is special to me. I love the polish and completeness of 3 compared to the rest of the series, but what I really adored was the thematic linchpin it wanted to end the series with. As someone who's watched family suffer from degenerative mental illness I've been haunted by the question of what life is and when it's best to end it and that drove my love of Dark Souls' mythology of fatalism. Dark Souls landed its finale as pristinely as it could.

Remnant: After Dark Souls changed my gaming profile forever, it was always going to be a hard act to follow. Dark Souls II was...off...in many ways. Bloodborne was a fine game, but I couldn't get into the lore; as well, the constant Victorian-Lovecraftian setting and the streamlined gameplay sacrificed one of Dark Souls' best features: variety.

Dark Souls III didn't reach the heights of Dark Souls -- maybe nothing can -- but it was, for me, the best effort thus far. And as a companion piece to the lore of the original, it was quite the satisfying send-off for the series.






Polly: JoyMasher burst onto my radar with the release of Oniken, a game that wears its Ninja Gaiden and Fist of the Northstar influences proudly for all to see, and is gutsy enough to ask you to also judge it on its own merits. That's proven to be the key for what I think of as "The JoyMasher" Style. Present its influences, then find their own ways to make those ideas fresh and fun. JoyMasher just GETS what makes good crunchy retro games shine and are good at both emulating that and continuing to be inspired and excited by it, and Oniken is the perfect place to dive in and experience that.

FreezingInferno: Joymasher does some damn good "new old" retro games, and this is one of them. Taking cues from Ninja Gaiden and its ilk, it's short but really damn fun and challenging.

Pauncho Smith: The game that proved that Danilo & Co. were a force to be reckoned with. At times, Oniken even outdoes the NES classics that inspired it. Does throwing bombs at a polar bear from the back of a snow bike do anything for you?






Zeloz: The decade was filled with platformer-type games with hand-arted graphics, but I'm certain this was one of the most lovely. A watercolor trek through loss, grief, and acceptance, with a healthy smattering of puzzle platforming, GRIS is pretty incredible.

Pauncho Smith: Out of all the artsy, moody platformers I've ever played, this is one of them.

Atamine634: Not much staying power for me but I admired the journey anyway. It's visually stunning and the forest section tugged my heartstrings in particular.






Zeloz: Terribly balanced, kinda gross in parts, and largely made up of R;B1/mk3 parts, Nep Re;Birth 2 is stilll a fun time through and through. Nepgear is certainly a less-compelling protagonist than Neptune in several respects, but I find her relatable and just really goddamned cute. The other characters are also a delight with how they interact with each other, even if their personalities are even more trope-y than they were in R;B 1. Really not a bad game to drop 70+ hours on.

Just, if you decide to try and 100% the game, be emotionally prepared for [Neptune has left the party.]

Carmichael Micaalus: Poor Nepgear. It's not her fault she had to follow up Neptune without any real introduction or fanfare to start with. While this one is the weakest of the trilogy, I still enjoyed it for the most part. (Would have enjoyed it a lot more without Trick, though...)

Iffy: Not a bad game per se, but I don't think it can compare to 1 or 3. Felt repetitive and the humor fell flat in a lot of places, not to mention a few gross moments.






Rhete: Saints Row The Third is a game where the developers, when faced with a design choice, always went with the option that would be more fun. This game opens with you stealing a bank by literally stealing the entire bank, and it just gets crazier from there.

FreezingInferno: It's just so goddamned fun as an open world crime game, and it's unafraid and unashamed to be the goofiest goddamned thing on the planet. You've gotta admire it.

Beepner: "Baby's first sandbox crime simulator" maybe oversimplifying it a bit, but SR3 made the GTA clone genre accessible with over the top mayhem-causing action and some quality of life improvements that make it THE installment of the genre to play if you only play one in your life.






John: It's just delightful!! I always think of Melody Town first and foremost, but the game is full of really lovely levels and adorable interactions.

TenguGemini: Distilled cute and comfy.

FreezingInferno: Is this the most adorable Kirby game? It's a contender. This is just a chill and wonderful little easy breezy Kirby; hell, you can't even die in it. Its art style is absolutely gorgeous, and you really can just relax with it and have a wonderful time. What a lovely little game.






Carmichael Micaalus: You got your dating sim in my strategy rpg! You got your strategy rpg in my dating sim! Yeah, I liked the dating elements, I liked the casual mode, and I liked being able to grind if I felt I needed to, all things which a lot of others hated, I guess!

jetstorm4: While it might not be the best Fire Emblem game, it's probably the most important of the 2010s, as it's the moment the series became what it is now. Whether you like that or not... that's up to you I suppose. Still a solid game in its own right.

DoorCurtain: This is admittedly the only Fire Emblem game I played this decade, let alone finished, and it was due to Casual Mode which didn't have any permadeath (which I still decently enjoyed in Fire Emblem 7 for the GBA). The story had a weird filler arc with fighting a beefy red-armored warlord, but overall I loved the narrative of fighting against destiny. The strategy required in many of the maps really made me think for up to 10 minutes at a time, so overcoming them felt like a real victory. The characters were fun to talk to and develop through the optional relationship stuff, which is to this game's credit since I didn't even realize I could do so until two-thirds of the way through the game. Three Houses is probably better than this game, but while I haven't played it yet, I'll still look back on my time with this entry very fondly.






Rhete: Just seeing the title of this game makes me reinstall and play it some more. I got stupidly into practicing stages to see how high I could push my score, and as I recall I was around the top 90 in every level at one point.

Zeloz: Gee, who would've thought combo systems could improve maze games, too?

Rainiac: The classic gameplay of 1980s Pac-Man given an injection of steroids and a pumping techno soundtrack. Plowing through lines of ghosts after ingesting a Power Pill is hugely satisfying, and the game lends itself to time trials very well too.






Zeloz: Easily the definitive version of the first Ys games, even if they are rehashes of a rehash of a 1997 PC collection. Regardless, the games are easy enough to pick up and play on either modern PCs or the PSP, which cannot be said of most other action RPGs from '87, or '97 for that matter. The 2D artwork is fantastic, even though it's largely lifted from old Ys Eternal assets, and the selection of three very good renditions of both games' soundtracks (PC-88, 2001 Complete, and 2011 Chronicles) easily makes up for some of the more antiquated aspects of the games themselves.

Carmichael Micaalus: (On Ys I) I'll be honest: I kinda liked the bump fighting. The game does suffer from "if you're stuck, go get a level or two to crush it", but at least it's an easy problem to solve.

(On Ys II) People say this game has some brick walls that force you to grind. However, if you're like me and play like Adol, then you don't have to worry about that. How do you play like Adol, you ask? Easy! You get lost and accidently overlevel yourself as you try to find your way out of whatever helldungeon you're in.

Iffy: I'm not sure Ys I and II have aged incredibly well with me, but they are snappy and fun in their own way and the plot is surprisingly deep for an 80s action RPG.






Pauncho Smith: I typically prefer the more level-focused Mario games over the games with the big, sprawling worlds, but this one still has its charms. Felt more like an extravagant celebration of the series to this point more than anything else.

jetstorm4: A well-made, well controlling platformer that feels more like a Banjo-Kazooie than a Mario 64 sequel at times? Mostly with how level and collectibles work, but this game is better than the Rare platformers. While not the grandiose experience Galaxy is or as good as 3D World, it's a fun time all around still.

DoorCurtain: This game finally brought back the exploratory 3D Mario we all missed. Mario feels his snappiest and most fluid in this game. Odyssey continued 3D World's streak of inventiveness with almost completely original settings and locales for Mario to visit. I love how "French snail" is as valid and distinct a species as "1950s New York businessman and businesswoman". The abilities Mario gains when controlling enemies are so fun that you could make whole games out of most of them. I love both vocal songs, too. Mario music with vocals was a risk, but both "Jump Up, Super Star" and "Break Free (Lead The Way)" rule. I spent an intense 2 month period 100%ing the game, and had a blast the whole way through.






Ghosty: What I wanted Harvest Moon to be, back in the nineties. This game feels warm and sympathetic, and that is something we could use more of. The characters, while game-like in their... Function? Implementation? ... Still felt more real and grounded than I'd expected of this kind of game. A nice game to relax with.

FreezingInferno: Perhaps one of the most relaxing games ever made. This, for me personally, was something I could unwind with in co-op with a friend on our evenings off and just enjoy together. Having an extra hand on the farm meant more time for just absolute relaxation and becoming engaged in this world and its townspeople. Is there anything finer than casual fishing on a Tuesday night?

Remnant: I never played Harvest Moon as a kid, and anytime I heard about it, I didn't understand how that could be fun and interesting. Damn right I didn't understand. Poor, ignorant, younger me, you were missing out.






John: I think this is the only game I've ever used to emotionally self-harm. That sounds harsh but it's not the game's fault. It just speaks to the tremendous power of its stories. It struck a nerve in a major way, but even though it hurt at the time I feel I'm better off for having wrestled with those feelings and grown from them.

eatthepen: Nowadays, when I'm sad, or lonely, or in a particular kind of stress that seems to be my default response to the horrors of the moment, I dig out this game and play the first four or five minutes, trying not to kill anything, and just let it wash over me. I'm fixated on the alienation of queerness from home, and this is a journey home that speaks to that exact alienation.

Atamine634: An interactive music video that's also an excellent abstract piece about the malaise of existence and how we cope. I really connected with my own sense of angst with TTAR and it helps that the music tugs my teenage heartstrings.






Polly: XCOM is... a lot. It's a pressure cooker in videogame form, and there is no time during the game's campaign where you won't be feeling the heat. Resources are tight, you can lose units permanently, and there's a lose state that will force you to play the entire thing again. It's scary, but it's also INTENSELY satisfying once you find your rhythm and understand the game. Then in spawn 20 fucking chryssalids and FUCK YOU XCOM!

Peaches the Rayven: I'm counting Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within as one entry, since it's not a complete game without both.

In many ways, this is kind of a throwback - not just because of the vintage series it brought to the 21st century, but it seemed to keep one foot firmly planted on the idea of grid-based, turn-based combat, which is actually not too bad sometimes. Real-time and free-roaming has its place, but sometimes you just wanna play chess, where the pieces fly around and use plasma throwers at each other.

It gets a lot right, but the crowning achievement is how it gives the feeling that you almost can win, despite the overwhelming odds. Even playing on Easy mode to grind achievements like I did, I found myself pausing to reflect on how best to complete missions, where to play it safe and where to risk my favorite alien-killing commandos. The game really needs the expansion to add another level of play, but once you have that and find yourself deciding on badass cyborg mechs or genetic supersoldiers, you're in business.

My resolution this decade is to try more new games from this series - they'll probably be in my top games of the 20's.

Remnant: The way that this game synchronizes the overall feel and atmosphere to give every moment of management both in and out of combat this deep sense of immersion that you are the leader of a clandestine cross NGO, operating in a world somewhere between The X-Files and Men In Black... yeah, that all worked really well.






Nate: Is Squidicide a word? Well, anyway, never has gang turf wars been so colorful and creative, leave it to Nintendo to take the idea of graffiti to the new level by having pre-teens destroy stages for no discernible reason and make it fast-paced fun. Still wish it had a better single player.

FreezingInferno: I haven't even delved into the single-player or the DLC on this, but the multiplayer alone and the various Splatfests I got to enjoy were enough to put this on the list. It's a really fun and unique take on the arena shooter, and even if I'm bad at it I still got a lot of enjoyment from it.

DoorCurtain: They changed the controls of this game so that the right control stick wouldn't let you aim up and down anymore, now only gyro controls did that, if you had them on. This meant I couldn't aim broadly with the right stick and "correct" my aim with the gyro like with Splatoon 1, so I basically never played the multiplayer. Thank goodness for the Octo Expansion, then. The mode was extremely beefy and told a far better story than the single player mode of the launch game. It was also maddeningly difficult, and because I otherwise never played shooters, the game kicked my ass ruthlessly. That said, the finale of the expansion was worth it, since getting to save the world from total extinction by coating an enormous statue with ink was weirdly visceral and satisfying. Also, Pearl and Marina are girlfriends, I don't care if it isn't explicitly confirmed, I saw the ending so I know what I'm talking about.






Polly: When I played Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the first time I had next to 0 interest in 3D Mario games at all. Galaxy 2, while I now feel it's inferior to the original in a lot of ways, is still a goddamned delight though, and I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as did, nor expect that it'd leave the impression that it did. Hopping, flipping, and flying through point-A to point-B obstacle courses is still fun, even if it's not the most inventive or freeing the Mario formula's ever been.

Pauncho Smith: I remember playing the first real stage of the original Super Mario Galaxy, and my exact words used to describe what I was seeing was "like an acid trip on Christmas Day". As for Galaxy 2, expanded in some areas, streamlined in some others. Regardless, it's still a monster of a game. There's a new idea, new concept, new mechanic to work with in every level. Don't know what else I can say; it's simply amazing.

DoorCurtain: I don't have the same attachment toward this one as I do with the first Galaxy, but if I'm being honest, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was more fun than the first. The focus being primarily on linear levels this time instead of only partly a focus meant that they could be constructed with a similar attention to detail as the 2D Mario games. While nobody likes Lubba compared to Rosalina, Lubba's game is all-around more fun. I commend this game for influencing Super Mario 3D Land and 3D World.






Carmichael Micaalus: I have saved lives and I have killed gods. I have protected countries and I have performed coups. I have broken thousand-year wars, and I have shattered player markets. I have put over 7,300 hours into this game and I still need to collect a few more tomestones before the weekly reset. This game taught me how to play with strangers on the internet, and has a playerbase that will help you far more often than not. While I do wish my friends weren't split across databases, this game has been a consistent amount of fun for me.

Iffy: The best MMO I've ever played, and has a fantastic story of its own. I think it says a lot when this game's story alone puts it above any other Final Fantasy title for me.

Beepner: If there's some award for THE MOST MMO, FFXIV is a top contender, at least as far as the ones I've played go. There's essentially no reason to run out of something new to do besides your free time or your subscription running out. Even though I chose to play it relatively straightforward, I still appreciate how it matched you with other players to do required Duties, and I generally got helpful feedback from the game's community, a far cry from other forever-alone experiences I've had (lookin' at you, TERA).






Carmichael Micaalus: The newest reboot/rehash of the series, Half-Genie Hero is a pretty fine game. It doesn't break the mold, but at the same time, it doesn't need to. The main game was plenty fun to play, and the DLCs I tried were fun as well.

FreezingInferno: Look, I really love this game, okay? I accept that popular opinion might like Pirate's Curse better, but this was my first Shantae and it's a game that I fell in love with on launch. Over time it got even more little bells and whistles added, some fun and others a bit ehh. It's just a really solid stage-based exploratory platformer, and a game I feel strongly about.

Rainiac: Contains some of the best boss battles in the series to date. The transformation system makes a return and is handled much better than Risky's Revenge on the whole. The transition from sprites to hand-drawn animation was jarring for some but I feel it's a logical step up.






Zeloz: This game is my new standard for 2D-to-3D remakes, a shining example of how to bring new definition to a game without compromising defining aspects. And I don't say this because of any love for the originals or the series itself; when I first heard about these remakes, I was pretty tired with Pokemon as a whole, and I thought having another generation of remakes -- of games that I thought were worse than their immediate predecessors - would be a waste of resources on Game Freak's part. And yet, I found myself compelled to play it through all the way to the end, unhampered by extraneous features that cluttered X & Y and pulled forward by the ever-so-slight deviations the game took from the originals. The story, main and post-game, is just as cheesy and childish as ever, but it's all executed with an earnestness that I couldn't help but grin at all the way through.

FreezingInferno: A surprisingly enjoyable Pokemon remake in a generation I had little experience with up to that point, and one that personally stuck with me because it's the first time I felt motivated enough to finish the Pokedex in it. For that, here it is.

DoorCurtain: Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire are my second favorite Pokemon games. I was astounded by the jump to GBA graphics and sound quality, as well as the much more diverse world compared to the more down-to-earth Kanto and Johto. I didn't mind everything bad that the internet would endlessly point out when I hopped online and learned these games were everyone's least favorite. Nonetheless, the remakes won a lot of them over. The updated X and Y engine brought the region of Hoenn to life better than ever, and the game's wonderfully exotic and distinct locales were able to truly shine in 3D.

Also, before these remakes, I didn't care too much about completing the Pokedex, but now that the bottom screen of each area displayed the Pokemon you caught there, along with a steadily-shinier crown icon showing your progress in catching them all in every location, I managed to completely catch every Pokemon ever for the first time. It's thanks largely to this game that my Pokedex doesn't take more than a few days to complete in whatever the latest Pokemon game is.

Really though, the remakes deserve credit for bringing a playground rumor I always heard in elementary school to life: "If you go to the space station in Mossdeep City after fulfilling a certain condition, you go to space and catch Deoxys." I hooted and hollered as I did just that.






Polly: Super Mario 3D Land basically functions as the missing link between Super Mario World and Super Mario 64. The isometric 3D take on standard Super Mario obstacle courses with a smaller verb set than other 3D entries proved a perfect fit for the 3DS, and there's enough content here to keep your portable Mario fix going for a good long while.

Pauncho Smith: Simply put, it's the best possible compromise between the play styles of 2D and 3D Mario. There's no shortage of ideas and assets that have appeared in previous games, but their implementation keeps the game feeling fresh. And it was great to see the Tanooki suit again for the first time since SMB3 (even if you couldn't fly or turn into a statue).

DoorCurtain: Super Mario 3D World seems to have overshadowed its predecessor on 3DS. That's a shame, because this game felt like a big breath of fresh air back in 2011. Mario gameplay with a Crash Bandicoot camera meant that the linear levels of Galaxy 2 could be made even sharper, especially since the control scheme was much more straightforward this time around. I love the music for the snow and beach levels a lot, very relaxing to listen to.






Zeloz: This is quite simply the most stylish, best-written mainline Pokémon generation to date. Having flat 2D sprites interact in a 3D world with shifting camera angles gave Unova a look and depth that even now makes it unique when compared to the mostly-flat games before it and the mostly 3D games after. Plus, N and Team Plasma's Ghetsis are still some of the most memorable mainline Pokémon villains.

Atamine634: The last Pokemon game I played and probably the most enjoyable time I've had with one. I love the visual style of the Gen 5 games and I appreciate the direction in story.

DoorCurtain: There are a couple of Pokemon remakes on this list, and they are of my two favorite entries in the series. Despite this, I'm putting Pokemon Black and White above them because it is the most confident entry into the Pokemon series that has been released in the past decade.

No old Pokemon at all until after you beat the game. Items that teach your Pokemon new moves are now permanent and endlessly usable, but as a trade-off are far harder to find, especially the really good ones. Leveling up was much harder the higher level you were compared to your opponent, meaning the old trick of having one strong Pokemon and five weak ones that took the brunt of your attacks while you revived and healed your strong Pokemon when they fainted could no longer work.

The best part was the story. For once, a Pokemon game actually had a strong overt narrative about the nature of whether capturing and training Pokemon was morally okay or not (it is, the opposition is Pokemon PETA). It even has a shitty dad in it, you guys like those in fiction, right? Overall, when fans complained about all these great changes to the structure of the game, it resulted in follow ups that all felt limp or disappointing in their own ways, from the half-baked party of friends in X and Y to the Skyward Sword-level handhold-y nature of Sun and Moon to the unfocused and uncommitted narrative of Sword and Shield. I want Game Freak to be confident in its changes again, and for reasons beyond a smaller Pokedex made for pragmatic reasons.






AustinCHowe: Very likely the best character action game ever made, which puts that genre in a troubling place. On the plus side: playing missions as Nero enforces that character action games come from just regular old action games, and the limitations placed on him make the game feel at least a little more challenging, whereas the limitations on V can make the game very challenging. Bloody Palace will let you play your favorite character forever without having to worry about the stinky other two if you don't want to, and they finally figure out that some players actually liked the 2-weapon/sidearm limitation from DMC3 since it removes mental blocks towards doing what you need to get done in DMC, whereas toggling through each weapon Dante has in a massive inventory feels neither fast, nor fun, to me. They finally gave Dante a sword that can attack in the air without swordmaster style, allowing players to more easily build a vocabulary of air combo sequences. On top of all that, air suspension in this game is ridiculous, you can spend a very long time in the air without jump-cancelling and still not accelerate your momentum towards the ground.

These are all mechanical features. As a piece of "art" or at least as a piece of media, DMC5 frankly can come across pretty soulless after they year I've spent with it. Again, it all comes down to this story's obsession with its original protagonist, Dante. Dante breaks the balance of DMC5 clean in half, which is also what he does to the narrative. Characters are having thoughts and feelings, and then Jack Sparrow shows up. The narrative attempts to position Nero as being just below Dante's level, but if you play the game it's simply not there to believe, when Nero has 12.5% the amount of weapons Dante has to use and has to expend resources to access the full movesets of his mechanical arms. Nero is a good character and I hope he actually gets the full starring role someday so crazy red coat pizza man can go retire somewhere. The ending of this game seems to imply that but I doubt that will follow through if another game is made.

I have very mixed feelings about DMC5 and what its unquestioned celebrations says about where its genre and style are going, but suffice to say, it's a blast and you should play it.

Nate: You know, DMC Devil May Cry had it's moment, specifically the moment where Dante was naked in the trailer. I feel like that scene was made into a longer game and this is that game.

Atamine634: It was really really good and told me I wasn't silly for thinking Devil May Cry 3 had a good story. It's the best one-up I've seen a AAA series accomplish and it gets double points from me for being the most goth punk and horny entry in the franchise.






Polly: Admittedly, this one wasn't on my radar until Giant Bomb took notice of it, but once I'd spied only a few videos in their double Endurance Run, I knew it was a game I had to experience myself. Deadly Premonition is the most bonkers take on Twin Peaks and survival horror you'll ever see. It's surreal how far SWERY went out of his way to make this game both as realistic and esoteric as he could. It's a game that feels every bit the identity of its creator, and even if it's not the most pleasant thing to actually PLAY, the narrative is worth seeing this through for. Just grab the Director's Cut for a somewhat better time in that regard.

Nate: Sole Explanation

AustinCHowe: I never finished this, but the surface-level charm really works for me. You won't realize how much they're cribbing from Twin Peaks until you actually play it. I need to finish this. The main thing is that this is sorta "supposed" to be a GTA-style open-world game set in a town like Twin Peaks and . . . there you have it, the two concepts are fundamentally at odds, and that conflict makes for a really interesting game.






FreezingInferno: Nowhere near the hardest game ever made, but still one tough little bastard. The animation is absolutely phenomenal, and the action is intense and superb. As a mainly boss rush game, it's challenging but fairly... fair in how it presents things. Easy Mode should have just let you beat the goddamned game in full, though, don't give me that gatekeeping shit. Everyone should be able to enjoy Cuphead.

Pauncho Smith: On visuals and presentation alone, Cuphead has already secured its place in history. It's reputation as a "rage" game does appear to precede it somewhat (just saunter over to YouTube if you're curious). It's worth the trip, even if it's still rough around the edges.

Rainiac: The art style and presentation is fantastic, and the soundtrack will have your toes bopping as you face off against dozens of hugely creative boss battles. One of those games that takes great delight in killing you, yet you somehow can't help but keep coming back until you're successful.






Iffy: One of the most emotional, tear-jerking games I have ever played. It's rare that I feel for the main characters of a game this strongly, but damn.

eatthepen: Tales of Xillia 2 is trying to be too many things at once and as a result felt to me more like a sprawling collection of good ideas than a coherent narrative, but it has some great characterization and character interaction. Also, crushing medical debt makes a fascinating premise for an adventure game.

jetstorm4: Of the Tales of games in the 2010s, this is my personal favorite, while the "2" does make this a sequel to Xillia, the story quickly becomes its own thing featuring that same cast plus a few new additions, including a new main character who may be one of the best in the series. Also has some of the best music in modern Tales.






John: I have never connected with another score attack game as deeply as I did with Super Hexagon. I played an absurd amount of this game; I was in the top 100 players world-wide on the leaderboard at one point. It's just deeply satisfying to me.

Zeloz: The only way I can really explain the appeal of this deeply frustrating game is that it probably pumps endorphins or something in through your eyes while you're playing, and cuts it off suddenly when you die. The immediate buzzkill and withdrawal compels you to play more, and more, and more, until you have achieved perfection. And then you do it again, but it's even more irritating.

DoorCurtain: Very fun arcade game. One of the few games I didn't "beat" that's going on my list anyway because of how stylish and intoxicating the gameplay is. It's very simple: you're a little triangle orbiting a hexagon, dodging obstacles going inward. Tap the left half of the screen to move counterclockwise, or the right half to move clockwise. You do this while listening to some *extremely* pumping music and as the screen rotates to challenge your sense of place. While the game is stuck on my old iPod Touch that doesn't really work anymore, I'll never forget the fun I had with this game while waiting for the doctor.






Zeloz: I can't think of another racing game, another multiplayer game even, that's managed to provide as much fun as this one, and this is coming from someone who doesn't normally like competitive multiplayer for the most part. 8 takes the core of MK7 and both adds to it and refines it considerably, turning what was once a respectable racer on the 3DS and turning it into a breathtaking, chaotic thrill ride for the Wii U and Switch. While it's not exactly the second coming of F-Zero or anything, racing down snowy mountains or propelling through clear seas reminds me plenty of some of the first hours I spent with SNES F-Zero, racing through impossible and impressive-looking landscapes to some great music while trying desperately to keep a lead.

jetstorm4: Mario Kart just keeps getting out there and continues to be my favorite variety of Nintendo Party Game. Mario Kart 8 is a fantastic time with a group of friends either online or in the same room yelling at each other after you eek out a win from the other people over and over again. Wait was that just me who got that from everyone?

Iffy: My return to Mario Kart, and the most fun I've had with the series. This one hearkened back to my childhood nicely and just feels really good to play.






Zeloz: I watched my younger sister play through it, and I think I've gotten what I want out of it without playing! The combat seems to hearken to the cluttered button mash that was II (not inherently a bad thing, mind, though it gets tedious to watch), but like, I'm just glad the game came out after such a long time. Wasn't super-impressed by how the new worlds were integrated, and the lack of any Marvel/Star Wars/Square Enix rep was a little disappointing, but the game itself was a satisfying ending omnibus that threaded so much of the previous games' elements and antagonists into a satisfying climax. The game really felt like a love letter to the series' fans by the end, even to the point where not even my current apathy towards the series can keep me from feeling it.

Atamine634: It's a bloated mess, but it lands a cathartic ending for the saga as we've known it and its secret ending and DLC inspired even more desire in me for its sequel than I had for 3. I don't know where Nomura is going with this, but I'm onboard.

jetstorm4: Now this was a fun time. As much as I enjoy Kingdom Hearts I'm not a huge fan of the series, I've not played them all. But Kingdom Hearts III was a fun, frantic, enjoyable Action-RPG with some really good setpieces (The Monsters Inc. world was fantastic). The story is its own brand of silliness that I would not change for anything.

Remnant: After almost two decades of games, nearly a decade and a half since the last "proper" installment, a development track of six years, and a convoluted lore spanning twice as many "required-viewing" spin-offs as there are core entries... could Nomura really deliver on this finale to the "Dark Seeker Saga"?

Umm... sort of?

I was one of those fans who was on board with the lore all the way through to the penultimate entry -- Dream Drop Distance -- and then Nomura just had to throw in some time-travel nonsense, probably as an excuse to have all the villains from the previous games show up for an encore in KHIII. And then there just had to be some half-baked and rushed-at-the-end-of-III's-story developments.

(spoilers, highlight to view) ...to cheaply bring back all the lost heroes from previous games, rendering their sacrifices less meaningful in the full scope of the story. While I had a ton of fun following all of the convoluted nonsense in this nearly-two-decades-long narrative, it crossed just a bit too far, even for me, right in the homestretch, and only partially stuck the landing. Oh well...

All that said, it was still damn fun to run around in my daughter's favorite Disney worlds. It's a rare game that has the entire family gather around the TV to take it all in together, and it's wonderfully insane to see a conclusion to a story that I've been following closely since before I could legally drink alcohol. And hey, a half-decent landing in 2019 is much better than a crash-and-burn landing in 2019. (coughgameofthronescough)






FreezingInferno: It's very charming and adorable. It is also what it is, a very good Game Boy game with an amazing new aesthetic. Mileage may vary on if that's worth full Nintendo price or not, but since Link's Awakening is one of the better Zeldas, that gets it on the list.

Pauncho Smith: Being able to leave markers on your map really paid off in Turtle Rock.

Atamine634: Link's Awakening's remake was so substantial I believe it deserves some mention. LA was always one of the best Zeldas on a narrative and gameplay level, but the remake's aesthetic changes compliment everything including the dreamlike effect. It was an inspired choice to revisit LA in particular because everything that I think makes it work is what Breath of the Wild's sequel needs to learn from. Mixing the original tracks with the new score was an inspired choice that enhances the surrealism and it gives the dungeons new life and tone that make them more memorable than the square rooms they are. Special mention to Level 6, Face Shrine, for the incredible glow-up. They made one of the best Zeldas into maybe THE best Zelda.






Zeloz: Sometimes, I wonder how much better a visual novel based off a footnote in a Nausicaa doujinshi a bunch of 4channers found could've turned out. It's really no exaggeration to say the game had an incredible impact on me when I first read it; its slice-of-life world and well-rounded characters provided an escape from overnight shifts and stressful college classes. More importantly, though, watching each of the heroines inspire main character Hisao to better himself made me want to also improve myself, whether through physical activity or having empathy or curbing the desire to "fix" others. The experience really opened my eyes to the emotional effects videogames and stories in general can have on the reader.

Pauncho Smith: A lovingly-crafted, lemon-scented visual novel, containing a level of feels that is seldom eclipsed.

Peaches the Rayven: Let's assume that you're a user of a certain imageboard full of internet tough guys and fedora bros, on the cusp of becoming a snowflake SJW but still not ready to break free of your smug weeaboo cocoon.

Then you find the hot new viral anime pic -- not fighter planes drawn like cute anime girls this time, not another meme -- it's just five girls with disabilities, each given a personality quirk and a short description of how they might fit into a visual novel dating sim.

I can't explain how this affected my brain, but it did. Maybe I wasn't used to something that seemed so wholesome and good-natured, from the stinkiest parts of the garbage dump internet. But something stuck in my mind, and when a few decent people from that garbage dump came together, they made that concept into a game.

The writing... isn't great, and for a very long visual novel I know that's a flaw that's hard to overlook. But the characters do go through their high points -- strong establishing moments, character arcs, and though there's not much in the way of choice (do you want a good ending or a bad ending, it boils down to) the amount of effort put into this game shows through, from the fun and unique character designs to the simple but memorable world-building environments.

I can't say that it's good disabled representation, but when a game with hentai scenes gets reviewed by the freakin' AV Club, you know it's something else -- a wholesome spot in a sea of rotting garbage.






Polly: Sometimes videogames are too real. The Beginner's Guide is too real. It's a game that's hard to explain and understand unless you're a creator in some space, but throughout this game's very short runtime I felt myself doin' a BIG RELATE to a lot of what was happening and being said or implied and it left a pretty big impression.

John: This game makes you feel complicit in something dirty and wrong. It's uncomfortably intimate. You're a voyeur seeing something you shouldn't be. I appreciated the story's lessons, but the rawness of their presentation is what got them so deep under my skin.

Atamine634: I had already been spoiled on its uncomfortable story before I played it, but the fact I was already shaken by a game I've never played is testament to the power of The Beginner's Guide.






FreezingInferno: It was a bit of a wait between Apollo Justice and this, but Ace Attorney hit the 3DS and it was wonderful. Some of the cases are a bit much and stretch themselves out a bit, sure, but as a return to this world and its lively characters and legal drama? It's wonderful.

Pauncho Smith: The long-awaited return of Wright & Co. It was heartening to see Phoenix grow into the role of mentor, leading his team of young attorneys. Has a pretty good DLC case as well, with more familiar faces popping up again.

Nate: I really miss this series.






FreezingInferno: A Double Dragon game that isn't complete jank. It actually feels great to play and doesn't throw bullshit at you like the NES games of old, its soundtrack is kickin' rad synthwave, and it's just self-aware enough to be unapologetically Stupid As Hell. It's lovely.

TenguGemini: Take Double Dragon but turn the dumb up to 11.

Pauncho Smith: A lack of jank-ass jumping mechanics and that glorious end theme make this the best Double Dragon by default.

Rainiac: The gameplay is not nearly as janky as older entries in the series. The combat is nice and crunchy (although some slight input delay on dodging can make things tougher than they perhaps should be), and antagonist Skullmageddon is loaded with personality. I won't spoil the surprise if you don't already know what happens, but the end credits left me with a huge smile on my face.






FreezingInferno: The finest Ace Attorney game in years. It introduces thematic conflict via a foreign country which has abolished all lawyers, and uses that conflict to its fullest over the game's story; you see how the law negatively affects not just the citizens, but those in power as well, and you get to help the people of this country overcome their prejudices and shine a light on the truth of the matter. It's a well-constructed narrative, and though some of the legal puzzles are cryptic, it's still a masterpiece.

Pauncho Smith: In my eyes, this game has a more complete story than Dual Destinies. With the game taking place in a country that executes losing defense attorneys, the stakes have never been higher, but it's nothing some good old fashioned legal acumen can't handle.

DoorCurtain: While I still think modern Ace Attorney has a very rocky quality (my opinion on Dual Destinies is pretty low despite some good parts), Spirit of Justice is a promising start back onto making excellent entries in the series again. Apollo Justice is once again given a new backstory, unfortunately, but I like what they do with it far better than what they did with him in his first game (read: put him on the perpetual backburner despite being the player character because his game was ultimately Phoenix's game). It has 3 of my favorite cases in the series (case 2, case 4, and case 5), the central gimmick where you watch videos is more engaging than the emotion meter thing from Dual Destinies, and the ending of the game is entertainingly crazy.

That said, without giving anything away, I'll be disappointed if the next Ace Attorney game doesn't star Apollo Justice or Athena Cykes. I think Phoenix Wright's character had a good run, he doesn't need to have a big focus in the main series anymore.












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