Atamine634: A surreal, glitched-out interactive zine filled with pages of life affirmations and dark humor. I remember the first time I saw it. I was at IndieCade 2017 and I was walking by as someone was playing a bit where a rabbit gets impaled on a tentacle and you have to give it encouragement to hang on. I had to do a double-take. The glitch-hell aesthetic is strikingly bizarre in the best ways and compliments the intensity of the game and its subject matter. Anxiety and trauma is baked into the core of EigtbO and it wants to create a space that acknowledges those anxieties, but offsets them with absurdity, humor, and earnestness. It's a game meant for healing, for its creator as well as its players. Its nihilistic humor won't be for everyone, but good lord was it an odd place of comfort for me. Special mention to Page 10 where a small worm wanting to get back into the dating scene is given anxiety-inducing advice from friends and every response from the worm is spoken in screams of pain. Few things in a videogame have fucked me up to the point of uncontrollable laughter.

John: A game about returning to your hometown after a long time away, and observing all the ways things are different and all the ways things are the same. The game establishes right away that you can leave at any time via the bus stop, at which point the game will end. There's a list of suggested places to revisit, but nothing's mandatory.

So you poke around and explore. You experience amazing hand-crafted textures. You read quietly sad prose, for as long as you feel like doing so. Then you leave, and whatever lessons you take from the experience you arrive at on your own, while riding the bus home in silence.

Nate: This is one of the best and most joyous "nostalgic" games I've ever played, and I mean nostalgic in a way that it's clearly inspired by the creator's youth, playing with monster cards and his love of Godzilla-like monsters. It's sweet, it's fun, and I have all the best cards, so I'll beat everyone! MUAHAHAHA!

Nate: Dead by Daylight has a lot of content and a lot of fan service for the horror community, which is good, because at its core, it's just generator repair simulator. The fun comes from being with a group of friends and repairing generators, and the wacky slapstick-ish shenanigans that occur trying to get friends off hooks and into your heart. Not as scary as Friday the 13th, but it's much more frantic for a similar scenario.


John: These are my favorite Michael Brough games, and the most concentrated example out there of what makes his work special. Instead of requiring dozens of hours to untangle their nuances, the Games Titles are one-off puzzle boxes you can play and finish in an evening. Their concision and tight scope make them very dense with eureka moments, where you suddenly understand a new concept with perfect clarity and it blows the lid off a bunch of puzzles that seemed impossible moments before.

They're very satisfying to complete, and the total lack of pretense ("I ran out of time to give it a name") makes them extra cool and charming to me. Brough makes many perfect games, including these two. The Game Titles are special though, because they make being perfect look effortless.

Nate: So this game is Monopoly mixed with Magic the Gathering. I can't pitch it any better, I love this game, probably the last 3DS game I'll ever own, and it's an explosion of fun.

Zeloz: What if Umihara Kawase had been developed by Treasure for the Genesis? It's a fascinating question, I'm sure, but I doubt even such a hypothetical game would measure up to the irreverent goofiness and charm of this game. While the game is pretty short and the ending a little iffy, the rest of the game feels amazing to play, whether that be with a keyboard only or with a mouse-and-keyboard setup.

Also, the music is just astounding.

Nate: You will never feel like a majestic swan like when you sing "Ave Maria" while you launch a giant ant into the air and the game stutters to try and hold its frame rate. EDF is a game where you are God, and God has a rocket launcher and a tank that drops from the air-strike that, God summons a giant mech to fight giant ants and spider and crap. The amount of just pure joy and fun this game can instill if you love cult and grindhouse films is second to none, and I really hope they keep on making this series until I'm dead.

Atamine634: As a person who's spent an embarrassing number of hours on Silent Hill forums trying to solve the small minutiae of every mystery it left me, Devotion is the most intelligent psychological horror game of all time. Devotion is horror as social commentary on universal themes that affect broken family units across cultures while taking the style set by PT and complimenting it with a narrative that would make Team Silent proud. It's the realization of what PT promised and it lands the hardest catharsis I've ever experienced in a horror game. Devotion is the best horror game ever made and Red Candle Games deserves all our attention as the new reigning champs of the interactive horror scene.

Nate: I was one hour into The Kore Gang, it was getting repetitive and boring, and then, out of nowhere, this musical number for the boss came up and I immediately knew this was a game by a studio I needed to look into. It's fun, funny, it's more of a throwback to the old Rare days than YL. I really wish there were easier ways to play it than just on Wii.

Pauncho Smith: Part platformer, part retro-style throwback, 100% unfiltered and unadulterated PAIN. The game hits harder than Aban Hawkins's daddy issues with traps (mostly of the spiky variety) hiding in nearly every block of the forbidden temple you find yourself in. And once you're done with the jungle? Antarctica awaits. It's the most evil ice level in history. Only masochists need apply.

Nate: Yeah, it's glitchy, yeah it's hardly getting any support and there's no future updates of content, but I have never had a better time when it comes to an online-multiplayer game than with Friday the 13th. In fact, I don't think I would ever even have tried other multi-player games without it. It has the scares, it has the balance, and, for a while, it had a bunch of geeks joining together to make dumb jokes and pretend Jason was a pretty princess who just wanted to give you hugs (of death).

Atamine634: Pathologic 2's Haruspex route was everything I could hope to find from the interactive medium. It's the most thoughtful use of meta-elements I've seen from the medium, owning the "toy-box filled with puppets" feel of so many games like it and using it to its narrative advantage. It's a game that inspires self-care in its mechanics, responsibility in its freeform structure, resilience in its difficulty, and intellectual curiosity in its multi-layered themes. It's a game examining nature, society, and the contradictions within them. It's the most powerful use of time-pressure mechanics and the most inspired narrative implementation of role-playing I've ever seen in a game. It's a story about what it takes to keep a society together that uses the open-world side-quest format to highlight that struggle. It was the most intellectually stimulating experience I've ever had with a game. I needed the complete story so bad that I played the original to get the full context, allowing me to appreciate how much more emotionally driven Pathologic 2 is. I believe it might be the greatest game ever made for engaging the player so thoroughly. To get a little personal, I've never been diagnosed with autism but I've reflected enough to believe I may have a mild form of it and this came right after learning one of the children the Haruspex adopts is autistic and finding her strangely relatable. After hearing a person with autism articulate how the Haruspex could be on the spectrum my mind rushed with thoughts not just about why I related to Artemy's disposition and people's attitude towards him, but also the overarching thematic narrative of Pathologic. What I love the most about Pathologic 2's Haruspex path is that it's a story about trying to understand a world made up of contradictions from nature, existentialism, and society. As a person who's spent much of their life thinking about these things because of my own difficulties connecting with other people, the story of a man reconnecting with the heritage he was alienated by to adopt the tribal wisdom of his people and repair the broken connections of society is the most impactful work of fiction to actually improve my life. Materially, existentially, and spiritually. I've never felt such comfort from a game meant to be troubling. It's an anxiety-driven game that soothed my soul.

Nate: Lethal League was good, Blaze knocks it out of the park, though. In the days where Smash feels like it's getting slower and kinda more casual in design, LLB comes in with a simple to learn, hard to master system of "wall ball" but you die. Colorful characters who play different, multiple options for different ways to play (including no health bar mode like the original) all mean it's a fast and fun party game.

Zeloz: I initially felt iffy about mentioning this game when my experience with it, and the context that contributed to my attachment of it, were distinctly 2020; I gave it a go at a time of coronavirus lockdown, simply looking for more cute romance stories on the afterglow of yuri eroge. At that moment, I thought I was handling the weeks of social isolation fairly well. I was so, so mistaken.

This visual novel is a memoir within a slice-of-life, within a supernatural mystery, within a romance story, that slowly turns into a most complete permeation of the psyche and emotions I've yet experienced in fiction, with tearful effects lingering weeks after finishing it. Not only is SeaBed a meditation on love and loss, its a subtle celebration of just idly spending time with loved ones through various stages of life. It's a love story that's grounded in more adult sensibilities, with its primary characters being women in their late 20s trying to make sense of life. It's a game that's made me cry for vacations long past, for friendships and love relationships long dissolved, for a time when it seemed like love and hard work could make most any dream come true.

I'll repeat what so many other reviewers before me have regarding this game: it's not one for everyone. Even for a 30-hour game, it's an incredibly slow burn, and the climax may not be worth it depending on what expectations you have going in. But at least in my case, its a touching story that brought to light my own loves and fears and insecurities, and I'm so very thankful to indie dev Paleontology for it.

John: I played this game exactly once and it's stuck in my head ever since, like the dark dream you had as a kid you still vividly remember even now. The lack of a clear narrative means there's no clean catharsis. It lingers like an infected wound.

I love the contrast of lurid flowery prose with its simple terse descriptions of violence. It fits well with the format -- you get in a rhythm of clicking purple links and expecting a new long description, only to be shocked out of it with one short awful sentence.

Twine transformed the last decade. Countless artists twisted its beautiful, straight-forward design language in all sorts of interesting ways. This one cut into my heart the deepest.

Nate: FE or Fe or of those, is an exploration adventure that starts off with your character, Fe or FE or-whatever, as he finds himself alone with all his friends gone. He must go and find them and save them from mysterious, alien creatures while befriending new ones. It's gorgeous to look at with its style and lighting system, it's fun to explore in the world, and is a game you can get lost in.

Nate: So, when I was going through my separation, it was a really dark time. I felt ugly, I felt unwanted in my own home, and I felt like a failure, a feeling I've had many times before. I would spend days just sitting on the couch debating how many pills of lithium and quetiapine I could take to overdose and end it all. My credit score was tanking because my name was on a car loan my ex wouldn't pay on time, all of my friends were leaving, and I was horrible at trying to sustain any kind of online friendship. Everyone I went on dates with knew my ex and after they realized that, that relationship opportunity would end. At one point I got kicked out of an online group that played DBD and Friday the 13th because I got into an argument over why Solo failed, which was stupid, but the guy basically said it was him or me and they chose him.

I felt like I had nothing and devolved into a thought process that was familiar, one where since I felt like life wasn't getting better so why not just end it. Who would care, right? I mean, my brother's in jail for murder and I can't even find someone to go out drinking with, and I didn't want to go out alone.

I decided I was going to take my sleeping pills and drown myself in the bath, which was not something I had tried before. On my way to the bathroom, I passed by my PS4 game collection, most of the games on there I had never played and just bought on a whim when a title caught my eye. "What the fuck is School Girl Zombie Hunters?" I decided to try it, it's not technically a good game, it's not technically an amazingly bad game like Sonic 06 or Ride to Hell: Retribution, but it is a game that has made me laugh, made me giggle, and never fails to put me in a happy and optimistic mood.

You throw your damn dirty underwear at zombies to distract them while you shoot rockets at them. This is my game of the decade because it's done what almost no video game has ever done for me: It's made me feel alive and like I want to keep on going.

Polly: This is a game that I bought in some bundle at some point in time, completely forgot about, and for some reason streamed it in its entirety on a whim. What happened next was finding myself and my audience delighted from start to finish with this psychological ninja kitty-themed platformer for the next two hours. There's so much variety, character, and charm in this little package, and it's a shame that it's so unknown.

John: An intensely varied arcade-style set-piece platformer, one that consistently delights and surprises throughout its brisk run-time.

Zeloz: I'm... still kinda shocked this is actually a thing. When the DOS original was showcased during a Let's Play competition years back, I was shocked to learn that everyone's submissions made up the bulk of the game's representation on YouTube, but I didn't think this DOS game with shady origins that seemingly everyone except community member Nate seemed to have forgotten would ever get much more attention than that.

But, as fate would have it, other people felt the need to bring ol' "DinoJr" back from wherever, and now we have a pretty bare-bones platforming game that honestly doesn't do a lot, but it plays pretty alright for what looks like a no-frills conversion from smartphone platforms. Yeah, it's kinda ugly and mediocre, but it plays alright and does the standard "jump around, collect the stuff" thing with a little bit of aplomb. Not much, but it's there, in the chintzy light bloom effects.

Nate: Ok, so we're kinda responsible for this, so we have to acknowledge it. They blatantly said we were responsible for LPing it on their website, so this is our game.

"(Dino Jnr. in Canyon Capers) had a groundswell of following on the emulation scene, as well as a number of gamer's rediscovering the game on YouTube, with play-through videos and some fantastic nostalgic feedback.

After seeing this love for the long lost game, the original Artcrew team now reformed as Crazy Moo Games have decided it is time to give the game a full makeover, paying full homage to the original, but now with seven new characters to unlock, loads more levels and worlds, new game modes and a plethora of new adversaries, pickups and secrets."

Maybe I should've put this higher, just because we technically made a game together.

Rainiac: The combat is fast, the transitions between teammates are seamless, and the over the top supers are immense fun to pull off. Everything Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite got wrong, this game got right, even if some players were put off by the absence of several series staples, such as Mega Man & Cyclops.

Psychic_Heist: My number one pick for the decade is something that surprised me. As I was going through my list of games that meant something to me this last ten years, I already had it in the back of my mind that the number one spot was obviously "Hollow Knight" and that the real challenge of putting this list together would be checking off and ordering all those other games I had written down.

And when I got to UMVC3 I stopped dead in my tracks.

True as it may be that there were not only better fighting games but games from all sorts of genres released this last decade, that UMVC3 doesn't really teach its more intricate mechanics well, that the online was always a bit shoddy, that its single player modes are bare and uninspired, that Capcom was reselling us a game released 9 months earlier, that Capcom never fully addressed the gameplay/character imbalances, and that really it just doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor (but really, what will?) -- I still realized with a swell in my chest that I freakin' adore UMVC3 and the life I had around it.

For years after the release of "Marvel Vs Capcom 2", my friend and I would dream up what a MVC3 might look like (actually, we really just wanted a Versus game where you could be Dante and Vergil) but with each passing year, we both gave up on any thought that a MVC3 would happen.

It'd be due to the successful fighting game resurgence of the late 00's (thank you "Street Fight IV") that MVC3 would get the green light. After a painful wait, the dream came true, and I dove right in head over heels.

What happened next was the perfect concoction of a game that came out at the right time and right place for me. With the love I already had for Capcom's Versus series, my favorite fighting game series, combined with the growth of internet communication (social media hitting its stride), this perfect blend of experiencing a fandom was at a level that I hadn't quite experienced before. The core game was great, yes, but also there were combo videos to look up, pro players to learn about and follow, the 'Wednesday night fights,' friendships established online, Maximilian Dood videos, and the EVO matches, goddamn, the phenomenal years of EVO matches -- that really enriched my experience with UMVC 3.

I think of the 2010's as when I became even more connected to the media I love. The exponential growth of affordable technology meant I suddenly held in the palm of my hand the ability to communicate across multiple platforms. This made it easier more than ever to relate my passions with someone else's through podcasts, subreddits, video essays, etc. I feel very fortunate to have all these many avenues to either express, share, or engage in something that tugs on my heart strings. It's one of the best feelings in the world when you gain that complete sense of contentment, or consolation, when you've made that connection that means a lot to you. My experience with "Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3," and everything surrounding it, was my first big ol' hug of that.

The game also happens to have Dante and Vergil.


Carmichael Micaalus: The game is loud and crass with a great soundtrack and generally fun stages. It does have a few levels of utter bullshit though.

Pauncho Smith: Like Super Meat Boy, but with people sounding like they're about bust a nut used as sound effects.

Rhete: An emotionally devastating third person shooter that definitely isn't fun to play, but absolutely worth experiencing.

Durante Pierpaoli: This is the best version of Heart of Darkness even if that really isn't saying much. To be honest, this game is known by its stereotype and I would encourage you to actually play it yourself. Nolan North does a very good job playing the "evil" version of himself here.

Rhete: This game is so good that you don't have to like Borderlands to enjoy it. Heck you could probably HATE Borderlands and still enjoy it. Funny as hell with a great cast of characters, incredible style, and a huge dumb over the top ending that ALSO made it feel like my choices mattered!

LastZimOnEarth: While I wouldn't consider myself a Borderlands fan by any means, Telltale's take on the series really surprised me with an incredibly likable cast of characters, some genuinely chuckle-worthy moments, and some shockingly well-executed pathos. It does a great job telling a story in an established universe that stands on its own incredibly well. P.S. Loader Bot is best character.

Remnant: A wonderful platform-puzzle game overflowing with charm.

DoorCurtain: I'm that one guy who genuinely likes Toad and thinks he's cute. As such, it was a joy to play a game all about navigating Toad around little diorama levels without the ability to jump, but with the ability to capture my heart. Though the GamePad controls felt tacked on, like the wheel turning segments, it was hard to care with how adorable Nintendo made Toad and Toadette this time around.

Pauncho Smith: Thankfully, you don't need to remember anything from your high school Geometry class to enjoy this one.

Remnant: The first two games were excellent in basic design, but they lacked the sort of gameplay loop to keep me engaged. This variance in modes and challenges and stage designs and unlockables and progression...yeah they put a lot into this one to keep the core gameplay from falling into the old, arcade-like leaderboard chasing. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just not something that keeps me really invested in a game.)

eatthepen: Very few western AAA games have the conviction to tell actual tragedy stories. Tragedy is, on the surface, incompatible with the power fantasy that defines so much of the common image of The Video Game. But when you actually commit to telling a tragic story, an epic struggle against inevitable defeat, that counterpoint transforms even mediocre writing into something at least moderately poignant. Reach also benefits from the best Halo's shooting has ever suited me, and I still have every Firefight map memorised.

Atamine634: Probably the best Halo, Reach is a solid campaign full of variety and a tragic melancholy because we already know the fate of Reach. The sense of comradery with Noble Team is short lived and not much, but an experience that is essentially a suicide mission for everyone involved is gonna have some emotional weight. It's final mission is a subversive move for a AAA title and all the better for it.

Carmichael Micaalus: The games that followed this one are much more refined and focused on what they were trying to accomplish, but I still enjoyed playing this one. (Might have been a little higher if they didn't reverse the A/B Yes/No dynamic, though.)

Rainiac: The weakest of the three Shantae games released this past decade but still pretty good. It feels at times like Matt Bozon was still finding his feet in the platform game world and the transformations aren't always implemented optimally but the game's writing is excellent and the core cast are extremely charming (Rottytops is best girl).

Remnant: Another game that we got for my son, but I really liked dabbling in it. I didn't go deep into the game's modes and features, but just seeing what was possible and seeing the way that amateur-friendly-game-design tools have blown up in recent years...if I could give this game to an 8-year-old me, he'd crap his pants.

DoorCurtain: While Super Mario Maker 2 has come out and made the first game largely irrelevant, I'm excluding it in favor of the first game because of how much more approachable making levels felt. The GamePad felt perfect for level making, as dragging things around and dropping elements onto a grid was the most intuitive thing in the world. Compared to the TV mode controls for the sequel, they are comparatively less clunky. I also miss the mushrooms that turn Mario into a different character: it was fun making a few levels where I played as Waluigi or a spring.

Polly: I'm that bitch that hates minigames. ESPECIALLY fishing minigames. That said, I don't hate or dislike Fishing Minigame 2 by scitydreamer at all! (Because... I mean... It's not a fishing minigame...) In fact, its charming cast of characters, witty dialogue, and cheeky method of progression through the story make it one of the smarter and more interesting RPG Maker projects I've ever played.

John: A full ninety minute VN with a tiny cast all set in a single room. A great example of communicating a massively ambitious and resonant story within tight formal constraints.

Rainiac: Short in duration but its spooky atmosphere and a wonderfully orchestrated encounter with a giant spider ensure it will live long in the memory. The hidden area that robs you of your sight entirely and forces you to rely on audio cues alone is genius.

Beepner: Just a cute little greyscale romp on your journey home, certainly nothing bad happens if you make a wrong step! Limbo sticks out above the "masocore" genre of indie games by... not really being that, its platforming sections require you to think a little bit rather than memorize gotcha hazards or bang your head against the wall until you eventually scrape by.

Polly: On paper, this game should not be as satisfying and fun to play as it is, but I promise you it's the truth. Frantically mashing two buttons while all sorts of stick figure carnage and mayhem happens on screen is some of the most fun you can have in short bursts, and I'll not hear any differently.

Rainiac: It's like playing through one of those stick figure battle animations that were tremendously popular on sites like Newgrounds back in the day. A simple premise and even simpler controls, but it's a tremendously fun experience that really hits the mark in spite of its low budget presentation.

Carmichael Micaalus: Having never played much of the original, I didn't really have a problem with the remake. It had some bullshit moments, sure, but I find that to be in line with the Metroid series itself. I had more fun than I didn't, and that's all that matters to me.

FreezingInferno: Look, it's the best official Metroid game that came out this decade. It kind of wins by default, and while time has dulled how impressive it was at launch, I still kind of respect the sense of play and willingness to shake things up that it adds to the structure of an old black-and-white Game Boy game. It's not a replacement for it, but it's neat enough as its own thing.

Pauncho Smith: Anachronistic colonialism on Mars is as reasonable a setting for a shmup as any, I guess.

lieronet: I enjoyed this shmup. Gorgeous visuals, fun stages, and some nice ship variety. I've always had a hard time using bombs in shmups, and this game implemented them in such a way that it didn't feel like you were using a limited resource to stay safe.

John: The history of queer non-violent story games did not begin with Gone Home... but it's still a very nice example of the tradition. It's a sweet intimate romance that lands just the way it needs to, and for a commercial studio release in 2013 it was a huge breath of fresh air.

Beepner: If you remember those old PC horror games where you're exploring some haunted mansion, diddling with switches in hopes of just getting past the first area and dreading some deathtrap or skeleton poised to kill you around every corner, you might get those vibes from Gone Home at first. What you get instead is a fleshed out environment with a plethora of things to inspect and let the narrative play out at your own pace. I remember this being the first game that showed what you could really do with the Unity engine.

Carmichael Micaalus: A cute 3D rpg platformer that looks like it came from the N64/Gamecube era. A cute game with a cute story. And a drill. (The drill is pretty cute, too.)

Iffy: Nothing special, but I have nothing negative to say about it either. Just a fun, cute lil title.

Zeloz: I don't particularly like how the Little Big Planet games play, but 2 is a slight improvement over 1. I can't really put my finger on why, but I do remember enjoying playing this game with my younger sister through to the end more than the first one. It's a pretty okay multiplayer game, especially with little siblings or cousins.

And, in the end, when you're living miles away and none of your siblings ever really talk to you anymore, isn't that all that matters?

Remnant: The first LBP was a bold achievement, but the core platforming engine was a bit wonky and unpolished. LBP3 was a fun game, and the different playable characters made lots of different levels designs possible, but it felt rushed out, probably because the PS4 needed a higher-profile exclusive early its lifespan.

LBP2 is the most well-designed, well-polished experience of them all. The core game is worth it on its own, and THEN you can jump online to see what crazy stuff other players have cooked up. Of all the 201X releases I could talk about, this was definitely my favorite "family game" to share with my kids.

Polly: This atmospheric body swapping puzzle platformer was an almost immediate hit once I grasped the concept and immersed myself in its eerily quiet and well-realized world. Bonus points for the narrative actually tackling the very nature of its own game mechanics in a way that makes the idea of how you're engaging with the videogame just a bit horrifying, or at the very least, very disquieting.

Rhete: One of those games I feel never quite got it's due, possibly due to it being in a genre people got tired of quickly, the 2D Puzzle Platformer. But for me The Swapper had it all, a great unique gameplay gimmick involving cloning yourself, a unique as hell art style with everything in the game being made out of clay, and a haunting piano soundtrack that I've listened to outside the game many times.

jetstorm4: The second of this specific style of Ys game, and while its followup, Lacrimosa of DANA, improves on this style more, Celceta takes Adol on a reimagining of events of multiple versions of Ys IV, giving a good, cohesive story that follows some great dungeons and boss fights.

Iffy: A game I enjoyed a lot more than its ranking would imply, does feel like a slog to get through at times. Felt like it needed another month or two of work.

lieronet: I put this up for two reasons. One, it's a lovely premise with charming presentation. Deep down, I believe everyone wants to be a goose and mess with people, even if only a little. Two, watching my sister play this game for the first time and have the time of her life.

DoorCurtain: There are a lot of reasons people give for Goose Game's success, but really, there's only one: it's a perfect elevator pitch. "You're a goose. Be an asshole to proceed further into the game." That's it. Ir's not a parody of simulator games, it's not a re-thinking of the stealth genre, it's not ushering in a new age of comedy games, it's not any of the buzzwords people say. It's a game where you are a goose. The game is so good because everyone who's ever encountered a goose knows how horrible they are, so it's fun to be one for a change. And for those who don't know, they can play the game to honk. More games should let you honk.

John: Haunting deliberate political game with strong writing and a powerful formal language. Makes its point beautifully and dramatically, it's just a super-purposeful vision.

LastZimOnEarth: A phenomenally tense RPG Maker game managed to get under my skin in its relatively short length with its treatise on capitalist institutions.

Polly: Double Spoiler is the sequel to ZUN's earlier danmaku photography game Shoot The Bullet and, note for note, it's simply a better game top to bottom. Subtle changes to the camera mechanics and a stronger showing of bullet patterns with unique and fun gimmicks make Double Spoiler an easy one to sit down with and be wondering where the damn evening just went four hours later.

Rhete: Shoot the Bullet was one of the most inventive shmups I've ever played, arming you with a camera and tasking you to take photos of the bosses instead of shooting them down. This sequel delivers more of what made the first game great, without quite so much of the absolutely hair pulling difficulty this time.

Zeloz: Not exactly the Dokapon Kingdom successor I wanted it to be (they don't really play alike at all), but it was fun for the 4 or so hours I sank into it before giving up trying to finish the first board in story mode (because the CPU cheats, not because I'm weak-willed). It's a very cute board game with a lot of potential for shenanigans and backstabbery, and plus it's always nice to see Suguri in any game.

Rainiac: If you can tolerate the cutesy anime presentation, this is a solid card-based party board game that can have the unfortunately side effect of destroying friendships. Still being updated with new characters, cards, events and game modes despite coming out in 2013.

Rhete: Amazingly, this was the first "open world crime game" I ever played. Being able to walk up to a random NPC car and hijack it was revolutionary to me. I played the timed demo a million times over, practicing and learning the quickest way to get explosives and really start going to town blowing shit up. I even went and found ways to disable the timer in the demo, and explore past the boundaries in the demo map. The full game was really good too!

Atamine634: Dumb as shit, but goddamn if this wasn't one of the best times I've had exploring an open world. Gotta give the grappling hook + parachute life credit.

Atamine634: Didn't have much staying power for me, but just for the amount of variety in the campaign I have to say it's one of the best FPS campaigns I've played. One level revolved around a gimmick that was SO GOOD I was mad it was dropped after that one level. I wish we could have revolved the whole game around that, but props for the execution.

Remnant: One of the biggest surprises of the decade. I've never liked modern-military-shooters. At all. I was pushed by a friend to give the original Modern Warfare (2007) campaign a chance, and I ended up loving it. I then gave Modern Warfare 2 a chance and oh my gods is that campaign a load of pretentious plot-hole-ridden bullshit.

Not even jumping in and out of mechs could put that general style of game on my radar. As someone who is generally indifferent to multiplayer and partial to Playstation, the multiplayer-only XB1 exclusive that was the first Titanfall was a non-entity to me. But then when the sequel came out, I kept hearing how amazing the campaign was, how some of its best moments rivaled something out of one of Valve's single-player games. I had to put these things to the test. And I'm very glad I did.

Zeloz: I'm not the biggest fan of drinking, but I've gotta admit this otherwise cut-and-dry Mario game gets 4x better with a friend and slightly inebriated. Super Mario 3D World might be the better-designed game, but this one doesn't require as much hand-eye coordination, making it a better drinking game overall.

Pauncho Smith: Boy this sure was a modern 2D Mario game.

Carmichael Micaalus: I have no problem admitting this game can be mindless. The thing is, sometimes that's just what I want: I can run around, beat the shit out of enemies with a sword or spear or shrimp or whatever, and just tune out for a bit. Could have done without the clothing damage, though.

Iffy: Just a simple beat-em-up with Neptunia characters that was a lot more fun and relaxing than I was expecting.

Polly: Sonic Colors, while maybe not the most strictly Sonic of Sonic Games, is a solid and colorfully charming take on what modern Sonic had become. It's the first modern Sonic I played that felt like it was fully embracing its Saturday morning cartoon campiness, while also delivering on a solid platforming experience, enhanced by the addition of Wisps that kept the game play fresh and varied throughout.

jetstorm4: Now here's a game that was a surprise, a very well paced, well made Sonic game that sort of brought new life to the series after tepid launches of previous games (though I enjoy Secret Rings and Black Knight still). While the game is quite short, it's a fun ride from start to end that stays that way.

Carmichael Micaalus: An excellent conclusion to the story Analogue started, serving as both a sequel and prequel simultaneously. There's some real strong gut punches in some of the paths.

Pauncho Smith: I remember streaming this game, and then I dropped a c-bomb in reference to *Mute and my feminist friend got mad at me. Good times.

Zeloz: Andrew Kellogg's excellent Super Mario Builder was just too good for this cruel world, but it (and Super Mario Maker later) brought an excellent set of tools to creative people to whom traditional SMB1 ROM hacking was too limited or difficult to get into. And, with that, came Polly Mario Bros., still one of the most devilishly clever SMB1 level sets I've played. The 5 worlds are difficult, moreso than the original game, but there aren't any mean Lost Levels tricks or Kaizo-level requirements to get through the game. The game really uses the unique physics of SMB1 to create its challenges, and mastering Old Mario's weight is a challenge, but finishing it was a rewarding experience almost on the level of finishing Mega Man Zero for the first time. I mean, it's not as difficult as MMZ, but the sense of accomplishment and mastery is still there.

Ghosty: Excellent set of levels that far outdo the original game!

Iffy: Disappointing. This game had good ideas, but it was leaning on a very tired system that just isn't fun to play anymore.

Carmichael Micaalus: I don't know, this one felt like a mainline Neptunia game to me, so I had a good time with it. I need to go back and play through it again, really.

Atamine634: The only Rockstar game I've played and beaten, RDR is a fantastic wild west simulator with a lush and detailed world and an above average story with one of the more inspired implementations of post-game content I've seen.

Remnant: As a rule, I don't like Rockstar Games. I feel like their attempts at maturity often boil down to a teenage-boy sensibility of "let's see how much we can get away with." But during the 7th-gen their was a window when it seemed that they wanted to at least try more mature (actually mature, not stuffed-with-sex-and-violence-for-sake-of-sex-and-violence "mature") storytelling. GTA IV was a mixed bag, but Red Dead Redemption was absolutely great, not only as a historical wild west epic, but also as a meditation on the nature of law and order, the tension between civilization and the so-called "uncivilized" honor-based cultures that came before, and the tension between the abuse of power and the pursuit of power in the cause of justice.

Polly: Having never been the biggest Rayman fan in the world, this one came as a total surprise. Rayman Origins picks up on all the cues being given by indie-released masocre platformers at the time, and just bloats it up to its logical AAA extreme with a ridiculously charming and lovable art style and some of the most satisfying/teeth-grinding precision platforming you can get your hands on.

Rhete: One of the best platformers I've ever played. Beautiful, fun, and really challenging.

Polly: The original BIT.TRIP Runner was minimalistic and simple rhythm-based platforming distilled down to the most basic elements. Runner2, by comparison, is on an entirely new level, fully embracing its place as a sequel with an entirely new blown-up presentation, loads of new moves and stage gimmicks to play within each stage's rhythm, and a glut of content that'll take you more than just a little while to get through. Runner2 is just reveling in joy at all times, and even when it's hitting you with its hardest challenges, it's easy to keep a smile while playing it.

Rainiac: Rhythm-based games live or die based on their controls: Runner2's controls are solid as a rock. If you take a hit, it's because you didn't react fast enough or you weren't paying close enough attention. The graphical upgrade over the first Runner game really elevates it too.

Iffy: Falcom's first foray into the party-system Ys games. I enjoyed this game's story a lot and while it's a bit rough around the edges, it's a great title all-around.

TenguGemini: Backtracking aside, a very good rpg. It's Ys, I don't feel like I need to say much more.

LastZimOnEarth: While it's among the messiest games in the series, overstuffed with systems galore that over-complicates the otherwise straightforward KH combat system, it's also one of the most interesting from a thematic standpoint. The way it handles the conceit of dream dropping, while frustrating from a gameplay standpoint, helps the game create the sense of dissociation that one feels when they're dreaming. Playing this in 2017 pretty much confirmed to me that I'm still into the beautiful mess we all know as Kingdom Hearts.

Atamine634: A strong contender for best Kingdom Hearts. All of the series' strengths are shown here with a cohesion and bite that none of the other games have. Its selection of Disney worlds are thematically connected in a way none of the other KH games are, it leans the hardest into the series' surreal aspect, it's combat is robust and the difficulty is great, and it focuses on the most developed relationship in Kingdom Hearts. Honestly, Kingdom Hearts 3 Part 1 is actually a better game than Kingdom Hearts 3 Part 2.

lieronet: Great immersive sim. Marketed as a "play how you want" game, and I feel like it really lived up to the promise, which is rare.

Remnant: Once the latter turns of Assassin's Creed left me cold, this became my go-to for stealth and conspiracy. I never played the older Deus Ex games, but it didn't matter. This game sucked me in like few others.

Zeloz: As light and insubstantial as this game is, this really was one of the first games that really made me go "damn, kinda want a Wii U now." Playing this on a friend's system and showing him just how actually godawful I am at old videogames and how salty that fact makes me was a reliable source of amusement. Turns out, it doesn't really matter if Ice Climber is trash (it isn't) when the frustration's the point.

Nate: Proving remixed nostalgia sells and can be fun.

Polly: The first game of the Lonely Wolf Treat series fittingly introduces us to its titular sad wolf girl, documenting her arrival in a new town where she is in no way welcome. The first game is good setup for the drama that is to come and also gives just the right amount of light hearted warmth to keep it from being a total bummer.

John: This is the first game in the Treat series, and it's wild how many things it gets right right off the bat. The Treat series is one of my favorite serial stories in videogames, and this first chapter introduced me to its wonderful cast beautifully.

Rhete: One of the most truly immersive games I've ever played. True terror is having your submarine get attacked at 1000 meters deep.

lieronet: Survival games sell the fantasy of exploring a vast, beautiful world, then fall short on the promise because procedural generation is soulless. Subnautica is the rare survival game that avoids that fate by hand-crafting an alien ocean for you to explore, and fills it with wonderfully imaginative creatures. If you can play this game in VR, do it.

Nate: Sometimes you want to just party, but sometimes you want to.PARTY HARD! This game is a stealth puzzle game where you play as a murderer who just wants some peace and quiet, so you take it upon yourself to murder everyone at the loud party. It can be fun, it can be insane, it can be anything you want it to be.

Rainiac: Similar to Hotline Miami in terms of atmosphere, though not as stylistically violent. The various traps are fun to set up and use on your unsuspecting victims, but the fact that it's impossible to complete some of the game's levels with some of the unlockable killers stops it from being better than it could be.

Durante Pierpaoli: Whereas XIII-2 is an iteration on XIII that manages to make a legitimately enjoyable videogame out of the absolute mess of XIII's design rubble, Lightning Returns feels like the breath of fresh air that I'm sure XIII was intended to be. I'm sleep-deprived and suffice to say the story and storytelling is not exactly on the level of prior FF titles, but LR gives us often legitimately interesting looks at each of the major characters we came to know and "love" during FFXIII, giving characters that were previously completely insufferable narrative arc endings that are not only satisfying but also are aware of the gap between how the XIII cast was presented and how they were actually received. This is a really smart game. Also a very solid OST, I might call it better than XIII-2's if XIII-2 didn't have such a banging primary battle theme.

Atamine634: The roughest of the XIII games with some of the worst writing, but all that is offset by the inventive time-pressure set-up that I don't think has been tried by a AAA studio since Majora's Mask. This time-sensitive type of play where every move matters while fitting in moments of waiting and free-time where you're just taking in the world is one I relish and cherish. LR's writing might be subpar but the thematic cohesion in its side-quests and over-arching narrative was so strong it elevates the material. The free-form gameplay mixed with the intriguing world give it a personalized experience the other XIII games do not give resulting in one of the best role-play action-adventure games I've played. It leans hard into the humanist elements the series is known for and it's as grand as a fantasy epic about a Messiah living through the end of the world can be making it my favorite Final Fantasy next to XII. It also helps it features my favorite combat system in a JRPG. Designing a game around Fashion Model Jesus is inspired.

Nate: Finally, after years of being scared by the end of Digimon Tamers, you can finally bring back Gilmon and go kick more butt. It's like someone read my fan fiction.

jetstorm4: Cybersleuth was given this weird sort of clout for its animations and quality during 2019 when Pokemon Sword and Shield were shown and I wasn't sure why because I had already played Cybersleuth. The game is great, a wonderful loop that shares a bit with SMT in themes but also serves as its own season of Digimon but as an RPG instead. There are some issues, the game requires grinding and does make you repeat several areas and concepts in order to complete it. The localization could definitely have used some work as well and the animations are more repeated than people were saying. I think it's a grand time, but I'm also sure the people who were giving it the praise at the time hadn't quite played the whole thing or not at all.

Pauncho Smith: Short game (by RPG standards) that barrels right through its story, but it scratched more than a few old school RPG itches for me.

Beepner: A love letter to JRPGs and 90s PC adventure games, Zeboyd's cheeky brand of humor is pervasive but never feels too overbearing. Some challenging combat really forces you to think about how to use the game's systems to eke out a victory.

Nate: Uhhhhhh, this game spoke to me a lot about mental health and bipolar disorder, and then everything got fucked up with the information of what happened behind the scenes, but I think it's more on this list for the people it connected with, like me, and the graphic design and look of it.

DoorCurtain: Let's forget about the unfortunate composer for the game for a bit and appreciate Night in the Woods for what it is: a heartbreakingly sincere meditation on a world cruel and indifferent to your existence. The game's core cast of characters are great, and I found the strained relationship between Mae and Bea in particular very compelling. The ending may or may not work for you, but I think the rest of the preceding game is worth the price of admission alone.

Polly: An unexpected artful and pleasant take on JRPGs by Ubisoft, taking its influences from fairy tales and a good chunk of its battle mechanics from the Grandia series. Child of Light's insistence on an entire script being written in rhyming couplets may not set well with everyone (or even work well at making sense sometimes), but it gives the game its own unique voice, and the whirlwind journey protagonist Aurora embarks on is defintely one worth experiencing for those looking for some light-hearted whimsy with a tinge of darkness in their adventures.

Pauncho Smith: Gorgeous, charming, and with all the iambic pentameter you can handle.

Carmichael Micaalus: "I think the healing items made this one too easy-" Fuck you give me ALL THE HEALS. YES. YES.! With these herbs, the bosses shall fall bef-OW FUCK THIS IS STILL HARD. Seriously though, being able to use healing items helped people like me a lot.

Iffy: If you're looking for a short, engaging, and challenging action RPG with fun characters and plot elements, this might be the perfect fit. Masterful OST by the late Wataru Ishibashi is very nice icing on the cake.

Polly: Sleeping Dogs' blend of undercover cop crime thriller and martial arts movie shlockiness come together to create one of the more fun and easy to recommend open-world games of the 2010s. Sleeping Dogs might be smaller in scale and lacking in a lot of the bells and whistles that other games in the genre have, but it makes up for all that with a satisfying narrative and combat and vehicle sequences that still feel more fresh than probably anything else I've encountered in open-world games.

Rhete: One of my favorite open world games ever. The story is good, the combat feels great, and the world of Hong Kong is incredibly well realized. I did damn near everything possible in this game, I beat every DLC and even got every open world collectable for some damn reason. I literally could not get enough of this game.

Zeloz: While I can't say I'm a huge fan of the series' first venture on the 3DS, I have to admit much of my distaste for it didn't hit until months after sinking 70-some odd hours into its main story. And, granted, it's probably one of the series' weakest stories, but mechanically it's just as fun as any of the others. Some of the monster designs to come out of this generation are also pretty great (Espurr is just the cutest). Along with Animal Crossing, this game made up my early experience with the 3DS, and as far as RPGs on the platform went, it made a pretty strong argument for them.

Carmichael Micaalus: The core of Pokémon doesn't really change from game to game, so you generally know what you're getting into whenever you play one. People complain that X & Y had the worst rivals, but to be honest, I never saw any of the others as your rivals as much as just a group of friends with you on their first Pokémon adventure.

Rainiac: The entry that breathed new life into a series that was dying on its feet. Netherrealm went back to their roots with both the gameplay and the game's setting and both decisions paid off big time. The substantial single player campaign is a glorious nostalgia tour through the franchise's illustrious past.

Nate: I'm going to be honest, most of the guy in this are hot. This is basically just eye candy for me. Also I kicked ass during Game Night in college.

Carmichael Micaalus: *Hyun-ae did no wrong.

Pauncho Smith: If it wasn't for Polly, I'd still be fucking around with the console command inputs at the very beginning.

TenguGemini: OK look, I KNOW this game can physically hurt your hands to play. It doesn't matter. The writing in this game is hilarious, and the gameplay is (despite a weird as fuck control scheme) really good.

jetstorm4: Probably still one of the funniest games I've played. Each chapter is a well written comedy with several serious moments sprinkled through. A game that knows it's a game, and knows it's kind of silly. That's something I can fully respect these days, especially when the game is as good as this.

FreezingInferno: As a casual Tomb Raider fan from the 90's, this game was a goddamned revelation. Moody, atmospheric, horrific in places, but still telling the triumphant story of someone overcoming despair and awful situations to save herself and those close to her. It was quite good!

Remnant: Crystal Dynamics: "Uncharted ripped-off Tomb Raider, so now let's rip-off Uncharted...we'll keep the overall gameplay style, but let's take out the pulp-adventure and make it a deadly serious survival-horror scenario. Yeah, that'll work."

eatthepen: Time travel is messed up. It can be understood as the ultimate expression of the western fixation on 'free will'; a system that literally hangs the entire course of the universe on the actions of one Marty McFly. Very few time travel stories actually confront that, and my mind was absolutely blown out my ears when FFXIII-2 turned out to be one of them. It's the Majora's Mask of the Final Fantasy brand; a surreal jumble of reused assets from what is, in many ways, a much more polished game, corralled by some extremely brave and committed writers into a work both surprisingly cohesive on its own merits and viciously self-reflexive. I have no idea where the Square Enix of 2012 found the courage to actually go through with the ending of this one, but I salute them for it.

Atamine634: A shockingly good glow-up. XIII's battle system always had potential and XIII-2 extends that system in fantastic and engaging ways. The story is very charming with emotional stakes attached and the two leads are adorbs with good chemistry. It's not just a good time travel story, XIII-2 is one of the better time travel games I've played.

Rhete: Stealth games almost never click with me, but Dishonored did in a way no others ever have. I got so into this game that I ended up playing through it three times in a row start to finish. The abilities you get are all great and fun to use, and the morality doesn't feel entirely shoehorned in, as the main theme of the game is that power corrupts. It takes a lot of restraint to play through the game without abusing your powers and killing everyone in your path. Restraint I didn't have. Twice. Hence needing to do three playthroughs.

Remnant: There was a about this game. But the fictional world that the game builds is unlike anything else. I haven't yet played the sequel and it's been well over five years since I touched this one, but Dunwall sticks in my memory like few game worlds do.

TenguGemini: It's Cave Story. It is excellent. Nicalis kinda sucks, though.

Rainiac: The original Cave Story was an all-time classic, then they somehow managed to improve upon perfection. Great story, great gameplay, with some truly memorable set pieces and boss fights, all set to a fantastic soundtrack.

jetstorm4: Tokyo Xanadu showed me the benefits of a developer reusing assets from another game to do something completely different. TX uses a lot of elements and ideas from Cold Steel but shakes things up to be its own thing. Combat feels good and punchy and the plethora of options to play with makes it a fun game to just play around with in dungeons to experiment with. The soundtrack rules too.

Iffy: Even if it was largely done by Falcom's B-team, I found this one charming and underrated. I enjoyed the characters and the gameplay a lot more than most.

Zeloz: One of the few PS+ Free Gets I stuck with when I first got my PS4, and for what was originally a DOS adventure game from the early 90s, it was a spectacular romp for my sister and me to go through. The remastered, smoothed-out art fits quite well with the cartoony style of the original game, and the puzzles are pretty logical and easy to suss out compared to other adventure games of its vintage. The game's humor and design has aged pretty gracefully, and what the remaster adds doesn't detract from this at all.

Peaches the Rayven: Imagine, if you will, that you're a single-digit age and your favorite way of bonding with your 20-something relatives is for them to tell you secrets about NES games. To this very day I can hear their voices telling me where the warp zones are.

There... weren't that many secrets to Maniac Mansion. In fact, I found on my own a glitch that makes the game unwinnable (and ended up getting a frustrating ending several times with that), and had to learn just recently that one of the characters doesn't even have all of their puzzles properly scripted, so there's that.

But with my relatives, they did tell me you're not supposed to let Weird Ed pick up his own package.

Several years later and when computer graphics had gotten a facelift, I discovered other point-and-click adventures, and by this time the LucasArts folks have cleaned up their act and learned that sticking a 'game over' screen to disrupt your exploration and puzzle-solving doesn't really add to the fun. Instead, they gave players fun but challenging puzzle games packed with memorable characters and witty writing.

My favorite from this time period was Grim Fandango, which even in the early aughts was considered a cult classic, with game magazines advising readers to keep an eye on bargain bins and used game stores for this hidden gem.

I only recently played Day of the Tentacle, which revisited the setting of Maniac Mansion, and while the three settings in time (past, present and future) that the game spans doesn't compare to the original's massive house with many rooms to get lost in and explore, this sequel has the same bizarre movie logic but with a cartoon gloss that really brings out the absurdist humor that this genre seems to demand. Plus, this re-release includes the original as an Easter egg.

I think this wave of unlikely re-releases are a great tribute both to another era, but also to the idea that games could be actually pretty funny to play.

Polly: The third game in the Lonely Wolf Treat series actually focuses on ACTUAL best girl Moxie and her attempts to keep the Foxy Lodge from going under. The moment she shares near the end of the episode with Treat and Mochi begins to solidify their relationship and begins crucial character building for all involved for the series moving forward.

John: The Treat games really start to mature with this game, I think this is when they ascend from being cute and nice to also being genuinely super-touching. It helps that Moxie's one of my favorite characters, and this one adds all sorts of nuance to her psychology.

Rhete: This game feels great to play from the moment you start and never lets up. I generally don't like arena based shooters but Assault Android Cactus has enough level design with unique and fun level gimmicks, and memorizable waves of enemies that it never bored me for an instant. The bosses are fantastic as well, and the few cutscenes are just 100% adorable.

Pauncho Smith: Honestly, I thought they all looked better with the normal-proportioned heads.

Zeloz: Wow, what a memorable entry in the Zelda series, subverting so many tropes of that series while also coming right after the game that codified 3D action RPGs (and 3D Zeldas, especially). I've had more experience with this 3D port than the N64 original, so I can't say how much this port's changes improve or detract from the game's original mood, but Termina still maintains a more lively, yet more sinister, air than did 3DS Hyrule, and the touchscreen and gyroscopic controls feel really nice to use besides. I just wish I'd have went and finished the game while I still had it new; starting years later from just receiving the Zora mask is a bit difficult, at least in my experience.

DoorCurtain: I liked most of the changes the remake made. The textures are updated while still carrying the same intent as the originals, the most frustrating boss in the original was still frustrating except you had a clearer method of defeating it, and the sidequest notebook felt more intuitive. At its heart, though, it's still Majora's Mask, probably the closest a mainstream Nintendo EAD game has come to feeling like it has something important to say. In this case, it's the faith that things can become better in the face of impending doom if we believe in ourselves enough, no matter how grim the odds feel.

Zeloz: A game that teaches us that sometimes, when faced with adversity, you just need to throw yourself into the thick of it. And sometimes, you need to throw yourself over it entirely. Or against it.

The missions vary enough to where the experience doesn't ever feel repetitive, and there's almost no "right" way you're supposed to go about your business; slip in and out like a smooth criminal or break all the windows and necks in the building. Go nuts, they're your boots.

Rainiac: Dark and brooding stealth-based puzzle game built around the clever concept of being able to rewire various elements of the level: a light switch can be made to open a locked door for example, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Takes full advantage of the idea that there is no one 'correct' way to beat each of the game's levels.

Rhete: This game may not be saying a lot, but it said a lot to me in 2014. It's also very pretty and the shoot bang is fun.

Remnant: How do you follow-up the surprise meta-commentary twist that defined the original Bioshock? Apparently by making a surprise meta-commentary twist on the very idea of making a sequel to the original Bioshock. Yeah, this game is a trip.

Polly: Ahh yes, the game that inspired no less than 6,972,438 big-brain articles about player agency in videogames and what choices really mean. The Stanley Parable does all that with a cheeky sense of humor and a lot of lovingly crafted setpieces that make it one of the most entertaining and engaging videogame analyses ever.

Durante Pierpaoli: THE STANLEY PARABLE DID NOT COME OUT IN 2013. The Stanley Parable WAS a mod for Half Life 2 that originally came out in 2011, and the vast majority of the routes and endings available in "Stanley HD Remix" as it was sold at the time are in the original mod. The Stanley Parable is a playable piece of games criticism exploring the relationship between the player and developer. Whereas the original 2011 mod seems to ultimately more sympathetic towards the player's desire to express themselves within fundamentally limited systems, the 2013 expansion added a number of fascinating routes that re-explored the issues from the developer's side and comes out actually seeming to repudiate some of the original game's attitude, as the endings more sympathetic to developer viewpoint are the ones that, in a videogame sense, are more traditionally "challenging to pull off." I highly recommend watching the original Stanley mod and then playing the standalone game yourself.

(Game mod, requires copy of Metroid)

Zeloz: The game's a fascinating look at how ROM hackers can completely change the look and feel of a game. While being just as difficult - and sometimes just as obtuse - as the original NES Metroid, the dark and sinister air the locales have, coupled with the varied level layouts, give the game a feel completely unique from any of the other Metroid entry. It's truly an impressive fan work built within the hardware constraints of the NES.

FreezingInferno: The best Metroid game released this decade, a game that refreshingly ignores Super Metroid nostalgia in favor of refining and updating the atmospheric minimalist nature of the NES original. An absolute technical marvel of a ROM hack, and somewhat overlooked in comparison to aforementioned Super Metroid nostalgia pieces that came out this decade.

Polly: Arc System Works' spin on the Contra formula is just as over the top, loud, and chaotic as you'd expect from the company that brought us Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. The dash, air-dash, and vault mechanics made learning this monster of a game feel more akin to a Mega Man X game, but it gave the game the type of speed and pace it needed. The netcode being solid also let me finish this game multiple times with friends online with many lasting moments in our playthroughs still lingering.

John: This game absolutely blew me away in 2011. I'd never played an action game that went This Hard before. The climactic levels knocked me flat on my ass, and getting to experience it all with a friend through the online co-op made it that much more joyous.


Polly: The fifth entry in the Lonely Wolf Treat series finds our titular sad wolf girl struggling with how to express and finally act on feelings she's been (badly) hiding for some time along with some very cute and sappy optional dream sequences that allow her to subconsciously act on those desires. What follows is an almost sickeningly sweet push toward confession and a shocking end to the episode you might not even see coming.

John: A season finale of sorts for the Treat games, and one that touched me deeply. The catharsis of its climax is tremendous, which makes the darkness immediately after that much more heartbreaking.

Rhete: I really liked the first modern XCOM, but this sequel just improved on it in every single way for me. I played through the campaign twice, once vanilla, and then once with a suite of mods to smooth out some of the rough edges, but also add in things like harder enemies and more maps, to keep things feeling fresh. Oh and there are also mods to add in Neptunia character heads and voices, which makes everything extremely hilarious. Look out, Plutia's got a grenade launcher!

Zeloz: Played this for a few hours on a Steam family account. It certainly seems like the almost Fire Emblem-esque strategy RPG I imagined it'd be, what with the lives of squad mates you'd form emotional bonds with (not to mention the resources sunk in them) being in constant danger of permadeath because of unpredictable RNG. Still, it ultimately seemed a little too hardcore for me to really get into seriously; modding Neptunia characters in your squad and trying to raise them into a competent task force without dying is a heck of an emotional roller coaster. It's the Conquest Ending all over again and, again, it's your fault!

Rhete: This game does for open world superhero games what Saints Row: The Third did for open world crime games. When faced with a design choice, they always went with the option that would be more fun. Saints Row IV is hilarious, tons of fun, and a real love letter to its own franchise. The numerous references to the original game are mostly lost on me, but I love that they're there because it shows how passionate that the developers are for the series. What a great high note to go out on. *quietly ignores everything afterwards*

FreezingInferno: It's Saint's Row The Third with the goofy dumb shit racheted up to 11. You've got superpowers and there's aliens and countless moments of just the Dumbest Shit happening. It's the kind of game to leave a dumb smile on your face. I dig it.

Polly: Put simply, one of the most satisfying and well-balanced shmups to come out in the last ten years. Crimzon Clover is all about giving the player MAXIMUM FIREPOWER (FUCKING DOUBLE BREAK MODE OH MY GOD!) and then showing that it can still beat your ass if your danmaku chops aren't being sharpened. It has a satisfying difficulty for everybody and a good variety of play modes that'll keep you busy long after the credits roll the first time.

Pauncho Smith: Goddamn those are some big lasers.

Polly: STEINS;GATE 0 is an interesting "sequel" of sorts to the original work. It's a story that takes place in an alternate reality where the insane "true end" plan from the original game failed, leaving protagonist Rintarou Okabe emotionally and mentally destroyed. The game tastefully explores this headspace, dragging us through the muck from Okarin's perspective while also incorporating points of view from new and old characters alike to keep the whole affair from falling into 100% moping. If you liked the original as much as I did, STEINS;GATE 0 is definitely recommended reading.

Pauncho Smith: Probably one of the more gripping depictions of psychological trauma that I've experienced.

TenguGemini: Excellent game all around, and it has my favorite series of final boss fights in the series.

Pauncho Smith: Good Kirby game. Doesn't do a great deal to set itself about from the others in the series, but it's still probably worth your cash and your time.

Nate: Meditative, relaxing, and a really great game to play on rainy days of introspection.

DoorCurtain: Happiness and stress all rolled into one. Incredible music, too. There's not much else I can say about this game that other people haven't already voiced other than I'm glad I finally played it after making the horrible mistake of not getting a PlayStation 2 until years after most of the system's library went out of print. Maybe if I asked for a PS2 instead of a GameCube for Christmas when I was 7 or 8 I would have developed interesting taste instead of being another Nintendo kid. Ah well. Katamari Damacy feels as well-thought-out as any Nintendo game regardless.

Carmichael Micaalus: The game that made me realize I'm not all that great at beat 'em ups! (Mostly 'cause I haven't played too many.) Despite the moments of frustration at times, I still had a lot of fun with this. The humor and clean graphics helped carry my lack of skill and rougher-worked parts of the game.

FreezingInferno: Oh this game's just so stupid and fun. Beatin' the shit out of everyone with a bunch of cute girls. What's not to love? Other than the fact it's kind of short and some of the bosses are jank, it's an absolutely solid beat-em-up game and well worth your time.

FreezingInferno: It's remarkable that the first post-Inafune Mega Man should be this great, but it is. Mega Man 11 is solid as hell, and the Gear system gimmick makes for some intriguing challenges designed around it. Clever use of it is key to winning, and even though the game's a bit short and lacking on extra modes it's still one hell of a great return to form for Mega Man.

jetstorm4: My Blue Boy came back to me for a moment. A moment was all I needed I suppose but I'm glad it was a game as good as Mega Man 11.

John: What a fun little game! It's beautiful and feels great, the levels are short and non-repetitive, it's everything I want in a platformer. I know it disappointed some folks because it's obviously much less ambitious than Cave Story, but this game's only endeared itself more and more to me over time.

Nate: A tighter Cave Story.

Polly: I became familiar with Michael Brough's work through our resident John Thyer, and though 868-HACK is really the only work of his I've indulged in, its one that I can easily recommend to just about anybody. It's a roguelike that's simple to pick up and play and difficult to master. The vocabulary for this game is VERY small, and runs aren't likely to last more than ten minutes, making it a perfect lunch break or before bedtime indulgence...which may end up sucking you in for "just one more," before you're able to put it down.

John: Still my favorite of Brough's roguelikes. Cuts to the core of the genre's appeal with a stripped-down and considered design language. That's really the most inspiring thing to me about Brough's games -- he doesn't take any genre convention for granted. If something's in his game, it's because he thought very hard about whether it was worth including and tested a bunch of variations on the idea until he found one that worked. I want to bring that energy to my own work, and every time I play his games I'm reminded why.

LastZimOnEarth: The game itself had some polarizing reactions upon its release but I personally thought it was absolutely worth the almost-decade long wait. It did a really great job of making Trico feel like an actual living creature, to the point where he reminded me of my dog. I'm not going to say it surpasses Shadow of the Colossus but at the very least, it ends up being pretty close. Definitely a proud accomplishment from Team Ico and Fumito Ueda.

Atamine634: The way people talk about Ico and Shadow of the Colossus is how I feel about The Last Guardian. I respect and appreciate those games, but they never gripped me emotionally like so many other people. This was the one that had me emotionally pinned against a wall. It's also a game I caught myself calling a film in my head. I've played many cinematic "film-like" games, but The Last Guardian more than any other captured the passive feeling of watching a film. While watching a film all you have to do is exist in the moment. The only reason it completely makes me forget I'm playing a game is that, personally, enjoying an animal's company is something that puts me in-the-moment more than most things. For this and the interesting subtext in the narrative, I really felt like I had played a masterpiece after finishing it.

Zeloz: My failed attempts at sticking with this game to the end, nor WaterMelon's shady business dealings, have diminished my respect for this game.

Okay, maybe it's diminished it a little, but I love it when "new" games are published and distributed physically for old systems, and this is the only RPG I know of that nature. It takes some kind of alchemy to take what began as the pet project of a Genesis/Mega Drive fan forum and blow it up into (allegedly) one of the largest games on a GenMD cartridge, with ports to Steam, Dreamcast, and two generations of PlayStation and Xbox hardware after that.

This is the game that put the whole concept of new physical releases for old consoles on the map for me, and perhaps for many others. And while groups like Columbus Circle and Super Fighter Team likely would've put out their games even if the Pier Solar project hadn't seen completion, I doubt they or anyone else selling "modern" releases an re-releases would've gotten as much traction if WaterMelon hadn't made such a big deal out of their game.

jetstorm4: Of the independent RPGs that came out this decade, this one is probably my favorite, and the most important for me. Without this game I would probably not have thought making my own game these days would be possible. If a Genesis RPG can happen on a cart in this decade, and be good? I can make my own RPG for a PC.

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