Sonic Heroes

I was really looking forward to seeing how well Sonic Heroes held up after so long, and it does, although not without some hiccups. The controls are noticeably worse than Sonic Adventure- I flew off edges in ways that honestly made no sense- and the voice acting is also grating at times, but damn if I wasn’t having fun all the while, even when I somehow would blink off of a cliff. Sonic Heroes is definitely a wonderful start for first-time Sonic players, but veterans of the franchise don’t need to linger after finishing Team Sonic’s portion of the game.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game

A decade later, Scott Pilgrim’s retro-style brawler is still the same snappy, charming beat em up that captivated fans in 2010. It doesn’t explain a lot and the controls can be a little floaty, but it doesn’t matter when the punches are landing and the music is bumping. Once you begin to level and build your stats through eating food or buying bionic arms, the game really comes into its own as the cult classic that people clamored for over the years. Though, here’s hoping we don’t all fall in love with it, just to lose it all over again.

Nioh 2

Nioh 2 is, easily, the most accessible and yet still appealing Soulsborne in the genre. While other games are content to be difficult with no substance beyond that goal, Nioh 2 combines a deep and flashy combat system with a vaguely historical plot that isn’t afraid to have a little fun when the situation calls for it. It also gives you the tools to practice its systems until you are your own master samurai, ninja, or mage, rather than throwing you to the wolves. It is the rare game that demands you run, with the hopes that you will fly.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is the ultimate ‘What Could Have Been’ experience. This could have been a fun game if I didn’t experience a bug or disgustingly ugly texture every ten minutes. This could have been a great way to introduce more people to cyberpunk themes if CDPR didn’t sprinkle in racist dog-whistles and transphobic memes. These failures are the result of a grueling crunch on CDPR’s employees, and I hope no one ever lets them forget about this fact going forward. Genuinely, this is an FPS with light RPG elements; you’re not missing much by not playing this flashy neon wreck.

Celeste

Finding 100 words for the most satisfying platformer I’ve ever played is quite a tall order. This game is so much more than just an absolutely stellar experience; it’s about finding who you are and never giving up along the way. It was challenging, but not impossible- it wants you to keep trying, to make one more attempt at that tricky jump because it firmly believes you can do it. It’s a game that’s honest and relatable about the struggles we face everyday. I would not be me without Celeste, and I cannot recommend it enough, to any and everyone.

Genshin Impact

Genuinely, I was not expecting Genshin Impact to be as entertaining as it is. Yet somehow, it works! Combining elements like thunder and fire in both exploration and combat lets you creatively tackle challenges, and the world is filled with puzzles to solve and chests to open. The dialogue is fun, the characters are lively, and it seemed like every few steps I would find another neat detail that made me go, ‘Wow!’. You will still despair trying to pull the characters you want, but the game itself more than makes up for the Gacha shenanigans with a wonderful experience.

Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix

Kingdom Hearts II is the game that will make or break what kind of Kingdom Hearts fan you are. You either love the story and how it expanded from the previous two games, or you just like the combat and nothing more. Surprisingly, this game caters well to both. If you love the story, it introduces some of the most memorable characters from later games, and the combat’s stylish and varied attacks and spells are a strong upgrade from CoM’s restrictive card system. Combined with a wonderful soundtrack, Kingdom Hearts II is a strong follow-up to the initial enchanting entries.

Dark Souls

The world is dark, but that doesn’t change that there is still a job to be done. My trip through Lordran was harsh, dark, and always unwelcoming- yet unlike anything I played before it. There are countless moments where you will feel like you were not meant to carry on, and yet you do; while a beautifully moody soundtrack cries out as needed, you will fight monsters, human or otherwise, in beautifully empty cities of sunlight and in pure, unending darkness. My journey through Lordran was not easy, but I would do it again for two powerful words: ‘Victory Achieved’.

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is different, but different does not mean bad. It doesn’t want to be either FFVII or FFX, it wants to be Final Fantasy XIII, and I think it succeeds as its own game. Its battle system is more RTS than RPG, but I like that it made me think differently than I would for other Final Fantasy games. Not to mention the soundtrack has one of the best battle themes in the series as a whole, and dozens of other standout pieces. It is a different experience to others, yes, but a welcome difference to be sure.