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Immortals Fenyx Rising

Prometheus tells Zeus a story of gods and monsters, where gods are fully developed characters and monsters are stripped off of any kind of agenda, just so the player doesn’t feel guilty for launching them into the distance like Team Rocket.

Outside of doing war crimes out of boredom, the gods are shown to deal with their own personal traumas while waving away all the horrible things they have done, since “nobody’s perfect”. As Fenyx, the player gets tasked with running monotonous errands for them in the form of puzzles and combat arenas, so they can be dipshits once again.

Proteus

The sound and time of day create dynamic shifts in audio and music in Proteus, an aimless, goalless, pixel art walking simulator that is one of the most emotional and engrossing gaming experiences I’ve ever played. In Proteus’ procedurally generated lo-fi aesthetic there exists a kind of calm, punctuated by the appearance of flora and fauna and seasonal changes that affect the look and feel. See frogs jump, see flower petals float, feel relaxed, and find peace in experiencing nothingness. A wonderful time exists within this island. Play it on the Vita for the best possible experience. Please, wear headphones.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is cute and charming, but experienced players might not find much here to write home about. The core gameplay loop is rather simple and made redundant by the amount of power-ups available, and the 3DS version of the game is definitive but doesn’t add much aside from some mini-games, a new mode, and better controls. This is definitely a fun game to play over the course of an afternoon or weekend, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be yarn-ing for more Kirby and Prince Fluff. I hope Kirby games only continue to be this original.

Call of Duty: Warzone

Death comes quickly in Call of Duty: Warzone. Like other entries in the series, time to kill is measured in frames instead of seconds. Luckily, death in Warzone isn’t permanent. The gulag, a 1v1 fight to earn the right to redeploy, is the most ingenious respawn mechanic in the entire Battle Royale genre, but should you fail that, your team has other ways to get you back in the fight. This keeps you engaged even while spectating your squad. Custom loadouts and Killstreak rewards may be staples of CoD, but gain new life when thrown into the fields of Verdansk.

No More Heroes

There is an undercurrent of self-loathing that flows through No More Heroes. Travis is a pathetic, misogynistic loser. Its women are manipulative, unlikeable sex objects that are ogled by Travis and the camera. The game revels in punctuating the mundane with violence, but that violence is just another cheap joke. There is no meaning to the connection between the catharsis intended for Travis and the catharsis intended for the player. No More Heroes constantly uses Travis as a caricature of its audience but does nothing meaningful with that. Its self-aware mockery is meant for a cheap laugh that never comes.

Persona 5

Persona 5 is the ultimate JRPG that’s both engaging with its narrative and completely stylish visually. Released worldwide in 2017, it follows a vigilante group called The Phantom Thieves who hope to better the world by changing people’s hearts, making them kinder and overall better humans. The gameplay is easy to follow and you’ll find yourself immediately invested in this incredible world. From the engaging characters to the infectious music, Persona 5 is a triumph through and through. It’s clearly cemented as one of the greatest JRPGs, and hopefully Persona 5 Strikers will be a worthy continuation of the story.

Cloudpunk

Finally, an expression of the cyberpunk genre other than Neuromancer that does not make me cringe. Cloudpunk is about labor, class, society, and the tension between the individual and the whole. Themes you’d expect but delivered thoughtfully. It’s the story of the long night shift of a first time flying delivery driver in a rainy megalopolis. The story is delivered through dialog as you drive back and forth (and up and down) through the stratified labyrinthine districts occasionally making impactful choices. The city is packed with kind, strange people and their heartbreaking stories. Raina’s journey could be a tighter, but it’s worth the ride.

Dark Souls III

I’m not going to lie, it took me more than seven attempts for me to finally resonate with this game. Even then, I had a hard time advancing through the game as the Ashen One due to how challenging Dark Souls III is, because I’m not a naturally patient person. But once I got accustomed to the frustration and started focusing on learning from my mistakes, Dark Souls III shined through a beautiful display of well-polished combat mechanics, convoluted (yet interesting) lore, and breathtaking views in this ever-dying land, showing gothic-influenced architecture inspired by several real places around the world.

Wandersong

I don’t know if there is a better written game than Wandersong. From the deepest questions – What does it mean to be the hero, to be no one, or to just be the person who shows up? – to the littlest of moments – having fun with your weird band friends – it nails them all. Despite an art style that screams bubbly and sweet, the tone of the game is refreshingly one of realistic optimism. Look for the best in people, but don’t be afraid to let your powerful witch friend dust a person that refuses to get out of your way.

Murder By Numbers

When I picked up Murder By Numbers, I thought the title was referring to the fact that it’s got Picross-style gameplay mixed with a visual novel. It didn’t expect the name would refer to the plot, too! Murder By Numbers chases the quirkiness of the Phoenix Wright games, but never quite lands with its characters and jokes. Plot points and tropes become all too predictable, slowly turning a game into a chore. The Picross puzzles are alright and never too challenging to bar progress, but a couple of UI missteps can make puzzles more frustrating than they need to be.