I’m always trying to express one simple concept whenever I have ever written anything. I want people to try things. I want you to have an open mind, and a capacity to learn when something might be doing something wrong, or when something impossibly does something right in spite of itself. You should care about things, and you should wonder why you care about things. Don’t accept things as a simple “X means Good, Y means Bad” dichotomy. Figure out why you like games, why you hate games, why you feel nothing about games. When you do, you’ll come up with much better ways of understanding both yourself and the world around you.

I have a platinum trophy in every game on this list so the brainworms are terminal now.

Lords of the Fallen

If you have a co-op buddy and this game is on sale then I think you will probably have a great time. Unlike the Souls series, which for some god-forsaken reason still has insane restrictions and friction to its multiplayer experience, Lords of the Fallen just lets you have your buddy with you literally all the time. It’s great! My friend Trevor and I just gradually chipped away at this game over a couple months and it was fun figuring out the world and what builds we could make and how we could help each other make our dreams happen.

I don’t think it’s an absolute barn burner, but this reimagining of a truly awful game is far better than it has any right to be. I was able to finish the game as a catholic blood priest with a lizard tail that could just make Unlimited Blade Works happen anytime I wanted. Trevor was able to just make insane evil eldritch eyeballs appear all the time and explode on top of whatever the hell else he was doing at any given time! Between that sort of fun character creation and the intriguing dual world puzzle system, I was actually pleasantly surprised by Lords of the Fallen.

Final Fantasy XVI

Textbook case on why letting people who hate women exist in your spaces ruins everything, as well as why focus testing or neutering the core conceit of your game to “make it more approachable” will only lead to dismay. 

I like several things about Final Fantasy XVI, but when it comes down to it all you really can say is that it’s a game that’s killed by a thousand cuts. Does it have some of the most satisfying combat effects ever made in an action game? Absolutely, intimidatingly so! Does it have incredible spectacle fights that we’ve been deprived of in wake of Platinum Games’ demise? Yes! The Titan fight is an all-timer!

But does any of this matter when the game doesn’t even care enough about its characters to do anything about it? Does it matter when the writer of this game is such a consistently historical misogynist that, when I saw him recycle the same tropes he used in Final Fantasy XIV years ago, I couldn’t help but laugh? I know it’s a bit of a meme at this point to blame Naoki Yoshida for the shortcomings of his games, and in a sense they’re right, but when it comes down to it, I just wish he would stop surrounding himself with some of the worst in the business. 

If you go through the game again, on Final Fantasy Mode (also disappointing in its own right!), you quickly realize just how bad the alleged “deuteragonist” of Jill really did have it. Not a single W! They didn’t even let her defeat an untransformed guy in her kaiju form! It’s just parodical! God!!!!!!!

Okami

I had never played Okami past the second major dungeon, so I pushed myself to go through and really go all the way, since it was the only Hideki Kamiya game I hadn’t played to hell and back. I think it’s really tragic that Platinum Games basically locked that man in a room for the last ten years, and is locking him out of game design for the next year or so, because he really is one of the greatest to ever do it. Everything about Okami oozes confidence, style, and innovation. It could have just been one of those Nintendo tech showcase style games that exists just because they came up with a singular engaging mechanic (looking at you Pikmin), but instead Kamiya and Clover Studio diluted the concepts they love in action games, and injected the love they have for games like Zelda or Ys into one cohesive and original idea. It might go on forever, far past where you think it should have, or might have ended, but I never felt exhausted or done with the game. It’s one of those titles you look at and go man, Capcom really fucking died for two console generations, good job guys.

Crymachina

Crymachina isn’t a good game if you’re engaged in essentialism, if you think that there’s an ideal and accepted way to make an experience, or that there has to be deeper weight to mechanics that absolutely must synergize in a tight and deliberate way, but it’s a good game regardless. This game about lesbian robot girls pontificates on what it means to be a human, not in the existential “can a machine be a human” type situation, but more in the sociological sense: how can someone be a human? How does our society dictate what the ideal is? Who controls that? Why is it always heterosexual men? How can we change that? 

I might have bias as a lesbian woman, but to me Crymachina was a rare example of the power true representation in media can have. Games can have whatever cloying consumer friendly, diversity consultant approved version of a person like me all they want, but they hardly resonate because they rarely come from places of experience or intimate understanding. I don’t know much about the people who made Crymachina, but I know that they understand what it’s like to be an outsider to the monoculture. To be removed from the concept of Family and lifestyle that everyone around them takes for granted. They know that the definition of life is different to everyone, and the rage and frustration that one feels when they’re prohibited from it. 

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

I didn’t know lock-on existed until the final boss, so I really thought that this was as hard as people over the years had hyped it up to me as. I really did beat the entire game just manually aiming every single shot and melee attack, every charge every dodge, jesus christ. 

I want Fromsoft to get back to making games like this all the time. I was burned by Elden Ring’s bloat and cruft, but Armored Core was the tight and deliberately rewarding experience I wanted out of them, and I got it. V.IV Rusty is also probably one of the most beautiful men ever created in the medium of Electronic Entertainment.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Another Capcom game from yesteryear that I had never properly played and I truly, truly, truly do regret it. Everyone talks about how tightly written this is, how funny it is, how charming. All of them are correct. My favorite game of all time, The House in Fata Morgana, was in part inspired by the way Shu Takumi writes his games and while the Ace Attorney games give you an inkling into what they meant, it’s Ghost Trick that truly shows the power of caring about the craft of your story. 

Every little mundane bit feeds into each other. Things that should have absolutely no reason mattering all of a sudden actually explain something hours down the line! It’s great! It rewards people who actually enjoy reading things! Something games hate doing more than anything! It has such a novel use of the Nintendo DS’ medium of touch controls and dual screens! Literally every single character is a banger!!! The soundtrack!!! The soundtrack!!!!

I hope with Capcom returning to the peaks they used to be known for in recent times, they let more games that are as painfully cool and beautiful as Ghost Trick happen again, because goddamn, goddamn.

Wild Hearts

Wild Hearts makes me profoundly sad. When I heard that Omega Force was making a Monster Hunter-like, I was equally concerned and excited. On the one hand, I loathe the Omega Force style of action combat, but on the other literally no one tries to make Monster Hunter-likes anymore since God Eater or that weird game on the Vita everyone talked about what the hell was that called? Soul Sacrifice right yeah that one, what was the deal with that.

Similarly frightening was the game’s focus on Fortnite-style rapid building, which was always the aspect that intimidated me the most whenever I saw Fortnite (and apparently many others who were rejoicing when they added that no-building mode last year). Yet!!!! Yet!!!! Omega Force actually managed to make one of the more compelling forays into the genre! Arguably more inventive and considered than most recent Monster Hunters have been.

I’m not a delusional sicko, I’m not telling you Monster Hunter is resting on its laurels or anything, but it is a series that’s very much become about trying to perfect and optimize everything about itself into a platonic ideal. When you do that, you can end up with some real bangers! Devil May Cry V is a perfect example of this! At the same time though, you do end up sacrificing the potential of some really out there and wild ideas, which is what Wild Hearts really nails, even if it lacks the polish and focus of its inspiration.

This is a game where you can use a paper umbrella covered in swords to parry a giant flying squirrel, float backwards into the air immediately after the parry lifted by the inertia from your attack, glide down like Mary Poppins, and then instantly build a gigantic cartoon hammer that bashes the squirrel in the head. It’s a perfect distillation of cartoonish antics. I don’t know how they did it! I thought the Spider-Man stuff in Monster Hunter Rise was already so absurd and power-fantasy fulfilling but then Wild Hearts decided like, fuck it, go ahead, build a giant cannon in 3 seconds and let it shoot the hell out of that Tiger. 

Unfortunately, Wild Hearts was one of those detestable EA originals, so when it inevitably didn’t raise the EA stock margins by 2300% in a single week they canceled ongoing development of the title, including its expansion. If you get a chance to pick this game up and you like Monster Hunter games I sincerely bid you try it. It’s just so interesting, the building is so much easier than you think it will be, and the direction on where and how to do things is phenomenal, especially compared to a lot of the more obtuse gameplay solving Monster Hunter asks.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky 3rd

If you’re making a trilogy take some fucking notes because holy hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Falcom had the biggest brain power going on in the 2000s when they decided that their trilogy of games should have the main story end in the second game, so that they could focus entirely on world-building and character moments. Trails in the Sky 3rd could be easily dismissed as a fanservice dungeon crawler, but instead it decides to go hard as hell and make you care about an insane priest named Kevin Graham. Kevin!!!! This guy named Kevin is one of my favorite JRPG characters now and he looks like this! He loves sneakers! Man!

I’ve been pushing the Trails series for a few years now, but this is the one I really hope people get a chance to experience if they ever make their way through Sky because it’s just so, it’s just so perfect. It’s not a completely linear narrative, even if its format is, but a series of vignettes that help flesh out the already vibrantly living world that the first two Sky games established. You learn so much about Alan Richard, you learn so much about the insane antagonist that was murdered in cold blood at the end of the last game. There are so many little stories and parts to this game that set up what would become the next decade of Falcom’s storytelling with the series and it’s just, sublime. It’s just absolute JRPG perfection. 

Lies of P

We all joked around when we saw the steam page for Lies of P, a Pinocchio Souls-like, go live a couple years ago. It was just comedic right? You read the line “Find Mr. Gepetto, he is in the city” and it’s impossible to take seriously.

Round8 wasn’t fucking around though, they were completely serious.

Lies of P is one of the best, if not the best Souls-like I have ever played. I blasted through three playthroughs of this game with a fire and joy that I have only experienced in something like Devil May Cry. Everything is so tight. Everything about it is so deliberate and considered and, dare I say, Kino.

We have that whole big spoilercast you should check out if you haven’t already but, just in general, if you like action games please play Lies of P, it rules so hard.

Alan Wake 2

I waited for this game for 13 years. 

Perfect, only one note. 
“Please Bring Back Gay Mr. Scratch From American Nightmare.”

About Rose

Rose is the one who gets way too caught up in the sociological ramifications of all those Video Games. She will play literally anything, and especially wants you to play The House in Fata Morgana.

See Rose’s Posts

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