Every year, we here at Video Game Choo Choo tell you all about the games we played and I, personally, strive to make lists that I think people will enjoy reading. There are tons of game of the year lists out there from tons of different outlets, so my ethos going into making one of these is to try something different that is simultaneously fun, fresh, and funky. That’s why, this year, I must apologize up front for how low effort this one is.

11. Bloodborne PSX

Some sort of Faustian pact brought Bloodborne PSX to life. It deftly recreates the exact unintuitive idiosyncrasies of PS1 action games while also taking a truly iconic game in Bloodborne and making it recognizable in the PS1 form. It’s exactly as it says on the tin to a truly astonishing degree. This game is demonic, so give it a try you’re a little sick and twisted.

10. Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Despite the overwhelming popularity of Pokemon Go, there was not a single game that fulfilled the sheer, simple fantasy of throwing a pokeball at a pokemon and catching it until Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It’s a game with a lot of problems and a lot of things that I wish were different, which is how I feel about 90% of Pokemon games nowadays, but it’s so easy to forget that this game came out in the same year as Scarlet and Violet, which truly dominated the conversation for anyone even considering thinking about a Pokemon game in the year of 2022.

Yet, what Legends Arceus does for the format of Pokemon mechanically is groundbreaking. It fulfills the dream of seeing a pokemon in the grass, taking your time, lining up your throw, tossing it, and watching the ball hop up and down until it eventually clicks into place, solidifying yourself as the owner of a brand new pokemon. Legends: Arceus strips away a lot of the baggage of the Pokemon franchise, for better and worse, to create a wholly unique experience that has softened my hard hard heart on the franchise after it has been chilled to a bitter, frozen lump from years of tedium and mediocrity. It’s the first time a mainline Pokemon game has felt truly innovative in such a long time.

While I only played a tiny bit of Scarlet/Violet, I didn’t get that same sort of feeling. It felt like while Sc/Vi was willing to adapt and try new things, it was tied to all of Pokemon’s most disappointing aspects. It didn’t leave a great first impression on me. I’ve heard good things about it. I want to go back and play more. But I truly don’t think it’ll live up to those first moments of Legends: Arceus when you take your first steps into Hisui, see a Bidoof, so perfect and serene, and throwing your first ever Pokeball that you, yes You, have ever thrown.

9. Tactics Ogre Reborn

This was my first experience with Tactics Ogre after years of singing the praises of Final Fantasy Tactics, so it was nice to see the game FFT literally took all of its ideas from. While I have a bunch of reservations that are exclusive to the remake (the terminally annoying level cap, the lack of grindable money and item resources until the very end of the game, the insufferable addition of late game rare random loot drops that you need three of a specific one to unlock one of the coolest characters in the game which was not how you unlocked her previously!!!!!!), I still firmly enjoyed the story that Tactics Ogre told, on top of how mechanically groundbreaking it was as a Japanese tactical rpg with multiple branching paths. While it’s fun and I recommend it, if you have the ability to play Let Us Cling Together instead, all my research leads me to believe that would be a more enjoyable experience than Reborn.

8. Fortnite

Fortnite has always been a punchline to me. It’s a joke game that doesn’t really exist. There’s no reason to play it. Yet, when Zero Build dropped and my friends all started playing it one by one, I hopped in as well. You can tell this game is built on years of bad ideas refined into a gameplay experience that’s much smoother than it has any right to be, on top of the wacky hyper-capitalist nature of it as a game that has every single intellectual property in it. It hits on a pure, primal, almost carnal desire: to see recognizable figures doing goofy things. Seeing Tom Holland Spiderman doing Gangnam Style or seeing Tom Holland Nathan Drake doing Ievan Polkka must be somewhere on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, likely between Love and Esteem.

7. Rumbleverse

This game got the rawest deal I’ve ever seen in my life. A deeply fun action battle royale centered around a world of fictional wrestler/human hybrids should have been a blockbuster title, but it allegedly failed short to meet Epic’s earnings expectations. While it had a decently sized playerbase as a battle royale entering an already heavily saturated ecosystem of battle royales (exclusively on the Epic Game Store, home to fucking Fortnite no less), it was mired with a variety of issues that likely made it not very profitable.

This kind of game would be a layup for cosmetics, especially one that lets you customize a bunch of different parts of your wrestlers. However, the cosmetic store was not only full of a bunch of awful, uninteresting cosmetics, but they were all way too expensive to even consider buying. A hat that is just a mushroom that you put on your head was $10. Not only that, but if there was a part you liked and wanted to buy, it was likely tied to a bundle full of a bunch of other parts that were not as good and, together, jacked up the price way more than if you would have hypothetically bought it on its own (which was not an available option).

On top of such a shoddy in-game marketplace, the game launched on a six month delay, leading to a six month lifespan. I can’t confirm this is exactly what happened, but similar free to play games that launched under the Epic Games Store were typically given a one year contract to make X amount of money. If they didn’t earn a satisfactory amount of money, they were dropped by Epic. Rumbleverse likely had a similar one year contract, but their six month delay was accounted into that one year, which meant they had six months to make a year’s worth of income before Epic reevaluated their contract status. Considering Iron Galaxy was still actively developing the game and were fresh into Season 2 when the announcement dropped that Rumbleverse was shuttering, it’s plausible that Iron Galaxy was blindsided by it just as much as players were. We’re probably not going to know exactly what happened behind closed doors, but Iron Galaxy has said they want Rumbleverse to come back in one form or another, and I hope it does. Wrestling games deserve better than this.

6. FAITH: The Unholy Trinity

If you’re a connoisseur of Apple II or Atari 2600 games, you NEED to play Faith. While Bloodborne PSX is a benchmark for recreating PS1 gameplay and aesthetics, Faith goes way way deeper. It recreates the slow, glacial pace of playing an Atari game in order to create a palpable sense of dread as you slowly crawl from one screen to the next. While it stays mostly graphically faithful (no pun intended) to its roots, the parts where it doesn’t shine like absolute diamonds. Each cutscene utilizes rotoscoping with real actors playing the color coded sprites on screen while still utilizing Faith‘s minimalist color palette to create deeply evocative scenes. Every character is voiced by a god-awful simulacrum of sound chips from the 70’s and 80’s. If you can’t picture it in your head, you’ll recognize it as soon as you hear it.

Pair its absolutely stellar aesthetic sensibilities with a story that attempts to combine a pulp action script with a deep parody of the Christian Church as an institution, and a tale about a man seeking redemption for the wrongs he’s committed. It’s a dense text that attempts a lot and I personally believe it succeeds. You should play this game.

5. Sifu

Absolver was one of my favorite games of 2017, and while I was initially put off by Sloclap’s boneheaded appropriation of Chinese culture for its kung fu action movie send-up, I’m still really glad I played this. Sifu is one of the tightest action games ever made. One thing a lot of action games struggle with is making their action both look and feel natural, like it could happen in the real world (or at least like a movie). Then here comes Sifu, doing it like no game company has ever struggled with this exact dichotomy for decades, making the gameplay look and feel natural while also being a punishing challenge you want to keep trying over and over again.

It’s simultaneously smooth and rough in a way that’s hard to put into words, but I wouldn’t be a very good critic if I didn’t at least try. It’s smoothness comes from how well combat flows together and how good it looks, even when you’re playing badly. It’s roughness, or should I say abrasiveness, is the game pushing back at you like it’s your teacher, beating you down over and over again until you learn the lesson it’s trying to impart.

It deftly incorporates the ability to throw and use items in the environment as well. There’s nothing that makes you feel like Jackie Chan more than kicking a stool into someone’s feet and knocking them over while you flip over a bar and toss beer bottles at the crowd trying to catch up to you. It’s obvious that Sloclap has a clear love of kung fu movies and wanted to make a game that captures that experience, but they would have been better served speaking to a few more Chinese culture consultants while they were marketing this game.

4. Scorn

Scorn rocks. I can’t recommend it to anybody. It’s disgusting and gross and full of some of the most beautiful horror tableaus I’ve seen in any game. While the work of H.R. Giger is its overwhelming clear inspiration, it takes the step other games clearly inspired by his work dare not take and incorporate its psychosexual elements as well. You’re frequently inserting things into holes, even holes on things shaped like penises. There’s so many fucking penises in this game. I hate to spoil one of its closing moments but one of the last things you do is insert your penis into a machine.

If Scorn were simply a fucked up penis game, I don’t know if it would have gotten so high on my list. What makes Scorn work, beyond it’s absolutely amazing level design packed to the brim with seemingly handcrafted details I simply sat and stared at for minutes on end, is that every enemy encounter is designed in such a way that allows for pure pacifism, and not just in the “you can run by enemies and not shoot them” way. Each enemy that spawns has a set path with a final destination where they inevitably get out of your hair, and if you just leave them alone, they’ll clear a path for you. That creates a bunch of really unique situations where you’re navigating multiple enemies, staying out of their direct paths and sightlines, in order to let them get to where they need to go. There’s no material benefit to this, the game doesn’t penalize or reward you for killing or not killing enemies. But this aspect of the encounter design makes Scorn feel more like an extremely fucked up, psychosexual nature walk more than a first person shooter where one of your primary weapons is a piston. I can’t say any other game I have ever played has been a similar experience to this.

3. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

The Stanley Parable is a story-based video game designed and written by developers Davey Wreden and William Pugh. The game carries themes such as choice in video games, the relationship between a game creator and player, and predestination/fate.

In the game, the player guides a silent protagonist named Stanley alongside narration by British actor Kevan Brighting. As the story progresses, the player is confronted with diverging pathways. The player may contradict the narrator’s directions, which if disobeyed will then be incorporated into the story. Depending on the choices made, the player will encounter different endings before the game resets to the beginning.

The Stanley Parable was originally released on 31 July 2011, as a free modification for Half-Life 2 by Wreden. Together with Pugh, Wreden later released a stand-alone remake using the Source engine under the Galactic Cafe studio name. The remake recreated many of the original mod’s choices while adding new areas and story pathways, as well as overhauling the game’s graphics entirely. It was announced and approved via Steam Greenlight in 2012, and was released on 17 October 2013, for Microsoft Windows. Later updates to the game added support for macOS on 19 December 2013, and for Linux on 9 September 2015. A further expanded edition titled The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe was released on 27 April 2022. It is available on consoles in addition to previously supported platforms and it includes additional content, as well as further refined graphics.

2. Signalis

Signalis rocks so much it makes me want to scream. Despite never being a big Silent Hill guy, I am a certified Resident Evil freak, and this game hits all the right “search action” buttons for me. If you’re not already sold on Signalis, my hard sell is that it would fit right in with every PS1 era survival action while evoking German arthaus cinema and conspiracy-laden numbers stations. You should honestly not even read me talking about this game and just go play it for yourself.

1. Elden Ring

I would be lying to myself if I didn’t say it was Elden Ring. I would love to say Signalis was my Game Of The Year. I would hop for joy if it was Scorn or The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. But it’s not. It’s Elden Ring. It was always going to be Elden Ring. There seemingly doesn’t exist a reality where it wasn’t going to be Elden Ring. And, currently sitting at 888 hours of playtime on my steam library at the time of writing, dear reader, boy is it Elden Ring.

I honestly struggle to articulate the appeal of Elden Ring to anyone who hasn’t played Souls games before. It should be deeply alienating; a game from developers that make notoriously hard games that eschews most of the conventions of modern games in order to attempt an open world of their own. Sort of like the jump the Legend Of Zelda franchise made with Breath Of The Wild, but years apart and many years removed from open world games as a concept being novel and new, and are now so deeply derivative that many of them have been dubbed the “Ubisoft Open World” moniker that most, if not all, of the genre seems to curb from. Yet Elden Ring saw the challenge of taking the Souls series, a series applauded for its immaculate level design that is simultaneously tight and full of unique and interesting shortcuts for the player to loop back through while also sprawling and full of secrets, and said “let’s make it bigger.” In my humble opinion, dear reader, they nailed it unbelievably well.

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that world class level designers could take their signature ethos and apply it to the open world format. Sure, it’s not perfect. By the time you reach Mountaintop of the Giants, you can feel like they were running out of rewards to put in cool places. But the first playthrough of Elden Ring is so deeply magical and evokes what is, in my opinion, the platonic ideal of what an open world game should be. Elden Ring lets you explore. It gives you a big play space, and says “go nuts!” It gates your progression at times, but the world is so massive while also being so dense with unique things to find, that by the time the next major area is made available to you, you still feel like there’s so much more stuff for you to find just waiting around the corner.

This is the beauty of Elden Ring’s exploration in the open world format. Most open world games give you formulaic rewards (skill points, subcurrencies, BotW’s shrines, etc.) that make exploring feel like a chore, and the huge scale of their worlds feel more like a burden to be in than a place to play. Elden Ring’s alternative to this style of design is so simple in its thesis but clearly a huge feat of work to accomplish: reward exploration with something unique wherever you go. It could be a brand new weapon that you can either toy around with or become your brand new main, a talisman that will grant you a brand new effect that wasn’t possible before, new armor sets you can use to mix up how you look, new spells and ashes of war (the equipable unique attacks you can apply to weapons) that change how you play, new characters you never expected to meet, unique combat encounters and boss battles, or even pathways to even more areas that are equal parts surreal and beautiful. The bounty of different things to find means the story of how your character becomes a weird fucked up badass with two katanas (one that spits blood everywhere) is written in how you played the game, which places you went and what weird secrets you found at the ends of the earth.

That’s not even to mention that if you find something cool that you want to use but you can’t seem to make it fit on your current build, it’s something you can re-spec your character for, or save it for a future build on your second playthrough, or just give it to one of your friends that you think might have more fun with it. Elden Ring wants you to have fun. It doesn’t hold your hand, it just lets you explore at your own pace in a seemingly limitless possibility space. There are many things that I wish were different about Elden Ring. A lot of old concepts that got tabled, a lot of parts of the game that could’ve used more polish. But until they put out the inevitable Elden Ring 2, it feels like there’s never going to be another game like Elden Ring.

About Scott

Scott B is a 28 year old proud sword owner and gamer of honor, desperately on the search for wife.

See Scott’s Posts

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