Well we’re halfway through the year, and I thought I’d rank the games I put at least a couple hours into.
Some I beat, but most I played for one or two sittings and have a good feel of it. Going through this list, I’m now realizing just how much I use the switch for the vast majority of my game time. I’m also shocked to realize I only turned on my PS5 for 3 hours of FFXVI, 4 hours of stranger of paradise, and the Forspoken Demo. (I don’t have enough of a feel on FFXVI yet… I put it down to finish FFV and I started replaying Fire Emblem Blazing Blade… oops)
I included a writeup that is wayyy too long below.
- Final Fantasy X Square 2001 (Nintendo Switch, Remaster) - Possibly my favorite game of all time, certainly one of the most meaningful to me. I have played this game more than any other in my life, and it fits like a glove every time I pick it back up. There are still some nuances to discover every time I play.
- Fire Emblem: Awakening Intelligent Systems 2012 (Nintendo 3DS) - The more I play it, the more I love it. Some of my favorite characters in the entire series are here, it’s generous with well-designed maps that evolve as you play them, playing on Hard difficulty ramps up pretty perfectly, and overall a satisfying time. It was my third time returning to it, and love it more every time.
- Final Fantasy V Square 1992 (Nintendo Switch, Remaster) - What a smooth, funny, and well paced game. It does a beautiful job introducing the job classes and guiding you on where to go. Exdeath is a truly great protagonist, always one step ahead of you. Is Galuf’s death sadder than Aerith’s? Probably not, but he is such a larger than life personality it’s a genuinely huge twist. I always tear up a bit at Faris and Lenne’s story. Bartz is one of the best bumpkin protagonists of all time.
- Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade Intelligent Systems 2003 (Nintendo Switch Online) - You ever start playing a game to see how it runs on a different platform and then accidentally find yourself on chapter 20 and fully invested in the narrative again? Thats me right now. I’m on an extreme fire emblem kick and this one is so charming and solid all around. It also makes me want to do some randomizer runs soon.
- Octopath Traveler 2 Team Asano 2023 (Nintendo Switch) - A game of supreme quality and workmanship. Team Asano’s tightest and most engaging story work yet. Fantastic characters with complicated motivations and quiet interpersonal stories. This is one of the most polished packages I’ve ever played and a true joy. And I’ve only just completed chapter 1! I think there is real potential for it to become an S-Tier all time favorite. I adore Octopath 1, but this one is a mechanical and artistic improvement in almost every way. It’s a shame its competing with such an outstanding year of releases because I really want to go back to it but keep getting drawn into something else. I know this game rewards me for taking my time with it, but it will probably take a year+ to beat it at this pace.
- Fire Emblem: Engage Intelligent Systems 2023 (Nintendo Switch) - This game does so many good things to improve the Fire Emblem format. The boss fights, which were always a weak point for FE are actually incredible, high stakes, and thrilling challenges. I love that they have many health bars and are aggressive against you. The somniel is some of the best hangin’ out time. The cast is vibrant and likable, but very much blank slates for you to customize. Gone are the days of anime chess, and instead we have insane amounts of choice for better or worse. The DLC however is terribly unbalanced and poorly integrated.
- Final Fantasy X-2 Square 2003 (Nintendo Switch, Remaster) - I’m tough on this one because it holds a special place in my heart. I love seeing Spira from this perspective and interacting with it in so many new playful ways. It’s close to greatness, but it fails on a couple of counts. First, the active time battle system is a little too overwhelming. I’m rarely in the mood for such chaotic battles. Secondly, the game suffers from too much optional side content required for 100% completion. There is something happening in almost every location during every chapter, and so if you want to see it all, you’re going to be stuck not progressing for a while. The game clearly tries to steer you away from it but showing the player the ‘percentage complete’ all the time activates my completionist brain. I intend to go back and finish it, but it’s fallen down my list of priorities unfortunately.
- Lover Pretend Idea Factory 2022 (Nintendo Switch) - My happiest surprise of 2023 so far! I was in the mood for a lighthearted romantic comedy and this game delivered. Even though I’ve only played a route and a half, it’s easily become one of my favorite otomes with charming upbeat characters and story. Even though it’s not the most original game in the world, it presents the story in some very fun ways. Pretend Time!
- Metroid Prime: Remastered Retro Studios 2002 (Nintendo Switch, Remaster) - I only played about 3 hours of this game, and I need to get back to it, but I’m a little intimated. I’m not a fan of first person shooters, but I do really love the metroidness of this game. It certainly takes some getting used to, but the exploration is a joy to figure out.
- Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins Team Ninja 2022 (PlayStation 5) - Another one I just started playing in between other releases and ended up putting it down. But it’s actually quite fun! Everyone was calling it souls-like, but I think it’s a lot more approachable, and I like how they did the class systems. I was worried about Jack’s attitude and that the game might be too iconoclastic, but in a weird way it works. Need to put in more time.
- Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright Intelligent Systems 2015 (Nintendo 3DS) - Kind of a beautiful disaster in some ways. Some of the best raw gameplay in the series is split between this in Conquest, but at the cost of having a narrative that makes no sense. For every interesting character there are 2 bad characters, and everything about Corrin’s story was particularly poorly conceived. Unlike Engage which was self-aware, this one plays it straight which makes it more interesting in some ways, but more frustrating in others.
- Psycho Soldier SNK 1987 (Nintendo Switch, SNK 40th Anniversary Edition) - I’m proud of myself for beating this one. It’s a very cool game with a kickass theme song. It’s not easy, and some of the later stages are a little tough to read and respond to, but the feeling of having beaten it is great. I think everyone should check it out.
- We Know the Devil Pillow Fight 2015 (PC) - This game took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting. In fact I kind of had a bad time in my first play session… but after beating it and reflecting on it, I really appreciate everything they did. A very good piece of art and it gives you much to think about.
- Metroid 2: Return of Samus Intelligent Systems 1991 (Gameboy, Nintendo Switch Online) - Another game from my childhood, it feels so nice going back to. I really love how Samus feels and I think it shows you can do a lot with very little. But unfortunately it is more punishing then it needs to be when it comes to navigating and collecting resources. I could use Another Metroid 2 Remake instead….
- Mario Kart Super Circuit Intelligent Systems 2001 (Gameboy Advance, Nintendo Switch Online) - I never played this one before but actually really liked it. It’s a surprisingly compelling middle ground between SNES and N64 Mario Karts. The problem is that graphically it’s rough to look at on any screen and tracks aren’t too great, but it’s easily one of the top tier Kart racers in my humble opinion.
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Nintendo 2023 (Nintendo Switch) - I still feel conflicted about this one. Weirdly forgettable compared to BotW. When I got into a flow state with it, it was great, but my overwhelming memory of this game is just kinda going through the motions. The sense of discovery and originality wasn’t really there for me. I think in hindsight BotW benefitted tremendously from the switch library being empty for a year, because I would think about my backlog every time I turned it on.
- Angelique Ruby Party 1994 (PC, Emulated) - There’s a lot I really like about this game. The music and art is wonderful, and the gameplay loop is really inventive in a way. But when it comes down to it, the game is very repetitive and opaque… and it takes a while to see the world change in the way you want it to. Maybe just because I was losing to my rival and my conversations with the boys didn’t go anywhere… I felt like I wasn’t making progress at all. But there’s still something to it, and hopefully I like the newer one more.
- Paddle Mania SNK 1998 (Nintendo Switch, SNK 40th Anniversary) - This game is so fun. It’s definitely a “just one more round” type of experience. It’s a similar format to something like WindJammers or Hyper Gun Sport, in that its a tight court where you need to ricochet the ball correctly into the opponent’s goal. There are some funny gimmicks that happen along the way. Would recommend for a fun night.
- Harvestella Square Enix 2022 (Nintendo Switch) - A game whose identity is ‘no identity’. It’s overwhelmingly fine. I thought it might have a slow start, but soon realized it also had a slow middle. A decent enough game if you meet it halfway.
- Sonic R Sega 1997 (PC, Emulated) - I didn’t really like it unfortunately. I know it has its fans, but I found its flaws bad instead of charming. It controls terribly, the levels aren’t great, the character specials aren’t too interesting, and I didn’t care enough to unlock everything. However I love the soundtrack.
- Princess Maker 3 CFK Co 1997 (Nintendo Switch, Remastered) - It was my first time playing Princess Maker, and I am very impressed with how much mileage they get out of a very simple gameplay loop. There’s so many different endings, but I felt like I rushed toward a mediocre one. I enjoy not really knowing what direction I’m taking my princess and looking forward to picking it up again to explore further.
- Loop8: Summer of Gods Marvelous 2023 (Nintendo Switch) - It’s a rough and poorly optimized game. Maybe I should have gotten it on a different system, but I kind of wanted to see how rough it is (plus I’m really only interested in handheld visual novels these days). The JRPG battles feel like they’re missing something and are a little hard to follow. Talking to people and spending your time to grind them up is a cool idea. I do feel a little lost, and might return to it once some guides are out.
- Attack of the Friday Monsters Millennium Kitchen 2013 (Nintendo 3DS) - Perhaps the only game I’ve ever “rage quit”. That’s because i hated running into shines every 5 feet to collect the same card I already had. It felt padded and condescending to the protagonists. It was a swing and a miss for me. More power to you if you like it, and I can see what you like about it, it’s just not for me.
- For A Vast Future Retreaux Games 2022 (Nintendo Switch) - I feel a little bad ranking this one so low, because I think they had some good ideas and I loved the gameboy aesthetic. The problem was, having a JRPG centered around consumable items loses its fun when you consume all of the items and you’re stranded without an ability to craft. In general, I’ve soured on crafting mechanics in games and it’s a fundamental part of this one. The game was also a little long-winded with dialogue so even though it was a short game, I dropped it after about 2 hours.
- Mon Bazou Santa Goat 2021 (PC, Steam) - I had fun hanging out with people on stream playing it, but I don’t know enough about cars to really get into it. I do blame myself, not knowing what to do based on my own expereince… and as a result the game felt a little empty when not doing silly stuff. As pure sandbox game it fell short in a some of ways, but I think some people could have a real good time with this if they take it seriously.
- Kuru Kuru Kururin Eighting 2001 (Gameboy Advance, Nintendo Switch Online) - This might be controversial but I did not really enjoy this one. I was very excited to try it out, and the first few levels were fine, but I just found it to be frustrating more than it was fun. On paper this game is exactly the kind of action-puzzle game I want to see in the world, but in practice it was not my cup of tea. I put some time into it hoping it would click but it didn’t.
- God of War Sony Santa Monica 2018 (Playstation 5) - At one point the god of war is bleeding all over and then ABSORBS HIS BLOOD BACK INTO HIS BODY. gross. That’s not even how blood vessels work! Quit soon after that, very confused why this game is considered so highly.
- California Games 2 Epyx 1990 (PC, Emulated) - 30 minutes with this broken garbage was 20 minutes too long. At least the first one had hackey sack. Into the bin. I guess I didn’t play it for a full 2 hours but it sure felt like it.