The Game Awards were last night, so I was inspired to take some time and write about my personal game of the year. But I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so I picked 3 games which were nominated for several awards but didn’t get much, if any, recognition.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
I’m not a huge JRPG fan, but with the original Xenoblade Chronicles being among the few I’ve finished, I had to check this out. It ended up being pretty much the only game I played for weeks.
It scratches several RPG itches for me; a compelling cast of characters, a fun combat system that you can spend hours just experimenting with, and an intriguing world I still long to go back to even months later. This is definitely a game I will keep coming back to, between all the side content I still have left, and the DLC that’s slowly rolling out.
Is it a masterpiece? Probably not. But it stands among Persona 5 and Dragon Quest XI as another modern JRPG that I can not only stomach, but thoroughly enjoy. And to think, I almost skipped out on it because I thought Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was absolute cringe.
I don’t play as many indie games as I would like, and I finish even fewer. I love indie games, perhaps a little too much, because I’m always jumping around to the latest one that’s grabbed my attention. Thankfully, Tunic is one I managed to finish.
It came at just the right time, I had just wrapped up Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and I was in the modo for a light action-adventure game. I was ready to start another playthrough of Link’s Awakening HD, but I happened to see that this adorable looking game starring a cute fox was about to drop on PS5 and Switch (it had been on Xbox since March I believe, but I don’t have an Xbox).
I was not prepared for the challenge this game posed, but it was just the right kind of challenging that made me go, “Ok, I need to show this game who’s boss!” Beyond challenging bosses, the game mechanics are never tutorialized. Instead, you collect pages of the game’s “manual” as you play, and have to figure things out from there. Even simple things like how to upgrade your stats isn’t explained to you in plain terms.
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Zero Dawn launched in a crowded year for good games, but it stood out to me for its incredibly engrossing story, and its primary mechanic of fighting giant friggin’ robots. I was captivated from the start, and was chomping at the bit for a sequel. That sequel finally came, and once again got buried by other games (yeah, I’m looking at you, Elden Ring). But I didn’t care, I wanted to see the next chapter in Aloy’s story.
I will confess, the story didn’t grab me as much as the first game’s. It was a satisfying continuation for me, without a doubt, but part of the mystery that made the first game so compelling–namely; how the world ended up in the state it is in the game–was already solved.
The gameplay in this sequel, however, was a huge improvement. Melee combat, world traversal, side content, it was all so much better in this game, and showed that the developers took the feedback of the first game to heart. I couldn’t put this game down, and once the new game plus patch dropped I jumped right back in. And I’m anxiously awaiting the Burning Shores DLC dropping next year!