Per the polite request of a @Rudie, I list and reflect on the games I’ve played this past year. I never shut up about it so you likely know about my preposterously large backlog of games across several platforms, particularly PC.
This past year I’ve renewed my efforts not to acquire many new games and whittle down my backlog. I played 120+ games in the past 12 months, though only a handful to completion. I probably played more games in the past year than in the 4 or 5 preceding it. A function of having a lot of downtime, but also maybe a sign that I’ve stopped being daunted by the playing all these games “fully” and I’m willing to cut my losses.
A clear pattern emerges, reading my old posts: I’ve grown extremely resentful of and impatient with barriers to progress and it commonly causes me to abandon games, even near completion. It’s probably a time-anxiety thing. I never feel like I have enough time, or ever will have enough time, to do all the things I want. So I have little tolerance for spinning my wheels in videogames. Bodes poorly for my chances of playing From Software’s stuff considering I’m bad at those.
Here’s games I bailed out on after I either hit my limit for tedium/aggravation, or that otherwise I played for a while and said “Okay, I get it”:
- Environmental Station Alpha
- Little Nightmares
- Hotline Miami
- Enter the Gungeon
- Remnant: From the Ashes
- Curses 'n Chaos
- Odallus: The Dark Call
- The Messenger
- Children of Morta
- West of Dead
- Visual Out
- A Good Snowman is Hard to Build
- Swords of Ditto
- High Hell
- The King’s Bird
- Super Exploding Zoo
- Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
- Nice Weather We’re Having
- Project Warlock
- Red Strings Club
- Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
- Rayman Legends
- Finding Teddy
- Light Matter
- Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap
- Valdis Story: Abyssal City
- Stories: Path of Destinies
- Chroma Squad
- WRC Powerslide
- Skulls of the Shogun
- Pony Island
- Lifeless Planet
- Always Sometimes Monsters
- Superhot (non-VR)
There’s probably more games that qualify for that list but I want to categorize them differently.
Notable exceptions to my distaste for timesinks exist. The period I’m reflecting on begins with me putting Stardew Valley to bed, a game I spent so much time with that after I was finally done my wife Melissa asked “What’s going to be the new Farming?”
The answer was Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Make me care about your NPCs and I can slog through nearly anything, I guess. (Melissa said, “I guess your Yakuzas are your new Farming”).
There are some games that I’ve put aside but that I think I will return to:
- Assault Android Cactus
- Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
- Mushroom 11
- VA-11 Hall-A
Some games I didn’t complete due to factors beyond my control. The Witness made me awfully, horrendously motion sick for reasons I can’t explain. I couldn’t convince myself to pick it back up after my first session eventually left me lying on my couch feeling ill for a few hours. Others were glitches, dead servers etc:
- Planet Alpha
- Datajammers (froze my PC! Game lives up to its name!)
- Regimental Chess
Yet other games I anticipated merely sampling, only to gobble them whole. Some only because they were so short they were done before I could get bored. Some I almost abandoned, then came back to and wound up liking a lot.:
- Concrete Genie
- Small Radios, Big Televisions
- Piku Niku
- Yono & The Celestial Elephants
- Aer: Memories of Old
- Gravity Ghost
Some games I almost instantly hated on the basis of wretched writing, aesthetics I abhorred, or mechanics/UI/controls that still make me angry just thinking about them:
- Tormentor x Punisher
- A Valley Without Wind
- Road to Ballhalla
- Joe Danger 2: The Movie
- Escape Plan
- Jay & Silent Bob Mall Brawl
- Between Me and the Night
When I’m feeling low and don’t want to be challenged at all I play walking sims and visual novels, and other things that are more about vibes:
- Hatoful Boyfriend
- What Remains of Edith Finch
- Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
- My Exercise
- Draw Nine
- Burly Men at Sea
- Bird Alone
- Hitchhiker (prototype version)
When I’m feeling brainy but not dexterous, I go for adventure games
- Lilly Looking Through
- The Little Acre
- Samorost 3
- Whispers of a Machine
Okay let’s talk about Sonic for a second. This year I finally came to grips with the fact that I just don’t really love Sonic games in the Genesis style. Sonic Mania convinced me of this. I played Sonic Forces right after it which is definitely not a good game but is one I enjoyed plowing through over the course of an evening. I might just wear my dunce cap with pride on this particular aspect of my tastes.
One night I wanted to see if I could play a good Descent clone, so I played Overload and Forsaken. The former was meh, the latter was pretty awful. I’ve only ever actually played a few minutes of Descent but I feel like there ought to be more games of its style than there seem to be out there.
The 800 pound gorilla in the room is Magic The Gathering Arena, which a friend talked me into starting up and which immediately took a hold on me like I was in a comic book shop circa 2003. First game I’ve played online against strangers in over a decade. I fell off a few months ago but I might get back into it again.
So in some cases like the above, you can go back home again. However, revisiting other old games via their sequels proved unfruitful:
- Bioshock 2
- Borderlands 2
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
But hey, you know, I actually do finish games sometimes, and I even walk away having liked them!
- Dishonored 2
- Monument Valley 2
Then some I do finish and my feelings afterward are more muted
- Desert Child
You know what kind of games I absolutely never finish, despite my best intentions? Shmups, or anything somewhat shmuppy. I am a Shmuppet Baby who should stop spending money on them. Every one, I play for 90 minutes, swear that this time will be different, and then I never play them again. This year’s crop:
- We Are Doomed
- Dub Wars (also a rhythm game, which like shmups I can only ever flirt with)
Let’s take a moment to divert into what I played on my phone:
- Slydris (I’ve been circling back to this one for the better part of a decade)
- Eden Obscura
- Dangle Dash
- Night of the Full Moon
- Renal Summer
Renal Summer has a strange premise, that one’s worth looking up just to read the description even if you’re not going to play it. Feels too weird for the Play Store, that’s for sure.
Finally, let’s list some games that knocked my socks off. These came straight out of left field and captivated me:
- Steamworld Dig/Steamworld Dig 2
- Anodyne/Anodyne 2
- Action Henk
These were some of my very favorite games of the year, and I’d have never seen it coming for any of them. I guess in the case of the sequels I wasn’t surprised. Action Henk pissed me off with a difficulty spike near the end but otherwise it’s so damn tight, it’s rare for a game to grip me so strongly purely on its mechanics.
Anodyne I feel like I’d kept seeing and hearing about but I was surprised that I liked it so much, I was primed to pooh-pooh the hype. The sequel managed to be very strong in its own ways, too.
The Steamworld games I thought would be wholly unremarkable but they turned out to be a real good time.