We’re still stuck in this pandemic. I yearn for a more boring life.
As usual, video games provided a temporary retreat to fantastical lands, ripe with challenging puzzles, wonderful characters, thrilling fights, and catchy songs. I’m beginning to think of the 500 as an excuse to keep up with the latest trends. Being part of a community, even if the majority aren’t aware of me, is a welcomed change of pace from the isolation I’ve felt over the last few years. It’s easier to follow along when you’ve read the material.
While last year’s top 10 was my strongest ever, this year’s is…different. Delays were inevitable, and we saw dozens of high profile examples that were originally slated for 2021 moved to 2022. No single blockbuster dominated the space, so you saw a wide variety of Games of the Year across various publications. It was refreshing to see: some chose Inscryption. Some had It Takes Two, or Deathloop or Unpacking or Valheim or Chicory or Returnal or Forza Horizon 5.
None of those are present here. I did play a few of them, but not enough to warrant a spot. Others I avoided completely. Here is where I’ll normally announce my “list of shame” but honestly I played enough in 2021 that I didn’t feel as compelled to “catch up” and try everything I missed.
This was the most challenging list to pick from 10-1; they’re all so solid that I could have arranged them in nearly any order and feel good about it. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly competitive year either, it more felt like 2019 where the winner wouldn’t be champion if it had tougher competition.
That being said, it’s also the year I miraculously obtained a PlayStation 5 and re-introduced myself with my Switch AND read a ton of books and managed to stay mostly healthy AND my fiancée and I are getting married in June. Even though I didn’t get a Ori and the Will of the Wisps or a Last of Us Part 2 or a Spiritfarer, I had a lot else going for me and that’s more than I deserve.
Thanks for reading.
Even 10th was a tough call.
I’m still not sure I’ve made the right decision, but if I don’t finish this top 10 soon then I’ll never finish Mega Man 6 and eventually this blog will turn into a half-complete obituary.
Scarlet Nexus was close. Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury was closer, and if we’re getting real, I had an absolute ball with the Bowser’s Fury section. It gave us a glimpse of what an open world Mario would look like, though I still prefer the tight level design of something like Super Mario Galaxy. So, not quite my favorite style of Mario; it stays on the bench. Time will tell if that’s the right call.
Bravely Default 2 is about as classic a Japanese Role Playing Game can get – for better or worse. The story, characters and world aren’t anything you haven’t seen before. The writing is hardly Shakespearean, people wear their emotions on their sleeve and will be glad to tell you about them up front . If you’re not into this kind of genre, and I mean REALLY into this kind of genre, it won’t tickle your fancy.
Thankfully, I am really into this genre so this was a perfect birthday present. Thanks, Kyla!
I don’t meet any internal resistance when it comes to learning new systems. Turn based JRPG? I’ll be fine. Equipment? Monsters to fight, experience to gain, Job points to allocate? Yup, I know what I’m doing. I’m not saying I’ll complete it on the highest difficulty, but I’ll feel warm and comfortable.
The vistas and portraits are pleasing to the eye, but this isn’t exactly what you’d call a good looking game. While the menus are crisp and sharp, the character models…I mean, yuck. I never got used to the doll look or chibi style or whatever they were going for. Not my bag, let’s move on.
The real star of the show, and the reason Bravely Default 2 is on here is the Job and Combat system. While the game itself may be standard fare, the challenge and customization is not. Bosses, even the first few, will thoroughly kick your ass. If you’re not grinding and maximizing combination possibilities, you’ll get plunked with a Game Over screen before you can blink.
Because the game gives you so many options of mixing and matching spells, passive abilities, items, equipment and roles that it’s all on you if you fail. The toolbox is large and robust; it rewards experimentation. Mashing the “attack” option is about a poor a strategy as you could possibly conceive. The “brave” and “default” systems ensure that defending has an important time and place, and with tougher fights I was forced to plan out my strategy several moves ahead.
It feels small, but in a satisfying way. I was never overwhelmed, always compelled to keep moving. While the protagonists aren’t a revelation or anything, they’re still cute and charming and when have I ever felt bad about saving a world while lazing about on the couch?
I didn’t know what to expect with Psychonauts 2 , but I came away impressed. Double Fine doesn’t copy other studios, it doesn’t cut corners when it comes to creativity. Oh sure, their previous entries maybe didn’t land a bulls-eye on the fun factor, but there’s always something unique. You know there are a few mad geniuses behind the curtain trying to prod a different part of your Amygdala to generate some kind of emotional response.
Even if I didn’t love every part of it, like how the graphics looked a bit muddy, or how the platforming felt archaic, it all came together because every character, line of dialogue and brain you invade is so clever. Just fantastic. I laughed often; lines are delivered professionally, from top tier talent. There isn’t a single misstep in that regard. I wanted to hear what random NPCs had to say. I liked learning about the Psychonauts and their international espionage agency. I was happy when Raz’s family came to visit. I was eager to uncover mysteries, and find atonements for past deeds done…or missed opportunities.
There wasn’t a “lava” level or a “windy” level. Psychonauts 2 goes deeper than that – stages consist of character’s subconscious desires or fears. It may take the form of a phobia of dentists, or an acid trip on the way to Sgt. Pepper’s. Sometimes you’ll be jumping on X-Rays, or pages of a book, or a cafeteria, or a bowling alley. Whatever it is, you’ll be happy and relieved to find that there’s something funny or scary or bizarre around every corner.
The highlight was Compton’s Cookoff, a dangerous cooking challenge reality show where you have to quickly gather the right ingredients within the time limit…while talking to the pieces of food you’re about to cook up (don’t worry, they’re remarkably forgiving). The judges are harsh, but the playground/kitchen they give you is such a treat to traverse that I never felt one moment of panic. It’s one of the few times I replayed a level immediately after beating it once – it’s too good to not go back for a second helping.
What a delightfully weird game.
I can’t get away from Final Fantasy. It’s my ouroboros obsession. If there’s a Final Fantasy game released, I’m playing it day 1. There’s also a very good chance it ends up in my top 10, regardless if it’s a mainline entry, sequel, spin-off, expansion pack, remake or DLC. I can’t help it – the grand sense of adventure, massive casts, sweeping soundtracks, fleshed out combat systems, impossible locations and worlds I want to be in have hooked me ever since I witnessed Aaron de Castro defeat Zeromus in Kasim’s basement. I was spellbound. Signed my soul away in digital ink.
Otherwise, why else would something called Final Fantasy 7: Remake Intergrade be on a top 10?
Does this even count as a game? I think I missed an “intermission” in the title, it’s like Square Enix themselves don’t know what to call it, or how to categorize it. But, like I said above – it’s irrelevant.
I managed to snag a PlayStation 5 earlier this year. I put my name down on a list months prior and they eventually called me, saying I had 12 hours to come pick it up. I’m glad I did – the system is a knockout. I haven’t been this enamored with hardware in a very long time.
It may provide an unfair advantage. The controller is incredible, it feels futuristic and not just a hunk of plastic with buttons. The haptic feedback is so beyond traditional rumble that I feel inadequate in my praise. It got my nephew’s seal of approval in about four seconds. Load times are blazing fast, it’s embarrassing how much faster it is compared to the PS4. So far, I’ve only beat a handful of games, but every one has a 5/5 star rating. Maybe I’m just happy with my shiny new toy. Maybe I feel cool being at the early stage of adoption, where many of my fellow gamers can’t even find a system.
This is so great. Yuffie plays like a dream. Just like in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, she fights and moves in a completely different manner than Cloud, or Aerith or Tifa. It’s not a simple palette swap. Using a combination of ninja moves and magic, I was able to duck and weave while simultaneously shattering enemy defenses with my shuriken, all with a perfect framerate and gorgeous animation to accompany me. I couldn’t get enough.
Yuffie herself is adorable, I think it was really smart to give her a spin-off in this manner. No doubt we’ll see her team up with the rest of the motley crew in Part 2 (whenever that may be). I cared about her, and wanted the same things she did. Find the special Materia, be as bubbly as possible and don’t get caught. I didn’t get tired of exploring the same world as before and the Fort Condor mini-game is the icing on the cake. I could play that all day. Tower defense in my Final Fantasy? C’mon, I already gave up my soul, what more do you want?
Death’s Door is uncompromising in its challenge, visual design and structure. It’s very much a Zelda-like and makes no apologies for it. There’s no map (there should be), the exploration is part of the challenge and you will die in combat many times. You will come across a secret wall that will yield a powerful item, you will find a crevasse you can’t cross and you’ll need a few attempts before you fully memorize the Boss’ pattern.
But you’ll overcome all the obstacles due to improvements in equipment, stats and memory. It’s that simple.
If I had to pick one entry on this list to recommend to gamers on the older side who want something nu-old school, Death’s Door would be the only choice.
It feels so natural. The systems and UI made me feel right at home. The aesthetics are…muted, but effective. They may not be cutting edge, but they don’t need to be.
The writing is simplistic, but quite funny at times. As a Reaper Crow, your job is to bring souls to the afterlife who are stubbornly holding on. You do so with sword swipes, rolls, magic spells and your trusty bow and arrow. No, Betty won’t go quietly. I appreciated the eulogy that immediately followed defeating a Boss. A few of the NPCs even come along for the service. That’s death’s job I suppose; it doesn’t take glee in what it does, but business has to be conducted. Papers signed. Souls moved on.
How often do you get to play as a crow? What a cool concept. I loved running around as that little guy, rolling would produce a few errant feathers. I’m shocked my crow buddy had any hair left at all by the end credits.
It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s a solid experience all around. I’m not really surprised it didn’t garner more attention, but I’m also not surprised those that did play it sung its praises. It does have a Hookshot, after all.
Oh my sweet Jesus.
The PS5 really is a mighty machine.
This HAS to be the best looking game I’ve played, right?
I know quite a few dedicated enthusiasts who saw this as a ho-hum Ratchet & Clank, but I don’t have any nostalgia goggles and I’ve only played the remake of the original a few years ago. This is basically my first Ratchet & Clank as a new entry and I loved it.
I understand the gameplay may be tied to the past – there’s a lot of PS2 platforming in here, but if it looks and plays like this, I’m fine with a history lesson.
I can’t get over how pretty everything looks. Load times are near non-existent. The portals that lead to other worlds…maybe I’m easily impressed, but I couldn’t stop gushing. LOOK at it, you can go through a door in space and you’re in a different world! No load times! Look, I can go back and forth! I can LOOK into the other world from here!
While I don’t think Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart completely lives up to its potential, striking a crystal that drastically changes the entire landscape with zero delay is a phenomenon that demands acknowledgement. Maybe I don’t play enough games, but I’m shocked that more publications weren’t highlighting this triumph. Or, they know that this is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s to come.
The rift tether meant you could warp around stages mid-combat if necessary. I always felt like I had a multiple options when it came to traversal or evasion, which made the world more exciting to explore. It was difficult picking which weapons to bring into a fight – I loved them all. Hard to go wrong with the Doom Glove, however. Sending out minions in a frantic fight to distract your adversaries isn’t something I’ll ever tire of. Because the system can pump out as many particle effects, enemies and spectacle as the designers wanted, it was a spectacle that I relished in participating in.
Maybe Ratchet & Clink: Rift Apart should be even higher? The more I reminisce, the more my affinity grows. The anti-grav boots added another layer of enjoyment with exploring. Clank’s sections brought appropriate puzzle-level challenges. Glitch’s sections added a traditional shooter combined with mind-bending verticality. Rivet was an endearing companion, I hope we see her in future games.
From the first cut-scene where you suddenly control Ratchet without any kind of prompt that you’re out of a cinematic, I knew I was playing something amazing. It’s mind-boggling to see how far the industry has come. The potential of a game that rivals a movie in terms of animation quality are here; what will see next? Will we believe it?
I can sense a few eyebrows being raised.
Back 4 Blood isn’t on many top 10 lists, probably for good reason. The companion AI is ridiculously stupid. It’s not exactly an original concept. If you don’t have a dedicated group to bring along, it’s easy to fall off. After all, it’s just shooting zombies – how many times do we need to kill scores of the undead?
The gameplay itself is almost irrelevant. What matters is this question – Do you have three friends that you’ll play with consistently? If the answer is no, don’t even bother. If the answer is yes, you’re going to have an amazing time.
It’s that simple.
Eric and I tried with a few random players and it’s borderline unplayable. The mysterious online “allies” would zoom ahead without reviving us, there was little to no co-ordination, no pinging of ammo that we so desperately needed, there’d be hogging of medical supplies and zero regard for others. Selfish play means a bad game.
Once we recruited Ben and Mohin to join and we formed a proper four man team, the game came alive.
I couldn’t get over how much fun it was. It tapped into old LAN party memories; half the fun is fully planning tactics and targets, the other half is screaming at each other when said plan falls apart.
It helped that we were all like-minded. We each specialized heavily in terms of the builds – one of the major changes compared to previous co-op shooters in this genre is that you’re given a “deck” of cards, which work as passive or active abilities for your character. You’re given a few at the beginning of the stage, but can add more throughout the campaign or find a card hidden in the level. To me, this was an added bonus – I love card and deck building games. Eric wasn’t as convinced, but I think he came around by the end.
Frantically trying to revive each other as the masses descended upon us was such a thrill. We never argued, only shouted positively. Failure meant a re-adjustment – should we change the cards in our deck? Should we spread out more? Which side of the building did we fail to defend? Let’s let Eric take the first shot, Henry will run in swinging his axe, Mohin can heal us, Ben can provide cover fire, etc. It’s one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had in a long time. Consider number five to be just as much Eric, Mohin and Ben as it is Back 4 Blood.
It’s on Game Pass. Game Pass is cheap, or free in the first few months. If you have a handful of friends that you could convince to take the plunge, I can’t recommend it enough. There are enough shenanigans surrounding it to drop it a few spots – disconnects were relatively common, bugs weren’t surprising and it felt like we had to negotiate with Game Pass for all four of us to join and hear each other through voice chat. But, the core adventure of the four of us constantly saving each other from vile enemies, discovering mission objectives and backing each other up in tight, frightening, disgusting spots was amazing, just a blast from the past that I wish I could find in more games.
It really is only as good as your group. There’s a “4” in the title for a reason.
I didn’t see Little Nightmares 2 on many top 10’s either. I’m not surprised, but I’m also not surprised to see it on my own list. After many deliberations , Little Nightmares 2 kept climbing. It could be even higher; this style of game is among my favorite and it’s nearly as compelling as Inside.
There’s no lengthy cut-scenes, or lore explaining why the world is so hell-bent on capturing and butchering you, a child. Why is everybody so deformed? Who are you, and where are you going?
It doesn’t matter. Keep going, or you’ll be killed as soon as you can blink. Usually in horrifying ways.
It’s so creepy. I love it.
I’m a wimp when it comes to horror, but this style of scary is something I can tolerate. It’s less about jump scares and more about grotesque monster design and attention to detail on the dilapidated structures you have to squeeze through. Why are the TV’s all broken? How come I can’t fight back at all? Is…is that somebody that can help me?
Your first instinct is usually correct; almost everything wants you dead, everything is falling apart and there’s barely any hope. It’s as if the world of the Muppets were blanketed with a depression blanket, hit with a drug addiction and it was written by Roald Dahl.
I remember the precise moment I knew this would end up on the top 10.
A teacher had her back to me. I was not a member of her class, I was just passing through. The game is pretty obvious at letting you know that you should NOT let any adult, under any circumstance, know of your whereabouts. They’re offended by you, the very existence of you. Don’t let them see you. Just don’t.
So, naturally, I make a noise in an attempt to find a key. The teacher hears me. I’m small, so I can hide in a box. I hide, in a box.
She opens the door and…yuck! Her neck extends out like a snake to look around for me. I express my verbal outrage at how revolting this looks. As any horror aficionado knows, half the scare lies in the sound design and the stretching is something I can still hear. I’m shuddering writing this, it really is as nasty as it sounds. And it completely won me over. Anything I could to avoid snake-teacher, I would have to do, which added to the tension. Now I REALLY don’t want her to catch me, I want to get as far away from her as I can.
The design is brilliant. The adults/monsters aren’t just mean, they’re disgusting. They breathe heavily. They don’t walk right. It’s like something is wearing their skin. The outrage at your presence seems otherworldly. They won’t tolerate your presence, and you can’t fight back. Every room is ghastly in its own way.
Brilliant. The somber and shocking ending still resonates with me. The environmental clues are all you have to piece together why the world has fallen into this nightmarish stupor. It’s all show, no tell and a masterclass of 2D horror platforming.
Slide Halo Infinite next to Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain and Final Fantasy 15 as beautiful messes. It’s a product that, by all rights, should not have come out as well as it did. The ingredients were haphazardly thrown together like a confused gumbo- to say Halo Infinite had a tumultuous development would be an understatement. Leads on the project were replaced and the costs ballooned to staggering heights. Thankfully, Halo Infinite came out as one of the best Halos to date. It also had to shimmy around questionable multiplayer progression systems, a delayed single-player experience and no co-operative option to be found for the campaign. Pros and cons, and considering the disaster behind the curtain, it’s a small miracle.
I didn’t touch the multiplayer – I rarely do. I prefer cooperative experiences, as you read in the Back 4 Blood entry, largely because I don’t have the time to dedicate myself to being slightly less shitty in a competitive environment. I was over the hill at 27, now what am I at 37? Older. Worse at games. Less desire to trash talk than ever. I know my lane, thank you very much, and I will stick to it.
There’s nearly as much to complain about as there is to praise. A lot of the major story beats are told to Master Chief, instead of shown. From what I’ve gathered, a lot of that is due to a frantic lore retcon by 343 Studios, resulting in a plot that feels uninspired. How many times are they going to focus on Cortana? How many threatening holograms am I going to see in my 12-15 hour journey? Is the ENTIRE game this one biome? Why can’t I play this with a friend?
It’s easy to see why there were some gripes from hardcore fans. Fortunately, my experience was benefitted by the fact that 343 took some real risks with the campaign and most of them worked. Open world Halo is magnificent; as much repetition as there is visually, the gameplay allows for a staggering amount of variety. Master Chief can only hold two weapons, true, but they all feel appropriately powerful. There are usually multiple ways to approach an enemy base. You can lug it on foot, try and find a vehicle or even other allies to create a diversion while you sneak around and try to take over a turret. The chaotic nature of the ensuing firefights are wonderful, a mix of what we’ve wanted and seen since the first Halo combined with a modern, updated engine.
Plus, the Grapple Hook.
I can’t imagine a Halo game without it.
It’s been used in other games, but rarely to this degree. You can grapple ammo, weapons, or explosive barrels to throw at armored enemies. More importantly to me, you can grapple to an enemy, charge up a powerful punch and decimate anybody nearby. I used this maneuver about once every six seconds. There’s so much versatility and mobility to be found while using the Grapple Hook that it completely shakes up the Halo formula for the better. Incredible.
I also loved calling in a Razorback and honking at AI marines to hop in, we’re going shooting!
The forerunner/underground alien base sections were a bit too repetitive and I longed, many times, for Scott or Dave or Dobbo or Raymond or Ian or Kyle to be playing alongside me. But, for what it is, I’ll take a very acceptable Halo campaign any day.
I know a lot of fans were nervous; it’s been 19 years since the last original, 2-D Metroid game (Metroid Fusion) and Nintendo hasn’t exactly shown a lot of love for one of their most revered mascots. Hard to blame them, sales of Metroid games aren’t anywhere near Mario or Zelda and it’s definitely not as family friendly. It’s Disney animation versus the Alien franchise – it’s obvious why they don’t push it as much.
But, Samus has been in every iteration of Smash. The Metroid fanbase are vocal. Most previous Metroid games garnered widespread critical acclaim. Thankfully, Metroid Dread follows in its predecessors footsteps; this is an excellent game that may not be for everybody.
I was relieved to see it’s all Metroid here. MercurySteam didn’t take inspiration from the hundreds of other Metroidvanias the series had influenced over the years. This is a difficult, punishing adventure. I died a TON. It took a while to master the controls, but when I did, I felt like a god among Chozo.
The most important aspect they nailed is Samus’ movement. Once you get certain abilities, you can outright fly through previously difficult sections. The power progression is on full display here, there’s rarely a period of time where you’re not upgrading your weapon, or your jumping ability, or your underwater prowess. There’s always something around the corner. Despite the inadequate and cluttered map, it’s fairly easy to figure out where to go; the game REALLY pushes you in a single direction, it’s definitely the most strict Metroidvania I’ve played in a long time. After a cutscene, Samus will be facing a certain direction, or be near a train to a new area. Don’t deviate, the game is clearly telling you that THIS is the spot you’re supposed to be in. No backtracking, please. Not yet.
The EMMI stealth sections didn’t bother me at all; shocking since I’m about as naturally stealthy as a polar bear wearing roller skates in a Lego store. The end boss, and the bosses in general, tested every ability I had and usually required a few attempts before I was able to memorize their patterns and mash dozens of missiles in their face.
The real highlight is the cut-scene about midway through the game. It’s not just a Metroid Dread highlight, it’s a cornerstone moment for the entire franchise; I believe it’s the first time you hear a member of the ancient Chozo race speak. And it’s a delight.
I was entranced. The Chozo language is wholly original, though it clearly has some Spanish influence . We’ve known of the Chozo for a very long time, but this was the first time we’d heard one of them talk like this. If this was another kind of game, we’d see a ton of these speeches, but it’s the only one in the game. Less is more.
It makes previous Metroid games cooler and it makes me want more Chozo presence in future Metroids. The bird-like design, the gravelly, despondent voice and the classic Metroid theme in the background completely elevates a basic kind of cinematic to an unforgettable one.
Samus even gets a word in. Hearing her speak Chozo is a character defining moment.
Just like the rest of Metroid Dread, the cutscene is dripping with mystery, discovery, sleek visuals and foreboding music. It’s not a perfect game, or even my favorite Metroid, but it’s pretty close and in a year like 2021, that’s good enough for spot number 2.
I would never have guessed a Tales game would be my number one, in any year.
They’re typically Final Fantasy-lite versions of Japanese Role Playing Games. It’s a storied, meaty franchise to be sure, but I always felt the smaller budget and stubborn attitude to sticking to tradition held them back. The last few entries, Tales of Zestiria in particular, felt overly empty and a combat system that was too complicated. Surely, an action RPG could do better than this?
Tales of Arise improves upon every aspect of previous Tales games and then some. It’s not often that the 17th game in a 26 year old franchise comes out, rarer still that it’s immediately decreed to be among the best, if not the best.
It’s absolutely my favorite Tales game ever, and you’re going to have a hell of a time convincing me it’s not the best one.
Once again, the power of the PS5 rears its beautiful head. Load times are virtually non-existent. The watercolor storybook style of graphics are absolutely stunning, every landscape was interesting to look at. Selecting which screenshots to use below was a challenge in itself, none of which justify the speed, fluidity or beauty shown throughout the 50 hour journey.
The quality of life improvements ensured I was never annoyed, and in this genre, there are plenty of opportunities to waste a player’s time. You already have the 5 animal pelts an NPC needs for a side-quest? No problem, you don’t even have to exit the conversation, the option to hand them over will appear as a dialogue option right away. Need to backtrack to a previous area to investigate something? No problem, fast travel coming up – you’ll be there in seconds. Easy to read map? Done. Oh neat, the menu art changes depending on which part of the story you’re in? Hell yes it does. Hey, are the dungeons massively improved over previous Tales games? You bet they are. Oh look, they threw away all the nonsense crafting systems from previous games. Now, when you find a treasure chest, it’s likely to contain a powerful piece of armor and no you don’t have to merge or meld it with anything else to make it useful. Hey, I can customize my AI allies’ behavior in fights so they don’t just rush into oncoming attacks? Amazing.
Tales of Arise is a critique of other JRPGs. It has set a bar that will be difficult for other developers to match.
The first half of the game is remarkably well paced to the point where if the entire game had kept it up, it would be one of my all time favorites. There’s a good story here, and while some of the writing doesn’t delve beyond the usual JRPG tropes, it’s not entirely shallow. It asks difficult questions and goes into heavier subjects beyond “slavery is bad” and “don’t be mean to others”. The game focuses on interpersonal relationships within the group. There’s a mountain of dialogue and skits, but you can skip them if you want to.
Combat is a dream, some of the best action RPG mechanics I’ve seen. Everything was fast, combos were easy to pull off, and I had a hard time benching certain allies since I always wanted them in a fight. The fact that there are dual-techs and moves you can pull off with your inactive party members added to the camaraderie I already felt with them. There’s not a single weak link here, both in combat and story-wise.
It’s not for everybody; I didn’t see it listed on many Top 10s, which is par for the course for this style of game. However, if you’ve been paying attention, you know I’m all over JRPGs. It remains my favorite genre for a myriad of reasons – nostalgia to be sure, but also the sweeping soundtracks, the lengthy adventure, the attention to characters and the visual variety are often unmatched.
It’s not perfect – the second half’s pacing drops considerably and goes on for about five hours too long. The end dungeon is a bit of a slog, and the story turns very much into more JRPG clichés about who the “real” bad guy is and I feel like the developers bit off more than they could chew. But, if this is the direction the series is going in, count me in. I can’t wait. It may be champion of a weaker year, but it’s still the top dog for 2021. Tales of Arise is my game of the year.