Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is an immense and expansive middle chapter of this ambitious remake trilogy. A reimagined and redefined behemoth of a game that simultaneously plays on nostalgia and forces you to question your memories of the original. While it suffers from some rote open world elements and a few technical issues, Rebirth is another magnificent entry into the gilded halls of Final Fantasy.
Persona 3 Reload is a confident remake of a truly seminal RPG that cements itself as the definitive way to play Persona 3. It's clear that careful thought and deliberation has gone into every aspect of Reload to respect the legacy of Persona 3 while preserving its timeless charm and atmosphere. An absolute must play for any fan of the franchise, and a great point to jump in for those looking to take the plunge into Persona.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is a middling entry into a once legendary spin-off series. For every element or system the game nails, there's a confusing design decision that holds them back. While The Dark Prince is far from terrible, it doesn't reach the heights of recent entries into this storied franchise.
While The Man Who Erased His Name is a very safe Like A Dragon experience, longtime fans are sure to relish its smaller scope and renewed focus on Kiryu. It might lack some of the suspense and unpredictability of prior entries, but more than makes up for it in its more intimate exploration of one of the most legendary characters in gaming.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is another successful Riot Forge project that expands the reach of Runeterra beyond the confines of the wildly successful MOBA. A rough opening chapter segues into an impeccably paced experience that's short, sweet, wholesome, and all too easy to play.
While this iteration of Lords of the Fallen sheds many of the flaws that plagued its predecessor, it also brings its own baggage. Excellent systems related to the dual realms of Axiom and Umbral alongside fantastic art direction are held back by middling combat and uneventful boss encounters. There are some definite highlights in Lords of the Fallen, but it struggles in the areas that matter most.
While its value proposition is questionable, and its slew of modes are of varying quality, Sonic Superstars delivers a true sequel to the original games where Sonic the Hedgehog 4 failed to. The all-important physics are spot on, each Zone is a thrill to blast through, and inventive new ideas iterate on a tried and true formula.
While PAYDAY 3 will no doubt please series veterans and newcomers, it's still a few updates a way from being definitively better than PAYDAY 2. When everything is working seamlessly, it offers some of the highest highs in the series thus far, but frustrating omissions and questionable progression design restrain PAYDAY 3's ability to be consistent.
The Teal Mask is a great first part to Pokémon Scarlet and Violet's pair of DLC packs. While it suffers from the same presentation issues of the base game, The Teal Mask offers a digestible standalone experience that simultaneously satisfies and teases you with the promise of more. A more condensed open world, great characters, and fantastic new Pokémon designs make for a worthwhile return to the world of Scarlet and Violet.
Baldur's Gate 3 is a landmark achievement for CRPGs and gaming at large. The only thing more staggering than its immense scope and density of systems is the quality in which it's all presented. Its unwavering flexibility and accommodation for player choice is intoxicating, and the replay value on offer here will no doubt cement Baldur's Gate 3 as a timeless and regularly revisited masterpiece. For a game as rich and complex as this, it also works surprisingly well on console.
Sea of Stars is simultaneously a love letter and modernisation of the legendary turn-based RPGs of old. It retains everything that made them such a core part of the industry so many years ago, while poking fun at tropes and conventions in an entertainingly self-aware manner. Much like The Messenger, Sea of Stars is another smash hit from Sabotage Studio, and is undoubtedly one of the best games of this year.
Final Fantasy XVI is an epic in every sense of the word. Consistently sharp writing, a captivating cast of characters, exhilarating combat, and a timeless soundtrack coalesce into an experience that showcases what the PlayStation 5 is capable of at the highest level. It constantly finds ways to top its own scale in remarkable fashion, but never loses sight of the intimate journey its built around.
Diablo IV is an unquestionable win for Blizzard and one of their foundational franchises when it needed it most. An unrelenting commitment to vision, redefined Sanctuary, never-ending player progression, and excellent boss fights are just a few of the reasons Diablo IV isn't held back by uneven pacing and recycled content.
Minecraft Legends is the best Minecraft spin-off yet, offering a wholly unique experience, lathered with a lovingly crafted layer of Minecraft infused paint. From a moreish campaign to ridiculously enjoyable versus mode, Minecraft Legends has something for everyone, and I suspect many will love what it has to offer.
Destiny 2: Lightfall is far from Destiny's worst expansion, but just as far from its best. For every step forward, there's another step back, and what you get out of it ultimately comes down to what you prioritize. It simply isn't as well rounded as The Witch Queen, but still offers many excellent gameplay additions and quality-of-life improvements that elevate the whole experience.
Despite Team Ninja falling into the same pitfalls suffered by prior titles, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is another deeply satisfying Souls-like. A steep learning curve and frustrating amounts of loot don't do much to keep Wo Long back from offering another finely tuned combat system, blended with a unique setting and new systems that break new ground in the subgenre.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a quintessential package for newcomers to the franchise. A fantastically realized set of Copy Abilities, swathes of worthwhile content, a great new epilogue, and gorgeously enhanced new visuals make for a timeless experience that's only hindered by a noticeable lack of difficulty.
Like A Dragon: Ishin, offers both a familiar Yakuza experience in an entirely unique setting. Some technical issues and arbitrary systems can't hold back a compelling narrative, excellent combat, and a compact open-world packed to the brim with engaging content. Like A Dragon: Ishin shouldn't fly under your radar during this busy period, and is well-worth diving into for both series veterans and newcomers alike.
As an experience more in-line with the pre-Fates era of Fire Emblem, Engage is a worthy celebration of one of Nintendo's longest running and most storied franchises. Despite many flaws, none of them offset the experience so drastically to sour the overall experience, making for another great entry into the gilded halls of Fire Emblem.