Sable plays like a young person's diary, full of hope and apologies, staying grounded while reaching for stars. It trades in its combat for climbing puzzles instead, and isn't afraid to let you bunny hop across a mustard-yellow desert or stand perfectly still-with the encouraging words of people recounting their own wonder years.
When you're advertising 34 different endings, your survival journey needs to be survivable. But Ashwalkers rarely made me feel like my survival was on the line. I was hungry for more human interactions between squad members. But the bulk of the writing is saved for the badge-ridden hall of fame at the end of this post-apocalyptic Oregon Trail.
Werewolf is firing on all cylinders when it lets you take on a wave of enemies, turning them all into puddles of jam. You don't have to think too much about the gameplay, and that gradually becomes a good thing. If this came out 10 years ago, I'd be thinking about it more during end-of-the-year talks.
Everybody has their Assassin's Creed. Mine might still be Black Flag. But Valhalla is basically Vikings vs. knights, filling out the other two sides of my personal trifecta. The assassinations might've gone soft, but the northern European world building hits hard.
Part point-and-click radio play, part adventure game audiobook, Kentucky route Zero is as much of a journey in sound as it is a meditation on surrealism. I'd nominate it for the Booker Prize in literature before I'd hand it a Keighley statue at the Video Game Awards.
Obsidian set out to make a Fallout game, but didn't think we'd mind if they actually made it a Firefly game along the way. So now we have an anti-capitalist Firefly mired in labor issues but elevated by rapidfire gunplay, peppered with chuckles from a tryhard sense of humor.
Hideo Kojima has fully weaponized the walking simulator, writing a love letter to the delivery service workers of our shipping and handling world. Death Stranding is about ending isolation, and does it so gracefully that I can't imagine it being done better than it's done here.
I can’t say enough good things about Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. It’s a sucker punch aimed at all the bloated, morbidly obese space sims out on the market today. Yes, there’s room for them, too. But Outlaw distills the ‘90s space-combat and trading sim into a great-looking, great-playing game for a new generation.
What goes down must come up. The Sinking City is more than the sum of its glitchy b-game parts. Balanced detective work makes up for shoddy gunplay. A gruff and well-realized cast makes up for brain-dead AI. This is unironically a highwater mark for both detective fiction and Lovecraftian Horror in video gaming.
Urban Warfare brings dynamic changes to the battlefield unlike anything before it. Those changes are surprising, challenging, and push the exploding, collapsing city in new directions. The graphics engine groans under the weight of urbanization. But the city is bright and beautiful.