Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is kind of the ideal video game sequel. Ubisoft has refined all of the best elements of the first game in ways that feel fun and satisfying while delivering new elements that make it stand on its own. The story is better, the graphics are smoother, and there are way more elements of the Mario franchise present this time. Most importantly, the combat is engaging and actually made me want to keep picking battles with opponents on the map. It's hard to believe that Ubisoft has managed to create such an endearing spin-off series, but I truly hope that there are plans beyond this game and its forthcoming DLC.
The four games contained in Sonic Origins are excellent. More than 30 years later, they've aged quite well, and Sonic Origins is the best possible way to revisit them, or play them for the very first time. Playing all four games, I was taken aback by how Sonic Team was able to make each game feel distinctive. However, after all the reissues some of these games seen, long-time Sonic fans will have to decide if the collection's extras and changes are worth the price of admission. Of course, now that Sonic Origins has been released, I sincerely hope that Sega offers similar packages for other Sonic games. If the company ever decides to give the Sonic Advance games a similar treatment, I'll be first in line.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge distills all the components that made me fall in love with Konami's games as a kid while adding just a handful of modern features and extras to make the experience feel modern.
The original Pac-Man has been offered in countless ways on countless platforms over the years; at this point, some fans couldn't be blamed for feeling sick of it. Fortunately, Pac-Man Museum+ manages to offer a library with a surprising amount of variety. I thought I knew a lot about Pac-Man going into this game, but I walked away with a much deeper knowledge of the franchise, and all that it's had to offer over the years. I also came away with some new favorites that I might never have discovered otherwise. I probably never would have discovered Pac 'n Roll or Pac-Man 256, or remembered just how much I enjoy Pac-Attack. The lack of Ms. Pac-Man is disappointing, and the arcade customization could have been a little bit deeper, but this is a strong collection of games that should delight both long-time Pac-fans, and those new to the series.
Once again, Nintendo has delivered a package of activities that are easy to learn and a blast with a roomful of people. Playing Nintendo Switch Sports really took me back to 2006, and it felt great to play something that made me feel the way the Wii did.
If you had asked me my favorite Kirby game a few weeks ago, it would have been a toss-up between Epic Yarn and Planet Robobot. However, I can honestly say Kirby and the Forgotten Land is the best the series has ever been. Developer HAL Laboratory has put so much care and effort into this game, offering a compelling entry with so much to see and do. It took me more than 10 hours to complete the game's main campaign, but I only found myself at about 62% completion at that point. Length isn't important if there's no incentive to stick with the game, but Forgotten Land is so charming that players will want to spend more time finding every hidden secret. With lush graphics, fun gameplay, and a ton to see and do, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a must-play for fans of the series, or anyone that has ever wanted to try a Kirby game. This year marks Kirby's 30th anniversary, and the future for the series has never looked brighter.
Monark is not a perfect game, but it's a really solid RPG. The battle system is good, the storyline is interesting once it gets going, and there's some great music, too. Graphically, the game is one of the uglier releases I've come across over the last few years, and I think the game could do a better job explaining elements of its battle system. However, if players can ignore these imperfections, there really is a lot to love, and I can see fans of the genre falling in love with it. The RPG genre has plenty of great options to pick from at the moment, but Monark's blend of JRPG, strategy, and horror elements make it a compelling option.
Rainbow Six Extraction is a solid team-based shooter, with creepy enemies and strong gameplay. The game's Operators are enjoyable to use, even if they don't quite stand out from one another, and the online multiplayer is a lot of fun when you can partner up with a good team. If you're looking for a solo shooter that will keep your attention, you might want to steer clear of this one. For everyone else, Rainbow Six Extraction is a fairly enjoyable experience.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is the type of game that Nintendo does better than any other developer in the industry. This is a game that has clearly been designed with families in mind, and it's the perfect way to play together, while also taking in something educational. The game's $30 price point also makes it ideal for parents looking for one last Switch game to buy this holiday season. Honestly, it's a shame that the game came out after my Nintendo Holiday Gift Guide went live, because it absolutely would have made the list this year. Solo players will likely get less enjoyment out of the title (and might want to deduct half a point from my score), but this is one multiplayer experience families and friends are sure to enjoy together this holiday season.
It's hard to find much negative to say about Forza Horizon 5. The gameplay is fun and varied, the music is solid, there are tons of cars to unlock, and it's absolutely gorgeous to look at. The whole package is really breathtaking. Playground Games found so many ways to make Mexico come to life, taking great advantage of the region's diversity, while also pushing the Xbox Series X hardware to its limits. If you own the console, you owe it to yourself to check out Forza Horizon 5, whether that means purchasing a copy of the game, or playing it through Xbox Game Pass. It just might be one of the best showpieces for the next-gen era thus far.
As the first wholly-original 2D Metroid game in 19 years, Metroid Dread had a very difficult legacy to live up to. Thankfully, the game delivered on its promise in a very big way. As a long-time fan of the franchise, I couldn't be happier with Metroid Dread. It's the kind of game that frequently made me say to myself "just five more minutes" when it was already two o'clock in the morning. Super Metroid is considered by many to be one of the best video games ever made. Gamers will have to judge for themselves if Metroid Dread managed to surpass it, but there's no doubt in my mind that it deserves to be considered among the best games in the series. It has its challenging elements, and they might scare some players off. However, those that stick with the game will be rewarded with one of the year's best experiences.
As a fan of Super Monkey Ball since 2001, I found myself really happy with Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. The package captures the fun and challenge of the first two games, while also including new content that makes it feel fresh. Banana Mania also offers a ton of content for its price point, and players are guaranteed to find something to love. Sometimes the difficulty level can get frustrating, and the Party Games could use some new options, but the game offers so much good, it's hard to complain. Whether you're a newcomer to the series or a fan from the beginning like me, I can't recommend this one enough.
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is exactly what I like to see in a Sonic game: it's fun, it's fast, and the level design is exceptional. Developer Blind Squirrel Games has also added some quality-of-life features that make it welcoming for younger fans as well. It would have been nice to see the game's cutscenes receive the same visual upgrade that the rest of the game got, but that's a minor gripe. For fans that missed out on Sonic Colors when it first released, or those looking to revisit the game, Sonic Colors: Ultimate offers one of the best experiences to ever feature the blue blur.
I really wanted to like 12 Minutes. It's a compelling concept, but the game's rigid structure and lack of options make it feel less like a game about a time loop and more like a narrative adventure where I kept having to sit through "Game Over" screens because I didn't make the specific choice necessary. As a result, it feels like the most irksome elements of Capcom's Ace Attorney series, without the rewarding aspects. At times, I was genuinely surprised by the options made available to me, but far more often, I found myself feeling like the game's concept was basically just window dressing. 12 Minutes feels far too limited for its concept, and that makes the game feel like a chore far more often than not.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles isn't going to win over anyone that hasn't enjoyed the series in the past. The gameplay won't be for everyone, and the problems that have been there since Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney are as present as ever. That said, Capcom has done a great job making this the most accessible game in the series and a perfect starting point for newcomers. The characters are wonderful, the story is compelling, and there's an incredible satisfaction when the truth is uncovered. For fans of the series, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is simply a must-own package.
For fans of the RPG genre, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a mostly enjoyable experience. Sometimes the mission structure can drag, and some players are bound to find Navirou a bit irritating. However, the game's highlights definitely make up for the slower moments. This is a really solid RPG that gives the player freedom to go at their own pace. It also has a fun combat system, and charming story moments. For those that can look past its slight stumbles, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin should hold a lot of appeal, regardless of the player's familiarity with the franchise.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is just about everything a player could want out of a Mario sports title. Nintendo and Camelot really threw the kitchen sink at the game, giving players a plethora of options to make the experience whatever they want it to be. The three modes available in Play Golf are a blast solo or with other players, and Golf Adventure is a meaty single-player experience for those that want one. Re-doing the same challenges in Golf Adventure can be a bit of a pain, but it can also be pretty satisfying completing some of the tougher tasks. Mario Golf: Super Rush continues the proud legacy of the series, offering just about everything a fan could ask for.
The reason RPGs first hooked me as a kid is because they always felt like they were my journey. There was something really charming about being able to name your character after yourself and feel like your decisions had an impact on the experience. Miitopia is a perfect evolution of that concept, giving players the freedom to make an experience that's truly unique to them. It can drag at times, and die-hard RPG fans will likely scoff at the difficulty level, but it perfectly distills that core appeal of the genre in a way that really works. Miitopia is whatever you want it to be, and if you're willing to lean into the absurdity, you'll love the ride.
I fell in love with Kevin Smith films in my teen years, devouring the Askewniverse movies, comics, and anything else I could get my hands on. I guess you could say I'm the exact target audience for Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl - Arcade Edition, and the game really delivered for me. It's fun, the old-school graphics look great, and developer Interabang Entertainment filled the game with winks and nods that fans will definitely appreciate. The difficulty level might turn off less-experienced gamers, and it's on the shorter side, but these are minor quibbles. This is well worth a purchase for Askewniverse fans. Snoogans.
After 19 years, Shantae remains an enjoyable adventure, and it's fun to see how the series has progressed. For current fans of the series that never played the original, I absolutely recommend buying it on Switch. However, those that have never played an entry in the series have four other games that will do a much better job showcasing Shantae's strengths. Check those out first and come back to this one.