Elden Ring is just about everything that a player could want from a Soulsborne game with the scale turned up to 11. The areas in between dungeons, NPCs, and monsters all feel perfectly natural for the world, and allow FromSoftware environmental storytelling to shine, something that many open-world games fail at. When you are deep in the bowels of a castle or dungeon, you realize that FromSoftware’s excellent level design is still alive and well.
God of War Ragnarok is a triumphant success and is a shining example of how you balance story and gameplay in a fantastic adventure. The bold changes that Santa Monica Studio made in the 2018 God of War semi-reboot paid off, and this sequel is a full realization of what that game started. Like Atreus and his own coming-of-age, it’s clear that the studio approached Ragnarok with a greater sense of confidence, reflected in the game's characters and the story circling them throughout the nine realms.
Metroid Dread manages to do incredibly well by marrying moments of action with extreme tension and doing so from the flow of organic gameplay instead of using tools such as cutscenes and dialogue. In Metroid Dread, language is a kinetic thing. Samus Aran’s body is a moving sentence, and her weapons and abilities are punctuation. How you interact with the world you move through is how you tell your story. This is how the very best games in the series have always been and are true of all the best examples of the Metroidvania genre.
OlliOlli World is everything a great skating game should be. It merges tight controls with a world you’ll want to explore and adds in an infinitely-listenable soundtrack and soothing visuals. The story might not blow you out of the water, but it doesn’t have to when the skating is this good. If you’re a fan of the sport or just like good action games, this is a must-play.
Tunic’s cutesy aesthetic and tips of the hat to other games serve almost as a jumping-off point, a familiar-feeling touchstone to draw players in. Beyond that, the experience is entirely its own, with satisfying and challenging combat, secrets that gradually unfurl, and a quiet and contemplative story with its own twists and revelations.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is a collection of content I wish more gaming series would take for a blueprint for their revisits. It takes the most beloved aspects of the series and improves it in a rerelease that I bet old Monkey Ball fans will love and pull in new fans like myself along the way.
Life is Strange: True Colors is probably my new favorite game in the series. After coming in with low expectations, I wouldn’t mind seeing Deck Nine continue to make unique stories in this space. After seeing their work in Before the Storm and this game, Life is Strange would be in more than capable hands here, allowing DONTNOD to make different stories in other areas.
Many of the characters in Psychonauts 2 struggle with loss, heartbreak, and coming to grips with mistakes they made in their past. It’s hard to imagine that a sequel released 16 years after the original game can handle tough topics in a mature and modern tone, but Psychonauts 2 nailed the landing with superb storytelling, character development, and rewarding gameplay.
Overall, Back 4 Blood is a great game with glaring flaws that bring it down a little. Maybe as time goes on Turtle Rock can address the issues and elevate this to a perfect game for me. I am so happy to have a Left 4 Dead successor that feels current for this gaming landscape and is genuinely a blast to play.
I have now spent over 50 hours playing Shin Megami Tensei V — a game that I adore, but also one with a few faults. This RPG on the Nintendo Switch will bind you in its tangled, storied web of angels versus demons, of power struggles to see who will take the Throne of God, but the web is marred by some unfortunate navigation and technical issues.
Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t stray away from the successful roads that have been paved in past years. The fifth title of the Forza Horizon series offers an incredible amount of depth, and its gameplay finds the right balance between simulation and just pure fun.
Influences from other games are quite present in Solar Ash — Tony Hawk's line-following, Super Mario Galaxy's wraparound camera, Shadow of the Colossus's massive bosses. While those together may seem incongruous, they come together to make it an exciting, fast-paced platformer that gives you the tools to move smoothly and complete the challenges before you. It's so satisfying to nail those obstacle courses, clear anomalies, and topple skyscraping Remnants. The roller coaster of Solar Ash is well worth riding.
with a fun mechanic at its core, harking back to the golden age of 2D platformers while giving the model a fresh coat of paint with its stylish pixel art. The music was the first thing I loved about it, but thankfully it’s more than just that: Grapple Dog certainly has style, but it’s got the substance to back it up too.
SNK used to be a dim segment of the fighting game community during the PS3/Xbox 360 era, but The King of Fighters XV shines bright on modern systems with stellar graphics and fighting that can appeal to anyone, not just the hardcore. This game firmly cements SNK’s place in the genre once again after two successful titles before it.