Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Jon Schneider Game of the Year awards: 2022

Starting with my personal Game of the Year for 2022, and continuing on with the rest of the top 10, these were my favorite games that I played for the first time this year (along with the platform(s) on which I played them)!

1. Persona 5 Royal (Switch)

Probably the most expansive single-player RPG I've ever played, I was hesitant to dive into the this game given the expected time commitment, but I'm certainly glad I did! Engaging turn-based combat system, check. Interesting story, check. Realistic and sympathetic characters, check. Getting to explore (in a limited way) the districts of real-life Tokyo, a fun bonus. All wrapped up in a package that tries hard to be super stylish and cool -- and actually manages to pull it off!

2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Switch) 

I enjoyed seeing the lore of the first two main games in the Xenoblade series woven together here into something completely different, yet still congruent with the original pairs of source material. A key innovation here was an RPG with a large party of player characters where some PCs aren't present during combat; all 6 (or 7) of them are present, contributing, and playable. The way the game handles, in consistent fashion with the game's world, a mixed-gender party of (essentially) late-teens / early-20s characters with romance between characters (mostly) not being a thing was also an enjoyable novelty. 

3. Crystal Project (Steam / Mac / Windows)

This game was a real treat for me, a fan of old-school Final Fantasy games and similar JRPGs. Layering challenging turn-based on top of exploration of a blocky Minecraft-like world worked remarkably well. Like Stardew Valley a few years back, Crystal Project is a game that managed to pleasingly surprise me on a number of occasions after I thought that I had what the game had to offer all figured out.

4. Knotwords (iPhone)

The best word game app I've ever played. It's Sudoku crossed with crossword puzzles in a really smart way. Wonderful UX design (which inspired a Vigil RPG haptics update!). More-than-fair premium pricing model with no ads, premium currencies, or other typical mobile-game dark patterns. Multiple game modes, including daily and monthly puzzles. Knotwords' ability for the player to "recover" lapsed daily streaks is another innovation that should be universally copied. Highly recommended to fans of word games!

5. Isle of Arrows (iPhone) 

Another premium iOS game done right. Combines tower defense, a light puzzle/card game, and a cool aesthetic. I 100%'ed the campaign.

6. Phoenotopia Awakening (Steam / Mac) 

A smartly-designed, difficult-but-fair, cute pixel-art hybrid of Metroidvania and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link gameplay styles, with great settings/locations and story.

7. Kirby Forgotten Lands (Switch) 

I played through this cute first 3D foray of Kirby through start-to-finish with my 10-year-old, with her taking on the role of Kirby, and me, Bandana Waddle Dee. I appreciate how this game caters to a variety of skill levels, with the the main story being well suited for the pair of us to complete, and also including a post-game suitable for experts.

8. Chasm (Steam / Mac)

Like Phoenotopia, a pixel art melee Metroidvania game, whose weapon/combat system seems to have been particularly inspired by the more recent 2D games in the Castlevania series (see: next entry below!). Slightly thin on story, but solid enough in terms of level design and gameplay that I did complete the main story.

9. Castlevania Aria of Sorrow (Switch port of Game Boy Advance game) 

Played through this game which I'd never played in its original form as part of the Castlevania Advance Collection. I'd previously been most familiar with the more traditional series entries including the original Castlevania (NES) and Super Castlevania (SNES); hat tip to TouchArcade and freelance game writer Shaun Musgrave, whose recent Patreon ranking of all(!) of the Castlevania series games inspired me to give this a play-through. 

10. Super Auto Pets (Web / iPhone)

This is the type of multiplayer-game that I tend to prefer these days: Quick and asynchronous, meaning low-stress! You start each game from scratch to build a team of up to 5 of animals, each with their own unique combat ability, and watch them engage in a series of brief auto-battles against teams built by other players who have done the same.