Games really do just keep on coming out, which is why we’re devoting this month’s roundtable to the year’s games. Not the best games. Not the worst games. Just the year’s games, which include the games that we played, the games we didn’t play, and more. The end of the year is a great time for reflection, which, for me at least, means a lot of looking back at all the things I didn’t do.
What’s the best game you played this year? Don’t feel compelled to stick to games that came out this year.
Melissa Brinks: I didn’t play a lot of games this year, but I did play a lot of game (singular), which will be my answer for the next question. The best game I played this year, which I have not finished yet, is Get in the Car, Loser!, the JRPG-inspired big gay road trip game from Love Conquers All Games. You play as Sam Anon, who’s been roped into a kill-the-gods-save-the-world style road trip with her friend Grace (who, naturally, has stolen the fabled sword of destiny) and her partner Val. Sam is a lovable nervous wreck caught up in the grand plans of her go-getter friends, which makes her all the more delightful to play.
I actually found it to be a bit difficult at first—I’m not a seasoned JRPG player, and the combat mechanics and layered systems were hard for me to wrap my mind around. Had the writing not been so much fun, I might have bounced off it, but the flirty and funny tone kept me going long enough to finally sit down and master combat. “Master” is a bit of a strong word, but I’m at least competent now, and I’m finding it to be a lot of fun! Get in the Car, Loser! is much more complex than its pithy pitch would have you believe.
Maddi Butler: Truly nothing sends me into an existential spiral like this question. What games did I play? What game was good enough to award the exalted title of My Favorite? Why was it probably Nier for the third freaking year in a row?
I’m kidding, kind of. At this point everyone is aware of my feelings on Nier, so I will spare you. The best game I played this year was Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator by Strange Scaffold. It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: the player’s objective is to buy organs, sell organs, and profit. Despite that, and without trying to make you all question my mental well-being, this game is as fun as it is horrifying. I loved the visual style and the chill soundscape of Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, and the gameplay is quite satisfying. And because it’s satire, Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator offsets the bleakness of its concept with dark-but-hilarious writing.
Nola Pfau: I’m gonna be the person who pulls this out of video games and mentions tabletop games. Hands down the best game I played this year was a weekly game of Blades in the Dark over Roll20. Against a gothic industrial backdrop, I got to play one of my favorite character concepts in a while—the Girl With the Green Ribbon—as a gangster and revolutionary. Having killed her husband in self-defense, Ginny Smythe took up with a gang of ne’er-do-wells and plotted the downfall of a crimelord for the sake of the city. It wasn’t just the best of the year, it was perhaps one of the best tabletop games I’ve ever been a part of.
Cress: My basic Souls self has to say Elden Ring. It’s no secret I love the FromSoft nightmares and this was no exception. It’s basically Dark Souls with a horse and that’s not a detriment, it’s a bonus. I really enjoyed running around the lands between and seeing just how far I could get without fighting anything. And of course I chose Dex/Magic build to suffer, so I ran away a lot.
Joking aside, I truly love the environments of Elden Ring. The sweeping vistas of the lands make you forget how hostile the world is, even if it’s just for a moment. It always amazes me how, with very little narrative, I come to care for the place and hope I can repair it. That there’s something beautiful here worth protecting.
Zainabb Hull: I also didn’t play many games this year (and I do not have a solid grasp of time so I’m uncertain which games I played before, like, two months ago). I did replay A Short Hike recently which felt like a soothing way to greet a grueling winter. I love how that game warms my heart and inspires a sense of adventure in me, even when I’m in a bad flare.
Let’s be generous—what’s another great game you played this year?
Maddi: Based on my response to the previous question, I’d forgive you for thinking I only played one game this year. I tend to remember only the things I love a lot or the things I spent a lot of time on, which is why I started keeping a list this year of the books/television shows and movies/games I enjoyed in 2022. And thank goodness I did, because even though I loved this game and spent a lot of time playing it, I almost forgot about Dicey Dungeons!
Developer Terry Cavanaugh describes Dicey Dungeons as a “dice-powered roguelike” in which Lady Luck has turned six humans into dice and trapped them in purgatory. Players collect cards that grant new skills and use that deck of skills—in combination with each die’s special skill—to battle their way through Lady Luck’s dungeons, all in hopes of regaining their humanity. As tricky as roguelikes are, I never felt like Dicey Dungeons was unfair; it’s hard to stay mad at a bad dice roll, and starting a new run is quick to do. I played the iOS version, which was perfect for public transit entertainment and for those evenings where my husband was playing Elden Ring on our TV. I cannot recommend Dicey Dungeons enough, please play it.
Nola: I went through a significant portion of 2022 with my consoles unplugged, so I didn’t get to game much! When I did, I had fun revisiting genres. I played a Star Wars game, a racing game. Other than that, Marvel’s Midnight Suns dropped at the beginning of December and lord if there’s one thing I’ve always wanted, it’s superheroes with social dynamics. It’s a turn-based strategy game on top of that, so I really loved it. I’m basically always hungry for those two things, and having them delivered in a single product felt like a dream come true. There are four characters planned for DLC currently and I’m hoping that continues, because I just… want all of them. Y’know?
I’m also finally playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and enjoying the hell out of my little butch lesbian Eivor.
Melissa: I’m positive I played other games this year but I have to give it to Final Fantasy XIV. It’s been a long time since I got really invested in an MMO, and being that I’m somewhere between the base game—”A Realm Reborn”—and the well-received expansion “Heavensward,” I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon of recommending this one quite yet. Because while the game itself is fun, and I believe my friends and the myriad of critics out there who swear up and down that the story does get better, it’s not really about that for me.
While I’ve made quite a bit of leveling progression, the time I’ve spent with FFXIV is more about spending time playing with people. Each time I play with friends is really a catch-up session; we run dungeons together, help one another with quests and seek out cosmetics, but it’s also just a way to hang out together. The game facilitates that, I think, by having long stretches of dull questlines (at least where I’m at—your mileage may vary depending on where you are in the story) and rewards for doing random dungeons. Those features can absolutely be irritating in isolation. I hate boring questlines. I hate feeling obligated to play a game to get a daily reward. But I like having a reason to play a few times per week with my friends when we might otherwise choose a solo activity. My memories of this game thus far are less about Minfilia’s horrible fashion sense and Thancred’s great betrayal and more about just chatting. Maybe this will change a bit when I get to the fabled “good parts,” but for now I’m grateful for the opportunity to just hang out.
Ennis Bashe: Right before “Heavensward”? It might be better for you if you’re not super invested in the characters just yet—a lot of the NPCs you’ve been meeting lately won’t be sticking around.
I’m at the opposite end of the Final Fantasy spectrum. Not only in that I’m almost at “Endwalker,” the most recent expansion, but also in that I am absurdly emotionally attached to Warrior of Light (for whom I’ve completed a full mental health history) and all the friends he’s made along the way. One of the final “Shadowbringers” dungeons involves traveling through areas you’ve previously visited in the story, with NPCs from those areas stepping in to offer words of encouragement and hold back a seemingly-unstoppable tide of enemies, steadfast in their belief that you’ll defeat the entity summoning these evils.
Reader, I bawled.
I’ve also been loving the legendarily difficult raids in this expansion. Finding a party to go in with can take up to an hour, the raids themselves are Nintendo hard and you can kill everyone by panicking and standing in the wrong spot, and the enemies are so huge they can literally flick you off the arena with one robot finger—but tanking them? Being the only person who survives a mechanic? Knowing when to run when the bullets start flying? I can think of few things more satisfying.
I’ve also recently started a monthly Monsterhearts 2 game. It’s one of my favorite games because I love characters, emotions, and drama. So far we’ve got a codependent polyamorous vee, but one of the participants is planning to sacrifice a second and the third has sworn to kill whoever’s behind this string of murders.
Cress: Recently, I played an Indie title: Unpacking by Witchbeam. It was a very relaxing experience, organizing the rooms. The plan is to share my full thoughts on this soon.
For something a little meatier, the new Pokémon Violet has pulled me in pretty well. My love for the titles peaked back with Sapphire, but I still dutifully get the opposing title to my sibling. As an added silly goal, I attempted to name most of my critters after cryptocurrencies. For the most part, this is achievable because there are as many cryptocurrencies as there are pennies in the world (and they’re just as worthless).
Despite the bugs, the way this new installment lays out the world is a decent step in the right direction. While it didn’t hit the Breath of the Wild “wow” moment of exploration, I was still pleasantly surprised at random Pokémon in the grass. I’d be riding the lizard bike legendary, Miraidon, and trip over a literal cricket. And unlike Sword and Shield, I didn’t fall off this one. It allowed me to go at my own pace and I hope it renews the wonder of the series I felt so many years ago.
Zainabb: Unpacking is such a wonderful game! I’ve definitely been feeling the pull to replay it while I’m bundled up in blankets. This year, I played another game that ticks my need for both puzzles and chill vibes: Freshly Frosted. I hugely enjoyed making and delivering doughnuts to the game’s incredibly catchy soundtrack! It’s a perfect title for bite-sized puzzling and I found the difficulty curve ideal.
Michelle Caldeira: PAC-MAN World Re-PAC was the one game I wanted for my birthday this year, and it’s a game that lives on my Switch and in my steam library (though I have no access to the Steam version due to losing my computer). Re-PAC is a remaster of a game very dear to me and though I got stuck on Anubis Rex as a kid, I’ve finally beaten it… and now I have some of the music stuck in my head.
If I am completely honest, I probably put more time into Final Fantasy XIV than anything else this year (and yes, Minfilia has an AWFUL fashion sense), but the one game I’m proud of beating is… Pikmin 3. Sure, it’s absolute bollocks that Nintendo is charging $60 for a game that was a $20 Nintendo Select game in the Wii U era, and I hesitated on getting it, but beating Pikmin 3 was a promise I made to myself—it was the absolute favorite franchise of a friend I lost contact with (and my heart still hurts every time I think about the fact) and as someone who cares way too much about Pikmin Bloom rather than Pokémon Go… I enjoyed Pikmin 3. I felt the same with Animal Crossing, though you can’t really “beat” that one— I followed the usual pattern where I spent eight or nine hours a day playing it for a few days, only to then not touch it for months.
On the indie side, I finally beat The Pinball Wizard, which is such a fun little game that it’s probably my game of the year. Pinball is another thing a friend got me into, and The Pinball Wizard is a great (if tricky) game that actually made me pull out my Switch in public transportation, which isn’t as easy to do as with a 3DS.
Look back to a couple of years ago—did you make a gaming resolution? Did you stick to it? How do you feel about that resolution now? (If you didn’t make one then, feel free to make one now, if you’d like!)
Maddi: You know, I clicked that link dreading the knowledge that I have not fulfilled past Maddi’s lofty, idealistic goals, but it was just “play more PC games and indies.” This is kind of an evergreen resolution for me, so I feel okay about it. I sort of stuck to it! I certainly play more indie games than anything else, but I have a hard time sitting at my desk recreationally in the evenings after sitting at a desk professionally all day. However, I did just save for and purchase a Steam Deck, so I’m hoping that alleviates the problem of wanting to play PC games but also wanting to enjoy my couch. Considering my Steam and Itch library situations, I think I should amend my resolution to be, “play the games I have instead of buying new ones.” I look forward to rereading this and laughing at the ambition of it come December 2023.
Nola: I was not in that roundtable, and am thus free of accountability.
Melissa: I asked this question especially to roast myself because I actually don’t think I set any more time aside for gaming, and I also mentioned that if I hadn’t played Butterfly Soup by the end of 2021, Naseem could yell at me. I haven’t played Butterfly Soup. Naseem has very graciously not yelled at me, but they could. I also haven’t played Monsterhearts 2, but I did buy it, so there is that. So let’s just carry those two resolutions over, I suppose.
Ennis: I wasn’t in last year’s roundtable, but as always, I want to play more tabletop games that aren’t Dungeons & Dragons. I have nothing against it, but it’s like eating cake for dinner every day—you kind of start craving some chicken tenders. I’m currently in one Dungeons & Dragons campaign, playing a two-shot about a cursed Bass Pro Shops Pyramid, and being invited to join a third Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Fellow indie games fans, please save me. Anyone up for Dungeon Bitches or Thirsty Sword Lesbians or something like that?
Cress: Oh gosh, looking at my old resolution makes me wanna hide. I still need to play Persona 5 Royal (sorry Naseem!) and write about it. I definitely didn’t play more Atelier and have let my island languish in Animal Crossing. At least I mostly didn’t look at guides for Elden Ring… ’til I wanted to platinum it.
For this year, I’ll make the resolution again of playing Persona 5 Royal and I’d like to play Elden Ring again!
Zainabb: Well, I did improve my PC gaming setup and I have absolutely allowed myself to be more haphazard in my gaming—partly because my health has been trash this year and I haven’t had any choice but to abandon certain games. Like Maddi, I bought a Steam Deck, because my capacity to leave my bedroom has, uh, very much fluctuated this year and sometimes I can’t even get to the sofa to play PC games. It’s hard not to feel like such a big purchase isn’t totally frivolous, but looking back on my resolution, I am proud that I’m finding ways to continue adapting my tech to suit my needs. Is gaming an absolute necessity? No, of course not, but it makes me happier and gives me something nice to do when I can’t do anything else. Disabled folk deserve to enjoy frivolous things too! And also, I’m excited to slowly make my way through more of my backlog next year.
What game do you regret not playing this year?
Maddi: See: aforementioned backlog situation. There are a number of games I wanted to play this year, but the one I most regret is Norco because I know I’ll love it. I’ve also been awful at keeping up with anything that came out for the Nintendo Switch, but I really wanted to play Strange Horticulture as well! I’d tell you more about both of them, but, well. It feels slightly worse that they’re both just sitting in their respective libraries, already purchased, and worse still that I have largely ignored them in favor of playing the dreadfully addictive Project Makeover, but I am nothing if not fashionably late in my gaming choices.
Nola: Our local Pathfinder group fell apart at the end of Book 2 of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path, and I was really hoping to get it back on track this year, but it didn’t happen.
Other than that, my sister bought the Bureau of Balance board game that was designed for The Adventure Zone, but we haven’t gotten around to playing it yet! I hope we do soon.
Melissa: I have to be honest—I don’t think I played a single game that came out this year other than Love Island: The Game 2. Sometimes I think I regret playing that one, actually, but that’s an article for another day. The thing is that I put all the games I want to play into a jar and I pull them out at random, and then I got started on Final Fantasy XIV. I simply haven’t made space to play almost anything (The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow aside) that came out this year, although I did put some neat-looking games into my jar. So that’s what I regret not playing—all the games that are currently in my jar.
Cress: Besides my sins of neglecting resolutions, I feel regret not finishing the modern God of War so I can play the recently released sequel. I’ve been dragging my feet on transferring data to PS5 to continue my adventure. Sometimes a lot of my not playing games is just due to the fatigue of trying to dig out the right console and set it up.
Zainabb: I don’t really do regrets, although I certainly share Maddi’s sense of FOMO around indie darlings like Norco—but hey, I don’t have much disposable income and there’s always next year! This question has reminded me that I’ve spent all year wanting to play more of my many, many TTRPGs, so I’m going to take the cue and use some of my time off work to play at least one before the year ends.
Madison Butler is Sidequest’s self-proclaimed jock editor. She co-founded the blog Critsumption and once got really into powerlifting via Fitness Boxing for the Nintendo Switch. She posts about fiber arts @maddilo.bsky.social.