Top 5 RPGs:
2022 marked my first chance to play a version of this beloved classic Final Fantasy title, and it easily secured a place in my heart as soon as the ending credits rolled. I love the gameplay, the emotive music, the powerful storytelling, and the characters! Everything about Final Fantasy VI brilliantly comes together for an unforgettable gaming experience.
I’ll never pass up an opportunity to sing the praises of this hidden indie RPG gem harkening back to traditional role-playing games of old while still having its own identity. Numina has a compelling story brewing beneath the surface that makes one think, a believable cast of relatable main characters, a complex relationship-building system, and player choices aplenty under the meta guise of you-as-yourself in an actual narrative role. Plus, the gameplay and music are also top-notch and well-polished. I’m eagerly awaiting the story’s conclusion in 2023!
I’ll admit I didn’t progress nearly as much as I’d have liked in Final Fantasy XIV‘s latest story expansion this year. Still, the quest lines and story scenes I’ve seen so far are enough to cement this ongoing MMORPG saga a place on my Personal Top 5 list. FFXIV is a game I return to whenever I have some free time, and it always manages to hook me whenever I get the chance. It is a truly magical experience, no matter how slowly I’m chipping away at it.
4. Far Away From Home
2022 was a banner year for SRPGs, with several standout titles being released for the subgenre. Yet the one I remember most fondly is this indie title about a handful of humans and one loyal dog who get thrust into a bizarre land populated by anthropomorphic wolves. The cast is likable, the art and graphics are colorful, and the tactical RPG gameplay is very polished with a surprising amount of customization. Far Away From Home was something of a surprise, and I especially love the ending plot twist involving a particular character.
5. Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Despite some software errors, Marvel’s Midnight Suns is easily one of the best Marvel RPGs I’ve played. It’s full of likable characters from all over the comic line’s roster, a customizable hero that enables you to self-insert into the action, solid strategic gameplay built around robust skills and ability upgrades, and a wealth of things to do both during and outside of fights, like bonding with your teammates. The card-based fighting might be off-putting to some, but I like the layers of strategy inherent in its presentation. Midnight Suns is easily the most “comic book” game I’ve played, and I say that with the highest praise as both an RPG fan and a Marvel Comics fan!
Top 5 Visual Novels/Graphic Adventures:
1. Please Be Happy
Please Be Happy was a surprising delight for me: a highly polished visual novel featuring a well-written story about love and acceptance, populated by likable characters and a setting that expertly blends the everyday with the fantastical. I love the game’s visual and audio presentations, and the romance fan in me absolutely adores how the title develops and sets that portion of the story up. Overall, Please Be Happy is a solid example of how VNs can be presented.
2. Wayward Strand
A middle schooler aspiring to be a journalist reluctantly spends her vacation days helping her overworked mother at an airship hospital, interacting with the patients and others there. A slow-moving game of thoughtful, poignant moments balanced with real-time mechanics, Wayward Strand is a compellingly emotional graphic adventure journey focusing on quiet empathy and understanding. It is beautiful both in its presentation and its heartfelt messages.
3. Blood Nova
A retro-inspired, pixel sci-fi graphic adventure, Blood Nova is the story of a woman thrust onto the larger stage of intergalactic politics that she initially wants no part of. A looming disaster at a waypoint station has Princess Love reflecting on what she is truly capable of and what might be best for the greater good, and her compelling character growth is the driving force of the entire narrative. I adore the point-and-click mechanics and puzzle-solving implementations throughout this indie game. Those elements, combined with the classic sci-fi storytelling and inner development that Love displays, left me appreciating Blood Nova quite a bit.
4. Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder
Chronicles of Tal’Dun: The Remainder is a visually stunning dark fantasy visual novel with a narrative focus on mystery and developing rapports alongside numerous decision-making branching points. The game’s poignant storytelling experience stays with you once you reach its tender true ending, though getting to that point is quite the journey, fraught with draining and often devastating moments. But those who complete it will find that this VN is more than worth it, given the thoughtful messages and emotions it conveys.
5. Ballads at Midnight
A shorter, romance-tinged VN centered around a “heretic” bard sentenced to be a vampire’s next meal, the narrative of Ballads at Midnight is much more involved than it seems at first glance. The rapport that develops between the two main characters as they come to understand one another and their individual circumstances is a delight to see, and the VN itself is a thoroughly enjoyable and ultimately complete experience despite its shorter duration.
Keep Coming Back For More:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses / Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
I seem unwilling to escape Fire Emblem: Three Houses‘ gravitational pull: finally finishing a Blue Lions playthrough as male!Byleth this year and starting up a Scarlet Blaze playthrough as female!Shez. There’s just something about this particular Fire Emblem story-verse that pulls me in! Maybe that will change with the upcoming release of Fire Emblem Engage and its promised Expansion Pass content. But since I still have to finish my first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, it doesn’t seem like I’ll soon be done with Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Favorite Backlog Game:
Tales of Xillia
Tales of Xillia surprised me. It is my first Tales of game, and I think it’ll positively color my later forays into the expansive JRPG series since I ended up enjoying so much of it more than I thought I would. Personal highlights include a likable plot and characters, a robust battle system and other gameplay mechanics, great music, and an awesome protagonist in Milla! I’m already planning which game in the series to try next because of my fond memories of playing Xillia in 2022, so I consider my first foray into the Tales of series a resounding success.