Every year, people lie to themselves about what they will accomplish. Society has enshrined these lies in the tradition called New Year’s resolutions. In this vein, some staff have compiled a belated list of games we claim we will play this year (2022 for people reading in the future and time travelers).
Choosing three games to definitely certainly probably maybe play this year was tough. With age comes wisdom and a lack of time; I am wise enough to know I missed 14 thousand important games, and have time for maybe one of them (at least if I keep playing crap like Saga Scarlet Grace). Should I catch up on SNES RPGs like Lufia 2 and Terranigma? Maybe PS1 RPGs like Chrono Cross and Xenogears? Or every Metal Gear Solid game after the first? Learn why vaccines are bad and racists should be given time to speak at universities with The Witness? As with most things in life, I allowed guilt to be my guide.
Nier: I told Pat I would play this. Two or three years ago, we set up a spreadsheet to forcefully recommend games to each other. The idea was he would finally play Resident Evil 4 and I would play whatever garbage he thinks is good. I played a third of Nier a few years ago in an attempt to keep up with him knocking games off the list. I liked what I played, but honestly the series gives off a creepy vibe. The second (shut up, I know) game’s focus seemingly being on a woman’s (shut up, I know) ass didn’t do it any favors. Ultimately, Pat and I both like low budget, weird, PS1/2 era-esque Japanese games so I should pick it back up, enjoy it, and let Pat know he is a sexist later.
Grim Fandango: Another Pat recommendation. He likes adventure games a lot more than I do, and Tim Schafer, too. To be contrary and incorrect, I hold that Ron Gilbert had all of the talent at LucasArts. Anyway, I prefer plots in games to be convoluted and stupid, dialog overwrought and repetitive, and characters to be 11 and saving the multiverse. Adventure games have good, well written plots, interesting characters, and replace the mind-numbing random encounters I love with absurd puzzles. So you can see the problem. Grim Fandango is supposed to be particularly good, though. We will see if this game is grim or if I become a fan and go…
Mother 3: The one game on this short list not foisted on me by Pat’s controlling hand. I enjoyed Earthbound a normal healthy amount – it is very good but not a reason to join an internet cult. This game supposedly has some left wing ideology in it I’m interested in seeing (likely the reason Pat didn’t recommend it). I’ve also read it is tragic, which is always a plus. Emulation ruining the timing based battle system was my excuse for not playing for a decade. I now (as of two years ago) have access to a GameBoy Advance flash cart, a Gamecube, a GBA Player, and an HDMI cable for the GC. $400 and I don’t even own the game. Anyway, I actually started this one, like Nier, but didn’t get very far. I should and will finish it this year (yeah, definitely).
The problem with resolutions in general is that there’s no real penalty for failing to live up to them. The problem with gaming resolutions in particular is that games on your backlog live by the rule of “out of sight, out of mind”. The longer a given game stays on the pile, the less likely you are to remember that it’s even there. Eventually there comes a point where your best bet is to let go of the Sunk Cost Fallacy and consider the game(s) a wash.
That being said, my arm’s been twisted to come up with a list, so here it is:
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: I have a secret – Demon’s Souls is one of my favorite games of all time, but I bounced very strongly off of Dark Souls, and I haven’t gone back to try to finish it (or play any of its sequels). But I got Sekiro on sale a while back. It sounded different enough to give a go, though I haven’t even gotten around to starting it. If I bounce off of it as well, so be it, but I at least need to find out for myself.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters (all 6 of them): I’m cheating here, but whatever. The truth is that although I’ve started all of the first six FF games, I’ve only beaten two of them. I like the way the Pixel Remasters look and sound, and they have some nice Quality of Life improvements. These feel like required reading for any gamer worth their salt, so I have to get through them.
System Shock: This is, pound for pound, the scariest game that I’ve ever played. So scary that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. But I need to, because a game this well made deserves to be seen through to the end. System Shock is scary because even with its ancient graphics, it excels at juxtaposing horrific sights and sounds within “mundane” locations. You’ll be in a clean, bright, pristine section of the space station, only to hear or see something that simply should not exist. And all you have to greet them with is a lead pipe. It’s the stuff of nightmares for me.
Several years ago I started tracking the games I finish. Doing this for a few years quantified for me that I only really play 12-15 games a year. I therefore started making pretty intentional decisions about what to play rather than just picking up whatever I had available to me. I don’t have strict rules or anything, but over time I aim for a mix of older or classic games I missed, interesting indies, and new releases, especially those by developers I hold in high regard. I doubt I will need much prodding to play Elden Ring or God of War Ragnarok so I chose three games from older and indie categories.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall: If Jay is going to play games I force on him, I might as well play something he has recommended to me. I prefer to play most series in release order (though not all, see below), so I played Shadowrun Returns last year in preparation for this homework assignment. I am a sucker for noteworthy teams bringing back old series through Kickstarter, reviews are good, I have a fondness for the Sega Genesis version, and, at least in theory, I like CRPGs so this was an easy sell. I enjoyed the first game, but I recognize the complaints others had about a mostly empty world and shallow systems. Consensus seems to be that the follow-up is deeper and richer, so I am looking forward to returning to this world.
Bladerunner: Most classic point and click adventure games are available from digital storefronts, but for a long time this one appeared lost to modern players. I know embarrassingly little about what it takes to make a game, but my understanding is the source code was lost for a long time and then in 2019 the game magically appeared on GOG. I have played most of the classic point and click adventure games, and I am a fan of science fiction, though despite what this list might lead you to believe I have no special affinity for cyberpunk. After reading the book and watching the original film and its 2017 sequel I figured I would round out the mythos and my personal adventure game canon with this point and click.
Final Fantasy IV: I never owned a Super Nintendo and only started playing RPGs on the Playstation so I have found rereleases of the classics are a great way for me to play old RPGs that I missed the first time around. In recent years I went back to play Dragon Quest IV, Xenogears, Phantasy Star IV, Parasite Eve and several others across PSP, DS, Vita, and more recently Switch. Over decades I have been working my way backwards on the Final Fantasy series after starting with VII and Tactics as a teenager. Next up is Final Fantasy IV.
I just returned to the US after a long absence and Jay gave me a Nintendo Switch as a lovely homecoming gift. He’s so nice to me, not the kinda guy to make jokes at my expense at all. So, mostly I am looking for quality games that have come out for the switch in the last 7-8 years. But there is one title I am most excited to play, even though I refuse to play it on anything but a PC.
Pillars of Eternity: A modern, cleaned up, ironed out, version of Baldur’s Gate, in itself the greatest game of all time – Yes please. I am pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this title, even though I know it will not come close to the – what’s the term? – OG. Why? Because BG did not need cleaning up, its bugs were its features. Everything that was wrong with it was right with it. Hiding in a hallway until the Lich’s protections wear off? – count me in. Still, it’s exciting to see how modern developers engage with the game.
Banner Saga: I know next to nothing about the Banner Saga, besides the fact that people liked it back in 2014. It seems to be a tactical RPG, – my favorite kind – with the now popular hand drawn animation style. The question for me will be how deep and engrossing the tactical system is? I shall deliver the report to Jay, my platonic friend, as soon as I finish it. And that’s it, I do not have a third game in mind.
Ogre Battle 64: I played Ogre Battle with Jay, who certainly did not write this. As the light shimmered off the beads of sweat on his tender, ample muscles, I thought I would enjoy playing more of this series. Jay laughed heartily in his deep, gruff way that made my knees weak. He knew exactly what I was thinking, as always. “There is a sequel, we can play it next time you’re in town for a few sleepless nights.” I now had a seamless excuse to offer my wife for why I would be gone for a week – who hasn’t heard of Matsuno and his classic series with subtitle homages to rockband Queen? As I put my shirt on, I told Jay I would certainly return for more.