Okay, let’s get stuck in…
NL staff key: Alana Hagues (AH), Felix Sanchez (FS)Gavin Lane (GL), Jim Norman (JN), Kate Gray (KG), Liam Doolan (LD), Ollie Reynolds (OR), PJ O’Reilly (PJ)
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive / Developer: Angel Matrix
Neon White is totally unafraid to be what it is. Which is, admittedly, a cocktail of totally different ingredients that shouldn’t go together but absolutely do. Over-the-top, edgy anime characters go speedrunning, shooting, and platforming through heaven is absolutely a thing I adore now.
Neon White manages to capture the thrill of speedrunning and the delight of success succinctly, developer Angel Matrix concocting a unique and addictive formula with the perfect difficulty curve. I love it for being unabashed with its identity and defying expectations. Oh, and Machine Girl’s soundtrack? It’s an all-timer. Ah
Publisher: dotemu / Developer: Tribute Games
Shredder’s Revenge was always going to hit for two groups: beat ’em up fans, and Ninja Turtles fans. While I have often dabbled in the former camp, I am a lifelong subscriber to the latter. All that the game really needed to do was hit me with some sewer-surfing action to guarantee a swift thumbs up, but it managed to do so much more. The catchphrases! The music! The superb idle animations! Shredder’s Revenge took me back to my childhood of watching cartoons and picking out my plaster cast color based on my favorite turtle (Donnie, for anyone wondering). It managed to be nostalgic and new. JN
Visually electrifying and snappy to play, this is a classic that’s bursting with love and passion for the source material, and it’s a total joy to play to boot. Make sure you bring friends along for the best possible time. Ah
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Publisher: Atlus / Developer: Vanillaware
I hadn’t played 13 Sentinels before it came to Switch, so I think I’m justified in choosing this as one of my 2022 GOTYs! It’s just such an incredible game, and I really think its title doesn’t do it justice, because I thought it was way more sci-fi. Turns out it’s a beautifully-generated story about these kids and their relationships with each other throughout a kinda confusing timey-wimey story. i loved it, so much. KG
One of the best games of 2020 is on Switch? And it looks and runs like a dream? 13 Sentinels blew my mind when I first played it, and it still does to this day. The way the mystery unfolds and the way I fell in love with the characters one by one as their relationships blossomed and how they dealt with the game’s revelations – the shock and those feelings are things that you’ll remember for years to come. It’s also the best-looking game ever. Yes, really. Don’t argue it. Ah
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Game Freak
I’d pretty much decided I was done with Pokémon until Legends: Arceus came out, but this game’s big changes to the formula, new Pokémon forms, and wild twists (the Pokémon attack you in the wild!?) were exactly what I needed to bring me back. I couldn’t be happier. I want another Legends-style game because this is one of the best Pokémon games ever. Ah
This is the Pokémon game I dreamed of as a kid and felt like the beginning of something truly special. I finally know what it feels like to crawl around in the grass and catch Pokémon. Another life goal I can tick off! L.D
You know, I wasn’t going to add Pokémon Legends: Arceus to my GOTY list, buuuut I think it deserves recognition for finally Shaking up the Pokémon formula. There are so many cool things you can do with the series, but Pokémon Legends is the first time Game Freak has been unafraid to ditch a lot of the bad legacy features in favor of interesting new ones, rather than slowly evolving the games over the years. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was. KG
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: Terrible toybox
Despite not having a massive history with the Monkey Island games — I’ve only ever played Escape from Monkey Island ratherthan the classics — I’m a fan of Thimbleweed Park and found the call of this nostalgia trip back to adventure gaming’s golden age too strong to resist.
What I found upon returning was an utterly thrilling, razor-sharp adventure that, yes, accepted that nostalgia was the primary draw for most players but refused to make it the game’s North Star. The number of times I normally laugh out loud while playing games is staggeringly low. A warm smile? Sure. A tear? On occasion. But an audible laugh? That’s a very rare thing. Return to Monkey Island’s wit had me guffawing throughout and the Secret it contains was pitch-perfect. Couple that with the smoothest implementation of staple adventure game mechanics I’ve ever experienced, and I ended up feeling nostalgic for games I never played. A remarkable return. GL
Publisher: Finji / Developer: TUNIC Team
Where to start with Tunic? I hadn’t had a chance to play the game before it landed on Switch and despite everyone and their dog telling me to pick it up, I was still somehow surprised at how quickly this rocketed to the number one spot on my GOTY list.
You don’t really need somebody else to tell you about how you are must try the manual mechanics, about how all-consuming the final puzzle is, how upsetting/uplifting the endgame can be. This is a game that fully grabbed me and didn’t let go for every hour that I lovingly poured into it. My conversations were insufferable while I was playing and I could only apologise to all those I spoke to upon finishing it. There’s no question that Tunic is my overall GOTY. JN
Publisher: NIS America / Developer: Nihon Falcom
I’m a big Trails fan, but even though I’d heard how good Trails from Zero was, its long-awaited official localisation still blew me out of the water. The series’ outstanding worldbuilding and lovable characters are all intact here, and the combat is simple yet addictive, but – more than any other Trails game before it – I love the setting. Crossbell is a fantastic place wounded by the scars of history and struggling under the weight of political expectations. It managed to do what Trails does so well and shrink that down to a more compact area, which is why I think it’s among the best in the series. Ah
Publisher: Cellar Door Games / Developer: Cellar Door Games
Having adored the original, I was game for Rogue Legacy 2 even before I’d heard all the good things about it from Early Access players. At first, it felt much the same, which was fine, but I expected something more. However, over the hours that followed, fresh mechanics, items, and ideas accumulated and I found myself just as drawn in as I ever was. RL2 reveals itself to be a brilliant, beautiful sequel that refines its roguelite loop to the absolute Nth degree. It has made several of my mornings notably tougher after I stayed up late for ‘just one more’ run the previous night.
To hang a game’s merits on its addictiveness and the bad habits it engages feels reductive — there’s a mastery of presentation, mechanics, and writing here which feeds into RL2’s intoxicating game feel. But given the significant restrictions on my gaming time (hello kids!) it takes a very special game to keep me up past midnight. This year, this was it. GL
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Splatoon 3 is more of the same, it is true, but it just so happens that the ‘same’ is really, really good stuff. You ink, you swim, you repeat. But never has that inking, swimming, nor repeating looked and felt so good. The controls are optimized, the customization options are expanded, and the story mode is better than ever before. Splatoon 3 is the best in the series and one of the best of the year. JN
Prior to release, I wasn’t sure I even wanted a new entry, but when I finally got my hands on the third outing, I was hooked once again. As noted by Jim, it’s more of the same but it’s just a really solid experience. About my only gripe is the reduced frame rate in the hub section, Splatsville. Apart from that, Nintendo really has managed to improve pretty much everything about the world of Splatoon in this latest outing. L.D
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Square Enix
You know the only thing I don’t like about Artdink and Square Enix’s Triangle Strategy? I don’t like that I gave it a 9 instead of a 10 in my review earlier this year. What was I thinking?!
In the months since I first played through this fantastic slice of turn-based tactical action, it’s a game I find myself thinking about and discussing with friends often. It’s got deeply satisfying, flexible, and clever combat, a truly memorable cast of characters, a cracking story and, if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing looks and runs like a dream. It also really makes you feel as though you’re part of a proper epic war story, with your choices along the way affecting the future of the world in which you inhabit. If you’re still on the fence about playing this one, if you think it’s gonna be too long or difficult, please do yourself a huge favor and dive into it ASAP. PJ