We've reached TheEnd of TheGamer's Game of the Year editor's pick, with the picks from me, the Editor-in-Chief. Unfortunately, my votes count just the same as everyone else's, so you'll have to check back tomorrow to see the official, TheGamer Game of the Year. In a parallel universe where TheGamer was a queendom and not a democracy, these would be our top ten. As it stands, they're just mine.
10. Vampire Survivors
Vampire Survivors is a Malteser manifesting as a video game. Each run is a delicious bite, sweet, crunchy, moreish, and perfectly textured. You can't stop after just one. In a screen filled with enemies, the only real foe is yourself. You can always get a better run, hit a better time, make a better build. I favour games that have something to say, and Vampire Survivors does not, but it's too compelling to overlook. It's a bullethell where you are the hell unleashing bullets, and proof that fancy graphics and expensive budgets can never replace quality gameplay
9. Bayonetta 3
The run up to Bayonetta 3 was full of sound and fury, with Hellena Taylor at the eye of the storm, but it arrived with a whimper. Despite being an instant classic in the (admittedly out of fashion) character-action genre, Bayonetta 3 appears to have been overlooked. It's convoluted to a fault, and the divisive ending was a mark against it, but it's slick and frenetic with all the might and energy of the cult classic video games of olde that you all need to get your thumbs around this one as soon as you can.
8. Neon White
Neon White mixes the relentless speed of Vampire Survivors with the intelligent reinventions of old game mechanics found in Citizen Sleeper. Rather than bullethell or dice rolls, Neon White is speedrunning transformed into a central mechanic. Challenging you to beat levels as fast as heavenly possible, your angelic self rushes through the plains of the afterlife, picking up guns with limited ammo and strategically using each shot to take out each enemy and leave yourself with a means of reaching the increasingly complex path to the exit. I also proposed to Neon Violet, the nastiest little freak ever committed to pixels, when the game launched – my hands were tied.
7. Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Writing about Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a little bittersweet. Despite some undoubted flaws, it was a major swing from Pokemon after years of safe bunting. The open-zone gameplay, fresh interpretations of characters, varied traversal, and game-changing ability to sneak up on 'mons and catch them outside of battle seemed to make the future of Pokemon shimmer bright on the horizon. However, immediate follow up Scarlet & Violet was a major step backwards, either cutting these new features or offering emptier, less satisfying versions of them. That soured my feelings on Legends: Arceus as a trendsetter (that's bitter, sweet, and sour for you chefs keeping track), but not enough for me to scratch it off the list completely.
6. Marvel Snap
Marvel Snap is the first mobile game in my Game of the Year list since Pokemon Go, which is both a commentary on how I overlook the mobile space, and a mark of Snap's quality and crossover appeal. The card game throws out TCG rules to draw in first-timers who might be interested by the prospect of seeing Iron Man and Scarlet Witch, but who stick around for the deep mechanics, varied playstyles, and constantly evolving deckbuilding. If you play only one card game based on Marvel IP that reinvents the rulebook of its genre rather than relying on name-brand recognition of its characters, then check out Marvel Snap next year…
5. Citizen Sleeper
Too many citizens of gamerville slept on Citizen Sleeper. It's short and free on Game Pass, but still struggled to get a look in. Blending classic video game conventions like RNG dice rolls and adventure-novel text responses, it tells a searingly modern story about the despair of capitalism and how the odds will always be stacked against you. A bitingly accurate commentary on our time, it underlines gaming's power to tell unique stories and create moving art through interactivity.
4. Cult of the Lamb
I played Cult of the Lamb wrong and still loved it, despite its launch bugs. Though I played as a pure preacher, only killing as part of consensual euthanasia and using punishment sparingly, I still got to grips with the game's layered and worthwhile ideas on religion and corruption – issues games are usually afraid of examining with any degree of seriousness. That said, Cult earns its spot here because its roguelike gameplay offered sustained player agency and rewarding, evolving combat, backed up by stellar comedic character writing that gave each villager a personality worth fighting temptation for. While perhaps not quite up to the heights of either, Cult of the Lamb mixes Hades and Animal Crossing with style and substance.
Immortality is the game I am most glad exists. Two titles pip it to the title because it is in places too slow, and the random player choice could use a touch more curation, but Immortality is a phenomenal interpretation of what a video game can be. Everything should aspire to its capacity to break beyond its confines. It features three movies, assembled out of order by players selecting random objects, which must be pieced together by watching them – revealing dark secrets, hidden sagas, and exploring what it means to create and to consume. It's delightfully sharp and unsettlingly tense, balancing the unique appeal of both movies and video games when so many others seek only to replicate. Immortality is a game that lives inside of you. Manon Gage gives the performance of the year. Immortality is irresistible.
2. Ghostwire: Tokyo
For a long time Ghostwire: Tokyo was my GOTY, but it increasingly grew to feel like a victory by default. A smart and self-contained attempt to refresh open-world conventions with gorgeously eerie trappings, Ghostwire was one of the most enjoyable games of the year. Plus, it's always worth celebrating games that take a crack at something a little different. A weak narrative and loose grip on its themes had me hoping a challenger would emerge though. Thankfully, one did…
1. Marvel's Midnight Suns
If you play only one card game based on Marvel IP that reinvents the rulebook of its genre rather than relying on name-brand recognition of its characters, Midnight Suns should bump Marvel Snap down the priority list. It's a slicker X-COM that folds in the life-sim elements of Fire Emblem and your downtime in Persona games. The story, at its core, is a little more nuanced than usual superhero fare, though still way off Immortality or Citizen Sleeper. But it's the deeply human connections you form with the characters and the reactive thinking that goes into forming those bonds beyond telegraphed responses and binary morality that makes your relationships with the cast stand out. Midnight Suns is a triumph, and I hope its late launch and niche genre don't see it overlooked. I might have proposed to Neon Violet in summer, but now I want a divorce so I can marry Magik.
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