Dr. Mario WorldiOS
Despite the monetization method, Dr. Mario World is a fun puzzle game, and the World moniker signifies that this is more than just another Dr. Mario remix. This is the most dramatic reinvention of Dr. Mario since the series’ inception, and I often had trouble putting my phone down before the battery ran dry. Nintendo plans to update this game with new levels down the road, so this is one flu season I look forward to revisiting.
MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black OrderSwitch
My time with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 was filled with peaks and valleys. It has great moments where everything is clicking, followed by lulls where it all falls apart. The story never really gets going, however, but is a fun exploration of all things Marvel. For that, it delivers a little bit of fun, but this experience is all about the character reveals and getting to test them out, even if the worlds they explore and challenges within them often lack excitement.
Stranger Things 3: The GameSwitch
As someone who enjoys Stranger Things, walking around a pixelated version of Hawkins’ familiar locations with characters from the show is enjoyable. Outside of the sightseeing, however, the game does little else to garner excitement. The combat doesn’t ask much of the player and the mission structure underwhelms. If you want to experience the events of Stranger Things’ third season, you’re better off sticking to the source material.
Dragon Quest Builders 2Switch
Dragon Quest Builders 2 has remarkable improvements, both large and small. Boss battle are now actually kind of fun. NPCs help you build some of the more ambitious projects, which lets you focus on doing your own thing. Malroth helps fight and gather resources, so you aren’t on your own. Other players’ creations are highlighted in loading screens and in-game bulletin boards, and you can easily visit (but not destroy) their worlds. This is one of those rare sequels that delivers on just about every front, so long as you’re able to put in the time it asks of you.
My Friend PedroSwitch
Just when I had a solid grasp on the controls and could pull off stellar moments of action, the final stretch morphed into a series of annoying insta-death puzzles and dull boss battles. I had a fair amount of fun blasting fools in My Friend Pedro, but I wish my experience was more about losing myself in the frenzy of its action and less about navigating a tiresome control scheme.
Sea of SolitudePS4
Sea of Solitude provides an insightful look at how mental health devastates the lives of not just those it affects, but also loved ones on the outside. Kay learns a lot about herself by understanding the value of listening, coming to term with her flaws, and not just empathizing with family but also accepting that a simple fix isn't always possible.
F1 2019 Anniversary EditionPS4
You should play F1 2019 not just because you're an F1 fan or the hottest thing that's ever gotten in a cockpit. Do it because you want to experience the thrill, the heartbreak, and the satisfaction of competing at ridiculously high speeds. Trust me, you do.
198X is part one of a two-part tale (with the second part scheduled for release next year), which explains the incompleteness to a point, but the story doesn't establish the foundation necessary to build true excitement for what comes next. However, I am eager to see what new old games the next chapter holds; the team at Hi-Bit Studios clearly understands the landscape surrounding iconic 80s games and the many facets of their appeal. 198X reminds players that even simple arcade experiences (or their recreations) can provide an interesting escape.
The Sinking CityXbox One
The Sinking City shares all of the same problems of Frogwares’ previous games, but it also capitalizes on the same strengths. Reed’s cases offer up surprising twists and memorable moments, and flesh out a twisted world and cast of characters that I enjoyed learning about. The combat and repetition may elicit the wrong kind of madness, but fans of Lovecraftian horror should still consider visiting The Sinking City.
Even though I wasn’t in love with all of Yagami’s investigatory tools, I had a great time seeing the Yakuza formula from a fresh perspective. Judgment tells a sprawling, action-packed story that veers dangerously close to melodrama without falling apart. It has some genuinely shocking moments, and proves that you don’t need Kiryu or Majima as tour guides to have a great time in Kamurocho.
Super Mario Maker 2Switch
Super Mario Maker 2 is not a radical reinvention of the original Mario Maker, but it earns the “2” in its title with a story mode full of great Mario levels, worthwhile additions to the creation toolset, and new options for playing and creating cooperatively. The future is bright for Super Mario Maker 2, and I can’t wait to see what the community makes with it. But even at this starting line, I had plenty of Mario to play and enjoy.
If you’re not keen on learning by jumping into the fray and taking your lumps, Samurai Shodown likely won’t do much for you. But when there’s another player facing you down, Samurai Shodown’s bouts are a fantastic mix of fighting disciplines. It’s accessible, nuanced, and flashy, and the ways it asks you to bet big to win make matches as exciting as they are tense.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the NightPS4
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s journey is familiar, but the way it iterates and builds on that familiarity help distinguish it from its lineage. Its combat, RPG elements, and enticing exploration intertwine seamlessly, and had me obsessively scouring every nook and cranny of a gigantic map for hours, even after I’d defeated the last boss. I enjoyed finally returning to this haunted castle, even if it belongs to a new master.
Borderlands 2: Commander Lilith & the Fight for SanctuaryXbox One
Commander Lilith is another solid DLC arc that fits right at home with the previous Borderlands 2 expansions, and it’s a great way to prepare yourself for the sequel. As someone for whom Borderlands’ formula has already worn a little thin, however, Commander Lilith left me yearning to see what improvements Borderlands 3 may bring to the table, even as I enjoyed the moment-to-moment action.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-FueledPS4
Crash Team Racing is every bit as good now as it was back in the day. Naughty Dog created something special with the boosting system, and I urge everyone who enjoys arcade racers of this variety to give it a shot. Beenox’s enhancements only make it better.
Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of ZeldaSwitch
The mashup of rhythm and adventure works in Cadence of Hyrule, even if not all of the elements from Zelda and Necrodancer intermingle well. The spirit of the Zelda series, including its wonderful sense of exploration, iconic music, and fun combat are alive and well here, enhanced by a killer set of songs that both celebrate and elevate one of gamingâs most enduring soundtracks.
At the end of it all, I admire a lot about Outer Wilds. The entire world operating on that 20-minute timer is a fascinating theatrical accomplishment of craftsmanship, but I find it more fun to think about than to play. A lot of ideas linger here, some of them beautifully executed, others slipshod and pushing against each other. I love roaming inside the bellies of mysterious planets, but don’t like how the urgency of the timer undercuts my exploration. I have left Outer Wilds’ galaxy feeling as much exhaustion as satisfaction, but also with a list of several enchanting interstellar moments.
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth3DS
If you liked the original Persona Q, Persona Q2 checks the same boxes while adding a few new wrinkles to the formula. As a Persona fan, it feels like the ultimate tribute to the last 13 years of the series, with nostalgic music and callbacks to previous events. When I wasn’t chuckling over a joke between the cast members, I was reveling in fusing new personas and finally besting a long, punishing boss battle. Persona Q2 is a worthy last hurrah for the 3DS, and helps the system go out on a high note.
Kids is a fascinating example of conveying ideas through game mechanics. You won’t get much out of it if you’re trying to put together its disparate pieces beyond vague notions. But it’s undeniably clever in places, which makes it a curious look into how people can both uplift and hurt each other just by grouping up.
Gato Roboto’s main shortcoming isn’t in its gameplay or design, but rather in that it all feels very familiar. Metroid is an often-used video game mold for a reason: It’s an incredibly rewarding template for exploring an interactive world. Gato Roboto imitates some of the best parts of Metroid, but it also comes up short in important elements like exciting upgrades that make it fall short of comparable games. Apart from the cute twist of playing as a cat, Gato Roboto does little to innovate and feels like a decent game you’ve already played.