The title of this article says it all, but I would like to give credit where credit is due and say that this piece was ultimately inspired by @CoreyMotley and @StephenTotilo. Custom art by @Alex_Connolly!
1. Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition, Switch
This is a turn-based, squad-based strategy title featuring groups of three randomly-generated scavengers going into ‘space-hulk’ style abandoned ships and finding info that will lead them to a fabled mothership lost somewhere in the cosmos. There are many superficial similarities to Darkest Dungeon – the art style is reminiscent of Chris Bourassa’s work, and the feeling of going into a derelict (basically, a dungeon) is in the same slow-crawl ballpark. It’s honestly not bad, but the combat system is card-based and the cards come from both the characters and the gear they equip… as such, there’s a lot of time spent in the menus micromanaging which character has which weapon and which mods, and it’s a pain to try and read each card’s tiny text. (You can enlarge it by clicking the R stick, which is also annoying.) The result is that this system requires a ton of fiddling around with gear — I found myself just not wanting to engage with it. Being in a dungeon requires constant pushing of the ‘+’ button to move, and the portraits of characters (human) don’t match what they look like in battle (armored) so there’s a mental disconnect there – I would often forget which character was which, and I didn’t feel attached to my crew, even after trying to customize their looks. I hate to say it, but I’m guessing I would have gotten a lot more mileage out of this one if I hadn’t already played DD, but Red Hook Studios has set the bar for this subgenre pretty high. Did not finish. Deleted.
2. Tangledeep, Switch
I started this one in 2019 and it came damned close to making my Top 10 of the year. The only reason it didn’t was that I had to put it down to review other things and I never came back to finish it. I plan on rectifying that now! It’s essentially a 16-bit roguelike with a ton of systems and complexity, but in the best possible sense. Loads of classes to choose from, tons of things to fiddle with, and the moment-to-moment strategy is as juicy as something like Shiren the Wanderer at its best, and I love me some Shiren. It’s just superb all the way around, and players who enjoy this sort of thing will be in hog heaven. Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Switch
I’m pretty sure I’ve played every Animal Crossing except for the mobile one and I like AC. I do. However, I’m having a tough time getting into this one due to the poor quality-of-life features… Not being able to skip the same text you see ten thousand times drives me insane, and needing materials in your pockets before you can craft something (rather than crafting from mats kept in your storage like most modern games do) is a huge fucking pain in the ass. Stuff like this didn’t bother me too much in the past but I’ve played games that do the same thing with less of a time tax on the player, and it just grates on my nerves now. I’m still chipping away at it since my wife and son are both in as well, but my sessions are short and I usually end them feeling irritated. Not spending a ton of time here, TBFH. Did not finish. Still playing.
4. Vampire: the Masquerade – Coteries of New York, Switch
Started this visual novel in March and loved it, and I’m happy to say that it stayed wonderful all the way through. I honestly had a blast with it… It’s easily one of the most dynamic and engaging VNs I’ve played in quite some time. Great art, great writing, great choices, great structure. Anyone who even remotely enjoys visual novels needs to play this. Finished. RECOMMENDED! Review by Josh Tolentino.
5. Shinsekai: Into the Depths, Switch
I’m not a huge fan of metroidvanias, but this one is different and weird enough that it sucked me right in. Taking place almost entirely underwater, the player is a deep-sea diver whose life bar of air tanks doubles as the fuel he has for his propulsion system. (Basically, underwater jetpack.) It’s a neat system and the aquatic movement really adds to its unique identity – it’s so floaty and bubbly and sort of zero-G-but-not-quite… it works well. There is combat but the emphasis is on exploring and excavation of necessary minerals, and the moment when you find your first submarine is badass. Also, the graphics are great and it feels like a perfect fit for the Switch despite debuting on iOS – this one is a winner all-around. Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED!
6. Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
Nothing new to report here, this is my regular mobile fix. Playing daily.
7. Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, Android
Started this one last month as something to play when I need an MPQ break. It’s kiiiiinda good as a bite-sized turn-based strategy title and I’m into the Warhammer 40K license, but some of the systems are a little confusing and ‘mobile phoney’ with timers, grind mechanics, loot boxes and the like. As much as I like the idea of having a tiny little squad of Space Marines on my phone, it just wasn’t streamlined or clear enough, and once things started to stall out after the fourth or fifth mission, I didn’t want to come back to it. Did not finish. Deleted.
8. Bleeding Edge, Xbox One
I tried the Beta and had a great time in March, and it’s now out in “final” release on Xbox Game Pass. At this point it’s still content-light overall, but I like where it’s going. The character designs are (mostly) great and the third-person action feels different from other online team games I’ve played. Games can go on for too long if the teams are well-matched so I generally only play 2-3 rounds and then tap out, but I dig the time I put in. I’m looking forward to some more balancing and more features, better skins and so on, but I’ll be checking in on this one frequently. Playing weekly.
9. No Man’s Sky, PS4
What a journey this has been. I tried NMS when it launched and it was a clunky bore. I tried it again after one of the big updates and it was better, but still not enough to suck me in. Now, four years after launch, it’s in (mostly) great shape and something that anyone interested in space or long-form exploration can get into. The systems have been streamlined and the required grind for materials and crafting has been cut way back. The tutorials are super clear and there are now actual quests with clear steps and instructions on how to complete them. There’s a ton of new content, and for players who just want the original do-whatever-you-want flavor, that’s still here too. Basically NMS has reshaped itself into something that can now be enjoyed by many different kinds of players, and it finally grabbed me. It also doesn’t hurt that given the current state of the world, I was really in the mood for something super chill, yet interesting enough to keep me awake. It may have taken four years, but it got there. Unfortunately, nearly 60 hours of relaxing fun ended with rage when the game turned to broken crap with a series of glitched quests. I wasn’t able to finish one of the storylines because a required location marker won’t appear, and the thing that really got me into the game — the new living ships — was so buggy that I was on the verge of ragequitting. The quest itself is a tedious, sloggy bore but I put up with it to get my ship. Then at the final step, it was too broken to finish. Luckily, dozens of others have had the same issue so I found a kludgy workaround and got it done. It was a craptastic way to end the game but overall it’s a great journey when it’s not being a buggy mess. Basically finished. The first 50 hours are Recommended! The last five hours and the Starbirth quest can eat shit!
10. Convoy, Switch
Imagine a top-down roguelike Mad Max and that’s pretty close to what Convoy is, in theory. In practice? I’d rather watch the films. The game puts the player in charge of escort vehicles that accompany a big rig trucking across an alien wasteland-style landscape. The map is unfocused, the UI is really rough and the difficulty is through the roof. It seems like the devs didn’t do any real player testing here, as I got fucking rolled in every game. I’m no stranger to tough titles or to roguelikes, but this one feels poorly-balanced and unfair. I love the concept but hated playing it. If it got a major overhaul I’d try it again, but as of right now, it’s Deleted. Did not finish.
11. Rush Rover, Switch
This is a straightforward, basic roguelike that features top-down realtime shooting action. The player is an upgradable robot accompanied by a drone buddy, and the pair go through randomly-generated rooms while searching for key items, blasting baddies and fighting bosses along the way. The controls are solid and the systems make sense, though they’re a little murky at first. There seems to be minimal progression here – from what I can tell, certain weapons can be ‘unlocked’ for use, but you have to find a randomly-generated vendor and have the cash before you can use what you’ve unlocked. In light of this, most runs will end up with the player dying and going back to the start with nothing to show for it, in true hardcore roguelike fashion. I actually like this game a lot as it understands its genre and executes well. The only downsides are that I wish the progression was more substantial, and that the bosses employ some killer bullet-hell patterns which can be exhausting to deal with. I didn’t go the distance here, but this is a well-done example of what it’s trying to be. Did not finish. (RECOMMENDED… to true roguelike/bullet-hell fans.)
12. Picross S2, Switch
I’m still almost done with it, but the endgame puzzles are really tough for my weak-ass picross skills. Mostly chipping away at it before bed. Did not finish. Still playing.
13. Glass Masquerade, Switch
Took me a while to get through all the content in this relaxed puzzler, but I got there. It’s about reassembling the shards of stained glass windows on clock faces and a super-chill experience that’s great to wind down with. I’ll probably pick up the sequel soon. Finished! RECOMMENDED!
14. Profane, Switch
This top-down boss-rush roguelike is also a bullet-hell game, and it’s a tough one. The controls are tight and the concept is good – defeat bosses, earn new powers, mix-and-match powers to defeat more bosses – but I gotta be honest, it’s more effort than I want to put out right now. It took me five or six tries to get past the tutorial boss, and my taste for games that demand a high level of skill just isn’t what it used to be. After taking several passes at a boss without success, I’m just not that interested in sharpening up my reflexes and throwing myself at a challenge over and over until I beat it, only to find a harder challenge up next. I would have eaten this up in my younger days when I still felt like I needed to prove myself, but that time has passed. Nothing wrong with the game, it’s just not what I’m in the market for right now. Did not finish. Deleted.
15. Snakeybus, PS4
This indie is quirky fun for 15-20 minutes. Take a never-stopping bus around a level and pick up/drop off passengers as you go. The hook? Every time you make a drop, the bus gets longer and soon more closely resembles a huge train. It gets so long, in fact, that part of the strategy soon becomes avoiding your back half as you loop around and around – remembering where you’ve been helps you figure out where to go, and it becomes quite hard to avoid running into yourself. I had fun but it’s one of those games where it’s about displaying a concept or a system. I get it and it’s neat, but it’s not something I’ll come back to. Deleted.
16. Super Battle Cards, Switch
This is a surprisingly well-made title that asks players to navigate a simple card-based playfield. The hero card attacks or uses whatever is on a card in the direction he’s facing, and he then occupies that space. For example, if he’s moving left towards a skeleton, he attacks it and if he wins, he takes the space where the skeleton was. If he moves right and that card is a shield, he quips the shield and moves right, etc. The hero then keeps moving around the board until he runs out of life points. It’s super simple, but it’s easy to learn and a great fit when something light for 10-15 minutes is needed. There’s no campaign mode so I moved on after playing it for a day or two (you only go for high scores, which holds little interest for me) but it does what it does well. Deleted.
17. Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition, Switch
I really, really want to like this game more than I do… but I don’t. The idea of having a London that’s fallen into the core of the earth and bordering a subterranean sea full of Lovecraftian creepies is so cool. It’s totally my jam. Plus, roguelike elements and it’s on the Switch? This has ‘me!’ written all over it. And yet, that’s not really what it’s about. When you get past the great writing and the excellent mood, Sunless Sea is… an economic sim. There are so many different currencies and the player has to buy and sell things in order to keep their ship fueled up and their sailors fed as they navigate through black underground waters. You end up making little runs back and forth, collecting things, trading things and buying low/selling high just to keep progressing. It’s not compelling gameplay. If there was more emphasis on exploring and taking in the world, I’d be all over this, but I’m just not interested in how much focus there is on commerce. I’m a little heartbroken at how little this grabbed me. Did not finish. Deleted.
18. Warhammer 40,000: Combat Cards, Android
I’m still looking for something that uses the WH40K license on a phone as my backup to MPQ, and this wasn’t too bad. It just didn’t click. Collect cards, they auto-battle, level them up… I mean, it was alright but there isn’t enough juice there for me. Deleted.
19. [REDACTED], Switch game still under embargo
I am fucking *terrible* at this game, but I’m pretty sure I like it? It’s a pixel-based roguelike where the player has to [REDACTED] while searching for an exit in randomly-generated dungeons. You also have to [REDACTED] to prevent enemies spawning, you build technology while also gathering the resources to build it, you can control characters individually or separately, there’s a tower-defense-ish aspect and it runs in real time but it can be paused also… I mean, there’s a lot going on here. It feels like a well-made thing and I bet once I figure it all out I’ll be in a better place, but the tutorials don’t explain shit and it isn’t exactly like anything else that comes to mind. I am really hazy on how the systems work, what the priorities are, what good strategies are… I don’t get very far and I’m not sure how to get betterbut I’m gonna chew on this for a while because it strikes me as something that I’m gonna dig once I get it sussed. Did not finish. Still playing.
20. Wartile, PS4
I love the look of this one – it looks like a miniature game with a world broken up into hexes and each character having a little base and an action pose. Several titles have tried this approach and I’m hard-pressed to think of one that really nails it, and sadly, Wartile can be tossed into the also-ran pile as well. The systems are unclear, it doesn’t surface relevant info, the objectives are murky, it simulates tabletop play but runs on a real-time system (!!!), the UI is terrible and the text is microscopic. I wanted to like this one but it really needs a good producer to go over it from top to bottom and iron out the million little problems it has. It looks rad in screenshots, but in practice? Really irritating. Did not finish. Deleted.
21. Spaceland, Switch
The easiest way to describe Spaceland is that it’s bite-sized XCOM, and that is a thing that makes me happy. The missions are carefully handcrafted, the pace is good, the systems are clear and interesting, and there’s a solid sense of progression. I’m early into the campaign but I’m really liking this one so far… So much so that I’ve been replaying each level twice — once for speed and once for 100% completion, and that’s not a thing I’m usually up for. Each level is short and puncy, so it delivers a good chunk of turn-based strategy that feels like a perfect fit for the Switch. Did not finish. Still playing. Recommended! Review by AJ Small.