It may be difficult to believe, but video games other than Elden Ring have been released this year. It’s unusual for a single game to dominate the conversation as thoroughly and for as long as Elden Ring did in the first half of 2022. Still, it’s unusual for a game to provide us with so much to discuss and consider. Elden Ring is a true triumph and one of the best games I’ve ever played. And it’s not even the best game of the year thus far.
I should remind you that I occasionally write a column about shoot’ me ups, aka shamus—those old-school games in which players pilot some sort of craft, creature, or vaguely Barbarella-inspired angel across the screen while shooting as many enemies as they can. The genre, a staple of any gaming diet in the 1980s, gradually fell out of favor with the general public and now exists primarily as a cult curiosity or nostalgic throwback. Sol Cresta, the latest heir to the inexplicably difficult 1985 shooter Terra Cresta, is unlikely to return the shmoo to the top of the gaming food chain. Still, it’s not like it’s trying.
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The latest high-energy action game from Platinum, the studio behind Bayonets, Vanquish, and Nicer: Automata, it’s a shoot’ me up solidly for shoot ‘me up fans. The ability to expand and contract the power-ups collected throughout the game distinguishes Terra Cresta; instead of simply beefing up the ship’s weapons, they can be used as pods that orbit the ship and provide a wider range of fire. Sol Cresta honors that concept by allowing players to dock multiple ships simultaneously. It’s an exciting new entry in a largely ignored genre. While everyone else was exploring Elden Ring for the first time, I was shooting up space like I’d done a million times before.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
This loving homage to multiplayer beat ‘me ups from the late ’80s and early ’90s zeroes in on a specific generation’s nostalgia. It’s not just that it’s based on the Turtles from the first cartoon and toy series (complete with the original voice actors), which inspired the beloved arcade brawler from 1989; the entire genre is so archaic that it can’t help but feel like some long-lost game from 30 years ago. Shredder’s Revenge will turn back the clock for you if you miss teaming up with your friends to bash generic punks and thugs in a cartoonish version of New York City.
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But it wouldn’t be on this list if it was just nostalgia; Shredder’s Revenge adds enough modern twists to bring that formula into the twenty-first century. It’s an example of a game that accomplishes its goals as well as it possibly can.
Kirby and the Lost Land
I’m not a big fan of Kirby, Nintendo’s adorable little fluff ball that appears in a new videogame every year. On the other hand, Kirby and the Forgotten Land should not be overlooked. It can be difficult for a non-Kirby fan to tell the difference between a “mainline” Kirby game and all of the various spinoffs in which he appears. Still, just as Mario’s central platformers are a noticeable cut above the miscellaneous games he appears in, Kirby’s main entries are where the series truly shines. Forgotten Land innovates by dragging Kirby into the third dimension and introducing a new skill that rebalances how Kirby interacts with his world while remaining authentic to him and the series.
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After years of inhaling his enemies and stealing their abilities, Kirby can now swallow any object and assume its qualities. Forgotten Land is unlike any Kirby game we’ve played before. However, it’s still purely, unmistakably Kirby, with its colorful charm and the flexible difficulty that rewards both newcomers and seasoned veterans. It’s yet another successful Switch reimagining of a classic Nintendo franchise.
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West demonstrates that the open world genre does not have to be as creatively bankrupt as it currently is, even when adhering to genre conventions. With the right focus, setting, and storytelling, a game can remain enslaved to a familiar format while still feeling inspired.
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It’s not a game that will surprise you or make you reconsider the possibilities of what games can do. However, it demonstrates that games can still be a lot of fun even if they don’t try anything new, which is something we don’t often see from big budget corporate games like this one.
What is brimming with respect? Tunic by Andrew Shouldice That’s what I mean. This one-man adventure jam doesn’t take its puzzles lightly, believing that its players will be able to think through every difficult scenario. It also has a deep and open admiration for ’80s Nintendo games, particularly the original Legend of Zelda; this is evident not only in the game’s isometric view and general environment but also in the game’s in-game manual, which isn’t just some mystic, sacred text the adorable fox hero must find, but also a recreation of an NES-era instruction booklet. Tunic sifts through our shared gaming experiences to create something new and distinct enough to exist outside the easy allure of nostalgia.