Final day of the year, meaning we end on the same high note we always do. This was incredibly tough to write this year, since honest to god, a lot of stuff I looked forward to sucked, didn’t quite nail it, or was just fine at best. (And as noted yesterday in one case, shot into space thanks to nonsensical reasons) You won’t see any Elden Rings or Ragnaroks here, as those aren’t my kind of games. I do enjoy exploratory games, and maybe I’ll give the former a go one day, but… People here know my drill, I’m a retro focused gamer with odd tastes for someone nearing 25 years of age. Such is the nature of one who leaned towards the Virtual Console and other such classic game services.
So, let’s see which ten games/products came out this year that were the best of the best, in my book! Lots more honorable mentions this year, due to promising stuff I recently started, but can’t form a solid opinion on yet besides lots of promise.
10: Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series (Steam): Somehow a game I didn’t expect to put on this list, but it just barely made it. A remake of the first two Klonoa games from the team behind last year’s Monster World IV remake, this double pack is just really, really polished, providing a fun way to experience two super rare yet super charming platformers. Surprisingly tricky, if you want to get 100%, but the experience I’ve had with them so far is good enough that I really enjoyed them, even if I do have a softer spot for the GBA duo instead due to their puzzle nature.
9: GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon (Steam): An unusual one here: Technically I got this review code in 2021 for the Early Access version, and enjoyed that a decent amount. Yet the full release on Switch/Steam came this year, and so did my review as one of the first games on my trusty Steam Deck! A revival of the Famicom action game, this adds roguelike elements and leads to a pretty fun gameplay loop, one I enjoyed for my review period. Combat is satisfying, the bosses are great, and it’s packed with lots to do thanks to all the updates and polish it got.
8: LIVE A LIVE (Nintendo Switch): When Advance Wars got shot into space, this became my most anticipated Nintendo game of 2022, and it definitely lived up to it. A quirky RPG that was finally brought west and remade, LIVE A LIVE looks and sounds like an absolute dream, with a good variety of scenarios to tackle, all culminating in a final act that’s both shockingly relatable and one of the best endgames in RPG history. This remake is still one I’m working on playing through, but every second is just pure joy, and I’d love to see more Square remakes in this style!
7: SOL CRESTA (Steam): A sequel to the ancient Moon/Terra Cresta games, this is another scorechaser with a big batch of levels, along with a Story mode DLC that surprisingly pays respect to the little lore the older games had? They really went all out with this one, and while initial impressions on Switch turned me off, a recent patch + DLC featuring the old ships from the prior Cresta games have made this rocket into my list, as now there’s just so many fun ways to play and the core gameplay loop is insanely addicting. An absolute don’t-miss for fans of Shmups.
6: Cleopatra Fortune S-TRIBUTE (Steam): The Saturn Tribute series had a very bad start last year, with the first wave being input lag filled messes of games by Success that just didn’t feel fun to play at all. Well, after a bit of a break, we now move onto Taito games, and this recent batch of two has significantly improved over the original lineup, making me super hyped to see what other games get the S-Tribute treatment!
An addictive puzzler, this Saturn port of Cleopatra Fortune also includes a bonus puzzle solving mode, and it’s emulated here very, very nicely, to the point it was one of my easy MFF go-tos next to Elevator Action Returns. Still, this is the one I stuck with more, so that’s the one that made the list!
5: Hishou Same! Same! Same! (Nintendo Switch): M2 brought out a few things this year, and the next in their Toaplan Arcade Garage series compiles the Shark Duology. With the CS DLC, this is truly a great package, featuring the great Genesis port of Fire Shark and two Arcade classics, each with their own leaderboards and all the fun customization M2 loves to do. It also includes the weird Wardner, along with its FDS version, though it’s missing the canceled US release and the Genesis port. Still, a great set for scorechasers and I hope we see Volume 3 next year!
4: Arcade Archives: TETRIS THE GRAND MASTER (Switch eShop): Arcade Archives had a decent year, though Namco and Taito got a big hold on things and most of the year was nothing but those games: fine for fans of those games, but not so much for those who like other stuff or were hoping for more advanced games.
Well, Hamster finally got in gear and brought us something modern in the form of Tetris the Grand Master, as their first 32 bit port! This challenging, yet addicting spin on Tetris has a lot of scorechasing modes and is easily the most replayable of any ACA game I picked up this year by far, with lots of ways to improve your game. It originally launched with some weird Switch-centric bugs, but those were swiftly patched and this is just an absolute dream to play on the Switch Lite. Of all versions of Tetris available for Switch, this is easily the best out of all of them, bar none.
3: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection (Steam): Digital Eclipse brought the power they gave to SNK 40th back with this magnificent collection of the pre 2000s Konami TMNT games. As a newcomer, I absolutely loved every aspect of this, and these were all great to jump into for the first time ever. Even better, a recent update fixed some of my gripes in the review, as now some DIP Switch options are finally available, along with more LCD filter options and other goodies, including online MP for SNES Turtles in Time! A great set that’s easily worth the $40, but it would also be outdone by their own work…
2: Cotton Fantasy (Nintendo Switch): Launching in Japan last year, Cotton Fantasy wasn’t even on my radar until I reviewed it for the site, and oh my god, this shmup is nearly perfect. If the game was a stage or two shorter, it could easily be one of the best shmups I have ever played since I started reviewing games, but even so, the scorechasing, the gameplay, the balance, the character variety, all leads to an almost perfect shooter that’s essential for any retro fan, bar none. Sol Cresta may be a great game for old-school people who like the simpler times, but this is a modern shmup that combines both new and old in a wonderful fashion. It launches on Steam in a few days, and I’m absolutely ready to dive in once again.
Egret II Mini & Arcade Memories Vol 1– Being that consoles don’t usually enter my main list, I almost had the JP Mega Drive Mini 2 as the option here for mini consoles, but then I got this on a whim the last week of 2022, and well, it blows that lame Astro City V out of the water in every way. A rotating screen, amazing bright screen, and clicky buttons lead to this arcade machine being a very high quality offering, with several addictive favorites of mine like Space Invaders, Qix, Volified and Chack N Pop making the cut.
But since I bought this in a bundle with a very recent expansion pack, I might as well shout that out too, since that has nothing but banger after banger on it. The addictive Cleopatra Fortune is also available here, along with Slap Fight, Great Swordsman, and several other wonderful games, including one of my favorite Antstream discoveries, Gekirindan! Definitely a machine worth hunting down, along with the expansion.
Evercade VS– This was reviewed on the final day of 2021, and it came out in PAL regions in 2021… But I at least want to give this a shoutout. Considering how basic the OG model was, this VS unit is insanely impressive and great for the price. Crisp, Nearest Neighbor scaling options, four player multiplayer, and a ton of amazing games to choose from via the cartridges, and this system became pretty much my go-to during backlog downtimes before the MD2 came along.
Despite frustration with some carts being still being borked long after launch, (Codemasters, Atari Arcade, and Data East Arcade, for those wondering) what’s here in the ecosystem is outstanding, and having near definitive ways to play some Renovation, Gremlin, Irem and Jaleco classics really make this home system an outstanding bang for your buck.
Final Vendetta (Steam)- This was a game I picked up during the last month of the year, and promptly beat in a half hour. Yet that half hour was filled with such solid, fun arcade action, that I really enjoyed this throwback to retro belt scrollers! Unfortunately compared to other cool ones like TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, this is very light on content, even in the score chasing department, so it was a game I really can’t recommend for anyone outside of those who don’t mind achievement hunting or playing such a simple game for a short period of time, even with a high asking price.
Despite this, that half hour was incredibly sweet, and what was originally just me popping the game on my Steam Deck to give a test play became a super engrossing experience I had to shout out anyway!
Breakout Recharged (Steam)- Atari has been doing a lot of their Recharged games lately, and the newer ones in 2022 seem to be a bit more on the complex side, compared to their first wave. This very game is the end of that first wave, and is thus my favorite of their 2022 output. Breakout Recharged is just a very simple remix on Breakout, with a fun challenge mode, mouse support for paddle controls, and an addictive scorechasing loop!
These games are all pretty fun, but I still think Asteroids is the best of the entire lineup, but alas, that was late 2021, so it couldn’t make the list.
Rotund Zero (Switch eShop)- This game was actually number 10 on the main list before I remembered Cotton Fantasy came out this year in the west, so it barely got cut, but is still very worth your time. I praised last year’s Rotund game for being a fun remake of the game that got my writing career started again, and a full sequel to that launched this year, but I’m gonna highlight the simple, $2 option since it was by far the game I enjoyed more as a pick up and play experience, to the point I bought it on my Steam Deck after the review.
Rotund Zero is a game all about time attack, and about uncovering each stage that corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and each of the brief stages in this platformer are pretty fun to practice. It may not have much depth, but it has a lot of replay value, and is just a simple game to pull out and put a few minutes to. With this as a very easy to recommend starter piece for platforming fans, I do encourage you to give this a spin if you like movement only platformers!
And now, 2022’s GOTY! One that surprised me more than I expected it to…
1: Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration (Steam)– Digital Eclipse made several outstanding compilations this year, but someone the one about hecking Atari of all things had to blow me away the most. The review explains pretty much everything about why this compilation is so impressive, but I need to establish that of all games I’ve covered this year, Atari 50 is the only one I’ve outright gone out of my way to show to literally everyone I know: At Midwest Furfest, I showed it off to besties. In my own home, I’d show it off to neighbors and friends and family. Truly, the amount of work that went into this compilation cannot be understated, and I’m excited for the future of retro compilations due to how this panned out.
So, why is Atari 50 so, so good, in a sea of other Atari compilations? Well, it not only compiles a bunch of done to death stuff, but includes lots and lots of new to reissue titles, from the Lynx to the Jaguar, and adds so much lovely touches and QOL to the stuff in this set that it honestly blew my mind. Not only do you have masterpieces like Tempest 2000 ready to play, but you have a bunch of bonus stuff, from six new original games, (Breakout Neo and VCTR-SCTR being worth the price of admission alone) to manual/box scans, and video interviews, Atari 50 has it all, and not only sets a great standard for future collections, but easily is the best way to play most titles in this very set, and I’m still loving it even nearly two months later. Of all retro compilations out there, this is the one to now top.
Thus, we come to another end of the year, one that flew by faster than I expected. Such is natural for one who feels like an old man already. I don’t have any idea what 2023 will bring and I hope nothing negative or bad happens to me, since I already had enough stress with a data loss situation and taking care of someone who isn’t feeling well. The world is getting scary, but I at least hope everyone stays safe.
Honestly though, thank you for sticking with me for this year in particular: shifting away and crunching on the Tomie projects was a big timesink and let me share my passion for a wonderful series with the world, and even if the video underperformed, the reception to it and the massive support the article got gave me enough confidence to keep going and not being afraid to express my love for quirky games like Mystery Dungeon, along with supporting the people who made them. Hopefully in 2023, I can get more interviews up, even if they’re shorter scale. Until next year, take care!