Past years I've done separate "from this year" and "older but new to me" lists. Fuck that. An end of year list is always an "about me" list pretending to be an "about this year" list. I'm gonna talk about the experiences I loved this year.

As usual, these are roughly in increasing order of likelihood of you having heard of them. Also there probably won't be ten because decimal was invented by Big Hand to sell more fingers.

"The Tragedy of GJ237b: A role-playing game for no players." Like it says on the tin, you can't play this game, but reading the manual was one of my favorite game experiences of the year: medium.com/@balehman/the-trage

Bacon. Are you sick of physics abuse games?? Me too! Good thing this isn't really a game; it's more a vehicle for jokes like "Food Hack #18: Put Bacon on a Cat" and "Food Hack #33: Put Bacon on the Mona Lisa." and "Food Hack #71: Put Bacon on this game's source code"

Minit. The die-in-60-seconds gimmick, rather than feeling like it's wasting the player's time, is a promise that the player is never more than a minute away from something interesting happening. Frankly, most games would benefit from that guarantee.

80 Days. Basically this is 19th century alternate history tourism porn, presented as Twine-style vignettes on a minimally systemic world map. I finished it four times in a row.

Celeste. I thought I was well past done giving a shit about very difficult platformers. The combination of good-hearted charm and brute force quality of execution won me over. *Now* I'm done. *dusts off hands*

Hollow Knight. Loved exploring the weird bug civilization, being lost and coming to know a space -- loved everything about it that's itself. Hated everything about it that's borrowed from video games: the combat, the economy, masocore platforming.

The Last Guardian. I put off playing this game for over a year because of middling reviews. It is incredible and there's nothing out there like it. It turns out that the critical apparatus is only capable of measuring "polish" and speaks nothing to "being worth playing." C.f. the critical reaction to God of War.

Shadow of the Colossus. I played it circa 2005, liked it, but didn't really get it. I played the remake, still didn't really get it. Then I spent weeks unable to stop thinking about it, haunted by the lives I touched. I think I get it now?

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Hitman 2 and Exapunks. I've said plenty about Hitman and Shenzhen I/O already. These are more of the same, and great in the same ways.

Spyro almost made this list, but I've *just* finished it, so it hasn't had enough time to percolate. Also the whiplash of Spyro 2's utterly appalling first 30 minutes left me wondering if I could ever trust my own opinions about anything.

Also some shouts out to a few games that are probably great but I never found time to put more than a couple hours into them: Subnautica, Wandersong, Pig Eat Ball.

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