The last year and a half has been quite a ride with the global pandemic. With so much time being spent at home, I was able to try out a lot of new games on Steam and the Nintendo Switch. Below is a list of my 10 favorites. With each I’ll include a link to the platform I personally played it on and a brief description on why I enjoyed it.
# 10 - Song of Horror
This was quite an interesting game, it’s essentially a puzzle game with some horror elements in an episodic format. The puzzles are very reminiscent of those in the early Resident Evil games. Instead of using weapons to attack the evil, a mini game will begin that typically involves some button mashing or timed presses. The game felt very rewarding when figuring out a puzzle. That being said, some of them were extremely obtuse and near impossible to figure out even with the available clues and required looking up hints online.
# 9 - Alwa’s Legacy
I had played the original Alwa’s Awakening before, so I knew what to expect when picking up the sequel. It’s very Zelda like with some metroidvania characteristics thrown in. This sequel is quite polished and fixed most of the issues I had with the original game.
# 8 - Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I ended up playing this on Steam after hearing about performance issues with the Nintendo Switch version. This “Castlevania” game (all but the name) was developed by Koji Igarashi, a long time developer of some of the original games. This RPG heavy action platformer was exactly what I was looking for to scratch that itch for a new Castlevania title.
# 7 Kaze and the Wild Masks
This was a surprise title for me. If you’ve ever played any of the Donky Kong Country games, then you know what to expect with this title. The level design is very well done and the platforming can be challenging at times. There are collectibles and other challenges that enhance the replayability and kept me engaged for about 12 hours.
# 6 - Ori and the Will of the Wisps
This action / platformer / metroidvania is the sequel to the excellent Ori and the Blind Forest. It fixes most issues with the original game (not that there were many) and adds a few new mechanics. I really enjoyed this game, but one thing I disliked is the difficulty was dialed down a notch compared to the original.
# 5 - Control Ultimate Edition
Control is a really unique experience, from the minds of the developers who made Alan Wake, comes a 3D action game with some metroidvania characteristics. The story is bizarre as are some of the enemies you’ll encounter. The combat is incredibly fun using your powers to control and throw objects. This game has a lot of content too and kept me busy for many hours.
# 4 - Salt and Sanctuary
I might have bumped this up the list if it wasn’t for the large learning curve and lack of instructions on how to play the game. I completed the game not ever using many items that I collected. The creed mechanic isn’t explained very well either so I stuck with the one I chose at the beginning. Another negative is not having a map. There are some large areas, but over time you get the hang of it.
All of those negatives aside, this was a super fun metroidvania containing that reminded me a lot of Hollow Knight and Blasphemous. The boss encounters were fun and the level design and artwork was fantastic.
# 3 - Spiritfarer
Of this list, this was the biggest surprise for me. When I read the description of the game I really didn’t think it was for me. In the game you explore the sea, visit towns, harvest items that you can use to upgrade your ship and take care of spirits you encounter.
The artwork is gorgeous and it is super fun to control the main character. The stories you encounter with each spirit really gave me the feels. Combined with the amazing soundtrack this game invokes a lot of emotion and I highly recommend it.
# 2 - Blasphemous
This was by far my favorite metroidvania I played in the last year and a half. The combat is excellent and the story is incredibly dark. It has some souls-like mechanics mixed in and has a pretty high level of difficulty.
I think this is the first game that I finished and immediately started it again. The 2nd play through allows you to select a penance that massively changes how you play the game. I chose the “Penitence of the True Guilt” which meant the bile flasks no longer refilled my health but instead my Fervour. This meant I used Fervour much more on my 2nd play through where I rarely used it the first time through.
# 1 - Phoenotopia: Awakening
My top spot goes to Pheonotopia: Awakening. I really wish more people knew about this game and gave it a shot. I was drawn to it by some comparisons to Zelda II on the NES. The overworld looks very similar to Zelda II where enemies spawn on the map and when you run into them you jump into a 2-d side scroller to combat them. There are many towns, NPCs, and secrets to find.
I enjoyed this game so much that even after finishing the game and beating the secret boss, I kept playing to find every single secret. Fortunately there is an NPC that will give you hints to aid you in finding the secrets which is more fun then just spilling the beans. I dumped 70+ hours into this title and it is absolutely worth the price of admission.