These get a separate post because the main article is long enough as-is, but I still felt like they deserved a little recognition!
Triangle Strategy (Square-Enix / Artdink, 2022)
This was probably the hardest finalist to cut. I’ve never been able to truly get into any tactical RPGs besides Final Fantasy Tactics, but Triangle Strategy came real close. The story is interesting, the choices you make carry a ton of weight (and there’s almost never a clear “correct” choice), and the battles are great fun. Despite all that, however, I got pulled away from it when I was only halfway though, and never felt compelled enough to pick it back up. I keep looking at the case and saying “I should really finish that”, but I have a feeling it’s just not going to happen.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (Nihon Falcom, 2019)
Ys IX had to get cut because I didn’t want more than one entry from any franchise on the list, and Ys VIII was just all-around more enjoyable. That’s not to say that I disliked Monstrum Nox! The two games are actually very similar in terms of gameplay, but the characters and story of Ys IX just didn’t resonate with me quite as much as those of Ys VIII. Having superpowers was great fun, though! It actually reminded me a little bit of Saints Row IV in that regard. The one thing I genuinely didn’t like is that they brought back the arena-style battles from Lacrimosa of Dana with a pretty flimsy justification, and those were already my least favourite part of that game.
Elden Ring (From Software, 2022)
Listen, I know that everyone in the world thinks this is the greatest video game of all time, but… ehhh, nah. Not for me. And I say that as someone who logged 110+ hours in the game and earned the platinum trophy. While yeah, it’s a great game, thinking back on it doesn’t fill me with the warm fuzzies that should be there. In fact, it doesn’t make me feel much of anything. It was like a fever dream that I’m pretty sure I only bought and played because of the hype surrounding it. And also because I liked the first Dark Souls so much. Now Dark Souls, there’s a game that gives me warm fuzzies!
Pokémon Scarlet & Violet (Game Freak, 2022)
Well, I couldn’t have two Pokémon games on the list, so one had to go. I chose Scarlet because even though I had an absolute blast playing it, Pokémon Legends: Arceus was just so much more of a change from the usual Pokémon formula that it’s much more memorable to me. And I really, really liked a lot of the quality-of-life changes in that game, several of which weirdly didn’t carry forward. Scarlet/Violet also shake things up a bit, but overall I preferred the weird spin-off. S&V do, however, have the best soundtrack in the series by far. And because I know you’re thinking it, S&V’s technical shortcomings had no impact on this decision.
ElecHead (NamaTakahashi, 2021)
ElecHead was another hard cut, but as wonderful as it is, it just didn’t quite make the grade. As an indie puzzle-platformer, I thought it was absolutely brilliant, and a ton of fun to play through. There’s a full record of my initial impressions on YouTube, and I’m pretty confident that I had nothing bad to say about it. However, it’s not even two hours long, and I didn’t feel compelled enough to go back and find all the secrets, which is ultimately why I chose to cut it. I’d still 100% recommend it to literally anyone who enjoys games that require significant use of one’s noggin. (Pun absolutely intended.)