I've gotten a lot of mileage out of replaying old classics lately, but my options there are starting to dry up, and I can count on one hand the new games that I've really loved in the past three years (and that's being generous). Tears of the Kingdom feels like a true boundary-pushing experience in the same way that next-gen games always used to.
I feel this big time. I dunno if it's me falling out of love with games, or the ripple effects of COVID or what. I've liked this game a lot, but I'm not over the moon with it like other people seem to be. Thinking back, my top 3 for last year were.
3. Splatoon 3 (Fine to play for a couple nights, never gonna play it again) 2. Elden Ring (Left less of an impression on me than any Souls game, minus Sekiro) 1. Kirby (I love Kirby. Kirby is the sweetest of junk food.)
2021 had a bunch of fine sequels that didn't blow me away, and honestly underdelivered given the wait. Metroid Dread, No More Heroes, Wario Ware, Pokemon Snap, TWEWY 2, Mario Golf, Psychonauts 2. MOST of those games are good, none of them reached out and grabbed me. I still think about No More Heroes 1. I've forgotten No More Heroes 3. My favorite game from that year was another example of cute platformer junk food: Here Comes Nico.
2020 had what? Doom Eternal? Pirate Warriors 4? DMCV feels like the last time a game really sunk its hooks into me and that was 2019. Outside of DMC V and Death Stranding, I don't have much more to say about the games I played since 2017 beyond, "I liked it". Or at best, "It was cute". Same is true of the classics I've been revisiting, but like you said, that's probably because the well is drying up. I'm out here playing FF3. The actual FF3. It's getting grim.
No game sucked me in or had me thinking about it after I'd stopped playing. I at least put a lot of time into Overwatch and FFXIV. But one of those doesn't exist any more, and the other is a narcotic.
Tears of the Kingdom, at least, is proud to be a game and do wacky game stuff and push some boundaries.
I'm mostly in the same spot. I feel like something has become reconfigured a bit in my brain since 2020; like, I'm still a big fan of Nintendo games, but I'm not really over the moon in that incontrollable way...? 2020-2022 were really dry years for me as a fan, with IMO a lot of good-not-great games from Nintendo. I'm used to their sequels basically improving on everything from past games, and I didn't get that with stuff like Mario Golf, Mario Strikers, Origami King, FE Engage, Splatoon 3, Hyrule Warriors: AOC, WarioWare, every Pokemon game, and even Metroid Dread (which is still probably my GOTY 2021 but not quite amazing). Kirby and the Forgotten Land was dope though and reminded me why I loved the company.
I'm a little less excited overall now, like I'm hyper-aware that stories aren't real and just told by people like you or me doing their jobs? I could see me from four years ago going NUTS from this section I did recently in Tears, while nowadays it's more like "Ooh, that was a cool part. What's next?"
All that being said, TotK is still probably my favorite Nintendo game since Smash or maybe even Odyssey, so I'm happy to report that at least. It sometimes feels a little too familiar, but this game has been occupying my mind quite a bit since release. And it's a miracle of programming considering all the things possible in the game that don't break it in two.
Well, I might just be in the minority, because I feel like the last 9 months or so has been one of the best periods of gaming I've had in my life. Mind you, all of this didn't release in the last 9 months but that's when I got around to playing it:
Xenoblade 3 Elden Ring God of War Ragnarok Resident Evil 8 Resident Evil 4 Remake The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Some of these games have broken into my top games ever list. And a bunch of them are LONGGGG games, so I've been pretty engrossed. It's just been a sort of wild ride lately.
@Zero I do need to play RE8 and RE4, but as a Switch-only gamer I'll have to wait. Xenoblade is one of those things I really want to love because its environments are amazing, but I just can't get over the battle system.
Elden Ring's scope of environments is incredible, but I'm just not an RPG guy (I'm waiting on Sekiro 2)! I enjoyed the first Xenoblade well enough, but what I really wanted from its world was a level of interactivity, action, and spontaneity that I didn't get until Breath of the Wild.
I've developed a pretty strong bias against Sony's cinematic games. I can admit that the stories are good, but they're definitely not as great as my favorite books or movies, and I can never shake the feeling that those stories are being held hostage behind uninteresting gameplay. I made it about 45 minutes into TLOU2 and just couldn't do it anymore.
The new Resident Evil games... are actually a pretty big blindspot for me! I've heard great things about every one since RE7. But still, the original RE4 was fun but not my favorite, so I can't imagine any of these others will resonate with me super strongly either.
I really LOVED Half-Life: Alyx and Spelunky 2 in 2020. Alyx really did feel like a true next-gen experience that did entirely new things, and Spelunky 2 was an expanded, infinitely replayable version of perhaps the best-designed game ever that made me feel the same sense of discovery that the first game did.
In 2021, Bowser's Fury was incredible but short. And then Metroid Dread and WarioWare are exactly the types of smaller experiences I've been wanting from Nintendo—refreshing, refined takes on my old favorites. (Everyone saw that in Metroid Dread, but only Zero and I seem to have enjoyed WarioWare...!)
But other than that, there really hasn't been much that's stuck with me. I value novelty a lot in games. I want to be surprised! It isn't enough for the industry to keep pumping out games of the same level of quality year after year. You don't recreate the magic of Banjo-Kazooie by making another 3D platformer about a pair of animals. You have to do something completely different.
In anticipation of Tears of the Kingdom (with its Ultra Hand ability), I was reading some biographies of Gunpei Yokoi, and I learned that he thought video games were played out when the Super Nintendo came out. "Yeah yeah, Super Mario World, it's a bigger better version of Super Mario Bros., you press buttons to make stuff move on a screen, we get it. Can we make some different toys now?"
I wouldn't go quite as far as Yokoi here, but it does seem like the AAA industry hasn't really questioned what a video game can be for 20 years or so now. We've got bigger better GTAs and Call of Duties and Marios, just like in 2003. They're remaking Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Resident Evil 4, and and Final Fantasy VII. Again, not every product needs to reinvent the medium, and sometimes you just want a damn good traditional game like RE4 Remake or Celeste, but when the guy who wrote Ode to Minions is unimpressed with the big new Metroid game, you've gotta wonder if there really are diminishing returns on pumping out more and more genre sequels.
In my mind, the biggest innovation in games since 3D has been systemic games like Minecraft, BOTW, MGSV, and Fortnite. These are digital artifacts that are less about going from Point A to Point B and more about existing within a space of interesting possibilities. This is the type of fundamental rethinking that the game industry needs more of! But when I look at how devs still can't get even Point A to Point B style games right 40 years after Super Mario Bros., it doesn't make me think that they're in a good place to be pushing boundaries.
And Tears of the Kingdom is showing me that I'm not just going crazy or getting old here! I can still get obsessed with a quality game. People who attack the game for running on Xbox 360 level technology are accidentally criticizing every other developer pretty harshly; if it's been technically possible to make TOTK since 2005, why are we only just now getting it 18 years later?
Good post as usual! Ultimately, the individual games that leave an impression on us are not quite as crucial (I loved Octopath 2, a series that has its fair share of detractors) but it sounds like a number of us do share a sort of malaise with the industry at the moment. I'm glad that TotK is making such a splash because I was feeling pretty down on it for a while leading up to release; glad to have been (mostly) proven wrong in that sense at least.
After 85 hours, the credits have rolled. Loved the main dungeons, loved the final sequence. On these fronts, TOTK far surpassed BOTW.
Overall: incredible game, terrible dialogue. I loved solving the small pre-dungeon riddles, I hated the NPCs that explained them and the quests that scripted them. I loved figuring out the huge central mysteries before I was supposed to, I hated how on-the-nose the cutscenes on the "intended path" were. I loved the confidently quiet baller moments where the game pulled off incredible cinematic flairs, I hated the anime soap operas that punctured them afterwards. I loved the initial lore implications, I hated that every sentence after the first five hours just reiterated what I already knew.
All that being said, it's still the best game ever made, and I look forward to playing it for another six years.
Where does Zelda go from here? Simple:
Regardless of how good you think it is, consider how much BETTER Mario Odyssey would be without a single line of text. How much less childish/more effective the minimal narrative would be. And how much more transportive it would feel with purely visual storytelling/objectives.
Somehow, despite Breath of the Wild not really enticing me to play it until just recently…Tears of the Kingdom has sunk its teeth into me and won’t let go. I accidentally played until 1:30am yesterday (this morning?). Didn’t mean to. I just thought, “oh, let me run over there real fast to get this tower/shrine/Korok, etc.” And then I stumble across something else. Then I find a stable I didn’t know was there. Then I find some materials I need. Oh, and this gang of Bokoblins want to throw down? Not on my watch. A President Hudson sign needs to be secured. And then! And then! And then!
Oh crap 3 hours have passed. What happened?
I don’t know but I know I’m having fun. Good stuff.
Yeah so I've put like 120 hours into this and still haven't done the Death Mountain dungeon yet. There's a crazy amount of stuff to do! I've gone from being terrified of the Depths to conquering the heck out of them; I've got about 4/5ths of the Lightroots found, by my estimation, and I now fear no man or beast.
On Sunday, after 220 hours of play, I let myself go beat the game. I loved the finale of the game. It turns out I was right because I found a very cool area which lead me to the end game like a hundred hours prior, but once I initiated a cutscene I reset. I didn't want to go there yet.
I managed to find and complete all shrines, found all roots, but I'm still shy on wells, bubbel gems, and of course koroks. I'm going to do my best to 100% this sucker. So that Hero's Mode map allows me to see all the areas missed before. Those nooks and crannies I just walked right by.
Overall I think the Gerudo area dungeon was my favorite. I think the world felt so fresh despite being that 'same Hyrule'. They've set a new standard now for scope in a Zelda title. I really look forward to what's next.
Personally I think they need to blend TotK with Wind Waker and get better seafaring going. The sky Islands were very much like Wind Waker's sea but I'd like to see more actually islands to explore.
Luckily, I'm not really feeling that sense of gaming malaise yet. Even though most mainstream games bore the shit out of me, I feel like there are more than enough Nintendo games, indie games, and retro games to keep me busy. And I can always dip back into a roguelite for a quick fix. Procedural generation is still surprising and entertaining to me. And I still feel that childlike sensation of wonder when I play a fun, well-crafted game.
I just tried out that Tactics Ogre remake the other day. Really cool! Diofield Chronicles? Also cool! Strategy games are so neat, although I rarely finish them. I love seeing how all of the systems come together. Same thing with a good board game.
Dokapon Kingdom is also pretty interesting. I just tried it out in 1P, but it seems like it would be a great time in multiplayer with the right group.
Puzzle Bobble? Still fun! Kirby's Return To Dreamland DX? Still puts a smile on my face. Donut Dodo? Finally, a new Donkey Kong-like! That new Meat Boy Puyo Puyo game? ...Actually, kind of irritating.
And so many indie games still satisfy my thirst for novelty. Even Nintendo games, like Tears of the Kingdom and Ring Fit and Arms!
I dunno. I still enjoy music and comics and all the other things that I did when I was a wee lad. New Extreme album? Crazily varied! New Peter Gabriel tracks? Promising! New Toad The Wet Sprocket album? Impressively consistent!
Every other developer, as well as every graphics snob singing the praises of "next-gen" consoles, should be embarrassed.
Yeah, I've seen people bragging about how Final Fantasy XVI could just never be done on Switch-level hardware because it's, like, melting PS5s, or whatever. Based on the demo, that seems like absolute horseshit. The actual level design seems regressively basic, and the fancy bits could almost just be interactive cutscenes a la Sega CD or Dragon's Lair, or something. It's just spectacle. (I did enjoy the demo, though!)
Still, the PS5 has yet to really justify its existence to me. And it has been a WHILE since it launched. (Returnal was cool, though!) The strong sales of that system really seem to indicate that most people just want a new box to more efficientlly play CoD and FIFA and Fortnite.
(Which is a bit unfair to Fortnite, as that game really did invent a new paradigm. Just not one that particularly appeals to me.)
This game is just seriously, dangerously addictive to me. I'm not nearly getting enough sleep lately because I can't stop playing. I'll have a goal to do one specific thing, but get sidetracked by a dozen other things.
@Brick The Legend of Ooh, What's That? Tears of That Rock Looks Funny...
I'm nearing 200 hours played myself, and the list of game-recognized Things To Do is dwindling. Still, I think it'd take at least 50 more hours for me to have all shrines, Sage Wills, sidequests, and compendium entries, let alone defeating all the minibosses across the map or upgrading all the armor, et cetera. The fact that it's only just starting to feel like diminishing returns speaks to how absolutely stuffed this game is, and how much fun its world is to just play in, even after having a very similar experience in BOTW.
I tapped out at 175 hrs. All shrines, all lightroots, all retro armor pieces. That's pretty much all I really wanted to see. Still missing Sage Wills, but at this point it's just a needle in a haystack looking for chests I haven't found.
Lots of sidequests I haven't done, but I don't know if any of them are really worth doing. I fought some world bosses to grab a couple of cosmetic items (finally got Majora's Mask), and that's pretty much enough for me.
The one thing I do wish I had gotten were more armor pieces to ward off gloom. It definitely would've been helpful in one particular spot.
If I'm doing rankings, I'd probably still give BotW a 10, with this at closer to a 9. It's incredible what they've done, but the reused assets/music gives the whole game a little less oomph. BotW was like learning a new language, while this just felt like learning a regional dialect of that same language. Still amazing and everything but definitely the "evolutionary" to BotW's "revolutionary" for me. The new things they do are great, but not SO great for me that they outweigh everything BotW meant for me at the time.
Remove all dialogue? But then we wouldn't have moments like that woman who's away from one of the stables, playing/working with the dogs, for self-care, because dudes in nothing but shorts have been showing up.
I dunno. I used to be more of a gameplay purist who thought that game dialogue was generally bad, game stories generally bad, and shouldn't rely on dialogue or cutscenes to tell their stories because they were bad at those.
I've softened on this a lot, in the past few years. Partly because I'm a bit more chill with my gaming opinions than I used to be (I think, anyway, you guys would actually know better), but also mostly because games got better at doing all those things. Nintendo especially has been great with dialogue (but is less great about cutscenes and voice acting).
Anyway, I've been enjoying the NPC dialogue a lot in TOTK. They make me laugh.