Fall Guys round ranking update!

Since I last ranked all of the rounds in Fall Guys, two new seasons have arrived and added fifteen additional ones! The total number now stands at a whopping fifty-five rounds, and there are promises of more to come. Hopefully developer Mediatonic and publisher Epic Games will soon launch a Nintendo Switch version of the game, because if there’s one thing stopping Fall Guys hitting its full potential its the lack of availability on that platform!

But we aren’t here to talk about that today, and a Switch version is still on the agenda for 2021 – at least according to Nintendo. This time I’m going to take a look at the fifteen newly-added rounds, giving my thoughts and impressions on each of them. We’ll start at the bottom with my least-favourites and work up to the rounds I consider to be the best and most interesting. So let’s get started, shall we?

Number 15: Lily Leapers

I don’t hate Lily Leapers, and after a few attempts I managed to get the hang of bouncing on the trampoline-like drums. But as I’ve said in the past about a few other rounds (like Door Dash, for example) the fact that there’s literally only one type of obstacle or item across the entire round naturally makes it less interesting. The trampoline-drums are fine, but the round itself is one-dimensional because that’s all there is to do.

Bouncing on the drums causes them to make a very bass-heavy noise. When playing the game using a setup that includes speakers and a subwoofer, this bass noise is incredibly loud, disproportionately so when compared to the rest of the music and sound effects. So I think a bit of tweaking might be necessary there!

Number 14 (tie): Basketfall and Power Trip

I’m not a big fan of team rounds. Your ability to progress is entirely dependent on who you find yourself teamed up with, and some rounds can see one or two players dominate proceedings. Power Trip is perhaps the better of the two team rounds introduced in Season 4, but even so it’s possible to play very well and lose simply because the other players on your team weren’t very good. Randomness is all part of the fun – sometimes. But it can be frustrating to be on a good run and be brought crashing down because of factors beyond your control!

All that being said, I haven’t seen anywhere near as many team games in recent weeks. I’m not sure if that’s pure luck or if the frequency of team games has been adjusted in one of the updates. As a result I scarcely play either Power Trip or Basketfall any more.

Number 12: Big Shots

The only reason Big Shots isn’t higher up the list is that it’s relatively easy. I’ve seen this round eliminate literally only one or two players sometimes, simply because most folks have got the hang of it. The concept is interesting – balancing on a see-saw while dodging flying obstacles – but something needs to happen to shake it up in order to make it a more useful round once again!

Despite that, I like Big Shots. I like the way it’s a riff on other concepts from elsewhere in the game, feeling familiar yet different at the same time. Its only problem is that it doesn’t always feel like a useful round given that practically everyone can qualify!

Number 11: Lost Temple

I mentioned on a recent episode of the DenPod (my unscripted podcast) that I really like Lost Temple. The maze-like layout manages to make the drab Door Dash concept actually worthwhile, and I like the way each chamber in the maze contains a different obstacle to overcome. It’s a very fun, well-designed round that’s constantly changing and keeps you on your toes!

Why isn’t it higher up the list? A valid question! And here’s the answer: because it only appears as a finale! Lost Temple would make a fantastic round earlier in the game, and restricting it to be only a finale feels almost like a waste of a great concept.

Number 10: Short Circuit

Short Circuit is fun, and the concept of racing multiple laps of a track instead of just running from one end of a course to the other is neat. I also like the way Short Circuit has a varied mix of different obstacles, as this keeps things interesting throughout the race.

The only problem with Short Circuit is – somewhat ironically – that it can be a long round. Two laps of what is a fairly long obstacle course by the standards of Fall Guys makes for a round that’s longer than many others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does keep Short Circuit from climbing any further up this list.

Number 9: Button Bashers

Button Bashers is unique in that it separates players into groups of two, and pits each pair against one another in the only one-on-one round in the whole game. Its arena is compact, with ten or so buttons to jump on to score points. I like the concept and I think it works well. In fact, Button Bashers could be a template for other one-against-one rounds or round variants in future.

This round doesn’t seem to come up as often as some of the others from Season 4 – as it’s dependent on there being an even number of players – so I’ve only played it a handful of times. But I recently recorded my first win, so that’s something!

Number 8: Roll On

The third round introduced using rolling cylinders, Roll On is perhaps the most interesting riff on the concept so far. Both of the other rounds are about survival; Roll On is a race to the finish line. It’s deceptively tricky, even after you think you’ve got the hang of it!

I was a little surprised to see that Roll On doesn’t use the futuristic sci-fi aesthetic of other Season 4 rounds, instead retaining the original look of the game from its launch. Was that an oversight? Did the developers run out of time or not have the resources to re-skin all of the different obstacles? Or was it a conscious choice to keep the visual style the same with Roll Off? Not sure, but it’s notable at least.

Number 7: Pegwin Pool Party

The Pegwins – robotic penguins that can be seen on many different courses – are adorable, and Season 5 added a water park-themed level where the Pegwins are the stars! It’s a cute concept, one which makes for a surprisingly chaotic round as players struggle in a relatively compact area to control the limited number of Pegwins.

The relatively small space is well-used, with different areas and obstacles adding to the challenge. When 25+ players are dumped in, the pool party really gets going and, as I said, can be very chaotic with players jumping and grabbing each other left, right, and centre! It’s wild and a lot of fun.

Number 6: The Slimescraper

As with Slime Climb before it, I’m atrocious at the Slimescraper. In fact, this round is my Fall Guys nemesis as it’s the only round I’ve never been able to qualify from! Not even once. But despite that, I love it. It’s a challenging obstacle course with plenty of different things going on, all the while the slowly-rising slime adds an additional threat.

One day – if I cross my fingers and hope for the best – I’ll finally defeat the Slimescraper!

Number 5: Bubble Trouble

Bubble Trouble is a neat round. The course is divided into four parts, with each quadrant having different jungle-themed obstacles to climb on as players pop bubbles to score enough points to qualify. The abundance of bubbles to pop makes it easy to get on the scoreboard even for newbies, and when compared to other hunt rounds like Hoopsie Legends I think it’s more enjoyable as a result.

Get lucky and be in the right area of the map at the right time and you can quickly claim plenty of bubbles – and points – all for yourself!

Number 4: Stompin’ Ground

Stompin’ Ground uses a similar concept to Snowball Survival from Season 3, but replaces the rolling snowballs with out-of-control rhinos! Because the rhinos can charge at anyone in any direction at any time, Stompin’ Ground is a round that keeps you on your toes the whole time.

Sometimes in Snowball Survival it’s possible to stand to one side and stay still until the round is over; nothing of the sort in Stompin’ Ground unless you want to be ejected from the arena!

Number 3: Skyline Stumble

Skyline Stumble is a great sci-fi themed obstacle course with a variety of different obstacles to defeat en route to the finish line. It’s tricky to get the hang of each of the different aspects, and even after playing it dozens of times I still find myself getting caught out sometimes!

This round was a great introduction to Season 4, and the futuristic visual style present for all of the Season 4 rounds is really neat. Skyline Stumble also offers different ways to make it to the finish line.

Number 2: Hoverboard Heroes

Hoverboard Heroes has a clever concept at its core. The continuously-moving platform draws inspiration from classic side-scrolling platformers, and the round has plenty of different obstacles for players to overcome. It’s not an easy round by any means, and can often result in relatively few survivors!

What I like most about Hoverboard Heroes is that it reminds me of those older platform games. The moving platform adds a lot of pressure to get past obstacles in a timely fashion lest you be left behind and unable to progress, and overall it’s a fun, challenging round.

Number 1: Treetop Tumble

So we made it to the best of the best! Treetop Tumble is everything an obstacle course should aim to be. There are different paths to the finish line. There’s a wide variety of static and moving obstacles. There are slippery slides. Cannons shooting balls. Drums to bounce on. And much more besides!

Treetop Tumble epitomises all of the things I like about Fall Guys, and is unquestionably one of my favourite rounds in the entire game as a result.

So that’s it! We’ve added the new rounds from Season 4 and Season 5 to the rankings.

Check out my earlier list (linked above and below) for my thoughts on rounds from Seasons 1-3!

With only a couple of exceptions really, all of the rounds added since Season 3 debuted last winter have been great. I’m not wild about the team rounds particularly, but there’s no denying that the developers of Fall Guys are still on the ball when it comes to improving and adding to the game.

The only thing missing is a Switch version, really. Now that Season 5 has launched and the game now boasts well over fifty rounds, perhaps it’s time for Mediatonic to refocus their efforts to getting the Switch version ready and out the door. Fall Guys is the perfect game for Nintendo’s platform, and the fact that it’s been absent for an entire year has meant that the Switch’s 85+ million players haven’t had a chance to try the game for themselves. Rectifying that has to be the next objective for Fall Guys, surely!

Getting the game on Nintendo Switch needs to be a priority now.

Fall Guys continues to be a lot of fun. The game just passed its first anniversary, and though a cheating problem last year saw a lot of players abandon it, those problems have long since been resolved and in its current state it’s the perfect kind of casual game to dip in and out of. I don’t play every single day, but if I have down time and I feel like picking up a controller for a few minutes, Fall Guys is my current go-to game.

I hope this list was a bit of fun! If you disagree or feel like I’ve been too harsh on some rounds (or too lenient on others) that’s great. We all have our own opinions, and something like this is always going to be wholly subjective. Perhaps I’ll see you out there on the obstacle course, pushing you out of the way as I bid to win my next crown!

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is out now for PC and PlayStation 4/5, with Xbox and Nintendo Switch versions in development. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and all associated properties mentioned above are the copyright of Mediatonic and/or Epic Games. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Steam Summer Sale deals for PC gamers!

Important: The Steam Summer Sale has now ended. Prices listed below will no longer be accurate. Check back in December for my next Steam Winter Sale list.

It’s that time of year again! For the next fortnight, PC gaming powerhouse Steam is running its annual summer sale, meaning there are some pretty great deals to be had for PC gamers. For the last few major Steam sales I’ve put together a list of a few titles that I think look like excellent value while they’re discounted, and this time is no different!

As I always say, events like the Steam Summer Sale go a long way to making PC gaming good value for money when compared to consoles. PC gaming can be pricey to get started with – especially at the moment thanks to major component shortages – but sales like this go a long way to making up for it, and over the lifespan of a PC or a single console generation, it’s quite possible to see how a PC player is able to save money compared to a console gamer!

The creation of Xbox Game Pass works counter to that, of course! And if you’re new to gaming and want to get started with a library of titles for relatively little money up front, a Game Pass subscription with either a pre-owned Xbox One or an Xbox Series S is honestly hard to beat.

But we’re not here for Game Pass on this occasion! Let’s take a look at twenty games currently on offer in the Steam Summer Sale.

Important: All prices and discounts were correct in the UK at time of writing. Prices and discounts may vary by region and are subject to change at any time. The Steam Summer Sale runs from today (24.06.2021) for two weeks (08.07.2021) after which prices listed below will no longer be accurate. Crazy Uncle Dennis and this article are not endorsed by or affiliated with Steam or Valve.

Number 1: Jade Empire: Special Edition
75% discount, £3.74

If you’ve been playing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and are craving another BioWare roleplaying game, you could do a lot worse than the overlooked Jade Empire. Released as an Xbox exclusive in 2005, the Chinese-inspired title made its way to Steam a few years ago. Most gamers are aware of the likes of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, but Jade Empire never quite made it to the same level.

Its graphics are certainly less shiny than modern titles, but if you can look beyond that you’ll find solid gameplay that’s easily comparable to other BioWare titles.

Number 2: Fall Guys
40% discount, £9.59

I’m not sure how long Fall Guys will remain available on Steam following a buyout by Epic Games, so if you want to get this fun obstacle course-battle royale title, now might be a good time. Fall Guys had a moment last summer before an issue with cheating and the rise of Among Us saw it slip progressively further down the rankings. But developers Mediatonic have continued to work on the game, fixing the cheating problem and releasing a number of free updates.

In mid-2021 Fall Guys is in a much better place. With Switch and Xbox releases still hopefully coming soon, the game is set for a second bite of the cherry and may see renewed interest from players. Cross-play is now enabled between PC and PlayStation at least, so getting into a game is easier than ever.

Number 3: Evil Genius 2
25% discount, £25.64

I took a look at Evil Genius 2 when it was first released earlier in the year, and it’s a lot of fun! If you’ve ever wanted to live out your Bond villain/Dr Evil fantasies, this is about as close as you can get while staying on the right side of the law! Building a secret base for your evil empire while also managing the casino used as a “front” is challenging, but if you get hooked it’s easy to sink hours into Evil Genius 2.

I’d happily recommend Evil Genius 2 to any strategy enthusiast or fan of spy thrillers. The cute, cartoony aesthetic adds to the experience as well.

Number 4: Snowrunner
20% discount, £20.79

The sequel to Mudrunner, Snowrunner is all about driving big vehicles – trucks, four-wheel drives, etc. – through difficult terrain. There really isn’t anything quite like it, and it’s a different kind of driving challenge when compared to titles like American Truck Simulator, but with a similar focus on the simulation aspect of driving.

I think Snowrunner would be absolutely cracking to play with a proper sim setup – wheel, pedals, and gearstick. But even just using a control pad it’s a lot of fun.

Number 5: Control: Ultimate Edition
60% discount, £13.99

I think I picked up Control in the last Steam sale, and just recently got around to playing through it. Control is weird, and I mean that as a compliment! I think the best way to describe it would be a psychological thriller mixed with an action game. There aren’t many true horror aspects, but there’s a lot of Lovecraftian weirdness that gives many parts of the game a creepy vibe.

Players take control of Jesse as she explores the Federal Bureau of Control – a mysterious government organisation headquartered in a very unique building! I had fun with Control, but I would caveat that I did encounter some issues with performance – poor frame-rate in particular.

Number 6: Banished
66% discount, £5.09

A mainstay of Crazy Uncle Dennis lists, Banished is an amazing city-builder. Not only must you construct buildings, but you’re also in charge of managing the citizens of your town. Ensuring that they have enough food, medicine, firewood, and other supplies is deceptively tricky, and this is a game that’s hard to master.

Banished was made by a single person. I say that every time I bring up the game, because I find it astonishing. Even if Banished had been produced by a whole studio I’d have enjoyed it, but knowing it was all programmed by a single person completely blows my mind.

Number 7: Saint’s Row 2
75% discount, £2.49

Saint’s Row 2 to me represents the pinnacle of the series, before this Grand Theft Auto-clone completely veered into the outlandish and wacky storylines that would dominate its third and especially fourth entries. If you’re bored of Grand Theft Auto V, and with a sixth entry in the series nowhere to be found, for less than the price of a coffee you could play through a game that’s as close as you can get to that experience.

Comparisons to other games aside, Saint’s Row 2 offers a ton of player customisation, even having different voices for the player character. The open world is fun to mess around in, and though the story is hardly unique it’s more than deep enough to be an enjoyable way to waste a couple of dozen hours.

Number 8: Pac-Man (Arcade Game Series)
50% discount, £1.39

Can you even call yourself “a gamer” if you don’t own at least one copy of 1980 arcade classic Pac-Man? This is one of the best-known video games of all time, and it’s quite literally a piece of gaming history. There have been many versions released over the last forty years, including some that take the basic Pac-Man concept and really mix it up. This version stays true to the 1980 original.

Gamers of a certain age have a fondness for Pac-Man, but there are a lot of younger players who’ve never tried their hand at the original. For anyone in that situation, I’d recommend giving it a shot. You’ll be experiencing a piece of video game history in the process!

Number 9: Yooka-Laylee
80% discount, £6.99

Yooka-Laylee was criticised upon release… for being a 3D platformer in the style of classics of the genre like Banjo-Kazooie. I genuinely do not understand what people were talking about if they meant that as a negative point. Yooka-Laylee was literally designed from the ground up as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie and those types of games!

Maybe it isn’t the world’s greatest ever 3D platformer, but it’s solid, cute, and a lot of fun, and if you liked those games in their heyday on the Nintendo 64, give it a shot. If you know what you’re getting into and you aren’t asking for a life-changing experience – as some critics seemed to be – you’ll have a whale of a time.

Number 10: Death Stranding
60% discount, £21.99

From famed Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding is a game that a lot of people didn’t know what to make of when it originally launched on PlayStation 4. Is it an action game? A horror game? A walking simulator? Death Stranding is a mixture of different genres and different styles of gameplay. There’s a lot of walking and exploration, and in some respects it’s a slower game as a result.

I’d tentatively put Death Stranding in a category alongside titles like Beyond: Two Souls and others by Quantic Dream. It’s interactive, and there’s a story to follow. And there is third-person action gameplay. But it’s very hard to pin it down and say what it actually is. The visuals are gorgeous, though!

Number 11: Lego City Undercover
75% discount, £6.24

Originally released as a Wii U exclusive, Lego City Undercover eventually made its way to PC. Unlike other Lego games, which adapt an existing entertainment product, it’s an original story featuring a police officer on the hunt for a vicious criminal. Weirdly for a Lego game there are some Grand Theft Auto-esque open world elements, and the story is surprisingly fun.

Lego games have always had a sense of humour, and while you won’t find anything extreme or offensive – this is a kids’ game, after all – it’s still got some real laugh-out-loud moments. I had fun with it when I was one of seven lucky people who owned a Wii U, and developer Traveller’s Tales did a good job adapting the game for PC.

Number 12: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
60% discount, £13.99

I had a lot of fun playing through Jedi: Fallen Order last summer. After the disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker I needed something to rehabilitate the Star Wars brand, and Jedi: Fallen Order delivered. As I wrote at the time, I genuinely felt like I was having my own adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

The game has a strong story with great characters and succeeded at getting me truly invested in what happened to protagonist Cal Kestis and the friends he made over the course of his journey. Coupled with great visuals and fun lightsaber-swinging gameplay, Jedi: Fallen Order was a great time all around. Not only that, but it proved once again that linear, single-player games are still viable as a concept for big publishers.

Number 13: Hades
30% discount, £13.64

Hades isn’t my usual kind of game. But having heard nothing but praise for the indie title I decided to give it a shot, and I can see why people are raving about it! Hades is a difficult rogue-like dungeon-crawler, one that gives players a degree of choice over how to set up their character before proceeding through the randomly-generated levels and tackling monsters inspired by Ancient Greek legends.

It’s a game where failure and defeat are inevitable, yet not one that punishes failing. Though dying in a game never feels great, Hades has found a way to take the sting out of defeat. It’s strangely compelling, and I found myself continuing to play long after the point where I’d have put other games down.

Number 14: Serious Sam 4
50% discount, £15.49

I played the first Serious Sam back in the early 2000s, and I found it to be an incredibly funny send-up of the first-person shooter genre at the time. Though I’m yet to play the latest instalment, which spent years in development hell before being released late last year, everything I’ve heard so far is good and I can’t wait to jump in and give it a go.

Serious Sam 4 feels like a blast of nostalgia; a throwback to when games were less about story and more about shooting as many monsters as humanly possible.

Number 15: Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
33% discount, £10.04

In early 2020 I really got stuck into Age of Empires II, replaying one of my most-played games of the early 2000s. Microsoft put a lot of work into Definitive Edition, bringing in a new graphics engine and continuing to add to and adjust the game even now, more than eighteen months after its launch. It really is the ultimate way to play Age of Empires II.

Age of Empires II is a real-time strategy game with a medieval setting, and Definitive Edition has introduced new gameplay modes, new factions, and a bustling online multiplayer scene for when you’re done practicing against the AI. It’s a time-sink, and it’s easy to lose dozens of hours here!

Number 16: No Man’s Sky
50% discount, £19.99

No Man’s Sky will forever be defined by the criticism it received at launch for failing to live up to the lofty expectations developer Hello Games set. And that’s absolutely fair enough; the “release now, fix later” business model deserves all of the hate it gets. But in the five years since, No Man’s Sky has received a number of free updates and expansions, and has grown to be the game that was promised.

A rare success story for a game that deserved all of the criticism it got, it’s actually easy to recommend the game in its current state. It’s the space exploration and adventure game that folks thought they were signing up for five years ago. It’s a shame things went down the way that they did; had No Man’s Sky been released today, it would be celebrated.

Number 17: Far Cry 5
85% discount, £7.49

Stepping away from tropical islands and murderous dictators, Far Cry 5 saw the first-person open world series head to the United States. The game is undeniably politically charged, looking at political extremism in the American heartland, but it retains that Far Cry over-the-top action and is fun to play through.

If you can’t wait for Far Cry 6, which is due for release in October, it could be worth re-playing Far Cry 5 – or playing it for the first time if you missed out when it was new.

Number 18: Forza Horizon 4
50% discount, £27.49

If you don’t have Game Pass, Forza Horizon 4 is still good value at half price. I signed up for Game Pass specifically to play this game, and it’s been well worth it! It’s a really fun, semi-arcade racer set in an open world based on my native Britain, and there are a ton of different cars and different ways to race. I’m 100% there for all of it!

The Forza Horizon series is a half-step between arcade racers and “serious” racing sims, and if you want a game that’s designed to play just as well with a control pad as a racing wheel, this could be it.

Number 19: Terminator: Resistance
40% discount, £20.99

Terminator: Resistance flew under the radar when it launched in 2019, and a lot of folks missed out on this fun first-person shooter. Set in the world of the Terminator franchise, Resistance succeeds where several recent films failed and actually told a fun, engaging story. It’s not exactly a full-blown “AAA” game, but it’s plenty of fun nevertheless.

If you missed this one a couple of years ago, give it a shot. Any fan of the Terminator franchise ought to at least try it, and if you like first-person shooters with a slight horror vibe, you’ll have a great time.

Number 20: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
75% discount, £3.24

For me, Morrowind still represents the high-water mark of the entire Elder Scrolls series. It has more to do than Oblivion or Skyrim at practically every level: more NPCs to engage with, more factions to join, more quests, more types of magic, and even more weapon types to master. Some people are put off by its lack of voice acting and text-based interface, but to me that just adds to the experience.

Morrowind is outstanding. It’s one of the best and deepest role-playing experiences ever made, and with a few select graphical mods it looks visually stunning almost twenty years on from its original release. If you haven’t played it yet, but you loved Skyrim, you’re missing out! With The Elder Scrolls VI still years away, why not step back and play – or replay – Morrowind while you wait?

So that’s it!

If you were to buy all of the titles on the list above, you’d have spent £250.30, which I reckon is pretty good going for twenty games! I tried to get a nice mix of new and older titles, as well as perhaps one or two less well-known games that you might want to try for the first time. In addition to sales like this one offering pretty significant savings, another of the advantages of PC gaming is that the end of a console generation no longer means leaving games behind. Sure, consoles offer a degree of backwards compatibility, but for my money you can’t beat having everything in one place like you can on a PC.

So all that’s left to say is I hope you found this interesting, and perhaps found a game or two to consider picking up! There’s two weeks to get your purchases in before the sale ends, but if you miss out or you can’t participate on this occasion don’t despair! There will almost certainly be a Holiday Sale in the days leading up to Christmas, and I’ll be sure to cover that here on the website too.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

E3 2021 – predictions and/or wishes

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers present for the following games: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Knights of the Old Republic I & II, Mass Effect 3, and Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

After taking a year off in 2020, the Electronic Entertainment Expo – better known as E3 – is returning later this month. In fact, many large games companies have events or announcements scheduled for June, meaning we could be in for practically an entire month of previews, trailers, teasers, and demos for a number of great upcoming titles. This time I thought it could be fun to look ahead to E3 – and other June events – and maybe make a few predictions about what we might see! There might also be a few wishes or fantasies thrown in as well!

From Microsoft and Electronic Arts to Nintendo and Ubisoft, practically all of the big names in the games industry will have something to say over the next few weeks. Much of the attention will be focused on this year’s digital E3 event, which officially takes place from the 12th to the 15th of June, but I think we can expect other big announcements outside of those dates as well.

My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” Today’s list is nothing more than guesswork and speculation, with a fair amount of hoping and fantasising thrown in for good measure! With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of my predictions (and wishes) for what we might see at this year’s E3!

Number 1: Starfield

Teaser logo for Starfield.

Bethesda’s next game has been common knowledge for years, and even while they’ve been working on Fallout 76 and porting Skyrim to smart fridges, development on this sci-fi role-playing game has continued. Rumour has it that Starfield is now edging closer to being complete, and it’s possible we could even see a release date announced at E3 – maybe even for later this year or the first half of next year.

Other than a sci-fi setting that may include some degree of space travel, actual information about Starfield has been hard to come by. The disappointment of Fallout 76, and Bethesda’s refusal to consider developing or licensing a new game engine to replace the outdated Gamebryo/Creation Engine that they’ve used for more than two decades, leaves me at least a little anxious about Starfield’s prospects, with any hype or excitement I might’ve felt at the latest big Bethesda release replaced by cautious interest. However, there’s potential in Starfield, and I hope that we’ll get a fantastic game.

Microsoft now owns Bethesda and all its current and upcoming games.

If Bethesda hadn’t learned their lesson following the calamitous launch of Fallout 76, December’s Cyberpunk 2077 catastrophe should serve as another reminder that players simply will not tolerate a broken, unfinished, “release now, fix later” mess. So as interested as I am to see Starfield, I’d very much rather that it was delayed if needs be. It would be great to see it at E3 and begin to get excited for its release, but only if it’s ready!

Bethesda has recently been acquired by Microsoft in a multi-billion dollar deal, so Starfield will almost certainly be announced as an Xbox and PC exclusive. Sorry PlayStation fans!

Number 2: Mario Kart 9

Is a new Mario Kart game coming soon?

I’ve talked about the possibility of a new Mario Kart game several times over the past few months here on the website, and the reason is simple: next year will be the Mario Kart series’ 30th anniversary. Nintendo loves to make a big deal of anniversaries, as we saw just a few months ago with the 35th anniversary of Super Mario. Although nothing is confirmed and I should point out that we don’t even know for sure that Mario Kart 9 is in development, putting the pieces together makes this one seem at least plausible!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been the best-selling game on Nintendo Switch since it arrived on the platform, but it’s only a port of a Wii U game from 2014. After more than seven years, this is the longest dry spell the Mario Kart series has ever endured, and it seems like the perfect time to give the Switch its own original Mario Kart title.

2022 will be the series’ 30th anniversary.

As a celebration of all things Mario Kart, it would be great to see racetracks from past iterations return, as well as drivers from across Nintendo titles and even from other games altogether. If Mario Kart 9 is to be released in time for the anniversary next year, announcing it at E3 makes a lot of sense – building up the hype and giving fans plenty of time to get excited!

I’m not sure whether to classify this one as a wish or a prediction, because I feel certain that Nintendo will be doing something to mark the Mario Kart series’ anniversary – but will they announce it this month? We’ll have to see!

Number 3: Anything Star Trek

Could a new Star Trek game be on the horizon?

The Star Trek franchise has not done well in the gaming realm. In recent years, Star Trek Online has been the only game in town – literally – and as someone who isn’t big on massively multiplayer online games, it just isn’t “my thing.” I’d love to see ViacomCBS take advantage of Star Trek’s return to the small screen and commission a video game adaptation. Whether that would be something connected to a classic show or something based on modern Star Trek wouldn’t matter to me – though I could see the advantages of a game based on Discovery or Picard from the company’s perspective.

This is definitely a pure wish, because I’ve heard no rumours nor seen any indication that ViacomCBS has any plans to license out Star Trek in a big way. There are mobile games, the online game, and there was even a browser game earlier this year, but when it comes to putting together the kind of single-player title that I’d really love to see, the Star Trek franchise hasn’t shown any interest since the disastrous 2013 Kelvin timeline game.

2013’s Star Trek was not a good game, unfortunately.

It’s possible that that buggy, poorly-received title has harmed Star Trek’s brand from a gaming point of view, which is such a shame. There should be a pretty big overlap between Trekkies and gamers, but the franchise has consistently failed to capitalise on that, with Star Trek games going all the way back to the ’80s being of little interest to most folks.

If ViacomCBS could contract a big studio to put out the equivalent of a Jedi: Fallen Order or Mass Effect I’d be beyond thrilled. Will it happen at E3 – or ever? I have no idea. Probably not, but there’s always hope!

Number 4: Fall Guys coming to Switch and Xbox

Fall Guys is coming to Switch… eventually.

Though Fall Guys promised earlier in the year that a release on both Switch and Xbox is on the cards, there’s currently no release date on the schedule. Announcing one at E3 would be a big boost for the fun little obstacle course-battle royale game, and as I’ve said on a few occasions now, Nintendo Switch in particular feels like a perfect fit for Fall Guys.

There have been some improvements made to Fall Guys recently, like the addition of cross-platform play, the introduction of new rounds and round variants, and additional challenges that make logging in and playing more frequently feel rewarding. But there’s still a ways to go for Fall Guys if new owners Epic Games hope to break into the upper echelons of multiplayer gaming.

Hopefully Fall Guys will continue to improve – as well as finally be released on other platforms.

Fall Guys had “a moment” in August last year, in the days immediately following its release. But issues with cheating soured a lot of players on the game, and there’s work to do to rebuild both its reputation and playerbase. The announcement of Switch and Xbox versions of the game would bring renewed attention to Fall Guys, perhaps convincing lapsed players to pick it up again.

Though developers Mediatonic have stated that there are no current plans to make Fall Guys free-to-play, the delay in getting the Switch and Xbox versions ready makes me wonder if a bigger overhaul is on the cards. Announcing it at E3, with the eyes of players around the world on the games industry, would make a lot of sense and drum up plenty of hype.

Number 5: Knights of the Old Republic III/Knights of the High Republic

A new Knights of the Old Republic would make a lot of fans very happy indeed!

Rumours swirled earlier in the year of a new entry in the Knights of the Old Republic series of Star Wars role-playing games. Originally developed by BioWare, with a sequel created by Oblivion, the Knights of the Old Republic games are among my favourite games of all-time, and a sequel just sounds fantastic!

The Star Wars franchise is seemingly stepping away from its exclusive deal with Electronic Arts, so perhaps a studio like Oblivion could come back to pick up the mantle. Or we could learn that BioWare is coming back to the series that laid the groundwork for titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

These two games were just fantastic.

It’s been 17 years since Knights of the Old Republic II was released, so that could mean a new entry in the series won’t be a direct sequel and will instead focus on new characters. The so-called “High Republic” era is currently a big deal in Star Wars spin-off media, focusing on a time period about 300 years prior to the film series – and several millennia after Knights of the Old Republic. I can’t help but wonder if a new game could be Knights of the High Republic instead!

However, Knights of the Old Republic II definitely teased a sequel, and the stories of both Revan and the Jedi Exile are arguably incomplete (despite some mentions or appearances in the online multiplayer game The Old Republic). The Star Wars franchise has recently been in the habit of announcing games shortly before their launch – like last year’s Squadrons. If that happens again, maybe we’ll get a new Star Wars game later this year!

Number 6: Jedi: Fallen Order II

Jedi: Fallen Order was amazing.

Sticking with Star Wars, we know that Respawn Entertainment is currently working on a sequel to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order. Though development may have only begun in earnest when the success of the first game became apparent, it’s not inconceivable that there’ll be something concrete to show off at this year’s E3, even if the game isn’t coming any time soon.

Cal Kestis’ story could take a different direction in the sequel, as the end of the first game left things open-ended and with no clear destination. Jedi: Fallen Order introduced us to some amazing characters, and it’s going to be wonderful to find out what comes next for all of them. I doubt Jedi: Fallen Order II will be released this year – it may not even be released next year – but a little tease to keep fans interested is no bad thing at an event like this!

It would be great to see Cal and the gang return.

Jedi: Fallen Order definitively proved to companies that have been moving away from single-player titles that there’s still a lot of room for success and profit in the medium. That’s an incredibly positive legacy for any game, and after fans had been vocal about wanting a single-player, story-focused Star Wars game, the fact that it succeeded and sold millions of copies showed Electronic Arts and other big companies that it’s worth investing in this kind of title.

I’m happy to wait for Jedi: Fallen Order II. The original game was released without major bugs or glitches, something which should be expected but which won it a lot of praise in an industry where “release now, fix later” has almost become the norm. Rather than rush the sequel, I hope Respawn and EA take their time to give it the polish it deserves.

Number 7: Mass Effect 4

Promo art for Mass Effect 2.

It would make a lot of sense for BioWare and Electronic Arts to capitalise on the successful release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition to at least tease or hint at what’s coming next for the franchise. We know, thanks to an earlier announcement, that Mass Effect 4 is in early development, but aside from a cinematic teaser we know nothing about the next entry in the series.

One of the reasons Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t succeed (aside from its bugs and launch issues) was that it ignored the ending of the third game and tried to do its own thing off to one side. The end of the Reaper War was a significant moment for the Mass Effect galaxy and its races, and piecing together what happens next is something many fans are interested in, despite the disappointment many felt at the three ending options for Mass Effect 3.

With the Reaper War over, where will the drama and action come from in Mass Effect 4?

Mass Effect 4 has a difficult task. It has to follow on from an epic “war to end all wars” type of story in a way that doesn’t feel anticlimactic and small. That’s not going to be easy, and I can understand why BioWare instead chose to tell a side-story in Andromeda instead of trying to confront this challenge head-on. With the game in development, though, I assume they’ve figured something out!

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition can be seen as a test or a dry run for a new game, and judging by the success it’s seen over the last couple of weeks, I have no doubt that a new entry in the series will be highly anticipated by fans.

Number 8: Grand Theft Auto 6

After almost a decade, surely a new Grand Theft Auto game can’t be too far away?

For too long Rockstar have been milking Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode, and it’s time for a change. After the longest gap between games in the history of the franchise, a new title in the open-world crime saga is long overdue, and it would be great to get some kind of news – even just the tiniest tease – at E3.

Rockstar has already committed to porting Grand Theft Auto V to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X, diverting time, money, and development resources away from making a new game. I’ve said before that Grand Theft Auto V has run its course by now, and the disappointed reaction from fans to news of a port to new consoles backs that up. It’s high time for a new title.

Grand Theft Auto V’s port to new hardware left many players upset.

Will it happen, though? I mean it will eventually happen, of course; there’s too much money in the brand to let it end with Grand Theft Auto V. But despite the fact that some players have been vocal about wanting a new title, Rockstar has thus far shown no signs of working on a sequel. In some ways, perhaps the success of Grand Theft Auto V has become a problem for the franchise; the more time passes, the harder it will be for any sequel to live up to its illustrious predecessor.

Finding a way for Grand Theft Auto 6 to differentiate itself from the current iteration of the series is also a challenge. Another sunlit coastal city in the present day probably won’t cut it – so where should Rockstar take the series? Maybe we’ll see the first indications soon!

Number 9: Civilization VII

Promo screenshot of Civilization VI.

It’s been almost five years since the release of Civilization VI, so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a new entry in the series is in development. The most recent expansion pack for Civilization VI – titled the New Frontier pass – may be the game’s last, with no further announcements of DLC coming since last year. Perhaps Firaxis has already begun to shift development to a new game?

I was pleasantly surprised by Civilization VI when I picked it up in 2016. Having not been a big fan of previous turn-based strategy games I was initially sceptical, but I’m glad I took the plunge! I ended up sinking hundreds of hours into Civilization VI as the last decade drew to a close, and there’s a lot to be said for the series.

The Civilization series has come a long way since its inception in the early 1990s!

A new game would shake up the formula without reinventing the wheel, introducing different ways to play or bringing back successful features from past entries in the series. There would also be the potential to introduce brand-new factions and leaders – a subject I took a look at a few weeks ago.

Series like Civilization, which don’t see annual releases, can sometimes cause controversy if a new entry is regarded as being released “too soon” after the previous one. But the Civilization franchise has usually put out a new game roughly every four to five years on average, so the time could be coming for a new entry.

Number 10: Hogwarts Legacy

Promo image for Hogwarts Legacy.

Hogwarts Legacy – a single-player action/role-playing game set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – was announced last year with a short trailer. It’s since been delayed, with a release now scheduled for 2022 instead of later this year. But developers Avalanche Software and publisher Warner Bros. might take the opportunity provided by E3 to update fans on the game’s progress.

It’s been a long time since anything set in the Wizarding World was of much interest to me, but Hogwarts Legacy feels like it has potential. The trailer hinted at a morality system as well as different styles of magic and player choices having an impact on the game, all of which are things I find thoroughly enjoyable in a single-player title. I got a kind of Knights of the Old Republic vibe from the way the game was described!

The trailer we saw last year looked very exciting!

I’m a big supporter of games being delayed. I’d very much rather a developer take the necessary time to polish their title rather than releasing it too soon to meet an arbitrary deadline. In the wake of the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077 last year – as well as other titles that failed as a result of their “release now, fix later” model – I’m glad to see Warner Bros. and Avalanche are prepared to take their time. But it would still be nice to see some more of the game if there’s something ready to see!

One of the aspects of the game I’m most interested to learn more about is how it’ll handle school lessons within the overall storyline. Games set in schools have not always managed to strike the right balance, and mini-games supposedly mimicking “classwork” have often fallen rather flat. If the player character is a student, surely they will need to spend at least some of their time in class – and figuring out that aspect of the game could be key to its success!

Number 11: Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is a great and inexpensive way to get access to a large library of titles.

Game Pass has taken off over the last few months, and is one of the most compelling arguments in favour of buying an Xbox right now, as well as offering a relatively inexpensive way into gaming in general. Microsoft will be making a big appearance at E3, and I can’t help but wonder what news they’ll have regarding Game Pass.

Some have suggested that a deal might be on the table to bring Xbox Game Pass to Nintendo Switch or even PlayStation; I’m not sure that’s practical considering the divide between Microsoft and Sony in particular, but you never know! After Bethesda and EA Play have both brought significant libraries of games to the service in recent months, I’m beginning to wonder what’s left for Microsoft to possibly add!

EA, Bethesda, and more… Game Pass continues to grow!

Regardless, I’m sure that any titles Microsoft show off, including big Bethesda titles like Starfield or even The Elder Scrolls VI, will be coming to Game Pass, so that’s a good start. But using the opportunity of E3 to really push the service and show how it’s continuing to expand would be great from Microsoft’s perspective.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are still sold out everywhere, but there seem to be more Xbox Series S consoles available at the moment. Game Pass also makes picking up a pre-owned Xbox One a pretty good proposition in the short term, so Microsoft has a lot of scope this month to hook in and convert players to their platform – and Game Pass is the way to do it.

Number 12: Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite was delayed, but it’s still being worked on.

Speaking of Microsoft and Xbox, following a disappointing reveal last year, Halo Infinite was postponed. Originally the game was supposed to be the Xbox Series S/X’s flagship launch title, but as I predicted at the time, its absence ultimately didn’t prove a huge hurdle for the new console’s launch.

Since original developer Bungie abandoned the Halo series to pursue Destiny in 2010, the series has struggled to hit the highs of earlier titles. Halo 4 and Halo 5 were both well-received by some fans but disliked by others, and there’s a sense that the Halo series really needs a win with its next iteration. As above with Hogwarts Legacy I fully support developers 343 Industries delaying the project and taking the necessary time to bash it into shape. Maybe we’ll see what they’ve been working on at E3!

Promo art for the Halo series.

With a Halo television series also in the works, it should be a good time to be a fan of the sci-fi shooter series. Hopefully the issues with Infinite have been ironed out, and even if there’s still no definite word on when it’ll be released, there will be something to show off to tide fans over and restore hope in the series’ future.

I enjoyed playing Halo and Halo 2 back on the original Xbox, and I’ve recently had fun with The Master Chief Collection on PC, which included a couple of titles I hadn’t played. I’m interested to see what Infinite will bring to the table.

Number 13: Elden Ring

A figure from the Elden Ring teaser trailer.

I have to be honest: I’m not sure if Elden Ring is going to be “my kind of thing.” Don’t get me wrong, I like George R R Martin – who’s working with developer FromSoftware on the project – but the teaser trailer gave off a kind of horror vibe that just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess.

I’m also not a fan of FromSoftware’s “extreme difficulty for the sake of it” style of gameplay. There’s no indication that Elden Ring will be as horribly difficult as the likes of Dark Souls, but the developer’s reputation precedes them, and their unwillingness to add difficulty options in their games is not something I appreciate. For those reasons and more it may end up being a game I skip!

A rather creepy moment from the teaser trailer.

Despite that, I like the idea of a new dark fantasy role-playing game. The involvement of George R R Martin has a lot of fans understandably excited, as he’s one of the best authors working in the genre today. Other than that, and a short cinematic teaser, we don’t know very much at all about Elden Ring – so this could be the moment for Bandai Namco to finally show off some gameplay!

If I were being hopeful, I guess I’d say that I’d like to see a darker, more polished looking version of The Elder Scrolls, with plenty of side-missions, lots of factions to join or fight against, and a main story that can be played through right away or sidelined in favour of doing other things. Whether Elden Ring will be anything like that, or whether it’ll be closer to Dark Souls is anyone’s guess at the moment!

Number 14: Super Mario 64 remake

Battling Bowser in HD? Yes please!

This is a game that I truly felt was a possibility last year, when Nintendo was marking the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario series. Ultimately the company opted to include a pretty crappy version of Super Mario 64 – with a weird screen resolution that left black bars on all four sides of the screen – as part of the underwhelming Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.

But maybe the rumours of a reimagining of this classic 3D platformer from 1996 weren’t just made up! Maybe Super Mario 64 is being remade using the engine from Super Mario Odyssey, and maybe it’ll be announced this month! Maybe.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars did not do justice to this game. A full remake would be amazing, though!

There are relatively few games that I’d be really excited to see remade, because in a lot of cases – especially when dealing with relatively recent games – the original versions still hold up pretty well. But after 25 years, there’s definitely scope to remake Super Mario 64, bringing it up-to-date for a new generation of players.

With the game’s 25th anniversary happening this year, perhaps Nintendo’s love of anniversary events will have convinced them it’s worth putting together a remake! Either way, if you can find a copy the original game is well worth playing if you missed it first time around.

Number 15: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Teaser art for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

The third Star Wars title on this list is a fun one! Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was originally due for release last year, before being delayed. The game will be a follow-up to the very successful 2007 game Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which if you haven’t played I can’t recommend highly enough!

The chance to revisit the Star Wars world with a fun Lego twist – in high definition, this time – has been appealing since The Skywalker Saga was announced a couple of years ago, and this is one game I’m definitely looking forward to. When it was delayed there was mention of a 2021 release, but no date or even release window has yet been elaborated on. Maybe E3 could be the right moment!

Rey and Kylo Ren clash in another promo screenshot for the game.

Though they arguably overdid it and burned out somewhere in the late 2000s or early 2010s, Lego adaptations of popular franchises have been a lot of fun. Lego Star Wars was one of the first to really go mainstream and see big success, but other titles which adapted properties like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean were good fun as well.

It would be great to get a solid release date and see a little more of the game. Adapting all nine films in the Star Wars series into a single game is no mean feat, but it’s a challenge that developer Traveller’s Tales has never shied away from. I’m sure that The Skywalker Saga will prove to be a worthy successor to previous Lego Star Wars titles.

So that’s it! A few of my predictions – and wishes – for this month’s E3.

The official E3 2021 logo.

Could you tell which were predictions and which were wishes? I’m not sure I could tell you which were which in every case, so don’t worry! After a rough year, which hasn’t been helped by myriad delays and shortages, it’ll be nice to see players getting genuinely excited about upcoming titles once again. Whatever is ultimately announced or revealed, I’m sure there’ll be something of interest to me, something I can put on my wishlist for later in the year!

Though I’ve never been to E3, I did attend two iterations of GamesCom – Europe’s biggest games fair – in the past when I used to work for a large games company. As I said last year, these digital events are arguably the future of games marketing. Not only are they substantially cheaper than paying to rent a convention centre in California, but it gives the companies greater control over their own messaging. Though the headline this year is “E3 is back!” I would argue that it isn’t – not really. E3 was an in-person event, an overblown trade fair that started allowing members of the public to attend. What we’re going to see this month will be all-digital and quite different.

I hope this was a bit of fun as we look ahead to E3. There are plenty of upcoming games to get excited about, and I shall be watching the various presentations with interest!

All titles mentioned above are the trademark or copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. E3 2021 takes place digitally from the 12th to the 15th of June, with additional events taking place throughout the month of June. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten non-Nintendo characters who (probably won’t) appear in Mario Kart 9!

A few days ago I had a lot of fun putting together a short list of (mostly) Nintendo characters who I think should appear in Mario Kart 9 – whenever that game may come! As a follow-up, I thought it could be interesting to consider a few characters from outside of Nintendo’s walled garden who could also join the fun. If you’d like to check out the original list, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Mario Kart 8 and later Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pushed the boat out as far as the roster of drivers is concerned, including characters from outside of the Super Mario series for the first time, including Link from The Legend of Zelda series, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and two characters from the Splatoon games. However, it would be a first for the series to include non-Nintendo characters!

Isabelle, from the Animal Crossing series, is a driver in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Although the Mario Kart games haven’t done so yet, Nintendo has proved itself willing to open up to other companies’ franchises and characters in recent years. We’ve seen Minecraft Steve, for example, as well as characters from the Castlevania, Persona, and Dragon Quest series appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, so I think that demonstrates a willingness on Nintendo’s part to think outside the box when it comes to characters in popular titles.

Whether it will happen, though, is completely unknown! And to reiterate what I always say: this is pure guesswork and a wishlist from a fan, nothing more. I’m not claiming to know for a fact that any characters listed below will appear in Mario Kart 9 – or even if such a game is currently in development. With the 30th anniversary of the Mario Kart series coming up in 2022 I think it’s possible that we might see a new game, but even that’s just a guess on my part!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega)

Sonic as he appears in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020.

Of all the characters on this list, Sonic is arguably the most likely to crop up in Mario Kart 9. Not only is he a character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but there have been a number of Nintendo games over the last decade or more in which he’s been prominently featured. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games in 2007 marked his debut alongside Mario, and since then the duo have appeared together in five more Olympic-themed titles.

It would’ve seemed unthinkable in the ’90s for Mario and Sonic to appear together; they were the mascots of competing companies! It was only when Sega retired from manufacturing their own consoles shortly after the millennium that Sonic appearing on Nintendo hardware was even a possibility, but he’s since become a mainstay. He’d make for a fantastic character, and having already featured in his own kart racer, he definitely knows a thing or two about driving!

Number 2: Pac-Man (Bandai Namco)

A 3D rendering of Pac-Man from 1999’s Pac-Man World.

Another character who appeared in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Pac-Man is a gaming icon from the medium’s early days. Originally an arcade game created in 1980, Pac-Man spawned a whole host of titles in a series that continues to this day. Though the games have no real story or plot, Pac-Man was arguably one of the first video game characters, and was, for a time, symbolic of the games industry as a whole. His simple design became iconic, and even today Pac-Man is instantly recognisable.

As with Sonic above, even a few years ago the idea of a collaboration between Nintendo and Pac-Man (short of licensing one of the games to their consoles) wouldn’t have seemed possible. But as companies continue to pool their resources and work together, it could make a lot of sense for both Nintendo and Bandai Namco (or should that be Bando Namcai?) to bring Pac-Man to Mario Kart 9.

Number 3: Fall Guy (Epic Games/Mediatonic)

Three Fall Guys seen in a recent Nintendo Direct.

If I’d been in charge of the development of cute obstacle course/battle royale title Fall Guys, I would have prioritised a Nintendo Switch release. Regardless, the title is finally going to be released on Nintendo’s console, months after it’s PC and PlayStation 4 debut. The Fall Guys themselves are adorable little jelly bean characters with a huge variety of costumes, and their cartoon aesthetic would fit perfectly with Nintendo’s long-running kart racing series.

The recent Epic Games buyout may complicate matters, but with Fall Guys coming to Switch I really feel it has a shot at being successful on that platform – especially if Mediatonic can get cross-platform play up and running. If the game is a hit, bringing a Fall Guy to Mario Kart 9 would be fantastic, and something Nintendo could absolutely consider doing. It would arguably benefit Fall Guys more, with the character’s inclusion serving almost as advertising, but that should just be an incentive for Epic Games to allow this crossover to go ahead!

Number 4: Master Chief (Microsoft)

The Master Chief in Halo: The Master Chief Collection concept art.

The inclusion of Minecraft Steve in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate shows that Microsoft is quite happy to work with Nintendo, and a number of their recent moves – like their partnership with EA – have opened up the possibility of further collaborations and crossovers with big games companies. With that in mind, could the Halo series’ iconic protagonist end up as a racer?

Halo games, as first-person shooters, are quite violent, so perhaps Nintendo would opt not to include such characters for the sake of keeping the game family-friendly. But Master Chief’s design isn’t aggressive or scary, and I think he could be made to fit. It would be a fun collaboration between two of modern gaming’s big powerhouses.

Number 5: Doom Guy (Bethesda/Microsoft)

Doom Eternal promotional artwork featuring the character known as Doom Guy.

Though visually similar in some respects to the Master Chief, Doom Guy has a surprising history with Nintendo. Not only was Doom 64 a Nintendo 64 exclusive in 1997, but last year saw a bizarre yet strangely wholesome internet-inspired team-up with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In short, Doom Eternal shared a release date with New Horizons, and because of the polar opposite nature of the games, fans began ironically pairing up Doom Guy with Animal Crossing characters – notably Isabelle.

Nintendo could take advantage of the memes and jokes by bringing Doom Guy into Mario Kart 9. On the surface, maybe he isn’t a great fit for the series. But there’s nothing offensive about his character design, and if last year’s fan art showed us one thing, it’s that Doom Guy can be made to look adorable and cartoonified!

Number 6: Two Point Hospital Doctor or Nurse (Sega)

Two doctors and a nurse.

Two Point Hospital is a spiritual successor to 1997’s Theme Hospital, a classic of the “tycoon” genre. It was ported to the Nintendo Switch last year after releasing for PC in 2018, and has gone on to be a surprising success on the platform. As with many tycoon games there isn’t really one principal character to pick out, but a generic doctor and/or nurse could be a fun addition to Mario Kart 9.

One of the great things about Two Point Hospital is its cartoon aesthetic; a deliberate choice that mimics the title’s origins in tycoon games of the 1990s. That look just happens to be perfect for the Mario Kart series, which means a Two Point Hospital character would be a natural fit.

Number 7: A Palico (Capcom)

A Palico as seen in the trailer for Monster Hunter Rise.

I’ll let you in on a secret: the Monster Hunter series has never seemed like my thing. The latest title in the series, Monster Hunter Rise, is available for Nintendo Switch, but despite loving the visual style, the core gameplay of hunting and killing so-called “monsters” – which seem to be docile animals living their own lives not troubling anybody – holds absolutely no appeal to me!

Regardless, the latest title is a big hit on Switch, and Palicoes are cute little felines or cat-like characters that accompany the player character during the game. It seems like this kind of cute critter would be a perfect fit for Mario Kart 9 – even if I don’t personally care for the game they originate from!

Number 8: Zagreus (Supergiant Games)

Promotional art for Hades featuring Zagreus.

Hades has to be one of the best indie games I’ve played in recent years, and was recently featured in a Nintendo Direct presentation as the game is getting a full physical release (i.e. on a game cartridge) for Switch. It’s an absolute blast, and if you haven’t tried it I can’t recommend it enough – if you’re okay with a game in which you die over and over again!

Zagreus, son of Hades, is the game’s protagonist, adapted from the character present in Ancient Greek mythology. His anime-inspired style is… well let’s just say I’m not an anime fan. But as a character he’s interesting and fun to root for in Hades, and with some minor adaptations I’m sure he could fit in with the rest of the racers!

Number 9: Ori and Sein (Microsoft/Moon Studios)

Ori and Sein in Ori and the Blind Forest.

I’d almost forgotten that both Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps had been ported to the Nintendo Switch, but both games were a good fit for Nintendo’s platform and seem to have sold reasonably well. This entry is technically two characters, but they could be rolled into a single racer as Sein’s design might not lend itself to being an independent driver!

The Ori games are surprisingly sweet but also challenging in places, and Ori would certainly fit right in with the Mario Kart series from an aesthetic point of view. It would be great to see the Ori series, which already has a Switch presence, join up with Nintendo for an additional collaboration!

Number 10: Geralt of Rivia (CD Projekt Red)

Geralt as he appears on the box art of The Witcher 3.

Though I still haven’t played The Witcher 3 – or the prior two entries in the series, come to that – it’s held up as one of the best games of the last ten years, and protagonist Geralt of Rivia has since cropped up in a couple of unexpected places! Perhaps his next adventure could be joining Mario and friends for a go-kart race?

The Witcher 3 was one of the most ambitious titles to bring to the Nintendo Switch, considering the size and complexity of the game, but by all accounts it’s a solid port. A lot of folks have been enjoying taking Geralt with them to play on the go, and his recent appearance in Soul Calibur VI shows that CD Projekt Red are clearly amenable to collaborating with other companies. He would be a strange choice, perhaps, but a lot of fun nevertheless!

Bonus: Battle-Cars (Epic Games)

Promotional art for Rocket League showing two Battle-Cars.

One of the most surprising things in Mario Kart 8 was the inclusion of Mercedes-Benz car parts, as part of a deal Nintendo struck with the famous car manufacturer! We could absolutely consider other manufacturers or vehicles that would be cute to see in the next Mario Kart game, but for now I thought it could be fun if Nintendo could team up with one of the other top car games out there – Rocket League!

I’m atrocious at Rocket League and have been since the first time I played, but the game is a lot of fun. A buyout by Epic Games saw the title move to a free-to-play model, which has been good in some ways. There are a number of different vehicle styles, and any could be adapted to make a fun kart in Mario Kart 9. Perhaps three or four different styles would be enough so as not to overwhelm the title!

So that’s it. Ten characters – and one bonus set of vehicles – that Mario Kart 9 should – but most likely won’t – include!

Is a new Mario Kart title in the works?

If I’m right that Nintendo plans to do something next year to mark the series’ 30th anniversary, a new game would be top of the list. And in the spirit of celebration, bringing a whole roster of characters from across gaming to join one big Mario Kart party would be a great thing for Nintendo to do. Some characters that Nintendo has worked with in the past, like Sonic the Hedgehog, seem far more likely than others, but it would benefit practically every company involved in the games industry to allow Nintendo to license one or two of their characters. After all, it’s a fantastic advertisement for the game they’re originally from!

I’ve been a huge Mario Kart fan since I first sat down to play Super Mario Kart in 1993 or 1994, back when I owned a SNES. That title only had eight racers to choose from, and the series has come a long way since then – while managing to retain the fun. As games got better and I played the likes of Shenmue and Knights of the Old Republic I began to favour titles with a strong focus on story; there are few titles I considered fun for their gameplay alone. The Mario Kart series has always been one of them! Whatever happens next year, and whenever Mario Kart 9 may come, I hope Nintendo try to bring in some new and different faces.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now for Nintendo Switch, and is the copyright of Nintendo. All characters mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo art courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

All Fall Guys rounds re-ranked!

Back in August, when Fall Guys was the party hit of the summer, I put all of the rounds (i.e. levels) into a ranked list. Since then, a number of new rounds have been added to the game as part of the Season 2 and Season 3 updates. In addition, most rounds now have at least one variant, with alterations to obstacles to keep players on their toes.

I’m hopeful that Fall Guys will have a strong future. With releases planned for Xbox and Switch this summer, and a fourth season coming between now and then, developers Mediatonic are still working hard. But as we noted last time, player numbers have dropped significantly – by as much as 95% on PC – in a little over half a year, so new owners Epic Games have their work cut out to revitalise Fall Guys in 2021.

Fall Guys is coming to Nintendo Switch this summer.

There are presently 38 rounds in the game, and we’ll look at each of them in turn from worst to best. Some rounds have been greatly improved since I last ranked them, whereas others are now overshadowed by newer rounds that are better! So there will certainly be some changes when compared to my previous list.

Before we go any further, a note about team rounds. In order to avoid being too repetitive, let’s get this out of the way first: success or failure in team rounds is inherently dependent on who you’re teamed up with. Lopsided or unbalanced teams (i.e. 5 against 7) have largely been eliminated from the game via updates – which is great news – but if you’re teamed up with people who aren’t great at the round, who aren’t paying attention, who drop out, etc. it’s going to be much harder to qualify. That’s just the nature of team rounds in a game like Fall Guys, and while it can be incredibly frustrating, it’s also something that can’t be avoided. The reverse can also be true – you can play atrociously only to end up qualifying thanks to being on a strong team. So rather than repeat myself with every single team round, I thought I’d just make this clear at the beginning!

Without any further caveats, let’s jump and dive headfirst into the list.

Number 38: Snowy Scrap (Team)

I appreciate what Snowy Scrap was trying to do, and how the developers clearly hoped to create a round that bypassed some of the issues with Rock N Roll – another round which tasks teams of players to push a large ball. The problem with Snowy Scrap is that the physics engine in use in Fall Guys, as well as the deliberately clumsy characters, are not well-suited to a game which requires precision. In Rock N Roll, the large goal at the end doesn’t require this, but in Snowy Scrap the snowballs need to be aimed at small patches of snow on the ground. The clunky balls are difficult to control so delicately, and it’s just a very difficult round as a result.

Number 37: Door Dash (Race)

Last time I ranked Door Dash as the worst round in the game… and nothing has been done to address any of its issues in the patches and updates since. Its combination of being fast-paced yet random means that a single unavoidable mistake – because which doors are real and which are fake is completely random and unknowable – can often mean failure to qualify. It’s a round where, if luck is on your side, you’ll breeze through. If not, however, you’re in trouble. A lot of the rounds in Fall Guys require at least a modicum of skill; Door Dash doesn’t. If you can run and jump, you can play this round just as well as the best players in the world.

Number 36: Fruit Chute (Race)

There’s nothing wrong with the premise of Fruit Chute, which sees players run on a treadmill while obstacles are being fired at them. But it’s an incredibly unforgiving round, and in most cases a single collision can be enough to knock you right out of contention. It’s also a round where not much has been changed, and the variant which added mallets (to sling players forward up the track) doesn’t really seem to help, as landing awkwardly can still mean qualification is out of reach. A fun round, for sure, but horribly unforgiving.

Number 35: Royal Fumble (Finale)

Royal Fumble has slipped way down my list compared to last time for one simple reason: it hardly ever shows up any more. It’s hard to say anything about a round that seems to have dropped off the face of the earth, and I almost took it entirely out of contention. The premise is fine – whoever is in possession of the one single tail when the timer runs out wins the crown – but if, for whatever reason, it’s no longer being used very often, then it can’t be ranked any higher on the list.

Number 34: Tip Toe (Race)

Another round that hasn’t seen any improvement since last time, Tip Toe is another that can be very unforgiving and random. It’s impossible to tell which tiles are fake and which are real without jumping on them, and if you’re unlucky enough to fall near the end, by the time you’ve respawned the round can be over. Because Tip Toe shows up later (usually it’s at least the third round) players are cautious, wanting to qualify for the finale, so it can drag out if no one is willing to try stepping on the next tile. The addition of a mallet in one variant does basically nothing, because even if you jumped perfectly and got hit by it, chances are you’d still land on a tile that will fall away.

Number 33: See Saw (Race)

See Saw sees perhaps the biggest fall from grace since I wrote my first list. Back then I said that it was “a ton of fun, and deceptively tricky.” And that’s true – See Saw can be fun, but one thing I’ve come to realise is just how unfair it is. Players who spawn in at the front of the pack have a far bigger advantage than I realised, and it’s often the case in See Saw that two or three players manage to qualify way before everyone else simply because they had a straight shot to the finish line. However, See Saw is usually a forgiving round, meaning a fall or two doesn’t usually knock you right out of contention. I still like it and have fun with it, but the unfairness is definitely noteworthy!

Number 32: Jump Showdown (Finale)

Jump Showdown is – I think – the finale where I’ve won the most crowns! But it’s quite random when compared to all of the other finales, and it’s possible to lose simply because of where you spawned in at the beginning. When a couple of platforms have fallen away, you can end up in the wrong place simply by chance, and thus I stand by what I said last time: that’s poor for a finale.

Number 31: Rock N Roll (Team)

Rock N Roll usually sees all three teams make identical progress pushing their giant ball through a short obstacle course, and that’s the part of the round that could really use some attention and improvement. Once the balls drop it’s a short run to the goal at the bottom, and this round invariably descends into which team can hold up the others better. I also feel that there’s a disadvantage to being in the middle lane, simply because you have players from both sides who could jump in the way and hold you up. It’s preferable to Snowy Scrap, though!

Number 30: Jinxed (Team)

I hadn’t played many rounds of Jinxed when I ranked it last time, but it seems to come up more often now. It’s okay, and the level is well-designed. It’s a very fast-paced round, better suited to larger teams, but because of the way it starts – with one “jinxed” player per team – it can get lopsided fast if one of the jinxed players isn’t paying attention (or just isn’t very good!) It’s okay, though, and we’re getting into the part of the list where none of the rounds are all that bad, just overshadowed by some that are better!

Number 29: Perfect Match (Logic)

I ranked Perfect Match much higher up the list last time. I enjoy it a lot, and in a game that can be very hectic it’s a refreshingly different offering. However, it’s also a round that invariably ends up eliminating practically nobody. I don’t want to attach the label “too easy,” but it’s hard to know what else to say about a round where 30 out of 31 players qualify. A variant has been added that randomly shoots obstacles at the course, and that helps a little, but right now Perfect Match is an outlier. If it remains the case that it doesn’t eliminate many players, including it is going to end up feeling like a waste of time when it appears. That’s a shame, because in theory I like Perfect Match – it just doesn’t work so well at the moment.

Number 28:Pegwin Pursuit (Team)

The robo-penguins that you have to catch in this game are cute, and the concept is fun. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m not wild about a lot of the team rounds, and in a way I’d like to see a solo variant of this round as I think that could be fun. If there were, for example, five fewer penguins than players (10 penguins in a 15-player round, and so on) maybe that would work. It’s fine, though, and worked well during the winter-themed Season 3.

Number 27: Team Tail Tag (Team)

Team Tail Tag has one of the best-designed levels, and it’s one that could work well for a whole range of different games. It has ramps, conveyors, slippery slime ramps, mallets… lots of different “terrains” and obstacles. It’s also the only round where I’ve seen four teams instead of two or three! The tail tag concept is fun, and pretty easy to get to grips with. A fun middle-of-the-road round that I don’t really have anything else to say about.

Number 26: Tail Tag (Hunt)

As I said in my previous list, the non-team version of Tail Tag works ever-so-slightly better, in my opinion, because victory or defeat is in your own hands. The map is perhaps slightly less fun, though it has spawned at least one variant with large fans that does mix things up a little. Tail Tag is the one round where what you do at the beginning does not matter in the slightest; it’s won or lost in the last few seconds. That keeps it exciting all the way along, and I appreciate that about it. It’s also on a fixed timer so there’s no waiting around!

Number 25: Hex-A-Gone (Finale)

Hex-A-Gone is fine. It’s a solid finale that does what it says it’s going to do! I’ve seen some players who seem to have very elaborate Hex-A-Gone tactics, including dropping way down to the final layer to make holes in the hopes that other players will fall straight through! I like that it’s a round that inspires some degree of tactical thinking; you can’t just run around and hope for the best.

Number 24: Fall Ball (Team)

I mentioned above that the physics of Fall Guys makes controlling large balls difficult, and while that was frustrating in Snowy Scrap it’s a big part of the fun of Fall Ball. Even after playing many times, I’m still crap at it. But it’s fun, and it’s a change of pace when compared to a lot of the other team rounds. It actually requires a degree of teamwork to qualify – just running around only considering yourself can leave your goal exposed or leave teammates without support, so it’s another round that can be played tactically.

Number 23: Hoarders (Team)

Hoarders is a pretty hectic round, and another that requires players to control large balls. Luckily in this case the objective is just to keep as many as possible in an entire third of the map, which is much easier than scoring a goal or rolling in a specific area! As with Tail Tag, who’s winning at the start doesn’t matter; there are only a few balls so it’s possible to pull off a recovery even at the last second. In that sense it’s a round that never lets up.

Number 21 (tie): Egg Scramble & Egg Siege (Team)

I’m putting these two together because for all intents and purposes they’re the same round. The level design is slightly different – with Egg Siege adding a medieval theme and drawbridges, as well as deeper “nests,” but the changes aren’t substantial enough to make the rounds play any differently from one another. I like both, and the addition of golden eggs alongside regular eggs adds an extra dimension to the rounds. They’re fun and often fast-paced – the only time either are less fun would be when there are only a few players per team. One round I played only had four players on each team, and I think that’s too few!

Number 20: Hoopsie Daisy (Team)

I think we’ve come to my favourite team round! I just love the jumping and diving, and the hoops are just large enough to make a good target without being too big or making it too easy. The addition of golden hoops, and mixing up some of the obstacles on the map, gives Hoopsie Daisy an additional dimension, and I always smile when it crops up. Unless your team falls way behind and stays there, it’s usually competitive right up to the last second, too.

Number 19: Jump Club (Survival)

I prefer Jump Club to its finale cousin for the simple reason that it’s less random. It’s still possible to screw up and fail to qualify, but usually that’s because of a self-inflicted mistake, and not because of the way the round was designed. Otherwise it’s a pretty simple concept – jump over the spinning beam without getting caught by the larger one above it. Hang on long enough while other players get knocked into the slime and you qualify! It’s a round that usually doesn’t drag on too long, either because a lot of players get caught out, or because the beams speed up!

Number 18: Roll Out (Survival)

If there were only the original version of Roll Out it would surely rank lower down the list. That’s because, as I noted last time, that version of Roll Out can take a long time to play out because most people have got the hang of it! But there are two new variants that completely mix it up. In one, two of the five rotating cylinders are gone, meaning there are more players packed into a smaller space. In the other, fruit obstacles are fired at random, knocking players down. These new variants massively improve the round.

Number 17: Wall Guys (Race)

Among the racing rounds, there really isn’t anything quite like Wall Guys. In a way it’s partly a game of logic, trying to piece together the best route across the platforms to scale the walls. But it’s also a round that requires good jumping, diving, and aiming reflexes. A second variant adds in giant fans, which certainly mixes things up. It’s not an easy round by any means, and sometimes positioning a platform in just the right place can mean someone else jumps on it first – but that’s part of the game!

Number 16: Freezy Peak (Race)

Freezy Peak is a fun obstacle course with several sections offering a variety of challenges. The hardest part (at least for me) is getting the timing right to jump across the fans, using the updraft to cross a gap. It’s not easy, but it’s a cleverly-designed round and I appreciate that it offers a lot of variety. It could easily be repurposed to become a finale, with the first person reaching the summit winning a crown!

Number 15: Hoopsie Legends (Hunt)

Hoopsie Legends is the solo variant of Hoopsie Daisy, and it’s great fun. The challenge doesn’t only lie in jumping through the hoops, but also in getting to them ahead of other players, and in moving platforms to just the right place. The map itself is perhaps a little bland, with only the central drawbridge area offering any variety. My only real point of criticism, though, is that in a round where the objective is to score six points, having a few golden hoops that are worth five points each can make it quick and easy for some players to reach the target. It might be better if these were only worth two points.

Number 14: Thin Ice (Finale)

Thin Ice is a slightly better variant of Hex-A-Gone, and that’s really all there is to say. After standing on the hexagon-shaped ice tiles for a couple of seconds, they crack and disappear, dropping players down to the next layer of ice. It’s possible to do well at Thin Ice by taking it slow and focusing on one section of the level. When it gets down to the final layer and a lot of holes, well that’s when it gets hectic! It’s also the finale where I’ve seen the most players – 18 on one occasion, and 15-16 several times.

Number 13: Snowball Survival (Survival)

This is a fun round, and a well-designed level. Two giant snowballs roll across the bowl-shaped map at random, sometimes bouncing off one another. There are patches of ice that crack and fall away, and patches of solid ground. Getting hit by a snowball sends players flying in all directions, and the challenge is in jumping out of the way in time! It’s also a round that can, on occasion, eliminate a large number of players.

Number 12: Fall Mountain (Finale)

Fall Mountain makes for a great finale because it’s fast-paced. It’s a race to the top – while giant balls are being shot down the mountain at you – and whoever makes it and grabs the crown wins. Victory or defeat is entirely in your own hands – quick reflexes are needed to avoid the balls and swinging mallets, and to jump at the right moment to grab the crown. Though it’s kind of basic as far as obstacle courses go, it’s great fun.

Number 11: Slime Climb (Race)

I’m still awful at Slime Climb! More often than not I wind up eliminated through a mistimed jump or by getting knocked over by one of the many different types of obstacle! But as a pure obstacle course it has everything: rolling balls, swinging mallets, slippery slopes, pushing platforms… the lot. And a few different variants have been added, changing up some of the obstacles to keep players on their toes. In terms of the way the level is designed it has to be one of the best in the game – even though I absolutely suck at it.

Number 10: The Whirlygig (Race)

I like what The Whirlygig has to offer, and the fact that a couple of different variants have sprung up keeps it fresh and interesting. I’ve pretty much nailed my tactics for this round, and even on my worst days I can still expect to make it to the finish line! The rotating fans offer a different kind of obstacle, and getting the timing right to avoid getting hit is the key.

Number 9: Gate Crash (Race)

I’m not doing individual awards, but if I were, Gate Crash would win “most improved!” Last time I said that it was too unforgiving, but maybe I’ve just got better at it since then. Regardless, the addition of moving obstacles seems to have helped, and Gate Crash has one of the best final stretches of any round – with a slippery slope leading to a jump. Getting that right requires a bit of skill and the right timing, something that can be tricky!

Number 8: Dizzy Heights

Dizzy Heights now has several different variants to spice things up, including one where its signature spinning platforms have been removed in the middle section! These variants keep it fresh and interesting, as you’re never sure which version will be selected. It’s a fun round, and one which can be difficult, especially toward the end. Those three rotating discs spinning in opposite directions – with balls being shot at you – are difficult to navigate!

Number 7: Big Fans (Race)

I utterly detested Big Fans the first few times I played it! That was because I couldn’t get the timing right to successfully jump between the spinning platforms! But the more I’ve continued to play it I’ve come to appreciate what it has to offer, and while there really isn’t much variety – except on the variant that introduces spinning beams – it’s nevertheless a fantastic, cleverly-designed round that’s incredibly tricky to get to grips with.

Number 6: Roll Off (Finale)

Roll Off is what Roll Out should have been! Where the original version of Roll Out can take a long time to eliminate players, Roll Off speeds up, and the rising slime leaves less and less solid ground available. It’s a truly fun take on Roll Out, massively improving on that round’s gameplay. I just wish, in a way, that it wasn’t a finale so that it would crop up more often!

Number 5: Ski Fall (Race)

The concept of Ski Fall is just fantastic. Jumping and diving through small target rings while slipping down an icy slope makes for a deceptively challenging round, and it’s easy to mistime a jump or bounce off an obstacle and completely mess up! However, it’s also forgiving enough that a mistake or two won’t knock you out of contention altogether most of the time, which is great. Tricky but great fun is how I’d describe Ski Fall.

Number 4: Hit Parade (Race)

Last time, Hit Parade was my winner. It’s slipped down a few places this time, and if I’m being really honest the reason why is that I’ve played it so many times. There are some great variations that have been introduced that have kept Hit Parade fresh, and I still feel that, when considering pure obstacle courses, it beats out many other rounds – especially those which only consist of one type of obstacle! And it’s still great fun, don’t get me wrong… but a couple of newcomers have arrived to topple its crown.

Number 3: Block Party (Survival)

I still absolutely adore Block Party. This timed round sees players standing on a short platform having to run out of the way of walls that come racing toward them. There are some beams to jump over, too. It’s a tricky round that keeps you engaged until the very last second, and it gets progressively difficult as the timer ticks toward zero. My only criticism would be to say that, of all the rounds in the game, Block Party is perhaps the easiest in theory to mix up with new variants, as changing which beams and blocks come and at what time shouldn’t be too difficult. Yet there aren’t many variants that I’ve seen – perhaps two or three.

Number 2: Knight Fever (Race)

So now we come to the top two, and just missing out on the top spot is Knight Fever. This amazing obstacle course has so much going on that I hardly know where to start. There are platforms with holes in, cylindrical platforms with fast-moving spikes that knock you off, crushing cylinders and blocks, and drawbridges. There are several variants, too, which introduce see-saws, fans, and change the timings of the drawbridges. There’s just so much going on that Knight Fever is a wild ride from start to finish, and always keeps me on my toes!

Number 1: Tundra Run (Race)

My number one pick this time is Tundra Run. It was a close call between this and Knight Fever, because both are excellent, varied obstacle courses. But as I thought about it some more, Tundra Run has to take the top spot. As above, it offers a range of different obstacles and terrains, with the icy sections being slippery and difficult to navigate. But it’s so much fun, and incredibly hectic. There’s so much variety that each section feels almost like a new level, and it’s not easy to make it to the finish line!

So that’s it! We’ve put all of the rounds into a list again… one that will be out-of-date as soon as Season 4 rolls around!

I took a break from Fall Guys over the holidays, but after picking it up again last month I’ve been having a whale of a time. I often say that, when it comes to video games, I prefer something with a good story that I can play alone. Fall Guys has reminded me that enjoyable gameplay matters too, and that there’s still value in something unique, silly, and fun. There aren’t that many games like Fall Guys where I sit down to play simply for the enjoyment of playing – not because I’m chasing achievements or following a story.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Season 4 being fun with its futuristic theme, as well as for successful launches on Xbox and in particular on the Switch later in the year. Fall Guys deserves to have a great future with many more updates and more content to come – and I’m still hopeful that it can, despite the significant drop in player numbers since launch.

If you haven’t tried Fall Guys yet… well I guess this list won’t have made a lot of sense! But the game is available on Steam and on PlayStation 4, and as mentioned, Xbox and Switch releases are coming. It was suggested – or at least hinted at – that it may go free-to-play in future, so watch this space. But if you ask me, it’s a steal at £15.

I won’t immediately re-rank the rounds when Season 4 arrives, but stay tuned for more Fall Guys-related articles and posts, especially if we get any significant news regarding the game’s future. Perhaps I’ll see you out there, pushing you out of the way to grab a crown!

Fall Guys is out now on PC and PlayStation 4. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic, Devolver Digital, and Epic Games. This list contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Can Epic Games reinvigorate Fall Guys?

This article was originally going to be titled “Can Season 4 reinvigorate Fall Guys” – but that was before the announcement that Epic Games had bought developer Mediatonic! However, many of the points I planned to make still apply in some form, and in addition we have the buyout and its associated effects to consider. So settle in as we talk about the hit party game of the summer – last summer, that is – Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout!

A few days ago I put Fall Guys on my list of games that deserve a second look in Spring 2021, and despite some of the criticisms I have of the game, I stand by that. Fall Guys is plenty of fun, and the addition of new rounds and changes to existing rounds has extended the game’s longevity. I recently got back into playing after taking a break over the holidays, and I’ve been having fun with it all over again. There is a lot to love about Fall Guys, but there’s also no denying that right now, the game’s survival hangs in the balance.

Is Fall Guys going to survive, or did Epic Games waste their money?

This is nothing to do with the Epic Games acquisition. Fall Guys was struggling long before that was announced, and my original plan for writing this article was to look at the possibility of Season 4 bringing players back. That’s something Fall Guys needs to address urgently. They have a good social media team, being active on Twitter and elsewhere every day, churning out memes and one-liners of the sort that a modern social media manager for an online game should. But it doesn’t seem to be having much effect.

Fall Guys blew up when it was launched last August, but almost as quickly as it arrived on the gaming scene, most of its players abandoned it. On Steam, Fall Guys peaked at around 125,000 concurrent players in August last year, and sold over 2,000,000 copies within a few weeks of launch. But as of yesterday, when I checked its progress on Steam, it had fallen to fewer than 6,000 concurrent players, with a maximum for the day of fewer than 10,000, and was barely clinging on to the top 100 most-played games on the platform, occupying the 100th slot.

Fall Guys was the 100th-most played game on Steam at time of writing.

To put that into context, Fall Guys had fewer players than titles like Civilization V, The Sims 4, Skyrim, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and even a title I’d never heard of called Geometry Dash, which is a port of a mobile game that originally launched in 2013. Ouch.

As a player, this has become noticeable. Though most games I play are usually fully-populated (with 55-60 out of a maximum of 60 players) it can take several minutes of waiting just to begin a game, with long loading times in the queue as the game struggles to assemble enough players. With no cross-platform play between PC and PlayStation, this is obviously beginning to become an issue. One of the highlights of Fall Guys – something I praised it for back in August – is that because rounds are so short, losing or failing to qualify doesn’t feel so bad. All you had to do was jump immediately into the next one! But if you have to wait several minutes at a time to even just begin a game, one of the absolutely vital components of Fall Guys is lost, making it significantly less enjoyable. Not only are the waits themselves frustrating, but losing at a round risks becoming frustrating too – because you know if you don’t qualify it’ll take a while to start a new game.

So what caused Fall Guys to lose much of its playerbase? That’s the key point, because addressing it – if indeed that’s even possible – is the key challenge facing Mediatonic and Epic Games.

Jump Club, one of the better rounds.

As much as I hate to say this about a game I’ve come to greatly enjoy, the fundamental problem is that Fall Guys was a “release now, fix later” title. I’ve talked at length here on the website about the live service business model, and how the ubiquity of internet connections has led developers and publishers to push out games that weren’t quite ready with a view to improving them later. It almost never works, and Fall Guys, as much as I love the cute little title, is an example of that phenomenon too.

Firstly, Fall Guys launched with no anti-cheat software. I know that it’s scummy and pretty disgusting for a basement-dwelling low-life to cheat at a fun little game like this, but realistically, developers Mediatonic and original publisher Devolver Digital should have anticipated it. Cheating happens in any online game, and if you give players even the tiniest opportunity, some will cheat. Playing Fall Guys before the addition of anti-cheat was not fun, because what was the point in progressing through the rounds only to lose in the finale to an invincible cheater or a cheater who can simply fly above the course?

Cheating was a problem in Fall Guys on PC for a while.

The cheating problem pushed players away, just as I said it would when I discussed Fall Guys’ impending Season 2 update back in September. When I’ve spoken to people about the game or seen comments on social media, aside from the “dead game” memes the one thing that seems to come up most often is that people remember how Fall Guys had a cheating problem. Folks don’t know that’s been solved because most didn’t stick around, preferring to move on to games that weren’t plagued by cheating. The game should never have been released without anti-cheat software, and that’s perhaps its biggest mistake.

The rise of Among Us stole Fall Guys’ thunder in some ways, even though the two titles aren’t really comparable from a gameplay perspective. But there is a vague aesthetic similarity between the crewmates in Among Us and the jelly beans in Fall Guys, so it’s worth considering why Among Us is doing so well while Fall Guys appears to be in decline.

Among Us is one quarter the price of Fall Guys, at least on PC. On mobile or tablet, the game is free. Among Us is available everywhere, compared to Fall Guys which is currently only on PlayStation 4/5 and PC. Among Us has never had a cheating problem.

Among Us came from nowhere to overtake Fall Guys.

Both games had the potential to break into the mainstream and become ongoing successes, but only Among Us really has. The biggest factor in its favour is its ubiquity, particularly its availability on mobile devices and tablets, which are the platform of choice for many younger players. This enabled the game – which was originally released in 2018 – to become so popular. The fact that it’s free-to-play helps immensely too; younger gamers in particular are always on the lookout for free titles, which goes a long way to explaining the success of Epic Games’ mainstay: Fortnite.

When considering Fall Guys’ release, one huge factor preventing it growing was the natural ceiling on its playerbase caused by not being available on every platform. There was no Xbox or Switch release, and while those platforms are now scheduled for this summer, that’s a year too late. Without knowing more about the technical side of the game I can’t say for sure whether it would be possible to port it to mobile devices, but if that were possible then obviously that would open up the game still further.

Fall Guys is finally coming to Switch – but not till the summer.

Nintendo Switch is the platform I would have chosen to prioritise if I were in charge of Fall Guys’ development and release. PlayStation 4 has a larger install base, but Switch players are, I would suggest, more interested in this kind of fun pick-up-and-play party game on the whole. With over 60 million Nintendo Switch consoles having been sold, that’s a massive potential playerbase that Fall Guys missed at launch – and will continue to miss until this summer. By then it could be too late.

An online game that barely breaks 10,000 concurrent players is not doing well, and while that doesn’t account for PlayStation 4 players, it’s hard to imagine the game is doing significantly better on its only other platform. There are still people interested in Fall Guys, and there are still new players jumping on board, but the big challenge facing Epic Games and Mediatonic as they begin their partnership is shoring up the playerbase and bringing in as many new players as possible. Fall Guys was a hit last summer. Whether it can be a hit again is up to its new owners.

Season 4 is coming soon, promising new rounds and new cosmetics with a futuristic theme.

So what needs to happen to bring players back? The launch of Season 4, with new cosmetics and new rounds will be a good start. But there needs to be more of that, with the game basically being continuously updated. New rounds and new round variants are good, but there could also be timed events, such as the recent double-kudos offer, competitions focusing on one aspect of the game (like a fixed set of rounds, for example) and other such things that will incentivise players to keep coming back.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the polar opposite of Fall Guys in so many ways, but one thing New Horizons gets absolutely spot-on is the incentives it offers players to log in at least once per day. Fall Guys needs to find some kind of hook, some way to keep its players checking in often. Once they’ve sorted that – which is no small task – bringing in new players is priority #2.

Ski Fall, another of the rounds in the game.

Releasing the game on Switch and Xbox is a good start, but I’d love to see mobile devices too if at all possible. Then there absolutely needs to be cross-platform play. If Sony remains intransigent about this – as they often are – then cross-play could be between Xbox, Switch, and PC only. But it has to be in there somehow, because splitting up the already small playerbase into walled gardens by platform makes those wait times mentioned above more noticeable. If PC players could join PlayStation 4 players right now, today, I bet those wait times would be cut at least in half. And that in itself would make the experience more enjoyable, keeping existing players around for longer.

One thing that Mediatonic teased in their announcement of their deal with Epic Games was a possible free-to-play model. To me, this is a double-edged sword for a game like Fall Guys. While it would undoubtedly bring in more players, it would mean the game would have to find an alternative way of making money, and in the games industry that only means one thing: microtransactions.

Fortnite is a free-to-play game that makes all its money via microtransactions.

Fall Guys has always offered the ability to buy in-game currency, yet it’s never felt intrusive or obligatory. The game is very generous with in-game rewards and items earned through basic gameplay, and I would hate to see that disappear or for cosmetics to be locked behind a paywall in future. Part of the fun of Fall Guys has been earning cosmetic items through gameplay, or earning in-game currency through gameplay and trading that for cool items in the in-game store. Going free-to-play would mean all of that would change, and while it would unquestionably attract more players, I’m not sure the change would be a good one.

With all of the controversy that lootboxes and randomised rewards generate these days, I would hope that even Epic Games wouldn’t try to force them into Fall Guys, but that remains a risk. From a PC player’s perspective, I’m also concerned that Fall Guys may eventually be withdrawn from Steam – Epic Games has its own store and PC client, after all, so why would they leave Fall Guys on their competitor’s platform? This may seem extreme, but it’s exactly what happened to Rocket League. That game used to be available on Steam, but following an acquisition by Epic Games it was withdrawn. The game technically still exists on Steam for players who already owned it prior to its withdrawal, but an Epic Games account is required to play, and new players can’t add it to their Steam libraries. While Mediatonic promised in their statement that this isn’t part of the plan for Fall Guys, it’s hard to see that being sustainable if the game survives into the longer term. Sooner or later, Epic Games is going to want to monopolise its purchase, just as they do with other games that they own.

Time will tell if this was a good idea for Epic, Fall Guys, and the players.

Removing Fall Guys from Steam would run counter to everything we’ve discussed about trying to retain players and expand the playerbase, so the game may be safe in the short term. But watch this space, because it feels inevitable that Fall Guys’ presence on Steam is doomed!

So to answer my original question: can Epic Games reinvigorate Fall Guys? The short answer is “maybe.” The game is a huge amount of fun, and bringing it to the Switch in particular feels like a natural fit, one which should bring in new players who are well-suited to enjoy this kind of cute, fun little title. But the game’s longer-term prospects are murky at best, and I’m surprised that a company like Epic Games would take a risk on a game which appears to be in a serious decline. Hopefully their involvement can stop the rot and turn things around. Fall Guys is such a fun game that it deserves to last longer than a few measly months.

Fall Guys is available now on PC and PlayStation 4/5, with launches on Xbox and Nintendo Switch planned for this summer. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic, Devolver Digital, and Epic Games. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fifteen games worthy of a second look in Spring 2021

Spoiler Warning: Though there are no major spoilers, minor spoilers may still be present for a few of the titles on this list.

Anthem is gone, Cyberpunk 2077 is still a stinking mess, and there are delays aplenty across the games industry as the pandemic rolls on. What’s a gamer to do? Well, I might have the answer for you! Tomorrow will be the first day of March, and to me March has always meant the beginning of Spring. There are small snowdrops beginning to bloom in my garden, and the nights are getting shorter. A few times this past week I’ve even managed without the heating on in my house – much to the dismay of the cats!

There are still plenty of great games that – all being well – will be released this year. If you missed it, I put together a list just after New Year of ten of the most interesting titles! But considering the delays and that this time of year is typically fairly quiet in terms of releases, I thought it would be a great moment to consider a few games that deserve a second look. I’ve limited the list to titles that are readily available to buy on current-gen platforms and PC, so no out-of-print games this time.

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the list, which is in no particular order.

Number 1: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

Nintendo’s most recent karting game is a ton of fun. It’s the kind of arcade racer that has a very low bar for entry – anyone can pick up and play this fun title. But mastering Mario Kart 8 – especially if you choose to head online – is no small task, and there’s a surprising amount of skill involved to be truly competitive with the best players! I’ve adored the Mario Kart series since its inception on the SNES, and this version is the definitive Mario Kart experience… at least until they make Mario Kart 9!

Number 2: Fall Guys (PC and PlayStation 4, 2020, coming to Xbox and Nintendo Switch this summer)

Among Us gained a lot of attention not long after Fall Guys was released last summer and stole at least some of the cute game’s attention! The fact that Fall Guys isn’t on mobile probably counts against it as far as finding a broader audience goes, but despite what some have claimed, the game is by no means dead. Season 4 – which promises to bring a new set of futuristic rounds – is being released soon, and for less than £15 (at least on PC) I honestly can’t fault Fall Guys. It’s an adorable, wholly unique experience in which your cute little jelly bean character runs a series of obstacle courses in a video game homage to the likes of Total Wipeout. Each round lasts only a couple of minutes, and it really is way more fun than words can do justice to! I’ve recently got back into playing after taking a break, and there’s plenty of fun still to be had.

Number 3: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC and Xbox, 2002)

You can find Morrowind on PC, and despite being an older title it’s compatible with Windows 10. There has been an active modding scene for almost twenty years at this point, so even if you’ve already played the base game it may still be worth going back for more. In my subjective opinion, Morrowind is the high-water mark of the Elder Scrolls series. It certainly offers players more to do than its predecessors or sequels – more NPCs to interact with, more factions to join, more types of weapons to wield and spells to cast, and so on. Especially if you hit Morrowind with some of the visual/graphics mods that are available, it can feel almost like a new game!

Number 4: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, 2002)

Another older title that you can find on PC, as well as on iOS and Android, Vice City was one of three Grand Theft Auto titles released between 2001 and 2005. Remember when Rockstar was able to put out more than one game per decade?! If you’ve had your fill of Grand Theft Auto V by now – and it’s been out for eight years, so I wouldn’t blame you if you were ready to play something else – maybe going back to one of the older games will be a nostalgic blast. Many fans of the series consider Vice City to be the best entry, and while I don’t think I’d go quite that far, I had a ton of fun with it back on the original Xbox.

Number 5: Banished (PC, 2014)

There are some great city-builders out there, but one of my favourites from the last few years is Banished. The game was built entirely by one person, which never fails to amaze me! It would still be a fantastic title if it had been made by a full studio, but the fact that the game and all its complex systems were programmed by a single developer is an astonishing achievement. Banished isn’t easy, even on lower difficulty settings, and it will take a little time to get into the swing of how to plan your town and manage your resources. But if you’re up for a challenge it’s a wonderful way to lose track of time!

Number 6: Skully (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One, 2020)

Skully is a game that I’ve been meaning to write a proper review of since I picked it up last year, but it keeps slipping down my writing pile. From the moment I saw the trailer and heard the game’s premise – a 3D platformer in which you play as a disembodied skull – I was in love, and the game did not disappoint! The environments are beautiful and the game is plenty of fun. It manages to feel at points like an old-school 3D platformer of the Nintendo 64 era, and at others like a wholly modern experience. It’s also an indie title, and it’s great to be able to support indie developers wherever we can!

Number 7: Jade Empire (PC and Xbox, 2005)

If the demise of Anthem has got you missing the “golden age” of BioWare’s role-playing games, make sure you didn’t skip Jade Empire. The Xbox exclusive was overlooked by players in the mid-2000s, and while other BioWare games from that decade, like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age Origins are all held in high esteem, the Chinese-inspired Jade Empire is all but forgotten. When Steam has it on sale you can pick up Jade Empire for less than the price of a coffee, and for that you’ll get what is honestly one of the best and most interesting role-playing games of all time.

Number 8: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (PC, 1997)

Starfleet Academy is unique among Star Trek games because it features the cast of The Original Series in video clips recorded especially for the game. These aren’t scenes from films or episodes of the show; you literally will not see them anywhere else. Starfleet Academy is a starship simulator, and while its visuals obviously don’t look as good in 2021 when compared to other titles, the overall experience is fantastic. You won’t find another game quite like it – especially because ViacomCBS has all but given up on making Star Trek games since the release of Star Trek Online!

Number 9: Forza Horizon 4 (PC and Xbox One, 2018)

I signed up for Game Pass in order to be able to play racing game Forza Horizon 4 – and it was totally worth it! The Forza Horizon series attempts to find a middle ground between true racing sims and arcade-style titles, and generally manages to do so quite well. Forza Horizon 4 has a map which represents parts of Great Britain, and that’s something unusual! I didn’t see my house, but it’s always nice when a game uses a familiar setting. There are plenty of fun cars to race in, and different kinds of races too, including going off-road.

Number 10: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Multiplatform, 2013)

Is it just me, or has every subsequent game in the Assassin’s Creed series struggled to hit the highs of Black Flag? Origins and Odyssey were decent, but even in 2021, I think that Black Flag is the definitive title in the franchise! There’s something about its pirate setting and the wonderful crop of NPCs that make Black Flag a truly enjoyable experience from start to finish. For a game that’s approaching its eighth birthday it still looks fantastic, too!

Number 11: The Last Of Us (PlayStation 3, 2013)

Despite its severely disappointing sequel, The Last Of Us is fantastic. If you’re looking for a game with amazing characters and a deep, engaging story, it simply can’t be bettered. I put The Last Of Us on my list of games of the decade as the 2010s drew to a close, and for good reason. Joel and Ellie’s trek across a hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic United States was absolutely one of the gaming highlights of the last few years. The characters are so well-crafted that they feel real, and every twist and turn in the intense storyline carries emotional weight. The game is being adapted for television, and I’m interested – cautiously so in the wake of The Last Of Us Part II – to see what will happen when it makes the leap to the small screen.

Number 12: Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (PC, 2018)

Though I know Age of Empires II is the title most folks prefer, I’ve always appreciated what the original Age of Empires did for the real-time strategy genre. If you’ve been enjoying the recent remake of the second game, it could be a great time to give the original a try as well. Age of Empires didn’t invent real-time strategy, but it was one of the first such titles I played after its 1998 release – and I sunk hours and hours into it in the late ’90s! There’s something about building up an army of Bronze Age warriors to smash an opponent’s town that’s just… satisfying!

Number 13: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2019)

I played through Jedi: Fallen Order last summer and documented my time with the game here on the website. Suffice to say I had a blast; the linear, story-focused title is exactly what the Star Wars franchise needed after the Battlefront II debacle! Having just seen the dire Rise of Skywalker I was also longing for a Star Wars story that I could actually enjoy for a change, and Jedi: Fallen Order did not let me down! I had a great time swinging my lightsaber across a galaxy far, far away… and I think you will too.

Number 14: No Man’s Sky (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2016)

No Man’s Sky was incredibly controversial at launch. The pre-release hype bubble got wildly out of control, egged on by a marketing push that oversold the game. Remind you of any recent titles? But despite the backlash in 2016, Hello Games has since put in a lot of hard graft, and five years on No Man’s Sky genuinely lives up to its potential. Had it been released in this state I think it would have been hailed as one of the best games of the decade – if not of all time. I understand not wanting to reward a game that was dishonestly sold, and that the “release now, fix later” business model is not one we should support. But there’s no denying that No Man’s Sky is a great game in 2021, and if you haven’t picked it up since its 2016 launch, it could be worth a second look.

Number 15: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2020)

A full remake of the definitive skateboarding game is hard to pass up! In the Dreamcast era, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater launched an entire genre of skating games, and its amazing soundtrack is a nostalgic hit of late ’90s/early ’00s punk rock. The remade version, which you can pick up on Switch and the two new consoles later this year, is great fun, and has managed to do something rare for a remake: genuinely recapture the look and feel of the original title. Obviously the visuals are brought up-to-date, but the feel of the game and the way tricks are performed are fantastic. I was able to slip right back into playing as if I’d never put the Dreamcast controller down!

So that’s it. Fifteen games that I think are worth your time this Spring.

There are plenty of fun titles on the horizon, but some of the ones I was most looking forward to – like Kena: Bridge of Spirits and Hogwarts Legacy – have recently been delayed, prompting me to look at my library and put together this list.

I hope this has inspired you to find something to play over the next few weeks! If not, stay tuned because there will be plenty more gaming-related articles here on the website. Happy gaming!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct – reaction

Nintendo struck gold with their Nintendo Direct broadcasts a few years ago, advertising their upcoming games straight to their biggest fans. Nintendo Direct broadcasts have become one of the premiere events in games marketing, and the format has been emulated by a number of other companies – especially with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of big events like E3.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was the first major broadcast that the company has done in some time, though. Over the last year or so, Nintendo Directs have focused either on third-party titles being ported to the Switch or on single games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This one promised to be different, showing off Nintendo’s plans for the first half of 2021.

The pre-Direct spiel sounded interesting.

2021 is an interesting year for Nintendo. The company has often used the anniversaries of major releases as the springboard for themed events, and this year marks a number of such anniversaries. The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, making this year the series’ 35th anniversary. Additionally, it marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Nintendo 64 – along with the 25th anniversaries of such classics as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64, and even Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. As you may recall, I’ve never been all that interested in the Zelda series, but I was very curious to see if there would be any mention of the Nintendo 64’s anniversary.

2021 is also the 20th anniversary of the launch of the GameCube – and with it such titles as Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Wii launched in 2006, making this year the console’s 15th anniversary… so you get the picture. There are potentially a lot of anniversary-themed events coming from Nintendo!

It’s Mario Kart 64′s 25th anniversary later this year.

My most recent experience with a Nintendo game was underwhelming. Super Mario 3D All-Stars was fine… but not great. Nintendo’s approach to only release the game for a limited time meant that I rushed to pre-order it, but on reflection I wish I hadn’t. The version of Super Mario 64 contained in that package is actually worse in some ways than either the original or emulated versions – it has a weird aspect ratio meaning that, whether you play in handheld mode or docked, you’re stuck with thick black bars on all four sides of the screen. It’s really offputting.

But we’ve drifted off-topic! I went into yesterday’s Nintendo Direct with cautious interest but no plans to rush into a purchase or pre-order. However, with Nintendo’s predilection for anniversaries and the rumours of news about Mario and/or Zelda, plus the fifty-minute advertised runtime, I was expecting at least something of note.

Senior Nintendo manager Shinya Takahashi presented yesterday’s Nintendo Direct.

There were a few points of interest, but nothing that blew me away. This kind of “event” broadcast can be a double-edged sword for Nintendo, because on the one hand there was a lot of hype and interest over the last couple of days – but that hype can come crashing down if expectations are not met. And while I would say that, from my point of view, what was shown off was perfectly fine, there was nothing spectacular or that felt like an immediate must-buy. Fans expecting to hear about Breath of the Wild 2 or a big Zelda or Mario event will have certainly come away disappointed.

So let’s get into the announcements that were of interest to me. First, Fall Guys is finally making its way to the Switch! I suggested way back in August when I first played the game that it would be an absolutely perfect fit for the Switch, and I’m so glad to see developers Mediatonic agreed. The Switch has an install base of some 60+ million players, many of whom are interested in this kind of fun, pick-up-and-play title. I’ve recently got back into playing Fall Guys just in the last couple of weeks, and I’m seriously considering getting the Switch version too. The only downside is that Fall Guys will require Nintendo’s paid Switch Online service.

Fall Guys is coming to the Switch.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting a number of Super Mario-themed items. This is something that fans of the game had been expecting; a Mario crossover had been teased as early as last year. But from what we saw in the broadcast the items look like fun, and they’re all very much on theme! Earlier Animal Crossing titles had Nintendo- and Mario-themed items included, so this is one more missing feature that has been re-added rather than something altogether new – but that’s been a pattern with New Horizons since it was launched. My first impression was that the items look very similar to those in Super Mario 3D World – the remaster of which has just been released for Switch. Perhaps that is not a coincidence!

I’ve never tried the Splatoon games, though they’ve always looked like fun. Nintendo opted to use Splatoon 3 as the broadcast’s big finale – I’m not sure how well that worked given that the game isn’t coming until 2022, and that it’s very much a second-tier series in the Nintendo library. But it looks like more of the same – another fun game in what is held up as a fun series.

Splatoon 3 was announced… but it isn’t going to be released for a while yet.

Speaking of 2022, there were several titles discussed or shown off that were coming either much later this year or not till next year. Ordinarily I wouldn’t remark on something like that, but the pre-broadcast statement (which you can see above) said explicitly that what would be shown off were games coming in “the first half of 2021.” Why set that expectation only to break it? If they had said “coming soon,” or something like that, there’d be no reason to comment. It just struck me as a little odd.

A notable port was that of battle royale first-person shooter Apex Legends. I’m not convinced Apex Legends will find a huge Switch audience, but if it allows players to sign in using their existing account then perhaps being able to play on the go will prove popular – as it has with other titles already. Hades, one of the best indie titles of last year, was already available digitally on the Switch but is now getting a physical release too. Hades was already a great fit for the Switch, and Nintendo’s console with its cartridge system is the one remaining place in gaming where physical copies of games are still widely popular!

Indie game Hades is getting a physical release.

Mario Golf: Super Rush is the latest in a long line of Mario sports titles, and looks like fun. Its Wii-like motion controls (using the Joy-con controllers) will surely win it some praise, and these arcade-style sports games are usually well-received, especially on Nintendo hardware. That was the only new Mario title announced. As for the Zelda series, after the director sought to reassure fans that Breath of the Wild 2 is coming along nicely, the Zelda series was treated to a remaster of Skyward Sword – which originally released in 2011. Not sure how well its mapping of the Wii’s motion controls to the Switch’s thumbsticks will work – but the option to retain the motion controls using the Joy-con controllers will still be present.

There was a strange re-release announced of 2005 Xbox/PlayStation 2 game Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. I vaguely remember that game from the Xbox era – it has a fun premise but, if I recall correctly, was little more than average. So I was surprised to learn it’s being re-released not only for the Switch but also for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword can be played using motion controls.

And that’s it really. There were some updates and new characters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Hyrule Warriors, as well as updates announced for a couple of other titles. Nothing in yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was bad, but nothing really leapt out at me as being fantastic or a wonderful surprise. It was just… okay.

Therein lies the danger with hyping up an event like this. Nintendo hadn’t done a proper Direct broadcast in a while, so expectations were high for what may be announced. The pandemic has certainly slowed work in Japan – just as it has everywhere else – so it’s no criticism that they haven’t got more to say. That’s something I feel most people will understand. But given that there really wasn’t that much to say – and that some of what was shown off isn’t coming any time soon – perhaps there was a better way to do it than by hyping up a big broadcast like this one. I have no doubt that some Nintendo fans – especially those invested in Zelda and expecting something big – came away at least a little disappointed.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.


You can watch the full Nintendo Direct broadcast below:

Crazy Uncle Dennis Awards 2020

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for some of the films, games, and television shows listed below.

Welcome to the first annual Crazy Uncle Dennis Awards! These are the best (and worst) entertainment events of the year – in my subjective opinion! Rather than writing a top ten list (like I did last year to mark the end of the decade) I’m instead choosing a few categories and awarding my picks for the best entertainment experiences of the year.

I’m including a few titles from the tail end of 2019 on this list simply because many people will have only got around to watching or playing them this year. These decisions are always difficult and I often feel that – because people put these lists together weeks or months before the end of the year – titles released in December tend to miss out. As such you’ll find a few titles from the final few weeks of 2019 being given an award – and perhaps next year there may be a title or two from the end of 2020 featured!

Most categories will have a runner-up and a winner; a few only have one, and in those cases that title wins by default.

A note about exclusions: if I haven’t seen or played a title for myself, for reasons that I hope are obvious it can’t be included. I’m only one person, and I don’t have every moment of the day to dedicate to entertainment. As such, some titles others may consider to be “massive releases” for 2020 aren’t going to be given an award. In the gaming realm, this also applies to titles that I haven’t completed. The exclusion from these awards of titles like Ghost of Tsushima and Tenet isn’t to say they aren’t good; they may be – but I have no experience with them so I’m unable to comment at this time.

With all of that out of the way let’s jump into the awards! If you like, you can try to imagine a fancy stage and some celebrity presenter handing out statuettes. That may or may not be what I’m doing as I write!

Web Series:

Nowadays many of us get at least a portion of our entertainment away from big-budget productions on websites and apps like YouTube. There are a number of top-tier YouTube shows that may have started off as typical amateur productions, but have since become far more professional. As better cameras and microphones become readily available, even low-budget YouTube productions can offer impressive audio and visuals.

Personally I watch a video or two on YouTube most days, and there are a number of channels which have produced top-quality entertainment this year. When the pandemic hit, many YouTube shows were able to keep going despite the chaos engulfing the wider entertainment industry. They had the means and the technology to do so, and that’s fantastic.

🥈Runner-up🥈
Linus Tech Tips

Linus Tech Tips is one of the first YouTube channels I began watching regularly, having stumbled upon it when looking for PC building tips a few years ago. Though some of what they do is complete overkill (what YouTube channel needs $20,000 cameras?) they have a lot of fun while doing it. Linus Tech Tips explores the high-end and cutting-edge of computers, cameras, and other technologies, and the presenters manage to make it entertaining.

The channel has continued its steady growth and now boasts a number of regular presenters in addition to the titular Linus, most of whom specialise in particular topics. There are also several other channels produced by the same team, including TechQuickie, Short Circuit, and TechLinked. The combined output of the main channel plus its subsidiaries means there’s at least one new video per day, which is great. Even less-interesting topics can be made fun when presented well, and the team at Linus Tech Tips manage to be interesting and entertaining every time.

🏆Winner🏆
SORTEDfood

I love a good cooking show. Not only can they be entertaining but also very relaxing. SORTEDfood has a usual output of two videos per week, and while in recent years they’ve stepped away from purely doing recipes and into things like kitchen gadget reviews, everything is food-themed and the enthusiasm that the five presenters have is infectious. During the coronavirus pandemic, London (where the show is recorded) was in lockdown. Despite that, the team found creative ways to get around it, and even incorporated it into their videos. In addition to recipes there were helpful things like reviews of food delivery services, which at the height of lockdown here in the UK was actually really useful. I was able to use a couple of the services they recommended to send gifts to people I couldn’t see in person; gift ideas I would never have had were it not for SORTEDfood.

Their pandemic programming was good, but when lockdown was lifted it was nice for the team to come back together and get back to their regular output. I’m a huge fan of their “ultimate battles” in particular, which pit the presenters head-to-head to create the best dish. The “pass it on” series, where all five take turns to create a single dish, is also fantastic – and often very funny. SORTEDfood manages to be both informative and entertaining, and their output during lockdown was phenomenal and undoubtedly helped many viewers during a difficult time. For all of those reaons, I’m crowing SORTEDfood the best web series of the year.

Documentaries:

I’m setting aside a whole category for documentaries because I’m a big fan. There have been some great ones in 2020, both standalone films and series. Netflix has surprised me over the last few years by growing to become a huge player in the documentary genre, funding many productions – including some Academy Award nominees. Disney+ joined the streaming wars late last year – or in March this year if you’re in the UK – and has also brought some fascinating pieces of documentary content to the small screen. It’s a great time for documentaries at the moment!

🥈Runner-up🥈
We Need To Talk About A.I.

This documentary was fascinating, if perhaps somewhat alarmist. Looking at the possible creation of general artificial intelligence, and the potential for such an AI to surpass humanity, it was a truly interesting peek behind the curtain at what researchers are doing on the cutting-edge of AI research. The documentary was presented by Keir Dullea, famous for his role as Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That film saw his character go up against an out-of-control AI, and Dullea brings a gravitas to the role of narrator as a result.

The film made reference to a number of sci-fi films which look at rogue AI, most significantly Terminator 2: Judgement Day, whose director James Cameron was interviewed. From my perspective as a Trekkie, having just seen Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 and Star Trek: Picard Season 1, which both look at the potential for out-of-control AIs, the documentary brought the world of fiction uncomfortably close to the world we inhabit today. While most of the interviewees offered a fairly bleak look at future AI, particularly in the military realm, others did paint a more positive picture. The biggest thing I took away from it, though, it how little consensus there is among researchers and scientists not only on whether AI is a good idea, but whether it’s even truly possible, or how long it will take.

The film is a fascinating, slightly unnerving watch.

🏆Winner🏆
The Imagineering Story

Though it isn’t a subject I’ve talked about often here on the website, I have a great fondness for Disney’s theme parks. It’s doubtful given my health that I’ll be able to go any time soon, but I have fond memories of visits to several parks with both family and groups of friends. Combine that love of Disney with my aforementioned love of documentaries and I got what was one of the most underrated yet fascinating entertainment experiences of the year!

Prior to the launch of Disney+ in the UK in March, there was already a Disney-branded streaming platform here. I wasn’t sure what kind of an upgrade to expect when the new service arrived – except for The Mandalorian there didn’t seem to be much new. The Imagineering Story was one of the few documentaries on Disney+ at launch, but it’s absolutely fascinating, detailing the behind-the-scenes work that went into building Disney’s various parks and themed lands.

The addition of some National Geographic documentaries to Disney+ over the last year or so has made the platform into a good home for the format, though I would like to see more films and series either added from Disney’s extensive back catalogue or better yet, commissioned exclusively for Disney+.

But we’re off-topic! The Imagineering Story was beautifully narrated by Angela Bassett, and as a series made by Disney itself was able to get the perspectives of many senior people who worked at the parks and on many of the projects it covered.

Video Games:

Despite the all the chaos and pandemonium in the world in 2020, many new games – and two new consoles – managed to make it to release. While it’s true that some titles have suffered delays, by far the majority of planned and scheduled releases made it, and that’s no small accomplishment!

As a new console generation gets ready for its centre-stage moment, it’s often been the case that we get a quieter-than-average year as companies shift their focus. Despite that, though, we’ve seen some pretty big titles in 2020, including a couple that will likely be heralded as “game of the generation” or even “game of the decade!” If I’m still alive and kicking in 2029, by the way, check back as I may have a thing or two to say about that!

Though it’s far too early to say which of the two newly-launched consoles will do best in the years to come, 2020 has given all of us some great gaming experiences… and some crap ones.

Worst Game:

Let’s start by getting the worst games out of the way. 2020 has seen some stinkers, including big-budget titles from successful developers and publishers. They really ought to know better.

🥈Runner-up🥈
Marvel’s Avengers

Marvel’s Avengers is the Anthem of 2020. Or the Fallout 76 of 2020. Or the Destiny 1 of 2020. Or the The Culling II of 2020. Pick any of those live service, broken-at-launch disasters, and that’s what Marvel’s Avengers is. The “release now, fix later” business model has condemned what could have been a popular and successful title to failure. But Marvel’s Avengers hasn’t even failed spectacularly enough to be forever etched in the annals of gaming history alongside titles like 1982’s E.T. Instead it’s slowly fading away, and in six months or a year’s time, nobody will even remember it existed.

Disney and Square Enix looked at a long list of crappy video game business ideas, including paid battle-passes, console-exclusive characters, corporate tie-ins with unrelated brands like phone providers and chewing gum makers, in-game currencies, and microtransactions for each of the six main characters individually. They then decided to put all of these into the game, robbing it of any soul or heart it could have had and turning it into a bland corporate cash-grab. As soon as I heard the company planned the game as a “multi-year experience,” the writing was on the wall. If, underneath all of the corporate nonsense, there had been a halfway decent game with fun gameplay, perhaps more players would have stuck it out. But, as usual with these types of games, there wasn’t. I’m not the world’s biggest Marvel fan. So I’m not horribly offended by this game in the way some folks undoubtedly are. But I can sympathise with them, because fans deserve better than this steaming pile of crap to which Disney and Square Enix have attempted to affix the Marvel logo.

🏆Winner🏆
The Last of Us Part II

The Last Of Us Part II’s cover-based stealth/action gameplay is fine. Though better than the first game, I didn’t feel there was a colossal improvement in terms of gameplay – but that could be said about countless sequels over the last couple of console generations. Where The Last Of Us Part II fell down was its story. This was a game I was sceptical of from the beginning; the first title felt like lightning in a bottle, something that neither wanted nor required a follow-up. In 2020, though, practically every successful title ends up being spun out into a franchise.

With a theme of breaking the cycle of violence, The Last Of Us Part II considers itself “artistic” and clever. Unfortunately that theme led to a horribly unsatisfying narrative, with players not only forced to take on the role of the person who murdered Joel – the protagonist/anti-hero from the first title – but ends with Ellie letting her escape and refusing to take revenge. Had the same concept been part of a new game with new characters, it could have worked better. But crammed into this title it fell flat. I stuck with it out of stubbornness as a fan of the first title, but it was a profoundly unenjoyable ride, and that’s why The Last Of Us Part II is the worst game of 2020.

Best Casual Game:

How do we define a “casual” game? It’s a difficult one, and it’s one of those contentious topics where fans of a title who may have spent hundreds of hours in the game world will get upset at hearing their favourite game referred to as “casual.” When it came to choosing titles for this category, I looked at games that could be easily picked up for a short burst, then put down. Games that can be played for a few minutes and that have gameplay suited to that was one of the main criteria. Games in this category also had to be pick-up-and-play. Some casual games can indeed be hard to truly master, but for my money, any game to which we assign the “casual” title has to be accessible and easy to get started with.

So that was how I came to my shortlist. Now let’s look at the runner-up and winner… though if you’ve been a reader all year I doubt you’ll be too surprised!

🥈Runner-up🥈
Fall Guys

Fall Guys seemingly came out of nowhere in August. It wasn’t a title I’d heard of, let alone one I was looking forward to, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Taking a format inspired by television game-shows like Gladiators or Total Wipeout, the basic gameplay consists of running a series of obstacle courses, looking to be the last one standing at the end to win a crown.

I’m not usually interested in online multiplayer titles, but Fall Guys was something so genuinely different that I was prepared to give it a go. And what I found was a game that was shockingly fun. Each round lasts barely a couple of minutes, meaning even if you don’t qualify it’s not a big deal. Just jump into the next game. Though there are microtransactions, at time of writing they aren’t intrusive and the game is quite generous with the in-game currency given out simply for playing. There are fun cosmetic items to dress up your adorable little jelly bean character in, and the whole game is cute and lots of fun. Though it did have a cheating problem for a while, the addition of anti-cheat software appears to have fixed things. I’m probably about done with Fall Guys as I move on to find new things to watch and play, but I had a wonderful time with it this summer and autumn.

🏆Winner🏆
Animal Crossing: New Horizons

With over 120 hours played, I’ve spent more time this year with Animal Crossing: New Horizons than with the next two games on my list put together. That’s no small accomplishment – even if my 120 hours seems paltry compared to the amount of time some players have put into this title. Time alone doesn’t make a title worthy of winning an award, though. Why Animal Crossing: New Horizons deserves the title is because practically all of those hours were enjoyable.

It’s true that the base game at launch was missing features from past entries in the series, notably 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf. And I find that disappointing, even if updates have since improved the game. But despite the missing content, what the game did have was fantastic, and there really isn’t anything like New Horizons on the market. It’s cute wholesome fun, and the kind of game that can be played for even just a few minutes at a time. It doesn’t demand a huge commitment in the way some titles do – but if you get stuck into it, you’ll find yourself wanting to spend more and more time on your island.

Best Racing Game:

There’s only one game in this category this year, simply because the other racing games I’ve played in 2020 were released in previous years. I had a lot of fun with Forza Horizon 4 in particular, but as a 2018 title it can’t be included here for obvious reasons.

🏆Winner🏆
Hotshot Racing

Congratulations to Hotshot Racing for winning by default! Jokes aside, this game is a lot of fun. An unashamed arcade racer that makes no attempt at realism, it’s fast-paced, exciting, and ridiculous in equal measure! What attracted me to the game when it was released in September was its deliberately mid-90s aesthetic; a beautifully simple art style inspired by racing games of the Sega Saturn and PlayStation 1 era.

At a time when many games feel overpriced, the £15 I paid for Hotshot Racing actually feels cheap! For how much fun the game is, even when simply playing against the AI, it could arguably ask for a lot more money! Speaking of playing against the AI, that’s something Hotshot Racing encourages, and considering how many titles that supposedly offer a single-player mode still try to force players to go online, I appreciated that. In the mid-90s, some games could do four-player split-screen, but many titles were limited to just two players at the most, so racing against the AI was something all gamers had to do; that was just how those games were meant to be played!

As a visual throwback to games past, Hotshot Racing caught my eye. But there’s more to it than just the way it looks, and what’s under that cute retro skin is a genuinely fun arcade racer.

Best Star Wars Game:

It’s unusual for two games in a single franchise to release within a year of each other, but that’s what happened! There was even supposed to be a third Star Wars title this year – Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – but it was delayed until 2021.

🥈 Runner-up 🥈
Star Wars: Squadrons

Though Squadrons is less arcadey than classic starfighter titles like Rogue Squadron, it’s a remarkably fun game. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pilot in a galaxy far, far away, this is about as close as you can get! Though I don’t play in VR, the option to use a VR headset – as well as to set up a proper HOTAS or other flight controller on PC – surely makes this the most immersive Star Wars experience out there. Even just with a control pad, though, Squadrons truly transports you to the cockpit of an X-Wing, TIE Fighter, or one of the game’s other starfighters.

The single-player campaign was fun, giving players the opportunity to fight on both sides of the war as the New Republic seeks to defeat the rump Empire – the game is set in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer, so the fact that there is an AI mode, allowing me to continue to have fun just playing against the computer, is fantastic. I had a truly enjoyable time with Star Wars: Squadrons, and I keep going back for more.

🏆Winner🏆
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Jedi: Fallen Order was released in November 2019, so including it on this list is a bit of a stretch, I admit. But I got to play it this year, and it was the first game where I fully documented my playthrough. Jedi: Fallen Order managed to feel like a cross between Knights of the Old Republic and the Uncharted series, with protagonist Cal taking on a quest to visit several ancient worlds in search of a Jedi Holocron.

There were twists and turns along the way, but the whole time I felt like I was taking part in a Star Was adventure all my own. After the disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker, playing through Jedi: Fallen Order convinced me that the Star Wars franchise was going to be okay, and that there were still new and original stories worth telling in this universe.

The gameplay was great too, with lots of exciting action and lightsabre-swinging as Cal took on the forces of the Empire. I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t played it for yourself, but Jedi: Fallen Order was a wild and incredible ride, and one I heartily recommend.

Best Action or Adventure Game:

This category ended up with two first-person shooters, but I’m keeping the name the same! There were many great action, adventure, and first-person shooter titles released this year, and I didn’t have time to play all of them. Here are the two I enjoyed most.

🥈 Runner-up 🥈
Doom Eternal

The sequel to the wonderful 2016 reboot of Doom is just fantastic. Gone is the horror vibe that Doom 3 mistakenly introduced, and instead what you get is action and excitement – with some interesting platforming sections thrown in for good measure. There is a story, of course, but unlike many games I’m not really all that interested in it. I come to games like Doom Eternal to feel like a demon-killing badass, and that’s precisely what the game offers.

There was a lot of fun to be had in the days leading up to Doom Eternal’s launch, as it coincided with the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I greatly enjoyed the memes and artwork created by folks on the internet, depicting Doom Guy and characters from the Animal Crossing series together! All in all, this is just a fast-paced, fun shooter that doesn’t try to be anything more. It isn’t a jack-of-all-trades; it does one thing and does it to perfection.

🏆Winner🏆
Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Throughout 2020, developers 343 Industries have brought the Halo series to PC. Halo: Reach arrived late last year, and in the months since we’ve gotten every other title in the series – except for Halo 5! It had been a long time since I played Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox, and I had a lot of fun rediscovering the series and enjoying it all over again. The updated graphics improved the experience in a lot of ways, but it was also fun (and innovative) to be able to switch between visual styles on the fly.

I hadn’t played either Halo 3: ODST or Halo 4, so I not only got to recreate my Halo experience from years past, but expand on it too. The setting the series uses is as unique and interesting as any sci-fi video game I’ve played, and I’m very curious to see what Halo Infinite can bring to the series when it’s eventually ready.

Television Shows:

There have been some wonderful television shows this year. While the pandemic led to the shutdown of cinemas and a delay in many films being released, a lot of television shows were able to press ahead – at least, those that had completed filming before the worst effects were felt. I hoped to include more categories, such as best miniseries, but time got away from me and I have a number of shows still on my list of things to watch!

Worst Television Series:

Luckily there’s only one in this category! If I’m not enjoying a television series I tend to just stop watching – unless there seems to be a real prospect of improvement. Likewise, if I feel something won’t be to my taste I’ll just skip it; life is too short, after all, for bad entertainment. That said, there are exceptions, and I found one in 2020.

🏆Winner🏆
Supernatural

Supernatural is the king of running too long – a crown it inherited from The Big Bang Theory! Fifteen years ago, when it debuted, there was a great premise as brothers Sam and Dean Winchester set out to hunt ghosts and monsters, all the while keeping an eye out for the demon that killed their mother and Sam’s girlfriend.

But by the time the show reached its third season, many of its ongoing storylines had concluded. The writers began reaching for new and different demons and creatures for Sam and Dean to tackle, and the quality dipped. By the time the show crossed over into the self-congratulatory fan-servicey mess it has been in recent seasons it had just become ridiculous; a parody of itself.

As the seasons dragged on, writers began pumping more and more Biblical themes into Supernatural, transforming its protagonists into invincible prophets anointed by God. An episode a few seasons back saw Sam and Dean cross over into a world where their adventures are a television show in what has to be one of the worst examples of fan-service I’ve ever seen.

Thankfully Supernatural has now wrapped up its final season. I tuned back in – against my better judgement – to see if the impending end of the series would make a difference to its quality. But it didn’t, and I stand by something I’ve been saying for years: many television shows have a natural lifespan. Supernatural had maybe three decent seasons, and should certainly have ended a long time ago.

Best Animated Series:

🥈 Runner-up 🥈
Rick & Morty

We got five episodes of Rick & Morty in 2020; the back half of Season 4, which had premiered last year. The show’s entire premise is wacky, sometimes over-the-top humour, and that doesn’t always stick the landing, especially when the creative team have been working on it for seven years already. So with that in mind, I consider four episodes out of five being decent to be a pretty good run.

When the show stopped flying under the radar and really hit the mainstream in 2017, there was a fear perhaps that the newfound popularity would lead to changes. But I don’t really think that’s happened, and I wouldn’t say that this year’s episodes were substantially different to those in past seasons. They weren’t necessarily any better, but certainly no worse.

There were some great jokes, some hilarious moments, and some weird and wonderful aliens as Rick and Morty (along with Summer, Jerry, and Beth) took off on their interdimensional adventures.

🏆Winner🏆
Star Trek: Lower Decks

It could hardly be anything else, right? Building on the success of both the Star Trek franchise and animated comedies like Rick and Morty, Star Trek: Lower Decks represented the franchise’s biggest attempt to try something new – and arguably its biggest risk – in a very long time. Despite the controversy surrounding Lower Decks’ lack of an international broadcast, judging the series on merit it was a very enjoyable ride.

There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in Lower Decks, but more than that, the show paid homage to my personal favourite era of Star Trek – the 24th Century. There were so many callbacks and references to events in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager and the series managed to feel like Star Trek while at the same time having an overtly comedic style.

While its sense of humour won’t be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying that Lower Decks was made by fans for fans, and I’m really excited to see its second season whenever that may come – especially now that the show’s international broadcast has been settled meaning that fans everywhere can enjoy it together.

Best Live-Action Television Series:

🥈 Runner-up 🥈
Cobra

Right at the beginning of the year I watched Cobra, a British thriller about a government dealing with the aftermath of a disaster. Such an interesting fictional concept, I thought. How innocent we were back then, eh?

Cobra wasn’t what I expected. Having read the pre-release marketing I was expecting a disaster series, something dealing with an apocalyptic event. Instead it’s much more of a thriller with elements of political drama. Even though that was completely not what I expected, I had an enjoyable time with the series.

Robert Carlyle – who plays the role of a British Prime Minister clearly inspired by Tony Blair – is an actor I’ve always felt was underrated. I saw him a few years ago in a miniseries called Hitler: The Rise of Evil, and ever since I’ve found him to be a decent actor who can take on a variety of roles. He was the star of Cobra – but didn’t overwhelm the series. It was an entertaining ride with some truly tense moments.

🏆Winner🏆
Star Trek: Picard

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed my articles and columns this year! Star Trek: Picard did something I’d been desperately wanting the franchise to do for basically twenty years: move forward. Since Enterprise premiered shortly after the turn of the millennium, Star Trek has looked backwards, with all of its attention focused on prequels and reboots. Many of those stories were great, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to know what came next, and Picard scratched that itch.

But its premise alone would not make it the best television series of the year! Star Trek: Picard told an engaging, mysterious story as the retired Admiral Picard set out on a new adventure. The story touched on contemporary themes of artificial intelligence, isolationism, and mental health, and was an enthralling watch. Though it stumbled as the first season drew to a close, the first eight episodes were outstanding, and have hopefully laid the groundwork not only for future seasons and more adventures with Picard and his new crew, but also for further Star Trek stories set at the dawn of the 25th Century.

It’s difficult to pick out one individual episode and say it was the best the season had to offer, because Star Trek: Picard is designed to be watched from beginning to end as one continuous story. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try!

Star Trek Episodes:

2020 was the first year since 1998 with three Star Trek productions, so there’s a lot of episodes to choose from! As Trekkies we’re spoilt for choice at the moment – long may that continue! This year I reviewed every single Star Trek episode that was broadcast. The year began with Picard in late January, then Lower Decks came along in August, and finally Discovery premiered in mid-October.

Worst Episode:

There weren’t a lot of options here, because the quality of modern Star Trek has been high. That said, every Star Trek show has misfires and duds from time to time, and this year was no exception.

🥈 Runner-up 🥈
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (Star Trek: Picard)

After an incredibly strong start, Star Trek: Picard stumbled as its first season drew to a close. My primary complaint about Et in Arcadia Ego as a whole (aside from that godawful gold makeup they used for the synths) was that it introduced too many new characters and storylines, most of which didn’t get enough screen time to properly develop. The first part of a finale needs to bring together everything that’s already happened, not dump an awful lot of new things onto the audience, but that’s what Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 did.

The episode was also very poorly-paced, which is down to a combination of scripting and editing. The story jumped from point to point without sufficient time for the audience to digest what was going on. It also skipped over what should’ve been massive emotional moments, like Picard and Soji learning Hugh’s fate, or Elnor learning of Picard’s illness. Dr Soong and Sutra in particular needed more development and more screen time – though Isa Briones’ terrible, one-dimensional performance means that’s something I’m half-glad we didn’t get!

Overall, this was Picard’s worst episode by far. The aesthetic, editing, and pacing were all wrong, and if the story of Season 1 wanted to include all of these new characters, factions, and settings, we needed not only more episodes, but to have brought them in much earlier.

🏆 Winner 🏆
Envoys (Star Trek: Lower Decks)

Envoys’ opening sequence, in which Ensign Mariner kidnaps a sentient energy lifeform “for a laugh,” was the closest I came to switching off Star Trek’s second animated series and not going back. Where Lower Decks succeeded was in making the regular goings-on in Starfleet comical. Where it failed was in attempting to set up Ensign Mariner as Star Trek’s answer to Rick Sanchez (from Rick & Morty). This sequence encapsulated all of Mariner’s worst qualities, and was about as un-Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

It’s a shame, because the episode’s B-plot starred Ensign Rutherford in what was one of his better stories as he hopped from role to role aboard the ship, trying out different postings in different departments. The main story stuck with Mariner and Boimler, and derived much of its attempted humour from her mean-spirited selfishness. The ending of the episode did go some way to humanising Mariner, and arguably set the stage for her becoming a much more likeable character across the remainder of the season. But that opening sequence in particular is awful, and is the main reason why I’m crowing Envoys as the worst Star Trek episode of the year.

Best Episode:

This is a much more fun category than the one above! And there are plenty of candidates. All three shows managed to have some real gems, and picking just two was not an easy task.

🥈 Runner-up 🥈
Far From Home (Star Trek: Discovery)

After Michael Burnham arrived in the 32nd Century in the season premiere, Far From Home saw Discovery and the rest of the crew arrive too. We were treated to an excellent crash landing sequence that was reminiscent of Voyager’s fourth season episode Timeless, and we got an interesting storyline which saw Saru and the crew forced to adapt to a very different and difficult future.

Saru and Tilly both stepped up, and the dynamic between these two characters has been continued through the rest of the season. As two main characters who hadn’t spent a huge amount of time together before this episode, their relationship was somewhat new and very interesting. Saru stepped up to become the captain we all hoped he could be in Far From Home, and Tilly showed us that there’s more to her than mere comic relief.

As the second half of the series premiere, Far From Home does a lot of world-building, establishing the violent, chaotic nature of the 32nd Century. It was also rare in that it was a Star Trek: Discovery episode with practically no input from Burnham – something which allowed many other crew members to shine in unexpected ways.

🏆Winner🏆
Remembrance (Star Trek: Picard)

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a Star Trek episode than I was for Remembrance. This was the moment Star Trek returned to the 24th Century for the first time since 2002’s Nemesis – and it was the first time the overall story of the Star Trek galaxy had moved forward since we heard about the destruction of Romulus in 2009’s Star Trek.

Children of Mars – the Short Treks episode that served as a prologue to Picard – had been somewhat of a let-down, so there was a lot riding on Remembrance as far as I was concerned! And I’m so happy to report that it delivered. It was mysterious and exciting, with moments of tension and action, and although the now-retired Admiral Picard was not exactly the same as he was the last time we saw him, flickers of the man we knew were still there.

Remembrance set the stage beautifully for Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. It took things slow and didn’t overwhelm us with storylines and heavy plot all at once. By the end of the episode we’d only really met two of the season’s principal characters. Perhaps seen in the light of the rushed finale this could be argued to be a mistake, and that we needed to get a quicker start. But I don’t think I agree with that assessment; Remembrance is perfect the way it is, and probably the best single episode of television I saw all year.

Films:

Let’s be blunt for a moment: 2020 has been a catastrophic year for the film industry. So many titles that should have been released simply didn’t come out due to the pandemic, and as a result it’s been slim pickings. A few bigger titles managed to premiere in January or February before the worst effects hit, but since the end of February very few titles have come out. We’ve missed out on films like No Time To Die, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Dune, all of which have been delayed to 2021. And there will be ramifications for years to come, as titles planned for 2021 are being pushed to 2022, and so on.

There have been some titles that managed to come out this year, and from my selfish point-of-view, I’m happy that more have come straight to streaming! My health is poor, and one thing that I sadly can’t do any more is get to the cinema (I haven’t been able to for several years). So in that sense I don’t feel that I personally have missed out in quite the same way! However, the massively-curtailed release schedule has had an effect, and as a result I don’t really have a lot of titles to choose from for this section of the awards. In another year I might’ve split up the films into several genres, but instead we just have three categories.

Worst Film:

Luckily there’s only one film in this category this year. If you recall my review of it from the spring, it perhaps won’t be a surprise!

🏆Winner🏆
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker is saved from being the worst Star Wars film solely by the existence of The Phantom Menace – and it’s not always clear which is worse. The clumsy insertion of Palpatine into a story that was clearly not supposed to have anything to do with him is perhaps the worst example of corporate-mandated fan service I’ve ever seen. Not only does Palpatine ruin The Rise of Skywalker, but the revelation that he’s been manipulating the entire story of Star Wars from behind the scenes undermines every other story that the cinematic franchise has tried to tell. It was a monumentally bad decision; the worst kind of deus ex machina. And his presence wasn’t even explained.

But while Palpatine stank up the plot, he wasn’t the only problem in The Rise of Skywalker. The ridiculously choppy editing meant no scene lasted more than a few seconds, leaving the audience no time to digest what was happening. There was some truly awful dialogue. General Hux’s story makes no sense at all and was totally out of character. Rose Tico was sidelined, despite her character being a huge part of the previous film. Palpatine’s plan – and his decision to announce it to the galaxy before enacting it – makes no sense. The stupid limitation to his fleet also makes no sense. Rey’s character arc across the trilogy was ruined by the decision to listen to bad fan theories. Poe and Finn basically did nothing of consequence. And the scenes with Leia – I’m sorry to say given Carrie Fisher’s untimely demise – were so obviously lifted from another film that it was painful.

JJ Abrams ran around undoing so many storylines from The Last Jedi that The Rise of Skywalker felt like two films haphazardly smashed together, but cut down to the runtime of a single picture. There was an occasional moment where either something funny happened or perhaps the nostalgia hit hard, but otherwise it was a total failure, and by far the worst film I’ve seen all year.

Best Animated Film:

🥈Runner-up🥈
Frozen II

Disney does not have a good track record when it comes to sequels. Most of the time their big animated features are one-offs, with any sequels being relegated to direct-to-video offerings. But Frozen had been such a cultural landmark after its 2013 release that a sequel was, perhaps, inevitable. And far from being an afterthought, Frozen II was a film that equalled – and occasionally surpassed – its illustrious predecessor.

There was some fantastic animation work in Frozen II, such as the effects used for the fog. There was less snow than in the first film, and the snow in Frozen was beautiful, so that’s a shame in a way! The soundtrack was fantastic too, with several catchy songs that are well worth listening to.

Frozen II’s story was engrossing and genuinely interesting, and unlike some Disney sequels managed to avoid feeling tacked-on. The parents of the two sisters at the heart of the story had been killed early in the first film – and Frozen II saw them learn more about what happened to them, as well as discovering the source of Elsa’s powers.

🏆Winner🏆
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe

Phineas and Ferb went off the air in 2015, and as Disney Channel shows are usually one-and-done affairs I didn’t expect to see it return. But Candace Against the Universe premiered in August on Disney+ and was absolutely amazing.

After a five-year break the film brought back practically everything that made Phineas and Ferb great. There was a wacky but fun plot that brought together the kids and Dr Doofenshmirtz, there were some great musical numbers, and above all a deep story that had heart. Candace – the sister of the titular Phineas and Ferb – took centre-stage in a story that made depression accessible to even the film’s young target audience. It ended by telling a story that showed kids that they don’t have to be the centre of the universe to matter, and I think that’s an incredibly powerful message.

I’m a big advocate of sensitive depictions of mental health in entertainment. Not every story has to touch on the subject, of course, but Candace Against the Universe did – and it did so in a way that was relatable and understandable. But beyond that, it was a fun return to a series I thought was over. It’s possible the film could be the springboard for more Phineas and Ferb, but even if it isn’t I’m still glad we got to see it.

Best Live-Action Film:

Ordinarily I’d try to split up films by genre, and at least have sections for comedy, sci-fi, and maybe one or two others. But so few films have staggered out the door this year that there’s not really a lot of choice. As I’ve seen so few new films I just picked my top two. It wasn’t even all that difficult.

🥈Runner-up🥈
Sonic the Hedgehog

In any other year, Sonic the Hedgehog wouldn’t have got a look-in as one of the best releases. But this is 2020, and as we’ve already discussed, there aren’t a lot of options. After receiving backlash for its visual effects when the first trailer was released in 2019, the creative team behind Sonic the Hedgehog went back to the drawing board and redesigned the titular Sega mascot, bringing him closer to his video game appearance. The willingness of the studio to delay the project in response to fan criticism is appreciated, especially when many other studios have chosen to double-down in the face of such backlash.

The film itself is surprisingly fun, though as with 1993’s Super Mario Bros., features a storyline quite far-removed from the video game franchise it’s inspired by. Jim Carrey hasn’t exactly disappeared in recent years, but has been nowhere near as ubiquitous as he was in his late-90s heyday, so his performance here feels like a return to form. And that’s all I have to say, really. It was a fun film, and an enjoyable way to kill a couple of hours. Is Sonic the Hedgehog going to be hailed as a classic of modern cinema alongside Lincoln and Bohemian Rhapsody? Of course not. But out of the available titles this year, it’s one of the best.

🏆Winner🏆
1917

Now for a complete change of tone! 1917 was released in December last year, and is a truly epic war film that missed out on winning any of the top Academy Awards. However, despite the snub by the Oscars, it’s an outstanding piece of historical cinema, and though its novel “one-take” style of editing was perhaps less impressive than I expected it to be, it was nevertheless interesting.

I fully expect 1917 to be considered a classic of the war genre in decades to come, such is its quality. At its core is an emotional story of two young men thrown into a gut-wrenching situation. The First World War was one of the worst and bloodiest in history, yet few films have depicted that horror with such brutal accuracy as 1917.

Though it isn’t the kind of popcorn flick you’ll want to watch a dozen times in a row, 1917 is artistic and inspired in all the ways that matter. From the performances to the costuming to the camera work, every tiny detail has been honed and perfected. Director Sam Mendes deserves a lot of credit for putting together this masterpiece.

Announcements:

In this final section I’ll briefly cover a handful of announcements for upcoming productions that got me excited in 2020. There are so many interesting projects in the works, and while some of these may not see the light of day until 2022 or even later, they’re still genuinely appealing and I’m keeping my ear to the ground listening for news!

Video Games:

🥈Runner-up🥈
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

I’d been hoping for an announcement of the remastered Mass Effect trilogy ever since rumours of its existence began to swirl earlier in the year. Though EA and Bioware kept us waiting, the remaster was finally announced a short time ago and is due for release in 2021. Whether it will really tick all the boxes, and whether enough time has passed for a remaster to feel like a substantial improvement are both open questions… but I’m very interested to find out!

🏆Winner🏆
Hogwarts Legacy

It’s been a long time since a video game announcement got me so excited – and an even longer time since anything in set in the Wizarding World did! Hogwarts Legacy looks like a game with great potential – telling a new story set decades before the Harry Potter books. It also seems to be a game that offers a great degree of player choice. That combination worked very well for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and I think it could do wonderful things here.

Television Shows:

🥈Runner-up🥈
Alien

There’s a television show based on the 1979 classic Alien in development! Practically everything is being turned into a streaming television series right now, so perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I’m truly interested to see what the Alien franchise can do with more than a couple of hours. Television as a medium allows for longer and more complex stories than can fit in a two-hour film, so there’s a lot of potential here.

🏆Winner🏆
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Almost since the moment he beamed aboard Discovery at the beginning of the second season, fans had been clamouring for a Captain Pike series, and Alex Kurtzman and ViacomCBS listened! Strange New Worlds was announced in May, along with a short video from its three principal cast members. The show has already begun production, and while I doubt it’ll see the light of day before 2022, it’s one of the things keeping me going right now!

Films:

🥈Runner-up🥈
The Matrix 4

Though I have no idea where the story of The Matrix 4 could possibly take the series, I’m cautiously interested. Filming has already begun, but was disrupted by – what else – the pandemic. The two sequels to 1999’s The Matrix didn’t quite live up to the first part of the saga, but nevertheless were solid action-sci fi titles. I’m hoping that, after the series has taken a long break and with access to better CGI than was available in the early 2000s, The Matrix 4 will be just as good as the first. Could this be the beginning of a greatly expanded franchise?

🏆Winner🏆
Dune

The first part of this new Dune duology should have been released this month, but because most cinemas remain closed it’s been pushed all the way back to December next year. Dune has previously been difficult to adapt, with at least one attempted film version never making it to screen, but this adaptation has clearly been a labour of love. It seems to feature a great cast, and based on the trailer will have some stunning visual effects. Here’s hoping that it can get the cinematic release that the director and studio hope for.

So that’s it!

Those are my picks for the entertainment highlights of 2020. It’s been a very unusual year in terms of what all of us have been able to watch and listen to. A number of big titles weren’t able to make it to release, especially in the realm of cinema. We’re also going to be feeling the knock-on effects of this disruption well into 2021 and 2022, even if things get back to normal relatively quickly – which hopefully will be the case!

2020 brought Star Trek back to the small screen in a huge way. There literally has not been this much Star Trek to get stuck into for decades, and as a big fan of the franchise I think that’s just fantastic. It’s also been a year which has accelerated the move toward streaming as a main way of accessing content. I wouldn’t like to guess how many cable or satellite subscriptions have been cancelled in favour of Netflix, Disney+, CBS All Access, and the like!

I hope that you managed to find some fun things to watch and play this year – even as the outside world seemed to be falling apart. Entertainment is great escapism, and we all needed some of that in 2020. This may be my last post of the year, so all that remains to be said is this: see you in 2021!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective company, studio, broadcaster, publisher, distributor, etc. Some promotional images and artwork courtesy of IGDB. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Steam Holiday Sale deals for PC gamers

Important: The Steam Holiday Sale has now ended. Prices below will no longer be accurate.
Check back in June-July for the Summer Sale, and December for the next Winter/Holiday Sale deals.

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for some of the games on this list.

The Steam Holiday Sale runs from today (22nd December) through to the 5th of January. Prices and discounts listed below are for the UK versions only and may vary by region. Prices and discounts were correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.

Steam treats PC gamers to big sales twice a year, in addition to the many smaller sales that seem to run almost all the time. As I’ve said before, these sales go a long way to making PC gaming competitive from a price standpoint, even though the initial expense of buying a gaming PC is higher than buying a console.

That’s especially the case in 2020, as the launch of new consoles has meant that getting a gaming PC of comparable spec has become pricey! However, if you do spend the money on a PlayStation 5-beater – or even if you don’t – there are some fantastic deals on great games this holiday season. Let’s look at a few.

Number 1: Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2019)
40% discount, £17.99

If you don’t already have Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox or Game Pass, it’s well worth picking it up on Steam. The first six games in the Halo series – i.e. every title except for Halo 5 – are included in the package, and have been updated over the last few years to meet current-gen specifications.

Halo had, until last year, been exclusive to Xbox consoles, so many PC gamers haven’t had the opportunity to try out these great first-person shooters. There is an online multiplayer mode, but for me the enjoyment of the Halo series has always been its single-player campaigns. It could be a long wait for Halo Infinite, so why not replay the rest of the series in the meantime?

Number 2: Fall Guys (2020)
20% discount, £12.79

Though a 20% discount isn’t huge – and I was half-expecting something larger – for less than £13 Fall Guys is fantastic. It’s my second most-played game of the year, behind only Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and it’s a ton of fun. I logged back in for the first time in a few weeks to check out the most recent update, which has brought a lot of Christmas- and winter-themed costumes and events.

Fall Guys, if you’re totally unfamiliar, is an online “battle royale” game in which players run obstacle courses. The courses are based on classic television game shows like Total Wipeout and Gladiators, and it’s an absolute blast.

Number 3: Ryse: Son of Rome (2013)
70% discount, £2.39

Ryse: Son of Rome was one of the few Xbox One launch titles back in 2013, which was when I first played it. It was arguably not worth the £45-50 I paid for it back then, not least because it isn’t very long at around 6-7 hours, but it did a wonderful job of showing off what we could expect from what were then the next generation of consoles in terms of visuals. Ryse: Son of Rome’s graphics hold up remarkably well today, and the PC port of the game is decent.

It’s a single-player hack-and-slash game set in the Roman Empire, and for history buffs or fans of anything to do with Rome it’s well worth a play for less than the price of a pint!

Number 4: Hotshot Racing (2020)
50% discount, £7.99

I picked up Hotshot Racing when it was released in September, and even for its £16 original price I thought it was well worth it. This isn’t a hardcore racing sim that needs a racing wheel, it’s purely an arcade racer.

What first drew me to Hotshot Racing was its retro aesthetic which mimics titles from the mid-1990s. But there’s far more to this fun, fast-paced racer than just its visual style, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

Number 5: The Deus Ex Collection (2000-2016)
88% discount, £7.79

If you’re desperate to play Cyberpunk 2077 but have been put off by the bugs and the backlash (or if you just don’t have a good enough PC to run the game very well) then the Deus Ex series is an interesting alternative. The four games in the series are far more linear than the open-world Cyberpunk 2077, but many elements cross over between the two titles, such as first-person action, augmenting your human character, and a dystopian future setting.

The two most recent titles in the series – Human Revolution and Mankind Divided – made my list of ten games to play instead of Cyberpunk 2077 a couple of weeks ago.

Number 6: Plague Inc: Evolved (2016)
60% discount, £4.79

Depending on your sense of humour this could either be timely or incredibly offensive! Plague Inc: Evolved is an expanded port of a game that was originally released on Android and iOS in 2012 and sees players take on the role of a disease looking to wipe out humankind. In that sense it’s a unique experience as there’s nothing else quite like it on the market!

Plague Inc: Evolved is a lot of fun, and offers a number different ways to play as well as different upgrade paths for your chosen pathogen. Obviously the current pandemic makes it a somewhat controversial choice, but it is undeniably an entertaining little strategy game.

Number 7: Star Wars: Squadrons (2020)
40% discount, £20.99

Since I wrote up my first impressions of Star Wars: Squadrons back in October I’ve continued to play the game. It’s been an incredibly enjoyable experience, slipping into the role of a fighter pilot in a galaxy far, far away. I know some folks are put off by the “realistic simulator” style of play and the mandatory first-person viewpoint, but if you can look beyond those limitations and are willing to invest a few hours into learning the way it works, under the surface is a fun game.

I haven’t played much multiplayer; as you may know I’m not really an online multiplayer fan. But if you like that, and you want a different Star Wars experience to enjoy with friends, this could well be the game for you.

Number 8: Control (Ultimate Edition) (2020)
50% discount, £17.49

Big caveat here: I have yet to play Control for myself. It’s been on my radar for a while, though, and I may even write up my playthrough as part of my Let’s Play series here on the website. The game is a single-player action-adventure title with a strong narrative, focusing on Jesse as she has to figure out a supernatural event.

Control and publisher 505 Games have rightly received criticism for the way they handled the rollout of the Ultimate Edition – refusing players a free upgrade despite the game being only a few months old. If you can look past the controversy, however, Control has received great reviews and I’m excited to try it for myself.

Number 9: Skully (2020)
50% discount, £12.49

It’s unusual for me to spend so much money on an indie title, but Skully is an absolutely delightful 3D platformer in which you get to play as a disembodied skull. That premise alone sold it for me, and I was not disappointed when I sat down to play the game in the autumn. I have an article about Skully in the pipeline, but as with so many writing projects here on the website I haven’t bashed it into shape yet!

Despite the game’s protagonist being a literal skull, there’s more to it than just rolling around – though the physics used for the rolling sections is exquisite! Skully can take on different golem-style bodies, and even though a game based on a skull might seem spooky, there’s a magical fantasy theme rather than anything grotesque or horrifying. I thought it was great value when it was full price, but with a 50% discount it’s absolutely worth picking up this underrated gem.

Number 10: Steep (2016)
80% discount, £5.19

It’s winter! Or at least it is here in the northern hemisphere, so snow and winter sports are on our minds. Steep is a fun winter sports title that lets you ski and snowboard in a large open world, as well as take on the extreme sports of paragliding and wingsuit flying.

Steep has a few DLC options available – which are similarly discounted – but one which stands out is Road to the Olympics, which added in extras related to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Even without any DLC though, the base game is great fun. It’s one of those sports games which is easy to get started with but difficult to really master.

Number 11: Black Mesa (2020)
50% discount, £7.49

The non-existence of Half-Life 3 has become a meme at this point, and although the VR-only title Half-Life Alyx may have offered a glimmer of hope that the series isn’t entirely on ice, there’s been no announcement of future titles at this stage. What we did get in March this year, though, was Black Mesa, a fan-made remake of the original Half-Life from 1998.

As you’d expect from a remake, Black Mesa incorporates everything that players loved about the original, but updates the visuals to bring it in line with more recent first-person action titles. If you missed the original Half-Life in the late 1990s or just want to relive that experience, Black Mesa comes highly recommended!

Number 12: Red Dead Redemption 2 (2019)
33% discount, £36.84

Another title which needs the “I haven’t played it yet” caveat, Red Dead Redemption 2 is widely hailed as a masterpiece. The Wild West-themed action title comes from Rockstar, best known for the Grand Theft Auto series, and promises to transport players back in time to the latter days of the American frontier.

I’ve been waiting and waiting for Red Dead Redemption 2 to go on sale, and while a 33% discount isn’t huge it’s certainly more than generous enough to make this fun title worth a try. The main campaign alone is said to be over 40 hours, with many players spending 60+ hours in Rockstar’s American west setting. I’m genuinely interested to try it for myself, and if reviews from professional and amateur critics alike are to be believed, it’ll be a fun time.

Number 13: Pillars of Eternity Collection (2015-18)
70% discount, £24.06

Obsidian Entertainment developed these two fantastically detailed old-school role-playing games, and to see both titles plus their DLC so heavily discounted is great. There is literally days’ or even weeks’ worth of gameplay and story to get stuck into here, and again if you’re craving a role-playing game to play given the recent release of Cyberpunk 2077 these two games could be a worthwhile – if wholly different – alternative option.

It’s hard to say too much about either game without spoiling the narrative – which is, of course, the primary focus of such titles. But they’re amazing, in-depth experiences and if you get stuck in you’ll find yourself playing for hours on end.

Number 14: Resident Evil 2 (2019)
60% discount, £13.99

The remake of Resident Evil 2 won many awards in 2019, and was many folks’ choice for game of the year. The horror title debuted in 1998, but was rebuilt from the ground up for this version. There are mutant monsters, zombies, and jump-scares galore in this gory, visceral horror title, and it is not for the faint of heart!

After the disappointment many felt at Resident Evil 3′s cut content and short runtime earlier in the year, Resident Evil 2 seems even better by comparison. It’s possible to pick up both remakes for a little over £25, though, and for the heavily discounted price, Resident Evil 3 doesn’t feel quite so bad. It’s like I always say – length doesn’t matter, as long as a game is priced accordingly!

Number 15: Vampyr (2018)
75% discount, £8.74

Set during the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, Vampyr is another game you might consider timely given the state of the world today! It’s got a unique premise as far as vampire titles go – the player character is a doctor, a newly-turned vampire who must balance his bloodlust with his Hippocratic oath in a hauntingly beautiful rendition of interwar London.

The pandemic can be a touchy subject, and it’s totally understandable for folks to want to skip Vampyr for now. But give it a chance and you’ll find an enjoyable title, one that blends reality and the supernatural within a truly interesting historical setting. Though arguably a little short, it’s the kind of narrative-heavy game where you feel your choices genuinely matter in the world you’re inhabiting.

Number 16: FIFA 21 (2020)
63% discount, £25.89

Ah, the annual FIFA series. Not to every gamer’s taste, I admit, but if you like football and support a team in any of the major divisions around the world, there’s no other football title that offers as much. I’m surprised to see FIFA 21 so heavily discounted so soon after its October release, because there’s nothing wrong with it at all.

That being said, modern FIFA games are iterative rather than transformative with each new release, and players who’ve picked up any title in the series in the last few years won’t see a huge difference or improvement with FIFA 21. Personally, it isn’t a series I buy every iteration of every year, and having waited three or four years since I last picked up the latest entry, there was enough going on in FIFA 21 for me to have an enjoyable time with its single-player mode.

Number 17: Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King (2019)
60% discount, £9.51

With an original asking price of over £20, I felt that Aladdin and The Lion King was far too expensive for what it was when it was released last year. Despite Aladdin in particular being an outstanding platformer, I found it hard to justify the steep cost for two games which are now more than a quarter of a century old. With a reasonable discount, however, this two-game bundle feels more accessible and appropriately-priced.

I fondly remember both games from the SNES days, and though it’s the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions that were used for this collection, those nostalgic feelings are still present! If you’re in the market for a couple of cute but surprisingly difficult 2D platformers, Aladdin and The Lion King could be just what you need. It’s also well worth showing games like these to younger players, to let them experience a slice of gaming history.

Number 18: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (2020)
40% discount, £20.99

Though I adore Kingdoms of Amalur, this version must come with a caveat: despite claiming to be a remaster, it’s really little more than an upscaled version of the original title. Very little has been changed, and players (like myself) who expected more of a remake were left underwhelmed. So if you already own the original Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, there’s basically no reason to get this version.

If you missed Kingdoms of Amalur when it was new, or never owned it on PC, however, it’s definitely worthwhile picking it up. What you’ll find is a fantasy role-playing game that combines some of the best elements of franchises like the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age series into one exciting title. There’s a unique and interesting story at the core of the game, too, and if it hooks you in you won’t want to put Kingdoms of Amalur down until you’ve unravelled all of its mysteries!

Number 19: Jurassic World Evolution (2018)
90% discount, £3.49

Jurassic World Evolution is the dinosaur park builder that every fan of the Jurassic Park/World series has always wanted. A blend of the dinosaur-themed series with the likes of “tycoon” games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon, it’s a surprisingly detailed yet incredibly fun experience. And with such a heavy discount, there’s no excuse not to give it a try!

As someone who returned to the theme park-building genre after a long absence, it took me a while to get to grips with the plethora of options and massively expanded nature of titles like Planet Coaster and Jurassic World Evolution. Better technology means these games can offer a lot more – and that means that there is a learning curve! But stick with the tutorial and you’ll learn all you need to step into John Hammond’s shoes and run your own dino park!

Number 20: Star Trek: Bridge Crew (2017)
60% discount, £8.39

When it comes to gaming lists, it’s hard to find Star Trek titles to include! The franchise has not always been well-served in the gaming realm, unfortunately. Star Trek: Bridge Crew was originally designed as a VR-only title, but an update not long after its release allowed for non-VR play too. It’s best enjoyed with friends, as each of you can take on the role of a character on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel.

I wrote up my first impressions of Star Trek: Bridge Crew a few months ago when I picked it up, and suffice to say the VR-oriented controls take some getting used to. But if you’ve ever wanted to take command of a Federation starship and have your own Star Trek adventures, this is one of the only modern titles that allows you to get anywhere close to that experience. And as I often find myself saying, it wouldn’t be a Crazy Uncle Dennis list without at least one Star Trek title!

So that’s it. Twenty recommendations from the Steam Holiday Sale. If you were to buy all of them I reckon you’d have spent £269.29. That doesn’t sound as impressive as some of my previous lists of Steam sales, but this time I tried to focus more on recent titles instead of going back to games of yesteryear! If you consider that it averages out to £13.47 per entry on this list (several of which are bundles) I think it’s pretty good considering we’re looking at mostly new titles! These sales give PC gaming an edge over consoles, and even as services like Game Pass begin to take off, there’s still a place for the Steam Holiday Sale!

Even though I’m not a huge fan of Epic Games these days, there’s a sale running over on the Epic Games Store too. In addition, Epic is giving out several free games this holiday season, and a £10/$10 voucher. Cyberpunk 2077 is available on the Epic Games Store, and even though it isn’t discounted right now, if you use your free voucher to buy it you can reduce the cost of 2020’s hottest mess!

So there’s some inspiration for you as you head over to Steam to check out the holiday sale. I hope this has been useful, and if your favourite title isn’t on sale this time, don’t panic! It might be included in the Steam Summer Sale next year!

Prices and discounts included in this article were correct in the UK at time of publication. The Steam Holiday Sale begins today (22nd December 2020) and runs until 6:00pm GMT on the 5th of January 2021. Prices and discounts are subject to change at any time, and may vary by region and currency.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, publisher, and/or corporation. Some promotional screenshots and artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Games of the Generation

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the titles on this list.

The launch of the Xbox Series X earlier today marked the beginning of a new console generation – and thus the end of one too. That generation began in November 2012 with the release of the Wii U, and saw both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 arrive a year later. I’ve been incredibly fortunate over the last eight years to have played a number of different games across all four major consoles, and while I need to say for the record that there are still plenty of big titles I haven’t got my hands on, there’s certainly enough to put together a list like this.

As we say goodbye to the current generation of consoles and jump headfirst into next-gen, let’s take a few minutes to look back at some of the best gaming experiences of the generation… in my subjective opinion!

But before we dive into the list, here’s a short recap of each of the major consoles. The Wii U came first, but was blighted by horrible marketing (even months after release, many gamers were confused as to what the Wii U even was, with many believing its clunky plastic controller to be nothing more than an accessory for the Wii). Nintendo began making losses during this period, and even laid off a number of staff. The console saw some very fun games, but I was one of less than fifteen million people who bought the machine – which in 2012 was clearly not good enough to cover Nintendo’s costs – making the console an expensive failure. For the sake of comparison, the original Wii sold over 100 million consoles, and the Switch is currently sitting at over 60 million a mere three years after release.

The Wii U kicked off this generation in November 2012, but was unsuccessful overall.

Next came the PlayStation 4. Only a few months earlier I’d bought a PlayStation 3, the first Sony machine I’d ever owned. I’d done so solely to play The Last Of Us, and I wasn’t disappointed! After the Xbox One suffered a rocky run-up to launch (we’ll come to that in a moment) PlayStation seized the chance to convert gamers to their platform after running behind for the entirety of the previous generation. And many folks who had previously been invested in Xbox made the switch – PlayStation 4 has almost certainly sold twice as many units as Xbox One, and that couldn’t have happened without Xbox 360 players jumping ship. PlayStation 4 has also had by far the better crop of exclusive games, and that’s another huge factor in its success this generation.

The PlayStation 4 arrived in November 2013 and has been the generation’s best-seller by far.

Xbox One arrived only a week after the launch of the PlayStation 4, but it was not a smooth road for Microsoft’s console. From the moment the console was announced it attracted the ire of gamers. First was its complicated always-online nature, which Microsoft had to backtrack on. Next was the issue of trading in games or sharing them with friends, with Xbox initially seeming to “lock” each disc to a specific user account. This was also something Microsoft U-turned on. Those fiascos were bad enough, but next came Kinect. Bundled with the system – and with no way to opt out – Kinect bumped up the price of the Xbox One at launch, making it $100 more than PlayStation 4. Looking back over several console generations, the cheaper machine usually sells better, and so it proved again. Xbox One also struggled with a lack of decent exclusive games to compete with those available on the PlayStation 4. Despite all of that, however, Xbox Game Pass (a paid subscription service which gives players access to over a hundred titles) definitely found a foothold as the generation drew to a close.

The Xbox One launched a week after the PlayStation 4 – for $100 more.

Finally, 2017 saw the launch of the Nintendo Switch. Where the Wii U had been Nintendo’s attempt to recapture the “hardcore gamer” market, the Switch saw Nintendo realise that its success with consoles like the Wii and the handheld DS and 3DS lineup was due to their appeal to casual players. A console deliberately less powerful than its two competitors, the Switch retained the motion controls that had proven popular on the Wii alongside a new gimmick: the console is a hybrid that can either be played as a handheld device or connected to a screen. After the disappointment of the Wii U, the Switch proved a success from day one, and eclipsed the Wii U’s total lifetime sales in a matter of months.

The Nintendo Switch is the newest major console, having been released in 2017.

So those were this generation’s consoles. Now let’s look at some games!

This list is in three parts. The first part consists of titles that I consider to be incredibly important to the overall gaming landscape of the generation, even if they weren’t “my thing” and/or I don’t have much personal experience with them. The second part of the list contains a handful of titles that failed hard, and whose failures had an impact on gaming in some way. And finally the third part of the list is what you’re all here for – my personal top ten games of the generation.

Without any further ado, let’s get started!

Honourable Mentions

As stated above, this section of the list consists of a few titles that, for whatever reason, weren’t necessarily something I enjoyed or bought into, yet were landmarks in gaming this generation. No “games of the generation” list would be complete without their inclusion.

Number 1: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (2017)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – or “Pub-G” as some insist on calling it – was the first truly successful battle royale game. There’s debate over the origins of battle royale, and at one point PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds attempted to patent the format, but there can be no denying that this is the game that brought it to mainstream attention. By doing so it revolutionised online multiplayer gaming, and for a while was the most-played game in the world.

Considering how big battle royale titles still are, no end-of-the-generation list would be complete without PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Though the game is still being played, it has arguably been eclipsed by some other titles in the genre it spawned – most notably Fortnite. In that sense it’s one of the most influential games of the generation… even if it isn’t one that’s enjoyed as much ongoing success.

Number 2: Fortnite (2018)

If PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds kicked off the battle royale craze, Fortnite took it to the next level. This title became a powerhouse in the gaming world; a phenomenon the industry hadn’t seen since Minecraft. And it’s a free-to-play game. Many of Fortnite’s biggest fans have never paid a penny despite spending hours and hours playing it, yet it’s managed to become one of the biggest and most financially successful titles in gaming. Ever.

Fortnite isn’t innovative with its gameplay, nor is it innovative in being free; mobile games in particular have used a free-to-play model for years. But Fortnite has taken the world by storm by refining those things and putting them with a fun, cartoony aesthetic that has widespread appeal, especially to younger players. For many kids, Fortnite has been their ticket into a brand-new hobby, and the importance of expanding gaming beyond where it was even a few years ago is immeasurable.

As with any successful title, other games have tried to imitate Fortnite’s success, and in some ways we can assign some degree of blame to Fortnite for making lootboxes and microtransactions more acceptable. However, it isn’t only this game’s fault that companies continue to pursue in-game monetisation!

Number 3: The Witcher 3 (2015)

With so much focus on multiplayer this generation, The Witcher 3 really stands out as a comparative rarity. It demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that there is a market for well-made, expansive single-player games at a time when many companies seemed to be abandoning them. It’s widely considered one of the best games of all-time, not just of the generation, and the success of The Witcher 3 did much to demonstrate to the industry that single-player games could still be critically and financially successful.

As I mentioned when I took a look at a few great games that I haven’t played, The Witcher 3 is on my list and I hope to eventually get to it. Single-player fantasy role-playing games are exactly my kind of thing, but I haven’t got around to this one yet! As a standout title that really boosted the medium, though, I can appreciate The Witcher 3′s success from afar.

Number 4: Grand Theft Auto V – online mode (2013)

Grand Theft Auto V has been a juggernaut this generation, having initially been released on the previous generation’s Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For the last seven years it has seldom dropped out of the top ten bestselling games, which is an incredible achievement. The success is largely due to its online mode, which has made developers Rockstar an insane amount of money.

Competitive online gaming really isn’t my thing, but no list appreciating the generation’s finest should ignore Grand Theft Auto V’s multiplayer mode. Taking the beautifully-crafted world of Los Santos and opening it up to players for jobs and heists together has been a masterstroke on Rockstar’s part.

I was, however, a little disappointed to see that Rockstar simply plan on porting the game to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. I get that it’s been a phenomenally successful title this generation – but I had hoped for a new entry in the series (or a new title altogether) as the gaming world moves on. They see things differently, however, and given Grand Theft Auto V’s success and bustling online scene, maybe they’re right.

Number 5: Undertale (2015) and the whole indie scene

I chose Undertale as an example because it has been widely praised, but this entry also stands to represent titles like Dead Cells, Cuphead, Untitled Goose Game, Donut County, Shovel Knight, and many more indie titles that have wowed audiences this generation. Making a game as an independent developer is a difficult and often expensive undertaking, yet many of these titles – including Undertale – have been fantastic and received critical acclaim.

There’s a perception that all indie games are pixel-art 2D platformers, and while there certainly are titles which fit that description there’s also much more going on in the indie scene. Some of these games go on to inspire whole sub-genres, and as we go into the new generation its a great thing that there are so many independent, smaller developers out there. It keeps the games scene interesting!

Disappointments and Disasters

This section looks at a handful of controversial, disappointing, or outright bad games which nevertheless impacted the games industry this generation. Not every innovation or change to the way games are made comes from success, and some titles may be better-remembered for serving as bad examples than good games.

Number 1: Star Citizen (Unreleased)

How can a game that hasn’t even been released be one of the biggest disasters of the generation? Simple: it’s become the textbook example of how crowdfunding can go wrong in the gaming realm. Star Citizen’s troubled development began way back in 2012, before any of the current-gen systems launched. And it raked in millions of dollars in crowdfunding from eager gamers – only to miss release window after release window, while continuing to beg and scrounge money out of its remaining loyal fans.

At this point, in late 2020, the team behind Star Citizen have raised – and mostly spent – over $300 million. That’s an utterly insane amount of money for any video game, and if reports and rumours are to be believed, it’s still nowhere near complete. What happened with Star Citizen is basically this: a developer had a decent idea for a game, put together a small team, and began work. But as the crowdfunding campaign took off the developers began to promise more and more features, leading to more development time. More development time in turn meant they needed more money, which meant more crowdfunding, which meant more features were promised, and the whole thing has spiralled out of control to the point where the game is an overhyped undeliverable mess.

Star Citizen isn’t a “scam,” because I firmly believe there were good intentions behind it. But the developers needed someone competent to manage the project before it got unwieldy, and someone in charge to prevent it from ever getting so out of control. The idea of selling in-game content for an unreleased game is already pretty shady, but when some of that content can cost thousands of dollars I think someone has to step in and say that it isn’t acceptable. It’s still possible the game will see a release – one day – but even if it does it’s hard to imagine it will be anything less than underwhelming in the extreme for fans who’ve waited years and hyped it to oblivion.

Number 2: Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)

Battlefront II saw the bubbling lootbox controversy boil over. Though it’s been over three years since its 2017 launch, the ramifications of that are still being felt as jurisdictions across the world move to regulate or ban in-game gambling. Electronic Arts has, for years, pushed the envelope for what gamers will tolerate in terms of in-game monetisation. And with Battlefront II they finally pushed too hard and too far.

The game itself is perfectly playable today, but only because EA ripped out as much of the gambling as they could before it hit shelves. Battlefront II also had poor timing, causing controversy in the Star Wars fandom at a time when The Last Jedi was already proving hugely divisive. The combination of the poorly-received game and film meant that Star Wars was in a dark place going into 2018.

Number 3: Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017) and Anthem (2019)

Oh, Bioware. How heroes fall! For a number of reasons that boil down to project mismanagement, both Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem were rush jobs, put together in months instead of years. And it showed. Andromeda was memed to death, and even though the worst of its bugs and visual glitches were fixed within days of launch by patches, the damage was done and the game’s reputation never recovered.

Anthem overpromised based on a trailer at E3 that was entirely fake. Players who did buy into the game found a half-finished and underwhelming live service experience, and promises of updates and more content weren’t enough to convince more than a few to stick around. As of late 2020, Anthem’s “roadmap” for further updates has been cancelled, and the game is essentially dead.

For a studio like Bioware, these failures feel so much worse because we know that they’re capable of producing some incredible games. Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and the first two parts of the Mass Effect trilogy are among my favourite role-playing games of all time, so to see the buggy overblown side-mission that was Andromeda and the live service failure that was Anthem is nothing less than a colossal disappointment. There may be light at the end of the tunnel for this once-great developer, however, with a Mass Effect trilogy remaster having been announced a couple of days ago.

Number 4: Fallout 76 (2018)

As above, a developer once revered for its amazing experiences churned out a buggy, underwhelming online multiplayer title. Fallout 76 came after years of declining quality of Bethesda’s own titles, which included port after port of Skyrim and little else. I could never get past the fact that this was a Fallout game with absolutely no non-player characters. The heart of any game like this is its story, and a story needs characters. Fallout 76 thus contained little more than a moderately pretty environment – one built on an ageing engine meaning even the game’s visuals were hardly spectacular.

After walking around, checking out the scenery, and battling a few monsters, there was literally nothing to do. The gunplay was also mediocre to poor, something the Fallout series’ VATS system had masked in previous titles built on the same engine. But with multiplayer there was no way to implement VATS properly, meaning the game’s shooting had to stand on its own… and it fell down.

The first of these points – the missing NPCs – was eventually addressed in an update. But Fallout 76 has been own goal after own goal from Bethesda, including crappy product tie-ins that got recalled, a $100 premium membership, and more besides. The game was a bug-riddled disappointment.

Number 5: Shenmue III (2019)

Shenmue III is one of the biggest disappointments to me personally. Other titles in this section have their problems, but when it comes to my most-anticipated games ever, Shenmue III had been at the top of the list since 2001. After a dedicated group of hardcore fans raised an incredible $7 million through a crowdfunding campaign, the only thing I expected from Shenmue III was that it would finally finish Ryo Hazuki’s story.

In 2001, Shenmue II ended on a cliffhanger, with Ryo’s quest for revenge incomplete – and having just taken an interesting turn. But the failure of the Dreamcast – and the game’s lacklustre sales – meant no sequel was forthcoming. Yu Suzuki, the game’s creator, had always said that the Shenmue saga was an ambitious project, and that’s to be commended, but while I can’t claim to speak for every Shenmue fan, really my only expectation going into Shenmue III was that it would bring the story to a conclusion. If there was too much story to tell in a project this size, then someone had to come in and make cuts to all of the unnecessary fluff to make it fit. For some inexplicable reason, that didn’t happen. Fans raised millions of dollars to end on another cliffhanger. Does Yu Suzuki seriously think he’ll raise millions more to make Shenmue IV and Shenmue V to keep telling this story?

And that’s why it’s such a disappointment. It had one objective as far as I was concerned: finish the story. Fans donated their own money to make that dream a reality, but the developers blew it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a dead, failed series to come back to life and finish its ambitious story. I can’t get over the truly awful decision-making that meant it didn’t happen.

Games of the Generation

Now we come to my personal top ten. I played and loved all of these games this generation, and while there are many more that could have made the list, when I whittled it down these are the titles which made the final cut. These titles are not in any particular order, so this isn’t a ranked list. All ten titles are very different, and thus they’re all my Games of the Generation!

Number 1: Mario Kart 8 (2014)

Originally released for the Wii U in 2014, Mario Kart 8 has since reappeared – in “deluxe” form – on the Nintendo Switch. It isn’t particularly ground-breaking, simply refining and polishing the Mario Kart experience for the high-definition screens that became commonplace over the last decade. But that’s absolutely fine, because Mario Kart doesn’t need a radical overhaul; what keeps players coming back for race after race is that it’s pick-up-and-play fun.

The Switch version bundles the original game with its two DLC packs and adds a few new characters to the roster too. And that’s the way most players have experienced Mario Kart 8, since so few people owned a Wii U! It’s a shame that Nintendo chose to paywall its originally-free online multiplayer, and that decision deserves criticism as it’s awful to implement paid online features to a game that once enjoyed those same features for free.

Regardless, Mario Kart 8 is a lot of fun. Some will argue that the fun is best shared with friends, and though you could certainly make that claim I still find myself picking up the game for a quick race or two against the AI.

Number 2: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019)

I played through Jedi: Fallen Order earlier this year, and I had a wonderful time. In fact, I’d go so far as to call the game the best Star Wars experience I’ve had in a long time, far surpassing some recent film and television attempts from that franchise! Cal’s journey from the shipbreaking yards of Bracca to, well, spoilers, was truly exciting.

This kind of linear, story-focused game has fallen out of favour with many of the bigger games publishers this generation. The rush to make every game an online experience (with recurring monetisation) has unfortunately seen less of a focus on titles like Jedi: Fallen Order; the Star Wars brand saw only the two Battlefront games in the years before its release. However, the success of this title both critically and commercially has already led to a sequel being developed – and hopefully demonstrated once again that there’s life in these kind of games!

Though I did encounter a few bugs and other issues during my playthrough nothing spoilt the experience. There were some great voice acting performances, interesting and varied planets to visit, a couple of neat cameos by characters from the films, and truly beautiful visuals that really brought the setting to life and truly immersed me in a galaxy far, far away.

Number 3: South Park: The Stick of Truth (2014)

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of South Park. Its social commentary can be biting and funny, but sometimes it goes over-the-top to say the least! However, while I haven’t been a regular viewer of the series since I lived in the United States in the mid-2000s, the game South Park: The Stick of Truth managed to catch my attention early in the generation. I gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did!

The game’s visual style is practically identical to the television series, and that alone makes it interesting. Animated shows have been adapted as games many times, but rarely is the appearance so remarkably similar. I think that’s what first captured my attention, but what I found when I played the game for myself was a surprisingly fun role-playing experience.

Not every joke landed, and a few moments in The Stick of Truth were just plain silly. But as an authentic South Park experience that really feels like playing through an extended episode of the television series it’s something unique – or it was until a sequel, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, was released in 2017.

Number 4: Ori and the Blind Forest (2015)

Ori and the Blind Forest never pretends to be a AAA blockbuster. It’s relatively short, with an average playthough lasting around eight hours, but those hours are spent in a beautiful, artistic world. The levels are diverse, and are interesting and challenging in equal measure as protagonists Ori and Sein bid to save their forest home.

Words like “masterpiece” and “beautiful” are thrown around all too easily these days, but I genuinely feel that both apply to Ori and the Blind Forest. For a game about spirits and sprites it’s surprisingly emotional too.

In a generation where Microsoft and Xbox lagged well behind Sony in terms of the quality of their exclusive games, Ori and the Blind Forest was a rare win. It’s since been followed up by Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel which builds on everything the first game got right. Both titles are available on Xbox Game Pass, and are well worth a play for anyone who likes 2D platformers.

Number 5: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016)

As with Jedi: Fallen Order above, Uncharted 4 is a linear, story-focused game. This generation has been dominated by sequels, and Uncharted 4 brings to a close the tale of Nathan Drake which began on the PlayStation 3 in 2007. What I love about the series is that it feels like a combination of Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, setting up a mythical-historical mystery for Drake and his comrades to uncover.

The first three games in the series were fantastic, but Uncharted 4 was a step up. Truly stunning visuals that pushed the PlayStation 4 to its limit really helped with immersion, and the swashbuckling story was perfectly-paced and well executed. Naughty Dog is a fine studio, and they refined this style of gameplay to perfection by the time of Uncharted 4‘s release.

The PlayStation 4 has had some amazing exclusive games this generation. Whether Uncharted 4 is the best of them will always be a matter of debate, but for me it has to be at or near the top of any such list.

Number 6: Minecraft (2011)

This one is a total cheat since Minecraft was released a full two years before any of the current-gen consoles. But it isn’t unfair to say that the game has enjoyed continued success this generation, which culminated in parent company Mojang being acquired by Microsoft in a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion. That’s a lot of money for a game I initially dismissed as a scruffy-looking pixel graphics mud hut-builder!

Minecraft became the best-selling game of all-time, and a phenomenon that took the world by storm. It introduced the gaming hobby to millions of new players, including many children, and its ubiquity on practically every platform helped that immeasurably. Even nine years after its initial release the game is still being played and replayed over and over. The Minecraft brand has also been expanded upon, with titles like Minecraft: Story Mode and Minecraft Dungeons set in the same fictional world.

Where I had the most fun with Minecraft is in multiplayer with friends, starting from scratch and building whatever we wanted. I wouldn’t like to guess how many hours were lost digging tunnels, mining resources, and planning how to build a castle with a lava moat or a city in the sky.

Number 7: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014)

The world of Middle-Earth has been ripe for video game adaptations ever since The Lord of the Rings trilogy hit cinemas in the early 2000s, and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor follows some truly outstanding games from years past. It took a step back from the books’ familiar characters, introducing players to Talion, an Aragorn-esque Ranger, as he takes the fight to Sauron.

What made Shadow of Mordor stand out mechanically as a video game was its revolutionary “nemesis” system. The game’s AI would track which Uruk commanders that Talion battled – and there were many! Those Uruk could not only become more powerful by killing the player, but defeating them was a key part of the gameplay experience. Orcs and Uruk could be promoted within Sauron’s army, and the aim of the game was to encounter and defeat them. Even now this gameplay mechanic is innovative, and it makes Shadow of Mordor a game with plenty of replay value.

Unfortunately the series was tainted somewhat by the in-game monetisation forced into its sequel, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. While most of that has since been removed, the reputation of both games suffered. It’s a shame, because Shadow of Mordor is one of the best and most immersive experiences set in Tolkien’s world, and is still worth playing today.

Number 8: Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

Super Mario Odyssey took everything that had been great about 3D Mario games and condensed it into one phenomenal title. It dropped gimmicks from Mario Sunshine and Mario Galaxy and returned the series to a style much closer to the beloved Super Mario 64, which remains to this day one of my favourite games of all-time.

The level design was brilliant and incredibly varied, with water levels, desert levels, and even a voyage to the moon all on Mario’s agenda as he races to – once again – save Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. Hardly an innovative premise, you may say, but the fun of Super Mario Odyssey is in the gameplay rather than the story. There are very, very few titles about which I’d say something like that – so that should show you just how outstanding this game really is.

Despite being brand-new, Super Mario Odyssey gave me a hit of nostalgia and took me back to the mid-1990s when I played Super Mario 64 for the first time. It really does feel like an updated version of that classic game.

Number 9: Fall Guys (2020)

Fall Guys came out of nowhere this summer and surprised me! From the moment I heard the concept – jelly bean-like characters running obstacle courses in a video game homage to the likes of Total Wipeout – I knew I had to give it a try. And despite my general dislike of online multiplayer titles, what I found was a truly fun experience.

Fall Guys makes it easy to jump into game after game, and because each round is so short, even losing doesn’t feel that bad. The different ways in which people play makes every round unique, and while it certainly has its frustrating moments the core gameplay is plenty of fun. A cheating problem plagued the PC version for a while, but an update brought in anti-cheat software and that issue has now all but died out, restoring the fun!

If you’d asked me at the start of the year – or even in June – what my top ten games of the generation were likely to be, Fall Guys wouldn’t have even been on my radar. And when I was putting this list together I was wondering if including it would seem like recency bias; ignoring older games in favour of one I picked up just a few weeks ago. But looking at it on merit, I had a lot of fun with Fall Guys, and I’m happy to include this fun, casual title as one of my top games of this generation.

Number 10: Subnautica (2018)

In the wake of Minecraft’s success many games attempted to recreate its survival and building/crafting features. Many of these so-called “Minecraft clones” were crap, but one survival game that took the genre to wholly new places was Subnautica. The game has an interesting story as players find themselves crash-landing on a watery planet and must explore, collect resources, and build their way to freedom.

Subnautica is one of the few games even in modern times to really get its underwater world feeling right. Many games are notorious for bad underwater sections or levels, and when the whole game is based around swimming and moving underwater, this was something Subnautica couldn’t afford to screw up! The skill and attention to detail that went into this aspect of the game really is incredible.

The underwater setting also made the game feel like something genuinely different in a survival genre that was full of samey titles. Subnautica managed to be something unique as well as plenty of fun, and that combination is greatly appreciated.

So that’s it. A few of the best games of the generation – in my opinion, at least. There are many, many titles that could have made this list, including games I’ve played but forgotten all about, and games that I didn’t get around to yet.

This generation has offered up some truly amazing experiences, and even as we begin the transition to new consoles, there will be more to come. Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite are both due in the next few months, and there will be a number of other titles released before production fully shifts to the new machines over the next couple of years.

On a personal note, this has been a generation where, for a number of reasons, I found myself playing fewer games than I had in the past. A combination of health, ageing, work, and other factors are to blame – if indeed blame needs to be assigned. Despite that, I had fun with all four of this generation’s major home consoles, something I can say for the first time as a generation comes to a close!

I have no immediate plans to purchase an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, so there won’t be new console reviews coming on the website any time soon. But I can save you the trouble: both machines will be iterative improvements on their predecessors, offering things like faster load times, better controller battery life, and so on. It will be several years before we see any significant improvement in game design or graphics, simply because most upcoming titles are cross-generation and will continue to be limited by the requirements of this generation’s hardware.

Hopefully this has been a fun and interesting look back at some of the highs (and lows) of this generation on the day we mark the official beginning of the next one.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studios, developers, and/or publishers. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Perhaps Fall Guys could fix some of its issues before releasing Season 2?

I was a little surprised to hear that Season 2 of Fall Guys – a game that only launched at the beginning of August – would be arriving in early October. That seems an awfully short span of time for a “season”, though admittedly Fall Guys has hardly been a game that follows the beaten path. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of seasons in online games, it’s something that popular titles like Fortnite have been doing for several years. In short, each season brings new content and new opportunities to progress. In Fall Guys’ case, this means new mini-games and new cosmetics.

But Fall Guys has some issues, and I’d much rather see time and attention spent on improving the core experience before adding new content.

And I know: it isn’t just an either/or case. But at least some of the development time dedicated to building new content for the game – if indeed it is new and wasn’t cut from the initial release – could be reallocated to fixing some of the problems Fall Guys has. Most egregiously I’m thinking of cheating.

There are countless videos on YouTube advertising hacks and cheats for Fall Guys. In this example, a player is able to fly above the course far faster than the players below can run.

I know, right? What kind of pathetic basement-dwelling low-life needs to cheat in a fun little game like Fall Guys? It’s sad, really. But unfortunately, at least on the PC version where I play, it’s becoming much more common. When I first played the game in early August, I didn’t encounter a single cheater. And for the first couple of weeks or so that continued to be the case; the thought never occurred to me that cheating would even exist in a game like this. But in the last couple of weeks cheating has become commonplace. I would guess that roughly one in five games I play now has at least one cheater; some have several.

I don’t pretend to understand the technical side of how the cheats and exploits work, but in-game they appear to give characters the ability to move very fast, fly, and even clip through obstacles and scenery. This gives cheaters a massive advantage, and I’ve played some racing rounds where one or two cheaters were able to qualify before everyone else had even got past the first quarter of the course. This has been going on for some time, and it clearly hasn’t been fixed or patched out yet, but it should be a priority.

When an online game becomes plagued by cheaters, it becomes offputting for everyone else. What’s the point in continuing to progress through the rounds to make it to a finale when you know you’re going to lose to a cheater who can fly all the way to the top of the mountain before you’re even a quarter of the way there? Or who can levitate over the course while everyone else has to hop from tile to tile? There’s no fun in that! And it’s going to result in people no longer wanting to play.

There are other issues too, most notably lopsided teams in some of the team games. I made note of this when I put the rounds in a ranked list, but some of the team games can be horribly uneven. Even a single extra player can provide teams with a huge advantage in some cases, and while the patch notes for a recent update claimed to have fixed the problem, I’ve continued to see unbalanced teams often.

It can be frustrating to play a heavily one-sided team game.

Some rounds need tweaking too, at least from my experience. Perfect Match – a game that involves memorising tiles to avoid falling – routinely ends with hardly anyone being eliminated, and despite the fact that it’s a very enjoyable round, surely something’s got to change there. Likewise Roll Out, which is another round I have a lot of fun with, can take forever as it just isn’t that difficult, meaning it takes a long time to eliminate the right number of players. Better to fix the current rounds than work on a bunch of new ones, right?

Though the server situation has improved massively since the game’s launch, there are still disconnects and failures to connect to contend with. It can be very disheartening to make it all the way to the finale only to get disconnected from the server!

I don’t want to just attack Fall Guys. This is developer Mediatonic’s first big hit, and I genuinely want the game to continue to be the roaring success that it has been this month. According to sales reports, the PC version alone has sold over seven million copies! That’s an astonishing accomplishment for any game, let alone one developed by a small studio. It would be such a shame to see that hard work undone if players are driven away by cheating and other unfixed issues.

Preparing a big update – or “season” – as we head into the autumn does make sense for a business perspective, and I understand that Mediatonic and publisher Devolver Digital recognise they’ve got a hit on their hands and want to keep players engaged. But I’d caution them by saying this: new content will only achieve that objective if players believe that games are fair and that the rules apply to everyone. If cheating continues to run rampant, and cheaters continue to get away scot-free, it won’t matter how much new content is available because there’ll be no one coming back to play it.

Staying ahead of the curve when it comes to stamping out cheating and exploits is part of the job for any company that wants its multiplayer title to be a success. The moment an exploit or cheat is identified it needs to be patched out; Fall Guys has only released a couple of patches since launch, and by now they must know how players are able to exploit the game to fly, move quickly, clip, etc. Quicker fixes for cheats is a must – and any player found cheating needs to be permanently banned from the game.

New cosmetic items are great and all, but preventing cheating would be better.

The most successful online games take a tough stance on cheating. It’s a shame that it exists, that there are people so scummy as to cheat in a game like this. But not understanding it or taking a dim view won’t make it go away, and with the PC version of the game not even using player’s gamertags/Steam names, identifying cheaters to report them to the developer is even more difficult for regular players. Mediatonic and Devolver Digital need to step up – they’ve got a hit on their hands, but they’re in danger of losing it.

Focusing on bringing out new content while these issues still exist feels wrong. Players who’ve had their fun ruined by cheaters are well within their rights to ask why the growing problem doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it warrants, and while it’s absolutely fair to say that a developer can do two things at once, the messaging and marketing trying to hype up Season 2 is in danger of becoming a bit of an own goal from a PR perspective.

Here’s hoping that cheating can be stamped out, and other issues tackled, so we can all get hyped up for Season 2 and the new content it will bring. I’m looking forward to it – but I’m also increasingly worried about some of these issues.

Fall Guys is out now on PC and PlayStation 4. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic and Devolver Digital. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

All Fall Guys rounds ranked!

About a week ago, I gave you my first impressions of Fall Guys, which has been a game that completely took me by surprise. I’d even go so far as to call it the sleeper hit of the summer; it’s been very popular and has received widespread praise. When I wrote down my first impressions I’d spent a couple of hours with the game, which was enough time to know I liked it but not enough time for a really detailed breakdown. This time, I’m going to put all 25 of Fall Guys’ rounds in a ranked list from worst to best. Now that I’ve played all of them multiple times I’m in a good position to know which work well and which need some tweaking!

It’s worth pointing out that Fall Guys has a roadmap for more content, and that will include new rounds at some point. So eventually this list will be out-of-date! I’m also assuming, for the purposes of the list, that you have some degree of familiarity with the game. With those caveats out of the way, let’s rank these rounds!

Number 25: Door Dash

The basic problem with Door Dash is that it’s purely a game of luck. You have no control over which doors are fake and which are real, nor over whether you start near the front or back of the pack. Because the course is so short, hitting a wrong door even once can be enough to relegate you to last place, and if you’re at or near the back of the pack when jumping through the final door you may as well not bother because there’s only a very short distance at the bottom to the finish line. This round universally ends up with every player (and there can be up to 60 if it’s the first round) jumping through the final door within seconds of each other. It’s just not a lot of fun.

Number 24: Tip Toe

Because Tip Toe usually appears as a later round when there are fewer players – and thus, fewer qualification spots – it’s one that most people seem to take very cautiously. If you step on a wrong tile there’s no chance to jump back before it disappears and you fall, meaning it’s possible to do very well and make it almost to the end only to fail, and if you fall one or two tiles from the finish line, there’s usually not enough time to get back in with even a chance at qualification.

Number 23: Jump Showdown

The worst of the final rounds. Because the platforms fall away at random, it’s all too easy to simply be in the wrong place because that’s where the game placed you when the round began. Take away the falling platforms and you have Jump Club, which is one of the better minigames. Unfortunately the addition of the falling platforms means it doesn’t work nearly as well, and there’s often no skill involved whatsoever; it’s pure luck. For a finale, I think that’s poor.

Number 22: Fruit Chute

The entire race takes place on a treadmill moving away from you, with obstacles shaped like fruit being constantly fired down the track. There’s nothing wrong with the setup, but it’s another round where a single – often unavoidable – collision can mean failure to qualify. It’s more random chance than skill-based, and spawning at or near the front of the pack can give players an advantage.

Number 21: Roll Out

Several large rotating platforms with obstacles to jump between make for a tricky setup. However, at least in the rounds I’ve played, most people seem to have mastered it very quickly, and these rounds can drag on and on if not enough people get eliminated. If it would speed up or change direction or do something to make it harder as time went on, it would be more fun.

Number 20: Rock N Roll

I like the premise of this game, which involves three teams pushing a large ball to the finish line. It requires teamwork, which some of the other “team” games really don’t, and it can be just as much fun to stop another team making it to the end as it is to help your team! I think the obstacle course part of the track needs tweaking a little to make it harder or longer, as what often happens is all three teams basically make the same progress, at which point the ones who qualify are the ones who do best at holding up their opponents.

Number 19: Fall Ball

This is basically a Rocket League clone, but with two balls instead of one. Oftentimes it’s fine – though I’m undeniably bad at it – but what can be an issue is lopsided teams. I’ve seen games where it was six against eight and seven against nine, and when considering such a small number of players per team, a two-person advantage is huge! This isn’t something that can always be avoided, but it can be very frustrating to lose 10-0 through no fault of your own.

Number 18: Hex-a-Gone

Another of the finales, and perhaps the one I’ve done best at, Hex-a-Gone features hexagon-shaped platforms that behave like the donuts in Super Mario games – step on them for a second or so and they fall. This game is fun, but on a couple of occasions I’ve fallen from near the top to near the bottom, missing the platforms in between. Not sure if this is a bug or just the way the level is designed. For a finale, a “last one standing” is good, and the fact that you’re in control of where you walk and jump makes it far better than Jump Showdown.

Number 17: Gate Crash

A less-extreme version of the problem with Door Dash afflicts Gate Crash, and it’s another round where a solitary mistake – especially one near the end – can mean failure to qualify. I like its premise and design, and I especially like the slippery ramp leading to the finish line, but the fact that it’s very unforgiving stops it being ranked higher on this list.

Number 16: Hoarders

These next two games are very similar. Basically Hoarders is a team game where the team who has the fewest balls in their segment of the map is eliminated. It’s fun, raucous, and fast-paced, but as with every team game if you’re teamed up with someone crap, or a couple of players on your team disconnect, you can lose through no fault of your own.

Number 15: Egg Scramble

Egg Scramble is basically Hoarders but with several dozen eggs instead of a handful of balls. Once the pile of eggs in the middle of the map have all been claimed, players begin raiding other team’s “nests” to get theirs! It’s pretty good fun – but with the usual team caveat of sometimes losing because of other players being useless.

Number 14: Royal Fumble

Another of the final rounds, and a pretty solid one. There’s only one tail, and whoever is in possession of it when the timer runs out wins. It’s less important who has the tail earlier in the round, but keeping track of it so you can grab it at the last moment is challenging! It’s a competitive round in a game where sometimes it’s possible to win just by concentrating on yourself, and that makes it somewhat unique among the finales.

Number 13: Jinxed

By running away and avoiding anyone on the opposing team, it’s possible to do well at Jinxed. Rounds can be equal or very lopsided depending on who you’re teamed up with, but compared to something like Fall Ball your success or failure is at least partially in your own hands. It’s also a round that doesn’t seem to appear as often; I think I’ve only played it three times.

Number 12: Hoopsie Daisy

A rather unique offering, Hoopsie Daisy has a fun level design with spinning discs, conveyor belts, ramps, and open areas. The hoops appear randomly but in set locations, and they’re easy enough to jump through while at the same time not being too easy – it’s possible to mess up and miss the hoop if you mistime your jump.

Number 11: The Whirlygig

Spinning fans that resemble aircraft propellers and spinning bars to jump over are the two obstacles here, and the course is fun and can be challenging. It’s quite a forgiving round, and it’s possible to recover from even three or four falls to still qualify. The final jump, with the very slow rotating blades opposite, seems to cause a lot of problems for newbies!

Number 10: Team Tail Tag

Team Tail Tag has one of my favourite levels in terms of layout. It looks like a battle course from the Mario Kart series, and its upper and lower levels, with a few obstacles and a ring of conveyor belts near the centre, is a ton of fun. I’d even suggest it could be re-used for other mini-games if the developers wanted to! Team Tail Tag gives each team a set number of tails to start with, and whichever team ends with the fewest is eliminated.

Number 9: Tail Tag

The version of Tail Tag without teams is every so slightly nicer, in my opinion, than its team variant for the simple reason that victory or defeat is in your own hands instead of being tied to a bunch of random players.

Number 8: Jump Club

Jump Showdown, mentioned above, is the worst of the finales. But the game it’s based on, Jump Club, is actually very fun. The spinning bar is easy enough to jump over on its own, but the beams above it provide an extra challenge. It’s so frustrating to survive to almost the end only to be the final player eliminated… speaking from experience here!

Number 7: Dizzy Heights

A series of spinning discs are the main obstacles here, and the round is plenty of fun. There’s no “best” path from the start line to the finish, which shows how well-designed the level truly is, and the final section, with three platforms moving in opposite directions and occasional balls rolling down is deceptively tricky! I’m getting pretty good at Dizzy Heights, and it’s a round I can expect to qualify from more often than not.

Number 6: Perfect Match

Perfect Match is utterly unique and thus hard to place on this list, but I like it so I’m ranking it in the top six. It’s not particularly difficult, and doesn’t always result in a lot of players being eliminated, but in a game that can be very fast-paced, it’s a slower game that’s about more than just who’s faster at pressing buttons. A good memory is very important – but you can sometimes get away with following other players if you’re quick!

Number 5: See Saw

I love See Saw. It’s a ton of fun, and deceptively tricky. It looks like it should be simple to get across the platforms, but a mistimed jump or an awkward landing can lead to a fall. However, it’s a very forgiving round and falling several times isn’t enough to put you out of contention. The only criticism I’d have is that players who spawn at the front of the pack have an advantage, and it’s possible to see the first four or five players qualify long before everyone else simply because they had a clear path to the finish line.

Number 4: Slime Climb

I’m atrocious at Slime Climb. In fact, I’ve qualified from this round precisely once – and that was by sheer luck! But in terms of what Fall Guys aims to be – a game about running fun obstacle courses – Slime Climb has it all. There are moving platforms, slippery sections, balance beams, a conveyor belt, moving obstacles, and bouncing balls to avoid on the way to the finish line at the top. And all the while, the slime is slowly rising! I love it, even though I suck at it.

Number 3: Fall Mountain

Fall Mountain is my favourite finale – even though I’ve never won at it! It’s a proper obstacle course, with different things in your path as you race to get to the summit and claim the crown. As balls roll down the mountain providing randomised obstacles, there are things to dodge and push and jump over, and it feels like a proper finale where your fate is in your hands!

Number 2: Block Party

Although it doesn’t always succeed at eliminating a lot of players, I like what Block Party is about. A fairly narrow platform is all the space you have, and there’s not a lot of time to get out of the way of the obstacles that come flying at you! The final seconds of the round are incredibly tense as players rush from side to side to side to get out of the way of speeding blocks! It can be tricky and tense, but it’s fantastic.

Number 1: Hit Parade

For me, Hit Parade epitomises the “obstacle course” concept better than any other round in the game. The round begins with beams to balance on and a slippery slope underneath. Then the next section has spinning gates to push and a moving barrier with a small gap. Up next are the swinging balls to avoid, and finally a slippery slimy slope to climb to reach the finish line. Of all the rounds, Hit Parade offers the most diversity in terms of obstacles, it’s perfectly designed to be just the right length, it’s forgiving enough if you make a mistake without being too forgiving, and above all, it’s just good fun.

So that’s it. All the rounds in Fall Guys ranked… according to me, anyway. I’m having lots of fun with this game, even though there can be a couple of frustrating rounds! Even the “worst” ones can still provide a good time, though. For pure pick-up-and-play fun, there isn’t anything quite like Fall Guys on the market, and I’d encourage anyone with a PC or PlayStation 4 to give it a go.

If your favourite round wasn’t one of my favourites, please don’t get upset. This list is the subjective opinion of one person, and even within a single game there will be a range of opinions on which course or level is “best”. If you like a round that I don’t, or vice versa, that’s okay. It’s great that we don’t all like the same things!

I’d love to see Fall Guys ported to the Switch – I think it could be a phenomenal game on that platform. And of course bringing it to Xbox would complete the lineup and make it a true multiplatform experience. I’m curious to see what the roadmap brings – will the new rounds be just as good as those already in the game? What else could they bring to the table? I’d like to see another logic or thinking-based round to go along with Perfect Match, which feels like an outlier at the moment. And more obstacle courses with diverse challenges instead of rounds where all the obstacles are the same type. Those would be my requests!

I mentioned in my first impressions that the game has microtransactions. I wanted to clarify that point before I go, because having played the game for longer, I can now say that there’s plenty of content available without spending a penny on the microtransactions. Each round provides players a certain amount of “kudos” – the in-game currency – and this can be exchanged for cosmetic items. In short, unless you desperately want a limited-time item and there’s no way to play enough rounds to afford it, you can play the whole game without touching the microtransactions and still rack up a huge variety of cosmetic items. The best cosmetics – or rather, the rarest – are only available with “crowns”, the second in-game currency. Crowns are awarded for winning – i.e. being the last player standing after the finale. While microtransactions can be an issue in games, they aren’t in Fall Guys in my opinion.

Maybe I’ll see you out there in the wild, pushing you out of the way to make it to the finish line!

Fall Guys is out now on PC and PlayStation 4. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic and Devolver Digitial. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fall Guys – First impressions

I’m not usually an online multiplayer guy, and Fall Guys – also known as Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout – is the kind of massively-multiplayer game that I’d ordinarily overlook. The last online games that I played with strangers were Mario Kart 8 and Rocket League, and it’s been a while since I played those. But after hearing great things about its fun, silly gameplay I decided to take a look for myself, and for £16 on Steam it wasn’t a huge risk despite Fall Guys being a new title.

To be up front, Fall Guys currently has some issues with its server capacity; this is something that’s being worked on. High demand for the game seems to have caught developer Mediatonic and publisher Devolver Digital a little wrong-footed, but I’m confident that, with the game reviewing well and being popular, those problems will be fixed before too long. It is, however, understandably frustrating to get disconnected or to have to wait a long time to join a game. But part of the fun of Fall Guys is that its levels are very short – a couple of minutes or so at a time – so it’s easy enough to jump back in, and losing or getting disconnected doesn’t end up causing a huge amount of lost progress. If you’re on the fence about buying the game, though, it’s worth being aware of this server problem. It may be prudent to wait a couple of weeks to see how quickly it can be fixed if you’re really worried about it.

A couple of server error messages.

The first time I tried to play Fall Guys after installing it, I was hit with this server problem. Despite waiting almost half an hour I wasn’t able to join a game. It was only when I came back to try again several hours later that I was actually able to successfully play. Although the server problems made for a poor first impression, Fall Guys is a ton of fun!

The game is a cross between a competitive “battle royale” and television game shows like It’s A Knockout and Total Wipeout. For some reason, it also reminds me of late-90s kids’ show 50/50. Fall Guys’ levels are designed to look like they’re taken from such shows, deliberately using the aesthetic of soft foam rubber obstacles. In fact, many of the levels are designed like obstacle courses! An indoor children’s play area would be another good comparison when considering the look of the levels.

One of the levels, showing off the “soft foam rubber” look.

The other side of Fall Guys’ aesthetic is the incredibly cute character design. It’s hard to say exactly what these little guys look like – personally I feel like they’re somewhere between Oompa-Loompas and marshmallows – but they’re absolutely adorable. There are customisation options, some of which can be unlocked simply by playing enough rounds of the game. Other character customisation options are, however, paid for with in-game microtransactions. Because Fall Guys has a very child-friendly atmosphere, it’s worth making sure your parental controls are up-to-date if you plan to get the game for your little ones to play. Obviously I’d prefer a game that had no microtransactions at all, but this is the realm of online multiplayer – and these days, in-game monetisation comes with the territory. If Fall Guys were charging more than its £16 asking price I’d be annoyed at their inclusion, but considering that there are some cosmetic items that can be acquired in-game, and taking into account the relatively low up front cost, I think the microtransactions are okay. They’re easily avoided for those who don’t want to participate.

Microtransactions.

So Fall Guys is a battle royale/game show? How the heck does that work? Glad you asked! 60 players compete in a variety of events, including races, challenges, and some team events, to be the last one standing. Though it’s possible to play the game in such a way as to sabotage someone else’s chances of progressing, for the most part – at least in the early rounds – it’s easier to focus on one’s own character or team. Navigating the obstacles – like see-saws, spinning platforms, and windmills – to win a race or to make it to the next stage is great fun. And the team challenges borrow from the likes of Rocket League – there’s even a football-themed one!

I’m not great at games in general, let alone competitive multiplayer titles. Yet despite my limitations, I had a lot fun. I was able to progress to the latter rounds on several occasions, and the times where I lost in round one or two it usually only took a few seconds to load up a new game and try again. Fall Guys isn’t something you can be great at on your first attempt, even if you’re a regular online gamer. However, with each round lasting only a couple of minutes or so, losing doesn’t feel so bad.

Losing at Fall Guys is no big deal. Just try again!

Each round whittles down the number of players until only a few remain. The first round is supposed to begin with 60 players (though I’ve seen anywhere from 49-60 in practice), and of those, perhaps 40 will qualify for the second round. The game continues in this way until it reaches a final round, with the survivor crowned champion. Though I haven’t won (yet?) I’d reckon playing a full session from the preliminary round to the finale is only going to take maybe quarter of an hour at most. And as I keep saying, any time you’re eliminated, getting into a new game doesn’t take all that long.

There’s a “roadmap” of updates planned for Fall Guys, promising more content, more cosmetic items, and new levels. Though I’m generally sceptical of this kind of business model, the current version of the game has a lot to offer and doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything major. If you play for a while you do start to see the same levels repeat – there are 24 levels at time of writing, including three “final rounds” – but again, each one only takes a couple of minutes, and they’re chosen at random. If you discover a burning hatred for a specific one, I guess it might be annoying to keep encountering it, but Fall Guys is the type of game where even something like that doesn’t have to be a big deal.

An example of a character in the game.

It’s been a while since I played through a game that’s as apologetically fun as Fall Guys. There’s no story, there’s no background or explanation given for why these weird little characters are taking part in a game show, and there doesn’t need to be. It’s just simple, casual, pick-up-and-play fun. I had a smile on my face practically the whole time, and making it to the end of a challenging level when it looked like I wasn’t going to manage in time has been legitimately thrilling.

A lot of care and effort has gone into crafting what could be one of the sleeper hits of 2020. Though the server issue is definitely frustrating, it’s something that will hopefully be resolved in the coming days, and aside from that I encountered no bugs or glitches during my time playing. I’m looking forward to jumping back in!

A race begins!

So this has been my initial first impression of the game after spending a couple of hours with it today. I may write another piece in the coming weeks if I find that I have more to say after spending longer with Fall Guys. But for now, what I’d say to anyone on the fence is that Fall Guys is great fun, and the kind of game that practically anyone could pick up easily. The server issues are a problem, but when I got into the game on my second attempt I didn’t experience too many disconnections and was able to load up a new game every time without having to wait too long. However, it may be worth checking back in a few days or a couple of weeks to see if that’s still an issue if you’re concerned. For £16, though, I can’t really fault the game for the way it plays. If you’re a subscriber to PlayStation Plus, you’ll get Fall Guys for free this month – and if you’re in that category you have no excuse for not trying it out immediately!

Fall Guys is available now for PC and PlayStation 4. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic and Devolver Digital. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.