I’ve been playing through my video game backlog (Image: SQUARE ENIX)

At the beginning of the year I decided I was finally going to do something about a video game backlog so long that it stretches all the way back to the 1980s. I made a list of around a dozen unfinished and unplayed games to target, although as you’ll see from my thoughts below, I’m ultimately playing whatever grabs me in the moment. The list includes relatively recent triple-A blockbusters like Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Jedi Fallen Order; other modern games that passed me by such as Bowser’s Fury and Judgement; and classics like the original Castlevania and Phantasy Star. One of the few New Year’s resolutions I’ve ever stuck with past January, I’ve ticked off a decent number of backlog games already this year, and most importantly of all, I’m having a lot of fun doing it. 

With one eye on the February release of Rebirth, I started the year by playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake on the PS5. This was a game I started to play when it first came out, but stopped after reaching the Sector 7 Slums and doing a few side quests.

At the time I remember not being wholly convinced by the combat system, and was a little skeptical about how much padding had been added to artificially extend the running time.

Having now played through the entire thing from start to finish, I still think there are sections of the game that go on a bit, but I came away absolutely loving Final Fantasy 7 Remake – combat system included.

I think the development team did a brilliant job of bringing the original locations to life, from the very first Mako Reactor to the colourful Wall Market. The music remains a highlight, and I actually quite liked what Square Enix did with the ending, although I won’t reveal any spoilers.

I became obsessed with finishing every side quest, maxing out my green Materia in repeated battles at the Colosseum, and finally unlocking Bahamut after a few epic failures. I liked it so much that I kind of didn’t want it to end.

While I’m tempted to play Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth right now, my plan is to save it for the Christmas break when I’m feeling extra nostalgic. (Also, for some reason I like playing RPGs in winter more than any other time of the year.)

With Final Fantasy 7 finished, I moved on to something completely different, deciding to concentrate on the original Castlevania.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

I ended up loving the combat system in Final Fantasy 7 Remake (Image: SQUARE ENIX)

I’ve dipped in and out of a few Castlevania games over the years, but the only ones I’ve ever played through to completion are Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. It’s such an iconic series, however, that I feel compelled to play through as many of the mainline games as possible. 

For the sake of convenience I played the version found within the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on my Steam Deck, although I didn’t use any save states in order to keep it as close to the original NES experience as possible.

While it’s not a particularly long game when you know what you’re doing, getting to that point takes some serious trial and error. Those floating Medusa heads killed me countless times, and don’t get me started on those hopping hunchback things.

There’s a brief section just before the boss battle against Death/Grim Reaper that almost gave me a nervous breakdown, and the final fight against Count Dracula is an absolute b*****d – although all that forced practice meant I barely took a hit when I did end up beating him.

As frustrating as it can be at times, I think the original Castlevania holds up incredibly well. The controls are extremely tight, the music is top tier, and the challenging gameplay left me with an enormous sense of satisfaction when I finally made it to the end.

With my Castlevania platforming skills at their peak, I decided to go off-list and opted for Super Castlevania IV as my next game.

Considered one of the best games in the entire series, I can happily confirm that Super Castlevania IV is another absolute belter, adding some fantastic new features, like the ability to whip diagonally and swing across gaps. There are also some nice graphical touches, such as the rotating stage that was possible thanks to the Super Nintendo’s famous Mode 7 capabilities.

Having finished Super Castlevania IV without too much trouble (at least compared to the first game), I decided to give the series a break, although I’m intrigued to try Castlevania Chronicles (which is another remake of the original) and Castlevania Bloodlines. I’ll probably do them later this year.

Sticking with the 1990s, the next two games on my list were Comix Zone for the SEGA Mega Drive and The Story of Thor 2 for the SEGA Saturn.

Despite owning it a dozen times over, Comix Zone is a game I never really got around to playing. I’ve always liked the art style and comic book presentation, but never played past the first stage.

Despite its reputation as a challenging game, I actually completed Comix Zone reasonably quickly. With branching paths and a limited power-up system, part of the challenge is figuring out the easiest route, where to find the items and when to use them. Once you’ve cracked this, the handful of stages are over pretty quickly. I even got the good ending.

While I would definitely recommend Comix Zone, The Story of Thor 2 (Legend of Oasis) was a bit of a letdown.

The original Story of Thor (Beyond Oasis) is one of my favourite Mega Drive games of all time, but having only bought a Saturn a few years ago, I never had the chance to play the sequel, despite always wanting to.

While it’s not a terrible game or anything, SoT2 just doesn’t have the same magic as the original. It’s a bit clunky, the combat system is really basic, there’s a lot of backtracking, the story is a bit meh, and the music isn’t as memorable. 

I was kind of enjoying it by the end, but was also glad it was over. It’s just a bit of a slog at times, especially when you’re trying to figure out where you’re going.

Story of Thor 2 on the Sega Saturn

Story of Thor 2 didn’t live up to the original (Image: SEGA)

After playing a selection of older titles, next up was one of the newer games on my list. Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is a game I’ve been close to playing on numerous occasions, so it was good to finally give it a proper shot.

While I largely enjoyed Fallen Order and my experience was overall a positive one, it’s another game that can drag on a bit. Trim it down by a few hours and dish out the Force Powers a bit earlier, and I think it would have been a better game.

It’s also extremely po-faced and overly serious, featuring some pretty bland characters and boring cutscenes.

Fortunately, the game itself is fun to play, especially when you unlock dual-wielding, double jumps and the ability to throw your lightsaber at enemies.

It even had the unexpected side-effect of making me rewatch Episodes I through VI for the first time in years.

Despite some of the game’s shortcomings, I liked Jedi Fallen Order enough to wishlist Jedi Survivor, which I’m led to believe is a superior game. Maybe that’s another one for Christmas 2024.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order official reveal trailer

After quickly (but thoroughly) playing through the fabulous Bowser’s Fury on Nintendo Switch, I went on a bit of a boomer shooter binge. I’ve played through every episode of Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, the entire Powerslave Exhumed campaign, and the tremendous HROT on PC.

Though initially tempted to play the Saturn port of Egyptian-themed shooter Exhumed, I ended up opting for the excellent Nightdive Studios remake on my Steam Deck.

This is a game my friend used to rave about back in the PlayStation/Saturn era, and with good reason. It’s a really well executed Metroidvania-style shooter, where you can travel to new areas and discover secrets by unlocking abilities such as levitating and breathing underwater.

While the lack of energy for your ammo can sometimes be frustrating, it’s an interesting game with a unique setting and weapons. 

Unsurprisingly I also really enjoyed Duke Nukem 3D. It’s a game I’ve played quite a few times over the years, but never completed in full. The 20th Anniversary version features a brand new episode consisting of seven levels (eight if you find the secret stage), taking place in locations such as London, Paris and Moscow.

The new levels are a visual treat and some of the most challenging the game has to offer, although you’ll breeze through them if you’ve mastered all of the OG stages. Just keeping strafing during those boss battles!

Finally, HROT is a fantastic FPS set in a post-nuclear Czechoslovakia. While I typically like games with lots of colour, HROT’s drab, brown aesthetic suits it perfectly. 

The level design is truly exceptional, the gunplay is meaty and satisfying, and the boss battles are memorable if nothing else. 

HROT on PC

Don’t let the drab visuals fool you, HROT is as entertaining as it gets (Image: HROT)

That’s pretty much where I’m up to in my attempts to chip away at my video game backlog. I’ve got literally hundreds of games left to play, but it’s been a fun and strangely satisfying journey so far.

Other games on my backlog list for 2024 include Pentiment, Pandora’s Tower, Shinobi X, Silent Hill Origins, Pandemonium, Phantasy Star, Judgement and The Last of Us: Part 2.

I’ve also been playing one or two newly released games, including ultra-addictive Poker roguelike Balatro (which I’ve played for about 50 hours) and the odd game of WWE 2K24.

I’m definitely going to spend some time playing Hades 2 now that it’s in early access, and will pretty much drop everything for Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtree expansion in June.

In the meantime, I’d definitely recommend making your own backlog list for the year, and I’ll be back later in 2024 with an update on my progress.

Enjoy your gaming and let me know if you’re doing something similar, or if you have any recommendations.



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