Round-up time! I definitely got more gaming done this year vs last. Whereas, I only got 38 hours logged into Steam games last year (while delving into various other platforms like Amazon Luna, Epic, Apple Arcade, and Google Play), I got my Steam hours up this year. SteamDB profile indicates that I finished at 2420 hours, minus 2300 hours (ending point for 2022), equals 120 hours on Steam. I dipped into Amazon Luna occasionally, but rarely stayed due to the streaming latency. And the record below shows I didn’t game at all on Epic, Android, iOS, or many other platforms.
I think my Steam Replay Report from 2023 is slightly more interesting than the one from 2022. 256 achievements, and those were mostly deliberate, though some were holdovers from previous years. They didn’t click until I booted up the game again this year. This was motivated by a new achievement hunt after I learned of the site called Steam Hunters which provides a whole new way to look at your Steam gaming.
Vampire Survivors dominated (and I think that will continue well into the future) and accounted for exactly half of the achievements earned. Then there was Banished, which I only meant to enter into briefly in order to gain an achievement, but ended up staying for 15 hours before the achievement showed up — and enjoyed every minute.
- Vampire Survivors: I’ve heard a lot of positive buzz around this, but few more details beyond the heavily populated albeit pixelated screenshots. It sort of dumps you in and leaves you to figure it out. I wasn’t impressed at first (possibly because my computer was in a laggy state when I first played it), but after a reboot, it started to click. Before I knew it, I had sunk a dozen hours into it in a weekend, finally reaching the cartoonishly chaotic endgame state for a given level. Then I just kept on playing and playing, and suddenly it was February and realized I had only played this game. New updates and DLCs would be rolled out throughout the year and I would quickly sink my teeth into those as well. This game is the main reason I got any significant playtime this year as well as a load of achievements.
- Metal Slug: A month and a half into the year, I’m finally getting around to playing some game that is not Vampire Survivors. Many Metal Slug games came up for cheap in an SNK sale in February, so it seemed like a good opportunity to fill in that gap in my gaming history. I dropped $2 on the original version. These were always mainstays in the arcades I frequented in the late 80s/early 90s, but I never dropped a token in. I absolutely see the charm in the detailed visuals.
- Astral Traveler: This reminded me a bit of S.T.U.N. Runner. But it didn’t grab me at all, as I only sunk a few minutes into it and quickly moved on. I later rediscovered it while scrubbing through my games for an achievement hunt and didn’t remember playing it at all earlier in the year, such was the impact that it made. Even the motivation of collecting a single achievement didn’t help me understand what I was supposed to be doing in this game.
- Yakuza Kiwami (Amazon Luna): The first Luna game I have tried this year (I didn’t even bother with any of the January freebies). I had to visit the Wikipedia page in advance of playing just to see how confused I would be, jumping into a random point in the series. Fortunately, this is a remake of the original entry in the franchise. I actually greatly enjoyed myself and this made me long for the opportunity to really be able to sit down and immerse myself in an open world crime game.
- Spec Ops: The Line: Morally complex military shooter game from a decade ago that was on sale for cheap enough. It grabbed me pretty quick with its amazing set pieces and I put a few hours into it. I wanted to continue as far as I could into the story, but one of the game play segments got to be too much for me and I ended up putting the game away and just watching the cut scenes edited together on YouTube.
- Mega Man 11 (Amazon Luna): Freebie on Luna that I really wanted to enjoy. Couldn’t get through one level and I meant to visit other levels before the month was out, just to see the creativity on display. But alas.
- Slayaway Camp: Another game that I played for free on a different service that I then proceeded to purchase on good old Steam. What can I say? I just can’t get into mobile/handheld gaming, but I love whiling away some time on a good puzzle game with clever aesthetics (in this case, 80s slasher horror flicks).
- Resident Evil 4: Chainsaw Demo: I was eager to try the demo of this remake to see just how amazing the graphics could be. I didn’t last long here. Indeed, it reminds me of my attempts to play other remakes in the series.
- StarCraft (Remastered): Time to get back to the roots using this title. I didn’t put much time in, though.
- Steel Assault: This came up for sale on Steam. I was eager to play it again after demoing it on Amazon Luna last year. Again, probably not the usage model that Amazon had in mind for the Luna service, i.e., “try on Luna before you give you money to Steam”. I feel like it’s more playable on Steam, perhaps due to no possibility of network latency.
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (Amazon Luna): I enjoyed the first Yakuza Kiwami game on Luna. I was unsure whether I would be able to follow this game, not having finished the first one. Fortunately, it had a lot of “would you like to learn more about this?” segments as you amble around the opening of the game, which fill you in on the various story pieces you may have missed from the previous installment. This is the kind off game that makes me wish I had the time to indulge in open world time sinks.
- Resident Evil 2 Remake (Amazon Luna): Another Luna freebie that I had to try before its free month expired. Very fun to revisit this one with its vastly upgraded visuals. I particularly respect how they maintained the mid-90s aesthetics with the technology (payphones, CRT computer monitors, fax machines). When I played the game, however, the game’s landing page on the Luna site illustrated why one shouldn’t get too invested in this game streaming tech as the landing page announced that it was slated to leave streaming soon. Ultimately, I didn’t play very long because I find these games are really quite brutally difficult.
- Endzone: A World Apart (Amazon Luna): An Amazon Luna monthly freebie, a post-apocalyptic colony builder. I think the major twist here is that it requires a controller. These types of games are quite complex in the UI and ordinarily require a mouse and keyboard. I almost gave up a few times during the tutorial as I struggled to accomplish the goals laid out because I couldn’t figure out how to reach the required menu item in the UI.
- SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech (Amazon Luna): This might be the first time I’ve suffered through even a little of a card-based video game (though I think my beloved Plants vs. Zombies had a sort of card mode). Also my first introduction to the SteamWorld franchise. I generally have never been able to comprehend random cards as a core gameplay mechanic in video games (at least games that aren’t simulating normal card games). I guess the graphics were pretty enough, with a sort of watercolor-influenced aesthetic.
- Infectonator! Survivors: I rewatched Shaun of the Dead for the first time in like 15 years. It made me want to play this game again. Got sucked into it for a few nights.
- Arcade Paradise (Amazon Luna): Seemed promising but turned into a massive disappointment. Basically, you work a menial job to earn money for the privilege of playing some arcade games. You have to do laundry in a laundromat, pick up trash around the same place, and… unclog the toilet. This is where I lost it, not because it was such an ugly chore, but I genuinely couldn’t get a grip on the control scheme and actually unclog the darn toilet. So I never did get to see what the arcade games were like. Reading online, though, it sounds like they were nothing special.
- F-Zero (SNES Mini Retro): Always gotta take a few laps around the track from time to time, even if I’ve never gotten very far overall in the game.
- Zen Chess: Mate in One: Simple chess puzzler that was on sale. Hard not to like, at least if you know the rules of chess, and much better than that weird chess puzzler I tried last year. The music has me wondering if there is a standard set of tunes for these simple zen puzzle games, because the soundtracks seem to run together in my mind.
- Zuma Deluxe: I purchased this awhile back and saw it was still on my “Not Played Yet” Steam list, so I sunk a few minutes into it. I remember this being one of the earlier mobile games I played and enjoyed, circa 2010, before the dark times, when mobile games started to decline before outright sucking. Unfortunately, this desktop version suffers from a few problems: Can’t be full-screened, even though the option is there, thus it can be difficult to play without occasionally clicking out side the small-ish window; and the “mouse to rotate a wheel” core gameplay mechanic feels frustratingly inaccurate. I later figured out that the fullscreen option works if I disable hardware acceleration. So it’s possible to play in 4K, albeit at a stretched aspect ratio, and at the small cost to my sanity as it shifts video modes and screws up all my desktop windows.
- Devil May Cry 5 (Amazon Luna): I was trying to get back into sampling Amazon Luna games, but the experience of trying out DMC5 was too punishing. Suddenly, the streaming just can’t keep up and I bailed a minute into the action. I still have the earlier DMC collection on Steam to work through, if I get the motivation.
- Orbital Bullet (Amazon Luna): A game with a fascinating aesthetic, in which our hero runs around the perimeter of various small asteroids. Pretty, and sounded good, but it failed to hook me in any appreciable way.
- CARRION: I have an ad-hoc tradition of playing some game on Halloween night after I shut down the house’s trick-or-treating operation. Often, it’s a scary-themed game. This year I chose CARRION, which I’ve had my eye on since it released about 3 years ago, and came up for sale just before Halloween. It’s exceptionally novel, you have to give it that much.
- Ride 4 (Amazon Luna): This is the first time I have heard of the Ride franchise, which is apparently the 2-wheel version of realistic racing simulators such as Gran Turismo. It didn’t click, at all. First, the same streaming issues that plagued DMC5 a few days earlier cropped up here. Then, the game won’t allow you to cleanly exit unless you finish the tutorial window! Good thing the browser window can be axed.
- Tiny Lands (Amazon Luna): This is an interesting idea: a video game in which you are tasked with finding the differences between 2 nearly identical images, like puzzles that used to appear in the newspaper. This is more advanced though, since the pictures are actually 3D rendered scenes which you need to rotate and zoom in order to discern the variations. It was a fun romp for a few minutes. I always found that the fifth and final difference was the hardest to find.
- Peggle Nights: Enjoying Zuma Deluxe so much, I remembered that I hadn’t worked through this similar classic (by today’s standards) casual game that I had purchased on Steam some time ago.
Okay, quick break for a weird tangent here: I sometimes check into my profile on the SteamDB site, which can track your game library and playtime (if you set your Steam profile as public). It lists a certain number of games in my library as having been “played”. Around November, I learned of a separate site called Steam Hunters, which specializes in tracking achievements. When I checked my profile on this site, I noticed a gulf of about 100 games vs. SteamDB’s “played” count. It turns out that SteamDB counts a game has “played” if you have a total of 5 minutes of playtime, obviously a low bar. Meanwhile, Steam Hunters counts a game as “started” when you actually earn your first achievement in a game.
Thus, I set out on a meta-goal to narrow the gap between these 2 numbers.
- Banished: The first game I noticed that has 5+ minutes (roughly 7) of total playtime on Steam, but no achievements earned yet was this colony simulation. I started it once, maybe twice before, but the tutorial bored me too much to continue. Tutorials often do that to me. Anyway, the way I wanted to work this achievement goal was to play until I organically earned my first achievement, so I went in with no knowledge of how to earn my first one. I read a brief guide from the Steam Community page regarding Banished that gave me some pointers as I delved into the game again this time, just bumbling around and figuring things out as I went. This reminds me of the way that I approached my beloved They Are Billions, figuring out new things every time I sat down to play, for like the first 50 hours. I restarted my colony a few times as I figured out more and more things. The general colony portion reminds me strongly of Exodus Borealis, a game I briefly fell in love with last year, particularly in the seasonal mechanics tied to the rapid life/death cycle. I finally scored my first achievement after about 14 hours– to think, I just wanted to get in and out with some achievement, but alas. Hey, at least I was having fun. After getting the achievement (for constructing one of each building type in my colony), I somewhat lost motivation to keep playing. My colony had reached an equilibrium at around 45 colonists. Reading some reviews of the game, it seems there are some wonky mechanics surrounding how effectively colonists can breed. If you don’t nail that correctly, your colony will never really get off the ground. Still, this experience makes me want to try my hand at some other more complex games by just poking around to see what I can figure out.
- Chip’s Challenge 2: The second game I tried for my “try to get an achievement” challenge. This time, I only had to invest about 14 minutes rather than 14 hours in order to hit that first achievement in this classic block puzzler, by completing the first 5 levels.
- Mega Man Legacy Collection: Mega Man 2: Looking for games that I’ve played but not scored any achievements on, I saw that there’s an achievement for finishing Mega Man 2 in this Mega Man collection. Mega Man 2 was my first exposure to the franchise and remains my favorite. I decided to cheat somewhat by looking up the optimal order for challenging the robot masters. But by the time I reached the third stage, I still got too frustrated/overcome with the realization that I should be doing something better with my time that I elected to move on. Strange to think that I completed this game in under 24 hours when I rented it as a kid.
- NiGHTS Into Dreams: Next up on my achievement hunt… this just isn’t going great. I actually tried on this game, but I have no idea what’s going on and then the graphics made me feel ill after a few minutes. No harvesting from here. I had to go lay down while wondering what it would have been like to spend a bunch of cash in the mid-1990s for both a Sega Saturn and this game and then getting sick every time you tried to play it.
- Pinball FX3: Next on the achievement hunt, I apparently played this game for 6 or 7 minutes previously. My notes from my previous play session showed that the game messed up my monitor resolution and also featured an extensive tutorial (on pinball). It also had an annoying voiceover for menu navigation. On this playthrough, the resolution was already correct, the game didn’t bother me with a tutorial, and I shut off the voiceover. I wondered how hard it would be to score an achievement, but I managed to grab 2 of them on just a single playthrough of the default board, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
- QUBIC: I played this all the way back in 2018. I remember it being a novel little puzzle game that cost a dollar. But my notes indicated that the achievements were broken. So I decided to fire it back up and see if that functionality has been fixed sometime in the last 5 years, and maybe grab 1 or 2 of the 141 (!!) available achievements. Turns out all I needed to do is launch the game and I got 74 overdue achievements. It’s playing havoc on my Steam client while I’m writing these notes, giving me about 3 achievements every 10 seconds or so.
- Sine Mora EX: I’ve wanted to revisit this shmup game ever since I sampled it in 2019, and my achievement hunt provided the impetus. I still have no idea what’s going on with the story, or who the factions are, but the visuals are absolutely stunning and it actually taxes my (somewhat aging) video card at full 4K in the process, same as it did 4 years ago. I exited the game after an hour to find that I did, in fact, earn an achievement.
- Ball of Wonder: I was surprised to notice that I hadn’t scored any achievements on this despite feeling like I had played it a lot. It turns out I had only played it 4 hours, but it was a great time waster. I fired it up one more time and quickly received a few progress achievements (destroy X amount of Y-type blocks in this Arkanoid/Breakout clone).
- Stars In Shadow: At long last, I did something in a 4X game. Motivated by my achievement hunt, and bolstered by success at figuring out how to play Banished, I decided to jump into this game and just poke around. Honestly, it’s very approachable, with a very cartoonish style and obvious aesthetic differences among the various races. And I even earned an achievement a few minutes in.
- Zombo Buster Advance: Thanksgiving time! The time of year when I have an ad-hoc tradition of sinking into some tower defense game or another. I played Zombo Buster Rising a few years ago but was quickly annoyed with it because it felt like a mobile game that was ported to Steam, which turned out to be correct. This one is different and apparently has never visited a mobile platform. Advance has somewhat deeper gameplay than Rising, but not by much. It grabbed me long enough to score an achievement, then I went back to scrubbing through other unplayed TD games.
- Planet TD: Another unplayed tower defense acquisition in my collection. It’s fairly uninspired. Neither the towers nor the enemies are particularly distinctive. I cleared the first 2 levels while struggling to remain awake. At least I scored 11/61 achievements so I don’t need to revisit for the achievement hunt.
- FTL: Faster Than Light: The old roguelike indie darling that took me forever to warm up to. I hadn’t played it in forever and noticed that, despite playing it for well more than 13 hours, I had never scored even a single achievement. So I fired it up and immediately scored 2 achievements. I guess they were a relatively recent addition. Sure enough, seems that they didn’t arrive until January, 2020. I still went on to play it quite a bit in December.
- Lumencraft: This is supposed to have some tower defense elements to it after awhile of digging and grinding up crystals. I might have to spend more time with it.
- Gravity Island: This game is so challenging that I couldn’t even make it past the initial language selection screen. Or perhaps I was encountering some odd bug. Also forces a resolution change and messed up desktop windows, which is always a strike against a game.
- Alien Shooter TD: I’m surprised that I missed this game during my annual Thanksgiving tower defense celebration, when I was scrubbing my library in search of unplayed TD games. Around Christmas, I got around to playing it. It didn’t impress me, especially since the graphics felt really primitive, as in early-era 3D graphics, even though this game dates to 2017. I should have guessed by the “TD” tacked onto the end of the title that “Alien Shooter” is the name of a franchise and that the earlier games actually do date back to the early 3D games. This TD game featured a game play innovation I hadn’t seen yet: The need to constantly purchase more ammo for your soldiers. I was about the abandon it before scoring an achievement, but then I crossed the threshold for a fairly basic one, so I won’t need to revisit this.
- Girls Like Robots: Another revisit for the achievement. I really had to force myself to get through the first act. It just doesn’t grab me, but I got that precious achievement. What a chore.
- Besiege: Apparently, I tried this briefly prior to this playthrough, but I couldn’t find any record of that fact among the pages of these yearly recaps. The achievement hunt gives me renewed motivation to figure it out. This is sort of a physics simulation and mechanical engineering workshop that allows you to create a siege vehicle that will destroy various medieval fortified positions. It’s sort of grabbing me this time around. I scored my first achievement pretty early on, but I hope to get back to it.
- Bloodrayne Betrayal (Legacy): I haven’t visited this game in a long time (6+ years), but the achievement hunt marches on. I remember sampling this game a few times and enjoying it quite a bit, despite the miserable reviews, and the fact that I only had 26 minutes of playtime invested. I’m still enjoying it on this playthrough. However, I got stuck at one point. Then I decided to delve into what the achievements require exactly and they seem pretty advanced (no “baby’s first achievement” here). So this will likely remain a hole in the achievement hunt.
- Bloodrayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites (Amazon Luna): The last game I played, also on the last day of the year. After playing the legacy version, I wanted to dip into this remaster/alternate artwork edition. It didn’t grab me, though, as the streaming latency still made the experience too arduous. I didn’t stick around long enough to appreciate the graphical differences.
So by the end of the year, I managed to narrow the game between SteamDB’s “played” games and Steam Hunters’ “started” games by at least a dozen.