41 Games: Nier Automata
I don't know if there's a game I'm more conflicted about this year than this one. It certainly has shifted up and down this list more times (and by more places) than any other game.
There are quests, moments, and characters in Nier Automata that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And as the memory of actually playing the game fades, the temptation to cut these paragraphs and save them for a later entry once again grows.
So why not move it up the list? So many reasons, not the least of which is the way it stubbornly insists on wasting the player's time with a structure that requires three different playthroughs to get the "whole story" even though one of those playthroughs barely differs from the other.
Beyond that, its open world elements largely don't work, its economy is completely broken, the possibilities of its combat system are exhausted early, and I could go on ...
But then I think about this one side quest. It's the dumbest, simplest little side quest. Nothing more than a money sink. Keep giving money to this one little robot inventor and he occasionally gives you something useful, occasionally not.
For your last donation, he sets out to invent something truly memorable. And off in the distance, you see a massive tower rise up to the heavens.
But when you return to him, he's disappointed. The tower was meant to reach the moon. This matters because the moon is where the last remnants of humanity are said to live, and because the robots of Nier are obsessed with imitating humanity, with becoming "as gods."
And this little robot inventor is disappointed because his tower to the moon missed the moon entirely ... and reached Mars instead.
Nier Automata is Yoko Taro's tower to the moon.