Top 100 Games of All-Time: #29

Yakuza: Like A Dragon

Release Date: November 10, 2020

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: Unranked

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What It Is:

After 6 main entries, a prequel and a zombie spinoff, the Yakuza series reinvented itself in it’s seventh mainline entry. Entitled “Yakuza Like A Dragon” in the west, the game throws out the previous series gameplay roots of being a brawler and reworks it with JRPG turn-based combat instead, after an April Fool’s joke got a great response from fans. It ditches the long multi-game story of Kiryu in favor of introducing a brand-new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, and his adventuring party as they clean up the streets of Yokohama.

It’s an homage to all the classic JRPGs – Ichiban himself is a Dragon Quest fan and his imagination explains all the costume changes and how the battles take place. But it also keeps the Yakuza brand of both serious story beats and wacky, insane side quests that are so over-the-top you can’t help but laugh. In Yakuza: Like A Dragon you can follow up an emotional sequence about friendship with a boss battle against a giant, out-of-control roomba. And neither feels out of place in this universe. It’s the greatest synergy of raw emotion and outright camp I’ve ever seen.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Sometimes you’re in a gaming rut. It’d been a while since an RPG really grabbed me and I wanted to put in the hours. It takes strong protagonists, a strong world, strong gameplay, and a strong plot to get me to play something for 50-80 hours. And in November of 2020 when the pandemic isolation was reaching its height, Yakuza Like A Dragon was the game that rescued me from single-player funk. I couldn’t put it down because all parts of the game were so engaging.

I spent hours in-game learning mahjong, to the point that winning my first game got me more excited than beating most of the bosses. There’s a business minigame that I dove headfirst into. There’s a mini-game where you pick up trash. You can do karaoke. There’s even a Mario Kart-style racing mini-game. And that’s just the side stuff. The main gameplay is turn-based combat goodness with many job classes that you can switch between to suit your style. It’s one of those games where you fall in love with all of the characters, and when the credits roll you just get depressed because you want to spend more time with them. Just an unbelievable accomplishment in gaming.

My Strongest Memory:

There’s a climactic battle towards the end of the game where you finally get to fight a guy that has been an antagonist for the majority of the game and a real shit-heel. I was absolutely and utterly psyched to fight him and beat the shit out of him: it was a great build-up and the actual boss fight itself was challenging enough to be satisfying when I took him down. I was ecstatic.

And then the stupid game immediately made me feel sorry for him.

I was on the train of hating this character’s guts, and then a cut-scene with tragic backstory unfolded immediately after the fight and suddenly my tune changed. It’s honestly infuriating how quickly and successfully the game whipped my emotions around – a true master work. And that’s why this game is so strong: every time it wanted to elicit a feeling – anger, sadness, joy, laughter, whatever – it did it and did it well. And to keep that up for 50+ hours, well, not many games can do that.

Why It’s #29:

When I originally put this list together earlier this year, I was afraid I was letting recency bias affect my judgment for Yakuza because was probably the most recent game I’d played that affected me strongly. But considering I’m coming back to this with more time between me and my playthrough, all I have to say is yeah, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a masterpiece. And it’s a great jumping in point too: the previous games having interlinked stories is daunting to think about playing through, but this is a fresh point of entry and a wondrous rejuvenation for the series.

 

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #30

F-Zero GX

Release Date: July 25, 2003

Platform Played On: Gamecube/Wii

2018 Placement: #42 (+12)

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What It Is:

The Gamecube iteration of Nintendo’s high-speed racing series (and the last one they made, R.I.P.), F-Zero GX is high-octane futuristic racing on insane tracks that loop, twist, turn, and go upside-down – and those are just the easy tracks. Boost zones refill your meter that allow you to nitro your way through the tracks, and you’re up against 29 computer-controlled characters ranging from Samurai Goroh to Black Shadow to The Skull. There are different cups with progressively harder difficulties like most racers and the good old time trial modes. There is also a story mode where you play as Captain Falcon, the racer’s most famous driver, in many different scenarios that include, but are not limited to, regular races.

Because of how fast the game moves, a lot of the skill involved in winning races in F-Zero GX is simply learning the tracks and knowing the best maneuvers on them. Replayability is high due to the number of cups and the number of difficulties available for each cup, along with a Vs. Mode that allows you to race against your friends. It’s a fantastic racer that really lives up to the golden age of arcade-style racing games.

Why It’s Important To Me:

F-Zero GX hits a specific niche of racing game for me. It’s an absolute blast to play, the cars feel fast and are unique and futuristic, but there isn’t the bombastic randomness of games like Mario Kart. There aren’t “weapons” in the game but you can eliminate opponents through spin attacks and better driving. Aside from Wipeout, there aren’t many other games that successfully blend this sort of sleek style with high speed racing.

It also has great music (as to be expected for games on my list). Osc-Sync Carnival, the theme for the Lightning courses, is probably an all-time favorite racing track for me in the energy it brings to a race. There’s also Planet Colors and Feel Our Pain, the latter of which is right up there with Osc-Sync Carnival as a beast of a white-knuckle song to listen to when you’re fighting for first place. And it’s not an F-Zero game if you don’t bring up the fantastic Mute City rendition. Just an all-around fabulous soundtrack that elevates the frenetic competition you are in while playing this game.

My Strongest Memory:

So it took me a two week break to build up enough strength to write about this game – it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I knew coming into it this would be a weirdly emotional game for me (especially for a GameCube era arcade racer) but it is still hard to talk about why specifically this game continues to resonate in my mind decades later.

In 2008, while I was visiting my long-distance girlfriend and many miles away from home, I discovered she had been cheating on me. She was out for the day (at college classes) and I was at her place, by myself, with no idea how to process or deal with the information that had suddenly landed in my lap. So I sat down, channeled my anger, my frustration, and basically every emotion I was feeling into F-Zero GX. I reached some sort of zen-like ultra state as I beat two cups on harder difficulties that I hadn’t even gotten close to finishing before. I also went into time trial and played a course I was having a bunch of trouble with (one of the Sand Ocean tracks, I remember that very clearly) over and over and over again. I absolutely hated that track whenever I played it and I focused all my hate into the time trial and made it my bitch. I honestly don’t remember how long I kept looping that time trial but it was at least thirty minutes and could have reached an hour. Again, zen-like out-of-body experience.

It surprisingly calmed me down as I raced all the rage out of me. I also haven’t been able to touch the game ever since because it’s like some sort of emotional talisman now. I deposited all my fury into this game over that one instance and for that I’ll always remember it and also always rank it highly in my mind, simply because it helped get me through a very specifically difficult time of my life.

Why It’s #30:

When a game has such a strong emotional resonance, even associated with a “negative” event, it can’t rank low on my list. It’s also a really strong game on its own merits – a worthwhile racing game to own and play. And maybe someday Nintendo will make a new F-Zero that is not associated with a random traumatic event of my life and I can freely play that one.

Episode 97 – The Senator Does Not Appreciate Semi-Colons

It’s time to finish the Make Me A Gamer Madness bracket! The final division, the final 16 is here as we dive into HarveyZ’s preferences in Smash Bros characters! Well, first we talk about post-pandemic hangouts and HarveyZ’s dating life but after that, Smash Bros characters and the Final 4 conclusion to these multi-episode bracket shenanigans! We hope you’ve enjoyed this experiment and next week we’re back to your regularly scheduled Make Me A Gamer – whatever that may be! Enjoy!

Make Me A Gamer on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/MakeMeAPodcast

E-Mail Us at: makemeagamerpodcast@gmail.com

Discord: https://discord.gg/xNVvTSB

As always, thank you so much for listening and please leave us ratings and feedback however you’re listening to our podcast! Please stay safe out there and stay out of groups if you can!

Episode 96 – The Board Game Episode

We’re back with a new episode of Make Me A Gamer! The Bracket of Many Names continues this week with the Board Game Division and HarveyZ is breaking down his favorites from what Atma’s chosen! We’re all board games this week, no video games in sight, so buckle up and get ready to see a different side of gaming! Hopefully y’all enjoy!

(This episode was recorded on April 28, 2021.)

Make Me A Gamer on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/MakeMeAPodcast

E-Mail Us at: makemeagamerpodcast@gmail.com

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Link to Valorant Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jlfkp_O3p7w

As always, thank you so much for listening and please leave us ratings and feedback however you’re listening to our podcast! Please stay safe out there and stay out of groups if you can!

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #31

Slay the Spire

Release Date: January 23, 2019

Platform Played On: Switch

2018 Placement: Unranked

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What It Is:

A deckbuilding roguelite game composed of three acts, where you climb the Spire and fight a bunch of enemies in your quest to escape. It’s a very simple format that is just perfect in execution. I’m a huge fan of both deckbuilding games and roguelites, and Slay the Spire combining both was almost like a game designed personally for me.

There are twists and turns to the gameplay to keep it fresh – four different characters with completely different playstyles, and then different builds within the playstyles. Every run is changed by relics, potions, and of course your cards that you can acquire. Elite enemies provide tougher challenges but greater rewards, so fight them at greater risk of ending your run early. Question mark rooms can either be helpful or harmful and can sometimes make or break a run. “Just one more run” is all over this game because of how addictive it becomes trying to achieve that perfect deck.

Why It’s Important To Me:

At what point does “hours played” simply make it so a game has to be in the top 100? Because my Switch tells me I’ve put over 300 hours into Slay the Spire, more than any other game on that console (and anything on Steam – the only competitor I can think of may be Overwatch from when I was playing it every night early in its release). It is the perfect Switch game for me, so much that other games on the platform keep getting overshadowed by it. I can do a run while I’m watching TV with my girlfriend, I can do a run while I’m in bed getting ready to go to sleep, I can do a run while I’m watching a podcast stream. The pick-up and put-down nature of the turn-based card combat makes it easy to be the default choice of “what to play if I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to invest in it.”

It’s also just too damn addicting to try and build perfect decks. I got into board games fully because of a deckbuilding game called Dominion, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the deckbuilding genre. Slay the Spire puts that into video game form almost perfectly, giving me a single-player outlet when I can’t play board games with friends socially. There isn’t much of a story here – just pure gameplay – and it excels. Several games since have tried to capture the same magic of Slay the Spire but nothing else quite lives up to it for me.

My Strongest Memory:

The first time I beat the Heart. I did it with the Defect, the character I’m the best with and enjoy playing the most.  It was such a fucking adrenaline boost to finally conquer the Heart after being bested by it so many times. It’s the secret final boss of the game – once you’ve beaten the first three Acts with all three of the starting characters, you unlock the ability to access a fourth and final Act, where the Heart of the Spire waits. And you can have a good deck that gets to that Act. But the Heart is merciless and one of the toughest challenges in any game. It throws everything at you immediately and never lets up, so you have to prepare for it from card one, floor one, if you want to have success.

And God does it feel good when you conquer it. Just recently, right near the 300 hour mark, I finally beat the Heart with all four characters. Defect was first, then Ironclad, then Silent, and finally the DLC addition Watcher (it’s free btw!). And the exhilaration of having defeated the Heart with all four characters – showing I have a decent mastery of the game and a definite improvement in skill at it – is one of my proudest accomplishments in gaming.

Why It’s #31:

I’m not a top-tier Slay the Spire player yet – I’m only at Ascension Level 12, 11, 16, and 13 for Ironclad, Silent, Defect, and Watcher respectively, but every night I’m usually grinding out at least one or two runs. And I don’t see myself stopping any time soon, which is unbelievable considering how much time I’ve already put into the game. When a game is this high quality and this addictive despite having minimal story, it has to be high on the top 100. There’s just no question that Slay the Spire is a top tier 100/10 video game.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #32

Sam & Max: Hit the Road

Release Date: November 1993

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #23 (-9)

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What It Is:

A staple of the point-and-click adventure genre, Sam and Max is a glorious game where you control Sam (and try to control Max) as they hit the road and go on an adventure. They go everywhere, from the World’s Largest Ball of Twine to Bumpusville (a play on Graceland) to the Celebrity Vegetable Museum. You navigate the world and find clues and items that unlock new locations to visit, all the while keeping track of your inventory and what puzzles you need to solve at every location. There’s no combat, just puzzles and navigating dialogue.

And that dialogue is also funny as hell. Max is an asshole, and Sam tries to keep him in line but isn’t exactly the greatest either. They’re set on a case to find a missing Bigfoot and everything about every situation they get in is absurd but also hilarious. A large chunk of the formation of my particular brand of humor can be traced back to LucasArts’ point-and-click adventures – and Sam and Max is just pure gold from start to finish.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Okay, maybe I should have saved that “formation of my humor” bit for this part, because that’s a huge reason this game sticks in my mind. I wasn’t much of a PC gamer but I replayed Hit the Road constantly growing up, to the point that I could easily navigate this wide open-world puzzle game. It’s one of those games where every time I boot it up I just feel happy and at home. At one point in my life I could probably have recited at least half the dialogue of this game from memory.

It also was one of the games that made me fall in love with point-and-click adventures as a genre. While it’s lost its luster nowadays (as my patience for solving incredibly obtuse puzzles has lessened as I’ve grown older) I still hold the genre on a high pedestal. LucasArts killed it in the 90s with their point-and-click adventure games and I really consider them to be a cornerstone of my childhood in gaming.

My Strongest Memory:

Getting stuck at the Mystery Vortex. Getting stuck at the World’s Largest Ball of Time. Getting stuck at Bumpusville. Honestly I got stuck a lot in this game and had to confer with friends who also played it. Back before the days of GameFAQs and YouTube, the only way to solve getting stuck was to crowdsource with your gaming buddies. And that was a lot of the fun of this game: figuring out the puzzles together. One of us would get stuck somewhere and we’d all chip in to bail them out before getting stuck somewhere else. It was the water cooler talk of elementary school.

It was also the first game that made me fervently wish for a sequel. I longed for a new Sam and Max entry, prayed for it. When Telltale finally revived it I was absolutely ecstatic. Unfortunately their episodic games weren’t up my alley as much as the original – still perfectly fine and I was glad to get more Sam and Max, but boy they didn’t hold a candle to my nostalgia.

Why It’s #32:

Look, here’s the power of this game: mid-typing this entry I went to Steam and bought it so I could replay it because I jazzed myself up over it. It’s $6. You could do a lot worse with $6. And hey, there’s plenty of internet to help you now so you won’t get stuck nearly as much as I did.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #33

Super Metroid

Release Date: March 19, 1994

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #24 (-9)

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What It Is:

The birth of a genre. The start of a legend. The best game in the entire Metroid series. And probably more. Yes, Metroid and Metroid II both had similar gameplay and map exploration, but Super Metroid was the game that put this genre on the map for me and for a long time this game was heralded in my top 10 of all-time, occasionally even the top 5. You play as Samus Aran, bounty hunter, and have to explore an alien planet by unlocking new abilities that will get you into new corners of this terrifying, brutal world.

You’re equipped with a blaster that can be modified with all sorts of different beams: Ice Beam lets you freeze enemies, Wave Beam adds a wider range while Spazer Beam lets you shoot three shots. The Chozo statues have other gifts as well, from the Power Bomb to the Grappling Beam to the Screw Attack that lets you do damage in mid-air. This iteration of the Metroid formula is probably one of the most famous and well-regarded and it’s easy to see why: everything in the game fits together perfectly like a factory-engineered puzzle. It’s a huge reason why Metroidvania became the genre title many years later.

Why It’s Important To Me:

While the NES was my first console, I’ve always regarded the Super Nintendo as “my” console. It was the one I played the most on and was really formative of my taste in games even 25 years later. I always crave SNES retro-style games and eat them up like I’m starving. The SNES Classic is the only classic console I’ve gotten and I’m considering getting a Super NT as well because why not.

Anyway, Super Metroid was one of those formative games for me. Decades later I still rank Metroidvanias as one of my top genres that I love getting into and I love that the genre has exploded in the last decade. But man, as a kid I remember searching this world top to bottom to find every Super Missile, every Power Bomb, every Energy Tank until I had 100%’d the entire game. I also remember struggling hard to perfect the dash and wall jump with those little alien Etecoons, and yet that was just an extra ability you didn’t NEED. And yet it felt so good to actually accomplish it when I did. It’s the little things.

My Strongest Memory:

The fucking Crocomire. That miniboss has stuck with me forever and will stick with me until the end of time because of it bursting through the wall like a fucking maniac. I thought the fight was over (like everyone did) and then BAM! Crocomire skeleton doing a Kool-Aid Man impression. I may or may not have screamed in utter terror because I wasn’t expecting it in the slightest.

Fuck the Crocomire.

I also remember falling in love with Ridley’s theme. I can’t say it’s the first video game music I truly bopped out to, but it’s close to one of the first that I distinctly remember going “yeah, this is the good shit.” And yeah, we’ve gotten about fifty-gazillion variations on it now but it’s still one of my favorite OG tracks.

Why It’s #33:

I regard this game as the progenitor of a genre. While it used to be a top 10 game, the absolute glut of high quality Metroidvanias has distilled its relevancy some. I do still love it and think it is a classic in every sense of the word, but personally I have less of a chance of picking it up and replaying due to all the other options that keep coming out. And modern gamers might find they resonate better with games like Hollow Knight or the later Castlevanias. But it’s still absolutely worth playing to see where the Metroidvanias really started getting their groove.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #34

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Release Date: March 5, 2001

Platform Played On: N64

2018 Placement: #25 (-9)

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What It Is:

A typical late 90s/early 00s mascot platformer on the N64, except throw everything typical out the window and replace it with an alcoholic squirrel, sunflowers with boobs, an operatic turd, Gregg the Grim Reaper, and more. Nintendo has always had a kid-focused, family-friendly vibe and Conker’s Bad Fur Day throws that image out the window in one of the crassest, absurdly dumb platformers in the history of gaming. And yet it’s still hilarious and fun to play.

I can’t say how well it holds up because it’s been a long time since I’ve played it, but for a slightly edgy teenager in high school this game was the absolute best. You play as Conker who is trying to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend and interact with a whole bunch of irreverent characters. Parodies abound as the game hits on all sorts of pop culture from the 90s, from The Matrix to Saving Private Ryan to Aliens (which isn’t from the 90s, but everyone was still hyped about the Alienverse then ok?) The gameplay is mostly platforming but with all sorts of other genres thrown into the blender of “would it be funny? then yes let’s do it.”

Why It’s Important To Me:

There’s always been humor in games. But Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a revelation to me. A lot of the humor is low brow and you’re not really going to laugh much if you don’t like the occasional fart joke. But there are a whole lot of clever moments interwoven with every time Conker belches after drinking to much or gets cursed out by a pile of money. Slightly before Max Payne perfected bullet time as an actual mechanic, Conker’s Matrix sequence emulated the movie in a video game and I was both in awe and laughing my ass off at the absurdity of a squirrel imitating Keanu Reeves.

After a lifetime of being a Nintendo kid and eating up their brand of video games, I really appreciated the lengths Bad Fur Day went to both have competent and interesting gameplay and also buck everything that was typically associated with these sorts of mascot platformers. One of the early missions in the game is doing a fetch quest to find ways to tickle a big-breasted sunflower so a bee has the chance to “pollinate” her. You won’t see that in Super Mario 64.

My Strongest Memory:

There’s a few. First, I can’t go without plugging Rock Solid, which is the best song in an amazing soundtrack and I still insist could be played in a regular club and nobody would know the difference. When I reached Rock Solid in the game, I probably jammed out to (and watched Conker do the worm to) this for a good half hour. I love it. Then, in the same vein of music, there’s the Great Mighty Poo boss fight. Yeah, it’s gross that you have to fight a giant turd. BUT THE TURD SINGS OPERA. And it’s a damn catchy song. I was disgusted, yet laughing. It was awesome.

But the biggest thing that stuck with me about this game was the ending. A game entirely based on humor and nonsense and out of nowhere it pulls a huge swerve and gives one of the most nihilistic, depressing endings of any video game ever. I remember sitting there as a teenager, shocked, thinking “wait, that’s really how they’re ending this game?” It was a huge mood whiplash and honestly is a big reason why this game still resonates with me today. If it were just shitty humor, it’d be one thing. But they manage to pull off an out-of-nowhere ending and still made it feel earned. That’s the golden age of Rare for you.

Why It’s #34:

Maybe this game should be lower. Maybe I should play it again and realize it’s mostly teenage potty humor and I probably won’t laugh as much. But on the other hand, there really isn’t a game like this. Yeah, there are games like Duke Nukem 3D and Leisure Suit Larry who wear crassness on their sleeve but Conker’s Bad Fur Day somehow manages to be both dumb and intelligent while not feeling like either is out of place. It’s a true master class of design and the pinnacle of these types of platformers, in my opinion.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #35

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time

Release Date: August 15, 1992

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #28 (-7)

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What It Is:

The Super Nintendo follow-up to the NES Turtle brawlers, which could also be considering the follow-up to the arcade game since this also had a version released as an arcade machine. Turtles in Time adds the fun mechanic of throwing Foot Soldiers at the TV screen which never gets old, but otherwise sticks to the same formula that other brawlers followed.

It doesn’t do too much in the way of innovation, instead it mostly just excels at doing exactly what it sets out to be – a fun brawler starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It includes classic villains as bosses like Baxter Stockman and Slash, stylizing the Saturday morning cartoon versions in perfect video game format. The traveling in time format adds a bunch of cool new level types to the game as well instead of just traipsing through Manhattan for the twentieth time.

Why It’s Important To Me:

As I said in my entry for TMNT 3, the Turtles were just a huge part of my childhood growing up. And Turtles in Time was just the perfect video game for anyone who loved the heroes in a half-shell and wanted to use their own turtle power. I played it in the arcade, I played it at home with friends, I played it whenever I wanted good co-op brawler action because until the N64 came out and Goldeneye became a thing, brawlers were the best way to play anything with friends.

I loved getting to see fully realized sprite version of Bebop, Rocksteady, and others that looked so much like their cartoon counterparts. Metalhead, one of my favorite random Turtle villains, even gets the spotlight as a boss in this game. And Rat King was riding the Foot Ski in his boss fight, a toy I owned. It was just fantastic all around and the game is pure nostalgia for my Turtle loving years.

My Strongest Memory:

“My Toe! My Toe!”

“Big Apple! 3 AM.”

“Let’s kick SHELL!”

I can hear all these quotes from the game in perfect cadence. It’s unbelievable how all the little sound bites from this game live rent-free in my head nearly 30 years later. And there’s the awesome music like Bury My Shell At Wounded Knee. And of course the final boss theme is an all-time great. If you love TMNT you can’t help but love this game because it’s the best of everything.

Why It’s #35:

It’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m just basically reiterating everything I said for the TMNT 3 entry, except in this game it’s perfected and turned up to 11. They even included the Pizza Monsters! C’mon, if this isn’t a love letter to all things 90s Turtles, I couldn’t tell you what is.

Episode 95 – Oddly Sexy Kano

We’re back with a new episode! Despite what you might think by the title, this episode is NOT about the most recent Mortal Kombat movie. Instead, it’s about round 2 of HarveyZ’s Make Me A Gamer Madness bracket! This round is dedicated to 16 video game movies as Harvey decides which one moves on to the final 4. We also talk briefly about Sony’s decision to reverse shutting down the PS3 and Vita stores and a little bit about the Overwatch League opening weekend. Enjoy!

(This episode was recorded on April 21, 2021.)

Make Me A Gamer on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/MakeMeAPodcast

E-Mail Us at: makemeagamerpodcast@gmail.com

Discord: https://discord.gg/xNVvTSB

As always, thank you so much for listening and please leave us ratings and feedback however you’re listening to our podcast! Please stay safe out there and stay out of groups if you can!