With the release of Monster Hunter World, I am yet again reminded that most of my favorite games are developed in Japan. The question as to why has been at the back of my mind for a long time, but I think it comes down to one simple concept; prioritizing gameplay over everything else. As PCs and consoles get more powerful, it seems that the goal of having fun gameplay has mysteriously eluded some Western developers. Take Horizon Zero Dawn for instance. I love sci-fi and fantasy, and my favorite genre of video games is Action RPG. I should have loved it, but I bounced off after a dozen or so hours due to one very specific reason. I wasn't having fun with the combat. At least, not compared to Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, or Yakuza. While Horizon Zero Dawn looks beautiful, has good voice acting, and tells a compelling story, it lacked the combat to tie it all together. By all rights, it should have been one of my favorite games of last year. I'm sad that it wasn't. One of the more egregious examples is the Uncharted series. While I marveled at Uncharted 2 when it released, the spell wore off after shooting the millionth bad guy with the most 'by the numbers' gameplay imaginable. It wasn't bad, not at all, but the combat played second fiddle to presentation. The pretty graphics, voice acting, and a story that wasn't terrible (sounds familiar, right?). When Uncharted 4 came out, I didn't even play it. I had zero interest. I was done with the series. It's pure spectacle. There are many other games that suffer from the same issue. Assassin's Creed, The Order: 1886, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, Quantum Break. This isn't to say that Japanese games are always better. They get a lot wrong. Some games don't have the level of polish you may have come to expect from modern games, and it seems like some developers really don't understand how the internet works (I'm looking at you Nintendo). I'm also not a fan of the uninspired designs and tropey characters that plague a lot of JRPGs, but what I love about Japanese developers is that they aren't afraid to let a game be a game! I love having an armored cat battle monsters with me in Monster Hunter. I love swinging comically large weapons at even larger and amazingly designed bosses in FROM's games. I love running around in a cardboard box as Snake and laying down adult magazines as traps for the enemies. I love jumping on fang toothed mushrooms as a plumber. It's ridiculous and fantastical, but most importantly, fun! They don't take themselves as seriously as their Western counterparts. I'm sure there are reasons behind why that is, but I'm just so glad I live in a time where I can enjoy the products of another country so far away as much as I do. So, thanks Japan.