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Leon Chang's Top 5 Games of 2020

Will Star Ocean: Second Story top Leon's list for a third year in a row? Probably!

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Leon Chang is a New York-based musician. His most recent album, Return to Bird World, released in 2020. He's @leyawn on Twitter.

I spent 99% of my time this year inside, and 99% of that time playing video games. There wasn’t any special reason for that or anything, I just like staying inside and playing video games.

Hollow Knight

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I was super late to the Hollow Knight train but god damn, this is a perfect game. The lore, the music, the combat, the platforming, they all feel just right. Your sense of mastery over the game’s mechanics as you explore the world grows, and by the time you reach the end you are swinging your little sword and jumping around like a master ninja. Every enemy, every boss fight, every area is unique and challenging without being too punishing. I highly recommend playing this game without looking anything up. I can’t wait for Silksong, the sequel.

Overcooked 2

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The only game to perfectly recreate the experience of running a restaurant where your chefs are a raccoon, a grandma, a shark, and an alien, also the restaurant is on a flying pirate ship, your menu is only pancakes, and the kitchen catches on fire every few minutes. I play this with my sister and her friends on video calls. The first time we played I started laughing so hard I cried. We were yelling stuff like, “I need tomatoes” and “go chop the cheese” and “oh shit I fell off a cliff while holding a pizza” while absolute chaos befell our kitchen.

Magic: The Gathering (Shandalar)

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I love MTG. I’ve played this stupid card game ever since I opened my first starter pack of Ice Age back in 1995. The card game has depth and complexity, with millions of different strategies, from deck building to the actual gameplay itself. Shandalar is not that. Shandalar is a game where you run your pixelated little adventurer around a magical world and beat up druids and clerics. You steal their cards. You plunder dungeons to get more cards. You can get a gem that zaps enemies in the overworld. The rules are thrown out of the game--you can run a deck with nothing but mountains and lightning bolts. The final boss of the game has 400 health and more than a hundred cards in his deck. It originally ran on Windows 95, and crashed my computer a few times before I figured out how to play it. I love it.

Genshin Impact

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Ignore the gacha aspect of this game entirely. Okay, maybe get the battle pass if you really like it. But pretend this game has no gacha element to it at all, and this is a wonderful game. Yes, it’s a Breath of the Wild clone. But there’s so much good content. The lore is incredible and the world is beautiful. The music is enchanting. You’ll have so much fun flying around on your glider and smashing monsters with your anime characters that by the time you reach the end game, you’ll be sucked into the grind of gearing and leveling them up. And then you play for thirty minutes a day as you wait like an addict for the next trickle of content the game releases.

Star Ocean: The Second Story

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For the third year in a row, this is my game of the year. Did you think I’d forget? This classic holds up to the test of time. I tried a run through with Rena this year instead of Claude, and was rewarded with storylines and endings I hadn’t experienced yet. I recruited characters I usually don’t play (the zoologist who punches people and an archaeologist that uses whips). The game was harder. It felt like a challenge. I keep on coming back to this game and discovering new things. I realize I’m probably nearing the end of my playthroughs with Star Ocean, but the real-time combat system, the wild story, and the skill customization bring something new to the table each time. Maybe it’s time to move on.

Leon’s Bottom Game of 2020: Super Mario Sunshine

Like a total sucker for Nintendo’s bank account, I bought the Super Mario 3D package for the Switch instead of playing these on an emul-[REDACTED]. Super Mario 64 was just as good as I remembered it, and I cleared 120 stars with no problems. Sure, the camera was a little wonky, but the controls felt great and I was long jumping and wall bouncing like an Italian plumber should. Then I tried Super Mario Sunshine.

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Fuck this game.

Imagine you are a four foot tall plumber with a massively oversized head and strangely proportioned limbs. You’re holding a large wet noodle that sprays water everywhere. The noodle sprays in random directions. You need to use this noodle to get around. You hate the noodle. You despise it. It never does what you want it to do. This is what it’s like to play Super Mario Sunshine. Everything feels slippery. And then there’s the levels, which feel like Miyamoto locked the game designers in a room and fed them ketamine until they returned with a hellish version of Super Mario 64. Oh, and Yoshi dies if he touches water for some reason. Fuck Super Mario Sunshine.