Vinny Caravella is starting to think they may never stop making video games. He's not sure if that means he might also never stop trying to order them in lists. He currently works at Giant Bomb from his basement surrounded by his collection of toys.
Before we get into the games, let’s talk about some other things that are not games. Let’s talk about possible things for next year! Will Fans Toys release the rest of their Stunticons and Aerialbots in 2021? (Those are Transformers). Will I finish painting my Stuffed Fables minis? Will I ever show my wife how many boxes just arrived from that Bloodborne: The Board Game Kickstarter I backed? Can I figure out how to build the right shelving in my basement that meets my needs but doesn’t feel too permanent so I won’t mind tearing them out if we redo the basement someday? Will I beat Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in 2021? Will I beat Assassin’s Creed Odyssey?! High on my list of 2021 to-dos is sitting in a diner and eating a turkey club. Yum.
There, I’ve gotten through the first paragraph without dwelling on what 2020 was. Whew. Now games. Let’s start by talking about the two games that I played more of between locking this list a week ago and writing it today. They are Ghost of Tsushima and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. 13 Sentinels would be on this list somewhere, though I’m not sure where. I’m just about done with it and I’m loving it. Ghost of Tsushima I’m also really enjoying but have put less time into, so can’t say if it would have knocked anything off.
I looked at over 80 games I had played enough to consider for this list and it was more difficult than I had initially thought it might be to cut them down to just 10, let alone order them. I feel pretty good about where it is. It’s definitely a snapshot of what I was thinking at a certain time, but of course things are always fluid and subject to the wheres and whys of any given day. That all being said, I’m confident these ten games represent how I spent and enjoyed the majority of my gaming time in 2020.
I played a good chunk more of online multiplayer this year for obvious reasons and Deep Rock being on this list is a direct result of that. It’s the co-op game I played inside and outside of work and that I wanted to go back to over and over again whenever there were enough people around to play it. The differences between the classes and how they work together, the progression systems, and the general flow of the game all lent themselves to keeping me not only engaged with the game but provided a fun venue to catchup and chat with friends. I had heard a lot of great things from people about Deep Rock Galactic while it was in Early Access and turns out they were right!
At the time of this writing, I haven’t finished it. I’m pretty far along, I think, with maybe another sitting or two until I’m done. I love exploring the world and I love looking at the world. You know, I love listening to the world as well. It’s a game that scores at least 9s in Graphics, Sound, and Gameplay for me. I find the difficulty to be right where I need to be. It’s challenging but rewarding, with a deep enough toolbox that I feel like I’m solving combat challenges and traversal puzzles in a way that suits my playstyle. Also, did I mention it looks and sounds amazing? It does. Though Ori is possibly too glowy. I stand by it.
Well, I’m not sure if Destiny or Destiny 2 has ever made my personal lists, but I don’t think it has. It is the game my brothers and I switched to from Red Dead Online this year and we’ve had a lot of fun digging into all the nonsense. It’s a bit tough for me to parse what is actually new in Beyond Light outside of the campaign because I’ve been away from Destiny 2 for a long time. What I can say is that I’ve actually enjoyed the Beyond Light content, though I think the way they handle resolving the Darkness is... meh. Even Stasis is growing on me the more I play, though it has not replaced Void as my Warlock power of choice.
While Factorio is the game that hit 1.0 this year I spent a lot of time in the similar-yet-different game of Satisfactory, which is still in Early Access. I rebuilt my whole factory, connected my power plants to water, started digging for oil, and paved over ungodly amounts of the landscape. It can be tough to find time to squeeze in a game like Satisfactory which requires large chunks of it but I somehow managed to do it. I couldn’t tell you where that time came from, but I can tell you it was never enough because there’s always something else to pave, refine, or build. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got next... just... please stop adding stuff that breaks my entire factory.
Supergiant Games have really earned their place and reputation as top tier developers. I’m not a huge fan of run-based games but Hades has an actual narrative that kept me plugging away time and time again. I love just about everything it's doing. It even takes a fairly tired thematic setting and freshens it up with a unique spin and stunning art, sound, and writing. I don’t know what makes a great run-based game because it’s not a genre that usually calls to me, but I can give my two cents on what makes a great game and it’s whatever secret sauce Hades is using. Congrats!
This was recommended to me when I put a call out for games I might have missed this year. Thank you. I clearly can’t get to every game, but I’m so happy to have been able to not only play this one but to evangelize for it and put it on this list. The family and I finished it together in one big sitting and we all loved it. My daughter liked how silly it is, my son got the game nods, my wife enjoyed the cleverness of it, and while I adored the game itself, I also loved that experience of sharing it. It’s a traditional adventure game and that is my wheelhouse, but it’s also a meta-game done right which lights up parts of my brain. It even has a fake operating system! So much to like about this one.
I’m a fan of big, third-person narrative games so it’s not a surprise that this is on here. It’s amazingly crafted, the gameplay is maybe some of the best Naughty Dog has ever done, and it’s ambitious. It’s definitely dark, arguably too grim sometimes, but it’s also very moving and the fidelity of the characters and their performances sell both the anguish and pathos well. I think it overstays its welcome but there’s clearly a journey the team wants you to go on along with the characters and luckily the gameplay and design are there to support that journey even if at times I felt the story should have wrapped up. They really put those characters through a lot. Make better choices you silly characters! Hell of a game though and one of the few of its type this year that kept me hooked.
I liked Thousand-Year Door but hadn’t really been back to Paper Mario since playing that one, at least in any memorable fashion. Origami King is fresh and charming with great writing and an interesting battle mechanic that does get a bit stale after a bit, but didn’t knock me off of the game. It’s not easy to do humor in games, but I think Origami King pulls it off without making me roll my eyes at every other line. The bosses are also fantastic and themed really well (Spoilers: You fight a hole puncher.) And who could ever forget Bobby? Monsters, that’s who. Shame on you.
The only reason I don’t currently have a full cockpit setup on my desk is because everything seemed to be sold out. True story. Well, also it’s stupid expensive. Now, I’m not saying I could actually fly a plane at this point but I am saying that I feel a lot more confident that I could probably start up at least 2-3 very specific planes. Maybe even get the propeller spinning. Maybe. There were late nights when I was trying to unwind where I would jump into a plane, get it up and running from scratch, and do the 30 minute-ish flight from Teterboro Airport here in New Jersey to Republic Airport on Long Island. I got to know the route, the landmarks, the airports. It’s awesome, and what they have done with that game in terms of the terrain and map data is downright shocking. The game didn’t really get me fully excited until I discovered the startup checklists for all the planes and how it’s implemented, zooming you into the proper switch or button to press. Make sure to check that out if you’re interested!
Sometimes the best games in a year are ones you’ve never heard of or had no idea existed. There’s zero expectation and then you are just blown away. That was the case this year with Spiritfarer. It’s a game about death, but it’s not trying to bring you down constantly. Instead, your character is there to help. It’s got some light-ish farming/crafting with a fair amount of resource gathering for upgrades and progression and some of that goes on for too long. I just loved the art, animation, and vibes of that game so much though, that while I could recognize that it was dragging at parts it didn’t bother me so much. I liked helping the characters on that boat. I liked cooking for them... mostly. I liked doing all the silly side quests around the world. I even liked the fishing. And, thematically, we’ve all lost people in our lives that we love. We’ve all had to say one last goodbye when we knew we couldn’t take whatever next journey they were going on. As I get older I’ve done more of it, and as tough as it can be, I understand it’s a part of living and enjoying life with others. Spiritfarer wades right into that territory with confidence and without feeling saccharine or like it's preaching to the player. It’s got the qualities of a great game beyond its theme, but the way it handles itself throughout with its mix of sincerity and charm really pushed it to the top of my list.
Other 2020 Fun Things:
Project Elite from CMON
An updated release of a slightly older board game. You play in real-time with your allies frantically rolling dice to survive waves of aliens. My son and I have really enjoyed it.
Mors (Helex) from MMC
A member of the DJD from the IDW Transformers comics, I'd been waiting for this release along with another member, Tesarus, to finish out that group on my shelf and they both finally came out in 2020. Mors is awesome. Big and bulky and looks great on my ever-more-crowded shelf.
I still don't miss it. Not even a little. Ok, maybe... nah. Miss seeing everyone at the office though! Not the commute.