2020 Games, Some Of The Best Ones

*Obligatory "2020 sure did suck" opening line here.*

Which it did, a lot, for so many people, for so many different reasons. We're all tired. We all needed an escape and luckily there were some pretty decent games released in 2020.

Here's a quick list of some of the games I enjoyed that came out in the year 2020.

(I'll post a separate list of non-2020 games I played last year because boy, 2020 sure did suck, needed all the escapism I could get. Seriously, what else could have gone wrong? A pandemic forcing us into lockdown, although I work in healthcare and my wife works in government so our work basically doubled when the lockdown started. Also protests, civil unrest, it was nuts. And rightfully so, too many parts of our society have been broken for too long. I can't even go to the movies anymore to get a break from reality, I used to see like 50 movies a year, in 2020 we saw two. TWO! And another thing--I--sorry, it's just, you know, 2020. I told myself I wouldn't rant, here's games...)

List items

  • I really enjoyed Fall Guys for about a week and a half when it first launched. Like most battle royale-ish games, I tend to immediately lose interest once I win a match. I feel like I've "beaten" it. We had fun for a bit passing the controller around the living room between runs and seeing how far each person could get, but once I finally got that crown, I put the game down and haven't gone back. It's a great idea though.

  • Command & Conquer, the original Red Alert specifically, was my introduction to strategy games as a kid. And as such I feel like I grew up with the series. The Remastered Collection is such a loving tribute to these classic games and I can't overstate what a phenomenal job they've done. Of the steady drip of remakes and remasters we've been getting for a decade now, this ranks among the best. Updated visuals, remastered music and even an upgraded version of the old CD-ROM install process make this a great package for a great price.

  • A largely forgotten game, I feel. It came out early in 2020, back when everything was still "normal" and we weren't constantly terrified. I had a good time playing the game in co-op with friend. The writing is goofy and occasionally funny, I'm a big fan of some of the commercials that get broadcast to your ship, particularly the Zeldrok & Zeldrok law firm. It's a decent Metroid Prime-ish experience that is made better with a friend. Check it out if you can.

  • Bugsnax both is and isn't the game you think it is. At first glance it looks like Pokemon Snap meets Animal Crossing, and it kinda is that, but also so much more. Catching the bugsnax became kinda tedious after a while, but was mitigated a bit by occasionally passing the controller to my wife. Playing the game alongside her made the entire thing more enjoyable, we got deeply invested in some of the relationships. (Particularly Chandlo and Snorpy, they deserve to be happy.) That's where the game really shines, the bugsnax are cute but it's the surprisingly complex relationships between the townspeople that are the draw here. The game deals with real issues, in a ridiculous and fantastical way. The story and characters will keep you going long after you've started to wonder just how many types of Cheepoofs there could possibly be.

  • The visuals of Tsushima drew me into what I figured would be a fairly mediocre open world game, and in many ways it is just that. But I found myself wanting to come back to it, enough to eventually get the platinum trophy. Sure the main story is fairly rote, and there are way too many fox dens and other boring side activities, but the world is so beautifully rendered I didn't mind seeing it all.

    And as far as the story goes, the companion quests are where I found the real quality. I ended up really enjoying them, they're well acted and produce some diverse gameplay. One in particular (involving an elderly woman who was a servant of Jin's father) had me tearing up quite a bit by the end, it related to some things in my own life and was touching in a way I wasn't anticipating. I've never been much for the older Assassin's Creed games, but so many have said they're basically like this, I might have to check them out then.

  • I was one of the ones lucky enough to snag a PS5 at launch, and honestly I think I've only turned it on twice since December, but what a December it was. Now, I don't have the intense nostalgia for the history of the PlayStation brand that many do. I played some games here and there, but I was mostly a Nintendo console kid growing up. The first PlayStation I had while it was still the current console generation was the PS3. I feel like I missed out on a lot of the PS1 and PS2 eras. I played some of the big games on borrowed consoles at the time, and have gone back to play even more of the classics since, but it isn't the same.

    That being said, Astro is a hell of a game and wonderfully bright and colourful trip down memory lane. It's a tight, fun platformer crammed full of nods to PlayStation's history. And the first, and currently best, use of the PS5's new controllers. The haptics and speaker provide amazing feedback for your actions in game and I really hope more developers use that tech meaningfully in the future.

  • I've said it before, but it still feels really good to give a damn about Spider-Man again. Between the excellent MCU movies, the Spider-Verse movie and now two great Spidey games my interest in the wall-crawler has been at its highest since I was a kid.

    I loved the Peter Parker-centered game on PS4, but I think I like parts of Miles Morales even more. Specifically, I like the parts that aren't there. There's less Miles than Peter, it's a smaller game on a smaller scale and I loved that. As great as the Peter game was it fell into the same traps as other open world games, there's too much content. Too many repeatable sidequests and activities. Too many poor stealth missions. Too many collectibles to find. And you want to do everything to get all the upgrades and costumes, and the gameplay is good enough to see you through, but it's hard to not find them tedious.

    Miles having a smaller scale does away with all that. Plot points that felt like they would've normally taken hours to reveal themselves happen in minutes. Character upgrades that normally would take longer to unlock are done in one or two side activities. The game removed the standard open world bloat and I loved it. And aside from the final act villain heel turn (which is very typical of Spidey stories) feeling a little forced for me I enjoyed the story quite a bit. I was worried Miles would feel like just more Spidey, but it's more Spidey in the best way. Miles comes into his own as a unique Spider-Man, different from Peter in both gameplay and character.

    (On a side note, the lack of MCU content in 2020 got me back into reading comics again for the first time in years. I signed up for Marvel Unlimited and have been loving it, so many great comics to catch up on.)

  • What can I say about New Horizons that hasn't already been said everywhere on every part of the internet?

    I didn't have much of a relationship with Animal Crossing pre-New Horizons. I played a bit of New Leaf on the 3DS and thought it was cute and could see the appeal, but didn't think it was for me. In 2019 my wife and I bought a second Switch for Pokemon Sword/Shield so we could both play and trade with each other. But I was also planning ahead a bit for Animal Crossing. My wife was into Stardew Valley for some time and I thought she would probably enjoy Animal Crossing as well. I also wanted to give the series a real shot myself, I knew the game would be big and I wanted to get into the zeitgeist.

    New Horizon's release date was the same as Doom Eternal, a game I was very excited to get my hands on. Doom (2016) was my game of the year, and one of my favourite gaming experiences ever, so as you can imagine I was a bit jazzed for the sequel. My brain-plan was to play through Doom, because in my mind it had a decent chance of being my GOTY, then start Animal Crossing afterward. Now, as you may have noticed, Doom Eternal isn't on this list.

    I didn't end up finishing Doom for a couple of months (And was somewhat disappointed in it overall, it's a very well made game, just not as enjoyable as Doom '16.) because Animal Crossing took over our household, entirely. I've slowed on it, but I spent hundreds of hours on my island in 2020, my wife doubling my play time over on her Switch.

    By this point, you know what New Horizons is, everyone talked about it for half a year. It was the game we all needed in 2020, but for me personally the game I didn't KNOW I needed. I expected to enjoy it, but not take over my life for months. There were at least 2 days early on where I played New Horizons for 8 hours, I almost never do that with games anymore.

    It's an incredible piece of adorable escapism that is only held back by some of it's Nintendo-like technical and design annoyances. Seriously, why is it such a pain in the ass just to visit someone else's island? Come on Nintendo, please figure out the internet. Good thing I planned ahead and bought that second Switch so we avoided the whole nightmare of sharing an island, but that's a bad solution to a silly problem. At least I have Melba. Melba will live on my island forever. Melba will NEVER LEAVE.

  • And Game Of The Year goes to....

    Hades. Another game I don't feel like I need to say anything about. It has already won so many game of the year awards, and deservedly. It's amazing. Having spent some time with Hades when it first launched in early access, and being a fan of Supergiant's previous work, I was confident I would like it. I didn't think I was going to like it so damn much though.

    Not to be hyperbolic but Hades is one of my favourite games to play. It feels so damn good. You can combine the various weapons, items and god boons in an absurd number of ways and all of them feel viable. Once I felt comfortable with the controls I started experimenting with weapons and power combinations that I wouldn't normally choose and discovered entirely new and fun ways to play the game. I don't even care for roguelike/lites much, but because of Hades I am now approaching the genre in an entirely new light. What an astounding achievement. The art, the music, the characters, the story, the gameplay, all of it is Supergiant at its best. I can't wait to spend too much money on Hades merch.

    Edit: Hades was my wife's favourite backseat gaming experience which she detailed on her own list over here: https://bit.ly/2NGh3cT

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