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2020 Sure Was Interesting, Wasn't It?

*Author's note: this list is relatively spoiler free and avoids discussion of major plot points in the games. It is also free of platform bias. Of the thirteen games mentioned: 3 were played on Xbox, 3 on Playstation, 5 on Nintendo Switch, and 2 on PC. So there's maybe a Switch bias in play, I guess.

**Content Warning: death in the family/grief. I lost my mother to cancer this year and briefly mention it twice. My heart goes out to anyone else reading this who may be experiencing grief this holiday season xoxo

Video games...this year saw my relationship with video games change quite a bit. From around 2014 until this year, I'd say games were my top hobby. You probably feel the same, which is why you found your way here to someone else's list of favorite video games of 2020. But I am not saying this to shun the medium, only to show that this year was one of change for me. There was all the stuff that happened this year that everyone knows, and all the private stuff that I went through on top of that. That stuff was likely a net positive, but as a result I am slightly less into video games right now (fascinating, I know). There's a few games I wanted to get to but couldn't, and my biggest regret (in terms of this list) is that I wish I'd had time to play "Tell Me Why", since I love Dontnod and am sure I'll also love that game when I get to it.

Now, with that all having been said, let's rank these things (aside from the two honorable mentions)!

List items

  • Honorable Mention:

    I have not finished this game. I haven't even played 5 hours probably. It came out in the midst of familial tragedy, so I will have to play it next year. Nonetheless, it makes a fantastic first impression and I can't wait to put more time into it.

    What did I like? The way it sets up the protagonist and his mentor/surrogate father figure was really well done and I feel like I already knew the major characters and stakes after a few hours of playing. I also got a feel for the combat and city exploration, which impressed me. My only complaint is that the main character is another dude, and I'd like a game that lets you play as a woman from this series at some point. But, I wouldn't hold that against this particular game for any reason unless it pisses me off.

  • Honorable Mention:

    It shadowdropped on a day when I was really in need of some cheering up. This game is simply fucking delightful, though it gets old. I didn't finish it, but I'll always remember it fondly and might go back to it someday. It's like if project mayhem was run by inspector clouseau or something.

  • 10. Yes, the tenth best game of 2020 is a rerelease of an N64 game. Friendly reminder that all lists are subjective. This rerelease was very special to me as it came around on Switch right when I needed it. I was all set to take a road trip out midwest in the middle of a pandemic to help extricate a loved one from a dangerous situation. And having an old favorite like this to play on the trip was just a blast and a half (I'm sorry)! All the blocky graphics, corny sound effects and music ripped from the movies, and tight controls were exactly what I needed this year. The actual tracks in this game were okay, but I'd really like a portable version of Racer Revenge next year (I will accept Stadia ((no really, I have a stadia controller and android phone)) or Xcloud as an alternative to Switch. Don't call me a Switch port beggar please).

  • 9. Another blast of nostalgia here, but this game was also really fresh and fun in its own right. It is trying to capitalize on series nostalgia by recreating a retro experience, just with new characters (Cherry ftw!) and stages and all that good sequel stuff. You know. Anyway, it's here because I played it with my sister, the same person I played the old games with. We had a ball, the final boss fight was a real fun challenge. I'd recommend this to anyone who likes these kinds of brawlers.

  • 8. Last year I had Slay the Spire on my list, and this game is in the same vein. It is a deckbuilding roguelike, which is now I guess a favorite genre of mine (monster train switch port pls. forget what I said earlier, I'm a filthy port beggar). There's nothing I love more than bringing people together in a caravan to make their way across the vast wastelands, dodging trouble wherever it may crop up. So, it turns out that's what you do in this game. You dodge trouble by killing fools what mess with you and your people, mostly, but there is also a lot of great decision making.

    Along your journey, there are branching paths where you make a choice of some kind, as well as settlements to visit for their shops and landmarks. And all the while, your deck is in need of management as people in your caravan can become injured or die. I really enjoyed the layer of story and setting that this game draped over the gameplay of something like Slay the Spire.

    Nowhere Prophet is mostly here because it helped me to keep my hands busy while my mom was on her death bed. That's just a fact, sorry if it sounds grim.

  • 7. I'll have a lot of difficulty saying this: Resident Evil 3 didn't make the top 5. I was one of this game's defenders earlier this year (still am, fight me!). Clearly it isn't as good as REmake 2, but it entertained me and won me over with its charm and adherence to a formula I love. Shameful, I know, to like something that is formulaic and perhaps cynically made to capitalize on the history of a beloved franchise.

    Yet I really did like this game. "bitch can't even swim" is my favorite line from any game this year, and that's saying something. The donut shop save room had a lot of cool obstacles around it at various points in the game. The Nemesis fights are all epic and schlocky in the best way possible. REmake 3 goes down so easy, and invites you back for more if you so choose (I do).

    Can we get another mainline entry with playable Jill now, please?

    (I'm always asking for something)

  • 6. This one really surprised me. It was going to pass me by, but I decided to try it out based on my mood one night and it grabbed me. Normally X-com and the like are too involved for me, I don't get into all the base management and planning character builds and all that jazz. I'm more of a seat of the pants style of player, I guess. I'm impulsive and like to trial and error my way through games. Turns out, the people who made this spinoff know this trait about a likely sizeable chunk of Gears players and made a tactics game that wouldn't scare us away.

    Call it dumbed down or lacking in replayability, I honestly don't give a shit. I played a tactics RPG that felt like a shooter campaign and loved every minute.

  • 5. Here come the real heavy hitters! I came into this remake quite ready to be bored by it, or at least be unaffected by the nostalgia. I had a flirtation with FF7 back in the day, but never finished it (because it was too frustrating to make it up a mountain in disc 3 or something, I have no idea. I did eventually watch the ending on YouTube). Suffice to say, it was a long time since I'd had any real feelings on FF7 other than annoyance at the fanbase. No way they could win ME over!

    But, they did. Props to the localization team, who must have worked some real magic to get as many of the lines of dialogue to work as well as they did. The game has a lot of that same charm to it that the original did, but it's also more fleshed out and fun to play. It's a strictly better game than the original, but it also holds its own against other big games of the modern era.

    The writing and treatment of the characters, combined with the satisfying combat make this a shoo-in for number five. It didn't quite get higher for me because of its misshapenness and awkwardness. That's the best way I can put it. Something just ain't entirely right, but it's mostly a fun ride.

    And the ending just made me laugh, idk why people take this stuff so seriously i mean really have you even seen what's going on in the world its just a video gam-

  • 4. Everyone likes Hades! Everyone who plays Hades likes Hades! That's the sense I got on twitter at least, for the last few months. Hey! I like Hades too! I bought it in 2018 (installed epic launcher on day one lol), said, "I love you but we need to part until you have aged to perfection", and proceeded to buy it again for Switch this year. Hell of a game. That's it, story done.

    But wait! Why is it here??? Honestly, the story didn't really grab me. It was a weaker showing in terms of the plot for Supergiant. But the characters are VERY well designed, and the dialogue flows like you want it to. Obviously, the big draw here though is the combat. This is a very fun game, you'll be hitting buttons like crazy trying to dodge and get in attacks where you can against increasingly tough foes.

    I made it to the end once and unlocked the harder modes, but had already put 50 hours in and am likely done for now. It is here though because like Nowhere Prophet, Hades was a game I played during my mom's final days. I couldn't attack the cancer that was killing her, but Zagreus could attack the legions of the underworld and beat them back little by little. I felt like I was making steady progress against...something.

    And I really needed that this year, so thank you to Supergiant for another master class video game.

  • 3. HAHAHA

    I am silly sometimes. I hate Naughty Dog games, traditionally. Played Uncharted 1 from start to finish, hated everything about it. Played the first hour of Uncharted 2 and decided this wasn't a developer I liked, which is fine. There's a lot of folks making games that aren't for me. But, a friend convinced me to try playing TLOU remastered back in 2014 and I...still didn't like ND much. At least The Last of Us had some resemblance to Resident Evil, but I didn't really like the shooting or the crafting - or the story and cutscenes. It was an okay but forgettable experience to me.

    When TLOU2 came out, I was determined not to buy it. I held out for over a month, but that same friend from before kept telling me how great it was and not to listen to all the hate. Well, I played it and it's a really great game. I was not prepared to like it as much as I did. No spoilers, but THAT moment early on actually had me laughing hysterically.

    They won me over by doing the thing that pissed off so many gamers. They centered the story around women (there were still some weird forced "dad-ification of games" moments, but it was much more subdued here than in the first game).

    And they won me over by sticking the landing, while making the most fun third person shooter I've played since Control. I was baffled to see some people didn't like the gameplay, but there's no pleasing everyone.

  • 2. This game almost didn't make the list. Like, it was unplayable at launch on my Xbox One X. I made it to some water level where the frame rate was really hitchy and I got stuck in the level geometry, and dropped the game for over two months. They did fix it though, and I got back to the game. It's one of my favorite Metroidvanias of all time now, I think. Might have to play it again to be sure, but the whole thing delivered so well on the promises of that first Ori game.

    The visuals go beyond what I could describe in words, they've achieved something so stunning that it shouldn't even be possible. Let alone be playable by humans in 2020. It might be the prettiest game I've ever played, if that counts for anything. I know it counts for a lot in Metroidvanias. What fun would exploring a world be if that world was ugly and boring? Moon studios gets why people like the genre, they've crafted a world that is a joy to traverse. Which is made easier by Ori's revamped move set and abilities.

    Ori and the Will of the Wisps does the thing that good sequels do, which is building out from the first game to make something that is closer to perfect than that which came before. The modern era of Metroidvanias is so rich now, I love it. We have so many great developers making games like this, continuing the legacy that bigger companies have tried to step out of the shadow of. That should be celebrated. I love this genre and I love the Ori series!

  • 1. Obligatory "never saw it coming" comment.

    Some people are out there saying that Persona 5 Royal shouldn't be in consideration for GOTY because it isn't a brand new game. Well, fuck those people!

    If you've looked at my other lists, you'll see Persona 5 vanilla only made the number two spot. It was a little too flawed to call it my favorite game of that year. Royal fixes everything, though. They fixed the ending (by adding to it...a lot), they fixed a lot of the pacing issues and weird restrictions, they even fixed Mementos!

    My eyes might have glazed over when I was forced to replay boss fights from three years earlier, but this was a hugely additive experience as someone familiar with the vanilla version. The new characters and ending gave me a sense of closure that the original didn't. That new chunk of story was written well enough to jive with the themes of the main game and also provide a much tighter and definitive ending. And the game itself is still really fun, mixing dungeon crawling with a social sim in a way that feels really fresh and rewarding.

    Part of 2020 for me was realizing that I don't have to play every video game that comes out. I started to play only the ones that ACTUALLY interest me, like a rational human being. This was one of them, and it didn't let me down. It surpassed my expectations (which were fairly light) and gave me another 100 hours of heart stealing fun!

    I loved all of the games on this list. There were a bunch of others I played this year, some I beat, but they just didn't do a whole lot for me.

    For my new years resolution: gameing edition, I will resolve to try to stick to playing only the games that genuinely pique my interest. If anyone else has a gaming new years resolution, feel free to drop it in the comments. Otherwise, see you next year! But first, we have a special DIShonorable mention:


    Fuck everyone at Nintendo who OK'd this project without any kind of improvements on the original games. I don't care what they say they did, they didn't do shit.

    All-Stars my foot