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10 Games I Enjoyed in 2020 (and Five More I Need to Make Time For in 2021)

2020 was a weird fucking year, and that's probably why I'm writing this list up in the middle of March. But there were a lot of great games to distract us from deadly viruses and failed insurrections, so that was cool.

The bottom five games on this list are games I've played a little and enjoyed a lot, but just need to put more time into.

List items

  • Yeah, Disco Elysium came out in 2019. I played it in 2020. It was the first game I played after the COVID-19 pandemic sent us all into lockdown, and it's bizarre cocktail of reality, fantasy, mystery, philosophy, and surrealism became the perfect escape for the early quarantine days.

    The game is a love letter to CRPGs of days past, but carves its own niche by having much of the story's direction be determined by conversations you have with the different parts of your own subconscious. The story is gripping start to finish and the world they have created around the narrative is incredibly dense, almost needlessly so, but all of it is just incredibly interesting and well written. It might say a lot that one the games I'm most looking forward to in 2021 is the "Final Cut" edition of Disco Elysium, which is fully voice acted and optimized for consoles. The characters of Disco Elysium are complex and human in a way few games achieve, and if the voice acting comes close to matching the quality of the performances we heard when the Protagonist was hearing his subconscious , we are in for a treat.

    Simply put: I've never experienced a game like Disco Elysium before, and that's why it's at the top of this list.

  • On the other end of the pandemic spectrum is Ghost of Tsushima, a game that is almost beat for beat an Assassin's Creed game set during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima island in the late 1200s. On the surface, that might sound like it's a dig at the game, but it's not. I love the Assassin's Creed formula. I haven't gotten sick of it yet. Fans have been begging for Ubisoft to set one of their murder simulators in Japan for over a decade at this point and Sucker Punch, doing their best Thanos impression, slid on the Infinity Gauntlet and said "Fine, we'll do it ourselves".

    The game plays around with lots of samurai movie tropes, often trying and sometimes succeeding to pay homage to the great Akira Kurosawa. I never got sick of the sword standoffs when you came upon a group of Mongols, and the boss fights were some of the most cinematic I've ever seen in a video game. Ghost of Tsushima also features one of the best photo modes I've ever used, and I used it A LOT. My desktop background right now is a shot I created in the photo mode, and has been since July.

    More than anything though, the game is just damn fun to play. It's fun traversing the beautiful Tsushima island on horseback (even if the in-game island takes a lot of artistic liberties with the topography of the real-life Tsushima). It's fun happening upon a patrol of Mongols and cutting them down in short order. It's fun slowly transforming into the Ghost over the course of the game, and watching your enemies flee at the very sight of you. That never got old.

  • With Hades, Supergiant Games answered the question "What if a rogue-like also had a dope story and interesting characters?". Hades nailed that, and then they nailed the actual gameplay too. It gives you all the highs you'd expect from the genre, like the feeling of meaningful progression, the joy of finding that one super broken build that just absolutely bends the game to your iron will, and reasons to keep playing after you've "beaten the game".

    Hades is cool. I played a lot of Hades last year. I should play more Hades this year.

  • This game, y'all. This game just beats the shit out of you from start to finish, and it really doesn't let up. Every time you think it can't get worse? It gets worse. Every time a character enjoys a brief moment of respite or - god forbid - happiness? Something truly horrific and traumatizing is about to go down, guaranteed.

    And I loved every second of it.

    The Last of Us II refines the stealth and on the fly crafting mechanics from the first game that made it so fun and interesting to play, and really cranks that up to 11, giving you much larger spaces to play around it and much more ways to brutally murder (or cleverly avoid!) all of the baddies in your way.

    The story will stick with you. Probably forever. It's not a "fun" game. But it is a GREAT game.

  • Insomniac took a lot of what was great about the original Spider-Man game - the combat, the traversal, and the story - and improved and refined that into an easy-to-beat-in-a-weekend package. It is arguably the better of the two Spider-Man games on the back of it's length and story alone, but they also did away with a lot of the weird "lets be friends with the cops and fix their invasive surveillance towers" shit that made the original Spider-Man game uncomfortable at times.

  • They mad men did it - they remade Tony Hawk (again) and it didn't suck ass! The original Tony Hawk games were a blast, and the remake captures everything you remember about those games with updated visuals and a buttery smooth framerate. It's also got the hip old dad version of Tony Hawk in it, which is a bonus.

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons was an obsession for me for the first few months it was out, but I admittedly fell off pretty hard after getting my island where I wanted it to be. But it was my first Animal Crossing game, and I had a ton of fun with it.

    I just recently went back to it since the Mario 35th anniversary items were added, and the itch is sort of coming back. But also Valheim is like, right there...

  • First off, a big fuck you to whatever executives or directors or managers that decided this game was ready to come out. It wasn't. An open world RPG based on the Cyberpunk tabletop game and developed by the makers of The Witcher should have been a slam dunk, but they fucked it up. They fucked up with their hype cycle. They fucked up with their like four different delays. They fucked up by releasing a game that was basically unplayable on the last-gen consoles. They fucked up a lot of stuff.

    But perhaps the biggest sign that that fucked up is that what they released was actually still pretty damn good. But it should have been better. It should've been #1 on this list. It should've been one of the best games ever made. It had that potential. The game shines in many missions and in it's dialogue with characters like Judy, Panam, even Johnny Silverhand (if you can look past a rather uneven performance by Keanu Reeves).

    Cyberpunk 2077 is like if your grandma gave you her award-winning apple pie recipe for you to make for a family gathering. You proceed to carefully measure out the ingredients, roll out the dough, chop up the apples, and begin to assemble it with care and precision. But then, you notice you're running out of time, and your family will be here soon, so you hastily throw it in the oven. You hear a car pull into the driveway, and realize that you're out of time. They're here, they're knocking on the door. They want that fucking pie. You didn't have it ready the last three times they came over, and they're starting to lose faith that you even know how to make a pie. You have to deliver this time. So you take it out of the oven, even though there's another 20 minutes on the timer, and you place it out on the table. You open the door, and as your family enters they detect the scent of apple pie in the air and thank you for finally FINALLY having the pie this time.

    Then you serve the pie and as your family takes their first bite, they spit it out in disgust. Why? Because in your haste, you forgot the sugar and the crust is a raw, doughy mess, you fucking idiot.

  • Much like Animal Crossing, Fall Guys is a game I got super into right at launch and burnt out on quickly, mainly because I'm too competitive and took the game too seriously, and Fall Guys is way too random to take seriously.

    But it keeps getting updates, and I'll keep going back to it from time to time.

  • I really enjoyed Yakuza: Like a Dragon, but it suffers from many of the same tropes that make JRPGs one of my least favorite genres - namely overly long boss battles and tedious grinding to level up and be strong enough to take on said overly long boss battles.

    Still, the game is Yakuza through and through, Kiryu is a loveable goofball and a wonderful addition to the Yakuza cast, and I hope they make more games starring him.

  • Astro's Playroom almost landed in my top ten, but it just barely missed the cut. I haven't tackled any of the time trial levels, which makes me feel like I've given this game a bit of short shrift. The utilization of the DualSense controller features is incredible, and really has to be experienced to be believed.

  • I love Assassin's Creed. I love Vikings and Norse mythology. I'm pretty sure I'm going to like AC Valhalla. But after slogging through the final hours of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I just haven't had the energy to embark on another 80-hour game. But I will very soon.

  • Doom Enteral was a casualty of it's release date, as it landed on the same day as Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I could not have predicted that I'd be more obsessed with an Animal Crossing game than a sequel to one of my favorite single player first person shooters ever, but here we are. Like I said, 2020 was fucking weird.

  • I've played the opening hour or so of Spiritfarer, and it seems like a really fun and charming experience that I'm excited to dig more into. It also seems like it's probably gonna be super sad and make me cry.

  • Much like Doom Eternal, Paper Mario was a victim of it's release date. Coming out the same day as Ghost of Tsushima, Paper Mario just fell by the wayside almost immediately. I've actually played maybe 1/3rd of it, and so far I really like the combat system. The writing in the game is also very sharp and super funny. I'll finish this one in due time.