@verysexypotato: I ended up playing SMTIV Apocalypse. I enjoyed it quite a bit! Though I can't really compare it to any other mainline SMT game either, since it's the only one I've played.
MajorMitch's forum posts
Into the Breach, Hollow Knight, and Hades are all-time favorites that I liked as much as anything from last gen, indie or otherwise. The Witness, Axiom Verge, and Outer Wilds are a few others I loved.
Though I think we've passed the point where we have to make big distinctions between "indie" and "AAA". Indie games are video games, and they can be very, very good.
Not a video documentary, but if you're up for books then Jason Schreier's Blood, Sweat, and Pixels has a lot of great behind the scenes insight and interviews into the development struggles, failures, and successes of 10 different games (1 chapter per game). I found it to be a very interesting read, but I also just like reading about the process of making games :)
You and others have already mentioned noclip, but a whole lot of their stuff is great.
I made a list! Eventually I'll write a more expanded rankings to touch on the games I played past my top 10.
It’s hard to know where to start with Hades. I could talk about how good the action feels, when you’re dashing and attacking in harmony with dangerous foes. I could talk about how much variety exists within each run, and how replayable it is. I could talk about the smooth progression of customizable upgrades that, at times, almost make it feel as much like a traditional single player campaign as a roguelike. I could talk about the sharp writing, keen attention to detail, infectious characters, and undeniable personality in all aspects of Hades’ presentation; not to mention its stunning art and killer soundtrack. Or I could talk about how all of these parts are executed to near perfection on their own, yet still come together to form a whole greater than their sum. Hades is a game that knows precisely what it wants to be, and nails its cohesive vision with such boundless positive energy and gusto that I can’t help but be smitten with it. On top of being a supremely well-made game, Hades makes its mark on me personally as the first roguelike I’ve fallen utterly in love with. It’s a genre I’ve generally appreciated more than I’ve enjoyed playing, but through a series of smart, considered design decisions, Hades meets me in the middle. It manages to retain the genre’s biggest strengths (variety and replayability run after run) while avoiding its biggest frustrations (overbearing RNG and obtuseness). Just as profound is the way Hades leverages its run-based structure to empower its narrative trappings, which reveals new potential I didn’t know the genre had. So here I am, 100+ runs into a roguelike, and loving every minute of it. Hades is the best game Supergiant has made by some margin, easily my favorite roguelike to date, one of my favorite games of all time, and most importantly for this list, my clear game of the year. It’s an incredible thing.
|2. Final Fantasy VII Remake|
I had no idea what to expect going in, but Final Fantasy VII Remake is nothing if not bold and audacious. Yes, ballooning the first 5 hours of the original game into its own 40 hour epic certainly comes with its share of filler. But it also allows Remake to dive much, much deeper into Midgar, Shinra, AVALANCHE, and its large cast of memorable characters. In fact, the narrative beats of FFVII are perhaps more resonant now than ever, and Remake’s portrayal and exploration of the first chapter of this classic is simultaneously extravagant and powerful. It also looks amazing, sounds even better -- holy crap is its adaptive soundtrack a treat -- and sports a fresh new take on the series’ strategic combat. And while its divisive ending could have been executed better, it certainly has me eager to see more. A remake of FFVII could never have the same impact as the beloved original. But a Remake? Count me in.
|3. Monster Train|
I’m as surprised as anyone that a second roguelike has wormed its way so high up this list, but Monster Train somehow pulls together numerous disparate ideas into a smart, balanced, and cohesive whole that really hooked me. I love trying out the different clan combinations and champions, and how unique they all are. I love the flow of a run and how you are presented with fewer, more meaningful battles and upgrades. I love the complex battles which reward thinking ahead and careful tactical play. I love the card synergies, and how you can create some absurdly powerful combos. I love the slick UI and generous amount of information it surfaces, which helps you make educated decisions. Monster Train is the kind of surprise I love this medium for, a game I could have never expected, yet kept coming back to throughout the year. And with more updates on the way, I’ll continue riding that train into 2021.
|4. Demon's Souls|
Is it cheating to include a remake of an 11 year old game on this list, one that’s mostly unchanged aside from graphical and performance enhancements? Especially when said game is already an all-time favorite? Maybe. But revisiting Demon’s Souls on the PlayStation 5 in 2020 serves as a poignant reminder of what made From Software’s iconic series stand out in the first place. The keen attention to detail, the trust it puts in the player, the intricate character-building options, the immaculately designed levels, the iconic enemies and bosses, the bold online features; it was all there from the start, and still holds up today. And on next gen hardware it looks and sounds truly incredible, and performs even better. It’s a magnificent facelift for a bonafide classic, and a strong showpiece for what the new consoles are capable of.
|5. Desperados III|
Desperados III was my first foray into this type of real-time tactical stealth game, and if its quality is indicative of the genre at large, it almost certainly won’t be my last. My favorite moments were when I was in the thick of it, deep into a mission surrounded by numerous guards and obstacles. That’s when I was forced to get creative, to make use of all the ridiculous and exciting abilities spread between my team of varied and entertaining characters, and craft my own solutions to the problems at hand. I appreciate how much trust Desperados III places in its players, and it works thanks to a super slick UI, stellar level design, and a varied campaign that constantly shakes things up and presents new problems to solve.
|6. Paradise Killer|
“Lady Love Dies,” “Doctor Doom Jazz,” and “Witness to the End” are but a few of the character names in Paradise Killer, and give a mere glimpse into the style this game is dripping with. It builds its own bizarre mythos, fills it out with wacky but endearing characters, and ties it all together with a bold art style and an absolutely groovy soundtrack. Best of all, however, is how it sets you loose to investigate its detailed island, and weaves a compelling mystery into every corner of it. What unfolds is a tale about power, who desires and wields it, and how they manipulate others to get what they want. Piecing it together myself was a real treat, and made for a fascinating and highly memorable open world detective game unlike anything I’ve played.
|7. The Last of Us Part II|
Allow me to have a rare measured take on The Last of Us Part II: this is a very good video game that also has some flaws. It’s easily the best stealth action Naughty Dog has crafted to date, and I had a lot of fun sneaking my way through its varied, detailed environments to systematically take down enemies for the entirety of its lengthy runtime; not to mention its numerous exciting set piece moments. Yet I will remember The Last of Us Part II primarily as a bold and intense character study of Ellie, not as a hero, but as a broken, violent person living in a broken, violent world. Exploring just how far she could fall was wrenching, and when presented with incredible production values and top-notch acting, it really stuck with me.
|8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps|
Ori and The Will of the Wisps is one of those games that didn’t stick with me all that long after I finished it, but I greatly enjoyed every moment I spent with it. Like its predecessor, this is a beautiful game, with gorgeous art that looks even better in motion, a sweeping orchestral musical score, and some effective and emotional narrative moments. Yet even with all those standout traits, the act of playing Ori is still where it shines brightest. This is a tight platformer with more than adequate combat, and a lush, detailed world that’s fun to explore. I didn’t put this game down until I had found every item and completed every challenge it put before me. It’s just a good, polished game in every aspect, one that was a real treat to play.
|9. Animal Crossing: New Horizons|
New Horizons will forever be associated with the initial COVID-19 lockdown, but there’s no denying the timeliness of its release. Animal Crossing’s daily routine structure has never fit with the way I like to play games, but in 2020, such a grounded routine was welcome. Of course, it helps that this latest iteration came with improved progression, the ability to decorate your entire island, and a gorgeous audiovisual presentation. Having an equally invested friend group further helped keep me invested, and I’ll be damned if the stalk market didn’t hook me too. Some quality of life improvements are still needed, and I eventually burnt out on the Animal Crossing structure once more. But only after New Horizons charmed me for months.
|10. Gears Tactics|
Gears Tactics is better than it has any right to be. Not only does it translate the long-running shooter franchise into a turn-based tactics game surprisingly accurately -- complete with chest-high walls, curb stomps, chainsaws, and e-holes -- it also introduces plenty of fresh ideas to stand tall on its own as a tactics game. I especially like the action economy, where careful use of your characters’ skills can generate bonus actions to create some exciting combos and powerful turns; it’s a different way of thinking that had me consistently engaged in my moment to moment play. I could have done without the unnecessary loot and padded length, but Gears Tactics works as both a Gears game and a tactics game better than I could have expected.
The first game I booted up on my Series S was Jet Force Gemini...
@slag: Thanks! I would also love to see a "tell all" book about those 2 games, but knowing Nintendo we may never get one, haha. I don't really blame younger players for not "getting" why OoT was (and still is) such an important game for the medium either, as I get why that's the case for them. It happens with pretty much anything, and they don't need to revere OoT to like modern games. But it does pose an interesting dynamic, and also an odd disconnect between generations in some ways, especially thinking about how people will look at the history of video games in the future. Does a game like OoT get lost to time eventually? (Pun not intended.) Probably... there are probably equally influential older games I'm not aware of because I'm too young for them too. Video games are still new enough that we still have people who have been around more or less since the beginning and have that perspective, but those days are numbered.
@wollywoo: Thanks for sharing! I agree, the world, characters, and story had a certain quality to them that's hard to describe, and struck a balance between being very unrealistic and "gamey" but also still relatable and personable. And it was still able to conjure up real emotions and feelings with a somewhat simple veneer. I think Nintendo at their best can be very artistic in that more understated way, which I think can be extremely effective in video games, and also shows a real passion (and talent) for the craft as you say :)
@shindig: Yeah... if OoT didn't work for you, I imagine Wind Waker might not as well. Unless you got into sailing and exploring the ocean (or just prefer its art style), there's a good amount of shared DNA between the 2 games.
@judoboy:Thanks for sharing! It can be hard to describe the impact and feeling of games sometimes, and OoT was definitely one of those magical experiences for me as well :)
Thanks @rorie I'll tweet at you when I go live as well, but here's my info for my stream tomorrow! I plan to go for 16 hours (until midnight), and will play the RE3 remake, Bloodstained COTM 2, and possibly more Hades depending on time :D
SITE USERNAME: MajorMitch
LINK TO TWITCH OR YOUR STREAMING CHANNEL OF CHOICE: twitch.tv/jmfowler
LINK TO YOUR EXTRA LIFE FUNDRAISING PAGE: https://www.extra-life.org/participant/Justin-Fowler
DATE STARTING: 11/7/2020
TIME STARTING (WITH TIME ZONE): 8:30am EST
@fluidk: Wow, that's kind of amusing reading about that experience now, but I would be incredibly frustrated if that happened to me, haha. KOTOR certainly has some issues around its binary light/dark systems, you are punished for not min/maxing one way or the other with things like skills or, in your case, armor. And that kind of sucks.
@junkerman: Thanks! I definitely remember greatly enjoying the Star Wars feel of KOTOR, and fully agree that it captured that intangible Star Wars "magic" in a way that very few pieces of Star Wars media has since the original trilogy. That's definitely a big reason I remember KOTOR so fondly. I also don't remember Taris being that bad... I didn't even know it was such a contentious part of the game! Maybe I would feel differently if I replayed the game, but at the time I found it a perfectly OK introduction to the universe and story they were telling.
@mikemcn: Ha! I probably would have never understood KOTOR was a D&D game either had I not started playing actual D&D around the same time! I think that's a strength though that they involved D&D rules without the player needing to know D&D.
@inevpatoria: That's cool that it held up for you! I haven't played this game in probably 15 years, and have wanted to revisit it for a long time, but, you know, time. I would think some aspects would feel dated like you mention, given they were expanded in later works like Mass Effect, but at the time that stuff was pretty profound to me.
@thesquarepear: I think that's a big part of what made KOTOR stand out to me as well, that feeling of being connected to the characters more than most video games of the time. At the time it was very impactful for me!
@fluidk: @inevpatoria: Interesting, in my memory Taris is a fairly standard tutorial area, I don't remember is standing out for much more than that. I admittedly have not played this game in a long time, and I'm sure there are things that don't hold up as well as they could, but that's not one I would have expected.