List of Games Beaten in 2020

Gaming in the 2020s! I predict it'll be another quiet year, at least until the new consoles show up (and maybe a little after then, since launch libraries are rarely anything to write home about). I'll probably spend most of this year trying to polish off all the standouts of the previous decade; I've still got a lot to get through.

Here we go:

List items

  • 09/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-second Indie Game of the Week. A delightful game about ghosts, frogs, wool, dancing, science, and the importance of oral hygiene. More of an interactive kid's cartoon than a detective game. Wholesome but wafer-thin. (4 Stars.)

  • 12/01. A carry-over from last year, where it was the December Bucketlog entry. Despite not really caring for Fire Emblem, this FE/SMT cross over might be my favorite of the MegaTen games, at least mechanically speaking. The sessions system, though it makes every battle twice as long, is a fun idea that has you pondering the best chains to use and all the showbiz flourishes definitely lent the game a distinct personality. (5 Stars.)

  • 22/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-third Indie Game of the Week. Avadon 2 is much like the first: you play a cop in a corrupt system that might still be the only failsafe to prevent all-out war, and you fight a lot of monsters and brigands in an isometric grid-based battle system. Not much to look at and very similar to other Spiderweb games, but I like to drop back into this series occasionally for that boost of nostalgia. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-fourth Indie Game of the Week. A chilling space thriller that feels part Event Horizon and part Aliens, that largely deals with unethical science and how much more messed up it can get with space-age technology. Some really irksome and unintuitive puzzles towards the end mars an otherwise atmospheric and disturbing adventure game. (3 Stars.)

  • 26/01. The adventures of Luigi and Gooigi sounded like one of the highlights of 2019, so I was fortunate enough to receive it as a gift and took to cleaning up the massive hotel and its unusual thematic choices of floors. I think this game could be considered the best you're going to get out of its specific model of vacuuming up trash in the hopes that money or a Boo pops out, and I enjoyed its endless imagination. Kinda wish I had a better use for that money than the usual Wario Land "you get a better castle at the end". (5 Stars.)

  • 31/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. More first-person real-time dungeon crawlers are starting to emerge after the surprise success of the Grimrock games, and Vaporum might be the first to hit the same highs. As well as nailing its eerie steampunk atmosphere, there's some new great features - a button that makes time stand still, so you can think about your next move or make timing-based puzzles easier - and a heavier emphasis on epistolary storytelling. Makes me hopeful this hoary sub-genre isn't running out of steam, so to speak. (5 Stars.)

  • 05/02. A superb open-world RPG from Obsidian, very much aligned with what they were doing with Fallout New Vegas with a whole new setting that still balances older visions of the future with jeremiads on rampant capitalism and corporate ownership. It almost feels like what might've happened to the Fallout universe if the bombs didn't drop and they reached the Space Age. Gameplay's good - the slow-motion is an adequate VATS replacement - and having multiple worlds makes for a fine change of pace. Just wish it was a little bigger in every sense of the term - world mass, items, mechanics - but I know if it was, Obsidian would still be ironing out bugs to this day. Good on them for exercising some restraint, I suppose. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Cute little game about dropping things in holes, somewhat scuppered by the law of conservation of detail that smaller Indie devs have to abide by. Katamari (which clearly inspired Donut County) could fill its levels with all sorts of junk and let the player pick their route through it; with Donut County, there's almost always only one ordered critical path. Still, it's very charming and some uncomplicated fun while it lasts. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/02. It's been too damn long - almost six years! - since I last partook in Falcom's other major RPG series. Trails in the Sky SC not only has the excellent writing (and localization!) and characterization of the former, but the combat's been tweaked for the higher difficulty and made far more complex and compelling as a result. It's hard to name too many JRPGs that are operating on this game's level, despite its slightly antiquated look. (5 Stars.)

  • 20/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. I've got a twofer here for the 158th slot: Ludosity's ZX-inspired Princess Remedy duo are action games that feel like miniature Zelda shoot 'em ups, presented as abstract battles of medicines versus ailments. The exploration angle and the snappy dialogue help elevate its action core further. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. See above, really. Heap of Trouble is an improved commercial sequel/reboot that adds a few new quirks and features to the format of the original, but otherwise plays and looks the same. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. Gunpoint in space would be a reductive way to put Heat Signature, but it hits the same highs of hilarious violence and a test of the player's spontaneous improvisational abilities. There's a dizzying amount of customization and variation the player could use to finish the current mission. I arbitrarily determined the game completion point as my current character's "personal mission" (a high-difficulty mission that allows that character to happily retire) but as a roguelike there's always an endless amount to do. (5 Stars.)

  • 29/02. One of the best open-world games I've played, due to a combination of excellent, varied combat, exploration that rewards puzzle-solving and perception, and a huge amount of incidental lore and backstory to pursue. I'm not quite done with it as of the 29th - there's a few Valkyries and collectibles left - but it's proven to be an excellent way to suffer through a cold month. After all, the UK in February is hardly as bad as Niflheim during the Fimbulwinter. (5 Stars.)

  • 07/03. The one-hundred-and-sixtieth Indie Game of the Week. An explormer that scrapped the gentle point-and-click format of its forebear but retained the more interesting aspects, like a gradually learned musical language that the game folds into its traversal upgrade system. It's a bit rough in spots but I think it has more depth than most give it credit for. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/03. The one-hundred-and-sixty-first Indie Game of the Week. Played on Friday the 13th, this horror adventure game doesn't quite hit the same highs of depravity and weirdness as its predecessor The Cat Lady and is quite shorter also, largely because it's a remake of the studio's first game. Some real "low opinion of humanity" vibes, but that edge serves it well. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/03. The one-hundred-and-sixty-second Indie Game of the Week. Almost the exact opposite of the previous tonally, A Short Hike initially feels like a 3D platformer but considerably less goal-oriented, a bit closer to an Animal Crossing in practice where it's more about soaking in the chill atmosphere. Make your way to the top of the local mountain at any pace you wish. (4 Stars.)

  • 26/03. The one-hundred-and-sixty-third Indie Game of the Week. Daniel Mullins returns with the fourth-wall breaking havoc that endeared Pony Island to the few that discovered it, and The Hex feels like the same idea writ large with a more overt "creations versus their creator" tale with a genre-hopping gameplay core. Playing it wasn't always fun, but it has the sort of unpredictable narrative that hooks you. (4 Stars.)

  • 31/03. A month-long odyssey brings me to the end of Monolith Soft's latest overwhelming RPG, full of narrative twists and deeply intertwined systems and features. It doesn't quite hit the same highs as the first, and I could take or leave its gacha-style delivery of new "Blades", but it's a damn fine open-world RPG released in a year that had no shortage of them. (5 Stars.)

  • 10/04. The one-hundred-and-sixty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. A very faithful recreation of an ahead of its time Master System/Game Gear explormer from the '80s. Definitely plays like an antique for better and worse, though the hand-drawn art style adds a lot. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/04. The one-hundred-and-sixty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. A Recettear with a bit more polish and an evocative art style, it has a strong gameplay loop but suffers from the usual procgen/roguelike repetitiveness in longer stretches. Spending some time away from the dungeon to sell your spoils and upgrade the town a little helps mitigate that flaw to a degree, though. I also wish it had more ranged options, because parsing those hitbox zones wasn't always as intuitive as I'd have preferred. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/04. The one-hundred-and-sixty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Another Clifftop Games joint following in the footprints of Jane Jensen's better investigative adventure games, Whispers of a Machine has a cyberpunk edge that allows it some Deus Ex indulgences with divergent paths/puzzles based on how you've chosen to develop the protagonist's skills. I also dig its anti-technology, mostly agrarian variation of a post-apocalyptic world. (5 Stars.)

  • 26/04. A cybernetic Souls-like that took way longer than I anticipated it would, as I picked my way through its technological corporate meltdown and its gratis DLC scenarios. Some interesting features to the usual format, including an upgrade system that has you severing body parts before you learn how to build them, and a character development system that is almost wholly focused on versatile "implants". A bit rough around the edges but compelling in its own right, probably on a tier with Nioh and Salt & Sanctuary. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/04. Picked up a few of these Switch Picross games since they went on sale for the first time recently. Picross S is slick but quite limited, especially with how its tougher "Mega Picross" puzzle set simply repurposed the original puzzle set. I'm hoping the sequels have more ideas and less shortcuts. (3 Stars.)

  • 08/05. The one-hundred-and-sixty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. I played the original Splosion Man way back in the day for 360, but I slept on its slightly improved sequel. A very chaotic and exacting platformer that frustrates as often as it delights, especially when you're expected to 'splode stationary barrels while flying across the screen at the speed of sound, I still overall liked it for its Looney Tunes humor and rapid pace. (4 Stars.)

  • 08/05. The one-hundred-and-sixty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. While I didn't see every possible route, the template of Burly Men at Sea and its branching path of possible encounters made it a compelling way to tell a story, if only to a degree. Once you'd seen most of the "start" choices and had to proceed past them multiple times to get to the later branches, it lost its spark. Looked nice, though, with the minimalist style and light colors. (3 Stars.)

  • 16/05. The one-hundred-and-seventieth Indie Game of the Week. Death's Gambit might be the first case of a "Soulslite" I've seen; the same grim and gothic aesthetic, a similar level of challenge albeit in a 2D context where platforming is much more a factor, and a similar character progression system and shortcut-enabled level design. However, it's much more compact and not nearly as demanding as typical Souls, or even Soulslikes of a 2D bent like Hollow Knight or Salt and Sanctuary. I didn't dislike it though; it had some fun ideas for bosses and I appreciated that one of the classes was essentially "Bloodborne mode". (4 Stars.)

  • 21/05. One of only two "May Millennials" - older CRPGs released around the dawn of the 21st century - that I actually managed to complete that month. Gothic II is like the first but much larger in scope, still tinkering with its little ecosystems and your participation in same as you play factions against each other and slowly work your way up the food chain to take on harder assignments and explore the more hostile areas of the island setting. I really like this series, but if they keep getting bigger I'm not sure I'm going to find the time for them every year. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/05. Marginally improved over the first with its new "Clip Picross" mode, that has you building much larger pixel images via a composite of smaller picross puzzles. It's a cool idea I've seen done elsewhere, but S2 only has five of them and then it's back to the standard 150 normal puzzles followed by the same 150 images with the tougher "mega picross" rules. Given how much these games charge, I wish they still had a bit more in the tank. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/05. The one-hundred-and-seventy-first Indie Game of the Week. Surprised not only by how much I enjoyed this Zelda action-adventure, but by how straightforward it was given the reputation of the series and its deliberately strange artistic choices. Entering people's brains to complete Zelda dungeons thematically based on their psychoses is a neat idea I hope the real Zelda series decides to follow up on one day. (4 Stars.)

  • 31/05. The other completed May Millennials game this year. Titan Quest goes on a little bit too long and the PS4 version of the remaster is replete with bugs, but it's easy to understand how this Diablo also-ran could find an audience of dedicated hack-and-slashers with its mythically-derived menagerie and a novel character building system that affords you more control over very specific builds. I think I'm good on any future NG+ loops, but it was nice to get briefly captivated by a loot RPG again. (3 Stars.)

  • 01/06. The one-hundred-and-seventy-second Indie Game of the Week. Ethnobotany and post-apocalyptic mutations are merely the backdrop to this emotional adventure game about a small, close-knit community. A bit ponderous, but easy to fall in love with. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/06. Falcom's decennial Xanadu reboots have allowed them to get more experimental than they could with the more structurally defined Trails and Ys series, with Tokyo Xanadu offering a look at their take on Atlus's Persona franchise. One key difference is that the combat is as fast and intense as Ys, with an arcade, high-score chasing sensibility that requires split-second strategizing and real-time combat. Not much to look at and a little too prone to clichés, but like all Falcom games it's got it where it counts. (5 Stars.)

  • 21/06. The one-hundred-and-seventy-fifth Indie Game of the Week. A charming Zelda-like with a stronger emphasis on combat over puzzles and exploration, though it's certainly not lacking for either. Notably quite challenging, despite its cute appearance. (4 Stars.)

  • (Mobility for Itch.io) 22/06. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A stage-based masocore like Super Meat Boy or N+, but with variable modes that allows you to take on the same levels with blocks disappearing or turning deadly for an extra layer of challenge and some new pathing required. Very brief, but offers a decent challenge. Didn't care for that final boss though. (3 Stars.)

  • 22/06. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. Hard to rate this as a game, because it stands better as an interactive art piece than a vignette-based video game with simple puzzles and repeated instances. The message is a little scrambled too: a diatribe against mindless conformity or a symbolic representation of the awkwardness of our teenage years? Or just a bunch of stickpeople falling in holes? Unclear. (2 Stars.)

  • 22/06. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A picturesque series of diaramas that slowly reveal themselves to be much more than initially meets the eyes, with each everyday setting transforming and mutating to something otherwise fantastic. Great little trippy game to play in the wee early hours, when you're already halfway between reality and the sleeping world. (3 Stars.)

  • 26/06. The one-hundred-and-seventy-sixth Indie Game of the Week. Functional if undemanding puzzle game based on tangram shapes: using the same seven pieces to form a variety of different images. Some organization and presentation problems let it down a little, but entirely inoffensive and approachable to anyone regardless of their puzzle-solving prowess. (3 Stars.)

  • 04/07. The one-hundred-and-seventy-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Wonderful 16-bit JRPG throwback that packs its world with so much detail, both narratively and graphically, and has the same sort of approach to modernization that the Zeboyd games boast. What you want but so rarely get with these SNES-styled "RPG Maker" type games. (5 Stars.)

  • 06/07. I finished Watch Dogs around the time when all the Ubisoft misogyny and abuse allegations were coming to light, and it was somehow oddly fitting. Watch Dogs is a miserable game that treats its female characters like garbage but at least has some novel ideas - most of which revolve around hacking in some way, surprise surprise - that would find better purchase in the more upbeat Watch Dogs 2. At least, I suspect so, since I plan to move onto it eventually... or had before this Ubisoft business left a foul taste in my mouth. Yuckers. (3 Stars.)

  • (Cuckoo Castle for Itch.io.) 06/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A Game Boy-inspired mini-explormer with a character switching feature that also doubles as the usual traversal upgrade system. Cute in its micro-sized ambitions, but the combat's a bit too chaotic: very easy to take hits without knowing how and why. (3 Stars.)

  • 07/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. Kinda basic explormer that looks like it was made in a week with Unity and MS Paint, though the elemental environment manipulation was a neat idea that could use some fleshing out. (3 Stars.)

  • 09/07. The one-hundred-and-seventy-eighth Indie Game of the Week. An Irish adventure game that had movie-level animation quality (positively Bluthian, even) and a two hour run time to match. Despite being over almost as quickly as it started, it had a decent array of inventory puzzles, some less fun lilypad puzzles, and a certain streak of wholesomeness that made it hard to dislike. (4 Stars.)

  • 17/07. The one-hundred-and-seventy-ninth Indie Game of the Week. A rare 3D hidden objects game, the objects invariably being cats and yarnballs. Scanning around the game's many picturesque wintry scenes for mewling felines was compelling in the way all these Where's Waldo types are, but I wished it had more variety. Still, seems like the developers made several sequels in different settings, so I might hunt those down if I'm in a casual, kitty-loving mood again. (3 Stars.)

  • 19/07. The Ace Attorney franchise is on full throttle here for the possibly last outing of Phoenix, Apollo, Athena, and co.. It was both heartwarming and weird to bump into adult versions of Maya and Pearl Fey after seeing them as kids for so many games (they've barely changed personality-wise, at least) and all the Séance business gave these cases some fun twists to suss out. I also appreciated that they vastly cut down on the less interesting "Investigation" portions of the game, though it still dragged a bit overall. Not the worst game for these characters to go out on, if that proves to be the case. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/07. This is specifically for the Randomizer ROM hack, which I played with both Skulltula Madness and Keysanity settings enabled (I really wouldn't recommend either, and especially not together). Richly rewarding in an entirely new way that demanded I summon every dreg of Ocarina of Time knowledge to make any progress. Challenging doesn't begin to describe that process. Oh, right, and Ocarina of Time still kicks ass too. (5 Stars.)

  • 21/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. An Indie Zeldalike that, unlike most, chose to ape Link's Awakening in particular. Charming as a microcosm of that franchise, but flavorless as a potential successor and far too surface-level with its puzzles and item usage. (3 Stars.)

  • 21/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A dry yet compelling psychological horror game about depression and "routine therapy": maintaining a cycle of repeated steps to return oneself to a state of normalcy. Doesn't quite fly off the precipice the way some other mental health-related games might, to its reserved credit, and still tells a relatable story in the midst of a terrifying breakdown of reality. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A little puzzle-explormer that's small in scope and ideas alike, though it offered a fair challenge and some delightful pixel graphics. Could easily be the precursor to something far greater if the devs decide to follow it up, but it sounds like that team all went their separate ways. A little buggy too, alas. (3 Stars.)

  • 31/07. The one-hundred-and-eighty-first Indie Game of the Week. An RPG Maker game repurposed as a dual simulation/adventure game about running your own inn. The day-to-day is about fixing up rooms to suit incoming guests and figuring out the right costs-to-revenue ratio, while there's plenty of tasks that require exploring the town and talking to the right people, most of which result in some boon to your establishment. A bit limited in many respects, but a great idea executed well. (4 Stars.)

  • 04/08. The sixth (well, seventh (well...)) Yakuza game is an exercise in restraint, following the efforts made to sort the wheat from the chaff in the move from Yakuza 5 to Yakuza 0. Though it has way less content than its predecessors, and I didn't care so much for the new "big" minigames (a baseball sim and reverse tower defense warfare strategy), it's still every bit as excellent in terms of its narrative, its new and improved activities, and the usual substory buffoonery. It also got an excellent character (and performance) from Beat Takeshi, who I'm sure had been asked to appear in every Yakuza game so far. Like Spirit of Justice, above, I'm sad to leave these characters behind but not sad that their final bow was on a high note. (4 Stars.)