2020 was a year of hardships for a lot of people, but in terms of video games, it was actually pretty great. Maybe I’m just getting soft because seeing everyone’s reaction to a worldwide existential threat being to protest the ability to infect themselves and others with a deadly pathogen has turned me into a bit of a nihilist. But this year also had people longing for a sense of normalcy, so it’s time for me to once again list my top and bottom 5 games of the year. As always, the same rules apply, no remakes, remasters, ports or rereleases; only new games that came out in 2020.
5th Best: Cyberpunk 2077-
The internet is a very odd and circlejerky place, it is not however very smart or logical. After, Cyberpunk’s release, you could be forgiven for turning on CD Projekt Red, especially if you’re playing it on a base console. For those who are rational enough to judge the game on its actual merits and not on hype or things that will be fixed in a month or two though, you’ll find one of the finest open world RPGs of the generation. The gameplay is a fun Deus Ex-esque Action RPG, but what really sets it apart is the story, characters and setting. CDPR has shown once again they are masters of video game storytelling. But the crown jewel of the game is Night City itself, one of the most fleshed out, immersive and detailed open worlds in any game to date; even if the whole thing is held together with bits of frayed string.
5th Worst: Resident Evil 3 Remake-
Maybe saying this game is the 5th worst game of 2020 is a bit harsh, maybe it’s more disappointing than anything. Resident Evil 2 Remake is not only one of my favorite games of all-time, but it took a game that was already a classic of the genre and improved it in basically every way. Resident Evil 3 however could use a bit of retouching. I’m not even sure the game is better than the original. R3make is overly linear, and not particularly atmospheric except for the last hour or so. The game has the air of something that’s a bit rushed and hacked out. It can’t decide if it wants to lean into RE 4 style over the top camp action or RE2 survival horror, and sitting on the fence does nothing for it besides getting splinters up its ass. Speaking of pains in the ass, I’m really getting fucking sick of AAA games that think the way to write a compelling female character is to have them get continually beaten up to a disturbing degree. And before people get mad at me for criticizing a game for not being “PC”, I’ll have you know that Jill Valentine BDSM hentai is on heavy rotation in my Pornhub que.
4th Best: Spiritfarer
Spiritfarer is a gorgeously animated, emotional and beautiful game about the inevitability of death, maybe something that wasn’t exactly escapist entertainment in 2020, but the game is still amazing none the less. Tasked with guiding the spirits of different animals through to the afterlife, Spiritfarer is an Animal Crossing type life simulator that takes place on a boat. The game does an incredible job of getting you to engage with the characters, letting you live with them, get to know them and aid them in their journey to the afterlife. All of this makes their inevitable departure all the more bittersweet. Mechanically, it’s not the best and this is coming from somebody who usually gets addicted to these types of tedious life sims, although it gets the job done. The ending is also a bit weak, but overall, Spiritfarer is an indie gem with a tremendous amount of heart that it makes up for its shortcomings. This is an underrated game that deserves to be appreciated.
4th Worst: Dark Pictures: Little Hope-
I’m all for trying new things with the interactive medium that video games inherently are. Something like Return of the Obra Dinn sounds like a fucking boring thing to base a game on until it’s given context. However, David Cage-esque QTE riddled “Interactive movies” are a blight on the industry. But, unlike the games from this supposed “Anthology,” Dahvid Cahge games at least have the curtesy to be so fucking retarded that they’re funny. Little Hope is just a badly written, bland story with unlikeable characters that is about 2 hours longer than it needs to be and it isn’t very long to begin with. When the game is directly ripping off Silent Hill 2, you know it’s getting on my shit list because I defend Silent Hill 2 like Batman defends Gotham City. The ending twist basically pulls the rug out from the entire story for no reason, and this is the one game on the list you can’t yell at me about judging without actually playing it because watching it on youtube and tapping my phone every once in a while, is the equivalent of playing it anyway. I won’t put it any higher though because at least they’re being upfront about the chances of them ever finishing this anthology in the title.
3rd Best: Yakuza: Like a Dragon-
The Yakuza series has quickly become one of my favorite franchises over the past few years, and Yakuza 7 may just be the best one yet. The franchise shifts from open world beat em’ up to turn based JRPG with the grace of a synchronized diver leaping into a pool, while still retaining the core elements that make the franchise fantastic. Yakuza 7 is an unrelentingly imaginative game, not just in how it turns everyday objects and people into RPG systems, but in the side content too. The game is obviously going to get compared to Dragon Quest and Persona the most, but honestly, it gave me Earthbound vibes more than anything, probably because of the setting. At its core though, Yakuza 7 works because of Ichiban as a main character, and if he indeed takes the mantle of series protagonist from Kiryu, then the franchise is in good hands. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a big, irreverent, satirical love letter to JRPGs in the same way that South Park: The Stick of Truth was to traditional RPGs, and I give it the biggest of salutes.
3rd Worst: Battletoads
I get that people have been begging Microsoft to revive Rare properties for what seems like an eternity now, but of all the things to resurrect, why Battletoads? I understand that people will have nostalgia for shoving bamboo shoots under their fingernails if enough time passes, but honestly, even for properties that have nostalgic value, Battletoads is bottom of the barrel. The gaudy visual style with overlong attack animations that make the game both a chore mechanically and a fucking mess visually, is so overwhelming it’s like trying to find a grain of rice in a snowstorm while you’re still high on anesthetic from a botched corneal transplant surgery. The original Battletoads is just classic NES era bullshit artificial difficulty to hide the fact that the game was 2 hours long, so I’m not sure why you want to be faithful to the spirit of something that was dogshit to begin with. If you’re craving a good side scrolling beat em’ up, go play Streets of Rage 4.
2nd Best: Ghost of Tsushima
Anybody who knows me knows I love my samurai movies, with Kurosawa being my all-time favorite director, so imagine my delight when Ghost of Tsushima comes along basically being a playable Kurosawa film. It doesn’t exactly get points for originality as the gameplay is quite literally Assassin’s Creed, or at least Assassin’s Creed before it decided to become a grindy Witcher 3 wannabe filled with microtransactions. That being said, the stunning visual style, solid gameplay and well-written narrative about a samurai having to struggle with the fulfillment of his oath of honor versus doing what is necessary to save his homeland from savage invaders makes the game greater than the sum of its parts. The duels at the end feel straight out of Akira Kurosawa’s work. Ghost of Tsushima is a functionally solid game and a constant feast for the eyes that any fan of the samurai genre should play.
2nd Worst: XIII Remake
You would be forgiven for not even knowing that this obscure game got a remake this year. XIII, based on a Belgian visual novel is a cult classic PS2 era shooter that’s only real unique selling point was the cell shaded art style, the visual novel-esque panel in panel presentation and comic book style onomatopoeia. The geniuses at whatever shithole publisher somehow got the rights to this game decided “Hey, let’s get rid of the entirely unique visual style and make it look like Fortnite, because if there’s two things kids these days love, it’s obscure PS2 era FPS games based off of even more obscure comic books and Fortnite.” Now, I’m not exactly a Rhoades Scholar here, but I would think that undoing and replacing a game’s entire visual style would be a bit more effort than necessary, but then again, I have too much self-awareness and empathy to work at a video game publisher. A glitchy, poorly optimized mess with awful AI, this game hardly plays better than its predecessor either. The original game is available on GOG for like 5 bucks, so get that instead if you’re interested. I’m not really mad because I don’t exactly love the game, I’m just disappointed that a game that deserves a bit more attention ended up getting such a trash remake, but maybe that’s what I get for expecting anything out of the developers of Garfield Cart in the first place.
Game of the Year 2020: Hades
It’s no secret that I am a massive Supergiant games fanboy. Every single one of their releases has made my top 5 games list since I started doing them, but they’ve never taken the top spot. I figured it was time to change that. I usually despise the Roguelike genre, but Supergiant has once again worked their magic by weaving the story into the core gameplay. Hades works the mechanic of constantly restarting the journey every time you die into the narrative, giving the genre some much needed personality, and Hades is brimming with character. Whether it’s Hades himself scolding you after another failed attempt, or Hypnos making a snide remark as you re-enter the underworld, this, along with the constant progression from instance to instance makes losing even the longest of runs less frustrating. The core gameplay is flashy and satisfying, but the gorgeous visual style, tremendous voice acting, incredible score and amount of charm packed into every corner of the game is what really makes Hades Game of the Year worthy.
Worst game of 2020: Marvel’s Avengers
I’ve said it before, but I get a lot less angry about games that are shit because the developers didn’t have the talent or resources to make a better game; or possibly that their ambitions outweighed the reality of what they can achieve. I cannot however, forgive games that have all the opportunity in the world to be great but flop because they’re sacrificed on the alter of corporate avarice, and Marvel’s Avengers is a perfect example of the latter. You’d think it’d be pretty fucking easy to make a decent Avengers game. You already have a strong cast of established characters with diverse abilities, just make a solid combat system, write some generic super hero movie plot and walk off with more money than you can possibly spend in a lifetime. But no, the perennial intellectuals over at Square Enix decided that it needed to be a Destiny style LiVe SeRvIcE game, so here we are playing yet another half-baked, grindy, bland, microtransaction riddled dumpster fire. The Marvel films all routinely make enough money to end world hunger, so this game selling anything other than gangbusters is an abject failure. In some ways, Marvel’s Avengers is the perfect game for 2020. Corporations rearing their ugly heads in the name of unchecked capitalism while people who just want to enjoy life suffer for it and we’d all rather collectively just kind of forget it happened.
Games that almost made the list but didn’t quite make the final cut.
Pros: Super fun, fast paced combat, fantastic final boss, great soundtrack.
Cons: The added complexity makes it less immediately satisfying than 2016 and it doesn’t do a whole lot else to set itself apart from it otherwise. Also, if you want to see AAA games sucked off, you can go to literally any video game site on the internet. I’d rather highlight an indie gem.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps-
Pros: Gorgeous animation and art style, tight metriodvania gameplay, wonderful score
Cons: Pretty much just a lateral move from the first one, except for the story which is far worse.
Final Fantasy VII Remake-
Pros- A fantastic reimagining of the original game, beautiful graphics, stunning soundtrack, fantastic combat and bosses
Cons- You remade 6 hours of a game and stretched it to 30 hours, you want a fucking cookie?