There’s a lot we couldn’t predict about 2020. Even as it started swirling around the drain, I couldn’t predict how games would fit into my own debilitating version of 2020. When truly terrible things happen, you remember where you were and what you were doing. I stopped playing some games because they started to remind me of those negative moments. Games had been my outlet my entire life and suddenly I could not make time for them. I think I was protecting them while trying to find myself. As the year went on and stabilized, I was able to build myself back up and the games came with me. Building on moments of pure fun and others of memorable poignancy, we finished in a flourish. I redeemed the games of my darkest days. We did it. We made it through and I know it’s only the start of the comeback.
JDevL’s Top 10 Games of the Year 2020
- The Last of Us Part II
- Ghost of Tsushima
- Final Fantasy VII Remake
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Spider-Man: Miles Morales
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Genshin Impact
- Deep Rock Galactic
I still don’t think Carrion should work. That screenshot was too pixelated. That creature looked too unwieldy. How could that be fun? Just press play. It is soooo easy and soooo satisfying to send all of those screaming from you when you throw parts of their colleague at them. The moment to moment horror feels right at home with the best of the genre, but it’s never felt this good on this side of the equation. I felt terrifying. I even creeped myself out at times. Sometimes it was from forgetting which character I was and sometimes it was because I was really good at breaking the minds of my victims before the dismemberment commenced. If Carrion was just isolated action scenes in a sandbox, I’d still push people to play it. Then, they’d quickly discover, like I did, that Carrion has incredible level designs centered around gruesome combat puzzles. Carrion sticks with you. It gets everywhere.
9. Deep Rock Galactic
I really think we can do it this time. There’s now way it will go completely wrong in the same place as last time (and the time before that). A lot of games make me want to get better at playing them, but Deep Rock Galactic taps into that competitive urge to make me want to make my friends better at playing the games. It’s not because I’m the best dwarf, it’s that I can’t do this alone. We all have to get better, but I can’t get better unless they all get better, too. We have to communicate, we have to do our jobs, and we have to get the hell out of here, together.
Of course, Deep Rock Galactic loves to split us up with pure chaos, and it loves to make us kill each other. It never feels unfair because when we get overwhelmed by a swarm it feels like our fault for staying in one place too long and for not being good enough to thin out their numbers. Usually it’s because we took too much time to try to get every last objective and now we are too far down in this cave. Where the hell did that MULE go? We’re never going to get out of here. Well I’m going to get out of here, but I can’t go back to save you. Get good so I can get good.
Memorable Gaming Moments in 2020
- I never want to preorder any hardware ever again
- Discovering who Ori is
- I’d hang out with Thanatos
- Smooth Souls is the only Souls
- Dropping cargo from drones on anyone I can see
- Ghost mode
- Unlocking Allied Races before they give them away for free
- I can play Assassin’s Creed as a melee game
- All the emotes until Nintendo Online disconnects us
- Spinny discs outdo Meat Boy
- Where are you going with this, Bugsnax?
- Why’d you have to shoot my bromance in the face so fast?
- Dusa, I feel you, girl.
- Cloudpunk is the cyberpunk of the year
- This is why we can’t play baseball against each other
- Finally, a new great Tony Hawk game
Oh no, it’s good
8. Genshin Impact
I don’t honestly know why I stopped playing Genshin Impact. I could not believe the scope of this free-to-play game. I explored its beautiful world for 2 to 3 times as long as I normally play games I actually paid for. The exploration recalled my early days with WoW and Breath of the Wild. I found landmarks and just wanted to go there. Along the way I got distracted by small tasks, treasures, and a surprisingly deep combat system.
I had no interest in getting caught up in Genshin Impact’s gatcha systems and building a party. When I started out I almost got mad when it wanted to add characters to my part. I was perfectly content playing the game with a solitary hero like it was a Legend of Zelda adventure. Luckily, the draw to explore more made me tolerate the party system which quickly evolved into being my favorite part of the game. Swapping party members mid-combat to pull off some seriously destructive elemental combos was much more exciting than I could have expected. Once you get into it, you just want to see all of the combos, and to do that you want all of the characters. It’s design worked perfectly. For the strong willed though, Genshin Impact remains a deep and rewarding action adventure RPG experience with over 40 hours of content before the grind sets in. Many will stick with it, but everyone will get something out of it even if they don’t monetarily put anything into it.
Light of mine
7. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I didn’t want to be hurt by Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The first game left some emotional marks, and I just didn’t want any more of that when the game came out (because 2020). I did want to enjoy it’s flawless platforming and beautiful world though. Eventually that draw won out and I braced myself for some tragic ends to the bonds I knew would come from my adventure.
Off I went with Ori and his new best friend, Ku. I landed in the game’s new location with some urgency, and I settled right back into the tight controls. Somehow Ori’s unlocked abilities built on each other even better than the first game. I couldn’t wait to get them all just to see what spectacular acrobatics I could pull off. The strong contrast between solving platforming puzzles and suddenly being thrown into thrilling combat was much sharper this time around. It kept me on my toes. I was either deeply focused on the screen to try to figure out the next path to move forward or just to survive. I got lost in the adventure as I dove into every crevice on the map. I felt so agile and powerful, nothing could stop me until the story stopped me dead in my tracks to reveal my purpose here.
I’m not going to say it wasn’t an emotional ride, but I did not expect the story connections to weave so perfectly into the first game. It was so seamlessly executed that I was in much more awe than emotional distress this time around. From start to finish, Ori is just wonderful.
Most Honorable of Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
- Astro’s Playroom
- Demon’s Souls
- Disc Room
- Gears Tactics
- Risk of Rain 2
- The Solitaire Conspiracy
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
- Watch Dogs: Legion
- West of Dead
What up Brooklyn
6. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
What stands out the most to me about my time with Spider-Man: Miles Morales is that I had such a spectacular time that I think I love the original more now than I did while playing it. This Spider-Man builds on so much of what made the first game (now) great. I was excited to revisit NYC, and for someone that’s never been there in person setting this game during the holiday season was the perfect choice. I’m not going to say Miles is my favorite Spider-Man, but he’s the only Spider-Man I care about learning more about. I want to see everything Marvel / Sony / and Insomniac can show me about why he is a different person and hero from the historic Peter Parker.
The previous Spider-Man game pulled out just about every villain out of his rogue’s gallery as it could, it was epic. Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ story is a bit more personal and it’s better for it. I got to know Miles as he got to know his powers and how to handle the responsibility of his new gig around his family and friends. It made me invested in every detail revealed about the neighborhood around him as well every new ability I unlocked.
Before I knew it, I was pulling off moves and combos that would make Peter Parker jealous. I ended up being the stealthiest Spider-Man in history, and those bad guys never saw it coming. I’m used to saving the world in video games, we’ve seen all the stakes in super hero media over the past decade, but it’s rare to actually feel like you are making a difference for individual people in these neighborhoods. That’s the essence of everything Spider-Man and I’m so happy Miles is the character that got to really bring that to life for me.
One big island
5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Yeah, I’m a sucker for Animal Crossing, but recent entries didn’t land with me the way the first one did. I had given up on any new version mattering much to me, but there was no more important game for me or most of the world this year than Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
My experience was flawless. At a pure gameplay standpoint, New Horizons fixed everything about why I usually stop playing after a month. More activities with more rewards and more reasons to do them over and over again. Plus, I could finally dig into the earth and build my island the way I wanted to. I had all the control I’d wished for and things I wanted to customize that were worth sharing with friends.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is personal to a lot of people now. It’s not just because of their personal moments either. I connected more with this game when I wasn’t playing it than any other game in the past decade. Watching the joy it continues to bring to my girlfriend and her family is special enough. Watching my friends interact without me having to be directly involved is always an awesome moment for my favorite multiplayer games. The real magic to Animal Crossing: New Horizons was watching how it was bringing strangers and celebrities alike together moments of pure joy shared by audiences all over the world during arguably the darkest period in history of the world in my lifetime. It was the closest thing we had to a cure until science could actually make one. Those daily moments of hope during the late spring/summer kept us all going. If it didn’t personally keep you going, it kept someone you know going which came back around onto you. I can’t imagine 2020 without Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
I Wish We Could Have Spent (More) Time Together
- Journey to the Savage Planet
- Monster Sanctuary
- Monster Train
- Murder by Numbers
- Panzer Paladin
- Spelunky 2
- Star Wars Squadrons
- Streets of Rage 4
- Super Mega Baseball 3
- The Pathless
- WoW: Shadowlands
- Yes, Your Grace
Might be something here
4. Final Fantasy VII Remake
Square Enix really did everything right with Final Fantasy VII Remake. There were so many questions about their decisions about this game (and others0 in the years leading up to the release, but it came together so beautifully. For me though, that didn’t mean anything. Final Fantasy VII has always been “another Final Fantasy game” after my favorites. It wasn’t that FFVII wasn’t good or great, it just wasn’t special to me. Hoo boy, do I feel like a jackass now. I’m going to have to stop myself from gushing about things that every other fan already knows about this game.
Let’s just say that Final Fantasy VII Remake allowed me to appreciate the details about Midgard, the story, and the characters that were lost on me during the original. That’s because this dramatic switch of perspective required Square Enix to add more density and content to flesh out the experience. It could have broken everything magical about the original, but in my opinion it’s just made everything better (so far, this is Part I after all).
With my Final Fantasy immersion at the highest point that it has been in decades, the gameplay just drove home the greatness of this remake. The combat system builds so nicely off of Final Fantasy XV’s foundation and is engaging from the outset. Once the learning curve leveled off I started bouncing around between party members in real time during some memorable fights. It all borders on sensory overload at times, but it never crosses that line which makes everything just feel like an awesome spectacle. That’s what Final Fantasy has always been at its best, but this remake is more than just spectacle. It’s special.
Overdo it again
Coming into this year, I was worried that Hades wouldn’t get the attention it deserved. I loved the game during early access, but doubted whether or not it would find a new batch of players when it finally went 1.0. It turns out I had nothing to be worried about.
Everyone who plays this game, loves this game. You should play Hades. I don’t know what you’re waiting for. It is the new high bar for indie game releases. Supergiant has given everyone the blueprint for how to run a studio and how to release a spectacular new game. The industry will be pointing back at Hades for a long time.
I will probably still be playing Hades for a long time, too. It’s actually not just because of its more modern improvements. It’s because its core gameplay reminds me of so many games that made me fall in love with video games in the first place. The action and combat are so fluid and so fun. It gave me flashbacks to all the quarters I put into the original Castlevania game back in my bowling alley’s arcade so many years ago. Except Hades has multiple weapons that make destroying demons delightful. That’s how I knew Hades was the game for me. Then Supergiant went ahead and evolved the roguelite gameplay loop to make it more rewarding for everyone. Oh, and apparently roguelite games can have a story and characters that also make you want to keep replaying over and over again. And those characters? Let’s go ahead and make them the best new versions of Greek mythology’s greatest hits in my lifetime. Hades is just showing off now, and we can’t look away.
Old Game Sidebar
Rocket League remains the perennial old game after a year of going competitive with the game. There’s not much more I can say about it, but another old game and I had a moment, too:
I really didn’t need any more of the Gears universe. Luckily for it, I really felt like I was missing a good turn-based strategy game this year, holy hell, did Gears Tactics deliver. It was so good that I wanted to find out more about where these characters came from, and I knew I had to go back and play Gears 5. But why play Gears 5 if you haven’t played Gears 4? Admittedly, I was worried about the mixed things I had heard about Gears 4, but it turned out to be one of the best pure gaming experiences of the year for me. I don’t think it was a great game, but it was a fun game with a great dumb video game ending sequence. I’m really glad I played it, and I’m surprised that I beat it before Gears 5 OR Gears Tactics. I am happy to be all in on Gears again, and can’t wait to see what The Coalition does next with the franchise.
They made me Ghost
2. Ghost of Tsushima
I didn’t want to leave. I’ve delayed finishing games before, but usually I stop playing them for a few days just to make the game stick with me longer. When I got to the end of Ghost of Tsushima, I just wandered around. I loved being in the world and I preferred it to any of my other options at the time. I didn’t have anything to do as I had finished everything on the map, but I just got on my horse and rode around to the next great vista. I played my flute to change things up so I could see the same spaces in a different light. I wasn’t in a hurry as this game taught me to enjoy the quiet moments just as much as the loud and blood soaked ones.
My moments of reflection always saw my mind wander to other characters. I worried about all of them. I wanted to help them as they helped my character, Jin Sakai. I never expected to care about any of them along the way to my ultimate goal of revenge. However, they were all there at my highest of highs with Ghost of Tsushima. Running into battle with my full crew or discovering each of them mid-battle always pumped me up. I knew we’d defy the odds and the Mongol horde together. We had to. This was our island and we needed each other to take it back. I didn’t have anyone else to fight for and I had to put it all on the line for them. It made the betrayals sting even harder, but the victories all felt earned because of it, too.
I could certainly handle myself. I had the greatest third person melee fighting system at my disposal. I was in complete control no matter if it was a one on one duel or me versus a dozen Mongols. I could sneak around with the best of them or make them all cower with my mere presence. I did what I had to do and it all felt awesome. It just wouldn’t have meant as much without the ones who made it all possible.
Must press triangle
1. The Last of Us Part II
Early on in The Last of Us Part II, Ellie and I looked out across the snowy mountains (of Wyoming I think) and I had to drop the controller. It wouldn’t be the last time I dropped the controller during the game, but it would be the only time I dropped the controller while I was completely at peace. I had to take it all in. The game was gorgeous. Life in the game was pretty good at that moment. I knew it would be the last time I could breathe easy. Not long after that, the first moment that I can’t talk about happened. It’s been hard to talk about the game ever since.
Before I get to the epic storytelling, I knew Naughty Dog had a story to tell before I picked up this game. However, I was unsure that I would want to play the game to get to the story if it was exactly like the first game. All of the rough edges around exploration and combat had been completely smoothed over for this sequel. The Last of Us Part II is simultaneously easy to play and the hardest game to play. The emotional ride makes it exhausting to play, but the game itself is gratifying to grind through. Every combat scenario mixes it up just enough to feel fresh, and finding collectibles that always feel just out of reach makes the depth they add to the world feel like a worthwhile discovery. When the story got too heavy the gameplay pushed me through, and when the gameplay got too hard the story pushed me through. Each would not work without the other.
Different games have had their moments that have made me feel similar things that The Last of Us Part II made me feel. No singular experience in games or otherwise has made me feel the range of emotions that The Last of Us Part II made me feel. The visceral exploration of love vs hate, family vs enemies, heroes vs villains, and everything inbetween could not be accomplished by any other medium. Naughty Dog knows this and it's why they want to push their craft forward. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s not going to be for everyone. It’s just unlike anything else out there and it’s why I keep coming back to Naughty Dog and to video games for new experiences.