I’m pretty sure most people would agree that this has not been a very good year. On the plus side though, there has been a surprisingly large amount of really good video games to keep us distracted from everything else. The following list is my ten favorite games of the year. Some of these choices might seem weird, in fact there’s one towards the top of the list that I kind of doubt you’re going to see on too many other people’s lists at all. But that’s why it’s my list of favorites, and not me trying to make an objective argument for each one.
Like every year, my rules for what games are eligible are pretty simple. The game has to have had it’s first US release in the year 2020, that means that port of the first Fire Emblem game is technically eligible. Remasters and ports are not eligible, full remakes however are. That’s always been the case, but when looking back at my old lists, I somehow allowed Twilight Princess HD onto the list in 2016? I don’t know how that happened. But whatever, here’s some games. Let’s start with some honorable mentions, which like every year, don’t actually have to follow the rules I just laid out.
This one was honestly heartbreaking for me. Doom (2016) was my favorite game of 2016 and one of my favorite shooters of all time. So of course I was really excited for it’s sequel, Doom Eternal. And you know what? It’s very good. However, it just isn’t what I wanted from the next game. A bigger focus on plot, platforming, and skill trees really took away from what made Doom such a blast. Still, it’s a good game and should be checked out.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
The wait for a great new Paper Mario game has been a long one, and it’s kind of over. The things that Origami King does right are fantastic. The writing, the visuals, and the music are all as good as they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, the battle system is a real drag. It starts out promising, but slowly becomes frustrating and time consuming. You have to slide enemies around a circular grid to line them up for your attacks, basically turning every fight into a puzzle. It seems cool, but the more you do it, the more tedious it becomes. Still, I enjoyed my time with Origami King, just not as much as I had hoped.
Hades is probably incredible. Everyone seems to love it, and I had a good time with in the short amount of time that I played it. And therein lies the problem, I didn’t play much of the game. I don’t feel like I can accurately rate a game that I probably spent less than an hour with, but it was fun enough that I felt like I needed to shout it out.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Another game I didn’t spend a ton of time with, Age of Calamity has the unfortunate trait of being a Warriors game. I’ve tried to get into these games multiple times and just could never do it. Somehow though, this one has pulled me in. Maybe it’s just the Breath of the Wild connection and I’ll eventually get sick of the gameplay? Totally possible, but as of right now, I’m really enjoying my time with it.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light
Yeah, I made a point to mention that Fire Emblem was eligible for the proper list, but it still didn’t make it. It’s a neat game though and something that fans of the series should check out if they haven’t. As someone who got into Fire Emblem through Fire Emblem Awakening, going back to the first one and learning just how much stuff had been added throughout the years was wild. But despite the modern conveniences not being there, I still had a lot of fun playing the first game.
Star Wars: Squadrons
Another game I didn’t actually spend a lot of time with, Squadrons gives an extremely positive first impression if you play the game in VR. From a gameplay perspective, it seems pretty basic. Just point your ship in the direction of the enemies and shoot. But feeling like you’re actually sitting in the cockpit of a TIE fighter of X-wing elevates that experience to something truly remarkable. I’ve left my PSVR hooked up so I can hop back in when I finish writing this.
Rune Factory 4: Special
I’ve never played any of the previous Rune Factory games and hadn’t gotten into any kind of farming game since Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life forever ago. But the game was on sale on Black Friday so I decided to jump in and was happily surprised with what I found. It’s more than just a farming game. There’s also dungeons to fight your way through and a dumb but fun story to experience that’s full of dumb but fun characters to interact. It’s real dumb, but in a charming way, and I kind of love it.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
C’mon, you knew this would be here. I’ve talked about Tokyo Mirage Sessions so many times on this blog, and with this port, I’ve now played through it a second time. It’s just as good on the Switch as it was on Wii U. It’s a shame that I don’t allow ports, even ones with some new content, onto the main list, because it would have ranked pretty highly.
And now, my ten favorite games of the year.
10) Super Mario Bros. 35
I’m terrible at battle royale games, but I’m pretty good at Mario. As a result, Super Mario Bros. 35 is the first battle royale that I’ve ever actually won, and I’ve done so multiple times. The main objective of the game is to just get through Mario levels while killing enemies and grabbing power-ups to increase your time. If you die or run out of time, you lose. When you defeat enemies, you send those enemies to other players, which can create utter chaos. It’s a really neat take on the genre and one that I’ve had a lot of fun with this year.
9) Resident Evil 3
The remake of Resident Evil 3 was one of my most anticipated games of this year, thanks largely to how good last year’s Resident Evil 2 was. The core of what made 2 so good is still here in 3 but with a much bigger focus on action. Maybe it’s because it feels so similar to 2, or maybe it’s because the original version of 3 is one of the lesser games in the series, but Resident Evil 3 just didn’t hit as hard. Still really good though, and if you’re a fan of the series, you should definitely play it.
8) Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Insomniac’s 2018 Spider-Man game was incredible. A huge open New York City, great story, fun combat, and a better understanding of the Spider-Man character than we’ve ever seen in video game format all result in one of the best games you can get on your PS4. Miles Morales is more of that, but with a less experienced Spider-Man. It’s familiar, but still really great. I played it on PS4, so I didn’t have any of those fancy next-gen features and I’m kind of curious if this would be higher on the list if I had.
Dreams is the everything game. You can build almost anything and play just about anything that anyone else made. I actually didn’t mess around with the creation tools at all, just played the weirdass stuff people were coming up. I played a fan made version of the cancelled Silent Hills game. I played as Godzilla and smashed up a city. I watched like a million animations of Wario getting killed. It’s a great time and one that I still love popping into and seeing what’s going on.
6) The Last of Us Part 2
I’m not nearly as precious about The Last of Us as the rest of the internet seems to be, but it was a pretty great game. The sequel was pretty much what I expected. It’s another overly brutal post-apocalyptic story, with this one focusing on themes of revenge. The super tense stealth sequences that often turn into desperate fire fights when you mess up are just as spectacular here as they were in the first game. It does drag on too long in my opinion though. I was ready for the game to be over multiple times before it actually was.
Man. Bugsnax. This is a game about catching weird bugs that are also various foods, like little strawberry guys named Strawbys. After you catch them, you can feed them to the Muppet-like inhabitants of the mysterious island you’re investigating, which turns their appendages into different food items. It’s weird. But what starts as a goofy monster hunting game slowly turns into a game about repairing struggling relationships with some really well written characters. And then the game gets really dark, but we don’t need to get into that here. Bugsnax is one of the most unique games I’ve ever played and I think it’s something everyone should check out.
4) Phantasy Star Online 2
Here’s one that’s probably a head-scratcher for some people. PSO2 is an extremely basic online dungeon crawler. It’s also pretty old, but only made it out in the US officially this year. But despite the simple design and it feeling really old, I had an absolute blast with it. Maybe it’s the PSO1 nostalgia, I don’t know, but just running through a forest mowing down monsters was just too fun. I still pop onto the game every now and then and still have fun. I don’t know that I can recommend this one to everyone, but I like it a lot and it’s my list, so there you go.
3) Trials of Mana
The remake of the third game in the Mana series hit me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I posted my first impressions of the game on the blog, and in there I mentioned that it had been dumbed down to a ridiculous extent, such as always showing where you need to go next on the map and getting rid of the Mana series’ trademark cooldown time between attacks. It also feels cheap, with some really not great voice acting and PS2 looking graphics. But you know what? All of this combined to make a gloriously stupid game that I just could not put down. It plays well enough. The bad voice acting was strangely charming. The bad graphics eventually just felt right. This is definitely a “me” game, but unlike PSO2, I feel pretty confident saying that anyone could get into this game. It’s dumb, but it’s not bad. In fact, it’s quite good.
2) Final Fantasy VII: Remake
Final Fantasy VII: Remake is not the game I thought it would be. Spoilers if you haven’t beaten the game yet, but it’s not a remake of Final Fantasy VII. It’s a new game building off of the original. The biggest story addition are these new creatures called Whispers who are trying to make sure the game’s story stays the way it always has. While the in-game explanation of these things is your typical Tetsuya Nomura, Kingdom Hearts nonsense, it’s pretty clear that they actually represent fans who want the same story told again and again. While most of the story beats still follow the original game, by the end, the world is in such a different state that I really don’t know what to expect from the next part in this multi-game project. Beyond just the story stuff, the new combat system is super fun, although it gets pretty difficult in the later portion of the game. Remake is a very interesting one, but it’s also extremely high quality and I had a great time with it.
1) Animal Crossing: New Horizons
I can’t imagine another game making it to the number one slot. This year was dominated by Animal Crossing. I’ve played the game every single day since it was released in March. While it’s still largely the same Animal Crossing experience that we’ve had since the GameCube days, some key differences make this game more interesting. For one thing, this one starts you on a deserted island and you have to slowly build it up to become a more traditional Animal Crossing town. There’s also a new crafting system, which can be fun for building more furniture, but can be annoying when it come to having to constantly make new tools.
More than anything though, New Horizons was the right game at the right time. I genuinely can’t imagine getting through this year without this game. 2020 was truly the age of Animal Crossing, and as such, there’s no game more deserving of being Game of the Year.