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Zack’s Best of 2020

Sing, goddess, the anger of 2020 and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon everyone

Oh 2020, what a year you were. An absolutely awful year. With lockdown forcing everyone inside, it was a year of almost complete isolation for many people. For me personally, it was a year of managing the inherent stress of a small global pandemic with games that are, more than anything, fun. Whether it was blasting through Super Mario Odyssey or playing a Jackbox Party Pack with mates, the fun that games brought helped to stave off the existential dread… for a little while, at least. That being said, here are just some of the games that I absolutely loved this year.

My game of the year: Hades

Hades is, in a single word, a masterpiece. The art style is gorgeous, the gameplay is addictive, the writing is basically perfect. The entire game just works.

I’ve played plenty of roguelikes in the past, but never before have I found one with such an engrossing story and such brilliant characters. Having the story actively progress through dying, with new character interactions and changes to the House of Hades, keeps the game from ever getting stale. I happily poured hours into Hades, experimenting with weapons and hunting for achievements, and never got bored. 

Being a huge fan and student of mythology and ancient history, Hades made me grin from ear to ear on multiple occasions with all the fantastic little references and nods to its source material. From reuniting lost lovers Orpheus and Eurydice to seeing the toll the Trojan War had on Achilles and Patroclus, Hades takes full advantage of its origins and setting to tell tales that thrilled my inner nerd.

Honourable Mention: Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is neither a video game nor a 2020 release, but the tabletop roleplaying game was such a huge part of my year that I’d be a fool to not mention it. I’d always been interested in tabletop roleplaying games but never had a group to play with or the knowledge of how to play them. Well, the start of 2020 brought along both of those with perfect timing.

Taking on the role of the dungeon master for my group, Dungeons & Dragons both gave me something to do during isolation and kept me connected to my friends. Sure, we had to move online partway through the year, but simply getting a chance to talk to people and have a laugh was more than worth it.

Honourable Mention: Among Us

Also not a 2020 release, Among Us is here for basically the same reasons as Dungeons & Dragons. During isolation, this simple game helped me stay in touch with friends I was sorely missing. Among Us might not be a very deep game, and part of me doubts I’ll play it much in the coming years, but the memories of calling friends and playing for hours on end will always be appreciated.

Honourable Mention: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

When I finished Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity’s story missions, I wasn’t a huge fan. I thought the plot was weak, and the game’s technical issues frustrated me. Then I played for 70 more hours and completed the game 100%. I don’t know why, but I just kept coming back to this game. Sure, the story was, well, bad, but it had an inherent cheesiness. The struggling frame-rate and pop-in were annoying, but not to the point that the gameplay really suffered. In the end, I loved this game almost more than I think it deserves. It might not be the most polished game and not everyone will enjoy it, but Age of Calamity was a solid hit for me in 2020.

2020’s biggest hits and misses:

Hit (mostly): Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was my first foray into the Animal Crossing franchise and I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the game… For about three months, after which I barely touched it while my island slowly became a weed-infested overgrown mess. New Horizons came out at just the right time to become a massive sensation, and I think it’s reception is mostly deserved. I loved the game in the time I played it, there’s just not enough here for a game that’s supposed to last, theoretically, forever. Hopefully updates can keep the game feeling fresh and fun over 2021, but I wish the base package had more from the start.

Hit: Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

I know, nobody even talks about this game anymore, but that doesn’t mean we should forget how much of a sensation Fall Guys almost became. With its novel concept and addictive gameplay, Fall Guys was shaping up to be 2020’s massive indie hit before Among Us really took over. Even though I don’t play Fall Guys much anymore, I still think it deserves some mention for being a fun, addictive, and just unashamedly happy game. 

Miss: Nintendo. Just Nintendo

Sure, I might think Nintendo’s games are good, but that doesn’t mean I think it makes smart or consumer-friendly decisions from a business point-of-view. Nintendo this year has solidly proven that it just doesn’t care about its fans in a lot of ways. The bizarreness of Super Mario 3D All Stars’s limited release, its insistence on taking down videos or streams of its games, and of course its adamance that tournaments of a game released in 2001 shouldn’t run, all show Nintendo’s complete disregard for fan communities. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

Hit: Kingdom Hearts III: Re Mind

Kingdom Hearts III’s expansion, Re Mind, is excellent. The base game was definitely fun, but it left me feeling unsatisfied, like it was missing something. That something ended up being the brutally hard post-game that’s become a staple of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. With Re Mind introducing an entirely new, extremely difficult set of bosses while also giving Sora new abilities that improve the flow of combat, the DLC more than made up for the lacklustre game.

What I’m looking forward to in 2021:

Persona 5 Strikers:

Yes, this was on the same part of my best of 2019 article, but the game isn’t out yet so here we are. Released as Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers in February of 2020, the localized version known as Persona 5 Strikers was only recently confirmed for release a whole year later. I loved Persona 5, and Strikers looks to be an amazing sequel despite the change in gameplay. As someone who loves Warriors-style games (see Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity), I’m hoping Strikers will be able to combine the flashy, over-the-top action of the genre with the slick, stylish aesthetic of Persona 5.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel:

Again, this was also on my best of 2019 list. The difference here is we still know nothing about the sequel to Breath of the Wild. I highly doubt the game will release this year, but I’m hoping we at least get some news or a trailer.

Monster Hunter Rise:

Here’s a game that wasn’t on last year’s list. 2020 gave me a chance to finally try Monster Hunter World, a game I’d been meaning to play for ages. Needless to say, I loved it, and with Monster Hunter Rise looking to be more of the same hunting action, I’m looking forward to this one.

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