Game of the Year 2020

This is a very late post, but it’s been a very weird year. I played a lot of games since the pandemic started, but it’s been primarily older titles. Titles that I probably would not have revisited if it were a normal year. They were not great though, I ended up not liking many of the games I played and, upon reflection, wondered if that was the best course of action. 

On the other hand, I played some fantastic games that released in 2020 — one of them was even a PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Best Old Game

Winner: The Last of Us Remastered

I played over half a dozen older titles from Final Fantasy VI on the Super NES Classic to Call of Duty: World at War on the PlayStation 3. I even decided to play Call of Duty: WW2 and Super Mario 64. I ended up not liking or loving many of those old titles. In fact, the only old game I found myself enjoying was my replay of The Last of Us by way the Remastered edition. 

I chose to replay it as a refresher before The Last of Us Part II and found it largely held up. I’m ready to embark on the sequel, but I own a PlayStation 5 now and there may be a chance that PS5 upgrade/update will be released so now I’m just sitting on my copy.

Runner-up: Hitman (2016)

Top 5 Games of 2020

Winner: Hades

2. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
3. Final Fantasy VII Remake
4. Astro’s Playroom
5. Animal Crossing New Horizons

Hades is so good! I would love to play some more Hades, but my PC died and instead of repairing for just myself, I salvaged some old parts and built my fiancée a brand new PC. 

Ori and the Will of the Wisps would have been my outright favorite game of 2020 if Hades didn’t enter the fray. A wonderful sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest that may not seem like a huge step up, but when you look back, the changes are substantial.

I don’t love Final Fantasy VII, but I do enjoy the peripheral additions like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and even that Final Fantasy VII CG movie, Advent Children. Final Fantasy VII super fans may find Remake unfaithful, but I loved what Square Enix did with it. A faithful remake wouldn’t have been interesting, but weaving in and out of established events made for a more interesting game. 

I’m at the point where I will play anything Team Asobi touches. They’re so good at that novel yet simple fun that is very reminiscent of Nintendo. Astro’s Playroom was the perfect inclusion for the PlayStation 5. A celebration of everything PlayStation — old and new. 

We played a lot of Animal Crossing New Horizons during the pandemic, but we then dropped it like a stone like my last Animal Crossing game. It drew my fiancee in so much that she flirted with the idea of picking up her own Switch before realizing that she was outpacing the game’s drip feed of content. We had our goals and achieved 75% of it before eventually losing interest. I extracted a solid 3 or 4 months of Animal Crossing fun during a very locked down period of the pandemic. 

Hades PC Review

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I played roguelike games before, but never in the action or platforming flavour. I recognized the Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells of the world as quality games, but I let them pass me by for other games. SuperGiant Games’ Hades would have been one of those passing games as well, if not for an aggressive sale on the Epic Games Store. For less than $10, it would have been silly of me not to partake. And after playing so much of it for the past four weeks or so, it may very well be my game of the year.

Hades’ greatest feat was its story and how it weaved the narrative tightly with the roguelike loop. I’ve seen the credits roll, I’ve sunk over 30 hours into the game, and I still want to see what else this game has to offer from a narrative perspective. There are just so many lines of dialogue for all the characters in the game; the sheer amount of it is the most impressive part of the game. Yes, they’re usually only handful of lines per run, but each one adds context and flavor on top of the ever growing Zagreus.

Zagreus, son of Hades, was driven to find out what happened to his mother. He lives in the Underworld and through his adoptive mother, Nyx, he was put in touch with his relatives on Olympus who want to see their own join them. The Olympians help Zagreus by sending him random Boons (power-ups). Zagreus needed all the help he could muster because these random assortment of levels designed to keep shades (souls) from escaping the depths of the Underworld are full of tormented shades who have been employed by the realm’s master to serve as guards. 

Every run takes Zagreus through Tartarus, Asphodel, and Elysium. Each area has its share of style, enemies, and bosses. And despite running through the same set of areas, and enemies, I still find enjoyment through each and every run. An average run takes about 30 to 40 minutes and I have no problem going through two per day. At the height of my Hades time, I was pulling off two or three runs per session. Hades has that addictive “one more” run quality that can turn 8pm to 11:30pm in a blink of an eye.

Greek mythology is well worn territory and yet Hades managed to carve out its own unique take on it. Each and every character appears to be quite likable despite their sordid histories. Much of it was their charm and relatively pleasant demeanors. As the game progressed, I started to see different sides to the Olympians and other characters. The trademark Olympian pettiness began to bubble to the surface; not a single one of them was above it. 

Supergiant Games’ knows action games. Their first title, Bastion, felt very good to play and Hades tops that easily. They don’t explain how/why Zagreus can dash through physical objects, but it felt good to easily move about without much impedance. It felt like was controlling a ninja at times; an unstoppable elemental force that can swipe through enemies with ease. 

I never got tired of it, and even now, over 40 runs later, I still find the time to do a least a run per day. I’m continually being rewarded with drips of story, and so far that’s enough to sustain me. Systems like the fine grain challenge system in the latter stages gave me the power to choose my poison. I’m glad it’s not just the same types of enemies with more hit points. Supergiant Games thought of everything and I am simply in awe of their thoughtfulness. It’s easily their best work to date.

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