2020 has been a journey, and for many people it has also been a struggle. It comes as no surprise that I sought comfort in video games over the course of the year and we were lucky enough to see some of the best titles yet. While several games this year have been met with significant controversy, let’s not forget the ones that have made the year just that much more bearable. Here’s my (very predictable) list of games that made 2020 suck a little less.
Released: 15 June, 2018
Being the only game on this list that wasn’t released this year, Among Us picked up an insanely loyal fanbase during quarantine and provided some of the most fun I’ve had with my friends.
Among Us follows a similar formula to tabletop games like Mafia and Werewolf but thrives on the fact that players cannot see one another and must either communicate through the in game text chat or in their own voice chat servers. Players are separated into crewmates and imposters, with crewmates working towards getting tasks done and using Sherlock levels of deduction to identify the imposters before they murder the innocent crewmates. The task system makes the game much more interactive than its tabletop counterparts and serves as a clever way for imposters to attempt to blend in with the crewmates and to play it smart when going in for the kill.
There are hours of fun packed into Among Us and no two games are ever the same. InnerSloth are actively working on updates and with the upcoming new map it means that there’s likely even more in store for us in the future. A sincere thank you to the developers at InnerSloth for providing a ridiculously fun game that allowed me to spend time with my friends when it wasn’t possible to see them in person. Even if it was just to lie to one another for a few hours in the evenings.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Released: 20 March, 2020
This game single handedly kept millions of people across the world afloat during some of the hardest months of the year and continues to provide a needed escape. Sometimes self care takes the form of decorating a virtual island.
I will admit that after 9 months, the game does become a tad repetitive but this is no different to any of its predecessors. Nintendo made it clear that players would be in for at least 3 years of content updates after release. While it may seem light on content seeing as players were inexplicably excited about finally having access to the sit down gesture, it’s really a case of getting as much out of the game as you put into it. Right now, my island routine consists of the mundane daily tasks, but for a long while I was decorating, playing with friends, catching every new bug and fish, etc. Every update has been met with enthusiasm and it keeps both current and new players entertained.
I’ve really enjoyed the latest seasonal updates and Toy Day really helped to keep up my festive spirit despite the circumstances of the real world. My personal favourite was the summer fireworks season during August as I loved dressing my little character in a traditional yukata with a friend, having fun with our virtual sparklers and watching the sky light up in bursts of colour. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game where there is no right or wrong way of playing, so long as you’re enjoying yourself.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Released: 2 March, 2020
Confession time: I haven’t played the original Final Fantasy VII (1997), but I was obsessed with the sequel film Advent Children (2005) when I was younger. As a result, I also have an attachment to these characters albeit in an unconventional way.
I was never a huge fan of turn based combat and most JRPGs have completely passed by me, but this remake is something else. There are moments where textures are wonky or animations feel out of place or the audio mixing is a little unbalanced BUT… I overlook it all because of how fun the combat system is. I genuinely didn’t think that I’d love the fights as much as I am but they are blowing me away. The blend between real time and turn based combat is satisfying to a point where I could describe it as perfect. It can feel overwhelming at first, but this is why I use the menu option rather than the controller shortcuts to perform unique character abilities as it gives me a few more precious seconds to think. Honestly, I’ve not enjoyed combat in a game quite to this extent since God of War (2018).
I adore how much more detail we’re getting both in terms of the wider lore and the characters themselves. Cloud tries too hard to be the ‘tough guy’ and Tifa has a salesperson quality to her when she wants things done. Characters like Biggs and Jessie have so much more substance but I would’ve liked the same for Wedge instead of being the guy who talks about food in every other line of his dialogue. I’m playing with Japanese audio simply because the Japanese voice cast of Advent Children reprised their roles, and it does mean that the more ‘anime’ aspects of the characters translates more clearly. While the English cast did a great job in this game, Morikawa’s Sephiroth cannot be beaten. There’s something here for both fans of the original game and newcomers starting with this remake; it’s a reunion that was worth waiting for and I’m excited to see the next parts.
Ghost of Tsushima
Released: 17 July, 2020
This game is a beautiful love letter to Japan and surprisingly instead of feeling sadness about the story being over once I completed it, I was left content with the knowledge that I concluded the journey.
I’ve seen a lot of people claim that this is closest thing to an Assassin’s Creed game set in Japan that we will ever get, but I think that the comparison is a disservice. There are certainly elements of similarities between them, but at this point what open world game doesn’t have some overlap? Side quests can feel like padding and random enemy encounters may seem repetitive, but in all honesty this isn’t where Ghost of Tsushima shines. The environments are beautiful and with how distinct they all are from one another it makes the island that much more of a joy to explore. The absence of a mini map and a minimalistic HUD outside of combat allows players to sink right into the atmosphere, and the incredible soundtrack is the cherry on top.
Ghost of Tsushima‘s true strength lies in its main story and the characters that drive it. Each character arc made for a more rich story experience, like the battle between Jin’s honour and breaking tradition, Lady Masako’s quest for revenge, the crushing weight of Norio’s expectations of himself and so many more. I felt invested and I wanted all of them to come out the other side better than where I found them. I’m still very proud of earning my first platinum trophy as I don’t usually go trophy hunting in games. I also have even more content to look forward to now that Legends has been added to the game since I first finished it.
Released: 17 September, 2020 (previously in Early Access from 6 December, 2018)
A rogue-like with an impressive amount of replayability, an entertaining take on Greek mythology and some of the best art in any game. Hades is deserving of every award nomination and win that it has received.
Since I wrote my post about Hades, I have finally managed to escape the Underworld! 5 times to be precise and yet I keep coming back for ‘one more run’. Supergiant have filled this game to the brim with content, it’s genuinely astonishing. A lot of my runs now aren’t necessarily to escape anymore because I’m experimenting with different weapons and Pact of Punishment options, trying to unlock more companions, desperately gifting nectar to Megaera in the hopes that she will notice me – escaping is a bonus at this point. There is a special ending if you escape 10 times and while I’m working towards it, I’m not in a rush.
All of the characters are memorable and you actually want to get to know them as you progress through the story. I’ve enjoyed the dynamics between Orpheus and Eurydice, learning about their version of events that precede the game, similarly with Achilles and Patroclus. I find Thanatos’ care for Zagreus endearing and I appreciate how fleshed out Zag’s relationships can be with other characters. It’s been entertaining to see how the other Olympian Gods react when they see that I have bonded with the bloodthirsty Ares, but I’m going to pretend I did that because he’s got the best boons and not just because I enjoy his design in particular…
The Last of Us Part II
Released: 19 June, 2020
Months after release and any mention of this game still causes heated arguments. Regardless of your feelings about it, The Last of Us Part II is my Game of the Year because the experience will stay with me forever.
Was this game perfect? No. Did that lessen my enjoyment of it? Absolutely not. I had issues with some of the pacing of the story and criticisms about the continuity of the infection cycle that was established in the first game, but I am in no way an expert in game development or writing scripts. Ultimately I trusted Naughty Dog to tell the story that they wanted to because their track record speaks for itself. While I have many opinions and feelings about the game, it all served to enrich my playthrough. I talked about this game for weeks after completing it and I still think about it even now. In my eyes, the story was a triumph and the messaging was clear from the beginning, but art is subjective and a lot of people tend to forget this. What I took away from The Last of Us Part II is further confirmation that video games are severely undervalued as a narrative vehicle.
With the more recent controversy surrounding CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 (2020), it’s becoming increasingly apparent that people just want someone to blame when they’re feeling let down. Remember, Naughty Dog could’ve played it safe and simply replicate The Last of Us (2013) seeing as it was a huge success, but they chose to challenge themselves and their players. They knew this game would be divisive but they chose to push boundaries even so. This was an undeniably ambitious undertaking with some of the most polished and smooth gameplay that I have ever experienced, and I hope this encourages more developers venture out of their comfort zones in the future.
There are so many upcoming games to look forward to and I’m especially excited for sequels to some of my favourite games in the last few years (please let there be news about Silksong and Breath of the Wild 2 soon). As I’m doomed to be a console player, the next venture will be getting my hands on a PS5 at some point during 2021. Hopefully, given how much of a rollercoaster 2020 has been, this will be the extent of my problems in the new year after we leave this awful yet historical one behind us.
*Not sure why some of the images don’t load on mobile, but they’re working on desktop!