2020 sure was a year that happened. We all know this, and I see no reason to harp on the trials and tribulations involved in surviving it. This year like every year before it proved a challenge and like every year before it, I relied on video games to carry me through and keep me sane. Admittedly I did not get a chance to play every blockbuster title this year; games like The Last of Us 2 and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim went completely untouched. However what games I did manage to get my hands on left enough of a positive impression to make it to my Top 5 list. So, without further adieu here are my games of the year!
So there isn’t much I can say about Hades that I haven’t already posted Here. Suffice to say, bashing my head against the residents of a Greek underworld over and over again, having fun conversations with Olympians, and giving otherworldly booze to a rock all because I’ve had it “up to here” with my big bad bearded daddy, has been the most fun I’ve had all year.
2. Ghost of Tsushima
If I’m being really honest with myself here, this game is a solid tie for the number one spot. Anyone who’s ever hung out with me in person for more than probably an hour knows that I freaking love everything samurai. While I haven’t seen every Kurosawa film that exists, I have watched Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai about two hundred times, so that counts right? Anyway GoT certainly didn’t break the mold when it comes to gameplay innovation, using several mechanics we’ve seen in other games throughout the years in a very “by the numbers” sort of formula. While this seems to have soured the experience for a whole lot of people, I had zero qualms with any of it because as it turned out, running around a beautiful rendition of the Isle of Tsushima calling out and cutting down Mongols one moment and then petting foxes and getting naked in a hot spring five minutes later was exactly what I needed in the year of our lord 2020. My only regret in playing this game is that I played it harder than a taiko no tatsujin drum kit at a Japanese arcade. Thankfully a stellar multiplayer mode and a recently released new game plus mode all but guarantees that I’ll be playing this game a second time much sooner rather than later.
3. Final Fantasy 7: Remake
If I had to distill my time with Final Fantasy 7: Remake into one sentence it would be as such: FF7R is the definition of a game being about the journey, not the destination. As someone who is old enough to have played the original game on the PlayStation back in ‘97, I came into the remake with my nostalgia goggles firmly strapped on. The faster paced action of the active combat system was certainly a change from the days of ATB bars. However, I was able to adjust relatively quickly and had no trouble slashing, smashing, and casting my way through the ranks of Shinra soldiers and monsters alike.
All of that pales in comparison to the fact that this game is simply a graphical power house; I literally cannot understate just how GOOD this game looks. This includes everything from the several beautiful vistas that Cloud and crew hop, skip, climb, and run their way through, to character models so good that they single handedly reignited my first video game crush in the warrior goddess that is Tifa Lockheart. From the very start you can tell that this remake was made with love and lots (AND LOTS) of money and I had a very good time with it. Unfortunately Square-Enix chose to take a bit more creative licensing with the ending, that all told left a bad taste in my mouth, and if not for that this game would definitely be higher up on the list.
4. Persona 4 Golden: PC release
Taking a top spot in my 2020 game of the year list is… a game from 2012? That’s right! At the time of this writing I have yet to finish 2020’s PC release of Persona 4: Golden (However, I did manage to spoil the ending for myself while looking up what year the game originally released so you’re welcome!). Anyway I play maybe one of the persona games every couple years because they are 100hr plus behemoth’s of JRPG goodness. Marching through the days of a Japanese high schooler that happens to fight shadows inside a TV never seems to get old. Maintaining the delicate balance between spending time with the various characters in Inaba in order to make my personas stronger in combat ensured I always have something to do when I sit down for a session of Persona. In truth it speaks to how good the other three games on this list are that Persona 4 of all things is ranked fourth.
If you asked me to name three things I remember about my time with a Sega Genesis it would be Sonic the Hedgehog, that weird controller and Streets of Rage. Streets of Rage was easily one of my favorite games on that system and probably my introduction to the concept of side scrolling beat em up type games. So it comes as no surprise when I tell you that I picked it up as soon as I could and thoroughly enjoyed it. It captures the style and feel of the old games while providing a layer of new combat, combos, and progression, including new characters and skins for each character that really increases the replay value. It’s pretty much the game I fire up when I just want to have a half hour of mindless fun. For anyone new to this style of game I highly recommend it.
And there you have it. The five games that I enjoyed the most in a year where I personally didn’t find a whole lot of time for video games. Some entries grabbed me by the shoulders and kept me pinned into my chair until there was nothing left to do, while others left me wondering what the point of the last 40 hours was. All of them were a good time and easy to recommend to anyone even slightly interested in games. I have no idea what lies in store for me in 2021 for various reasons, but what I do know is that gaming will always be the best way to pass the time. Let’s shoot for a stellar 2021!