What were the best games you played this year?
The question is NOT limited to 2020 releases (though they are certainly included).
What were the best games you played this year, and why were they standouts?
The question is NOT limited to 2020 releases (though they are certainly included).
What were the best games you played this year, and why were they standouts?
The Outer Wilds: I picked up this game when it came out last year but put off playing it. Easily one of my top 5 games of all time. It was really fun to explore and figure out the mystery of what was happening.
Half Life: Alyx: I traded a buddy for his Rift and got to play this and it has certainly been my favorite VR experience so far. The sense of scale, the physical aiming, physically searching rooms for loot was really, really neat.
The Outer Wilds was a gaming experience unlike any other. It’s an all-time top 10 game for me. The way the strange physics, vast world and careful storytelling come together, with no handholding, no combat mechanics and no loading screens is just... beautiful. It’s the kind of game I always imagined games to be in the future, decades ago. It’s a shame there isn’t an entire genre of games like this.
I like the concept of having a time loop to explore. Minit did it too. You become familiar with the environment, then you learn to interact with it to progress in many different ways.
I hope more games try their take on it. You pack a lot of stories in only a few minutes and link them somehow.
I'll second The Outer Wilds. It was a really wonderful take on environmental puzzle-solving in a game. It just all works together so, so nicely - all the mechanics and design decisions support each other in a really tightly connected web. It's so meticulous and deliberate. I thought about it a lot when I wasn't playing it.
I think my favourite thing about it is that the world actually changes over time in substantial ways. Going to the same place at different times gives you different options. The world changes around you and without you. Not many games do this well, even fewer do it "authentically".
It also helps that I found locomotion itself really fun; but then, I've always been a big fan of space flight sims. :)
Other games that scratch kind of the same itch for me have been Heaven's Vault and Return of the Obra Dinn. They are not really in the same genre, they're more traditional adventure puzzle games. But they share the trait of actually testing your knowledge - your progress through the game is tied more closely to your understanding than it is to "you found the key to this door!" type flags.
I think what makes them compelling for me is that the games are happy to let you be in a state of uncertainty. All three games are about understanding and reconstructing past events in some capacity, and while you can come up with ideas about how things went, none of these games give you instant confirmation or denial. The "puzzle" is really how you go about testing your assumptions and finding contradicting or affirming evidence.
(Unfortunately I haven't been able to beat either of them so I can't give a whole-hearted recommendation - Heaven's Vault due to a graphical glitch that made my progress difficult and Return of the Obra Dinn because a friend wants to play it with me, so I stopped to be polite until she can come over. :T )
Thirding Outer Wilds and seconding Heaven's Vault and Obra Dinn!
Obra Dinn has well earned its accolades, but I hope Heaven's Vault gets a bit more notice. Despite some shortcomings (a few glitches here and there, and the "sailing" felt like a missed opportunity), I think there's a decent audience for it, and the setting and gameplay are quite creative and unique. Sethian is the only other language/translation puzzle game I can think of that rivals HV in the language department, and it's even smaller and less approachable.
In another weird tangent of "not-remotely-the-same-genre-but-still-sort-of-connected", I replayed Rain World for the nth (for some large forgotten value of n) time, in between watching my brother stream his first playthrough. It's another game that gives you all the tools and abilities right from the outset (bar one, maybe, depending on how you count), and the biggest barrier between you and the endgame is discovering what you already have available and what you actually need to do. This chiefly requires discovering how the various creatures in the world behave, their interactions with you and each other, and a little bit about the history and nature of the world at large. Unfortunately it's a harder game to recommend, given that it's a brutally "unfair" survival sim first and a pseudo-metroidvania platformer second, with a little more than its share of player hostile level design issues in some areas; but despite all that it somehow comes together into a cohesive whole that unifies the gameplay and narrative themes uniquely well.
Half Life: Alyx is incredible. I wish more people could have access to VR and experience it. It's hard to market and sell something so visceral about physically being present in an intense scene, or any scene really. I hope more experiences come out like it—not only games; even scripted experiences like a 3D film would be immersive.
Disco Elysium was a late 2019 release, but I didn't play it until 2020. I haven't played a game with such good story-writing and dialogue for a decade+. Really really incredible game.
It was definitely the game that took my breath away with how unique and fun it was. The way they integrated skills and dialogue checks together was just incredible. I also just loved how they kept deftly integrating philosophy and politics throughout the game. It is one of my favorite games of all time, not just ones I played in 2020.
Just finished my play-through, and damn I loved this game -- the world building, writing, and in particular, the dialogue system were top-notch.
In the past, I've always struggled (but enjoyed) with dialogue-tree heavy games like this, as I often fall into the trap of trying to 'optimize' the results of every conversation to get the maximal 'reward' (e.g., even going so far as to reload to retry a conversation). Disco Elysium did a really excellent job of breaking me out that mold by:
Warning minor spoilersI never got into the Bunker on the shore, even though I'm pretty sure what I would have found in there
It was easily the most fun I've had in a game in years.
minor spoilerYou can still finish the game without going into the Bunker!? O_o
I thought for certain that was a key trigger to progress to the next phase of the game, so I went there in all my playthroughs. Now I am definitely going to have to spin up the game again to see just how little you can do and still get away with it. :P
p.s. It's by far the best game I have played in years too, so I would also highly recommend it as well.
Heh -- my next playthrough will be doing exactly that (e.g., trying to do something completely different that this run). I think the bunker would have:
Warning: major spoilers, do not read if you haven't played already!let me go to the Island *before* the mercenary tribunal went down, as I probably would have seen evidence in there of the old man on the Island camping out. Unfortunately, my Interface was... not so great, and I failed the red check on the Bunker door (with like a 40% chance of success) -- fwiw, I'm talking about the Bunker on the Martenaise shore, and not the Island itself (which has the large bunker w/ the bulkhead door you have to go through to reach the Deserter). Instead, I had to:
at which point I was able to go to Lilliene to get her skiff to head over (even though I had wanted to find a way since determining the three potential shot locations).
This game rules :)
Okay, yeah... so if I am remembering things correctly, it looks like not going to the bunker definitely seems to change the order (and outcome) of things. Neat. I will have to give that a try next time, and you should probably give the opposite a try at some point too. :P
The best game I played this year was Death Stranding. I'm a Hideo Kojima skeptic. I liked Metal Gear Solid but didn't much enjoy any of those games between the first and the fifth. In the run up to the release of Death Stranding, it sounded like a game that was going to go pretty deep up its own ass, for lack of better words. After it was released for PS4, and I saw how divisive it was, I knew I had to play it. I was going to play it anyway, because loved MGSV so much. When it was announced for PC, I was excited. But I went in with low expectations. A game that takes "walking simulator" very seriously? How is that fun? Delivering packages for likes? Ghosts?
It is a game that's up its own ass, a lot, and "walking simulator" or "package delivery" isn't being reductive of it at all. That's what it is. It's also some of the most fun I had this year. I loved loading up as many packages as I could carry, and trekking them across difficult terrain to deliver them. I loved making my hikes easier by laying down ladders and climbing ropes. I loved building roads and using them to make my deliveries even faster. I didn't love dealing with ghosts and cargo cultists, but it came with the job. I absolutely understand why some people hate this game. I'm not one of them. There's about 10 hours of anime nonsense at the beginning, and 10 hours of anime nonsense at the end, and everything in between is some of the most fun I had this year.
Runner up is, honestly, Doom 64. I had a shitload of fun with Doom Eternal, but Doom 64 really clicked for me. It's just an uglier version of Doom but it's still more Doom. Never played it when it was a new game, and I wouldn't want to play it with a Nintendo 64 controller, but it's surprisingly great! But, pro-tip, do not miss any of the secret levels, or the artifacts in them, or any of the pieces of the unmaker. I got to the end and found it damn near impossible because I wasn't equipped to fight the final boss without those things.
I've only played three (video) games this year, I think. Among Us, Cyberpunk 2077, and Hades.
Hades is a rogue-like RPG, in which you play the son of Hades, committed to escape the Underworld & join his family on Olympus.
Rogue-likes aren't really my thing, but I love this game. I got it on recommendation from a friend whose whole jam is rogue-likes.
The art is charming, the characters are fun, the whole vibe is just cute. The writing is ace. The voice acting is well done. You can romance pretty much anyone you want (but, Dusa best girl. Who knew a floating monster head could be so anime?). Each run after you die is different, not only because of the unpredicatable dungeon layouts, but because the Olympian Gods will offer you various boons to help you on your quest & they can change your gameplay drastically.
At this time, my enjoyment has cost about $0.45/hour—and it keeps getting cheaper.
I'm also a huge Hades fan. I think it's my GOTY this year.
I've beaten the game twice (as in, seen the credits twice - I bought it on Switch first, then again on PC when my wife got way into Stardew Valley again and started hogging the Switch, lol). I'm in the epilogue and it still feels massive! I'm having fun trying to get my ingame completion time down while punching up the heat for new rewards. There's just so much stuff. I still haven't found all the duo boons!
My favourite weapons are Exagryph and Malphon; least favourite is Coronacht!
What's it like having bad opinions? Fight me IRL😤 Coronacht is GOAT!
I got Hades relatively recently, so I haven't seen the credits yet. I feel like I must be close, though. I'm getting fairly good at a certain boss fight, the household is getting pretty pimped out, and I keep crossing prophecies off the list. It's hands down, one of the best games I've played in recent memory. I'm glad it's getting the recognition it deserves.
My opinions are actually perfect tyvm!!
I think Coronacht might be for a player who is a little more, uh, methodical than me. I like big explosions and spamming dash-strikes, lol.
After I finished the "main" story I was surprised by how many more little side-quests and interactions there still were, and I think they're still compelling narratively. I don't want to spoil anything because part of the delight is stumbling across them; but, for example, try turning on the ingame timer in the options and seeing if anyone notices! :) Small things make it really feel like the game is paying attention to you.
Supergiant doesn't have a history of DLC, but I would purchase Hades DLC in an instant. I think the only thing that can make this game better is more of it - more more enemy types, chambers/floors, even furniture...
Also, completely aside, but I've been a huge fan of Darren Korb (the composer) for years and years now, and I think it's so cool that he's the voice of Zagreus!
Varatha needs more love, my friend!
I do like Varatha, but only with the hidden aspect upgrade (because I couldn't figure out not getting hit with the normal aspects). I think all of the weapons are great or can be great if you find the right Daedalus upgrade, although I haven't found many Daedalus hammers for Malphon, so its probably my least favorite. Current favorite is Coronacht with exploding arrows upgrade + aspect of Hera, can easily spam out 120-ish damage with the weakest shot possible, over 1000 on a fully charged crit
I have no shame in saying that Skyrim is the best game I played this year. It's my comfort food. I don't know what it is about that game but it's got serious staying power for me... no matter how much I play it, I continue to love and return to it. I've enjoyed plenty of newer games in the years since it came out, but I don't return to any of them like I do to Skyrim.
Runner up may be No Man's Sky, it's in a similar category of replayability. The nice thing about that one is it continues to improve with every free update, long after any reasonable dev team would've dropped it and moved on to the next project.
Call me a fundamentalist, but what a great feeling it is when your limiting factor in a shooter isn't the sluggish character or the resource/ammo economy. Just you and your reflexes.
Ultrakill was my game of the year for 2020. Amazing game; I can't wait for it to get out of Early Access.
I absolutely love Ultrakill. When I saw the videos and saw the pixelated graphics with the fountains of blood, I was a bit skeptical because that's like a good chunk of Steam shovelware. But man, it is just clenches fist so good!
It's a lot like Doom Eternal in that it has this incredibly satisfying gameplay dance where you need to get up and close in the enemies face to get their blood in order to heal your health. But a lot of enemies do massive damage up close if you aren't careful. Trying to hide away is a great way to get killed as you stop replenishing your health.
It also proves that guns with no reloading/unlimited ammo mechanics works so well. It wasn't until Ultrakill that I realised how unnecessary pointless and bogged down the whole reload ammo "minigame" in FPSes are. Maybe if games did something interesting with the mechanic (e.g. clip has a lot of ammo, but reloading has a time cost that, once done, gives you critical damage and has a cool-off period) then I'd happily be on board with it.
If you liked Ultrakill, you should try New Blood's other games, such as Dusk and Amid Evil. Both are amazing retro FPS games that forego reloading and other quirks of modern shooters. They're some of my favorite games of all time; I can't praise them enough.
If you want a game that does interesting stuff with reloading, you might want to try Receiver or its sequel. Both games are centered around the concept of handling guns in all their complexity, and are honestly really interesting games.
I've actually got Dusk and Receiver, but I never tried Amid Evil or Receiver 2. Maybe I should fix that...
@nerb already mentioned Disco Elysium, which was by far my favorite play of the year. So I'll just mention:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses - I believe this is the best Fire Emblem to date. The UI offers such an abundance of information and really helps you be strategic. The system they've set-up for fighting large enemies that need a whole army to take them down is great. The story is also very good and it's a true choices matter game where the narrative goes in wildly different directions based on a few key choices.
Persona 5 Royal - It was very fun to revisit this game. While the extra story in Royal is kind of dicy in terms of what it does to the themes and ideas expressed by the first game, the fanboy in me liked the extra time with characters and a setting that I really enjoy. And the quality of life improvements and mechanics added were very good, even if the extra story had hits and misses.
Star Wars: The Old Republic - After two years away because of the thoroughly disappointing Knights expansions, I came back to this as just something to do during quarantine and was really impressed with what's been done since I left. Recently the Onslaught expansion was finished it's probably the closest anyone is going to get to Knight of the Old Republic III, and it nicely finishes off the story started in those two games. There's a lot of new end game stuff too now, they went back to making operations and flashpoints after kind of stopping that for a bit. Enjoying taking some friends through it for their first time.
I'm seconding Persona 5 Royal. Persona 5 was in my backlog for so long that P5R was announced, marketed, and released before I ever got around to playing P5/P5R. But despite effectively paying for P5R twice, I have no regrets -- the game is that good. Anyway, here are my abridged thoughts.
Person 5 Royal (2020)
Completed around July; platform: ps4
Game could've used more closure; however, it seems like that will be provided in Person 5 Scramble.
It boggles my mind that Persona 5 also targeted and released for the Playstation 3 (and hasn't been ported to the Switch yet 😛).
I'm honestly not much of a gamer, but I was completely enthralled by Control. It completely sucked me in literally within the first couple of minutes, and although the story may have turned out to be perhaps the weakest part of the game, the lore, design, and sheer delight I had becoming a practical god throughout the course of the game left me in awe, and feeling pretty bittersweet once it ended. One of those pieces of media that I wholly wish I could eternal sunshine out of my memory so that I could experience it for the first time again, just for me to go through withdrawals once I finished it. I haven't been able to pick up another game since because they just pale in comparison. What a game.
I loved Control and I'm just far enough removed from my first playthrough that I jumped back into it for a second run when it hit Xbox Game Pass. It's a very good game!
Interview With The Whisperer is the coolest game I've played this year. It captures the fundamental fuzziness of all conversation through dialogue being piped through a chatbot that's presented as an old man who seems to have dementia or just be disconnected from reality. I adore it.
itch.io page (free)
The ones that come to mind for me are:
But the crowning king has to go to The Last of Us Part 2. The story on closer inspection is a bit iffy, but the combat mechanics and the beat-to-beat gameplay is so good that none of that matters. I want to do a second playthrough, but I've got all these other games that I want to play through first (and I prefer to go into TLOU2 fresh again).
THPS 1+2: Vicarious Visions put a lot of work into this game to make it play and feel like a good THPS game. It's controls and physics are the most important part. While not at all like THAW or Project 8 (which are each different and unique, but play well), the game is consistent, and they've been doing some work listening to the community to add extra goals and challenges to encourage players, at least in singleplayer. Literally the biggest game lobby I was in this week was because I watch the game designer on Twitch, and his chat voted to play online, where I happened to be searching for a game, but the online is a blast. But the single player is great, whether you're doing challenges or grinding to get a high score. Vicarious Visions is apparently planning more releases, I think another re-release only so far, but if they do an original THPS game, I'd totally buy it.
Celeste. I finally bought it because I was going to be house sitting for a few days, and it seemed like a good game to focus on. It's been a blast even after beating the main sequence, it's fun, and I can pick it up, grind out a few strawberries, and come back to it later until I 100% it.
Art of Rally. From the developers of Absolute Drift, it's a similarly cheeky, but solid driving game. It's closer to a rally sim than you'd think, but is also extremely arcadey, which I think is great. It's another one of those games that's difficult, but not particularly high stakes, so if you lose, you can jump back in and have more fun learning how to play.
Factorio. I "got into it" this year, and need to go back to my game, but haven't had time to. I've been solving other problems, or playing games that aren't so problem-solvey to sort of take it easy on the brain power. It deserves its place as Steam's highest rated game, and if you even like games as simple as Sim City Rollercoaster Tycoon or Transport Tycoon (which are all, in a way, process-oriented resource management games), I'd say give it a go. Or if you're on a budget Mindustry or Shapez.IO, which are both open source, very different from each other and Factorio, but create very similar problems to solve for less money to free.
I've been enjoying the THPS 1+2 remake as well, and I agree it is phenomenal.
I'm glad you mentioned the physics too, because that is what really stands out to me. I've been playing a lot of the original PS1 versions of the games over the years on various emulators too, and what amazes me is how shockingly accurate the physics of the remakes is compared to the original. I actually suspect they must have copied the physics engine from the original source code, because even the janky parts are perfectly recreated
THPS = Tony Hawk Pro Skater, I assume?
Yeah, I feel I should clarify it, but it's also the only series with that abbreviation as far as I know.
The one that comes to mind immediately is Animal Crossing. It's been a welcome respite from the stress of the world, as well as a really fun way to hang out with friends I can no longer see in person.
I'm also really enjoying decorating my island - right now I'm working on winter decorations (the snow is so pretty!). I went all out decorating for my virtual Halloween party with friends (tour video 1 and tour video 2), and I'm hoping to do something similar for a "Friendmas" gathering later this month.
Your island looks fantastic! I love how much you captured the Halloween spirit. Thanks for the tour!
Thank you! It was so much fun to do. :)
I tried out Apple Arcade and found a bunch of really good titles. I think I've mentioned most of these in the weekly "What Are You Playing?" threads, but here's a recap in no particular order:
The Last Campfire
Stranded Sails - surprisingly good. It starts off goofy and is not a genre I normally play, but it really delivered!
Little Orpheus - the gameplay was so-so but the settings were top notch
Beyond Blue - a little too easy, but again, really great use of graphics on the phone
Don't Bug Me
Thanks for this list, joplin! I just got a new phone and it came with 3 months of Apple Arcade free, so I'll have to try some of these out.
Honestly, I don't want to know how many hours I've put into Hades, and it only came out in October on the Switch. I also picked up Bastion and Transistor but I haven't played them as much. I also just picked up Civ VI and it'll be my first Civ game, but I haven't had a chance to really play it because of finals. :(
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Absolutely outstanding follow-up to an absolutely outstanding game. Gorgeous graphics, touching narrative, fantastic world design, and incredibly satisfying movement. The game is a joy to play. I'll probably replay the series sometime next year.
Also a joy to play. The game gets described as a mish-mash of genres, and rightfully so, but doing so can make it sound uninspired, when really it's quite the opposite. It's a game that feels so fantastically "gamey" that it's like a love-letter to the medium itself.
I replayed it this year, and then I re-replayed it again two weeks later. The movement is so good and so satisfying. The chapter leading up to the (first) ending of the game is absolutely magical.
I have a VR device that is pretty much exclusively a Beat Saber machine, and I've gotten my (husband's) money out of it from that game alone. As a DDR veteran, it's everything I could have wanted in a rhythm game but way kinder to my knees and ankles.
Battlefield V: Was playing this in the early part of the year, pre-COVID. I would probably still be playing it, if I hadn't become a PC gamer (which caused me to decide to allow my Playstation subscription run out). I have been a fan of the Battlefield series through BF3, BF4 and BFV. Despite DICE's "hit & miss" track record with design decisions and stuff, I think it's a great FPS franchise.
Eternal Card Game: Started playing this this year, and now have 500+ hours sunk into this game. It's F2P, but not in a bad way. With some dedication, you can become competitive in PvP, and it isn't unenjoyable to grind your way up to that.
Honourable mention to Fantasy Strike, a F2P, cross-platform fighting game that has innovative features and design decisions not seen in the more popular entries in the genre. I even spent money on this because I wanted to support the developers.
I mentioned this about a week ago, but Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy is fantastic.
It's a big, complex board game with all sorts of interconnected shit to manage, but it's so elegantly designed that, at least to us, it didn't feel burdensome in it's complexity.
But it's the sort of game that costs like $150+ and a single match will likely take 5 hours, or more with more people. But it is absolutely excellent if everyone at your table is into big, brain-burny games.
This was the review that sold me
Gorogoa - an amazing puzzle game that is so unique.
Gorogoa was beautiful, and truly unlike anything else I've ever played. It felt less like I was playing a game and more like I was reading through a beautiful, interactive art book.
Omori. It got released 5 days ago, and it's absolutely my favorite game I played this year. It's very good, and definitely not getting the attention it deserves. If you like story based games and/or turn based rpgs definitely check it out.