2020 was a wonderful year for video games. The end of the generation always seems to show off developer’s ability to squeeze every ounce of power out of the older consoles and explore the new potential of the next generation of home console gaming.
It was also a year where folks could sink their teeth into their back catalogs and replay their favorite games. Needing to stay inside more than usual greatly lent itself to playing games. At least, that’s part of how I took advantage of being furloughed earlier this year (outside of writing 18,000 words about Naughty Dog).
So here are my ten favorite games I played in 2020 with a little bit on each one. They are listed in alphabetical order, although I’m sure you can guess what my favorite game was this year.
From a pack-in demo on the PS4 to a VR Platforming marvel to a full-blown launch game pack in, Astro has had quite the rise during the life of the PS4. Astro’s Playroom is a charming and engaging 3D platformer. It masterfully showcases the DualSense controller and its possibilities while making you all nostalgic for PlayStation consoles of year’s past.
This is certainly not the game I thought I’d come back to this year. Maybe it was because I had time on my hands. Or the fact my friends gave me an impossibly hard time for selling my Death Stranding PS4 Pro for the The Last of Us Part II variant. Kojima out of the shadow of Metal Gear is a sight to behold.
Donkey Kong Country
DKC never looked so good.
On a slightly more serious note, I never actually played the original SNES version of Donkey Kong Country. I only had the Game Boy Color version as a kid. DKC was one of my earlier pickups when I was given a Super Nintendo. I finally decided to play it when I bought a new wireless SNES controller from 8bitdo. No better way to test input lag than with a wireless controller. There is a clear reason why DKC, both the original game and the series as a whole, has stood the test of time as a pillar of platformers.
I’ve been aware of Hades since Noclip started their documentary series two years ago. I even tried to buy it on the Epic Games Store for my MacBook Pro, but it isn’t available for macOS. I snagged it late-ish November/early December on the eShop because it was on sale and I had points expiring.
What a rock solid action game. I love the constant tug of decision making to increase your chances of making it further in each run. I could see myself get better with each run.
I do wish the narrative sucked me in more. I “beat” the game twice and felt satisfied. I still have eight more runs to see credits roll apparently. I just don’t feel a pull to keep going though.
Halo 3: ODST
Furlough and quarantine presented the perfect opportunity to replay the Halo series with my pals. And ODST is the best campaign followed closely by Reach. Halo is at its best when the stories feel smaller in the sprawling conflict. The way the narrative is stitched together; chef kiss.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
A Christmas present from last year, my playthrough ran into this year. The game is an absolute delight and a treasure for series fans. The animation and art direction will ensure that Luigi’s Mansion 3 will always look good. Just add another feather in Nintendo’s cap of timeless and charming art direction. The only real issue I had was the terrible final boss design. It was definitely a roadblock and totally crushed my pacing in the narrative.
Night Trap is utterly timeless thanks to its infamy. I had watched a documentary a few years ago and grabbed a copy for Nintendo Switch from Limited Run Games back in 2018. I had never played it and always thought it’d be a fun group game.
This summer I visited my parents and decided that one afternoon would be perfect for it. My wife, my parents, and my friend Logan were all there and we fumbled around the house as vampire ninjas abducted friends left and right.
We were captivated by the cheesiness of it all. After failing on our own a few times, Abby pulled up a guide and was shouting out rooms and timestamps. I bounced the cameras around the home while trying to watch teens dance and vampire ninja’s plot.
We were doing great until a poorly executed command on the final life or death scene; the final boss, if you will. It kicked us back to the half way point. I couldn’t convince the group to sit through another 13ish minutes. What a fun, goofy, unforgettable afternoon.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori is an absolute masterclass in fluidity of movement. I’d be hard presses to think of a game I’ve played in 2020 that had better movement.
The game’s soundtrack gave me Grant Kirkhope and David Wise undertones. The game world gave off both DKC and Hollow Knight vibes. Ori is definitely evocative and engrossing.
While the combat felt great, I wish I was more enticed to swap powers/weapons more. I kept the sword and the health recovery equipped always. I felt like the weapons I found and bought weren’t worth engaging with regularly.
Beyond that, I’d say Ori is an essential metroidvania game for any fan. And it got robbed at The Game Awards 2020.
A consistent theme I tried to adhere to this past year was playing one game at a time. This also was applied to books and TV shows. I have a bad habit of starting and stopping games.
Early on in the year, Super Metroid was one of my first “I’m gonna finish this” games. I had myself a FAQ from GameFaqs and would play in the morning.It happened to be after buying our new TV. I really started getting my money’s worth out of the Super NT this year.
There’s a reason that “metroidvania” is a term used for exploratory adventure games with upgrades. Super Metroid is part of the reason games like Ori, Hollow Knight, and Guacamelee soar.
The Last of Us Part II
It’s rare for a sequel to not only surpass the original, but to elevate it as well. Despite covering the game so closely, The Last of Us Part II surprised me continually. I played it three times. While this list may be in alphabetical order, this was far and away my favorite game of 2020.
For my spoiler-filled thoughts, check out my review. If you’re interested in the game’s history, check out Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
As a part of research for Chasing the Stick, I replayed all of the Naughty Dog Uncharted games. Not a bad way to research if you ask me. I think this was my fourth time playing the game and it continues to stand tall as my favorite in the series. Some didn’t care for the pivot to a more grounded Drake and adventure. For me, making it personal for Drake, Elena, and Sully was the only way to take Uncharted as a whole to the next level. It’s part of what makes Uncharted 3 better than Uncharted 2 in my book. Uncharted 4 has personal connection and consequences as a cornerstone of its design and it pays out in spades.