End of Year 2020: Favorite Game

2020 has been an unprecedented year which shifted the foundations of our daily lives and kept many of us indoors. With these new circumstances and an abundance of unoccupied time for many of us, we’ve returned to our favorite hobbies—reading, listening to (and making) music, watching movies, and of course playing video games.

There was overwhelming discourse about new games and the explosive popularity of old ones. We explored and created worlds together in the games we loved. This year has seen a shift in not only how we play games together but how we talk about them. Whether we’e taking down giant corporations or conquering demons and befriending gods, video games have provided us with a much-needed escape and even more ways to connect. So on that note, please join us and discuss all your favorite games you played in 2020!

[Hub Thread]

The nomination period will be going from December 29th to January 1st.
You can nominate your favorites here: [Offical Nomination Form]

Description: Koz & vehemently

I don’t know yet - I finally downloaded Paradise Killer after having even more people gush at me about it, so it’s still in with a last-minute chance.

If we can nominate “games we played in 2020 even if they were released in 2019”, then I’d be nominating Disco Elysium at this point, though - it’s still effortlessly the best RPG I have ever played [including in-person pen and paper ones!].
(There are shorter indie games I’ve enjoyed as much, but that didn’t do as much as DE, so I feel like I can’t nominate them for this.)

For games released / went 1.0 in 2020, though, it’s a more difficult thing. I spent a lot of time playing Hades - and enjoying most of it due to the narrative really - but I only spent the 100+ hours on it because I was trying to get to the “ending”, and I burned out on it before I did. So, I can’t nominate Hades because it failed - for me - to actually get me to finish it, despite all of the narrative “between runs” stuff it wanted to use to do that.

On the other hand, I sort of feel bad nominating Noita for “best game” when it’s, in many ways, a more traditional roguelite than Hades: Noita’s simulationist approach - combined with things like the hidden alchemy system, wand generation and other sources of many interactions - is a true evolution of the spirit of the “original roguelikes” - Nethack, Angband and so on - which were replayable endlessly because of the number of combinations of surprising interactions that could emerge.

Actually, after that, I think I’ve convinced myself to nominate Noita after all…

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I think my GOTY is Final Fantasy 7 Remake, which I absolutely did not expect at the beginning of the year. Surprise! A Kingdom Hearts fan likes an action RPG directed by Nomura.

I was skeptical before the game came out and I wasn’t big on the metanarrative stuff at the end, but I ended up liking the game so much, I immediately started over on hard after beating it, which is rare for me.

The gameplay is fantastic. It’s enough of an action game that I feel more engaged than when playing turn-based RPGs, but like a turn-based RPG, whether you win or lose a fight is almost completely determined by your strategy and using the right tools for the job.

The writing and characterization are good. The music is great. The setting is interesting. I’m excited to see where the story goes next, what characters they add in the next game, and how they play. What more could you want from a video game?

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Hades and Spiritfarer are both competing for my top spot and I’m not sure where I fall on it. Spiritfarer had higher highs and lower lows. The story moments that hit were touching and effecting; the gameplay had a satisfying loop even if the lack of consequences kept it from being necessary to maintain. I also like a… succinct experience, gathering resources and hearing stories, but still maybe 30 hours. It, oddly, satisfied a craving I often get for an Assassin’s Creed sort of game while also not leaving me burnt out the way AC does.

But Hades was a polished game through and through. It does not fail at anything, and while the emotional beats don’t resonate the way Spiritfarer’s did, it doesn’t miss at any moment. And it really was the best roguelite I’ve
ever played, much as I enjoy Dead Cells. Every weapon, every boon, was satisfying in its own way. In a year with games like Avengers, Cyberpunk, Deadly Premonition 2019, etc., it’s nice for a game to come out that works as intended on launch (and by all accounts was completely playable, if content slim, even when it was in Early Access) with a handful of small bugs that are fixed in a couple of patches.

I’m torn. Either way, great year for games where obols are a spendable resource. Hm, ah, erm, ah… Hades. I’m picking Hades, lock it in.

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It’s the least sexy choice, but I gotta give it to Destiny 2 this year. It was more than a game for me in 2020, it was my social lifeline to so many people. When the pandemic hit, my casual gaming friends asked me about game recommendations. Not knowing their financial situation, and understanding that they wanted something to fill the time, I suggested Bungie’s free-to-play shooter. And it quickly became the hangout of choice. Rough day at work? Let’s all get on and complain while we hunt an exotic. Need to brainstorm plans for a hacked together, socially distanced wedding? Let’s do that over some gambit matches. How about we all get super into prepping for a raid that we may never actually finish? It’s a good way to spend a weekend indoors, that’s for sure, and we create some inside jokes along the way. I feel closer to people in my life, as well as friends I only know through the internet, because of this Destiny 2, and that’s why it’s my favorite game of 2020.

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I don’t have time right now to write the extended post I’d like to, but for me the clear winner is Hades. I’ve always wanted to really dive into a roguelike/roguelite, but none ever really clicked for me. I would always eventually get to a point where I felt like I wasn’t making any reasonable progress toward improving at the game and give up 10-20 hours in on ever actually finishing.

With Hades, however, I finally found my footing. At 100-something runs, I’ve now officially cleared more times than I haven’t, including a wild 11-streak that I hung onto by the skin of my teeth, and it’s clear I still somehow haven’t seen everything the game has to offer after nearly 100 hours of play. I really think my success with the game is down to the brilliance of its design, both in terms of the absolutely flawless and incredibly diverse combat systems, and the brilliant unraveling of story that happens alongside and after each run.

It’s actually been a long time since I immediately arrived at year’s end knowing exactly what my GOTY was, but in 2020 there’s no question. Hades is it.

So I made a backloggd list for this

Really the big thing is, vehemently convinced me to play Rain World and im glad i listened! I keep remembering how many feelings I had during the game, good and bad and everywhere in between. Its a rare experience that was so rewarding to take the time to figure out. I hope more people give it a chance (and I’m always happy to help, because there is a big information gap that needs to be crossed).

As for 2020 games, Hades is at the top, for now, but the more I reflect on it, the less enthusiastic I am. I loved my time with the game, but I think it’s horrendously inaccessible and I really disliked the ending.

I’d rather put a spotlight on Spiritfarer or Othercide if I’m being honest. Both are games that took their respective genres and made some twists on them to make them exceptional experiences. Definitely give them a try if you’re into either genre (management and turn based tactics respectfully).

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It turns out, I really didn’t play that many games from this year.


And I guess my game of 2020 is Hard Lads, because it’s the most fun I’ve gotten out of any game I “finished” this year

(raises glass) Here’s to 2021 being all about smashing a chair over your best mate’s back, but not before giving him a cheeky little smooch

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In a year where I played more video games than ever, I played 7 games that came out this year. Seven. That’s it. That’s the fewest new releases I’ve played since… well, actually, probably ever. I was going to say my childhood where I relied on birthdays and Christmas for games, but, even then, renting was a pretty regular occurrence at our house growing up.

Part of it was a direct result of my economic situation this year, which was the worst I’ve been in, but not nearly as bad as so many out there (I found a job during a global recession for pete’s sake). But, with that, the pandemic meaning I couldn’t play anything in person (like fighting games or party games), the library being closed for majority of the year (my go-to source of new games), and my house’s last vehicle kicking the bucket, I spent most of my time this year basically stuck in a bunker. The past twelve months I’ve either been playing live games (Apex Legends, Final Fantasy XIV, and Hearthstone, mainly) or diving deep into the backlog (which honestly was much needed. FuriDragon Quest Builders 2Disgaea 4Picross 3d… the Yakuza series… CelesteYoku’s Island ExpressShiren 5… so many games that I’m so happy I had time to go back to).

So, for majority of the year, the only three new games I had played were Helltaker, a free game that was more charming than actually a fantastic game; Granblue Vs, one of my favourite fighting games this generation, but one that launched just before the pandemic hit and had disappointing online; and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a literal desert island game that unfortunately wasn’t exactly what I needed during that time in my life.

And while Spelunky 2, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, DOOM: Eternal, and Hades are looking to be fantastic games that could be great frontrunners, I still feel I’ve only scratched each of their surfaces and I’m not comfortable with crowning any of them.

So what do I crown Game of the Year 2020? Nothing. At least, not yet. Maybe one day I will, once this year has disappeared from view.

But for now? There is no Game of the Year 2020.

2020 doesn’t deserve a game of the year.

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Wait, what? This is a game???

Just guys being dudes, being gays

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Aw yiiisss. This is an ode to every lad that’s sweatily hugged me at a festival. Thank you!

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I’m going to write a full like 10,000 word piece on this later in January, but the List as it Stands of Best Games of the Year is:

  1. Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition, Cardboard Computer
  2. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Vanillaware
  3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
  4. Hades, Supergiant Games
  5. Final Fantasy VII Remake (Part 1), Square Enix
  6. Paradise Killer, Kaizen Game Works
  7. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, Square Enix
  8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Moon Studios
  9. CrossCode, Radical Fish Games
  10. The Collage Atlas, John William Evelyn
  11. Banner of the Maid, Azure Flame Studios
  12. Evan’s Remains, Matías Schmied

With everything not bolded being something I’m unsure will hang in the final list, depending on how I feel in the end.

EDIT: Yakuza Like a Dragon is not making the final list. I’ll find something else.

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So, here are the games released this year that I played:

As the star ratings show, I really enjoyed a lot of games that were released this year! My taste usually skews more towards indie titles, but I’m a little surprised at how they dominated the games I played from 2020. It’s not like this year didn’t have many landmark AAA releases. I guess 2020 was the year I stopped believing the hype!

My favorite game this year was Spelunky 2!!! What a great game! To me, it feels like an improvement on the original (already one of my favorite games) in just about every way! It was great to have so many of my old habits challenged and inverted. It trained me to be cautious and engaged when so many other games just wanted to be an escape. Deep focus has always been much better and reducing my stress than relaxation (see also: my love for horror and souls games), and Spelunky 2 has demanded my attention better than any other game this year! And in 2020, with every day full of vectors that end in anxiety attacks, that has been especially important.

Anyways, here’s my top ten in ranked order:

  1. Spelunky 2
  2. Moon: Remix RPG Adventure
  3. Umurangi Generation
  4. Kentucky Route Zero
  5. Amnesia Rebirth
  6. In Other Waters
  7. Tales from Off-Peak City
  8. Promesa
  9. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  10. RE3make

Honorable Mentions: Hades, Fatum Betula, Rainy Season, Wildfire, Paper Mario
Dishonorable Mentions: Hades (long story, basically fan reaction to certain elements of the game soured my love for that game for personal trauma reasons. Probably would have been near the top of my top ten if I could still play or think about it.), Paradise Killer (I’ll revisit this when I’m in a less dark headspace, but WOOF! I had a real negative time playing this game.)

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I somehow didn’t realize Noita hit 1.0 this year! All the way back in October!? I bought that game when it first came out in early access and played it exactly one time before realizing that it was something special and deciding to shelve it until it was complete. That game just shot up to the top of my queue!

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I’m about to go real long on Hades. There will be some spoilers.

TL;DR: Hades is great and I need to get better at playing the stuff I buy

I owe Supergiant Games an apology.

I have purchased every single one of their games so far. I even have Bastion for iOS. I even bought Hades in Early Access on Steam (something I never do) because I had faith in both SGG and in the remarkable early feedback I’d been hearing about Hades. All of these games had one thing in common, though.

I have never played any of them.

Supergiant’s specialty is the exact kind of game that gets doomed to an eternity in my backlog. The smallish indie title that everyone says is worth checking out, so I figure I’ll wait a bit until it goes on sale, scoop it up in the aforementioned inevitable sale, and periodically think “I should really check that out at some point” as I scroll by it in my various game libraries. It’s a terrible habit of mine, despite me rationalizing it away as “supporting cool indie games.” I’m sure they appreciate my financial support over the years, but if you put your art out into the world for everyone to see but no one does, what did you really do?

So, what does it take to get me to play a Supergiant game? Three things, apparently: 1. endless Twitter buzz 2. a Switch port and 3. a pandemic eating the fall release schedule.

I remember kinda grousing to myself during my first run that the dodge wasn’t as good as the dodge from Dead Cells. Or that the sword wasn’t quite as responsive. Or that I felt so limited in what I could do. Etc. The art was gorgeous and everything ran without a hitch. I just wasn’t seeing the real “magic” of Supergiant.

And then I died.

The first thing that struck me was the voice acting. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the work that Troy Baker and Laura Bailey do, but it was so refreshing to hear people who have been given more direction than “Do that heroic voice thing” that you hear out of them in every third video game. I immediately ran around and talked to everyone (and pet Cerberus, because every game with a dog in it must also include a “Pet Dog” button by federal law and international treaty), trying to absorb as much as I possibly could. And then I immediately set out on another run with the Bow to see if I learned anything.

And promptly died again.

Got back, same deal. But…the dialog changed? Did the game change every time I died? What’s this purple stuff? Nyx mentioned something about a Mirror? This game changes every run?!

Oh. Ohhhhhh. Hades, we’re going to get along just fine.

A few runs later, I have the Shield now. And an accidentally killer build. Met Meg, the official wife of Twitch chat anytime anybody is playing Hades (One of the Waypoint extended family retweeted something about how “horny” in the LGBTQ community is a very playful thing and that really stuck with me as I played Hades in general. Anyway.). About 30 minutes later, I’m standing in front of Cerberus, waiting for the boss fight to begin.

Nope. Cerberus, the Good Boy, just wants a treat and he’ll get out of your way. And, after playing through The Last Of Us Part II (blergh) and Ghost of Tsushima (a game I genuinely enjoyed), the idea that a game would position a dog between you and your goal and have that conflict be settled by giving that dog his favorite treat just felt like a big warm hug. Supergiant gets it.

And that’s where I officially decided that Hades was my Game of the Year.

As runs passed, I realized that the reason my first run went so poorly (outside of me not being a speedrunner) is because there are so many more powers to unlock. More dashes. More lives. I started making plans to optimize my runs for particular resources to unlock particular things faster. I started getting familiar with various boons as I ran into them and enjoying basically all of them. Supergiant is very quick to point to the feedback they received from their community for why Hades feels as good as it does, but it takes a team of master game designers to marshal that feedback into usable data and translate it into results.

I adore Hades. I went out and bought all of Supergiant’s games when they went on sale on Switch to honor my favorite game of the year and also to remind myself that sometimes, the answer might just be in your backlog.

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There’s so much I intended to play this year but ultimately didn’t, because for various stretches I just found myself completely uninterested in new experiences. Depression does that to you, I guess.

Here’s also the ones I bought but haven’t gotten to — and which, from what I’ve seen, would have had a good shot at giving me a different answer here. Umurangi and Paradise Killer are both on my wishlist too. Eventually.

I also replayed quite a few games. Bloodborne, were it eligible, would be my Game of the Year, because this was the time I played it and everything finally just clicked. But alas, it is 2020, and if I’m going to choose a game from this year, it can’t be that one.

And so! My 2020 GOTY is Black Mesa.

I’ve posted about it the “Moments” thread, as well as in the general what games are ya playin thread back in July when I played through it, but the way it revised Half-Life’s final chapters and ending captured me in a way that just blew away anything else I’ve played this year. And I’ve liked other games, a lot! Hades was utterly excellent. Miles Morales was a brilliant ride. Astro’s Playroom is a legitimately wonderful 3D platformer, and if I were making a list it would almost definitely make the Top 5. But none of them stuck with me in the way Black Mesa did.

I’ve written something longer about it I’m planning to post on my site on the 31st, but the gist of that feeling was the sheer sense of wonder that the rebuilt Xen levels created — they felt like full ecosystems, like the natural habitats for all these strange creatures that you spend 10 or so hours fighting through in the narrow, claustrophobic, tunnels under Black Mesa. It recontextualizes your experience with everything that came before in a way I found utterly wondrous and profound… and also very dissonant, because you’re still just a man with a giant arsenal of guns. For a simple comparison, I felt like the invading force in Avatar (blue people Avatar to be clear), and that feeling translated the themes that are left kind of vague and weakly communicated at the end of Half-Life, about cycles and perpetuation of invasion and colonialism, into something more significant. It just led to me wandering around this brilliant ecosystem filled with life and wishing I had something other than a gun with which to interact with it — and that feeling was just so much stronger than anything else any other 2020 game has done for me this year.

So, that’s that. Not necessarily one I expect to see a bunch of, but for me, it’s Black Mesa, GOTY

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we can nominate games not released in 2020.

In this thread, you can talk about any game you want! For the nomination form, on-going games have their own category.

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The big caveat here is that I’ve started Yakuza Like a Dragon, which I’m ~12 hours into and really enjoying, and AC Odyssey which I figure will wind up somewhere on this list, but I’m too early into those long games to make some sort of final judgment of them.

So, Desperados III. It hadn’t really been on my radar until I heard Rob Zacny discussing it on Waypoint Radio and Three Moves Ahead, but I’m very glad I took the chance to buy it. The stealth puzzles Mimimi have crafted here are really satisfying to unravel, and there’s such a wealth of optional objectives in each mission that I didn’t think twice about replaying the entirety what is a 30 hour story - and then three more DLC missions, twice each.

It’s not the sandbox that the recent Hitman games are, but they allow and encourage missions to be done via alternate methods in a similar way. Getting to the end of a mission that took me an hour, and then finding out that there’s a badge for completing it in under 10 minutes, or without killing any of the dozens of guards I slaughtered - this could have been frustrating, but instead I felt compelled to figure out how it gets done.

I can’t say it’s totally unlike anything I’ve played before - it borrows a ton mechanically from their previous game, Shadow Tactics, which I only played briefly - but there aren’t a lot of real time stealth tactics games out there, and I found it a very fresh experience. The characters and music are playing on western tropes, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that they’re very well done, the icing on a cake of really cool gameplay mechanics.

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