In 2020, we continue to see games we are never finished with. There’s always another weekly challenge, another season of content, another set of outfits to release, another 8 GB to download. Games are being announced alongside their post-release content schedules, given new life with game-changing updates. You can launch a game from last year and be completely overwhelmed by just how much has changed.
The one unifying factor to so many of these ongoing games is they let you play with others. Games are as good a foundation for socializing with friends as a charcuterie board. Whether it’s getting into hi-jinks with our friends or competing against others, we like playing games together. Turns out, customers - do in fact - want online games.
This year we have consolidated the favorite multiplayer/ongoing game discussion recognizing that there is a significant overlap between the two. That said, feel free to shout out single-player games that have gotten substantial updates, and multiplayer games that are just getting started as well!
I spent a lot of my time playing WoW Classic this year. It requires more initial investment compared to modern-day MMOs, but the feeling of acing something alongside 39 other people you know, after having worked really hard at it, is still a worthwhile feeling.
The new WoW expansion, Shadowlands hasn’t been bad either so far - it’s made a lot of useful changes to starting a new character/onboarding in particular, considering we’re 16 years into the game’s launch at this point.
I’ve probably given the same answer every year but it’s Destiny 2 once again. I don’t play as much as I used to but nothing gets me reinvested and energized like a new raid, and getting to go in blind with a group from the Waypoint community, figure out the mechanics and eventually take down the Deep Stone Crypt was a joy. There’s nothing else quite like the Destiny raid experience in games, to me.
The latest expansion, Beyond Light, has been solid overall as well. The new stasis classes are a lot of fun to play with and the story feels like its really starting to gear up for something big. I’ve still got my issues with some of the directions the game has gone since launch back in 2017, but I think its in a pretty good place right now and I’m looking forward to see what happens next in the coming seasonal updates and future expansions.
Warzone has been a lifeline for me this year in letting me keep in contact with my friends. Battle Royales are a concept that have always been something I’ve wanted in a game but there’s always been something in the execution that’s held me back before (building in Fortnite, the TTK in Apex, and the difficulty of controls and bugginess of PUBG). I had Blackout and enjoyed it but no one I know played so this year has been the first time I’ve been able to play a BR with friends and also feel like the game is doing what I want it to do.
It’s also been the most refreshingly non-CoD fan base experience as well. I barely have to interact with other players outside of my own party apart from the one chat innovation that gives me visceral pleasure: the one second voice chat response when you kill another player. It’s not long enough for edgelords to formulate a horrible response as it’s just their immediate reaction which is invariably funny. It also has me thinking how I must sound yelling “how has he got me!!!” when I get cut down going round a corner or sniped out a helicopter.
Good game. Kept fresh as well on a nice timetable which means even if I have a fortnight off I can still see whatever’s new without having to rush. The Halloween events for example ran for a good few weeks and the alternative modes throughout the year were kept on a good rotation with stuff like Mini Royale and Armored Truck Quads being my personal faves.
Also shout out to Halo MCC for still being active after 6 years and a dreadful launch. It just got cross play this year and seasons added to it. I don’t play much at all apart from a couple of games of BTB on occasion but there’s still a decently sized community there and it’s cool to be able to play Halo 2 multiplayer in 2020.
This year I got super into Apex. I haven’t really played competitive multiplayer since 2011ish. An online community I’m in got into it and I have been really enjoying playing so far. Having a team of 3 makes it easy to play only with friends which is probably the #1 reason I like it. The weapons are neat and varied, ditto for the characters. I love the new map this season and can’t wait to see what the next season will bring.
I also put over 700 hours into Minecraft on a server hosted by that same community. Its such a good game and playing with other people is great. We built a city, an amusement park and a winter village together. I have really enjoyed building things cooperatively or for the community. I recently made an automatic farm for anyone to use. People have also been doing tons of amazing solo projects. Its been great to see what creative and well designed things other people have built. My favorite personal project was building a massive glass dome in The End that recreated part of the overworld. It took a lot of work, but looked so cool when finished.
I don’t think I’ll be alone in this, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons was by far the best multiplayer experience I had this year. ACNH was a chance for me to spend time with friends and family that I couldn’t see in person as often as I would have liked. The game is so accessible and inviting that I played it with loved ones that I have never played a game with before. Scheduled island visits would be events I would prepare for like a dinner party. I spent afternoons crafting pitfall seeds so I could turn my whole island into a trap gauntlet for my friends who were coming by later. I played musical chairs for the first time since grade school. ACNH was the stand out multiplayer experience of 2020 for me because it was a stress free zone where I could hang out with friends and family.
The way Nintendo set up the online visit system is a bit of a pain (where everyone has to pause for a few minutes while someone flies over) but the actual experience of multiplayer in Animal Crossing was a lot of fun.
Animal Crossing was it for me. I got to play with friends in different countries, my aunt who doesn’t really play video games, friends in my city I couldn’t see because of Covid, and my wife and I even held a graduation ceremony since it got cancelled in real life. I know that some people had a hard time seeing how quickly islands got built and completed on Twitter, but just messing around with friends and seeing how their stuff looked and transformed slowly was real neat.
Fuser for me this year. Not necessarily for the co-op stuff (I haven’t actually gotten a chance to even try that yet!) but for the community Events. Each week there’s an event for Fuser where everyone can submit a mix based on a specification they’ve given and at the end of the week everyone can listen to the submissions and vote on their favourite.
It’s fantastic, because the rules they place on the events encourage you to change up your style and try out new songs or new instruments and also there’s rewards for listening to entries (not specifically for voting, but if you’re already listening you’ll probably vote for the good entries anyway.)
It has been one of the main reasons I’ve stuck with Fuser (the other being that it’s just a fantastic game.)
Did they shut down their pro circuit, leave a lot of developing regional scenes without structure and funding the DPC gave, but still release their annual crowdfunding drive for an International that never happened, on the good faith that the $36mil would eventually go towards the 10th TI? Yes.
Did they finally bring back Diretide? Also yes, and that’s not nothing.
Might be a bit of recency talking but I’ve been really enjoying WoW with its new expansion. The short version is it’s giving me what I wish Destiny 2 was. I have a lot of interesting stuff to do, clear goals, and (pretty) clear paths towards them. I also am glad to feel like crafting and professions matter again. For the first time in a while you need other people’s help to make your best stuff.
The mini stories of the covenants are also quite interesting to me.
Kingdom Hearts III’s DLC was expensive, but ended up being worth it for me. You got playable Kairi, a few new epic battle moments, but most importantly, good Superbosses. Yozora and Data Xion rank up there as some of the best bosses in the entire series, and were easily my personal gaming highlight of this entire year. It ended up as one of my great gaming achievements in my life.
For me, personally, Sea of Thieves was it. I didn’t play a lot of it, but it was a really good thing to do with distant friends this year, and I just appreciate it’s low stakes, high fun approach. And being part of game pass and cross play made it an easy sell to my people.
Untitled Geese Game. The co-op update to UGG, in which you are two horrible geese. The second player has a different honk, and it is fun to lure people away as one goose while stealing their stuff as the second goose.
Tetris Effect baaabbyy. It is the first game my partner has really played with me since Forza Horizon 4. We’ve spent countless hours trying to beat each other listening to dope music. I used to fucking hate Tetris too, I think I still do, but Tetris Effect is so good.