The Best Games From the Worst Year
So 2020 was a bit of a complete goddamn disaster. Multiple icons died, many people lost family members and have felt separated from other people as well any sense of happiness or joy. Add to that racism and discrimination exacerbated by an incestuous, war-mongering, racist, over-stuffed, dementia riddled peach, and you have the recipe for a garbage year any way you slice it. Funnily enough, there was one medium that actually had a fine year, video games. Beyond a ton of great ports and remaster like Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and Persona 5 Royal, we saw tons of franchises like DOOM, Animal Crossing, or Tony Hawk's Pro Skater carry on in glorious fashion, and even some amazing indie series like Shantae and Ori deliver great experiences. So, I thought it would be fun to count down my five favourite new games of the year that sucked so much. Remakes like Xenoblade, Persona 5 Royal, or Battle for Bikini Bottom: Rehydrated don't count as they're just the same game but new again. Go and play those anyway though.
This is my list and my opinions and I didn't play every game, everything I mentioned prior deserves some love and I wanna give a shout-out to a couple of games in particular. The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 do not deserve praise for mandating crunch and false advertising respectively. But two games that do deserve some love are Paper Mario: The Origami King and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, go play them both. While not a full game, I also want to shout-out Kingdom Hearts 3's Re:MIND DLC for being phenomenal. Now let's finally get on with the list before you get sick of me!
Final Fantasy VII Remake
So, I wouldn't normally put a remake on a list like this, but FFVIIR is essentially a whole new game based on the foundation of a generational classic and monumental JRPG. FFVIIR feels like everything Square has wanted to do since FFXII started changed the formula drastically, but genuinely great. The combat finally marries classic ATB combat with more modern action-focused systems in a unique and beautiful way. Every returning character is so much more fleshed out (shout-outs to Barret who was once just a stereotypical black man and is now my favourite FFVII character because of how well he was handled), and every new character fits right in with the cast and was enjoyable to watch. Midgar and the slums feel so lived in and real that I had to explore every nook and cranny. The new tracks in the OST are hype as shit and the remixes of classics get me hard, that new JENOVA remix got me sweating as it was just pure fire. Speaking of getting hard, Aerith and Tifa do join up with Cloud and threaten to maim Don Corneo's balls once again, and it is fucking beautiful. Some people may not have liked the ending and how it sets up future games to deviate from the original FFVII plot as certain characters that definitely once died are clearly alive now in this alternate timeline bullshit, but I am cautiously excited and optimistic that it will be different, but still great. I recommend this more to people who played the original game (which you totally should, it's great), but you can absolutely enjoy the game if you never touched the classic.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
I love Zelda, I love button mashings to destroy legions of monsters. Because of that, I LOVED the original Hyrule Warriors and was beyond stoked when I heard Koei Tecmo was making another one as a prequel to the beloved Breath of the Wild. Age of Calamity acts as a very different yet familiar experience to the more traditional Warriors titles, and I think it stands as a unique title that any Breath of the Wild fan has gotta try out. Unfortunately, I do think people who hate Warriors games or didn't love Breath of the Wild may find nothing of interest in this game. However, a more niche target audience does not make a game bad (See the game I have paragraphs down). This game is still kinetic, charming, bombastic, and over the top in all the right ways. The plot is enjoyable, even if you do know who it will end as it's a prequel to Breath of the Wild. Age of Calamity was a truly wonderful surprise in 2020 and a great title for Nintendo to release as they went full Nintendo and pissed off everyone all throughout the latter half of 2020 with limited releases and shutting down events. #FreeMelee
Ghost of Tsushima
Sucker Punch is one of the most underappreciated studios in gaming. From Rocket to Sly to inFAMOUS to Ghost of Tsushima, they have done nothing but deliver fantastic experiences. I am not a film buff, but I adore the great works of Kurasawa (especially Yojimbo), and this game stands as the perfect tribute to those classics. I could rave about how the story is phenomenal, the movement is smooth as butter, and so much more, but there are two big things I have to praise. First, my god this game is a technical marvel. Stupid quick load times and beautiful environments show how talented this team really is. Second, it is beyond incredible how much research this team did into samurai culture and the culture of Japan (the director of the Yakuza series even praised it saying that it was the kind of game that felt like it was made by a Japanese team). This game has been praised for how believable Jin is both as a samurai and as a character, and for good reason. Everything about this game feels authentic and really stands as not only a tribute to some iconic films but an entire culture as well. You owe it to yourself to play this game if you have a PS4.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
PLEASE FUCKING PLAY 13 SENTINELS. Oh my god, this game is a treat and no one is talking about it. While not as prolific as Atlus's big hitter in Persona 5 Royal, 13 Sentinels is a phenomenal and unique experience that more people need to play. This game is so fucking beautiful with a distinct art style, has excellent music, phenomenal VA performances, and such an insanely complex narrative I can't help but fall in love with it all. This game is definitely a niche title as it mixes a visual novel style narrative with a tactical RPG combat system, so not everyone will love it and that's fine. If I can somehow convince anyone to try anything on this stupid list, I hope it's this game. As great as the series reboots, continuations, and remakes a company can pump out year after year are great, the risky niche titles and new IP's are something I truly treasure. I wish this game paid off more for Atlus. The small fandom this game created absolutely adores it, but it definitely won't reach the heights of anything else I mentioned here. It's not for everyone, but 13 Sentinels gave its all trying something new, and I hope we get more fantastic experiences like it in the future. Please Atlus, please bring this gem to more platforms and let more people experience this wonderful title.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
I knew it. I knew from the moment I saw it that Yakuza: Like a Dragon would be my favourite new game of the year. This series is so damn charming that even the lowest quality titles are still a great time, but Like a Dragon looked different. New combat style, new ideas, new locations, new characters. Everything looked different, and I was here for it. Hoo boy did it ever deliver. While the turn-based combat isn't revolutionary or going to put games like FFX and Suikoden out of business, it does the job and has enough depth to be fun and satisfying. The world and side content are full of the same great ridiculous Yakuza shenanigans I adore (my favourites are the giant man-babies and Omelette the office working chicken that shoots eggs at you to heal you). The new protagonist Ichi is a perfectly dorky and endearing contrast to the previous protagonist Kiryu. The plot is definitely a continuation and carries on where Kiryu's games left off, but like a modern Star Wars film, you don't need to have experienced every single game to get this one. But unlike a Star Wars film, Like a Dragon has a phenomenal plot. Plus, the English dub is amazing and carried by great performances for those who refuse to read subtitles. Like a Dragon rose to new heights for this series and gives me so much hype and excitement as the prospect of what this team could do in the future. Pick up this game, and enjoy beating people senseless with dildos and bicycles for hours on end as you smile with glee.
2020 may have sucked, but I think it's up to us to try and find things we enjoyed (no matter how seldom they were). Now I think this is the last time I ever want to talk about 2020 ever again, so I'm going to return to my lonely, dank, and depressing basement and play some more games.