Honestly, my opening piece from each of these entries is feeling more and more like a prophecy of doom, with 2020 actually beating 2019 for terribleness. Well done.
Game of 2020 I stopped playing in Early Access almost a year ago:
Deep Rock Galactic – PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series
Deep Rock Galactic remains a fantastic game. The developers have added more content, revised the existing content, and constantly iterated. A four-player co-op First Person Shooter about 4 dwarves digging their way through caverns in search of loot, it features lots of mining and shooting that culminates each level with a madcap dash away from vicious monsters. It works perfectly in cross-platform play between Win 10 and Xbox too. Don’t miss out on the v1.0 release.
The ‘Please Stop Releasing Your Games in December 2019, This Is Killing Me’ award goes to:
- Humankind: Ancestors
- Untitled Goose Game
- Pathologic 2
The Games I played a lot of that were not released in 2020:
Honestly, most of these games have seen updates from the developers in a way that has made them even better than their original release. I’ve probably put more hours into these than some of the games on my official top ten:
- Children of Morta – After coming to Game Pass and then releasing an expansion, this is a co-op must-play roguelike experience with a well-integrated story
- Metal Gear Survive – When Brad is wrong he is wrong, but with MGS he was very right. Best Metal Gear game outside of MGSV.
- Human Fall Flat – Best played with others, I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard in my life as I have playing this game. Pure joyous multiplayer anarchy. The developers have continued to support the game with new levels.
- Gears 5 – I wrote a recent review and it’s already out of date since the new campaign expansion dropped – the developers haven’t stopped updating. Exceptional game.
- PUBG – I’ve finally slowed down on playing this one, but it still has frequent, excellent updates. With new people starting on maps mainly filled with bots, this is the best time for inexperienced players to get in.
- State of Decay 2 – I loved SoD a great deal, but kept my love for it low-key because I worked on it. SoD2 sort of came and went and then came back again, thanks to long-haul support for the title and new stuff being added constantly. Probably the best zombie survival out there.
…And now for my official Top Ten of 2020!
10> Tell Me Why Win 10, Xbox One, Xbox Series
I’m scared that DontNod are going to “do a Telltale” and run out of steam with their story/adventure titles. However, they continue to put out good and varied work. Tell Me Why follows twins reuniting after ten years as the brother returns from time served for killing their mother in self-defense. Dia Lacina wrote a great article about how ‘boring’ the portrayal of the characters are, but I found the mundanity of the interactions exactly what I wanted from this slow, tender story of familial reconciliation. Like the Before series of films by Richard Linklater, it’s the intimacy and honesty of the dialogue that kept me coming back, especially in a year devoid of close human contact.
9> The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series * GameCritics review here
Little Hope is very much about who you play it with. It’s a horror game primarily, but picking up to five people to play with elevates some of the narrative shortcomings. Does your friend decide to have your character shot? Maybe! Does your girlfriend panic and get people murdered? Yes, and it imitates horror movies perfectly. Our official review says the ending is awful but I feel like it might be one of those cases where the choices made beforehand will make a difference in terms of impact.
8> Ring Fit Adventure Switch
I lost my ability to work out in a serious way this year, and Ring Fit came along as a good intermediate. Combining workouts with a levelling system, skills, potions and more was the perfect thing for me and my partner. We’ve been working to motivate each other with this stupid flexible ring and going from strength to strength. Literally.
7> Windbound PC, Stadia, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series * Gamecritics review here
I actually had to delay my writeup for this top ten to see if I encountered some of the complaints in our review. I am happy to say that most of what Daniel took issue with is no longer present, or has been balanced since then. Windbound ended up being a deeply calming game about sailing a makeshift craft from one island to another, finding food and crafting items. For those interested in only that aspect there’s a non-roguelike option, but I was happy to die and start again from scratch just to get the wind behind my sails.
6> Rogue Company PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series * Gamecritics review here
A third-person spin on CS:GO but with special powers, Rogue Company is slickly made — it’s quick to get into and easy to enjoy, but with plenty of depth to keep coming back to. Now that it’s gone free-to-play and has a full suite of cross-platform connectivity across every console and PC, there’s never been a better time to jump in. Support also seems to be ongoing with a new character released only a few weeks ago. This is the perfect comfort food for me, and I’m still playing as we move into the new year.
5> West of Dead PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series * Gamecritics review here
An isometric roguelike with a strong visual style, a great musical delivery, and a solid vocal delivery from Ron Perlman. It plays quite differently from other roguelikes, and although there are a few things that could be improved, it remains a standout in a year full of strong roguelikes.
4> Undermine PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X * Gamecritics review here
A top-down roguelike with a delightful ‘one more go’ quality to it. The thing that had me most engrossed was the feedback of the pickaxe throw and the fact that the game was keen to never punish the player for exploring and using consumables. Fine-tuned to within an inch of its life Undermine may not get the same dedicated fanbase as Hades, but deserves it.
3>Beyond Blue iOS, PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series * Gamecritics review here
One of my highest-rated games this year. A love letter to the ocean and the creatures that live in it, Beyond Blue is a game I wish more people were talking about. It’s an incredibly peaceful experience that was pretty much everything I wanted.
2> Spaceland PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series * Gamecritics review here
I linked Brad’s review to Spaceland because I was starting to feel a little vain linking to my own reviews, and also he gave it a higher score than I did. Spaceland is economic with its level design and characters, but that’s because every single one of them is fantastic. 28 levels of pure turn-based tactics perfection with characters that will be make playthroughs significant and divergent. I look forward to whatever the developers do next, and if people are looking for an underrated, compact turn-based game reminiscent of Incubation, then look no further.
1> Fast & Furious: Crossroads PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series * Gamecritics review here
As Garth Marenghi once said: “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards”.
Fast & Furious: Crossroads is as dunderheaded as the series that it is seeking to emulate, it wouldn’t know subtext if it was injected full of NOS, and I love it for that. What impressed me is that the voice directors/producers attempted to deliver meaningful performances in a game that should have been an ‘also ran’, and they went above and beyond – I actually hope to see some of the characters make it into the mainstream films to continue their stories. In the same way that I think that Beyond Blue understood what made underwater exploration tantalizing, I think Slightly Mad Studios understood what people are looking for from a game about Dominic Toretto and his family. Mechanically shaky in places, but spiritually perfect — if I thought our editor would have let me get away with a 10/10 score, I would have gone for it.
He can be found on twitter, where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.