Wasting no words, staffer Eugene Sax lays out his top picks for 2020!
#10 – Capt Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions
This game scratched an itch that I didn’t realize I had. There’s something so satisfying about playing an arcade-style sports game with visually over-the-top shots. Captain Tsubasa also allows players to feel powerful without requiring perfection on the execution of each shot. Having the option to go through the main story mode multiple times to create an entire team of players I can then use for online multiplayer also gives a lot of incentive to play more.
#9 – Bartlow’s Dread Machine
What a unique game. Everything from the B-movie script, the unique movement and shooting mechanics to the art style really stuck with me. The game also included a number of different one-off mechanics that kept the things fresh for a this fairly straightforward genre. While I did have some annoying moments when it came to some of the difficulty spikes, it’s still a curiosity that warrants a look.
#8 – Umurangi Generations
I came late to this party on this one, and I was ashamed I didn’t play it sooner. On the surface, it looks like a game where players explore a world and take pictures to earn money. In truth, those quiet moments give way to the game grabbing players by the face and screaming at the top of its lungs with its message. It’s surreal, thoughtful, terrifying, and solemn. Easy to get into and play, and the story still haunts me days after playing it.
#7 – Watch Dogs: Legion
Revolution can’t be accomplished by one person alone — it requires many people from all walks of life. Watch Dogs: Legion takes that idea and allows players to control a revolutionary group made up of nearly any character that has randomly spawned in the world. Each one has their own unique style, abilities, and skillsets that give them a life all on their own. While it fell short for me with plot and narrative, I admired the chance it took with such a different take.
#6 – Maneater
This game had me rolling with laughter from start to finish. Controlling the titular shark around each area is a joy, and the snarky narrator commenting on the shark finding landmarks and eating everything in its path was just the kind of grim humor that clicks with me. The controls are easy to learn, but there’s also nuance that rewards mastery on the path to becoming an apex predator, not to mention that the story itself was a nice surprise that I wasn’t expecting.
#5 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
I was transported back to my childhood when I heard this was announced, and playing it brought back so many good memories. The game is also smart about the quality-of-life updates that make it stand out as a unique remaster. While some of the old skaters are still here, the devs actually aged them and also added in modern skaters athletes to increase appeal to a newer crowd. there’s also assist mode options that allow newcomers to get into the swing of things.
#4 – Disc Room
I wasn’t expecting Disc Room to be a game where death is not only encouraged, but required. Less an arcade-style score chase and more a puzzler, not only was each room itself a puzzle, but the room-puzzles then interlocked with each other as well. Each cluster then had requirements on its own — the structure lends it a unique feel compared to other puzzlers out there. Exploring this space station of death, memorizing the disc types and learning how everything linked together was an unexpected but welcome surprise.
#3 – Risk of Rain 2
I’ll openly admit that I’m more of a solo player, but every now and again there a multiplayer game gets its hooks in me and won’t let go. This year, it was Risk of Rain 2. Each character feels completely unique, and then they’re put into a roguelike with different items and bosses. Playing through also unlocks challenge modes which can change the game in so many ways, giving this title a very long life, especially with up to four players working together. It’s hectic and has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s so rewarding.
#2 Monster Train
It’s no secret that roguelikes are a favorite genre of mine, and this year gave quite a number of good ones. Monster Train has players protecting a locomotive carrying the last shard of Hell’s fires from angelic warriors. The train is split into three vertical levels, and monsters start at the bottom and work up through each level. Spacing out troops to keep them alive as long as possible while also dealing enough damage to stop enemies is a unique approach compared to other roguelikes, and this probably would have been my game of the year, if not for…
#1 – Hades
Supergiant Games have made some great things over the years, but this one is their masterpiece. Hades has great action with roguelike elements, a fantastic story that shows characters developing relationships, and beautiful artwork and world design that makes it a joy not only to play, but to explore. Not only that, but the game has strong pacing — right when you get to a point where you think you’ve learned everything, Hades drops another mechanic or an item that changes things just enough to keep you on their toes. But the best part? How it introduces players to this genre in a way that feels easy to get into, but still has enough for people to sink their teeth into.