Do I even have to give a summary on what this year was like? I don’t think so, right? Well, maybe a little. On a global, grand scale, 2020 was pretty damn awful, but on a personal level, I’ve made a lot of pretty big, important strides. I got diagnosed for my ADHD for one: you can tell because this blog is the most content-filled it has ever been. And on top of that, after a year of busting my butt, I got accepted into Grad School, and started a new job. So yeah, 2020 was definitely a hell year in a lot of ways, but it was also a year for me that was filled with personal growth and some nice things. I’m very grateful for that, and for the people who have been along for the ride with me.
Below you will find the twelve games I played and loved the most this year. They are not ranked in any sort of order, as usual. I would also like to thank @sailorjubs for providing this year’s Game of the Year art — it is adorable, like all the art they make, so go check it out!
And with that: on to the games!
Final Fantasy VII Remake
I had little faith that Final Fantasy VII Remake would reach the astronomically high bar that was set for it the minute it was announced. I’m very glad I was wrong. Other than Final Fantasy XIV, FF7R is the greatest title Square Enix has put out in at least a decade. It has a perfect blend of Action-RPG combat, fills in the holes that the original couldn’t give time to, and adds some fascinating new surprises. I have never been so excited for the future of a Square Enix series since I watched the secret ending that came at the end of the first Kingdom Hearts, and I can’t wait to see how Cloud and Co.’s party fare in the sequel.
Also, I want Tifa to bench-press me.
Nioh 2 is the best Souls game ever made. This is barely hyperbole. It’s incredible, and not just because it lets me create a buff green-haired lady with sick tattoos. Its combat has that shine-polished Ninja Theory design, with a plethora of weapons that all feel incredible, and a myriad of combat options that make every encounter as engaging and exciting as the last. And on top of all that, it tells a story that was much more affecting than the original. In fact, Nioh 2 improves on the original in pretty much every single way, so if that game turned you away, I implore you to try Nioh 2: I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed.
I have come to learn that outside of some specific instances, I’m a pretty mechanically driven person when it comes to videoed james. CrossCode is a mechanical delight. It is a smorgasbord of interlocking systems that all work in tandem to create a beautiful medley of gameplay, overlaid on top of a fun .hack-esque MMO world. Lea is a delightful protagonist, and her growth as the game progressed tied it all together for this solid little Puzzle-Action-JRPG. Definitely give it a shot.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
RGG Studios never misses. Like a Dragon continues Yakuza’s charm, but brings it together with a lovable party and an emotionally charged story that left me breathless by its end. Kasuga Ichiban, full of heart and dumb of ass, is a fantastic foil to Yakuza’s legendary protagonist, and his unique perspective gives the series a breath of fresh air. This is also true of Like a Dragon’s turn-based combat, which was engaging from the beginning of the game to its end. I can’t wait to see where Yakuza goes next from here.
Trials of Mana
This game probably won’t be on many people’s GOTY lists, but I predicted it would be on mine last year. This is because, as I said then, Trials of Mana is one of my favorite games ever. The remake improves on everything I already loved about it. Yes, it’s absolutely a deluge of nostalgia-bait. I won’t deny that. But it’s nostalgia-bait for me, and thus, it gets my adoration. Even then, I do believe Trials of Mana is an extremely fun and cute AA Action-JRPG, and I hope we get more work like this from Square Enix — Chrono Trigger next, please?
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Insomniac could release the same Spider-Man game with a new story for the rest of my life and I’d still love it. The fact that Miles Morales adds a bit of spice on top of what we already got just makes things even better. Beyond the already picture-perfect gameplay that we get from Insomniac’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales gives us a sense of community and heart that lets it stand apart from the game that came before it. I cannot explain to you the noise that came from my mouth and the way my heart swelled seeing a character that looked like me throw on his suit and swing through the streets of Harlem. Anyone who tells you representation doesn’t matter is a damn liar.
Sometimes I worry my heart doesn’t work. I finished Ikenfell and put it away for the night, going to sleep without much thought. It wasn’t until 8 hours later, listening to the game’s soundtrack, did I finally burst into tears thinking about its cast of characters. I guess my emotions are just on dial-up. Ikenfell is a wonderful, gay little game. Playing it feels like wrapping up in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate on a cozy Autumn day. And its impressive diversity and accessibility options put pretty much every AAA game to shame. You owe it to yourself to play it.
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
No, Shadowbringers didn’t come out this year. Yes, it was on last year’s list. The next expansion probably will be too. I could go on and on about how each expansion for FFXIV raises the bar higher than the last, or how incredibly fun the raids have been. And that’s all very true. But Shadowbringers earns a spot on the list this particular year because it’s given me something we all desperately crave in 2020: connection. Logging on every Friday night with my merry band of Sailers, laughing with them, celebrating victories over new content…it’s an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s become a vehicle for my friends and I to enjoy ourselves in the hellscape that is 2020. I realize it’s a property owned by a multimillion dollar company, but I’ll say it anyway: I’m grateful for Final Fantasy XIV’s existence, and I hope it gets to remain a part of my life for a very long time.
There are very few games that I would call “perfect,” or near-that, but I truly believe Hades fits the bill. Every single thing about it is polished beyond belief, and blends to serve both its narrative and gameplay systems in a way no other game I can think ever has. Even hours after playing it, I still find myself uncovering new mechanics and new dialogue. I loved every single minute I spent with Hades, and its colorful cast of characters. And best of all, I love that the entire game was made ethically, with its developers in mind every step of the way. It’s hands-down the best rogue-like game ever made, and I’m not just saying that because I want Nyx to DM me.
Apex is the other game that didn’t release this year or even do anything that special, but still appears on this list for what it did for me, personally. After the lockdown occurred, it became the game my buddy Flynn and I would turn to whenever we wanted to cool down for the day and talk about work and life. I mean, it helps that it’s the most entertaining and well-designed Battle Royal I’ve ever played, but that’s not the main reason why it has a spot on my list there. I have never been much of a social type when it comes to playing games — I’ve never been much of a social type in general — but the pandemic forced me out of my comfort zone, and I can see myself doing it a lot more often from now on.
Gun Rounds is the best game of the year no one played, and for this I am deeply disappointed. It’s a game with a basic premise — turn-based bullet rogue-like — but executes it so flawlessly that it defies description. This singular mechanic is perfect in every single way, and I got hours of enjoyment out of it. Moreover, it’s a perfect game specifically for phones: rather than try to put a console experience on your doom-scrolling device, Gun Rounds is content with giving you an experience that makes sense to be played with one hand. You’re probably reading this on a phone right now. If you are, and you haven’t played Gun Rounds, go to your designated App Store and download it right now. Go on, git! You’re at the end of this list anyway, I won’t be mad.
That’s it! Those are my games of the year. Frankly, this was a pretty great year for games, at least for me. What were your favorites? Let me know on Twitter @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!