With 2020 finally over, we can all walk into the new year with more hope, ambitions and goals to set for ourselves. But as much as it hurts to lookback on one the most painful years in recent history, we should recount the moments that gave us joy while we stayed home. The Corona Virus pandemic may have assassinated a year’s worth of socializing in person with friends and family, but in that void video games became even more popular as a means to escape the harsh situation. And this year still had some amazing games. Since I didn’t get around to playing all the best games this year due to college, feel free to add your own entry with a picture and a detailed description on why it stands out from the crowd. These are in no particular order, but they still left an impact on a very trying year starting with…
The sequel to the amazing 2016 reboot, Doom Eternal took what worked before and amplified it to the max as you, the doom slayer, embark on a crusade to destroy the demons raining hell on Earth. First, the fast paced combat adds more weapons to an already loaded arsenal with battles playing like a game of speed chess: one false move or shot, and you’re dead. The demons are more than a handful in both moves and designs, with the marauder proving a worthy new addition to the lore. The metal soundtrack extends beyond the franchise to include Easter Eggs from other well known games such as Quake, adding more incentive to search for secrets and hidden collectibles. And for a first person shooter, the platforming is challenging yet fair when traversing demon occupied territory. It might not have a deep story or complex multiplayer, but with all the weapons at your disposal, Doom Eternal is one of the best single player experiences of the new decade.
Ghost of Tsushima
From the studio that brought you Infamous and the Sly Cooper Trilogy, Ghost of Tsushima is another masterpiece that brilliantly caps off the PlayStation 4 era. As the samurai, Jin, you are tasked with defeating the Mongol army while keeping your code of honor. Despite being open world, the gameplay is never repetitive between the sword combat, stealth missions and scavenger hunts involving foxes, hot springs and haikus. Even better, this fast travel system should be standard in future open world games. It cuts down the time consuming travel to previously discovered areas so players can search more uncharted territory. The simplicity is its strength and the focused execution benefits the experience.
Meanwhile, the research pays off as the graphics are realistic, yet saturated with colors and distinct landscapes: grasslands, mountains, tundras, forests, and beaches have never looked so breathtaking in their scale and nature, since the developers have gone on record stating that every location is a place you can visit. It’s no wonder this has been nominated for several art awards from the likes of the golden joysticks. In addition to the art direction, the attention to history is the kind representation entertainment has been begging for that ironically came from a western game studio, especially with Japan praising the final result. Having the option to choose between English or Japanese audio alone proves how much Sucker Punch wanted to be authentic when the likes of 2020’s Mulan couldn’t even appease one audience.
For any faults people find in the gameplay, the story more than ties everything together involving side characters that join your cause, and an intimidating villain behind the waves of Mongol camps. Several grand battle scenes are the highlight in both gameplay and story as you assemble your allies to charge into enemy territory, resulting in serious consequences. Coupled with the themes support the characters rather than the characters supporting the themes (Yes, there is a difference), this treads a delicate path that earns every feeling of remorse, fear, empathy, and reluctance in a family struggle. Perhaps it could’ve used a morality system for both gameplay and story purposes seeing how it gives you the choice to take on your enemies in an emotional narrative about honor verses ambition. But that’s a testament to how its story succeeds where The Last of Us Part 2 failed.
Pikmin 3 Deluxe Edition
While it might be cheating to put a re-release on this countdown, this is still a worthy port of a franchise that hasn’t gotten much love in the past couple years as Space explorers Alph, Brittany and Charlie are searching for the now famous Captain Olimar while collecting fruit to sustain their journey. The third entry in the cannon series, Pikmin 3 Deluxe Edition is the all in one package with downloadable content, new difficulty levels, tweaked controls, and new Olimar missions to justify the full price. And for the most part, it’s worth it. The main campaign is a blast to play through when controlling the Pikmin. Having the options to split up the three leads to perform multiple tasks feels very rewarding, especially in the new co-op feature. Olimar’s new missions do a fantastic job of connecting to the events before and after the ending. The controls feel more ironed out with the commands and map options when exploring new territory. Meanwhile, all the bosses provide unique challenges in combat and keeping your army alive as they attempt to swallow them like krill. Although it doesn’t bring many graphical improvements, the framerate issues from the Wii U edition have been eliminated, rendering the experience smoother. By compromising between the first game’s limited days structure and the second game’s exploration, this appeals to fans of both entries while adding its own unique stamp. To those who have the Wii U version, try it out to see if it’s worth paying Nintendo twice. To those who do not own a Wii U, give this a shot, lest the franchise suffers the fate of F-Zero.
Destroy All Humans (2020)
The most unexpected remake of 2020, Destroy all Humans encompasses the 1950’s paranoia as the Furon Aliens attempt to take over the world. Once a swan song of the sixth generation of consoles, the remake brings forth the satire within the era surrounding politicians, the red scare, abnormal creatures, and apparently deleted missions involving Area 51. The humor knows how to use outdated pop culture to its advantage as you go incognito during stealth missions or greet humanity with your ray gun and saucer upgrades. One could even connect the social satire to today’s political climate, it’s that on the nose. Some may find the graphics strange given how far technology has come, but it fits the time period and comedic tone this is aiming for. Coupled with the famous Richard Horvitz (Invader Zim) as your leader, this is a hilarious remake that gives you the power to take your anger out on the worst of humanity.
Resident Evil 3 (2020)
Specifically the single player campaign. Coming off the heels of its acclaimed predecessor, Resident Evil 3 might have disappointed fans by cutting iconic levels, but this is still a worthy remake as you fill the shoes of both Jill Valentine and Carlos Oliveira against the towering nemesis. Utilizing the over the shoulder mechanic that originated in Resident Evil 4, this brings a different challenge to those who struggle with fixed camera angles as you navigate the city to stay alive. The RE Engine returns to polish the world with gritty realism, and Easter Eggs of other Capcom games. And what would a Resident Evil game be without access to a plethora of weapons ranging from shotguns to grenades? Coupled with the enemy variety, this has a lot going for it whether you have played the original or not. Despite the gameplay taking an action route, it doesn’t compromise the horror when plugging headshots into zombies, and the boss encounters are still formidable. If anyone thought the sixty dollar price tag was asking too much at launch, it is now that it is on sale at a more reasonable twenty-five dollars for a short yet nerve-racking trip down memory lane.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
What should have been expensive downloadable content manages to work as its own spin-off to what I consider the definitive Spider-Man media. Developer Insomniac Games took the perfected superhero simulation and improved on everything for both PlayStation 4 and next gen. Peter Parker goes on vacation and leaves New York City in the hands of his newly trained accomplice, Miles Morales. Miles’ professional and personal life is put to the test when a gang war breaks out in New York between the mega corporation Roxxon and the underground. Who’s behind all the suffering going on in the city is anyone’s guess, as Miles tries to juggle a superhero life with his family and friends.
The classic themes involving responsibility, work-life balance and life changes are present in the narrative, but with a new character comes a new perspective of the big apple. Since Miles doesn’t have the tenure of the original Spider-Man, he has to prove to everyone that he is capable of living up to the high standards of the wallcrawler name. Coming off the past movies like Homecoming, Far From Home and Into The Spider-Verse, there are plenty of references to be spotted by fans. Despite the similarities with characters like Aaron Davis and the new antagonist, they all bring new twists to the lore. Admittedly, there aren’t as many villains, but each antagonist contributes to Miles’ growth as both a human being, and as a new superhero.
Games like Ghost of Tsushima might win awards for their colorful presentation, but Miles Morales improves on everything that made the stylized 2018 game an ever bigger art house. From the colors, to the weather effects, to the new character designs, to the animations, you can tell a lot about one person in three seconds of movement. On a side note, Peter Parker’s new face does present a problem from a story perspective. This universe is supposed to present a superhero who has a few years under his belt, both alone and as a mentor. The de-aged model not only makes him look too young, but it removes the visual storytelling of his many years of experience.
And of course, the gameplay cooperates with the new character in offering new upgrades and combat to engage with. Swinging through New York is just as it was with Parker. Even the original stealth sections that were flawed upon revisiting are vastly improved. The new app feature that helps you track down crime works in both gameplay and connecting to the citizens. It is a worthy successor for a smaller price of admission that sets ups another highly anticipated sequel on the horizon.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Or Final Fantasy VII: An Unexpected Journey. The first in a multi-part reimagining of one of the most iconic games of all time, this introduction did not disappoint as we follow Cloud, Barret, Tifa, and Aertih and their war with the twisted corporation, Shinra. From the opening five minutes reinterpreting the iconic machine battle with a bombastic orchestral update, this sets the stage for everything to come. The story expands on segments previously left to the imagination, unlike those stale live-action Disney remakes. The graphics now render the original obsolete in capturing the emotions, conflicts, and changes the characters go through with stylized realism, impressive lighting, and top notch voice-acting. The gameplay tries something different in its approach in a time when random encounters are starting to become the next fossil and it really pays off when borrowing a page from Kingdom Hearts’ action system (the circle is now complete). Some might find the side quests bare bones in comparison, and other might find the gameplay too linear, but when was the last time something dared to take a chance and bring in a new audience rather than rinse and repeat? There are tons of Final Fantasy VII ports that could go toe to toe with Dragon’s Lair in how an unbroken formula is introduced to a new generation of gamers. So to have it adapt to new gaming mechanics is a bold move. Those who still own the original will be able to take in a whole new perspective, while newcomers can use this as a starting point if they have not yet fallen in love with the series. Never too late too join the rebelion.