I played over 240 games this year, reviewing many for my YouTube channel. As I do every year, I went back and pruned through that list of games to determine my ultimate top ten, ranking them in order too. As usual, this is a personal list and I expect many to disagree with it, but that’s just how these lists work. I didn’t play too many big AAA games this year, so this list will likely look different from most that you’ve seen.
Honorable Mention: Ring of Pain
So this game kinda came out of nowhere. I was looking for another game to feature in my yearly Halloween video and stumbled across Ring of Pain, a roguelike card battler that has you advancing along a ring while battling enemies, picking up a bunch of loot, and dying a lot, hence the title. It’s such a simple setup, but it is quite the addicting game and the variety offered by all of the different enemies, items, and rooms kept me coming back to it. I don’t see a lot of people talk about this one, but don’t sleep on it, it is well worth a look.
Honorable Mention: The Pedestrian
This game is honestly one of the most creative games I have ever played. I went into it expecting just your average puzzle-platformer with maybe a few cool gimmicks but was blown away by just how well executed it was. All you’re doing is getting your little stickman to the exit of each sign he’s on, but the puzzles along the way quite literally have you thinking outside of the box. And new puzzle mechanics are constantly introduced, even towards the very end of the game. It’s a masterclass in video game puzzle design and an easy recommendation for fans of puzzle-platformers.
Honorable Mention: Hades
You’ve probably heard of this game by now considering that it has won many game of the year awards. In fact, that’s why I picked it up and played it just a week ago. And I gotta say, I can see why people love it. Here we have an action roguelike that not only has some incredibly satisfying and fast combat, but doesn’t get old across different runs. You’re always coming up with new item synergies, discovering some cool new upgrade, and making it just one step farther than the last run. The game has a really solid grasp on what makes progression fun in roguelikes and I would recommend it even to those that don’t have much experience in the genre.
10. Summer Pockets
Of course, it wouldn’t be a list of mine without a visual novel. We had a lot of good ones this year, but Summer Pockets ended up being my favorite. It comes from Key, the same studio behind masterpieces like Clannad and Little Busters!. And just like those two, it tells a tightly-written story full of likeable characters, fun slice of life scenes, and a true route that really elevates the entire experience and, of course, brings on the feels. Couple all of that with some solid pacing and nice music and you have quite the visual novel. Visual novels definitely aren’t for everyone, but Summer Pockets is yet another reason why I love the genre so much.
9. The Jackbox Party Pack 7
There has never been a bad Jackbox Party Pack, but Party Pack 7 is easily the most well-rounded yet. You’ve got Quiplash 3, which is a fresh take on the classic formula, and then some more unique ones, like the chaotic fun that is The Devils and the Details. Champ’d Up, the drawing game, is easily one of the best drawing games in any of the packs and had my group of friends dying from some of the stupid drawings we did. And then there’s Talking Points, which is probably the simplest design for a game I’ve seen in a Party Pack, but has such solid execution that it quickly become a favorite amongst my group. Really, just a solid Party Pack all around and I’m already looking forward to what they do with Party Pack 8.
8. Monster Train
If Ring of Pain didn’t already make it obvious, I love roguelike card battlers and Monster Train is a shining example as to why. If the title didn’t already make it obvious, it plays on a train and you basically set up defenses on each layer as enemies progress towards the top, where your HP is. The cards are already pretty unique themselves, but the game really shines when synergies come into play. As you’re able to choose two monster clans to make up your deck before starting a run, there’s a lot of customization right off the bat, but it gets better and better as you unlock more upgrades, spells, and other cards to beef up your deck. It’s a blast coming up with the most broken combos and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys good video games.
7. Granblue Fantasy: Versus
Despite not having played the mobile game on which this game is based, I really got into Granblue Fantasy: Versus. It’s a 2D fighter made by Arc System Works, the same studio behind the excellent BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, and River City series, so it was pretty much a given that this would be a fighting game of quality. Great visuals, solid fighting mechanics, and even a cool skill system setting itself apart from the crowd are just a few of the things Granblue Fantasy: Versus has going for it. It even has a good singleplayer campaign, something you don’t often see in the genre. For that genre, it’s easily the best I played this year and one I will be returning to.
6. Daemon X Machina
Now this is how you do a mecha game. Fast-paced action, lots of movement, intuitive controls, tons of customization, Daemon X Machina does a lot right. It’s one of the only proper action mecha games we’ve had in years and a testament to what makes them so fun. I had a blast zipping around, going from land to air combat in mere seconds, gunning down enemies, and decking out my mech to be as close to Barbatos as possible. The port to PC just makes it even better, letting me play the game in its full glory at 1440p and 200 fps, a far smoother experience than what was originally offered on the Switch.
5. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
The Legend of Heroes is a monster of a series, and Cold Steel III is yet another example as to why you should get into it. It’s not your everyday JRPG with a one-and-done kinda story, it’s this massive web of games building up one of the most ambitious stories you can find in the genre – with Cold Steel III being the third game in the Cold Steel arc and the eighth overall in the Trails series. It’s not just the excellent story though, the game has some top-tier JRPG gameplay to match, including fun turn-based combat with all of its own bells and whistles and plenty of customization options too. It’s the best JRPG we got all year and I am really looking forward to how the arc ends with Cold Steel IV.
4. Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution
Link Evolution was honestly a bit of a surprise. I hadn’t played a Yu-Gi-Oh! Game in years and mostly stuck with the fanmade YGOPRO because I was dissatisfied with the quality of the official games. Well, Link Evolution kinda changed that. Not only does it feature the solid core gameplay of the card game, but it does this with every single card up to the point of its release, including the cool new link cards. Combine that with some really solid deckbuilding mechanics, and you have a pretty complete Yu-Gi-Oh! experience, all in one little game. And that’s before you even consider the excellent campaign duels and the near infinite replayability that the game offers. It’s easily the best official Yu-Gi-Oh! game I’ve played and one I will be returning to.
3. Crusader Kings III
This is one of those dangerous games, the type where I boot it up and start playing and by the time I’ve noticed, 10 or so hours have passed. Crusader Kings III is just that good a game, bringing out all of the strengths of the grand strategy genre while making it as accessible as possible for newcomers with a really nice UI and one of the best tutorials I’ve seen in the genre. Once you get the hang of things, the gameplay really opens up and you’ll be taking over dynasties, micromanaging your family lineage, and expanding your own power, but that’s just the start. Crusader Kings III just has so much to it and even after pouring dozens of hours into it, I’m still discovering new things, cementing itself as one my favorite strategy games to come out in years.
2. Desperados III
The strategy games don’t stop there though, this time we got a real-time tactics game with a Western theme. Desperados III was not only the best strategy game to come out this year, but my biggest surprise of the year. I originally passed on it because it didn’t look like my thing, but I saw the glowing reviews and decided to give it a shot – one of the best decisions I made all year. The gameplay is a masterclass in tactics game design, with some really solid core mechanics, cool abilities to spice things up, and excellent level design that really adds a nice sense of depth. It’s the kind of game where there really is no “right” way to clear a level and you can come up with some really cool solutions. Combine this open-ended style of gameplay with some solid mission variety and you’ve got a clear contender for game of the year.
1. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated
Take the best game to come out in all of 2003 and give it a faithful remake and what do you get? The best game to come out in 2020 of course. Simply put, Battle for Bikini Bottom is one of the best 3D platformers ever made, including everything from the diverse set pieces, the smooth transition between different platforming sequences, and the variety of enemies and bosses scattered about to shake things up. Then you’ve got the fun character mechanics on top of that, like swinging around as Sandy or body slamming robots as Patrick. Take all of that and build up a game world pulled straight from the TV show and you’ve already got a really solid 3D platformer.
Rehydrated is a fully faithful remake, adding some cool stuff of its own and really upping the graphics and optimization for modern hardware, and honestly that’s all I really needed. I had a blast playing through it and look forward to replaying it again and again like I did the original game.
And with that, I close out my list and my last post of 2020. Despite all that went on this year, it was actually a pretty good year for games and my average score was 0.2 higher than it was last year. We’ll have to wait and see if 2021 is able to top it. Thanks for reading and see you all next year!