It was a pretty good year for gaming, all things considered.
Video version can be found here.
Hello one and all and welcome to the Games I’ve Played This Year of the Year Awards 2020. I’m your host, the Pretend Gamer, and I’m here today to dole out awards to the best games I played in 2020. I have chosen ten games which gave me a lot of joy over the past year and ones which I hope more people will play so I can talk about them with said people.
Today, I will be talking about nine out of the ten games I have selected. These chosen few won’t receive awards for anything specific but will receive a Pretendie just for being the best of the best. The awards will conclude next week with the game that will receive the “Game of the Year” designation from yours truly.
In any normal year, all of the games I talk about today would have received a review here on the website but that’s not the case this year. A few of the games I will talk about today never got a review because I never bothered to do one for them. That doesn’t mean that they’re not good games. It just means that I was lazy. Thus, an element of surprise that wouldn’t otherwise be here will be in this list which makes it kind of exciting, no? Anyways, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Also, the list is in alphabetical order. Alright, enough distractions, let’s go!
Developed by Platinum Games for the Nintendo Switch, Astral Chain is a character action game with a bold color palette and a rocking soundtrack. I really didn’t care for its plot but I did love all of the characters in the game (Lappy the Mascot was the star of the show in my book). I had a great time interacting with all of the characters across my twenty-plus hour playthrough of the game.
The real fun though comes from Astral Chain’s combat. The action-packed combat against the Chimeras from the Astral Plane was always a good time. This was due in large part to the Legions. The Legions are captured Chimeras which can be used in battle. It would have been very easy for the game to be terrible on account of the control scheme. You control both the Legion and the main character at the same time in combat, you see. It could have gotten confusing really quickly. Luckily for us all, the good people at Platinum know what they’re about and made the combat a fun and engaging part of the game. Using the Legions in combat kept me going throughout the whole game and is really the main reason why Astral Chain is here on this list.
Ding! Ding! Ding! What’s that sound, you ask? Why, it’s the first game on this list that I played and did not review in 2020.
I vividly remember exclaiming “What the f@*k?” very loudly the first time I saw Bugsnax during one of the livestreams for the PlayStation 5. It came across as colorful, unique, and, most importantly, bizarre. In short, it looked like a game that was right up my alley and, I have to say, it was and is.
Bugsnax is about a group of strange creatures called Grumpuses who live on an island with even stranger creatures called Bugsnax. What are Bugsnax, you ask? Well, they are basically animals which have taken the form of everyone’s favorite everyday snacks. There are potato chip Bugsnax, ice cream Bugsnax, and even hamburger Bugsnax. Oh, and they can be fed to the Grumpuses on the island which then transform their limbs into said Bugsnax. I did warn you that this game was a wild one, didn’t I?
While the main goal of the game is to find a missing explorer named Lizbert, another goal is to capture all of the different Bugsnax. I had a lot of fun capturing all these little buggers (and capture them all, I did). With a multitude of tools at my disposal, it was both a challenge and a delight to try and capture all the Bugsnax. There were several instances where I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the tools correctly but the end result was a captured Bugsnak(?) so I’ll take it.
It got to a point where I was thinking about how I was going to capture certain Bugsnax when I wasn’t even playing the game. There was one memorable instance where I came up with an idea to capture a Bugsnak while I was brushing my teeth. I tried my idea out the very next day and, you know what, it worked! This game made me feel like a kid again. I was giddy with excitement all day just thinking about what I would do when I got home and booted up Bugsnax. That’s really all I ask for from the games I play: I want them to make me excited to hop back in at the earliest possible time.
Before I move on, I just want to say that, in addition to the Bugsnax, I really liked all of the Grumpuses on Snaktooth Island as well. Although you could be forgiven for thinking that Bugsnax (the game, not the cute little creatures), with its cartoony aesthetic, was a game for children. You couldn’t be more wrong, however. All of the Grumpuses, whom you do quests for, have real, modern day problems and the game as a whole ended up being way more mature than even I thought it would be. It made the entire experience very subversive and surreal when all was said and done.
Ok, I have just one more thing to say about Bugsnax. I also really enjoyed all of the sound effects in the game as well (I think that’s what you would call them). I am of the opinion that every game should have unique sounds that make them stand out even more from the crowd. Bugsnax has some of the best sound effects that I’ve ever heard and I appreciate that about it. I should really do a video about the best sounds effects from video games but that will be a topic for another day.
Oh, and I also got the Platinum for the game which is rare for me. That should tell you all you need to know about how much I liked the game.
Catherine: Full Body
It should come as no surprise to see this game on my list of the best games I played in 2020. Catherine: Full Body was a breath of fresh air and it helped get me back into the groove of playing games. Its premise of men being dragged into a dream world to climb blocks as sheep really threw me through a loop the first time I played the game. Its quirkiness really drew me in (that seems to be a theme, doesn’t it). The storyline, the gameplay, and the characters all combined to form one cohesive whole that is so unique that I’m doubtful I’ll ever find a game like it again.
One thing I did not talk about in my Not a Review post was Catherine’s soundtrack. Catherine: Full Body has an awesome soundtrack, in case you’re wondering. It is a collection of original pieces along with tracks based off of all-time classics. And no, I’m not talking about the Michael Jackson type of classics. I’m talking about the greatest hits of all time here. Think Chopin, Beethoven, and Bach.
Ghost of Tsushima
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to talk about Ghost of Tsushima yet again. My three favorite things about it were the beautiful open world, the combat, and, yes, even the storyline. I’m not really a fan of big open world video games anymore but those three elements kept me playing Ghost of Tsushima for a really long time.
As I was editing my last video (and even this one), I couldn’t help but marvel once again at the absolutely gorgeous scenery of Ghost of Tsushima. The vivid use of color is something that all game developers should study. Even areas that only predominantly use the mundane color of white do so in a way that leaves the player stunned. I loved moving into a new area just to see what it would look like. I wasn’t ever disappointed.
The main point I want to get across about the combat is that I always looked forward to engaging the enemies in Ghost of Tsushima. Whether I was taking the stealthy approach or facing off against the Mongols in a standoff, I couldn’t get enough of it. The weapon variety was certainly a contributing factor since it felt like I was unlocking new ways to fight almost up until the very end. Not only that but the enemies also change in meaningful ways the further north you go on the island of Tsushima. They become more armored, use new weapons, and even patrol differently to make it harder to sneak up on them.
The story of Jin and his allies is admittedly clichéd in many ways but I still loved experiencing it. The ending went the way I thought it would, in case you were wondering though that didn’t make it any less impactful. The only fault I could find with the story was that there wasn’t much levity to be had during it. That being said, though, I understand why the developers didn’t put much comic relief in it because it is about a people being conquered by a ruthless foreign power. Not much to laugh at there, am I right?
Before I move on, I want to add that I loved the soundtrack as well. Surprise, surprise, I loved yet another soundtrack to a video game. Even if you have no plans to play Ghost of Tsushima, do yourself a favor and at least listen to “Tsushima Suite V Seiiki” as it is quite good.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
My regular YouTube viewers will probably think that this is yet another game I played and didn’t review but I can assure you all that that is not the case. I did indeed review The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds but I didn’t do a video review of it since it’s a little difficult to get footage of a 3DS game. If you missed the review and aren’t good at picking up on context clues, I really enjoyed it.
I think I caught a bug after playing through Link’s Awakening last year on the Switch. I may or may not have become addicted to 2D Zelda games which led to me to pick up A Link Between Worlds in the first place. This may upset a few people but I liked A Link Between Worlds more than Link’s Awakening.
The dungeon exploration was great, the characters were awesome, and the soundtrack, get ready for this, was divine. All of these elements made me fall in love with the game and also drove me to finish A Link Between Worlds in just a few sittings. I couldn’t get enough of it.
In addition, both the wall merging mechanic and the item rental system were great features of the game. I remember having a ton of fun with the wall merging especially in dungeons where it was necessary to do it quickly in succession. In addition, the item rental mechanic added a new layer to the usual Zelda formula. Normally, you would do the dungeons in a set order and receive new items once they were completed. In A Link Between Worlds, however, all of the items are available almost from the very beginning. You must simply choose an item you want and then off you go. This allows you to explore the dungeons in essentially any order you want. It brought a level freedom to the game that most other Zelda games simply don’t have.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
I finally got to use my GameCube this year and I couldn’t have chosen a better game to break it in with. Although many people have informed me that the original Metal Gear Solid is better, I still think The Twin Snakes is pretty good. Hideo Kojima knows how to make an interesting game, I tell you what.
I originally wanted to play The Twin Snakes just so I could better understand the story of Metal Gear Solid 2 (one of my favorite games of all time). While it did fill in a few blanks, I was left with more questions than answers at the end of it if I’m being honest with you. Don’t take what I said the wrong way, it’s just that Metal Gear Solid games manage to somehow have an engrossing story while also being impenetrable at the same time. If you like the stories of the other games in this series, then you will like The Twin Snakes.
Although I didn’t enjoy the boss battles, I did like just about everything else in the gameplay department. The stealth was particularly fun since you never really knew what was going to be around the next corner. It always kept me on my toes that’s for sure.
Additionally, the campiness and interactivity is something I always appreciate about Metal Gear Solid games and The Twin Snakes is no exception. The breaking of the fourth wall (as long as it isn’t overdone) is something I always enjoy no matter what game it is. My favorite moment in the whole game though has to be when I shot Meryl in the face with the tranquilizer pistol. Once she wakes up, she stands up, and then proceeds to punch Snake. It was moments like these that made me love Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
Paper Mario: The Origami King is awesome and I don’t care how many traditionalist Paper Mario fans I piss off with that statement. While Animal Crossing was the game for everyone else in 2020, Paper Mario: The Origami King was the game I needed to get through last year. This is because The Origami King is so goddamn hilarious. There was never a dull moment for me in the game. I couldn’t wait to see what each character had to say next as it was almost guaranteed to put a smile on my face.
This is all in addition to the excellent soundtrack (yes, I’m mentioning a soundtrack once again, take a drink), the visuals, and yes, even the ring battles. I know that I gave the ring-based battles a hard time in my review but I did enjoy them (mostly).
Long story short, The Origami King is great and you should all run out there and give it a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Don’t listen to the naysayers, it’s an excellent game which will put you in a good mood.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
This is obviously a series which I should have played a long, long time ago since I am absolutely obsessed with it now. How obsessed, you ask? Well, after playing and reviewing the Ace Attorney Trilogy on the Switch, I ran out, bought, and played through Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice. Oh, I have also bought and played through the special episodes of both Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice. And I’ve also replayed the first two games in the Ace Attorney Trilogy (update: I’ve also finished replaying the third game). This is all within the past year by the way. I’m also trying to track down a copy of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth for the Nintendo DS. Looking over everything I just said, I realize that I may have a problem.
So yeah, what I’m trying to say is that the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is a really good time. I love the characters and the setting but what I really love are the trials. Nothing makes me feel quite as good as cornering the true culprit in a courtroom in an Ace Attorney game. It never gets old. I also like how you think each case will be crazy and they all are but most of them turn out to be even crazier than you initially thought they would be. This explains why I’m hooked on these games now.
I’m running out of games to play in this series which is disconcerting to say the least. We need a new entry in this series, Capcom! Don’t make me learn Japanese just to play the games you never brought to the West! I’m crazy, I’ll do it!
Side note: There’s a rumor going around that two games in the Ace Attorney series that never made their way to the West may be getting localized as we speak. I say bring them on, Capcom! I’m ready for ‘em!
Yakuza 5 Remastered
And last but certainly not least we have Yakuza 5 Remastered. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a big Yakuza fan. I previously stated that Yakuza 0 was my favorite game in the series but I think I am now ready to change that to Yakuza 5 Remastered. If I had to give a reason as to why 5 is now my favorite, I would have to say that it’s the absolute boldness of the whole game. It is stuffed to the gills with activities and things to see and do while also having five protagonists. Even with all those characters sharing the limelight, it somehow never feels overwhelming.
If I had to name just one reason why I like Yakuza 5, however, I would have to say that it’s the fact that there is always a story to be told no matter what you’re doing in the game. The substories, the side stories, and even the trainers who teach fighting moves to each of the five main characters have a story to tell. Some are self-contained while others chain together to form a larger sub narrative. A good story is never too far away in Yakuza 5 and it is the main reason why I love the game.
Everything else about the game is great too but the stories are what kept me going. It is kind of a shame that it is the fifth game in the series which means, and let’s be honest here, most people won’t play it but you shouldn’t skip this one. It takes everything that the Yakuza series is known for and rachets it up to a whole new level. It is the gold standard of the series as far as I’m concerned and I don’t think it has been topped just yet.
Well, there you have it. Nine out of my ten favorite games of 2020. It’s a good list of games if I do say so myself. You can’t go wrong playing any of the games I’ve talked about here today. As good as they all are, there is one that stood head and shoulders above all the rest and is my Game of the Year for 2020. What is it, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to wait until next week to find out.
Thanks for reading! What were some of your favorite games of 2020? Was your list similar to mine or completely different? Let me know down below!