Unlike many of you, I did not suddenly have much more free time to play in 2020. I have already worked from home, and my children are still young and need a lot of attention. So I maintained a rule I set up last year that I would not spend much time on any game I could not stop. In reality, that rule is more like I do not want time for games I can not play on Switch or use the Steam Link app on my phone. Despite these limitations, I still have many games to put on my list. Here’s what I ended up with.
10. Rage of Rage 4
I love going back to play Streets of Rage 2. My wife and I stop doing it about once a year. The best thing I can say about Streets of Rage 4, which I went through, is that I plan to go back and play it just as often in the future.
9. Microsoft Flight Simulator
I beat Animal Crossing: New Horizons out of the top 10 for this, but it’s true. I love Animal Crossing, but it occupies a space next to Fall Guys and other inherent social games that are more about my relationship with other people. And I do not want to think about putting these games on a list – they do not even compete in my mind. Flight Simulator is a technical marvel that feels like it opens up the genre to more people than ever with its great difficulty in scaling. This is also one of the rare games I turned into an event by getting the air lever out.
8. Paper Mario: The Origami King
Nintendo and Intelligent Systems nailed so many of the crucial aspects of Paper Mario: The Origami King. It is fun with many beautiful figures, and it has variation in both mechanics and environment. The only shortcoming is the combat system, which is boring at best. Fortunately, you can avoid many battles, and that only gives you the good things.
7. Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 + 2
As I wrote in my review, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 + 2 is the platonic ideal of the game. Skateboarding and video games are soulmates. All these years later, games still do not get much better than this.
6. Pikmin 3: Deluxe
Pikmin 3: Deluxe is still mostly Pikmin 3 from 2013, but this is also the best Pikmin game so far. It edits the Wii U game into something that plays effortlessly on the Switch. And that means enjoying the satisfying loop of working with your little crews to round up fruit and expand your Pikmin army.
5. Astros playroom
Here’s all I have to say about the Astro’s playroom:
Back to my nonsense pic.twitter.com/l80WuVHmcN
– Jeff Grubb (@JeffGrubb) December 19, 2020
4. The will of Ori and Wisp
Ori and the Wisps have some of the best moves in a 2D game ever. Combine that with fun exploration, exciting boss fights, moving characters and the best music, and it’s easy to see why it’s GamesBeats game of the year. It’s also one of my favorites and a game I’m already touching to return to.
Sometimes a studio pulls it off completely to create what feels like a miracle. That’s what happened to Supergiant Games and Hades. This masterpiece plays and looks better than almost any other game. It makes Greek mythology better than any other game, and it says something in terms of how many games go to that source material. And if it just did these things, that would be enough. But then Supergiant took the lead and solved the roguelite barrier by building a linear narrative that develops itself when you have to start again.
Over the course of five years, prepare to play many games from big-budget indies and studios that all mention Hades as a major influence.
2. Hardspace: Shipbreaker
Games where you build things get a lot of attention and credit. Minecraft is infinitely popular, and Roblox will probably have one of the largest IPOs in 2021. But we must not forget that games are very good at giving us the opportunity to tear things to pieces as well. And Hardspace: Shipbreaker does it better than almost anything else. It is so satisfying to use a laser gun to slowly peel apart space. But it is also exciting when you forget to do pressure relief in the cabin and end up in the room before the ship becomes nuclear. It was one of my favorite moments of the year.
I said “whoops” pic.twitter.com/LRvEHXdjDW
– Jeff Grubb (@JeffGrubb) June 20, 2020
I could spend dozens of hours in SnowRunner trying to move a truck 50 yards. That’s what I consider a good time. And the game encourages my bizarre behavior. Fighting for every inch feels like real progress. So I understand that for a lot of people, a game about getting stuck in mud or snow seems confusing or boring. But the reality is that it’s about taking ownership of your choices. If I get a truck stuck in the mud, SnowRunner makes me do whatever it takes to get it moving again, so I do not lose the progress I have already made.
Developer Saber Interactive also improved SnowRunner as a game compared to MudRunner. This comes in the form of building shortcuts and bridges that provide a concrete reward for completing missions.
There will be nothing more satisfying in a video game this year than pulling this truck out of the mud. pic.twitter.com/p7yyP6cVdS
– Jeff Grubb (@JeffGrubb) April 28, 2020
But really, I’m here for physics and terrain deformation. The terrain’s realistic behavior makes each problem feel analogous and tactile. You will not suddenly find your wheels on the good dirt – you really have to pull your rigs through every inch of the dirt. So when you finally reach the goal, you achieved that achievement by overcoming your own mistakes. What the hell of a game.
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