Considering my 2020 “lockdown” started right after my trip to PAX East, it is no surprise that gaming was on my mind when I was working from home for a couple months. On top of that, the Steam Spring Sale happened and I grabbed a few indie games to fill the time. I did pretty well this year when it came to finding quality games that scratched a variety of itches. Here are a few stand-outs from my 2020 playlist:
Might as well get this one out of the way at the top. I had 300+ hours of playtime on my Switch this year and more than half of that was running around my island of Hoopyfrood, shaking trees, chasing bugs and participating in events. Not only was this game chill and relaxing, it was also how I attended all the “social” events of the season – my friends and I gathered together to explore each other’s islands, then on Halloween we showed off our spoopy decor and on Christmas Eve, we exchanged presents. On New Year’s Eve, I watched the countdown and fireworks with my NPC villagers and it was adorable. This game is so chill and fun and I love it (except for snowboys…I hate snowboys…)
Another one to just get out of the way now, this game brought the social deduction aspect of games like Werewolf, Mafia and Secret Hitler into the video gaming world. It is simple but clever and also STRESSFUL. Lying is stressful and I am NOT good at it. I prefer the modified game of Hide and Seek, where you modify the game set-up to restrict how far the imposter can see, then immediately identify who the Imposter is with the group then proceed to see if the crew can hide and perform all the tasks before they are murdered. It is still stressful, but filled with a lot more laughter.
Tabletop Simulator, Tabletop games adapted for PC, Free to play Tabletop games
As I have said many times this year, I picked the worst time to become obsessed with tabletop gaming, a hobby that requires you to gather with many people to play together. Luckily, Tabletop Simulator was able to help me transfer that experience to my computer. For the first few months of 2020, I played games of ‘Set A Watch’ and ‘Gloomhaven’ with a friend in Chicago each week using TTS mods. Later on, I picked up ‘Scythe‘ and ‘Wingspan’ on Steam, both fantastic adaptations of their physical counterparts. I also joined in a few games of ‘Codenames‘ with Discord friends. I love video games, but I tend to play single player, so these virtual tabletop sessions helped scratch the itch to play board games while still staying safe.
If you like a good mystery and enjoyed the historical/horror series ‘The Terror’, than this game is for you. I loved every minute of it. You are sent to investigate the Obra Dinn, a ship whose entire crew went missing and was found afloat in the ocean. Using a magical stop watch, you are able to hear the past and see images of what occurred on the ship. Piecing together clues and hints, you begin to uncover what happened to the people on board. This is a great logic puzzle, very stylized but even with the limited color palette and pixel art, it manages to be creepy and unsettling. Each time the tone played, signaling I had solved a part of the puzzle, I tingled with glee.
I saw this game’s booth at PAX East but didn’t get to play it and then bought it on a whim during the Steam Sale based solely on the art style. It is not only a gorgeous game, it is a lot of fun! I played it the first time during a Twitch stream, not knowing what to expect and me and my friends were just in awe of the music, the animation, and the gameplay. It somehow manages to pay homage to every game you love and at the same time being unique. The whole game takes about an hour to play through, but it has a lot of replayability because you will want to go back to improve your score and listen to the music again and again.
I actually got this game when it was in Early Access, but it officially launched this year. This game has grown so much since those early days. It is one of THE best co-op group games I have ever played. You really have to work together to survive and the challenges are a lot of fun. I’ve played with just 2 players and up to 4 player and they are all wild rides. You are a dwarf that is part of a space mining operation but unfortunately all the planets you mine your minerals on are infested with GIANT BUGS! Choose between a scout, gunner, engineer and driller and meet your quota so you can get back to base and collect your reward. The additions since launch – item forging, new game levels and the epic Deep Dive mode – elevated this game to a whole new level. Even though you level up, most of the changes to your character are cosmetic, apart from weapons upgrades which are pretty easy to afford after playing the game for a few hours. Your level really signifies that you understand how the game works and have survived – so don’t worry if your friends have been playing and are level 20 and you’re just starting out – it is still the same game for everyone. If you are looking for a game to play with friends, this is a solid investment.
Another Indie darling, ‘Wandersong’ uses music as its main mechanic as the protagonist of the game sings his way through battles. The game is very meta and very cute. And, as you would expect, has a lovely soundtrack. Some of the puzzles were challenging (and some seemed a bit glitchy, but that might have just been me) but the whole game is so much fun to play and look at, it is worth it.
I finished up the trilogy in July…I kept putting it off because I wasn’t ready for the story to end and I wasn’t sure how it would all end. And with the different choices I made in my second play-through of Banner Saga 1 + 2, I will definitely play 3 again to see how things change. This is one of the best trilogies I’ve played, story driven but also really challenging tactical combat. The hand-drawn art style is gorgeous. A single play-through of each game isn’t long, but that makes it easier to go back and play again to make different decisions with characters choices and fighting tactics.
I got sucked back into this game, which has been in my steam library for a couple years now. It is DIFFICULT; many games I die instantly and just call it a night. It is a rhythm based rogue-like dungeon crawler. I have never made it past Zone 2 yet I feel compelled to log in each night and at least try the daily challenge. It is unforgiving but somehow a lot of fun. You can pick it up on Steam sales really cheap too.
AAA Titles from 2020
I did play ‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’ and ‘The Outer Worlds’ which were both a lot of fun. I really liked how the lightsaber handled in ‘Fallen Order’ and thought the side quests and story of ‘Outer Worlds’ were engaging but also the overall game was short enough that you actually want to play it through again to see what different choices you can make. For Christmas, I got the ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ which I have about 6 hours in so far and OMG SO PRETTY.