Hey again! It’s almost a doubleheader. Indie Wire and now Polygon. Found another article for the Best Games of 2020. Want to give credit to the staff of Polygon for the article. Like I did with Indie Wire, this list is long so to read the rest, go to https://www.polygon.com/2020/12/14/22166004/best-games-2020-ps4-xbox-one-switch-pc-series-x.
Credit source: Polygon
The 50 best games of 2020
From big to small, we rank them all
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When the pandemic hit, we all said goodbye to seeing friends, attending concerts, touring museums, eating at restaurants, sitting in movie theaters, and everything else beyond the walls of our apartments and homes that can’t accommodate CDC guidelines.
With the outside world lost, we collectively looked for a world inside. And there, as if purposefully constructed as an answer to this question we found ourselves asking, sat Animal Crossing. Millions of people who’d dabbled in games on their phones remembered what it was like to sit on a couch and play games on a television. With infinite time and few distractions, they ordered a Nintendo Switch. They began to play games again, not as a workday distraction but as an after-work hobby.
2020 didn’t make games normal; that process has been happening over the past decades. Games filled prime-time television, with Call of Duty commercials running during the NBA playoffs, and CBS sitcoms making references to World of Warcraft. Millions of people who would never identify as “gamers” began playing idle games for hours each day. Then came Fortnite, tying together mobile free-to-play games and blockbuster quality, and the die was cast.
This year simply cemented that normalcy status. It’s like when prestige TV filled cable channels; suddenly, “I don’t even watch TV” transitioned from a brag to an embarrassment. Now, everybody’s expected to care at least a little about games, lest they be mistaken for pop culture troglodytes.
By the summer of this year, it was evident that Animal Crossing had become a gateway. Anecdotally speaking, this year we at Polygon saw our nongaming friends spread across the medium. Literary pals took a trip on Kentucky Route Zero. Theater friends experimented with virtual reality via The Under Presents. Mario Kart, Mario Odyssey, and Mario Party reminded people why they loved the medium back in the day, and Hades had other folks asking why they’d even fallen off this habit. Then came the new consoles, and the corresponding marketing strike teams, vacuuming all these new potential players into the hype cycle. In a year of bad news, it felt good to look forward to anything — even if it was just a slightly better box to put beneath our TVs.
Some newcomers will return to old hobbies, but I believe most folks will keep games in their lives. In turn, the games community must evolve so that newcomers want to stay. So that they feel welcome.
Some gamers still express a defensiveness about the medium: that games aren’t taken seriously, that they’re not perceived as high art, not shown the respect of books or music or film. They see games like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part 2 as “real” video games that will pull the form closer to respectability, and that mobile and free-to-play games, games with color and joy, will propel the medium into a cultural ghetto. Of course, they’re wrong.
Video games are too many things to be confined by some notion of universal relevance. Games can be adventures and puzzles and release valves for our anxiety and frustration. They can be tools for communication and experimental spaces for self-discovery. They can be sports. They can be dangerous, encouraging you to gamble away your paycheck and consume every millisecond of your free time. Or, you know, just provide a five-minute break from the night shift. They can be art; they can be fart.
Video games are the medium that combines all other mediums, blending art and film and music and everything else into one impossible-to-summarize concoction. Not just a creative medium, but a creative unifier. And for the video game space to keep growing, we as audience and creators must be the same, welcoming everybody under the tent, whether they prefer raising animals in Dwarf Fortress or FarmVille, to create something undefinable.
—Chris Plante, editor-in-chief of Polygon
Kind of bugs and kind of ’snax! When I first was tasked with playing Bugsnax, I thought, OK, sure. These things are kind of cute, and I do like games that involve collecting critters and characters. Not even 20 minutes into the game, I became obsessed. While it’s not the technological achievement for next-gen consoles that people may have been expecting with its PlayStation 5 launch-day release, it’s just good fun.
The characters are enjoyable, the music is great, and the story is actually pretty thrilling. I love Bugsnax, and I genuinely hope people can make the time to play this short creature-catcher.
49. NO MAN’S SKY
No Man’s Sky has been a success story of online games since 2018 when Hello Games launched the enormous overhaul known as Next. The universe has kept evolving since, and this year, the studio added abandoned space freighters and Origins, a massive update that tosses storms, new worlds, sandworms, and more diversity into the game.
The space exploration game is in fantastic shape and sets a vibrant backdrop for one of the most enthusiastic communities in gaming. Players can build a space base, learn alien languages, explore an endless array of stunning worlds, run a freighter business, work as a trader, pick up mercenary jobs, and snap photos of alien vistas. No Man’s Sky abandons the hard science of other space sims and has grown into an extraordinary experience.
Helltaker only takes about an hour to play, but it’s a worthwhile hour of your life if you like cute demon girls or puzzle games.
The free Steam game offers several challenges presented in the style of a simple block-pushing puzzle, with some twists thrown in. You’ll have to collect demon girls as you descend through hell, winning over their hearts while also solving the brain-rattling puzzles. The puzzles themselves aren’t too hard, but they are just hard enough to make you squint and furrow your brow.
The art style is delicious and so are the French crepes featured in this game. If a larger version of Helltaker drops in the future, I’ll be first in line, offering my wallet.
47. DOOM ETERNAL
Doom took top honors in our 2016 game of the year deathmatch with an incredibly confident reimagining of the classic shooter franchise that started it all. And after some delays, its sequel, Doom Eternal, finally made its way to players on March 20, just a week into when most of us began quarantining. And while another March 20 release came to define much of our collective quarantine — that would be Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Doom Eternal offered players something besides tranquility and the allure of an island escape: It let you blast demons into chunks and also, in between that, jump around a murder playground.
Whether or not those interstitial murder playgrounds were successful seems to be the litmus test for whether or not you enjoyed Doom Eternal or really loved Doom Eternal. For me, it was a welcome release valve from the misery of 2020. Except the Marauder fight. Screw that dude.
46. SUPER MEGA BASEBALL 3
Super Mega Baseball feels like the little video game franchise that could, chugging along over the past six years to become one of the best stories in the sports genre. And with the new franchise mode in this year’s Super Mega Baseball 3, developer Metalhead Software put the spotlight on the stories of its beloved baseball bozos. I got to know my entire roster intimately over the course of my inaugural season running the Sawteeth, and I felt heartbroken at having to make the tough choices required to put the team in a position to win the championship. Who knew that a goofy-looking indie sports game with players featuring names like Grease Veterano and Pex Flext would turn the emotional screws like this?
The Super Mega Baseball series has always been bursting with charm, and the franchise mode smartly honors and capitalizes on that emotional connection. It’s a terrific addition to what is now one of the finest sports gaming franchises around.
45. MARIO KART LIVE: HOME CIRCUIT
I could easily run off a long list of ways Mario Kart Live fails its legacy. Things we’ve taken for granted for almost 30 years, like the camera placement, or the collision when you run into or drive through other racers. And it’s not the most practical experience — it doesn’t work outside, or on thick carpet, or in small rooms. And multiplayer gets expensive fast.
But when everything works the way it’s supposed to, there’s magic here, seeing the kart change speeds and drift, and the visuals react as you play. It’s confusing, really, how well developer Velan Studios fuses augmented reality footage with racing that feels so familiar. It may all be somewhat unwieldy and impractical — and it’s really more of a toy than a game — but the excitement of that first moment when it works is hard to beat.
Available for Nintendo Switch
I treasure every Amanita Design game I play because each one is a dazzling work of imagination, crafted in painstaking, loving detail. The Czech studio’s adventure games are full of 2D artwork so evocative as to transport you into their bizarre worlds, and Amanita’s latest one, the puzzle game Creaks, is no different.
Creaks unfolds in a massive subterranean structure hewn out of colossal stalagmites, a mansion whose every room tells the story of the eldritch beings that occupy it. You play as an anxious everyman exploring this mystifying place, trying to get to the bottom of the forces that are terrorizing its inhabitants. Each room is its own puzzle box, and light is your only ally as you try to use the mechanical monsters to your advantage in making your way through.
Amanita generates a remarkable variety of puzzles from a few simple concepts, rules, and interactions. And although there’s no hint system, the unorthodox original score from Scottish musician Joe Acheson (aka Hidden Orchestra) provides musical clues that let you know you’re on the right track. The incredible synthesis of artwork, sound, puzzle design, and animation in Creaks conveys the game’s story without a single line of dialogue or text. Don’t miss it.
43. CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE
Call of Duty always seemed like it would be ripe for free-to-play success, and when the battle royale genre first caught fire in 2017, it all seemed like a perfect fit. So on the one hand, it’s a little surprising that it took Activision until 2020 to make it happen. On the other hand, the quality of Warzone made it well worth the wait. Blackout, Call of Duty’s earlier stab at a battle royale mode, proved that players won’t stick with a game they aren’t interested in, no matter what series name is attached. But Infinity Ward’s take, Warzone, shines.
After a rough first couple of months, the developer turned Warzone into one of the most fun, fast-paced, and interesting battle royale shooters. The game’s unique money system, which lets players purchase upgrades or their own custom loadouts, helps give each match its own mini objectives outside of just killing opponents, and the fantastic base of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2019 gunplay and mechanics keeps every shootout fun.
The future of Warzone, unlike that of most games on this list, is up in the air. After eight months of impressive updates and improvements from Infinity Ward, this week the game will begin adding content from Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. If the transition is a success, it will set up both Warzone and the Call of Duty franchise for years of success as one of the premier battle royale and multiplayer games. If not, well … there’s always next year?
42. YAKUZA: LIKE A DRAGON
Yakuza: Like a Dragon reinvents the Yakuza series. The long-running franchise ditches its main character and combat style after more than a decade, but it manages to keep its perfect blend of stupidity and heart.
Like a Dragon dances between a heartfelt need for family and a realistic setting with silly Japanese role-playing abilities. Sure, Ichiban Kasuga goes through the emotional wringer with his longtime Yakuza family at the start of the game, but he also pulls a bat from the concrete like it’s the sword in the stone — something the game recognizes with silly Dragon Quest-like music and knowing comments from his allies.
It’s that goofiness that propels me forward in Like a Dragon. I’ve encountered toughs that spend their days doing diaper role-play — and now I can summon them in battle. I’ve watched my homeless party member, Nanba, deliver a beautiful speech about what it means to be homeless in his world and how he got there. And moments later, I watched Nanba use a special ability where he scatters birdseed on a group of enemies, summoning pigeons to attack them. That’s what Yakuza: Like a Dragon does — it reels you in with its outlandish stupidity, and before you know it, you find yourself really caring what happens to Ichiban and his band of miscreants.
41. IN OTHER WATERS
At first glance, In Other Waters looks like the slick map UI from some open-world blockbuster, except that the map interface is basically the entire game. As an AI of mysterious provenance stuck in the diving suit of an interstellar explorer, you help guide your human partner through a verdant alien ocean world. You use the map UI to navigate her through unique ecologies as she catalogs each organism’s particular characteristics. You won’t be able to actually see any of these aliens yourself, however: The closest you’ll get is her rough field-biologist sketches, and even then, only as a reward for extensively studying each individual organism.
Instead, you must rely on her descriptions, and luckily, they are exquisite. You’ll not only get a vivid description of the organisms’ appearance and behavior but the way in which they fit into the broader ecosystem. Imagination is In Other Waters’ most powerful mechanic. On the map interface you might see a bunch of little orange dots zipping through wafting yellow chains, but you know these are really towering kelplike forests, teeming with strange, alien life. The synthy soundtrack certainly helps lull you into a state of relaxed contemplation as you analyze a discarded shell and wonder what creature left it behind. Eventually, the deliberate cataloging of species makes way for a grander story of ecological disaster and human hubris that’s as affecting as it is relevant.
Available for macOS, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC
40. WIDE OCEAN, BIG JACKET
Developed by indie game studio Turnfollow, Wide Ocean, Big Jacket plays like a short story — a contained collection of moments that fills out a few hours of playtime. It’s a real delight, dropping into this stranger’s world; when I wrote about it in March, I said that the campground where it all takes place feels like a snow globe. Of course, there is no snow here. Wide Ocean, Big Jacket is a summer adventure, an ordinary camping trip between four quirky, well-realized characters.
The story Turnfollow tells is one that hits many different emotional notes in a way that feels succinct and perfected; there’s warmth and awkward hilarity, with heartbreaking sadness and relief.
NO MIDWEEK UPDATES THIS WEEK….We are busy getting the Best of 2020 posts out before Christmas. Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, be healthy, be safe, be blessed.
Featured image: The class of 2020 Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon | Source images: Various