Games that got me through 2020
Dumpster Fire, Tornado Fart, Acid Jacuzzi are all words you could use to describe 2020. But one thing was pretty good this year and that thing is videogames. Instead of having a best of list or goty list this year I decided to write about the games that got me through 2020.
Ring Fit Adventure
I bought Ring Fit Adventure early in the year and oh boy am I so glad I did. This year I felt the creeping effects of age on my health and I decided I wanted to treat my body like not a temple, but maybe a nice cabin? At first RFA was kicking my ass, every session I was huffing and puffing feeling like I needed a nap. But I pushed through and eventually I felt the game easier and each time I would bump it up a little bit. I could physically feel my body getter better through the various exercises and my stamina boosted. Most videogames don’t actually care about you. They want you to put in the hours, get those sweet dopamine boosts, then maybe tell your friends about how much of a great time you had playing it. RFA is a game that cares about you, it asks you if you want to finish up your exercise for the day. It encourages you to do stretches before and after your workout. It’s constantly asking if exercises are too easy or too hard for you. It provides you with fun facts about vitamins and even tells you to take a break even once in a while. I felt like RFA was my little personal trainer this year and a damn good trainer at that.
Takeshi & Hiroshi
With the emergence of “wholesome” games being a whole thing with presentations like the Wholesome Direct, I really thought about what makes a game “wholesome”. Is it the aesthetic? The mechanics? The story? Turns out it’s a little bit of everything, it’s not just a cutesy-style slapped onto a dark-souls esque game where you help villagers. Takeshi & Hiroshi is a game about taking care of your brother and forging friendships along the way. You play as Takeshi, a young game developer working on a RPG game for his sick little brother Hiroshi. Here’s the catch, the game isn’t done, so Takeshi decides to develop the game live while Hiroshi is playing it, it’s your job to summon the right monsters for Hiroshi to fight without making the game too hard / too easy. It’s a typical turn-based JRPG where you play as both the protagonist fight monsters and the game master creating the monsters that are fought. The game is interspersed with cute stop-motion cutscenes where you watch the story progress as Takeshi makes friends and tries to craft the perfect game for his little brother. Nothing says wholesome like trying to cheer up your brother when he’s having a bad time in the hospital. The game really ties the players actions to that of being a game designer, attempting to craft an experience that’s engaging, but not overwhelming. I highly recommend playing the game in about 1 sitting as it’s only about 2 hours and experience this wholesome game for yourself.
I used to avoid engaging into too much nostalgia, but FF7 allowed me to really embrace my childhood with a whole new perspective. The opening music and watching spikey haired himbo Cloud dismount off the train and pull out his giant sword brought back a swirl of giddy feelings. FF7 Remake is a great nod to the classic while keeping things fresh with its dynamic combat system and fleshing out of an area that was only about 3 hours long in the original. I couldn’t help but smile when I reached the Shinra truck scene where the gang hops into the vehicle and Cloud does some sick wheelies off of enemy troops. At the end of the game I was a bit worried about the direction of the remake (there’s some Nomura type shit in there), but by the end I was excited to see where it was going to go next. Can’t wait to play the next section on my PS5 on a 4k TV and see every individual strand of Cloud’s hair follicles in 2024.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
At the start of the pandemic Animal Crossing, NH was my savior. I’d check in on my little island for a few hours everyday. Slowly accruing more, bugs, fish, and friendly animal villagers. It was my time of zen to forget about the outside world and get annoyed about catching another bass. The amount of detail put into every little aspect of AC:NH is remarkable, but I wanted to shoutout the museum specifically. That museum is a damn work of art, I spent hours taking photos with friends while we watched the hammerhead shark I caught swim around us in the aquarium. I even tried to get my mom into it (although it fell through because turns out AC:NH isn’t actually user friendly to non-gamers). Every now and then I pop my head back in to see how my best Nickolodeon Jr. lookin ass elephant, Axel is doing. If you’re still playing come on down to my island the Bone Zone and let’s go fishing!
Spelunky 2 / Hades
Spelunky 2 and Hades are two sides of the same coin. Spelunky 2 being the brutally difficult rogue-like about perfecting your mechanics and following a step-by-step route so you can reach a level for the rush of accomplishment. While Hades is the firecracker, dopamine micro-injection rogue-lite about creating different builds making your playstyle different each time. The interesting thing about these two games is that S2 is a game that becomes about finding a dominant strategy and mastering it. It’s the hardcore of hardcore rogue-likes. The game will present different items and opportunities on a run, but when you get to the point I have you generally have one dominant path to follow. While Hades (still being challenging) is a game that gives back in its systems as you play more. You’ll gain more options, abilities, and powerups through the meta-progression which generally makes the game easier. In Hades, builds matter more because they alter your playstyle. Even with more hours in S2 I found myself booting up Hades everytime I had a frustrating death in S2. Spelunky 2 is about diving into the hell and Hades is about trying to get out.
Among Us came out of nowhere, but very quickly became the game I’d play to socialize with friends. The simplicity of the rules combined with the mostly approachable controls made it easy for friends to pick up and have a good time. Along with the option to change different variables, Among Us is still pretty fresh. No one could have predicted this tiny indie game from 2 years ago entering the gaming and cultural zeitgeist this year. It is by far the biggest game this year. It’s taught me that in space, all my friends are sus.