You might look at my list and think I had a pretty boring year with games. Three games, two of which came out early in the year and one I’m not that excited about? Seems awful.
But I spent most of 2020 not thinking about 2020 by playing a bunch of older games. Horizon Zero Dawn, Outer Wilds, Jedi Fallen Order, and Nier: Automata all ended up being some of my favorite games of all time, and I also spent a good amount of time on retro games, with the SNES Online app being my most played Switch game of the year.
So this year was great, actually, but not in a way that shows well in a game of the year list. If you’re like me and put off playing games until well after they come out, here are the games in 2020 that I’ve deemed important enough to play in the year of their release.
3. Star Wars Squadrons (Xbox, PS4, PC)
I loved X-Wing and Tie Fighter, and Squadrons is about the best I could hope for in a modern interpretation of those games. It’s not as complicated or complex as those, but there’s still a decent learning curve that kept me wanting to improve. The story mode isn’t anything too great, but the Fleet Battle multiplayer mode is well designed and worth coming back to again and again.
2. Doom Eternal (Multiplatform)
Doom 2016 nailed the transition of old Doom into the modern day with its fast combat and complex levels filled with secrets. Doom Eternal has a different feel to it — one that I wasn’t too high on at first. The levels are long and straight-forward, the story is utter nonsense without the punch and simple themes of its predecessor, and the combat has a fairly unintuitive loop that I didn’t quite grasp at first. Once I realized that it was just meant to be an intense combat game that tests your reflexes and ability to manage several systems at once, I started to have a lot more fun. I still prefer the first game, but it’s hard to deny that the gunplay is some of the best in the business.
1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox, PC, Switch)
I’ll keep saying it until it stops being true — Ori is better than Metroid in every way. Ori and the Will of the Wisps cranks everything up a notch over its predecessor, with much better combat, a bigger, more beautiful world, and more challenge. The story didn’t quite land with me as powerfully as that of the first game, but it’s still great. This is the kind of game I’ll replay every few years just for a burst of pure joy.
I should mention that I didn’t buy a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X this year, but I did manage to upgrade my PC so I wouldn’t be left behind. The good news is that this may finally be the time to dip back into the console space with a PS5 in the next year or two. It’ll be hard to pass up some of the inevitable exclusives, and the value proposition is amazing. Once I’m ready for one, they should be easy to get, so maybe next year the spread of games in my list will be a little wider.