Theresa’s Top 9 Games of 2020

May you live in interesting times. Worst. Curse. Ever. Everyone has already talked about 2020 ad infinitum, so I’ll skip a good portion of that. Yep, I played a lot of hours this year and that part of 2020 was glorious! Beautiful games, soothing games, oldies but goodies (my friends, I think I have a Bloons TD 6 problem, please don’t plan an intervention), and of course some new games!

9. Paper Mario: The Origami King (Switch)

This game’s environment has plenty of variety, it’s as pleasing to look at as any Paper Mario game, but I just didn’t like the puzzle aspect in the combat sequences. At first it was unique and I liked the extra challenge, but then it became tedious and it honestly started to anger me. This is likely a me-problem, I’m sure plenty of other people still enjoyed it after the first 50 freaking combat sequences. It’s a shame, this game could have been much higher on the 2020 list for me.

8. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)

What to do while we wait for Breath of the Wild 2… how about a little hack and slash fun in the form of a new Hyrule Warriors game? Sure! While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I enjoy some mindless massive damage dealing, though I definitely had to pay attention during many of the fights. Everything from Age of Calamity is pulled from Breath of the Wild, including the Guardians. Co-op play adds a lot of value for me personally. It’s easy enough to pick up the combos, so I can usually find a playing partner. There could have been more narrative here, though, and in high mob count areas, the Switch slows down a bit.

7. Among Us (PC, Mobile, Switch, Xbox)

Wow, this game brought the 2020 casual gaming thunder! I like to think of it as last year’s Untitled Goose Game due to the extreme meme-ing inspired by both titles. These games are otherwise completely different. Love them or hate them, the rando strangers we usually end up playing rounds of Among Us with make the game ever so interesting. It’s always a completely different experience each time I play.

6. Calico (Switch)

I love surprise games. This life simulator came out of nowhere for me, and it’s exactly what December 2020 needed. Calico is a super cute indie game with a very attractive $12 price tag. You run a cat cafe, chat with neighbors, and most importantly, you can interact with every single animal on the island! It’s a treat to see my thick bottomed character run after cats and then huggle them relentlessly. Good lord, the shrill squeal that erupted from me when I found my first capybara! I’ve laughed so much while playing–the dialogue, the crazy physics, and most of all the cooking. Can’t have a cafe without coffee and some treats, right? To cook, you become super-deformed, about the size of an egg, then you pick up the ingredients for the recipe and literally yeet them into the mixing bowl, then voila! The food is ready. Jump into the bowl, pick it up, and yeet the food a final time, right onto the tray. Every time I throw the stick of butter a little too forcefully, sending it careeining to the end of the counter, I can’t help but laugh. This game is so me, of course it’s going to be on my list. And ABSOLUTELY YES, I like it more than some triple A games.

5. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (PS4)

As I edit reviews for the SmashPad site and podcast with my cohorts, lots of games hit my radar from word of mouth recommendations. This is one of them and I’m truly grateful for the experience. I love the time hopping, figuring out where the story is going next, and the tactical battle is right up my alley. Even though I haven’t finished it just yet, this game is an absolute gem and belongs in the Top 5 of 2020.

4. Hades (PC, Mac, Switch)

The roguelike genre is one that I haven’t fully explored yet. I’ve meant to, but like many of you, time is a factor. Other games end up getting priority. When I read about a game steeped in Greek mythology, though, my priorities shifted dramatically. I love this game! How could I not, being a bit of a huge life-long mythology nerd? The gameplay is challenging and keeps me engaged, the story keeps me coming back for more. Hades is a game I’ll be playing off and on for a very long time. It’s pretty popular with the other gamers in my household as well.

3. Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)

Everyone else was playing this game and raved about it, so I checked it out (literally, from the library) figuring it wouldn’t strike a chord with me. Wrong. Very happily wrong. The visuals, the story, and the combat won me over. I liked it so much that I made a little tribute to the game on a small section of my Animal Crossing island. I often find myself thinking about this game randomly.

2. Phantasy Star Online 2 (PC, Xbox)

Phantasy Star Online 2 took entirely too long to make it to North America, but I’m glad it’s here. This game brings back so many memories of the old Dreamcast and GameCube days. I’m making new memories playing after work with fellow Smashpad member, Pat Mifflin. We go blasting through expeditions and boss fights just like we did in the old days, except it looks a whole lot better and there’s a lot more content. There is so much to love here, why are you still reading? Go download it and play–it’s free! Except, maybe wait to read about my absolute tippy-top game of 2020, then go play.

1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

This game, now I know I said I wasn’t going to go on and on about the troubles of 2020, but the timing of this game was serendipitous. There we were, staying home, being good, being safe, being so lonely, so scared, so stressed. It felt like we were cut off from our families, our friends, our coworkers, our classmates. And here comes Animal Crossing to the rescue. Being able to visit my real life friends, play little mini games we created like kids on a playground, trading items, sending gifts, gathering for shooting stars and making it into a pajama party are very personal ways this game honest to goodness helped keep me grounded, engaged, purposeful, and social.

The game would’ve been incredible even if COVID-19 hadn’t happened. Nintendo has done an outstanding job on content, updates, continued support, and inclusion/representation with regards to character customization. I have absolutely zero plans of decreasing my AC:NH playtime in 2021. In fact, I’m looking forward to more updates and seasonal events. And guess who is getting some new Animal Crossing Amiibo cards under her holiday tree? Yep! More animals for me!