My 2020 in Gaming

Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to my 2020 in review!

Despite the pandemic and the political turmoil, I spent 2020 in good company, both in person (just my wife and I) and virtually (with family and friends). We still managed to make happy memories this year. My paying job was actually going smoothly when 2020 began… but when the pandemic hit, we went through several very sudden and intense changes. I’ve been swimming out of my depth ever since, trying to make the most of things. I took a week-long break for the holidays, and I sorely needed it.

But anyway, video games!

Going by the numbers, it appears I spent double the time on video games in 2020 than I did in 2019. I can barely believe that. But numbers are numbers. We managed to go on some outdoorsy travels in the summer, but the rest of the time we just holed up in our home and let media carry us through the long months. The good thing, though, is that I finished a significant amount of my gaming backlog. And I did a lot of experimenting. I dipped my toes into several new series and genres, including but not limited to Persona, Warriors games, Paper Mario, Ys, Dragon Quest, and several indie games. It was time put to good use.

Two-thirds of all the time I spent playing games was on the Switch. Last year it was only half.

Despite being at home a lot, I still focused on portable play. It’s just who I am. It’s easy to adapt handhelds to any situation, especially when my wife may use the TV for something else. In a completely unexpected turn of events, I mostly played games developed by Nintendo. Following Nintendo, I played several indie games, followed by an assortment of other Japanese developers.

Almost half of all the games I played were Nintendo games, and another third were indie games.

Regarding genre, I played a lot of JRPGs, action games, platformers, and relaxing simulation games. I frequently oscillated between epic, lengthy stories and short, shallow romps. In my opinion, a good gaming diet needs a lot a variety to prevent any specific game from growing stale.

Animal Crossing dwarfed any other game I played.

At any rate, we all know why you’re here. I have a handful of awards to give out to several of the more outstanding games of the year. Up first is…

The Best Game Not From 2020: Persona 4 Golden

Out of all the games from my backlog, including timeless retro classics and modern masterpieces, Persona 4 Golden kept coming back to my mind not only as a savory blend of Life-Sim and RPG mechanics, but also as the most thought-provoking game I played this year. I still think about the main theme of “searching out for the truth,” of the characters’ personal struggles and how they all related to that main theme. Most of all, I think about the villain of the game and their dramatic foil to you the player. It got me to think about how I approach life, and that is probably one of the highest honors I can ever bestow on a game. For more of my thoughts on the game, click here.

Wife’s Game of the Year: Fire Emblem Three Houses

I know it technically came out last year, but there is honestly no contest for my wife on what is the best game she played this year. This was also perhaps one of the most wholesome gaming moments for me this year as well. The characters that I fell in love with in 2019 my wife got to meet in 2020. In fact, I would argue she loves these fictional characters even more than I do. In her own words,

I love my babies with every fiber of my being.

My wife

Since the last update, she has finished the Golden Deer route and is planning on doing the DLC on another playthrough – likely a second run of Blue Lions so she can finally marry Dedue. For more of my (and my wife’s) thoughts on Fire Emblem: Three Houses, click here.

This year’s holidays were made infinitely better thanks to our virtual animal friends.

The Hero We Needed: Animal Crossing New Horizons

In March the pleading public sent up a distress signal in the shape of a leaf. They all needed a cute and relaxing escape, and a hero responded. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the surrogate virtual life I needed. After several hours of frantic work and distressing news about the new crisis our country was heading towards, a half-hour of just saying hi to my villagers and designing a new room for my virtual house was exactly what I needed. I played New Horizons for essentially every day since March 20. I was so fatigued from the physical work of my job and the emotional work of educating myself on the inequalities in the US, and New Horizons was a miniature spa treatment. It was self-care. More than that, it was an ideal way to play out holidays and other life events in a safe way with the people I cared about. For more of my thoughts regarding Animal Crossing, click here.

Runner-Up of the Year: Pikmin 3 Deluxe

Yes it’s technically a re-release, but this game was so good I’m willing to bend the rules a bit. Pikmin 3 Deluxe was an excellent combination of atmospheric environments, unique and polished gameplay, and focused game design. No specific element pushes it over the top, but everything is just so well put-together that it ended up excelling as a whole package. My wife even agreed to try the game out for herself, even though she was initially not a fan of the game’s premise. For more of my thoughts regarding Pikmin 3 Deluxe, click here.

Game of the Year: Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Like Celeste did back in 2018, this year another indie game takes the crown for my #1 game of 2020. Ori and the Will of the Wisps packs almost everything I love about video games into a dense 10-hour experience. It has the tight controls with a blissful momentum to its platforming. It has a unique and intricate art direction. It has an poignant coming-of-age story. Sometimes I would lay back and just soak in the atmosphere, the lighting and the soundscape enveloping me. Sometimes I would push ahead, engrossed in beating the challenge in front of me.

You could say the game’s one drawback is that Ori doesn’t do enough to stand out from other games of its kind. It’s an indie 2D Metroidvania, and it fits snugly within that genre without pushing any borders. What you see is what you get. However, every element is polished to a brilliant shine. If you ever play only one Metroidvania, I’d say this is the one. For more of my thoughts regarding Ori and the Will of the Wisps, click here.

And that wraps up my 2020 in gaming, everyone! I have a lot in store for this new year. I have some new experiments I’m going to try and new approaches I’m going to take to my game reviews. Thanks for sticking with me!

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