Is the Noid really the villain this time? Or is he the true hero we all need?
10. Granblue Fantasy Vs.
I did not think I would end up liking this game after the beta came out. I played the beta and utterly loathed it, probably because I was trying to play it like an anime fighter. Once I got my head around the fact that it has the pacing of a Street Fighter rather than a Guilty Gear, I actually found myself having a damn good time with the game. New characters came and went and I kept coming back for more grappler action with Ladiva, easily my favorite grappler in fighting games. At least until an update broke the way she worked, making her near unplayable and leaving me scrambling to find a new main before settling on Percival. The game is great, well balanced, and had some interesting ideas with it’s strange single player gatcha beat ‘em up and it’s one button press specials that kept bringing me and my less fighting game inclined friends back for more. If it hadn’t been for the Ladiva breaking balance change, it would have been much higher on my list.
9. Pixel Puzzle Makeout League
I thought for sure this spot would be Murder By Numbers, another great Picross puzzler, but once I played Pixel Puzzle Makeout League, it soared to my top games of 2020. It does a phenomenal job of building images and using the puzzles to tell a story through easily recognizable images as they built out. Its ending is also one of my favorite things this year and worth the time investment to get there. Seriously though, I implore you to ignore the game’s bad title and play through this absolute gem if only to experience some of the wild places it goes.
8. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing is a series I’ve always tried to connect with and until this one, I failed every time. I thought once again I’d drop it after a week of boredom and go back to Rune Factory or Stardew Valley. Maybe it was the pandemic, or maybe it was being in the right space to enjoy it but this time around I lasted for months. I’m less consistent checking in on my island these days, but for a solid half a year I put in the work and finally found the fun that people have with this series.
7. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
I was really skeptical of Valhalla as the PR campaign went on and on about what were my least favorite parts of Assassin’s Creed in the past. Odyssey was great, but going in hard on the combat system was not its strong point. For the first time in the new series style, the moment to moment combat all felt good. I actually enjoyed running into a place, two broadswords in my hands, swinging wildly and cutting everything in my path down. It was a fantastic time with some great writing and incredibly cool moments that I needed after the complete travesty that was Watch Dogs: Legion.
For those of you who haven’t played it yet, here is a suggestion: when you are asked what gender you want to be, let the Animus choose for you. It’s a choice that actively improves the story they are telling and makes the game better as a whole. Do it, I know you want to play as a female Eivor because she’s a hell of a lot more interesting, but that’s the thing, you will. So let the Animus choose for you. I know you have your preference, I know I did, but trust me when I say that it’s an option worth taking
6. Final Fantasy VII: Remake
Final Fantasy VII: Remake did the impossible for me: it made me interested in what’s coming next after the crew leaves Midgar. It’s weird how the changes they made are straight out of the Father’s Day episode of Doctor Who and yet they have me chomping at the bit for more. Everything about FFVII:R worked for me, from the way they adapted the ATB system to the fantastic characterizations and overall writing. Having just started coming into my own in my queerness, the part that scared me the most, because of its poor handling in the original FFVII, ended up feeling empowering. I love this game through and through, and I really need to sit down again soon to finish off that platinum with my good friend Chadley.
5. Sakura Wars
First, Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan is the greatest theme song in video games, don’t argue with me I will fight you. Second, they didn’t fuck up their child character and make it the most uncomfortable thing in the world. That’s a first for the franchise and it’s the first time that I can go “hey, you should play this game” without the MASSIVE caveat that it’s kinda super creepy with children. They combined my two of my favorite things in the world, Sakura Wars and Dynasty Warriors, and I would much rather play a mediocre Dynasty Warriors than a mediocre strategy game. And, uh… let’s maybe not talk about how much time I spent playing the Koi-Koi Wars Hanafuda mini-game.
I didn’t think I’d care for Hades but enough people I care about loved it, so I jumped in and sucked at it. It took me 74 times to get my first clear, and yet I still kept coming back. I wanted more; more juicy writing, more tight gameplay, and more time for my girlfriend to watch the screen and talk about how much she loves Dusa. This is a game we shared: we spent weeks taking turns, succeeding, failing, doing it together. Hades was a real boon this year, something everyone around me could love and enjoy together as we strove for more and more clears, finally seeing credits and jumping right back in. Hades will always hold a special place in my heart and a permanent place on my Switch.
3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
I’m shocked at how good this game was, as I was so worried by the changes they were making. Would I like this goofy looking new character? Would I be able to get past not having Kiryu and company as my main crew? Would the RPG systems actually work in a game like this? Well, the answer to those questions is it’s probably my favorite RPG since Lost Odyssey and might actually be my favorite Yakuza game. The way the characters interact and naturally grow as friends; the way the minigames and substories fit with Ichiban’s character rather than being a complete contrast to it; . It’s a goofy game with some of my favorite moments this year.
2. Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Patches 5.2 – 5.4
No game this year took up my time like Final Fantasy XIV. It was a game I’ve jumped in and out of a lot over the years, but this is the first time I’ve fully bought in and once I did, it’s been one of the most important experiences of my life. I created my character Oulan in December, deciding that this would be the year I would finally finish A Realm Reborn and experience Heavensward, which everyone told me was great. 2 weeks later, I found myself through the entire story, hooked with a whole new group of friends and community that’s been incredible. That’s a big part of why this game, while it’s not my Game of the Year, is the most important game I played this year. It’s given me community, from the old longtime internet friends I’ve joined up with, to streaming alongside Solon. It’s been something that’s kept me going through quarantine, and made it feel like I still had something I could do to interact with friends.
It’s that interaction that has made me who I am today. I’d sit in voice chat, and it didn’t matter what my voice sounded like, people called me she. They referred to me by the gender of my character and it felt so right. It’s why I’m Christine and not Chris and I’ve been so much happier with that realization of myself and I don’t know if it would have happened if not for the family I’ve built around myself in the world of Eorzea. Joining up with friends, realizing myself, and seeing them constantly willing to join up and help me out when I’m dealing with colorblindness issues in bosses. ALL HAIL NOVA RIKO AND THE DORITO OF SAFETY! Please Square Enix, I beg you to make properly implemented colorblind filters because what you have is not enough.
Seriously though, I love the family I’ve made through this game; all of my friends are so important to me and I would not give up the time I’ve spent here for the world. It can be frustrating, maddening even, but it’s been the biggest boost for my mental health and it’s made me who I am today. So here is to all of you, my friends, my family, the people who have kept me going over this last year. This isn’t just a celebration of this game, it’s a celebration of all of you.
1. Nioh 2
I didn’t think any game would be capable of taking my attention away from Final Fantasy XIV once I was fully bought in, then along comes Team Ninja. I’ve been joking for a long time now in calling it “Game of the Generation Nioh 2” every single time I talk about it, and I’m not actually sure anymore if it’s a joke or not. Every little addition they make to the game brings me back in, new equipment, new stages, new weapons, and they all continue to keep my attention and give me the same thrill I got the first time I started as I create character after character for each of the weapons. Hundreds of hours in this game and it still continues to be a thrill, whether it’s the new DLC content or the added difficulties, I can’t stop myself from continuing to live in the incredible world Team Ninja has built.
Even after multiple playthroughs I still find the story incredibly compelling and fun: the boss fights still excite me even though I know most of them by the back of my hand, and every single loot drop gives me that serotonin drip of possible improvement to the look of my character. I love everything about this game, and it feels right to me that the game I see as probably my game of the generation came out in the final year of the console cycle. Now get ready for me to start talking about the game of the new generation of consoles when Nioh ½ Remastered comes out in February.