2020 was a hell of a very long year, gang. I know that is the common sentiment but it’s common for a reason. And it turns out I didn’t get to play many games this year. Such is life. But hey, I got around to some real bangers, so here are my top 5 games of the year.
5 – Mahjong (multiple formats)
It’s no secret that I love me a good game of mahjong. And folks? The mahjong was good in 2020. Mahjong Soul got continued support in 2020, and Clubhouse Games featured a strong game of riichi mahjong. The tutorial in Clubhouse Games could be stronger, and Mahjong Soul has some shitty gacha mechanics, but at the heart of both games lie solid ways to play such a beloved game.
The only bummer is that with COVID, I wasn’t able to get my IRL mahjong games going at conventions like I have done in the past, and 2021 isn’t looking so hot for that either. Until we can safely gather again though, there are solid options out there for you to play.
4 – Jackbox Party Pack 7
It feels like every year I say this, but this year I mean it: Jackbox Party Pack 7 is the best the series has to offer. There are five fantastic games rolled into one, and I could go on for ages about each game. Quiplash 3 is the weakest of the bunch, and that is saying something because Quiplash is a classic. The quipping is a little weak this time around, but the custom games make up for that, and it’s still a grand time. The Devil And The Details is chaotic fun, once you wrap your head around the rules and wild touch screen minigames.
Blather Round is a word guessing game that makes you feel like a big idiot all the time because the clues can be really bizarre. But it’s a unique game that is a great way to end the night. Champ’d Up is a drawing game that lets you make champions and have them compete for bizarre titles. Continuing with the same players over and over results in some wild matchups, and the game is a blast even when you can’t draw.
Lastly, Talking Points is one of the finest Jackbox party games ever made. Players give impromptu speeches with words and slides prepared by another player, and the rest of the group gives out real time approval ratings. What results are some of the funniest speeches ever performed by your friends. The game is brilliantly able to draw out the inherent comedic awkwardness of giving a speech and turn it into a positive.
I’ve given speeches where I talk candidly about my transition, heard rants about Taco Bell Breakfast Menus, and I’ve even sang through a few slides. It’s always a great time giving these speeches in Talking Points, where everyone feels like a winner and elated with laughter. Fire up a call with friends, and be prepared for some wild speeches.
3 – Tetris Effect Connected
Tetris might be the most perfect game ever made. It’s a simple game of falling blocks and clearing lines that has been iterated upon for decades. Tetsuya Mizuguchi tried (and largely succeeded) to make his own puzzle game with Lumines, but it was clear that he had to get his hands on Tetris. Tetris Effect Connected is an update to the already excellent Tetris Effect, but with new modes and features.
The Tetris Effect Journey mode is still a treat, and I had the pleasure to play it on a 4k TV. The effects, music, and game play all come together to make a soothing, meditative experience. But new modes are also there for hard-core players as well, such as the excellent Zone Battle and the loving recreation of NES Tetris in Classic Score Battle.
But the real star of the show for me was the new Connected Mode. This new mode has three players teaming up against a powered up AI (or human player during special events) in a three stage battle. Most of the game, the 3 players have their own boards, while the lone player can attack to cause effects such as not allowing the players to rotate their piece, or shuffling the existing board. However the 3 players fill up a shared meter. When this meter fills, the music changes, the lone player is on defense, and the three players’ boards all become one massive board. Gaps are filled in, the three players take turns dropping pieces, and the goal is to make one massive combination attack.
It’s a beautiful thing to behold, and while Tetris can be this competitive game, there is something really special to when 3 players wordlessly collaborate to make massive lines disappear. If you have Xbox Game Pass, give this mode a shot. It’s excellent and one of the highlights of the year for me.
2 – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Look, sometimes you just need a video game-ass-video GAME. To me, the game that took care of that was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. It’s another one of those musou/warriors games that basically every franchise seems to have these days, but this one is really something. Set in the same world as Breath of the Wild, you get to see the events alluded to playing out, with some twists here and there that I don’t wanna spoil.
What I really wanna talk about is how mechanically, this feels just so satisfying to play. By borrowing mechanics from Breath of the Wild, the combat is this unique flavor of musou “KO 1000s of dudes” while adding in things like counters, last second dodges, and Weak Point Smashes.
The game just feels wonderful to play, with plenty of post story stuff to do. There is always a special mission to take on, side objectives to complete, and even the koroks get to make an appearance! The game is so well put together, and while it’s a shame the frame rate can dip badly and the camera can break, it’s still a very fine game.
Its story is well told, the characters are all unique to play, and it just feels great. It’s the most video game out of the games I played this year, and I am still finishing it up. I can very easily recommend this game to just about anyone.
1 – Hades
You knew this was coming. 2020 was the year I fell in love with Hades, and I had already had a huge crush on the game in 2019. The winner from last year is still a winner in my book, because it finally hit 1.0 and landed on Switch. What can I say about this game, really? The art is gorgeous to look at, even in handheld mode. The music is some of the best work Darren Korb has put out in his career. The characters are all well realized, filled with personality and brimming with charm. The story is well told, and the voice acting is top notch.
Everything about this game is seriously excellent. And all of this is supported by superb action gameplay that feels like something Supergiant has been building up to for years with their previous releases. Previous Supergiant games have had rouge-like qualities, but Hades is the first to execute on those design fundementals. You can see echoes of Bastion and Transistor in the game design, while Hades forges its own identity.
I seriously can’t stop gushing about this game. I still have not gotten a run out of Hades itself yet, but the God Mode settings help make the sting of death a little easier to bear. It’s a wonderful addition to the game for the people who just wanna experience the story and characters. Hades is video game excellence, a triumph in design and direction in every way.
Despite the challenges of 2020, Supergiant made one of the leanest, most refined games of the year. I cannot imagine what Supergiant will do to follow this game up, but every single time that studio has put something out, it has floored me. I can’t wait to see what they do next. Hades is my game of the year.
I hope you have enjoyed my list! Follow me on Twitter @KyrieAPage for what I get up to, or if you want to play some mahjong. Later!