With 2020 coming to a close, and Christmas just around the corner, most game companies have taken the next few weeks off.
“OH MY GOD?! IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!!! What do I do? My kid/wife/husband/secret santa wanted some game about…I don’t know, talking animals, or fungus monsters, or robot punks, or maybe something that had all three. Do those exist? If they don’t exist what can I get?? HELP ME!”
Okay, okay, stop fretting, I got you covered. I will be giving you a buyer’s guide for each month with my top picks in BOLD. What were the best games to come out; which ones sucked, and which ones flew under the radar and deserve your attention? Get ready to find out!
Since this guide tends to be on the long side, and in the interest of keeping your attention, I will be splitting it into two parts; January to June and July to December. Get your pencils ready folks, the games are coming and you better be taking notes.
- Best – Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PC/PS4/Xbox One), Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition/Act V (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore (Switch)
- Avoid – Warcraft 3: Reforged (PC)
- Hidden Gem – Aviary Attorney: Definitive Edition (Switch)
While we will generally get ports, re-releases and remasters every year, 2020 seemed to be a year where they showed up with greater frequency. Nintendo was one of the biggest culprits of this trend in 2020, and have been in general since the Switch came out, mostly due to their practice of re-releasing all of the best Wii U games on the Switch. The first big Wii U port of the year is also one of its best, the fantastic Fire Emblem x Megami Tensei crossover title Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. Not only is this the only Megami Tensei title currently available on the Switch, it is also one of the best JRPGs the console has to offer. Featuring a cast of teenage protagonists who work in the entertainment industry, they suddenly find Tokyo, and their careers, to be under attack from demons. With the help of some famous Fire Emblem characters, they enter the demon realm and purge the darkness from the hearts of the humans they have taken possession of. With a stellar soundtrack and beautiful anime cutscenes, this is one of the most fun times you can have with your Switch.
The rest of January was mostly small titles with the occasional port, but two stands out included the final episode in the Kentucky Route Zero series, Act V, and Dragon Ball Z Kakarot. These two titles couldn’t have been more polar opposite from one another, but both delivered on the things that fans of each series wanted. January was slow, but it packed a pretty mighty punch.
Your title to avoid and your hidden gem for January are, big surprise, more ports! Blizzard spent a good part of 2019 hyping up a fully remastered and revamped version of Warcraft III, claiming that it was superior to the original and would fully replace it moving forward. When it came out the game was somehow uglier than when it first came out, and even managed to break a few things, making it a much worse version than its original. They’ve put out a few patches since release, but the consensus is that they’ve pretty much given up on supporting the game, so now you don’t have to support it either. Our hidden gem, on the other hand, is an absolutely incredible port. Originally released on PC in 2015, this delightful adventure/puzzle game is inspired by the Ace Attorney series as you take on the role of low ranking defense attorney Jayjay Falcon and his witty assistant/apprentice Sparrowson. Set in 19th century France, Falcon and Sparrowson search crime scenes to gather evidence, before going into court to try and prove their clients’ innocence. A cutting satire, Aviary Attorney is brilliant fun and well worth a look.
- Best – Bayonetta & Vanquish (PS4/Xbox One), Dreams (PS4), One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows (PC/PS4/Xbox One), Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV (PC/PS4)
- Avoid – Zombie Army 4: Dead War (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/Xbox One)
- Hidden Gem – Lair of the Clockwork God (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One)
While Dreams might be the best NEW game to come out in February, having Bayonetta on (at the time) next gen consoles, as well as a brand new port of Vanquish, was the best thing to pick up in the shortest month of the year. Released in a handsome steelbook with gorgeous art, the two games look and play better than ever. With Bayonetta hitting both the Wii U and Switch in the last few years it wasn’t as big a deal to me, personally, but it was still nice having that action/adventure classic on my PS4. The real gem here is Vanquish, a title I knew nothing about except that it was an early Platinum game made by Resident Evil guru Shinji Mikami. In this run and gun action title, players move around a space station that is on the brink of destruction. Using a special mechanized suit to slide around in, you will find yourself constantly zipping through the stage dodging enemy bullets while simultaneously firing off your own. It’s the equivalent of an 80’s or 90’s sci-fi/action film, with cheesy dialogue and over the top set pieces; I love this game.
For fans of DIY gaming, the ambitious Dreams is a pretty powerful development tool that allows players to create the 3D game of their, well, dreams. With a vibrant community of armchair game developers, Dreams is the perfect title for those looking to graduate from Super Mario Maker. Fighting game fans were treated to One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, based on the popular anime series, while strategy game aficionados were presented with Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV. Both titles aren’t the best in their field, but along with the other big February releases, provided a very well rounded set of games. Not the strongest month, but a solid one.
It wasn’t all smiles and sunshine in February, however. One of the worst games of the year, and maybe of all time, came out; the atrociously bad Zombie Army 4: Dead War. This piece of shit was high on my list of most anticipated games of 2020 and I eagerly pre-ordered it and played it on day one; what a mistake. This game is pure dogshit, with horrible controls, bad AI, ugly graphics, and completely devoid of anything that resembles fun. I advise you to stay as far away from this one as you can. What can wash the taste of that dogshit out of our mouth? How about a hybrid point & click adventure/platforming game! From frequent Avocado commenter Ben, comes one of 2020’s best games, The Lair of the Clockwork God. This latest entry in the Ben & Dan series of games finds the two friends on a quest for a cancer curing flower and their attempts to return home with it. Players will switch back and forth between Ben and Dan, with each playing the game in their own unique way. Dan’s abilities are all of those that you would expect in a platforming game; running, jumping, collecting knick knacks, standing on buttons, carrying things, etc. Ben, on the other hand, sticks firmly to the conventions of a point & click game; absolutely no jumping, will talk to and examine EVERYTHING, wants to collect items and use them to solve puzzles, and of course, only going wee in a toilet or on a grave. It’s a ton of fun to play and features some top notch comedy writing. Go pick this game up!
- Best – Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch), Call of Duty: Warzone (PC/PS4/Xbox One), Doom Eternal (PC/PS4/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One), Half-Life: Alyx (Steam VR), Nioh 2 (PS4), Ori and the Will of the Wisps (PC/Switch/Xbox One), Persona 5 Royal (PS4), Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (Switch)
- Avoid – Cooking Mama: Cookstar (Switch)
- Hidden Gem – Murder By Numbers (PC/Switch)
March was a stacked month, with a ton of really great games to choose from, but it really came down to just two for most people; Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal. While I err closer to the camp of people who like Animal Crossing more, this is a rare month in that I am calling both titles the top pick. Doom Eternal is the sequel to the 2016 Doom reboot that took the world by storm. It reinvigorated the franchise and showed that players were ready to play a balls to the wall, fast paced FPS again. While Eternal is mostly the same type of game, there was a greater emphasis on platforming and parkour style wall jumping that really appealed to some people, but completely turned off others (myself included). That point aside, the game is still a blast to play and I highly recommend trying it out. As for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, when it comes time to reflect on the year 2020 in the future, you’re going to probably see entire chapters or filmed segments on this game. I don’t know if any other title in 2020 was so perfectly created to help get us through this shit show of a year. Just as the majority of us in the United States were being told to stay indoors, to stop seeing friends and family, and to limit your time in stores, New Horizons arrived to help us all keep that connection to the outside world we all desperately need. Whether that’s using it as an escape to enjoy the virtual outdoors, to meet up with your friends in a digital space, or to communicate and send gifts to family, New Horizons was able to give us all some sense of normalcy in a time when the world was anything but. Animal Crossing and the Switch were difficult to pick up for most of the year, and they might still be, but if you can get a copy, man, I can’t recommend it more.
If spending a relaxing evening with friends isn’t your idea of a good time, but blowing stuff up is, then Call of Duty: Warzone is probably a better way to connect with your brochachos. This free to play battle royale title was Activision’s answer to Fortnite, and it did very, very well. It does take up a TON of space on your hard drive though, so keep that in mind. Other big games included Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the masterpiece Persona 5 Royal, Half-Life: Alyx which was a surprising new entry in the franchise, and was made specifically for VR, and finally, one of my favorite games of the year, the Dark Souls inspired Nioh 2. Life took a strange turn in March, but at least we had some great games to help us get through it.
This month’s title to avoid isn’t really a bad game, there’s just something odd about it. Cooking Mama: Cookstar looked, at first, like a solid new entry in the franchise, raising the spirits of fans who loved the Wii and DS games. However, just prior to the game’s release a few of the developers came out and said that they were going to use block chain technology to power the game, and it was rumored that someone behind the scenes was using the game to somehow use players’ devices to mine bitcoin. Nintendo pulled the title from the eShop shortly after it was released, seemingly confirming that something nefarious was going on, but what it turned out to be was less a sinister James Bond villain plot and more about corporate politics. You see, apparently the developer of the game had lost the license to make a Cooking Mama title just days or so before the game was released, but they decided to put it out anyway. The rights holder did not appreciate this and sued to have the game’s release blocked, hence the removal from the eShop, and it has not been added back ever since. Perhaps this actually makes it rare, so maybe you SHOULD pick up a physical copy, but the game also sucks (I hear), so do whatever. If you need a great eShop game, however, you should check out the fun puzzle game Murder By Numbers. While it may look like a standard nonogram puzzle game, the real meat comes from the visual novel aspect of the title, in which you are trying to solve a murder on a movie studio backlot. It’s not the most exciting game this year, and I hear it bogs down near the end, but you could certainly do worse than Picross with a story mode.
- Best – Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4), Gears Tactics (PC/Xbox One), Resident Evil 3 Remake (PC/PS4/Xbox One), Streets of Rage 4 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Trials of Mana (PC/PS4/Switch), XCOM: Chimera Squad (PC)
- Avoid – Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories (PC/PS4/Switch)
- Hidden Gem – ITTA (PC/Switch)
Rumored to exist for years, we were finally told that a remake of Final Fantasy VII was real and would be in our hands shortly; which turned into five years. The original FF7 on PlayStation is widely considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made, so could this new Square Enix team make a title that was just as good, particularly after the messes of XIII and XV? Yes, they could. From its opening moments on the train platform to the ending sequence outside of Midgar, Final Fantasy VII Remake was a journey of highs and lows, from breathtaking action sequences to smaller moments of quiet character building. There were some rough parts, including some eye rolling dialogue and more tiny cracks in walls to squeeze through than ever thought possible, but they were easy to overlook because everything else about the game was completely engrossing. I have no idea when we’ll get the next installment, so in the meantime I’ll just take another spin through the game, maybe get that platinum trophy.
April was another slow, but solid month. For those of you who remember, Cyberpunk 2077 was actually supposed to come out a week after the FF7 Remake, so I think the promise of both of those games kept a few publishers & developers away. Those that did decide to brave it out were in luck, because the delay of Cyberpunk meant their games had a lot of our attention. Tactical strategy titles hit hard in April with the surprise release of a new XCOM game, Chimera Squad, and Microsoft taking a gamble on one of their flagship franchises when they released Gears Tactics, completely changing the format of the series, paying off wonderfully for tactical action fans. In other remake news, Resident Evil 3 Remake was also released this month which, I thought, was not as good as the RE2 remake, but still a fun action title in its own right. We also got a long awaited sequel when Streets of Rage 4 came out, giving beat ’em up fans something to devour, and, of course, we had ONE MORE remake this month with Trials of Mana. Not nearly as eye popping as FF7 Remake, but a welcome title in North America due to its original Super Famicom version never making it to our shores until just a year ago.
Another sequel came out this month that had several years between releases, Disaster Report 4. With the last title coming out in North America in 2003 (the 2009 PSP title never made it here), it seemed like it would be fun to revisit this world; ha! Not only did it take 17 years for this franchise to release a sequel in the U.S., but it also still looked like a game from 17 years ago. There can be some charm found in it’s clunky gameplay and hideously ugly graphics, but if you have the choice between this and almost any other game in 2020, go with the other game. In fact, you really should be playing this month’s hidden gem title, a fantastic bullet hell shooter called ITTA. Set in some kind of purgatory world, a young girl named ITTA must face off against giant monsters in a bid to come back to life, I think, I don’t know, it’s kind of vague. Never mind that, the real thing that makes this game special is the intense fights you have with these monsters. Taking a cue from Shadow of the Colossus, Dark Souls, and other boss rush games like Furi, ITTA takes this genre of big fights and adds a bullet hell twist to it. Each boss spits out projectiles that would make even the most die-hard R-Type fan want to pull their hair out. With unlimited lives, you must fight the bosses over and over and over and over until you figure out their patterns and defeat them. There are a bunch of weapons to collect, and a while slew of NPCs to meet and talk to as well, giving you a greater sense of this world and its story. I don’t know if I’ve been more happily frustrated with a game this year than ITTA, except maybe Demon’s Souls.
- Best – Maneater (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S), Minecraft Dungeons (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Missile Command: Recharged (PC/Switch), The Wonderful 101: Remastered (PC/PS4/Switch), Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Switch)
- Avoid – Crucible (PC)
- Hidden Gem – Deep Rock Galactic (PC/Xbox One)
May gave us a bit of a lull in the release schedule, but it still had some decent titles, and in the case of this month’s top release, yet another gigantic RPG to fill our free time, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. It was also, once again, a remastered port of an older game, this time from the Wii. While we got a sequel a couple years earlier on the Switch, it was a welcome sight to have the original title that started it all come out in a remastered edition with HD graphics and some quality of life improvements. The origin story of Shulk and the Monado sword were a welcome adventure in the middle of the year, and one that I still haven’t finished due to the massive amount of content.
Speaking of re-releases, yet ANOTHER Wii U title was remastered for the Switch (as well as other consoles) with Platinum’s The Wonderful 101 hitting stores in May after a very successful, and very short, Kickstarter campaign that included one of my favorite Mega64 videos of all time (“Ask your mom“). The long delayed Minecraft Dungeons finally came out, giving parents and kids a chance to play a Diablo-esque dungeon crawler together. Another delightful remaster was released with Missile Command: Recharged, just in time for its 40th anniversary, and for fans of animal induced carnage, the over the top Maneater was released. Despite being a bit of a buggy mess, the game has some of the silliest moments in gaming this year, you should check it out if the price is right.
This month’s title to avoid is actually very easy to ignore, because it no longer exists. In 2019, Amazon Studios made its console game debut with the racing sim The Grand Tour Game, a successful enough title, but nothing too special. In May of 2020, they released their second major game, the online class-based shooter Crucible. From the start it was apparent to just about everyone that this game was on a course to nowhere. Player engagement was non-existent, with almost no one streaming it on Twitch (the biggest tastemakers in the world, of course). Within a month the game was pulled from digital stores and reentered closed beta, but it didn’t help. On October 9th it was announced that Crucible would be shut down and no longer supported, giving full refunds to everyone who purchased a copy. With open matchmaking taken down at the end of October, the game went fully dark on November 9th when Amazon shut down the servers for good, ending custom private matches. It wasn’t all bad news for online games in May, however, as the fun as heck 4 player co-op title Deep Rock Galactic was able to find a passionate and dedicated player base. As dwarven miners, players must work together to explore vast underground caverns on a hostile alien planet, looking for precious gems and other types of loot. With an arsenal of incredible mining tools and weapons, you must also defend yourself from hordes of alien bugs who don’t kindly to you invading their turf. I spent a good amount of time with this game over the Summer, jumping into matches on my free time with it’s perfectly timed levels.
- Best – Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (Switch), The Last of Us Part II (PS4), SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One), Valorant (PC)
- Avoid – The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
- Hidden Gem – Beyond Blue (Apple Arcade/PC/PS4/Xbox One)
The slow period continued into June, with only one really big release, Naughty Dog’s most controversial, but probably most important, game of all time, The Last of Us Part II. Originally set for a February release, the game was delayed a couple of times to allow the team some extra polish (i.e., crunch), finally releasing in June. Famously, a good portion of the game’s cutscenes were leaked online just a few weeks before release, causing an uproar of epic proportions. Without spoiling too much (in case you haven’t played it), some fans were not happy with the direction the game was going, feeling that the story they expected to be told was not going to happen. There was also a very loud vocal opposition to perceived “SJW” material in the game, with the developers seen as “libtard cucks” for having the nerve to include homosexuals and transgender people in the game, as well as having strong female characters that could, supposedly, not exist in real life because women can’t be muscular, I guess. When The Last of Us Part 2 finally came out it was well received by most reputable critics, but it also brought with it even more controversy, as other players felt the game was too violent, and not just in a “too many people get shot” kind of way, but in a grotesquely, over the top, gurgling blood and crying, kind of way. The game was a bit of a hard pill to swallow in a year that was already shaping up to be one of the most devastating in modern history, but if you were able to get past the rough exterior, you would be blessed with one of the most thought provoking and moving pieces of storytelling that 2020 had to offer. Yes, The Last of Us Part 2 is incredibly violent and nihilistic, but the themes of love, hope, and compassion do find a way to shine through the darkness.
Aside from TLoU2, there wasn’t a lot going on in June. Nintendo put out a solid collection of parlor games with, the more fun than it had any right to be, Clubhouse Games, a title that I can go back to again and again. Riot Games put out a NEW game, finally, with the class based shooter Valorant that, unlike Amazon’s Crucible, was actually enjoyed by people. We also got yet another remake with Spongebob Squarepants: Battle For Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. It’s a decent enough platformer that has the ability to give you a few hours of fun if you find it cheap enough. See? Not a whole lot, I told you.
It’s a bit hard to give you a title to avoid with so few games coming out in June, but after hearing about this from a few people in the comments over this past year, I’ll go with The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle. Apparently, hard core Sims fans are not too pleased with the amount of DLC that EA has been putting out for their latest entry in the long running franchise. As has been the norm for a lot of games over the past few years, the biggest way to make money and keep people engaged with your product is to trickle out little pieces of content every few weeks, charging them high prices for things that would have likely been in the base version of a normal sized game just a few years ago. While Eco Lifestyle isn’t a bad expansion to the game, some players have felt it is best to not purchase these packs in order to send a message to EA that this practice is not welcome in The Sims franchise. Will it work? Ask me when we get to Septembers hidden gem. As for June’s hidden gem, we have a breathtaking indie title from the creators of Never Alone, as developer E-Line once again partnered with subject experts on their new game, an underwater adventure called Beyond Blue. While the game lacks much action, it make up for it with its ability to soothe you as you play. In Beyond Blue, players take on the role of a scientist named Mirai who specializes in deep sea diving and the study of underwater life. Her biggest passion is the study of sperm whales due to their strong familial bonds, as well as the reverence they hold for matriarchs, particularly their elders which, as you play through the story, makes more sense as to why this is so important to Mirai. The title is fairly short, but with the game available on Apple Arcade, it is well worth the five dollars it costs to sign up for the service, plus it has The Flaming Lips on its soundtrack; what’s not to love? Aside from Beyond Blue, Apple Arcade would release a slew of notable titles throughout the Summer that we will talk about a bit later.
Hey, look at that, six months down and six more to go! I hope I was able to steer you towards a few games that you might have missed out on or given you some good ideas on something to get for that gamer in your life this holiday season. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a look at the titles released from July to December. Take care out there folks!