It goes without saying that 2020 has truly been a year like no other, I could go through a list of what we have endured but really I think everyone is feeling worn out by it all and just want to move on. Despite having really no physical presence this year with many game conventions going digital or just ending up being cancelled altogether, we still saw a huge list of memorable titles worthy of recognition.
I have to make one thing clear though, we are not IGN, we are not Gamespot, we are not Kotaku, Polygon, Gamesradar, Eurogamer, etc, etc. To put it simply, we don’t have the money or the manpower to play and review every major title that gets released, there were plenty of big name titles this year that we just never got around to playing. We aren’t dismissing these titles but we can only pick what we’ve actually played and while some may say that makes our list illegitimate, I think it also allows us to give exposure to some games you may have missed this year.
When we were first devising our Top 10 list around a month or two back, I swear to you that Fall Guys was higher on the list, MUCH higher believe me. But for whatever reason, when we looked at it again just a few weeks ago, we had to stop and go “You know, now that I think about…..” Folks, don’t get me wrong there is nothing inherently wrong with Fall Guys, we were all there with you jumping around with our favourite beans and coming up with wild and crazy outfits to be released for the game.
We laughed with its Social Media, going so far as to auction off the first sponsored costume rights for charity. But, when a game from 2 years ago essentially kills your popularity, that is a seriously worrying situation. Just a few months ago, Fall Guys was THE hottest game being played on Twitch and now, you barely see anyone playing it. While Mediatonic have kept their end of the bargain with regular updates and new events, the sad truth is that Fall Guys should have launched as a Free to Play game to keep any sort of audience in the longterm.
It is great to see that Sega has finally realized it has other franchises besides Sonic and Yakuza, this from the ground remake of the 1995 Sega Saturn classic stays true to the original games rail shooter levels but thanks to modern enhancements almost everything is improved. Despite being handled by an up and coming studio like MegaPixel, they put their heart and soul into recreating the original game’s cinematics and levels.
While a lot of you may not remember this when the original Panzer Dragoon was shown off back at E3 1995, a whole year before Mario 64, it blew everyone away including Steven Spielberg. It was also before the prominence of analogue sticks with the Saturn releasing with essentially a Genesis 6-Button Controller with additional shoulder triggers. Even with the later on released 3D Control Pad, trying to play the game wasn’t the easiest thing to do with its one analogue stick.
Cut to this remake’s release on the Switch with two control sticks as standard and it almost makes the game too easy. Playing the original I was barely able to make it past Level 4, this Remake had me reaching the credits in just a few hours. That being said, I want nothing more than this Sega old school revival trend to continue with the Alex Kidd remake next year and hopes that we will see Zwei and maybe even Saga remade in the future.
8Paper Mario: Origami King
Many people were quick to dismiss this game when it first came out, for a lot of people they continued to dig their heels in and refused to acknowledge any Paper Mario that wasn’t their precious Thousand Year Door. Hell, I even revisited the game weeks before this new one came out, I can certainly see why people like this game when it comes to its story and characters, but I also realize and accept that sometimes things change, sometimes the formula gets rearranged.
I for one am a huge fan of Super Paper Mario’s gameplay where you have to rotate the world and Color Splash, wasn’t exactly the best Nintendo title involving Ink on the Wii U but it did have its charm. The Origami King, however, can legit get super dark in places and certainly has one of the more heartfelt stories we’ve seen in a while from this series. While the ring combat puzzles weren’t exactly to my liking, it still beats playing a round of cards every turn.
While I’m sure a lot more people would just be happier with an HD Remaster of Thousand Year Door, I’m one of those people who are at least willing to give the series a try whenever it has new releases.
So I mentioned last week in my “Games We Missed” article how I was originally sceptical on Hades, as good as the characters, the story and even the gameplay were I had to get over the barrier that was my dislike for procedurally-generated roguelike games. But to be fair, in most cases that sort of gameplay is used to hide the lack of any real narrative with your game, in Hades case though, they complement each other so well.
The best thing is that the game features options to make enduring its difficulty all the more tolerable, the games God Mode isn’t exactly easy mode, more like training wheels for people not experienced enough in this genre. This is the kind of thing we need more in gaming, for example when the Demon’s Souls remake was released with the PS5 back in November we found out that Bluepoint considered an “Easy Mode” but decided against it. A feature that could have very well bought many new fans into the Souls series.
Hades is an example of this type of game done right, it may be difficult, hell it can get downright frustrating when you get a sucky hand. But, the characters and relationships you form through your journey out of the Underworld is a serious reason to get going after numerous failed attempts. When a game kicks your ass that hard and you are still like “One More Go” that is when you know you have a winner on your hands.
6Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Shantae has come a long way from her humble beginnings on the Game Boy Color, the last few years alone have been a major success story for the purple-haired half-genie. Following her reboot on the DS a decade ago, Shantae has released three more games, funded a successful Kickstarter, made guest appearances in games like Runbow, Battle Master Zero, Indivisible and has even become a spirit in Smash Bros. Ultimate (and maybe even a playable character someday)
The latest title sees her arrive on a tropical island with her friends for a festival of Half-Genies, but like every other adventure things turn on their head superquick. The gameplay of Seven Sirens is what you’ve come to expect from the Shantae series, platforming with lite Metroidvania elements sprinkled in. She retains one of her core features in her ability to transform into animals, but that is pushed to the back to focus more on the powers bestowed on you by the other Half-Genies.
That being said, as good as Seven Sirens is, it feels like Shantae is just going through the motions as of late. Most of what has made her latest game great was also what made Half-Genie Hero successful back in 2016, while it is certainly working for her at the moment. It goes without saying that it soon might be time to take things in a new direction. But who am I kidding, I’m always going to be a sucker for this purple-haired darling….
It wouldn’t be a real Top 10 List of ours without a good old Metroidvania, but I find it hard to even consider it a real one. For starters, instead of playing as a Sexy Intergalactic Bounty Hunter shooting aliens, this time you ARE the alien. Replicating that old school trope of a bunch of scientists discovering an unknown substance only for it to break out and cause absolute havoc. The creature in this situation represents a giant pile of spaghetti and meatballs with teeth and too much Dolmio for good measure. While you do have a wide branching map to explore and make upgrades to your abilities, It is still hard to really label this as a Metroidvania as the gameplay is fairly linear, moving from one area to the next with no real backtracking.
That is not to say it is a bad game, while it is easy enough in some rooms to just dive from an airshaft, devour and fling everyone in the room, other times you will need to be crafty to get past the guards with flamethrowers and remote control drones. Strategies like growling so you distract everyone, to even taking control of a poor soul to do your bidding for you. It isn’t exactly a long game and it really doesn’t need to be, the amount of visceral pixelated action would almost get desensitized and boring if you strayed past the 10 hour mark. For what it is, Carrion was one of the most grotesque yet therapeutic games I played this year
4Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
When the original Hyrule Warriors launched back in 2014 it was seen as the ultimate crossover for the Zelda franchise, featuring references and characters from its entire 30-year history. The follow-up Age of Calamity may play a lot similar but its a whole different ball game in regards to the story essentially rewriting Breath of the Wild’s lore in its entirety. Being accompanied by the most adorable tiny guardian robot that is basically an Ancient BB8, Link, Zelda, Impa and the gang set out to rewrite history and prevent the calamity.
Many of the mainstays from Breath of the Wild have returned as playable characters, including the four champions, but soon enough we also get to play as their descendants and any game where you play as Sidon is a winner in my book. But all of that is really second fiddle to this game’s best feature, actually being able to pilot the Divine Beasts. While Breath of the Wild was a damn good game and I still stand by awarding it Game of the Year back in 2017, it is hard to ignore that there were issues that plagued it like weapon degradation, thankfully Age of Calamity have rectified a lot of those niggling concerns. While the jury is still out on whether or not this game will even be regarded as canon its still a damn good followup to the 2014 hit.
3Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Some people may roll their eyes at this choice, trust me I have read the anger at this release. But in all honesty, the complaints are really superficial, yes they are merely just ROMs running on an emulator, yes they have given us the updated version of Super Mario 64 and yes it is a really bare-bones compilation. But in all honesty, this is some of the best value I have ever seen in a compilation, we are talking about three of the best games ever released, that in the year of their original releases would have been serious contenders for Game of the Year, available for the price of one game.
Despite the reputation emulators sometimes received, all three games are handled with the upmost care and look beautiful in HD. Especially Sunshine and Galaxy which have both been upscaled to full 1080p, even Mario 64 despite still appearing in the fullscreen presentation of the original has made the jump to the Switch with barely any shortcomings. I do have to give particular praise to the way All-Stars handles the controls, 64 and Sunshine are great on their own with the Pro Controller. But Galaxy has managed to replicate the movements of the Wiimote and Sensor Bar thanks to the gyroscopes in the Joycons
One of the biggest complaints has been due to Nintendo’s decision to have the “Shindou Edition” of Super Mario 64, which was essentially a Japanese exclusive update that included support for the Rumble Pak. The big issue with this version was that it also fixed up several aspects of the game including “So Long Gay Bowser” and more importantly the Backwards Long Jump, a staple of the Mario 64 Speedrunning community. I’ve honestly seen people argue that Nintendo should have just released the original version instead to preserve its legacy and because speedrunning has been the only thing keeping the game relevant as years go on.
While I will agree that speedrunning has played a part in Mario 64’s longterm success, I personally believe the reason why it is such a favourite with speedrunners is that even after over 20 years, it is still a damn good game.
2Trials of Mana
You might be surprised to see this game as high as it is on the list, especially considering a certain other Square-Enix remake failed to even make it here. But there are a few reasons behind this, firstly this is a remake of “Seiken Densetsu 3” a game released right at the tail end of the Super Famicom’s life in 1995 and was one of the last major RPGs released on the platform, a game that never saw an official release in English until last year’s Collection of Mana.
Secondly, unlike the other remake this one is at least releasing as a full game right away, we really have no idea when Part 2 of FF7 Remake will even be released let alone what platforms or how many parts overall their will be. Trials of Mana might be fairly simple in comparison but the combat is easy to understand and with six characters to choose from to fill your party of three, the combinations are endless.
Seeing this SNES classic reborn in full HD is really something to behold, I’ve played the original several times over on the SNES and I couldn’t wait to see how they treated the remake. To be fair, I was initially skeptical considering how badly the Secret of Mana remake was treated a few years ago, an absolute soulless mess that looked more like a Mobile remake rather than anything decent.
I know there will be people who will be rolling there eyes and going “really?” at me for this pick (or this entire list now that I think about it), all the while arguing how FF7’s remake was just that better, and I’m sure they have some good points. But considering I’m the guy who was working on a video series about how Final Fantasy 7 isn’t all that it is cracked up to be, forgive me if I feel Trials of Mana was just a little bit more important.
At the beginning of 2020, Among Us was a tiny game developed by 4 people and was barely seeing 50 active users at a time, One Twitch stream later and suddenly all the world has SUS-Fever! It really is something to see a game just picked out of obscurity and suddenly it is all anyone can talk about. We almost considered giving this the No 1 spot or even sharing it with the eventual winner.
From the fanworks, to AOC livestreaming it and now even the studio working on an entirely new map as well as a surprise Switch port, it just goes to show that any game has the potential to become a hit, it may not happen right away but with the right push, anything is possible.
Ring Fit Adventure
While originally releasing in 2019, good luck ever actually finding one. If Nintendo’s false scarcity wasn’t enough, imagine when there is actual scarcity due to a pandemic shutting down production. For many people including yours truly, it was impossible to find this at all anywhere for months after it’s release and the inflated prices of scalpers weren’t helping either.
So when we finally got our hands on the Ring Con and Leg Strap concoction, we were legit amazed at how responsive the game was in registering your movements. While there were some issues with things like squats registering properly, creating an entire RPG style game around working out was absolute genius and kept someone like me, who has a continuous issue getting off his ass and exercising, to a workout routine for months. While the content beyond the adventure mode is a bit lackluster, it goes without saying that this helped many people during these tough times be able to keep somewhat of an active lifestyle.
Helltaker is a Free to Play Game that plays just like Shove It on the Genesis, soooo why is it here. Waifus, ALL THE WAIFUS! Seriously just look up the characters on Google…..or another search engine and just be amazed how this little game turned into the most adorable pancake loving harem ever.
1Animal Crossing: New Horizon
When we select Game of the Year, it isn’t just based on what appears on screen, how much hype was put behind it, or how many millions were sunk into the project. As previous winners like Pokemon Go and Breath of the Wild will tell you it is way more than that, it’s more about representing the entire year as a whole and if any game represented 2020, it would have to be Animal Crossing
Released the same week that the world essentially came to a stand still, you couldn’t go a day without people talking about living it up on their island, hosting parties, graduations and even weddings. Despite everything that’s happened over the past twelve months from raging bushfires, political upheaval to of course a global pandemic, this game accomplished something that no other game this year could; it made us feel normal again.
Ari – It’s simple really why I think Animal Crossing should win game of the year. It isn’t only because it’s a game with the kind intent of bringing joy. Or because of how it builds upon the gameplay of previous installments nor how it’s just so goddamn cute. It’s because it contains the same magic we saw in summer 2016 with Pokemon Go, or being around a dinner table with loved ones and good food. Animal Crossing was a game that brought people together in a year where we were forced to be apart.
Many of us joked that we would disappear for months on end once the game dropped, I was one of them. Instead, we connected online in chat rooms and marketplaces. We watched weddings and proposals take place. We held birthdays, holidays, dates, or just hung out with friends who we weren’t able to see since lockdown began.
New Horizons isn’t a perfect game. It lacks features that should’ve been there since day one. Many find the game boring and hard to get into. As always, whatever isn’t your cup of tea is fine with everyone my deku. But for the magic of connection it brought to many this harsh year, it’s a game I and many others are truly grateful for.
Congratulations to Animal Crossing: New Horizon for being the Unboxed 2020 Game of the Year
The founder and Editor in Chief of UnboxedTV. Nintendo lover and not afraid to admit it, can always go for a good Indie Metroidvania with a nice cold Cider.