Hey guys. We’ve had quite a year, huh? As always, I didn’t play everything. So I will be excluding a bunch of games you probably love. I didn’t play those games. Surprised that I forgot about the most amazing experience you had this year? Guess what? I didn’t play it. I skipped a lot of games this year. I had my reasons for that. But let’s get on with what I did play.
Final Fantasy VII: Remake
First of all, I’m biased. I’m a fan of the original. And I know that weaponized nostalgia is big business these days. But the best of these remakes go further than just a layer of polish. FF7R is more than a remake. It brings a new level of world-building detail, character relationships, and character motivations not present in the original. It’s actually a big improvement. And the combat feels like the best of both modern real-time combat and the things that made the original special.
The ending was a bit controversial, and I understand why, but it really did need both the big boss and the element of the unknown going forward. It solves an interesting meta-problem and I think it was worth it. But if nothing else, the Wall Market dance sequence is now one of my favorite moments in a video game ever. It's so wild. I got so much joy out of this game.
Ys VIII: Lacrymosa of Dana (2016)
This is not a 2020 game, but it was a 2020 highlight for me. I was looking for a breezy real-time RPG and this one came up in searching. It was half-off on Switch, so I dove in. I ended up not only finishing it, but loving it. I was so impressed with this game. It’s got fun combat, a good story, characters I actually ended up liking, and it didn’t feel like it was disrespecting my time. If you’re looking for a JRPG with real-time combat, take a look at the Ys series. I even went and played Ys Origin afterwards, which was also good.
Journey to the Savage Planet
This ticked a lot of boxes for me. It’s a first-person Metroidvania collect-a-thon, with Metroid Prime scanning and a bunch of fun upgrades. It’s an exploration adventure on an alien planet, on behalf of some snarky-dumb space corporation. It feels like it’s just the right size and scale to be fun without being exhausting. I highly recommend it.
Ooblets (early access)
I was very close to putting Rune Factory 4: Special in this spot (and you should also play that), but Ooblets is something really cool and special. Developer Gumberland is a couple (they just had a kid!) trying to make the ultimate lifestyle game. Ooblets combines Pokemon-lite with a pretty good farming sim, in a little island town that is incredibly appealing and a-dork-able. I call it “Etsy-cute”. It’s an island of magical hipsters. Badgetown certainly ranks among the video game worlds I’d most want to live in. I wanted to highlight this game because I respect it. I think they’re really onto something and I cannot wait to see it finished. I genuinely hope Gumberland the best of success, because they’ve got a vision here.