♫It was a very good year…only for games♫
So, this past year kind of sucked!
But it didn’t suck for games. Let’s escape for a minute down 2020 memory lane together.
Demon’s Souls (PS5)
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see this game get a proper remake.
It’s not that the original isn’t still great: it is! I even replayed it after going through the remake. But more people really needed to see the splendor of Demon’s Souls, before the formula started to become more refined and streamlined.
A lot of folks would call Demon’s Souls archaic, and in many technical conversations, they’d be right. But there’s something very special about the world of Boletaria in terms of raw emotional resonance. This is an era where From Software is really going wild with experimentation, crafting a spiritual successor to the King’s Field series and putting all of their ideas from pen to paper.
Demon’s Souls is one of the weirdest games they’ve ever made, and is still one of their best. Making it more accessible on a modern platform with killer visuals — while still staying true to the core of the original — is the best way to honor it.
Ghost of Tsushima
Here’s another predictable pick! But it was a good one and it’s worth talking about all these months later.
So you know why I love Tsushima. I even wrote a whole review on it! But looking back, Sucker Punch really supported the game beyond the scope of what a single-player open-world game might get, as they added the multiplayer-centric Legends mode at the perfect time. It added just the right amount of MMO-like sensibilities (like its focus on party composition for raid-like activities) to be engaging without going overboard.
Ghost is also still fully replayable on its own. When testing the PS5 I put a good chunk in another playthrough, and still had a blast. While it has its flaws, I’m so happy that Sucker Punch is still making games and has finally gotten its due. Honestly, several of their games deserved to be this big.
Fortnite (oh no? Oh yea!)
Every year I add a few games that are completely out of left field, and this is probably one of the most jarring picks yet!
Yes, I got back into Fortnite in a big way, mostly thanks to my wife. To be clear, I never really stopped playing since the original battle royale mode was added. But every holiday, my wife and I find a “Christmas game” to play together for large chunks of time, and this year it was Fortnite‘s turn (recent previous years included Minecraft and Stardew Valley).
It’s incredible how much content Fornite has at this point. It’s far beyond just a battle royale game: it’s a platform now. We spent a lot of time hopping through various community-created modes, including the Blood Gulch Halo map recreation, “Amazing Race” gametypes, the new Among Us minigame, team deathmatch (which allows players to respawn), duos, and squads.
Fortnite is a very well-oiled machine, constantly adding new content in addition to their money-making microtransactions conveyor belt. We had a ton of fun playing it together, and the events of 2020 (including the season-ending Galactus boss fight) were arguably some of their best yet.
Magic: Arena and Hearthstone (combo breaker!)
It’s a photo finish!
Nearly every day of 2020, I played some form of Magic The Gathering: Arena or Hearthstone. I’ve memorized nearly every card that sees high-rank standard play in both games, a boon for climbing the ladders.
There’s plenty of problems with both games, in terms of their raw digital clients. Arena is missing some staple paper modes and Hearthstone‘s economy is still all over the place. But with the latter, it’s very easy to boot up the free auto-battler Battlegrounds mode (which gained a lot of steam in 2020) and play a few rounds at night on an iPad. My wife even got into Hearthstone because of battlegrounds, which plays to her dislike of deck construction.
With games like Legends of Runeterra in the mix as well, it’s been a good year for card games.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
It’s hard to say anything about this remake that hasn’t been said already.
For some, there’s a lot of nostalgia at play here. But for many, the remake was their first foray into the world of Final Fantasy VII, and I think it did a good job of getting them hooked. Side characters that were barely a factor in the original became full-on characters. The battle system was engaging and still allowed for a degree of tactical decision making.
Even as someone who has played the “classic” version of VII to death, it was incredible seeing the new twists and turns, whether they served the storyline for the better or not. It was a long excruciating wait for this to see the light of day, but I’m glad it did.
Now, we wait again.
Fantasy Flight Games’ co-op LCGs
It’s the fourth year in a row that I’ve featured the Lord of the Rings LCG in this list, the second year for Marvel Champions, and the first for Arkham Horror LCG. See a pattern?
As a reminder, LCG stands for “living card game,” and it’s a concept from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) that aims to get rid of the “collectible” random card pack phenomenon. Every pack is fixed, and provides both quests and player cards to grow your library; with the ultimate goal of taking on an “encounter deck,” which serves as an automated AI opponent.
I was skeptical of this system at first, but it blew me away with how interactive and open it was in practice. Add in the fact that it’s playable solo or up to four players, and it really mirrors MMO experiences in a lot of ways; whether you’re rolling into a dungeon solo or with a full party.
Each game (Lord of the Rings, Marvel, Arkham) has its own strengths and weaknesses (and starkly different theme), but over this past year, the ability to comfortably engage in additional solo experiences really started to become more and more important.