I’ve shared my Top Five 2020 Book Releases and My Top Five Backlist Reads, but now it’s time to celebrate the other hobby that kept me sane in 2020: Video Games! I played significantly more this year than in years past, and while I did jump around between games, I also managed to be a LOT more focused on certain games for a while. I finished the main game of CONTROL, for instance, in just over a month, and finishing any game at that rate is relatively quickly for me. I also ended up playing more overall this year, which is why my reading was down a bit, but boy did my brain need it!
These are the games that engaged me the most, but is nowhere near the full list I played! I highly recommend you check out my past posts on what I’ve been playing for more ideas – I’ve linked to some of my favorites below!
Technically, this game came out in 2019, but it is far and away my favorite play of 2020. I wrote a piece earlier this year about how CONTROL helped me get through the early days of quarantine by letting me bring some sanity to this crazy world, and I don’t think I’ve consumed with more dedication and intensity. CONTROL is a paranormal thriller about Jesse Faden, a woman who discovers she’s been designated the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, in charge of researching and containing paranormal events. Something has attacked the FBC and it’s up to Jesse to save the day. Come for the gorgeous aesthetic, stay for the satisfaction of telekinetically smashing bad guys with office furniture.
If you follow video game sites at all, chances are you’ve seen this one on a LOT of game of the year lists, and for good reason. HADES is utterly addicting. The premise is simple: you are the son of Hades who has decided he’s tired of living in the underworld and wants to escape to the surface. On his way to doing so he dies – a lot. Every escape attempt is randomly generated, from the enemies you encounter to the kinds of upgrades you find. On top of the game itself just being fun to play, every time you die you get a little more insight into why Zagreus has decided that now is the time for escape. The writing is great, the character art is die for, and it’s just a great game.
ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA
I have to admit, I went into AC VALHALLA somewhat skeptical. As a long-time ASSASSIN’S CREED fan, I hadn’t loved the pivot from largely linear storytelling to giant open-world RPG. VALHALLA, however, has absolutely captivated me. Ubisoft has scaled back some of the “clutter” that had taken over their game worlds, and while there are plenty of collectibles to go find, I find myself actually interested in seeing what’s around every corner. VALHALLA also took an approach of telling the main quest in contained story arcs of 3-5 hours, making it much easier to focus on what was happening, rather than trying to remember a plot point from 20 hours prior. I’ve spent 40 hours in this game since November and have probably only uncovered a third of the map, so I expect to be at this game for many, MANY more weeks to come.
SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES
MILES MORALES is short and sweet in all the best ways. It is not a true sequel to Insomniac’s hit SPIDER-MAN game of 2018, but picks up from where the narrative left off. It’s been a year since Miles acquired his powers and revealed his secret to Peter Parker, and in that year Peter has been training Miles in how to be a hero. Now Pete’s on vacation for the holidays and Miles is left patrolling New York on his own. I blew through this game in a few weeks and let me tell you, it was utterly uplifting. Miles encapsulates “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” and makes an effort to connect with the community. It doesn’t hurt that this adventure is set at Christmas, and the streets of New York are decked out with lights and snow (and I definitely played a chunk of the game with Spider-Man wearing a beanie and scarf because how could I not??). If there’s a downside, it’s that I definitely wanted more time in this world, but it absolutely spends every moment it can building out characters and relationships. Highly recommend for those looking for superhero cocoa.
REMNANT: FROM THE ASHES
Another 2019 release that I played in 2020! Described as many by “Dark Souls with guns,” I finally had a chance to try it out when it came to Xbox Game Pass, and the reviews were pretty spot on! Fight your way through a series of areas using a combination of guns and magic abilities, and prepare to die, die again. While the mythology is somewhat obtuse, the game itself is much easier to navigate than a Dark Souls, with a fairly linear path to take to get through the story. It was the kind of pattern-recognition combat I needed, challenging without being daunting. There’s some DLC out that I haven’t played yet, and I think I’ll give that a try before too long.