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December 31, 2020 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Games I Beat in 2020, But Ranked

I feel like this was overall an average-ish year in games, going between apparent masterpieces, long-awaited entries, and all the cases of games being unfinished or rushed or otherwise just not great. Plus, VR seems like it could go either way, becoming something very cool with a lot of support and full experiences built around it, or publishers not knowing what to do and just putting cheaply made gimmick games on there for what feels like five times as much as they should cost. In any case, I played through a whole bunch of games, given the ample free time, and still didn’t get through as many as I wanted to, since I was up to a bunch of other stuff. Really I just want to play a whole lot of games so that’s what my expectations are. Also generally the games should work. Anyway, time to rank these and make the Better Game Awards or something.

Like before, I’m counting down to the number one game on the list, which is really just what did I like playing the most, regardless of when it came out or the general accolades and such.

  1. Gylt (Stadia)
    One of those Stadia-exclusive games for some reason, because I guess this can only run with the power of cloud gaming. I don’t know if this was for the sake of trying to prove that compressed low-latency video might handle the darkly lit environments, or if the developer and/or publisher just really wanted Google money. Long story short, it’s a pretty typical anti-bullying stealth horror indie game. As a stealth game, the approach is generally predictable in order to not have the AI just be unfairly realistic, so, again, pretty typical. At least it also allows stealth takedowns or attempting to hide again instead of just instantly dying the second someone sees the player. Somehow it also has multiple endings depending on some side task thing, but I was getting tired of it by the end, so I was done with it as soon as I got any ending.
  2. StarTropics (NES via Switch)
    This is a case of games not aging well. This is a game made to sell strategy guides due to all the weird hidden stuff and guesswork and even sometimes luck. I pushed through this, making excessive use of the NES Online save states, but I’m still counting it. A good point as to why I don’t want to make an LP or stream of obscenely obtuse difficult retro or modern-retro games. It’s an interesting enough game, and of course suffers from the fact that NES Online doesn’t have manuals, unlike the previous Virtual Console version that added the bonus of having the code available without having to consult an online guide. At least when Metal Gear Solid got onto things, they at least tried to include a shot of the back of the box or print the important number somewhere in the digital manual. Even rental places may have stuck it on the back of the rental case.
  3. Chex Quest HD (Steam)
    Hearing about an HD remake of this game, of all games, was weird. They also went about it in a very weird way. They did at least note how the original game has FMV cutscenes, and instead of crusty 90s CGI, it’s cartoon frames. The gameplay itself though is a bit odd, it’s a bit like trying to exactly remake how Doom played on a slower computer that also can’t have the viewport take up the whole screen. There may have been a patch to address that viewport thing, but overall it’s a remake of the original release and neither of the sequels so it’s still short, even with some level changes to make use of the ability to jump. However there’s still the multiplayer aspect where there are unlockable characters of different Chex products with the codes either found on certain bags or just on a site eventually. So instead of including a game disc in packages along with a free trial of AOL, the game is free but the marketing comes from extra characters. It’s still an advergame, and not quite the revolutionary difference between old and new Doom, but it’s okay for a short little playthrough.
  4. LEGO The Hobbit (Steam)
    Last year I beat the Lord of the Rings Lego game, and this year I finished up the Hobbit. This game wasn’t exactly finished because the third movie in the single-book trilogy hadn’t come out yet and the DLC or update or whatever that would tie into that never did. Long story short, it’s very similar to the Lord of the Rings game and is fine for a Lego game. Like the other game, I got it for free when licensing stuff was expiring.
  5. Batman: The Telltale Series + The Enemy Within (xCloud)
    I’m counting both of these episodic games as a single entry because they’re about the same to me. I played these when I was in the beta for Project xCloud, having to resort to a weird setup involving convincing my phone to use a wired connection since I could only access the Android app at the time. The screen was small but I was still generally able to make things out fine, including all the weird QTEs that a modern Telltale thing does. It does have some weird moments, but it’s still the interactive movie thing like before. It also has the option to make contradictory choices and it may or may not call that out. We still have yet to see anything of Wolf Among Us 2 but I bet it’s really similar to before. Just that they’re not trying to take on 800 properties at once since being reconstituted by some holding company.
  6. Island Saver (Steam)
    This game is a free game with paid DLC and sponsored by some bank I never heard of and might be British for all I know. It’s a bit like Slime Rancher and a bit like Viva Piñata but it’s mostly about unlocking more of the level by saving enough money and trying to not fall for scams, unless you want to because it’s funny or something. It also pairs well with Doom music.
  7. Postal 2 (Steam)
    Another case of games not exactly aging well, yet this fared better than others. I’ll say up front that this game is not for the easily offended because this game is easily offensive to nearly anyone. A game like this probably wouldn’t risk coming out in today’s age, which is why they’re making the sequel anyway, called Postal 4. Don’t ask. Postal 2 is a sandbox shooter at its core with a set of goals to accomplish for each day in the week of the story. The interesting thing about this game is at least for the core game, the violence is totally optional and pacifist runs are possible, which leaves out using the bizarre variety of weapons, but there’s still plenty of odd items to find with their uses. The now built-in expansion that covers the weekend is much more linear and requires violence to progress, however, so it’s a different animal. I prefer the core game to the weekend expansion, and that seems to be the sentiment of anyone else who played this, which is why the more open structure carried through to the DLC released many years later as well as the sequel. Despite all the crass humor or attempts at such, ultraviolence, and dated references, it’s a fairly solid game that’s had some dedication behind it, including making good on a joke involving a year that was, at release, far off, with a later released update. It also has a variety of ways to play, including the aforementioned pacifist route, and a lot of difficulty choices ranging from joke easy modes to absolutely everything trying to kill the player, and other things to mess around with, including a cheat menu for beating the game on a reasonable difficulty. Even if someone can’t stand this kind of game for its content, the width of the features are pretty admirable.
  8. Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch)
    The latest Star Fox game since Nintendo seems to be about as scarce with this series now as they are with, well, many examples come to mind. This is on other platforms, but the Switch version has Star Fox content and you can play it entirely as a Star Fox game. It’s a neat game that takes a bit after No Man’s Sky type games, involving traversing space and planets themselves, but in a predefined region, and the game might become a bit grindy after a point when trying to keep all the planets relatively clear of enemies, but it was a thing to play.
  9. Star Fox 2 (SNES via Switch)
    It was interesting to have this game be playable in an official way finally, when the SNES Mini came out. However, I haven’t been sold on getting a microconsole yet, even so. So on one of the many trials I’ve redeemed for the Switch Online service, this was the first game I checked out on the SNES Online thing. It’s Star Fox in the classic low-poly style, which I enjoy, even with the low framerates, now with a not-as-linear progression as seen later in Command. It’s pretty cool, but playing it is a bit more of a novelty at this point, and maybe some different versions had other features like lock-on, and that’s not even getting into the weirdness of the leaked prototypes in one of the major leaks of old stuff that happened to Nintendo this year.
  10. The Turing Test (Stadia)
    Since I was running a Stadia Pro trial, I decided to check out some other games on the service, and actually played this one to completion. While running a first-person game makes the latency more obvious, and I had a ton of issues trying out a Serious Sam game on the service, I was still able to play this one just fine, as it’s a puzzle game that doesn’t exactly require split-second timing so much. There’s also a strange and interesting event that happens partway through that also adds something to the mechanics, one I won’t spoil, but that moment made me look forward to the rest of the game until it kinda just ended, but I still enjoyed the figuring out stuff.
  11. Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)
    A game that came highly recommended by just about anyone who claimed that it really felt like being Spider-Man, like Spider-Man 2, the one that tied into the movie. I’ll tell you how it feels like Spider-Man, because it can be exhausting. There is just so much to do a lot of the time, all the side collectibles and missions popping up, and the combat being a lot of pushing the buttons repeatedly to the point where I had to take a break for a while because it made my hand hurt. Particularly things get very real in the later parts of the game and there’s a whole lot of fighting, so take breaks as needed even if it’s being engaging. It also really feels like a licensed game from one or two console generations ago, particularly because of the mandatory stealth segments where you play as someone else and you can’t even afford to be spotted once most of the time, though there’s some occasional and gradual exception that allows for clearing paths. Even with the weird mechanics in play at times, I still found fun in it and made it to the end. I’m just waiting a while before taking on the DLC that came with the Game of the Year edition because that’s just the one they sell now, for cheap even, as well as the Miles Morales game that came out recently, of which fortunately a version for PS4 exists because I really don’t want to buy a PS5 even when they’re available. Hopefully no stealth segments in that game since he got his powers, but apparently he’s able to disguise as any random object if the game breaks.
  12. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (PS4)
    I’ve played Earth Defense Force 2017 before, and this game is more of a sequel to that, referring to some events that happened prior as well as featuring a lot of the enemies in it. Of course the 2017 game is actually named as the third one in Japan. Long story short, it’s a game about fighting mass amounts of enemies as an infantry with somewhat normal weapons, until unlocking some of the stranger ones that drop randomly from enemies. It’s also considered grindy given the rate armor pickups actually add armor, since it’s not exactly 1:1. It is a case of more of what the last game had, but this one is much longer, especially since 4.1 is an expanded re-release of 4, and adds even more things to fight thousands of, plus additional classes to try to figure out. There’s some arcade-type replay to this at least.
  13. The Last of Us: Part II (PS4)
    Since this game won all of the game of the year awards, it only makes sense that it’s number one on this list too. Except it doesn’t, because I didn’t actually play it, I also don’t feel like playing it because I don’t need more realistic-looking things to be sad at, and this is just a dumb joke and the real number one is coming. I’m only making this attempt at a joke because everyone gets really angry at game awards and especially when one game wins just about all of them. In a more serious note, I will make a quick mention about the one thing I really find neat about the game, in how it has extensive accessibility options and it’s good to see those options come up more in games. It’s another case of dedication showing even despite disagreements over the content.

Before the real number one game on this list, I’ll make an honorable mention for Hypnospace Outlaw, my top ranked game beaten of last year, since there was a content update this year and I felt I should play through it again. There is certainly good content in the added stuff which came with the new console release of the game as well. It was nice to revisit that even though I already knew the story, which also has the benefit of knowing what was coming up and what to look out for. I still recommend it, even though it’s not officially ranked on this list since I finished it last year and I’m not counting replays.

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
    Normally I wouldn’t put Animal Crossing games in a list of games I’ve beaten because they’re very open-ended, but there was actually some level of progression to follow which took some time to get through. Granted, I did it at a pretty fast pace even without changing the clock around, but I was just eager to get to the full experience as it tends to be. A lot of people burned out on this game since it came out right when nobody was ever going to leave their house ever again, and thus they probably just played it non-stop until they stopped for good and proceeded to complain about writing in games or something else, if not complaining about the game itself. I am a bit guilty of that as well, just the burnout part, I more just find questionable writing to be amusing usually and I can accept that games don’t usually make toast, even though this game does have toasters. Still, I keep coming back to it from time to time, mainly to check out events or if I’m just in that mood somehow, but if it’s been a busy day and I want to get other things done, I might do those other things instead. I don’t know if comparing this to New Leaf is entirely apt since New Leaf and the other previous games do still have the thing where after playing the game daily for some time it just gets routine, so it’s really just a game to play when you don’t really feel like playing much but still want to play something. Still, the initial not having everything available at once with the live content update method is also strange, and is just a weird sign of Nintendo trying to follow modern gaming trends. It at least keeps the burnouts coming back sometimes, but it also gives people a lot to complain about not having, like Brewster and bulk crafting. Maybe next year, maybe never. Maybe we’ll also start to see a bunch of takes on this type of game show up more, like with Pokémon, since the last ones of that main series have been questionable to a lot of people who have opinions online yet it still sells a hell of a lot. And then there’s all the spinoffs that make it seem like they’re shotgunning for at least one of those to take off. At least Pokkén is pretty cool.

Ranking these was kinda difficult, since as far as games I actually finished this year, I’m not sure that I really felt much amazement at things, but it was still some fun. However, I did still at least start some very interesting games this year, or maybe made some progress at least, so if I get to beating those next year, they might rank pretty high on that list. We’ll see what I end up getting to in video games for the upcoming year, which probably won’t involve any new consoles, and figuring out if I’m really looking forward to much coming out next year. However, I’ve been getting into VR stuff recently and there’s always the retro options to catch up on. Maybe expect some of that on a ranking I might do next year.

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