Brandon’s Best of 2020

2020 was nothing short of amazing, am I right?! OK… that’s not funny. However, despite the numerous reasons that made 2020 a historically bad year, there was some silver lining. For those who were privileged enough to work from home you were afforded opportunities to be more involved and in touch with your immediate families. Additionally, while being forced to quarantine is certainly not ideal and something that most folks wouldn’t be excited about, it did mean that people like you and I were playing video games at an unprecedented level. Not only were more people playing video games in 2020 overall but people like us who were already gamers suddenly had much more time at home to invest in games. Out of all the time I spent on various games, a few rose to the top to be particularly notable. Here are the games that I loved the most in 2020.

Sure. It’s been talked about relentlessly. No Man’s Sky is the comeback story above all others when it comes to the video game industry. What once started as a mere shell of content and features that were promised became a juggernaut of an experience. This game has branched and blossomed in ways that I’m sure even Sean Murray could’ve never imagined.

No Man’s Sky saw no shortage of new, amazing content in 2020, despite the ongoing pandemic. Hello Games has continued its momentum through the year, releasing no less than 7 major updates and many more minor patches. Starting with the Living Ship update which brought beautiful, sentient starships to the hauntingly creepy updates of Desolation and the Halloween Update to major mechanic updates like Crossplay, Next Generation and the 3.0 Update aptly named Origins, the year held something for every No Man’s Sky player. If you’ve been interested in No Man’s Sky but never quite made the leap, there has been no better time to jump in and enjoy all that this game has to offer.


I’ll be honest. My old age got the best of me when reminiscing about my time with the original Tony Hawk games. I remembered blasting the amazing soundtrack while shredding the various maps to oblivion, posting high scores with lotsa digits. Well… sadly only part of that was actually true. In fact, while I enjoyed every moment of my time with the original Tony Hawk games, my prowess was fairly lackluster. Thankfully, that definitely didn’t detract from my ability to enjoy those games back then.

Vicarious Visions was incredibly meticulous about their recreation of Tony Hawk 1 and 2. Amazing soundtrack featuring numerous tracks from the original games as well as new bangers… check. Painstakingly crafted clones of the original maps… check. Tight gameplay that mirrors controls that you’re familiar with and cranks the precision up a notch… check. Mechanics that still prevent me from being able to post those crazy high scores that I see everyone else achieving… sadly check. Even still, I have loved ever minute of grabbing a board again and THPS 1 + 2 is everything I could have possibly hoped for in a remake.


GAME OF THE YEAR – THIRD PLACE

I’ve watched Grounded closely since its initial announcement. As I’m sure many folks in my age bracket (old) would, upon the game’s announcement I was immediately caught up in memories of Honey I Shrunk the Kids and I was giddy with the thought of how incredibly cool it would be to play a game in the same vein. Add to that the fact that I was fresh off completing The Outer Worlds, another top tier game by Obsidian Entertainment, and it was safe to say that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Grounded.

Now, some could say that Grounded potentially shouldn’t be included in GOTY discussions due to the fact that it’s still in Early Access. To that I say… poppycock! I choose games based on my experiences with them regardless of their official “status”. Despite being Early Access, Grounded is quite an experience and is being actively developed and added to regularly. As it stands currently, the base building and crafting alone were enough to keep me hooked for countless hours. Those who know me are undoubtedly aware that I love a good building game. There’s something therapeutic for me in a gameplay loop that includes deep exploring, battling for resources and building. On those notes, Grounded delivers that in spades.


GAME OF THE YEAR – RUNNER-UP

2020 was rough, y’all. Since roughly March, we’ve all been severely limiting our time outside of our own homes, many even being forced to quarantine due to a pandemic sweeping the globe. Granted, as I mentioned in my intro, this situation did allow for game time that many of us may not have partaken in without these circumstances. But, given the sad state of the world this year, it may have even been difficult to choose the proper game to lift your spirits.

For those that had difficulty deciding on the perfect, uplifting quarantine game… you’ve obviously not been introduced to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I can’t possible imagine a more fitting game to drop just when it did. Cute little villagers to meet, adorable houses to decorate, a delightful island town of your own to establish and grow… it’s an experience that was seemingly built specifically to be a ray of sunshine through the dark clouds of 2020. That’s exactly what Animal Crossing was for me.


GAME OF THE YEAR

I’ve always been drawn to the artistic value in video games. For me, a games experience can be elevated significantly based on how the game is presented… similar to a great movie. Admittedly, I hadn’t played a Sucker Punch game since the Sly Cooper series. While I loved that series, Ghost of Tsushima was obviously a vast departure from that style of game. In all honesty, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

I soon learned exactly what to expect of Sucker Punch and the final PlayStation exlcusive of this generation… a work of art. On my road to the Ghost of Tsushima Platinum, I found myself constantly in awe of this games visual delivery. I felt like I could easily drop into Photo Mode at any second and come out with a masterpiece. The terrains of Tsushima were crafted in a way that beauty was around every corner… from the vibrant foliage of Omi Village or the Golden Temple to the precarious peaks of nearly any of the Shinto Shrines.

All that being said, Ghost of Tsushima has another, deeper layer of beauty… its character development. Without a doubt, I was riveted to Jin Sakei’s poignant tale of his struggle between the strict samurai code that he had sworn his allegiance to and the whisper of the ghost that he knew could save his people. However, beyond Ghost of Tsushima’s main story line were additional stories that begged to be told as well. Sucker Punch insisted that I care deeply for the many battles of the people of Tsushima. I was particularly drawn to Norio the warrior monk who was torn between compassion and anger, Sensei Ishikawa who battled his internal demons of guilt and Yuriko, Jin’s boyhood caretaker, whose story reminded me a bit of my grandmother.

For Sucker Punch’s readily apparent craftsmanship in weaving both an amazing story of the people of Tsushima and visuals worthy of being hung on a museum wall, I name Ghost of Tsushima my Game of the Year for 2020.

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