DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Charlie’s Top 10
This year was hellish for a lot of reasons, but from white-knuckle platforming to deep strategy games, games were a great escape for Charlie.
As 2020 (thankfully) comes to a close, the DualShockers staff is coming together to share their personal favorite games throughout the year. Unlike our official Game of the Year Awards, each of these lists is meant to reflect which games stood out personally to each of our staff members. Additionally, any game — not just 2020 releases — can be considered in each Top 10 List.
2020 was the year I spent the most time playing the most games. I ended up beating 52 [should be ~60 by the end of the year] and still managed to put TONS of hours into games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Tetris 99. That said, I’m going to try to keep those kinds of games out of the running. Having Tetris 99 as my Game of the Year for 2 years running isn’t exactly what y’all want from these lists anyways.
That said, I played some of the most iconic games of all-time! I really beefed up my gaming pedigree in a serious way; between benchmarks in game design like Portal to modern classics like God of War (2018), to games that haven’t quite aged well like Halo 2’s campaign, my only regret is not having played some of them sooner.
I went into this list with nothing but fear in my heart. I played SO MANY amazing games this year. I think I had 30 games in the running from the start and let me tell ya, outside of the top two, I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, if I didn’t half to rank numbers 8 through 10, I don’t think I would.
10. Mega Man X
As far as action platformers go, Mega Man is probably the most consistently good franchise out there, so when I realized I never rolled credits on this game, I took it upon myself to finally see it through to the end. This game is just so damn cool; the spritework, gameplay, music and everything else remind me exactly why I love SNES games. The synthesized sounds of its wailing, dad rock-esque soundtrack add a sense of high-octane, action movie-style energy that make every second of its already fantastic platforming all the more enjoyable.
At its core, I think Lumines could be another not-perfect-but-as-close-as-it-gets situation. Its core loop is addictive and satisfying. It’s one of those games where I felt like I could see the code once I got in the swing of things. The pulsating, hypnotic soundtrack shaking my controller and driving my decisions caused me to lose track of time on multiple occasions.
As someone who LOVES Tetris, Lumines feels like a refreshing yet familiar take on its core gameplay loop, while still remaining unique enough that I could play one, get tired of it, and move onto the other without getting bored. Honestly, I wish more people had played this game, because it’s really fantastic and you can even see where Enhance Studios learned from this game when making Tetris Effect.
Placing this one is hard. Aside from maybe FFVII Remake, no game has made me feel as much as Wattam has this year. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s charming, it’s heartfelt. I really can’t put into words what this game makes me feel. As a big Keita Takahashi fan, I was so excited to play it. And, unlike many games in recent memory, it fully lived up to the hype for me.
Part of why it was so impactful and poignant to me was because I played it mid-lockdown. I hadn’t seen anyone but my family in weeks, and I was tired of talking to my friends in Discord. While none of the characters in Wattam are remotely human, they gave me some of the purest joy and human connection I’ve felt this year when I needed it most. While its gameplay isn’t exactly something I’d describe as deep or complex, it’s absolutely a deeply rewarding experience from start to end.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Wattam.
7. Final Fantasy VII Remake
I don’t know if I can say enough good about FFVII Remake. Having played the first half of the original mere months before it came out, I feel like I can safely say that FFVII Remake had its work cut out for it. The original’s script wasn’t that good, let alone terribly coherent. In fact, I pretty much only knew what was happening most of the time through cultural osmosis.
Not only did FFVII Remake recontextualize and revitalize a story that I’d argue isn’t terribly enjoyable compared to other JRPGs from its era, but it somehow took a soundtrack that’s revered as one of the greatest game soundtracks of all-time and made it not only better, but smarter. The themes and motifs in the music act as an extra layer of storytelling on top of the metanarratives and subplots, while still allowing a story that’s both new and old to shine. That all cumulates in an ending that’s equal parts ballsy, captivating, and exciting in every way.
I finally got to experience why so many people love this game and its characters, and even had a chance to fall in love with it myself. Like I said; I can’t express how much pure joy I experienced while playing this game. Its characters are loveable, its world is lively, and its gameplay and combat are exhilarating. I’m glad that this is the first JRPG that I’ve ever beaten outside of Pokemon, because it just resonated with me so much.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Final Fantasy VII Remake.
“Cuphead is the Dark Souls o–”
Oh? We’re not doing that anymore? Okay, fine.
Cuphead isn’t just proof that no genre of game truly dies, but it’s also the best example of how to balance difficulty and reward in a game. It totally eats Mega Man’s lunch 20 years after the fact, and I’m very okay with that. Even if it didn’t sport some of the best art and music in recent memory, it’d still be one of my favorites, but I’d be lying if I said the urge to hear more of its fantastic music and see its gorgeous art didn’t propel me even further.
I think there’s also something to be said about games of its ilk that respect the player’s time. Lots of harder, more skill-based games tend to lean heavily on the idea that they’re the only game worth playing and learning every frame of every enemy’s attacks is worthwhile. To me, that only matters if the reward is balanced out in a way that results in a consistent push-and-pull between reward and punishment like it is in Cuphead.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Cuphead.
5. Metroid Fusion
As a franchise, Metroid stands in rarified air. No other game is able to establish such a strong sense of place and atmosphere, especially with the technical limitations that hamper it. Outside of Super Metroid, Fusion has some of the most interesting, experimental attempts at things like horror that aren’t really explored in games like it, even in the Metroid franchise.
On top of the themes and incredibly cool cinematic experiments made in this GBA classic, Fusion’s map is fantastic. Not only does it provide satisfying Metroid-style exploration, but it does so in ridiculously well-paced, bite-sized, and diverse sections of the abandoned space station and then pads them with some fascinating world-building and cinematic moments.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
In a year where everyone strove for their own version of ‘normal’, games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons became instantly successful. While I certainly enjoyed my time with it, GTAV gave me a sense of normalcy that Animal Crossing couldn’t, while still nailing charm and comedy, albeit in an entirely different way.
There were moments when I was in total awe, like when the sun hit the right point in the horizon as I was driving my lavish sports car through Los Santos and “Roundabout” by Yes was just starting to play; that just felt beautiful. And then seconds later, Trevor is berating some poor innocent soul about one of the seemingly infinite things he has to complain about.
GTAV manages to nail just about everything it sets out to do in a really impressive way; it can offer pointed satire hand-in-hand with some seriously dumb fun. It’s easily one of the best and most impressive games of the generation.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Grand Theft Auto V.
3. Resident Evil 4
There’s a very specific era of gaming that I almost entirely missed, starting from the launch of the Nintendo 64 up through the launch of the Wii that I know almost nothing about aside from Super Smash Bros. Melee. Games like Metroid Prime and Resident Evil 4 almost totally eluded me until this year. Being a long-time 2D Metroid fan, I found myself a little let down by Metroid Prime.
On the other hand, Resident Evil 4 was my first game in the franchise and it didn’t disappoint. I could feel the DNA of a ton of other franchises I’ve played and loved from it, like Call of Duty, The Last of Us, and Deadly Premonition. The thing that I found the most surprising about RE4 was just how charming it was. I generally avoid horror and survival-horror as a genre because neither their gameplay nor characters are quite compelling enough to keep me interested.
RE4 wasn’t just charming, but it represents a perfect balance between cheesy, action B-movie and survival-horror in both its gameplay and story that Resident Evil seemingly hasn’t been able to nail since then. In fact, thanks to RE4, Resident Evil: Village is one of my most anticipated games of 2021.
2. Slay the Spire
I realize that 2020 is the year of Hades, and while I wanna give all my respect to young Zag and all his horny friends, Slay the Spire was my all-but-constant roguelike companion in the months since I first booted it up in July. On the toilet, during class, before bed, in the car; any time I wanted to play something to just kill time, I’d boot up Slay the Spire, throw on a podcast, and let the time melt. It often replaced melatonin as something to help me get to bed which, in a year that’s been stressful as hell for a lot of reasons, has been all but necessary.
Outside of its involvement in my personal life, Slay the Spire is an incredible game in its own right. It does what few roguelikes are able to do and balances run length, mechanics, and gameplay styles expertly in a really addictive way that respects your time.
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Putting Super Mario Galaxy 2 at number one was the easiest choice I made this year. In a year when three of the greatest 3D platformers of all-time made it to Switch in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection, leaving the best game in the franchise behind, this absolute gem made me glad I decided to take my Wii U with me when I moved out of my parents’ house mid-lockdown.
I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a perfect game; no matter how close some may be, there’s always something that can be better. That said, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is as close as it gets. Even compared to the first Galaxy, there are no bad levels. When people compare Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, they talk about how World blows SMB3 out of the water in so many ways. While I disagree in that context, I think that comparison is apt for the Super Mario Galaxy games.
Ironically, the two even bear music and smaller gameplay-level elements from their respective games, with a lot of Super Mario World’s DNA showing up in Galaxy 2. You can tell this game was made with all the extra, over-the-top, underutilized ideas that were cut from the first one.
Super Mario Galaxy was my first platformer; it was my first Mario game. It should by all accounts win out due to nostalgia, especially since I forgot basically all of Mario Galaxy 2 after playing it in 2010. If you haven’t had a chance to play this game, you owe it to yourself to play it. I’d argue it’s the best celebration of the Mario franchise out there (yes including Odyssey) and the best 3D platformer of all-time.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Check out the rest of the DualShockers staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards nominees:
January 4: Game of the Year Awards 2020 Official Winners Revealed