Best games of “My” 2020 – A year in review

I’m Kinglink and…. Well, 2020 sucks, doesn’t it? Let’s just talk about some games?

So for my final video each year, I like to talk about what games I played in a year, and which games were the best that I would recommend to everyone. This year I made a database of every game I played and it’s something I’m trying to do going forward. I ended up with 115 games played outside of games I covered for Humble Bundle, a total of over 250 games.

To figure out the best required a lot of work. I broke down the list, ended up with 8 games I thought were contenders for my favorite and then replayed each one for an hour to decide which order to place them in, and which should be cut. The two cuts from my list were Ni No Kuni 2, and Ori and The Will of the Wisps, both great games, but not ones I’ll go into in this video.

To be clear, I call this the “best games of MY year.” Stress on My. I’m a single reviewer who also works a full-time job as a programmer. Any game I cover I try to beat in full, so I can’t play every new release in a year, and I don’t rush out to buy every game new, so… a couple of these games are from last year, and one choice came out before that… and yet they’re still great enough to recommend.

So let’s get started with the best, and this year we have a special honoree.

The Special Honor goes to the best VR game I played this year or perhaps ever, it’s also the game I’ve always wanted and didn’t realize. This is Star Wars: Squadrons. I filmed the footage while playing on the TV to make it easier for you all to see, but Star Wars: Squadrons is incredible. I grew up with the original Star Wars movies. One of my favorite games as a kid was X-Wing: Alliance, where you got to fly a ship similar to the Millennium Falcon. I also put a lot of hours into playing Wing Commander multiple times.

Star Wars: Squadrons feels like a continuation of that style of game… but it’s so much more. It’s a story that encompasses both the Rebellion and Empire and allows you to experience the story through both sides. You have famous characters such as Admiral Ackbar or Wedge Antilles showing up and also a diverse team of multiple species.

The ships are also really well done and they look amazing. It feels so exciting to be dropped into one as you start your mission and begin to fly around the galaxy. The experience is very good.

But just very good isn’t what I’m talking about in this video. So what makes this game qualify for a Game of the Year? It’s VR. The minute I put on the VR headset for this, I totally geeked out. The first thing you do in the game is stand in a hanger and look around, and guys…. That moment made me tear up. Ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of being on either a Star Destroyer or a Rebel ship, getting ready for a major battle. Now that it’s here, it’s beautiful.

But actually, flying the ships? I doubt there are words for how great this game is in VR. You feel like you’re physically in the cockpit, and controlling this small vehicle as it whizzes around the universe, taking down bad guys.

Then you jump online and play the multiplayer in VR and it too is like nothing else. I probably got muted by everyone in my first game because I kept saying “Oh my god”. I couldn’t believe how fluid it all felt, simply tracking enemy ships with your head as you flipped your ship around to shoot them. Everything felt natural. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with a video game.

So I’m giving this a special award because the VR of Star Wars Squadrons is so good it makes what is a very good game into something that should not be missed. This is a must-play game for any Star Wars fan, but if you have a VR headset, there’s nothing else like this.

And quick note, since I don’t get a ton of time to play VR, I was ready to invest 60 bucks in that other VR game that’s really popular so… maybe next year?

With that being the special honoree, let’s start talking about the actual list. The fifth-best game I played this year is…. Hitman 2. I’m definitely a latecomer on this series, but both Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 are incredible games. They take a puzzle box approach to the level design, add in fantastic characters, stories, missions, and tasks, and then put the whole thing together to create a one of a kind game.

I’ve over seventy hours in Hitman 2 because I just adored how many different ways and interactable pieces there are to the game. There’s always something new to find and discover. The game has excellent mini-story segments that keep giving you hints on how things can be done. There are also challenges that you’ll have to figure out yourself, and massive maps to explore.

This is one of those games that I adore because it’s clear the developers used all their talent to create a world and set of systems that can be used together rather than scripting exactly what has to happen. The end goal is what’s important here. The way the level plays out is up to the player. Players are also given so many tools that there’s always something new to discover or find out, and the online community is really active with people showing off their obscure knowledge of levels. There are clever ways to complete some levels as well.

And yeah, I know it’s a bit old, but Hitman 3 is coming out soon, and it took me a while to play this one. I will be waiting for Hitman 3 to come to Steam, so don’t expect a quick review on that one.

The fourth best game this year is Titanfall 2. Ok, I know “old news”, and I thought about that, but Titanfall 2 released on Steam this year, and even with almost half a decade of FPSes since it’s release, it’s still a game with an almost perfect set of levels and campaign.

So many FPSes are just action set pieces that become shooting galleries or combat arenas, but Titanfall 2 really pushed the limits, and every level here is exceptional in some way. The main character uses a parkour-style movement system to avoid enemies, and perform stylish moves that feel exceptionally fresh. The giant Titan that is at the core of the game isn’t just a cool idea, or a weapons platform, but becomes an integral part of the character and story.

The story is very well told. I felt that I was personally attached to BT, the Titan, and that’s exceptional because… yeah people can easily guess where a story about a player and his companion will go, but when it happens here, it was still very emotional even to my cynical heart.

I really love the Time Travel level which is why I broke it down in a previous video but I think every level here is exceptional and worthy of praise. It kind of blows my mind how there was never a Titanfall 3, but if you are like me and skipped this game at its original launch, especially when it was between a Battlefield and Call of Duty, give this one a shot. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

The third best game I played this year… Outer Wilds. Let’s be clear. Outer Wilds, not Outer Worlds. This is from a small developer called Mobius Digital. Interesting fact, that studio was actually founded by the guy who played Hiro on Heroes, which is kind of cool on its own.

This game is all about exploring a solar system that contains several planets, including your homeworld, Timber Hearth. Everything about Outer Wilds is exploration. You will find yourself digging into the history of each planet, which starts to fill in the backstory of what’s going on in the universe.

Outer Wilds is also a game about puzzles where there are so many locations that hide secrets. It can be anything from a device that looks deactivated until you do something specific, to understanding how to explore the depths of a water world. Many pieces of Outer Wilds’ puzzles are hidden on multiple different worlds and players can move freely between each world and at times will be required to.

There’s also an interesting time limit on Outer Wilds. After 22 minutes, the star that you’re revolving around goes supernova and time will reset. It gives you a “Groundhog Day” style experience, where you constantly try to push the limits of what you can reach on each new loop and hopefully one day understand the how and the why of everything you have found.

This was one of the first games I played this year on Epic and it stuck with me so much that I wanted to continue to support this team, and bought a second copy when it came to Steam. If you’re into exploration games or puzzle games, I highly recommend this one.

The second best game this year is…. Disco Elysium. So I used to be a huge fan of RPGs and while I still enjoy them, I find their story to be a little typical and boring. Disco Elysium made me realize it might not be my fault.

Disco Elysium is a cleverly written and well-delivered piece of fiction that focuses on its writing so heavily that it doesn’t need a combat system that pops up every 10 seconds hoping to distract the player from the story. Or rather it handles both skills and combat as part of the narration, rather than being something additional outside of it.

Disco Elysium is a noir-style detective story, with players taking control of the flawed protagonist who seems to have wrecked his life. He is an absolute mess and what’s great is Disco Elysium doesn’t ask the player to make him better or force the player to watch the tragedy unfold. Rather the player has the ability to literally roleplay as the main character and can choose to try to straighten out his life or steer into his skid and continue his self-destructive path.

But it’s the writing that really stands out for me, and I couldn’t put this game down because I wanted to see what happened next. I wanted to see if the game would refer to how I told a woman that ”I want to make fuck with you.” I wanted to see if the failures of my characters would change the story in a meaningful way. I wanted to see if the game would let me get away with the mistakes I inevitably would make.

And Disco Elysium delivers on each of these areas of the game. Each time I expected Disco Elysium to be challenged by my actions, I was surprised with how effortless their handling of these topics seem. I loved that the minor conversations earlier in the game could become discussion points later, how my personal build changed what I would see and hear in the story, and how I might find different avenues of investigation with new leads.

As I replayed Disco Elysium for this video I also remembered how depressing and morose the game is while keeping the player interested. This isn’t a happy cheerful experience but a story that focuses on a failed city, after a failed revolution, and yet, the way Disco Elysium approaches the story creates a one of a kind experience. If you’re a fan of storytelling, detective novels, or just the ability to actually roleplay a character and not be given a predetermined path to follow, you’ll enjoy Disco Elysium.

Though if you’re interested, I might recommend waiting for the Final Cut version to be released, as it will be fully voice acted, and that would improve an already great game to even higher levels. It’s a free upgrade, but should be the best version of the game.

And the best game I played this year… I really thought about this and the fact is, I can’t see a way that Hades doesn’t deserve this slot. Supergiant is an incredible developer. Bastion was amazing, Transistor was great, but Hades is something else. It’s an evolution of a genre.

I could go on about Hades for twenty minutes, but I’ll put it this way. Hades has changed what I feel like I can expect from a Rogue-lite. I no longer feel like the core gameplay loop is all I want to focus on. Hades has a well-designed progression system that helps make the adventure easy enough that anyone can tackle it. It has a difficulty system that can make the game near impossible again if desired. That difficulty is also customizable which allows players to decide how to challenge themselves.

But what really stands out to me is that it adds something that most Rogue-lites are unable or unwilling to do. It’s the story in Hades that impressed me the most. This is a game about repetition but weaved throughout the hundreds of runs are encounters with most of the great Greek gods and heroes. At the core of this game is a story of how Zagreus deals with his father, Hades, the lord of the underworld, but also how the rest of the Greek pantheon looks at the world as well.

Hades is just a very satisfying experience. It has excellent gameplay, wonderful production values, an interesting setting and story, and the allure of finding out what will happen on your next run. Each of these parts kept me coming back to Hades for so long it feels wrong for anything else to earn the top spot.

So that’s my top game of the year, but I highly recommend checking out each of these games because they’re all excellent.

I want to take a moment to also discuss the channel a bit, and rather than make a second video I’ll do it as a quick addendum here. Youtube is a hard thing to do. I’ve said it takes like 20 hours to make a video for me, including writing, recording, and putting the video together. Sometimes the video goes off, like my Hades video but much of the time, my videos get less than three hundred views and while I appreciate every view, it’s really hard to ignore that as the end result of all the work it takes make a video. I often think, maybe that time could have been spent playing a game which is what I really love.

A lot of Youtube comes down to a “promotion thing.” I’ll leave that discussion and a look at the state of Youtube videos for another day.

Yet, I still like making videos, but I think I have to make changes. First, the Humble Choice Reviews are going to continue, it’s a nice consistent video and I love giving my opinions on them. It’s a ton of work but also oddly fun. So you can expect those videos on the first Monday after a Humble Choice releases, that won’t change.

As for the rest of my content… I’m going to move to a “When it’s done” format, I’ll try to put out an extra video each month, but trying to race to put out content means the quality of the content suffers in a lot of ways.

As of right now, I’m planning on doing a single video in January which focused on the first year of Humble Choice and looking at that. I don’t have a target release date which is kind of the point, so when I’m done writing and shooting it, it might come out. Or maybe I’ll scrap it and do something else. For everyone who follows me, I hope you’ll understand and look forward to each video, and I want to thank you for following me or checking out my content.

As always if you’re somehow new here, subscribe and ring the bell for notifications whenever I put out new videos. And if you think I missed a big game of 2020, or if there’s a particular game coming out next year I should check out, let me know down in the comments.

I’ll put links to my videos about Hades and Disco Elysium on screen so that you can check those videos out and find out more about why I particularly enjoy those games.

Until then I’m Kinglink and thanks for watching.

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