Having covered the best revisits of the year in my last post, it’s time for the main event…
As each year draws to a close myself and every other gaming blogger (I assume) fall under some strange late-December trance and are compelled to make a list detailing their top games of the year. In an attempt to simultaneously be a little different and hide the fact that I rarely play current releases, my own spin on this recipe is to whittle my top 5 list from the games that I’ve played for the first time this year (which is not even close to a list of games that were actually released this year)… and you know looking down the games I have to choose from (incidentally included at the end of the post), I really haven’t played any big releases of 2020, partially because I’m now seemingly a Switch gamer who doesn’t enjoy the big Switch releases, and also that there really hasn’t been much in the new release pile that’s interested me enough to go and sit in the other room and fire up my PC.
I’d even go as far as to say that the list of games that I’ve played for the first time this year is a very strange list – spattered with retro titles and bizarre things that I picked up on a whim or in a sale.
Anywho, I think that just about covers the pre-amble, so without further delay, here is the “Hundstrasse Top 5 Games of 2020 That I Played for the First Time This Year!”:
I didn’t talk about it here much, but 2020 was the year that I joined the scores of gamers out there who spend time putting blocks of stuff in specific places and going “Yay!”. Spending hours swinging that pickaxe just to find a few seams of gold or diamond … or whatever that blue one is has definitely been in my repertoire this year. I guess the issue I’m skirting around is that I’m still not sure that I like Minecraft, I have enjoyed the time I spent with it, but ‘like’ is a very strong word.
What Minecraft actually did this year was to provide a pretty good social conduit. I purposefully went out of my way to find a game that my group of more gaming friends could all play together regardless of which box-o-tricks they like to press buttons on. This was both very successful with one regular participant signing in to our ‘Realm’ on a lashed together kindle fire sporting wireless mouse and keyboard, and monumentally unsuccessful as despite sort of having cross-platform play, PS4 owners can’t join ‘Realms’… literally the official Minecraft persistent server solution… and this is without addressing the slew of issues that go with different releases of the game and Minecraft’s ultimate attempt to unify everything in the bedrock edition. I’m still in a state of bewilderment at how a game so synonymous with working with friends and exploring a shared world manages to be so convoluted when you get down to the details.
Setting all this aside, it still has to make the list because technical issues aside it’s been the game that I’ve spent the most time with this year and probably provided some of the best online gaming memories… assuming nobody brings up the time I summoned a Wither too close to our house…
Virtually gliding through verdant landscapes, seemingly with effortless strides, stopping to masterfully execute reps and reps of exercises, whilst I was in reality sweating in your lounge trying to burn enough calories to really enjoy another piece of cake may just be one of the lasting vibes of 2020 for me. During the first lockdown (am I the only one getting a bit nostalgic for lockdown 1.0?) WiiFit Ringventure kept me in shape and relatively sane, providing a regular hour of exercise daily for at least a few months. My lasting regret is that I took a break and never went back to it, I would have thighs like tree-trunks now if I’d kept up with all those squats… and knees incapable of bending past about 10 degrees….
Ringfit is probably the first product to get the gamification of exercise on a home console right. It just works well, and despite the sweaty mess I was after sessions, I really felt a sense of achievement and enjoyment travelling through the different worlds (and of course unlocking the costumes). Sure, it’s not the deepest of experiences and the exercises tend to focus on core strength along with teaching you every possible way to squeeze a slightly squashy ring whilst not really being that heavily cardio.
Maybe not a very traditional game, but no, this hasn’t been a traditional year…
3. Doom 64
Oh, nothing, just a game from 23 years ago making my top 5 of the year following its re-release on modern consoles!
Fans of old-school FPS action really need to check out Doom 64 if you haven’t already. ID dug through the archives and uncovered a buried classic, dusted it off, and it shines just as brightly today. Despite a slightly slow start, and a few misgivings I have about the final boss, Doom 64 is everything a Doom title should be; all the signature gameplay is there showcased across a range of superb maps. What’s more visually it’s so different from the other Doom titles of the era and despite my initial apprehension, even several months later, I stand by the sentiment that this is what Doom II should have been.
Doom 64 topped off a bit of a rediscovery and exploration of classic Doom titles for me and it certainly provided a suitable climax to that chapter of this year’s gaming.
2. Mario Golf: Advance Tour
Following a superb birthday gift, I risked hand cramps to play ‘Mario Golf: Advance Tour’ on my supercute Gameboy Micro. With echos of … or I guess… foreshadowings of? … Golf Story that I enjoyed so much last year, Advance Tour has that same fun blend of RPG and classic 16-bit-style golf game which packs a surprising amount of intricacy and tactics in to what is essentially a three-click-golf-game. I guess the strangest thing about this game is that it features very little of the actual cast of Mario during the single player campaign. Despite snagging top Nintendo property Mario and his golfing chums like… Bowser… feature as the final challengers with most of the game focusing on the player as an unknown climbing the ranks in some place where they decided to pack half-a-dozen golf clubs in super close vicinity to each other.
On paper it sounds like a strange mix, but the way this game comes together just works and I found myself pretty invested in ticking off all the course and challenges. It’s a game that I could just pick up and play in a year when even the simplest things could feel like hard work.
When the wait for Lucas Pope’s next offering after the superb Paper’s Please was finally over I didn’t pick it up straight away, and looking back, I’m glad that I waited for the right mood to finally step back in time and pick my way through the mysterious Obra Dinn. I remarked at the time that it’s probably the first ‘detective game’ that actually feels as though it got the deduction gameplay right…. and I do enjoy a good mystery. Pawing and puzzling over each diorama-like scene gives the sense of actually working something out and seeing the story come together, tracing characters between scenes, and watching the pieces fall in to place is very satisfying. My only regret is actually the (relatively few) times where I took an educated punt on a solution rather than finding the linchpin clue that gave it away, and I’m already looking forward to not remembering it enough to give it another shot.
Oh, and let’s not overlook the unique visual presentation reminiscent of an early apple game or the delightfully shanty-like soundtrack. Sure, it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, but honestly a game that is to everyone’s tastes would probably be very bland indeed. As the standout title from this year it’s an unsurprising recommendation from me, but that does go with the caveat of ‘don’t rush it!’. If you do decide to step aboard then take your time and soak it up; that’s when you’ll get the most out of it.
So that’s it, those are my top 5 of 2020! Certainly an unconventional list for an unconventional year!.. and finally, here is the full list of new (to me) games that I played this year:
- OverBlood (PS1)
- Unravelled 2 (Switch)
- Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 (PS2)
- Return of the Obra Dinn
- John Romero’s Sigil
- Curious Cases
- Heaven Dust
- DOOM 64
- Realm of the Dead (PS2)
- Good Job!
- RingFit Adventure
- Tetris 99
- Syberia 2
- Night Trap
- Sunset Riders (Arcade Archives)
- The Touryst
- Mario Golf: Advance Tour (GBA)
- Virtua Racer (Sega Ages: Switch)
- Sniper Elite 3 (Switch)
- Super Mario Bros. 35
- Overwatch (Switch)
- Jenny LeClue – Detectivu
- Airheart – Tales of Broken Wings
- Lego City Undercover