Another year, another blog, another end of the year top 5 post. Unlike last year, I actually kept a list of everything I played. Also unlike last year, picking my top 5 this year was incredibly difficult. I think I spent all of 10 minutes making a top 5 of 2019 list because I had 5 obvious favorites and the only ranking I had to debate was #5 vs. #4. This time, I kept going back and forth with pretty much everything except for #1, so congrats to #1.
When working on this list, I realized a thing that matters a lot to me in terms of favorite games. I really enjoy games that know exactly what they want to be and do it really well. I’m at a point where for the most part, I’m not a huge fan of games that end up being overly complicated and feel bloated with extra fluff or oddities. One example that seems to show up a lot are forced awkward stealth sections in a game that has zero stealth mechanics (looking at you Metroid Zero Mission).
I’ll make a big exception for the Yakuza series though, which is so full of random things that it’s practically the entire reason you play the game in the first place.
Anyway, here are my favorite games that I played (and beat) this year.
#5: Devil May Cry 5
This was definitely the toughest one to decide on. I had many games I considered for the #5 position but eventually settled on Devil May Cry 5. DMC 5 is many hours of pure fast paced action. It’s linear and straightforward, but in turn it knows exactly what kind of game it is. It’s flashy and stylish and just a lot of fun to play overall.
I didn’t end up doing a second playthrough on the unlocked higher difficulties, so most of the game I played was fairly easy, but I was okay with that because it’s definitely fun to feel super powerful when slashing through hoards of demons. Getting into a good flow and combo was really satisfying, especially with V because his finisher looks really cool.
The plot was pretty confusing to me because I haven’t played any of the other games in the series. There’s a little video you can watch that summarizes the other games, but most of it went over my head because of how much information they dump on you at once. But honestly, I wasn’t playing this game for the story anyway. I did play the version that includes the live action cutscenes and those are absolutely amazing and hilarious.
#4: Dishonored 2
It’s been nearly eight years since I played the first Dishonored game, but I still haven’t found any other game that’s captured the satisfaction of exploring the industrial world of Dishonored and utilizing the ability to teleport through the cities, sneaking through (and maybe killing) adversaries on the way to your target.
I always appreciated how many ways there are to approach each level. There’s usually several ways to get to the goal/target as well as two different ways to dispose of them – lethally vs non-lethally.
One thing I like about Dishonored is the verticality of the exploration. That’s something I really enjoy in a lot of games – being able to explore not just the streets but also going across rooftops and balconies.
I played through Dishonored 2 as Emily in a low chaos run (in which your chaos level is higher if you kill too many people). I generally enjoy having voiced protagonists over silent protagonists so playing as Emily in Dishonored 2 made me more interested in the story in comparison to the silent Corvo in 1.
#3: Ori and the Blind Forest
I wrote a bit about Ori and the Blind Forest in my big Metroidvania binge post. I listed it as my favorite Metroidvania of the binge, and it’s still my favorite Metroidvania played in 2020.
It’s primarily a platformer, and the movement in the game feels very smooth and the abilities you gain for map traversal and platforming are pretty fun. I found the game fairly easy at first until I hit the first escape sequence in the first dungeon. That definitely took a while to complete, but it was really satisfying when I did. The music, atmosphere, art, and story are all really beautiful.
I wish the game were longer (I finished it in 12 hours and collected most of the things on the map), but there is a sequel that I have installed but haven’t played yet.
#2: Monster Hunter World
In terms of raw hours, I spent more hours in Monster Hunter World than in any other game this year. I wasn’t expecting to like this game as much as I did when I picked it up because I’m usually not a big fan of grinding, but the grind in Monster Hunter World is pretty addicting, especially when playing with friends.
I still think Monster Hunter is quite simple at its core – the entire game is literally just about hunting monsters. You fight monsters and craft stronger weapons and armor to fight more monsters (basically this comic). The combat is tight and satisfying, or at least it is for sword and shield which is the weapon I mainly use.
I like the maps a lot. They feel a bit small after 100+ hours because I’ve spent so much time on them, but they’re all fairly distinct and nice to look at and they have their own little ecosystem. And then the monsters themselves are pretty neat, I think they look cool and are (usually) fun to fight.
Spiritfarer is my game of the year for 2020 (though I haven’t played very many 2020 games). I’d been following this game for quite a while before its release due to its interesting art style and the idea of it being a “cozy game about dying” and a game about saying goodbye. I liked the concept of playing the role of someone ferrying spirits to the afterlife.
The gameplay revolves sailing around and exploring the map, managing your boat such as building an orchard to grow fruit for food or a foundry to smelt ore, and completing quests for the spirits you’ve found across the world. It’s fairly laid back and simple, and a lot of it revolves around resource collection and crafting.
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it as much as I did. The charm of this game is something I haven’t found elsewhere and I love the writing and the characters. I think it’s still definitely a “cozy” game, but there were many emotional moments. I definitely cried during some of the goodbyes when ferrying the souls off the boat and never being able to see them again. At the end, my boat felt so empty, and that was quite heartbreaking.
I wrote a blog post with all my thoughts about Spiritfarer here.
Honorary Mention: Baba Is You
Of all the games on this list this is the only one I didn’t “beat” – not because I don’t like the game or I don’t want to beat it, but simply because I can’t. I’m not good enough for this game.
I have played a lot of it though (nearly 25 hours), and would have made an exception for this game, but I had enough trouble making the list as is, so it was easier to remove this from the contenders and give it an honorary mention.
I wrote a blog post with all of my thoughts about Baba Is You here in which I tried to explain the unique concept of the game.
Anyway, happy holidays! Hopefully 2021 will be better than the mess that is 2020.