Gamasutra’s Best of 2020: Chris Graft’s top 5 games (+1)

I’ll spare you here ‘2020 was such a mess’ and I’m just saying I’m glad these games came out this year.

What resonated with me the most were the games that connected me to other people, that encouraged perseverance in front of hell itself, and intimate stories that would diminish if they were told in any format other than video games. I was drawn to the joyful games that generously gave doses of comfort. Here are some great games I played in 2020.

I played Animal Crossing games in the past, but they never clicked with me like with so many other people. Animal Transition: New Horizons changed that. When the locks were just starting, opening the gates or visiting the islands of my Twitter friends created a sense of connection and presence for me that no other video game has provided this year.

Every aspect New Horizons is designed to exude joy, whether it’s word games of your fisherman or music I’d turn on just to listen to it. New Horizons turns simple actions into memorable interactions. Friends would come soon after the game started and exchange some bells or fruits while growing resources from your own island, and when it first happened, it provided a kind that was as real as any analog interaction. When a friend invited me to see their aquarium before I built my own, we took selfies and just sat and watched the fish swim.

There are a lot of simple memories like this in which I and many other people have experienced New Horizons, and how accidentally this game came out when it came out.

It is among the universally praised games of 2020 Had, The latest effort of Supergiant Games and proof that this studio is something special. Had takes everything people like about roguelikes (repeatability, predictable controls, difficult but fair challenge) and smooths out the doubts many have about the genre (repetition, frustration, little or no narrative progress or character development).

Other games have in a unique way approached the situation of death or the end of the game, but Had is an outstanding example. The loop of the game is intertwined with the narrative in such a way that one cannot exist without the other. Death loses its sting when you realize that dying pushes the story forward and develops not only Zagreja as a character, but all the gods and monsters he encounters along the way.

This is a game that is explicitly designed around failure. When you fail, what you lose in terms of your current build and level advancement, you gain in story development and access to new skills and abilities. Failure provides a compromise that feels fair and gives the player an instant incentive to try another series. And we can all connect with that kind of positive persistence this year.

If found … is an intimate story of coming of age about a young trans woman Cassio trying to find her place in a world that seeks basic acceptance from friends and family; the kind of acceptance that many of us take for granted. As you travel through her diary – with which you communicate by dragging an eraser through the pages, making the memories fade – learn about the ups and downs she experiences with the people she cares about the most.

If foundThe story of growing up in queer 1990s in rural Ireland has a tenderness that makes it easy to sympathize with Cassie. You are angry in her name when injustice is done to her, you are sad when she is lost and alone, happy when she finds joy.

The writing is absolutely great and the player feels as if he has been called to study someone’s life and thoughts, all without a sense of voyeurism. Hand-drawn art is the perfect addition to the emotional writing of the game, and the music absolutely connects it all (and can and should listen even when not playing a game). If found … is soulful, energetic and contemplative. He is optimistic about seemingly insurmountable challenges and you should play him.

Numerous games from this year help to define certain periods of the pandemic lock, and for us Jackbox Party Pack the series occupied that early part of the pandemic. Remember then? Regularly planned happy hours with friends, family and colleagues. Coloring because of the coming months, but the belief that we are “all in this together”. Confusion about face masks, coping with the lack of toilet paper and the tendency to disinfect absolutely everything.

We now have more toilet paper, but we got it in exchange for a dose of reality. But through the waves of anxiety, Jackbox was a welcome escape from the world, while he practically gathered his family and friends.

While we played every single Jackbox Party Pack this year, as well as standalone Jackbox games like Quiplash i Fibbage, this year Jackbox Party Pack 7 is noticeable in itself. Made partly under remote working conditions, Party Pack 7 is a rare repeat of a franchise where each individual game is pure gold. Whether it is Talking Points (basically improvised entertainment for presentations), Devils and details (a common game in which you are part of a family of demons) or a classic word game Quiplash 3,, Party Pack 7 is the best collection so far. It’s something we look forward to playing with friends and family when we’re not limited to our little phantom Zoom zones.

Yakuza: Like a dragon is one of those games that has noticeable flaws – there are problems with tempo, grinding can become tedious and it is impossible to ignore the problematic issues that continue in the series regarding the portrayal of women.

Okay, that’s a tough introduction from when the argument of the year is made. But the fact is that on the whole, Like a dragon is the ultimate joy. Even in moments when the protagonist Ichiban Kasuga scrapes the bottom and makes bad decisions, there is something effervescent and innately playful in him. He is loud, he wears his own joy and disappointment on his sleeve, he is like children. He has flaws, but he shows moments of self-awareness that allow him to take initial steps forward to improve.

Also, apart from Ichiban and its small gang of outcasts, the transition from a well-established real-time combat system to a turn-based RPG system is also significant. It’s an unexpected change that works surprisingly well. It changes the direction of action compared to previous entries, while keeping all bodily in hostile encounters. When all the pieces Like a dragon combined, the game is like Ichibana: a bit fucked up, but ultimately memorable and so easy to root.

Yes, I know. Control It was originally released last year, and the editors of Gamasutra as a group even included the game on our top 10 overall lists in 2019. But this is my personal list of 2020 and here I bring the rules (and hey, it came out in streaming form on Amazon Luna and Nintendo Switch this year!). Also: in 2020, time lost all meaning anyway.

Control is an impressive feat in terms of level design, world construction and storytelling, taking basic ideas and genre parts from games and fantasy to make a video game that is unusually unique. Strange world Control is so elaborate, it’s something you’d like to turn into not just a sequel to a game, but a TV series or a movie – an infinite number of stories can be told here.

Control is the culmination of all of Remedy’s past works and it’s so good to see a triple-level game with a vision – a game that not only risks but also successfully executes the vision. (This is a lot of words if I could just say “Ashtray Maze.”)