So, this week’s Listmas list is actually called “favorite games of 2020,” but I had to alter it slightly because, well…I’ve not played a single game released this year. (Cyberpunk 2077 is in the wings as of writing, but I doubt I’ll get to it before the clock strikes 2021.) As it turned out for me, this year was more about clearing out my backlog (if only a little) than it was playing the latest games. And happily, I played some darn fine games. So here’s my countdown of the five finest games I played this year!
5. The Sims 4
Sim games aren’t in my wheelhouse, like even a little bit. So when I decided to try my hand at The Sims 4 earlier this year, I was more than a touch nervous. I’ve said before that I often enjoy doing mundane tasks in otherwise action-heavy games, but playing a whole game that was seemingly made up of mundane tasks was another animal entirely. Thankfully, my fear were unfounded, and I had a good time within a different world with my first-ever sim, Penelope “Peeps” Bradley. The Sims 4 proved a far more interesting and likable experience than I thought it would. Though I’ve yet to take up the helm again with another sim, I haven’t deleted the game from my stash, so there’s hope!
After sitting on the sidelines for far too long, I finally got around to playing The Talos Principle this year, and I was not disappointed. It’s one of the best puzzle games I’ve played in a long time, and it’s not one to be missed by anyone who’s a fan of the same. The Talos Principle was more than just figuring out how to make A and B happen to get to C. The game included an excellent story about morality, one’s place in the world, and the ideas and ideals of a lost yet familiar world. The game gets as many thumbs-up as I can give. Which is only two…at least in this life.
Even now, months after first completing the excellent What Remains of Edith Finch, I still carry a couple of its stories, ones that hit close to home and remind me of my own humanity. It’s one thing when I’m in the midst of playing a game and I’m constantly thinking about it when I’m not playing; it’s another when that game is over and done, and yet, I can’t forget it. There are plenty of seminal story-based, walking simulator games out there, and What Remains of Edith Finch is high on that list. It’s simply amazing, heartbreaking, and unforgettable.
At the moment, I’m still working my way through this game, and it kind of feels like I may never be done with it, and that’s fine by me! I’m having the grandest time with Geralt of Rivia, hunting monsters, uncovering intrigue, delving dungeons, and making at least a few friends along the way. I can’t give a final say on the game yet, but I must admit I’m finding it difficult to tear myself away from side-questing (sorry, Ciri!). Oh, I’ll eventually get myself on track, but it’s hard to do when there’s so much exploration to be done, so many things to find and see and do. The Witcher 3 is a good time, indeed.
And my most favorite game played this year is…
1. Horizon Zero Dawn
As of posting, my Horizon Zero Dawn playthrough is now complete, and I can offer up a mini-review as follows: Horizon Zero Dawn is an incredible game that should be played by everyone. Having watched portions of the game beforehand, I felt like I knew what to anticipate in seeing a new world through Aloy’s eyes, but the experience of actually playing Horizon Zero Dawn showed how little I knew. From its core story to its expansive environments to its truly human characters, the amount of care put into this game surpassed any expectations I might have held. In an era of games that astound one after the other, Horizon Zero Dawn holds its own. I cherished every moment I had with Aloy, and the act of uncovering her story layer by layer was so very satisfying. The game never felt lacking – it was polished, precise, and immensely playable. It was wonderful to help Aloy find her peace, and I cannot wait for her next chapter.
Lede image captured by author during PS4 playthrough of Horizon Zero Dawn (© Guerrilla Games).