Happy holidays gamers; while society collapses around us we have the lay of the land thanks to videogames. After all, not leaving the house and aggressively ignoring politics is what we do best, am I right? For real though, I’m sick of writing about how trash 2020 was to introduce articles, and I hope if nothing else we get to abandon that “lol frick this year” bit. Anyway like everyone else in this line of work I played several of those videogame things this year, and I liked a lot of them. I had an especially good year, since I managed to avoid playing games I knew would be bad for the most part.
Prima Game of the Year 2020: Lucas' Personal Top 10
It was actually tough to narrow it all down to a top ten list like our pal Jesse did, especially since unlike Morgan I didn’t opt to specialize (those indie games are dope, though). Of course, if you’ve read my work before at places like Siliconera or Shonen Jump (or here lately!) my wheelhouse makes this a weird list by default. I didn’t even get to play everything I was interested in this year, and I mostly succeeded (wrote a separate piece) in avoiding all the neat ports this year.
The Lucas Canon is something I’ve spent a decade building professionally, and I’m proud to leave a piece of it in the Prima Games history books like so many charred pages damaged by an electrical fire. Let’s go:
Void Terrarium - Nippon Ichi Software/NIS America
It’s weird how Mystery Dungeon games remain a relative niche despite all the popularity “roguelikes” have seen over the years. But with the Nintendo Switch (and PS4 to an extent), this brand (and genre) has been thriving. Void Terrarium is one of my favorites I’ve ever played, and it isn’t even an “official” entry. The genre hook is “Mystery Dungeon meets Tamagotchi,” but this game goes a step further and tells a compelling story to boot.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon - Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, SEGA
It’s the whole site’s Game of the Year, and I’m pretty sure I’ve blurbed about this game enough times already. So this is a great opportunity for some hyperlinks, such as this one that leads to my review. Ichiban Kasuga is the guy, for sure.
Hades - Supergiant Games
Neither the first nor the last roguelike on this list, Hades has the honor of being the staff’s pick for Indie Game of the Year. It’s one of the few times I’ve dropped a score of “10” on a game over my career, and it’s easy to see why. It nails almost everything it tries, and then some, showing the rest of the world that it’s possible to tell great stories inside of this genre.
Final Fantasy VII Remake - Square Enix
I was one of those kids who hated on Final Fantasy VII because it was cool to do so. I mean, I’m still one of those people but I was back in the day, too. I don’t actually hate it, but the OG FF VII just doesn’t have the hold over me like it does so many other fans. That said, Remake appeals to me on a whole different kind of level, with its over the top exploration of what it means to be a creator remaking such a monolithic work. A more straightforward remake would have been predictably self-indulgent, but instead we got something I’ll be thinking about for years.
Death end re;Quest 2 - Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Grotesque, super edgy horror anime gaming at its finest. This is not a game for anyone with only a passing interest in this space, but for people like me it’s a real trip. The bizarre shuffleboard-like combat systems are also some of the most bizarre JRPG combat mechanics I’ve ever seen, and that alone makes it worthy of attention in my book.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX - Spike Chunsoft, The Pokemon Company, Nintendo
I told y’all I like these games. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is lowkey responsible for roguelike and Dark Souls-style games gaining the traction they have in the west, and no I will not elaborate any further. Well, until Boss Fight Books hits me up, then I’ll gladly write fifty essays about it. This is a remake of the very first attempt, and it’s the perfect blend of classic appeal, nostalgia, modern fidelity and quality of life advancements that make this the Best One regardless of your skill level. It’s a walk in the park for longtime fans, but in a good way.
Streets of Rage 4 - Lizardcube, Dotemu, SEGA
Incredible artwork from Lizardcube, a ridiculously deep understanding of the series and genre from the development team, and soundtrack work from Japanese composition A-listers including the Bare Knuckle OG himself, Yuzo Koshiro. Streets of Rage 4 could not have turned out any better, and frankly I still can’t believe a game that looks and feels like this exists.
Monster Sanctuary - Moi Rai Games, Team 17
Pokemon meets Metroidvania sounds kind of unwieldy at best, but Moi Rai Games nailed this concept and then some. The explorative loop of Metroidvania combines oddly well with the calm grind of monster collecting/battling, and the lengths this game goes to stand out via Diablo-like skill trees pay off big time. Good stuff, yo.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2
If the first Bloodstained was a low budget tribute to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, then Bloodstained 2 is a spiritual sequel. It’s everything introduced in the first game, a surprise hit Kickstarter bonus, with more of everything and beyond. There are more characters, more bosses, more visual effects, more story… I could go on forever. Easily one of my favorite games this year and a definite contender for all-time lists in the future.
Collection of SaGa - Final Fantasy Legend
I mostly avoided ports, but this one is special. SaGa is a series I’ve been fascinated by for a long time, but I haven’t always been able to see the ends of them. The Game Boy originals were especially tough since getting a hold of them ain’t cheap, and then playing them on original hardware can be a slog. Emulation is great and all but not how I like to experience handheld JRPGs. This collection is a last-minute banger for the Nintendo Switch in 2020, and that’s largely because of the bells and whistles. Not only are the bright visuals, scaling options, and weird touch screen control gimmick neat, but there’s a “game speed” option that speeds up the game… but not the whole game. It makes playing these grindy-ass JRPGs a much more comfortable experience, without compromising the gameplay or music. We haven’t seen these curious adventures since the Game Boy over in North America, and it’s the best way to play them available.
Shout outs to cool videogames in 2020. A reverse shout out to everything else about 2020, in and outside of videogames. Here’s to hoping 2021 is a year of progress, from labor conditions to the reeking residue of GamerGate. In the meantime though, I got to play some neat games and write about them with cool people. Hopefully that gets better too, because I want more, damn it!