Game of the Year lists are in full swing! Everyone is making their votes, writing their arguments, and getting ready to watch the Game Awards. And I don’t just mean us on the content side - I mean “everyone” literally. From social media to forums to YouTube and back to us dorks who do it for a living are all doing the same thing to close out the year in gaming. But I always feel like there’s a certain subset of videogame releases that get ignored.
New game releases are always the most exciting, of course. But especially in today’s gaming situation, with different kinds of platforms with different capabilities, a new old game can be just as enticing. Ports are often made of underappreciated work, especially when there aren’t any obvious, surface-level differences. But all the nuts and bolts under the hood could be drastically different.
2020 was an especially great year for ports. It was tough to narrow it down to a top five, even more difficult than I anticipated when I pitched this list in the first place. The variety was even great! While the Switch is involved in most of the list, only two of the five are ports to Nintendo’s scrappy little handheld. With that said, I’m ready to drop the introductory waffling and get on with the list.
Daemon X Machina - Switch to PC
This one really came out of left field. Developed by several Armored Core alumni, Daemon X Machine was an anime as hell mech action game that was published by Nintendo! So when Marvelous appeared early this year with a PC port I was shook. But man is it a brilliant port. This game is totally fine on the Switch, but on PC it runs effortlessly and its stark colors are even more striking at higher resolutions. Either version can’t go wrong, but mecha enthusiasts with solid PC setups may even want to double-dip.
Yakuza Remastered Collection - PS3 to PS4
Speaking of surprises, in 2017 Yakuza suddenly becoming a popular, successful series in North America was unthinkable. Until it happened, and Sega has been stomping on the gas since. The only problem was that Yakuza was a big story, and the PS3 games were too scarce for the new interest. So Sega did the coolest thing possible and ported all three PS3 games to the PS4 in one box, even including an empty case for the digital-only Yakuza 5 in North America, just as a shout out to the completionists.
DMC 3 SE - PS2/PC to Switch
Devil May Cry ports are a dime a dozen. Capcom’s over the top action/horror masterpieces are available on every generation past the PS2. But when it came time to bring the third game to Nintendo Switch (they dropped individually?), Capcom added a little extra spice to it. Nowadays Dante is known for being a Swiss Army Knife of murder, but by Devil May Cry 3 the series was just starting to experiment with giving him different fighting styles. Here, Capcom’s team took the style system from Devil May Cry 4, and retrofit it into 3. Having access to all the fighting styles at once in Devil May Cry 3 is practically a brand new experience, and you can only do that on the Switch.
Mario 3D All-Stars - N64, GCN, Wii to Switch
Nintendo’s oddly-released Super Mario compilation is a perfect example of the perception stuff I was talking about earlier. Half the people in the online gaming community are still angry about this thing, calling out Nintendo’s use of emulation and lack of bonus features. I’m not disagreeing with the second point, but as far as the emulation goes all I see is some seriously impressive work. For more on that, you can read my review.
Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition - Switch to Xbox One/PS4/PC
Square Enix has been going all the way in with Dragon Quest in recent years, and I couldn’t be happier. It was one thing when Dragon Quest XI originally dropped on the PS4 and PC, a big event on its own. But the Switch version was delayed for a while, then appeared as the Definitive Edition. How could a lower-res game be definitive? Well, the midi music was replaced with orchestra, Japanese VO was added, several QoL changes were made, and you can play nearly the entire game remade in a Dragon Quest VI-like 2D style. There’s also new story content that takes place in one of the biggest parts of the game.
Now that experience has been ported to Xbox One and PS4, and by extension the Series X and PS5. And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen this game running at 4K/60. And for the Xbox version, it’s on Game Pass! What an incredible way to enjoy one of the best JRPGs in contemporary history. There’s a slight caveat with some of the assets in the added story content being less sharp due to that stuff coming from the Switch natively, but it’s a small mark overall.
There are several other great ports that dropped in 2020. Nintendo released multiple excellent Wii U ports on Switch, including the severely underrated Tokyo Mirage Sessions. We also saw one of the most impressive PC ports in recent memory with Death Stranding, and brand new HD versions of both No More Heroes games on the Switch, this time without the hideous facelift the PS3 version got. But because I have some manner of self-preservation instinct, I narrowed this down to the five I think are the best.
What do you think, readers? Are ports worth talking about in the same breath as the Game of the Year? Do you agree with my picks or does something better stick out in your mind? Let us know what you have to say on the matter over at the Prima Games Facebook and Twitter channels!