List by Matt S. 

It has been a terrible, terrible year to date. In Australia it has been a rolling nightmare of record, devastating bushfires… and then we’ve all shared the experience that is COVID-19. The video games we’ve been playing have been pretty good, though. It’s not exactly a silver lining, since weighed against all the very real pain that people are feeling having good games to play seems embarrassingly insignificant. But, for those of us who have been incredibly fortunate in being able to continue our hobby, 2020’s games really have been a good bunch. 
Here’s my list of the ten highlights to date. I’d love to hear which of these games are on your lists as well… or which games you’d add on to the list here. Sound out in the comments!
Hatsune Miku Project Diva: Mega Mix
I mean… was there ever a chance that I wasn’t going to have this on my list? It’s Hatsune Miku! On Nintendo Switch! And she’s looking even more gorgeous than ever with the lovely updated visual engine. Throw in the season pass and there’s more than enough Vocaloid music, quality, challenging rhythm game action, and a vibrant assortment of costumes to play dress-up with, on the go, on that Switch’s gorgeously large screen. It’s the perfect Miku experience.

Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
After many, many years of drip-feeding out episodes, Kentucky Route Zero finally landed in its full and complete glory on console this year, and it is, with no exaggeration, a masterpiece. The game is basically theatre turned into an interactive narrative experience, and while I know there isn’t much “gameplay” (for some reason a sticking point for too many players), the story that Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition tells is deep, intelligent and poignant. This is one of those pure art games that people will be pointing to for many years into the future to highlight the potential of the gaming media as art.

Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia

(Read our review here)

I had no expectations going into this game. I had never played the original, which was an obscure PlayStation 1 title that is famous today more for its ability to go for high prices to collectors than anything to do with the game itself. But within moments of playing this for the first time, I was enraptured. Brigandine offers up not only excellent strategy and tactics action, but quality fantasy storytelling (surprisingly nuanced and well-written) and some of the most spectacular fantasy art that you’ll ever see. This game is destined to be a true hidden gem that, hopefully, people will be recommending long into the future.

Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen
Come to Utawarerumono for its promise of exquisite fanservice, Final Fantasy Tactics-like tactical action, and lengthy, meaty adventure. Stay because you’ll discover that the game is surprisingly earnest and you’ll actually get a rare look into the native Ainu aesthetic, which this game draws heavy inspiration from. Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen is actually the first in the franchise, chronologically speaking, so it’s also the perfect starting point if you’ve been putting this series off to date (and don’t put it off any longer!).

Final Fantasy VII Remake

(Read our review here)

I still don’t think people appreciate just how much of a creative risk Final Fantasy VII Remake is. This is a game that actively, aggressively subverts so much of the deeply beloved original. Everything from its general flow and temperament, right down to some of the deepest and most abiding themes of the game. Determinism, for example. Final Fantasy VII was big on the whole “fate, destiny and the meaning of life” deal, and yet here, in this remake, Square Enix has questioned every assumption made in the original. I went into Final Fantasy VII worried that Square Enix would mess with the original to make it more palatable to 2020 blockbuster sensibilities. Instead, Square Enix messed with the game to artfully subvert expectations and that… that was brave. Well done, Square. You firmly have my attention for the next release.

Disaster Report 4

(Read our review here)

This is probably the most polarising game I’ve got on my list, but I genuinely love Disaster Report 4. This is a game that takes an experience that the people of Japan have been stoic over for their entire history – that of natural disasters – and spun it into a story in which we see modern Japanese culture play out in front of us. It’s sometimes difficult to witness, sometimes challenging from a moral and ethical perspective, but always interesting and poignant. And, often, very funny, with a sense of humour that only a culture that has experienced so much disaster could develop over it.

There have been a lot of visual novels released on Nintendo Switch already this year. Of all of these, SeaBed is my pick. It’s partly because it was only previously available on PC, and that’s a horrible platform for visual novels (I say as someone that produces VNs exclusively for PC…), and therefore SeaBed can now finally be played on a platform that’s comfortable for the genre. But, also, SeaBed is a vibrant and beautiful story about love and loss, with some of the most gorgeous character writing we’ve seen in video games to date. 

Putting aside my initial disappointment that Nioh 2 gives players a generic character creator for their in-game avatar (I really loved that the original Nioh cast you in a specific role from history with William Adams), once I got stuck into the game I realised that it was in every way the better and more refined experience. From the level design, to the rich and interesting range of enemies to face down, and the way the game works in a historical setting (the Sengoku era), Nioh 2 demonstrated that Koei Tecmo didn’t just sit on the great work that they did in finally challenging From Software for dominance within the “Soulslike” genre… Now, they are truly the masters and ones for other developers, including From, to try and catch.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV

(Read our review here)

Romance of the Three Kingdoms has always struggled to balance out the need to be accessible with the need to provide the hardcore strategy game fans with something truly deep. It’s a struggle that, much as I love the series, Koei has often lost. Romance 14 delivers, though. This is a game that even beginner strategy game fans can step into, while even the most veteran will find ways to challenge and test themselves with the deeper nuances that it offers. Throw in an excellent retelling of the book, and you’ll find that most series fans will agree; this is one of the stronger entries that Koei has achieved in quite some time.

Katana Kami: A Way Of The Samurai Story

(Read our review here)

Last but not least is Spike Chunsoft’s Diablo-like roguelike, which replaces the gothic demons and devils of Diablo with a gauntlet of yokai from Japanese mythology. Katana Kami is much more than tight, engaging combat with fascinating monsters, though. It’s got a sharp sense of humour, some gorgeous production values, and a smoothness to the gameplay that makes it very difficult to put down. It has a downside, in that it’s not exactly forthcoming with the on-boarding, so you need to flounder around for a while before it will all “click.” But, once it does, you won’t be putting this one down in a hurry.

Let us know your own favourite games of 2020 to date in the comments! 

– Matt S. 
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

This is the bio under which all legacy articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

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