EGM’s Best of 2020: Mollie L Patterson’s Picks
I know this might come as a surprise to most of the people reading this, but 2020 was kind of a weird year. In trying to determine what my top games of the last 12 months would be, it was hard to shift my brain from the fears of a global pandemic, the chaos of one of the messiest presidential elections during my lifetime, and more personal matters like buying my first house and trying to give my children a semi-normal childhood. On a video game level, we had two new console launches, countless game delays, and my realization that Resident Evil 3 in fact did come out this year, and not three years ago, which is when I would have sworn January 2020 took place. So, for all those reasons, and the fact that I’ve purposely avoided playing certain games until their inevitable next-generation versions come along, this will probably be a weird list for a weird year.
Publisher: Crunching Koalas ▪︎ Developer: Buckshot Software, Crunching Koalas ▪︎ Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
In going back over what I’d played this year, and contemplating what deserved to be in my top five, Buckshot Software’s Project Warlock wasn’t initially in my thoughts. The more I looked over my list, however, the more that name kept catching my eye—and rightly so.
Thinking back to my time with the game, every moment I’d spent with it was a moment I’d enjoyed. I looked forward to every new stage and the foes that awaited there. I pushed myself to find every secret on every map. I thrilled at earning enough points to upgrade another weapon or unlock an additional spell. So, in asking myself which video games I’d enjoyed this year, it was hard to deny that Project Warlock had given me joy from start to finish.
|#4||Streets of Rage 4
Publisher: Dotemu ▪︎ Developer: Dotemu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games ▪︎ Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Despite it having come out in April—and despite plenty of people I know and trust telling me I needed to play it—I still hadn’t given Streets of Rage 4 a go as of two weeks ago. What took me so long? I think, in part, I was scared of what Streets of Rage 4 might be, given some of the absolutely awful attempts made over the years to craft a fourth chapter in Sega’s brawler series.
This time, however, Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games nailed it. This is classic Streets of Rage beat ‘em up satisfaction with some more modern twists and an utterly gorgeous new coat of paint. If you know nothing of the series it connects to, this is still a fun game either with friends or solo, but if you’re a Streets of Rage fan, this is about as good as we could have hoped for.
After Sonic Mania, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and now Streets of Rage 4, Sega’s older properties are finally being reimagined for a new era with care and consideration—and it’s a shocking, yet wonderful, thing to see.
|#3||Phantasy Star Online 2
Publisher: Sega ▪︎ Developer: Sega ▪︎ Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Nearly 20 years ago, Sega released Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast, a title that would open my eyes to the wonders of MMORPGs. A few years later, as the game was clinging to life via expansions on the GameCube and original Xbox, I wondered what the future might be for the series. Finally, after so-so side projects like Phantasy Star Universe and Phantasy Star Portable, Phantasy Star Online 2 launched in Japan in summer of 2012—and then would take eight years to finally come our way.
And you know what? It was worth it.
All of the years of hoping and begging and pleading and waiting washed away the first time I booted up the game’s early release on Xbox One, and it finally felt like I’d gone home again. Honestly, PSO2 could have been higher on this list had I had more time to devote to it since its release—but even with what I have played, there’s no doubt that the me from 17 years ago has finally had one of her dreams come true.
|#2||Ghost of Tsushima
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment ▪︎ Developer: Sucker Punch Productions ▪︎ Platforms: PS4
Ghost of Tsushima is one of those games that sneaks up on you and captures your attention in a way you were never expecting. Going into reviewing the game, I was honestly having mixed feelings, and just wasn’t sure I was looking forward to a Western studio’s open-world take on historic Japan. Not long into playing, however, I was totally sold. Protagonist Jin Sakai is one of my favorite original characters of the year, and his struggle between the ways of the samurai and the path of the ghost was far more compelling than I anticipated.
Just, please do me a favor, Sucker Punch and Sony: Don’t make a sequel to Ghost of Tsushima. It doesn’t need one.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment ▪︎ Developer: Bluepoint Games ▪︎ Platforms: PS5
There’s a certain amount of humor in the fact that, for two years in a row now, my favorite game of the year has been a remake of an older game. Last year, it was Capcom finally crafting a game that perfectly captured the spirit of its survival horror series in Resident Evil 2; this year, it’s Bluepoint finally giving FromSoftware’s legendary PlayStation 3 exclusive the chance to shine in the way it always deserved to.
Demon’s Souls on the PlayStation 5 is an utter treat for the eyes and the ears, but much more than that, it’s a chance to finally (or once again) appreciate just how groundbreaking and engrossing its original incarnation was. There are few other games I can think of that deserved a remake on this level as much as Demon’s Souls did, and boy did I love returning to the world of Boletaria again these 11 years later. It’s kinda like 2020 America, just a little more pleasant and cheery.
The “My Favorite Gaming Thing I Paid For in 2020” Award
Xbox Game Pass
Look, I know—we’re all sick to death of hearing about Xbox Game Pass at this point. The thing is, I’ve come to realize just how perfectly tailored it is to someone like me, as Game Pass has become a treasure trove for mid-tier games. I can now take a chance on titles like GreedFall, Dead by Daylight, Frostpunk, Pillars of Eternity, Remnant: From the Ashes, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, The Surge 2, SnowRunner, and many other releases that often get lost in the shuffle between big blockbusters and the latest hot indie titles.
Plus, it’s thanks to Game Pass that I finally got to play what became one of my favorite (but ineligible for my Top 5) games this year: No Man’s Sky.
The “I Love You, I Hate You” Award
Pac-Man Championship Edition NES version
When Bandai Namco announced that Namco Museum Archive Vol. 1 would include a fan-created NES demake of one of my favorite games of all time, Pac-Man Championship Edition, I was excited and intrigued. This 8-bit reworking of Toru Iwatani’s stunning reimagining of his classic arcade hit Pac-Man is far better than it has any right to be.
The NES version is close enough to the original Xbox 360 release that I really want to love it, but unfortunately, it’s just different enough to throw me off. Both the game’s timing and difficulty are slightly off, and there’s random moments when subtle changes can totally break my flow—like how, right at the beginning, two pellets had their positions shifted up just a hair. And, I know why they aren’t there, but not having online leaderboards makes chasing a high score feel somewhat hollow.
PlayStation 4 & Xbox One
Upon their release back in 2013, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One brought new video game experiences never before possible. They changed the face of gaming forever, and played host to a fantastic crop of video games that we’ll remember for years to come. As their successors are now taking the stage, I would just like to say, from the bottom of my heart: Shut the f up and get in the ground you useless pieces of garbage.
From your CPUs that were worthless the moment both of you launched, to your feeble attempts at 4K visuals and proper framerates, you were trash, your mid-gen updates were trash, and your successors humiliate you in every way possible. Well, okay, the DualShock 4 is still a better controller than the DualSense, but that’s a small price to pay in the end. If I never again play a game on either of you, it’ll be too soon.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.