52 Games In 2020

1. Gears of War
Back in 2006 I remember casually stumbling upon the first entry into the Gears of War series and it would serve as a defining moment in my gaming life. Almost never has a game so quickly absorbed me in the art work, storyline and game mechanics of what I consider to be a near masterpiece. The third person view with no jumping ability at first sight might seem clunky and limiting, but the cover mechanic in it's place would in some way revolutionize this genre and serve as a blueprint for years to come (i.e. The Division). Booting this back in 2020, there was some immediate nostalgia in revisiting the lives of Marcus, Dom, Cole and Baird and the sense of fraternal brotherhood these characters brought us. This was incredible to play the first time and an absolute joy to revisit more than a decade later. A game and series that has truly stood the test of time.
RATING: 4.5/5

2. Gears of War 2
Coming off an incredible opener for the series comes Gears of War 2, and in my opinion suprasses it in quality. Gears of War 2 looks and feels like a more polished Gears of War (as one would expect) and it also loses nothing in terms of it's storytelling and the mood it puts you in. Dom finally finding Maria might be the most heartbreaking moment I've seen on a screen period. Like the first, the fighting can get somewhat reptitive, but the unique combat mechanics more than make up from it. This is another game that I had previously beaten, perhaps more than once, but it makes me even more excited to play some of the later installments in the Gears series which will be brand new.

3. Enter the Gungeon
Strong statement - but this is probably my favorite game of all time. The combination of unique, difficult gameplay, the rogue lite experience, and the beautiful pixel art along with it's infinite replayability has this game currently atop my list. I bought this game when it was first released in 2016 and in 2020 I am still averaging 1-2 runs a night. A run at this point takes 45 minutes to 1 hour and every time presents a unique and fun challenge. Two free DLCs, including the massive Farewell to Arms, would provide new mechanics and synergies that will keep this game forever relevant in my eyes. Sadly, the current state of the game will be it's state for the rest of time...but it's state is fantastic! Devolver Digital is an incredible publisher and I'll always check out whatever game they release

4. Binding of Isaac
Before Enter the Gungeon, there was the Binding of Isaac. Although the latter has taken over as my favorite rogue lite dungeon crawler (and my favorite game of all time) the Binding of Isaac is right up there. The weird, intepretative story with biblical undertones creates a dark yet light setting with the basic premise being Isaac's mom trying to murder him, mixed with items that fills the whole room with poop. Many DLCs and updates have been added culminating in Afterbirth+ which is an incredibly expansive and complete BoI experience. One major difference and shortcoming of BoI when compared to Enter the Gungeon is that the success of any given run is largely determined on the RNG of what items populate. This is also true of EtG to some extent, but it seems to have a much better balance in terms of RNG and skill. Regardless, this is a fantastic game and will be in my rotation some way or the other for years to come.

5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty campaigns are always an enjoyable, short, linear experience and the remake of Modern Warfare is no exception. The storytelling and graphics are top tier and what you would expect from a modern day AAA game, with the game play and gun mechanics itself being solid albeit a bit repetitive. The stand out levels I found were usually close quarters combat with interesting scenery such as protecting the embassy and the stealth, rogue like missions where our characters were hunting down the main antagonist. The characters themselves were a bit bland but engaging enough for me to be interested in the story line throughout the entire play through. There is no question that Warzone and Multiplayer are the stand out modes and the true core of this remake, but the campaign servers as a fun little experience and a good way to get accustomed to some of the CoD mechanics before venturing out into the other modes.
RATING: 3.5/5

6. Wizard of Legend
Ah, a new rogue lite. This hidden gem was recommended to me by a friend a year or so ago and after struggling to make it past the first room of the first level it wasn't a challenge I felt like taking on at the time. After playing hours of Enter the Gungeon and Binding of Isaac, I felt like Wizard of Legend was a game that needed another chance, and I'm so happy I gave it one. This rogue lite masterpiece is like EtG on speed and offers the same mental journey from thinking you'll never, ever complete a run to it being rare to fail a run. The seemingly unlimited amount of Artifacts and Arcana offer a new experience every run much like it's two aforementioned predecessors. The general gameplay and especially boss fights require lightning quick reflexes along with understanding and predicting enemy patterns. Everyone in the community seems to have a different favorite build, which demonstrates the depth and careful balancing by the developers to make most every loadout a viable option. A game that I am so happy and proud to add to the list, and one that I will continue to play for the forseeable future.

7. Destiny 2
Destiny, destiny. My first real mistress. The amount of hours I sunk into the first game is...countless, but I loved every minute of it. Destiny will forever be known for some of the smoothest gun play and FPS mechanics in the industry and being able to combine that with an incredibly in depth MMORPG. Destiny 2 is a game I picked up the day it came out and barely put it down until I had finished all the content. This, however, was a bit of a double edged sword as it was also the reason I put it down so quickly. I had gone through all the campaign, quest, mini quest, side quest, and end game content so quickly that it felt a little unfulfilling. However, fast forward 2 years later without playing much since then and there is now an almost insurmountable amount of content to be played and dozens of new exotics to be acquired. I went and beat the base game again and have now being going through all the expansions and have been enjoying myself immensely. One valid criticism is that the combat scenarios get relatively repetative, but with the amount of diverse builds and exotic combinations, along with some of the most beautifully unique settings in all of gaming, it's a repetitive exercise that is incredibly satisfying. Another problem is the lack of ways Bungie has allowed us to experience arguably the best content of Destiny 2 - the raids. Raiding in the original Destiny will forever be some of my favorite video game memories, but the prospect of learning all the mechanics in these new raids and, more importantly, organizing a friendly and non-toxic 6 man firesquad seems too much. That being said, it speaks to how fun and accessible all the other activities are that the game is still worth playing while missing out on some of the best content. It seems as though Destiny 2 might be it in terms of the series but it seems as if the developers are committed in continuing to release new content and keeping the game alive. I'll be along for the ride.
RATING: 4.5/5

8. Cuphead
What a game. In the same way you inexplicably putting off watching a great TV Series that every single person says is a must see, I did the same with Cuphead. Knowing that it ticked literally all my boxes for a game I was destined to play (hard platforming, retro graphics, fantastic music) it was as if I was putting it off just so I wouldn't have to finish it. But am I ever glad I forced myself to sit down and go through this masterpiece. Every beautifully hand drawn boss fight or mini platforming level is an unforgettable experience and challenge that left me wanting more and more. I've heard this labeled as the "Dark Souls of platforming" and although it is a relatively difficult game, I wouldn't say it quite compares to some of the tougher entries you can find under the "Kaizo" section of this website. Regardless, grinding out boss after boss is exactly my type of game and I can only pray a Cuphead 2 is in the works. Although the game only took a few sessions to beat, the prospect of trying ot S Rank every level is both daunting and exciting. Amazing stuff.
RATING: 4.5/5

9. Cosmic Star Heroine
One of my favorite childhood games of all time that still holds up, like many, is Chorno Trigger. Any game that is inspired from it or looks like it will likely get a playthrough for that fact alone. Enter Cosmic Star Heroine - a charging JRPG that clearly is attempting to cature some of the magic from that SNES classic game. We take the role of rogue agents from a secret government agency gone corrupt with the goal of obtaining a mind controlling device to enslave humanity. The premise isn't all that bad, but the how the actual storyline and dialogue play out isn't all that great. The great pixel art style is marred a bit with the often strange and awkward interactions between the characters which seems to be attributed to lazy writing. The game scores high, however, on the aforementioned art style and also the rather unique combat system which requires the character to really plan out there next couple of moves to align buffs for devastating amounts of damage. There are around a dozen characters and each with a plethora of unique abilities which allows infinite combat styles and strategies. Enemies don't spawn randomly but rather are set, which in my view takes away a bit from the open world experience and creates a more linear game. All that said, this was at worst playable and at best a not-so-bad attempt to pay homage to one of the GOATs.

10. Expendabros
Having played Broforce a number of years ago and enjoying it immensely, I decided to try this free to play, stand alone DLC which was released with the intent of promoting the Expendables movie that was coming out later that year. Although I haven't seen the Expendables, I'm fairly certain that each "Bro" represented a main character from the film with their main weapon, abilities and art style. Expendabros and Broforce are both 2D platformers carrying a unique style where every "Bro" you save on your journey transforms you into a random "Bro" that use until you die or save another "Bro". Levels are quick, short, and a lot of side scrolling mayhem and fun. The rating I gave it is rather high because it was meant to be nothing more than a fun, free and short add on and it delivered.

11. Hollow Knight
Um. Wow. Just wow. Few games can constantly take your breath away through a 20 hour playthrough, but this is one of them. This 2D platforming metroidvania is an absolute masterpiece and shows exactly why indie games are so popular and just so damn good. Every area has awe inspiring artistry where the background, foregrounds, music and enemies are interwoven in a stunning display. The combat is outstanding, with the movement itself of our knight feeling particularly great. The new abilities you're constantly getting are acquired in a methodical way which allows you to slowly become comfortable with your new powers and master them. Bosses are hard, but fair, and like any other good 2D platformer requires you to memorize patterns, look for cues, and become familiar with their unique mechanics. A huge bonus for a Kaizo player like me are there amount of Kaizo-like areas which often requires precise platforming and intelligent use of the knight's abilities. The story itself is a bit confusing but I have been assured that a deep dive into the lore would connect everything you experience and present this sad yet beautiful world. The only complaint I had while playing through was getting lost and feeling directionless in the immense world. This was just modern day gamer frustration though, as the mark of any great metroidvania is having no idea what to do and stumbling around until you find something. Although I saw the credits, this is definitely a game I will be revisiting to explore all the post game content and lore. Can't wait for the next game that comes out of this team.
RATING: 5.5/5

12. UnderMine
I feel like I'm being a bit unfair with this rating, but the overall ratings have been so high in the first portion of this list I need to raise expectations a bit. UnderMine is a perfectly serviceable top down roguelite but lacking some of the immeasurable qualities of some others of the genre mentioned in this year's list. The combat gets a bit repetitive, as the player is limited to either swinging or throwing a pick axe without all that much variation. The potions and items are a bit on the 'meh' side as I was yet to discover some of those pattented fun or broken combos during my runs that are inherit to the genre. The progression system is similar to Rogue Legacy where every subsequent run is made easier by the gold accumulated by previous runs. This was a fun and unique mechanic but it also drew a fuzzy line of whether to really try and win runs or just to farm gold, die, and upgrade quickly. If it feel like I'm being overtly negative, it's only because of the insanely high standard set in this genre by the likes of BoI, EtG, and WoL. The story was fun, the art is great, the music is solid and I'm sure there's a deep lore to be discovered if the player did some digging. It's important to note that I have heard there is a rich and fulfilling end game that I simply didn't feel motivated to grind considering how many games left I have to beat in 2020. However, if it was a game like EtG for example, I would have no choice but to grind out every single aspect of it because I would love it so much. Overall, super solid top down roguelite whose score is hurt only due to the next level competition in the roguelite genre.
RATING: 3.5/5

13. Gato Roboto
After seeing this curious cat-like character appear in the Fall Guys shop, I had heard that it was the playable character in a fun, short and cute metroidvania called Gato Roboto - so I decided to give it a try. Much like the previous entry, UnderMine, I feel as if I'm being a bit unfair with this rating because this was a really enjoyable experience. Gato Roboto is a 2D metroidvania platformer that has all the essentials one could expect from the genre. Playing as a cat in a mech suit, the mission is to traverse a malfunctioning space station and solve the myster of what happened there. Searching every corner will grant our protagonist more health and new abilities as one would expect. The game itself is quite easy in a genre mired with difficulty, as I only died a handful of times if that on my first playthrough. The black and white pixel art style is definitely up my alley as this proves that a minimalist art design works as long as the gameplay is solid. Although the length of the game worked really well for the challenge, I think it hurt it's overall score as it feels like just when you get fully upgraded and feel powerful the game is over. Having said that, great little game that I suspect would be VERY speedrunner friendly. I'll play pretty much anything by Devolver at this point as they always seem to deliver.
RATING: 3.5/5

14. Katana Zero
Whoa. This came outta nowhere. Katana Zero is a 2D platformer that plays out like a really good movie. The protagonist is some sort of contract killer with vague to little memory of his past or how he acquired his abilities. The unique gameplay has the player complete levels section by section with an interesting mechanic which allows the pausing and slowing down of time to execute difficult inputs in clearing said sections. The relatively simple means of attack which include slicing enemies with our katana and throwing miscellaneous items that are picked up works well and is challenging yet satisfying. The game could serve well with only this core gameplay, but it is the art style and the story which really make this game special. Between missions are these elaborate, interactive cut scenes which tell the tale of an abused, confused warrior as he develops a relationship and becomes protective of his young next door neighbour. The game has dark undertones of violence and drug abuse throughout ending in a harrowing twist. Another indie home run from Devolver. This team can do no wrong.
RATING: 4.5/5