As a writer and editor in the world of video games media, I naturally play a lot of games. Since shelter-in-place began in late February, that's only amplified. Now that we've all been robbed of seeing friends and family for the majority of this year—thanks to a horrible pandemic and people not taking it seriously and thus, making it worse—I'm here with an even more cluttered spreadsheet.
It's autumn now, but one might not know it judging from the heat waves still sweeping the Bay Area and the fires destroying my home state of California. When I think of autumn, I think of my Halloween plans; I think of my upcoming birthday. I think of being able to break out jackets instead of just light sweaters. Last year for Thanksgiving, I visited family out of state. This year, that's obviously not happening again. Instead, I will spend the many evenings and days indoors. Playing games.
Completing the latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare battle pass on Sunday evening, I wondered what other games I've wasted time with this year. There are the "work" games, of course, but there's also all the smaller stuff. If I didn't have evening dates with my friends every night playing the military shooter, would this list be even longer? Probably. That said, I figured it'd be a fun exercise to cast aside everything I played in the "Before Times"—y'know, that Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC, the fantastic final act of Kentucky Route Zero, and so on—and catalogue only what I've played while hunkered down indoors.
So here it goes. Here's every game I've played while staying in my stuffy apartment for months on end.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
I borrowed Jedi: Fallen Order from a friend in early February. I haven't seen him since, so the poor lad has not gotten it back. I did not finish Jedi: Fallen Order, because I did not like the combat; it's buggy, and I found it supremely boring. Hopefully Squadrons fares better. Poor Kat is betting her life on it.
According to my ongoing "Games Played in 2020" spreadsheet, I picked Dead Cells back up again in February. The timing makes sense, considering it's also the last work trip I went on. In mid-February, I went to DICE 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago. Dead Cells has been my go-to travel game for a while, so chances are, I got back into it while en route to Las Vegas. I've jumped back into it time and time again ever since throughout quarantine.
Split or Steal
Do you remember when this game was the new hotness on Steam? Me neither.
Song of Bloom
Philipp Stollenmayer is one of the most innovative developers working in mobile. Song of Bloom is no exception either. Intricate puzzles led by an ever-changing art style, what I remember most about playing Song of Bloom is how it comes to possess every corner of my phone, from its gyroscopic movement to volume buttons. Stollenmayer's games take advantage of mobile as not just a platform, but a controller itself, and for that, Song of Bloom is a standout mobile game this year.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Here it is: One of the biggies. I was lucky enough to land the review of the latest Animal Crossing, so naturally, I barely talked about the game itself at all in my review and instead whined about how much I missed my favorite villager. That said, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is easily my second-most played game of the year behind Call of Duty. According to my Nintendo Switch profile, I've amassed "more" than 500 hours in it.
For months on end I played Animal Crossing, but then I suddenly stopped this summer. This week, I've picked it back up again, because Sept. 30 marks the start of the big new Halloween event. Over the weekend, I began prepping my pumpkin patch. My villagers were shocked at my return—I'd been away a month! And they did not shy away from reminding me of the fact. But I pulled all those nasty weeds, participated in the latest Bug Off, and moved a house, so like John Wick might say, "Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back."
Disaster Report 4
Perhaps not the optimal game to play near the start of a pandemic, I was very much looking forward to the newest Disaster Report 4 game when I was assigned it for review. I always heard good things about the studio's spinoff of the series that never came West, in which Ultraman, Godzilla, and Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion duke it out. Sadly, Disaster Report 4 is pretty awful.
Resident Evil 3
The last video game event I ever attended before San Francisco went on lockdown was for Resident Evil 3, believe it or not. It was an unshowy event-held at Capcom's offices here in San Francisco, serving up literal "Jill" sandwiches. I was high on the game then, and even now, I look back on my romp through the review build of Resident Evil 3 fondly. It's not as good as Resident Evil 2, but it's still plenty fun. That said, I completely forgot it came out this year until looking at my spreadsheet.
Call of Duty: Warzone
I've told this story before, but way back last year when I interviewed some of the lead devs behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, I asked about the potential for a battle royale in the game's future. It had large-scale battles in its then-new Ground War mode, after all. They instead flipped the question on me, asking how I would feel about a battle royale. I said I wasn't favorable to it, considering how lackluster Black Ops 4's flirtation with the genre was.
Then Warzone released this year, and it roped me back into not just its battle royale, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare too. My circle of best friends, enticed by Warzone's free-to-play standalone nature, all jumped in as well. Soon enough, our evenings were filled with in-game chats as we dove headfirst into Verdansk—or had a bigger party than four, and just cycled through Team Deathmatch (once they all got the whole game proper on sale).
Call of Duty: Warzone has defined my quarantine gaming time. It, coupled with Modern Warfare's standard multiplayer, are easily what I've played the most. If there was an easy-to-track hour count, I'm sure it would terrify me—just as Animal Crossing: New Horizons' 500+ count has.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Wow, what a delightful surprise this was! I expected the worst from Final Fantasy 7 Remake, knowing it was only set in Midgar. However, the liberties Square Enix took with Final Fantasy 7 for the remake actually dazzled me. It makes some bold moves, to be clear, and the execution of the ending in particular remains pretty sloppy; that all said, I'm excited to see what's next for this rendition of Final Fantasy 7. I hope it continues being linear, similar to Final Fantasy 13, and I hope the combat remains just as good. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is one of my favorite games of the year so far, and I doubt it can be knocked from my top five.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Mega Mix
I reviewed Miku's Nintendo Switch outing earlier this year, and honestly have no recollection of it. I'm a longtime fan of the series. The arcade port Future Tone on PS4 is my most-played, while the Vita gem F 2nd is the best in the series. Mega Mix is quite good too, and if you're itching for some rhythm game goodness, you won't find better than any of Sega's Hatsune Miku games.
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
Reviewing Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition was a grueling experience. Weirdly, I still had a great time with it. I definitely don't recommend binging it over a couple weeks as I had to, and instead taking your time with Shulk's journey. It's a story full of drama, twists, and humor, and great characters. I enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition so much that eventually I stopped loathing its MMO-like battle system, and even forgave its bland epilogue, which is new for the Switch release. If you're a JRPG fan at all, you owe it to yourself to play this remaster of Xenoblade Chronicles. Just ignore the existence of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Trust me. It's Reyn time, baby.
Umurangi Generation is a photography game set in a "shitty future," as the logline reads. The grunginess of it is immediately alluring, as you position your camera and use lenses to line up the perfect shots. It's more fun to toy around with Umurangi's photography than it is any triple-A game's photo mode. Soon, Umurangi Generation is getting new DLC too, which includes a new area. When I'm not on the clock at USgamer, I'm co-hosting the podcast Bad End with a couple of friends, and Umurangi Generation is collectively one of our favorite games of the year so far, and fueled many a-conversation earlier this summer.
The Last of Us Remastered
Ahead of The Last of Us Part 2, I decided to jog my memory in replaying the original. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it holds up. Joel and Ellie's journey across America remains a harrowing one, and its seasonal pacing really can't be beat. One thing I will say about it that hasn't held up: Its stealth-action is not great. What remains great is that ending though. Whew. What an ending. (I don't think it needed a sequel.)
The Last of Us Part 2
But a sequel it sure got. It wasn't bad either! Its action and horror is better in almost every way, but it suffers from botched, redundant-feeling pacing. If it were perhaps structured differently, it could have even been a more impactful game in my eyes. By the end of The Last of Us Part 2, I felt just like its main characters—exhausted, emaciated, wanting for it all to be over. And then it ended. I didn't not like the experience, and found moments of The Last of Us Part 2 quite affecting at that, but it pales in comparison to what came before it.
Ninjala is one of those games that I wish I liked more. It has a lot of personality, and its core action is a lot of fun. Sure, it has a lot in common with Splatoon, but it's not a full-blown Splatoon clone. But at launch, it was just too thin. It's been bulking up since its release, though I admittedly haven't been drawn to jump back in.
Ghost of Tsushima
I never finished Ghost of Tsushima, but I played quite a bit of it. I explored every corner of the first region, completing every question mark that popped up on the map and taking lots of screenshots using its spectacular photo mode. When it came to Act 2, wherein I entered a new region and was set with pretty much the same "rally some allies" task again, I eventually lost interest. For a time though, exploring Tsushima was beautiful. It was nice to play a big budget triple-A game that didn't see "color" as just neon pinks and yellows.
I may have qualms with its useless stance system—more a nuisance than something that actually changed up gameplay—but nonetheless I had a solid time with Ghost of Tsushima. It was especially nice as a palette cleanser post-the doom and gloom of The Last of Us Part 2.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
After playing Ghost of Tsushima, I found myself itching to get back into Sekiro. So I did. I still haven't beat it, but it's still captured my attention more than any other FromSoftware game. Perhaps because it's a game that really rewards dedication and patience like none before it, while retaining a fast action-pace, so that it doesn't feel like a slog. I can see Sekiro occupying a void like The Witcher 3 did for a few years—where repeatedly, I'll revisit it, make some progress, and then move onto another game. Perhaps in three years, I'll have rolled credits on it. You never know!
George Batchelor is another excellent mobile game developer that I've loved following over the years. Batchelor's latest, which is in collaboration with a flurry of other developers, is easily his best yet. A game designed to be played for a little bit everyday, in Bird Alone, you name and befriend a lonely sweet parrot. The writing always made me chuckle, and for the few weeks that I kept up with it, Bird Alone was a nice routine respite from the monotony of self-isolation. Best of all, it made me feel a little less lonely. Thanks, Bird Alone.
When I got the email that a Necrobarista code was coming in, I was caught off guard. It didn't even have a release date set yet. I played the visual novel, and loved it. It may have a sense of humor, but it's also quite heavy—so if you're going to jump into the anime inspired Australian-purgatory adventure, bring some tissues.
Ooblets entered early access via Epic Games Store this summer. I haven't checked in with it since those beautiful first few weeks it was out, but I really enjoyed how in-depth its farming and Pokemon-like Ooblets gathering gelled. Ooblets promised a big concept, and in my eyes, delivered on it. Even with its grating overly-cutesy jargon, Ooblets is one of those games that I'll be keeping a close eye on throughout its early access development.
The aptly named Trackmania is the best Trackmania game in years. It's only held back by its truly awful UI, honestly. I haven't played as much Trackmania as I would like, but I'm hoping one day to get back into seeing whatever wild maps players have made.
A Short Hike
I played A Short Hike last year, but this summer when it came to Switch, I couldn't resist. A Short Hike is a lovely, succinct experience about hiking up a mountain—and helping out others along the way. It's a game that just feels good to play, from its Animal Crossing-like fishing to gliding around the mountain, like Link in Breath of the Wild. The Switch version even introduces a new boat, so you can drift around the map if you'd like as well. A Short Hike's ending still hits quite close to home, as the cliche goes, but it's a can't-miss game in my eyes. In retrospect, it should have been on my top 10 last year. Oops.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
A lot of you are probably playing 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim this particular moment. It's the latest (and greatest) from Vanillaware, and it lives up to the studio's high pedigree. The art is beautiful, but most importantly, the storytelling has matured to an unfathomable degree. Delivering a time-traveling tale filled with intrigue, drama, and romance, 13 Sentinels is an adventure game smashed with real-time strategy that's become a strong surprise competitor in the game of the year race.
Fast and Furious Crossroads
This was around where I started to question life choices, like playing this game.
Moon was finally localized! And it's great! The PlayStation classic hit Switch this summer, and it's an obtuse "anti-RPG" that's definitely been worth the wait. Unfortunately, other games have distracted me since its launch, so I haven't got around to finishing it yet, but I fully plan to. One day.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2
September is the month where I feel like I started to lose it. This viral clip from The Eric Andre Show is perhaps indicative of how I've felt all month: playing a lot of Tony Hawk while wanting to yell and scream and smash shit.
The point is: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 is very, very good. It's perhaps even game of the year for me. It's a pitch perfect remake of the originals, and then some. It even got me into Machine Gun Kelly's pop-rock. Who woulda thought he'd make good music one day? Not me.
A Monster's Expedition
I checked out A Monster's Expedition because of social media buzz. It first caught my eye when my colleague Nadia Oxford previewed it in June. The two genres associated with it—open-world and puzzles—interested me immediately. Luckily, the combo is a winning one. A Monster's Expedition is a freeing game in turn; whenever I'm stuck on a puzzle, I just turn around and venture elsewhere to solve something else. I wish all puzzle games were so forgiving.
Among Us, originally released in 2018, has become a smash hit as of late. There's two easy things to point to for its sudden success. One is streamers playing it, and two is its sheer affordability factor. It costs less than a White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks, for chrissake! Plus, it's free-to-play on mobile. I've been playing Among Us here and there on mobile with friends. We hop on a Facetime chat, and jump into a match. It's not the greatest deception game I've ever played, but it's fun enough.
And that leaves me with Hades, the game that's been dominating my game time as of late. Hades is a lot of fun, with over-the-top voice acting, stunning character illustrations, a delectably fun progression track. It's a roguelite that boasts more than just character, but an engaging story too. It's Supergiant's best game yet. While I haven't closed in on finishing a run yet—hey, I had to grind out the rest of that last Call of Duty battle pass—I know it's going to replace Dead Cells as my go-to roguelite. Sorry Dead Cells.
So that's that. An absurdly long list of all the games I've played while longingly staring out my window; hand-washing face masks, and texting my ever-active Group Chat. What games have you played during self-isolation? Let us know in the comments! And as always: stay safe. Wear a mask. Don't be a dum-dum.