As recently as 2016, Blizzard still had some of its old magic. Using its familiar mix of accessible gameplay and memorable characters, it was able to turn Overwatch into a full-blown sensation. The same recipe worked with great effect on the RTS, MMO, and CCG genres, propelling it to undreamed of success. Now Supergiant Games is doing the same with Hades, USgamer's Game of the Month for September 2020.
Hades has all the ingredients: satisfying combat that continuously reveals new depths as you play, whip smart dialog, and of course, a huge number of very hot gods. It finds new and interesting ways to refine what was already a very strong genre, with a strong story being among its biggest additions. It says something that Hades is overshadowing even the long-awaited Spelunky 2, whose predecessor has been a roguelite darling for close to a decade (it certainly helps that Hades is on Switch, which has become the genre's de facto home).
Of course, Hades has been with us for close to two years now, having been available through Early Access since late 2018. I had mostly avoided it because I had decided the genre wasn't for me. It was too intense, too repetitive. But this past weekend I basically sat glued to my computer, inching closer and closer to taking out Hades. Then, finally, on my 31st attempt, I got him with a fairly nasty spear build, whereupon I was finally rewarded with a lovely ending.
Except, I wasn't finished; not by a longshot. The beautiful thing about Hades is that wrapping up a run isn't the end, but rather more of a beginning. Hades has a way of constantly refreshing itself, layering in surprises that go well beyond simple randomization. In that sense, every run truly is unique, and that goes for the postgame as well. (I genuinely laughed when Zagreus muttered "Please be Meg" during one of my runs).
This magic puts Hades at the top of September's proverbial Olympus, standing tall above even the wonderful Tony Hawk's Pro Skate 1 + 2 remake. Spelunky 2 and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim were other standouts, as was the underrated indie Star Renegades (yet another roguelite). It wasn't a huge month for releases, ultimately, but there was still plenty of quality.
Hades was the best of the bunch, though, capturing the hearts of basically the entire USgamer staff—a rarity given the team's diverse array of interests. Supergiant may not be Blizzard's heir apparent, but Hades nevertheless feels like its in the same bloodline of games like Diablo 2 and World of Warcraft, all of them elevating their respective genres with a sharp wit and even sharper gameplay. I can't think of a higher compliment for what will surely be remembered among 2020's best games.