Finally, on January 2, 2021, I’ve finished writing about my favorite games of 2020. And once again, I wrote way too much for even a very patient person to read. So for the regular people who probably aren’t looking to dive into each of my longer-form pieces, here are my short, punchy summaries.

5. Hades

Hades has been one of the highest profile indie games this year, winning countless awards and topping a startling number of Game of the Year lists. On some level, it was almost too “mainstream” for my typically hipster-y list (I’m sorry, I’m just like this). But at some point, I realized two things. One, I utterly adored Hades and relished it for dozens of hours this year. Two, I saw it reaching so many of my friends who had never dreamed of picking up a roguelite action game. It has broad appeal, without compromising anything for it, and that makes it a really special.

For more details, read my full write-up.

4. Signs of the Sojourner

Signs of the Sojourner tells the story of a caravaneer travelling between rural towns and buying and selling various goods. It uses a clever deck-building mechanic to represent the conversations that the protagonist has with various travellers, salespeople, and residents along the way. The card-game-as-conversation-metaphor approach is deeply endearing, and manages to sell characters and interactions in a way I’ve rarely seen from normal video game dialogue. Though it’s short to play through, and a little repetitive to replay, it’s a truly unique game that I’m excited to return to every so often.

For more details, read my full write-up.

3. Blaseball

What exactly is Blaseball? Well… good question. It’s a lot of things. On the surface, it’s a simulated sports game with some absurd cosmic horror twists. But beneath its collection of names, stats, and bizarre status and weather conditions is a vibrant fan community. Fans are building thrilling and tragic lore in between the numbers. They’re telling the same sorts of stories that make real athletes and real sports so compelling. Blaseball‘s fandom has produced boatloads of fan art, a detailed wiki, entire albums of fan music, and much much more. And those things, truly, are at the heart of Blaseball. It may not be something you can just go “play”, but the lore is out there to explore and a new season will start up sometime this year.

For more details, read my full write-up.

2. Paradise Killer

Paradise Killer is a mystery adventure game about a surreal extradimensional island and the eternal beings that operate it in pursuit of resurrecting dead alien gods. It’s profoundly committed to its vaporwave aesthetic and absurd characters, full of fantastic writing and wrapped in one of the coolest open-world spaces I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to explain what’s so great about it without going into much more detail, but if investigating murders on a bizarre paranormal vaporwave island sounds rad, then this game is extremely for you. And even if it doesn’t, at least watch a trailer and see if it changes your mind.

For more details, read my full write-up.

1. Umurangi Generation

Umurangi Generation is one of these games that shifted my understanding of how video games can and should operate. Using photography as its central mechanic, it conveys a brutal and miserable world with expertly placed environmental detail and stellar art direction. People play this game and say “we need more photography games”. Not only do I agree with that wholeheartedly, but it also belies something more. Umurangi Generation is a game about art and making art, and what it means to make art, especially when the world is falling apart. It doesn’t require that you be an artist, only that you look closely at the world around you and try to capture what it’s saying.

For more details, read my full write-up.

Thanks for reading! I write this blog as a personal exercise, to hone my writing and critical thinking skills and to discuss games that I don’t always get to talk about. But I also hope that these write-ups could possibly help someone find a game that surprises and amazes them. If that ever happens with you, let me know! Happy new year!