2020 was not a pretty year for anyone, yada yada yada. Everybody’s year sucked and I’m here to inject positivity into it. Unfortunately, I was not overly productive, but I did play a lot of games, watch a lot of movies and TV shows, and listen to some awesome music. Unlike your typical top 10 list, this is just my top 10 things that I played/watched/read/saw. Not everything is new; a lot should definitely be expected. LET’S DO THIS.
Honorable Mention: Fatman
My list, my rules about how this runs.
So on record, I’m not out here trying to support potential anti-semite and general shady human Mel Gibson, but he played probably the best Santa Claus in one of the best christmas movies I’ve ever seen. Everybody in this movie is giving a great performance, from the characters with a single moment to the main stars. It’s also, almost hilariously, a commentary on American consumerism and selfishness, the military industrial complex, and the struggles of being a quality small-time operation in a world where the standards are getting lower and the requests are getting bigger. I never expected a Mel Gibson dark action comedy christmas film to criticize the United States government and military, but here we are. Super good.
Number 10: Capcom; the company
I’ve been a Capcom shill since I was shrieking into a laptop microphone on a 4:3 stream, but between 2017 and 2019, I kinda stepped back from their games. 2019 was the year I got back into their stuff with Devil May Cry and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, but 2020 was the year I played Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Mega Man 11 (well… some of it), and I returned to Devil May Cry 3 for the Switch Special Edition. Capcom dominated most of my free game time over the course of 2020, as I was constantly replaying and trying new things in the aforementioned titles. Capcom’s really on their A-game right now. Let’s see how long this lasts.
I did a full review of the RE2 Remake, check it out.
Number 9: Persona 4 Golden Got a Port
My close personal friends and associates have first hand experience with my 3AM “wen P4G switch” texts, and while that’s still not a reality, the game got ported to PC at least, with some additional benefits to boot. Obviously, there’s higher resolutions and an unlocked framerate, but they took the time to add in custom difficulties and controls that can really make the tougher fights and grindy dungeons even better. I made an insane “danger mode” difficulty for myself to play with, and in between the game crashing on my desktop and running poorly on my laptop I managed to enjoy it. It really feels like a one-of-a-kind experience, even with it technically being an HD port of a “remaster” of a PS2 game. Persona 4 Golden is, in my opinion, far better than Persona 5 and one of the best RPGs of the 2000s, so give it a run.
Number 8: PAX East 2020
It didn’t feel reckless at the time, but in the final days before the looming pandemic crashed down on the United States, I went to PAX East. It was my first con where I didn’t know anyone attending, and so I was left – in Roxas cosplay – to wander PAX completely freely, and it was incredible. I got to see so much, attend a few panels, get called out as Roxas (life goal right there), and even play the FF7R Mako Reactor demo, which practically made my weekend. Despite the covidity being right around the corner, I’ll always treasure memories like playing Chrono Trigger while laying on a beanbag and trying to play Shine Only Fox at a Smash 64 setup. It really was incredibly special, and I can only hope it’ll be safe to go back soon.
Number 7: Attack on Titan in 2020
Attack on Titan was kinda way beyond me in high school when I was a hardcore anime fan, since it was popular and I was being a contrarian. Eventually, I gave it a shot, and when I ran out of episodes, I switched over to the manga. Just like One Piece, it’s almost better to just read the manga and stay caught up, because over the course of 2020 Attack on Titan went on the wildest ride I’ve seen in a manga. It’s not bad, it’s great, but apparently it’s controversial, or it was initially. Reactions to the anime adaptation have been incredibly positive from what I can tell, and considering the manga ends in like two months, I can only wait with bated breath at how this story’s gonna conclude.
Number 6: The Fast and the Furious Franchise
So… I marathoned the first six Fast and Furious films in a weekend over the summer, and it hit me harder than a lot of more serious, thought provoking films ever have. In a world of cynicism, despair, and hatred for ourselves and others, these movies take a sledgehammer to all of it and just asks us to cherish our families, be they by blood or by choice, and to drive cool cars while doing it. And, for the record, I’m not a car person. I’m here for the feels. I cried a lot over the course of this marathon, but Fast Five did it to me the worst. That one in particular embodied a lot of these themes, and was a really great payoff for watching all of these movies. Salute mi familia.
Number 5: No More Heroes
No More Heroes is quite possibly the most abstract yet comprehensible gaming experience I’ve ever played. If you aren’t invested in it, it looks like little more than a low-budget hack and slash with touched up Wii graphics and a weak translation, but if you play it from start to finish yourself, you’ll find a deep, rich game masquerading as weak trash for a reason. Everything about No More Heroes feels like Suda51’s unfettered vision, and if you can handle it, you’ll find something incredible. I didn’t start No More Heroes 2 until the new year rolled around, but I can safely say it maintains some of the original flavor, inserts some good, and adds a whole lot of other stuff. I did write an essay about the original game and it’s connection to Pokemon, check it out here.
The game (and 2) are both on the Switch for cheap, and 3 is supposed to be coming out this year. There’s no better time to jump on the hype train.
Number 4: Final Fantasy VII Remake
This is a big one for me, my “Game of the Year”, being only number four on the list. As time has passed, I’ve found more quirks and annoying elements that didn’t really bug me when I played through it, and in general I’ve had little to no reason to return to the game post-credits due to the long load times and slow pacing of several segments. However, this is also probably the strongest we’ve seen a single-player Final Fantasy since… XII or X, depending on who you ask. It blends elements from the XIII trilogy, XV, and even older Final Fantasies like IV to create something that finally, finally, feels like a celebration of the legacy of one of the most iconic games of all time and one of the most famous franchises of all time, while still maintaining the key characteristics of the original game – especially the characters, which are by and large improved over any of their prior appearances. Divisive as some changes and story elements may be, I’m sticking to my guns and calling this my GOTY for 2020, and a completely worthy successor to VII’s legacy.
Number 3: My Nintendo DSi and DS Lites
Or, more specifically, Chrono Trigger and The World Ends With You.
I picked up a DSi early in the year, and later on two DS Lites which work… inconsistently, and between lucky finds around my hometown and at PAX East, I managed to get complete in-box copies of Chrono Trigger and The World Ends With You. I played other games on both consoles, for sure, but these two were my main time sinks and were some of the most powerful experiences I had over the course of this year. Chrono Trigger was, for the spring and summer, absolutely incredible, constantly trapping me in and having me go “okay, what’s next? I need to keep going.” Every scene and area is integral; nothing can be cut, and if we’re being honest, nothing should be. The entire product is masterfully crafted. It’s quickly become my favorite SNES RPG and SNES game in general, and is one of the strongest contenders – the closest a game has ever come to dethroning Xenoblade Chronicles – for my favorite game of all time.
The World Ends With You, on the other hand, is a much more personal experience: I was initially put off by Neku, and most of the characters really, but as I progressed and learned more about all of them and the story of TWEWY, I just got sucked in. I don’t think there’s a single character or line of dialogue I dislike in the entire experience, and this is Nomura style at it’s absolute peak. The character designs, art style, soundtrack, even gameplay all scream “We’re doing our own thing; and we can tune our frequencies to each other if you want, but you gotta vibe with it” By the end, I was so in love with it that I started to go back through the post-game content, because I wanted more of that flawless character development and awesome presentation. With any luck, NEO TWEWY will reach that height. Either way, both of these games are near flawless on the DS if you can find copies. Give them both a try if or when you get the chance.
Oh, and support NEO: TWEWY when it comes out this summer. Cult classics like TWEWY need dedicated support to see continuations like this.
Number 2: Clone High
This is another one I’ve written about more comprehensively, so I’m gonna keep this brief. I spent around a decade “aware” of this series and its reputation, and watching it felt like one of the most sublime, comedic, insane experiences I’ve ever had. For a show with jokes about radio signals in retainers, makeovers including bank heists, and literally eating glass, it hits emotional beats and poignant moments incredibly well. The art style is unique amongst adult animation, the writing is airtight, the soundtrack is nostalgic, it’s everything it needed to be… the perfect parody. I don’t know if the reported Season 2 or reboot could live up to the legacy of what we got, but I’ll be there day, date and time when it shows up. I just want it to be time to watch Clone High again.
I wrote a pretty extensive breakdown of how brilliant this series is, check it out.
Number 1: Xenoblade Chronicles, Definitive Edition
I feel like this is a copout. Xenoblade Chronicles is a decade old; the Definitive Edition isn’t very “new” in any way besides a polished art style, quality of life refinements, and an epilogue I still haven’t played. It’s still the same incredible experience I played back in 2014, just even better now. I’m actively working on a comprehensive review of the game, but it’s taking some time since it’ll probably be the longest thing I post on here, at least for a while. That being said, I can’t stop thinking about how I’m putting it here on the top of this list, when there’s so many brand new or redefined experiences on this list that are great, and newer than this was.
Conclusion: I Wrote a Thesis for My Top 10 List
I’m coming to terms with this list by thinking about what it represents: 2020. 2020. A year that’ll be remembered for a brush with a world war, a pandemic, a gender reveal wildfire, police brutality causing protests which police used as an excuse for more brutality, an election that didn’t end until it did, and worst of all for me, isolation. For a lot of people, including myself, this became a year to retreat into what’s comfortable and relive safe, familiar media and experiences. That being said, I wound up branching out into things I’d barely considered before, some of them not for years. I think that sentiment reflects 2020 as a whole; a desire to return to the familiar and safe, contrasted by a need to grow and change.
Or maybe I just discovered the coolest things of all time last year, I dunno. Here’s to 2021.