2020 was quite a year, in more ways than one! While we’ve faced a ton of hardships, most of us got through it by doing the things we loved. A bunch of games came out , and as a game reviewer in his spare time, I enjoyed quite a few! I have eccentric tastes when it comes to my gaming preferences, and as such, this list is different. To celebrate the end of 2020, I picked five games that I choose as my games of the year. Other than one mainstream exception, I think these titles deserve more love. You should definitely pick them up if you haven’t already!
Mad Rat Dead
Nippon Ichi’s created some wacky titles, and Mad Rat Dead is no different. After a fatal operation renders him dead, the titular Mad Rat gets revived by a rat goddess. She tells him that he can relive the past day, but will die again at the end of it. Before he does that, Mad Rat wants to exact revenge on the scientist that killed him. With the time limit and goal established, he teams up with his now-sentient Heart in order to traverse the world.
Functioning like an action-platformer version of Crypt of the Necrodancer, you need to time your actions to the beat of the song. The bottom of your screen helpfully shows this information. While it does take a little getting used to, once you get into the groove of things, you can chain together countless combos and dodge enemy contact. The art style is cartoony yet masks a bit of violence. (I think is great considering what happens later in the story.)
Probably the best part of the game lies in its music, which is a jazzy electronic mix of killer tunes. Sadly, the limited edition of the game which includes the soundtrack is sold out. That said, you can check out some of the music online. There’s also a free demo of the game available digitally on PS4 and Switch. This gives a good chunk of what to expect, with the first chapter available.
Out of the games I’ve considered my favorite this year, Buried Stars literally came out of nowhere for me. I’m lucky I reached out to the developers for a review copy of it, because this is perhaps one of the best visual novels in recent times. The game depicts a Korean reality show where a group of five contestants are going to be eliminated to three in the finals. Right before the announcement of the results,, a stage cave-in traps the main cast, and an ominous presence threatens to leak everyone’s darkest secrets.
As contestant Do-Yoon Han, you have to make sure the stars of the titular reality show make it out alive. Unfortunately, there’s people out there that want to make a character assassination out of the competition, figuratively and literally.
While it has conventional visual novel mechanics, there are communication segments where you can converse with the other members. By bringing up different codewords and discussion topics, you can unveil new information about the situation. This also reveals some personal information about the other contestants too. You can’t talk about everything, as you also have a Rapport gauge to worry about. Supporting a character or bringing up dicey topics will affect their perception of you. It’s a simple yet effective way to bring the techno-thriller thriller themes of game to light.
Touhou Spell Bubble
My only real exposures to the Touhou franchise are the memes and the music. Not bad, since these things are dang near everywhere in the Japanese rhythm game scene. I love playing Puzzle Bobble/Bust a Move casually, so Touhou Spell Bubble is a match made in bullet hell… erm, heaven. Less shoot-em-up and more puzzle/music crossover, Touhou Spell Bubble is basically Puzzle Bobble, but with a Touhou skin and a music mechanic that changes the main game significantly. It’s a fairly simple addition, but it refreshes the tried-and-true Puzzle Bobble gameplay and makes for an innovative experience.
It helps that the game cranks it into overdrive with the Touhou references. While you can enjoy this game as a standalone title, Touhou Spell Bubble works best with those familiar with the franchise, as there are tons of characters to choose from with different abilities depending on which Spell Card you have equipped. The music selection is top-notch as well, and if you’ve listened to any of the tracks through other rhythm games, you’ll feel right at home here.
This is my exception to “these games need more love!” rule, mainly because Astro’s Playroom is a freebie with every PlayStation 5 right now. While it’s a free pack-in, it’s probably the console’s best exclusive next to Demon’s Souls, and I know that’s a very narrow superlative! A follow-up to the VR title Astro Bot Rescue Mission and also a tech demo for the new DualSense controller, you’ll control Astro as he explores the ins and outs of the PlayStation 5 with four levels that represent different facets of the console. Trust me, when the game starts talking about how “I’m your GPU” while you’re exploring a jungle-themed level, it’s quite adorable.
I didn’t realize how imperative a good controller is to enjoy a console, but with Astro’s Playroom, I’ve fallen in love with the PlayStation 5’s upgraded controller. This game makes excellent use of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, as you can feel the ice of a cooling levels as Astro pitter-patters around the area. The trigger buttons have a bit of resistance when piloting various machines in some levels. Alternatively, the game implements gyro motion controls to an excellent degree. Take that, PS3’s Lair!
What’s unexpected about Astro’s Playroom is how it includes tons of video game fanservice from Sony’s tenured history. Everything from the initial 1994 tech demo to obscure PlayStation franchises like Vib Ribbon are here! The developers have captured the essence of the PlayStation brand, and I think it’s wonderful. The only issue I have with the game is that it’s short. However, considering the game is free, it’s a negligible flaw. If you managed to get a PlayStation 5, you already have one of my favorite games of this year; play it if you haven’t already!
Super Bomberman R Online
Lastly, a game from a platform that’s not even a physical platform! I was ecstatic to hear Bomberman return in 2017 with Super Bomberman R because of the unexpectedness of the announcement. Imagine my shock in 2020 when the game would get a battle royale mode, exclusive to Google Stadia. The original console game featured 8-player multiplayer thanks to the Switch’s capability to do that. Super Bomberman R Online, on the other hand, gets a whopping 64 player count with 16 battlefields to run around.
The classic Bomberman gameplay remains, as you place bombs around a square arena. These projectiles are deadly to both you and your opponent, so you need to make sure you aren’t caught up in your own fire; add some powerups that will grow your flames and the amount of bombs you can place, and you can bet the place gets frantic quickly. Initially, you have three other opponents to deal with, but once the gates open, you’ll have more people to destroy. While the original Super Bomberman R got crazy with 8 players, this mode makes the experience even more frantic.
Super Bomberman R Online changes the gameplay enough to feel fresh and innovative thanks to the main battle royale mode. However, it’s still familiar for veterans of the franchise. You have tons of characters with unique abilities and skill sets, so the playing field will be uneven and chaotic. This separates the game from the competition since playstyles will vary. Mainly it’s due to the difference in starting ability versus endgame potential. It’s a great time that’s available for free on Google Stadia. (Thanks to some massive improvements in the past year, it’s now a solid cloud-based service!) Even if you have a low-end computer, you can play this game right now.
Here’s to Gaming in 2021!
Do you have a game that you just couldn’t get enough of last year? Sound off in the comments, and stay tuned for more anime, manga, and gaming news here on Miso!