Hindsight is 20/20 (plus 15)
It feels like only yesterday I was booting up the Wii Shop Channel and seeing five, maybe even six games released that week. It wasn't though. That was all the way back in 2009, which is essentially a lifetime ago by game industry standards. That said, it was only last week that I picked up 2009'sBit.Trip RUNNER on the Switch, a re-release that was wedged between 40-plus other games that were recently launched on the console. The shop is so crowded that it would take a regular modern-day, online Hercules to lift up all the worthwhile games released on the storefront this year for others to see. Playing them all alone would take thousands of hours, and that's time most just don't have.
With that in mind, here's my attempt to lift at least some of that load. Presented for your approval is this unranked list of fun Switch games I got this year, none of which were given a formal review from Destructoid in that time frame. That means many of my favorites of 2020 like Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2, Panzer Paladin, No More Heroes 1 & 2, Super Punch Patrol, Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse Bouche, Treachery in Beatdown City, Moon, Carrion, and La-Mulana 1 & 2 won't be found below, but I just told you about them now, so you should be good. Also missing are games that other writers on the site have highlighted, like Wide Ocean Big Jacket. Like I said, the Switch saw a lot of games released this year! I would be very surprised if you'd heard of all the games on this whopper of a collection.
Without further adieu, here's the list, categorized for you under all-new genres that you're sure to forget within seconds.
There are games that, in their own ways, follow the old "danger and mayhem obstacle course" philosophy towards game design, empowering players just enough to give them the confidence to run headfirst into certain death again and again. Games have been doing this from the beginning, but that doesn't mean there aren't fresh new ways to get them done. Here's just a few!
Easily one of my favorite games of the year. The devs of Minit teamed up with their friends to make a game that's just as densely packed with easy-to-digest, engaging ideas, but this time, you die a lot more often than every 60 seconds. The good news is, sometimes death is good! You actually gain abilities from getting murdered now and again. An endlessly replayable treat.
I didn't love this one quite as much as the original, but it's got better art, more enemy and stage variety, and four-player co-op. A fantastic randomly generated run-and-gun shooter where death is everywhere (literally, they are the first character you meet!) and the tension is nail-biting.
They Bleed Pixels
One of the first big "spikes and death everywhere" indies of the last decade is finally on a Nintendo console. Big, roomy stages for platforming mixed with tight, combo-heavy melee combat. Super Meat Boy meets Darkstalkers. Highly recommended.
Angry Videogame Nerd Adventures 1&2 Deluxe
The best version of these two games, now with an added third campaign. All-new difficulty settings offer up new level design philosophies. Yes, philosophies! Not a word many associate with The Angry Videogame Nerd, but the shoe fits, and it feels fantastic.
A wholly unique story blended with traditional platforming, and perhaps the most British game I've played all year. A polite robot works at an office and is tasked to traverse grueling obstacle courses as his coworkers look on in mild amusement. If you've ever been treated like shit at work, you'll find a lot to empathize with here.
Lair of the Clockwork God
An extremely smart fusion of point-and-click problem-solving and 2D action-platforming. It's one of those games that, on paper, should have been one of the biggest hits of the year. I am glad I don't make games because you can do amazing work, market the hell out of it, and be a generally good person and still end up struggling. What a world!
Bacon Man: An Adventure
This one was first put together back during the "bacon craze" of five or so years ago. I'm not sure if that bacon branding helps it as much today, but it's a big, violent romp with multiple playable characters. Big Earthworm Jim vibes but without all the baggage.
Sometimes you just want to see a cute thing in a weird world. These games, first and foremost, are about exploring the developers' imaginations after being given a charming avatar to embody as you take a virtual vacation to their subconsciousness. A lot of these are nice places to visit, but you might not want to live there unless you are already dead. Wait, is it possible to live somewhere after you've died? Let's find out!
Spinch isn't about spinach, but it does come ahead of what may be a new trend towards indie platformers that remind me of health food where you leap through worlds that look like Sesame Street cartoons from the late 1970s (I'm looking at you, Garlic). If so, maybe 2021 will be a better year after all.
At first glance, I was sure that this was a new game by the devs of Strange Telephone, one of the best Yume Nikki-likes (Yume Nikkilikes?) of 2019. In fact, it almost looked like a sequel. Low and behold, Unreal Life is from a totally different team, and it's more refined and comprehensible than the telephone game to boot. Take a dip if you want a serene pixel-scape to wander through.
This one is less relaxing, as there is a murder to be solved and a killer to find, but the writing and character design are both top-notch, exploding with feeling from start to finish. Like a surreal, queer Ace Attorney but without the courtroom bits.
Good Pizza, Great Pizza
Some of you like good pizza. Me on the other hand? I prefer great pizza. In this game, you can make all that and more. Sometimes I even make really crappy pizza just to see what happens! It's a little like Bob's Burgers but with fewer jokes and more pizza, but given how much I miss just waltzing into a mom-and-pop food joint without the fear of contracting a plague, that's more than enough.
Most people know WayForward for either its long-running Shantae series or its contract work on established brands likeDucktales, Adventure Time, and Batman, but the studio also put out a fair amount of quirky, wholly original stuff like Vitamin Connection. It's a shame that this one got largely overlooked, as it's got an amazing PaRappa-style soundtrack and some of the most fun dual Joy-Con mechanics on the Switch.
Super Crush K.O.
Gratuitous Explosion Machine was one of the first big indie hits on the Switch, and the devs appeared to put a fair amount of the profits from that title into Super Crush K.O., their second title on the system. In yet another year withBayonetta 3 nowhere in sight, this 2D character action game makes for a nice substitute. Like Platinum's beloved mascot franchise, it combines melee combos with fast-paced gun fighting, albeit with most of the gratuitous sexual explosions swapped out for spunky, family-friendly female empowerment.
Like most men of a certain age, I am haunted by CatDog, a cartoon about a dog whose ass is a cat, or vice versa. Much to my relief, the general concept of that much-feared animated series has been made good in this wholesome 3D adventure filled with non-textured objects and clumsy trotting through safe spaces. It's like ifNoby Noby Boywas a dog and he had more to chew on than just stretching for stretching's sake.
Nostalgia for old fashioned video arcades is starting to surge, and 198X takes the concept farther than most others have dared. Play several good-to-great in-game arcade games while learning about the troubled life of the main character. The concept is a little better than the execution, but don't let that push you too far away if you're curious and have an afternoon to spare.
Another game about arcade culture, but this time, we're in an alternate future where they never died out. A dating sim where everyone loves video games and you can look however you want. I wish that you got to play more of the games in the arcade, but I can't deny the appeal of a world where no one is a bigot and everyone loves Pac-Man.
No Straight Roads
The initial announcement of this day-glo rhythm action beat 'em up made quite a splash, but then sticker shock set in (the game isn't cheap!), and people sort of kept away from it after that. I enjoyed it, though. I could see people saying it's all style no substance, but here, the style is the substance. You may want to wait for a sale, but don't take it off your radar.
Maybe excitement for this cat-riding happy-life sim will pick up in 2021, as it hasn't been on Switch for too long, but if people aren't already charmed with the idea of designing your own character then fucking around in a weirdly textured world with a manager of fuzzy animals, I'm not sure why they would be in the coming year. Unless of course, 2021 ends up being even more nightmarish than its predecessor, and the world ends up even more hungry for anything to take the pain away than it already is. If that ends up happening, I may end up announcing that...
I Am Dead
Becoming a ghost and reuniting with the spirit of your dead dog probably wasn't on your list of New Year's Resolutions, but if it were, you could do a lot worse. Sure, staying alive is great, but once that battle has been lost, you can finally let your hair down and just wander around and solve some puzzles. There are stakes (your island home may be destroyed if you can't save it in time), but for the most part, the joy of I Am Dead comes from just being there and appreciating the details, something that's a lot easier to do when you're not distracted by all that "survival instinct" anxiety and whatnot.
Horror is one of the oldest genres in gaming. Maybe that's because it's easy to make players afraid. All you have to do is give them the will to survive and an unstoppable threat to deal with. Just look at the old Halloween game on the Atari 2600. It may look like nothing by today's standards, but playing it as a kid left me shaking like a leaf. The games below had a similar effect. They never made me feel like I was in actual danger, but their commitment to the macabre is delightfully uncomfortable all the same.
The good news is, this one isn't about playing football? It's more of a Lynchian mess where you wander around high school and wonder if reality is coming apart at the seems around you. The perfect low-budget creepy curiosity.
This spiritual sequel to theAlien/Devil's/Jaki Crushtrilogy of monstrous video pinball classics isn't quite as humble as some of the others in this section, but carries with it the same loyalty to creepy aesthetics married to arcade excitement that the Turbografx-16 originals kicked things off with. Hit a nun in the face with a shiny ball until her eyes bleed as purple maggots fill the screen and your high score shoots through the roof. Video games are wild.
Home: Postmortem Edition
The original release of Home hit right around the time that I first discovered Lone Survivor, another fantastic 2D horror title. I really only had space in my brain for one of them at that time, but now that Home is on Switch, I gave it a shot and was impressed. More a creepy mystery than a survival horror proper, each run gives you something new to chew on, and the director's commentary mode should be assigned to students in game design classes everywhere.
Yuppie Psycho: Executive Edition
Like a few games on this list, the concept is a little better than the execution on this one. The idea of starting a regular job then discovering it's a hellscape where no one can be trusted is, if nothing else, relatable content. Once you get used to some of its quirks, it's also an intriguing adventure.
Lofi Ping Pong
I didn't initially intend to put this one in my creepshow section, but on further thought, it fits. What starts off as sort of Bit.Trip SPORTS rhythm-based ping pong suddenly pops into a bad trip of floating animal heads hinting at some unspoken trauma from your past. It's not scary exactly, but it's unsettling in a charming, compelling way.
These games either give old dogs new tricks or are just tricked-out old dogs. Sometimes, both! Nostalgia may be required to truly appreciate some of them (sorry Space Invaders!), but for the most part, these are timeless treats that can be enjoyed by anyone who can put their love of gaming history before their appreciation of silky-smooth frame rates and high-res textures, at least for a few hours.
The Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection
Forgive me dear reader, as this entry is a bit of a five-in-one cheat, but I think it's worth it. Though all these fighters look and play relatively similarly, they all have strengths worthcrowing about. Samurai Showdown! 2 has the best unique single-player campaign, SNKGals' Fighters has the most eclectic roster (featuring a fighter that's only ever been playable here), The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny has the most compelling unlockables (including a fishing mini-game!), King of Fighters R-2 has the largest roster, and Fatal Fury First Contact is the easiest to jump into for fans of traditional fighters. Let's just hope SNK Vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium comes next.
Mr. Driller DrillLand
Originally released on the GameCube almost two decades ago, this digging adventure is largely considered to be the best in the long-running series. Mixing puzzle-logic with addictive "just one more dig..." semi-randomized levels makes for a low-effort, constantly driving romp to the planet's core. This version has a ton of modes and options, making it broad in ways that make up for its perhaps ironic lack of "depth."
A retro beat 'em up that borrows less from school ofDouble Dragon and more from the feel Pit Fighter, mixed with the look of the original Killer Instinct games. The beat 'em up genre in general is pretty bloated these days, but with an appearance from The Baz (from Two Best Friends Plays fame) and an unmistakable layer of arcade grime coating it throughout, this one found a way to stand out.
Like I mentioned in the opener, it's been over ten years since these games first debuted on WiiWare, and I actually appreciate them even more now than I did then. The new Switch-specific controls on BEAT and FLUX (the most Pong-like titles in the series) take some getting used to, and god help you if you end up getting Joy-Con drift while playing VOID (theIkaruga-influenced anti-shmup about eating and avoiding dots), but CORE (basicallyDDR for your thumbs),RUNNER (the non-endless, auto-running platformer), andFATE(the 2D on-rails shooter) all play perfectly here, regardless of your level of comfort with motion controls or how jacked up your left analog stick may be.
Space Invaders Forever Collection
Another multi-part entry, the Space Invaders Forever collection includes a legitimately great game (Space Invaders Extreme), a special treat that was previously an arcade exclusive (the four-player Space Invaders Gigamax 4S E), and an interesting oddity (the touch-control-only Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders). For whatever reason, the limited-edition physical release of the collection includes eight more games than that, but I think for the most part, the three available on the eShop are the best of the bunch. Warning: For Space Invaders fans only.
Originally posted here:
55 'hidden gems' released on the Switch eShop in 2020 - Destructoid
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