It’s been a frustrating year, but the Fanbyte community made it much better. Not only were they patient with my first steps into community management, but they also had smart suggestions for where to go next. We put on skillshare workshops, ran movie and game nights, and raised over a thousand dollars for Campaign for Southern Equality — all in just seven months!
I knew that no end-of-year review wouldn’t be complete without this crew, so I ran an informal survey in late November. I wanted to know the best games of 2020 according to the Fanbyte community. The results were as thoughtful and funny as you’d expect.
See y’all on the Fanbyte Discord in 2021. Bongo dingus!
Direct Hits are our the personal picks from some of our most active community members for the year. No release year, platform, or format restrictions: everything is eligible! Including, uh… horse.
Hungry Cat Picross (Free with in-app purchases, iOS and Android)
“Color by numbers meets picross in this fun and free mobile game from Tuesday Quest. If you have played a picross game in the past, you know the deal here, but if you don’t the game is simple. You are presented with a grid where you have to fill in spots based on numbers that run along the sides of the grid to reveal a picture! Hungry Cat Picross doesn’t really do anything new for the formula but the puzzles are a ton of fun and some get really creative with what little or large space they use. The game is also LOADED with puzzles that range from easy to hard and everything in between along with ‘Frescoes’ puzzles (4×10 grid). And even if you manage to finish ALL those, each week they offer a different, new 3×3 one week only grid to solve!
The more you play, the more coins you earn which you can use to customize your cute cat icon. Bonus points to the team at Tuesday Quest for making the puzzles neat little nods to other video games with a good portion of the weekly puzzles being a picture of a current popular video game. The game has been a godsend during this increasingly stressful year as something I can lay in bed before I go to sleep and do a few puzzles to take my mind off things. There is a ton here in such a small package and with it being a mobile game (on both Apple and Google Play stores) you can take it anywhere with you as a perfect time killer or just something to occupy your mind. And did I mention it’s FREE?”
“i love horse”
Sam Shareski (Twitter)
Tekken 7 Training Mode ($19.99+, PS4, Xbox One, and PC)
“Practicing combos in training mode was my form of meditation in 2020. No lag, no bad mannered opponents, just a stationary dummy to wail on. I just find 30 minutes in a day to practice, and I fail a lot. But every day I come back and get a little more consistent, I start to feel the rhythm in my body, my hands move on their own. Eventually I’m carrying the practice dummy across the stage with ease.
Then I go into ranked and forget how to press buttons. So I return to my little private dojo and begin again.”
Mixolumia ($9.99, itchio and Steam)
“Mixolumia is the perfect radio edit to Tetris Effect‘s extended mix; it’s immersive, concise, and almost entirely open ended. You match colored blocks at 45-degree angles, using your movement to set up board-clearing chain reactions. Every input has a sound effect, and each spike in difficulty adds a new musical phrase.
Nearly every piece of Mixolumia is openly documented. You can track the entire development timeline, swap out its color palettes, and even add your own dynamic music tracks. I’ll get around to it… after I play Marathon mode just a few more times.”
Hypnospace Outlaw ($19.99, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC)
“Hypnospace Outlaw is a game about being an internet moderator in an alternate 1999. It both tells the story of how people interacted with the early internet, as well as shining a light on how simple rules do not always fit over the interactions of messy, complicated people. Without being directly referential, the game showcases the ebb and flow of internet communities, their problems, and offers a peek into a time when websites were highly customized, for better and for worse. The game rewards exploration and curiosity, and manages to be an eerily accurate time capsule, personally reminding me of my early days on Neopets. Above all else, I adore the questions the game raises about online spaces, and the roles of those who have authority. The visuals are the pixelated ribbon that ties up the whole nostalgic package.”
Among Us (Free, iOS and Android/ $4.99, PC)
“Perfect for Discord.”
Umurangi Generation ($14.99+, PC)
“It’s a very stylish game that asks the player to capture interesting perspectives of a world that is slowly ending and you can’t stop that, but it still wants you to care. It has a clear anti-imperialist environmentalist message, and it is made by Maori developers. The soundtrack is great, too.”
The Party Pick
Okay… What the Heck Is SOLO?
SOLO first seems like a straightforward alternative to UNO, where you discard your hand by matching either color or number to the card on the table. Don’t let its appearance fool you: SOLO pulls no punches. UNO shies away from controversy (contentious social media presence aside), content to repackage itself with new brand tie-ins and gimmicks. SOLO, on the other hand, chooses chaos. Hands can be rotated around the table without warning. Identical cards can be played out of order. House rules? SOLO hasn’t heard of them. Frankly, it doesn’t need them.
“UNO is SOLO for cowards.”
“The genius behind SOLO knew that to make UNO a good game, you had to make it even stupider.”
“It’s chaotic and fun!”
“SOLO is what you pay when you want to gamble with your ability to give and receive pain and I mean that in the most “10/10, 5 stars, A+ review” way possible.”
SOLO on Fanbyte 24
Based on our community game nights, SOLO was the perfect way to fill out the Fanbyte 24 party game segment. (Watching eight games media professionals slowly spiral into chaos was an added bonus. 😇) SOLO clearly left an impression on the players, even months after the fact.
Ren Price | Summer 2020 Editorial Intern at Fanbyte (Twitter)
“In my darkest hour, the moment at which I felt so lost at sea as to be confronted with the size and weight of vastness itself, SOLO was there. The #fanbyte24 livestream was, for a time, my white whale (No, I have not read, nor will I likely read, Moby Dick). SOLO, my harpoon (I’m just assuming the whole whale thing went well in the book). A harpoon which has been, for the Fanbyte community, a unifying force in times of great hardship (as all harpoons are).
I was really exhausted when we reached the SOLO block of #fanbyte24 and was, in all honesty, skeptical of the game’s potential. I had faith in our guests but my faith in myself was waning. SOLO provided a much needed moment of respite. I could finally lay down my burden and kinda just vibe. And that’s what SOLO seems to be all about: vibing with and then hating your friends for being terrible villains. More than the solace it gave me during #fanbyte24 though, watching the Fanbyte community grow over the course of my internship was among my favorite parts of this year. SOLO, and community game nights, were an essential part of that process. So, to Genius Brain UNO, I give thanks. For what it did for me and for what it did for all of us.”
Cass Marshall | News Writer at Polygon (Twitter)
“Uno is a well-known, universally liked game that remains relatively popular, despite its humble beginnings in 1971. SOLO, on the other hand, is a chaos marathon that turns good friends into bastard people. SOLO was created by someone who saw everyone smiling after a good-natured Uno match and decided they should all go straight to hell. The main objective is the same — get down to just one card in your hand before everyone else — but several cards give players special options, like swapping your hand with another player against their will, reversing turn order, or choosing a color and then making the next player pick up four cards. I managed to win two games played with Fanbyte friends, but I still cannot tell you why or how. One of the rare games that manages to be both mean and fun.”
Natalie Flores | Featured Contributor at Fanbyte (Twitter)
“I don’t remember anything about SOLO — not because it’s not a good fake game, but because it was legitimately my first Uno-esque experience in my nearly 24 years of being alive. (Yes, I know.) I definitely found some joy in playing SOLO not solo: in sharing laughs and memories with everyone else. If I’m going to display my lack of more than one brain cell, I’ll prefer to do it with good people who can make even the most confusing game entertaining.”
Steven Strom | Managing Editor at Fanbyte (Twitter)
“Most of my time during the Fanbyte charity stream is a bit of a blur. I got very tired and couldn’t stay up as late as I wanted, thanks to some delays, so my sole experience with SOLO is as hazy as my many experiences with Uno as a child. The actual best part of it was the people involved. I had never played anything with most of them, but they were all very welcoming under super chaotic circumstances. That said, SOLO is undoubtedly the best knockoff family card game I’ve ever played online with a bunch of strangers. You can put that on the back of the box.”
Funké Joseph | Freelance Writer and Producer (Twitter)
“This game is Shadow Uno. I don’t mess with card games usually, but SOLO is incredibly special. I was originally taught how to play the game by community lead Taylor, in preparation for the block of the #Fanbyte24 livestream I was hosting, and ever since then this has been one of my go-to free games to play with friends online. It’s a simple premise of color/number matching to get rid of all of your cards, but this game’s absolutely ridiculous cards make it a consistently explosive and exciting experience. There’s cards that let you trade decks with any player you want, or rotate everyone’s cards, or force someone to pick up upwards of eight cards in one turn.
You cannot trust anyone in SOLO, and now that I’m thinking of it, maybe that’s why it’s called SOLO. When you boot up a match of this game, you’ll have to believe in yourself and be prepared to put friendships aside to win. Do you believe the taste of victory is worth the aimless betrayal?”
Sabriel Mastin | Overbuff Social Media, Freelance Writer (Twitter)
“It was hell. But amusing hell.”