Niki Grayson’s Game of the Year List 2020

thank god 2020's almost over jesus christ this shit sucked so fucking bad can you believe it goddamn christ

Aye. It’s Niki. I’m here to tell you about my favorite video games from the year of our lord 2020. Even though the year was an absolute fucking tire fire, Big Video Game™ managed to release some good video game products. This was also a big year for the website Fanbyte dot com! I’m so proud of what we did this year (we did a damn PAX panel!) and the ways we grew and how we’ve realized what we’re going to be in the future. I’m excited to kick off 2021, and I hope y’all come along for the ride.

Time to talk about some video games!

Honorable Mentions: Paper Mario: The Origami King (last second scratch), Titanfall 2 (the perpetual GOTY), Superhot: Mind Control Delete (which is only not on my list because it isn’t in VR), Fortnite (slid in literally as late as it possibly could have but this is legitimately one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a video game all year), Blaseball (go tacos), Teardown

10. Clubhouse Games: 51 Classics

This is the best bang for your buck you can get in a video game today. 51 whole games in one game. It’s unreal. I can’t believe Nintendo’s making money off of this. These idiots put FIFTY ONE games in the one video game. They’re never gonna make their development budget back. Do you know how expensive it is to digitize mancala? Or how difficult it is to come up with a new name for Uno (Last Card)? That’s at least three or four weeks of development time. When someone can figure out how to get digital Yacht Dice working let me know because right now, Nintendo has a complete and total lock on the genre.

I give this game a 2/10 because my partner Kati is better at every single one of the games in here than I am.

9. Fall Guys

These stupid beans, y’all. When merritt and I played this game at E3 2019, I had a feeling it was going to pop off, but I could not have expected that It would be the second biggest video game of the year. Watching these lads jump, slip, and slide down the Gymboree lookin’ ass obstacle courses was one of the few legitimate joys video games gave me this year. I fell off of this game soon after I got my first and only win, but I greatly enjoyed my time with it.

Also when we did the #fanbyte24 stream, we did a Fall Guys block and Fanbyte editor-at-large John Warren did a minion voice for the whole hour, which sucked. I honestly should take it off of my list just for that.

8. Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft Dungeons is just baby’s first Diablo. I think the aesthetic is much more interesting (because I’m on the gen-z cusp, I think Diablo is for old people). I was able to beat the video game and see credits in about 15 hours, and when I beat it, I didn’t have the desire to put the next 500 hours of my life into it. I rolled credits and went on to something else. It respected my time in a way that a game like this absolutely did not have to, and I appreciated that.

It’s also gorgeous! The worlds that the Mojang team crafted using Minecraft as their palette are rich and the whole thing just feels right. As Microsoft starts to play more with Minecraft as a license, I hope they continue to iterate on the ideas about how to construct narrative and gameplay loops that were introduced in Dungeons.

7. Risk of Rain 2

It’s unbelievable that I like this game. There’s no reason for it. I hate roguelikes. Or, at least, I thought I did. And then I played this one and was like “damn maybe I like roguelikes?” and then Hades came out and I was like “damn, I like roguelikes.” Risk of Rain 2 (or Rick o’ Rain, as I call it) is a good video game that allows you to create absolutely stupid builds while either dedicating your whole brain to it or 0% of your brain to it while you chat with your friends for an hour and a half. The playstyle diversity in the playable characters kept bringing me back, and every time Fanbyte editorial intern Ren would say “hey did you know that…” I’d learn something completely new. The soundtrack is also a bop and I need iam8bit to do a vinyl release as soon as possible.

6. Valorant

Fuck Valorant. It’s a trash game and I’m probably never going to play it again, but it’s also the best first person shooter I played this year.

For real though, I’ve never done a full 360º on a game like I have with Valorant. I absolutely hated it when I played the game during the press preview event and during beta. Once the game came out though, and I started Getting The Hang Of It™, it was the only thing I could think about. I learned so much jargon, met a bunch of new people, and made some unbelievably clutch plays. When Valorant swims it swims but it absolutely does not care if you have fun playing it, which is why I eventually fell off.

As an aside, the voice actor for Phoenix gave me “gutted” which is one of my favorite words in the English language now.

I did this on the first day of the game being out, and honestly I should’ve just uninstalled the game right then and there.

5. Astro’s Playroom

If you follow me on Twitter or have listened to a podcast that I’m on or paid literally any amount of attention to any word that I said in November, you know that I had a hellish time trying to acquire Sony’s fifth PlayStation. After one retailer cancelled my preorder, I was forced to follow a swath of faceless accounts with handles like “@GyxDeals” and “@LinusWilson” in an attempt to find out when a store near me would get stock of the precious expensive game computer. After what felt like an eternity (but was only like, two weeks) I snagged one from the country’s most popular warehouse bulk store, and was able to complete my next gen pairing.

Astro’s Playroom is a pack in game for the PS5 that is itself a sequel to a PSVR exclusive game from 2018. It’s a well polished tech demo meant to show off what the DualSense controller is capable of, as well as show off the PS5s technical prowess. It is a great little platformer that simultaneously iterates on ideas born in Astro Bot’s Rescue Mission, provides a wholly satisfying, self contained video game experience, and takes the player on a journey through the history of PlayStation. It is as much a video game as it is a tribute to the last 25+ years of video games at Sony. I think it’s the perfect length for a video game, too, running about 5 hours. It’s never too hard, is entirely willing to throw new ideas and modes of locomotion at you, and no one thing overstays its welcome. It’s incredible that this game was included for free.

4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons got me through the Spring. The beginning of quarantine was so, so tough, both physically and emotionally. We lost the ability to readily share physical space with loved ones, we lost the concept of just feeling safe when we went outside or into the grocery store. March through May was a legitimately wild time and some of the only things that I haven’t suppressed from that time period is my time with Audie, Julian, Isabelle, and the rest of the gang on the island of Echolake.

New Horizons doesn’t change the Animal Crossing formula, and for Nintendo’s sake it’s one of the best decisions they could’ve made. There is part of me that thinks that this game is received entirely differently if its release didn’t coincide with the beginning of the global shutdown due to COVID-19. It was the perfect video game for the time and I am unbelievably grateful that I was able to hunker down, ignore that the world was on fire, and catch some fish or whatever.

I hate Hopper? Jumper? Eggbert? What’s the rabbit’s name? He sucks.

OH ZIPPER. It’s Zipper. That guy can go die in a ditch.

3. Final Fantasy VII Remake

(Spoilers for FF7R ahead)

There’s a part in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake where you fight your way through a lab with your big sword, magic girlfriend, punch girlfriend, and boyfriend who has a gun for a hand and get to an elevator, and then the elevator opens and a talking dog named Red XII comes out and starts talking to you about the world or some shit. It’s wild. I have no idea who the fuck the dog is or where he came from but later in the game he gets in your truck and fights guys who are chasing you in other trucks. Then Sephiroth (from Kingdom Hearts and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) comes with his big sword and you have to fight him while the world explodes? But before you fight him you have to walk down a freeway with a portal at one end of it, but next to the portal there’s a big vending machine that will sell you a new gun for your gun boyfriend and it’ll also sell you some lemonade which you can use to heal during your fight with some sort of chaos god. You also fight a bunch of big robots, one of which is named “Airbuster.”

The music in the game is really good.

Oh there’s also a scene where you fight a guy while on a motorcycle and that makes the guy you’re fighting (who is also on a motorcycle) really horny (???) and then later he comes to help you out (because he’s so happy that you were able to fight him on the motorcycle) and he punches a guy in the face with the back tire of his motorcycle. There’s also a part where you go to a big abandoned train yard and you fight a bunch of ghosts who at one point were kids but died because they got lost in the train yard (???) and then at the end of that sequence you fight a ghost carriage.

Final Fantasy 7 has really well designed quests and was not a game that I expected to start, let alone 100% it.

There’s also a sequence where you fall down a big hole and end up in the sewers and there’s a bunch of frog magicians that can turn you into a frog and sometimes they “froglock” you which means that you get stuck as a frog and have to do a bunch more fighting (as a frog) to turn back into a person again.

Good video game.

2. Hades

I should’ve played Hades when Steven told me to, approximately six million years ago. It is incredible. A triumph. The game of the year (but not my game of the year). Go read what Steven or merritt or John or Natalie had to say about it, because I agree wholeheartedly with their assessments.

1. Fuser

When I first played Fuser at PAX East this year (lmao they did a pax east this year), I immediately fell in love. No part of it should work. The game shouldn’t let you arrange the robust tracklist in a near infinite number of ways on the deck. It should not let you create magic using “Mud On The Tires.” But the one thing Fuser has taught me time and time again over the course of the last few months is that there’s no use trying to tell it that something won’t work. The wizards at Harmonix have done an unbelievable amount of labor to make sure that your stupid idea basically works every. single. time.

Fanbyte editor merritt k likened Friday Night Fuser, our weekly concert on Twitch to church – and it’s the kindest thing that anyone could possible say about it. It is a reminder that we are social creatures bound together by a shared love for art and music. In a year when the heat and thumping of concerts and the smell and slipperiness of your favorite weekend hang became less of a fixture and more of a figment, Fuser manages to do the unimaginable and provide a worthy facsimile in this time of pandemic.

My brain is incredible at suppressing stuff and it will do a great job of erasing large swaths of 2020 from my memory. But I’ll always remember Fuser.