I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I’ve been down lately. There are a lot of reasons why, ranging from the weather to global events to brain chemistry, but it’s meant that I’ve been having a hard time getting excited about anything. When the Fanbyte staff all listed our most anticipated games of 2020, I could barely muster the energy to offer up Doom Eternal as my pick.
I’m not the biggest industry cheerleader at the best of times, and I don’t think that’s a problem. What is a problem, though, is feeling like a downer. And so, to remedy this, I’ve made a dedicated effort to look for games I actually am looking forward to this year. I tried to go beyond the obvious big releases everyone’s already aware of and came up with seven titles that range from social sims to arena shooters.
If you asked my 1999 self to design the perfect Pokemon game, you might get Temtem. It’s a massively-multiplayer creature collecting and battle game that’s as close to Pokemon as you can get without being sued, though it also has some interesting diversions from the established formula, including pick and ban mechanics for competitive battles. Honestly, though? I’m most excited about the prospect of just hanging out in a Pokemon-like world with a friends in a game where you can redesign your house and dress like a skeleton.
Looking at screenshots of Eastward releases The Good Chemicals in my brain, the ones associated with the dark, lush 16-bit forests and caves of my childhood. This game just looks so fucking warm and I want to nestle into it and take a nap. Eastward doesn’t have a release date yet, but I’m hoping that it’ll come out this year.
After Supraland reignited my love for first-person puzzle games, I’m very much ready for Lightmatter. It has a beautifully-simple premise — shadows kill you — and a stark, high-contrast art style that sets it apart from more realistic-looking games in the genre. Hitman‘s Agent 47 himself, David Bateson, stars as the requisite disembodied voice leading you through the experience.
4. Garden Story
It’s Stardew Valley but everyone is an achingly-cute anthropomorphic fruit (or a frog). If the art style looks familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen the work of the game’s multi-talented creator picogram on Twitter.
I gushed about Spiritfarer back when I played it at PAX West last year. The short version is that this is a game about making friends with cute animal spirits and then ferrying them to the next world. Spiritfarer‘s hand-drawn art is breathtaking, and its themes of letting go are in stark opposition to most social games’ emphasis on collection. Also you can play as a cat.
6. Bravery Network Online
Is Bravery Network Online definitely coming out in 2020? I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s a love letter to competitive Pokemon made by people who are experts in the field of pure game design. Imagine Pokemon with the randomness stripped out and some elements of fighting games thrown in, and you’ve got BNO. Maybe I’m just obsessed because I’m already kind of good at it, but I could see this game developing a strong competitive community.
7. Quantum League
It is really, really hard to explain Quantum League, but I’ll try. It’s a round-based, one-on-one arena shooter. In the first round, you and your opponent try to either kill each other or claim a center platform. In the second round, you go again — except you now have a teammate, which is you from the first round. The game continues in this fashion, getting progressively more complicated as you try to plan out the actions of each round to assist yourself in future rounds. Oh, and when you’re killed in a particular round, you get to carry out “potential actions” which will take place if you manage to stop that version of yourself from getting killed in a subsequent round. Like I said, hard to explain. Just trust me — it works, and once it clicks the game feels so, so good.