I will give you this warning right off the bat—if you’re looking to read over a standard GOTY piece, this will not be it. Why? Because I’ve spent almost all of 2020 playing games that came out before 2020.
Here’s the thing. Like many others, I grew up loving video games. But unlike most people, I am reluctant to change. Whether it’s movies, TV shows, new foods, board games, or video games, I struggle with starting something new—especially if there’s already a long list of stuff I am still enjoying anyway.
Fortunately, in 2020, I began to tackle this issue and started branching out. But given the fact that I hadn’t been for so many years, I needed to catch up on some older games that I hadn’t tried yet. So, I bought myself a Nintendo Switch this year and at least began expanding my horizons.
That being said, there are still a couple games that will likely make my list every year for as long as I live, because whether it’s 2005 or 2020, they’re still the best games in that year.
The Legend of Dragoon (2000)—My Forever GOTY
Yes, the very first game on my list is basically 20 years old. And I’ll admit—part of the reason for its appearance on this list is due to nostalgia. However, out of every game I’ve played in the last 20 years, the plot of The Legend of Dragoon has by far the most interesting story. It breaks my heart that a remake has not been done yet, because experiencing this fantastical, magical adventure with better graphics would be a dream come true.
The Legend of Dragoon is a turn-based, JRPG that takes place in a fantasy world. Eventually, you get a group of characters who each master the power of a dragon spirit. The combat involves attacks with swords, lances, hammers, and bows, but it also includes magic attacks when you take the dragoon form during battle. The world is filled with humans, dragons, winglies, dragoons, gigantos, and other more, adding to the magical experience.
Not only is the plot of this game phenomenal, but the characters are amazing and the dialogue is entertaining. But in addition to that, the music for The Legend of Dragoon also makes for one of the best soundtracks out there.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)—The Single Best Game Ever Created
The first Fire Emblem game I ever played was The Blazing Blade, released in 2003. I had it on my Game Boy Advanced, and I was immediately obsessed with it. In the following years, I got tons of hours of gameplay between The Sacred Stones, Path of Radiance (which had both become and stayed my favorite Fire Emblem game until this year), and Radiant Dawn. So, after I was finally able to get a Switch, of course Fire Emblem: Three Houses was my first purchase.
To say I was blown away is an understatement. I didn’t think anything could replace Path of Radiance for me, but that thought is laughable when I compare the two games now. After more than 1,000 hours spent on Three Houses, I’ve concluded that it has all the features of the older games but with the addition of so much more, which makes the game absolutely phenomenal in comparison. I was leery of these additions when I first started, but I’ve since figured out that they are more than a little beneficial for the Fire Emblem experience.
The turn-based, grid-style combat is mostly the same, but now there are gambits and combat arts added into the mix, in addition to demonic beasts—which add a nice new flavor. But much more than that, as a professor at the monastery, you’re responsible for teaching and training your students (thus shaping them into whatever type of warrior you decide you want them to be), keeping their motivation up, doing quests for rewards around the monastery, attending choir practices or seminars to raise the stats of you and others on your team, and so much more.
To top it off, all the characters have distinct personalities, and the dialogue is written the best out of any Fire Emblem game so far. The plot also leaves nothing to be desired.
Octopath Traveler (2018)—The Perfect Blend Of Nostalgia, Beauty, And A Fantastical Experience
As I sat there googling, “which turn-based RPGs are best,” Octopath Traveler is one that came up, continuously. Considering I was greatly disappointed by the last Final Fantasy game I played, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved this game. My only complaint was that it didn’t make sense as to why the main characters were traveling together. But I found most of the eight characters’ stories interesting enough, and the lack of explanation did not really take away from the game for me.
I loved the way that they made this game retro-style while also adding in graphics that couldn’t have been done back when most of these types of games were being made. When I looked at pictures before playing the game myself, I wasn’t too sure about it. But once I started playing, I was so impressed with the visuals and the gameplay that I couldn’t put it down.
The combat in this game is quite similar to The Legend of Dragoon, but there is more strategy involved here, as you can see the order that turns will happen in (between your characters and the enemies), and you also must uncover and play off of enemies’ weaknesses.
With Skyrim coming in a very close second place, I would give Octopath Traveler the award for the game with the best music soundtrack of all time.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011)—The Friend That’s There For Me Every Year
Until I got Animal Crossing this year, Skyrim has been my go-to for relaxation. Skyrim is a third-person, fantasy RPG, and it’s been popular for so many years because of how great the feel of the game is. It is open-world, and there are endless amounts of quests, making the game entertaining for an extended time. You can choose to do the main quest, or you can choose to screw around, indefinitely.
Both the soundtrack and aesthetics in Skyrim are so incredible that they really make the game. Nothing is more calming than hearing those tracks while looking up at the northern lights or the view of the mountains.
The combat in this game is both simple and entertaining, which I sometimes have preferred over having to put a lot of thought into my actions (I reserve that for Fire Emblem). Honestly, even after this many years, I still can’t get enough of sneaking around and killing everything with my bow that does three times the amount of damage in sneak mode.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)—My Escape From The Dumpster Fire That Was 2020
Out of any game I have ever played, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the one I am most shocked to have liked. When everyone was first obsessed over this game, I would look at videos and pictures and feel completely confused why anyone over the age of eight would pick it up. But after hearing about it from so many people, I had to at least give it a shot.
I’m not sure exactly how much the pandemic played into this, but I know it was definitely a factor. As the world outside felt like it was on fire, turning on Animal Crossing with my own little island and house, cute little animal friends, and relaxing music was a lifesaver.
I would sit down to play for a couple hours and then realize I had accidentally let my “real” day slip away. Sometimes that wasn’t the greatest, but at other times, I think this honestly helped me keep my sanity. I loved having a little slice of nowhere to morph into my own and to spend my time relaxing.
Next: TheGamer Editor’s Choices Of 2020 – Bella Blondeau
- TheGamer Originals
- Octopath Traveler
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses
- Legend of Dragoon
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