While the back half of the year was packed for me, the first and middle were more sparse for the most part. So I took it upon myself to catch up with some games I previously missed. Here are five games I really dug that came out prior to 2020.

#5 – Donut County

Credit: Ben Esposito

Sometimes all you need is a chill game, and you don’t get much more chill than Donut County. The game has a humor to it that most games don’t succeed in reaching and the idea behind it is goofy and fun. You take a big old hole, you move it around, and swallow everything up. It’s “Sinkhole: The Game”, except this sinkhole is controlled by a raccoon who just wants a cool drone.

I’m not one for puzzles typically, as I don’t have a mind for it, but I’ve seen Donut County considered a puzzle game. If so, it’s a puzzle game in the loosest way, though there are certain parts of the game where it shines in that regard more than other areas. To make the game even better, it’s only a few hours long. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and in an industry that strives to give the player an unending amount of content, it’s always nice to have something short and sweet. This was the perfect game for me to follow up my playthrough of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.

#4 – Sea of Solitude

Credit: Jo-Mei Games

Sea of Solitude was one of those games where the trailer struck me upon seeing it, but I didn’t see anyone really talking about it when it released. Since it was on EA Play, I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did. The game hits close to home in many respects as it deals with emotions and events that many probably feel. Except it’s done in a way that includes a flooded city and giant shadow creatures that keep you on your toes.

As I mentioned in the previous game, I’m not a fan of puzzles and they are prominent here as well. However, the deeper message of the game was worth pushing through the puzzles although emotionally I may have regretted it in the long run. I found myself being bummed out on too many occasions, but that’s not a slight on the game at all. It’s just how impactful it is. The gameplay doesn’t exactly seem up to par with the story and the world built around it, but Sea of Solitude is absolutely worth playing if you want to have an experience most games don’t provide.

#3 – Moonlighter

Credit: Digital Sun

I’m always a little hesitant to try out a rogue-lite/like game, but Moonlighter has a premise I couldn’t pass up. You’re a shop-keep trying to get materials to sell at your store. That’s awesome. The management lover in me would eat this up. Thankfully, the rogue-lite elements of Moonlighter didn’t turn me away once playing, though it limited my ability to make it too far into the game. Made it partly through the third dungeon and decided I experienced enough to make me happy.

I’m not saying that because the game gets bad or boring – I’m just awful at rogue-lite/like games. The style of the game is beautiful and the enemy designs are cool. Maintaining the shop was my favorite thing though, as I knew it would be, and that part of it was great as well. If you have even the slightest twinge of needing to play a rogue-lite game and need one desperately in your life, give Moonlighter a try. It’s incredibly solid, easy to get into, and has the additional store management perk to mix it up in a genre more and more indies have gravitated to over the years.

#2 – Outer Wilds

Credit: Mobius Digital

After hearing a couple of friends on staff praise this game to no end, I finally gave it a try. Well deserved praise. Outer Wilds is amazing and I don’t even know where to begin with talking about this game. Do I start with the incredibly cool idea of the time loop that resets everything but your knowledge? How about the vastly different worlds you can explore? The greater mystery at play about what went wrong that caused everything to go haywire in the first place?

The game is so damn ambitious for what would appear to be a small scale game. I don’t know how many hours I put into this game but I feel like I stumbled across something new each loop and I’m sure there was plenty more out there I couldn’t find. The only gripe I had with the game was the flight controls and would be the thing keeping me from finishing the game, but that’s it. Even to this day I still want to jump in and explore this universe because of how fascinating it is. Outer Wilds is damn cool. If a sequel comes around, that’s a day one purchase for me.

#1 – Control

Credit: Remedy Entertainment

I didn’t like Alan Wake. There…I said it. While the narrative of the game was great, I thought playing the game was an absolute slog. Control took my favorite parts of Alan Wake but gave it gameplay worth experiencing. I’m a sucker for Creepypasta-like horror stories and Control takes those elements and builds a world around them. It’s Twilight Zone meets The X-Files. Except, in this case, the Scully of the game (Jesse Faden) is a woman trying to figure out what happened to her brother after a weird Twilight Zone incident in her little town. Sucks me right in.

The combat is what worried me, but that was absurd by the time I finished the game. The different gun layouts mixed it up enough and that was only bolstered by the awesome powers Jesse would receive throughout the game. It leads to chaotic but fun fights throughout the game giving the player freedom to experiment in certain aspects of the combat. Control is the game I wanted to finally experience from Remedy Entertainment. I know the sales weren’t the best, but hopefully it was enough to give them a reason to dive back into that world. Until then, I’ll continue to blast Take Control” by Old Gods of Asgard in my car. Banger.

And with that, 2020 is a wrap. I know everyone is hopeful that 2021 isn’t the nose-dive to hell that 2020 was, and here’s hoping for the best. Even if it’s bad, I’m sure there will be plenty of great games to play. If anything, those games can take us away from our lives even if for a little bit at a time. Video games are great. Maybe at one point, we’ll be able to say the same about the community as a whole around it.

Take care and happy new year!

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