Cary’s Best Games of 2020 Awards Show!

WORST.  YEAR.   EVER.  I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one of the worst years in our lifetime, what with the Coronavirus, quarantines, riots and looting, politics, and much more.  And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, as I just found out my mom has breast cancer (keep us in your prayers).  Some days I wonder if we’ll EVER get through this.  2020 can just suck it!  But at least we’ve had some good video games come out to help keep our minds off of this dumpster fire of a year.  So here’s my Best Games of 2020 Awards Show! But keep in mind that this is my list and my picks only, no outside opinions and whatnot.  And if a game isn’t on my list, it either just didn’t appeal to me or I haven’t played it yet.  Can’t play ‘em all, you know!  But with that out of the way, let’s take a look at my picks.


The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics (PS4)

I was a child of the 80’s, and Jim Henson stuff was a big part of my childhood.  I watched TV shows like Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock.  I saw films like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and heck, the very first movie I ever remember seeing in a theater was the first Muppet Movie.  So I was very interested in seeing the new Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.  And I LOVED it!  I don’t normally binge watch things, but one day when I was off work, I watched two episodes of it in the morning and two more in the evening.  It was so good.  I’d watch it again if I had time.  So I was excited when I heard they were making a video game out of it, but I was disappointed that it was a tactics strategy RPG game.  I don’t like those.  Could my love of the series and Jim Henson stuff in general save this game for me?  In short, yeah it did!  It also helps that they kept the game pretty simple and added an easy difficulty mode.

Runner Up:

Paper Mario: The Origami King (Switch)

The Paper Mario series has seen its ups and downs, and I was worried about this newest entry since the two before it were not very good.  And about the only thing it has in common with RPGs anymore is the battles are still turn based.  But despite it still not being close to what The Thousand Year Door was, Origami King still kept me interested until the end, and I actually beat this one, which is more than what I can say for the last two Paper Mario games before it.


There were TONS of games in this category this year!  Lots of classic arcade collections and remakes of old games!  And most of them were pretty good.  But only one could win, and here it is:

Streets of Rage 4 (PS4)

In the 16-bit era when I was a kid (well, a teen), I only had a Super Nintendo.  Back then, kids didn’t usually have both a SNES and a SEGA Genesis, you had one or the other.  So there were a lot of Genesis games I missed out on.  Most of the time I was OK with that, as the SNES offered more games for my tastes.  But there were a few times when a Genesis game caught my eye, and ones I didn’t even know about altogether!  The Streets of Rage series was one of those games.  I didn’t discover them until I played the second one on one of those early SEGA Genesis classic collections.  But once I did play it, I was blown away by the graphics, gameplay, and especially the music.  The secret to its success was that it was developed from the ground up to be best on a console, not like the other beat ‘em ups out there that were originally arcade quarter munchers.  After three games, the Streets of Rage series only stayed on the Genesis, until now.  FINALLY we get a sequel with Streets of Rage 4.  Is it as good as the others?  Well, maybe not as good as Streets of Rage 2, but I still think it’s pretty darn fun.  I love the graphics, smooth and quick controls, and cool characters like Blaze and Estel Aguirre.  Only thing that disappointed me was the music.  Even with Yuzo Koshiro on board, it wasn’t as good.  But when I did play this with my brother Jeff, we were laughing and hooting and hollering the whole time because it was so fun, and that’s why this game wins the award.

Runners Up:

Psikyo Shooting Stars: Alpha & Bravo (Switch)

Back in the 90’s and seeping a bit into the 2000’s, one of the kings of arcade 2-D shooters was Psikyo.  Now NIS America has compiled a couple of collections of Psikyo’s games on the Switch.  Just simple arcade fun and I like Jun Tsukasa’s character designs on some of the games.

Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle (PS4)

Hey kids!  Are you ready for a video game history lesson?  Sure you are!  Anyway, back in the mid-80s, game maker Technos created one of the first brawlers featuring a character named Kunio.  He’s a hot-blooded high school student who sometimes gets into fights, but always stands up for his friends and against bullies.  His first arcade game was a hit in Japan, and they brought it to the US under the name Renegade.  A few graphical and name changes were made.  The character now sported a sleeveless leather jacket instead of a Japanese school uniform, and instead of locations like an outdoor train stop, you fought in places like an underground subway station.  It was a modest hit in the US and got a version on the NES, but it was nowhere near as big as the original game in Japan.  The bosses at Technos wanted to recreate that success in the US, so they tasked the team to make another brawler that would really appeal to overseas audiences.  So they created Double Dragon.  Needless to say, that was a huge hit with countless arcade sequels and ports, a cartoon, and even a live action movie (it was famously bad, but fun in a B-movie sort of way).  And now you can play almost every NES and Famicom version of the Double Dragon and Kunio-Kun series in a collection on the PS4 and Switch.  It even includes Renegade’s ‘sequel’ River City Ransom, as well as sports spin off titles like Super Dodge Ball!  Yes!  Super Dodge Ball was my favorite sports video game until Wii Sports came along!

Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary (Switch)

I’m such a staunch console gamer now that you might be surprised to learn that when I was a kid, I started out playing home games on computer.  Our first PC was an Apple ][+, and outside of arcades, that’s where I played most of my games until I got an Atari 5200.  One of the games I remember playing on that old computer was Boulder Dash.  It was an action puzzle game that was kind of like Dig Dug in that you dug through the earth, collecting gems while trying not to get squished by falling boulders.  And now you can celebrate its revival with Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary.  At first I was like, “Isn’t Boulder Dash more than 30 years old?”  And yes, it is.  This Switch version (reviewed here) is just a port of an older version that was released a few years ago on PC and mobile when it really was Boulder Dash’s 30th anniversary.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends (Switch)

I…freaking…love…Bubble Bobble.  I don’t really remember seeing it in arcades, but boy I sure rented the HECK out of the NES version.  Many years later, when my little brothers were old enough to play games, Bubble Bobble was one of the first games I introduced them to, and they loved it as well.  And the main spin-off game, Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move, is one of my top three favorite puzzle games of all time.  So I was super excited to find out about a new Bubble Bobble game for Nintendo Switch.  Is it as good as previous titles?  No, not really, but I still had some fun with it.  Enough to give it a mention here anyway.

Missile Command: Recharged (iPad)

Missile Command was one of Atari’s biggest arcade hits in the 80s, so to celebrate the game’s 40th anniversary, now you can play a new iteration on mobile devices.  This free-to-play version features updated neo-retro graphics, power-ups, and more modern features.  It kind of has a Pac-Man Championship Edition motif, and I like how the AR mode puts a virtual arcade cabinet right in front of you!

Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection (PS4)

I’m not a super big fan of the Zero games, but for only 30 bucks, this is a pretty good deal for what you get.

PONG Quest (Switch)

For the longest time I thought the first video game I ever played was Pac-Man.  But it was actually PONG, I just didn’t realize it at the time.  You see, when I was very little, my dad built our very first TV.  He ordered parts and instructions through a place called Heathkit.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a great big old wooden monster that looked like a piece of furniture.  But that TV also lasted well until I was in high school!  He also built a metronome with Heathkit, and one of the other extra things he added to the TV was a home PONG clone that you could pull out at any time and play if you changed it to channel 3.  I was so young at the time, though, that I didn’t realize this was a video game, just something you could do if there wasn’t anything on TV.  Anyway, that’s my PONG story.  Never would I have imagined that someone would combine PONG with a dungeon crawling RPG, but now you have PONG Quest.  I love the references to other Atari games in this title, too.

Darius Cozmic Collection: Arcade & Console (Switch)

I’m a huge fan of the Darius 2-D shooter series from Taito.  But what is Darius?  While it may look like a generic classic space shooter at first, it has some elements that helped split it apart from others in the arcade.  One, a lot of the spaceships you battle are designed to look like robot fish.  I don’t know why that is, but it gives the game a weirder tinge to it that I like.  Two, the original arcade game was three screens long!  This was advantageous because you could see far ahead of you and could plan accordingly.  It also gave you a bit of elbow room since the game was also two player simultaneous.  And three, the music was really good!  The stage one theme, “Captain NEO” is one of my all time favorite pieces of video game music.  Taito has an in-house band named Zuntata that does most of their game music, which is cool.  Anyway, I was super excited to find out that now there are two collection of Darius titles for Switch and PS4.  There’s an arcade collection and a console collection, and I reviewed the console collection for Switch.  While I think they should’ve combined both collections into one, and it still doesn’t have all the games it should, I enjoyed this series enough to give it a mention here.

Namco Museum Archives vols. 1 & 2 (PS4)

Namco has just opened up a new wing in their museum, with two volumes of archives including a bunch of 8-bit NES and Famicom games!  These two new downloadable collections contain almost a dozen games each.  While I think they should’ve put them both together, there are still some nice surprises on here.

Super Mario 3-D All Stars (Switch)

It’s a bit bare boned and should’ve had Mario Galaxy 2 on it as well, but it’s still a good collection of three of the best 3-D Mario games out there.

Space Invaders Forever (PS4)

It really could’ve had more than three games on it, but at least those games are some of my Space Invaders favorites.  Plus one new game I’m glad I got to play!


Trials of Mana (PS4)

OK, technically this could be considered in the classic remake category, but there was just SO many of those that I decided to put this one in the 3-D adventure area.  Hey it’s my list, I can do what I want.  All right, you all ready for one of my unpopular opinions?  I think Secret of Mana is a better game than Trials of Mana.  There, I said it.  I also support Square’s decision to release Chrono Trigger and Secret of Evermore instead of Trials back on the SNES, if they had to limit what they could release over here.  I hear those pitchforks and torches coming out now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Square put the original Trials of Mana on the Collection of Mana last year and I’m really happy I got to play it.  But I think the battle system is a hot mess.  Also, the original Trials came out when people still depended on good instruction manuals and strategy guides to get them through a game.  It was just part of the experience back then.  That’s not the case now, so goals and objectives in SNES Trials of Mana were incredibly unclear.  And the last boss uses a cheap trick to keep you from attacking it effectively, so after a week of grinding and still not being able to beat it, I said ‘screw it’ and watched the ending on YouTube (not very impressed) and shelved the game to start on the 3-D remake.  And boy did they improve so much!  A lot of the fat is trimmed off and unclear goals are no longer a problem.  Now, the new remake isn’t perfect.  If you thought the ring menu system in the original game was confusing, boy wait’ll you see what they did to it here!  And if you want a good battle system in a 3-D hack and slash fantasy game, you’re better off with Ys 8.  But I’m still enjoying the Trials of Mana remake.  I just hope I can beat the last boss!  Can you guess who my favorite Trials character is?

Runners Up:

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)

You know, there really wasn’t a standout 3-D game for me this year.  Even the ones on this list were not that great.  Age of Calamity is fine.  Don’t expect it to have the same scope as Breath of the Wild.  It’s just yet another mindless Dynasty Warriors game.  It’s still fun, don’t get me wrong.  But I’d only get it if you REALLY liked Breath of the Wild’s story and characters and don’t mind a change in gameplay.  I rag on Breath of the Wild a lot, but I did spend 65 hours on it and beat it, so I must’ve liked it somewhat.  It feels weird to play Age of Calamity and come across thousands of Bokoblins.  In Breath of the Wild, if that happened, you’d be dead.  But here, Link and crew just slices through them like butter!  They must’ve ate their spinach in this game!  I bet this game was pretty easy to make, though.  Just reuse the same gameplay from the first Hyrule Warriors and cut and paste existing locations and enemies from Breath of the Wild, and presto!  New game.  I am a little bit disappointed in Nintendo’s holiday lineup this year.  All it was is just two old games (Mario 3-D All-Stars and Pikmin 3 Deluxe), and one game they didn’t even make (this one).  I know that COVID probably presented some difficulties for them this year, but I think many businesses, including Nintendo, used it as an excuse not to do as much stuff even if they could.

No Straight Roads (PS4)

This is a music themed 3-D platformer about saving rock music in a city that’s powered by it.  So kind of like a video game version of the 80’s song “We Built this City on Rock and Roll.”  The game’s not perfect, but it does have a bit of Psychonauts style charm and reminds me of classic platformers from the early 2000’s Dreamcast days.  Plus it held my interest all the way through, so I’ll give it a mention here.


Shantae and the Seven Sirens (PS4)

I’m a HUGE fan of the Shantae game series.  I even still have the original game on Game Boy Color, box and all!  But who is Shantae?  She’s a half-human, half-genie dancer who can magically transform into different animals to help her get past obstacles in her 2-D platforming adventures.  In her newest escapade, Shantae and her friends travel to a tropical island for a much needed vacation.  Other Half-Genies will be there, too, so Shantae is especially excited to meet more of her kind.  But shortly after she arrives, the other Half-Genies disappear.  Risky Boots, the nefarious she-pirate and Shantae’s arch-nemesis, has been snooping about the island as well.  Could she be behind all of this?  It’s up to you to find out in Shantae and the Seven Sirens.  Granted this game wins by default, but it’s still a fun “Metroidvania” kind of game.


Pac-Man Tamagotchi

Some may say this isn’t technically a game, but I don’t care.  It’s still weird!  Two big game crazes, one from the 80s and one from the 90s, have come together in one weird combo!  Pac-Man Tamagotchi!  Yeah you heard that right.  Only because Pac-Man maker Namco and Tamagotchi creator Bandai have merged is this whole thing possible!  Of course you all know I’m a huge Pac-Man fan, but I also have an interest in the virtual pet key chain Tamagotchi, too.  So you know I had to get this!  I wonder if Namco will do more for Pac-Man’s 40th Anniversary besides this and some overpriced apparel?  I sure hope so!

Runners Up:

Vitamin Connection (Switch)

Meet the Sable family.  Mom, Dad, an elementary school kid, a baby, and a dog.  When they get sick, it’s up to Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl to pilot a vitamin capsule inside their bodies to stop a bacterial infection…and maybe even save the world in the process.  Vitamin Connection is a Switch exclusive for one or two players.  You’ll use your Switch JoyCon controllers in unique ways as you steer the vitamin capsule through microscopic mazes while avoiding obstacles and defeating bacteria with your Vita-Blaster!  It kind of reminds me of a cross between Life Force and Irritating Stick, with some WarioWare style mini-games for good measure.  Great music and presentation, but yeah, it’s weird!

Cooking Mama: Cookstar (Switch)

I guess since there are so many Cooking Mama games now, it may not be considered weird.  But I still think it is!  But that’s not why this particular version is weird.  What makes this one weird is all the controversy surrounding it!  You got everything from real life drama about who was going to publish it, so rumored stuff like in-game bit-coin farming (huh?).  This game also added vegetarian options for every recipe to make PETA happy.  And the first thing you make in the game is a rainbow grilled cheese sandwich, so that’s weird, too.


Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit (Switch)

I love Mario Kart, so I got this one because I thought that controlling a real RC car with the Switch and it having a camera that let’s you play a Mario Kart game using augmented reality and designing your own tracks was a really neat idea.  I don’t think it was worth 100 bucks, but it still worked well enough that I’m giving it the award.

Runners Up:

Kandagawa Jet Girls (PS4)

In Kandagawa Jet Girls, you race futuristic water jet bikes around rivers in Tokyo.  Your drivers are two young anime ladies, one steers and the other shoots a water gun at other racers to slow them down.  Kind of reminds me of Mario Kart: Double Dash in a way.  Apparently this game is based on an anime cartoon as well.  It’s a bit too fanservice-y, but it still plays well and I like how colorful it is.  Reminds me of something you’d see back on the Dreamcast and PS2 or something.

Mini Motor Racing X (Switch)

Race pocket toy cars on bite-sized tracks in Mini Motor Racing X.  The strength of this game is its versatility and many ways to play and view the action.  It also reminded me of Choro Q games like Road Trip.  Way more fun that what I thought it would be.

80’s Overdrive (Switch)

This racer tries to imitate OutRun, and of course it’s not near as good, but I still liked it.  It has a neat 80’s vibe, and you can kind of design your own tracks, too.  I think I just enjoyed it more than I should have.


Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (Switch)

I know what you’re thinking, “This isn’t a sports game!  Just a collection of a bunch of board and card games!”  Well, there are simple ‘toy’ themed versions of sports games like golf, baseball, soccer, and much more.  And some people do consider board and card games sports.  So I’m giving it the award.  So there.


Mr. Driller: Drill Land (Switch)

While it’s really more of an action game than a puzzler, it’s enough to win this award.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the Mr. Driller series, and Drill Land was a Japan only GameCube title that I’ve been wanting to come over here for nearly 20 years!  So I’m really glad it’s on the Switch now!  It may sound cheesy, but another special thing about the game is that it was announced for a US release right around the time the Coronavirus quarantines first started.  So it gave me a bit of hope and something to look forward to at a time when I was pretty bummed out.  A light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

Runner Up:

Piffle (Switch)

This cute puzzler combines aspects of BreakOut and Puzzle Bobble, while still feeling pretty original.  Which is pretty hard to do in a puzzle game nowadays!


Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory (PS4)

It’s just a music game featuring songs from the Kingdom Hearts series.  It’s kind of like Kingdom Hearts Theatrhyrhm, as it even uses the same rating systems that the Final Fantasy Theatrhythm games did.  I prefer FF music, but this was still fun.  I’m just glad they didn’t try to slap some garbage story about why you’re going through all these songs (well, except for the very end, guess they couldn’t help themselves).

Runner Up:

Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack (Switch)

I love Namco’s Taiko drum game series.  Probably my favorite music games.  Only reason why this one didn’t win the award is that it didn’t come as a physical copy like the Kingdom Hearts game did.  You can play this one like a regular Taiko game, but they also added an RPG mode where battles take the form of music sessions.  Some of the portable Taiko games did this and the first one on the Switch should’ve, too.  Normally I would’ve just waited until this one was on sale like I did with the first Switch version, but this was such a rough year that I said, ‘screw it’ and bought the game now.

And now it’s time to reveal my Best Game of 2020.  Taiko drum roll please…


Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

I’m such a huge Animal Crossing fan that this game getting the award doesn’t seem like much of a surprise.  But I’m also giving it the award because it came out right about the time of the first Coronavirus quarantines, and it really helped me cope with all the anxiety going on.  Through the game I’ve been able to stay connected with friends and even celebrate holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas while staying indoors.  Of course I probably would’ve given this game the award even if we didn’t have to deal with the Coronavirus, but now I can connect the game with helping me cope with things as well.

With that said, New Horizons isn’t a perfect game, and I don’t think it’s the best Animal Crossing game either.  Why?  Well first off, I think a lot of the changes don’t feel like improvements.  Don’t get me wrong, being able to edit and decorate your whole island is significant, and the new museum is amazing.  But having your tools break every other day is ANNOYING!  And the game relies heavily on updates, so it feels like you just paid 60 bucks for a beta test game.  They’ve drip fed us features that were already there from the get-go in New Leaf.  But otherwise, it still deserves the award.

And that’s my list!  Let me know what you think of my picks, and tell me YOUR favorite games of 2020!  Later!  –Cary

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