More than a single Gregorian calendar year later, I still have not gotten any close to touching several games that I wanted to play back when they were released in 2020. You know, the year the COVID-19 pandemic really settled in and it seemed like we had all the time in the world to do whatever we wanted because we were just going to be stuck indoors forever? WRONG!
Shockingly, I did manage to play a solid number of game titles with a healthy investment of time put into them to make the assessment that they are pretty damn good. Sadly, making room to shove even more games on my plate was probably not the best idea, so there were many that caught my eye, but simply passed on by in a blur.
The blessing and curse of things like Steam sales and big-cut discounts ensure that my gaming queue will never be empty, and I have no reason to complain about being bored ever again. It’s not like I have really “missed” anything, when for the most part titles on my to-do list are likely to remain accessible to play for a long time. However, I also cannot say with certainty how much my 2020 gaming palette would have been any different if I did indeed play these titles fresh from their initial release windows.
5. The Flower Collectors
Actually I lied—sorry! I already completed the first couple of chapters of The Flower Collectors. Set in a fictionalization of a 1970s Spain set in the aftermath of the Franco regime, The Flower Collectors takes a lot of cues from mystery thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, in which you play a boomer ex-cop bound to his apartment teaming up with a young,idealistic journalist after witnessing a crime from his window. Spanish citizens are now anthropomorphic animals, but that eccentric window dressing does not undermine what has been a compelling mystery so far set in a very specific socio-political setting I would love to learn more about. Still can’t make heads, tails, OR paws as to why furries are having a noir movement for some reason even into this next year!
4. Summer in Mara
I was following Summer in Mara for a while since its original crowdfunding campaign and followed along its marketing trail across the various in-person to online shows that it was being promoted. As another cozy farming sim with all the expected works of crafting, cropping, and cooking, I was pleased with the promise of its archipelagic cultural and visual influences and what I played in its demo, but never went past the confinement of its walls. In fact, I even finally recently purchased the proper full version of the game but still have yet to dip my toes in it, knowing there’s even more seas to see and a boat to cruise along it too! Oh well, it looks like summer has to wait yet again.
3. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is another game set in the isles that also just happens to check another box by clustering itself with a bunch of titles released in 2020 that feature photography mechanics as well—and unfortunately for me, it was another title that got lost in the sauce well after that year turned over. You play a young girl who becomes impassioned by the animals she encounters, and soon takes it upon herself to try and rally others to help bring awareness to and revitalize the community’s wildlife. Although photography is not the main selling point of Alba, it seems to evoke similar intentions with the hide-and-seek aspect to TOEM, while being more close to the themes of another nature conservationist game Beasts of Maravilla Island.
2. Wintermoor Tactics Club
Wintermoor Tactics Club seems like it would have been another game that would be an easy win in my book: tactical RPG inspired mechanics, visual novel elements, and a bunch of rambunctious, imaginative kids just trying to survive school drama and perhaps the drama of the otherworldly kind. And yet, it is another game I already have in my library that is collecting dust with the plastic shrink wrap still tightly hugging it. I took an interest in Wintermoor because its premise seems strongly inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a game I adored and played hours on end. Both games’ events are catalyzed by a snowball fight and the enduring troubles of teens simply trying to escape reality; though I sense that Wintermoor does not include the terrifying, traumatic isekai part and all the angst that followed in Final Fantasy.
1. Kentucky Route Zero
I know. Tons of people have already raved about how well Kentucky Route Zero hits its points, yet I still sit here with zero comprehension on what any of that acclaim actually means. Kentucky Route Zero already started off as a game mostly relegated to the praise of critics when its first part released way back in 2013, but it was soon a lingering memory that depended on loyal followers to be reminded of its existence for what grew to be sporadic updates reliant on a very small team of developers. The conclusive fifth act of the game was finally released many years later in 2020, and based on what those whose opinions I trust have said about it, it seems like the wait was worth it. It was a long road taken for the game to finally be respected as a modern Southern Gothic story. While I can’t wait to finally experience the complete journey it for myself, it seems like everyone else had to.