Much like an entertaining Josef Fares rant or a “surprise” Hideo Kojima appearance, celebrity cameos have become a staple of The Game Awards. Host Geoff Keighly has spent the last week name dropping the big stars on Twitter that will be hosting the all-virtual awards show.
The names range from Hollywood stars to game industry luminaries to sports commentators to even a Muppet. With the big show airing tomorrow night, we’ve compiled a list of every confirmed presenter and musical performer (at the time of writing).
John David Washington
Stephen A. Smith
For musical performances, look forward to jamming out to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and famed Japanese jazz singer Lyn Inaizumi. Lyn, who Persona fans know as a prominent vocalist for tracks in Persona 5, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, and the recently announced Persona 5 Strikers, will perform during the 30-minute pre-show (airing 3:30 pm PT/6:30 pm ET). Vedder will take the stage during the main show.
You can check out some of the nominees here if you haven’t yet cast your vote. We already know a few things to expect from this year’s event, including the debut of a new Among Us map as well as a Dragon Age 4 update of some kind. While you try to deduce what else The Game Awards has in store, you can watch me and other GI editors predict the winners and big announcements. There’s a free dinner on the line!
In a year defined by ample hardships, video games have been a routine escape for many of us. Luckily, we saw the release of several incredible games, including Hades, The Last of Us Part II, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and much more. However, with so many sizable game releases, some of the year’s most interesting experiences likely flew under your radar.
Without further ado, here are 5 hidden gem games you missed in 2020.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is a roguelike third-person shooter wherein teams of up to 4 travel from dimension to dimension to explore space and time. Players slowly build up their stats and abilities each run by obliterating waves of alien enemies and subsequently collecting randomized loot.
Thanks to the abundant offerings of its item system, Risk of Rain 2 facilitates a power fantasy that would be considered broken in other games. I’ve spent many hours chasing after new characters, secrets, and broken builds, like unlocking a sextuple jump or curating an arsenal of task-rabbit drones to do my bidding.
Risk of Rain 2 doesn’t shy away from the bizarre — it embraces it — and has managed to become one of my favorite co-op experiences because of it.
Oskar Stalberg, the developer behind 2018’s experimental strategy game, Bad North, recently released a relaxing city-building tool called Townscaper. In the words of its creator, Townscaper is “more of a toy than a game.”Players utilize a simple toolset, which consists of a 15-tone color palette and a grid, to design and build a quaint, colorful seaside town. By clicking along the playspace’s grid, structures and pathways can be generated and stacked on top of one another to create beautiful hamlets atop the water.
You can focus less on logistics and more on expressing your creativity because buildings automatically scale and morph with every new addition or subtraction. Townscaper makes the act of creating feel satisfying, too. New housing additions plop into place like jello, accompanied by delightful clicks and pops of sound that make it irresistible to not continue stacking blocks on top of one another.
Bloodroots tells the simple tale of a left-for-dead frontiersman, Mr. Wolf, who’s determined to track down his killer in search of revenge. Developed by Paper Cult, this indie action game has found a home amidst fans of the gory, one-shot-one-kill gameplay formula that was popularized by Hotline Miami. I’d compare the game’s visual identity to the minimalist stylings of classic cartoons like Samurai Jack, with bold shapes and colors that not only keep the game readable but help to make its exaggerated animations pop off the screen.
Bloodroots demands perfection, a fact that is reinforced by the dozens of deaths you’ll face when attempting to craft the best route through any given level. Set in the sprawling Weird West, the game’s spotlight feature is that everything in the world can be used as a weapon. Not only does Bloodroots scatter more obvious objects like swords and pitchforks around its world, but the game’s war chest is full of out-of-the-box weaponry like a wheelbarrow or carrot. The game is a treat to play and is a great on-the-go experience for the Nintendo Switch.
If you’re interested in seeing more Bloodroots, check out our review.
Among Trees is a serene, survival sandbox game set amidst a vibrant landscape that stands out thanks to its gorgeous sights and sounds. Soaked in the ambient notes of post-rock, the game’s original soundtrack is reminiscent of bands like Explosions in the Sky, which only helps to further welcome players into its cozy setting.
While Among Trees is easy-going, it’s not without purpose. The game embraces the best part of the survival genre, presenting players with small problems that are solved by gradual increases of efficiency. You’ll need to explore the game’s quaint fjord and harvest materials from its fauna and wildlife to slowly build up a log cabin, which in turn unlocks new crafting recipes that fuel your efforts in exploration.
Among Trees presents an intoxicating loop of exploration and crafting, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re in search of a relaxing experience. The game can be played in Early Access on the Epic Games Store and has consistently received content updates since its launch earlier this year.
Monster Train is a deck-building roguelike set atop a roaring locomotive that’s surging through the depths of hell. While the game surely owes a lot to 2017’s Slay the Spire, Monster Train’s card play feels distinct thanks to deck factions, champion abilities, and the fact the game’s battles occur on a three-story train. If you’re in search of an experience that’s full of depth and strategic variety, Monster Train is the ticket.
Read our full review, wherein we describe Monster Train as a “pleasant, mind-blowingly addictive exercise that’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of roguelikes, card games, and deck-building fare.”
On the PlayStation 5, you can swing around a lovingly recreated New York City as Spider-Man, zipping around at 60 frames-per-second or in 4K resolution. You can listen to the explosions in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War surround you in 3D audio. You can marvel at the way giant AAA games load in a matter of two or three seconds, wondering how you ever dealt with load times in the past, disgusted by the mere thought.
Also, you can put this cute little robot named Astro in a spaceship, and when you do that, you have to zip him in there. Here’s the best part, though: When you zip him up, the DualSense controller that comes with the PS5 rumbles, and it feels like a real zipper! That’s next-gen gaming, baby. That’s the reason I spent $500 on this big ugly box in the middle of a pandemic and financial crisis.
But seriously: Of all the games I’ve played on the PlayStation 5, Astro’s Playroom (review) is the only one that truly feels like a next-gen experience. This is partly because it’s the only game I’ve played so far that’s not also on the PlayStation 4 (I haven’t had time for Demon’s Souls, sorry). Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Call of Duty look pretty, and they load very fast, but they don’t make extensive use of the PS5’s new features. But in Astro … that zipper, man.
Multiple times a day I zip my pants up and down. It is, without question, one of the most unremarkable things I do in a 24-hour period – unless I get something caught in there, in which case, it’s pretty memorable. But to feel my controller rumble in such a way that I can feel a zipper opening and closing, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt in a video game before. I’ve never lived in a time where controller rumble wasn’t a thing, but this feels new and unique. Even if it is just mimicking something as mundane as zipping your pants.
I love the little details in games. When the lips of a character move accurately to the words spoken on screen, I eat that up. When a character’s clothes have a visible thread count, I go ballistic. The other day I watched a video that showed Miles Morales’ suit visibly flapping in the wind and I could’ve sworn I’d time-traveled to the year 3020.
In a way, caring about these tiny details is a little silly. I can see lips move alongside words by talking to literally anyone in real life; I can look at my own shirt and see the threads that hold it together. To prove this point, while writing this, I am zipping my pants up and down, feeling each tooth of the zipper with my actual human hands. I love these things in games, though, because they make our fantasy computer worlds feel more real. They allow us to be more immersed because each tiny detail more closely resembles our own world. The PlayStation 6 is going to shoot pheromones out of the controller, and I’m going to be able to finally smell Kratos’ musk. You best believe I’m going to be more immersed than I was in those archaic, non-scented games.
Astro’s Playroom is designed with a couple of key objectives in mind. Firstly, it’s a celebration of 25 years of PlayStation. It is effectively a big fun advertisement for the box you already bought. It’s also a showcase for the DualSense controller and the new haptic feedback and rumble technology therein. Does feeling the sand between my palms or rain on my hands add anything to the game? Probably not. Is it really cool? Of course. I didn’t need to feel a zipper in Astro’s Playroom, but it’s really cool. That’s what next-gen gaming is all about: new, interesting, and cool stuff that these big new boxes can do.
Astro’s Playroom is fundamentally designed around the rumble of the DualSense, so each in-game texture has a unique rumble and feels completely new to the types of gaming experiences I’m used to. Higher framerates, faster loading, better resolution, all this stuff is cool, but it’s not new. If anything, consoles are just catching up to where PCs have been for years. But you show me one damn Dell, HP, or Alienware that can accurately model the hand-feel of a zipper. You can’t! This is truly something new, and I appreciate it for that. Sure, the other games of the launch lineup are doing things with the controller, but I never got a good sense of what was different in Miles Morales and I am weirded out by more accurate triggers in Call of Duty, which make my headshots feel more lifelike. Astro is constantly throwing new feelings at you. For the one or two hours I played that game, nothing in my hands ever felt the same.
If you ask me, much like the touchpad on the PlayStation 4 (which I am genuinely shocked makes a return on the PS5) or Nintendo’s own rumble tech with the Switch, I imagine this is going to be something really awesome the PlayStation 5 can do that developers may never dedicate the time and resources to fully support. At the end of this generation, I suspect Astro’s Playroom will stand among only a few games that made the most of what the DualSense can do. And that’s fine. Doing anything in game development is expensive from a labor and cost perspective, and if it isn’t absolutely crucial to the experience – which I really don’t think cooler rumble is going to be in every case – it might not make the cut. But for now, compared to the other games you can play on the PlayStation 5, Astro’s Playroom stands out as the only one that provides something that wasn’t possible before.
In a year filled to the brim with tragedy, never-ending stress, and political unrest, Persona 5 Royal defined my summer staycation in the best possible way. Last week, Royal was nominated in the Best Role-Playing category at The Game Awards, and rightfully so – though I wish it had been considered for other commendations as well. This isn’t a mere expansion of the original 2017 game. Among a bevy of substantial updates, Royal makes noticeable tweaks to Persona 5’s gameplay loop, introduces new cast members to the central narrative, and offers more areas to explore in Tokyo and the cognitive world. All these features combine to create a contemporary JRPG unlike any other. The 100-plus hours it takes to reach Royal’s closing credits may seem like a dauting commitment – especially for people who played the original Persona 5 – but this expanded vision for the game is less about the final destination and more about the journey itself. With that in mind, here are some reasons for why Persona 5 Royal never overstays its welcome.
Royal has never-before-seen personas to spice up fights in the original palaces and the new ones. The game not only adds a plethora of extra collectible deities to the compendium, it also implements combination changes to the Velvet Room’s fusion mechanic. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t spend large pockets of time researching the different persona mash-ups to complete Caroline and Justine’s confidante quests. Thankfully, Royal’s new personas haven’t merely been sectioned to the final palaces and Mementos floors (they do appear more frequently in those areas, though). Royal also amplifies party member awakenings and their respective ultimate personas, but I’ll leave those awesome transformations up to your imagination. Trust me, just go play the game!
Persona 5 already had a lot of interesting characters, and finding that healthy balance between confidante leveling, completing Mementos side quests, and partaking in just about every other extracurricular activity or plot objective was always difficult yet rewarding. Aside from revitalizing Goro Akechi with extra confidante levels and gaining more insight into his motivations, Royal throws three unique characters into the mix: Kasumi Yoshizawa, ace athlete/model student by day and skilled persona-user by night; Dr. Takuto Maruki, a school counselor that attempts to help the Phantom Thieves come to terms with built-up traumas; and Jose, Mementos’ resident child oddity. Not only do these characters have their own complex goals that you can interact with and ultimately influence, but they are also integral components to Royal’s extensive story. I won’t spoil anything major for those of you who have yet to play the game, but the main narrative’s most compelling and ambitious twists and turns happen because of these three characters.
Persona 5’s Tokyo is a densely populated hub filled with varying residential districts, downtown eateries, and malls. But at night, the city comes alive, flush with buzzing neon signs and rooftop spotlights. Royal’s Kichijoji is just as enticing as the original locations. Kichijoji is the perfect spot for hanging out with friends. Players can play darts and billiards at the Penguin Bar, go to the nearby jazz club to increase the stats of invited party members, or pray at the Old Temple for an SP increase. There are also Kichijoji-specific restaurants and consumables that can be purchased for attribute-boosting effects. Additionally, palaces have been expanded to include more areas to explore. Mementos’ newest levels only appear during endgame sequences, but the shadows you encounter and recruit are worth the extra hours you’ll be spending to complete the compendium (if that sort of grind interests you).
The Persona series is known for its flair and flashiness. This not only translates to the art style (e.g. the backdrops and character sprites), but is also engrained in the soundtrack, U.I., and combat. Royal’s many components are as stylish as the name indicates. Persona 5’s soundtrack was laden with catchy guitar riffs, groovy basslines, and jazz-inspired melodies. New songs continue to pull from a myriad of funky genres and serve as perfect inserts (and sometimes even replacements to great battle themes like “Last Surprise”). “Our Light,” a personal favorite track, not only encapsulates the game’s central themes of self-worth and eternal bonds, but also juxtaposes Persona 5’s upbeat score with slower, reflective piano chords and operatic crescendos.
I’d be remiss to not mention the incredible Showtime Attacks. Each unlockable team-up move confirms just how badass the Phantom Thieves are and emerge as the most satisfying way to cut down grunts and bosses in your path.
I loved https://www.gameinformer.com/games/persona_5/b/playstation4/archive/201…; target=”_blank”>Persona 5 when it released in 2017 – it served as the video game backdrop to my last semester in undergrad. Persona 5 Royal was the perfect excuse to dive back into that unforgettable world and somehow revitalized an experience that I was sure couldn’t be topped. Yes, Royal adds hours of content to the base game, but it remains the definitive JRPG of the last generation.
My average gaming sessions are probably between two and four hours. The lower number for competitive play and the higher for everything else. In between these sizable time commitments, I like to throw in what I call palate cleansers; games that are every bit as rewarding, yet don’t demand as much time. Over the course of 2020, these “diversions” range from roguelikes to simulations, some possibly landing in my Top 10 list for Best Games of the Year.
Each one of these titles allows you to make meaningful progress in just 10 to 20 minutes. For years, I would bring out my phone whenever I have a short window of free time on my hands, but I now find myself diving into various games, depending where I am at. If I’m on the go or am lying in bed, I usually have my Switch handy. If I’m home, I’ll boot up my Xbox or PlayStation. Yes, I am still hopelessly addicted to my phone (and love Clash Royale and Pokemon Go for short game sessions), but have thoroughly enjoyed using it less to focus on other games that released this year. Here’s what I’m currently playing in short bursts:
Last year, my roguelike obsession was Dead Cells. That satisfying itch has been replaced by Hades, one of the prettiest, most rewarding, and enjoyable games I’ve played all year. I put in a session or two each night on my Switch – each bringing progress that will hopefully help me in my next run. This has become the game I play before drifting off to sleep.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
I haven’t played it much lately, but when the pandemic hit earlier in the year, my virtual home away from home was my happy place. I was hooked on filling out the aquarium and museum with fish and dinosaurs. There’s a chance I’ll go back to check out the winter update, but without new things to track down, I doubt I’ll stay for long. Regardless, this is a great game for short sessions.
Frantic fun and demanding of perfection, Bloodroots serves up a symphony of combos and casualties, and is unlike anything else out there. I didn’t think I would go back to this game after completing it, but it has a charm that stuck with me, and, well, there’s just something satisfying about using a carrot as a sword. Each run lasts for 30 seconds to a minute.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2
It’s so great having Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater back to fill my “just one more run” needs. Most of my sessions consist of me trying the same combo lines to see how big of a score I can chain together. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 is a wonderful throwback, and gives you plenty of adrenaline-filled excitement in just three to four minutes.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Another dose of nostalgia comes from Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, my favorite platformer of the year. In 15 to 20 minutes, a few levels can be completed, or, if you are on the harder levels toward the end of the game, you can die 15 to 20 times and walk away determined to do better next time. It’s challenging, but also immensely satisfying and fun.