5 Hidden Gem Games You Missed In 2020

5 Hidden Gem Games You Missed In 2020

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.

Townscaper 

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

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

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

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."

 

Five Fun Games You Can Play In 15-Minute Chunks

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:

Hades
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.

Bloodroots
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.