I've always wanted more time to play video games. I didn't expect a global pandemic would force that opportunity upon me.

It wasn't just me. "Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors", reported Forbes. "Gaming Usage Up 75 Percent Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Verizon Reports", wrote Hollywood Reporter. Industry and health organizations supported this trend: "Games Industry Unites to Promote World Health Organization Messages Against COVID-19", proclaimed Business Wire.

My Nintendo stats show a 2.45x year-over-year increase in gaming hours on the Switch, my only console while living as a digital nomad. Paralleling the uptick in time was an increase in my gaming budget: whereas I spent an average of $400/year on games from 2013 to 2019, in 2020, my software expenses rose to $768.

The good news is that my spending on concerts, shows, movies, dances, and restaurants dropped to nearly zero, so my entertainment budget balances out. And, thanks to the discovery of the /r/NintendoSwitchDeals subreddit, I've been thriftier with my purchases: I bought 67 games and DLC at an average of $11.46 per game, compared to 26 games at $15.38 per game in 2019.

As at the end of 2018 and 2019, this post compiles information from my Trello board to reflect on what games I bought, played, finished, or abandoned. The numbers in parentheses reflect the quantity in that category, followed by the increase or decrease from last year.

I'm also adding a different kind of backlog: "Not bought yet". These games are on my wishlist, which makes it easier to justify buying them later, since they won't be impulse purchases — right?

And one more category: "Unreleased" — games that aren't out yet, but which I'll buy once they are.

Games that didn't move categories since last year are not listed again. Unless otherwise noted, all games are for the Switch.

Finished (16 / +7)

Sayonara Wild Hearts
A decent rhythm game with a good soundtrack. It's the only game from 2019's "Unfinished" list that I finished in 2020.
To the Moon
I'd been wanting to play this narrative game ever since its release in 2011, and especially after interviewing the developer in 2014; it took the Switch release for me to finally sit down and enjoy it.
I backed the Kickstarter for this series of mini-games that simulate arcade and console experiences from the 1980s. I really dug it, but I wish it had been longer: the whole experience lasted me a 90-minute train ride.
Luigi's Mansion 3
I'd previously played only the GameCube original, and it didn't leave much of an impression. But once the pandemic struck, I picked up a used copy of LM3 on Craigslist specifically for its online multiplayer mode. Sure enough, my co-workers and I had a marvelous time playing the ScareScraper mode together almost every Sunday night, making it the Switch game I spent the most time playing in 2020.
I was drawn to this game because of the involvement of Kamina Vincent, who previously appeared on my podcast and in the game The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which I loved. I found this short, 20-minute narrative game elegant and relatable.
A friend recommended this game which, with its bleak palette, puzzle elements, and horror motifs, was akin to Limbo and INSIDE. It's the only complete Let's Play I produced this year.
A hard-as-nails platformer that requires infinite patience. I appreciated seeing myself improve as I returned to familiar areas and breezed through previous challenges. Celeste is the only game to move from last year's "Bought but haven't played yet" list to this year's "Finished" list.
Dragon Quest
On a lark, I purchased the Switch edition of one of the first RPGs I ever played. I thought it would be only a brief and nostalgic visit, but I ended up playing the whole thing — and having a blast!
Donut County
Susan Arendt called this game "perfect", so I gave it a shot. It's similar to Katamari Damacy, which isn't my thing, but for a short game, it was fine.
The PS4 version of this game was on my "Bought but didn't play" list of 2018, after having briefly played the Xbox 360 version in 2011. After buying Bastion a third time, 2020 became the year I finally played it beginning to end. I enjoyed the narration and the various trial levels, though the ending felt a bit flat to me.
Super Mario Maker 2
I'm not a level-crafter, but I enjoyed Nintendo's inbuilt levels. The player-generated content, though, is far too gimmicky — none of them would ever pass for an official Nintendo creation. This was the Switch game I spent the fifth-most time playing in 2020.
A Short Hike (Mac)
A friend bought me itch.io's Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, which includes this game; I then turned around and bought the bundle for my friend Helene. Although A Short Hike is a one-player game, Helene and I played our copies simultaneously while sharing a voice chat. It was a fun way to explore the island together!
Arcade Archives DOUBLE DRAGON
The arcade classic beat-em-up! It feels like a cheat to say I "finished" this game, since I feel like anyone with infinite quarters could do so… but to be fair, compared to when I last played the coin-op as a kid, I could probably afford enough quarters now to finish the arcade version.
The Red Lantern
I was very excited to see this dogsledding game at PAX East 2020. The game itself ended up being a beautiful but shallow branching-path narrative game. I recorded a brief Let's Play.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
I finished the Game Boy original in 1993 and the DX version in 2000. Once it went on sale, the Switch version was a fun way to return to Koholint Island.
Ape Out
I didn't expect this game to have as much depth and challenge as it did. The stylized art and improvised soundtrack really kicked it up a notch.

Unfinished (11 / +7)

Tick Tock
This puzzle game doesn't support local or online multiplayer, yet it's a two-player game. Each person has their own copy and plays as one of two characters, communicating their experiences to the other player to solve mysteries. I got halfway through the game with a friend while we chatted on the phone; we haven't set a date to finish the back half.
Conduct Together
A train puzzle game I got on sale for $1. Mildly entertaining — perhaps more so with additional local players.
My friend Francesca made this game! But it too is a local multiplayer, which is a hard sell during a pandemic.
Fast RMX
Moving from my "Bought but haven't played" list of 2019, this game finally got some airtime, both offline single-player and online multiplayer. It's no F-Zero or WipeOut, but it's pretty darn close — and exceedingly difficult.
Ring Fit Adventure
It took almost a month of refreshing Target.com before I finally got a copy of Ring Fit Adventure… then I found three more sitting on the shelf at the local store! I've been pleasantly surprised by the depth of this game; I didn't expect it to be an RPG complete with skill tree. I played it every day for almost two months, then took a few months off. I'm now playing it 2–3 times a week. It's the Switch game I spent the third-most time playing in 2020.
Degrees of Separation
A two-player puzzle-platformer. I started this game with a friend, but we've since been opting to play Mario Kart and Need for Speed instead.
We should talk.
My friend Francesca helped make this game, too! I made it the subject of a Polygamer podcast. I've already finished one round of this visual novel, but I'd like to see more of its nine endings.
A simple puzzle game, obviously ported from mobile, that I picked up for 49¢. I've gotten my money's worth!
I interviewed Lumo's developer when the PS4 version came out in 2016. Having never finished it then, I've now retraced my steps on the Switch.
The roguelike that everyone seemed to be playing. It has a decent enough loop, but I haven't found it doing anything better than Dead Cells.
Untitled Goose Game
I abandoned this game in 2019, but the recent addition of a two-player mode gave it new life.

Evergreen (3 / -1)

Ken at PAX East convention holding the Dead Cells case
Killer Queen Black
Another carryover from the 2019 "Bought but didn't play" list. I got in some local multiplayer with my PAX East 2020 hotel roommates, then again over the summer with a co-worker in Missoula, Montana.
Dead Cells
Usually, when a game moves to "Finished", like Dead Cells did in 2019, it stays there. But I bought the physical cartridge at PAX East 2020 (and then the Bad Seed DLC) and was astonished at how much content I hadn't seen when I "finished" Dead Cells last year. I spent at least forty hours running through this game, exploring every biodome and collecting every weapon I could, making it the Switch game I spent the second-most time playing in 2020. I suspect I'll be returning to the prisons when more DLC comes out next year.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered
A friend and I used to play the Xbox 360 version online against each other all the time. We haven't since found a racing game like it, so we were delighted when the original was remastered for Switch. I haven't noticed many significant changes from the Xbox 360, which is fine by me.

Abandoned (10 / +3)

I was excited for this spiritual successor to Oxenfree, but I found Afterparty more linear and unfunny than I expected.
Ugh. I love Out Run and Rad Racer, but 80's Overdrive requires far too much grinding. Pay a fee to enter a race, and if you lose, you may end up worse than you started, requiring you go back and race easier races to earn enough dough for a second chance. No thanks!
A side-scrolling adventure game that reminded me of Zelda II, but without the combat or magic. It was cute for awhile, but it wore thin.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Another game Susan loved, but I had no investment in the protagonist or the stories he was deciphering, and the puzzles were too numerous and obtuse.
Kentucky Route Zero
Having backed the Kickstarter in 2011 but not having played any of the episodic releases, I tried to like the completed game. And as a former thespian, I really admired its art and sets. But the story was disjointed, vague, and hard to follow; I literally fell asleep trying to get through one scene
I'd never played a multiplayer shooter before, and given Overwatch's popularity, I wanted to give it a chance. It was okay, but I prefer mission-based campaigns.
Elliot Quest
Another Zelda II-esque game, though not as good as Super Win the Game.
Seeders Puzzle Reboot
I got this puzzle-platformer for 1¢, but it was more frustrating than fun
The Escapists 2
Since I absolutely loved A Way Out, another prison-break game, I thought The Escapists 2 and its online multiplayer would be a good time. But it has a sharp learning curve, and it required making the heroes do things I was uncomfortable with.
Burnout Paradise
My frist open-world racing game, and a tedious one at that. Where is the joy in driving around a desolate city, looking for racing events? I prefer the interface of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, where I choose a track and go

Bought but haven't played yet (32 / +18)

Contra Anniversary Collection
I didn't grow up with a Genesis, so Contra Hard Corps is my target here.
Child of Light
I remember wanting to play this on the Wii U; now's my chance!
I saw Runbow being played competitively at PAX, and it looked fun.
The Gardens Between
A beautiful puzzle game that I'll likely record a Let's Play of.
Drawful 2
This Jackbox game was only 10¢ at the beginning of the pandemic, though I ended up getting the Steam version for free.
Jackbox Party Pack 2
I bought this after a company meetup, where the co-worker who had this game for Switch proved immensely popular. It was our last meetup before the pandemic cancelled all corporate travel. (I've since bought the Steam version and have successfully hosted many online games!)
A remake of the classic Mac/NES point-and-click gothic fantasy puzzle game. I really enjoyed the Steam version when I interviewed the developers in 2014. I wonder how well the interface will translate to Switch?
Treachery in Beatdown City
I've been awaiting this turn-based 2D RPG since interviewing the developer in 2014.
2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL
Another point-and-click game I played on Steam when I interviewed the developer in 2015 and am now hoping to revisit and finish on Switch.
This War of Mine: Complete Edition
I'm noticing a pattern here: I interviewed this developer in 2014. Resource management games aren't my favorite, but I love the story this game tells.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
I interviewed this developer in 2014 for his previous game, Rex Rocket. I then backed the unsuccessful Kickstarter for this top-down Zelda-like game
I hosted a Women in Games Boston panel that featured the local developer of this game featuring a blind protagonist. The game came up when I hosted a podcast about blind game development, so I'd like to try it for myself.
Sorry to be a broken record, but I interviewed the developer in 2016 but never got around to finishing this cute fantasy platformer.
Old Man's Journey
I finished this game after I interviewed the developer in 2017. I probably won't play it again on Switch, but it was a pleasure to support such a great team.
A spiritual successor to Out of This World, the Switch version of which sits on my "Bought but didn't play" 2019 list. The difference is I finished OoTW on the Super Nintendo, but I didn't finish Flashback on SNES.
The Way Remastered
This game has been likened to Flashback and Out of This World. That recommendation made this 99¢ sale an easy buy.
The Walking Dead: Season 1
I've never seen the television show or read the comic books, but I enjoyed my brief time with this game on the Xbox 360.
Gauntlet: Slayer Edition (PS4)
As a fan of Gauntlet's original arcade coin-ops, I was disappointed when this entry in the franchise originally released for Windows only. I overlooked that it had been ported to PS4 until its sale earlier this summer. Even though my PS4 is currently in storage, and this Gauntlet supposedly isn't very good, I still grabbed it for later, making it the only PS4 purchase on this year's list.
Cosmic Star Heroine
The developer of this retro RPG previously made Cthulhu Saves the World; we also used to be co-sysops in the Video Gaming Central forum on CompuServe. I backed the game on Kickstarter, which didn't get me the game on Switch, so I bought it on sale.
The First Tree
Play as a fox! I picked it up for $2.99.
A perspective-altering puzzle game in the vein of Portal.
Axiom Verge
I bought the PS4 version of this Metroidvania five years ago. Maybe now I'll finally play it?
VASARA Collection
This pair of shmups was only 19¢.
Hyper Light Drifter
A top-down Zelda-like game I've been wanting to play since before it released on PS4 in 2016.
Mark of the Ninja Remastered
Another Xbox 360 game I played but never finished.
Okami HD
I've never played any version of Okami, but it has a beautiful art style, and I like dogs.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2
I produced a Let's Play of the original two years ago this week. Even if the sequel offers no significant improvements over its predecessor, another Castlevania sendup is still okay by me.
Jenny LeClue
I backed the Kickstarter for this female-protagonist adventure game in 2014. Time to finally play it!
The Room
I played The Room 3 on iOS and loved the combination of puzzle and Lovecraftian horror.
The Last Campfire
A puzzle game from the creators of No Man's Sky, which has a passionate fan base.
Resident Evil
The survival-horror game that started it all!
Blaster Master Zero 2
I had just finished Blaster Master Zero when the sequel was released at PAX East 2019.

Not bought yet (8)

Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Given how long it took the original Ori to be ported from Xbox to Switch, I never expected this Metroidvania sequel to arrive as quickly as it did.
Manifold Garden
I played Manifold at IndieCade East 2016. It broke my brain in much the way Portal did when it first came out.
A Fold Apart
Fifty handcrafted paper-folding adventures!
Arcade Spirits
I'm not hugely into dating sims, but this one is set in a coin-op arcade and comes recommended by my podcast voiceover artist.
Cursed Castilla
A Ghosts 'n Goblins-like game that I originally played on PS4.
Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition
Ermahgerd. I played the first four games on NES and then got absolutely absorbed into Dragon Quest VIII on PS2, sinking 80 hours into it during a bout of unemployment. I'm not sure I have the stamina for another such commitment, so I'm waiting for the physical edition to go on sale. The optional 16-bit top-down aesthetic is a killer feature, though.
Shadows of Adam
A 16-bit JRPG with good Steam scores.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics
I liked other tactic games like Vandal Hearts and Mario + Rabbids; but The Dark Crystal didn't get great reviews, and I couldn't get into the Netflix series, so maybe I don't need this one?

Unreleased (5)

Boyfriend Dungeon
I'm looking forward to this dungeon crawler that's also a dating sim where you date your swords.
Paradise Lost: First Contact
I didn't back the Kickstarter in 2013, which is unfortunate, as I'm eager to play this game about an alien escaping from a test facility.
A failed 2014 Kickstarter for a game called Tetropolis has become Refactor, which I've played at several PAX Easts and now want to play at home.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
An actual story-based sequel to a Zelda game is rare. Given that I sunk 150+ hours into the original, it's a given I'm in for the follow-up.
Metroid Prime 4
Any time now.

One thought on “My gaming memories of 2020

  1. Nice rundown! I should start keeping such a log of the games I play (and, almost play, and don't get around to finish playing).

    Get on that Child of Light play through! It's a fantastic (and beautiful) game and well worth the time to complete.

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