Americans celebrate Thanksgiving every November. It’s a time when families gather, friends reconnect and communities unite. On Thanksgiving you also announce what you’re thankful for in life, so several of our writers decided to let everyone know exactly which video games they’re thankful for. These thanks are comprised of releases from Thanksgiving 2019 to Thanksgiving 2020 and made up of a variety of reasons. Read on to see the titles everyone decided were personally meaningful enough from the past year to make the list!
Kirstin is thankful for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (March 6, 2020)
Pokémon has always been a series near and dear to my heart, and while I was always keen on the mainline titles, the first spin-off I was ever introduced to was Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. I fell utterly in love and this year got the surprise announcement that the first title was receiving a remake. It ended up being everything I wanted and more. A return to one of my absolute favorite games in a new style and yet felt like revisiting old friends I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. The story is entirely about friendship, a bond between Pokémon as they struggle to save the world together and solve the problems as they’re shunned away from their home after being accused of crimes they didn’t commit. It added great new things like shiny Pokémon, mega evolutions and a ton of visual upgrades for items that helped build on the world. It even fixed one of my biggest disappointments that was after the game your partner no longer said good morning to you, but now they will every day even after they’ve evolved. Heck, they even finally added bandanas on the main Pokémon duo while they’re still in their basic forms. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX is a comfort in every way. It’s familiar, yet changed, just as you would expect from an old friend and I’m thankful I had the chance to dive back into the wonderful experience once more.
Jacob is thankful for Persona 5: Royal (March 31, 2020)
While there have been plenty of excellent releases this year, it’s still Persona 5: Royal that I’m most thankful for. The changes and additions it made to an already-awesome game all felt natural, as if they were meant to be there all along. Getting to know Kasumi and Maruki was just as interesting as developing friendships with the other characters. The combat was wonderfully spiced-up and the extra endings let me play out a couple of “what-if” scenarios that’d been bouncing around in my head ever since I finished the original in 2017. It also helped that this came during a big move for me, so it was nice to have a good mix of old and new to help take my mind off it and ease the transition. There may be better games out there, but Persona 5: Royal is hands-down my highlight of 2020 thus far.
James is thankful for SnowRunner (April 28, 2020)
My normal taste in games leans towards arcade and action, but this year has been one where the extra focus to hone in on pinpoint-perfect reflexes just hasn’t been as available as I’d like. Instead I’ve been taking it easy, using gaming as a way to relax and escape into a more manageable world. The game that I’m thankful for this year is SnowRunner, which doesn’t have an enemy anywhere in the whole world but instead requires the player to use its tools to complete a huge series of jobs across hostile terrain. While sorting out the controls takes some effort, once learned there are a huge amount of tools available to tackle even the roughest wilderness. Mountain tracks carved by streams, muddy bogs, rivers frozen solid and snowdrifts that even the highest-traction tires can’t get a grip on all stand in the way of delivering Cargo to Place. You can tackle the challenges with brute force, careful plotting of the optimal route or relying on the winch to basically drag the truck to the goal, but there’s always a way if you’re patient enough. Few events are timed and just about everything is optional if you decide that a particular job feels like a bit much. There’s pressure in navigating the tougher areas, of course, but otherwise SnowRunner is a game of choosing a task and tackling it however you like, driving across the beauty of a wilderness that’s just barely been touched by humans. It’s challenging, sure, but also relaxing and satisfying, and I’m thankful there are games that let me unwind into a simpler, more-focused world.
Chris is thankful for The Last of Us Part II (June 19, 2020)
A game I’m thankful for in 2020 is one that was met with universal critical acclaim and extremely-divided fan reactions: The Last of Us Part II. There are elements of this game that can be legitimately criticized, but personally the good outweighed the bad. But while I would argue this is overall a great game by most objective standards, I’m thankful for it because of more personal reasons. The original game was a topic of deep discussion with my other half so naturally we were anticipating this release. Playing through the game together was a good bonding activity and led to hours of discussion about the character choices and the storytelling approaches used in The Last of Us Part II.
Kevin is thankful for Ghost of Tsushima (July 17, 2020)
Sucker Punch Productions’ transition from superheroes to samurai was a resounding success. We all knew the game would be gorgeous, as evidenced from its E3 2018 reveal, but what we didn’t know was just how much of a gem its story and gameplay would be. The tale of Jin Sakai was an engrossing one, pulling players in as he attempted to rid his home of the Mongol threat. Sucker Punch beautifully realized the world, stacking it with characters that would challenge the player’s perception of the old ways and push them towards a new path, the path of the Ghost. Similarly, on paper the gameplay is simple, but elegantly crafted and possessing hidden depth. Swapping of different stances, the different gadgets and the ability to instill fear when in Ghost mode all add to masterful gameplay loop. What really makes me so thankful for Ghost of Tsushima, however, is that it’s just fun. In a year defined by tragedy, hardship and anxiety, Ghost of Tsushima makes it easy to get lost in its beautiful world. When you need a break from the hard-hitting story, there’s plenty of Mongolian slaying to be found. Sucker Punch Productions gives players a samurai sword, let’s them loose in a beautiful world and let’s them have at it. 2020 has been a rough year for so many, but Ghost of Tsushima provides a fantastic 20-30 hour respite from the world.
Kyle is thankful for Spiritfarer (August 18, 2020)
Choosing a game to be thankful for in 2020 can be tricky. Given the current state of the world and how many of us are looking for ways to keep occupied while cooped up, I feel like we should be thankful for virtually any good, engaging games. But the one that I was thankful for the most is a game that felt optimistic, warm, comforting and colorful. Even if said game is about ferrying the souls of the dead towards the afterlife. I am, of course, referring to Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer. Aside from being a possible GOTY contender in general, Spiritfarer hit a certain sweet spot for me, not only giving me the freedom to craft an insane ship filled with tons of activities and giving me an open world to explore, but also providing one of the year’s best casts of characters. Azul, Gustav, Stanley…all of them were a blast to hang out with and I truly felt a bond between them as I learned more about their stories. It got to the point where I actually purchased the art book because I heard it had more info about them, and once I learned what not only went into their backstories, but how the world around them is all related to everyone and Stella in various ways, and the absolute tons of metaphorical layers that went into everything, I couldn’t stop thinking about Spiritfarer for the longest time, about how what I thought were small bits suddenly had much more meaning. And all of this is just so refreshing. In a year where other games try to attempt drama by being continuously blunt, bleak and depressing by presenting horrible situation after horrible situation to the point where it almost cartoonishly feels like award bait and you stop caring about everyone in the plot, Spiritfarer decided to go hard in the opposite direction. Vibrant landscapes, cute animal characters who just want to hang out with you, a vast ocean filled with magical adventures…all of this means that when the emotional moments reveal themselves in a natural way and do hit, they hit hard. Spiritfarer never stops being comforting as a whole, but it deals with the themes of death and how everyone approaches them in such a beautiful, mature fashion. It’s a brilliant bit of fantasy with the year’s best writing and it’s something we all need right now.
Steve is thankful for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (September 4, 2020)
When it comes to pure video game fun, it doesn’t get much better than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. While stating that a sports game, as extreme as it may be, is one of the best examples of the entertainment value of the medium may be confusing to some, anybody who has played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater knows exactly why this is true. Striking the perfect balance between challenge and fun, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was one of the first and best examples of a 3D game capturing the basic appeal of 2D games upon its release in 1999. It was a game that you could turn your brain off to play to melt away the hours, but the constant challenge of trying to perfect tricks or top that perfect run gave it enough pull and pattern repetition to keep you engaged, much as some of the best arcade games did in the ’80s. While its sequel reached the same heights, there was a notable downgrade as the series went on, culminating in some iterations that seemingly put the final nail in the coffin for the series. When Activision announced that Vicarious Visions would be bringing the series back by ways of remaking its first two entries, it was as cause for as much celebration as it was anxiety. Thankfully, though, they managed to strike the perfect balance of honoring the basic vibe of the original games while updating them just enough to fit in with modern sensibilities. Playing and looking basically as your rose-tinted mind remembers it did in 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a perfect example of how to revive a classic and will allow a new generation of gamers to experience the pure joy the games brought so many years ago. In a medium with ever-increasing complexity, a masterfully-executed revival is something we can all be thankful for.
Sam is thankful for Super Mario 3D All-Stars (September 18, 2020)
Nintendo received a lot of flak after the announcement of the long-rumored remastered collection of Super Mario 3D platformers, with complaints citing the minimal improvements from the original releases, limited time availability for purchase and the disappointing absence of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Super Mario 3D All-Stars, however, still ultimately represents one of the few ways to play these acclaimed titles on a modern platform, providing an exciting opportunity for those that missed out over the past couple of decades. After falling in love with Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 back on the Wii, but having never owned an N64 and missing out on Sunshine during its heyday, I honestly thought I may never get a proper opportunity to check out Super Mario 64 and Sunshine on a Nintendo device, considering Nintendo’s recent reluctance to re-release games that came out after the SNES. And as Nintendo slowed down their release schedule for 2020 to adjust to everything going on, I naturally figured that any potential 3D remaster, if it even existed, would be pushed back beyond the mascot’s 35th anniversary. But now, thanks to Super Mario 3D All-Stars, I can officially say that I’ve gotten all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 and am currently aiming to do the same in Sunshine, and despite wonky camera controls and poor checkpoints, I’m still having a blast with the great level design and jolly vibes of these beloved Mario games.
Jordan is thankful for Genshin Impact (September 28, 2020)
Any game that’s branded as a “free-to-play” title is almost immediately going to get inundated with any number of negative connotations and accusations alike. Long-winded, grind-inducing, predatory, a matter of luck over skill on the kind of content you’re granted outside of some voluntary, monetary investment. It may sound dismissive and pessimistic, but the number of such games whose priorities with maintaining a steady revenue stream doesn’t get in the way of the base game offered are few and far between. Enter Genshin Impact, developer miHoYo’s far from first rodeo on the F2P frontier — itself thrown many a condescending remark on being a clone of this or imitation of that. The similarities are there to see of course and while admittedly a touch obvious in parts, what I’m most thankful for with Genshin Impact is the genuine effort and design miHoYo have placed in crafting an enjoyable action RPG to start. A live service, continually-expanding release this may be, Genshin Impact’s starting world, its gameplay, its sheer breadth of exploration put many similar open-world efforts, let alone F2P attempts, to shame. To state with hand on heart I’ve now clocked near to 40 hours and still not spent a single penny — occasionally tempting it may be — I’m grateful that Genshin Impact has taken a more sensible approach to F2P games: satisfying base game first, additional monetization second as an option.
Beck is thankful for Demon’s Souls Remake (November 12, 2020)
The next generation is here and unfortunately with it comes few games that utilize the power they offer. If you were lucky enough to obtain a PlayStation 5, you would be met with only one major game that was truly exclusive to Sony’s next generation platform: Demon’s Souls. While there’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure, each incredibly well-designed games, both were also released on the PS4. It’s a sad state of affairs when the PlayStation 5’s only next-generation exclusive is a remake of a PlayStation 3 game, but at least Bluepoint was able to properly honor the original’s vision with adding and slightly refining it. While there are elements that do feel dated to later iterations in the Souls franchise, there’s nothing like revisiting the classic and experience where the award-winning franchise began. Beautiful visuals, a 60fps mode and excruciatingly-challenging scenarios, while FromSoftware was not at the helm, the remake shines as one of the best games this year. If there’s one game to get on the new platform in 2020, it’s this fifty-plus hour RPG with so much replayability. Without Demon’s Souls, the PlayStation 5’s launch would be just plain embarrassing, making me so very thankful of its existence.
Jake is thankful for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (November 20, 2020)
When the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launched in 2017 it was praised for its action, storyline, open-world and more. It has become the epitome of what a Zelda game could and should be. And while all that is terrific, some answers remained a mystery until the recent release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Here, we find out about the events that occurred leading up to Ganon’s takeover of Hyrule. It bridges the gap between past and present. Plus, getting to play as some of the Champions, Zelda herself and others from the series, is a dream come true. It was a surprise when the game was announced since the first Hyrule Warriors came out in 2014 as its own original title. But basing this version off of pre-existing content adds tons of new tidbits for fans to enjoy. Plus, Age of Calamity gives us something to do before the release of Breath of the Wild’s sequel. This is why I am thankful for the game; it satisfies the need and want for more Zelda.
As you can see, there has been a diverse line-up of video games to be thankful for this past year. Let us know one of your favorite releases of 2020 in the comments below and share how it may have impacted your life in any way!