By: Bill Baer (@Baer_Bill)
With the holiday season under way, it is time to start putting together our gaming wish lists. 2020 was an excellent year for games, and it was perfect timing as many of us were relegated to the confines of home during this awful and still ongoing pandemic. Looking to fill even more time in isolation? Here are some of the top titles to add to your holiday wish list.
Hades is arguably the game of the year. Published by Supergiant Games, Hades draws you in immediately with its excellent soundtrack and never lets up. The roguelike action RPG puts you in the shoes of Zagreus, son of Hades, who repeatedly attempts to escape from the Underworld to reach Mount Olympus. Zagreus, however, isn’t alone, as other Olympians offer aid in the form of gifts (upgrades).
Each “run” is unique, as the order of each room and the enemies within are generated randomly. Additionally, players can choose from a variety of weapons including a sword, a spear, a shield, a bow-and-arrow, gloves, and a rail gun. Players fight Zagreus through four different biomes. Combat is tense and frenetic, as enemies aren’t the only ones trying to hurt the hero; traps in the room do as well. Traps take the form of exploding bombs, arrows being flung across the room, and lava.
If – or, more accurately, when, if my gameplay is any indication – Zagreus dies, he returns to the start of the game, but players retain a bit of their progress in terms of weapons and upgrades unlocked. Thus, the replayability of this game is sky-high. However, if one is simply interested in the storyline, which is on its own incredible, one can activate “god mode.” This mode reduces incoming damage by 20% and increases by 2% for each death, maxing out at 80%. The game is otherwise unchanged, but allows players to more easily experience the narrative without worrying so much about the other stuff.
Hades is currently going for $19.99 on the Nintendo Switch and $24.99 on Steam.
The loooong-awaited ARPG from CD Projekt is scheduled for release on December 10. This dystopian game takes place in Night City and players take over in the first person as a mercenary named V whose features are very customizable. Players choose one from a handful of specialties – hacking, machinery, combat – which influences stat point allocation. Combat allows players both ranged and hand-to-hand combat, as well as plenty of other things to do as the story progresses.
You name it, Cyberpunk 2077 has it: gorgeous graphics, immersive gameplay, fluid combat, snappy dialogue, good music.
Not that Cyberpunk necessarily needed it, but CD Projekt brought on Keanu Reeves to voice the character Johnny Silverhand, one of the more central characters to the plot. He’s a rock star with a military past. Singer Grimes also voices one of the characters, Lizzy Wizzy, and contributed to the game’s soundtrack, as did rap duo Run the Jewels. The star power is immense.
Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on Playstation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, and on PC with a retail price of $59.99.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Call of Duty is back with a sequel to 2010’s Black Ops and a prequel to 2012’s Black Ops II. Set in the early 1980’s, players pursue a Russian spy whose goal is to subvert the U.S. Veteran players of the series will remember a cast of returning characters including Alex Mason and Frank Woods while Black Ops Cold War introduces some fresh new characters as well. The campaign offers a number of endings depending on choices the player makes throughout the game.
While one can certainly enjoy the game for the storyline alone, many were excited for its arsenal of game modes including VIP Escort and Fireteam. In VIP Escort, a 6v6 game mode, one player is randomly chosen as the VIP. His team will need to safeguard that player as they are brought to one of two extraction sites. In Fireteam, 10 teams of four players attempt to complete objectives.
Additionally, Black Ops Cold War features Zombie Onslaught, a two-player game mode in which both players attempt to survive against a horde of zombies on a variety of multiplayer maps.
CoD: Black Ops Cold War released earlier this month on PC, Playstation 4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, commonly retailing for $59.99.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Yes, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on the Nintendo Switch nearly eight months ago. Yes, you’re late. And yes, you should still get it whether it’s for you or for someone you care about.
Nintendo’s life sim sends the player to a deserted island. There, the player can fish, gather items, craft items, catch insects as they become enmeshed into the surrounding community.
What made AC:NH so special beyond the gameplay was the timing. The game was released in mid-March, as most of America had hunkered down indoors due to the pandemic. With little else to do, may players sunk themselves into the game to take their mind off of things. With most popular games featuring some kind of violence, AC:NH was a nice change of pace. People looking for anything but stress could catch a few bugs, visit a museum, and make some friends. No guns. No toxic multiplayer chat.
With the U.S. seeing another surge in COVID-19 cases and some areas of the country shutting back down, AC:NH remains as relevant now as it was eight months ago.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a Nintendo Switch exclusive and retails for $59.99.
Honorable mention: In the interest of not having this article run 5,000 words, here’s a brief list of some other games – arguably just as or more worthy than the others on this list – that you should consider adding to your holiday wish list.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- Super Mario 3D All-Stars
- The Last of Us Part II
- Doom: Eternal
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2