A game which arrived mere weeks after its surprise announcement, Paper Mario: The Origami King brought an abundance of charm to the series' fold, as well as some unexpected hard-hitting emotional moment or two. Granted, our emotional defences have taken a battering this year (at least that's what we told ourselves as we wept watching the season two finale of The Mandalorian), but even without the content of 2020, Nintendo managed to hit us squarely in the feels while delivering one of the best Paper Mario RPG adventures in years.
Incidentally, The Origami King featured some of the best-looking water on any console this year.
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This long-awaited sequel to one of the greatest beat 'em up series ever made had a lot riding on it, and despite the obvious passion and dedication of the team, there were so many ways it could have gone wrong. It could have been Sonic the Hedgehog 4, and then we'd have been in real trouble.
It goes without saying that it needed to replicate the feel of the original games, but Streets of Rage 4 had to add something new, too. That's just as vital a part of the Mega Drive trilogy as the incredible soundtrack. And you know what? Dotemu and Guard Crush only went and did it! Streets of Rage 4 is everything fans could have hoped for — far more than a slavish re-tread with a slick lick of paint. It nails the spirit of the originals while adding characters and mechanics like the combo system that take the franchise forward. Plus, it's got some sick tunes. We can't wait to see what's over the DLC horizon in 2021.
Given Supergiant Games' past work, we expected this to be good. Perhaps its greatest achievement — beyond its brilliantly crisp art, stunning audio and vocal work, evocative world-building and immensely satisfying mechanics that form its addictive roguelite gameplay loop — is the fact that it surpassed our loftiest expectations. Oh, Hades is something a bit special said everyone; the kiss of death for lesser games. Hades swaggers in with a nod of acknowledgement — yeah, I'm all right, I guess — and proceeds to absolutely knock your socks off. Top, top game.
Say what you like about the barebones presentation of Super Mario 3D All-Stars or the conspicuous absence of one of the plumber's finest outings, but it still presents three 3D Mario adventure (two of which are undisputed classics, with Sunshine being the Marmite in the sandwich) in one convenient handheld package.
It may lack the bells and whistles it honestly deserved (an update patched in some much-needed control options and GameCube controller support), but it gets away with its bare-minimum approach thanks to the sheer quality of the games included. 16:9 presentation for Super Mario 64? We'd have jumped at it. 60ps for Sunshine? Patch it in, Nintendo. We're not keen on the limited-time availability aspect, either but — let's face it — we'd have all bought it sooner or later, right?
Even with all the caveats it comes with, we've had some fantastic times with Super Mario 3D All-Stars this year.
Was there ever any doubt? This likely would have ended up topping the list of any year it was released in, but the fact that it coincided with the testing events of 2020 means that for many people it's been far more than a mere time sink to while away the evenings. Far and away our team's favourite gaming experience this year, its influence transcended into the mainstream in a way few other games have this year (in a positive sense, that is) or any other. It's been a creative hub, Zoom chat talking point, topic of debate as updates drop, and subject of countless memes and feel-good social media posts.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is far from perfect, but a decade from now when we look back on 2020, it will be one of the few positive linchpin memories of an overwhelmingly negative year for many. Fortuitously, Nintendo delivered a charming digital escape that lasted for hundreds of hours at just the time it was needed most, and despite many other fantastic titles keeping us company through lockdown and the numerous other calamitous events of this past year, only one of them will go on to define this unforgettable period in the minds of several generations of players.
Good show, Mr. Nook.
Surprised by our favourite? Surely not! Let us know how wrong we are below and check back tomorrow when you lovely people have your say with the Top 50 Switch games of 2020.