Something I’ve found myself doing more in 2020 is going back to old games. I spent my summer replacing my GameCube’s disc drive with an SD card reader (and you thought next-gen load time improvements were exciting!) and the thing I was most looking forward to with Xbox Series X and PS5 was revisiting missed treasures through backwards compatibility. But looking back, even my favourite new games of the year have a hint of nostalgia to them. Maybe it’s just one of those years where, without realising, I needed a bit of familiarity.
Like most of us, the game I’ve sunk the most time into this year is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I’ve played every Animal Crossing since the long awaited PAL release on GameCube, and though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each one, I never stuck with them. Whether it’s on DS or Wii, three or four months in and my lofty ambitions at fully completing the museum falls by the wayside. I’m pleased to report I’m almost there with the Switch version, give or take some pier fish that stubbornly wouldn’t spawn and are now out of season, which means I’ll be forced to chip away at it until May of next year – something which I’m secretly delighted about.
Destiny has on and off been my ‘go to’ game since 2014, and this year saw me give up the guilt of sinking yet another evening playing Gambit matches (yes, there are some of us out there who enjoy it!) and embraced it as the best way to unplug after a long week, especially when combined with a podcast or three. It’s been a mixed year for the game – there’s a sense developer Bungie has struggled to adjust to a seasonal rhythm post-Activision, but the last few months have seen a remarkable turnaround between new expansion Destiny 2: Beyond Light – perhaps the best since The Taken King – and a fantastic next-gen version which showcase the game’s stunning worlds in the best possible light. If you’re like me and have been falling in and out of love with Destiny over the years, now’s the perfect time to jump back in.
It’s a shame the Resident Evil 3 remake has been overlooked by many this year – it’s indeed shorter and less surprising than last year’s incredible reimagining of Resident Evil 2, and yes, it’s a shame Nemesis came out more scripted and far less terrifying than Mr X. But the original was always a more focused experience, and it wasn’t the initial playthrough but the ones afterwards – where you could storm through the game on tougher difficulties with ridiculously overpowered weapons, replicating the arcade feel of the original’s Mercenaries mode – that Resident Evil 3 really clicked for me.
Meanwhile, The Last of Us Part 2 also made me nostalgic in a different way, in that I always forget how much I enjoy playing Naughty Dog games until I’m sat in front of them; they look great, sound incredible, and have a big budget sheen that you can’t help but enjoy getting lost in, even in a story as bleak and hopeless as this. It’s probably the studio’s best work, and I’ve even come around to the main issue most Naughty Dog games suffer from – its length – as it helps it stick the landing on a difficult story that I’ve thought about all year.
Finally, looking more recently, Astro’s Playroom might have single-handedly justified my purchase of a PS5. I’m a sucker for good rumble and achingly nostalgic for simple, well-made 3D platformers, so to have both in such a playful package – and one you could comfortably complete in a weekend – was a real highlight in a crowded and busy November. That it was also crammed with many lovingly delivered references to PlayStation’s history – which I urge you to discover first hand before they’re spoilt for you – was probably the highlight of it all.