This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee recounts the best, worst, and blandest games of 2020.
- 1 Prologue: Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash
- 2 Transcript
- 3 Addenda
- 4 Honorable Mentions
Prologue: Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash
My latest novel, Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash, has been out on audiobook for ages, yes, but now, the print and ebook versions are available from all good retailers, courtesy of Dark Horse Books! All the same words, but now you get to know how all the names are spelled!
It's the end of 2020, and I think I speak for everyone and their clenched sphincters when I say, "Thank fuck that's over with!" Let's hope, in 2021, we can start rolling things back to the previous, more stable state of Hell on Earth; we might've been living in constant fear of climate disaster and financial ruin under leaders that could barely display the minimum pretense of caring, but at least we could still hug our elderly relatives as they died gurgling on their flooded lungs. But let's not forget the most important thing: making sure that the beings that, one day, discover the ruins of our civilization are very clearly informed on which video games from this year I liked and which I didn't like, and which just sort of dropped straight through my perception without leaving a mark like a high-fiber turd through an incontinent rectum. Yes, it's the Five Best, the Five Worst, and the Five Blandest, the tiresome yearly ordeal that, unlike Thanksgiving, you can't use global pandemics to wriggle out of.
(sound of raucous cheering)
This year, I coined the term "Jiminy Cockthroat" to refer to the gameplay style that every AAA game has now: stealth action, open world with crafting and collectibles, and probably that one mission where they take your stuff away and leave it on a table six feet from your cell in an astonishingly small bag. But it's a style that's overdone for a reason, so let's give one of them a prize: Ghost of Tsushima. I can't pronounce your name without spitting on the mic, but your art design's good, so you're officially the least shit; have a stale biscuit.
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Fifth Blandest is a game that started disappointing right out of the gate with its terrible subtitle, and then took us on a veritable rollercoaster of disinterest: Amnesia: Rebirth. The first Amnesia was a game that spawned a genre full of imitators, and all Rebirth seems to want to do is sit right in the middle of them playing with its belly button.
(sound of roaring flames)
As any of the agencies currently tracking my movements will tell you, I do like weird things; I'd play a Christmas-themed felching simulator that only makes sense to the homeless meth addict with a shoe on his head who designed it, but it has to not run like gravel through a chocolate fountain. Hence, Deadly Premonition 2 being Fifth Worst. You're an odd little duck, and I like you, SWERY, but your amusing quacks can't keep you out of the hoisin sauce forever.
When audiences have been awaiting a new installment of your historically significant shooter franchise for over a decade, finally releasing a new installment in the middle of a global crisis exclusive to VR - and as such, playable only by twelve rich people and their accountant - requires the sort of psychotic boldness that one can't help but respect. I, for one, enjoyed Half-Life: Alyx, Valve; perhaps one day, we'll all come and join you on your planet.
I was going over some of my previous Top 5 videos and thought, "Man, do I make a joke every single year about the inevitability of a Ubisoft sandbox being in the Bland Five?" You have to point these things out to me, guys! Most New Years, I'm too drunk to remember. What? Oh, any of them; it hardly matters. Immortals Fenyx Rising; there you go. Really shitty title, and the exploration is about as exciting as combing nits out of your pubes.
Fourth Worst narrowly missed out on consideration for the Bland List because, while the game is undeniably bland, the utter wrongheadedness behind its concept deserved extra credit: Minecraft Dungeons. It's Minecraft, but with no mining and no crafting. Were there no six-year-olds around that could've explained the problem to you, Microsoft? Were they all too busy consulting for the Xbox marketing department?
Things weren't looking too great for the Yakuza franchise, with the last couple of sputtering installments, but Yakuza: Like a Dragon turned it around with its fun characters and greater lean into the inherent silliness of the franchise. Yakuza's been running out of steam ever since the zombie spinoff, but I should've known the series couldn't even decline unless it's in an unnecessarily drawn-out and grandiose manner.
Ah yes, always the best part of this process: having to write something funny about the year's third most mediocre game, which was Serious Sam 4. Once all the unnecessary story and skill tree bullshit flakes off, it's just another Serious Sam game, that's it; something that ruled the roost back when retro-style boomer shooters weren't common, but I'm picking retro-style boomer shooters out of my cornflakes these days.
God, is there anything worse than a bad game that thinks it's funny? "Pustular psoriasis?" Oh, maybe. "The remaining two games on your list?" Alright, rhetorical! It's Battletoads. Why stop at boring, poorly designed gameplay when you could also add hilarious prolonged comedy animations to make it slow, clunky, and confusing, as well? It's like trying to count ceiling tiles while a clown is sitting on your face.
I just couldn't decide which of two games stood out the most in the ever-overcrowded field of indie roguelikes. On the one hand, Hades, beautifully artistically crafted and all that; but on the other, BPM: Bullets Per Minute, just plain more fun, with a primary gameplay loop that makes me unconsciously dry-hump my box ottoman. So fuck it; I'm squeezing them both into the 2 slot, because "indie" can also be short for "indie-cisive".
True greatness has often been found in the pursuit of the pointless; climbing Mount Everest is ultimately pointless, and yet every year, people kill themselves trying to do it. You, too, can get in touch with that spirit by playing The Dark Pictures: Little Hope, because once you get through its disjointed quick-time event-riddled story and discover that the whole endeavor was completely pointless, you, too, will want to kill yourself.
It's Remothered: Broken Porcelain, the atrocious bug-fest that's unpleasant not in a creepy horror way, but more like that weird-smelling kid at school who was caught licking the door to the girls' toilets. It was probably giving the game away to put "Broken" right in the title, alongside a couple of other words placed together with all the care and thoughtfulness with which one pitches soiled underpants into a laundry basket.
Yeah, it's a bit buggy and has a weak ending, but Spiritfarer's still the game I think most fondly of from this year: the lovely, heartwarming cartoon adventure about how everyone you love is going to die. Appropriate for 2020, really. "Your elderly relative might have died gurgling on their flooded lungs, but hey, life is a journey and death is coming home; why not imagine them as a giant anthropomorphic toad and feed them fried chicken on a boat?" Okay...
There was a time when Marvel Comics getting a massive multi-film big-budget crossover universe would've been exciting, but now it's here and it's blown its load a few times over with generic supervillains and badly-explained MacGuffins, it's hard to maintain enthusiasm. And the fact that Crystal Dynamics managed to take that and somehow make an even duller and more jaded version clearly deserves the top spot in the Blandness List, and perhaps even a Lifetime Achievement Award for Blandness if they can be bothered to pick it up.
I'm not trying to be contrarian; I genuinely cannot think of a game that gave me a more miserable experience than The Last of Us II. And here we fucking go. "Ooh, look at Mr. Controversial Opinions! You think The Game Awards' Game of the Year was actually the worst game ever, do you? And you think all the people who think it's good are wrong, do you? And you think The Game Awards have their noses shoved so far up AAA buttholes that they wouldn't notice a good game if it was speed bagging their testicles, do you? And you're going to put all these views into the mouth of a notional third party in a weak attempt at creating deniability, are you? You going to interrupt at some point?" I wasn't, no.
- Never optimistic, never disappointed: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Alright everyone I suggest we give it one more year and if things don't turn around we finally hear out those voluntary self-extinction weirdoes
- Now hindsight really is 2020
+ The pioneering VR game before Alyx took over
- General "held together with twigs and strings" vibe
+ Nice writing as far as immersive sims go
- See previous frame
+ More of what we liked before
- A lot more of what we didn't like so much
+ I actually really enjoyed the core gameplay loop
- Everything else
+ Impressive & innovative concepts
- Pity they were all completely useless in gameplay
+ Mind you that one character's dialogue was really well punched up wasn't it