Mischief Maker’s Top 10 Games of 2020

Mischief Maker’s Top 10 games of the year 2020.

10. Jet Lancer

A wildly fast modern arcade game that plays like the souped-up lovechild of Time Pilot and Lunar Lander. With fast WASD and mouseaim controls, fly your superjet with modular weapons through a 30+ mission story campaign. Shoot down hundreds of enemy fighters, boats, tanks, and giant mecha bosses in a combat system that rewards perfectly-timed invincibility rolls with temporarily powered-up attacks. There’s also an aftergame endless mode. An absolutely thrilling game to play, my only complaint is the vague scoring system can be extremely frustrating on certain missions when trying for that perfect “Ace” rating.

9. Iratus: Lord of the Dead

If you haven’t played Darkest Dungeon you’ll probably miss the wink and nod of Iratus’ gameplay. This is a reverse Darkest Dungeon where YOU play the horrifying undead horde driving the heroes insane. It’s a 4 vs 4 turn-based individual-unit-initiative RPG blobber combat game where formation position decides which of a unit’s moves they have access to. Superior to Darkest Dungeon in every way except aesthetics.

8. Approaching Infinity

A real comeback-kid story of an indie programmer who signed a devil’s bargain with one of the worst publishers in indie gaming and had his game trapped behind a prohibitively ridiculous price tag and draconian DRM, only years later to get the rights back, re-release on Steam, and see wildly better success at a lower price point. Approaching Infinity is a mouse-driven roguelike version of the old Starflight games, that sees you exploring an infinitely long galaxy broken down into square sectors, complete with planet landings. While the game is feature-complete from its original version, the author has reclassified it as Early Access because he’s furiously adding new features like planet-scanning and elemental weapons and active skills now that the game’s a success. This is how I expected No Man’s Sky to play, not like the farming game it ended up being.

7. Serious Sam 4

Still a little technically shaky (protip: play on DirectX 11 and turn Depth of Field off), starts off on the wrong foot (lots of “comedy” cutscenes with closeup zooms of primitive face models), and ends on a whimper (a clearly unfinished final boss battle). But from level 3 to just before the end it is the best of the Serious Sam series with the best weapon balance, the best enemy variety, and the largest and craziest battles against literal armies of baddies to circle strafe your way through yet.

6. Creeper World 4

An asymmetrical base-building RTS where your enemy is (mainly) a deadly liquid modeled with realistic 3D fluid dynamics. It’s not enough that you build weapons, they need an energy grid to transport the ammo to keep them firing, and your power mainly comes from total surface area controlled, so even a little creeper liquid leaking around the edges and into your base could have terrible domino-effect consequences. Note that for all these CW games, the story campaign is meant as an easy tutorial and the real challenge comes from the aftergame content.

5. Scourgebringer

Fantastic little side scrolling ninja dash-brawler roguelite. Shoot slash and scream your way through a randomly generated maze complete with a Devil May Cry-esque combo meter. My one big complaint is pretty much all the unlock cancer is actually core gameplay mechanics, so you’ll have to do a lot of grinding before you get the real game.

4. Monster Train

A deck-builder in the spirit of Slay the Spire, but way more generous in terms of card-upgrading opportunities, and with a different kind of combat system. You arrange units on a three tiered train, then have them do turn-based non-RNG combat against waves of angelic invaders each turn while you provide support with spells. A HUGE improvement this game has over Slay the Spire is it tells you the type of powers the final boss will have from the very start so you won’t build an awesome deck over a half hour only to run into a boss that hard-counters your strategy.

3. Streets of Rage 4

The music and art style go in unexpected directions for the Streets of Rage series, but once you dig in you’ll find that this is one of the best belt-scroller brawlers ever made. Enemies can’t slide outside the playable area, there’s a designated “pick up” button to avoid grabbing a pipe when you meant to punch, special moves instead of costing health incur a “debt” of HP that you can earn back through hitting enemies, the combo meter is based on enemy health bar drained instead of number of hits so slow powerhouse characters aren’t at a disadvantage and throwing enemies into pits is actually GREAT for your score! I can’t go back to an excellent game like Fight’n Rage after the innovations of Streets of Rage 4.

2. Star Renegades

If Monster Train is the heir to the deckbuilding half of Slay the Spire, Star Renegades is the combat half. You control a team of up to 5 Star Wars-y dudes fighting against Borg-like baddies in excellent non-RNG combat with heavy emphasis on using moves that shift enemy actions down the initiative timeline to leave them open to critical hits from faster moves. Screenshots don’t do this game justice, the animations use every trick for maximum excitement, yet execute fast enough they don’t outstay their welcome.

1. Ghostrunner

Cyberpunk 2077 may have been a dud, but Ghostrunner gives me all the cyberpunk flavor I want married to a fast first-person platformer crossed with the instadeath combat of Hotline Miami. Very few games truly deliver on the fantasies of being a cyber-ninja that went through my childhood brain when reading Shadowrun sourcebooks. Ghostrunner delivers. And the synthwave soundtrack absolutely SLAPS! Note that you don’t actually reach the cyberpunk city until the halfway point of the game. My only complaint is for some dumb reason it blurs out your high scores if you play the GOG version without Galaxy running.

PS: Yes I know everyone’s going gaga over Hades, but I’m still waiting on the GOG release so I can’t very well write a review now, can I?

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Mischief Maker