Yes, even in times like these, we need games. How else will we deaden our senses, cloud our minds, and distract ourselves from the rapid unraveling of society? Sure, we could drink (and will), and engage in more clandestine ways of self-alteration, but videogames can get the job done with less guilt and remorse the morning after. Or at least a different kind of guilt and remorse. Games won’t save us from 2020, but they will at least make the shame and paranoia that are a requisite for modern living less acute. And hey, we get paid to write about games here, so it’s not even like we’re being irresponsible. Nope: we are very responsible.
Here’s what’s happening: I’m Garrett Martin. I edit this section, along with other sections, for Paste. My assistant editor, Holly Green, lives about as far away from me as possible. (Atlanta to Seattle is a hike.) (And don’t get me started on how some people call the Seahawks the Hawks, despite the wondrously cursed existence of the Atlanta Hawks.) Together Holly and I have produced this real humdinger of a list of games (and, uh, two gaming handhelds) that we hope will momentarily avert our attention from everything else in this world.
2020 should be a pivotal year for games, assuming the year actually goes on as scheduled—a new PlayStation and Xbox are on the way, and big-dollar games like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part II are on the calendar—and sure, we’re totally interested in all of that stuff. It is well past time for the fifth of the PlayStations. You might not find those most high profile projects in the list below, but that only speaks to the wide diversity of games in the year 2020, which will probably also be known as Year Zero to whatever civilization arises from the ashes of our own. As with every list Holly or I cobble together here at Paste, this is a personal inventory that reflects our own tastes and sensibilities, which have been finely hewn across collective decades of gaming frivolity. Take no offense if your own tastes aren’t reflected back at you from the words within: them’s the breaks, kid.
So now, in no specific order, here are the games and gaming miscellanea that we’re most excited for in 2020.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
When life gets to be too much, and the stresses of editing a highly esteemed culture website get to weigh too heavily upon me, I head directly to one place: an island. Any island. Could be in a lake, could be in an ocean, could even just be a water park with the word “island” in its name. Maybe I’ll just listen to an Islands record. And if that’s what I need—if that’s what works for me—than doesn’t my digital simulacrum who lives amongst persnickety animals deserve such a break, too? That’s the beauty of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is coming to the Switch in March: this time it’s on an island. Oh, there’s more to be excited about: more freedom in designing our characters, more advanced weather patterns, an expanded online set-up, the ability to build tools and furniture for the first time—but obviously the island is the key. Soon we’ll all be able to lay back with a cool, refreshing drink and relax in the most invigorating way: by doing errands for petty, spoiled animals.—Garrett Martin
Deadly Premonition 2
It’s hard to put into words my excitement over the upcoming sequel to the cult hit of the 2010s, Deadly Premonition. Given the tumultuous publishing history of the original, and the disappointment of designer Swery65’s unfinished D4, I never dared to even hope, much less envision the day. While Deadly Premonition 2 will take place in New Orleans, not my beloved Pacific Northwest, it’ll be worth the price to revisit the character of Agent York. Not much is known yet about Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise, but it will take place directly after the events of the original, and cover York and Zach’s pursuit of another serial killer, their paths crossing with Boston agent Aaliyah Davis as the two cases intersect.—Holly Green
Kentucky Route Zero: Act V
The finale to one of our favorite games of the decade should finally be out some time this year, and hopefully it’ll wrap up this beautiful and mysterious exercise with the same confidence and sense of style that defined the first four acts. This slice of esoteric Americana is a bit of modern mythmaking, folding old-fashioned folkways, archaic computers, synthesizer fetishism, Kentucky bourbon, and warehouse workers made of pure bone into a gorgeous and unpredictable tale that’s purposefully vague but fully assured. The South, like humankind, is old and weird, and even the not-entirely-South like Kentucky can lay some claim to that heritage. Kentucky Route Zero breathes deep from that eldritch air and exhales its secrets straight into our computers.—Garrett Martin
Dead Static Drive
Given how little information there is on Dead Static Drive, it’s hard to say if this one will actually come out in 2020. But this existential cosmic horror survival game is too weird to forget and too strange to ignore. Due on Xbox One and PC, Dead Static Drive is a bizarre roadtripping adventure that turns the landscape into a veritable battlefield; while it has strong RPG elements that remind me of Wasteland, the best part of the demos has been dealing with the aggressive monsters and tricky driving physics of the open road. The game has earned a lot of comparisons to Twin Peaks and X-Files, and I think that’s fair and apt. It mirrors that sense that the most surreal things always happen at twilight.—Holly Green
Does a game that’s almost never the same need a sequel? If you’ve somehow exhausted the randomness of the most ingenious run-and-jump game of the era, then you’ll be lining up for this sequel right alongside the rest of us. As a once-loyal player of Spelunky, I have to admit that familiarity gradually devolved these mysteries into the mundane. I await new challenges from new surprises, and Spelunky 2 is poised to offer a considerable amount of both.—Garrett Martin
Dying Light 2
Over the years, it’s been a treat to watch Techland grow as a studio, from the days of Dead Island to their parkour zombie hit of 2015, Dying Light. I loved the fluidity of Dying Light, and always felt that its light, speedy evasion techniques were a natural conclusion to the ailing zombie genre as a whole. Dying Light is fun because it makes running away the most entertaining and satisfying part of the process, a power fantasy I find superior to any amount of weapon crafting. I look forward to feeling that exhilaration again.—Holly Green
The best way to play videogames is laying down. I haven’t plugged my Switch into a TV in over a year. I spend far more time playing games on my phone than I do my consoles. This high-tech gaming PC has exclusively been a word processor in the year since I bought it. That’s just where I am in life: I prefer to play games on small, portable devices, and ideally snuggled up comfortably in a bed or couch. Playdate promises to give me exactly that experience, but with a roster of unique games that make use of an idiosyncratic interface. Panic, the publishers of Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game, are making a handheld that includes, alongside a directional pad and two face buttons, a crank. Like the kind your great-grandparents used to start up their Model T’s. It’s entirely possible the crank winds pu being a barely used gimmick, like the 3D in Nintendo’s 3DS, but this attempt to find new ways to play games is indicative of the innovative spirit behind the Playdate’s design. I look forward to getting weird looks when I play this thing on a flight later this year.—Garrett Martin
Cook Serve Delicious 3
What can I say? I’m obsessed with Cook Serve Delicious and I can’t wait for Vertigo Games to bring the pain. In the third installment of this high pressure restaurant simulator, players will hurtle across America on a train while serving customers between stops, with visual updates, control improvements and a vast array of new recipes to keep things interesting. I got my hands on this one at PAX West 2019, and I found the game to be just as fun and hectic as the originals, and some of the changes (like pressing ENTER, which will now clear all completed dishes) to be smart and helpful. I plan to participate in Early Access later this month in the lead up to the full game’s release in late 2020.—Holly Green
Evercade unites two of my favorite things: portable gaming, and vainly clutching at my long-vanished youth. This new handheld exists to bring the past to life, with multi-game collections from publishers like Namco, Atari, Interplay, Data East and more. Right now we can expect over 120 classic games from the ‘80s and ‘90s to be available on Evercade, from arcades and the Atari 2600 up through the 16-bit era. There’s also a planned cartridge featuring the new retro-inspired games from Mega Cat Studios, and Evercade’s creators hope to entice other independent developers to join the cause. There are many ways to play older games today, of course, but that usually means relying on potentially dodgy emulations or paying too much per game for PC or console compilations. Evercade seems like a relatively easy and affordable way to bring gaming history with me wherever I go, and I can’t really understate the appeal of that. Oh, and it’ll also plug into a TV, letting me play the same games in HD on the unnecessarily large television in my living room. That’s cool, too, I guess.—Garrett Martin
Sometimes when I get really sad about the demise of Fallout, I remember I can just go play a Wasteland game. And the latest installment, Wasteland 3, has some interesting key changes: a player vehicle, new environmental hazards, an improved and “more fluid” action system, and, perhaps most importantly, a co-op mode. I don’t know that I’ll ever actually use that co-op mode, but it’s different, so it has that going for it. There are also supposed to be some improvements to the dialogue system, and I can’t wait to see what exactly that entails. We’ll find out how it all comes together when Wasteland 3 comes out on May 19, 2020.—Holly Green
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.