Hey everyone. It’s 2020, and that means we can forget about all those silly bad video games that came out last year, and look forward into the future, where a bunch of video games live that I have not yet played, and as such might be the best games I have ever experienced!
These games are not guaranteed to be the best games of the year, but a couple of weeks into 2020 these are the games that best caught my eye, and that I think are most worth keeping tabs on as they approach release. They’re not listed in any specific order, and they vary in release date from next week through to slightly into 2021, but I think all of these games seem really exciting, promising, and worth giving some of your attention.
Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening – Unity
In Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening, you play as Alicia, your every day cool queer aunt with supernatural powers. When Alicia’s niece vanishes off the face of the earth, alongside everyone’s memory of her or her town existing, our heroes embarks on a quest to a town inhabited by non human creatures that find it fun to screw with the population for their own amusement.
Team up with a gun fanatic who wants to get out of the lost town, a middle school teacher, and your niece to discover what has overtaken the town, and how to escape in one piece.
The game has a really lovely art direction and tone, reminiscent of Earthbound and Undertale in places. With the full game estimated to last around 15 hours, there’s a lot here that looks really promising. Don’t trust me? Well, you don’t have to, there’s a huge demo online you can try for free right now. How long? Approximately the first eight hours of the game. Having played a decent chunk of the demo, the character art portraits are super cute, all of the primary female playable characters are charmingly written, the soundtrack is awesome, and the core gameplay loop is rewarding. You can try out the demo for yourself here – https://unity.itch.io/weird .
Lord Winklebottom Investigates – Cave Monsters
Lord Winklebottom Investigates is an adorable point and click adventure game about fancy animal detectives wearing human clothes, speaking with exaggerated British accents, and trying to solve the murder of a very important and rich man who happens to be an Axolotl.
I mean, sort of sums this one up, doesn’t it? A comedic adventure game with silly animals all over the place. I know I’m sold.
Calico – CatBean Games
Look, I don’t always want to play games with fail states, and negative consequences for failure. Sometimes I just want to escape the world, see some happy colorful fluffy things, and imagine the world being okay. During those times, I crave games like Calico.
Calico is a day in the life community sim where you live in a remote village full of anime magical girls, with your only task being to rebuild the local cat cafe and make friends with anything fluffy that shows an interest.
Calico launches in mid 2020, and I’m so ready for a mid year boost of “DAWWWWW” in my life.
That Tiny Spaceship – We Make Small Games
That Tiny Spaceship is a hybrid visual novel and shmup releasing in 2020, and while those two genres don’t often get mashed up together, they do feel like they sit nicely together here. The game, created by a team of LGBT game developers, follows the story of six playable pilots, all of who have super cute designs, as they live life as cool space shooter pilots.
The shooter sections of the game come with the added challenge of players not being able to simultaneously shoot and move at the same time, adding a strategy element to planning approaches to combat.
Bossgame: The Final Boss is my Heart – Twin Strawberry Games
Okay, I’ll be honest, the name of this game was like 90% of the reason i got excited to click on the developer’s initial email. That’s a really cool name for a game.
Coming to PC and Mobile in Summer 2020, Bossgame: The Final Boss is my Heart is a primarily boss fight focused game, in which players control two girlfriends who have taken on work hunting demons to pay their bills. Alternate between chaotic fights with unique boss designs and story sections where you send texts to your friends, as well as your enemies. Apparently along the way you will “Prove the love and stubborn optimism can topple any evil!”, which I feel like we could do with a little more of right now.
You can find out more about Bossgame here.
Spooky Starlets – Tinyhat Studios
Okay, I am going to have a bit of an interesting time covering this particular game, because I don’t want YouTube or my website host to shout at me haha
In Spooky Starlets, you run an “adult film” studio for cute 2D animated monsters. Using a system of drag and drop cards, you can pick stars, locations, and acts to be engaged in, before watching a vampire and a devil girl start boning down. The game will when finished also include visual novel story sections in between the banging, to help flesh out the stories of who all these excitable creatures are, and what they want.
The game features a really cute art style, reminiscent of games like Monster Prom, and looks worth keeping an eye on if you like your games a little bit explicit.
Spooky Starlets is currently in development, with early builds available to those who support the game on Patreon.
Paradise Killer – Kaizen Game Works
Mystery-solving video games have existed almost as long as video games themselves, from early text-based adventures right through to the modern line of Danganronpa and Ace Attorney. One thing they usually have in common, however, is that there’s only one ‘right’ explanation for what happened.
In Danganronpa, you might think you’ve found a plausible version of events, but if you’re not presenting the perfect piece of evidence at the perfect moment, revealing the absolute truth of events, then the game says you’re wrong and stops progression. This is how a lot of them end up working, and you can see why: creating endless possibilities is a pretty steep ask. However, Paradise Killer aims to tackle the monumental task of subverting this idea.
Paradise Killer is a non linear murder mystery title, where you are never told if you found the true answer to a mystery, only if you found a satisfactory answer. It’s up to you to explore the game’s open world in a non linear fashion, collect as many clues as you can, and form your own hypothesis. If you think you know what happened, present your case and your evidence. If you have enough evidence for a conviction, you’ll get a conviction, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re confident there were no holes in your series of events.
Having had a chance to sit down and play through some of the game at a convention late last year, the visual design, character design, and writing of the game all have me deeply excited. Much like games like Her Story, there’s an exciting appeal in being allowed to as a player come up with your own conclusions, and debate them at length with others after the credits have rolled.
Paradise Killer releases later this year.
Say No! More – Studio Fizbin
Say No! More is a really simple and silly concept for a game. You’re playing as someone who has been saddled with unfair or unrealistic demands. You have a single button. Use it to scream no at your coworkers, your boss, basically anyone who tries to get in your way.
While we’ve not yet seen much of the game, and don’t really know where the narrative or gameplay might escalate to, there’s something super endearing about a video game that encourages standing up for yourself and being more assertive. I’m certainly intrigued.
Ephemeral Tale – Dawdling Dog
Ephemeral Tale is a turn based dungeon crawler with a big focus on loot. Collect randomised gear during your adventure that has a more substantial effect on how your character plays than simple stat increases. For example, one piece of gear might cause your character to automatically use potions rather than take damage when attacked. Another might mean that when an enemy dies to magic, it explodes, damaging enemies near it. It’s all about deciding what effects work for you.
Ephemeral Tale releases later this month, and looks pretty nice from the trailer, particularly the dynamic visual effects applied during combat.
Toodee and Topdee – Dietzribi
I think this year’s award for best pun based game name has to go to Toodee and Topdee, a puzzle platformer where you switch between perspectives of the same level design.
When playing as Toodee, the game is treated mechanically as a 2D side scrolling perspective platformer, while playing as Topdee changes that same level into a top down perspective environment. This means in practice that you might have to push around a block as Topdee into place, then swap to Toodee, where that block is now floating in the air and ready to act as a platform.
The core idea is really smart, and I highly recommend watching some gameplay footage and getting a feel for how it works.
Toodee and Topdee releases later this year.
12 Minutes – Luis Antonio
Revealed during E3 last year, and due to release some time in 2020, 12 Minutes is an adventure game set in a time loop. You play as someone who keeps repeating the same twelve minutes of their life, starting at the diner table, just prior to a violent break in at their home masqueraded as a visit from police.
Now, I’ve always been a sucker for time loop narratives, and the reveal trailer for 12 Minutes had all the stuff I love from the genre. Pump this directly into my veins as soon as possible.
You can learn more about 12 Minutes here.
Arranged – Kabuk Games
Releasing at the end of this month, Arranged is a short visual novel about a woman facing an arranged marriage in Turkey.
As a woman living in the UK, arranged marriages have always been a bit of a foreign concept to me. Having had a chance to play through this game ahead of release, it does a really interesting job of putting players in the shoes of someone who might be living a different life, in a different country, with different religious beliefs. It was a really interesting insightful experience for understanding the practices and realities of a life very different to my own
Arranged doesn’t glorify arranged marriages as always positive or healthy arrangements for those involved, but does contextualize why for some they work, and the cultural beliefs surrounding the practice which might make the prospect appealing to some. Regardless of my own feelings about the practice, I felt like I better understood after finishing how someone might feel they have no options to escape from a marriage set forth in front of them.
You can find out more about Arranged here.
Don’t Take it Personally, I Just Don’t Like You – Christian DeCoster
Another of this year’s indie games with amazing titles, Don’t Take it Personally, I Just Don’t Like You is a dating sim, with a refreshing twist. In this game, not every NPC who you can invest time and niceness in will be interested in you in return. No matter how nice you are to some of the characters, no matter how much you give the answers they want to hear, sometimes you’ll just have to be okay with romantic rejection. Handle that rejection in a healthy way, remain great friends, and show that you like your friends for more than their datability potential.
Don’t Take it Personally has a really lengthy demo available online right now for free, which acts as a stand alone prequel adventure and tone setting piece. The demo is over an hour long, and does a great job of selling the tone and polish of the game.
You can play as a “guy, gal, or non binary pal”, customise your pronouns, and date / make friends to your hearts content, all backed up by some wonderful lofi beats. Plot the downfall of capitalism while working out if the punk girl you’re drinking with wants to bang you, or just dismantle the system by your side.
The dialogue writing in Don’t Take it Personally is really delightful, charming, and does a wonderful job at selling what makes its characters tick. If you’re interested, check out the demo right now.
Creator Crate – Creator Crate Games
Creator Crate is a fast paced, procedurally generated platformer about a little adorable robot that was created to absorb and recreate matter, but manages to break free from the lab it was made in, attempting a chaotic dash for freedom.
I was able to go hands on with an early build of Creator Crate earlier this week, and found the core gameplay loop really fun. You run around levels grabbing items, throwing tables at guards trying to catch you, absorbing vending machines into yourself, using the absorbed matter to print guns, and leaping through levels as though your tiny robot freedom depended on it. It feels like there’s a lot of mechanics at play to manage at once, but I’m interested to see what skilled players are able to do with the toolset.
You can find out more about Creator Crate here.
Wayward Strand – Ghost Pattern
Set in an alternate version of 1978 Rural Victoria Australia, Wayward Strand sees you journey on a flying hospital ship, as the 14 year old daughter of the ship’s head nurse. You’ve been brought on board for three days to help out in the nursing home wing of the hospital, and your job is simply to keep the residents company.
Walk around a really gorgeous environment talking to NPCs as you see fit, getting to know the stories of the people there, and learning more about life of those living in care.
You can learn more about Wayward Strand here.
Lenna’s Inception – Bytten Studio
Releasing in Q1 2020, Lenna’s Inception is my most anticipated 2D Zelda style game releasing this year. Of the MANY Zelda inspired games I got emails about while putting together this feature, this was easily the one that stuck with me most.
Lenna’s Inception is an action adventure game set in a world where the actual legendary hero destined to save the world died, not to the primary antagonist, but an unexpected accident. Now, you as an NPC of no real consequence must take up the mantle, and adventure on in the hero’s place.
With the world starting to glitch apart, players can play through the full game in single player or two player co-op, as well as playing the game with either a GBA Zelda inspired look, or an optional art style designed to look like the older GameBoy Zelda titles. The game also randomises certain elements each playthrough like those Link to the Past randomiser ROM hacks, so there should be ample reason to play more than once through.
You can learn more about Lenna’s Inception here.
A Purrtato Tail – Cerulean Games (2021)
Aiming to release on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch in early 2021 (Yes, I know this isn’t 2020, but forgive me, I like cat games), A Purrtato Tail is an adorable cat based side scrolling action adventure game. There are loads of cat characters with different powers to recruit to your party and a bunch of them wear cute lil human clothes. Considering it’s still a year out from released, it’s looking pretty polished in footage so far.
The game features some pretty solid voice acting, and a soundtrack by video game centric music creator Brentalfloss. You can find out more about A Purrtato Tail here.
Bri goes to Hell – Cassidy D’Alesslo
Bri Goes to Hell is a fast paced freerunning sidescrolling platformer about two girlfriends trying to escape hell. You know how it is, God arbitrarily decides your kind of love and attraction is a sin, you both go to hell, you disagree with the ruling, you simply freerun your way out. Typical everyday occurrences.
Development for the game is currently being funded on Patreon, which will apparently go towards funding additional goals, such as ports to consoles. I had a chance to try out a short demo for the game earlier this week, and the best way to describe the feel was a mix between Super Meat Boy and a 2D perspective Mirror’s Edge, complete with momentum based wall scrambling techniques.
You can find out more about Bri Goes to Hell here.
The Almost Gone – Happy Volcano
The Almost Gone is a narrative adventure game about a girl in limbo. Approximately 2-4 hours long, the game features gorgeous diorama style visual design, and attempts to tackle some emotionally complex themes.
While there’s a lot we don’t yet know about The Almost Gone, the trailer was enough to get my attention. You can find out more about the game, which releases this year on PC, Switch, and Mobile, by clicking here.
Hero Hours Contract – SOGormanGames
Releasing on Switch and PC later this year, Hero Hours Contract is a turn based strategy game about a trio of undercompensated magical girls.
The game follows the story of three magical girls who, while gifted with magical powers that give them a moral obligation to fight evil, are woeefully underpaid for what amounts to a dangerous, high risk full time job. The trio unionise, demanding better pay and working conditions, leading to a game that’s half about fighting corporate zombies, and half about actively rate negotiation based on the power of collective bargaining.
From doing your best in combat to give yourself a better negotiating position, to drowning in 90’s anime girl tropes, Hero Hours Contract is easily one of my most anticipated games of 2020.
You can find out more about Hero Hours Contract here.
The Hayseed Knight – Sandra Molina
Developed over the past three years by a solo developer (Art, writing, voice direction, coding), The Hayseed Knight is a visual novel about Ader, the One Eyed Deer. He’s a peasant who’s not super smart (One idea, hah, that name cracks me up) and has one dream, to eventually become a knight.
The game features beautiful expressive art, really enjoyable character writing, and some top notch voice performances, and is well worth checking out. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are out now and completely free, with Chapter 3 releasing this summer.
You can find out more about the game here.
Röki – Polygon Treehouse
Röki is a gorgeous looking point and click adventure game set in a world filled with monsters. Rather than fighting the monsters to progress, your aim is to understand what’s bothering them, try to help them be okay, and generally find non-confrontational means of getting them to let you continue.
It’s a sweet charming looking game, based on Scandinavian folklore and developed by ex Guerilla Games staff.
If you’d like to know more about Röki, click here.
Refactor – Next Gen Pants
The best way to describe Refactor is that it’s a side scrolling Metroidvania about rejected Tetris pieces. Yeah, wacky I know, but it seems like a really cool concept when you start to think about it.
The game is set in a factory where Tetrominos are produced, for use in “The Game”. When a piece is produced that isn’t the correct shape, it’s discarded for destruction, and this is where the game begins. You control a series of these discarded Tetris pieces who each have unique abilities, trying to escape a world that wanted to destroy them for lacking utility.
Trailers for the game have a real Thomas Was alone vibe, capturing that idea of getting players emotionally attached to functional colorful rectangles and cubes. Also, the game keeps getting described in press releases as a Tetroidvania, and I can’t stop admiring how good that pun feels.
You can find out more about Refactor here.
Inertial Drift – Northern Softworks
Due to release this spring on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, Inertial Drift is a Ridge Racer style arcade racer. What makes this one unique? The drifting system.
Basically, while driving, you’ve got your left stick steering your car, but your right analogue stick is fully dedicated to controlling drifting, meaning that you’ve got unexpectedly good control of exactly how you want to turn.
The game has a really eye catching cell shaded visual style, and seems like it could be a lot of fun.
You can learn more about Inertial Drift here.
Table Manners – Curve Digital
Releasing very soon, we’re talking very early 2020, the pitch for Table Manners is pretty simple. It’s basically Surgeon Simulator, but for chaotic first dates.
Try to pour a bottle of wine, maybe risk torching a Crème brûlée, all without accidentally throwing your meal on the floor or setting the tablecloth on fire. Deliberately obtuse controls make even the simplest task difficult to do without embarrassing yourself in front of a cutie.
You can find out more about Table Manners here.
There you go. A look at 24 games releasing in 2020, and one releasing just a tiiiiny bit past the cutoff, that I’ve got my eye on for the year ahead.
Are the other cool indie games releasing this year that I should be paying attention to? Perhaps you’re making a cool game I don’t yet know about? Feel free to let me know in the comments, or via email at LauraKBuzzOfficial@Gmail.com .