There’s no getting around the fact that 2020 has been really quite pants on several fronts. Not a nice, fresh pair of the finest undergarments occupying your dresser drawer, either — quite the opposite, in fact (we’ll spare you the metaphorical details, but you get the idea). It’s during the darkest times, though, that the tiniest specs of light are most easily visible, and in the realm of video gaming there have been some real highlights in this most testing of years.
For Nintendo fans in particular, what looked like a particularly empty twelve-month schedule at the start of 2020 eventually turned into a rather solid year of releases. You only have to peruse a list of Nintendo’s first-party developed and published output to see that 2020 wasn’t half bad.
The biggest hitter was Animal Crossing: New Horizons which did much of Nintendo’s heavy lifting, but it was ultimately supported by the likes of Paper Mario: The Origami King, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, and (in collaboration with Koei Tecmo) Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
Then we had remasters and re-releases in the form of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, Pikmin 3 Deluxe and Super Mario 3D All-Stars which bolstered the first-party line up, and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit brought some of that trademark Nintendo magic to a year that dearly needed it. Then there were the smaller digital-only titles like Super Mario Bros. 35 and the excellent Good Job!, not to mention the metric ton of fantastic indie releases and some choice big-name third-party titles.
In fact, for a year that some people were writing off as one of Nintendo’s ‘worst’, there’s been plenty of really strong software. With Switch selling at record numbers and Nintendo Life awarding no less that four 10/10s this year, it’s tough to look back on the games released in 2020 and feel dissatisfied, all things considered. Even if you’re not an Animal Crossing fan, there’s been something for everyone.
Those projects that slipped into next year only make the following twelve months all the juicier, too! So, let’s keep the positivity flowing and take a look at six of our favourite Nintendo moments from 2020…
Nindie World Showcases
The absence of E3 this year meant many online substitutes were hastily assembled over the summer. Many people did an awful lot of hard work to make them happen, although the resulting network of semi-affiliated shows and online events, not to mention overlapping announcements, made it a little tough to keep up with the gaming news they contained.
The big stories got out, of course, but the relatively scattergun approach over the summer highlighted how events like E3 can help distil and focus attention for an audience barraged with reveals and trailers, and also how effectively Nintendo curates its own announcements.
We think Nintendo did a fine job with the Indie World Showcases this year, with the August one in particular highlighting some real gems on the system (see above). Of course, with the first-party pipeline disrupted by the pandemic, it was in the platform holder’s interest to put some real effort into showing off games other developers were putting on its system.
Still, it’s heartening to see its support of smaller developers whose contributions make Switch such a lively and diverse platform. Nintendo’s lucky to have games like Hades, Horace and A Short Hike on its console, and with any luck we’ll see more indie gems of that calibre on Switch in the future.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – yes, all of it
There have been several games which ‘took over’ 2020 at one point or another — Fall Guys and Among Us spring to mind immediately — but only one truly spilled out into the mainstream media and dominated the gaming news landscape this year.
And thank goodness for that. Tom Nook has helped us get through the year with countless moments of diversion. Whether pottering around catching critters and pleasing ourselves in-game, or looking online to find island inspiration or endlessly creative custom designs, we’re not sure what would have taken its place had Animal Crossing: New Horizons not arrived when it did. It’s been invaluable.
We and the rest of the internet have written more than enough words about it; it’s offered genuine escape this year in a way only video games can, and we’re very thankful for the fortuitous timing of its launch. Cheers to you, Tommy-boy.
Paper Mario: The Origami King and Bobby’s touching arc
We didn’t expect Paper Mario — a series perhaps best known for its comedy — to hit us hardest in the feels this year, but The Origami King managed to do just that. It’s filled with plenty of great characters and writing, but Bobby Bob-omb was a particular highlight and we salute the little chap and the writers and localisation team at Nintendo for their work in delivering some of the year’s very best moments.