As mentioned earlier, this year we’re letting everyone relax this holiday season and using the next two days to talk about games that mattered to all of us. For example, 2020 was a tough year for us all. But there were some games that were some real bright spots. So, let’s talk about the most uplifting games we played in 2020.
If you want to have a chill time and feel good about things for a while, I don’t have a stronger recommendation than Ooblets. Everything’s adorable. Everything’s pleasant. You can farm or dance battle or just run some errands, and everyone’s low-key psyched that you’re there. It’s a great game to pick up to replace the Animal Crossing-sized hole in your heart. (Of course, now that I’ve mentioned Ooblets in this piece, I’m not expecting a particularly uplifting response in the comments.) — Graham
This is going to be an odd one for me, but Rocket League did a lot for me in 2020. I’ve always enjoyed it, but haven’t been really good at it. It going free-to-play, so I could play more of it on the Switch and PS4, helped me develop into a better player. Plus, it’s hard to get down on yourself when the matches are so short and you could do better next time. — Jenni
I know people are going to give me flak for this, but whenever I’m feeling a little meh I boot up Fallout 76 for a while. Like any MMO, there are a handful of players who revel in killing others and yoinking all the loot. But ultimately there is a community here that helps one another, and it’s those players who lift my spirits. — Annette
Heroland is a quirky and unique RPG written by the director of Mother 3, Nobuyuki Inoue that was localized at the very end of 2019. If you’re at all familiar with the story of Mother 3, then I hope your interest is already piqued. The player takes control of a part-timer at the eponymously named amusement park. While meeting a cast of colorful and diverse characters, the player guides guests through attractions in a story focused on breaking RPG conventions and the fourth wall. Heroland’s narrative, which involves learning about characters’ personalities and their quirks, is perfect for learning something new about yourself. — Oni
Due to reasons, I didn’t play The Division 2 until this year. When the shutdown in my state happened, the kids were home, my yoga studio closed down, and many of my clients were temporarily closed while they figured things out. This left me with a lot of time on hands, and it was then I decided to jump into The Division 2. Two hundred fifty hours (and counting) later, this has become my go-to game (when I’m not playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, naturally). I strangely found comfort in a game that depicted an eerily similar situation in real life. Even when some of the collectibles creeped me out—there’s an Echo of Manny talking to his father and he says the exact same things I have said about this pandemic—I still turned to this game for consolation. I don’t know if it was because I could shoot the problems away or if it was because I could totally paint all of my armor and weaponry pink, but it doesn’t matter. I will keep playing this game as long as Ubisoft releases content. — Keri
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a calming experience that came at a time when it was absolutely needed. Its blend of music, environment, and character radiates positivity. There’s also a revitalizing sense of optimism in the game. It’s possible to pay off expenses, travel to new locales, visit friends, and, if you want to take a controversial route, time travel. Sure, that sounds like a checklist of things a lot of people wish they could do in real life. But it’s also a list of ways that Animal Crossing: New Horizons slows down and puts a focus on the simple things. I have gratitude for the formerly everyday activities that comprise much of Animal Crossing’s gameplay, and I have gratitude for Animal Crossing. I also have gratitude for its fruit based economy, because Twitter was very wholesome for a few days as a result. — Ben
In a year when it was often just enough to find a game that could distract, sometimes a game that was actually uplifting felt a bit out of reach. But a few certainly fit the bill, and for my money, Umurangi Generation was one of them. A lo-fi cyberpunk game that actually felt genuinely “punk” – made in the spirit of going against the grain and taking things forward, wasn’t something I expected this year, but the photography-based adventure got me pumped to see what kind of work scrappy indies could put out to move that benighted genre forward. — Josh