Our Picks for 2020

For the majority of 2020, unless we had to work or do grocery shopping, we had to stay indoors, in our own homes. The fact that Steam recorded an all-time high of over 24 million users logged in in a single weekend proves that gaming has never been as great of a pastime as it is now.

Here’s our top picks of games either released in 2020, or that got so significant of an enhancement this year that it was worth including in this list, whether they’re native Linux releases or work well on Proton. And what better time to be talking about these games now, while most of them are on sale during the Steam Winter Sale until January 5th, as well as on GOGHumble, and many other stores right now!

cow_killer

Super Smash Bros. Melee

The preferred game in the Super Smash Bros. series, as far as the competitive aspect is concerned. Super Smash Bros. Melee originally released in Japan on November 21, 2001 and in the United States on December 3 of the same year. The game’s director, Masahiro Sakurai, had only a 13-month deadline to make this game. He would work 40-hour shifts, take a four-hour nap, and come back to work, not even taking a single day off. The insane workload would cause him to faint and get hospitalized. Even when he was sick, he’d come in to work with an IV attached.

I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for the man. Anyways, the reason why I bring this game up now, is because the talented crew behind the Slippi project have made it possible to play Super Smash Bros. Melee online with other players via rollback netcode. Official Linux support was added as of July 14 of this year. Needless to say, it’s a great way to revive the game due to the pandemic.

DRAG

It’s one of the most challenging racers I’ve ever played. Featuring a homemade engine developed on LinuxDRAG does not tread the dirt lightly, removing any sort of arcade aspect you might find in other racers. The graphics are amazing, and Linux support is prioritized; one of the few games that treat us as a first-class citizen.

As it’s been in on-and-off development for nearly 20 years, the game is going to carry a steep $35 price tag. Also, since the game has been in early access for the past five months or so, I haven’t seen that many updates, at least as far as new levels and vehicles are concerned. So be warry; mastering the mechanics can take a lifetime, but content-wise, it’s pretty paltry. (It’s currently 30% off during the Steam Winter Sale though, and this is the best price I’ve seen so far.)

Grounded

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in video game form, in a nutshell. A game where your player is the size of an insect, struggling to survive in someone’s backyard. Craft armor, spears, bows, arrows, and hammers to ward off all the predators that seek to eat you, and discover why your character has shrunk in the first place.

Running on Proton is pretty much out-of-the-box, but you may need to use Protontricks to get audio working. Check out our review for more info.

Them’s Fightin’ Herds

A 2D fighting game that, while the characters may look cute on the outside, they have a surprising amount of depth to learn their techniques. Since it’s using the same engine powered by Skullgirls and Indivisible, it’s a combo-heavy game, similar to the Marvel VS. Capcom series. I will be honest when I say the learning curve is pretty steep.

Runs beautifully out of the box on Proton, and Linux support is coming very soon. Currently on sale for less than $10 on Steam.

Slap City

A game that takes a lot of elements from the Super Smash Bros. series and adds a few new twists to add even more variety. The game left Early Access in September, with a total of nine characters and 32 stages. There’s ranked online multiplayer, and a unique story mode for most of the characters.

To run the game in Proton, you will need to add this as a launch parameter: -disable-native-gc As of writing, however, there is no native Linux version.

Slap City is 50% off during the Steam Winter Sale.

Street Fighter V

I think we were all a little disappointed we never got a native version of Street Fighter V, back when Capcom announced so way back in 2015. Still, I’m proud of the work Valve, CodeWeavers, and whoever else pitched in to finally make this game playable as of Proton 5.0-7.

I don’t think I need to say much about this game, considering the series has been around since the late 80s, but for those not aware, Street Fighter is a one-on-one fighting game that has far simpler mechanics than Them’s Fightin’ Herds. If you want to get into fighting games, this may be a good place to start.

On sale for 60% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

podiki

Hades

Hades is racking up many game of the year honors right now, and rightfully so! A wonderful blend of action, roguelike/lite elements, Greek mythology, music, and even story as you try to fight your way out of Hades. Unfortunately a Linux version never came to be, but it runs perfectly with Proton. What sticks out most to me, after the action, is that Supergiant Games has managed to fit storytelling in with a genre that normally has very little direct story. This adds perhaps the most driving element to keep coming back from more, to hear new conversations with gods and mortals, to progress relationships, and keep filling in the backstory and world.

On sale for 20% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Monster Train

Nothing says winter like riding a train full of monsters through a frozen over hell to reignite the fires (I’m not sure how to flip this for you Southern Hemisphere folk). Hmm…seems to be a bit of hell theme going for me. Anyway, a favorite game from this year that consumed a good portion of my summer. A quick to pickup but long to master combination of deckbuilding, tactics, and roguelike/lite elements. You build up a deck of cards built from a combination of two clans that turn into units (monsters) as well as attack or defense spells, buy upgrades for cards along the way, and try to snowball a powerful combo to carry you through the battles. Monster Train has received some big updates since my review, including new champions and cardsmodscontroller and keyboard controls, and of course balance tweaks.

On sale for 30% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Ekianjo

Shenmue 3

While not strictly a game from 2020 (it was out in 2019 but exclusively on the Epic Store for a year), you can now play it out of the box on Linux with Proton on Steam since November. If you have never played Shen Mue, this is probably not for you – this episode only makes sense if you have followed the story so far. For those lucky ones who experienced the greatness of the first two Shenmue, the good news is that Shenmue 3 is more of the same, following Ryo Hazuki in China as he chases Leng Di for revenge. The game benefits from a recent engine and looks great. Shenmue is still Shenmue gameplay wise: one of the pionneers of open world games because it was even called this way – some mechanics have not aged too well, there’s a lot of grinding involved too… but there’s just no other game like it out there.

On sale for 60% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is well known by most of you now. It’s not a new game by any means, but the developper is absolutely killing it by making it its life’s work and delivering updates after updates to an already great base game. The recent 1.5 one is massive, introducing new zones, new characters and a split-screen co-op mode. If you have never played it before, you are in for a treat and hours of fun in this mix of farming and RPG.

On sale for 33% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

CyberPunk 2077

It’s a game that should have been on my list to pick for this year – but the current performance and bugs still present on the Nvidia side of things makes it hard to recommend right now. However, if you are gaming on AMD, and you don’t mind a massive RPG that may still need a few patches down the road, you might want to give it a serious thought.

Note that it’s NOT on sale for now as it was just released recently.

Patola

Amnesia: Rebirth

While it had a bumpy launch on Linux — we had a 0-day launch with the Windows version, but it was barely functional — the game was eventually fixed in three weeks time and it has been one of the most pleasant linux native titles this year. I can’t say it was a surprise, there were lots of teasers for the game and its gameplay involves lots of elements of Frictional Games’ previous titles, like SOMA and Amnesia: The Last Descent, with a deep philosophical undertone on morality and conception. For me, particularly hooked into VR, this game was the [i]only[/i] non-VR game in which I was able to feel immersed after having bought my Valve Index.

On sale for 20% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

BattleGroupVR

A proton VR-only, Real-Time Strategy space game that is in early access, what made me get hooked to that title were its creative and intuitive controls, along with the striking visuals and the eerie feeling of actually be in the middle of an epic battle inside the bridge of the commanding capital ship. You manage the action in a miniaturized hologram in front of you and most of the time you’ll be dealing with that, although you can also assume direct control in a third-person view. But seeing the battle indirectly through the ample windows of your ship’s bridge is my preferred spectacle.

On sale for 30% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Cloudpunk

In these times when cyberpunk is all the rage, Cloudpunk is a Proton voxel-based game where you drive around a futuristic city in a flying car and has to make deliveries, unfolding a creepy story. You can leave and enter your car freely and walk in the city and the visuals are fantastic, with lots of neon lights and a tall, labyrinthic cityscape. In the latest update the developer added a first-person mode to the driving experience and there is even some rumor he will be adding VR support in the future.

On sale for 33% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

ATOM RPG Trudograd

Did I tell you that I love isometric RPGs? This one is a continuation of the 2018 game ATOM RPG: Post-apocalyptic indie game, which is itself a Fallout-style post-apolyptic RPG set in Russia. It’s still in early access but very playable. The native Linux version took a couple months to appear after the initial Windows version. This game will keep me busy until Wasteland 3 (which is now Linux native, finally) has a good enough discount for me to buy it…

On sale for 20% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

XCOM: Chimera Squad

What I like most about this game — an unfortunately non-native spin-off of the XCOM 2 is that it is slightly humorous and absolutely nonpretentious. See, it happens sometimes that a game is so deep and involved that it is tiresome. There is opportunity here for a more casual touch, and that’s exactly what Chimera Squad is: a series of scripted turn-based tactics missions in a storyline where you don’t have to worry with the complex grand strategy of the original game. Your team is also an odd one, composed with aliens and humans alike, because after the alien menace was defeated in XCOM 2 the formerly brainwashed alien soldiers had nowhere to go, and integrated into society. So you will deal with trust issues, deep friendships, funny tirades and the likes when playing.

On sale for 50% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Bard’s Tale IV: Director’s Cut

Technically, the game was released in 2019. But the game was released in a very rough state and it was this year where it did fix all of its most glaring issues, specially regarding gameplay and balance. It is a very well crafted party-based RPG with turn-based combat, with an engaging story and lots of character progression.

On sale for 50% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Phasmophobia

I’m not really a multiplayer type of guy, but this game is so good it was an exception. While it’s a proton game with a Platinum rate (after all, the game works out of the box, even in the optional VR mode), it uses speech recognition from Windows 10 which does not work on Linux, so some aspects of the gameplay are compromised (not [i]that[/i] much because this speech recognition also do not work in Windows 7, so the developer tweaked the game to still be playable without it). This is basically a horror-themed group investigation game where you have to risk arousing a killer ghost to take evidence, find out which type of ghost in a set of 12 it is, fulfill some side objectives like taking its photo or making it step in salt, and then leave without dying. The game has its own voice communication system, which it uses for speech recognition but also for things like irritating the ghost and determining volume of each player by distance.

On sale for 10% off during the Steam Winter Sale!

Others?

How about you? What games did you find significant during 2020? Let us know your own recommendations in the comments!

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cow_killer

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obri

I played a lot of:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/392160/X4_Foundations/

A really great space game, I am sure Patola knows about the game too 🙂

The Split Vendetta DLC made it even better.
I will sink a lot more hours into it….

Ekianjo

I heard a lot about X3 at the time, how does it compare with other popular space sims out there?

einherier

X4 is kinda special I think. I don’t know another game similar enough to compare in a sense full way. It does a bottom up simulation of the universe. So every pilot, station manager and so on do their decisions. This leads to a universe which evolves completely based on that and you will never face 2 similar universes. You have an amazing amount of freedom. You can play as pilot, just flying around looting and shooting build big mega stations to build a production company and become kinda tycoon go the pirate way go the military way and build… Read more »