The 29 Video Games That Kept Me Sane in 2020
These games are my most faithful emotional touchpoints for a crisis that’s made it difficult to remember entire weeks of my life
Memories from March and April are mostly static: the view from the window of my Brooklyn apartment as I monitor the line at the grocery store across the street, graphs of NYC cases and deaths spiking, photos of increasingly elaborate and then increasingly simple meals prepared and shared on social media, texts from family members and friends informing me of positive tests and doctor recommendations and quarantine instructions, links to makeshift Zoom weddings and wakes.
Whole days and weeks have been reduced to still images, save for a few dynamic exceptions: sequences and cut scenes and tutorials from whatever game I was playing well into the early morning. To remember how I felt at any given point this spring, it’s still easiest for me to remember the game I had fully escaped into during the same time period. Revisiting my farm in Stardew Valley, I remember how it felt to tell my parents that under no circumstances was it a good idea for us to travel to see our family right now. Reading the dialogue from Katana Zero, I remember waiting until three A.M. on a Wednesday to buy Tylenol from a bodega to avoid as much contact as possible. Watching the load scenes of Spider-Man, I can recall on-and-off struggles with managing my chronic illnesses and maintaining my two-year sobriety while physically cut off from doctors, physical therapists, my partner, and every other person on earth.
These are not pleasant associations, but for now they remain some of my most faithful emotional touchpoints for a crisis that is still very much ongoing, still spiking, still bad for a lot of people I know and far, far worse for millions I do not. I play fewer games at night than I did eight months ago, and can more readily recall my experiences from June onward, but throughout it all games have not only served as time capsules, but as lifesavers — providing purpose and distraction and joy and structure when the world seemed to offer little.
Here are 29 of the games that kept me sane this year, in case you’re looking for something to distract you, entertain you, or keep you company this holiday season and beyond:
3. Katana Zero
7. Verlet Swing
10. Super Meat Boy
12. Baba Is You
15. Lovely Planet
16. Titanfall 2
19. Jak II
23. The End Is Nigh
Be well in the New Year, everyone ❤ See you on the leaderboards.