Top Ten 2020

This post is a part of my Top 10 Games I played in 2020 list that I said I was breaking up into smaller parts to avoid having a single huge post all at once. Note that the games in this list weren’t necessarily new releases in 2020. To qualify for this list, it just had to be a game that I played in 2020. This post features games I rank as the #4 and #3 games I enjoyed playing most in 2020.

#4 Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Monster Hunter World, including the Iceborne expansion (which I’ll refer to collectively as Iceborne henceforth) was a big departure from many of the Monster Hunter series’ staple gameplay mechanics. It was designed for powerful current-gen consoles as well as PC for the first time ever, which allowed it to come with a nice graphical upgrade compared to the previous few entries which were created to be compatible with handheld devices such as the PSP and 3DS.

In a lot of ways Iceborne has been made simpler and more streamlined than previous entries in the franchise. This is both good and bad. There are a lot of quality of life improvements made in Iceborne over previous titles. But at the same time, in a lot of ways it feels dumbed down and overly simplified to make it easier for newcomers and gain broader appeal to the mass market.

And it seems that decision was a big success for Capcom, because Monster Hunter has always been a fairly niche series in the West (i.e. outside of Japan) until Iceborne came along.

But coming from Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, I couldn’t help but feel like there wasn’t much content in the game. It certainly looked pretty, but it felt very shallow, with far fewer monsters to hunt and quests to do.

Iceborne has about 70 large monsters to hunt. That seems like a large number, but many of those are “variants” of the same monster. I think almost every monster has at least one variant and some monsters have more. So the large monster count could be considered to be closer to about half of that, or 35. Whereas MHGU has about 95 large monsters, only about 8 of which are variants. Though MGHU does have 18 of what are called “deviants” which are special variants which have slightly different designs, are more powerful, and have different behavior and abilities. So even if you discount those as being unique, MHGU has about 70 unique monsters compared to Iceborne’s ~35 unique monsters.

Similarly, MHGU has 27 different maps in which to hunt monsters. While Iceborne has something like 7 different maps with a few special arenas. Iceborne has “only” 522 quests. Again, that seems like a lot, until you realize that MHGU has 375 (offline-only) village quests, 569 hub quests, 58 arena quests, 228 deviant quests, and 125 (free DLC) event quests.

I’ll stop detailing the comparisons there. Iceborne made some great strides in improving the game. It’s understandable that all the time, effort, and resources that went into making the many and wonderful improvements to the franchise prevented them from working on or adding a bunch of variety in locations and monsters. But the content-rich history of the series as a whole does make Iceborne feel a bit empty and shallow in some aspects.

Hopefully, now that they’ve built a new base and found new, greater success with the release of Iceborne, they’ll be able to use it as a foundation to bring even more content to the franchise’s future content, fleshing it out even more. And it looks like they’re doing just that with the upcoming release of Monster Hunter Rise for the Nintendo Switch next month, which you’d better believe I’m excited about.

I spent about 60 hours in Iceborne in 2020. I was only a few (maybe 10?) quests away from seeing the end credits, but I just kind of lost interest in it. Especially because when I originally bought it and started playing it, it was because a friend of mine had also bought it and we were playing it together. But he dropped off relatively quickly and I was back to playing alone or online with people I don’t know. To Iceborne’s credit, the process of connecting with and playing with other people online was greatly simplified and streamlined. But maybe I’m kind of weird in that I just don’t generally enjoy playing games online with strangers.

But Iceborne is a great title to pick up and play, especially if you’re new to the series. And judging by what I know of the upcoming Monster Hunter Rise, it looks like they’re not going back to the pre-Iceborne style of gameplay. Which means any knowledge or skills gained from playing Iceborne is virtually guaranteed to be useful going forward into future titles.

#3 Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

MHGU was in my Top 10 list from 2019, and I said that a friend of mine had agreed to play with me but never followed through. which resulted in me putting down the game and not playing it anymore.

Well, for some reason in early 2020, that friend expressed a desire to finally actually play MHGU with me, so we picked it up and started going through it. It was a lot of fun finally playing it together but it was also sometimes boring or aggravating because he kept alternating between an old save file and a new save file so I was helping him get through all the early quests I’d already done, or get some of the armor or weapon sets I’d already gotten, including some that he and I had already done together on his old save file. And some of them are a major grind that just aren’t fun after the 15th time.

But I was glad to finally be playing it with someone I know, and the two of us actually introduced another mutual friend to the game and the three of us played a bit. He was brand new to the series and Monster Hunter is a series where your character doesn’t get much better than how they started, but virtually all the progress in the game is in how you improve as a player with better understanding of the mechanics, learning how to use your weapon(s), and learning the individual monsters. So the three of us were really sticking to the low rank quests which were all child’s play for me with my experience and end-game gear.

My hope was that eventually we’d all be playing in the mid-to-end-game quests that I still hadn’t done yet, so I could get something closer to 100%-ing the game.

We played pretty regularly (almost every day) for about two months, and then I took a weekend off in April to participate in Ludum Dare and after that I couldn’t get them to play with me anymore. We didn’t play MHGU again for the rest of the year.

So, unfortunately, the majority of those two months were spent just playing through the beginner stuff again. Even so, it was fun to finally be playing it again with people I know. I just enjoy multiplayer Monster Hunter.