Assassin's Creed Valhalla

I have a tendency to play games obsessively for huge blocks of time, and then burn out on them suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. That’s just how I play my favorite games.

So I decided this year that I would start chronicling those addictions. These are the games that I get so involved with that when I’m done playing them for the evening I seek out Twitch streams, forums, and game guides to indulge from afar. These are the games I think about as I’m drifting to sleep, the ones that sink their hooks deep, deep into my flesh.

Not all of the games on this list came out in 2020, but every single one stole weeks (and sometimes months) of my life this year. So here’s a list of games I was addicted to in 2020.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Online

Red Dead Redemption 2 is strange, in that I played it quite a bit when it first came out, but I completely forgot about it once Super Smash Bros. Ultimate launched (Ultimate would have definitely been on this list had I made it for 2018 or 2019). I checked out Red Dead Online when that first launched, and I sort of shrugged my shoulders and moved on after just a few hours. At that point, I figured I probably wouldn’t go back to it.

But boy was I ever wrong.

I spent some time in Arizona back in March, and I returned home right around the time the COVID-19 lockdowns were beginning. Having spent some time in the desert — and suddenly finding myself trapped in the apartment and without a job — it seemed like a good time to dip my toes back into Red Dead Redemption 2. And once I dipped my toes in, I ended up falling into those murky waters, submerged completely for months.

And just when I was starting to feel like I could put it down for a bit, Rockstar went ahead and released the Naturalist update, which brought me right back in.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but my Red Dead Redemption 2 playtime is over 700 hours in total. At least 500 of those hours happened in March, April, and May of 2020. This game completely swallowed my life for a good long time. I probably invested almost as much time into Red Dead Redemption 2 this year as all of the other games on this list combined.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

When I took a small break from Red Dead Redemption 2 this spring, it was only because Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out. My New Horizons playtime ended up being about 280 hours, according to my Nintendo Switch profile.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out right around the time the COVID-19 lockdowns started, meaning many of us were stuck at home with little to do besides play video games. And New Horizons became a smash hit as a result, saving millions of players from the drudgery of secluded life.

While the Animal Crossing series has long been known for its short-burst play style, New Horizons has a lot of features that make it bingeable, like terraforming, a collection box that lets you sell items when the shop is closed, and island hopping adventures.

I’m definitely not alone in admitting that the Animal Crossing: New Horizons addiction was very, very real in 2020.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake

I earned more Platinum Trophies this year than I would in a normal year, but 2020 wasn’t a normal year. I’m honestly not sure I would have earned a Plat in Final Fantasy VII Remake in a normal year.

But in 2020, this game swept me off my feet. Some of the late-game challenges are brutal enough that I would normally just hit a point where I put the game down and then never go back to it. But that didn’t happen. Each humiliating defeat caused me to rethink my strategy, make some tweaks, and go back to try again.

I spent 200 hours with Final Fantasy VII Remake this year, and I can’t wait until the next portion of the game comes out so I can get obsessed with it all over again.



I was late to the Forager party, but once I finally got that party started, it ended in a haze, with several weeks of my life gone and very little to show for it except a completed Forager world.

Forager is an easy game to become obsessed with because of its seemingly endless list of micro-goals that always feel rewarding to complete. And while the game doesn’t exactly have the Minecraft-like ability to really make the world your own, it does give you a lot of freedom in how you want to set up your island archipelago, especially once you unlock terraforming.

If you still haven’t picked up Forager yet, I do recommend it, but I also must warn you about how completely addictive it can be.

Marvel’s Spider-Man/Miles Morales

Marvel's Spider-Man

This one actually surprised me a bit. Marvel’s Spider-Man is actually not the type of game that I would get this obsessive over, but the way content is laid out makes it perfect for all-day binges or for picking away at a little at a time.

Because the map is divided into districts, each with its own completion percentage, even doing a single side activity makes it feel like you’ve accomplished something. So the game is constantly rewarding you for doing little things, even toward the end (whereas too many other games reward you heavily in the beginning and strip that away until you reach a point where the only reason you have left to keep playing is to push through the next eight hours to see the ending).

Insomnia was a very real thing in 2020, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. So it’s perhaps appropriate that I spent so many late-night/early-morning hours playing a game by Insomniac Games (a side note: I actually got to tour Insomniac’s studio several years ago). Marvel’s Spider-Man just feels so playable in that sleep-deprived haze, whereas too many other games seem too complex or tedious when you’re in that state of mind.

I played Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales pretty much back to back, so they sort of blur together, but I included Miles Morales here because, for me, it simply felt like an extension of my Spider-Man game time. For the record, Miles Morales is considerably shorter than the original.

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact - Dragonspine

This one makes me kind of sad. While I was immediately whisked off by Genshin Impact‘s gorgeous, Breath of the Wild-like world, its Resin system eventually wore me down until I just gave up on it.

But before that happened, when there was still much of the Liyue region to explore and everything still felt fresh and new, I could not stop playing this game. There’s just so much to see, and you’re always being distracted by small things that are hidden in virtually every pocket of the world map. You can walk by a hidden chest a dozen times and not even realize its there.

Part of me wishes I would have jumped into Genshin Impact a little bit later in its life. When new regions are added, I might go back, but the Resin system really burned me out. Had there been more to explore from the beginning, that burnout would have been kept at bay for much, much longer.

Spelunky 2

Spelunky 2 Quillback

I don’t know why exactly, but the original Spelunky never clicked with me. I tried to get into it several times, knowing a lot of people swear by this as one of the finest examples of indie gaming out there. Every time I fired it up, I would play for maybe an hour and then shrug my shoulders and walk away.

But Spelunky 2 sunk its claws deep, deep into me. The difficulty is brutal and the learning curve is steep, but eventually you’ll start making progress and uncovering the game’s many, many secrets. This is a game I wanted to keep getting better at, because improving meant I could explore deeper into the game’s caverns and find new and bizarre things.

And this often meant late nights of watching Twitch streamers who were far better at the game than I was so I could start picking up some new tricks and use them the following day when I made a fresh attempt.

For at least two solid weeks, Spelunky 2 was all I could think about.

The Sims 4

The Sims 4 - Tess and Mayday

It was February when I decided to install The Sims 4, and I spent the rest of the year playing it on and off. The thing about any iteration of The Sims is that these are the sort of games that are really easy to get obsessive over. You start off intending to maybe waste a couple hours, and the next thing you know it you’re starting sex cults and inventing new stealth games. It’s a slippery slope, friends.

It’s impossible to say how much time I spent with The Sims 4 this year, especially since my time with the game was so on-again/off-again, but I would estimate that it took about 150 hours of my life this year.

With more expansions continuing to come out, I’m sure this trend will continue into 2021, and maybe even beyond.

The Survivalists

The Survivalists

If there was one game that came out in 2020 that I’d say defines my exact type of game, it’s The Survivalists. This pixel-art survival/crafting game comes from the studio behind The Escapists (which is also fantastic), and its randomly generated sandbox world is absolutely ginormous. A lot of things take a lot more effort than you might expect, but you can also train an army of monkeys to do the most tedious parts of that for you. That actually goes a long way in lessening the burnout of the thing, and stretching out that addiction even longer.

I never actually finished The Survivalists (there is, in fact, an end goal), but I invested disgusting amounts of time into building fortresses and teleporters, and simply exploring this game’s pixelated world.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

I feel so weird about this one.

I played the original Assassin’s Creed back when it was relatively new, and Assassin’s Creed was not a good game. In fact, the original Assassin’s Creed was such a miserable experience for me that I’ve stayed away from the franchise ever since.

Yet something about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was calling out to me. So I begrudgingly installed it, and the next thing you know, I was 100 hours deep. (I was 70 hours deep when I published my piece about how it was one of the best games of 2020, and I’ve since put in 30 more. In fact, I might pick it back up as soon as I hit publish on this current article.)

Actually, yeah, let’s call it here. Valhalla, here I come!

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