The Long Dark

Although it originally released on PC (in Early Access) back in 2014, The Long Dark finally crept its way onto the Nintendo Switch in 2020. If you ask me, that means it technically qualifies — at least the Switch version — to be counted among the best games of the year.

To be honest, The Long Dark is without question one the best video games of my lifetime, at least according to my personal tastes. It is endlessly rewarding, considering how limited the premise and feedback loop seem. You basically just walk around and look through stuff while trying your darnedest to stay warm, fed, hydrated, and rested, and also trying not to end up as food for the local wildlife.

But it is within this deceptive level of simplicity that The Long Dark excels. The combination of the factors I mentioned in the previous paragraph offers unlimited opportunities for success and failure, either of which are persistently at arm’s length. With every passing moment, you teeter on the precipice of crushing loneliness and crippling frostbite or exhaustion.

I believe I could quite literally play this game for the rest of my life and never need an alternative. I have traversed the same snowy trails and off-the-beaten -paths countless times. I know some areas of this game better than my actual real-life neighborhood. Yet even now, I can suddenly find myself completely lost and turned around, especially when foolishly caught out in a blinding snowstorm. I’ll be swearing to myself that the shelter I just left should only be a few steps to what I think might be the east, only to wind up halfway across the map with a pack of hungry wolves circling me.

The Long Dark

Just the other day, I was as close to death as I had ever been, my health meter but a sliver, as I sat in a pitch-black barn in need of food and water but unable to see the fire barrel to melt some snow. I was so debilitated that my screen kept fading in and out, simulating my character’s mental state. I would sleep to boost my health as much as I could so I could think and see straight, giving myself a few moments to break down nearby wooden crates for warmth, but also so I could melt some snow and boil it into potable water before falling back to sleep.

With every crate broken, I had enough heat and light to break another, primarily so I could stave off frostbite for just a little longer, in hopes of finding an errant can of soda or food — or, hell, anything of use — in order to stay alive. I was locked in a precarious cycle of foraging just enough stuff to keep me going long enough to forage more stuff. Endlessly.

This is The Long Dark in a nutshell. Everything can so easily go tits-up when you suddenly run out of matches, or run into a wolf that isn’t going to stop pursing you and you have nothing to scare it off with, or when you’re picking cattails in order to find some source of nutrition, hoping to see just one more sunrise.

On top of all this, The Long Dark developer Hinterland Studios is constantly adding new chapters to the story mode, as well as seasonal events, new items, and new locations. They continue tweaking this absolute masterpiece in an effort to make it even better. Somehow, they keep succeeding.

The Long Dark

If you haven’t given The Long Dark a shot yet, the Nintendo Switch version is just as solid as its other platform counterparts. If you take me up on this and decide to check it out, I am sure you’ll agree, The Long Dark on the Nintendo Switch is one of the best video games of 2020.

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