Even though our 2020 Game of the Year coverage is dead and buried with the rest of 2020, there’s still one list that I felt needed to be published in regards to the games I played last year. See, my partner and I started dating towards the end of 2019 and like most people, were put into a really challenging position when it came to maintaining our relationship while we were both quarantined. Luckily we both had Nintendo Switches and were able to have “date nights” where we’d just play games and talk for hours, something we still do only now in person thanks to them moving closer to my place. So in celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are some of the games we played and continue to play together that they have specifically called out as their most memorable games that we’ve played together in no particular order.
I don’t recall exactly when it happened, but at some point there was a really good deal on all 4 of the Trine games that were bundled into one package that we took advantage of. Both Trine 1 and 2 were big hits around these parts as we’d both been craving some sort of cooperative game with some light progression elements (my words, not theirs). I’d dabbled in the Trine games before, but never really dove into one like we did last year.
The amount of laughter and joy that would come out of our Trine gaming sessions is something that I’ll always treasure. Despite the game being overtly cooperative, my partner found a way to make it competitive by having to be the first one across any gaps or even just the first one to collect the various pickups and collectibles scattered around the levels. It was a really fun pair of games that we were quite simply hooked on for a few months last year.
While we both had a chaotically good time with the wacky physics-based mayhem and puzzle solving of the first two games, we only made it a few levels into the third entry of the series before we hit a wall. Trine 3 ditches the solely side-scrolling nature of the first two games in the series in favor of this 2.5D kind of approach where characters have to travel along the Z-axis to progress through the levels. While I was used to games that either dabbled in or lived completely in the third dimension, they weren’t as comfortable with it and bounced off of the game pretty quickly. It also didn’t help that Trine 3 is buggy as hell and that third dimension makes a lot of the mechanics they had come to know and understand be a lot more fiddly and unresponsive. But none of that can take away from the fact that the first two titles were great fun for the both of us.
I have this terrible habit of accidentally introducing my partner to games that I kind of like, only to have them turn around and demand they be the only games we end up playing. Overcooked might just be the epitome of this unwelcome trend, but it’s something my partner truly enjoys to the point where it’s the only thing they want to play lately. I wasn’t exactly sure what specific things they enjoy about the game itself, so I just went ahead and asked them.
“I like that we have to work as a team for a common goal. And it is fast paced so we really have to focus on communicating (well) and figuring out a strategy to complete the objective.” While they enjoy the fast-paced, communication heavy gameplay loop that Overcooked is all about, I just find myself unable to work that fast while focusing on several different objectives at once. Luckily, their brain seems to be significantly more capable of keeping track of multiple concurrent objectives without entering a fugue state, which is basically what happens to me whenever we play.
But the point is that Overcooked is a game that’s been wildly popular among the two of us, and while it might not be my favorite game, they sure do enjoy the hell out of it. One thing we can both agree on however, is that the game itself is overwhelmingly charming, from the character designs to the music, Overcooked is a delightful game to experience with another person.
I did not anticipate launching the NES or SNES virtual console thing that’s on the Switch as often as I had last year, but we both did because that’s where Dr. Mario lives. The classic puzzle game not only boasts two of the best music tracks in video games ever, but it was fun enough to become a long time favorite for my partner and I. Now, I really liked Dr. Mario as a kid, but I don’t know that I’d consider it one of my absolute favorite games of all time. But my partner, well they were and still are pretty obsessed with the good doctor’s particular brand of hurling pills at their patients until a cure happens.
It was seriously the only game that we’d play for a while, offering a good distraction as we made conversation. However, there’s only so much Dr. Mario I can personally endure before the siren song of the “Fever” track becomes an unwelcome ear-worm that won’t leave no matter what I do. Like I said, I enjoy Dr. Mario, but my partner fucking loves it.
Heave Ho is the kind of game that is so absolutely hilarious to play that a person might have to sprint to the bathroom mid-game in order to avoid pissing their pants. That to me is the surest sign of a game being great fun. Both my partner and I absolutely loved Heave Ho so much that even now we still boot it up and bash our heads against some of the super challenging levels that you unlock after beating the game. There’s just something so delightfully stupid about what you’re doing at any given moment in the game, whether it’s locking arms with one another and trying to swing across the level or just plummeting to our death and watching the blood splatter fly up and coat the other person.
If you haven’t played Heave Ho with at least one other person, you’re truly missing out. It’s easily been one of our favorite games to play together and is probably my favorite game on this entire list.
Nidhogg II is a lot like Overcooked for me in the sense that I like it well enough, but not nearly in the same way that my partner does. I don’t know what it is about Nidhogg II that they enjoy so much, but whatever it is has led to me playing way more Nidhogg II than I ever intended to. They’re crazy about this game in a way that I personally didn’t expect, although it’s pretty hilarious to both of us whenever I unsuccessfully try to outrun a sword that’s spiraling through the air in my direction. Or maybe it’s when I accidentally roll off the side of the stage like a goober. Or maybe it’s when I slam my head into a doorway. Or maybe it’s when I hit the jump button too many times and just bounce around waiting for something pointy to pierce my flesh.
When asked, my partner said, “I like how competitive it gets, and that it is just us against each other. One slip up an you can gain a lot of ground, so you have to be focused and make sure you keep pushing in your direction.” While I agree with that sentiment, I think my ever growing ambivalence towards competitive games keeps me from enjoying it as much as they do. But hey, it’s still a good time when we do end up playing Nidhogg II.
NES Pro Wrestling
Let me be clear when I say that neither of us have any sort of affinity for wrestling at all, but something about this game makes us lose our minds and breakdown into fits of laughter. I personally love the ridiculous characters like Star Man and King Corn Karn, but I’m pretty sure my partner is more into how their button-mashing ability out performs my haphazard attempts at learning the controls. I think I’ve only managed to land one spinning back kick on my partner, whereas they’ll transform their character into a whirling dervish of limbs that has a natural ability to connect with my face.
Whatever it might be, all I know is that against all odds we found great joy in a game that neither of us would have gone out of our way to try had we not been bored during our distanced quarantine. There’s also one on the SNES virtual console analog that’s also very good, but nothing beats the classics I suppose.
There were plenty of other games that we played together that I really enjoyed that I wanted to call out specifically. Things like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Castle Crashers jump out to me as games that defined our time in quarantine. But this is just a slice of the games that we’ve tried together. I’m still trying to get them to try out Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game with me, as it’s easily one of my favorite beat-em-ups of all time with a crazy good soundtrack to boot, but we’ll see how that goes.
But just today, February 12th, the Nintendo Switch port of one of the greatest Mario games of all time is being released. Of course I’m talking about the incredible and easily overlooked Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, a title that just rolls off the tongue. That ranks incredibly high up on my list of Mario games and I can’t wait to share with my partner how delightfully chaotic that game can be in multiplayer. I predict many instances of getting hurled off of the side of a level that will be immediately followed by a barely stifled giggle on their end and a sigh of resignation on mine, a constant theme that exists throughout most of the games we play together.
And that’s kind of it really. Video games are a big part of our relationship, and I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting experiences for us to try out. I’m still trying to figure out what games will be a hit and which ones won’t, but I’ll get there. One day I’m going to get them into something more dense and complex, but I have no idea when or what that will be. Anyway, enjoy your Valentine’s Day if you’re celebrating it, and for the love of God, don’t go out to eat at a restaurant. Just stay home, hang out with your partner, and play some dang video games.