With a new console generation on the way, there’s a lot we don’t know about the games coming out in 2020. Some titles have dates, but beyond March everything with concrete information can basically be counted on one hand. Most games exist in the vague “2020” release window, which could mean anything from coming out in a few weeks, to launching exclusively on new platforms down the line. Some may not even come out this year.

This list is a glimpse at what I’m looking forward to before 2020 ends. I’ve limited it to games I’m more than pretty sure will launch in that window, which means anything that looks like it might be delayed, like FromSoftware’s Elden Ring, won’t make the cut. It’s still possible that delays will happen, or a port to a new console will be announced (or both), but this is based on information that’s publicly available right now.

I think it’s pretty telling that only one game on this list has a firm release date.

Survival Edition.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (March 20)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EPD

I’ve always been a huge fan of Animal Crossing. Though the series has had some missteps along the way, I’m always ready to start over in a new town and help out with the chores. What intrigues me here are the possible ways New Horizons could expand upon the gameplay loop found in New Leaf on 3DS. From what’s been confirmed already, players have a lot more freedom than previous mainline titles. Towns will be built from the ground up in a new deserted island setting, and there will be greater emphasis on crafting tools and character customization than before.

The obvious concern here is that New Horizons will veer too far into these mechanics. Where the gameplay loop is about the struggle to get the right materials all the time instead of relaxing and hanging out with animal friends. I’d like to believe Nintendo wouldn’t go that far – that’d fly in the face of Animal Crossing’s carefree style. If their work on their other major franchises on Switch is any indication, that style will likely be the heart of the project, but finding new ways to iterate and modernize how it works will serve as the structural backbone.

Looks like this is a samurai… showdown.

Ghost of Tsushima (Q2/Q3 2020)
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions

A few years ago, I finally got around to playing Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper trilogy and had a blast. I’ve been following the studio off and on since then, keeping an eye on Ghost of Tsushima since its unveiling back in October 2017. What got me the most interested in it, ironically enough, was seeing how great FromSoftware’s somewhat similar Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice looked when it came out last year. I’d love to experience the ancient Japanese setting for myself, but putting up with Sekiro‘s difficulty to get that experience isn’t what I’m looking for.

As great as Ghost of Tsushima looks, my main concern is story and tone. I wonder if a Washington-based studio like Sucker Punch can deliver a convincing and authentic samurai tale. Especially in a time when a Japanese developer like FromSoftware has shown what they can do. The most recent trailer from The Game Awards makes a strong case for both the game’s cinematic quality and style, but there’s a part of me that’s still apprehensive. I believe Sucker Punch can craft a tale that’s respectful. I just hope my faith isn’t misplaced.

Do a kickflip!

SkateBIRD (2020)
Publisher: Glass Bottom Games
Developer: Glass Bottom Games

SkateBIRD is a charming game I fell in love with during E3 last year, and it’s been periodically on my mind ever since. I’ve been in the mood for a new Tony Hawk game for years and this is the perfect mix of arcade-y fun and cute birds I didn’t know I wanted. The premise behind it almost seems like a meme, but it takes the idea of birds-riding-skateboards as seriously as it needs to. I’m not the only who’s fallen in love with the idea – the game’s Kickstarter page shows that 2,526 people backed this game, fulfilling its initial funding goal three times over.

Where so many titles are moving in a more serious direction, something like SkateBIRD is a good reminder that games can be literally about anything. It’s cool, it’s goofy, it’s coming to Switch, and from the trailers it seems like a blast to play. You could say that it’s just cute birds flapping their wings, grinding rails, and listening to lo-fi beats, but that still sounds awesome. I love it. I want to play it now.

I was always more of an *NSYNC fan personally.

Tell Me Why (Mid-2020)
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment

Despite my disappointment with the way Life is Strange 2 ended, I still believe Dontnod can do better. Tell Me Why is their next episodic adventure, and like their previous titles, it sets itself up with lofty expectations. The basic premise focuses on twins Alyson and Tyler as they return to their childhood home to face their past. Part of the hook is that Tyler is a transgender man, and articles about the game have highlighted how this is the first game with a trans protagonist to be supported by a publisher as major as Xbox Game Studios.

However, when this game was first announced in November, Patrick Klepek at Vice was quick to get the word on how deep Dontnod’s commitment to trans representation goes. They’ve worked closely with GLAAD and apparently have had trans people give their thoughts at different levels to help achieve “authenticity,” but no trans people are on the writing staff. This is a concern for me, since part of Life is Strange 2‘s downfall at the end was its lack of authenticity. Though Tell Me Why is developed by a different team (as mentioned in an interview with Game Informer), you almost have to go on trust that this new team won’t make the same mistake. I’m willing to do that, but as a cisgender person, I don’t think my trust is what Dontnod should be looking for.

An RPG I’ll gladly play again.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (2020)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monolith Soft

I debated whether or not to put an HD remaster on this list, especially when I’ve already played a version of the game before. But I love Monolith Soft, and seeing Xenoblade Chronicles in HD is something I’ve wanted for years. It’s one of my favorite games on the Wii, and among my favorite RPGs ever made. There’s no timeframe beyond “2020,” so I could still bide by time by playing the New 3DS port that Nintendo and Monster Games put out back in 2015, but I think I might wait.

What makes this game so good is the way all of its aspects come together to build a stunning, concrete vision. It’s got style, a bright color palette, British voice acting, and vast, open spaces. It’s MMO-like gameplay feels great, and the gradual difficulty ramp works with the game’s complex systems. In many ways it feels like such an un-Nintendo game, it’s hard to believe Monolith is owned by them. There’s the soundtrack, which is primarily a collaboration between Manami Kiyota, Yoko Shimomura, and the group ACE+. And then there’s the story, which is worth sticking around for throughout the game’s hundred hours. Its themes cut back through time to the days of Xenosaga and Xenogears in a way that justifies giving this game a Xeno name, too.

Look at this game! It looks great in HD!

Thanks for reading. If you want to get in touch, and perhaps tell me what you’re looking forward to, be sure to leave a comment below. I’m also available on Twitter, and by email, too: dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios(dot)com. Have a good, safe 2020!