by Jed Pressgrove
While all the other game critics scrambled to play as many 2020 titles as they could for their usual lists, I decided to do something a little different this year — namely, time travel. I won’t bore you with the technical details of this endeavor, as I know all of you are thinking the same thing: “Really???? What about the games in the pipeline?!” Below are my picks for the greatest video games of 2030. I have seen the future, and it is good.
- Hellfight: Like a Rogue – If there’s one thing that Hellfight: Like a Rogue teaches us, it’s that there can be truth in advertising. This blistering release from independent developer Big Colossus Studios is a roguelike in which you fight your way through Hell. Of course, you will die many, many times, but that’s more than OK. Here, death acts as an informant to the player, unveiling the intricacies of enemy attack patterns, the wanted and unwanted effects of power-ups, and the tricks to avoiding devilish traps like spikes and bomb radiuses. More than anything, to advance through the lair of Satan, you will need to learn how to dash a bunch of times. As if the tantalizing action of Hellfire: Like a Rogue weren’t enough, Big Colossus throws in a cast of lovable demons who talk to the hero, Lucipher, after he messes up and gets killed. The character development and storytelling point to a universal truth: we’re all just big kids in a dark playground, flipping the middle finger to our dads and running over to mommy for wise words and protection.
- Final Fantasy VII Remake Remake – According to the Wikipedia of 2030, although Final Fantasy VII Remake was the most innovative remake of the greatest RPG ever, it left players wanting more after its last act. Square Enix initially flirted with the concept of remaking the remake, leaving audiences breathless across the world, but the creative team behind the project dissolved to everyone’s collective disappointment. But then, in 2029, it was announced that the first of 10 parts of Final Fantasy VII Remake Remake would be coming in 2030. I managed to get my hands on it, and boy, are you in for a treat in 10 years. Remember how Final Fantasy VII Remake translated the first five hours of Final Fantasy VII into 30 to 50 hours of content? Well, Final Fantasy VII Remake Remake turns the first five hours of Final Fantasy VII Remake into an 80-hour epic of moral ambiguity and carefully outlined traditional sidequests. The additional time with the characters reveals their innermost thoughts, as in the segment where Cloud, troubled by what could be called television static, follows Sephiroth through a labyrinthine alleyway for 10 hours, only to learn later that he actually walked three feet away from Barrett and the rest of the gang during a sort of brainfart that lasted a mere two seconds. And yes, while Barrett is a cartoonish stereotype as he was in Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake, this time around we can definitely see how much he really, really loves his daughter and really, really hates corporate power. So it all balances out.
- Animal Crossing: High on Life – On a sociopolitical level, 2030 was dreadful and frightening to behold on multiple fronts. As such, it’s nice that Nintendo cranked out this latest Animal Crossing sequel that, unlike previous entries, allows the player to engage in human-animal marriages. In a terrible year like 2030, this is what the doctor ordered. Similar to its predecessors, Animal Crossing: High on Life lets people get away from current events and turn their brains off in the late hours of the night and tend to their precious hamlets full of characters that look like toys that we used to play with when we were 2.5 years old. There was another neat thing that I noticed about playing Animal Crossing in 2030: you never knew when an affable Democratic politician in the U.S. would namedrop High on Life on social media. Despite the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor in 2030 seemed as wide as the distance between Pluto and the sun, all of this made me feel warm and bubbly inside.
- Sprinkler Repairman – It was good to see that indie devs could still throw a decent curveball a decade from now. In the delightful and socially conscious Sprinkler Repairman, you help middle- and upper-class households maintain the lifeblood of their lawns. The intuitive (read: very easy) puzzler gameplay is a blast for all ages, but more significantly, as you visit neighborhood after neighborhood, you observe how segregated the world is. Most of the families in Sprinkler Repairman live by families with similar characteristics. When the protagonist utters his final line, “Man, we are separated,” you can’t help but feel a tinge of regret, despite how fun and solvable the majority of the game is.
- Life As We Know It Is Over Part 2 – Based on the articles that I came across in 2030, Life As We Know It Is Over revolutionized storytelling in gaming in 2026. How? From what I could tell, the game had a nihilistic and apocalyptic plot, characters who put the T in Tragedy, and enemies that were a cross between zombies, vampires, and federal legislators. This material overwhelmed many a gamer, leading them to discover feelings that they never knew they had. Thus, Life As We Know It Is Over Part 2 was created as an attempt to top the emotional roller coaster ride that was Life As We Know It Is Over. Now, I can’t say whether this sequel was indeed better than the original, but I was moved by a scene in which Casey, a 20-something skateboarder-turned-revolutionary, compared the bloodsucking zombified vampire things to the American government of the early 21st century, right before putting a bullet in the brain of Jacob, a 40-something turncoat who, interestingly, was the protagonist for the first 15 hours of the game. My only question after seeing the closing credits of Life As We Know It Is Over Part 2 was whether the story was over or whether Life As We Know It Is Over Part 3 would peek its head around the corner in 2035.
- Smash Bros. vs. Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat vs. Tekken vs. Virtua Fighter vs. Samurai Shodown vs. Dead or Alive vs. Primal Rage vs. UFC Legends – This unbelievable gem has almost everything a fighting game fan could want. I say almost because right before I had to come back to 2020, I learned that Smash Bros. vs. Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat vs. Tekken vs. Virtua Fighter vs. Samurai Shodown vs. Dead or Alive vs. Primal Rage vs. UFC Legends would have a second season featuring new characters like Shigeru Miyamoto, Kind Akuma, Mike Tyson, and Raiden As Played by Christopher Lambert. Damn!
- Ori and the Lost Sack of Opioids – This delightful sequel takes the platforming genre to new heights, marrying in-depth exploration to passionate commentary on the anomie of humankind. The guardian spirit Ori finds itself traversing a bureaucratic modern world where everyone is looking for a way out through government-approved pharmaceuticals. As Ori backtracks through medical facilities, local pharmacies, wild college parties, and the human body itself, the player is able to grasp the logistical, political, and psychological complexities of the opioid crisis. A Metroidvania for the times.
- Gun Nut 2.0 – Ever wonder what it’s like to have to clean a 9mm Glock after you shoot a lot of stuff? Gun Nut 2.0 takes its 2027 predecessor’s basic VR premise to fascinating extremes. At one point, you have to visit store after store in a desperate search for bullets of a certain caliber, asking employees what day and time they think they’ll receive their next ammo shipment. In a groundbreaking twist, Gun Nut 2.0 even has built-in features to relieve cognitive dissonance for left-wing players who are against guns in real life but love to imagine themselves blowing crap (and people) away.
- Assassin’s Creed: The Great Depression – If you love history, you already know Assassin’s Creed is a gift from the gods. With a fidelity that recalls unforgettable literary classics like The Grapes of Wrath and Tobacco Road, Assassin’s Creed: The Great Depression highlights how cool it is to plop one’s self into a different place and time and slit throats like a bad MF. You can also freely enter Tour Mode and watch how people survived in the Dust Bowl. Attention to detail = empathy.
- Madden NFL 30 – This one deserves special mention for the “Life of a Player” mode alone, where every life decision can impact whether a particular player will enter and remain in the NFL. You start off as a soon-to-be draft pick who, among other things, must consider the potential consequences of broadcasting himself hitting a water bong on TikTok. If a team drafts you, the possibilities are endless. You can play your position well to land a big contract, only to stop putting forth any effort on the field after you get paid. You can throw your teammates under the bus after a reporter asks you what happened in an embarrassing loss. You can spend your free time being a role model, traveling to schools across the country to inform kids about the dangers of peer pressure and egotism. Madden NFL 30 captures everything that is inspiring and disappointing about big-name athletes, while also being incredibly dull as a football game in video game form.