The big videogame story of November might have been the near-simultaneous release of two new, cutting-edge consoles from Sony and Microsoft, but those boxes are just overpriced hunks of plastic without actual games to play on them. Fortunately, despite everything else that has happened in 2020 so far, games do still exist. (Or should that read “unfortunately”?) Some of them even came out in November. Here are our picks for the best new games released this month, and by “our” I mean “my.” I’m just one guy, one solitary guy who’s been passing off his own videogame opinions as Paste’s for almost a decade now. That’s what editors get to do. I’m not unique in this. Standard industry practice. And hell, a decade is a long time. Jeez.
I haven’t played all of the games that came out in November. I’ve barely scratched Age of Calamity on the Switch, for instance. Perhaps that’d pop up on here if I had had more time, or less games. Who knows. I can confirm that I’ve played every game on this list, though, and can recommend them all for different reasons.
Okay, I’m going to go ahead and his publish now and let you take it from here. Read the words below, play the games if you want to, and, as always, thanks for your support. We genuinely love you. And that’s official Paste policy, not just my own opinion.
1. Astro’s Playroom
Platform: PlayStation 5
Is this a perfect game? I can’t find anything to criticize in Astro’s Playroom, the short but endlessly enjoyable platformer that comes installed on every PlayStation 5. Judged on both style and substance, Astro’s Playroom is an ideal pack-in game. It’s fun, beautiful, deeply entertaining, and also elegantly introduces the major new features of the PlayStation 5’s controller. And with its meta concept of playing entirely within the new system, while also tracking down art and items from the 26 year history of the PlayStation, it pays tribute to the company’s past and present without getting too schmaltzy or nostalgic. If you’re getting a PlayStation 5, this should be the first game you play.
2. The Pathless
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 5, iOS, PC, Mac
Games should have secrets. They should feel like worlds that exist outside of the game and your presence in it, like something you’ve surreptitiously trespassed upon, and that, at best, are ambivalent towards your existence. The Pathless creates that feeling as well as Breath of the Wild, Demon’s Souls, or any of Team Ico’s games. This mythic adventure is set in a land on the cusp of apocalypse, in a battle between a benevolent god and a self-proclaimed godslayer, and trusts you and your eagle companion to sift through the ashes of its civilization to find a way to save it. There’s no violence outside of boss battles, and no threat of death to worry about. It’s built on movement and exploration, with your character slicing through the countryside as quickly as possible, or gliding through the air as your eagle carries you, while searching through decaying temples and fortresses for the tools you need to beat back Armageddon. If there’s anything to criticize about The Pathless, it’s that it’s maybe a little too linear—a little too similar to an Ubisoft game, moving from tower to tower to unlock the next step in the story. That doesn’t lessen its impact, though, or its beauty. This is one of the best games of the year.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Remember DJ Hero? Cool, now forget all about it. Harmonix’s new DJ game captures the feeling of a real DJ set better than Activision’s short-lived series ever did, and you won’t need a big chunk of plastic that you’ll never use again to play it. Fuser does for DJing what Rock Band did for rocking, with a deep selection of real songs from the past six decades to chop up and recombine however you see fit. It’s a fun game, sure, but it’s also an amazing tool for musical creativity, turning every player into their own personal mash-up machine. You should play it, is what I’m saying.
4. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Sony’s excellent Spider-Man game gets a follow-up starring everybody’s new favorite Spider-Man. Miles Morales is a timelier and more human take on the webslinger than the 2018 original, and although it disappointingly doesn’t fully commit to its politics, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable action game with a conscience. It’s also just about the perfect length for this type of game—you can probably 100% in half the time it takes to do that with the first one. If, y’know, you care about things like 100%-ing a game. Swinging through Christmastime Manhattan never gets old, especially when you have Spider-Man the Cat poking out of your backpack.
5. Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 5
The PlayStation 5 launched with not one, but two glorious platformers. Sackboy: A Big Adventure dumps all the creation stuff from Little Big Planet (you know, the reason those games existed) to focus on the star of that series, the adorable little burlap buddy known as Sackboy. The peculiar flightiness of those games’ physics has been greatly reduced, resulting in a more precise and easier to control Sackboy. This has made possible some of the most rhythmically minded and musical platforming levels since Sound Shapes. It’s not quite at the level of Astro’s Playroom, but fans of running, jumping, and general Mario-ing about should make room for Sackboy.
6. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, Stadia
Assassin’s Creed games are massive, messy spectacles that elevate boilerplate Ubisoft drudgery with the epic sweep of history. They’re absolutely ridiculous, highly repetitive, and entirely my shit, in a way few big budget franchises are. I haven’t enjoyed them all, and yes, I don’t always finish these mammoth adventures, but every few years a Creed hits me just right. Valhalla makes two in a row, after 2018’s similarly fine Odyssey. It turns the Viking invasion of 9th century England into yet another chapter in the eternal struggle between two secret societies devoted to recovering powerful artifacts left behind by a godlike race of ancient aliens—and I will never tire of typing sentences like that. Valhalla has what I look for in an Assassin’s Creed: memorable characters, vivid recreations of a long gone past, and a completely ridiculous, increasingly tangled, sci-fi conspiracy story rooted in a cartoon version of history. And this time it has way more mead and decapitations.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.