My Game Of The Year Is The Criminally Neglected 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
2020 was a year of surprises on the gaming front. Everyone expected the year to be ruled by remakes and triple-A titles that have dominated the headlines for years, but it turned out to be unknown games that stole the show. It turned out that it was games like Among Us, Genshin Impact, and Fall Guys that captured the imagination of fans.
I went into 2020 expecting that Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Persona 5 Royal, or Vampire: Masquerade Bloodlines 2 would be my GOTY. Bloodlines 2 was delayed until the second half of 2021, and the other two games weren’t even my favorite RPGs of the year, losing out to Yakuza: Like A Dragon. When it comes to determining my top three games of the year, Like A Dragon is third, Hades is second (another outlier), and sitting in the top spot is 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, the most criminally neglected game of the year.
Related: How Long Does It Take To Beat 13: Sentinels: Aegis Rim?
13 Sentinels is part adventure/visual novel, part strategy game. The story involves the invasion of Earth at different time periods, with armies of Kaiju attacking humanity throughout history. 13 Sentinels follows thirteen different characters on a time-hopping journey, as they uncover the truth behind the invasion of Earth. Each of the characters pilots their own giant robot, known as a Sentinel, and these are the key to protecting the planet from the Kaiju. It turns out that nothing is as it seems, and a time-traveling/intergalactic war could just be setting the stage for another conflict.
What makes 13 Sentinels so special is its unique storytelling. The thirteen interlocking stories of the characters can play out in any order that the player desires. As such, everyone’s experiences will be different, as revelations made in one storyline will influence the player’s view of what is happening to the same characters in other stories. This is without even discussing the beautiful visuals of the game, which make the story mode feel like a comic book or painting come to life.
The gradual unraveling of the story also ties into the other aspect of the gameplay: giant robots fighting each other. In the strategy game portion of 13 Sentinels, the player needs to protect a location known as the Terminal across different missions. The missions start out easy, as enemies will just slowly waddle into the player’s line of fire. Things quickly spiral out of control, as entire armies of enemies start attacking the Terminal. The player will need to use the unique capabilities of each generation of Sentinels in order to win, with the low-mobility Sentinels specializing in powerful melee attacks, the long-range Sentinels supporting them from afar with missile strikes, and swift mid-range Sentinels moving to where they are needed. Balancing these teams is the key to victory, and it makes each battle thrilling to behold.
These two gameplay styles interlock in different ways. It’s possible to upgrade the attacks and stats of the Sentinels, but the points required for this are earned by progressing the story. By the same token, you unlock Mystery Points from completing the battle mode, which can be used to unlock character profiles and explanations in the story mode.
If there is one word I’d use to describe 13 Sentinels, it’s “Unique”. There is no other game like this on the market, and what it does, it does extremely well. If you’re tired of playing the same old open-world icon hunting and loot grabbing, then this could be the game for you. If you’re tired of franchises that bank on nostalgia over gameplay, or super hyped titles that run like garbage at launch, then this could be the game for you. There were some surprising games that became popular in 2020, and 13 Sentinels deserves to be counted alongside the biggest names of the year.
13 Sentinels is sitting at a Metacritic score of 86, and it received tons of acclaim from critics at launch. So, why was it ignored? A lot of the big hitters were multiplayer games that were played by streamers, and 13 Sentinels doesn’t fit that experience. 13 Sentinels isn’t made for being yelled at on stream, and it’s not something that is easily shared as a group experience. It involves following a story at the pace of the player, which is something that doesn’t sit well with a fanbase watching on stream. Anyone who has tried to play Undertale to a crowd will understand what I mean. 13 Sentinels is also a unique game that doesn’t belong to any single genre. I would best describe it as an interactive mecha anime, and that’s not an easy sell as a concept, especially to a mainstream audience.
The best hope for 13 Sentinels reaching a wider audience (other than critics begging fans to check it out) is for it to reach other platforms. 13 Sentinels would do well on mobile or PC, assuming Vanillaware was willing to invest in a port. We’re seeing more and more Japanese console developers embrace alternate platforms, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Whatever the future holds for 13 Sentinels, I hope that more people check it out, even if that only happens when it inevitably comes to PS+. 13 Sentinels is an unforgettable experience, and I have no hesitation in calling it the best game of 2020.
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Scott has been writing for The Gamer since it launched in 2017 and also regularly contributes to Screen Rant. He has previously written gaming articles for websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, and TopTenz. He has been gaming since the days of the ZX Spectrum, when it used to take 40 minutes to load a game from a tape cassette player to a black and white TV set.
Scott thinks Chrono Trigger is the best video game of all time, followed closely by Final Fantasy Tactics and Baldur’s Gate 2. He pretends that sorcerer is his favorite Dungeons & Dragons class in public but he secretly loves bards.
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