2020 is almost here, so we’ve asked GameSpot’s staff to share which games they’re looking forward to most in the new year. New consoles are going to dominate the headlines, but at the end of the day it’s all about the games, and there are a ton of exciting ones to look forward to. When you’re done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub and our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub.
More than two years after its release, I still regularly think about Golf Story. A Nintendo Switch exclusive developed by Australian studio Sidebar Games, Golf Story spliced Mario sports-style role-playing gameplay with the idiosyncratic humor of Earthbound to create one of the most endearing games I’ve played in a long time. So when Sidebar Games showed off Golf Story’s sequel during December’s Indie World Showcase, Sports Story instantly vaulted to the top of my wishlist.
Though we only have a one-minute trailer to go off of, it’s clear that Sports Story will up the ante when it comes to absurd hijinks. The title gives it away: Sports Story will move beyond golf. In the trailer, golf is well-represented, as is tennis, volleyball, soccer, baseball, and even cricket. It’s also clear that sometimes these sports will mash together in strange mini games like the one shown in the trailer. An NPC pitches a golf ball over a tennis net, and the main character proceeds to smack it with a racket into a soccer goal on the other side. All of these sports will come together in the “Decasportathon,” which will hopefully be as awesome as its name.
Golf Story’s three-click golf gameplay was fun, especially when it strayed away from the traditional in favor of ridiculousness. However, it wasn’t all too complex. While some of the late-game objectives offered a few daunting challenges, the overall simplicity made a decent number of missions feel far too easy, bordering on monotonous. With the sheer variety of activities on display in Sports Story, I’m hopeful that the core gameplay will remain fresh across the entire adventure. It sure looks like Sports Story will mix things up in a big way, as there will also be some dungeon exploration and stealth objectives.
That said, the sports gameplay is only part of the reason why I’m jazzed for Sports Story. Golf Story had a lasting impact on me because of its novel personality and boundless charm. The characters stuck with me. The NPCs that hung out around Golf Story’s country clubs often muttered passive aggressively and told off-kilter jokes. That may not sound pleasant, but the writing teemed with life and even the grouchiest of characters were lovable. To this day, Golf Story remains one of the funniest games I’ve ever played.
My hope is that Sports Story replicates and expands upon the humor and oddly charming storytelling of its predecessor. The protagonist will once again be taking lessons with his peers–this time at a tennis academy–but the wider scope makes me think that an even grander, more off-the-wall story will be told. Even just from the brief glimpse at the Stardew Valley-esque environments, it looks like the various country clubs and locales will be packed with far more stuff to tinker with, people to talk to, and secrets to uncover. Sports Story doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’s expected to launch in mid-2020 as a Switch exclusive, which gives me plenty of time to replay Golf Story a few more times.