Mobile gaming was another genre of 2020 that didn’t quite have the most resounding hits. Where other years have had more prominent releases of apps, it was a bit quieter of a year for new releases this year. It’s not that there weren’t releases though. A handful of very prominent games came out in the mobile market this year, but none with such… point of collision, let’s say… as Genshin Impact from miHoYo.
This game was a surprise out of left field. miHoYo launched a full-fledged open-world adventure game on PC, PlayStation, and mobile devices, and free to play at that. Many were quick to compare this game to Breath of the Wild, and that’s not unwarranted or a bad thing. Genshin Impact features a vast free-form world of bright colors in which players explore and discover at their leisure. There are definitely quests, and it gets more difficult the further you get from civilization, but Genshin Impact is still pretty freeform in its exploratory offerings.
Did we mention this is a free-to-play game? It’s easy to forget (though not in-game) that Genshin Impact’s wide world is supported by a gacha character and equipment system in which you can use premium currency to get special characters. Even so, and as stiff as its monetary system can be, you don’t need to buy into Genshin Impact for a long, long time to enjoy it. Heck, there’s a season pass and its not even available to touch until you’re at a late-game level ranking.
Then there’s the fact that the world, characters, and systems of Genshin Impact are just plain fun. Completely unlike Breath of the Wild, you have a party of characters you form out of the group you’ve collected on your journeys or through the gacha system. Each character has a weapon class and element class and each of them can be used to interact with the world in a myriad of ways. There are a wealth of environmental puzzles in Genshin Impact that actually require a certain element or a combination of them. There’s also just natural interactions. For instance, the main character has a super move in which they can create a tornado of wind. If a fire character then casts a fire ability upon that tornado, it actually becomes a fire tornado and does multiple damage types to any unfortunate foes caught within. The natural combination of elements and player actions throughout Genshin Impact are surprising and delightful.
When it comes to free-to-play games, Genshin Impact definitely deserved to be part of that conversation, but as far as mobile games go, it’s hard to say anything else even came close. Crash Bandicoot had a mobile game in the form of On the Run!, League of Legends got a digitalcard game in Legends of Runeterra, and there were even surprising apps in the form of Pokemon Smile. That said, even if Genshin Impact were just a Breath of the Wild clone, it’d be noteworthy. That it’s much more than that allows it to clench the Modojo @ Shacknews Mobile Game of the Year 2020 award with ease.
Check out the other winners from The Shacknews Awards 2020 in our Year of the Games: 2020 article.