Best Video Games of 2020
Video games, for many, are more than just another source of entertainment. They offer respite from the worries of real life, if only temporarily, and that has been more pertinent this year than any other in the past decade. And boy did they deliver.
2020 was a big year for remakes and indie titles, also marking the debut of next-gen console hardware from the two biggest players in the space. Of course, no year is complete without its fair share of disappointments, the most notable being CDPR’s highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, for a myriad of reasons, including an unstable first release. But enough about the low points of the year.
We’re here today to celebrate the best releases of 2020, starting with our pick for game of the year.
Game of the Year – Hades
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch
At a time when innovation in games seems to have stagnated, indie studio Supergiant Games’ Hades offers a rogue-like experience like no other – a masterpiece, through and through. The game unshackles itself from genre tropes, making itself more palatable for the uninitiated, posing just the right amount of challenge, without ever feeling arduous.
You play as Zagreus, rebellious Prince of the Underworld, determined to achieve the seemingly impossible task of escaping his father’s domain, fighting his way through a randomized series of chambers over and over again, all in a bid to find his birthmother. Several different weapons coupled with countless boons from the gods of Greek mythos drastically change the way each run plays out. Failure sends you right back to the beginning, though it never feels like you aren’t making progress.
The game’s remarkably fleshed out story progresses each time you return to the game’s hub world. The main story runs in parallel with several NPC questlines, hoisted by a never-ending reserve of dialog voiced by an undeniably talented cast of actors. It’s an addictive mix – a stellar story coupled with countless gameplay variations, a long list of challenges to work toward, and an excellent soundtrack to boot – one that would put many AAA titles to shame.
Hades isn’t just one of the best titles of 2020. I’d argue it’s easily among the best action RPG games of this decade.
Ghost of Tsushima
Platforms: PS4, PS5
If there’s anything we’ve learnt since video game characters had discernible shapes, it’s that ninjas and samurais make for badass protagonists. That’s not the only thing Sucker Punch’s feudal Japanese epic has going for it, though.
Ghost of Tsushima is, in one word, cinematic. The game’s vast open world is riddled with picturesque landscapes, some of which serve as serene spots to write haikus and others for epic boss fights.
Combat, of course, is the biggest highlight of the game. It strikes a good balance between challenging and pure fun. Players able to approach each encounter in a handful of different ways, employing a variety of tools, stances, techniques, and a unique “standoff” mechanic that makes you feel like Ruroni Kenshin on crack.
The Last of Us Part II
Platform: PS4, PS5
Few would doubt Naughty Dog’s storytelling mettle after 2013’s The Last of Us and the poignant masterpiece that was its storyline. Expectations were high for the sequel, and as is often the case, many expectant fans were left disappointed, the general consensus among them being that its story pales in comparison to that of the original.
The Last of Us Part II takes the grim world of the first and makes it much, much darker. It’s an old-fashioned vendetta story and that, along with an early twist, just didn’t sit well with the audience.
There is, however, no denying the game’s stellar visuals and art direction, however. Its gameplay loop, though a tad repetitive, is largely entertaining as well and a definite improvement over that of its predecessor. Stealth encounters are more tense while combat feels far more chaotic and satisfying. Fluid, natural animations make action sequences look like they’ve been lifted right out of a blockbuster film.
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Series S, Nintendo Switch
DOOM Eternal is undoubtedly the simplest game on this list. The sequel to 2016’s Doom reboot further embraces the classic series’ roots with fast-paced, gory action, though this time, not at the expense of lore. For those who choose to take the time to explore and read, DOOM Eternal has quite a bit of additional story to offer – a deeper dive into the origins of the overpowered Slayer and his obsession with slaying demons.
Ripping and tearing demons is fun enough. We’d have been happy without the additional effort id Software put into the game, but we’re glad they did.
Platform: PC (VR)
It’s not the Half-Life game we’d all been waiting for, but it is one of the best story-driven VR games made to date. In fact, critics predict that it may have set a new golden standard for the genre moving forward.
Half-Life: Alyx excels at having players interact with its world in unique new ways, combining the flexibility of virtual reality with the iconic series’ trademark puzzles. It seems Valve hasn’t lost its knack to innovate. Let’s hope the studio plans to work on Half-Life 3 next.
Demon’s Souls Remake
One of the least surprising successes of 2020 has to be the Demon’s Souls remake for Sony’s shiny new PlayStation 5. At the time of writing, it is the only PS5-exclusive title available for purchase, one that draws on the power of the next-gen console to deliver what is perhaps the most beautiful Souls experience to date. Bluepoint went the whole nine yards here – rebuilding everything from the textures to combat animations from the ground up, even having the original game’s voice talent re-record their lines.
Nostalgia was still the biggest selling point here, of course, though Bluepoint did make a few minor gameplay changes – such as adding omni-directional rolling and balancing the storage of healing items – to refine the 2009 classic for modern audiences. The remake also comes packed with the now mandatory photo mode as well as a new “Fracture Mode” that mirrors the game’s world, essentially offering veterans a chance to experience it afresh.
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X & Series S, Xbox One (Removed from PlayStation store)
Eight years in the making and hyped to no end, Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be the biggest release of the year, but in true 2020 fashion, it tripped over its own two feet before it could get a running start. If you look under the countless glitches and stability issues, however, you’ll see one of the most fleshed out story-driven open-world RPGs in recent memory.
With the budget of a modern day superhero movie, CD Projekt RED realized a profoundly capitalist, dystopian future and a believable story that asks all the right “what if” questions, leveraging the talents of professional nice guy Keanu Reaves and multiple new media personalities. The game has a solid combat and progression system, though these mostly play second fiddle to the gorgeous vistas of Night City – undoubtedly one of the most lifelike open worlds in gaming history.
It may not have matched the veneration enjoyed by CD Projekt RED’s magnum opus, 2016’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – a tall order, by all measures – but it undoubtedly holds its own against some of the best games to come out this year.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Series S, Nintendo Switch
One of the best platformers of the decade returned this year, taking what worked for the original and turning it up to eleven. Everything Moon Studios set out to do with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, they did exceptionally well – the audiovisual design, the combat and platforming mechanics, the pacing, the story, and the soundtrack, any of these would have landed the game on our list.
The story, in particular, is an improvement over that of the original, pulling on players’ heartstrings, accentuated by a powerful, memorable soundtrack.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Platform: PS4, PS5
It’s been a good year for remakes, clearly, and this one has been a long time coming. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Remake is the first in a series of episodic releases covering the storyline of the 1997 classic RPG. It expands on the happenings of the original, exploring a portion of the complete story, but in greater detail. It swaps out the original game’s turn-based action for a real-time combat system that offers an addictive mix of strategy and JRPG stylization.
While the combat has been praised by fans and critics alike, the jury is still out on the expanded storyline. It remains to be seen whether the remake continues to garner favor despite its episodic nature, but there is no denying the makers couldn’t have hoped for a better first outing.
Call of Duty: Warzone – Best Multiplayer Game
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Series S
It seems the battle royale genre won’t be losing its luster any time soon. The Call of Duty franchise raced to the front of the BR pack with its own standalone, free-to-play offering this year, going head-to-head with the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends.
With 200 players facing off against each other on a massive, POI-rich map, Modern Warfare‘s entire arsenal of hardware, and several unique game mechanics, including the fan-favorite Gulag, Warzone proved there is still room to innovate in the BR space.
What was your biggest game of the year? Did it make our list? Let us know in the comments section below!