Fuck you, 2020.
This year has been a hell of a year with more emphasis on Hell. While my time to play shrunk a good bit this year with the many bouts of doom scrolling and stress I’ve had to deal with as COVID-19 ravaged the world and made my day-to-day work more stressful than ever as people generally seemed to not care about doing their part to help others out in these trying times. The industry largely didn’t miss a beat outside of physical events to disseminate their announcements, at least until Cyberpunk 2077′s disastrous release sent shockwaves through the industry as 2020 ended. Then there’s the disaster of Amazon intentionally screwing people out of their PS5 and Xbox Series S|X pre-orders at the last minute, forcing people to do the stupid dance of trying to secure consoles from the retailers that have been handling their drops as poorly as possible.
That said, for me it’s been a pretty good year when I could get time in to play some games. The old game of the year for me was easily Rocket League, as I’ve continued to play it a few times a week and max out the rocket passes as best as I can. I’ve gotten into Fortnite as one of the premiere PS5 launch titles–that has been a surprise for me, especially winning one game so far. The biggest games I wish I had time for were Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Maneater, Spelunky 2, Persona 5 Royal, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and others that I’ve enjoyed a great deal but didn’t have the time to invest into them as I would have liked. At least I got a PS5 [Fuck you, Amazon], an Xbox Series S, and a new PC build to give me a good taste of what this next generation of gaming has to offer. I can’t wait to see what it has to offer with the promising stuff we’ve seen so far.
Let’s cut to the chase. Here are my top 10 games of 2020:
10. Murder by Numbers (Switch, PC)
The vast majority of my time with my Switch is spent playing the various Picross games that release each year and Murder by Numbers is the best one of those that came out this year from somebody other than Jupiter. Add a compelling murder mystery story with great modern Picross mechanics, and Murder by Numbers was one of the games I ended most nights with this year.
9. Noita (PC)
While Hades got all of the acclaim for PC roguelites this year, Noita was quietly doing some equally impressive stuff in other areas such as environmental destruction and the ways your weapons, wands, and spells can alter the course of fights and how you work your way through each area. This was secretly the game I was most excited to play with my new PC after experiencing many hours with rough framerates below 30 fps, so a 60+ fps framerate is a joy to behold. I rarely play to win and not just because I can’t get past the fourth area, but because watching wood struts and coal deposits burn, enemies fight each other, and water and various other liquids flow through stages is so fun and so much better than anything else I’ve seen.
8. The Pathless (PS5, PS4, PC)
Besides the great Spider-Man swing mechanics, The Pathless is the most fun game to traverse environments this year with the way it uses bows to give your character a boost run that you can keep refilling as you sprint around each area. The world being a mix of Shadow of the Colossus’ filler-free world with only boss encounters for combat and Breath of the Wild’s unique environmental puzzles with plenty of its own unique ideas as your eagle friend helps you on your journey to save the gods that have been corrupted by the God killer. It’s just an amazing game that really puts Giant Squid on the map as a top-tier indie studio.
7. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (PS4, PC)
The only time I had ever won a battle royale match was in a beta for Housemarque’s Stormdivers that only had eight people in it, but a few were devs. Then Fall Guys comes along and puts a Most Extreme Elimination Challenge-style stamp on the genre and I’ve won almost two dozen times since launch as Mediatonic found a perfect formula where it’s easy to get into, extremely fun and silly, and wins are more obtainable than most out there. The battle pass being free and not forcing dumb challenges on you to progress makes it one of the best out there. Fall Guys is the most fun and pick-up-and-play friendly game of the year.
6. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5, PS4)
Miles Morales is a more focused adventure compared to the first game, but it’s for the best as it makes this a more intimate exploration of Miles’ adjustment to being the #1 Spider-Man for New York City as he gains more confidence in his new abilities and fighting the bad guys that are causing chaos all over the city. The game itself is as good as the first game, if not moreso for all that it leaves behind from the original. It also makes great use of the PS5’s activity cards system as a makeshift fast travel system for the side quests.
5. The Last of Us Part II (PS4)
I finished The Last of Us Remastered earlier this year before Part II released and greatly enjoyed the story, the mechanics, and the performances of Joel and Ellie’s struggles with their pasts and future together. Part II takes that even further with the brutal exploration of Ellie’s trauma and her attempts to keep it in check with the journey she goes on while others have their own goals in place. It’s a masterful experience that unfortunately came at a time when I least needed a game to wear me down, which is why I wasn’t so willing to dive deep into the game so far.
4. Astro’s Playroom – (PS5)
I’ve raved about how good Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is as a VR game and a platformer and Astro’s Playroom is a masterful way to showcase what this brilliant team can do on the PS5 with the DualSense’s various features that makes it a strong contender for best game of the year. Just let Asobi Team make a full sequel to Rescue Mission with all of the joy, playfulness, and amazing attention to detail that the first game had and Sony will have a top tier platformer that rivals, and even bests, Mario once again for the first time since Jak & Daxter.
3. Hades (Switch, PC)
Just put this game in my veins and let me enjoy the ultimate culmination of the Supergiant Games catalog of titles in one package with the great storytelling, amazing combat, many options of customizing your abilities, and brilliant art direction that we’ve come to expect out of this studio for over ten years now. Hades does as good of a job at injecting interesting narratives into the game as Children of Morta did last year, and adds a great deal of its own ideas to the mix to show that this genre can tell amazing stories while changing up the way each run goes without missing a beat. Go buy this damn game and reward Supergiant Games for being one of the few indies that can change genres without missing the core of what they’re good at with every damn game they’ve released.
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons came at the perfect time for me and most everybody as the lockdowns, quarantines, and generally exponential stress of working a job that couldn’t stop for even one day this year. I could hang out on my island, pick up a bunch of mostly useless crap, fill up my home with it, and see which of these dumb villagers was deserving of being worthy neighbors of mine. I eventually fell off, but I’ll return one day to rule over these dumbasses as I hope to get my last few fossils and get those dumb paintings that rarely ever showed up to create such a slow grind to collect them. After skipping the Wii version, it’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve enjoyed one of these on a console and this is a damn good game.
1. Ghost of Tsushima – PS4
While The Last of Us Part II wore me down more than I’d have wanted for a 2020 game, Ghost of Tsushima was a perfect counter to the awfulness of 2020 for me. The art style is sublime with a recreation of Japan during the Mongol invasion that is breathtaking as the best looking game of the year. The combat and stealth mechanics are incredibly well done to be the ultimate form of what I want out of this genre. Jin is a great character that has to deal with the honor and tradition his uncle demands of him that lead to the mass deaths of his fellow samurai and the ghost that does what he needs to survive even if it goes against the samurai way.
I’m so glad that 2020 is almost over and that there’s a bright light in the distance for 2021 where we can get back to some sense of normalcy. I do hope it’s not too far off so that everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and start rebuilding our lives back to what we’d like them to be now that we’ve seen what life is like without the basics that we took for granted. Best of luck to everybody reading this and your families!