Most of the world had a pretty rough 2020, myself included, and for once it wasn’t solely due to first world problems–to shed some light on that, 2020 was supposed to be a big travel year for me. You already know the end of that story.
I lost some family. It’s been rough. This is stuff you don’t want to wish on anyone, but it happens anyway, and it sucks. There were two things that kept me sane this year: video games and football.
The one bright spot with 2020 is the fact that I actually had time to sit down and enjoy a vast array of games, and I even played through more than a few VERY long RPGs, and three of them made my list. Before I get to that list, though, I wanted to talk about some honorable mentions of video games that I enjoyed, but ultimately weren’t good enough to crack my Top 10 games of this year.
Tell Me Why (Xbox One)
An episodic game series usually always makes it top my Top 10, and after the first episode of Tell Me Why, I really thought it would cement a spot. Unfortunately, the latter two episodes to wrap the game up left much to be desired. The game tells the story of twins, one of whom is a transexual, that are reunited to clean up and trace back some details on the death of their mother, who one of the twins killed. The development team did a lot of research to make the game appropriate for all sorts of matters of representation, and as a Filipino-American, I was happy to see and learn about people that look like me living in Alaska.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (Multiplatform)
Valhalla is actually the first Assassin’s Creed game I’ve put some time in since the original release on the PS3 and Xbox 360, and unlike the original game, I liked what I played out of it. Unfortunately, it was a busy time and I was assigned to do other stuff, so it kind of fell by the wayside, but this is definitely a game I intend on coming back to.
Astro’s Playroom (PlayStation 5)
As I type this up, I’m really thinking about putting this game in my Top 10, to at least replace Final Fantasy VII Remake, considering we don’t award remakes any GOTY points in the final tally. Still, that game deserves to be in my Top 10 because I really enjoyed it, but I also really enjoyed Astro’s Playroom. The game is disguised to be a tech demo, but it really isn’t. Even though it’s less than four hours, the game is just a love letter for everything that PlayStation has represented over the last couple decades, and I hope it lasts even longer.
Now we can get to the good stuff. Here are my Top 10 Games of 2020.
10. Final Fantasy VII Remake (PlayStation 4)
I’m one of the people that was on the fence with this release, primarily due to the fact that it was remade with a new battle system, but it worked. Final Fantasy VII Remake made me care about characters who were really just footnotes in the series, and I’m itching to see how the rest of the story is told… No matter how long it will take. Since it’s a remake, it won’t get any points in our GOTY totaling, but it definitely deserves to be on the lists it’s on.
9. Streets of Rage 4 (Multiplatform)
Every once in a while, we’ll see a beloved series get revived and more often than not, we wish that it didn’t happen. This isn’t the case with Streets of Rage 4. The game has just about everything that’s made the series great, and it has just the right amount of new stuff for it to not feel aged. I wish it could’ve been a little easier, but it’s a blast nonetheless, and it was awesome playing a new entry in a franchise that helped shape my preferred style of gaming.
8. Persona 5 Royal – PlayStation 4
Persona 5 might’ve been my favorite JRPG of the generation, and Persona 5 Royal makes that game even better. In my opinion, it’s the best Persona game, and Persona 5 Royal is the definitive way to experience it. The new ending was simply incredible, and while it felt familiar, it felt like a fresh new take as well. It also has an awesome Platinum Trophy that doesn’t waste your time like most JRPGs tend to do. New Game+ can suck it. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
7. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (PlayStation 4, PC)
Probably my most “Flavor of the Month” entry here, Fall Guys is just mindless fun. I’m sad I didn’t get to play through Season 2, but once things calm down with my backlog, I look forward to getting back into some jelly bean fun. Who woulda thought Mario Party x mXc would be such a cool idea? As someone that amassed 10 crowns in Season 1, I wonder how much better everybody else has gotten…
6. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV (PlayStation 4)
Let’s be honest. Most of our staff consists of Trails fanboys. Every year a Trails game comes out, it’ll probably be on all of our Top 10s. Trails of Cold Steel IV is certainly no exception, as it was essentially what Avengers Endgame was to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Oozing with fan service that’s the result of world building from the last decade, Trails of Cold Steel IV was epic in every meaning of the word, and I found myself sharing so many screenshots on my Instagram story that nobody reacted too because they don’t know what this game is, and I don’t care.
5. Yakuza: Like A Dragon (PlayStation 4, Xbox)
Even in my younger days, I don’t think there’s been a year in which I’ve played (and finished) as many RPGs as I have in 2020, and in a year that featured the likes of Persona 5 Royal, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Trails of Cold Steel IV, it feels amazing to say that Yakuza: Like A Dragon is in the same class as those three amazing RPGs. Ichiban Kasuga is almost as respectable as Kazuma Kiryu, and it was an absolute blast playing through an RPG that makes fun of other RPGs while also being fantastic in its own right. Off to the soapland we go! Kidding.
4. Hades (Switch, PC)
We know Supergiant Games is one of the best independent studios in the industry, but it’s absolutely insane how these developers manage to captivate us with every release. Whether it’s Bastion, Transistor, Pyre, and now Hades, Supergiant has quite the track record even if you aren’t even into games in the action RPG genre. I’m not a roguelike dungeon crawler guy, but Hades is simply a different experience that anybody that calls themselves a gamer should try out. Not being afraid of dying is starting to become a cliché gaming loop, but no game does it like Hades, and it’s worth every bit of hype that it gets. This fourth entry for Supergiant is the result of everything they’ve learned from their previous superb games, and it really shows.
3. Ghost of Tsushima (PlayStation 4)
Another winner from Sony. Ghost of Tsushima is a far cry from the inFamous games and Sly Cooper, but it’s also even better than both of those beloved franchises. Sucker Punch’s iteration of a feudal Japan has garnered so much praise, even Japanese developers are kicking themselves over the fact that they weren’t the ones that developed this game. From the action, to its immersive world, its profound story and its utter beauty, Ghost of Tsushima is easily one of the best experiences to be had on the PlayStation 4, and it was made even better with post-game content to keep the game evergreen.
2. The Last of Us, Part II (PlayStation 4)
In almost any other year, The Last of Us Part II would’ve been my Game of the Year, and it’s tough that it turned out this way because I said the same thing about the original release. While I didn’t “enjoy” myself as much as I did with my choice for #1, I can’t deny this game of its greatness. Almost everything about the game was extraordinary, and I was on the edge of my seat for almost two playthroughs on my way to the Platinum Trophy. The Last of Us Part II was a fantastic story and while it was hard to experience as I held onto that controller, it was definitely a beautiful struggle.
1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t do a whole lot of things that you can’t do in any of the other games in the series, and while it did benefit from the pandemic more than any other release this year, there’s still a lot to be said about the fact that it was definitely the perfect game for 2020. We NEEDED this game, and Nintendo delivered in so many ways with what’s easily the best entry in this long-running series by FAR. The pandemic robbed us of social interaction, and New Horizons more than any other game this year did it for more people than any game had a right to. I doubt anybody expected Animal Crossing: New Horizons to end up being the 2nd best-selling Switch game of all-time in less than a year into its existence, but here it is. 2020 was a big year for gaming, and there was no game bigger. In many ways, New Horizons was the Pokémon Go of this year, and it’s absolutely crazy that Nintendo can claim responsibility for both of these games blowing up the way they did. As I’m writing this, I have 555 hours logged into it… Pretty sure that’s more than any other game I’ve ever played in my life.
So as bad a shitshow as 2020 was, it was quite fine for gaming. We saw some crazy irregularities in the form of delayed announcements, actual delay announcements, and CD Projekt Red becoming the laughing stock of the industry, but if you’re someone that’s an involved gamer, it’s tough to say that this year didn’t deliver as far entertainment and enjoyment go. As far as gaming goes, 2020 has 2019 beat by more than a mile, and with the next-generation of gaming finally here, I’m looking forward to what the future has in store… because we need out of 2020. Now.