Despite everything else in the world, 2020 has been an amazing year for games. My favourite two franchises, Persona and Kingdom Hearts, got two new releases and heck, even Spider-Man, who is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time, came to the PS5. And speaking of the spanking new consoles, I was fortunate enough to grab myself both a PS5 and a Series S this holiday season. I’ve been a PlayStation fan since forever, but the 360 was my console of choice two generations ago. And now, after skipping the Xbox One, it feels good to be back on the Microsoft side of things.
I wasn’t with SmashPad last year, which has awarded its 2019 Game of the Year to Fire Emblem: Three Houses – a game, I’m ashamed to admit, I bought close to release but have never even booted up. Instead, my personal favourite game of 2019 is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Now this is a surprising pick, absolutely, since everyone, myself included, was right to doubt that EA could pull off an excellent single-player game set in the Star Wars universe. But boy am I super happy that they delivered: I though the game had one of the best Star Wars in a hot minute.
This being said, 2019 also was not as competitive of a year as 2020 proves itself to be: Kingdom Hearts III was great enough to make my list but not take top honours and I loved playing Luigi’s Mansion 3 with my best friend. But other than that, 2019 was on the whole a year that didn’t light my gaming world on fire.
But 2020 absolutely has. Unfortunately, though, 2020 has also been a bonkers year outside gaming: I wrote a dissertation in isolation, graduated in a pandemic and moved countries for postgraduate school. This means that I didn’t have as much time for gaming as I would have wanted and so I missed a lot of the heavy hitters from this year. For starters, here are some of the games that I think would have made my 2020 list if only I put in the time:
Hades (PC, Switch) – After submitting my final assignments this winter, the first game I bought and booted up was Hades. It’s the number one game I will be playing over the holidays because it has everything I think I want from a game: tight gameplay mechanics, gorgeous art style and strongly written characters. What more could I ask for?!
Kentucky Road Zero: TV Edition (Multiplatform) – Kentucky Road Zero really appeals to the literature graduate in me. I have heard that this has the best video game writing since Disco Elysium and that it plays like a game written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Jorge Luis Borges, which is tremendously high praise.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X) – I love Tokyo with all my heart. I’ve lived there for a year whilst studying abroad and so every game that lets me explore it is a must-play and an instant favourite to me. I’m ready to return to Shinjuku in Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Also, Yakuza is absolutely insane and crazy funny: of course I’m all in.
Persona 5 Royal (PS4) – Speaking of Tokyo, Persona 5 Royal would have probably been my number one game of the year…if I let myself play it. I’m deliberately waiting for a time when I have scheduled and I can shut off the world and just let this game consume me. Maybe after I finish Hades…?
With my honorable mentions out of the way, let me finally pull back the curtain on my Top 10 Games of 2020:
10. The Pathless – iOS, PS4, PS5
Coming from the same people who made ABZÛ and with a soundtrack by the impeccable Austin Wintory, I was fully expecting The Pathless to be a winner with me. However, despite the look and sound of the world, which I was impressed by, I was disappointed with how repetitive the gameplay loop is. The puzzles, too, get very tiresome after a while. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an open world game which at the very least tries the break the mould, The Pathless is a good time.
9. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – PS4, PS5
It is no secret that I absolutely love everything Spider-Man and so, naturally, Miles Morales was my most anticipated game of the year. However, it ranks low on this list because it did none of the things I was expecting it to; it did not push the envelope for Insomniac‘s superhero franchise in any way. In fact, I would have vastly preferred a full-fledged sequel in a year or two with Miles as the poster child. Complaints out of the way, I was still charmed by Miles’ earnestness and by how Insomniac nailed the friendly neighbourhood aspect of being Spider-Man. Also, New York in snow looks absolutely stunning.
8. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout – PC, PS4
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was the unexpected runaway hit of the summer. It was genuinely such a thrill to race against dozens of players at one time and sometimes emerge as the victor. I also had a wonderful time playing it with some of my friends, and having it packed in with PlayStation Plus meant that most of my PSN friends had access to it and could jump in with me at any moment. Unfortunately for Fall Guys, it really was a flash in the pan, as the hype and excitement over it really simmered down as we went into fall. I myself haven’t touched it since early September, and I can’t really see anything that Fall Guys could do to bring me back.
7. Bugsnax – PC, PS4, PS5
Another PS Plus game, Bugsnax is a game that is as charming as it is bizarre. In fact, what I find most charming about this game is the writing and the cast of characters. Everyone from Lizbert to Filbo is so distinctly flamboyant and fully realised. However, yes, the controls and the gameplay is very clunky and frustrating, but, all in all, not many games this year are as well written as Bugsnax is. Just…don’t expect too much from its underlying mystery and just enjoy the wild ride instead.
6. Astro’s Playroom – PS5
Astro’s Playroom is as good of a demo game for a console and its controller as we are ever likely to get. I have absolutely loved my time in this PlayStation references filled wonderland and I honestly can’t wait for a full fledged game featuring Astro and friends. Also, this was my first Platinum trophy of the PlayStation 5 era and what a fun one at that!
5. The Last of Us Part II – PS4
The Last of Us Part II is the game I am most conflicted about this year. On the one hand, it is absolutely incredible: every single technical aspect screams attention to detail and effort. The narrative and storytelling, too, push video games as a artistic medium beyond anything we’ve seen before. On the other hand, this game very often does not stick the landing, and when it fails, it fails hard. In the end, despite absolutely sweeping at this year’s Game Awards, time will tell whether or not we will look back fondly on The Last of Us Part II in the years to come.
4. Super Mario 3D All-Stars – Switch
I am so disappointed by how Nintendo handled Super Mario 3D All-Stars. From the mind-boggling decision to only sell the collection until March 31st to not even including Galaxy 2, everything about 3D All-Stars feels like Nintendo packaged in the bare minimum. And yet…I had such a fun time playing 64 and Galaxy. (Sorry Sunshine!) Almost nothing beats how childlike happy playing Galaxy, in particular, made me feel this year.
3. Tetris Effect: Connected – Xbox Series S|X
I generally dislike puzzles. I’ve also lived most of my life thinking that Tetris is not for me. So it’s a big deal for me to say that Tetris Effect: Connected is one of the best games you can play this year. I’m in love with the frantic gameplay, the infectious soundtrack (I can’t get the title song, Connected, out of my head) and the acid-trip infused visuals. Also, Connected comes with a spectacular multiplayer mode AND is also on Game Pass so, if you can, grab some friends, get that Game Pass trial going and spin those blocks together!
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the game we all needed most this year and it came at the perfect time, too. I cannot overstate how much it meant for me to share this game with my friends and feel like we’re all in this colourful world together. By the end of this year, then, I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into the game as I tried to craft the perfect island, coerced animals into becoming my neighbours and just all around had a good time. If there’s only one game that you can buy and play in 2020 (and going into 2021), make it Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
So how come I’m saying this and yet Animal Crossing is not my pick for game of the year? Well, that’s because…
1. Final Fantasy VII Remake – PS4
If Square Enix plays its cards right, Final Fantasy VII Remake might just pave the way for the game of the generation – and I say this as someone who does not love the original FF7 (I think it’s fine) and also has little to no nostalgia for it. I genuinely believe that, if everything works well with the next parts, this will be a series of games that will impact the industry just as much as the original has back in 1997. But, even as a standalone, Final Fantasy VII Remake is nothing short of incredible and one of the best Final Fantasy games to date. I’m so happy that after the very messy Final Fantasy XV and after the spectacularly failed XII trilogy, I’m finally in love with a numbered, single-player Final Fantasy again: it truly warms my heart to see Square Enix return to their very best like this.
Phew – what a Top 10, huh? From now on, all eyes are on 2021, a year in which I fully expect the next-generation consoles to show us what they are really capable of: Will God of War: Ragnarok be as good as it should be? Will Halo Infinite actually pull off a miracle and salvage itself? And don’t forget Nintendo: will the sequel to Breath of the Wild even come out next year? How about Metroid Prime 4? As always, all will be revealed in time. See you next year!