Are These the Best Video Games of 2020?
2020 has certainly not been the kindest year when it comes to how our livelihoods have played out. As our routines and daily experiences evolve to rapidly adapt to the world’s current pandemic and growing problems, there is one shred of light that will never change no matter how dark the year may grow. Great games still release every year from some of the most talented visionaries across the globe. Entertainment helps keep our minds off of our stressful problems and gives us positive experiences worth sharing with others. Whether they are experiences centered around complex narratives or subjects made to make us analyze, arenas designed to make us cooperate in four-player harmony, or perhaps even something crafted to be the ultimate solo getaway vacation package, there are still plenty of fantastic games to dive into from 2020. Here are our staff picks for the games you absolutely should not miss from this year–so far!
Editor’s Note: Our choices are listed in alphabetical order. We will update the list in order at the end of the year.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons occupies a niche in video games that normally wouldn’t interest most people, and yet only a few months after it was released, it became the second biggest-selling Nintendo Switch game yet.
When Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched after much anticipation, the timing could not have been better. It was launched at the start of the pandemic which forced people from around the world to self-isolate for a certain amount of time. And what better way to keep yourself entertained when you are stuck at home than by creating your own virtual life which sadly at times, is far more relaxing than your everyday real life. Yes, folks, it’s safe to say that while Animal Crossing has always been therapeutic, this has never been truer than right now— but while the timing of its release could not have been better, the real reason why New Horizons is such a hit is simply that it truly is an amazing game.
New Horizons represents an important milestone for the Animal Crossing series. It takes everything good about the series and improves upon every single facet imaginable. By truly handing the player total control of their island, Nintendo has delivered a deeply customizable and effortlessly joyous experience with more to do, more to see, and more to come thanks to the endless updates which unlock new features. Every day has the potential to offer something new, and, because of this, New Horizons is a game that will continue to reward players for years to come.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the best games of 2020— some would argue the best— and a game that immediately cements itself as one of the generation’s defining experiences. Ten, twenty, fifty years from now— people look back with fond memories and write about how and why New Horizons is a game that somewhat changed their life. (Ricky D)
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2
There is nothing more satisfying than returning to an 8-bit realm inspired by vampire killers and moving castles. Bloodstained: Curse of The Moon 2 is a fantastic sequel to the phantasmagoric action-packed title from Inti Creates that was originally designed as a prequel to coincide with Koji Igarashi’s successful Ritual of The Night Metroidvania styled game. It is the perfect fix for any fan of the classic entries in Konami’s dormant Castlevania series that first relied on two-dimensional point A to B simplicity.
If the first Curse of The Moon title is comparable to the original Castlevania game that debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System though, then its followup skips the intensity of Simon’s Curse and jumps right ahead to the third entry in the trilogy Dracula’s Curse. When it comes to creating a new tough as nails adventure, Inti Creates was not letting any fan who proclaimed the first entry in the series as being easy or hand-holding. Curse of The Moon 2 will absolutely whip you into shape as the game progressively cranks up the difficulty as it progresses to its incredible final showdown.
Zangetsu’s return to 18th century England pulls absolutely no punches- this is an adventure dedicated to the hardcore fandom of these titles. Despite its unique cast of seven characters to utilize throughout its multiple episodes, the solo journey ahead is filled with more hurdles than either Curse of The Moon or any of the classic Castlevania entries. The only way around its overwhelming challenge is with the help of a partner ally through its new two-player cooperative gameplay… or that may just cause a larger disaster fueled by arguments and pure frustration over a lack of viable companionship. It will take you more than one cursed night to complete this five-chapter story arc. (Marc Kaliroff)
2016’s DOOM reboot saw the franchise making its grand return with a lean and focussed shooter that was able to win the hearts of many. But it was also a shooter that had an issue with repetition, from its environments to its combat system that didn’t introduce quite enough new ideas throughout the game’s run time. Fast forward to 2020 and DOOM Eternal has managed to be a sequel that fixed the previous games’ slight missteps, not simply capitalizing on what made it successful, but by also introducing a number of experimental new ideas.
DOOM Eternal is a challenging shooter with a ferocious sense of pacing; battles typically involve bouncing around arenas in a constant flux of motion while frequently rotating through the Doom Slayer’s entire arsenal of equipment. The amount of options at any given time, with a large emphasis on using every weapon available, almost gives Eternal a feeling that action games such as Devil May Cry invoke, only with a more personal and visceral slant.
The sheer quantity of enemies during these battles can feel exhausting at times, but the violence is smoothly intercepted by numerous breaks that allow for lengthy stretches of exploration and platforming. While combat may be Eternal’s main draw, it effectively manages to balance it out with level design and hidden secrets that feel evocative of the franchise’s early entries, as well as some of the tightest first-person platforming that sits comfortably on par with the likes of Metroid Prime and Mirror’s Edge. This leaves DOOM Eternal feeling more well-rounded than its predecessor, without sacrificing the frenetic chaos that one would expect from a modern DOOM release.
In an era where truly robust shooter campaigns are becoming less frequent in lieu of live service titles, DOOM Eternal’s competent design and ample polish work as a stark reminder that the genre can still offer some of the most exhilarating moments in gaming when placed in the hands of the right creators. (Francis Kenna)
Is it an adventure game that places you in a variety of different worlds? Is it an art tool used to craft living sculptures or paintings that slowly trickle to the sounds of hand made custom ambiance? What about a classical music showcase conducted by a one-man or woman orchestra masqueraded by a light show? Dreams is more than just a game used to explore the mindsets of our fellow inventors. It is a title used to explore our personal tastes and the limits of our extent to attempt what is considered impossible. Dreams is a social network platform built solely on the infinite possibilities of player creativity and imagination.
Whether you are someone looking to recreate a playable version of the world of the four nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender, a player who is willing to take the time to craft their very own Sonic Adventure title heavily reminiscent of their childhood Dreamcast titles, or even a chief who is waiting to cook up some famishing looking cheese wheels and diner platters that other will be drooling over, Media Molecules manipulative game engine on PlayStation 4- along with PlayStation VR and soon their next-generation system- is a hyper-charged fever dream that is your own personal playground. Dreams is a game engine that can be utilized for whatever you desire- as long as it adheres to Sony’s code of conduct of course.
Your own creation does not even have to be a single person effort. Dreams allows you to collaborate with others on anything you would like to work on. Being a community that is hand in hand is what matters most to Media Molecule. Whether the game will become a pleasant afternoon thought or a nightmare is entirely up to its exponentially growing community of users. (Marc Kaliroff)
What the world needs now is some goofy fun, and Fall Guys delivers.
You are a colorful jellybean in a competitive gameshow with fifty-nine other strangers (as well as up to three friends online). Building off of the massive-multiplayer Battle Royale model of Fortnite, Fall Guys takes this template and slides it into a more garishly playful environment.
Your colorful avatar is initially dropped into one of twenty-four (and counting) blindingly bright and bouncy mini-games. A percentage of the initial sixty players are eliminated after each round, and with a bit of luck, three or four randomized rounds in, you race for a coveted crown in one of a handful of finishing-round games.
Each race you participate in yields in-game currency, kudos, which can be used to purchase cosmetic upgrades. The aforementioned coveted crowns can, too! Fall Guys is free-to-play if you are a PS Plus member, the only cost is the all-to-familiar in-app purchases so that you can dress as the jellybean duck you’ve always dreamt of. In short, in-app purchases are easily avoided.
The twenty-four games that you might encounter are pretty varied in both quality and style. Many are effective obstacle courses, some are survival games of varying quality, a few are team games of even-more varying quality, and still a few more are logic games that sometimes fall flat. As mentioned, thus far the obstacle courses and their variants are the ones that shine, but even in the less-engaging games, they move quickly and you’re excited to try. The simple controls of jump, dive, and grab are a bit floaty, too, and you’ll often feel like you were cheated out of that sweet sweet crown. And you know what else? You’ll want to play again.
Fall Guys has that certain something that just makes you want to jump back in for one more run, and that special sauce is its own reward. Fall Guys has a lot of flaws, but it manages to be fun as heck. It looks great, and initial server issues aside, it plays well.
If you’re ready to get goofy, get frustrated, and to have fun, jump into the jellybean gameshow and race for the crown. (Marty Allen)
Final Fantasy VII Remake
While there was plenty of anticipation leading up to the remake of Final Fantasy VII, there was also plenty of trepidation. The notion that the game would be episodic, along with the myriad of changes to the core gameplay, made some fans nervous, as well as the fact that Final Fantasy VII is among the most beloved games of all time.
Luckily, Final Fantasy VII Remake soon put everyone’s concerns to rest with one of the top-tier, triple AAA, firing-on-all-cylinders games of the year. With a tight battle system, incredible graphics, and some of the most enthralling voice acting you’re likely to hear anywhere, Final Fantasy VII Remake is one of the best action-RPGs in years.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see where this series is going, or how many games it will add up to, anytime soon, that doesn’t stop the anticipation from building. With a shocker of an ending and some changes to the core story that will shock even the most ardent of Final Fantasy fans, Final Fantasy VII Remake is hands down among the top games this year, and may even find itself walking away with the top spot. (Mike Worby)
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
Kentucky Route Zero is moving.
It is beautiful, soulful, eerie, strange, confusing, and funny. It is so much.
The main premise or at least the inciting incident of KRZ is, at least initially, that you are Conway, a truck driver who has one delivery to make before cashing in his chips. You travel from scene-to-scene, chapter-to-chapter, inhabiting other people that circle this initial protagonist, too, sometimes occupying others for long stretches of the game. You learn deep truths and stray details about a menagerie of the cast, you circle a metaphysical roadway and a somewhat real one, you fly as a bird, go to a rum bar, encounter a room full of bears, make poetry inside a point-and-click meta-game homage, and talk to your dog, all the while trying to find your way to Route Zero and deliver a package.
While there are places to explore, things to find, and some glorious experimental asides, the bulk of all of these settings are defined by the conversations you have in them. You are typically given a tree of choices, and they are well-crafted poetry. Sometimes the choices seem idle and amount to conversational flair. Other times they feel as though they have a strong effect on the arc of the bizarre story that is unfolding. But they are always meaningful.
These conversational trees are unlike anything else in games. They are often seemingly banal, but it is their very idleness that gives the player a deep sense of agency. “This is not a story about strategizing, or knowing where you’re going, or having a certain goal that you can accomplish in a certain way,” says the game’s writer and creator, Jake Elliott. “We want the player to be in a state where they’re asking characters questions about themselves, just inquisitive and curious.”*
In one of the earliest scenes, Conway is asked to make his delivery. “We have a mail order delivery today. Might be a long drive. I hope the truck holds up.” Conway is given three choices: “What makes you think so?” or, “They sent it by mail?” or, “That truck will outlive us all.” The distinctions are so small and so meaningful.
Later, Conway has mysteriously had a limb replaced. He awakens and the surgeon says, “Anything about the bill that didn’t make sense? I don’t mean to rush you, but I have an early fishing trip.” You can respond as either Conway or Shannon. Shannon suggests, “Tell him about the payment plan in the bill.” Conway’s options are: “I don’t want to think about the bill right now,” or, “What are you fishing for?” Meanwhile he sits with a glowing gold cybernetic limb that is otherwise unaddressed.
You get the sense that there are whole swaths of this game that you can only discover by accident. Songs, conversations, threads, voice messages, paths, scenes, whole lives. And rather than feeling like you’ve missed a completionist’s Easter egg, you feel satisfied, because you’ve touched a deeper part of the character in the smallest and most profound way. The result is that it feels as if you are a part of an artistic exploration that you are discovering together, with the creators, and that in itself is a triumph.
It took ten years to make this bizarre and beautiful game of disjointed conversations and artistic vignettes, and it was worth every moment. It is messy and confounding and stunning, and it is always rooted in its sharp and strange and well-articulated voice. It manages to be both ambitious and smart without feeling like it’s lost in weighty pretense. Like an effective post-modern novel, the piled on abstraction works to make you feel more feelings because, despite all of this staggering ambition, it also doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In KRZ, you often feel as though you are walking, and talking, through a dream. It’s a dream of regrets, a contemplation on the crush of capitalism and what it means to be a family as much as it is an exploration of the forms of both story and interactive gaming. But it is also a celebration of choices and moments, both small and large.
In one of the many strange interchanges, you pick up a phone and check-in, and the character on the other end of the line reminds you of something he once heard from a theologian: “Why make art? To quiet the mind, making it susceptible to divine influence.”
We can try, but KRZ is that rare work of art that truly defies description, as it goes so many places in its gameplay and emotional tone. Kentucky Route Zero is haunting and melancholy and curious and weird and sad and silly and aching and smart and pretty and uncomfortable and imperfect and wonderful. Like life, it is so many things. And like all great art, it moves you. (Marty Allen)
The Last of Us: Part II
The Last of Us: Part II– the highly anticipated sequel to Naughty Dogs 2013 post-apocalyptic success The Last of Us– was a major talking point following its release back in June. The sequel received mixed reviews, with some significantly praising it and others condemning it. This may be a somewhat controversial entry in this list due to its polarising nature but when considering the game as objectively as possible, I firmly believe that The Last of Us: Part II has earned a place as one of the best games of 2020 so far.
There is no doubting that The Last of Us: Part II is a huge achievement for Naughty Dog. Despite some having issues with the narrative and certain choices, the studio told the story that they wanted to tell and did so very well. The technological achievements of the game are pretty astounding. From the lush environments to the rope physics and even the glass breaking mechanics, the game pushes the boundaries of what can be done from a technological perspective. The time, effort, and care that has gone into every little detail is very noticeable throughout.
Although there are a few things I had qualms with during my time with The Last of Us: Part II, I still thoroughly enjoyed my experience and there is no denying the impact the game has had. Despite getting review bombed and torn apart online, it broke various records and made headlines. Whatever issues are to be had are easily outweighed by the positives. The narrative and story structure are talking points –they are some great causes for debate- and there is no denying that it does everything a sequel should. It improves on the mechanics and visuals, it continues the story and develops the characters and also builds on the world established in the first game. Not to mention it has some genuinely fantastic moments, such as the Joel and Ellie museum flashback.
Naughty Dog stayed true to their vision and in doing so created the one of the best- and possibly one of the most controversial- games of 2020. (Antonia Haynes)
Ghost of Tsushima
Jin Sakai is Samurai Batman – an orphaned vigilante with no sense of humour, ready to do whatever it takes to protect his home of Tsushima Island by hunting down enemies in the shadows and striking fear and/or various blades into their hearts. And what a beautiful island it is. Sucker Punch have created an eye-meltingly exquisite video game with a ground-breaking navigation system that removes all the mechanical visual noise of a typical UI to simply and elegantly implore players to follow the wind and absorb as much of their surroundings as possible.
In several other ways, Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel. It’s an epic open-world game with an enormous map absolutely littered with repetitive quests, but much of what the developers have created around that concept makes it a journey worth digging deep into. Its story is well-acted and pays homage to its inspirations with impressive reverence and its combat is visceral and dramatic. Basically, it’s as dour and focused as you’d expect from a game about honor-driven samurai fighting a horrific and brutal invasion – there isn’t much time for laughs, and that’s ok.
Like most open-world games, there’s always the dichotomy of quiet versus noisy in how you approach groups of enemies. Drawing from a range of influences to ultimately feel like a cross between Assassin’s Creed and Nioh, there are a number of systems to get to grips with primarily focused on stealth, sword stances and additional ‘ghost’ weapons that, when skillfully combined, can produce some pretty balletic brutality. The game encourages you to mix up styles as you wade through Mognol camps – cutting down enemies in a noisy standoff at the main gates before slipping through tents to assassinate the remaining guards. You’re always safe in the knowledge that getting spotted is not a game over so much as it is an invitation to unleash your whole arsenal to even the odds, and that’s when the real fun begins. (Alex Aldridge)
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
At times, playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps genuinely feels surreal. It’s a tight puzzle-platformer boasting some of the highest production values in the medium. Every environment is painted with such painstaking detail that it’s frankly overwhelming at first. The level design is phenomenal from both a structural and artistic standpoint; there’s rarely a set piece that seems unnecessary or a platforming challenge that feels haphazardly thrown together. In that same vein, the connecting tissue that permeates all of this is the absolutely astounding score by returning composer Gareth Coker. From the rambunctious theme of Inkwater Marsh to the ominous violins of Kwolok’s Hollow, every piece of music fits its environment like a glove and does wonders in setting the mood for each area.
Of course, Will of the Wisps is more than just a pretty face. The emphasis on combat in this sequel paid off in major ways; every slice of a sword and swing of a hammer feels visceral in a way few action games do, let alone metroidvanias. The handful of bosses that appear throughout the campaign are grand spectacles that live up to their name in every sense, providing a serious challenge in what’s already a no-holds-barred platformer. Add in some of the best level design in the genre and deeply upgradable combat and platforming skills, and this is easily one of the best titles released this year. With the recent news that Moon Studios’ next project will be a new IP altogether, it’s safe to say that Ori’s story finished on the highest note possible.(Brent Middleton)
Paper Mario: The Origami King
The Paper Mario series has never been shy to… experimentation, with every successive entry after The Thousand-Year Door being radically different from the last. The Origami King continues this trend and if not for The Last of Us Part II releasing just a month prior it would probably be the most polarizing game of the year thus far.
Mileage will vary greatly from person-to-person on the ring-based battle system and lack of RPG elements, but The Origami King has undeniable charm in other areas that overshadows its short-comings. An RPG, it is not, instead placing the emphasis on tightly crafted interactable environments and humorous wit that brings colorful character to timeless Mario universe mainstays. Every area is begging to be explored and jam-packed with collectibles to find, secrets to uncover, and Toads tucked away to save. A curious hammer swing here or and short investigation there is bound to delightfully surprise you every so often, and that’s kind of emblematic of The Origami King on the whole.
It aims to surprise and delight you with its characters, featuring one of the most endearing Nintendo sidekicks to date in the form of the bubbly Olivia. Beyond the quirky, self-aware writing there are even some character arcs that hit surprisingly close to home. It surprises and delights with its soundtrack, which has no right featuring what’s probably the best score of the year thus far, let alone for a Paper Mario game. It surprises and delights with just how different each zone feels like and how you go about exploring each one, whether by bootleg car or Wind Waker-esque boat. It surprises and delights with its boss battles, each one a satisfying puzzle to figure out how to beat that takes full advantage of the ring-battles in all their puzzle-solving weirdness.
If it wasn’t for the fact regular battles can quickly settle into the mundane, The Origami King could easily be one of the greats. There are still redeemable aspects of the combat system, though, and with some more refinement, some more agency over how you attack, and maybe some more incentives, it could really carve out an identity in a follow-up title that finally nails it on all fronts. (Matthew Ponthier)
Persona 5 Royale
Persona 5 Royal is an incredible expanded version of the original game, adding an entire new semester of content, a new prominent team member, and a WHOLE lot more. For a game that was already so captivating, improving on it without taking away from what it already was, seemed a tall order, but Royal goes above and beyond in this aspect.
It’s not just the new character or semester that really gives ‘Royal’ a life of its own, but the plethora of new content sprinkled all through the epic journey. There’s new places to go, a ton of new events, new tasks, and possibilities. It’s easier now to manage social stats and social links at the same time, since hanging out with a good few of the confidants gives you stats as well. The wardens of the velvet room Justine and Caroline have a lot more presence to them, and taking them out into the real world is both hilarious and endearing.
Each of the dungeons has had a slight rework, adding new areas and oddities, things to collect and conquer, and a new side objective in each of them. Along with this comes an extra peculiarity in Mementos, and all these fresh happenings work wonderfully well with the familiar story beats. When it gets to the new segment, and things take a wild turn into the weird, the game makes another jaw-dropping play that makes you just thirst for more.
For those who never played the original, Royal is the superior version with a lot more beef to it (even though the original is still an 80+ hour JRPG epic). For those who HAVE already played Persona 5, there’s this added something where the familiar is transformed, it’s that something that made me fall in love with this game all over again. (Shane Dover)
Resident Evil 3
While last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake would be a hard act for anyone to follow, Resident Evil 3 had a tougher time than expected. With mixed reactions to the changes and cuts to the story in this remake, as well as the length of the campaign, players were well within their rights to be a bit miffed by Resident Evil 3.
Still, for players who could look past these flaws, Resident Evil 3 is still a very tight little survival horror gem. The game moves at an absolute clip, packs in some amazing production values, and creates an overall more compelling version of the story than the original game.
Too bad so much focus was put on Resident Evil Resistance, the free (and forgettable) multiplayer tie-in. If more of that energy had been put into the core game we might have ended up with something truly special. As is, Resident Evil 3 is still a very solid, if a little disappointing, game. (Mike Worby)
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Here’s a way you can tell when a game is timeless. When you play its remaster and have trouble fathoming how it even existed nearly a full decade ago on significantly weaker hardware. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition accomplishes exactly that. For all intents and purposes, it feels like a modern game and if I was none the wiser would have believed it to be. The fact Definitive Edition can create that illusion is a testament to why the original Xenoblade Chronicles is such a landmark title.
Everything fans of the original Wii game loved is present is full force. Astonishingly open and alien environments ripe for exploring, a fascinating story filled with mystery and intrigue, one of the most likeable cast of characters ever found in a JRPG, and a unique combat system that puts a spin on traditional MMO cooldown-based systems are all accounted for. Definitive Edition isn’t satisfied with being a simple port, though, as it puts in the work to truly earn its moniker.
The world and character models were given, quite literally, a massive facelift. Jokes about faces made of mud are a thing of the past, replaced with admiration for the range and detail of expressions characters are capable of making during the emotional roller-coaster of a story accompanied by the crisp rerecorded soundtrack. The side-quest system — long panned as the single worst aspect of the original game — has been completely overhauled to respect the player’s time, turning what used to be a chore into a genuinely fun activity.
Of course, there is also the entirely new epilogue episode, Future Connected, that ties up loose ends and brings satisfying closure to a fan-favorite character. It offers a brand-new zone to explore that was previously cut from the original game and neatly bookends the magical adventure. Taken all together makes this game truly the definitive way to experience one of the greatest JRPG’s ever created. (Matthew Ponthier)
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