Top 10 Games of 2020
2020 started with great fanfare. It was the start of a new decade, a chance for optimism, and for whatever reason, it seemed like it was going to be a great year. Little did we know what was to come next. With a global pandemic, a fractured economy, a divisive election, urban unrest, racial tensions, wildfires, murder hornets, mysterious monoliths, and so on, 2020 has been a miserable time for most of us.
Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad for the gaming industry. When you look at the number of games released this year and the quality of some of these games, one could argue it’s been one of the better years— in fact, I’d argue the selection of games in 2020 was better than 2019.
The best of these games didn’t just get us through a difficult year— they helped bring us closer together. Yes, folks, 2020 wasn’t all bad. It was the year Nintendo gave us Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Sony and Microsoft launched their next-gen consoles. It was the year that millions of gamers discovered the magic of Among Us while others couldn’t put down the controller when playing Fall Guys. It was also the year Naughty Dog released the sequel to one of the most beloved games ever made and the year we finally got our hands on the Final Fantasy VII remake. Add on the much-anticipated Ghost of Tsushima; the captivating Persona 5 Royale, a barrage of great indies; and some of the best remasters we’ve ever seen— 2020 was a great year for video games.
That said, what follows is our staff’s ten favourite games of 2020. Enjoy!
10. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is no mere spinoff. It might feature the one-versus-one-thousand Warriors gameplay of 2015’s Hyrule Warriors, but make no mistake: this is a genuine love letter to Breath of the Wild that sheds new light on the kingdom of Hyrule and the heroes who inhabit it. Set 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild, players get to see a kingdom that has yet to be decimated by the arrival of the Great Calamity. Fighting alongside fan-favorite heroes like Mipha, Revali, Daruk, and even Impa, Age of Calamity casts new light on characters that were barely developed in Breath of the Wild, all while showcasing a gloriously living, breathing kingdom. Even if the plot goes in some divisive directions, it’s always surreal to explore a pristine Hyrule while playing as one of the Four Champions.
Age of Calamity feels amazing to play, too. As you fight battle after battle, the gameplay remains endlessly varied and constantly exciting – no mean feat for a game developed by the creators of the infamously repetitive Dynasty Warriors series. Every character feels completely unique with their own set of distinct combos and abilities, while missions keep things interesting with a healthy mix of challenging bosses, diverse objectives, and even a few levels where you take control of titanic Divine Beasts to obliterate everything in front of you. Age of Calamity constantly gives you new ways to mow down thousands of enemies at once, resulting in a delirious power fantasy that never gets old. Ultimately, this is no mere side game to the Zelda series. Whether you’re dying for another visit to the world of Nintendo’s open-world masterpiece, or you simply want something to tide you over until Breath of the Wild 2, Age of Calamity is a loving tribute to Zelda fans and an exhilarating action game in its own right. (Campbell Gill)
9. 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)
8. DOOM Eternal
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)
7. Resident Evil 3
While last year’s Resident Evil 2 remake would be a hard act for anyone to follow, Resident Evil 3had 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)
6. 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 Remakeis 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)
5. 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)
4. 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)
3. 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. (Ricky D)
2. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Long ago when motion controls were the world’s biggest phenomenon, one Nintendo role-playing game came into existence. An endless sea harboring two great titans known as the Bionis and the Mechonis was nothing short of phenomenal and still is today. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition adds a refining coat to Monolith Soft’s ten-year-old counterpart that just nearly perfects it. From its major graphical enhancements to its apparent user interface changes and extra accessibility features, there is no better way to play through the tale of Shulk and his party’s journey to achieve heroic vengeance in a world bound by gods. Despite a decade since its initial release, the original Xenoblade Chronicles entry still garners a mesmerizing approach to storytelling as it aims to tackle moral complexities and heartfelt themes of truth on top of a chasm of possible gameplay setups.
Perhaps it’s additional ‘Future Connected’ epilogue that continues Shulk and more so Melia’s story may not add much to the title’s overarching narrative in the larger picture, but Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition still stands as a masterpiece within its genre. It is still the definitive entry in its franchise that has arguably taken several missteps along its potential stairway to glory. With its engaging world and an absurd amount of unique characters to meet through both main and side quests, the journey to the end always seems reachable but distinctively far. If you are by any means a fan of RPGs who is looking for an exclusive Switch title that will take up a meaty chunk of your time, Xenoblade Chronicles’ first entry should absolutely be on your radar. There is simply no other Nintendo first-party that can compete with some of its ambitious end goals the company never typically faces. After experiencing its incredible story and stimulating gameplay, you will be really feeling this one. (Marc Kaliroff)
In Hades, player character Zagreus, the son of the titular god of the dead, must use everything at his disposal to escape the underworld. Fortunately, the gods of Olympus want to see him succeed (anyone who is even a casual fan of the Greeks knows they never pass up on an opportunity to dunk on each other, particularly the ever-feuding brothers Zeus and Hades) and grant him powerful boons on his quest for freedom. These boons completely alter Zagreus’ attacks and dashes, powering them up to blast enemies with Zeus’ lightning bolts or freeze them with Demeter’s chilling blasts. The way these dozens of boons interact with each other ensures that every run will be different and memorable.
With Hades, Supergiant has created the roguelike for people who haven’t clicked with the genre before. It’s a hat trick that feels incredible, especially in the year where Spelunky 2 was released and Dead Cells saw some major DLC. Hades strikes a balance between being inviting and punishingly difficult. Crashing against the difficulty of Hades has been one of 2020’s unexpected pleasures. Defeating the final boss is a moment of euphoria, but that’s also when players receive the biggest shock of all: the real game is just beginning. To see the end credits, players have to master anything Hades throws at them and do so under increasingly stringent conditions. But rather than feel frustrating, Hades is pleasurable all the way through. With exceptional writing and art direction and truly addictive gameplay, Hades is proof that Supergiant is the studio that can’t miss. (Cameron Daxon)
Also, while you are here, be sure to check our list of the 20 best indie games.