As the end finally comes to what many consider one of the darkest years in recent memory, it’s time to lighten the mood. With no new game releases coming out until 2021, and with the next console generation arriving in a blaze of glory with the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X, now’s the perfect time to round up our list of the best games that came out in 2020.
Despite the circumstances, we saw a surprising amount of releases this year, many of which turned out to be of amazing quality. Bear in mind, this list is in no particular order, and every game here is listed as the personal opinion of the author.
(Also, don’t worry, all of this is spoiler-free!)
1. Ghost of Tsushima
If you were to tell me that we’d be graced with an incredible samurai-themed game 2 years in a row, right after Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in 2019, I’d still have a hard time believing you. In fact, even after sitting through and playing through Ghost of Tsushima, I’m still having a hard time believing it.
Far and away the best samurai game ever made, it perfectly encapsulates the experience of being a samurai in the feudal age. Pacing yourself against your enemies, cutting down foes in a single slice, the amount of patience and willpower to overcome any duel; the game itself made me learn a new breathing pattern so I didn’t panic while going through its excellent combat. Not to mention, it looks amazingly gorgeous with its tonnes of effects, yet the game somehow manages to almost eradicate any unnecessary loading time with brutal efficiency.
2. DOOM: Eternal
If the DOOM reboot in 2016 made you a demon-killing machine, Eternal makes you the walking, breathing demon apocalypse. More weapons, more demon types, more movement options, larger arenas and masterful level design, paired with a killer soundtrack, frantic combat and Doomguy’s sheer badassery, makes this one of the best FPS games not just of 2020, but probably of this entire decade.
Where DOOM makes you want to rip and tear, DOOM: Eternal will make you want to shred and slaughter, even hours after you’ve completed the game.
3. Final Fantasy 7: Remake
Forget the nostalgia factor, because even without it, Square Enix has managed to bring Final Fantasy 7 to the modern age without destroying any of what made the original such a mainstay in the memories and hearts of its fans.
It’s an amazingly complete package, even knowing that the game itself is only the first part of the main story. Yet there’s so much to do in Midgard, it’s almost criminal that they managed to cram so much in and still make it an immersive experience.
The soundtrack is nostalgic and modern, the combat allows for many different modes (including Classic, for fans of the original’s turn based combat), the world is beautiful and packed with side quests, easter eggs and content to keep you immersed, and the characters now have better development and much better and more relatable personalities which makes you root for them even more (and suffer with them as well). It’s insane to think that we’ll get more of this down the line. At the very least, we know damn sure it isn’t just a cash grab.
4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The right game for the right time, as it were. ACNH dropped at a time where just about everybody was forced to stay home. With the world being as dark as it was, it brought light and joy to millions of people, and created a sense of community where we learned that no matter how far people are apart, there always will be a way to bring us together.
The game is great, with a bright and cheery atmosphere, typical great Animal Crossing gameplay, lovable characters, and wonderful design, but what elevated it to an all-time classic was the message that it managed to convey to us when we needed it the most. And honestly? That’s what makes games great.
5. Demon’s Souls (PS5)
This is one of the best remakes, ever. That is absolutely not a joke, nor am I exaggerating. Bluepoint absolutely nailed it right out of the park, making the 2009 original feel so dated, you’d swear it was an archaeological dig.
4K60fps gameplay makes combat smooth and silky, ray tracing brings lighting and atmosphere to a whole new level, the PS5’s high speed SSD making the traversal through the veil virtually nonexistent, and those are just the performance boosts. For a PS5 launch title, you could not have asked for any more. Every single facet of the game, from its incredible level design, the sheer scale of, well, everything, is close to perfect. And the bosses? Oh my god, the bosses. They’re huge, they’re terrifying, they’re immensely difficult, they look so real you could almost feel them bearing down upon you, and they have no mercy.
Truly, the ultimate Souls game for a long time to come, and an amazing demonstration of what exactly the PS5 is capable of.
6. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
While not as large as the original (which is 2 years old now, believe it or not), Spider-Man: Miles Morales manages to tell its own little story within the same city. It sets a different tone from the original, with Miles coming to terms with his own responsibilities in addition to the ones that come from being a Spider-Man.
It’s still as fun as ever, with Miles having a few tricks up his sleeve that Peter doesn’t have, which adds another layer of variety to the already sublime combat. The game also adds another level of shine to New York City, with ray-tracing and 60fps elevating the city to even greater heights that make the game feel like a whole new experience entirely.
Overall, it’s crazy how solid the PS5’s launch was. With a couple of amazing exclusives already under its belt, we can definitely expect more to come in the future.
7. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
If you’ve never played a Yakuza game before, my suggestion is to drop everything and pick this game up right now. The 8th main Yakuza game follows a new protagonist, and with it, an entirely new battle system.
While the old Yakuza games have always been primarily beat ’em up RPGs, this one bucks the trend by having turn-based combat instead. While it might turn off some people who preferred the action of the last game, it does come with its own nuances that you can learn. Plus, it still looks great, the story is still immensely gripping, and the characters are also nicely fleshed out through the story.
With a new protagonist, a new location and a entirely new combat system, Like a Dragon becomes a great place to start if you want to experience Yakuza for the very first time. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
The only indie game so far on this list, and for good reason. A roguelike hack-and-slash already seems like fun on its own, but pair it with an interesting narrative, incentive to keep replaying over and over again to finally reach your goal, plus an impressive style and amazing cast of talents, and you have yourself a clear winner.
Supergiant really need to give themselves a pat on the back. From Bastion to Transistor and now Hades, they’ve managed to put out hit after hit for years, and it definitely feels like they won’t stop any time soon.
9. The Last of Us: Part 2
Let’s just get this out of the way: the game’s story isn’t that memorable. It’s at best passable (albeit with a few pacing issues), and the sheer controversy that it caused upon release has overshadowed much of the conversation around this game. However, when you come down to the meat of it, TLoU2 is still one of the most brilliantly designed and atmospheric games to come out this year.
Everything that surrounds this package is incredibly well built, improving on the fantastic first game while still remaining familiar to veterans of the franchise. Sound design and atmosphere are damn close to perfect, the soundtrack is a great complement to the action, and graphically, it’s probably one of the best looking games on the PS4, bar none. Gameplay is similar, but with improved AI and new mechanics, it rarely feels stale and consistently maintains intensity where it counts.
That just about wraps up our list for the best of 2020. Though the year was tough for many industries, it turned out to be a surprisingly good year for gaming. Let’s hope that trend continues into the next generation, when the new consoles finally carry the torch.
Have any other suggestions to add to the list? Let us know through the comments.