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Game of the Year: 2020 Edition

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Well, it's that time again. Time for us all to look back at this year and determine which games that we played or came out this year were our favourites.

 

I'm going to do it in two categories, a top 5 of games that actually came out this year and a top 5 of games that the poster has bought and played for the first time this year. Will give a bit of flexibility to those who don't necessarily buy that many new games.

 

So, without further ado, here's my list for this year:

 

1. Final Fantasy VII Remake

2. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (only just started this but I'm enjoying it a lot)

3. Spider-Man: Miles Morales

4. Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected.

 

I don't have a 5th... didn't actually buy many new games that came out this year mainly because of a lot of my gaming time these days is spent on online on Magic Arena or Pokemon Trading Card Game Online, neither of which qualify as they both came out  in previous years. I wanted to put Among Us on the list but that doesn't count as it technically came out in 2018.

 

Now, top 5 games that I acquired this year

1. Final Fantasy VII Remake

2. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

3. Metroid Fusion

4. Timesplitters: Future Perfect

5. Spider-Man: Miles Morales

 

This was a year I also finished other games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Dragon Quest IX for the first time while also replaying Metroid Prime 2 and Prime 3 for Youtube.

 

So, over to you guys...

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2020 games:

1. Paper Mario: The Origami King - brilliantly fun adventure with an amazing soundtrack

2. Animal Crossing New Horizons - this made lockdown manageable, 350+ hours of pure charm

3. Astro's Playroom - The most Nintendo-like game I've played on Playstation. Just wonderful

4. Sackboy: A Big Adventure - Beautiful visuals, lots of unique platforming

5. Spider-Man: Miles Morales - refined an already great game


Played in 2020:

1. Paper Mario: The Origami King

2. Shadow of the Tomb Raider - another refinement of an already great formula

3. Control - left a better impression in the first half, but what an experience, brilliant world-building

4. Guacamelee 2 - hilarious, gorgeous and tons of fun

5. Ori and the Will of the Wisps - beautiful game from start to finish

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Yeah, I'm totally going to stretch my list of games played in 2020 (and add the qualifier of playing them for the first time) to a Top 10, just because I loved so many of the games I played this year, and I'd feel bad not mentioning more. Oh, and also because quite a few are probably on my All-Time Top 10 now :p honestly, the top 4 of that second list can be swapped in almost any order depending on my mood, but point is, I loved them! 

Released in 2020:

1. Final Fantasy VII Remake - I think my other list makes it very apparent that I've loved everything I've touched from Final Fantasy so far, and VII Remake is no exception to that. It can feel a little drawn out at times, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the final boss when I reached him...yet, the more I've thought back to this game, the more I've come to realise that I loved it. I could not put it down! Great evolution for action JRPG's in how the ATB system was adapted for this game, an awesome main cast of characters, and a stunning recreation of Midgar make this my favourite game of the year. Square Enix were as bold as I've seen anyone be, taking risks I think only in ways I think The Last of Us Part II did too this year, and I can't wait to see what comes next. Also, the original game's soundtrack was already a 10/10, so the fact that this adapts and rearranges tracks which is at least just as good, but in many cases even better, deserves all the praise I can afford it. 

2. Ghost of Tsushima - my second favourite open world besides Breath of the Wild, which is very high praise for me. Exploration is intuitive, and it's probably the most beautiful game (those golden skies!) for me of the generation, as the 1000+ screenshots I took of the game while playing surely prices. Look, it has its issues: early story pacing problems, no lock-on (for seemingly no reason), and it could have done with more polish. But at the same time... it's just awesome. The sound design is great, the music is stellar, character arcs feel surprisingly meaningful for an open world game, it has what is probably my favourite title splash of any game ever, and there's just so much to find on your travels. Also, shout out to Sucker Punch for getting SSD-like load times on base PS4 consoles, that's some seriously impressive stuff! Not to mention the free online content added with Legends (which unfortunately I still haven't got around to checking out). 

3. The Last of Us Part II - intense doesn't even begin to capture this game, even at the worst of times. Best in class for facial animations, rope physics (seriously!), and pretty much every other technical aspect a game could offer. Nails accessibility options in ways that other games could only dream of. The story is gripping, and it aims very high, much higher than I think any other game I've played before. Does it miss a few times? Yes. But credit where credit is due, Naughty Dog had the balls to take this story to places where no sane person would. It has pacing issues and can be predictable at times, given the subject matter, and it's depressing as hell. It made me drop games for nearly a month after completing it, that's how empty it left me feeling afterwards. Avoid the spoilers if you haven't seen them already, and, assuming you've played the first game, give this game a try and make up your own mind. You might love it, you might hate it, but I still think it's one of the best games of the year. 

4. Astro's Playroom - yeah, this is the most fun I've had in a game this year. Easily. Blasted through it in a day and never wanted it to end, it has me struggling to not pick up a PSVR headset just to check out Rescue Mission, it's just that good. Incredibly charming and creative, packed with so many awesome references, and even has a mode for speedrunning. I don't know how, but they hooked me, and I had to delete the game because I knew I wouldn't stop playing it otherwise :laughing:

5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons* - I'm sure this will come up a lot, but this was exactly what I needed at the start of the first lockdown. Yeah, I dropped it after 50 hours, but that was mainly because

*DISCLAIMER: I'm nearing the end of Demon's Souls, and might finish it tomorrow. If I do, I don't think it's that crazy that it ends up on my Top 5 for the year somewhere (depending on how the rest of the game plays out), which might knock Animal Crossing: New Horizons off the list... :hmm:

Of the games I've played in 2020**: 

1. The Last of Us - I honestly don't think I've ever been gripped by a game quite like I was The Last of Us earlier this year. I've mentioned it before in the Gaming Diary thread, but playing this after my only other exposure to modern Naughty Dog was playing the Uncharted Collection a couple of years back, it flipped my thoughts on them from being "I don't get what all the fuss is about" to "oh, I understand the fuss", pretty much singlehandedly. I pre-ordered Part II before the game was even over! Brilliantly paced, one hell of a soundtrack, intense and focused moment-to-moment gameplay, great characters, a super interesting post-apocalyptic world...hell yeah. Also my first completed game that I would describe as being a survival horror game, I'm really glad that I tried it out and put myself out there by doing so, despite my previous hatred of horror in video games. There's no way I'd be enjoying Demon's Souls right now if not for getting to grips with intense games through TLOU. 

2. Final Fantasy VI - honestly, splitting one or two hairs between this and IX, the order of these two (and VII) all flip on a nearly daily basis for me as my favourite Final Fantasy. Stellar and enormous cast, snappy battle system, one of the best soundtracks from the greatest video game music composer of all time, a consistent and cohesive narrative vision (looking at you, VII's last third :p), ...and I played it super close to the TV as the first game I played on my SNES Classic, which made me feel like a kid again. I absolutely adored this game. 

3. Final Fantasy IX - so, uh...pretty much everything I said about VI, and just as passionately, but with probably a stronger main cast, but a much slower battle system (thank goodness for 3x speed!). It's one hell of a celebration of the franchise and I absolutely adored it too. VI gets the nod at this very moment for what I think is overall a slightly stronger soundtrack and probably more consistent pacing earlier in the game (the opening kind of slows down quite a bit immediately after the crash), but make no mistake, I loved this game too. Again, this could just as easily be sitting above VI, depending on what day you ask me :p

4. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - as you can see by the rest of this Top 10... I have learned to absolutely love Metal Gear Solid this year. Excellent gameplay mechanics, awesome pacing, intriguing story and well written characters, it's quite clearly the strongest of the MGS games I've played so far (note: I haven't played any since...yet). I can't speak to modern Kojima, besides a few hours pumped into MGS V a couple of years back - having absolutely no idea what was going on - but I can say for damn sure that late 90's to mid 00's Kojima was a straight up video game directing genius. It's a game about circumstance, and how we're influenced in our every day by the world which surrounds us, having the nerve to pose the important hypothetical of the US and Russia one day being allies. It's such a special game. 

5. Final Fantasy VII Remake - see above

6. Metal Gear Solid - clunky at times, but absolutely engrossing, seeing where MGS began over 20 years after its release and still adoring it says a lot about the quality of this game. One of the greats. 

7. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - this game has really stuck with me, mainly because of its commentary on the modern era's use of information and how society can be controlled. It's...honestly scary to think about, in that it's totally accurate, and was discussing these things in a video game well before it was obvious. Again: genius Kojima at work. Even if it has aged poorly in some areas (I hate that damn camera), it's still absolutely worth playing today. 

8. Yakuza 4 - the world would be a better place if more men (and women) were like Kiryu. Not even joking, probably one of the best male roles model around today. This franchise will make you cry tears of laughter, and without skipping a beat, you'll find yourself reflecting on important themes such as friendship, love, and honour. Returning to Kamurocho is like returning home after a long time away, and for me, this is probably the best narrative in the series, besides 0 (only played up to 4 so far...got some catching up to do I guess!).

Side note: if you haven't played a Yakuza game yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! Start with Yakuza 0 and don't look back, you will have zero regrets! 

9. Ghost of Tsushima - see above

10. Yakuza 3 - the fact that this is almost objectively the weakest Yakuza game I've played so far (probably alongside Kiwami) but still makes it into my Top 10 for the year speaks volumes about the year we've had more than the game itself. This is the Summer Beach Special of the Yakuza franchise, and it was a much-needed smile very early on into COVID (and coming off the back of TLOU). Probably the cosiest Yakuza game for me. 

*for the first time...because otherwise I need to include Chrono Trigger, and figured I could free up a space this way :laughing: plus, it's hard enough to rank without taking Chrono Trigger into account, and it's my list! 

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Posted (edited)

In spite of an on-going pandemic, 2020 was a fantastic for games I feel. I've definitely struggled to keep up with everything and I'll likely still be picking into things from 2020 well into this year.

My top 30 is as follows:

30. Desperados 3

29. Wasteland 3

28. Star Renegades

27. Gears Tactics

26. Hotshot Racing

25. Cloudpunk

24. Star Wars Squadrons

23. Superhot: Mind Control Delete

22. Shady Part of Me

21. Huntdown

20. Journey to the Savage Planet

19. Carto

18. Immortals Fenyx Rising

17. Animal Crossing: New Horizon

16. Undermine

15. Call of the Sea

14. Creaks

13. Assassin's Creed Valhalla

12. Destiny 2: Beyond Light

11. Tell Me Why

Spoiler

10. Dreams

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Dreams is a remarkable achievement for Media Molecule and Sony. A self contained platform from within which you can create your own games, in almost any genre, given the time. The early access launch let people get hands on with the tools a year ahead of the official release earlier this year and the variety and ingenuity of what's been created has been impressive to see before and after launch. And while those creation tools may take some getting used to, the inquisitive side of anyone will easily be satiated by what's on offer and by simply tinkering away. Though I didn't ever publish a finished game myself, many, many hours were spent tinkering, creating scenes, playing with gadgets and just generally messing about to see what was and wasn't possible and in that time, I never saw or found evidence that things weren't possible.

The accompanying campaign presented a poignant tale of a man attempting to overcome his inner demons, reconnecting with his child hood friends and returning to the man and musician he was all along. Made using the game's own tools, it gives a glimpse into some of what's possible in the creation suite and is fun to boot.

Largely forgotten and in need of expansion to other platforms (PC for example), Dreams is an incredible game and well worth playing for both the campaign and the creation tools, of even to simply tinker for a short time.

Spoiler

9. Haven

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What could posit a more drastic change of pace from a previous title for a developer than Haven. The Game Bakers previous title, Furi, was a frantic boss rush game requiring quick reflexes and strong will to see you through to the end. Haven, conversely, possesses none of that. Instead, it presents a game about relationships at a far more relaxed and sedate pace.

Following the story of Yu and Kay after they've escaped an oppressive and highly regulated society, where couples are paired by the Matchmaker, the game sees them seeking to live out life away from constraints on an alien planet. While the gameplay centres predominantly around resource gathering and cleansing areas of a mysterious red rust, with some battles thrown in to help cleanse local wildlife of an affliction caused by the red rust, Haven's greatest success comes in its portrayal of young love and the burgeoning relationship between its two protagonists.

Games have rarely conveyed the intimacy, intensity or reality of relationships in meaningful or accurate way but this game succeeds in presenting these accurately and tastefully. The journey with Yu and Kay, then, is one that feels natural and captivating and compliments the relaxed nature of gameplay perfectly.

Spoiler

8. Ghost of Tsushima

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Another example of a developer stepping outside of their comfort zone, Ghost of Tsushima is a marked difference from the world of Sucker Punch's Infamous series.

Set in Feudal Japan during the Mongol invasion of the island of Tsushima, the game puts you in the feet of fallen samurai Jin Sakai as he seeks revenge on the Mongol hordes that have ripped through is home, killing many and unsettling his own people.

What follows can at times feel like a typical open world title yet Sucker Punch have taken cues from their contemporaries and created a game, story and world that feels genuinely engrossing to explore. Ideas like having the wind and smoke stacks be your compass for headings and colour variants for discerning locations are simple on paper but they're expertly used here to make the world vastly explorable and make the island of Tsushima feel not only war torn but homely and inviting.

The gameplay takes centre stage for making you feel like a samurai, with stand offs and finishers that, while admittedly aren't out of place for the genre, firmly put you in the shoes of Jin. Stance switching for enemy variety, the ability to play it stealthy and see the world react to you and sword play that feels visceral make battles against even the simplest foes enjoyable. Plentiful side activities that evoke the Japanese aesthetic beautifully, such a Haiku writing, bamboo cutting and taking a long soak at a hot spring, tie the game together nicely and fully realise Sucker Punch's intention to recreate Feudal Japan in a way games have yet to do so.

Spoiler

7. Astro's Playroom

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Much like Wii Sports before it, Astro's Playroom is the perfect pack in launch title. Beautifully crafted and perfectly suited for showcasing the capabilities of the new Dualsense controller for the PS5, the game evokes memories of playing classic 3D platformers in the Mario series. Ingenius level design, use of adaptive triggers and haptic feedback bring you into the experience in ways that games have rarely been able to do.

That first moment of feeling the controller rumble subtly as you walk over different surface types is one that'll put a smile on your face and subsequent ideas, such as feeling raindrops and hail stones on your umbrella, the whirl of wind around your character and the resistance of the triggers as your rockets ignite, will have you grinning from beginning to end.

While it would be easy to dismiss the game as being shallow for simply bringing these ideas to the table, the underlying game is simply a joyous affair and one that's sadly over too soon. But those couple of hours you'll have playing out of the box on your new piece of hardware are some of the most genuine and fun hours that can be experienced in a game this year.

Spoiler

6. The Last of Us: Part 2

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I'll admit I was in the camp of people who didn't feel the need to continue Joel and Ellie's story from the first game. I could see the scope but felt like I would have been happy enough to leave it there. As such my hype and anticipation for Part 2 want sky high but nevertheless, I jumped in and trusted Naughty Dog to show me wrong and I was right to trust them.

Part 2 is a dark, deeply depressing and at time hard game to play. It pushes your thoughts and beliefs on the human condition to the extreme, ripping down many a character to show what lies under the surface and very occasionally building up those who you thought were utterly irredeemable. Much has been said about the game narratively and some of the choices made within yet to me, Naughty Dog presented a mature tale that was never meant to lean one way or the other. It was meant to feel uncomfortable and you should question ever character's actions and morals and it does this better than any other game out there.

Naughty Dog continue to push the field forward from a technical and accessibility point of view but that has sadly come at the cost of those developing. While I loved my time with the game, my intention was to support those who have toiled endlessly to get the game to market. Questions do need to be answered from upper management and Neil Druckmann, regardless of whether he wants to answer them or not. The end product is a beautifully crafted experience that has lingered long with me but the mismanagement of the studio by its heads means the game does not deserve to be wholly commended nor sit any higher up this list (in some ways, I could strongly argue its removal). I only hope the spotlight shone on issues leads to changes because Part 2 is a phenomenal game in almost every regard.

Spoiler

5. Kentucky Route Zero

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Games can be many things. They can be art pieces, examples of engrossing story telling, Michael Bay style action pieces or meditative experiences aimed at shining a light on issues in the real world. There's a wide spectrum of games and yet, even with that being said, Kentucky Route Zero is an example of one not so easily defined.

Part art piece, part narrative experience, part point and click, part text adventure, the game defies classification in many ways and yet effortlessly stands out as something so unique in the industry. What starts simply as an adventure to make one final delivery of the night quickly goes way out left field and leaves behind something that feels different, strange and at times alien but nonetheless breathtaking.

I saw KRZ once described as a piece of poetry and playing through the game, I find that to be a perfect summation of the game. From the way the game unfolds and reveals itself to your participation in its world, its conversations, its observations, there's an element of bittersweet poetry about everything. The loss of small town life, throw away lifestyle and culture and crippling debt are themes that run throughout, painting a dreary picture of life in this snapshot of a make believe America. People living dead end jobs with little prospecy of relief or respite, trying to get by while things become dilapidated around them. It speaks to the modern world and the issues that a modern America, and much of the western world for that fact, now faces but weaves a tale that keeps you on the hook through moments of despair, tragedy and through scant moments of respite.

Pinpointing what makes KRZ so special is a hard thing because its a game that will mean something different to each person, and perhaps nothing to others. To me, the realist tale of a man trying to make one final delivery but getting side tracked by the trials and tribulations of others, the poetic nature of how something, good or bad, can always get in the way and the overarching feeling of a world so far gone, so foreign with inhabitants who feel uniquely broken, quirky and not quite all there is something that really hooked me. It's almost unheard of in gaming and is something that, regardless of AAA or indie development, stands out as an experience that is testament to the artistic intent and wide spectrum of choice that gaming can provide and for those reasons, I love the game.

Spoiler

4. Spiritfarer

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Looks can be deceiving and thats certainly the case with Spiritfarer. A game that boasts a beautiful aesthetic, with bright colourful visuals and a laid back and at times moving soundtrack belies a game that tackles what is for many a difficult subject and one particularly pertinent in the current world: that of death and passing on from this world.

It does so with a deft touch, hidden away amongst the management of those souls your ferry around the islands, aiding them in fulfilling a last wish or task they have before being able to pass on. Its always there, bubbling below the surface and with the cast of characters you'll meet along the way, growing attached to them through keeping them content and helping them fulfil their wish means that when the moment comes, the sadness and loss feels that more real.

Games have tackled the subject before but here in Spiritfarer, it feels like you are genuinely losing a friend, succeeding in presenting a representation of the 5 stages of grief and the need to move on to help others in need. It doesn't feel heavy handed or forced, it feels natural and honest and as you meet more characters, while you'll lament getting to know them because of the inevitable loss, you'll persevere because of how well rounded and relatable the characters can be.

The management side, often a bane of many games, feels then like an every day occurrence, never a chore but rather something more akin to helping out a friend. Cooking food, growing crops, fishing and making them feel at home on your boat, they're all actions that seem mundane but add some reality to the game and make the experience more personal, especially as you'll like miss some characters along the way. Exploration of the world for friends to help feels great too and you'll want to explore to help them out.

The sum of its parts is in many ways more than the individual parts yet the coalescence of them all create a wonderfully moving experience that while tough at times, is one to be experienced and one that has left its mark on me.

Spoiler

3. The Pathless

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Giant Squid's first game Abzû carried many of the hallmarks of the game that spawned it, Journey. That's no surprise given that the studio was started by members from Thatgamecompany who had worked on that title. When it came to their second title, they took a far different approach and created an experience that feels liberating, fun and genuinely engrossing from start to finish.

The Pathless takes the idea of an open world and does to it what Breath of the Wild did to Zelda. Out of the gate, the game gives you the keys and the tools to explore and let's you get on with it. It doesn't hold you're hand and it never feels aimless in identifying where you should be and what you should be doing. You have the entire freedom to explore the regions of the world one at a time, at your own pace and doing whatever you want all in the hope of cleansing the region and the god that has been tainted by the Godslayer. The story doesn't stuff itself down your throat beyond that simple premise and returning the land to light but scratch beneath the surface, through ruins and souls scattered around, your find a surprisingly deep narrative given depth to the proceedings should you be willing to explore.

And exploration is something you should and will be doing a lot of. While ruins are dotted about the land, you'll need to seek out ones containing talismans, needed to cleanse each regions three towers and set up a showdown with the cursed gos of the region. Through use of your Eagle Vision, you'll be able to identify cursed areas containing the items you need, with puzzles in place to unlock them. These puzzles make simple use of the archery mechanics as well as use of your Eagle to help move items such a mirrors or weights, allowing you to shoot targets, light braziers or reflect arrows to targets.

While its simple to beeline to these locations, defeat the gods and move on, the game makes exploration a joy with a movement system that utilises timed shots at floating targets scattered around the world to allow you to move at great speeds. Mixed with being able to float with the help of your Eagle, getting from one side of the region to the other ends up being an exhilarating experience as you moe at speed, pulling of chained shots to slingshot you through the world.

The game controls beautifully in its use of archery, the weight of the bow being felt in the Dualsense triggers on the PS5, and simply gliding over a large vista, looking down at the world is breathtaking.

Showdowns with the gods utilise these movement mechanics too, having you chase them through the region at speed before a final arena showdown with each, some of which are incredibly tense and some of the best moments in a game I've played this year. Stealth sections also make an appearance, where getting caught in the storm surrounding the gods in the regions will momentarily separate you from your Eagle and have you trying to not get spotted as you try to get back to her. These sections continue the tense feeling and add a nice change of pace to the general run of play.

Exploring the world and cleansing it and the gods felt great. The lack of urgency to proceedings and being able to explore at your own pace and find out about the history of the world really drew me in and having the Eagle as your companion gave your character a sense of humanity that would have been missing otherwise. Beautiful visuals and an incredible soundtrack by Austin Wintory once again evoke the despair and uncharted nature of the world around and draw you further in to caring about helping this world and the gods within.

Its a game that has flown under the radar but the more I played, the more I felt at home in that world; the more I enjoyed completing simple puzzles in the world and just zipping around. It gave me the feeling of freedom that I suspect many got from Breath of the Wild when I didn't and it felt great for it. I loved my time in that world and was genuinely sad for it ending. Its a beautiful game in so many ways and one that deserves to be experienced.

Spoiler

2. Hades

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I've said it before here but I'm a massive mark for Supergiant Games. There hasn't been a game of theirs that I haven't enjoyed massively. And so it pains me to only be placing Hades, more or less a perfect game, in second place. Yet that doesn't take away anything from what is a truly phenomenal game.

The craft and work ethic of the developers in the face of what they've faced this year should be celebrated. Where Early Access has been seen as by some as a ploy to put out unfinished games with the possibility that the game may never end up complete, Hades stands as a testament to how Early Access can make a game.

Supergiant have spent the last 18 months adding to the game, finalising details and just generally fine tuning things and the end result is a game that feels incredible to play. Its visceral, its tight and its extremely well balanced which for a roguelite is incredibly important.

I'm not normally a fan of roguelites or even roguelikes but this year, the combination of firstly Undermine and secondly Hades turned that around and with Hades, I became heavily invested in each run through. Choosing the right weapon for the run, which rooms to take and aspects to prioritise and which boons to accept from the gods, each run was different but each was as exhilarating and nail biting as the next. Pushing through by the skin of your teeth against a room full of enemies to only find you're on low health and the boss awaits next and the chaos that unfolded after to try and make it through. Its in those moments that all that fine tuning shines and shows Hades as perhaps the best playing game of the year.

The rush to get Zagreus out of Hell, the constant trials and tribulations, the victories and the losses all add up to make the game far more than its initial impressions let on. Add to this the addition of strong narrative and well written characters, two hallmarks of Supergiant Games, where your victories and losses become woven into the story and how characters interact with you, and you have a game that goes up and beyond where many of its contemporaries go.

The telltale signs of a Supergiant game don't stop there as Jen Zee has once again worked her magic, creating some genuinely beautiful artwork for characters, and Darren Korb has once again turned in another soundtrack thats punchy and perfectly accentuates the action that unfolds.

Hades feels like the culmination of the work of their previous 3 titles. The action of Bastion and Transistor and the narrative underpinnings of Pyre, with the great character work, beautiful visuals and incredible soundtrack a stalwart across all those titles, have been married together to create something special; something that has put Supergiant on the map for those who hadn't already been paying attention to them (and I don't know why you wouldn't have been already as they are a fantastic studio). And we can't forget the work of Logan Cunningham who continues to put in stellar performance after stellar performance from game to game with his incredible voice.

Hades is without a doubt one of the best games of the year and worthy of all your time.

And finally...

Spoiler

1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

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When I started my list, I didn't expect to place this in first. Hades left such an indelible mark on me but as I went through and thought, Ori's brilliance and lasting effect shone brighter for me. It was a game that hit just around the original lockdown here and represented, in spite of its dark themes at times, a respite from being locked at home.

The original game was a fantastic platformer with some truly fast and frantic chase sequences that helped it stand out from other Metroidvania titles. Here was a game that did away with boss battles and instead replaced them with chase sequences. A brave move and though the sequel changed that aspect, the chase sequences remained and the game didn't feel any worse off for it.

Its a game that pulls you in with sumptuous visuals and a beautiful soundtrack, with Gareth Coker doing incredible work to perfectly match sound to sight in every area of the game, moving you close to tears of joy and sadness where necessary. But its not style over substance. The game brings to mind Rayman Legends and how that game was expertly crafted in its level design and flowed beautifully. This sequel follows that same note and feels more fluid than the original.

Improved movesets helps this feeling massively, with new upgrades and buffs from badges helping to make movement through the games branching world feel seamless. This compliments the level design and creates a game that feels just as good to play as Legends was, which is itself a game that I would regard the pinnacle of 2D platformers.

Cues have been taken from contemporary titles in the genre and Ori's arsenal has gorjw but the wealth of new moves and abilities adds and never detracts. It allows for a variety and scope for tackling platforming sections and for dealing with enemies thats never going to touch some of the Castlevania titles but certainly means that there'll be plenty of individuality to how people will play the game.

The game's story may seem like a simple tale of light versus dark but it, like several games I played in 2020, belies a deeper meaning. Care and compassion, saying farewell and sacrifice as well as the ends you go to for those you care for are rampant throughout, making the game much lore than it initially seems. Its an immensely affecting game, starting with whimsy and quickly tumbling forward into despair and sadness. It moved me throughout and that ending, the sadness of everything that unfolds there is genuinely heartwrenching for several reasons I won't spoil. Where some games made me feel apathy, some made me feel depressed and some made me feel pain, this made me feel sorrow for characters good and bad in a way no other game did this year.

I've continued to think about the game since release and more so writing this. I've remembered the joy of playing it, how it made me smile when the world went to chaos, how it brought me to tears with its ending and how I was left with a feeling of resounding happiness that such a game can exist in this industry. All of its parts came together to create a memorable experience; style and substance that never outshone each other, instead complimenting and making each moment emotional and a joy to play.

The game as it is now isn't how it was at launch. Crashes, frequent frame rate dips, screen tearing and loading issues were apparent throughout but its a testament to the game that not once did any of these take away from my experience of the game. I loved it then and playing now, with these fixed, I still love it and appreciate it more.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a phenomenal game. Its affecting visually, musically and narratively and its beautiful to play. It moved me and helped me through that rough start to the year and coming back to it again, I still feel the sadness of finishing it but I'm left feeling happy I did; happy for the game to exist and happy that in amongst everything else, gaming could provide such a bright spot. Thank you Moon Studios for giving me one of not only the best experiences of the year but of this generation.

 

Edited by Ganepark32
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Yeah, my list will have to be 5 games, otherwise I'll be including WiiU ports.

Oh, and I'm a Switch only owner, so I'll be focusing on games that came out this year on Switch. If a certain game appeared on another platform before hand, deal with it.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

A story about some bloke called Glen and his long, arduous quest to fill his new island town with 7 crocodiles. And maybe some other stuff as well.

Since this game was released, there's been more than a few experiences that I can recall. Such as going back online after the first lockdown and opening my letterbox to a deluge of clearly unwanted Bunny Day recipes, numerous hide and seek sessions with other N-Europers, the great flower massacre of Capim Town and many confusing conversations with Cranston.

It's nice having a routine, you know? R.I.P @Nicktendo

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Nexomon: Extinction

I can't believe it's not Pokémon!

My surprise hit of the year. I wasn't expecting much when I went into the review copy N-E got. Pokémon knock-off's are a minefield when it comes to how well they pull it off. But I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed this. Harkening back to the 2D era of Pokémon style gameplay. Nexomon is snappy and straight to the point. The plot is completely self-aware and all the more hilarious for it. The game will happily use it's lack of budget as a punchline, fourth wall be damned!

It's not perfect, but there are a few things here that I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Pokémon itself nick.

Oh, and there's a certain monster that smacks of Krookodile, and that's always a plus.

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Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

Yes, I'm aware that isn't footage of it, but it might as well be.

After tackling Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Theatrhythm decided to make a rhythm game with Kingdom Hearts next. It's a good thing that Kingdom Hearts has such cracking soundtracks then, isn't it? I can see me spending a lot time chasing those high scores on Proud difficulty in 2021.
Oh, and it's Kingdom Hearts, so of course this random rhythm game has some bearing on the whole story, because this series just can't help itself. The confusing ride is part of the charm for me.

Bonus points for actually having some Disney songs thrown in.

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Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

I was a bit apprehensive that this game would dial back on the silly stuff you saw in the original Hyrule Warriors. My fears were totally unfounded. This is a Zelda game that manages to be vastly better than Breath of the Wild, by not being Breath of the Wild. It might be less strategic than Hyrule Warriors, but it makes up for it with combat that feels closer to Bayonetta. It's also nice to finally have a Flurry Rush that actually works all the time.

Quite frankly, I don't see any other Zelda game in the Switch's future outdoing this one. And no-one can convince me otherwise. Now give me a playable Kass as DLC, please.

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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX

Yeah, yeah. Most of you saw that one coming a mile off. I don't care.

Rescue Team DX takes the first entry of this spin-off series and gives it some much needed modernisation. Mechanics from Super Mystery Dungeon, a beautifully remastered soundtrack and gorgeous watercolour style visuals help to make this the best way to play the original PMD game.

While I do wish Chun Soft utilised some of the newer Pokémon introduced since 2006, this is probably one of my current top 3 games on the Switch.

 

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I only played The Last of Us: Part II and Animal Crossing: New Horizons of the big newly released titles in 2020, I enjoyed both but Animal Crossing is undoubtedly my favourite. I've clocked up 390 hours on my island and I know that I'll be playing it every day in 2021 too, there are no signs of me giving it up any time soon. It's filled with all the classic Nintendo charm and the few gripes I have with the game are far outweighed by the sheer joy it has provided me, given what a huge success it is for Nintendo I hope they continue to support it with worthwhile updates for the foreseeable - I would love to see a return of Kapp'n, Brewster, Resetti and other amenities from previous entries that are missing. It will take a lot for New Horizons to dethrone Wild World in my heart but it's got the potential to do that if Nintendo keep working on it.

As is tradition for me I played plenty of 2019 titles for the first time this year, starting off with Pokemon Shield which was okay (not really anything notable to say about it but I enjoyed my time with it at least) then Baba is you which was delightful but a bit too much of a head-scratcher towards the end for my liking. Next was A Plague Tale: Innocence which was really engrossing, takes a lot of inspiration from TLOU but the setting and characters really make it stand out, then was the big one - Death Stranding, certainly took a while to get into but once I did I lapped it up - definitely one of the best games I played this year. 

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 was another 2020 game I played through, I got a lot more out of it than the first entry as I practically finished the game 100%, but it's hard to put it on the same level as Animal Crossing and The Last of Us. One that technically is a 2020 game I played was Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition but given it's a remaster of a game I already finished a few years ago (and absolutely adored) it feels wrong to call it a new release - I suppose I could count Future Connected as a brand new game but it definitely felt like an epilogue to the main game and I never did quite get on with the changes to the battle system. 

I managed to complete more games last year (36) than I did in 2019 (23) and I went on a bit of a Xmas shopping spree so I'm hoping to get the year off to a flyer by devoting the first few weeks to getting through some of the games I missed in 2020.

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Posted (edited)

Most of the games I played last year were released before 2020, so I'll start off with a top 10 for those:

10. RiME
9. Forza Horizon 4
8. Death Stranding
7. Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder
6. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
5. The Touryst
4. Monster Hunter: World
3. Sea of Thieves
2. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
1. The Messenger

Didn't play or complete enough 2020 releases for a top 10, so here's a top 5 instead:

5. Microsoft Flight Simulator
4. Streets of Rage 4
3. Cyberpunk 2077
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
1. Yakuza: Like a Dragon

So yeah, 2020... an incredibly crap year overall but a pretty good one for gaming. The above lists show just how much Nintendo are slipping in my opinion though. :blank: Were it not for Animal Crossing I wouldn't have played a single new Switch game in 2020! :o Almost all of my gaming time (apart from AC and some older Switch/mobile stuff) was spent on PC. ::shrug:
Here's hoping Nintendo have far more compelling and original content prepared for 2021.

Edited by RedShell
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Posted (edited)

I didn’t play any games released in 2020 worthy of mention (although I’m soon to start Last of Us 2 and 13 Sentinels), so mine is simply games played through this year.

1) Super Mario Odyssey (Switch): I played it wondering what all the fuss was about, then continued playing it, and playing it, and playing it - I just couldn’t put it down!  The sheer volume of moons to find exciting and it’s been a fantastic experience that I’m still going to be exploring into 2021.

2) Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4): Took the best bits from the vast number of titles in the series & wraps it together in a wonderful package that plays and feels as though you are in a genuine Pixar film! 

3) Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4): The set pieces throughout the whole series are climactic and thrilling to play through.  Another enjoyable entry in the successful update of the franchise.  

4) Earthbound (3DS Virtual Console): So pleased I finally played this classic.  The pacing was great without the need to do too much grinding.  A little dated but still plenty to smile about throughout the whole adventure.

5) Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 (PS4): Terrific value for money with so many games included.  I admittedly spent most of my initial time wondering what the hype was about, although I enjoyed the later games more and it persuaded me enough to give the excellent 3rd main game a go. 

Edited by WackerJr
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Posted (edited)

Err... I’ve only completed 2 single player games that were actually released this year (Paper Mario: The Origami King and Shantae & The Seven Sirens).  So...

I guess Animal Crossing New Horizons has to win by default?

If I could count Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light? I’d pick that one.  Amazing that I can finally officially play it in English! It’s great! :D 

 

Otherwise? Wow! This has REALLY been a shit year outside of remakes & ports huh?

Edited by Dcubed
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The only game from 2020 I played was Atomicrops, which I reviewed for the site. The other two titles I reviewed were technically older (released on the Switch this year, but elsewhere earlier).

So I'll stick to a list of Best Games I played in 2020, and I'll do it in descending order because that's how you read it. It's my list, okay?

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10. Dragon Ball FighterZ - "The game that 'killed' Marvel vs Capcom"

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I had almost forgotten I played it in 2020, considering the bulk of it was in February and early March a.k.a. before the Pandemic. But it's a hell of a fun fighting game. I wish there were more unconventional characters (he says, knowing he hasn't bought Roshi or Videl yet), but what we do have is great, and the game has been updated a lot to make different styles viable.

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9. Bravely Default - "A party member went from healer to my biggest damage dealer (with just one simple trick)"

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My second-most played game this year for sure, if only because it faffs too much during what was supposed to be the final stretch. Sporting one of the most robust job systems I've ever seen, this game sure scratched that FFV itch for me, though truth be told, I'm thinking BDII will surpass it handily. Gorgeous soundtrack, too.

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8. Atomicrops - "A charming, memorable roguelike-farming-dating-sim-twin-shooter-tower-defence game that’s worth sinking your time into"

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The first game I ever reviewed for N-E! I was lucky that it was a good one, because I'd never heard of it before I took it. Super solid roguelike with a fun theme, most of the flaws I pointed in the review have since then been corrected or improved (alongside some balance patches).

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7. The Fall - "If you're a sucker for AI-related stories like I am, you'll love the places this story takes you"

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The game that saved my Halloween, this turned out to be surprisingly good, despite being so short. So much like Super Metroid, so much unlike it.

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6. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon - "Unlike Castlevania III, this game's actually really good!"

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First game I completed in 2020, and I can now see how strong of a start it was. Excellent throwback to classic Castlevania, and the finest Inti Creates offering I played so far (besides the Mega Man Zero series).

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5. Snipperclips - "I think I officially found the perfect party game"

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Kinda cheating, as this was a game I kept since 2019 for occasionally playing Co-op, and I only finished it this summer while a little cousin was staying over. It's still great, though.

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4. Yoku's Island Express -  "Yoku himself has a horn you can blow at any time with A, and it's one of those meaningless, but endearing things"

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The jolly summer pinball metroidvania game that lifted my spirits at the right time. Can't recommend this enough.

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3. Advance Wars: Dark Conflict -  "I actually loved this game, might be my favourite Advance Wars yet"

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While this game didn't come out of nowhere, the difference between what I expected and what I experienced was huge. Probably my biggest gaming surprise of the year. Super solid entry in the Advance Wars series, possibly the best.

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2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - "Loved playing as the Golden Deer, and I definitely enjoyed soaking the world's lore from that perspective"

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Almost cheating, as I started playing it in 2019, but due to breaks, hiatuses, and a somewhat slow pace from my part, I actually finished it in 2021 (with nearly 200 hours of registered play). But the bulk of it was 2020, so I'm counting it. Excellent entry in one of my favourite series, as unconventional as it is. Can't wait to check out the DLC, as well as the other paths of the story.

Spoiler

1. Dandara - "Dandara attempts to overcome oblivion by taking its own spin on the genre, looking to stand on its own merits."

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I'm just as surprised as you are. This game turned out to hit all the right notes for me, and it was brilliant to play through. And of course, I can't help but mention my review again, another sign that this game sure earned its spot up here. I mean, down here. I mean, dammit.

 

Edited by Jonnas
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