2020 may have been a pretty bad year overall, but it was great for the video game industry. Not only did software and hardware see tremendous growth in sales, we also got a whole new console generation in the form of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Of course, some games released in 2020 were better than others. Luckily for you, City Editor Jake Yoder and Staff Writer Seth Chapman are here to give you a list of the best games of 2020.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS4, PS5)
With the launch of the PlayStation 5 came one of the best open-world action games on the market: Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Coming just two years after 2018’s Spider-Man rocked the gaming world, Miles Morales serves as a bit of a half sequel, being much shorter and less dense than the original.
This isn’t a complaint, however. Miles Morales’ five-to-ten-hour game time lets it tell a condensed, emotional and engaging story, wrapping things up before the experience becomes bloated.
Miles Morales may look functionally the same as its predecessor, but Insomniac Games has taken everything that was great about the original and polished it even further. Fighting thugs and swinging through New York City feel absolutely amazing, especially when running at 60 frames per second on PS5.
Miles Morales serves not only as a great introduction into the power of the PlayStation 5, but also as a taste of what is to come from Insomniac’s Spider-Man series.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
Valhalla felt like the first truly next-gen experience this year. Dark Ages England is rendered in stunning detail, and the skyboxes are some of the best looking in the series. This is also the first-time an Assassin’s Creed game has an option to run at 60 frames per second on consoles.
What truly makes Valhalla so amazing is that it is a refinement of the previous Assassin’s Creed games that came before it. RPG elements such as skill trees and loot have been revamped so that the choices feel more impactful and not so overwhelming. Side content in Valhalla is also more interesting because they are now compact adventures instead of long fetch quests that had you pinp-ponging between map markers. Exploration has also been enhanced so that you are never sure what exactly is around the corner on your journey.
Finally, the combat is some of the best Assassin’s Creed has seen with not only giving the player a wide range of abilities and weapons at their disposal, but enemies are far more interesting with different types of combatants with their own unique behaviors. It is easy to lose yourself in this world for hours, and it is exciting to see what is on the horizon for this already massive game.
Check out our full review of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla here.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo Switch)
For the past 20 years, the Animal Crossing series has stolen the hearts of Nintendo fans. In 2020, however, Animal Crossing: New Horizons proved to be successful not only for hardcore Nintendo fans, but for just about everyone on the Internet.
Dropping right at the beginning of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, New Horizon’s laid-back tone and peaceful vibes were perfect for a world facing fear and uncertainty like many had never felt before. The game sold millions of copies and helped sell millions of Nintendo Switch units, with people who had never played a video game before now tempted to get in on the island action.
This was, of course, for good reason. Though it may not be the most streamlined game on the market, New Horizons is brimming with charm and personality. Customizing your villager, home and island are an absolute delight, as is collecting all manor of bugs, fish and fossils scattered throughout your island.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was not only the perfect distraction from a tumultuous 2020, it was also (and still is) a fantastic game. With Nintendo continually updating it, New Horizons just gets better and better.
Check out our full review of Animal Crossing: New Horizons here.
Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)
Ghost of Tsushima is without a doubt the most stylish and compelling open-world game of 2020. Sucker Punch brings 13th century Japan to life in mythical fashion. From rolling waves of white flowers to mist-laden swamps, Ghost of Tsushima feels like you are playing in a painting that combines photo-realism with a storybook vision of ancient Japan.
The combat is also stellar combo of the fighting system from the Batman Arkham series with the cinematography of an old samurai flick. Ghost of Tsushima’s presentation in both its main narrative and its open-world content brings out the best elements of a Kurosawa film and translates it to the video game medium.
A single duel in this game can carry so many different emotions, like how still two fighters can be right before a clash, or how you clean your blade after a fight. Everything you do in Ghost of Tsushima feels cinematic and gorgeous, and major props to Sucker Punch for making it all feel so effortless.
Check out our full review of Ghost of Tsushima here.
The Pathless (PS4, PS5, PC)
The Pathless is, without a doubt, 2020’s biggest sleeper hit. The game launched in November to little fanfare, but proved to be one of the best, unique experiences of the year.
Coming from the developers behind Journey, Flower and Abzû, it’s no surprise that The Pathless was a great experience. The Pathless throws players into a fairly sizable open world full of notable locations and puzzles to complete. Unlike just about every other open world game that comes to mind, The Pathless is completely lacking a map, forcing players to find the next object based solely on environmental clues alone.
The Pathless is also completely lacking any kind of fast travel, meaning players must traverse the island completely on foot. The hunter, the game’s protagonist, must build up stamina by shooting floating talismans that are scattered all over the world. This leads to an incredibly satisfying movement system that, once mastered, will have players feeling like master archers.
Combine this with compelling puzzles, tense boss encounters and a moving score and you get one of the most unique experiences in gaming.
Check out our full review of The Pathless here.
The Last of Us Part 2 (PS4)
What the Last of Us Part 2 deserve all the praise it has received from reviewers is its story. While some of the narrative decision in the Last of Us 2 are controversial, these narrative beats build and expand upon the consequences and themes of the first Last of Us.
During such a trying year on our lives, Last of Us Part 2 provides a catharsis for some of these turbulent emotions while also pushing a message humanity and restraint. Seeing Ellie’s journey and how it transforms her is equal parts both heartbreaking and transcendent.
The entire cast of the Last of Us Part 2, especially Ashley Johnson and Laura Bailey, deserve tremendous amounts of love and attention for the work they put on here. The hard-working developers at Naughty Dog also deserve praise for putting out yet another generation-defining game. However, one of the lessons that needs to be taken away from this is that Naughty Dog needs to reevaluate their attitudes towards crunch culture and how they treat their workers.
Naughty Dog has a team of seriously talented people at work there, and they all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect instead of constantly grinding hours away from their families and loved ones. Crunch is not the answer to putting out great games. The answer for that is a team that is passionate and has a healthy relationship with their work.
Check out our full review of The Last of Us Part 2 here.
Bugsnax (PC, PS4, PS5)
When Bugsnax was revealed during the PS5 reveal event over the summer, the game’s strange premise and memeable theme song quickly caught the attention of gamers worldwide. Though its developers, Young Horses, only had one other game under their belts (2014’s Octodad: Dadliest Catch), it was little more than a funny puzzle game. Bugsnax, however, proved to be much more.
What can only be described as a cross between an adventure game, a puzzle game and a monster catching game akin to Pokémon, Bugsnax is full of enough charm and personality to win over just about anyone.
Bugsnax’s story is not only one full of comedy, but also genuine heart and progressiveness. One second players will be laughing at a joke or the sheer absurdity of being forced to capture and consume bug/food hybrids, and the next they’ll be tearing up at genuine character moments about relationships or the human condition.
Bugsnax also features over 100 different snax that players can catch. Catching some is incredibly simple, while others require some out of the box thinking.
While it may not be the most graphically impressive game of the year, Bugsnax is sure to stick with anyone who plays it long after its credits roll.
Check out our full review of Bugsnax here.
Streets of Rage 4 (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
Streets of Rage 4 isn’t just a simple sequel to the 90’s classics it came from. It is both a loving homage to its predecessors while also standing on its own as a modern brawler with retro sensibilities.
Returning characters like Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding are given a wonderful, hand-drawn update while also being joined by an exciting new cast with Cherry Hunter and Floyd Iraia. Each character is easy to pick up but have special nuances that make them feel unique.
Not only is the character design top-notch, but the environments are also given the same, gorgeous hand drawn treatment. The dark streets are moody with reflective puddles and alleyways awash with neon. The art gallery level is also a standout with its pristine interior and abstract paintings being a great contrast to the grimy city outside.
The soundtrack is also the best one you will listen to out of 2020, and composers Yuzo Kushiro, Motohiro Kawashima, Olivier Deriviere, and many others prove to be absolute masters at their craft. Whether it’s the nostalgia infused introductory track of “They’re Back”, the swinging jazz movements of “An Exhibition”, or the rousing synths of “Rising Up,” the music of Streets of Rage 4 is operating on a whole other level.
DotEmu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush games truly outdid themselves by not only resurrecting this classic series, but also injecting new life into it and proving why Streets of Rage needs to be back in 2020. It is a game with a singular vision of itself and stays true to that core all the way through. Whether you want to play it by yourself or with a friend, you owe it to yourself to give this game a chance.
Jake’s Game of the Year: Persona 5 Royal (PS4)
Though it isn’t entirely a 2020 game, Persona 5 Royal is the best game to have released this year. An update to 2015’s Persona 5, Persona 5 Royal refines everything that already seemed perfect about the original release and somehow makes it better.
Persona 5 Royal is an absolute masterclass in RPG gameplay and storytelling. It sets up a world full of unique, interesting characters and tells a compelling story about free will, religion and simply being young. Royal also adds about 30 hours of additional story content onto Persona 5’s original story, making it a must play even for those who already put in hundreds of hours with the original release.
Royal also brings new elements and features to combat that easily make it the best JRPG on the market. Fusing for new Personas to use in combat is a ton of fun, as is leveling up your characters in the procedurally generated Mementos.
Everything about Royal shines, even the minute details. It is perhaps the most stylish game to have evr been released, with small things such as menus even leaving an impression on gamers. The game’s soundtrack is also one of the best to have ever been released, with a jazzy flair that will get stuck in player’s heads instantly.
Even those not usually interested in JRPGs or games with an anime aesthetic will likely find something to love in Persona 5 Royal. If you happen to own a PS4 or a PS5, you owe it to yourself to boot this game up and fall in love with the Phantom Thieves.
Seth’s Game of the Year: Doom Eternal (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
Doom Eternal is basically perfect. It is a game that knows what it is and what its players want: to rip demons asunder and do it all with a blood-pumping, electric metal soundtrack. Doom Eternal maintains a constant upward momentum and never lets up on the gas. It is a game that constantly pushes and challenges the player to be a better slayer, and it makes it equal parts frustrating and exhilarating.
Doom Eternal takes everything about the combat in Doom (2016) that made it phenomenal and just amps it up to eleven. With its low ammo count and resource intensive gameplay, Doom Eternal ensures that the player naturally uses everything in their arsenal to overcome the demonic forces of Hell. Each new enemy is both horrifying and exciting as the player gets learn what is the most effective way to rip and tear.
What makes Doom Eternal so good is how it commits to its own vision so unapologetically. It knows it’s a video game and pushes that to the forefront of its design. iD Software’s priorities were to make a game that is both fun and challenging for the player, and it delivers that experience in spades.
It is no exaggeration that this game perfectly delivers the fantasy of being a blood-soaked, crusading berserker, and if there was ever one game you must play from 2020, this is it.