We finally made it! 2020 is completed. Looking back at a tumultuous year filled with ups-and-downs, I can say one thing for certain – it was a damn fine year for video games(if little else). We got to see new DOOM and Animal Crossing games share a release date in March, some great new indie as well as AAA games, along with the dawn of next-gen consoles in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. Hell, there was a new Half-Life game…even if it was VR only. As with just about every other person writing for a gaming blog, it’s become almost an expectation to release a list of favorite games of the year once it reaches the end of December, so…let’s give this another go!
I have a full list of my ten favorite games released in 2020. I wanted to also mention some of my favorites I played this year, regardless of release date; it’s absurd how often a game will only get recognition in its year(or month) of release, before being tossed aside for the next new game. Another aspect of this is considering how often games are released in a less-than-completed state and take a while to finally reach close proximity to the developer’s original vision for the game through patches and updates..which could be a topic for another ramble post. Anyways, here are my….
Five favorites NOT released in 2020
- Doki Doki Literature Club
- Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
- Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
- Chrono Trigger
- Yakuza 0
There’s a little bit of everything here: from the psychological-horror-meets-dating-sim of Doki Doki Literature Club, old school point-and-click adventure in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, an epic open-world voyage through Ancient Greece in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, traveling through time and saving the world in the classic retro RPG – Chrono Trigger, and the contrasts of serious/silly in Yakuza 0’s main story and side missions.
Let’s take a look at my favorites released in 2020…
Resident Evil 3: Remake
Capcom had somehow managed to create not one, but two remakes of Resident Evil games that managed to retain the horror of the originals but create a modern-day gaming experience starting with the original REmake on the GameCube and then last year’s remake of Resident Evil 2(my #2 game of 2019). I played through the remake of Resident Evil 3 this past Halloween and it feels very similar to the RE2 remake in terms of feel, but Jill and Carlos’ venture through a zombie-filled Racoon City didn’t quite make as much of an impression on me as last year’s RE game. You can still see the more action-oriented direction the series had begun to take with RE3(setting up 4-6), but I still enjoyed the game enough that I made my ten favorites of 2020.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
I wanted to write something about Animal Crossing’s inclusion on my favorite games of the year without using the phrase “the game we needed” that has been used endlessly since the game’s release this past March(though it seems like years ago), but it’s hard to overstate the impact Nintendo’s newest entry to the wholesome series provided…as the world seemed to be collapsing around us.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was announced this past spring after rumors had been circulating for a while that the next game in Ubisoft’s long-running series would be set during the age of Vikings. After the reveal, I was excited at the prospect of an Assassin’s Creed game in which you play as a viking, only to be a little underwhelmed when gameplay was first shown, and then once again eager to finally play it shortly before release. I admit the game, despite being impressive enough in its first couple hours, didn’t have me hooked quite yet, but I can now say that I’m thoroughly enjoying making my way across medieval England as vikingr Eivor.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
I woke up one morning to see Nintendo had announced another Hyrule Warriors game, this time taking place in the Hyrule from Breath of the Wild. The game was advertised as essentially a prequel to Breath of the Wild as we see Link and Princess Zelda working with the Four Champions – Mipha, Daruk, Revali and Urbosa to stop the release of Calamity Ganon. I had never played the previous Hyrule Warriors, or any “Warriors” game(Dynasty, Hyrule, Fire Emblem), but enjoyed the demo enough that I was willing to give it a chance. I had intended to write a post of my first impressions on the game, but started to hear how others’ opinion on the game had started to shift when reaching the final hours of the game, so I plan to hold off on writing much about Age of Calamity until I play my way through the entire game. I’ve been doing pretty much every available mission in the game, so it may take me a little while. From what I have played, I really enjoy the over-the-top action set pieces as you hack your way through endless waves of enemies and aside from differences in combat, it does feel reasonably close to more Breath of the Wild. Having a lot of fun playing this one…
Streets of Rage 4
I grew up playing the Streets of Rage games, so the long-awaited(23 years!) sequel was definitely something I was going to check out. Streets of Rage 4 is everything that made the original games great, but adds a few modern, quality-of-life improvements along with excellent animations and an awesome soundtrack.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
A beloved PlayStation epic finally gets the long-awaited remake, well…the first installment anyway. Square Enix released part one of their Final Fantasy 7 remake in April after years in development, going all the way back to the PS3 days and was it worth it? Yes, in most ways. I really began enjoying the changes made to the combat system, which allowed for more action-packed, free-flowing battle sequences. It also allowed a lot more time to develop the characters and their relationships over the course of the game. The flip side to this being the fact that part one of the remake takes between 30-40 hours to complete, but only takes place in Midgar, roughly the first couple hours of the original game. Despite a few pacing issues and a convoluted, Kingdom Hearts-y story taking some generous liberties with the original, it was still one of my favorite games of 2020.
The Last of Us Part 2
In a year of many uber-hyped releases, two games – Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part 2 – could be considered to have the most attention around them, not always for the most positive of reasons either. Developer Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part 2 was, for better or worse, this year’s The Last Jedi and proved just as divisive. After playing it this summer, I found myself on the side of the chasm that really, really enjoyed The Last of Us Part 2. I don’t feel the game is the flawless, greatest of all-time release that others have professed, and I do have a few critiques of the game, but there was something, some brief glimmer of introspection and beauty that I found amidst the game’s moments of oppressive bleakness. It’s a feeling I’d not had after completing a game in some time…
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I had only just played Ori and the Blind Forest a few months before the sequel – Ori and the Will of the Wisps was set to release. Will of the Wisps doesn’t necessarily blaze any new trails from its predecessor, though I felt some of the mechanics were improved a bit, but its spirited story, emotive soundtrack and colorful areas to explore made it one of my favorite gaming experiences in 2020.
DOOM Eternal was one of the games I was most looking forward to this past fall, only to have to wait until March 20 after the game was delayed, it was definitely worth the wait. The game takes everything that made 2016’s DOOM great and adds even more – demons, levels, glory kills. I recently played through the game again a month or so ago, and it’s still just as good as playing it for the first time. It would have been my Game of the Year if not for the next game…
What can I say about Hades that hasn’t already been said an endless amount of times since becoming one of gaming’s biggest word-of-mouth games in just a few months since its release? It has some of the most satisfying and addictive gameplay of anything I’ve played this year(years?), an epic soundtrack and well-written, interesting characters who you wanted to check in with after every time you met your demise attempting to escape the Greek underworld. As much as I loved DOOM Eternal, I have to give my Game of the Year to Hades – a game I struggle to come up with really anything I dislike about it….
Well, there you have it…my list(s) of favorite games that I played in 2020. What were some of your favorites that you played over the year? Here’s hoping for another year anywhere near as good as this one in 2021…
Thanks for reading!