I think I speak for everyone when I say “Thank God this year is over”. 2020 was a horrible year in just about every aspect. However, 2020 was actually a great year for videogames. Many industry analysts were concerned that the job loss from the pandemic would decrease game sales during an economy that was heading downward. What happened was the opposite. As more people were stuck at home more money was spent on games this year than last year.
Not to mention that the end of the year saw the launch of two new consoles with the Xbox Series X/S and PS5! All in all, the videogame economy is quite healthy. This year was packed with great games and we were treated to a constant stream of releases all year long. And now it is time to look back and reflect on what were the best games of the year. Here are my five best games of the year.
Ryu Ga Gotku studio, took a departure from the familiar for this next mainline entry in their Yakuza series. Gone is the usual protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, replaced with series new-comer, Ichiban Kasuga. The other, and arguably biggest change, is the gameplay. For the first time in the mainline series the game is a turn-based RPG as opposed to a traditional beat ’em up brawler. It is these changes that make Like A Dragon a perfect entry point for anyone curious about the Yakuza universe but who is intimidated by the many tightly connected entries in the series.
For those that are familiar with the abundance of fantasy-style RPGs, Like A Dragon feels like a breath of fresh air for the genre. The setting is a very contemporary Yokohama, Japan where Ichiban and his growing party of friends duke it out on the streets in turn-based combat. The game does include traditional elements of other RPGs such as being able to summon allies in battle, characters that lean towards support roles, and a split between magic and physical offense. There are even modern takes on equipment such as bats and batons in-lieu of traditional swords and axes.
What makes the game so great is the character dynamics of the party as they face serious threats together and bond over their shared and personal battles. Ichiban’s quest to find out what has changed in the Yakuza in the 15 years he was imprisoned makes for a compelling story. The thing this series has always handled well is the juxtaposition of it’s serious and somber main story with the silly and often-times heartwarming side-quests, and it works especially well here as an RPG. Like A Dragon‘s fun battle system, abundance of mini-games, thrilling story, and loveable characters has earned it a spot on this list.
After Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft took a two-year break from the long-running historical series. They came back this year with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla which sees the time-jumping franchise visit Norway and England in the late 9th century. Valhalla has sold extremely well with it outselling every game in the series at launch!
Valhalla plays a lot like the previous two entries in the series, Odyssey and Origins. The RPG elements are heavy in this one, and the effectiveness of the different gear options allows the player to choose their preferred playstyle. You want a more stealthy traditional assassin character? You can choose a specific skill tree and pick up gear that will reflect that. Would you rather smash and cause a lot of commotion? You can build Eivor that way as well! There is a lot of miscellaneous content as well such as finding books that grant extra abilities, daily quests that earn you a unique currency for rare gear, and simulation obstacles that expand on the in-universe’s lore. In fact there may be a bit too much to do as I often felt overwhelmed by the icons when opening the world map.
The new side activity, next to side-quests and story missions, is Raiding. No Viking game can be complete without allowing pillaging and plundering of monasteries and Anglo villages. You’ll need to do a couple of these throughout the game to obtain the necessary supplies to build your village and take advantage of all the shops. These are mostly easy and simple in execution. However, if you find yourself in a part of England where the enemies are much stronger, you will quickly regret it. Most importantly Valhalla feels lived-in and is very fun and satisfying to play!
The game looks beautiful on PS5 and Series X but is no slouch either on last gen hardware. I will say that load times are brutal on my base model PS4 however. Valhalla also allows you to do the one thing I want all Assassin’s Creed games to do, and that is ignore the majority of the present day story. Different weapon combinations, character customization, a fun drinking minigame, a degree of freedom in dialogue choices, a simple HUD, and addictive gameplay are what ultimately make Valhalla an obvious choice for this list.
Sucker Punch studio’s hit, Ghost of Tsushima, won the Player’s Choice Award at The Game Awards, and became the PlayStation 4’s fastest selling original game. The Stealth/Action game takes place on the island of Tsushima during the first Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274. Jin Sakai is your samurai protagonist and you must aide him in repelling the Mongol invaders. The game feels similar to the Assassin’s Creed games in that it’s an open-world game in which stealth and all-out attack are viable options. You can be sneaky and assassinate guards shinobi-style or issue a direct challenge in a timed-input standoff. The side-quests are fewer than AC’s but they are much more meaningful.
Each ally of Jin’s has a chain of quests that have a personal story arc to them. The weapons and armor have attributes and effects that influence playstyle along with charms that boost other parameters. Jin can also learn various sword styles that work against different enemies in a sort of Rock-Paper-Scissors fashion. That is where the similarities end. The combat feels easy in the first act but ramps up and feels like a fair challenge in the second and third acts.
Tsushima is a gorgeous looking game! It is heavily inspired by older samurai movies especially those made by renown film maker, Akira Kurosawa. The game even has a black-and-white grainy filter that emulates Kurosawa’s famous film style. Watching the opening cinematic where the game’s title card first appears it is easy to see why the game won “Best Art Direction” as well at this year’s Game Awards. The game screams visual aesthetic, from the flowing grass fields to the foggy light seeping through the bamboo forests, to the whirling red leaves from the trees in autumn. I spent hours using the game’s robust photo mode.
Tsushima is a masterpiece from one of Sony’s first-party studios. It even managed to impress actual Japanese game developers with it’s scope and authenticity. The art direction, relentless combat, sense of Ronin-style freedom, unique setting, and emotional finale are the reasons Tsushima is one of the best games of 2020.
You can’t discuss the best games of 2020 without including this one. The Last Of Us Part 2 swept The Game Awards last week in seven separate categories, and for good reason. TLOU2 is a story about love, hate, vengeance, and acceptance.
The enemy A.I. is smart, communicates with each other, and takes full advantage of the environment to trap and corner Ellie. The encounters with the infected always feel nail-biting tense. Just when you feel comfortable against the clickers the game throws a new variety at you to keep you on your toes. The physics in the game are unlike any other. Rope and cables act like actual rope would in real life where it bends and reacts to other surfaces. Clothing doesn’t clip through like it does in just about every other game, it reacts like real clothing. The natural landscape as well as the derelict ruins of Seattle are beautiful and amazing to take in. The facial animations are incredible and look true-to-life on even a base model PS4.
TLOU2 has a level of polish that is simply unheard of. The variety of sound effects and how they change based off of what surface you are on is impressive. The clicker’s snarls and guttural roars are terrifying, the licensed music is a really nice touch and a great way to anchor the setting into a world that has moved on. The gunplay and action is satisfying. Putting down a dog and hearing it whimper and whine, or hearing an enemy cry out while they burn from a Molotov cocktail is equally sickening and impressive. The game is heavy and can feel a bit depressing to play. I am not exaggerating when I say it is an emotionally taxing experience.
The story is intense and often will take you down paths you do not want it to go, but if you can stick with it the game also has very beautiful moments and a genuinely meaningful story behind it. I have never felt such a range of emotions nor elicited so many physical reactions to a game as I have for TLOU2. It is genuinely the first time I have ever played a game, had to walk away to compose myself, and then came back and continued. My only genuine complaint of the game is the pacing and timing of certain events and that it could have been a few hours shorter and nothing major would have been lost.
For it’s intelligent enemy A.I., tense combat sections, beautifully rendered environments, harrowing narrative, brilliant character performances, and amazing physics it is no wonder that TLOU2 is on the list for one of the best games of 2020.
Winning the Best Role Playing award at The Game Awards and selling over 5,000,000 copies, Final Fantasy 7 Remake had a remarkable year. In some ways FF7R fulfills the promise of a mostly faithful recreation of the original 1997 game, at least with the major set pieces. In other ways it takes a departure from the original by changing certain story elements and expanding on others. A reoccurring theme with the games on this list is their amazing visuals and FF7R is no exception. The title has some of the best character models and lighting seen on the PS4! When selecting the next action, during combat, the battle slows down dramatically creating amazing action scenes with impressive visual effects. Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, and the rest have never looked better and great care was taken with their redesigns.
While being only a fraction of the length of the original game, FF7R is fleshed out much more and has a tighter story to tell with its slimmed down cast. The Remake greatly expands on the original by delving deeper into the side characters. I never would have expected to get actual exposition, background, motives, and a character arc for Jessie. Jessie’s role in the original is a couple of lines and that’s it. Square-Enix made us actually care for Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge as the supporting crew.
One of the nicest “Quality of Life” improvements over the original is how Square handled some of the game’s outdated motifs. Barret has been slightly rewritten to have deeper dialogue (less of an angry black man trope) and greater motives for his actions. The whole section with Cloud in drag and the provocative Honey Bee Inn was redone to be tasteful and less tacky by modern sensibilities.
Words cannot explain how amazing the musical score for the game really is. They brought back the original composer of FF7, Nobuo Uematsu, and had him compose the score for Remake along with the composers from the more recent FF games. Hearing fresh remixes of the original tunes and updated classic tracks is just an inexplainable experience and a reminder of why the game took the award for “Best Score and Music” at this year’s Game Awards. The real-time combat mixed with the classic ATB bar for selecting special attacks is a perfect marriage of the two systems! Making each character feel unique in combat and allowing for on-the-fly switching between them keeps the flow of battle exciting and frantic.
FF7R‘s fluid combat, reimagined story, thoughtful characters, nostalgic music, gorgeous character models, and dramatic story make it a modern classic. FF7R shows not only why the original title is so beloved, but that a modern reimagining and a fresh coat of paint can help a remake step out of the original’s shadow as a unique experience for old and new fans alike. That’s why it is my Game of the Year.
Did your favorite game from this year make the list? Either way, comment what it is down below. For gaming news and other lists like this subscribe to GNN and follow our Twitter and Facebook pages. Until next time!