So long 2020—you were a terrible year for a lot of reasons, but a surprisingly good year for video games. Sure, there was the big letdown that was Cyberpunk 2077. But this year saw so many people embracing video games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Among Us to escape or have fun with their friends. Here are some of our favorite video games from 2020. This list is in no particular order.
Half Life: Alyx
Half-Life: Alyx was a thing this year, and that alone is surprising to me. I never thought we’d actually get to play another Half-Life game. Even if it wasn’t quite Half-Life 3, it certainly lived up to the Half-Life moniker. And even more: Half-Life: Alyx managed to be a great Half-Life game, even in virtual reality, a medium which is still suffering from growing pains. Half-Life: Alyx has about a dozen of my favorite video game moments this year. It has excellent puzzles, great atmosphere, great level design, interesting enemies, and some of the most terrifying moments I’ve had in a video game. It’s one of the first virtual reality games to really show the full potential for virtual reality, and because of Half-Life: Alyx, I’m excited for its future.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Crash Bandicoot is a series that I never really played until the previous generation. I think I played the first few games on some demo disc decades ago, but it wasn’t until the N. Sane Trilogy that I properly played through the first three games. And I loved them. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time easily lives up to the quality of the first three, and delivers even more difficult marsupial platforming. It doesn’t just copy the Crash formula, but adds new twists on it with the various masks that can phase objects, or slow time.
There’s no way Demon’s Souls wasn’t going to be on this list. It has been one of my personal favorite games, and it’s one of the best reasons to buy a PlayStation 5 at launch. Demon’s Souls is the game that started off the Souls series, and the popular souls-like subgenre, and has caused millions of in-game deaths with players trying to “git gud.” Bluepoint Games did an exemplary job of recreating Demon’s Souls from the ground-up with modern graphics, and a remade soundtrack that built and expanded on the original’s. If you’ve never played Demon’s Souls, there isn’t a better time to give it a try—that is, if you can get ahold of a PlayStation 5.
Deep Rock Galactic
Deep Rock Galactic’s tagline promises danger, darkness and dwarves and it delivers on all fronts. It’s a challenge, a delight and more importantly an insane amount of fun to play with friends. Our team of badass dwarves takes on hordes of bugs and the hazards of Hoxxes IV twice a week and when we head back to the rig after a night of dance parties, beard changes, bug killing and beer I have to admit I always want it to last just a little longer. Deep Rock Galactic has amazing gameplay, a great sense of humor, and an amazing art style. Even better, the devs are constantly pushing out new content, with new mission types, biomes, and of course beards to plunder, so it’s no wonder my favorite days of the week are our Deep Rock nights.
Ghost of Tsushima
When writer Dan Santaromita reviewed Ghost of Tsushima, he said it “sure is one of those games.” Tsushima isn’t necessarily groundbreaking for an open world game, and its missions aren’t unique to it. So what makes it stand out? For one, Ghost of Tsushima is gorgeous. While a last gen title, it uses every bit of the PlayStation 4’s technology to create an amazing setting in which to have your samurai adventures, with a beautiful soundtrack and gorgeous vistas around every bend. This elevates the gameplay and story and creates an enjoyable atmosphere we’re still recalling even now.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo isn’t a company that needed a stroke of weird luck to succeed in 2020. But as it happened, the lockdown and the release of the newest game in the already beloved Animal Crossing series coincided and it was lightning in a bottle. We were all in lockdown and needed an escape, and a tropical island with adorable animal villagers was the answer. There’s a certain sort of magic about Animal Crossing–it seems to come to you at a time you need it most, when you need a moment of zen and for the world to be sunnier and friendlier than it is. Animal Crossing: New Horizons transcended this year, becoming a gathering place, a social outlet, an escape, a classroom, even a celebrity haven–and even as 2020 came to a close, we were on the island with our loved ones sending 2020 off safely and serenely.
This rogue-lite action role-playing game took the gaming world by storm, and has been raking in “best game of the year” awards like crazy. We’d be remiss to not mention the best-reviewed game on Steam this year. Hades not only has fast, tight gameplay mechanics, but it’s full of interesting and enjoyable characters that make each death feel like a homecoming more so than a punishment. It deserves every accolade it received this year.
Monster Train is forever destined to be compared to Slay the Spire, but that’s not a bad thing. It captures the great feeling of synergy that Slay the Spire managed, while presenting significantly different gameplay dynamic with lanes and minions. There have been many deck building games this year, but Monster Train sits on top as our favorite.
While Cyberpunk 2077 may not have lived up to the hype, Bugsnax managed to deliver on the exact type of cute body horror it promised in its initial trailer. Surprisingly, it was also one of the year’s best depictions of relationships in video games—unexpected for a game about fuzzy bear-like creatures eating bugs that are also food. Hunting the various snaks is incredibly fun, and requires different strategies. Despite an ending that went off the rails a bit, Bugsnax was easily one of my favorite games of the year.
Going Under had to compete with Hades this year, which is too bad, because it’s easily one of my favorite roguelikes ever, and not just this year. It has a great sense of humor and style, and excellent combat mechanics. You can pick up most every one of the objects you come across and use it as a weapon, and battles take place in underworld offices where objects and enemies are sent flying in a chaotic maelstrom. There are only a few games that have managed such a sublime combination of humor and gameplay, and Going Under is definitely one of them.
Paradise Killer really hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, and that’s a shame. It’s the best adventure game of the year, and it’s cool as hell. You play as a demigod detective tasked with solving the murder of the leader of the Council tasked with rebuilding paradise. What you uncover is dark gods with dark secrets in a post apocalypse draped with a neon vaporwave aesthetic. It’s as crazy as it sounds, but astoundingly well done.
In a year with a decent selection of new racing titles, Dirt 5 managed to be our favorite. It excised the rally portion of the longstanding series, and instead focused on stunt exhibitions and rallycross—and I still managed to love every moment. Dirt 5 leans towards a more arcade-like experience than a full simulation, but it still does a great job making you feel like you’re driving on various surfaces, including the many ice tracks. It’s easily the most fun I had playing a racing game this year, and that’s why it’s one of our favorites of 2020.
From the first time I took the controls of my pudgy little friend for a stumble through a rainbow world of crazy obstacles to race for the crown, I knew Fall Guys was something special. And for a moment, Fall Guys was on top. It toppled even behemoths like Fortnite, and then an unknown game released a couple of years ago comes along and steals its thunder–but this isn’t about Among Us. Fall Guys is, simply put, a great time. Stumbling through hordes of other multicolored jelly bean people in a tapestry of Double Dare style challenges that run the gamut from memory games to log rolls and tail chasing team games is joyous. Add a myriad of equally goofy accessories and that battle royale lust for the crown and you’ve got a hilarious, challenging, ridiculous game that anyone can pick up and learn to love.
Disc Room singlehandedly invented the genre of “sawblade hell”—at least, that’s the best way I can describe the crazy gameplay of Disc Room. You play as a scientist trapped in an alien structure. You’re forced to dodge sawblades of different sizes and speeds, and a single misstep leads to your demise. Use strange abilities to outpace the discs, save your coworker—and then you have to do it all over again.
The Room VR: A Dark Matter
Fireproof Games, creators of the enigmatic The Room puzzle series of mobile games has taken The Room into virtual reality—and it’s great. I always wanted to play The Room in VR, and A Dark Matter delivers on my expectations, and manages to exceed them at points. You play as a detective, thrust into a strange otherworldly mystery. Solve clever and intricate puzzles to progress. It’s easily one of the best puzzle games in virtual reality, and our favorite puzzle game this year.
In a year with an official Half-Life release, it’s easy to overlook an unofficial remake of the original Half-Life. But Black Mesa is more than a fan recreation at this point—with over ten years in the making Black Mesa’s release felt about as probable as Half-Life 3’s. But Crowbar Collective did a great job remaking—and in some cases reimagining–one of the best shooters ever, even if the wait for Xen felt like an eternity. It was great going back to Black Mesa, and every Half-Life fan should check it out.
These next two games aren’t fully released yet, but they are definitely some of the best we played.
Horror with friends has been an elusive prospect in video games until recently. GTFO has the perfect formula for teamwork, stealth, and abject horror. There are so many “oh fuck” moments, or times when you’re watching your team’s health and ammo dwindle, knowing it’s not going to be enough to make it through the level. It has a difficulty level such that you can’t expect success on most attempts, but when you finally succeed, it’s massively satisfying. GTFO is one of my new obsessions, and even though it’s still in early access, it’s one of our favorite games of 2020.
This game was a total surprise for me when I first got ahold of it. It’s a blue collar sci-fi experience where you play as a employee working off a massive debt by dismantling spaceships. It’s simultaneously slow and exciting. If you cut the wrong piece at the wrong time, you can cause an explosive decompression or even set off a fusion reaction. It’s oddly satisfying dismantling ships, and I definitely look forward to the finished product—though Hardspace:Shipbreaker is already an incredibly fun game.
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