2020 has been an interesting year full of ups and downs. Aside from my wonderful girlfriend, one of the biggest factors to keeping myself sane this year was the amazing video games I experienced. I played a lot of games this year, and while it’s part of the job, I found peace in tons of the journeys I went on. There are still many games I wish to experience from this year, but out of the dozens of options, these ones were first to come to mind. This list is based on various different reasons, and while they aren’t all perfect games, I personally enjoyed spending a lot of time with them. Here’s my top 10 games of 2020.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute caught my eye early on this year. I was intrigued by the rhythm based gameplay and shooting mechanics, and the art direction was rather interesting. Fast forward to when I actually played the game, and I have to admit that it was giving me a lot of trouble at first. The roguelike design made for some difficult challenge, almost to the point where I nearly gave up. Then I would start to get better, find gear I liked, and even learn more strategies. It got to a point where I was telling myself “just one more run,” and that ended up capturing me. It was incredibly satisfying that first time I finished a run, and from time to time, I feel up to doing another one.
I’ve known about the Sakura Wars franchise for years, but 2020 was the first year I actually found myself playing one of the games. Part dating simulation and part mecha brawler, this game really caught me by surprise. Within moments of playing, I ended up loving all the various characters and their personalities. The gameplay was simple, but a good compliment to the visual novel dating features. With excellent music and colorful anime visuals (with character designs by Bleach creator Tite Kubo and other popular artists), this one really stuck with me this year. I blame Koi-Koi.
It’s not often that a franchise can do a complete gameplay change, but Yakuza somehow did it with no repercussion. Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes the beat ’em up action and turns it into a turn-based RPG. While it maintains the trademark Yakuza style, it introduces new mechanics that make the formula feel fresh again after multiple entries. With a lovable characters and an excellent English voice cast, it makes for a great entry point for the series. It can become a bit of a grind, but reaching the ending is worth it.
Say what you want about the games as a service model, but Marvel’s Avengers is still a fantastic game. I spent dozens of hours playing it and leveling up my various heroes, and I had a good time with some friends. Even when not playing the multiplayer, the story was what really sold me. Watching Kamala Khan bring some of the most iconic heroes together to become something greater is truly inspiring. Add to this the additional free DLC, and I know I’m going to be coming back to this game time and time again. With the next-generation versions coming out soon, hopefully this game will catch a second wind.
Sometimes you want to enjoy a short but sweet experience. That’s exactly what Astro’s Playroom was for me. Essentially a celebration of the last 25 years of PlayStation, this game had me smiling from start to finish. As a free pack-in game for the PlayStation 5, there really is no better way to acquaint yourself with the console. With the full demonstration of the DualSense controller and tons of nods to iconic games, it’s an incredible little game. While it might only take you a few hours to do everything, I still find myself jumping in to break a time trial record or two. Even so, Astro’s Playroom was an incredibly welcome surprise for 2020.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps delivers an excellent action platformer with gorgeous visuals and engaging combat. It’s a great step up from the original Ori and the Blind Forest, offering plenty of choice and challenge. The dynamic music does a great job of immersing you into the story and the characters have a sort of mystical aura about them. While I won’t go back to speedrun the game, I do plan on getting every last collectible. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a magical experience through and through.
While it managed to win our Epic Win Award for Game of the Year, Ghost of Tsushima, as great as it was, wasn’t my top game. Despite that, it’s still an excellent game with fantastic combat scenarios, a grand region to explore, and a gorgeous art direction. Honestly, I spent so much time in the photo mode for this game, experimenting with different color filters and effects. On top of that, I had no trouble going after the Platinum trophy in the game. The gameplay takes inspiration from other titles, but it definitely polishes and perfects it for an amazing presentation. I really look forward to seeing what Sucker Punch does next after this fantastic title.
I’ve played a lot of Vanillaware’s titles, but none have captured me as much as 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. The interweaving narratives from 13 different perspectives was different, but incredibly engaging. Just when I thought I figured the story out, it throws a new curve ball in the mix. With so many sci-fi elements, the game might overwhelm you, but it all comes together perfectly in the end. On top of this, the strategy elements for the combat are surprisingly addictive, even if the sentries are broken. Honestly though, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is worth your time if you’re looking for something new.
Much like BPM: Bullets Per Minute, Hades was constantly asking me to give things another go. What makes this game ascend beyond most roguelikes for me is the way it handles the story. You’re supposed to die; death is part of the story. You uncover more from the narrative as you experience multiple deaths. Journeying through the Underworld as Prince Zagreus with various weapons is a remarkable experience. Add an amazing art direction, catchy music, and great performances, and you have one of Supergiant Games’ best.
There’s something about The Last of Us Part II that really speaks to my humanity. At first glance, it might seem like a generic revenge story that tries to make you feel guilty. That isn’t the case here. The Last of Us Part II is a game about human emotion and what we do when our emotions take control. Sometimes we don’t act like ourselves and sometimes we temporarily forget who we are. In the end, we might discover ourselves again with a newfound perspective. The Last of Us Part II did everything I wanted in the sequel: it gave me an emotional journey that I’m going to remember for a long time. Excellent performances, gripping gameplay and world class graphics make it an easy top spot for me.
While I did play a lot of Animal Crossing: New Horizons this year, I couldn’t find a place for it on my list. I’ve already paid off my mortgage and I have a nice little island, I still find myself coming back to it. Now that my girlfriend has the game as well, I’m sure I’ll be playing it a lot more. It’s that kind of game that might not tell you an amazing story, but you can still get lost in it. With all the little updates Nintendo releases, I have more reason to jump in again.
This one was tough for me, as I wanted to put Persona 5 Royal on the list. Part of this is likely due to the fact I’ve played the original, so it wasn’t a fresh enough experience for me. Despite this, there’s a lot of new things to enjoy in Royal that makes it worth a second look. With tons of quality of life improvements and more activities, if you haven’t spent time with the Phantom Thieves yet, there’s no better time to do it.
And that’s my list. There were other titles that I enjoyed this year, but these were the ones that came to mind when I thought of my 2020. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!
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