Ranked! Mandatory Top 12 of 2020: Video Games of the Year
The gaming community is stronger than ever going into 2021; “F”s have flooded chats at an alarming rate. While the productions of our favorite television series and hotly anticipated movies were shut down due to COVID-19, video games were still being released and streamers continued being active on Twitch and YouTube. Many who considered gaming a distraction, embraced it as a hobby; newbies were welcomed by veteran gamers with open arms. This is not to say that the pandemic normalized gaming. Oh no. Gaming has been swiftly taking over for decades. This year merely accentuated the art form’s accessibility, reliability, and relevance. Video games aren’t going anywhere, they will only get better until they become the Mandatory source of entertainment.
For those triggered by the cover photo, this list will not blow smoke up the rear end of Cyberpunk 2077—its deplorable amount of bugs and inability to be enjoyed on the consoles for which it was intended forbid such a heinous act. This list will pay homage to the most notable video games of 2020. The games we enjoyed and the ones that will go down in history as reshaping the industry.
Cover Photo: CD Projekt Red
12. 'Cyberpunk 2077' (PC)
CD Projekt Red’s developers reportedly knew Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t ready to be released. Corporate pushed for the game to make its December launch date—hence the plethora of bugs: base consoles can’t even handle the game (PS5 and Xbox Series X performing slightly better). This rush to launch is a watershed moment in gaming that will influence the industry's integrity moving forward. That said, for those in possession of a beefy right (equipped with the latest graphics card), Cyberpunk 2077 is still quite the experience. It may not be game of the year but its rich narrative, soundtrack, graphics, and world design make it a must-play for open-world fans. A lot of us will just have to wait until they finish the game to appreciate it.
11. 'Among Us'
Yes, the deceptively simple Among Us came out in 2018. However, after the developers released new maps, 2020's quarantine (with the help of Twitch and YouTube) has made it the game to stream/play with your friends. It's not an understatement to call Among Us a pop culture phenomenon equivalent to Fornite in its heyday. Streamers, celebrities, and politicians alike are sneaking around as imposters, lying about it, and then voting innocent people out into space (the latter group probably having an easier go at it). With new game modes, Among Us will remain popular (and hilarious) for years to come.
10. 'Assassin's Creed Valhalla'
Ubisoft's ability to regularly produce Assassin's Creed games is something we take for granted. For whatever reason, that consistency makes you question the quality of each installment. While the quality versus quantity argument can definitely be applied to the franchise as a whole (at least in regard to narrative), it'd be unfair to write Assassin's Creed Valhalla off as "too big." It is a massive game. However, it applies choice and consequence to potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay without ever feeling too bloated. Also, like most of the games on this list, it's gorgeous; it's open-world stretching from Norway and England to the shores of North America. Plus, Vikings are cool.
9. 'The Last of Us: Part II'
Love it or hate it, you can't talk about 2020 gaming without touching on Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II—from "deceptive" marketing and crunch culture to a controversial story. 2013's The Last of Us was hands-down, one of the best games of its respective year (probably the best); not because of its gameplay, visuals (which were stunning a the time), or post-apocalyptic setting, but because of the subtly impactful story of Joel and Ellie.
The Last of Us Part II fixates on the fallout of Joel's decision in the first game. And it's upsetting (to say the least). Some have praised Naughty Dog for its bold narrative decisions while others feel Part II is a nonsensical betrayal of the original's brilliance (including the person writing this, who hated it at first). Story aside, The Last of Us Part II is an amalgamation of everything Naughty Dog has done up to this point. The voice acting/motion capture, improvisational combat, and detailed environments are mind-boggling—you're left wondering why your base PS4 is still in one piece.
8. 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons'
Animal Crossing: New Horizons released back in March, right when people needed a life simulation video game most. You wouldn't necessarily think Animal Crossing's mundanity of paying off loans and buying turnips from the market would even work but it has been for years, and it's at its best in 2020. The franchise's latest outing puts the player on their own, custom deserted island—where they can bond with friends and family or leave, and go visit theirs. It's so stupid and so good. On top of its simple pleasures, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is simply a vibe, one that has kept many gamers from embracing nihilism (*cough* The Last of Us Part II).
7. 'Demon's Souls'
In case you didn't know...Bluepoint Games' Demon's Souls is a remake of FromSoftware's Demon's Souls (2009), the blueprint for rewarding classics like Bloodborne and the Dark Souls franchise. Everything players loved about the original game (thrilling boss fights and gothic environments) is meticulously injected into a next-gen experience/atmosphere—which is a remarkable accomplishment when you think about it.
6. 'Doom Eternal'
Doom is one of the greatest shooters of all time. Id Software's sequel to 2016's Doom reboot, Doom Eternal has its issues. The game takes the first game’s mechanics and injects them with a Pulp Fiction adrenaline shot—there are new weapons, skills, smarter enemies, and less ammo. It’s not an easy outing and very different than the franchise’s usual dance of blasting demon after demon. Some critics have called this shooter messy and unfocused. Difficult. Well, certain games demand chaos, and acclimating oneself with Doom Eternal is one hell of a ride.
5. 'Spider-Man: Miles Morales'
Who doesn't want to go web-slinging through New York City? Marvel's Spider-Man (2018) succeeded in allowing us to become Peter Parker—great mechanics and an awesome story—jumpstarting an entire gaming franchise for Sony. While Spider-Man: Miles Morales may not have a "2" beside it, and its story is much short than its predecessor, this entry in the Spider-Man universe is just as crucial (if not more so). The story (obviously) follows Miles and takes place largely in Harlem (where he lives). That said, its intimate narrative epitomizes what it means to be a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man." As the game progresses, Miles becomes a part of his community and a greater hero because of it. On top of its moving story, Spider-Man: Miles Morales improves upon the original game's traversal, combat (#Venom), and provides gamers with one of their first (and thoroughly satisfying) next-gen experiences.
Hades follows Zagreus, son of Hades, as he tries to traverse Hell in an attempt to reach the surface. Supergiant Games miraculously makes Hades' story feel like you're in a constant state of progression; every time you die (and have to start over from your base-like home) you get to develop your relationships with a large cast of characters and buy crucial upgrades. With frantic combat, differing enemies, and interesting visuals, Hades' fresh approach to its genre (whether that be role-playing/rogue) makes you actually kind of want to lose. For many, Hades is the game of the year simply because it proves you don't need millions of dollars to create an unforgettable experience.
3. 'Half-Life: Alyx'
There hasn't been an installment in the Half-Life franchise in over a decade. Thankfully, Valve's Half-Life: Alyx was well worth the wait, its implementation of VR better than anything that's come before (compatible with almost any headset) with immersive action sequences that will have you pissing yourself (in excitement). The writing and character development are top-tier and the level design is the opposite of repetitive; equipped with some of the best puzzles in gaming this side of Portal. Despite its linear narrative, Half-Life: Alyx's wide-open environments never make the player feel like they aren't in control.
2. 'Final Fantasy VII Remake'
1997's Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest RPGs ever made; fans have been awaiting its remake for decades. There's no way 2020's Final Fantasy VII could live up to the hype but it did. Square Enix does so by being fearless and fresh—taking the first 5 hours of the original game, turning it into 30, and making the story somehow better for it. On top of this, it's gorgeous with an innovative/adjustable combat system. Now, we await Part II.
1. 'Ghost of Tsushima'
Sucker Punch is known for the Infamous franchise. That fact, coupled with generic-looking pre-release footage, has made Ghost of Tsushima the underdog game of the year. Its 13th-century open world, taking place on the island of Tsushima during the first Mongol invasion, is absolutely gorgeous; arguably setting a new standard for art design. On a technical level, the game is the most cohesive game of the year, hitting every mark. A captivating story, soundtrack, excellent stealth mechanics (that tie seamlessly into the story), and combat equatable to that of the Arkham series make Ghost of Tsushima this generation's bitter-sweet farewell.
A step further: Playing Video Games is Fun, But Creating the Kind of Game You’d Like to Play Is a Lot Cooler
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