My Favourite Games of 2020

I thought my departure from was going to be the biggest turning point for me this year, but then COVID-19 happened and I bet it has been a roller coaster for many. While it even had an affect on my life, I count my blessings for how lucky I got and decided to try my best to help those less fortunate than me. Because of this difficult year, I thought it was even more important to look at games, as they can be a nice gateway to get a breather and lift up people’s spirits. This is where I present to you my favourite games of 2020, just to share some titles that really helped me through this pandemic.

However, before I get on with the entries, I just want to quickly glance over the repeated rules for these top 12 game of the year lists. At this point, I feel it is as much of a tradition to me as Christmas itself.

  1. This is only my personal favourite top 12 games of 2020. I am really interested in hearing what other gems I might have missed out on this year, so think of this list as more of a conversation opener than anything else.
  2. While some remakes are impressive, unless they have something that makes the game completely different overall, it will not be on this list.
  3. If I have not fully invested my time in a game, despite how much I enjoyed it, I do not feel compelled to put it on the list or even really talk about it.  

Also just to get this out of the way, I have not gotten to every title this year, such as Nioh 2, Hylics 2, and Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling. So if you do not see a game from this year that you love on this list, I might have simply not been able to play it yet. We good? If you read on, I suppose we are.

#12 Trials of Mana (Remake)

While I cannot deny that this remake has a couple of problems due to a presentation that is technically from the PS2 era and for being quite easy, this is probably one of my favourite remakes in a long time. Remaking one of my favourite Super Famicom titles ever, had me severely scared after Square’s attempt at remaking Secret of Mana. The original Trials of Mana is a magnificent game that included a great combat mechanism that expanded upon its predecessor’s setup and had an intriguing world to explore and get indulged by. Combine this with a presentation that is possibly the best on the system both artistically and technically, and deep replay value thanks to multiple characters to play as that each came with their own storyline, there is a reason for why many believe this to be one of the best RPGs ever.

Impressively, this remake actually lives up to the original with a more active combat and giving every character the ability to dodge, making this into a fun hack & slash. Everything has been updated to make the enemies more varied in their approaches and the boss fights more engaging with clear indication to what areas dangerous attacks will cover. Even levelling up has been significantly improved, such as removing bugs and adding more abilities depending on how you spend your skill points. For example, making Angela gain more strength will not just make her a decent fighter, but also improve her fire magic. While I still love the original, this remake is just as much of a worthwhile title for both newcomers and veterans alike. And yes, this is better than Final Fantasy 7 Remake (in my humble opinion).

#11 Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time

Ghost of Tshushima was a fantastic take on the samurai mythologies, and one I thoroughly enjoyed for its atmosphere and setting alone. However, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time was the game I had the most fun playing out of those two due to its fast and engaging combat, better camera, and varied setup of enemies and abilities to deal with. It was the one that truly felt like a game and thus: the one which offered more in its interactivity. What fascinated me the most, was how solid this title worked with its challenge by containing more varied enemies to deal with simultaneously on harder difficulties, instead of just making the opponents hit harder and take more damage. This is an impressive attention to detail, especially for a budget-title!

I cannot deny that I am an unapologetic fan of the series and old samurai movies in general, but I am surprised by what the developers were able to do with title. It is almost like a celebration of the show’s highlights blended into a game that is actually canon to its source material. If that was not enough, this samurai can use more than just his sword, such as sturdy maces, magical spears, and even different firearms. The game even encourages experimentation, as each weapon has durability and will be better for specific situations. While this title is clearly made for fans of the series, anyone can have fun with it. Let’s face it: who does not want to play as a time travelling samurai and master varied forms of weapons, while taking on hordes of enemies?

#10 Carrion

I am incredibly intrigued by how far the horror genre has come when talking about video games, as there is so much creativity you can do through this interactive media. While there are the occasional poor jumpscares and the disappointing QTE-titles, there is always at least one gem lurking up out of nowhere from time to time. Carrion is this gem for me this year and a fascinating take on this genre. You play as a monster created out of blood veins, trying to escape a facility that has you locked in and taking down anyone you can. There are interesting lore sprinkled around to give you hints about your origin, and while that kept me invested, the game’s structure and tone were what kept me hooked.

The game is structured as a metroid-title and focuses on stealth where you slither inside pipes, turn invincible, and lure your prey into your trap. It is a wonderful take on this setup that makes you clearly vulnerable, but also a terrifying foe to be reckoned with thanks to your varied abilities. This is further enhanced by the disturbing and intriguing presentation that contains screams of desperation, excruciating violence, and a monster that is hard to describe properly, yet fascinating in every way. Even how it moves is hypnotic by its sounds and animations alone, making it a gorgeous pixelated construction. Carrion is a short and unique title, fitting for anyone looking for a good atmosphere and engaging ways to play as a monster from a fun horror flick.

#9 Zero Zero Zero Zero

I am not a huge fan of platformers that force the player to be pinpoint with their every move, but Zero Zero Zero Zero is an exception. This challenging platformer is in many ways similar to other titles within its genre that contains short and difficult levels, like Super Meat Boy and Slime-San, with all of the stages being a treat here. The goal is simple and easy to visually understand, but this game expects everything from you. There are so many design-choices coming from visual ques to teach the player and nothing becomes cheap, such as making the player invulnerable before touching the D-pad, having the entire level being shown on the screen, and by generally making sure that every mistake is on you.

That is actually what makes Zero Zero Zero Zero so brilliant: it makes every design-choice meaningful. Everything is done through a clear mindset and a reason behind them, such as how the game throws the player to another level upon death in order to keep the them hooked. This title is a wonderful take on the genre with beautiful pixel style, music that gives a perfect balance of tension and relaxation, and 100 stages to tackle in total. Zero Zero Zero Zero reminds me that entertainment can come from hard challenges and why it is important to take them on. There are other difficult and worthwhile games than the ones from FromSoftware after all.

#8 Hotshot Racing

There is something beautiful about arcade racing games. Virtual Racing, Daytona USA, and Outrun are all some of my favourite titles to just wind down to and blast through, thanks to their simple and engaging gameplay. I had no idea someone would go out of their way to make a modern take on such racing titles, but Sumo Digital alongside Lucky Mountain Games made this dream come true. Hotshot Racing has a fantastic and colourful style that contains charm and creativity to it, with different racers being based on fun ideas like the happy Russian who just wants to enjoy life and the racetracks that are so bizarre that one is set inside a casino of all places.

This all makes this newcomer downright engaging due to its personality, with an aesthetic that is as neat as Sega games were in the arcades. However, we also have the game itself and what a fantastic blast it is. What makes Hotshot Racing so fun to play, is really because of its neat take on the turbo. You have to do tricks to fill it up, such as performing slipstreaming and drifting, and with no shortcuts or similar to take advantage of, this title relies on your skills in driving and to know when the best times to use turbos are! This makes this racer both fun in single player campaign through its good difficulty curve and just as much fun in multiplayer with how easy it is to pick up and play. Hotshot Racing is simply a wonderful modern arcade game that makes you come back for more.

#7 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2

I am far from good at Tony Hawk games, but I have been always loving the stronger titles from this series, like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, 4, and Underground. This remake had me asking a lot of questions though, such as why did specifically the first and the second title get bundled into one remake? How much are they going to evolve from their original versions? Will the series be able to climb out of the gutter after their failures with Ride, Shred and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5? My questions were put to rest when Vicarious Visions was going to be behind this project, and my thumbs became broken from playing this entry for all the right reasons.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 takes the familiar stages and missions from the originals, and simply enhances them in every way possible. You have so many options for creating your custom skater and what tricks to perform, important upgrades were included like reverts and wall plants, and generally more content was added in besides the enhanced presentation. In fact, this has been one of my favourite games to attempt speedrunning at thanks to how each run demands you do as much as you can within two minutes, and with you being able to experiment with what the best structure would be to achieve the best score. This is how you do a remake, and it says something when I do not even miss Spider-Man as a playable character.

#6 Risk of Rain 2

I pretty much never play games in early access and I rarely enjoy roguelikes. If we can also include that I was not a big fan of the original Risk of Rain (despite it being far from a bad game), I am shocked at just how much I loved its sequel. This entry still keeps to the first game’s concept of surviving as long as possible, by gathering upgrades before the timer makes the fights become to the brink of impossible. However, the shift to a third-person shooter makes the exploration more engaging due to the diverse level design, and since the enemies are more varied and can attack from any angle, both aspects make you have to be on the move and constantly on the watch.

It does not stop here, as this exciting setup is made incredibly tense by the constant fear of death lurking around every corner. After all, just like with every other roguelikes: you will eventually die. However, thanks to perfect controls, unique skills, hectic fights, upgrades that are easy to understand, the ability to unlock new characters, and co-op, all of these elements makes Risk of Rain 2 into an addictive roguelike that never feels cheap. Making RNG and skills work alongside to create a fair and exiting experience is difficult in any title, but this is the one that I believe has done it the best so far! In my opinion, Risk of Rain 2 is one of the finest within its genre and one of the best changes from 2D to 3D.

#5 Yakuza: Like a Dragon

With how Kiryu said his farewells in Yakuza 6 and that we got an alternative take on this series in the form of the fantastic Judgment, I was surprised that Yakuza would even get a new instalment, with completely new characters and gameplay to boot. I was not sure what to expect at all, but Yakuza: Like a Dragon became among the most wholehearted experiences I have had in a while. With its turn-based RPG setup, this title brings plenty of wonderful ideas to it, such as the job system from Final Fantasy 3, moving targets that affects strategies from Chrono Trigger, fun QTEs that reminds me of the Mario RPG games, and the charm of the Dragon Quest series! Even our hero is a fan of the last one, which is already a plus in my book!

However, this unique entry for the series still focuses on a vast and complicated story, with plenty of personalities included. I will try to avoid spoilers, but it includes everything that makes Yakuza so fantastic and insane, with plenty of engaging side quests to tackle. There is even more humour to this instalment, with our passionate and heartwarming protagonist being the highlight. In fact, this game has so much to it, that our hero has six personality traits to upgrade, all affected by the choices you make. For anyone worried about this new take on the franchise or even whether they should start with this entry, I will just say that this is a must buy. Even the mini-games are entertaining, and how often do you say that about an RPG?

#4 Umurangi Generation

Some games are hard to describe as anything but cool, to the point where you just want to take pictures of everything. Luckily; that is what Umurangi: Generation is all about. In each stage, you are basically given free room to explore in order to take the pictures needed to finish the different criteria. Each objective revolves around taking pictures, be it of specific items, themes or utilising the right lenses, just to name a few examples. Through this, you are getting a lot of interesting tools to work with and subtle hints that will require creative thinking. I have always appreciated a good camera and what you can do with it, but Umurangi: Generation made me excited for the possibilities of such equipment.

There is so much to see in this surreal punk world, and while the concept of taking pictures of it all within the limited amount of time is exhilarating, I also love how the game encourages you to be creative. Using filters, tinkering with different setups, switching lenses, it is truly a game that encourages the player to be artistic in their own ways. With an incredible art style and a world that brims with stories to tell, not to mention a killer soundtrack that is just as unique as the visuals, this is a wonderful indie-title. Tony Hawk with a camera instead of a board is much more fun than I ever thought it would be.

#3 Pendragon

This title by Inkle reminds me how important interactive storytelling is when tabletop role-playing comes up as a subject. In this tactical RPG based on King Arthur’s mythology, you are the one shaping the story through your choices, with none of them resulting into simply good versus evil or lesser of two evils. This game focuses on you role-playing and shaping the journey through the paths you decide to take, with all of the outcomes feeling believable and interesting. Add this with the multiple of characters to choose from that each carries their own backstories that affect their personality and people’s opinions about them, and you will have plenty of stories to tell from just one sitting alone. Even your characters themselves will have arcs as well, which is an impressive feat in such titles!

However, the actual combat is also superb with plenty of details to it. Covering lands in your teams colour will make your party able to travel further on the battlefield, each enemy has unique tactics to them, skills are strong and can be rarely used, and not a single fight was drawn out or dull. This all comes back to how Inkle truly wants to create a traditional tabletop RPG, where you have scenarios of actual role-playing, while also be able to fight for your quest to reach Arthur in time. While I might not have much time or opportunities for playing D&D these days, I can take comfort in that I can always return to Pendragon and have a wonderful time.

#2 Streets of Rage 4

I love this game and cannot stop gushing over how incredible it is. Streets of Rage 4 is a fantastic upgrade to a series that really just needed some improvements to make a solid comeback. With a vast variety of fiends to take down and fun characters to fight as, the developers could have actually just remade the second game or polished the third one in order to gain easy cash. However, the team went above and beyond by making Streets of Rage 4 the best of its kind. If there is a title better than this one, please let me know!

Vast amounts of combos to perform thanks to plenty of diverse attacks, a risk versus reward system that is severely interesting, a varied cast of enemies and bosses to take down, a stellar soundtrack by tons of amazing composers, and a visual style that is outstanding, all of this barely summarises this title. This is a wonderful celebration of a series that I am still playing it to this day. Going for a run with up to three other players, fighting against each other, tackle the campaign online or see if I can finally beat this game on the hardest difficulty, Streets of Rage 4 is a beautiful example of how to bring a series back to life and acknowledge the modern era. Let’s go and kick some ass!

#1 Doom Eternal

There can be said a lot about meeting both nostalgic and modern expectations. However, Doom Eternal is not only a great celebration of id’s/Apogee’s past or just an exhilarating shooter. It is really an evolution of this genre, and one that I had no idea I wanted or even needed. This is an insane FPS that forces you to vary up your setup in order to create the best combos, gain back different forms of resources depending on how the opponents bite the dust, and exploit their weaknesses. This title has been described as a chess shooter, and I cannot think of a better way to summarise Doom Eternal‘s gameplay.

Every fight is tense insanity, making me sweat and try to breath after every encounter, with tons of varied weapons and demanding fights to take on. This is to the point where you start the game with a shotgun, neglecting the pistol altogether. The game is even broken up nicely by optional exploration, with the platforming being surprisingly engaging and also adding to the chaotic battles! In fact, looking out for secrets to fill up your hub world, provides more customisation, tracks to listen to, skins and more, celebrating a studio’s legacy. However, I would argue that this is the peak of the developers accomplishments and that is no easy task when you consider what games they already have under their belts. This is not just a sequel. This is an evolution.

This is far from all of the games worthy of your time that came out this year, so I wanted to quickly give a couple of honourable mentions: Immortals: Fenyx Rising, The Forest, Slasher’s Keep, Going Under, Batbarian, Marvel’s Spider-man: Miles Morales, Hades, and I cannot deny what a wonderful remake Doom 64 got this year. However, I would love to hear about your favourite games from this year as well. Let’s share the joy in these difficult times and be kind to each other. Please?

Published by Slionr

A guy who likes to talk about video games and loves tabletop gaming. You can always follow me on twitter: @GSlionr

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