So, this year has obviously been absolutely nuts. With everything going on in the outside world, the pandemic, the wildfires, Brexit (being a UK citizen), video games are of little significance in the grand scheme of things. If 2020 has taught us something about games though, it is that they can make the indoors a little more tolerable, offering up escapism, stories, fun, and in the case of one of the titles on this list, discussion. Despite nature itself being against us, 2020 has actually been pretty decent for games – to celebrate this, take a look at my top 5 games from this year below.
As always, a little disclaimer – I can’t play everything, as much as I’d like to, I simply don’t have the time nor money. I also don’t have a next-gen console yet, so there will be no Demon’s Souls or Spider-Man on this list. There also won’t be any Cyberpunk 2077. I’m sure it would’ve stood a good chance in making this list, but I don’t want my first experience playing that to be the seemingly jank-laden state it currently appears to be in on PS4.
Go on then, what do you reckon?
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
The first pick is nostalgia-fuelled for sure. I grew up loving the platforming genre, in particular it was Crash and Spyro that stole my heart. With the success of the remakes of both of these franchises, there was only one logical option – a whole new game. Could this new Crash game reignite what I loved so much about those titles? Could it perhaps even be the best in the series? Yes, to both of those questions.
Crash Bandicoot 4 is undoubtedly the best the series has to offer. It is a great adventure, if a little short. I am sure that I was visibly ecstatic playing through this one, as cliché as it may sound, it did make me feel like a little kid again.
The elements that are new to Crash are not new to the genre though, so what Toys For Bob have done is refined those to a best-in-class performance. Gravity flipping, has been done in Mario Galaxy, phasing objects in and out of existence has been done in Guacamelee, time manipulation has been done in Enter the Matrix – none of this takes away from Crash 4. In many ways, it shows just how good it is that these elements are not “ripped off”, they are all done to the same standard, if not better than those who introduced them.
Now this isn’t taking into account the hellish journey to 106% completion. The beauty of this game is that the challenge is there if you want it, you don’t have to take it on, in fact I’d highly recommend you don’t. The fact that you can have a fulfilling experience regardless is what makes this one truly stand out for me.
I reviewed this in more detail here if you would like to have a look at my extended thoughts about the game.
Ghost of Tsushima
I never got around to reviewing this one, so consider this to be a series of extremely reductive statements of why I enjoyed it so much. Firstly, there is no escaping it – It looks absolutely incredible. Sucker Punch clearly knew this too, as shown by the inclusion of one of the best photo mode options I have seen. With filters and options to set up whatever scenario you can dream of, falling leaves, colour filters, weather changes, this game has it all. You know its good, because I actually used it, and that rarely happens.
The UI is also pretty novel, being as diegetic as seemingly possible thanks to the “guiding wind” system. This works around the problem of staring at a minimap for the majority of your exploration and allows you to fully immerse and take in the gorgeous Isle of Tsushima.
Gameplay-wise, it is a lot of fun. Think of everything you like about Assassin’s Creed, but better, and with samurais. I usually get instantly turned off by an open-world and a map screen littered with side-quests and collectibles, but in GoT, I didn’t mind. I think that is the largest compliment I could pay Sucker Punch. They took a genre which is dull and boring, but made it interesting and encouraged me to stick it out until the end.
It helps too that samurais are dope as hell, I suppose.
The Last of Us Part II
Clearly a controversial pick if you’re a regular Reddit-user, however, not so much if you have been keeping up to date with the recent Game Awards.
The game is absolutely gorgeous, with a story that isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers and doesn’t play it safe. It would have been easy to rehash familiar ground as the first game, but Neil Druckmann and the team wanted to try something new, for better or worse. The worst critical reception is of course indifference, and if there is one way people don’t feel about this game, it’s indifferent.
Whilst it isn’t without faults, the pacing and reliance on coincidences to drive the plot being chief among them, the game is great. I don’t think you can argue that love, care, and an absolutely excruciating attention to detail is present in Naughty Dog’s latest. After this though, I think I am happy to let the series rest for a while, I want to see what else Naughty Dog can cook up.
I didn’t want to retread old ground here, so if you’d like to read my extended thoughts, check of my Last of Us Part II review.
As The Game Awards probably showed most people, Hades is a force to be reckoned with. Supergiant Games have produced their best work yet, through one of the most challenging methods, early access. This documented by the fantastic NoClip Documentaries channel on YouTube, where you can see just how much care and attention went into the game – if it wasn’t already obvious.
Whether you want fantastic art, exceptional music, or just a lightning fast action game that is ludicrously fun – Hades has you covered. Taking the rogue-like formula and making it appeal to players who are usually frightened off by the thought of lost progress was surely not an easy task, but Hades achieves this. By carefully balancing a fun and rewarding combat experience with narrative driven interludes, no journey towards the surface ever feels wasted. You are consistently discovering new powers combinations, new dialogue and developing new strategies, alongside a slew of continuous upgrades. Just taken at face-value, the game would still be great, but the fact that it can become more than the sum of it’s parts it what makes it truly special.
If you’d like to read my extended thoughts, check of my Hades review.
Persona 5 Royal
My favourite game of the year could be nothing else really. I could talk about this title for hours, one of the first pieces I ever wrote was on the original vanilla version of Persona 5. Whilst it makes me cringe to read it now, I think the fact that it inspired me to maybe begin writing in the first place shows how much I love it. The very reason I haven’t tackled this for a review is because I simply don’t think I am skilled enough yet, and the last thing I want to do is sell Atlus’ Magnum Opus short.
Everything is simply superb, nothing is insignificant and every action is rewarded – whether it is going to see a movie with your friends, working on your studies, or making ends meet with your part-time job, it all feeds into the other systems that progress the story. In many ways, this slice of life element is needed more than ever in 2020 and was most certainly appreciated.
This is to say nothing of the dungeons, the turn-based combat, the writing, the characters, and the music. All of which, as I’m sure you can guess, are sublime and stylish as heck.
If you are a fan of RPGs in even the slightest, you owe it to yourself to play Persona 5 Royal. The initial time sink might seem intimidating, but I promise you, it flies by. Even if you played the original Persona 5, there is enough new stuff here to bring you back, the new content is the best in the series for sure. What are you waiting for? Get out there and change some hearts.
If you’d like to read my extended thoughts, check of my Bugsnax review.
If you’d like to read my extended thoughts, check of my Doom Eternal review.
Overall, it was a pretty good year for videogames. I am looking forward to seeing what the next-gen consoles can bring us. I’m not sure what it’ll take for me to make the financial commitment, perhaps Elden Ring?
What surprises will 2021 bring I wonder. Deltarune 2? Hollow Knight Silk Song? A working version of Cyberpunk 2077? I’m optimistic for the next year of games, but I’m certainly looking forward to being away from my video games a little bit more too, if this vaccine sorts us out. Hope you all have a fantastic holiday season, lord knows we deserve it.