When I first sat down to put together this list, I wrote down two titles and then sat and thought for a while about what else I played. I think this year has thrown my whole mind into a strange funk, because I couldn’t even name 10 games I had played, let alone loved.
But looking through my previous posts on Kotaku and my various achievements on Xbox and PlayStation, I was able to put together this list of great games that 2020 made me forget about. And once I remembered them I was like “Oh yeah... that game was rad!” I might even reinstall some of these games and play them again!
As usual, this list is in no particular order until the very end, where I’ll list my game of the year.
It feels like Doom Eternal landed with a big splash and then quickly faded into the background. Part of the problem facing Eternal is that Doom 2016 was surprisingly good and felt like the perfect way to bring back the classic shooter-series. So how do you follow that up? Eternal just adds a ton more to the formula. But maybe... too much? It’s a fair complaint that Eternal feels more arcadey and bloated than 2016's lean, mean, demon-killing machine. But it was still one of the best games of 2020 and something I can’t wait to replay in the future.
As I write this list, I just recently cracked the 110-hour mark in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. And I’m still enjoying it. That’s not something a lot of games can pull off. Valhalla just clicked in a way that made it a perfect game for me to boot up and sink a few hours into every night. I reviewed this game and I’m still playing it, which is not often the case. Usually, I move on to other stuff or feel so done with a game after reviewing it that I don’t return. But with Valhalla, I can’t seem to get enough. Bring on the DLC. I want more viking action.
If you know me, you know how strange it is that I’m putting a Final Fantasy game on this list. And yet, here it is. Wasn’t expecting this at all. I’ve played a few Final Fantasy games, but usually only for like a few hours and then I just lose interest and move on. But the combat, story and look of FF7 Remake was able to hook me, unlike any other Final Fantasy game. So not only is FF7 Remake one of my top games of 2020, it’s the first Final Fantasy game I’ve finished in my life.
Playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 earlier this year was the closest thing I’ve experienced to time travel. In my mind, the original games just looked and played like this. I know that’s not the case, but because that’s how I remember things, playing this new remake collection felt like hurling myself back to the late 90s. Also, after years of bad and mediocre Tony Hawk titles, this most recent remake felt like a miracle too. I now need them to release a THPS3 expansion ASAP.
I still haven’t finished this yet, because I got pulled away by at least a dozen other games. But recently, I played Ghost of Tsushima on my PS5, and folks, let me tell you something. This game running at 60fps makes it feel 10x better, which is impressive because it already felt great to play on PS4. So I can’t wait to find some time to finally go back and finish this game. But even after only playing half of it, I’m willing to pop it on my 2020 GOTY list.
This was the first game I ever played on my PS5 and what a way to kick off the next generation. Miles Morales boasts one of my favorite Spider-Man narratives since Into The Spider-Verse. But it also looks and feels incredible on PS5. The way the triggers tense up as you swing around the snow-covered streets of NYC feels next-gen. And with a recent update, you can now play the game at 60fps with ray tracing on, which is making me feel like it’s time to start up a new game+ soon.
Here’s the thing about Gears Tactics: You don’t have to enjoy or care about Gears of War at all to like it. If you do care about stuff like the Locust, the COG, the Pendulum Wars, and other lore stuff, you’ll love all the references and callbacks. But what makes Gears Tactics work so well is that at its core is a simple, but challenging turn-based strategy game that should appeal to folks who, like me, never finish Xcom games because they just get too frustrating
Dumb name, good game. Taking the Assassin’s Creed formula and infusing it with more puzzles and jokes, while simplifying exploration and combat, was an interesting choice. And yes, this is very much Ubisoft’s take on a Breath of the Wild-like open-world game, but y’know what, it works. And it’s different enough to warrant its own existence. Plus I don’t care about Zelda lore at all, but I do enjoy some Greek mythology.
Astro’s Playroom is possibly the wildest entry on this whole list, with it being a free pack-in game for the PS5. But look, we don’t get a lot of big-budget 3D platformers. And rarely are they as creative and charming as Astro’s Playroom. Sure, it’s short and not super hard. But it’s just a joy to play, especially with the new PS5 controller and its fancy triggers and haptic feedback features. I smiled from ear to ear while playing and watching this game. It’s wonderful. Don’t buy a PS5 to play this game. BUT if you do buy a PS5, take a few hours to play one of the best games of 2020.
And finally, my favorite game of the year...
I fully understand that for many, Half-Life: Alyx fills them with anger and frustration. It’s a VR only game that requires a decent PC and a separate VR headset. It’s not cheap to play. I was lucky enough to borrow a Vive headset from a friend to play it. And I’m so thankful I got to play it. It’s fantastic.
Half-Life: Alyx has incredible writing and creative action and puzzles. It also truly feels like a next-gen VR game. The way you use your gravity gloves to force pull things towards you feels so natural that after playing it all week, I found myself trying to yank things to me in the real world. It also released right as I and others in the United States started staying indoors due to covid-19. Sure, the post-alien-invasion world of Alyx is hellish, but it was still nice to escape my covid-19 filled world as things got bad.
Half-Life: Alyx is something that will be emulated and studied by developers working on VR games for years to come, not unlike how developers emulated Half-Life 1 in the years following its release. And as VR becomes cheaper and the specs to run Alyx become less intimidating, I’m hopeful more folks get a chance to play the best game of 2020.