George's Top 10 Favorite Games of 2020
2020 has been quite the year! Obviously, everyone is saying that. Everyone is also saying how gaming has been such a huge part of their lives since the world shut down in March. It’s kind of cliché now, to be honest. But whatever. 2020 was a fantastic year for gaming, and here are my top 10 favorite games.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
10. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV
I love this series, and last year’s Trails of Cold Steel III would probably rank #1 on my 2019 list as well. The fact that the latest entry is at #10 for me this year is due to the sheer strength of this year’s releases and that Cold Steel IV had some problems of its own, such as pacing and character roster bloat. Additionally, it’s a bit creepy how much harem elements they crammed into the game regarding the main character, Rean.
Despite its problems, Trails of Cold Steel IV is still an epic JRPG that is definitely worth playing. The worldbuilding in the Trails series is seriously impressive. The dynamic turn based battles are still as fun as ever, and the story and characters are good too. Anyone who’s a fan of games like Persona and Final Fantasy really ought to check this franchise out.
Check out my full review!
9. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I actually only just played the prequel, Ori and the Blind Forest, this year. While I enjoyed my time with it, I wasn’t totally enamored with the game as much as other people. So when Ori and the Will of the Wisps came out this year, I was certainly looking forward to playing it. However I didn’t realize how much I’d like it over the first game!
Literally everything about Will of the Wisps is improved over its predecessor. The combat, the pacing, the characters, everything! I think what I liked most about it is how much more combat focused it is compared to Blind Forest. There are a plethora of new abilities for Ori to utilize and there some new additions like side quests, timed races, and combat trials that provide some fun side content to go along with the main game.
It also helps that I played this on Xbox Series X, where the load times were significantly shorter and wasn’t prone to crashes like the Xbox One version supposedly had.
8. The Last of Us Part II
Whew buddy! This game was definitely divisive among its fanbase. I think that some of the criticism of the game is certainly warranted, including its pacing and questionable violence. There’s also the topic of Naughty Dog’s business practices regarding crunch.
However, I also think this is a landmark title in terms of representation and gameplay. The game feels great to play and there’s a diverse cast of characters including trans, minority, and queer people. It’s also fantastic that these characters aren’t entirely defined by their identities.
I feel like some people might give me crap for not having this higher on the list, but given how many amazing games came out this year, I think even being in the top 10 of any list is good enough.
Also, read my Polygon interview with the Seraphite siblings as well! (there are spoilers!)
7. Paradise Killer
To be quite honest, I may or may not have given this game a chance if I hadn’t won a free copy of it in a Twitter raffle! But I am so glad played it. Basically, a group of high ranking council members had been murdered and it’s your job to solve the case.
The characters are incredibly whimsical, with names like “Witness to the End” and “Crimson Acid”. They also have wildish and cartoony personalities that help Paradise Killer standout against contemporaries in the murder mystery and visual novel genre.
Exploring the Island for clues was made easier with its absolutely phenomenal soundtrack filled with jazzy tunes. I also loved the whole vaporwave aesthetic that it had going on with its UI and menus. This game is the Danganronpa styled game that I didn’t know I needed this year.
6. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
The Yakuza games always had pretty good stories, but Like a Dragon’s really moved me. Ichiban Kasuga gets betrayed by his own Yakuza family and befriends a ragtag group of people along the way to uncover a deeper plot that involves themes like family and loyalty.
As you may have already figured out, I’m a big JRPG fan, and so the switch from the franchise’s previous real-time action gameplay to Like a Dragon’s turn-based one had me curious. While I don’t think all of the elements from the battle system before smoothly transitioned into the new one, I still think the foundation is good enough. It also needs more modern features such as disadvantage states when you approach a group of enemies from behind, for example.
Despite its shortcomings, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is fantastic title that both new players and veterans can enjoy. Future entries going forward will involve Ichiban as well, so I’m sure the battle system can only improve from here.
Check out my interview with Ichiban’s voice actor too!
5. Ghost of Tsushima
This game is like Assassin’s Creed but in Japan! Just kidding. But no, really, it very much could be. I do think that its open world, bandit camp structure is a bit outdated at this point, but Ghost of Tsushima does it incredibly well. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game to look at; the art direction is impeccable.
I’m also surprised and impressed at how fast the game loads. I played this on my PlayStation 4 Pro, so imagine how much faster it is on PlayStation 5.
I really enjoyed the game’s themes of family and choosing your own path in life. The combat is super fun and flashy too. Methodically cutting up enemies never felt so satisfying. The game’s camera mode is seriously cool too!
Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t do anything radically new, but it’s an incredibly polished experience and a great world to explore.
Check out my full review of Ghost of Tsushima! I’ve also interviewed the game’s audio director and composers. I also interviewed Daisuke Tsuji, the main protagonist’s voice actor, and Patrick Gallagher, who portrays the main villain.
4. Final Fantasy VII Remake
This remake of a classic was just mind-blowing! I’m seriously in awe of how Square Enix was able to transition from the original’s turn-based combat to a real time one while also keeping some of the turn-based elements intact.
Some content from the original was stretched out and expanded upon to make up of this game’s 40-ish hour campaign. But the pacing is still great, the combat is incredibly fun, and the graphics are just beautiful (especially Tifa)!
I honestly can’t wait to play Part 2 and Part 3 of Final Fantasy VII Remake in the future, whenever they release! Any fan of JRPGs, let alone RPGs, should give this one a try.
I actually didn’t start playing this till last week and I totally underestimated how much goddamn fun this game is. Yeah, I know, there’s always that one indie game that every talks about every year. 2017 had Cuphead, Celeste in 2018, and 2019’s Disco Elysium. Those games are great, don’t get me wrong, but man, Hades is the real deal.
I don’t typically like rouge-like games that much, but Hades does such a fantastic job of making it feel like you never waste a single run when you inevitably end up dying. The voice acting is great and the character portraits/art style is stellar. It’s just such a charming game and I honestly can’t put it down. I’ll be playing this well into 2021.
2. Persona 5 Royal
I feel like this is cheating a bit, because the original Persona 5 was my #1 pick for 2017. Anyways, the new Royal content is absolutely bonkers. It includes several hours of additional gameplay in the form of a third semester, as well as a new playable character, and improvements on existing ones.
Persona 5 Royal is the absolute definitive experience of this game, and there’s really no reason for anyone to play the original one. Some dungeons have had their areas improved, including that dreaded space station one! There are new areas and mechanics too, during and outside of battle.
Seriously, just get this game already! You won’t regret it. Any RPG fan should be playing this. Really, the main reason why it's not my #1 pick is because it was already mine for 2017.
1. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Yup, this is my #1 game of the year. The story follows 13 protagonists as their personal journeys intertwine with each other, ultimately converging into a battle against alien invaders for the fate of the future.
Doesn’t that sound crazy? That’s because it is! In a good way! You may think that trying to balance 13 different perspectives is hard, but Vanillaware here makes it seem so easy. The game deals with themes such as capitalism, global catastrophe, cloning, ethics of AI, etc, and it tackles all of them very well.
The visual novel style is really enhanced with characters being able to run on a 2D plane, giving them game some much needed engagement. Additionally, there’s also a real-time strategy component in the form of mecha battles. These are probably the weakest part of the game, but they’re by no means bad. It’s just that the game does pretty much everything else so well.
It’s been a while since a game’s story made my head spin, and it’s such a wild ride that I couldn’t help but smile when all of the narrative threads came together and eventually go to the end. I haven’t felt this way since maybe, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
I’ve also yet to play either Microsoft Flight Simulator and Half Life: Alyx. If only I had the a PC powerful enough to play them lol
Anyway, these are my top 10 favorite games of 2020. Have a great new year, and I hope 2021 will be better for all of us.