My 2020 GOTY list is shorter than usual. There are no honorable mentions, and I managed to limit it to ten games. To make the cut, I had to have been able to spend enough time playing it to make sure it was worth including. Due to that, some games that might have made my list for this year are missing, but I’ll get to them eventually.
I say this every year, but this is not a list of the best games. This is the list of my favorite games. The difference is that these games managed to give me something interesting or unique or made an impression in some way. It doesn’t mean they don’t have flaws, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to play them at all.
Here are the top ten games I played in 2020.
This anime game gave me everything I wanted in an adaptation. I was able to fight with some of my favorite characters, visit some cool locations, and feel powerful while doing it all. Packed with content, I really enjoyed my time with the game. It’s not for everyone, but it delivered on the promise of a Fairy Tail game and was a lot of fun.
Serious Sam Collection
Many of the games on this list involve some nostalgia for me, and that’s true for the Serious Sam Collection as well. Serious Sam games give me tons of guns and ammo and fill the screen with enemies. The large-scale battles in giant arenas are thrilling, and the combat is stripped back and uncomplicated for at least the first two games and feature excellent explosions. This is pure shooter joy.
Robotics;Notes Double Pack
This is one of my feel-good picks of the year. The two visual novels from Spike Chunsoft have been redone and brought over from Japan, and they do so much right. From memorable characters and story to solid art, these two games feel distinctly different while giving you an engrossing tale. There are quiet and powerful emotional moments and moments that will make you laugh. If you want to lose yourself in a more grounded (but still wild) story from the Science Adventure series, this is highly recommended.
Disguised as a marketing tool, this deserves a full game follow up and a place on my list. While brilliantly demonstrating the features of the new DualSense controller, it also manages to be a capable platformer and is one of the games I would recommend playing first on your PS5. I’ve seen others correctly dub it the PS5’s Wii Sports, and it’s one of the most surprising games I played all year.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
I don’t play every AC game, but I knew I wanted to play this one. The Viking theme (even though it’s sanitized) is a wonderful fit for the franchise, and I have really enjoyed it. This feels like Ubisoft’s attempt to crystallize many ideas from the franchise, and it looks and plays incredibly well.
If I gave an award for value, Vahalla would probably win it. It has a huge amount of content in the game. I don’t mind, because the views in England are beautiful. I like to just ride to a marker, see what’s over that next rolling hill, or take my ship and raid. I may never finish the game, but I’m looking forward to more time with it.
Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima is an amazing open-world game that embraces all the cool ideas, deadly combat, and unique visuals from samurai movies. The combat is slick, the story feels good, the music is beautiful, and the game world is impressive everywhere you look, especially in the saturated colors. It’s the samurai game to top all other samurai games, and it deserves the overwhelming praise it receives.
Streets of Rage 4
Streets of Rage 4 came to modern consoles while managing to stay true to its roots. Everything from the music (which includes new pieces from one of the series’ original composers) to the amazing visuals, feels authentic. It’s a love letter to the classic beat ‘em up franchise from a team that loved the originals, and it shows. It’s been painstakingly made, and the result is incredible.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
This one is something special. It’s a mix of visual novel and an overhead strategy game. Those two sections are split in the game, and it works really well. The story is the main draw for me, and it slowly unfolds as you view it through the eyes of thirteen characters. Without spoiling anything, it’s a fun sci-fi tale that keeps the tension and mystery high and had me saying “Woah?!?” like Keanu Reeves a few times while I was playing.
All of that would be worthy of including it on this list, but the art style is stunning. It may seem cliché, but screenshots do not do it justice. It’s truly gorgeous in motion and raises the bar for visual novels. Combined with solid audio, it’s one of 2020’s gems.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
A game this hyped and in development for this long could have released with a ton of issues, but it excelled. It tapped into the nostalgia for the original with the characters, locations, and music you love, while forging its own path. It’s mostly successful in the changes it brought to the classic, and the visuals are breathtaking. It managed the difficult tightrope walk of uniting fans and charming newcomers, and I can’t wait to continue the story.
As my top game of 2020, Doom Eternal is not a traditional Doom game. It’s an evolution of the formula I have played for decades and was reintroduced in 2016. It’s an outstanding experience in almost every way, and it tries to make the player feel awesome every second. From the heavy rock soundtrack to the smooth, gut-ripping visuals, this is a pulse-pounding, polished game that will take you to Hell and back on an adventure that shakes the foundations of the cosmos. The level design, guns, and demons are some of id Software’s best, even if the platforming gets a little old.