Andrew Vanasse's Top 10 Games of 2020
2020 sucked, blah blah blah, video games were still good, you get it. These are my favorite games that released in 2020.
Honorable Mentions - Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and Persona 5: Royal
Despite Xenoblade being one of my favorite games of all time, I only played around 5 hours of the Definitive Edition this year. This is mostly due to its release slotting between some other notable releases. Should I have played through the game in its entirety, it would be #1 on this list without a question. Xenoblade Chronicles, simply put, is a masterpiece. This game has it all - one of the most unique and vibrant worlds in all of video games, a gripping story and amazing characters, and legitimately one of the best video game soundtracks ever composed. It's been slept on for too long and you're seriously doing yourself a disservice by continuing to sleep on it.
Similarly, Persona 5 Royal takes Persona 5, a 9.5/10 game, and turns it into an 11/10 game. Again due to unfortunate release timing, I only played around 5-10 hours of Royal, and under Xenoblade it would be #2 on this list. But despite that, just that minute chunk of this behemoth of a game was enough for me to experience a large host of the changes and improvements this game (rerelease? remaster?) made from the original. This is the definitive way to experience Persona 5, one of the best JRPGs ever made, and I am ecstatic that it seems to be making its way into the hands of my peers. This game's style is unmatched, its soundtrack, along with Xenoblade are among the best in all of games, and it features possibly the most charming roster of characters in any game I've ever played. I couldn't recommend these two games higher, and I'm still waiting for the time when I can finally put my time in and play both of them properly.
10. Resident Evil 3
Prior to this year, I had never played a Resident Evil game. Now, after having played 4 of them (and owning 4 more), I am wholeheartedly a fan of the series. And it all started with RE3. While not the best among them by any means, and certainly not as well done a remake as 2019's Resident Evil 2, it still holds its own as an incredibly fun survival horror game. Jill Valentine is my personal favorite protagonist in the series so far, and while Nemesis may not be quite as foreboding as the fabled Mr. X, he still scared the living shit out of me a handful of times. Oh, and Carlos is cool too, I guess.
9. The Pathless
One of the hidden gems of this year, The Pathless is truly special. The central mechanic of this game, shooting a bow and arrow at targets scattered across the landscape to create bursts of momentum as you run, jump, and glide around, is one of the most fun traversal systems I've experienced in a game. Its adherence to its theme across all aspects is extremely cool, and it all comes back to the game's title: The Pathless. There's no map, meaning you must forge your own path, and the story reflects that, forcing the main character to find their one true path as well. Combine that with clever puzzles, unique and compelling boss encounters, a masterful score, and a level of exploration that is really only comparable to Breath of the Wild, and The Pathless is absolutely worth your time.
8. DOOM Eternal
DOOM Eternal is metal as fuck. That's honestly the best way to describe it. Much like the DOOMs of the past, you as the Doomguy find yourself ripping and tearing through a variety of demons while (probably) headbanging to the heavy metal jams of its OST. But beyond the pure hype of it all, DOOM Eternal is actually a really intelligent First-Person Shooter. The game design forces you to make meaningful choices in the middle of the frenetic action, which all reinforce that core gameplay. Need health? Kill demons. Need Ammo? Kill Demons. Need to not die? You fuckin guessed it! Even during the quieter platforming sections, there are plenty of secrets strewn about the levels for you to find, so beneath the surface, DOOM is actually packed with stuff to do, which I think is pretty damn cool.
7. Astro's Playroom
Calling this game a tech-demo is an understatement, and a disservice. Sure, its primary purpose is to showcase the capabilities of the DualSense controller, and it does so magnificently. However, beyond that, it is still a fantastic platformer rife with secrets and charm, and a love letter to the history of PlayStation, perfectly complementing the launch of The PS5. It out-Nintendo's Nintendo, if that makes sense. And then even further beyond that, the speed-running mode adds a completely different way to think about the game and as a result the game has rooted itself inside the hearts of many fans for totally different reasons. Not to mention, the music in this game has an earworm effect like no other!
6. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
So this one kinda came out of nowhere for me! I had been aware of the existence of the Yakuza franchise previously, but from a distance it seemed like too frequent a release schedule for it to be a series I could get invested in. But Like a Dragon is the exception, in that it is a turn-based JRPG hiding among the beat 'em up style of the other Yakuza games, and I fell in love with it relatively quickly. It serves simultaneously as a love letter to JRPGs and as a parody of them, making fun of the genre's tropes through the game's unique sense of humor while evolving the genre's systems and mechanics. With a charming cast of characters and a number of side objectives only describable as persona-esque, there's nothing not to love about this game!
5. Ghost of Tsushima
Possibly more than any other game that came out this year, Ghost of Tsushima bleeds style. Everything about this game is modeled and stylized after classic Akira Kurosawa films, and it shows. They truly captured the spirit of those films and the Samurai culture they chronicle. The game borrows the gameplay formula of classic Assassin's Creed games, and while it doesn't necessarily do anything new within that space, it still executes on it well, and it is loads of fun to run around and do Samurai shit. This is another one that snuck up on me this year. Back in January I couldn't tell the difference between this, Nioh, and Sekiro, but now it's one of my favorite games that's come out this year. Not to mention that on top of the fantastic single-player experience, Sucker Punch delivered a free Multiplayer update in Ghost of Tsushima: Legends, a surprisingly fun Co-op looter with multiple modes, and rich with its own narratives (narrated by Uncle Iroh btw)! Legends is the cherry on top of this already delicious cake.
4. Final Fantasy VII Remake
I wasn't a fan of the original Final Fantasy 7 when I played it in 2019, so needless to say, I was very much hoping the Remake could turn me around on that world. I'm happy to say it did just that. Adopting the action-oriented combat the Final Fantasy franchise seems to be trending towards, FF7R is much closer stylistically to Final Fantasy XV, my favorite game in the franchise. However, after sitting on FF7R for the last 8 months, what really captivates me is how this game functions as a remake. This remake is unprecedented in its willingness to challenge their own narrative while acknowledging their flaws, and flipping expectations in way that won't upset fans and satiates a curiosity for the direction of its successor. It isn't a remake so much as it is a reimagining, and if some of the wilder theories end up being true, it could become known as a sequel at the end of the day, which is crazy to think about. This game gives me hope for the future of not only its own franchise, but the concept of remaking a game entirely.
3. Demon's Souls
Six months ago, if you told me I would be a SoulsBorne fan, I would have laughed in your face. In the earlier episodes of the GameSharks Podcast, I actively take every chance I get to bring up how much displeasure I had playing Dark Souls Remastered, but one trailer changed that. During the PlayStation 5 reveal event, the trailer for Demon's Souls blew my mind. The Souls games had always seemed clunky and unpolished from a distance, so the level of clarity and detail that was showcased in the trailer alone made me want to play it. I went back and played through Dark Souls Remastered start to finish, and although I am currently only a portion of the way through Demon's Souls, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite video game franchises ever. It's easily the most technically beautiful game I've ever had the pleasure of looking at, the lighting physics are on another level, and the way it utilizes the DualSense controller and 3D audio make this one of the most surreal gaming experiences out there. I can think of no other game to more perfectly encapsulate the transition into next gen. Maybe except one...
2. Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales
When the PS5 launched, I spent the first few days essentially demoing several of its launch titles, as well as PS4 games that could benefit from the upgraded hardware. I probably played around 6 or 7 games, but ultimately the one that grabbed me the most was Spider-Man: Miles Morales. 2018's Spider-Man was fun, but I felt it dragged on a little too long. It was clear, however, that Miles Morales learned from that. Much like how Miles himself learns from Peter! This game is largely the same conceptually, but in a tighter, denser package that is better because of it. It's still just as fun to swing around Manhattan, but every other part of the game has been refined. The story moves along at a fitting pace, the characters are even more compelling, the side objectives never overstay their welcome and are simplified enough so that they don't boggle your inventory. Perhaps more than anything else, Miles himself adds a unique flair to the game that truly elevates the experience. The way he interacts with his supporting cast, as well as his environment, all the way down to his animations and how he treats his role as Spider-Man, all of it is integral to Miles as a character. Miles' journey is incredibly endearing, and his portrayal in this game is much more compelling than 2018's Peter Parker. I hope the inevitable Spider-Man 2 takes more from this game than it does from the original, from both a game design perspective, and from a Marvel story perspective. I love the unique interpretation of the Marvel universe that Insomniac is able to tell, and it is easily one of my favorite games of the year.
1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Anybody reading this knew it was coming. Of course it's Ori. I consider this game to be perfect. This is the best metroidvania ever made not named Hollow Knight (also perfect), and it flawlessly iterates on the successes of its predecessor. It takes the groundwork of Blind Forest and turns it into an even more captivating experience. This game features some of the most fluid and satisfying locomotion I've ever seen in a game, and chaining movement abilities together is unspeakably fun to execute. The level of variance that exists in this game's combat and customization is extremely welcome, and the exploration is even more refined than the first game. But this sequel adds so many flourishes: dynamic and engaging boss fights, insanely charming side characters and creatures inhabiting a gorgeous and rich world, fun sidequests to complement those side characters, and it even has speed-run challenges (a couple days ago a friend messaged me telling me he beat my time from 9 months ago and I have been legitimately considering going back to beat it). On top of the amazing gameplay, Will of the Wisps features a touching story that makes some bold, yet in my opinion necessary, choices that, really no game before it has elected to make, and a beautifully complementary score that enhances the emotion this game is already packed with. Even further than all that, the game is currently one of, if not the only game, you can play in 6k graphics, making it easily one of the most visually stunning games that exists right now. As of writing this, I haven't played the game since March 2020, and over the course of the year I've wrestled with the idea of any of the other 20+ games I played being potentially better than it, but no matter which way I approached it, there was no denying it. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the best game I played this year.
If you want to hear about the GameSharks Podcast's collective Games of the Year (among other categories) be sure to check out the podcast on this website, or on whatever podcast streaming services you may use. Check back weekly for new episodes, or a year from now when we do it all over again for 2021!