Jeff's Top 5 Games of 2020
Honorable Mention: Persona 5 Royal
The Game Sharks as an outlet decided that all updated / rereleased games that came out in 2020 would not be eligible for Game of the Year nominations, which I agree is the right choice. However, if these types of games were included in the discussion, then Persona 5 Royal would easily be my game of the year. Everything in this game is absolutely incredible. Art / Animation. Music. Characters. Story. Gameplay. Style. It’s all there. Persona 5 Royal is an updated version of Persona 5 (2017) which was already very highly received. The improvements in Royal push Persona 5 from being a must play JRPG to one of my favorite games of all time. I am constantly thinking about this game and am greatly looking forward to putting more time into it in the new year.
#5: Star Renegades
I love board games. Board games (usually) don’t require you to make split-second decisions, instead rewarding players for taking their time to think of the optimal strategy and adjusting it based on changing factors. This is why I love Star Renegades, a turn based rogue lite with systems and mechanics akin to the best board games, which reward players for taking their time and methodically deconstructing their foes. Battles in Star Renegades can take several minutes, making each one feel like a meaningful encounter and boss battles feeling absolutely epic. Each character you can add to your party comes with unique abilities allowing you to take on enemies in a variety of ways depending on your lineup. Losing and having to start over doesn’t feel too bad, because I’m always excited to try out a new combination of characters and abilities. To top it off, Star Renegades has a fantastic synthwave soundtrack and HD 2-D visuals similar to Octopath Traveler. I see myself dipping into this game for a long time to come.
#4: Ghost of Tsushima
Have you ever wanted to be a Samurai? Like truly step into the shoes of a katana-wielding wandering one-man army? Well have I got the game for you. Accompanying the tight power-fantasy swordplay is some of the most stunning landscapes and visuals you can find in all of video games. From red leaves falling in front of a sunset on a lake, to waves of grain set ablaze in the dead of night, Ghost of Tsushima is truly jaw dropping. Add in a large cast of flawed but emotionally deep characters to interact with, and the Island of Tsushima becomes a landscape that I wanted to uncover every inch of. Just when I thought the game couldn’t give me anymore, Sucker Punch added a free co-op multiplayer that leans into Japanese mythos to pit you and your friends against various bad guys and demons while upgrading yourself to become a more lethal samurai, taking that power trip from the single player to another level.
#3: Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Hollow Knight quickly rose up through the ranks to become the best Metroidvania ever in my mind, and easily one of my favorite games period. I thought there was no way anything would get close to it with the exception of its much anticipated sequel. Then Ori and the Will of the Wisps came along and proved me very, very wrong. This game has a fluidity to it’s traversal and combat that rivals Spider-Man and has never been achieved to this level in the Metroidvania genre. It’s easily one of the best feeling games I’ve ever played start to finish. On top of that it has an absolutely gorgeous visual art style that pops so beautifully with 4k 60fps and a soundtrack that perfectly encompasses the sense of wonder, joy, and anxiety exploring this world gives me. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a nearly perfect package where every aspect of it comes together to make a tight and stunning experience.
Hades takes the formula of the increasingly popular “Rogue Lite/Like” genre and perfects the gameplay loop by adding something no other developer has done to date, compelling characters and story that get better and better with each run. The gameplay loop of trying to escape the Greek underworld feels very satisfying with a near endless combination of weapons, relics, and boons for you to experiment with and make each run feel unique from the last. However, Zagreus’ story and his relationships with various Gods, heroes, and villains of Greek myth truly captivated me, making me want to talk to anyone and everyone as often as I could. Dying in a rogue lite/like is usually a disappointment, but here it motivates me to learn more about the world and characters and makes starting the next run exciting every time. These two aspects in unison make Hades a game that's almost impossible to put down.
#1: Final Fantasy 7 Remake
I truly can’t believe they did it. Square Enix hasn’t had the greatest track record in recent years, but they somehow managed to make Final Fantasy 7 Remake everything I wanted and more. When we initially heard that the Remake was only going to contain the events of Midgar for the original game (about 6 hours of gameplay), I was nervous that it was going to be watered down and feel like a slog. However, Square Enix did the opposite and took this timeframe and expanded it in a way to make Midgar feel like a vast and lived in city. It gave them time to take the characters we know and love and teach us more about them and watch their relationships develop in greater detail, and it took the characters we barely knew and fleshed them out into people we now care for. Final Fantasy 7 Remake somehow feels entirely fresh and exactly how I remember the original, which is what all remakes should strive to do. It’s combat is the most engaging of any JRPG and is another example of how Square Enix perfectly blended the old with the new. I’ve never achieved such a tranquil flow state as I do when I’m controlling Cloud and his companions in battle. Lastly, I adore this game because it made me, a massive Final Fantasy 7 fan, care about the world of Final Fantasy 7 again. They decided to change a few things up from the original, and left things in a spot where we don’t truly know exactly what’s going to happen in the follow ups to 7 Remake, and that really excites me. I’m very optimistic and very eager to see where the unknown journey takes us in the upcoming years.