Is it over? Is the trainwreck that was 2020 finally over? Let’s hope so, and that 2021 turns out much better for everyone involved. However, although 2020 was a disaster on pretty much all fronts, it wasn’t all bad. There were many awesome games out there for people to take their mind away from all the troubles. I wasn’t able to get to all of them (I’m looking at you games like If Found…, Spelunky 2, Hades, and so many more), but I know what I’ve marked down to try in the future. Currently playing Monster Sanctuary and it’s really good! As much as I’m enjoying it, I’m hesitant to add it to my 2020 games of the year this soon though.

I do want to note that some games don’t appear on my list but should be acknowledged. Games like Fall Guys and Animal Crossing: New Horizons both hit it big and deserved all the love they received. Fall Guys was pure dumb fun and Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect game to drop right as the pandemic started. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 was a return to form and proved that people still want a damn good skating game. Even something like Genshin Impact was huge. Personally – had more fun with it than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yeah…I’m one of those people.

Enough with the runners up though, it’s time to bring on my top five 2020 games of the year!

#5 – Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Credit: Insomniac Games

This is a game everyone wanted to play after watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales lets you play as the titular character, and while a bit different from the movie and comics, Insomniac makes the character their own as well. While I preferred the length of the game to its predecessor, the plot had me less engaged although the pacing was better. However, the personal relationships that Miles has with everyone in this game exceed those that Peter has in the first game, though the Peter/Otto friendship is up there.

Insomniac also made the Morales powers feel unique and mixed up the gameplay enough to differentiate it from Peter’s in the original game. The side quests felt less bloated and the idea of adding in a Spiderman app to locate these and random acts were brilliant. The biggest downfall this game has isn’t it’s the length or limited villains; it just feels more of the same. It’s only been two years since Marvel’s Spider-Man and while there were changes, there were a TON of similarities from what you do in random missions or the plot of a corporation coming in with their own personal army. Still…it’s a Spider-Man game. A great one. I just hope Insomniac gives it some breathing room so the next one hits harder for me than this one did.

#4 – The Last of Us Part II

Credit: Naughty Dog

I was one of those people who said I didn’t want to see a direct follow-up to The Last of Us. There’s a part of me who still wishes it didn’t happen, but now that it has…it still works. I think the pacing has some issues and I really wish the ending played out differently than it did, but overall, it’s still Naughty Dog doing what Naughty Dog does best. They’ve tightened the gameplay while experimenting with narrative in a way that works splendidly.

I feel they also told a story that actively tried to counteract a common complaint with their games. Usually, we know nothing about the random enemies the “good guy” typically kills in each game. In The Last of Us Part II, they decide to let you peek behind the curtain. Nobody is a “good guy”. However, everyone can have motives that paint them in a certain light depending on how you look at them. It’s a really smart way to tell a story, especially when you do it so well as Naughty Dog does. Add in their typical grade-A work with characters, interactions, world-building, and more; there’s no reason The Last of Us Part II wouldn’t make my list.

#3 – Paradise Killer

Credit: Kaizen Game Works

Hot damn. Paradise Killer was the game this year I had never heard of, tried it at a whim after seeing some comparisons to games I love, and now here it is at number three. This game is a banger. Not only because of the vaporwave aesthetic both in appearance and music but because it’s a fantastic detective game. I love games like Phoenix Wright and Danganronpa. However, those series have some limitations when it comes to the discovering clues aspect that Paradise Killer throws out the window. It’s better because of it too and I hope it inspires future games in this genre to do the same.

While games like Phoenix Wright and Danganronpa lean heavily on the visual novel side of games, Paradise Killer leans into an open-world aspect. Giving the player the option to try and solve the mystery at any point by sacrificing possible clues, if not flawed in its approach here, is fantastic. The island isn’t so big that it’s daunting, and making it more vertical is a wonderful way to get the lay of the land as well. Characters are fascinating as too is the greater mystery and lore at large. I don’t know how well a sequel can work out in this series, but I’m so intrigued to see what Kaizen Game Works goes from here. Paradise Killer is just so damn cool.

#2 – Spiritfarer

Credit: Thunder Lotus Games

I have a feeling anyone reading this has lost someone. Someone they cared about and miss on a daily basis. I know I have. Spiritfarer speaks to those people. Looking past the Studio Ghibli-like style, the sweetness that exudes through the dialogue and animations, and even the management aspects that are quite robust for such a limited space like the boat; Spiritfarer has the ability to draw you in with characters before tearing them away in an emotional tug-of-war.

Coming to terms with loss is what Spiritfarer is all about. Not only about your own mortality, but the mortality of others. It doesn’t matter whether they are rich or poor. Good or bad. Old or young. People will die. Coming to grips with that is never easy. Spiritfarer knows this and uses it to great effect. Whether it’s characters like Stanley or Alice, I found myself weeping openly with how these stories played out. But…they need to go. They need to pass on. It’s your duty as the spiritfarer to make sure it does. Heart-wrenching but absolutely worth playing.

#1 – Final Fantasy VII Remake

Credit: Square Enix

Was there ever any doubt that this would be my number one game? If you’ve followed me at all this year, I’ve sang it’s praises since I saw the credits roll. I’ve said it once, and I’ll repeat it: I can’t stop thinking about this game. Not only what I played, but what is still to come. They shook up my expectations for what I wanted in Final Fantasy VII Remake. They were ballsy, and while some didn’t like how it turned out, I loved it.

Yes, I wanted a game that was simply a one-for-one remake. Give me the exact same game just prettier. They said, “Screw you. We’ll do one better,” and proceeded to take my breath away. Seeing all of the characters and environments in their current-gen glory gave me goosebumps. The voicework did nothing to deter my impressions. The music is still some of the best the gaming industry has ever heard and the combat is incredibly solid. However all of the plot content, and I’m not going to spoil it, is what made me almost cry. Not only do I have my nostalgia making me love this game, but now Square Enix is giving me a whole new reason to love Final Fantasy VII. It’s for those reasons and more that it’s my favorite game of the year, and quite frankly, near the top of games of the generation.

That’s it for my games of 2020. However, I did play more than just 2020 games! As my retroactive pre-2020 games I played this year, the next page will have my top five I played for the first time.

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