DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Kris' Top 10
Though 2020 was probably the worst, it was still a phenomenal year for amazing games that I adored throughout the entirety of it.
As 2020 (thankfully) comes to a close, the DualShockers staff is coming together to share their personal favorite games throughout the year. Unlike our official Game of the Year Awards, each of these lists is meant to reflect which games stood out personally to each of our staff members. Additionally, any game — not just 2020 releases — can be considered in each Top 10 List.
Nobody needs reminding of the year we’ve had, so I’m just going to cut to the chase. Perhaps the one good thing this year was the number of quality game releases; usually I struggle to populate a Top 10, but this year I could easily write a convincing Top 20 from the things I’ve played. The number is a lot less important than I would usually find it, and if it’s here, it’s a game that I strongly recommend you check out.
As is my tradition, I’ll only list games that I’ve finished (where applicable), and all but one will be from this year. But I have to give an honourable mention to one game not included: Final Fantasy 14, yet again. The Shadowbringers expansion was my 2019 GOTY by a landslide, but this year saw the release of patch 5.3, which very nearly equaled it in impact. It’s crazy to me that that game made lightning strike twice, but I genuinely consider it worthy of the accolade for a second year running. As I’m not about to include a single patch in my list though, it remains on the sidelines. So what else is there?
10. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
This was my last minute addition to the top 10, as I only just got around to playing this quite recently. I spent the entire time playing it kicking myself for not getting to it sooner. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an improvement in nearly every area from its predecessor. It’s effectively taken to heart the demonstrations of the many indie Metroidvanias to emerge in the last few years, effortlessly reaching their upper echelons. Movement and platforming is immensely fluid, the pacing and level design is excellent, and it feels good to play long before you’ve got all your traversal powers.
More than anything else though, Ori 2 is just gorgeous to behold. The presentation is stellar, with a fantastic art direction and incredible audio design. It conveys a simple, light-in-dialogue story that has a surprising amount of emotional impact and charm. It’d be worth experiencing just for all these aspects, but the fact that it’s also a really solid game to boot? Definitely check this one out if you haven’t yet.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
9. DOOM Eternal
Look, say what you will about the platforming or exploration segments of DOOM Eternal; they were necessary pacing to give you room to breathe in between combat encounters. Once the game gets into its stride, Eternal is utterly relentless in its mayhem. I don’t think I’ve ever had a first-person shooter experience quite like it, even from its predecessor. No matter how close I got to running dry on resources or health, it was balanced so well that it always felt like a battle I was in control of. Quite frankly, that’s commendable.
DOOM 2016 is a phenomenally well-designed game that’s tightly packaged in a cohesive way. Rather than be too iterative, Eternal feels like it tore the package apart and spread in every direction. It has its low moments, but the highs are oh so high that it’s impossible to go back to other shooters. Even writing this, I want to go back and replay it again to revel in the chaos, the music, and the sea of glory kills. Rip and tear, indeed.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of DOOM Eternal.
8. Wasteland 3
The positive sentiments I had for Wasteland 3 following my review really haven’t waned. To this day, I keep thinking back on the number of times the game managed to surprise me with its reactivity. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more ambitious about making choices matter than so many of its contemporaries. Perhaps it’s because the stakes in Wasteland 3 felt smaller than the usual world ending plot, instead focusing on fleshing out a more localised set of circumstances. Whatever it was, I really had an easy time just slipping into this world and going with the flow.
It really feels like the closest thing to a classic Fallout sequel in tone we’re going to get (alongside New Vegas). Wasteland’s vision of Colorado is dark without being bleak, funny without being forced, and interesting to explore in the way I chose from start to finish. Combine that all with satisfying tactical combat and plenty of options for party builds, and you have a remarkably good post-apocalyptic CRPG.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Wasteland 3.
7. Deep Rock Galactic
In 2020, a lot of people took up various multiplayer games as a means of staying connected with their friends. Plenty of people played Animal Crossing, and seemingly everyone played Fall Guys and Among Us. But my friends and I? We went into space, dug holes in asteroids, explored some crazy cave formations and shot up a lot of bugs in order to get very rich. And we might’ve even been sober on rare occasions!
Deep Rock Galactic is a remarkably well designed game that is very clearly a passion project for its developers. The gameplay loop is incredibly tight, the presentation is exceptional, and there was rarely a mission that my friends and I didn’t have a blast with. There’s enough progression systems and variety to keep things interesting and always give me another reason to get back to digging. It’s even gotten free updates with new mission types since launch, further expanding the options and keeping it fresh. So grab your pickaxe and go check it out. Rock and Stone!
6. Risk of Rain 2
To put it plainly, Risk of Rain 2 is my new favourite roguelike game from a purely gameplay perspective. In a year filled with fantastic roguelikes, that’s a pretty big achievement, and this is my new go-to game when I don’t want to think and just want to play. It’s a versatile third-person shooter with a slew of characters, a ton of unlockable items to modify your build, and heaps of secrets to uncover. There’s even quite functional co-op play, and it’s a fun time whether solo or with friends.
Don’t be dissuaded by the somewhat muted colours or visuals, because even that is by design. The presentation ends up looking far more beautiful than you’d expect, all while providing clarity in ridiculously chaotic combat. Risk of Rain 2 also thrives on the player power fantasy, since getting to the point of utterly breaking annihilating whole stages with the press of a button isn’t an exploit; it’s the desired outcome. Few games this year have provided me as many hours of raw entertainment as Risk of Rain 2.
5. Outer Wilds
After getting to this game late and being smitten enough to write an editorial about it, I felt that I had to give Outer Wilds its due diligence. There are few games that have really captured my attention in the same way that this one did. The sense of exploration that the simulation of Outer Wilds allows you in a single loop is really incredible, especially given that you have everything you need to succeed from the very outset. But gaining the knowledge to figure out how to use them in the right way? That’s the core of the game, and it was incredible to me just how deceptively simple yet immensely clever it all was.
I love this game to bits. Seriously, play Outer Wilds if you’re even remotely interested in puzzles and exploration. The little moments of discovery are punctuated by a fantastic atmosphere, entrancing soundtrack, and one hell of an ending. My only true complaint about this game is that I cannot play it for the first time ever again. And yet, it was so engaging that I’m trying to draft a friend to play it simply so I can watch them go through that same process vicariously. That should be a good indicator of how special this one is.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Outer Wilds.
4. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
We’re in the top 4 now, so it’s worth saying this: on any given day, I could easily make a case for any of the following games to be number 1. That is especially true of 13 Sentinels. It might not be my favourite game of the year, but it is unquestionably the most important. The sheer scope of the story told is unbelievable, and it repeatedly had me feeling like I was closing in on the bigger picture, only for the camera to pull back and reveal more layers I’d yet to see. This is the kind of story you simply couldn’t achieve in any medium except games, and it’s an amazing accomplishment in that regard.
Even without the strong story, 13 Sentinels still holds up with its satisfying real-time strategy-esque battles and customisable progression systems. The hand drawn art is spectacular, as is typical of Vanillaware games, but what’s equally impressive is the audio. Not only is the soundtrack amazing, but this has one of the best English dubs to a very Japanese game I’ve ever heard. Given the multiple characters and non-sequential story progression, the fact that it manages to sound so good for so long really helps the story’s delivery. As far as I’m concerned, this is a fantastic showcase of how games can tell stories that other creative fields couldn’t. That alone is worthy of acclaim, but it’s still a damn good game to boot. You owe it to yourself to play 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.
3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
I’ve put well over 120 hours into this game since its release, effectively finishing it twice. Still I want to go back. Still I want to just walk the streets of Ijincho and Kamurocho, soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the nightlife, and get into fights with gloriously crazy enemies. It’s amazing that a series of brawlers could transition so effortlessly into a JRPG and still come out stronger than many games designed from the ground up that way. But more than anything, Yakuza continues to provide open world spaces with tons of personality, focused more on density of content than sheer square mileage.
Not only is this a damn good JRPG, but it’s a damn good Yakuza game too. Ichiban is perhaps my favourite character of the year, instantly proving amazingly lovable and with a strong moral code underneath his raw himbo energy. The cast are all likewise endearing and fascinating, and the story is the series’ staple of high quality that’s been tuned better with every passing game. Like a Dragon is perhaps my new favourite Yakuza game, and second only to Yakuza 0. If you know anything about me, you know that’s among the highest praise I could give this game. It’s fantastic. Play Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Okay, so remember what I said about Risk of Rain 2 being my favourite roguelike from a gameplay perspective? That’s still true, but only just…and Hades has it trumped in practically every other regard. In fact, it’s quite possibly the best roguelike game ever made, overall. At the very least, I’ve never found one that resonated so strongly for me. Hades is so content rich, all the while sporting fantastic attention to detail in every aspect of its design. Art design, sound, voice acting, writing, UI design, gameplay options and customisation; nothing has been glossed over or not given the same care and polish as the rest of it.
It’s crazy to me that Supergiant still has a flawless record as far as great games go. Bastion remains one of the most important games I’ve played for a number of reasons, but it’s crazy to think that Hades is rubbing shoulders with it. This is a commendable game, an example of an Early Access title done right, and truly a hallmark title that all developers should pay attention to (indie or otherwise).
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Hades.
1. Trails of Cold Steel 4
…and yet, as much as I adore Hades, I cannot ignore just how unique an achievement that Trails of Cold Steel 4 is. It’s one thing to keep such a dense series of narrative heavy games so consistent for four whole titles; then you factor in the entire Legend of Heroes franchise spanning a continuous world across nine games and counting. Add in a huge roster of characters–great and small–that inevitably managed to charm me, and one of the best JRPG battle systems I’ve experienced? You have a winner for 2020’s GOTY.
In many ways, it just isn’t fair on any of the other entries here to try and compete with a series-wide undertaking like this. Trails of Cold Steel 4 couldn’t be what it is without the other games building it up to where it stands. Even so, the fact that it takes everything that’s been built up and sits atop that pinnacle as a quality game in its own right is worthy of commendation. Trails of Cold Steel 4 is a fantastic ending to an excellent series, a stellar continuation of an ongoing franchise, and my personal Game of the Year.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Trails of Cold Steel 4.
Check out the rest of the DualShockers staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards nominees:
January 4: Game of the Year Awards 2020 Official Winners Revealed