DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Mehrdad’s Top 10
2020 was a fascinating year for RPG lovers and also a great ending for the 8th generation of consoles. Here is my Top 10 list of this year.
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.
Despite all the unfortunate events that happened this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a better gaming year than 2019 for me. Aside from starting a new generation of consoles in the final months of the year, a lot of brilliant titles from indie and AAA studios were published during the year. Although I missed some praised titles such as Ghost of Tsushima, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Desperados III, and Final Fantasy VII Remake, there were enough great experiences for me through the year that it was much harder than previous years to pick my top 10.
Probably my biggest achievement in 2020 was breaking out of my comfort zone in playing video games, and I’m really happy with my choices since now I have a bigger backlog that I need to go after as soon as possible.
This year, I tried to spend more time than ever with indie games, and I’m so glad that I followed this direction. As a result, some of this year’s brilliant indie experiences made it to my top 10 easily, though there are a few that were just a few steps behind my 10th spot. This year, I tried to give a shot to games that I wasn’t really anticipating to play, but at the end of the day, I was thrilled with playing most of them.
10. Minecraft Dungeons
During 2020, Microsoft added lots of good games to Xbox Game Pass, with some of them turning into my most-played experiences of the year. Minecraft Dungeons, to be honest, was not an anticipated game for me this year as I’ve never played Minecraft before. That being said, since it was on Game Pass and it didn’t require a lot of free space, I decided to give it a shot and the game amazed me.
The game is a looting-focused top-down action RPG with a very simple combat style that keeps you engaged ’til the end, thanks to its accessible difficulty system and admirable level design. Minecraft Dungeons has a simple rule: if you can’t beat a level, get back to the previous one and beat it again. This might sound a little bit repetitive, but every playthrough of the same level feels like a different experience when you increase the difficulty level and explore the hidden paths.
Minecraft Dungeons is something that I hope gets some broader attention from gamers around the world to convince Mojang to make a sequel with deeper systems and mechanics in the future.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Minecraft Dungeons.
9. Rainbow Six Siege
It rarely happens for me to stick with a single multiplayer game for years. New multiplayer titles hit the market continuously, and I just can’t stop myself from dropping the existing one and going after a new experience. However, Rainbow Six Siege has managed to keep me engaged for two years now, and I’m really satisfied with Ubisoft’s great support of the game in 2020.
This year was a big one for all Rainbow Six Siege players as a lot of things changed in the game. First of all, we received some great reworks for the game’s Ranked maps that made them more balanced than ever for a fair fight between Attackers and Defenders. Moreover, the hard-breaching ability was shared with more Attacking operators, and also provided a broader set of options in picking operators when it comes to the Attacker side. Ubisoft also dropped a bunch of new sights for operators to create a balance in operator picks in Ranked matches, and it was more or less successful.
Last but not least, we eventually got the Tachanka rework. The Lord is now a really useful operator in the game, though its picks in the Ranked matches are still way below the other operators. With the game’s transition to next-gen consoles, Rainbow Six Siege is now more fun-to-play than ever on 120fps mode.
You probably haven’t heard about Stela if you are not someone that explores indie games. That would make me sad, but at least now in the last days of 2020, I had the chance to introduce this gorgeous piece of art. Stela is the most beautiful game that I played this year, and I can’t remember any other experience with such a deep and detailed art design.
The game is a 2D platformer that follows the journey of a female character through the whole history of Earth. From never-before-seen evil creatures that probably mark the beginning of the planet to several bloody wars, the game chronicles events that occurred over millions of years, through the ice age, and into the futuristic digital age.
Stela‘s art team manages to depict all these key periods on the earth with an exceptional environment design that has been accompanied by mesmerizing soundtracks. Although the game may have some minor issues in the gameplay, it never wore me down during the whole experience thanks to its incredible variety of locations and levels.
7. Football Manager 2021
With its gradual improvement over the last few years, Football Manager 2021 is now able to bring you the closest experience of coaching and managing a football team in the world’s top leagues and tournaments. This year, the game truly reached a new milestone in its history by coming back to consoles and delivering an immersive simulation experience.
The Match engine in Football Manager 2021 still has some work to do, but it’s surely at its peak over the last few years. Thanks to some new interview options before and after matches, you can feel the pressure of the media when you don’t get the result you wanted. There are a lot of details and options to change like a real coach and if you attempt to use all your options one after another, it could take you days to reach the matchday, the same as in real-world football.
Thanks to such a detailed simulation, every victory in Football Manager 2021 feels like a great achievement for you and your team, and you can’t guarantee a good run without continuously changing your plans and crafting new play systems against various opponents.
6. Unto The End
The world of video games is so diverse that everything is utterly possible. Before Unto The End, I wouldn’t think that one day I could experience a very realistic action game in a 2D environment, but this game proved to me that it’s possible. Unto The End will make you feel the loneliness of a brutal journey in search of a home, where you could wind up with nothing even after a long, grueling journey. Most of that journey also depends on the decisions you will make along the way.
Unlike many games that only try to inject reality into their visuals, Unto The End tries to bring a realistic feel to all of its other aspects. Its audio design, combat, character movement, and world all help each other to make you feel clutched in a brutal experience.
Unto The End is a great achievement for 2 Ton Studios and an outstanding milestone that even some big studios with million-dollar budgets can’t reach.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Unto the End.
5. F1 2020
I love games that tend to challenge players in the right direction; the games in which you fail again and again, but each failure teaches you something new. From there, you then feel your progression and improvement in the next try, no matter if you fail or succeed in the end. F1 2020 is one of those games.
Codemasters launched three different racing titles in 2020, but F1 2020 was on another level. If you just ignore its slightly outdated visuals, there’s nothing else to complain about in the game. F1 2020 only wants you to master your driving skills, and that’s the key to success. The game tries to deliver a pure simulation of F1 tournaments with a detailed difficulty system that guides you towards being a skilled driver rather than simply increasing the AI smartness.
F1 2020 is a game that everyone can enjoy ultimately and equally. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about Formula 1 races; just start your career in the game and after a few weeks, you will find yourself following the real-world F1 championship.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of F1 2020.
4. The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us Part II was one of the most controversial games of the year, mainly because of its storytelling. While a lot of people did like the new sequel, a considerable amount of fans didn’t see it as a worthy end to the original game’s story.
For me, The Last of Us Part II was an enjoyable roller-coaster ride with a lot of ups and downs. Even though at some points the game failed to demonstrate the evolution of characters and justify their sudden change of mind in making decisions, the brutal atmosphere of the game and its series of shocking moments kept me on the edge of my seat. During the whole that I was playing, Naughty Dog never let the magic and engagement of the experience falter.
Abby was Naughty Dog’s miracle in The Last of Us Part II. It’s not easy to characterize a whole new personality in a story that is as detailed as Part II, especially by challenging the players’ logic and emotions to pick her over a previously-beloved protagonist like Ellie.
Other than some aspects of its storytelling, The Last of Us Part II hosted some brilliant levels and scenes, especially during Abby’s section of the game. I can’t describe most of them with any word other than jaw-dropping. Overall, Naughty Dog nailed it with level and environment design, and succeeded in keeping the gameplay in The Last of Us Part II mesmerizing.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of The Last of Us Part II.
After all the praise I sent to Naughty Dog, it might seem unexpected to see Ghostrunner ahead of The Last of Us Part II, but I have my reasons. Simply put, Ghostrunner managed to deliver the most satisfying gameplay among all the other action-adventure titles that I played this year. If I had to order my list based on level design, Ghostrunner would definitely stand at the top spot.
Playing Ghostrunner is always combined with a bit of feeling self-blame since you always know exactly what you should do and how to perform it, but each time that you fail to do it, you know exactly why. Ghostrunner always demands the best version of yourself with a maximum level of focus to pass through the missions. That’s the first big reason why it’s an addictive experience. The second reason? Instant loading.
One of the biggest features of the next-gen consoles is their almost-instant loading in games, and Ghostrunner brings you that in the 8th-generation consoles with jaw-dropping visuals. Ghostrunner is an outstanding technical achievement not only for its indie developer, but also for the whole industry. For a fast-paced action title like Ghostrunner, it’s vital to have zero technical issues as it can ruin the whole experience in a blink of an eye, and One More Level avoids it easily.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Ghostrunner.
2. Crusader Kings 3
Similar to Football Manager 2021, Crusader Kings 3 was also a fascinating experience for me this year, thanks to its detailed and expansive gameplay system. However, the major difference between the two that make the latter my second favorite gaming experience of this year is the aspect of how widely you can affect things in Crusader Kings 3.
Anyone that has played titles from the Total War or Command & Conquer franchise might think that you need to play aggressively when it comes to games like Crusader Kings 3. Of course, we all do like to expand our territories in strategy games, but Crusader Kings 3 taught me that there are smarter ways than war to acquire other countries.
Crusader Kings 3 allows you to use your smartness in various areas, and being able to run everything through wise political decisions rather than manpower. Nothing feels more satisfying than watching your dynasty growing decade after decade in multiple areas, and nothing is more hurtful than losing the throne and the whole empire. You could face both of these feelings in your playthrough, and it all depends on your decisions.
Crusader Kings 3 is a timeless experience that could engage you for years. The fun part is that the decisions that you make today in the game might show its outcome after months of playing, and that’s the magic of this game.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Crusader Kings 3.
1. Wasteland 3
Since CD Projekt Red revealed that they would launch Cyberpunk 2077 in 2020, it turned into my most-anticipated RPG of this year. I can’t deny that I was also excited for Wasteland 3, but the level of anticipation that I had for Cyberpunk 2077 was not even comparable to that of Wasteland 3. The result is as surprisingly unexpected for me as it likely is for you. Before August 2020, I would’ve never thought that Wasteland 3 could even have a chance to turn into my final pick for Game of the Year, but this game deserves much more than this.
Wasteland 3 is a progressive and reactive open-world RPG that allows you to make your own decisions for doing every quest and how you do your business, but also depends heavily on the way you train and level up your crew members. There’s nothing useless in this game; every skill, every perk, and every ability will come in handy in different situations.
Wasteland 3 is a long journey that makes your squad as close as a family to you, and similar to real life, sometimes your wrong decisions could separate a member of the family from the others. No other game in 2020 felt more realistic and enjoyable than inXile’s latest hit for me. The endings, the dialogue, the story behind every little quest, and literally everything in the game feels like the developers have put their maximum effort into them to bring players a living, breathing experience.
Wasteland 3 is like an RPG character that the player has upgraded all of its skills to their highest degree. The game is almost flawless in each key aspect that a game should represent, and that is fascinating to me.
Check out the rest of the DualShockers staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards nominees:
December 26: Michael Ruiz (Contributor) // Mehrdad Khayyat (Senior Staff Writer)
January 4: Game of the Year Awards 2020 Official Winners Revealed