DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Otto’s Top 10
These titles aren't all from this year, but they're still the games that made 2020 a fantastic one for me
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.
2020 is finally over…finally. We’ve dealt with a lot this year; a pandemic, a tumultuous election cycle, an extremely busy hurricane season. There’s been so much going on that I’ve been finding most of my comfort in games. I don’t really play for escapism and don’t really expect it; some part of the real world will always bleed into a game, and it’s the medium’s nature as an art form. But still, some bring those much-needed creature comforts, and that’s part of why you’ll find that a lot of my top ten games this year aren’t actually from 2020.
It’s been a year of regression for me, mostly brought on by quarantine. This started as a joke with friends when I began listening to music I liked in high school, but it gradually became a reality as I began playing some of my favorite games from the same time period. It’s not like they weren’t accessible either; that’s one of the main benefits of gaming mainly on PC, as everything is within arm’s reach.
Either way, I spent a lot of this year playing games. Some of them I didn’t enjoy as much as others, but the ones I did enjoy made a genuine difference. Happy holidays and happy New Year, dear reader; here are my top 10 games from this 365 day-long dumpster fire.
10. Clone Hero
I mentioned creature comforts for a specific reason. I’ve played Guitar Hero games since I had a Wii and worked my way towards beating the games on Expert. It’s one of my crowning achievements in games, something I’m genuinely proud of. The day that I beat “Through the Fire and the Flames” on Expert is still cemented in my brain and preserved in an embarrassing picture of me at 17, sweaty and sporting a white tank top, plastic guitar in one hand, while the other threw a thumbs-up.
This year, something called me back to that great game of yore, except I didn’t really have a way to easily or comfortably play it. Until my friend told me about Clone Hero. This simple game, which is totally free by the way, lets players play any song from any Guitar Hero title. Past that, it’s also a repository for songs made by other players that rank from enjoyable to mind-bendingly difficult. I erred towards the former, and have since played through “Cliffs of Dover” more times than I’d like to admit. While some folks found comfort in the soft aesthetic of Animal Crossing, I found mine in the multicolored buttons of a guitar-shaped controller.
9. Red Dead Online
The year it came out, I played way too much Red Dead Redemption 2. I immersed myself completely in the fictional Wild West and left the experience wanting more. Sad to say though, there aren’t really any cowboy-themed games that can hold a candle to Rockstar’s latest title. So, I had to settle for the next best thing — Red Dead Online. And honestly, “settle” is far too harsh considering that I loved this multiplayer version of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Over the course of most of this year, Red Dead Online was a fantastic service. I could log in for a couple hours a day, goof around with a pal of mine, and log off feeling like I was advancing slowly but steadily towards a new milestone or goal. The game even received a couple of updates adding much-needed extra content. Sadly, since the game’s last update and its massive nerfs to how much gold (the game’s premium currency) could be earned, I haven’t touched it. Still, those memories of me lassoing a friend and dragging them behind on a horse just can’t be beat.
8. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
This game’s place on my list surprised me, even as I struggled to put it together. But I’d be mistaken if I didn’t mention how much fun I had with the latest entry in the Crash Bandicoot franchise. It doesn’t just build on everything that past Crash games have been; it makes them (for the most part) better, all while retaining that feel that the classic titles had. Yes, that means the game is sometimes hair-tearingly difficult.
But when Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time gets it right, it’s something to behold. It’s one of the most spectacular platformers I’ve played this year, filled with personality, whimsy and good ol’ fashioned fun. I’m not diving back into the game to collect every gem or smash every box, but if I do boot it up for the random level here or there, I know I’m in for a good time.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
7. Cyberpunk 2077
This is…a hard one to write about. I have a lot of strong feelings about Cyberpunk 2077 and its developer CD Projekt Red. It’s a game that I, along with hundreds of thousands of other gamers, have been looking forward to for years. And when it finally arrived it didn’t just fall flat, it crashed into the Earth’s crust with meteoric force. Ten years from now, the industry will call launch disasters like this “Cyberpunks.” If it’s not happening, give me a year; I’ll make it happen.
Even so, my time with Cyberpunk 2077 has mostly been stellar. The game is unlike anything I’ve ever played, with its interesting characters, fun and varied side-quests, and scale. I said it before in my review, and I’ll say it again: nothing in Cyberpunk 2077 is done in a half measure. It goes all the way, for better or worse, and when it’s for better it’s awe-inspiring. I’ve put way too many hours into Cyberpunk 2077 as-is, and I have a feeling that by the end of next year that count will be well over 200. Since I finished my last run of Fallout: New Vegas I’ve been looking for a new open-world RPG to play to death, and I think this is it.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Cyberpunk 2077.
6. Duck Game
Earlier on in quarantine, my friends and I were struggling to find games to play. Sure, we’d hop on Jackbox for some quick laughs, but all of our tastes were too radically different to really get into one game. Until we collectively rediscovered a single strange title from 2014: Duck Game. This weird title, a platformer fighting game where each player is a bloodthirsty duck, is a simple joy and one of the best multiplayer games I’ve played all year.
Not only is it packed with fast-paced one-hit-kill action, but the game has an insane amount of modding support. Once we played through and got tired of all of Duck Game‘s default maps, we’d just spend 10 minutes finding a bunch of new ones to run around in. That plus the game’s continued support–which has resulted in an eight-player mode–makes Duck Game stand out from any of this year’s multiplayer titles.
5. Halo 3 on PC
I really shouldn’t have to justify this one. Earlier this year in the middle of the summer, Halo 3 made the jump from console exclusive to PC thanks to The Master Chief Collection. Prior to this, I hadn’t played Halo 3 since my days as an edgy middle-schooler, listening to Rise Against and hating my algebra teacher. The regression hit again, and although I didn’t start listening to Rise Against, I did sink another hundred hours into what is arguably one of the greatest FPS titles of all-time.
You really can’t go wrong with Halo 3; it’s got just about everything. Its campaign is rock solid, filled with fantastic setpieces and memorable moments. Multiplayer is a constant blast where anyone can find a game mode to sink hours into. Mine was SWAT, and I’ve since become a sweaty, try-hard player whenever my friends and I queue up for it. And then there’s custom games, the heart and soul of Halo 3. Playing classic custom games from my childhood wasn’t just fun; it made me feel something a game hadn’t made me feel in a long time. I was sent back to those days playing on a medium-sized plasma screen, talking to online friends with a crappy headset. Past being a great game, Halo 3 is a great memory, and revisiting it with all the PC bells and whistles was one of my favorite gaming experiences this year.
4. Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord
This is one of those games that I had been waiting years for. Literal years for. When everyone else was hyped about Cyberpunk 2077, I was asking “well, when’s Bannerlord?” The day finally came early on this year when the game finally released in Early Access, and it’s everything I could have ever asked for.
The Mount and Blade games place players in the shoes of a random schmuck in a made-up version of the medieval age. From there, players are set loose to do whatever they want, although it usually culminates in taking over the world. Where Bannerlord gets it right is the immense scale of everything. Massive field battles between armies can stretch out to half-an-hour, and sieges on castles or cities are simply immense. There isn’t another game out there like Bannerlord, and the craziest part is that the game isn’t even out of Early Access yet.
3. Final Fantasy 7 Remake
As I’m writing this, I’m on the closing acts of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I’ve never played the original Final Fantasy 7, and at this point, I don’t think I ever can. The sheer beauty of FF7R has just ruined any future attempts I could make to play the original game. Its standout visuals and soundtrack are, as far as I can assume, a fitting tribute to an extremely important JRPG title.
That being said, I can’t get over what a sheer joy it is to play FF7R. Combat in this title is impactful, fluid and fun. It rewards careful planning and thoughtful character building with satisfying combat scenarios from its beginning to, well, at least where I am now. Once you’ve got a massive enemy staggered and can let loose on them with each member’s abilities, it’s a show well worth watching.
Sure, FF7R has its low points. Its puzzles are slow, the side quests are vapid, and most of the time anyone talks, I yell at them to shut up and get me to the next fight against a giant mech or monster. But at all other times, FF7R is nothing short of spectacular. It’s not my Game of the Year, but damn if it didn’t earn the bronze medal.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Hades was the game that nobody knew they wanted this year. It slipped in out of nowhere in September and claimed the hearts and minds of tons of players, including me. I’m not the biggest fan of roguelikes; I like a decent chunk of them, and there are a select few that I adore. Chief among them is The Binding of Isaac, which I’ve played since it was a Flash game back in the early 2010s. So it should carry some weight when I say that Hades challenges that game for its Roguelike King crown.
Hades, like many titles from Supergiant Games, excels in nearly every aspect, even those it doesn’t have a right to. I mean, it’s a roguelike game, so why in the world am I falling in love with its characters? Why is its art style absolutely entrancing? Why have I learned to play “Good Riddance” in full to the point where I can’t get the song out of my head? Besides being fantastic to play, Hades is a brilliant piece of art in its own regards, and I’d be remiss to not acknowledge it as such.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Hades.
1. The Last of Us Part II
This was an insanely difficult decision to make. Part of me wanted to give this spot to Hades, but I had one singular thought that prevented that. The Last of Us Part II is, much like Hades, more than just great gameplay; it is deep, penetrative art. The stuff that, if you let it, will eat at your very core. It didn’t just shake me; it moved me and has lived rent-free in my head ever since finishing it. Hades doesn’t do that. The Last of Us Part II does.
As a game, I greatly enjoyed The Last of Us Part II. I found its hide-and-seek mechanics more than fun to toy around with; they got my adrenaline pumping nearly every time. I got anxious as an enemy would saunter past a car I was hiding under as Ellie, and encounters with Infected are, as always, horrifying. While I spent much more time rummaging through closets, drawers and other containers for crafting materials than I would have liked, I couldn’t help enjoying each moment of playing The Last of Us Part II.
But experiencing the game is something much different. Being present for its story, really soaking all of that in, is a gut-wrenching slog. I know I’m making it sound terrible, but it wasn’t. It was a fantastic study of desperate, vengeful characters and how humanity works when pushed to its limits. By the game’s end, I had been begging Ellie to stop for about five hours. I wanted the game to be over, to stop when the ending could have been happy. Instead, it chose to wrench guts with teeth until its bitter end. This story has stayed with me since I finished it and likely will continue to long after I finish writing this paragraph. It’s masterful, and not just one of the best stories I’ve experienced in a game all year, but one of the best in any form of media.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of The Last of Us Part II.
Honorable Mention: Slippi
I’ll be straightforward here: I love Super Smash Bros. Melee. It’s one of my favorite games of all-time, and it’s one of the few competitive games that I’ll actually watch. My group of friends would always play Melee, that is, until Smash Ultimate came out. But even with the option of playing a game with an enormous roster that looks better, we’ve gone back to Melee from time to time because there’s simply nothing else like it.
Once the pandemic hit though, there wasn’t really a good way to play Melee online. If we wanted to play a Smash game, it was Ultimate only, and that game’s online service is shaky at best over Wi-Fi. That’s where Slippi steps in. It’s a mod for Melee that gives players a stable, responsive online experience. For the first time in its 19-year history, this game can finally be played online as if two players were sitting next to each other. I haven’t played as much Melee as I should have, but because of Slippi, that’s going to change.
Check out the rest of the DualShockers staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards nominees:
December 31: Otto Kratky (Executive Editor) // Mario Rivera (Video Manager)
January 4: Game of the Year Awards 2020 Official Winners Revealed