DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Ricky’s Top 10
It's that time of the year again. Fortunately, 2020 has been filled with great games that really spoke to me; however, the top of the heap remains the same.
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.
For me, 2020 was a year where smaller games (in terms of team size) ruled my headspace, which makes a ton of sense looking back. Of my most anticipated games for 2020, there weren’t many that were as big in scope as something like The Last of Us Part 2 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Instead, I found myself looking forward to smaller games like Fall Guys and Desperados 3.
Fortunately, almost every game I was looking forward to was able to knock it out of the park. However, as you’ll see below, there is one major title that stands out well above the rest. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised. They might be surprised at where I rank it among the best games ever though. For that, you’ll have to check it out below. That’s what we, in the biz, call a tease. On to the list.
Honorable Mention: Abby (The Last of Us Part 2)
I don’t particularly like The Last of Us Part 2. In fact, I almost put the game aside during the first half because I’ve never liked a Naughty Dog game and wasn’t invested in either Joel or Ellie. I know that’s controversial, but I don’t care. Like, I’m sure it’s great for you to see two characters you love back on your TV screen. They have never done anything for me. However, when the game flips and you start playing as Abby, everything changed for me. It’s not that her portion of the story is better written or anything so simple. Instead, it’s all about how much of a badass she is.
Too often in media, women aren’t allowed to be strong characters like their male counterparts. Sure, you have characters like Ellie or Lara Croft who are tough, but always in a way that keeps them feminine. For whatever reason, women can’t have that “take-no-prisoners” attitude. Abby throws that away immediately.
From the second you start to control her, you can tell that this girl is built different. Her walk has a swagger to it that instantly made me know she wasn’t going to be your typical female lead. Instead, she’s like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2; All about taking names and laying waste to everyone in her path. As I moved her story along, I felt myself start to embody the character. Abby doesn’t need stealth. She’s here to bust some ass. So, I went into each encounter with that same bombastic attitude. As far as characters go in 2020, Abby might be the most important one in my books.
So, while I don’t think The Last of Us Part 2 is that great of a game, I feel like I have to call out Abby as a character. She’s something that we don’t often see in our entertainment and I hope that changes.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of The Last of Us Part 2.
10. Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise
Look, Deadly Premonition 2 is a flawed game. It doesn’t perform well technically and the story has its issues. That said, I continue to be endlessly charmed by the excellent cast Swery has created. We already knew York as the most loveable jerk in video games, but the citizens of Le Carre are the real stars of the show. From the girl who invented Uber, to the bowling grandma, to your sidekick Patrica, this game is full of memorable characters that I fell in love with.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise.
9. Murder by Numbers
My wife plays a lot of Picross. Like, so much Picross that there are months where I don’t even see our Nintendo Switch because it’s become a Picross machine instead. That means I’ve seen a ton of Picross games over the years. Not since Picross 3D have I seen a game push the genre forward like Murder by Numbers does. Adding an engaging and fun story might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Plus, it looks fantastic.
8. Desperados 3
Mimimi Games are quietly becoming a tactics powerhouse. After dropping the excellent Shadow Tactics back in 2016, they’ve only built on that formula with Desperados 3. It is so tightly put together and incredibly fun to play. The way the game handles stealth is phenomenal and the Showdown mechanic lets you set up some truly spectacular shootouts. This is a must-play for fans of the genre.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Desperados 3.
7. Spelunky 2 & Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I’m sorry. I can’t separate these two exceptional sequels. Both of them captured my attention in a big way this year and more than surpassed their predecessors. Spelunky 2 is a case of bigger and better, which Derek Yu and his team knocked out of the park. Ori is gorgeous, has a stunning story, and brings some of the best movement in a 2020 game. And sticking them together also lets me get Deadly Premonition 2 on the list. A win-win for everyone.
6. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
I think that if you asked me in August what my Game of the Year would be, I probably would’ve gone with Fall Guys. I absolutely love this game. It’s just so joyous to play whether I win or lose, and it perfectly captures that feeling of the weird Japanese game shows I watched as a kid. Unfortunately, there have been tons of great games that came out in the last few months, so Fall Guys has dropped for me just a bit.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.
5. Half-Life: Alyx
Now we’re getting to the big dogs, especially in terms of pushing gaming forward. Half-Life: Alyx is understandably not being talked about much by the masses due to it being only available on VR. However, I really hope costs in that space keep going down so more people have the chance to experience the most immersive game I’ve ever played. This is a game that the industry will study and copy for years in their quest to match up to what Valve has done here. This is the next level of VR. If you have a chance, please give it a try.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Half-Life: Alyx.
4. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 set the bar for what legacy board games can be. Since then, no other game has been able to match it; until now. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 builds on the excellent foundation Season 1 set while taking things up a notch. Outside of Gloomhaven, this is probably my favorite board game of all time. Obviously, it’s quite the commitment (doubly so in the middle of an actual pandemic); however, if you want to see what makes board games special, Season 0 is more than worth your investment.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Pandemic Legacy: Season 0.
3. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Rarely, some games come along that couldn’t be translated to any other medium. Sure, The Last of Us Part 2 is a solid enough video game, but that could easily be a movie. In fact, in many ways, most of the games held up as the “best narratives” in video games almost feel more like failed films than anything. For me, they just don’t take advantage of everything interactive that video games can do to tell their story.
13 Sentinels is one of the rare games that does the opposite. I won’t spoil anything for you here, but know that–like NieR: Automata–you can’t get this kind of experience anywhere else. I can’t remember another game this year getting me more hyped with some of its bigger moments. Add in some awesome mechs and a wonderful cast of characters, and you have one of the best games of 2020.
Hades probably should be in my number one slot. Roguelikes are my favorite genre, and Supergiant’s latest does so much to push that genre forward. I mean, for the first time ever a roguelike has a good story? And the art, music, and voice acting are top-notch. As far as looks, Hades has the most (and best) style of any game in 2020. Each weapon is lovingly crafted and a joy to use. And the roguelike ramp-up is sublime. Supergiant has made several great games, but this is their magnum opus.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Hades.
1. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
And now we’re here. You’d think I’d learn at this point, but after playing Hades, I didn’t see how any game could take my top slot. I know I’m one of the biggest Yakuza shills on this staff, but even I didn’t think Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio could top Supergiant’s latest. Then I started playing it.
The first thing that has to be mentioned is that Yakuza is an RPG now because I guess people really liked that April Fools joke in 2019. The crazy thing is that it works. RGG has done such a good job capturing the feel of a street brawl with a Persona-like battle system. All the characters shuffle around as you fight, which means you have to constantly pay attention to positioning if you don’t want to get demolished. At higher difficulties, the system feels even more well-realized because you have to start using your full repertoire to get through each battle.
However, I don’t come to Yakuza games for the combat; it’s all about that crime drama. In a year filled with great casts, none of them compare to Ichiban and his crew. Ichiban, on his own, is the best protagonist the series has ever had. Kaiji Tang absolutely nails that Goku energy and perfectly matches the series’ ability to swing from serious to ridiculous without missing a beat. Filling Kiryu’s shoes is a big ask, but Ichiban more than does it.
But the really impressive part is that the rest of the cast stands right there with him. Yakuza games have memorable side characters, but they’re almost never as fleshed out as your crew in Like a Dragon. Sure, you have standouts like Majima, but nothing on this level. Each character is fully realized and as you build up your bonds, you slowly learn about what makes each of them tick. In some respects, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the best Persona game I’ve ever played.
On top of all that, the main narrative is so incredibly excellent. RGG Studios have made good stories before, but nothing has been as touching and effective as Like a Dragon. They’ve also perfectly toed that line between dumb and heartfelt; however, Like a Dragon does it so expertly. I won’t spoil anything for you here, but of my top 5 moments in the Yakuza series, four of them happen in Like a Dragon.
It’s also worth noting that RGG Studios does open worlds better than anyone in the game. Yokohama is so jam-packed with varied and good side content that it’s frankly ridiculous. Where most games litter the map with collectibles and call it a day, Like a Dragon builds a lived-in, wonderful city full of things to do and quirky characters to meet.
Look, I don’t have a bad thing to say about Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The gap between it and Hades for me might as well be an entire ocean. It is far and away my favorite game of 2020 and slots in as my fifth favorite game of all time. It’s the best the series has ever been, and I am so excited to see what RGG does next. Ichiban is number one!
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