DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2020 — Ryan’s Top 10
In a year that pushed boundaries and was challenging, my favorite games of 2020 were both comforting, thought-provoking, and a blast to play.
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.
It goes without saying that 2020 was both one of the best and worst years that I’ve had pretty much in my entire life. As much as the COVID-19 pandemic was obviously something that we all had to face, this year personally brought some of the highest highs and lowest lows that I’ve experienced yet. As much as I’m looking forward to jump ahead into 2021 as much as everyone else, I do have to acknowledge that through it all, 2020 had a lot of good video games to play. Like, really good ones.
This year more than most, I really had to prune my list a bit to get down to the 10 games that really left an impression on me this year. DOOM Eternal and Resident Evil 3 gave me a lot of high-intensity blockbuster action to enjoy when I needed it, and smaller games like Wide Ocean Big Jacket, The Pathless, Tell Me Why, and The Solitaire Conspiracy gave me thoughtful, unique experiences that I easily recommend playing. Of course, it’s also worth mentioning Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game that many like me turned to for a brief escape from the worst parts of 2020.
As always, there are a few games that I didn’t quite get to before the year’s end, but I’ll be looking forward to playing them all in the coming year. Notably, Spiritfarer is probably at the top of my list as a longtime fan of developer Thunder Lotus Games, and more recently, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is starting to pique my interest with so many of our staff praising it so heavily during our end-of-the-year discussions.
But that being said, from what I did play throughout 2020, all of the games on my list helped get me through an especially difficult and challenging year. They were all bright spots during a dark year, and they’re all games that I heartily recommend if you haven’t had the chance to pick them up yourself.
10. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
Usually I tend not to put remasters on my personal Top 10 each year, but I had to make an exception this time around for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. Having missed out on the game’s original release for the Wii U, and more recently coming to love the Persona franchise, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore gave me the type of Persona-like experience that I was looking for on the Nintendo Switch. While it has a blend of elements from Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, I still managed to really enjoy my time with the bright, J-pop-inspired world of Tokyo Mirage Sessions, its memorable cast of characters, and a combat system that had me look forward to every session that I played of it.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore.
9. Kentucky Route Zero: Act V
As someone that has been playing each installment of Kentucky Route Zero as they have released, I was really looking forward to seeing how the long-running journey would finally come to its end. Like the previous four episodes before it, Act V doesn’t really hold your hand when it comes to giving a clear explanation of what’s happening and how it all ties into the larger narrative of KRZ. Heck, Act V itself is quite a departure from what the entirety of the game has been so far, with a game that has been in the making for nearly a decade wrapping up in an Act that lasts for about an hour. But really, that hour-long finale of Kentucky Route Zero has stuck with me ever since I played it at the beginning of the year, speaking to the strength of its story that I still find myself trying to fully piece together.
Kentucky Route Zero is likely not a game for everyone; it’s purposefully opaque, filled with vagueness, and it may not show its hand at first when you start playing. But after seeing how Cardboard Computer’s story comes together in its final Act, it only makes me want to go back and experience all of Kentucky Route Zero all over again to fully grasp a deep, interesting story that has unfolded over the past several years.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition.
8. Star Wars: Squadrons
Of all the games on my Top 10 List, Star Wars: Squadrons is easily the title that I’ve had the most pure fun with throughout the year. The Star Wars fan in me was thrilled with Squadrons, and more specifically, the Star Wars flight game fan in me was overjoyed at the chance to jump back into the cockpit of my favorite starfighters once again.
As someone that put countless hours into the Rogue Squadron games as a kid, Squadrons captured everything that I love about a universe that I care deeply about, and especially for bringing Star Wars‘ space combat into greater detail and excitement than ever before. From dogfighting with TIE Fighters in an X-Wing to narrowly dodging asteroids with an A-Wing, Squadrons is a tightly-focused Star Wars game that excels in so many ways, especially after playing in VR. There’s also the fact that it includes the Y-Wing, my personal favorite Star Wars ship of all-time, so it only gets even higher marks from me for that.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Star Wars: Squadrons.
7. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Much like the original before it, Ori and the Will of the Wisps was a game that I knew going in to it that I would thoroughly enjoy. As a lover of Metroidvania games it is exceptionally crafted, and even more than that, Will of the Wisps is simply one of the most visually striking and beautiful games that I’ve played all year.
Where Ori and the Will of the Wisps really got to me is through its surprisingly emotionally storytelling, which is made even more impressive by its virtual lack of dialogue. Moon Studios deserves praise for being able to tell a story that tears at your heart in the way that it has with Will of the Wisps, and at points throughout its story, it feels as emotionally devastating as the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Up. From top to bottom, Will of the Wisps is incredible to play, and it shouldn’t be missed.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
6. Persona 5 Royal
If there is any singular good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s the fact that I found myself with the time to finally play through Persona 5 all the way through. With Persona 5 Royal, I finally had the chance to dive into a game that I’ve been meaning to play for three years, and it’s arguably been my “pandemic game” to help get me through the worst parts of 2020.
Even more so than other games that I’ve enjoyed this year like Animal Crossing, Persona 5 Royal was really the game that I could let myself turn to for an escape from an especially challenging time. Fighting against injustice and corruption, spending time and bonding with those you love most; every aspect of Persona 5 Royal shined a little bit brighter in the wake of 2020, and the nearly 100 hours that I sunk into it over the summer felt like it flew by along the way.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Persona 5 Royal.
5. Among Us
While Persona 5 Royal was the single-player experience that probably resonated with me the most throughout the worst parts of the pandemic, Among Us was the multiplayer title that I really needed this year. Though I don’t tend to play a ton of multiplayer titles, Among Us caught my attention during its surge of popularity earlier this year and has since become one of my go-to games to play with friends throughout the year.
So many of my favorite gaming-related memories from this year come from Among Us, whether it was accidentally getting caught while using a vent and scrambling to kill the witness, or trying not to laugh as the Crewmates self-sabotage themselves and vote off everyone else but me as the Imposter. No game this year has had quite the breakout success that Among Us has, and it only make me more excited to see what else InnerSloth has up its sleeves.
4. Final Fantasy VII Remake
I need to go into my thoughts on Final Fantasy VII Remake acknowledging that for the most part, I am Not a Final Fantasy Person™. To date (other than FFVII Remake), the only Final Fantasy games still that I’ve actually finished and played all the way through are the original FFVII, FFX, and FFXV, other than the insane amount of time I put into Final Fantasy Tactics Advance as a kid. It’s nothing necessarily personal that I have against Final Fantasy or anything, but I always get a bit hesitant jumping into a series once it starts hitting double digits in the number of installments that it has.
That makes it all the more surprising that Final Fantasy VII Remake was able to resonate with me as much as it did, having only played through the original game about five years ago. Everything that Square Enix brought to the table with Final Fantasy VII Remake not only made me see and feel what has made the original game stand the test of time, but also managed to craft a game that isn’t beholden to it. Remaking an all-time classic is no easy feat, but Final Fantasy VII Remake managed to strike a perfect balance of honoring the original and setting up its future installments for an exciting, bold direction.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Final Fantasy VII Remake.
3. The Last of Us Part II
Going into our review of The Last of Us Part II and the waves of online conversation surrounding it up to release, I knew that I might have some complicated feelings around Naughty Dog’s latest title. It was hard to try and ignore the negativity and heated opinions that were coming in light of the game’s story, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic, social injustice, and times of deep division and hatred that we’ve experienced throughout the year.
Despite whatever hesitation I had going into playing The Last of Us Part II–a game that otherwise I have been immensely looking forward to–what really shone through for me was that Naughty Dog’s game goes far beyond what its reveal (and especially its marketing) billed it as; a game about hate. Yes, the core theme that ties together Ellie’s and Abby’s story is a search for revenge at the loss of loved ones. But really, The Last of Us Part II is truly a game about perspective, and the only way to really grasp what it has to say is to experience it for yourself.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of The Last of Us Part II.
In a similar way to Final Fantasy VII Remake, I am Not Really a Roguelike Person™. Other than Dead Cells, I’ve never really found a roguelike game that has clicked for me, especially once I start growing weary of the whole dying-repeatedly thing. However, going into it mainly because of my love for Supergiant Games’ past titles, Hades instantly made me understand the appeal of the genre while being a damn good game in its own right.
For me, Hades brings everything that Supergiant has done so impressively in their past games while also delivering their most infinitely replayable game yet. Hades is filled with the the kind of interesting and memorable characters that made me love Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre, while also making every run through the underworld feel fresh, exciting, and thrilling. It took quite a bit of time for me to finally clear my first run and make it through to the surface, and no matter how many times I died, Hades kept me motivated with a masterful blend of storytelling in the dynamic framework of a roguelike.
Essentially, for me playing Hades was like finding one of its Duo Boons; it gave me a whole new appreciation for the roguelike genre, and it may have just become my favorite title from Supergiant Games.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Hades.
1. Half-Life: Alyx
Even in a year that brought us the next-generation consoles and games that pushed the boundaries, for me Half-Life: Alyx was really the game that embodied where the medium can go from here. That’s aside from the fact that we got a new Half-Life game in 2020, something that simply felt like a pipe dream up until now (and especially after playing all the way through to the end).
For me, Half-Life: Alyx pushed the boundaries for how games can tell deeper, more immersive stories and how players can interact with them. Half-Life as a series has always thrived on deep narratives that pull players into its well-defined and interesting world, but Alyx has brought that to an entirely new level through VR. In the game’s opening moments, the scale and depth of City 17 is more fully realized than ever, especially once you see a Strider towering over you and a Combine skyscraper looming in the distance.
Though I acknowledge the barrier to entry that it has by only being available to play with a VR headset, for me there is simply no other game that has demonstrated the power and immersion of VR than Half-Life: Alyx. Its integration of VR not only adds to its world and setting, but it also elevates everything that Half-Life: Alyx has to offer from a storytelling perspective. Even against the next-gen experiences that we’ve been able to play on new consoles in the past few months, for me Half-Life: Alyx shows even more untapped potential that awaits.
Check out DualShockers‘ review of Half-Life: Alyx.
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