Metro GameCentral Video Games Top 20 of 2020 – from Cyberpunk 2077 to Hades
GameCentral reveals its favourite games of the last 12 months, from Final Fantasy 7 Remake to the first PS5 and Xbox Series X titles.
Who knows what 2020 would’ve looked like for video games if coronavirus hadn’t happened. For a start, a lot of titles wouldn’t have been delayed into next year and those that did make it out wouldn’t have had so much difficulty with bugs and final polish (and yes, that is a reference to Cyberpunk 2077). Even as it was though, 2020 was a decent year for gaming and we had no trouble filling out this top 20.
What was difficult though was deciding on the top spot, in what has probably been the most difficult decision in several years. Earlier in the year we thought that The Last Of Us Part 2 would take the prize but all these months later we’re still playing New Horizons almost every day, not just to enjoy its constant stream of new features but because, just like millions of others this year, we’ve found it an important refuge from the realities of the year.
As usual we don’t count remakes in our top 20 so, as good as it is, Demon’s Souls isn’t included here (although we do have a best remake category in our 2020 awards). We’ve made an exception for Final Fantasy 7 Remake though because despite the name it’s really only the story that’s the same and even that begins to diverge greatly from the original by the end.
GameCentral Video Games Top 20 of 2020
1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NS)
If things had gone to plan New Horizons would’ve been released last year but luckily for Nintendo it ended up being delayed until the start of the first lockdown. It was already easily the best entry in the Animal Crossing franchise though, with the new crafting and landscaping options greatly expanding the opportunities for self-expression. The post launch support has been excellent too, as the game continues to be a welcome escape from the nightmare of 2020, allowing you to create your own virtual world free of worry and pressure, where you and your friends can live an idealised life so very different from current circumstances.
2. The Last Of Us Part 2 (PS4)
There are many ways to tell a story in a video game, but of those that rely on the language of cinema The Last Of Us Part 2 is by far the most accomplished. The plot progression is entirely out of your hands but while in many games that would be a detriment here it’s used to the game’s advantage in its storytelling. Ellie’s increasingly blinkered quest for vengeance makes you question not only her every action but yours as a player of video games. The Last Of Us Part 2 is a treatise on the importance of empathy and how its absence destroys the lives of everyone involved, but it’s also a finely polished action adventure with some of the best graphics of the generation.
3. Spelunky 2 (PS4/PC)
Originality has not been the watchword for 2020’s best games, with almost all of them being sequels, but Spelunky 2 is a lot more innovative than it first seems. It’s branching paths, layered stages, fluid simulation, and expanded multiplayer are all a significant improvement on the already classic original and allow it to present a significantly more varied experience. As a 2D platformer with roguelike elements the original’s influence on indie gaming has almost made it a cliché but despite the long wait the sequel was well worth it.
4. Ori And The Will Of The Wisps (XO/XSX/PC)
At heart Moon Studio’s sequel to Ori And The Blind Forest is also just another 2D platformer but it just so happens to have some of the best visuals and music of any game this year, and some of the most heartfelt storytelling. With relatively little dialogue the game manages to tell a story just as compelling as The Last Of Us Part 2, while also being an excellent Metroidvania, full of clever level design and a widening range of powers and abilities that encourage experimentation and exploration.
5. Final Fantasy 7 Remake (PS4)
Many thought it folly to even try a remake of Final Fantasy 7, considering how nostalgia has elevated the original well beyond the reality of what it actually was. That concern was unwarranted though as, remake or not, this is easily the best entry in the series for years. The new action-orientated battle system is hugely entertaining but what’s most important is that for once in a modern Final Fantasy all the protagonists are likeable and the plot is clear enough for anyone to follow. Whether that’ll be true for subsequent chapters remains to be seen but this first one is a triumph.
6. Half-Life: Alyx (PC VR)
For years the idea of a new Half-Life has been a running joke but while this isn’t Half-Life 3 it is very close to that, in terms of both the story and the gameplay innovation. The fact that it’s a VR title, that requires a powerful PC to run, means the audience for it will always be limited but Valve have taken the excuse to go all out when pushing the medium, in terms of graphics and interaction. There are some minor pacing issues, and problems with repetition, but it’s still the indisputable gold standard when it comes to big budget VR gaming.
7. Nioh 2 (PS4)
The two Nioh games have been unfairly overlooked by many and while they do have a lot in common with FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games their combat is much more expansive and amongst the best seen in any series this generation. The new yokai abilities in the sequel are an excellent addition, expanding the range of combat options even further and allowing for some memorable boss battles and wonderfully strange visuals. A PC version is being released next year so hopefully that will give the game another chance to find a wider audience.
8. Hades (NS/PC)
An isometric indie roguelike seems an unlikely candidate for one of the best action games of the year but Hades takes everything Bastion creator Supergiant Games has been doing for the last decade and fine tunes it to near perfection. That includes the storytelling, which not only features their signature use of a narrator but also a fascinating cast of characters that provide a constant stream of new commentary no matter how many times you die. It’s just a shame that the procedurally-generated levels don’t have quite the same level of hand-crafted personality.
9. Cyberpunk 2077 (XO/PS4/PC)
Even just a few weeks ago it would’ve been impossible to imagine the fate that Cyberpunk 2077 seems to have carved for itself, turning CD Projekt into public enemy number one after the game was found to be nigh unplayable on the standard Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. It’s all the sadder because on the PC the game’s qualities are clear, even amongst all the bugs. The level of detail and interactivity in the game world is unparalleled and while Cyberpunk 2077 is less innovative than you might have hoped it still has a chance to redeem itself as one of the best action role-players of the generation.
10. Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS4/PC)
We were never huge fans of Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game but we found this spin-off to be considerably more engaging, even though the setting and gameplay is largely the same (and so still a shameless rip-off the Batman: Arkham games). Surprisingly, the shorter length helps the game, with a more focused story and a much more compelling villain, that leads to one of the best video game endings of recent years. Suddenly Spider-Man 2 has even more to live up to.
11. Doom Eternal (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
The 2016 reboot was already one of the best first person shooters of the generation but this is one of the most successful examples of the bigger, better, more approach to sequels – even if we could’ve done without the platforming sections and dopey plot. The combat though is fantastic, expanding on the idea of using enemies themselves to replenish your health, armour, and ammo as you treat the legions of Hell as a sort of walking armoury, leading to some enjoyably tactical combat that is anything but mindless.
12. The Pathless (PS4/PS5/PC/iOS)
A surprise highlight of the PlayStation 5 launch line-up, this open world adventure is the latest in a long line of games that manages to evoke the speed and joy of Sonic The Hedgehog far better than any modern Sega game. That is the only similarity though, as this open world puzzler’s traversal system is based, rather oddly, around archery. As peculiar as that sounds it works perfectly in context and it’s only the slightly undercooked combat that stops the game from becoming a true classic.
13. Star Wars: Squadrons (XO/PS4/PC)
We loved the X-Wing and TIE Fighter space combat simulators games of the mid-90s but they appeared so contrary to current trends in gaming that there seemed no chance of them coming back. But this is essentially a spiritual sequel and one that works extremely well on consoles, especially if you have a PlayStation VR headset. The complexity of the flight simulation and combat is fantastic and makes for great multiplayer, although it’s a shame that the missions wasn’t designed with the same level of intricacy.
14. Horace (NS/PC)
There are very few video games you can immediately identify as British but the second the Thames Television inspired company logo appears onscreen you know that this is a game that’s not going to be appearing on any American best of lists. It deserves too though as it’s a wonderfully well-presented homage to 8-bit and 16-bit gaming that is filled with in-jokes and references but never lets them overpower what is a highly imaginative platformer with some surprisingly poignant storytelling.
15. Ghostrunner (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
It’s clear everyone expected Cyberpunk 2077 to make the cyberpunk genre the next big thing in gaming and while it’s unclear how that’s going to pan out now this excellent first person action game proves there’s plenty of room to make different types of game within the same kind of setting. It’s a better Mirror’s Edge than Mirror’s Edge ever was and although the story is a bit of a non-event the visuals are excellent for an indie game and there are plenty of different weapons and abilities to keep things interesting.
16. Paper Mario: The Origami King (NS)
If you’re still upset that the Paper Mario sequels are no longer role-playing games that’s perfectly understandable but this new entry in the series is easily the best since The Thousand-Year Door. The peculiar combat is robbed of some of its purpose by there being no experience system but it’s still a lot of fun, especially the boss battles, and, importantly for the Paper Mario series, this is the funniest game of the year, with a family friendly script filled with wit and absurdity.
17. Streets Of Rage 4 (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
The soundtrack may not have lived up to the early hype but everything else about this mega-belated sequel did. At first the visuals seem an odd choice, given the pseudo-realism of the original, but they work great in context and are full of life and character. The combat may not be mechanically complex but the game requires a great deal of situational awareness to do well in – that and someone else to help you out in co-op mode.
18. Immortals Fenyx Rising (XO/PS4/NS/XSX/PS5/PC/Stadia)
Despite being dismissed by many as a shameless Zelda: Breath Of The Wild clone (which it is) and despite having the worst name of any game this year (and possibly generation) Immortals is easily Ubisoft’s best game of the year. The combat and puzzles are different enough from Zelda to avoid direct comparisons and the game world and god powers are a real pleasure to explore. It’s a shame about the obnoxious use of modern slang but other than the overpowering sense of déjà vu that’s the game’s only real fault.
19. Mortal Shell (XO/PS4/PC)
Although Nioh 2’s adherence to the Soulsborne formula may not be very strict that’s not something you can say of this indie attempt to beat FromSoftware at their own game. It is a very credible effort though, with a similar attention to detail in the world design and plenty of original ideas of its own. Importantly it’s one of the best games for newcomers to get to grips with, as its slightly easier difficulty level and shorter length make it a considerably less daunting prospect for Soulsborne neophytes.
20. Wasteland 3 (XO/PS4/PC)
Post-apocalyptic open world role-playing games are almost a sub-genre of their own by this point, so it’s a testament to Wasteland 3’s quality that the familiarity of its setting isn’t at all off-putting. The sequel to the spiritual predecessor to Fallout has competent combat but it’s the game’s line in black comedy – something which Bethesda’s games expunged from the formula – that’s most impressive. Wasteland 3 gets so close to the bone in terms of parodying current American politics that it had to put in a disclaimer that the game had been designed before Trump’s America became a reality. Which is either terrifying or hilarious, depending on your point of view.
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