Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: GameCentral Readers' Top 20 of 2020
The annual readers vote for the best games of the last year chooses between greats such as The Last Of Us Part 2 and Animal Crossing.
Although we’ve already revealed what we think are the best games of 2020 we always make sure to give readers a chance to vote for their favourites and the chart you see below is the end result of all the emails we’ve received during the course of the week.
The top three were easy enough to predict, even if the order they’d appear wasn’t, while Ghost Of Tsushima was the highest polling game to appear in the reader chart but not ours.
Readers’ Top 20 – 2020
1. The Last Of Us Part 2 (PS4)
2. Final Fantasy 7 Remake (PS4)
3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NS)
4. Hades (NS/PC)
5. Ghost Of Tsushima (PS4)
6. Astro’s Playroom (PS5)
7. Demon’s Souls (PS5)
8. Immortals Fenyx Rising (XO/PS4/NS/XSX/PS5/PC/Stadia)
9. Doom Eternal (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
10. Star Wars: Squadrons (XO/PS4/PC)
11. Cyberpunk 2077 (XO/PS4/PC)
12. Ori And The Will Of The Wisps (XO/NS/XSX/PC)
13. Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS4/PS5)
14. Streets Of Rage 4 (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
15. Horace (NS/PC)
16. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (XO/PS4/NS/XSX/PS5/PC/Stadia)
17. Wasteland 3 (XO/PS4/PC)
18. Paper Mario: The Origami King (NS)
19. Half-Life: Alyx (PC VR)
20. Lonely Mountains: Downhill (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
Top three games for our family are:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I bought the themed Switch bundle for the missus in March and it’s been played practically every day since. It’s a superb game and couldn’t have been more apt for the year we’ve had.
Carrion. The sound effects send shivers down my spine every time I play it. The whip sound of the tentacles as you traverse the levels is downright unsettling. The puzzles are reminiscent of a Metroidvania but as the backtracking is never too far it just keeps me playing it.
Cyberpunk 2077. So we know its issues. I bought it day one for Xbox One and although it ran awfully and crashed a few times the story and characters were compelling enough to drag me in. Fast forward to the new year and managing to pick up a Xbox Series X and I’d say the game is truly the first next gen game for the console. Apart from a few characters in weird places it runs as smooth and looks as beautiful as you could want.
Honorary mention goes to:
Minecraft Dungeons. I’ve never been into Diablo type games, nor Minecraft, but this game played couch co-op is really satisfying. My other half has no hand/eye coordination for first or third person shooters. I’ve tried getting the missus into Halo and still laugh my head off at the sight of Master Chief running sideways down corridors and missing every enemy she shoots at, but isometric style games seem to be a hit and Minecraft Dungeons has just the right amount of skill, challenge, and secrets to unlock to keep us interested.
The best game of 2020 for me was Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, by a country mile. It is essentially just a polished version of the original Wii game but for me it also happens to be the best Japanese role-playing game ever made. Xenoblade Chronicles has lots of beautiful locations to explore and a story that starts brilliantly and remains interesting throughout.
The thing I really love about it though is the Affinity links and how you can improve the relationships of not only your team members but every named character in the game. Admittedly, this could have been done better but I really liked how all the communities gradually link up on the Affinity Chart and hope this concept future games incorporate.
And my second best game of 2020 is another remake of a Japanese role-playing game. Yes, Demon’s Souls! Utterly brilliant game and, much like Xenoblade, one I started two generations ago but never finished until this year’s remake. I enjoyed this far more than I expected and really liked finding the shortcuts that linked the bosses to the starting points of each area.
I was expecting a horrible slog but I actually found it fairly manageable, although I was over level 100 by the end, which is probably at least 30 levels over par.
As tempting as it is to pop Final Fantasy 7 Remake in the third spot, and comprise my top three entirely of Japanese role-playing remakes, it sadly just missed out. My third choice is The Last Of Us Part 2. Not exactly a fun experience but a compelling one that kept me playing through to the end.
This is a game that essentially forces you to do things that you do not want to, something the first game also does admittedly, but Part 2 really doubles down on it. Emotionally manipulative to the point it has rubbed everyone up the wrong way but the bravery to do that with such a big title is what puts it in my top three.
Turns out this is a really tricky one for me as I seem to have played a lot of amazing games from previous years (Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Dead Cells, Borderlands 3, Slay The Spire, Into The Breach, The Outer Worlds, etc.) but fewer that have been released this year. So, I think of what I’ve played:
3. Gloomhaven (open beta). Probably not one that others have played, but it’s a turn-based tactical game based on the award winning board game. I would heartily recommend both. Essentially, you control one or more characters (either solo or, better, co-operatively) through a number of small combat-focused objective-led scenarios. Each round you choose two cards, the top of which normally dictates what you will attack and the bottom of which is normally a move, aiming to choose the top of one and the bottom of the other.
These cards also have an initiative which determines what order you participate in the round. This hand of cards also functions as your stamina – when you run out of cards that character is exhausted. It’s a very elegantly constructed set of rules, and while the full campaign isn’t up and running, the existing Guildmaster mode is more than enough for me to recommend it. Sadly, it’s only on PC at the moment.
2. Nioh 2. I enjoyed the first one – and this is very much more of the same. If you like Dark Souls, then it’s hard to avoid recommending this. Its perhaps more arcadey, but the possible approaches to playstyle and variety of enemies is much broader than the Souls series.
1. Cyberpunk 2077. This is a tough one. On launch it was exceptionally buggy, and while it’s stable now, it still has more bugs than is reasonable. Fittingly it crashed (the first in about 50 hours) during the closing credits. Despite all of that, I’ve played it extensively and very much enjoyed my time with it. While the combat, driving and loot is only adequate, and the side missions, while excellent, not quite up to The Witcher 3’s standard it’s still for the most part an absorbing, gorgeous looking game, whose scope surpasses anything I’ve played before.
Matt (He_who_runs_away – PSN ID)
E-mail your comments to: [email protected]
My top three games of 2020 would have to be:
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Final Fantasy 7 Remake was definitely my most anticipated game of 2020, despite having apprehensions about it prior to release. It certainly differs a lot from the original game but that almost made it more of a delight to play, as it constantly kept you guessing what you would see or do next and the modifications made to the music, graphics, and gameplay were all largely a success. It made being at home a lot more tolerable and was a joy to experience.
I never owned the original, so to be able to play Spider-Man Remastered for the first time on PlayStation 5 was great, it’s such a well-made game and really gives you the feeling of being Spider-Man. Everything about it oozes quality from the smooth gameplay, graphics, collectibles and relative ease of being able to achieve the Trophies, allowing me to get the platinum Trophy!
A pleasant surprise was the release of Grindstone late in the year (thanks for the review letting us know how good it was GameCentral). I picked it up with the bonus of a launch window discount on Switch and it is definitely worthy of the high score. It’s a great game and one which I’m thoroughly enjoying trying to do everything in.
Special mention goes to Cardpocalypse, which narrowly missed being able to be voted for due to it being released in December 2019 for Switch. It’s a great game and one which uniquely has a disabled female lead and a funny South Park-style aesthetic and tone. The theme tune for the game alone trumps the Bugsnax theme for me!
Joy of motion
My real choice for the game of 2020 would be Ring Fit Adventure, which has been an absolute revelation, as I detailed in my Reader’s Feature. Obviously, that’s a 2019 release though, so disqualified. I did actually manage to play more newly released games than usual last year though, including GC’s top two: Animal Crossing and The Last Of Us Part 2. Although still good, I wasn’t really blown away by either of them, so they aren’t amongst my picks. I suspect they will top the Reader’s Top 20 though.
My three picks are not contenders for the best game ever, like my top two picks last year were (Devil May Cry 5 and Resident Evil 2 remake), but they are superb games that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s been an absolute lifeline to have gaming to fall back on during this difficult year and these games have really helped lift my spirits in their own unique ways. So here in reverse order are my choices for the 2020 Reader’s Top 20:
3. Doom Eternal. I enjoyed this game so much I played it through twice. The original was great and this is better. The rush of adrenaline you get tearing through hordes of demons, unloading all your guns on them whilst trying to maintain your health, armour, ammo, and sanity is unparalleled. The gruesome graphics, heavy metal sound and relentlessly, exhilarating gameplay all come together to create an almost entirely instinctual state of play that is deeply satisfying. The addition of the meat hook is very welcome and makes manoeuvring around the arenas even more of a joy. Hell, I even enjoyed the platforming sections, with some cleverly hidden secret areas adding an element of exploration to the game. Looking forward to getting my chainsaw back out for the Ancient Gods once both parts have been released.
2. Star Wars Squadrons. I think a common thread through my three picks is a heavy focus on the joy of moving through the game world. It’s not often I am truly entrusted with free movement through a 3D space but Squadrons shows what a little faith in the player can achieve. Some of the most wonderful moments I’ve had in the game don’t involve shooting down enemies or a successful run on a capital ship but merely the thrill of flying itself. Darting between structures and making a tight hairpin turn to skim across the surface genuinely feels like I’ve stepped right into the films, capturing the same excitement I had watching the Millennium Falcon fly all those years ago. Starfighter Assault may have looked better but Squadrons feels better. I know which option I’d pick. I imagine if I had VR this could have been my number one, maybe one day!
1. Lonely Mountains: Downhill. I love a good surprise. I thought Lonely Mountains: Downhill would be a quick palate cleansing indie game between bigger titles. Around 10 hours it was supposedly meant to last. I put in well over 50 delightful hours. I even managed to get top of the leaderboard on a couple of trails (obscure nighttime ones but still!). It is an absolutely top class racer and very favourably reminiscent of F-Zero in that incremental movements are the difference between glory and death. Learning each mountain and its trails was an engrossing experience, with each millisecond cut off your time a real triumph.
The implementation of shortcuts is the best I’ve seen in any game, with seemingly impossible jumps and routes gradually being tamed, changing your entire approach to a trail. Beyond the perfection of the precision racing and intricately designed trails there is another surprising element in the game’s success, the atmosphere.
The name Lonely Mountains gives it away but despite your mountain biker’s constant deaths there is this peaceful, almost wistful feel to the game that adds a layer of depth to your downhill sprints. Each mountain has several points where you can just stop and soak it all in. There’s no music, no noise bombarding you. Just you in nature, listening to the wind. In a year when going out has become such a luxury, a game that truly captures that feeling of space and freedom is something special indeed.
PS: Special mention for Journey To The Savage Planet, which narrowly came in fourth. A brilliant comical take on Metroid that was a real pleasure to play.
3. A major genre missing in my gaming lexicon is Japanese role-playing games. So I never played Final Fantasy 7 first time around. I was worried it would be lost on me, without the nostalgia feels. I was wrong, I enjoyed my time with Avalanche and the ATB battle system. Apart from one big spoiler that hasn’t happened yet I did not know the story at all. Knowing that thing made some parts more poignant. I hope for more varied locations though, in the next part.
2. Star Wars: Squadrons is some kind of voodoo magic. I have had PlayStation VR for several years but while better than when I first got it I have never fully got my VR legs. Prolonged play is a no-no. So how can I play Star Wars: Squadrons for hours on end, barrel-rolling between Star Destroyers while dogfighting X-Wings? I don’t know but I love it.
1. My top choice is a PlayStation 4 exclusive with near instant loading and some of the best graphics of the whole generation. It starts with a bloody act and sees the protagonist crossing the land on a quest for bloody revenge, disregarding their previous ethics on the way. Of course, it is Ghost Of Tsushima. Maybe it is because my last Assassin’s Creed was Black Flag but I really enjoyed the exploration and mopping up quests and collectibles across the sumptuous land of Tsushima. In a year with no travel it felt like a holiday to a gorgeous far away land but with added stand-offs of course.
The Last Of Us Part 2 was close to the top three but I cannot say I enjoyed it in the classical sense, I think that was the point really. I would have preferred being Abby for the whole game, with a relentless Nemesis type Ellie hunting you for the duration.
ThePowerFeeling (PSN ID)
I had trouble deciding which order to put my top three choices in but at number three is:
Pikmin 3 Deluxe for Switch. I love this game, I got it for Christmas and I’ve been playing it ever since. It beat out two other games because I find it a lot of fun to play, it’s very satisfying to throw pikmin at an enemy or obstacle and then watch them do their thing. It’s a very chill, relaxing game and it’s done a lot to take my mind of the stress of lockdown. It really brings me joy to play, especially when I beat a level that’s been giving me trouble.
Number two had to be Ghost Of Tsushima on PlayStation 4. I got it on release and at first I didn’t like the combat, I didn’t find it all that intuitive switching between stances for different enemies but once I got the hang of it I started to love it. The story is epic and the setting is truly stunning. In my opinion it showed up Ubisoft and made the Assassin’s Creed games look a little meh. The only complaint I have is that while the open world is lovely the game more or less forces you to play as a ghost or dishonourable samurai, while the story tells you not to play that way. I think the game needed multiple endings depending on how you played through the missions, but it still deserves all the love it gets.
My number one choice is Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Switch. I’ve never played an Animal Crossing game before this one, so it was all new to me. I found it to be a very charming little game to play, I got a surprising amount of satisfaction just exploring and finding new fossils and wot not on my island. I was very proud of my house when I first built it and I love being able to visit friends’ islands. Just like Pikmin 3, it brought me lot of joy to play during the first lockdown back in March of last year, it really helped me keep my mind off the situation. I also really like the seasonal changes implemented by Nintendo.
It’s my number one choice because I still dip into it every day, nearly a year after it was released. If that isn’t value for money I don’t know what is.
Honourable mentions go to The Last Of Us Part 2. I liked the game quite a lot, just not as much as I thought I would and nowhere near as much as I enjoyed the games I chose for my top three. Also, Immortals Fenyx Rising; again I liked the game quite a lot but for some reason it wasn’t able to hold my attention like the other games in this list. I’m really looking forward to reading what everyone else has been playing in 2020.
I only want to nominate one game: The Last Of Us Part 2.
None of the other games released last year come anywhere near this for sheer entertainment and quality.
I rarely enjoy, or even follow, the stories in games but I was grabbed by Ellie’s revenge tale and loved the way you got to see the story from two different perspectives.
Simply brilliant and very highly recommended.
Manic Miner 100 (gamertag)
First of all, I found out Horace wasn’t actually released in 2020 but I think it would’ve easily made it into my top three if it had been. Just wanted to quickly give it a well-deserved shout out for how hilarious, clever, and moving it was.
As it stands, I think that means I only actually played three new games in 2020 and, in reverse order, I’d rank them as follows:
3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This is the first Animal Crossing game I’ve played since the GameCube and, due to dipping in every day from early April till January, it’s easily my most played game ever, with an estimated time of 500 hours or more.
It deserves admiration for being wholesome and comforting but as a creature of routine, and sometimes compulsion, I did end up feeling like I was held captive. If you don’t have a big network of friends to trade with online, then the means of unlocking everything just becomes so mundane that you end up resenting the game a bit.
But considering how, like many good first party Switch games, it’s practically screaming to have its progression system monetised, it also deserves praise for exercising that particular restraint.
2. The Last Of Us Part 2. It’s either mildly amusing or absolutely ingenious how this game seems to have anticipated the way people in real life would process their grief and react to loss in such an overwhelmingly negative way. Yes, there are a few hiccups in the writing and the plot might not pan out the way everyone would want it to, but it seems to me that a lot of the people condemning the game so intensely are doing so as a processing mechanism for certain story developments that happen early on. As if the success as a game starts and ends with one storytelling decision.
That aside, Naughty Dog has a real talent for conveying a sense of place, and while there wasn’t enough varied gameplay to spread across the full story, it was a real pleasure for the first 20 hours or so just finding in pretty much every room and area an interesting new thing to observe or a new micro-story embedded in the environment.
1. Hades. I’m pretty inexperienced in the roguelike genre (although Into The Breach is easily among my favourite Switch games). When I started with Hades, I could quickly see how it would be compelling to improve my way towards defeating the final boss and finally completing a run. What I wasn’t prepared for was the way the game doubled down (and tripled and quadrupled down) on that compulsion factor by gradually introducing different weapons, moves, currencies, enemies, allies, and stories to keep me interested well beyond the mere goal of beating the last boss.
It would all be massively overwhelming and off-putting if not handled well and I feel like a lot of developers could learn from Super Giant when it comes to funnelling content to the player. Particularly big open world games that like to dump hours of similar content on you at once.
I liken it to the difference between getting on board with a big TV series when episode one airs, compared to being expected to start watching it when you already know there are 120 hour-long episodes to get through (‘and season five is when it starts to get really good!’).
GC: Horace didn’t come out on Switch until 2020, so it would’ve counted.
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