Monday, 21 December 2020

2020 in Review: Top 10 Video Games

With 2020 finally coming to an end, it is time for us to take a much-needed step back as we examine some of the things that have kept our minds off the many troubles of "these uncertain times." Throughout this week, I'll be counting down my Top 10 movies, video games, TV shows and songs. But unlike previous years, I'll be ranking my picks from 10 to 1, in keeping with all the Top 10s I've been posting over on YouTube.

I'll be starting the week-long Year in Review with a rundown of my Top 10 video games. But first, I must once again begin with the disclaimer that I'd skipped out on some notable games this past year. Most of them were PS4 exclusives, and there is no doubt that hardcore gamers will notice their absence on this list. That said, this leaves more room for some smaller indie games and hidden gems you'd typically not catch on these types of lists. So without further ado, here are my Top 10 video games of 2020.

10. Paper Mario: The Origami King

2020 was a comparatively quieter year for Nintendo, and one of the few first party titles to come out for the Nintendo Switch was Paper Mario: The Origami King. The game boasted the same witty writing and colorful paper-styled visuals the series is known for, and introduced a new ring-based battle system. And while it was not the return to the series' RPG roots that long-time fans had hoped for, it still managed to pack its own kind of thrills.

9. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

The battle royale genre received a surprising new entry this year in the form of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. The game featured up to 60 players competiting against each other in several game show-styled events, until only one is left standing, doing battle across several rounds filled with many obstacles and colorful perils. The game had exploded onto the scene in August, and while it might have fallen in popularity since then, it remains a major gaming highlight for many this past year.

8. Genshin Impact

Of all the games on this list, Genshin Impact was probably the one I'd never imagined would turn out as good as it did. But here we are. The game first got on my radar last year, after it made the news for its similarities to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the spirited reaction that caused in one particular Nintendo fan at a Japanese gaming convention. But what surprised me the most after finally getting to play the game this year, was its overall quality and the amount of content it offered for free, and how it has no doubt raised the bar for free-to-play games.

7. Streets of Rage 4

My 90s beat-em-up itch was very much scratched this past year, thanks to Streets of Rage 4, the long-awaited entry in the once-popular game series. And by long awaited, I mean that it has literally been some 26 odd years since fans last got to throw punches and kicks at random thugs milling about the crime-ridden streets. The latest entry replaces the 16-bit graphics of those earlier games with some beautifully handrawn sprites and backgrounds, and has original series composers, Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, returning to help compose and curate some truly incredible tunes for the game.

6. Resident Evil 3

My favorite video game released last year was none other than the Resident Evil 2 remake by Capcom. So you could imagine my excitement when we'd first learnt that we would also be getting a remake of the original game's sequel, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, and just one year later. The new game somehow manages to improve on the previous game's already lifelike visuals, as well as ratchet things up several notches with even more action setpieces. The game was accused of being comparatively shorter though, a shortcoming it attempts to assuage by coming bundled with an online multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance.

5. Doom Eternal

The 2016 version of Doom was already every bit the perfect first-person-shooter game, but the developers at id Software were obviously not satisfied. And following a short delay from its original 2019 release date, its sequel, Doom Eternal, was unleashed onto the world (along with a certain other game further down this list). The introduced even more hordes of enemies to do battle against, as well as new platforming abilities and a fleshed out story mode. But the one facet of the game that resonated with me the most during my long play sessions was its rocking soundtrack.

4. Hades

I've never been particularly keen on roguelike games, even though I did feature both Dead Cells and Cadence of Hyrule in my list of favorite games last year. But all that changed with my discovery of Hades this past year, the latest game from acclaimed indie developers, Supergiant Games. The game marries a beautiful art style with a fun gameplay loop that involves hacking and slashing your way through its procedurally-generated underworld. Like most roguelikes, players would die often and things reset at the start of each run. But the fact you unlock new abilities and upgrades ensures that you also get that sense of progression regardless.

3. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

While Sony and Microsoft were busy preparing to launch their respective next-gen consoles this fall, Nintendo was quietly prepping its big holiday title. And if we were going by the sheer magnitude of its eventual reveal alone, then Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity would most likely be topping this list. Billed as a prequel to the events that transpired in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the hack and slash adventure game would take that other game's story in a bold, new direction. And despite being marred by performances issues, it still stands tall as one of the better games to grace the Nintendo Switch this year.

2. Cyberpunk 2077 (PC Version)

It is almost impossible to discuss Cyberpunk 2077 without first acknowledging the current state of its console ports. The game has had the rockiest of launches to say the least. And while those versions of the game continue to get patched into a more playable state, we can't overlook the gem of a video game hidden underneath all those bugs and glitches. And that gem currently shines the brightest on PC, with all the next-generation bells and whistles gamers could possibly hope for. Its massive open-world is filled with delights and side attractions at almost every turn, while its main campaign offers the high-quality storytelling fans have come to expect from CD Projekt Red.

1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Was there ever even a doubt that Animal Crossing: New Horizons wouldn't be topping my list of Top 10 games of 2020? I mean, you only need to take a scroll through my Twitter page to see how much it dominated my free time this past year. No other game had managed to fill a void the way the latest in the series of life simulation games from Nintendo did when lockdowns began in mid-to-late March.

And through all the craziness and uncertainty of 2020, this game continued to provide a respite from all of it for millions of players all over the world. Some 26 million players to be precise, at least going by the last reported NPD numbers. Those numbers speak for themselves, which is why I feel that no other game was as significant this past year to the gaming landscape as a whole.


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