January has always been a particular favorite time of year. It’s unquestionably partially due to it being my birth month, I won’t lie. Yet, I’ve also always been drawn to it’s brand of reflective vibes. The month where you both look back on the year that was and also begin to swirl up those big dreams and hopes of the year just dawning.
2020 was a shitty year. It was by nearly any standard truly awful and tragic. I count myself beyond lucky that for me personally it was actually among the greatest years of my personal life. A year of deepening relationships, stronger friendships, and falling more in love with those around me.
I was also blessed because amidst the pain and tragedy of 2020 on the larger scale it was a year that saw me in many ways rediscover the joy and happiness that video games as an art form bring to me. It was a year of soaring epics, small intimate moments of wonder, and quiet reflective instances of being surprised by what this medium can do. So, in the spirit of putting something positive into the ether of the internet. Of speaking out my joy and celebrating the year in games I present my game of the year list for 2020.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
AC: Odyssey is a soaring epic of a game. The Assassin’s Creed title that finally made the series really click for me. I could have spent years just wandering and exploring the vastness of Ancient Greece and its surrounding areas. The history lover in mine was utterly delighted by all the sights and sounds, by getting to interact and work alongside so many foundational figures in the development of western society. Of seeing this breathtakingly vibrant and richly colored world, of Athens at its moment in the sun even as it’s downfall beckons just around the corners. The story of how a democracy falls was eerily prescient to our own times. In short, Odyssey was an incredible experience, one that if it had come out this year would easily be among the very best of this list. Bravo.
10. Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War
This game is actually pretty lukewarm in terms of it’s single player campaign. A marked and disappointing step down from it’s namesake Black Ops forefather. Filled with tired telegraphed cliches and devoid of the shocking, utterly bananas, and genuinely brilliant twists and narrative beats of Black Ops 1, Cold War trudges along and delivers a thoroughly meh story.
Where it shines is in it’s multiplayer game modes. Bringing back returning favorites and it’s fantastic integration with Warzone(more on that later). Cold War is a fine video game, with a bit of a let down of a story and cast, but per usual, man these games play nicely.
9. Super Meat Boy Forever
I love Super Meat Boy. I’ve never been sold on Forever’s endless runner esque pitch. I’ve only played a few hours so far of SMBF so I am in no position to render any sort of final verdict but right now I can say both, Super Meat Boy is great and that I wish I could stop and take in my surroundings to better unlock the puzzle that is this series platforming.
Excited and very curious to see how I feel once I really sink my teeth into it.
I simply have not spent nearly enough time with this game yet.
But like, it’s Supergiant, I love Pyre (please play Pyre). I’m sure it will be fantastic.
7. The Alto Collection
Just chill winter vibes for me please.
Zone out, drink some hot chocolate, bundle up, and just lose track of time sliding down the mountain. Delightful
6. Raji: An Ancient Epic
Trevor played this game on my recommendation and very much didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. I don’t know though, I really do think there is something special here. There’s a charm, a lightness, and a building sense that they are so close to a great game.
Raji in some ways feels incomplete, looking right at the ending right here, yet what is here is still a breathtakingly refreshing title. An action God of War inspired title that doesn’t feature a silent buff white dude bro. Games need more of that. Raji is strong, she is unsure of herself, she is utterly committed to her quest to save her brother, and most of all she feels real and authentic and a welcome burst of fresh air.
Finally getting to play this game with my girlfriend on a lazy weekend day together on the couch was a highlight. I dunno, I like it.
Bloodroots is fantastic, but like in so many ways I didn’t expect it to be. It’s absurdly fast, fluid, and frantic gameplay is an utter delight and constantly left me with a big ole smile on my face whenever finishing a level.
Yet, it’s in it’s surprisingly deep and mature story that I found myself spending the most time thinking back on. Subtly subverting our expectations of the traditional revenge stories and making us question the nature of our mission and also our own role as the “good guy” out of the gang of baddies we came from was fantastic. There’s more I want to dive into but I wouldn’t want to ruin the journey Bloodroots takes you on.
So simply enjoy this wonderful, silly, dark, and brilliant mixup of Jackie Chan Adventures, Samurai Jack, and Kill Bill and easily one of the most stylish games of the year.
4. Fall Guys
Fall Guys rules.
Total chaotic fun. Don’t let grumpy Trev and his quixotic quest for the games platinum ruin it for you. This game’s moment in the sun during the summer when it seemed everyone was playing it and talking about it is actually what I imagine a summer game to be.
Am I biased due to my love of the very overt inspirations that Fall Guy draws from? Maybe.
Either way though it’s fantastic and an utter, ridiculous blast. Few things match that final mad dash up the mountain, seconds separating from another contestant as you leap for the crown and the glory it holds.
(Also easily the best social media prize of 2020 goes to the Fall Guys team.)
3. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2
Skate better bro.
I mean come on, myself and Franks Pro Skater credentials are well established after That Ultimate Video Game List Show.
Frank said it better than I could so I’ll blatantly steal his line from our top 10 GOTY pod.
“It plays like how you remember the games playing.”
Pure joy going back to Warehouse, School, New York City, and more.
2. Call of Duty: Warzone
Probably the game I played the most.
The game that allowed me to keep up with and talk with my friends back in Missouri. The battle royale that finally clicked for me. A brilliant shooter and a thoroughly quiet and thoughtful game interrupted with moments of violence, fear, and adrenaline laced tension.
Play Warzone it’s fantastic and a triumph of a free to play game mode.
It’s really god y’all.
2020 Game of the Year: Ghost of Tsushima
I mean I just think it’s brilliant.
A staggering and sweeping epic of a game and a truly towering achievement by Sucker Punch.
There is something both deeply intimate and “take your breath away”-grand in Ghost, and Jin Saki easily ranks as the best protagonist I encountered this year. The entire cast across the board brought fantastic performances, which is made even more remarkable as was touched on in our Spoilercast because there are totally different casts for both the Japanese and English versions. Both delivered and helped to steel the spirit of Ghost.
Bleak, soaring, somber, uplifting, among the most beautiful games ever drawn, and a deeply moving tragedy Ghost of Tsushima is not just my game of the year for 2020, but one of the finest titles from this past generation in games. A monumental and standout tale of loss, grief, acceptance, and the sacrifices and costs of self-discovery, and becoming a legend, of something larger than any one person. A must play.