My Top 3 Favorite Games of 2020
I know it is a week into February by the time I make this post but I wanted to share with you my personal favorite top 3 games from last year, 2020. Of course, I’ve only played a fraction of new games released last year, still catching up from “best of’s” from previous years. So games like Hades, which everyone seems to enjoy, weren’t in consideration in my list since I haven’t played it yet. I have given Bastion and Transistor a shot, but have never get more than a couple of hours in, and generally, I’m not a fan of the rogue-like or rogue-lite genre of games. Unless Bloodborne is considered a rogue-lite game, but you can read my previous post on why I enjoyed that game so much.
I haven’t created any reviews for these top 3 games on my site so I’ll briefly describe what I liked and disliked about each game, and while I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible, if you want to experience these games without my bias, feel free to jump ahead. So with that let's start with my number 3.
3. Final Fantasy 7 Remake: I had refused to purchase FF7Remake when it was first released back in March of 2020, after being disappointed in every FF and Kingdom Hearts game of the last 15 years. And with the change in turn-based combat and their emphasis on creating “a game for newcomers and long time fans” seemed like it was going to be another disappointment, especially for someone like me, whose favorite game growing up was the original FF7. But after getting it on sale, I was pleasantly surprised with the overall experience. While the combat never grew on me and was more reminiscent of FF15 which I felt was all flash and little substance. Pausing combat to use abilities, magic, items, and switching between characters was a mixed bag since you had to stop combat to issues commands to your party members or they would always act defensively and conserve ATB. I always wanted the return of the gambit system that worked so well in FF12 that allows you to personalize the AI of your party members to match any situation.
While reusing the same graphics engine as FF15, the environments, monsters, summons, characters, limits breaks, and cut scenes looked amazing. Despite the combat, after my 50+ hour game time, I started to fall in love with the world all over again. With more time given to expanding on character development, allowing for different perspectives from people who inhabit the world, such as the people who work for Shinra. This was contrasted by the people who live in the slums underneath the plates and created an immersive world with more backstory than what the original had when it was released. While I didn’t enjoy all the new additions, especially with certain elements of the story, I would say that Square Enix succeeded in their goal of pleasing fans and attracting a new audience to the FF7 world. I’m hopeful for the next entry but can see the next chapters easily devolving into the never-ending story and convoluted style of what FF15 and KH3 had become.
2. Ghost of Tsushima: Ghost of Tsushima was the biggest surprise of the year 2020. Knowing it was from SuckerPunch, I thought it was going to be a mediocre game that was trying to ride on the coat tales of FromSoftware’s Sekiro that was released earlier in 2019. While Infamous was a popular franchise, known for giving players the choice to become a superhero or supervillain, I felt that Second Son the weakest of the franchise, because I hated the characters and story. So I didn’t expect much from Ghost of Tsushima, even after watching the trailers. But boy was I wrong. This was basically what I wanted from an Assassins Creed game, but even better because it doesn’t jump back to the present day with characters you don’t care about. Ghost of Tsushima has great characters, beautiful environments, fun side missions, and a satisfying story. I love the moral dilemma brought about by the authentic traditional honorable values of the samurai versus the dishonorable stealth and deceptive arts that Jin must take on to survive and defeat the invading mogul forces.
While you don’t get chances to make story affecting choices, like Infamous, Ghost of Tsushima’s proves that there is nothing wrong with a linear story if it is written well, paces out the content, and builds a world that is enjoyable to explore. One of the other highlights of the game is the one-on-one samurai duels, learning to deflect, dodge and counter-attack. After halfway into the game as you unlock different skills that make you feel unstoppable against even groups of enemies especially utilizing weapons, such as exploding arrows, kunai, and bombs. They do eventually become too powerful allowing you to decimate mogul camps without much planning, even in the hardest difficulty setting. You feel like a hero from Infamous, as these powerful items are plentiful and it doesn’t help that the enemy AI is pretty dumb and can be easily be avoided simply by climbing on top of structures. Collectables, like obtaining headbands from completing haikus, or different scabbards for your katana collected from monuments, give you a chance to personalize the look of Jin but don’t feel meaningful to go out of your way to complete. I didn’t even change out my charms or armor much even though they do give different stat bonuses to different styles of combat. And similar to FF7R being able to play the entire game with the Japanese voice and English subtitles is my preferred way of playing.
1. Doom Eternal: My top game of 2020 that isn’t getting enough credit is Doom Eternal. While I enjoyed the Doom 2016 reboot, this sequel makes improvements on every aspect and captures the original vision of the original Doom 1 and 2 games, which is slaughtering hell demons. The game is challenging even on the normal difficulty, and after setting down the game for a day or two you realize how much you’ve improved taking down these various demons, as you run through rooms filled with enemies that each have a weakness to bring down quickly. There is a mechanic of replenishing health, ammo, and armor by using glory kills or blood punch for health, flame blech for armor, and chainsaw-ing smaller enemies for ammo. You’ll be double jumping, double dashing, pulling yourself up ledges, launching to higher platforms, and jumping in and out of portals, that have you running from one side of the fighting area to the other as you avoid enemy fire and blast through waves of hellspawn.
You are introduced to different enemy types slowly and think it's an accomplishment just killing one, but soon you are facing multiple at a time, while also being introduced to a new enemy type that’s even bigger and deadlier. What I love about this game is how it avoids doing what many games do, and have a life meter or indicate damage of weapons with a number. You can visually tell you are doing damage and how close enemies are to death, by the amount of flesh that is being shot off, and how bloodied your enemies become until they are almost just exposed bones. You’ll even be as bold as to run toward enemies knowing they will soon start flashing, indicating they are near death, to finish off with a glory kill. There were a couple of boss battles that did include health meters, that I thought were unnecessary or detracted from the experience. I would find myself looking at the health meter instead of where I was going and making riskier plays knowing I was close to killing the enemy. Visual indicators, or the boss’s attacks speeding up was all that was necessary and felt odd since all the other demons didn’t have a health meter. The music is perfect and gets your heart racing as you rip and tear through demons.
The only criticism could be that the game didn’t feel scary, suspenseful, or overly dark, like other Doom games emphasize, including the previous game. Brightly colored ammo, health, and armor explode out of demons like a piñata, together with sound effects and humorous ways you can kill ruthless demons during a glory kill, results in this game feeling less serious and more about the fast-paced fun and action combat. The environments are brighter but still grotesque, allowing you to take in the large sense of scale. Each level feels distinct, and the combat never becomes dull as you are always getting an upgrade or new weapon to play around with during a chapter. I loved the story shown through flashbacks, readable archives, and dialogue that delved into the backstory of the doom slayer. The game also has a ton of exploration, multiplayer, and replayability, with collectibles and challenging optional encounters. Even with so much to do, all of these extras feel worth doing, unlike collectibles in most games that are just there for an achievement. These collectibles reward you with points to upgrade weapons, your armor, health, ammo, other combat perks, and even cheat codes that drastically change up the gameplay. There are so much more good things to say, and I can’t find anything I would have liked to see or could have been done better. This is why I have to say Doom Eternal wins the top spot in my favorite games of 2020.
The fact that Doom Eternal didn’t come away with more at the 2020 Game Awards is an indication of the declining credibility of the show itself. This year I feel has been the best example of why I think The Game Awards is no longer about game excellence but more of a publicity event for big and well-established development studios. I’m not going into each category, but games like Ghost of Tsushima and Doom Eternal should have taken away more awards than The Last of Us Part 2. It was like Death Stranding the year before if Death Stranding walked away with most of the awards. Almost every category The Last of Us Part 2 won, such as Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, Best Audio Design, Best Performance, Best Action/Adventure game, and especially Game of the Year should have gone to the other games on my top 3 list. With developers and publishers deciding to reveal games and trailers now at The Game Awards I feel that there will be a greater difference in how these “critics” award games compared to the players. Similar to the Oscars for movies, I could see games winning more of these categories than most gamers disagree with. For example, I’ve never heard anyone say their favorite movie is Green Book, but just as much as gamers would say they liked the direction that The Last of Us Part 2 has taken.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed my opinion on the top 3 games of 2020 and The Game Awards. Let me know in the comment below what your top 3 games of 2020 were. I still need to play a handful of older games and looking forward to games releasing this coming year. I’m expecting delays of big titles being pushed into 2022 after the terrible launch of Cyberpunk 2077, but that will give me a bit more time to catch up on my backlog of games. Hopefully, by the time the heavy hitters release like the sequel to God of War, the PS5 will be back in stock at stores.