I usually start these game of the year lists with a sarcastic blurb about how everybody makes them. But you know what? This year sucked. I can’t think of a better time to celebrate the actual good things we’ve experienced.
Gaming really helped me get through most of the year, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I won’t be listing my biggest disappointments or anything like that. No one needs a list of negativity right now. There’s really no reason to celebrate a list of games you didn’t like, except to try and make a quick buck from click bait and feed more toxicity into an industry that has too much already. Instead, I’m simply going to showcase my three favorite games that came out this year.
Let me note real quick, I haven’t had the time to pick up Hades yet, and I’m still in the process of playing Cyberpunk without a clear verdict on how I feel about it. So neither of them will appear on the list.
Honorable Mention: Phasmophobia
I want to shout out Phasmophobia real quick because it would absolutely be in my top three, aside from the fact that it’s an early access game and thus, isn’t a feature-complete game. That said, it’s one of my favorite games this year, which is really shocking because I hate horror games. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to spooks.
But Phasmophobia is such a unique experience with its investigative ghost hunting and AI that I fell for it pretty hard. It’s truly great because no matter how many times it scares me, it has yet to feel repetitive thanks to its dynamic nature.
I’m incredibly excited to watch it evolve over time, and it will likely be a contender for my game of the year list whenever it has its full release! You can find my early access review of Phasmophobia here.
Honorable Mention: Mount & Blade Bannerlord
Just like Phasmophobia. I’ve excluded Bannerlord from my game of the year top three since it’s still in early access, but let me tell you. I was a massive fan of the original, and despite some expected early access hiccups, Bannerlord lives up to it in every way.
There truly is no game like Mount & Blade. It has the potential to let you tell your own personal stories akin to Rimworld, but with fun combat and huge battles.
The game has already improved dramatically since my early access review of it. By the time it’s finished, it’s going to be something truly special.
Number 3: Ghost of Tsushima
By far the most technically sound game I’ve played this year. Ghost of Tsushima’s incredible visuals, fantastic performance, and brief loading screens were nothing short of some kind of voodoo on the base PlayStation 4 that I reviewed the game on.
Tsushima took away the minimap that so many open-world games rely on, and I loved that. It also linked much of Jin’s progression to exploration, and I found the side content meaty.
Most important, was the excellent blend of stealth and combat. Tsushima’s combat was super smooth and looked incredibly fluid. Once you got into the groove you really felt like a Samurai Batman. It was so much fun thinning out the Mongols in silence before diving into lightning-quick skirmishes that forced any foes left standing to flee in fear.
Some balance issues held it back, with the game becoming notably easier in the second half, and there was very little emergence in the open world. But it was still one of the best gaming experiences I had this year.
Number 2: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Ghost of Tsushima and Valhalla have a lot in common. Both have a very fluid mix of stealth and combat, and they both link exploration to progression. If you could only get one, I’d tell you to pick the one with the theme you like the most, Samurai, or Viking.
I personally enjoyed Valhalla more due to the greater enemy variety and larger variance in combat with multiple weapons and a variety of awesome skills. I am also more attached to the characters. They are more lively and less one-note, compared to Tsushima, which all contributed to it taking my number 2 spot.
Valhalla really took Odysessys’ criticisms to heart and addressed most of them. The enemy variety, smoother combat, higher-quality world, and revamped weapon and skill system really make it the best Assassin’s Creed game to date.
Funny enough, despite its Viking theme I really felt that Valhalla felt more like an Assassin’s game than the series had for a very long time. Its stealth feels very good, and the amount of assassination missions really sell that feeling. You can find my review of Valhalla here.
Game of the Year, 2020: Crown Trick
My game of the year hasn’t appeared on any of the major award shows or lists that I know of, and that’s a damn shame. The kind that reminds me that we still have a problem in the industry, that problem is visibility.
I sincerely believe that Crown Trick would be on more people’s favorite game lists if they knew it existed in the first place. It’s the most mechanically sound game I’ve played this year.
Crown Trick is a stellar roguelike that takes a turn-based combat system and makes it feel fluid and fast while still giving you as much time to think as you need. It mixes in the joy of randomness, without feeling unfair or unbalanced. The game is all about tactical skill.
It combines the elemental synergy and environmental strategy of the Divinity games into a very cerebral roguelike experience. It’s a roguelike with a ton of player choice in how you use the randomness presented to you and it’s so satisfying to play.
It’s a very deep game that’s easy to understand thanks to concise tooltips and unobtrusive explanations. The very definition of easy to learn, difficult to master. It features some of the best boss fights I’ve seen in the roguelike or rogue-lite genres.
Crown Trick is a game that when I sat down to write my review, there was very little I could find to complain about. I tend to complain a lot, sometimes about things some people might find nitpicky, or petty, which is why I always advise readers to get to know me before taking my reviews to heart. If I can’t complain about anything, that to me, is the hallmark of a truly great game.
Crown Trick is my game of the year for 2020. I just wish more people were playing it. If you want to find out more about it, check out my review.
What were you’re top three games of this year? Let me know! Have a safe New Year!