Before the pandemic hit, this year was already destined to be huge. The return of Half-Life, the long awaited release of Final Fantasy VII Remake, coupled with Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen offerings, meant there was an overabundance of quality titles lined-up to lift spirits.
If anything, we’re lucky the gaming overlords decided to have a momentous year during global meltdown. When else would we have had time for open-world onslaughts like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion and Ghost of Tsushima in rapid succession? Not in 2019, folks.
For this list, GINX TV staff voted their 10 best games which have been verified, counted and accumulated into this prestigious top 20. We only had two rules: each game voted for must have been released in 2020 (so no Among Us, sadly), and due to its late arrival, we eliminated Cyberpunk 2077 from contention. You’re better off visiting Night City in 2021, anyway.
So sit back and reflect on 2020, before you completely bury it into history.
20. Genshin Impact
Genshin Impact may have changed free-to-play forever (Picture: miHoYo)
A free-to-play RPG would usually ring the micro-transaction alarm bells, but Genshin Impact developed by miHoYo represents perhaps a turning tide. Instead of throwing gacha mechanics front and centre, Genshin Impact is surprisingly generous and unobtrusive with its free-to-play caveats - which might make other developers think twice about their implementation.
It helps that there’s an addictive open-world RPG to dig into too. With clear Zelda: Breath of the Wild inspiration in its design, Genshin Impact is littered with puzzles to solve and loot to collect, and a battle system which triumphs above most JRPG’s on the market. There’s still inevitable limitations, but Genshin Impact was a small revolution in an often exploitative genre.
19. Star Wars: Squadrons
A Star Wars fantasy like no other (Picture: EA)
The successor to Rogue Squadron the world deserves? Star Wars: Squadrons may not have made the same splash as Jedi Fallen Order last year, but it’s arguably better in fulfilling its Star Wars fantasy; a space combat sim with fan-squealing attention to detail.
Whether ripping through space or observing the detailed cockpit, Squadrons represents the best way to simulate space battles from the Star Wars universe. Everything developer Motive Studios has achieved here is heightened with VR functionality too, elevating the experience to borderline Disneyland ride.
18. Astro’s Playroom
The perfect intro to the PS5 (Picture: Sony)
Not just a showcase for the PS5’s DualSense controller, Astro’s Playroom is one of the best platformers in recent memory. The blow, swipes, and twists of the controller have an early Nintendo DS quality, yet it’s heightened by the haptic feedback - which leave you yelling about “feeling the raindrops” to anyone with a vague interest in your hobbies.
This is also the first successful celebration of PlayStation’s history, littering levels with references and nostalgic collectibles. While the consensus will tell you there’s not many exclusives on next-gen consoles, Astro’s Playroom will be remembered as the secret classic which became the perfect introduction to the PlayStation 5.
A journey to the end (Picture: Thunder Lotus)
Developed by Canadian studio Thunder Lotus Games, Spiritfarer blends management sim with action platformer to tell a story about death. You play as Stella, a ferrymaster to the deceased who befriends and cares for spirits before they’re released into the afterlife.
With beautiful animation and a disarmingly moving narrative, Spiritfarer is the kind of soothing, wholesome escapism perfectly suited to 2020. It’s also secretly one of the best co-op games of the year, where one player can control the adorable Daffodil the cat.
16. Streets of Rage 4
A beat 'em up revived (Picture: Dotemu, Lizard Cube)
If you don’t fancy relaxing on a boat, try pummelling in the streets. This reboot and sequel revived the beat ‘em up franchise with a new art style and addictive soundtrack, while honouring the classic gameplay with minor tweaks to keep the core spirit intact.
With plenty of difficulty options, unlockable characters and online leaderboards, there was plenty of reason to keep circling back through levels too. There’s been a few modern beat ‘em ups in the past few years, but none of them quite delivered the nostalgic hit of Streets of Rage 4.
15. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
Tony Hawk bounced back (Picture: EA)
After numerous failed attempts to revive Tony Hawk in the gaming sphere, Activision realised they need to go back to basics. This remaster of the first two PlayStation classics put Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater back on the map, with a little help from Goldfinger’s Superman.
The quality-of-life improvements and graphical overhaul helped too. Will it be responsible for a skating revival in video games? That remains to be seen, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 proves there’s rejuvenation to be found in successfully capturing the past.
14. Half-Life: Alyx
Half-Life finally returned (Picture: Valve)
The announcement of a new Half-Life answered the prayers of memes everywhere, yet the fact it was limited to VR platforms stopped it receiving more fanfare. Most impressively, Half-Life: Alyx fully deserves to sit alongside the classics which came before - offering a memorable story and the best use of VR’s capabilities yet.
It’s leanings towards horror also make it unique within Half-Life’s universe, heightened as you fumble with reloading guns and opening doors. While it wasn’t the most played game of the year, Half-Life: Alyx might have the biggest lasting impact on the industry’s future.
- Read more: Top 25 Xbox One games you need to play
13. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Crash Bandicoot is back (Picture: Toys for Bob)
After some worthy remasters in the N. Sane Trilogy, developer Toys for Bob proved they have the chops to deliver a Crash Bandicoot game on their own terms. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time remixed the Naughty Dog formula with some excellent new twists, including time travel switches and the ability to slow down time.
In spirit with the franchise, later levels are brutally difficult too. The frustration was softened somewhat however with subtle quality-of-life improvements, binning the lives system in favour of recording how many times you die in a level. Crash Bandicoot hasn’t been relevant for a long time, and It’s About Time rightfully reasserted his position as a platformer king.
12. Paper Mario: The Origami King
Paper Mario returned to its best (Picture: Nintendo)
It was a quieter year for Nintendo, yet Paper Mario: The Origami King packed enough charm and puns to fill the void. It also packs the best boss fights of the year, ranging from terrifying cellotape to a dastardly tray of coloured pencils.
The spherical combat system adds a compelling puzzle to battles too, as you move opponents around ring grids to line them into perfect attack formation. It’s the humour which makes Paper Mario sing, poking fun at the plumber’s nonsensical elements with infectious songs, dances, and a promiscuous Birdo.
11. Call of Duty: Warzone
Warzone marks a new future for Call of Duty (Picture: Activision)
The battle royale genre felt exhausted after Fortnite, PUBG and Apex Legends, but Call of Duty managed to breathe new life into mass warfare. Combining the fast, tight gunplay the franchise is known for with innovative features like the Gulag, Warzone became the most exciting Call of Duty property in years.
Activision’s continuous updates, with map revisions and treasure hunt chases for Black Ops Cold War, have maintained its popularity on Twitch too. While Fortnite has evolved into a platform for crossover spectacles, Call of Duty: Warzone has trumped it as the go-to BR experience.
10. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Miles Morales trumps Peter Parker (Picture: Insomniac)
Move aside, Peter Parker. Insomniac’s semi-sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man proved Miles Morales is the most compelling, likeable hero in this Spider-Verse.
It’s a shorter experience which benefits from its compact size in every way. There’s less collectible flab, a tighter, more personal story and less reliance on Marvel villain heavyweights. For character representation, it’s also a minor revolution for games - having an Afro-Latino lead, and a deaf supporting character, which makes it’s Black Lives Matter mural tribute ring even louder.
The Venom powers give combat extra punch too, to the point where Peter Parker’s fighting style now feels like an archaic back step. In an industry where blockbuster games focus on expanding with huge, task-filled worlds, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, perhaps unintentionally, proved there’s value in stripping back and sharpening focusing.
9. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori had flavours of Dark Souls (Picture: Moon Studios)
A crowning sequel in the traditional sense, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is bigger, tougher and even more beautiful than its predecessor.
It’s the combat improvements which elevate this return. You’re now given options beyond shooting with spirits, including a sword, bow and upgrades to customise your style. It steers even closer to Dark Souls with the boss battles too, which require you to memorise attack patterns and find advantages with unforgiving precision.
When combined with the stunning art style and a story with surprising heft, notably in the backstory of villain Shriek, this feels like the complete realisation of developer Moon Studios’ Ori vision.
Hades took rogue-likes to a new level (Picture: Supergiant)
Supergiant Games have delivered three excellent games in Bastion, Transistor and Pyre over the years, yet it’s Hades which stands tall as their greatest achievement.
It possesses all the qualities of their previous work; excellent writing, distinctive visuals and satisfying action - but binds it together far more cohesively. This time it’s looped around the rogue-like genre with Greek mythology, where story and character arcs are delivered between wiping out rooms of enemies with increasingly fantastical powers.
Many in the genre make death feel like a considerable punishment, yet in Hades it’s another chance to upgrade your room, progress the story, or even unlock a new weapon. It’s this ever satisfying loop which makes Hades the most accessible and best rogue-like game ever made.
7. Demon’s Souls
Demon's Souls reborn (Picture: Sony)
After their remake of PS2 classic Shadow of the Colossus, developer Bluepoint Games were tasked with rebuilding Hidetaka Miyazaki’s first draft of the Dark Souls formula.
Demon’s Souls has many rough edges but the blemishes and quirks, which largely remain intact, now feel uniquely intentional to its design. It’s helped along by the new visual overcoat, which stands as the best showcase of the PS5’s power capabilities.
The Dark Souls formula has become one of the the most influential game design philosophy’s in recent memory, and in this remake of Demon’s Souls, the birth of that design is presented in its most impeccably intimidating form.
The future of shooters? (Picture: Riot Games)
With over 10 years of success evolving League of Legends into the biggest esport on the planet, Riot Games launched their hope for first-person shooter dominance in Valorant.
Sitting somewhere between Overwatch and CS:GO, Valorant’s potential already started to bloom in 2020. The tight gunplay is complimented with flashy abilities, yet executing them effectively still requires a skilful grasp - especially with the low time-to-kill making any move a risk.
Considering the commitment Riot Games throw behind their titles, it’s the future of Valorant which is the most exciting prospect. Based on this opening however, we might be in store for one of the greatest shooters, and esports, ever created.
5. Final Fantasy VII Remake
Final Fantasy VII for a new audience (Picture: Square Enix)
While only technically the first part in a planned trilogy, Final Fantasy VII Remake provided sweet relief that developer Square Enix can give this classic the treatment it deserves.
This isn’t a simple retread of Final Fantasy 7 either, expanding the world with new sections and hub areas with an admirable success rate. A revamped, modern battle system also makes it more enticing for new players, while the sweeping soundtrack will astound any long-time fan.
The directions the sequels will take may determine Final Fantasy VII Remake’s standing in history, yet in 2020, this was a euphoric moment of positive and nostalgic disbelief.
4. Ghost of Tsushima
Welcome to Japan (Picture: Sony)
Six years after releasing Infamous First Light, developer Sucker Punch released brand new IP Ghost of Tsushima - an action-adventure title set during the first Mongol invasion of Japan.
For a studio whose previous works include open-world power fantasy Infamous and stylish platformer Sly Cooper, Ghost of Tsushima was an impressive gear shift. Visually, it echoed classic samurai films with stunning vistas and environments, heightened by the grainy, black and white, Kurosawa mode. The nods to classic Japanese cinema were reinforced with stellar combat, allowing for both stealth and gung-ho approaches.
It doesn’t take any bold approaches to open-world design, yet Ghost of Tsushima shows that old tricks can be refreshing when polished with so much style and satisfaction.
3. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
A summer breeze in Fall Guys (Picture: Mediatonic)
At the height of summer lockdown, Mediatonic’s platformer battle royale took over the world. Goofy, addictive and comically punishing, Fall Guys became the surprise sunshine tonic after months of malaise.
From the disarmingly upbeat menu music to the zany coloured jellybeans, Fall Guys was a positive candy rush from the moment you hit start. Mechanics also actively encouraged troll behaviour, turning it into the kind of online party game designed for sharing Twitch clips and crying fowl as you plummet into the sugary abyss.
A video game version of Takeshi’s Castle became, briefly, an antidote to 2020. The perfect game for the perfect time.
2. The Last of Us Part 2
Ellie became one of the best characters in games (Picture: Sony)
Naughty Dog’s sequel may have attracted unwanted attention before it was even released, but no other game this year pushed expectations and boundaries like The Last of Us Part 2.
This harrowing follow-up could be dissected like a novel - with bold story twists and affecting cutscenes pushing forward Ellie (Ashley Johnson) and Abby’s (Laura Bailey) gripping story. It challenged its audience at every turn, flipping character motivations to show the ugly side of revenge in an entirely unique gaming structure. The most overlooked element is the horror sequences, with the opening re-introduction to the Clickers and Stalkers standing out as the most terrifying of the year.
The discourse around The Last Of Us Part 2 has been divisive, but it’s hard to argue against a product which catapulted the medium forward and had the guts to challenge a huge audience.
1. Doom Eternal
Catharsis for 2020 (Picture: Bethesda)
Released as the realities of the pandemic settled in, Doom Eternal offered violent catharsis on a chaotic scale.
Developed by iD Software, Doom Eternal built on everything its successor achieved to deliver an immaculate dance with death. Part ammo management sim and part blood ballet, this was a slice of sparkling gaming comfort food which consistently leaned on the throttle - only for enemies like the Marauder to throw out the rulebook and force you into new tactics.
The campaign was an escalating sequence of mad encounters, balanced with platforming sections, climactic boss battles and sleek production value. The original classic Doom arguably represents the thrill of video games in its purest form, and Doom Eternal distilled that same experience for a 2020 audience.