The pandemic created one of the most unusual years for gaming, but also one of the most lucrative. As the film and music industries came to a standstill due to the coronavirus problem, video games continued, proving the resilience of the industry.
For some people, games are a normal lifeline while others use the media as an escape when the world becomes too real. Whatever the case, gaming is a rock for many in 2020. It has kept many of us sane in a tough year.
My favorite game reflects the impact of the coronavirus. The life-changing pandemic reinforces the importance of several projects. Other efforts have been hit negatively by the coronavirus as studios struggle to figure out work-from-home scenarios. Several games were released with bugs requiring heat fixing and other emergency work. This list acknowledges and reflects that, but it’s still an odd but successful year overall.
1. “The Last of Us Part II” – Naughty Dog’s most ambitious work takes players back to post-apocalyptic America, where a mysterious mushroom has turned people into wild monstrosities. The sequels reflect back on the original events and explore the cycles of violence and revenge on the characters’ humanity.
This campaign primarily follows Ellie, a woman who is immune to mold as she travels to Seattle on a personal mission. Naughty Dog gives players a bigger playground to use the protagonist’s skills and create exciting stealth and survival opportunities as Ellie hunts down her enemies.
Although the gameplay is polished to a sparkle, the innovative part of “The Last of Us Part II” is how Naughty Dog expresses the narrative and uses video game media to encourage empathy in players by telling the other side of the story. (Available on PlayStation 4)
2. “Tsushima Ghost” – Over the years, Sucker Punch Productions was an intermediate developer who created good but not great games. That changed in 2020 with the samurai epic that took place during the Mongol invasion of Japan.
The mix of open world gameplay and flexible combat makes it fun to play. It’s an adventure where players can get lost with just the right amount of content to keep the player hooked without tiring them out or bothering them with side quests.
Ultimately, it was the lush visuals and art direction that moved this project and the studio to the next level. (Available on PlayStation 4)
3. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” – When the pandemic started, this Nintendo title anchored a sense of normality in everyday life. A life simulator in which the player travels to a desert island and builds a village creates a rhythm as the player performs tasks, expands their home and earns Bell.
Being able to redesign the island and decorate its surroundings makes it look like “The Sims,” but where “Animal Crossing” strikes is it happens in real time. That detail plays a vital role in how players count the days and structure them at a time when the coronavirus is leaving many people behind track of time. (Available on Nintendo Switch)
4. “Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout” – Two surprise titles became very popular partly because of the pandemic. The first is “Among Us,” an online murder-mystery title released in 2018, and the second is “Fall Guys,” a battle royale game with a twist. With everyone’s social distancing, these games fill a niche that emphasizes social interaction and fun.
“Fall Guys” takes the battle royale formula, where one player emerges victorious from 60 courses, and combines it with elements of party play. It has all the excitement of “Mario Party” or “Super Monkey Ball” but with lots of chaos and randomness from dozens of competitors and levels. Like it “Between us,” It’s an unlimited stream of games, but above all, it makes players feel less alone. (Available on PlayStation 4 and PC)
5. “Cyberpunk 2077” – Yes, this sci-fi role-playing game has a lot of hype behind it, but it was also released in dire straits for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. If gamers manage to play it on PC or Stadia, they will find an adventure that is very beautiful and captivating.
CD Projekt Red takes its expertise in building open world games and applies it to first-person adventures where players must solve the mystery behind a botched robbery. It offers an in-depth progression system that accommodates multiple play styles, but mission design works best because the developer creates scenarios that force the player to play detective and dig deep due to the important choices in many of them.
If it weren’t for the bugs, this would be closer to the top of my list. (Available on PC, Stadia, Xbox Series X | S and PlayStation 5)
6. “Final Fantasy VII Remake” – Another game made over the years, Square Enix poured a lot of resources into this RPG and it paid off spectacularly. Despite being labeled a “remake,” this forays into the Midgar game with fan expectations and turns them upside down.
The “remake” gives tertiary characters more screen time, introduces new elements, and adds depth to the original narrative. It also introduces a revamped combat system that feels just right, giving players a mix of classic turn-based combat with immersive real-time action. The big question is whether Square Enix can continue the high game quality in this second part of the “Remake”. (Available on PlayStation 4)
7. “Soul of Satan” – Prior to the legendary “Dark Souls” franchise, renowned director Hidetaka Miyazaki introduced this exclusive world of PlayStation 3. It introduced the unforgiving adversity, dark fantasy and other online elements that made his successors famous.
Bluepoint Games did a phenomenal job of recreating this classic. The team updated the visuals tapping into the power of the PlayStation 5, and the team added a few quality-of-life improvements that made this adventure the best launch game on the system. (Available on PlayStation 5)
8. “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” – The latest iteration of Ubisoft’s flagship series is its best in a long time. The constant improvement from “Origins” to “Odyssey” culminated in the team at Ubisoft Montreal finally striking the right balance between offering players the main mission and giving them extra activity and side quests.
By curbing the loot and other excesses of the previous “Assassin’s Creed” title, this entry after the Viking invasion of England feels more focused as the protagonist, Eivor, struggles to build a home in a foreign land. (Available on Xbox Series X | S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC)
9. “Doom Eternal” – The follow-up to the 2016 reboot was bigger and better, making demon slaughter more of an art form. The developer, id Software, encourages aggressive play even more as players have to run and shoot with different weapons to keep their ammunition, armor and health supplies.
These improvements along with advanced design create an adrenaline-fueled adventure that tests player skills and strategy as they explore more of the mythology behind Doom Slayer. It all led to a satisfying campaign for fans of the franchise. (Available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia)
10. “Immortals Fenyx Rising” – The success of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is sure to inspire adventure in the same vein. The 2017 classics are revolutionizing the franchise and showing the potential for combining open world gaming with physics-based puzzles. It is revelation.
Ubisoft Quebec tries to create similar experiences and most of them capture the foundation of the magic. The studio put in more humor and built it around Greek mythology. The world the developers created had the tactile elements of better puzzle and combat designs, but Gold Island, where “Immortals Fenyx Rising” took place, felt strangely empty.
It lacks the landscape and design-wise wisdom of “Breath of the Wild” but “Immortals Fenyx Rising” is still one of the better adventures of 2020 and scratches that “Zelda” is itching for puzzles and exploration. (Available on Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Nintendo Switch)