2020 may have been terrible in nearly every single way but there’s no doubt it was a really good year to be a gamer. There were two next-gen console launches and more new games than anyone possibly has time to play. When a global pandemic forced us all inside, video games were there to distract us from the terrible outside.
I’m still a newbie here at Kotaku Australia and this is the first time I’ve had to think about an end-of-year gaming list. But looking back on this year in video games has really reminded me why I love them.
Games became my salvation in 2020. I bought more games, played more games and now I even write about games. But more importantly, they became the source of connection I needed to the people I was miles, sometimes countries, apart from.
Whether it was discussing wild story twists from The Last of Us 2, gathering for a round of Jackbox or backstabbing my friends and family in Among Us. Games were where I turned when I needed a virtual world to hang out in, while I waited for the real one to calm the hell down.
So with all that said, here are my top picks from 2020.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Crash Bandicoot was the very first game I ever played on the PS1. So I could not have been more excited to learn that Crash was making a comeback this year. But what was even better was that the game was actually good.
If I’m talking about games I connected with this year, then Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time reconnected me with my childhood. It looked and played exactly like a Crash game should. Crash 4 struck a perfect balance between nostalgia and new ideas.
The worlds were colourful and vibrant, the characters were charming and familiar, and the level design was still as frustratingly difficult as it used to be. After many failed attempts to revive Crash, this one really did the trick.
Even though Among Us wasn’t released this year I discovered it, like many people, in 2020. Among Us has such a simple but genius premise: a group of crewmates try to complete tasks while the imposters attempt to secretly kill them. It doesn’t need flashy graphics or next-gen console power – Among Us is a cartoon game that you can play on your phone. And it has absolutely killed it this year (pun intended).
The deceptive nature that Among Us brings out in even the best of us, is its highlight. The tasks might be simple enough, but working out who the imposter is before you’re sliced into a ham bone? Not so much. It can be just as difficult to pick the imposter in a group of strangers as it is amongst your closest family and friends. But that’s the simple beauty of Among Us – it bonds people through the art of deception.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Spider-Man: Miles Morales was the first next-gen game I played in 2020 and it was the perfect choice to test out the PS5. I loved that in Miles Morales when I climbed a skyscraper I could see the New York skyline rendered in crisp detail. And then, when I jumped off that skyscraper, I could feel every web swing through my controller.
Miles Morales took the best parts of an already great PS4 game and expanded them on the PS5. It’s the definition of a next-gen upgrade.
I don’t think it quite measured up to Spider-Man, but that’s simply because it wasn’t long enough. I wanted to spend more time in this glorious next-gen edition of New York. So here’s hoping Insomniac isn’t done yet.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Truth be told, I still haven’t finished Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but the hours I’ve spent as a Viking thus far are enough to convince me of the greatness of this game. Assassin’s Creed games can be hit or miss, but Ubisoft nailed the balance with Valhalla. It has the RPG nature of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – minus the frustrating level gating – and it brought back some of the classic hallmarks of the AC franchise, like the hidden blade and hood.
I love that I can dual wield any weapon, build up my settlement, and jump off my longship to start a raid whenever I please. And to top it off the world of Viking era England is mesmerising to run around in, especially on next-gen. It’s definitely my favourite AC game to date.
Star Wars Squadrons
Simply because I am a huge Star Wars fan, I couldn’t leave Star Wars Squadrons off this list. While I’m pretty rubbish at flying games, I was in awe at how real Squadrons’ flight simulator felt. Every class of starship had subtle differences, in both mechanics and abilities, and the story managed to be engaging even after endless missions of search and destroy.
Plus, there’s something so satisfying about skimming an Imperial cruiser or jumping into hyperspace. Every part of Squadrons worked to make me feel like I was living out a dream as a pilot in the Star Wars universe.
The Last of Us 2
The Last of Us 2 has garnered many accolades this year so it’s probably not a surprise to see it on another list. But you know what? It deserves it.
The Last of Us 2 pushed the boundaries of video game storytelling in every way and it drew me into a story that I’m still thinking about to this day. Playing The Last of Us 2 was like playing through a movie. The performances, the cutscenes, the sheer detail in every aspect of the world, it all worked together to bring an immersive narrative experience.
Despite it being set in another horrifying pandemic setting, I’ll never hesitate to dive back into The Last of Us games. And while I still don’t like that I had to kill dogs, I really struggle to find anything else not to like about this game.
It would definitely be my game of the year – if it wasn’t for this next one.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
I have no shame in proclaiming Fall Guys as my favourite game from 2020. It may look like a kids game, but it has proven itself to me to be something so much more.
When I moved cities and went into quarantine, Fall Guys was my constant companion. It got me through two weeks of living in one room and it helped me stay connected with my friends in other states. Even if I was playing by myself, I never felt alone because there were 60 other players stumbling into me at all times.
Fall Guys has a rotation of simple rounds that are just challenging enough to refrain from being boring. The characters are cute, the levels are colourful and their costume collabs are on point. It’s also stupidly addictive – even six months later the innate drive to win crowns has kept me hooked.
Props also must go to Mediatonic who continue to refresh the game with new mods and levels each season. But the nature of Fall Guys is that even when you think you’ve got a level figured out, the unpredictable force that is other players can still knock you off your game.
Fall Guys is fun, plain and simple, and that’s what I needed in 2020.
While it didn’t get its own spot I have to shout-out Untitled Goose Game for its addition of co-op mode this year, which made an already great game even better.
An honourable mention also has to go to Cyberpunk 2077, which I really am enjoying, but I think deserves more time to get the patches and fixes it needs. Next year, I’m sure, will be Cyberpunk’s year.
Don’t forget to check out the team’s full list of picks for 2020 games right here.