At the beginning of the month we rounded up a list of all the games that received a 9 or 10 rating in 2020 (technically Ed did all of the work), then you all voted on your favorite. Final Fantasy VII Remake – a game that received a gold star from virtually everyone that played it – deservingly got the most votes and was crowned Gamespace’s Game of the Year 2020. This week we’re finishing up the year with our staff’s individual favorites of 2020. The whole team pours a ton of time and effort into each review for GameSpace, but these are the games that we played for fun. No deadlines. No scores. No huge payoffs by developers for a high score (um, that never actually happens). Just a great game that made a connection with a staff member in some way or another. Just like their picks from 2019, this year’s round-up of games has some unexpected gems mixed in, so be sure to check them all out if you haven’t played them yet. I hope you enjoy our favorites of 2020 and be sure to let us know what your faves were in the comments below.
Scott Jeslis – Hades
Reason: Being a game reviewer we tend to see a lot of games throughout the year. These always seem to include many we didn’t expect and several outside our typical favorite genres. My favorite game played in 2020 is a new release game for 2020 but ironically is not one I was tasked to review. I’m not a big fan of rogue-like games, mainly because as a senior gamer, well I did a lot.
In 2020 I found myself going back to the rogue-like, isometric action RPG called Hades. I bought into the game on PC during early access in 2020 but wasn’t a huge fan of the WASD movement. Later in the year, it was released on the Nintendo Switch and my enthusiasm skyrocketed. So much so I bought into the game a second time!
Hades falls into the action RPG genre best led by the Diablo franchise. It’s based on the idea of playing through a series of random dungeons until you die much akin to a tower game, think Slay The Spire. As you progress through increasingly complex dungeon levels you’ll earn the equivalent of fame to purchase temporary buffs and passives. As you die, and you will die, you regenerate and can purchase upgrades, knowledge, etc. as you take another run “at it”. The game is steeped in Greek Mythology, which is a personal favorite of mine, and is presented by some great looking comic book-like artwork. As you learn knowledge about things, e.g. other Greek gods and patrons, Hades presents this info with slightly comical rhetoric supplied by spot-on voice overs. The game offers multiple weapons to equip and the response and control on the Nintendo Switch, especially the Hori Nintendo Switch Split Gamepad is outstanding. With the recently added PC to-from Nintendo Switch cross-save it’s even more of a win!
Ralph Whitmore – Monster Prom 2 – Monster Camp
Reason: It is overall good fun. There are so many funny jokes and a great game to play with friends.
Robin Baird – Persona 5 Royal
Reason: This was my first introduction to the Persona series, and it really blew me away. All of the characters, even the ones I didn’t like at first, are really well done and interesting if you put in the time to get to know them. Additionally exploring palances and figuring out the various puzzles was a ton of fun as well. If you enjoy RPGs, but don’t really want the open-world aspect a lot of other RPGs have, Persona 5 Royal is definitely a game you should check out.
Garrick Durham-Raley – Nioh 2
Reason: Team Ninja’s original Nioh back in 2017 took me by surprise and had me hooked ever since. A faster-paced Souls-like combat system with more weapon variation and a Diablo-style RNG loot system? Sign me up! Nioh 2’s more robust feature system, including turning into demons and utilizing different parry mechanics, took all of the fun hack-n-slash and looting action from the original Nioh and turned it up to 11. For fans of Soulsborne games, Nioh 2 is a must-play.
Avery Cohen – Immortals Fenyx Rising
Reason: Polished title, expansive ARPG with a witty story, and room to grow. A diverse combat system makes this a must-have single-player title.
Suzie Ford – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Reason: While Ubisoft’s open-world formula is familiar across several of its games (Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, Immortals Rising, The Division 2, etc.), I love the Viking action in ye olde England in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Valhalla has an interesting protagonist and a pretty dang good main storyline that keeps you guessing until the bitter end. Valhalla built nicely on Odyssey’s success and made some nice improvements along the way. Wherever in the world the series goes next, I’ll be along for the ride!
Catherine “Xen” Daro – Baldur’s Gate 3
Reason: Even in Steam Early Access and offering very limited content, Larian’s Baldur’s Gate 3 revolutionizes everything we knew about cRPGs and shows how much untapped potential there is in the genre. Tactical gameplay, player-driven narrative, crazy level of replayability and customization, deep characters – BG3 has everything an RPG fan could wish for!
Ed Orr – Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town
It’s been a surprisingly thin year for me in terms of video games. With a huge chunk of my time spent filling in on news, I’ve had to actively carve out some playtime, yet there are still a couple of games that keep on creeping into my schedule.
My pick for the year is one of these and it’s called Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. A game that I didn’t get a chance to review for Gamespace but absolutely fall for every time I pick it up, Friends of Mineral Town is a remake of an old Harvest moon title, but unlike some of the other big-budget reinventions this year, you won’t find this one blowing away the plague-ridden corpses of Racoon City. Instead, this one is firmly in the same camp as Animal Crossing. Putting the tent pegs down in a placid land where you’ve just inherited a farm, the combination of cute graphics, free form gameplay, and light touch goals are just pure escapism in your hands. A seemingly simple set of ideas all grow together to draw you into your new life as you build a farm, meet your neighbors, and collect the cutest horsey you could wish for. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town might not be the big-budget Switch getaway that the headlines opt for, but please do feel free to tell that to my playtime.
Notable shout out to Necrobarista too. That game is so dammed good for a visual novel. Barely stretching the course of a couple of java breaks, it dives into themes and ideas that make me want to revisit the Terminal for one last cup.
Chris Bowman – Escape from Tarkov
Reason: While it isn’t a fully released game it is one that really drew me in because of the realism that BattleState Games uses. All of the guns and armor are fantastic (even though they don’t seem to do enough sometimes) and the maps are expansive and fun to run around on. This looter-shooter is solid and the mechanics are difficult but at the same time allows the game to be addictive to the point where I have put more hours into this than any other title this year. It is fun to play with your friends and to try and challenge yourself to do better at shooter titles.
“Xevrin” Kevin Chick – Half-Life: Alyx (Steam VR)
Reason: Early this year I decided to purchase my first VR headset and my wife said the look on my face when using it for the first time reminded her of a child’s joy. It brought back many memories of my first computer and the Nintendo I got one Christmas. I enjoyed playing in VR so much that by September I decided to preorder the Oculus Quest 2 and sold my original Quest to a friend. While great VR games are few and far between more are starting to emerge making it a great time to try it out. Developers are exploring/experimenting with the best ways to make games and how else VR can be used outside of gaming. Half-Life: Alyx not only brings us back to the Half-Life universe in spectacular fashion but it really shows what a VR game can be: atmosphere, voice acting, story, puzzles, and gameplay are all spot on. I love using my gravity gloves and having to peer around corners for danger. Even the hectic act of reloading your weapon is fun when you are being charged by enemies. All I can say to the team at Valve is more, please.
Mitch Gassner – Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Reason: This was a really tough choice for me. I am currently 30 hours into Cyberpunk 2077 and loving it and Minecraft Dungeons has been the family’s go-to game when we want to play together, but there’s so much about MSFS that makes it stand out as my favorite game of 2020. No guns, no explosions (the screen just goes black when you crash and I do it a lot), just a bunch of beautiful scenery as you fly anywhere around the globe. I flew by my house and saw my car parked outside. I did flybys of all the wonders of the world, something I will never get to do in real life. MSFS is amazingly beautiful and, even with the issues it has, is a technical marvel that is leaps and bounds above any flight sim that has come before it.