PlayStation had a stellar year in 2020. That’s a statement we’ve said often throughout the course of the PS4 era, but the console’s final year in particular – which was also the debut year of its successor – was probably one of its best ever. A score of excellent games came out throughout the course of the 12 month period, many of which can legitimately stake a claim for the a spot in many all-time great lists. Here, we’re going to talk about the best of the best games we played on PS4 and PS5 in 2020, before crowning one of them as the one that stands the tallest among these giants.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
FALL GUYS: ULTIMATE KNOCKOUT
Fall Guys just came out of nowhere this year, but it really took the industry by storm- and rightly so. It strikes that perfect balance between pure, unadulterated enjoyment and a semblance of fairness and balance that is so elusive in even some of the most popular multiplayer games out there. Mediatonic’s chaotic, bizarre platforming-battle royale-party game mashup is unique, unhinged, ridiculously fun, and consistently whacky, and we’re here for it.
If there was one thing that Abzu proved, it was that Giant Squid have a knack for creating beautiful and immersive environments that are a complete joy to explore. The Pathless, of course, is radically different from the studio’s debut game in so many ways, but it carries those traditions forward proudly. Diegetic exploration grounds players in its hauntingly beautiful world, slick and fast-paced traversal makes the moment-to-moment gameplay incredibly enjoyable, while solid puzzle design ensures that there’s always a great new activity to seek out in the world.
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
Ghost of Tsushima should honestly not be as good and as addictive as it is. It is, in many ways, so close to a classic style Assassin’s Creed game set in Feudal Japan. It even comes with a lot of the same failings as Ubisoft’s franchise, including repetition in the style of content. And yet, somehow, Sucker Punch have managed to craft an enthralling adventure that truly transports players to its immaculately realized setting, while also delivering a surprisingly affecting story and some remarkably polished mechanics. That Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t have much new to say is irrelevant when it says what it does say as well as it does. Most of its mechanics may be retreads of existing concepts, but they are done so well – be it the game’s surprisingly robust combat, or its fantastic and immersive navigation of its vast world, or just how unbelievably pretty it all looks – that it’s hard to take much issue with any of it. Sucker Punch have managed to deliver an incredible title that can stand toe to toe with many of Sony’s best first party offerings of the PS4 era, and that is the highest compliment you can really give Ghost of Tsushima.
PERSONA 5 ROYAL
To call Persona 5 Royal the ultimate JRPG would still somehow be underselling it. Over the last 15 years, and multiple iterations, Atlus and P-Studio have obsessively iterated on the series’ addictive dungeon crawling/social simulation role playing formula, until at last, we have received a game that is, not perfect, but as close to it as is possible to get. Persona 5 Royal is tremendous in every sense of the word – it’s bursting with content (adding over 30 hours to a game that was already north of 100 hours to begin with), it addresses most flaws from the original release, it enhances every single strength of the vanilla P5 multiple times over, and it does so without ever missing a beat. It’s incredible that Atlus and P-Studio have managed to scale the heights that they have with P5R, because it beggars belief that any game should manage to be firing on this many cylinders to begin with. It’s impossible to see how Atlus will top this game in the future- but at the same time, we have no doubt that they’re going to do just that, just as they have progressively done with every Persona release since Persona 3.
Astro Bot has quickly become one of PlayStation’s best properties in a very short time, in spite of consistently being relegated to the metaphorical backstage. In 2020, with Astro’s Playroom, Sony sought to showcase the capabilities of the DualSense, and boy, did they do that well. Not only is Astro’s Playroom a great showcase of that, however, it’s also a jolly celebration of the history of PlayStation, and an excellently designed platformer in its own right.
13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM
Vanillaware have been plugging away at making unique narrative-driven games for a while now, and their efforts have mostly gone unnoticed in the mainstream. 13 Sentinels may very well be the game that brings more people to pay attention to them- which isn’t surprising, considering how good it is. Whether it’s with its mind-bending non-linear narrative or with its blend of genres in terms of gameplay, this is a game that constantly keeps players on their toes.
The Soulslike genre has garnered a massive legion of fans over the last decade, and other thank the Souls games themselves, Team Ninja’s Nioh series is probably the best that sect of games has had to offer. In 2020, Nioh 2 came along and honed on the strengths of its predecessor in almost every way possible, from deeper and more flexible role playing mechanics to challenging combat to exhilarating boss fights. For those who’re looking to scratch that very particular Soulslike itch, you can’t really go wrong with this one.
THE LAST OF US PART 2
To say that The Last of Us Part 2 is a game that has divided audiences would be a massive understatement, and though it’s not a perfect game by any means, we definitely fall on the side of the spectrum that’s been enamoured by what Naughty Dog did with it. Ambitious storytelling, pushing the boundaries of technical accomplishment in games, refining their linear gameplay formula to an absolute sheen- they did it all with The Last of Us Part 2. For our money, this is yet another shining jewel in the crown that is the PS4’s library.
FINAL FANTASY 7 REMAKE
There has not been a Final Fantasy release that didn’t split the fanbase in almost two decades now. And while it would be generous to say that Final Fantasy 7 Remake manages to unite all fans, it is at the very least the most coherent and consistent vision of where Square wants the series to go that we have gotten since the release of Final Fantasy 12, all the way back on the PS2. FF7R is a game with purpose, and that comes through in everything about it – it has a marvellous battle system, one that manages to appease fans of the series’ turn based roots and new action combat alike; it has really endearing characters, who in spite of Final Fantasy’s known anime excesses, manage to win you over with their charm; and it has all the trademark spectacle and insanity of storytelling that the franchise has become synonymous with. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is as much a tribute to the franchise’s past as it is a bold statement of purpose for its future.
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES
A lot of people probably went into Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales with tempered expectations, given that fact that it’s more of an expansion that serves as a stopgap until the mainline sequel arrives, but it’s fair to say that Insomniac once again surpassed all expectations. Miles Morales retains and improves upon the biggest gameplay strengths of its predecessor, delivering excellent combat and traversal yet again. On the storytelling side of things, it tells a heartfelt story that expands this new Spidey universe in exciting ways. If you were a fan of the first game, there’s no way you’d be disappointed in Miles Morales.
Spelunky holds the honour of being one of the best and most influential roguelike games of all time. A sequel to a game with that kind of a legacy always has a lot to live up to, but Spelunky 2 didn’t buckle under those expectations. In fact, it flourished under that pressure. Spelunky 2 doesn’t set the world on fire. It’s greatest strengths lie in how it iterates on the biggest strengths of its predecessor, and in how it never misses the mark with any of those improvements. It’s a game that, just like the first Spelunky, you can easily pour hundreds of hours into- and if you’re anything like us, you probably will.
Rumours of a Demon’s Souls remake developed by Bluepoint Games had been swirling around for a long time, and the final product tells you just why everyone was so excited about those rumours. One of the best, most influential games ever made, being remade by a studio that has almost perfected the art of modernizing classic titles- that’s a winning combination no matter how you look at it. Demon’s Souls’ PS5 remake lives up to all of the lofty expectations millions of people had for it. Sony couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off their new console’s life cycle.
Media Molecule sure took their sweet time developing Dreams, but now that we’ve spend a healthy amount of time with the game (if it can even be called a game), it’s easy to see what took them so long. The depth and complexity of this creation engine is staggering to see, and the ease with which it presents those tools to players in an accessible and enjoyable manner is just as impressive. Dreams is an endless pool of new content and creativity, and we can’t wait to see how it will grow and change over the coming years.
YAKUZA: LIKE A DRAGON
Yakuza has been a rather prolific series over the last few years, to the extent that we often get multiple mainline Yakuze game in a single year. That kind of a release schedule and franchise fatigue often go hand-in-hand, but RGG Studio deftly avoided that problem with a radical reinvention of the series. Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes the long-running hardboiled brawler series and turns it into a full-fledged turn-based RPG, while also delivering the fun characters, densely packed world, and riveting narrative that people look for in a Yakuza game. It’s an excellent way to kick off the next era of the Yakuza franchise.
SACKBOY: A BIG ADVENTURE
LittleBigPlanet has always been praised more for its creation mechanics than for its actual platforming, so a spinoff that focuses completely on the latter could have easily gone wrong. Sackboy: A Big Adventure, however, proves that there’s a lot of ways this property can be successful, and makes the jump to 3D platforming with surprising confidence. Creative level design, tight and inherently enjoyable mechanics, excellent co-op gameplay, and all around jolly vibes come together to make for an unmissable platformer in Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
FINAL FANTASY 7 REMAKE
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a monument to ambition. Its subversive storytelling is already enough to give it that moniker, but the game repeatedly goes above and beyond every chance it gets. Its battle system cannot be praised enough, finally delivering the kind of tactics and thrills that the series’ turn based combat was known for in real time action, its deep dive into the world of Midgar delivers the most well-realized Final Fantasy setting we have received since Ivalice and Spira, its set-pieces are so gloriously over the top you can almost hear Kojima furiously jotting down notes, its soundtrack is absolute perfection with not even a single stinker, its characters win your heart almost immediately. Even many of its (admittedly numerous) stumbles all happen because of the game’s almost audacious ambition. Square Enix could have taken the easy route out with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and delivered a pretty straightforward recreation of the original beloved game in HD. That would, in fact, have probably alienated far fewer people than Remake ultimately did. But channelling some of that old brilliance that once made them the kings of the RPG world, they decided to challenge expectations, challenge fans, and most of all, challenge themselves. And the result is a triumphant display of creativity that even its most ardent detractors will be hard pressed to not respect.