A look back at some of the best games from this tumultuous year.
2020 was a big year for the games industry. From the beginning of a new console generation to several surprise hits to the launches of numerous games that fans had been anticipating for years, the last twelve months were marked by a number of momentous occasions. As we look back on the year and all that it brought with it, there’s no shortage of excellent games to celebrate, and here, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Join us as we count down GamingBolt’s favourite games of the year, starting with #25, and counting right down to our game of the year for 2020.
NOTE: All entries and rankings were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
#25. F1 2020
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia | Developer: Codemasters | Read Our Review
We crowned F1 2020 as the winner in our best racing games category for 2020, so seeing it breaking into our overall top 25 shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Then again, the top-notch quality of F1 2020 isn’t much of a surprise either. Year after year, Codemasters’ F1 series somehow manages to improve on itself and deliver some of the best, most finely tuned, and most authentic racing simulation experiences we have ever played, and this year, they outdid themselves yet again. For those have have more than a passing interesting in the racing sim genre, it doesn’t get better than this- well, until next year, anyway.
#24. 13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Vanillaware| Read Our Review
Vanillaware has been quietly chugging out unique, engaging story-driven games with fresh new ideas for a while now, but this year, with 13 Sentinels, they caught the attention of the industry at large. And that’s fitting enough, too, because this is definitely the best game they’ve made to date. It tells an absolutely bonkers story that starts out in the most confusing manner possible, and takes it sweet time to get to the point- but when it clicks, it really clicks. With its non-linear storytelling and its gameplay that represents a mishmash of genres in a surprisingly cohesive manner, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is, without a doubt, one of the most surprisingly unforgettable games we’ve played all year.
#23. FOOTBALL MANAGER 2021
Available On: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch | Developer: Sports Interactive | Read Our Review
There aren’t a lot of annual franchises out there that rarely miss a beat with their new releases. One of them is F1, which we spoke about earlier, and another is Sega and Sports Interactive’s Football Manager. Cynics call it a spreadsheet simulator- fans call it a ridiculously addictive and complex spreadsheet simulator. And this year’s spreadsheet simulator was the best entry in Football Manager in years. New systems with meaningful depth, significant improvements to older system, more polished production values, and a retention of the strengths that have always defined this series make Football Manager 2021 exactly as good as we all knew it would be.
#22. CYBERPUNK 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 launched after nearly a decade of fervent anticipation, and that, combined with the fact that it was following in the footsteps of The Witcher 3 – one of the greatest role playing games of all time – meant that it had impossibly high expectations to live up to. It did not live up to those expectations, and the RPG’s console versions in particular have been riddled with a litany of game-breaking issues- which is a real shame, because when it comes to the content of the game itself, there’s a lot to love here. Punchy combat, typically strong choice and consequence mechanics, an engaging story, and a multifaceted progression system all make for a game that might not live up to the heights that it probably should have, but still delivers a damn fine role playing experience.
#21. NIOH 2
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Team Ninja | Read Our Review
Nioh 2 is one of the safest sequels we’ve played in recent memory, and while that might sound like a criticism on paper, it really isn’t. That adherence to the excellent foundation established in the first Nioh is what helps the sequel stand tall. And even though Nioh 2 doesn’t shake things up too much, it’s not devoid of meaningful improvements to its predecessor’s formula either. What we have here is a game that has all the strengths of Nioh – most of all that grueling yet satisfying level of challenge and the stellar combat – while also being a much deeper and much more engaging role playing experience.
#20. WATCH DOGS: LEGION
Available On: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC, Stadia | Developer: Ubisoft | Read Our Review
Ubisoft have a spotty track record with Watch Dogs. The first game promised the world, and ended up being little more than a mediocre open world game, while the sequel managed to easily live up to its much more modest promises. Watch Dogs: Legion went back to thinking outside of the box with its play as anyone mechanic- and it succeeded in doing what it set out to do. Having literally infinite options to choose from in who and what you want to play as sets Legion apart from most other open world games. It takes that crazy, unique idea and builds an impressive and systemic world around it, one where you can spend dozens of hours doing nothing but pushing against the limits of the game’s systems (and usually being met with delightful results). Legion is not without its issues – the story is, to put it mildly, kind of crap, and the missions tend to be a bit too repetitive – but it deserves massive props for the excellent execution of its unique USP, if nothing else.
#19. DOOM ETERNAL
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia, Nintendo Switch | Developer: id Software | Read Our Review
In 2016, id Software brought one of the most influential and legendary gaming franchises back, kicking and screaming, into the mainstream, with a DOOM reboot that was exactly the shot in the arm that the franchise had desperately needed. In 2020, they followed it up with exactly the sort of sequel that reboot needed. Bigger, bloodier, and better- DOOM Eternal checks all those boxes. Navigating its deftly designed combat arenas and juggling the Doom Slayer’s arsenal of weapons and improved movement options while learning how to deal with the many, many different kinds of enemies the game throws at you never gets old. It’s an incredible power trip, and DOOM Eternal definitely makes you work for that feeling, owing to how surprisingly challenging it can be- but the effort that you put in is always rewarded handsomely. Ripping and tearing has never been so gratifying.
#18. MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES
Available On: PS5, PS4 | Developer: Insomniac Games | Read Our Review
After knocking the ball out of the park with their debut in what is clearly going to be a massive new Spider-Man universe, Insomniac Games decided that they needed to tell a shorter but crucial story before moving on to the next big entry in the franchise- and it turned out to be an excellent decision. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a success in every way imaginable. It introduces and firmly establishes Miles as a lovable new protagonist, it tells an excellent story that can be surprisingly moving, it improves upon the already stellar combat and traversal of the first game with Miles’ Venom powers, and it sets up even more exciting new things for future instalments in the series. The game might not have that weighty “2” in its name, but make no mistake- Miles Morales is unmissable.
#17. ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA
Available On: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC, Stadia| Developer: Ubisoft | Read Our Review
“An Assassin’s Creed game where you play as a Viking” is an elevator pitch that can sell you on a game’s central concept in an instant, but actually doing justice to that exciting premise is, of course, the hard part. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, thankfully, does so with great aplomb, and it does so in a manner that also addresses some of the biggest issues that have become endemic to this series in recent years. This is still a massive open world with the potential for hundreds of hours of gameplay, and it still holds the promise of choice and consequence mechanics and extensive role playing, but thanks to the smart way in which the game is structure and how it handles progression, things such as necessary grinding, rote open world activities, and the resultant bloat have become a thing of the past. It’s yet another impressive outing for Ubisoft’s flagship franchise- perhaps even one of its most impressive outings ever.
#16. CRASH BANDICOOT 4: IT’S ABOUT TIME
Available On: PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Toys for Bob | Read Our Review
After reviving Crash Bandicoot with three excellent remakes rolled into a single package in 2017, the logical next step for Activision was to move the series forward with a proper new sequel. They took that logical step this year, and developers Toys for Bob ensured that the beloved bandicoot’s return would be an appropriately delightful one. Tight platforming, vibrant visuals, varied and imaginative level design, and a deft balance between challenge and accessibility- Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time has everything that we’ve wanted to see in a new Crash game for years, and is, as such, a worthy successor to Naughty Dog’s original trilogy.
#15. BLACK MESA
Available On: PC| Developer: Crowbar Collective| Read Our Review
2020 was a big year for Half-Life fans. Not only did we finally get that new mainline Half-Life sequel we’ve been awaiting for years (more on that in a bit), we also got an excellent ground-up remake of the first Half-Life. After starting life as a fan-made mod over a decade ago, Black Mesa gradually morphed into a full-blown Valve-sanctioned production over the years, and the fruits of all that labour turned out to be very sweet indeed. Black Mesa looks incredible, plays like a dream, and captures the magic of the 1998 original, so much so that it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a AAA remake made by Valve itself.
#14. WASTELAND 3
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC| Developer: inXile Entertainment | Read Our Review
inXile Entertainment have always had a knack for telling captivating stories in deep and layered RPGs with extensive choice and consequence mechanics, but in 2020, they delivered what is probably their best work to date. Wasteland 3 is an RPG lover’s dream. Stellar writing, memorable characters, fantastic world-building, and impactful choices ensure that you’re always immersed in its bleak world. Tactical mechanics and varied encounters come together to make for a combat system that starts off strong, and only continues to get better as the game progresses. Nuanced progression mechanics and a vast array of customization options pave the way for a constant feeling of absolute control over how your part is growing. All in all, what we have here is a game that no fan of the role playing genre should skip.
#13. YAKUZA: LIKE A DRAGON
Available On: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PC | Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio | Read Our Review
The best, most enduring franchises in the games industry have always sought to reinvent themselves, and have done it successfully. Resident Evil, The Legend of Zelda, God of War, Metal Gear Solid, Persona, Final Fantasy– all of these are massive properties that have never shied away from doing new things that, on paper, completely fly in the face of what their predecessors have been about. After wrapping up the story of Kazuma Kiryu, Yakuza took that same approach with this year’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon– and we could not be more pleased with the results. The decision to turn what is an action brawler into a full-fledged turn-based RPG seemed like a bizarre one at first, but clearly, we should never have doubted Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s expertise. Like a Dragon is a dense, addictive RPG with ridiculous depth, but at the same time, it has everything that you want a Yakuza game to have- a healthy dose of gleeful silliness, a compact yet densely populated world, a plethora of engaging side activities, a strong protagonist, characters to fall in love with, a story that goes to some truly incredible places, and so, so much more. Yakuza has hit the ball out of the park with its first crack at the turn-based RPG genre, and we can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
#12. XENOBLADE CHRONICLES: DEFINITIVE EDITION
Available On: Nintendo Switch| Developer: Monolith Soft | Read Our Review
A decade ago, Xenoblade started out as a fairly niche franchise that may very well never even have seen the light of day outside of Japan. How things have changed. It has turned into one of Nintendo’s biggest and most successful new properties, has had multiple releases that have been praised universally, and stands to become even bigger with future instalments. 2020 was a year of retrospection for Xenoblade, with Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition taking returning fans and newcomers alike back to what is already considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time, made even better with numerous improvements. Quality of life changes, visual enhancements, additional content, and more came together to embellish Xenoblade’s grand, epic beauty and scale even more than ever before, and the result was an absolutely unmissable gem that no Switch owner should be ignoring.
#11. THE PATHLESS
Available On: PS5, PS4, PC, Mac, iOS| Developer: Giant Squid | Read Our Review
The open world space has become extremely crowded in recent years, and its mainstream success has brought a certain level of stagnancy, where most developers have settled into a comfortable and overly structure formula. Giant Squid’s The Pathless is special for many reasons, but the biggest of them all is its willingness to defy those conventions. In The Pathless, exploration and traversal are completely grounded in the game’s world itself. Rather than navigating a map and following markers and looking at a compass, you’re looking at landmarks, and making your way around places that have embedded themselves in your memory. It bolsters that bold vision with slick traversal mechanics, and populates its world with varied and excellent designed puzzles that never fail to grab your attention. On top of that, the game proudly boasts of a beautiful art style, a wordless yet captivating story, and a beautiful soundtrack. All of these elements come together in what is one of the most unique and memorable open world games we’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent memory.
#10. GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Sucker Punch | Read Our Review
Sucker Punch were clearly sick of Ubisoft’s unwillingness to give us an Assassin’s Creed game set in feudal Japan, because with Ghost of Tsushima, they decided to take it upon themselves to deliver that experience. But calling Ghost of Tsushima an Assassin’s Creed clone would be highly reductive- what we have here is a game that deftly toes the line between traditional, structured open world design, and more diegetic and organic exploration. Of course, what helps is the fact that the island of Tsushima is absolutely gorgeous, and full to the brim of scenes of majestic and exaggerated beauty that will take your breath away, thanks to visuals that stand tall in the industry from both, artistic and technical standpoints. Add to that stellar combat, a captivating narrative, an excellent soundtrack, and stealth mechanics that essentially let you play as a 13th century Japanese version of Batman, and what you have is a game that was well worth the years of anticipation.
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC| Developer: Supergiant Games | Read Our Review
Supergiant Games have never missed the mark with any of their games. Starting with Bastion, then with the underrated Transistor, then with the unique Pyre, they have constantly driven to develop fresh and unique experiences, and each time, they have done justice to their ideas with stellar execution. With Hades, however, they have ascended to altogether new heights that very few developers can hope to reach. Roguelite games have struggled with things such as a constant sense of progression and storytelling for as long as they have been around, but Hades leaps over those struggles with surprising ease, almost as if those issues should never have existed in the first place. And it’s not just impressive on that macro scale- every second of Hades is an absolute blast, thanks to its beautiful art style, frantic and empowering combat, and the unique challenge that each of its vast variety of enemies and bosses pose. More than anything else, Hades is yet another game that proves that you don’t need a thousand people and millions of dollars to make a world-beating video game- you just need an excellent idea, and a crazy amount of talent to turn that idea into a reality.
#8. ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS
Available On: Nintendo Switch| Developer: Nintendo | Read Our Review
Do you want to play a game about watering flowers, catching bugs, pulling out weeds, selling turnips, and paying off loans? You don’t? Oh yes you do. You really, really do. Animal Crossing is all about doing that mundane stuff ad nauseam, and it’s somehow made that formula work for years on end- and it works better than ever before in New Horizons. There’s a magical quality to Animal Crossing’s charm that cannot be put into words, and that shines through brighter than ever in the game’s Switch outing. As you begin setting up shop on your very own deserted island, you might not be expecting to have much fun, but New Horizons, like all Animal Crossing games, creeps up on your out of nowhere- and boom. Before you know it, hundreds of hours have passed, and you’re obsessing over buying that one couch that will fit perfectly in the living room of a house you’ve spent hours and hours paying off exorbitant loans for. We know that doesn’t sound fun. But it is- way more than it should be.
#7. PERSONA 5 ROYAL
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Atlus | Read Our Review
Most developers would be satisfied with releasing a 100 hour-long RPG that’s widely considered to be one of the greatest games ever made. Atlus is not most developers. Atlus that that 100 hour-long seminal RPG, and turned it into a 130 hour-long unabashed masterpiece. Persona 5 Royal improves upon the vanilla Persona 5 so convincingly, it pretty much makes the original game meaningless in retrospect. From combat to dungeon design to countless little quality of life improvements that make the game’s slice of life mechanics even better, Persona 5 Royal is brimming with enhancements that build on each other in significant ways. On top of that, there’s a huge chunk of new content here for both newcomers and returning fans to experience, and that content is probably some of the best that the Persona team has ever produced (which is high praise indeed). Yes, it’s a massive time investment- but like all good investments, it’s also an incredibly rewarding one.
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Media Molecule | Read Our Review
Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet franchise was always at its best when it was focusing on its “play, create, share” mechanics- the actual platforming itself was mostly rather unremarkable. The developers clearly knew that, because with Dreams, they decided to go all-in on that “play, create, share” mantra. Dreams has been in the works, in some form or another, for nearly a decade, and while that may seem like an unusually long amount of time, anyone who’s played the game (if it can even be called a game) would tell you that that was time well spent. The sheer breadth of creation tools at your disposal here is staggering, but what makes them even more impressive is that Dreams manages to present those tools to players in surprisingly accessibly and enjoyable ways. It’s a game development engine that’s also a game, a game that shows that creating games can be just as fun as making them. And what’s most exciting about Dreams is that it’s a platform in and of itself, one that will, hopefully, will continue to be fostered and continue to grow and improve even further for years to come.
#5. HALF-LIFE: ALYX
Available On: PC | Developer: Valve | Read Our Review
Half-Life 3 still isn’t confirmed, but this year, Valve gave us Half-Life 3 in all but name. After a torturously long hiatus – not just for the series but for Valve as AAA developers as well – they returned to the spotlight with Half-Life: Alyx, and predictably enough, they stole the show. Making a long-anticipated, full-fledged Half-Life sequel that is playable exclusively in VR was a bold choice, but you only need to play the game once to know that Alyx really would not have worked as well as it does any other way. It tells a typically strong story, in true Half-Life fashion, and combines first person shooting and horror expertly, but what’s most impressive about this game is how immersive and interactive it feels in its intricately developed VR environments. The Gravity Gloves are a perfect encapsulation of Valve’s unbridled genius, and the painstaking detail that every single room and environment in the game exhibits tells you all you need to know about why we had to wait so long for the next great Half-Life game. And yes, it was absolutely worth the wait.
#4. THE LAST OF US PART 2
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Naughty Dog | Read Our Review
There are many who say that The Last of Us didn’t really need a sequel, and for a while, it seemed like Naughty Dog agreed with that notion. The first game ended on such a strong note, and capped off its story in such spectacular fashion, that a sequel seemed completely unnecessary. When Naughty Dog did decide to go ahead with that sequel, they could have very easily just given us more of the same, and everybody would have been more than happy with a game like that. But they decided to take a risk, and though there are many who feel it didn’t pay off, we feel it absolutely did. The Last of Us Part 2 tells a bold story, and it tells it in typically impactful and confident fashion. Yes, it falters every now and then, and it’s not as airtight as its predecessor was, but it’s incredibly ambitious, and the net result is still a massive win. Beyond that, on the gameplay side of things, this is easily Naughty Dog’s best work ever. Excellent AI, immaculate level design, tense stealth, and scrappy combat all come together to make for one of the best linear stealth/horror games we’ve ever played. Just as they did with The Last of Us, Naughty Dog have sent the PS4 off with a staggering achievement in The Last of Us Part 2- and we cannot wait to see what they do next.
#3. DEMON’S SOULS
Available On: PS5 | Developer: Bluepoint Games, SIE Japan Studio | Read Our Review
FromSoftware changed the industry in 2009. In most cases, a statement like that is a tad hyperbolic at best, and a gross exaggeration at worst, but when it comes to Demon’s Souls, that’s a cold hard fact. Remaking a game with that kind of a legacy would be a daunting task for even the most talented developers in the world, but as Bluepoint Games have proven over the years, they are never ones to back down from a challenge. And just as they did with Shadow of the Colossus in 2018, they have developed an excellent recreation of Demon’s Souls in 2020. That grueling challenge, that sense of elation when you overcome an insurmountable obstacle, those thrilling boss fights, those gothic and beautiful environments- all of the things that made the original Demon’s Souls so iconic are present and accounted for in the remake. They are, in fact, even better than before. On top of that, as the only major next-gen exclusive game we’ve seen so far, Demon’s Souls is also a visual showcase that hints at exciting technological advancements for the medium in the years to come.
#2. ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS
Available On: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch | Developer: Moon Studios | Read Our Review
Alongside the likes of Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest has often been credited for bringing about the resurgence of the metroidvania genre in recent years. Its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps does what most sequels can only ever dream of doing- it blows its already legendary predecessor out of the water in almost every way imaginable. Blind Forest burrowed its way into ours hearts thanks to its beautiful visuals and music, its tight platforming and intricate level design, its unexpectedly moving storytelling. Will of the Wisps does all of that, but does it much, much better- but it’s not satisfied with just those iterative improvements. It also brings in a completely new and significantly improved combat system, one that is constantly flashy and thrilling, and shines bright as a star on more than one occasion (especially in the spectacular boss fights). The world you explore is also much larger, the level design much more intricate, the new progression system much more layered and engaging, the side activities just as engaging as the critical path itself. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an unrelenting triumph that firmly establishes Moon Studios as one of the best metroidvania developers in the industry. Calling it one of the best games in the Xbox One’s library and one of the best games to have ever been published by Microsoft would not be an exaggeration in the slightest.
GAMINGBOLT’S 2020 GAME OF THE YEAR – FINAL FANTASY 7 REMAKE
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Square Enix | Read Our Review
In 1997, Square Enix released Final Fantasy 7 on the PlayStation, and changed the face of the industry, setting a new standard for strong characters, storytelling in games, and what a globe-trotting epic adventure can look like in this medium. In 2005, Square Enix toyed with the hearts of millions when they showed off a glorious tech demo of a reimagined Final Fantasy 7 to show off what their new tools could accomplish on the PS3, and demand for a remake grew. That demand grew to epic proportions over the course of the next decade- and in 2015, the promise was made at last.
After five more years of restless anticipation, Final Fantasy 7 Remake finally came out in 2020, and really, there was no way the game could have lived up to all the hype, especially not with Square Enix’s recent spotty track record with major releases. And yet, that’s exactly what it did. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is incredible, and we can say that without any reservations. It makes the bold decision to only cover the first five hours of the original game, and spread them out over a full-fledged 30 hour-long RPG. It makes the bold decision to make some shocking changes to the original’s story with twists that you won’t see coming. It makes bold decision after bold decision, and impossibly enough, it never misses a beat.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake looks gorgeous. It tells an excellent story that keeps both newcomers and veteran fans on their toes. It has a spectacular combat system that is the culmination of years of attempts by Square to blend action and turn-based fighting. It brings its cast of characters to life in a way that surpasses even our wildest expectations. It has a brilliant soundtrack. There is just so much to love in this game, so much that refuses to buckle under the weight of fifteen years of anticipation- so much that should not have worked, but works like a dream. It’s the best Final Fantasy game in years, and a dream come true for everyone who was waiting for this moment for literally over a decade.