Top 10 Games of 2020

2020 was some kind of year. I imagine we all started the year expecting something wholly other than the year that unfolded. It’s almost hard to think about things like a list of top games in a year that saw so much pain and agony. Yet games were also what shepherded many people through difficult times. While not everyone has the luxury to share this hobby that we all enjoy, it is still a reason for community during a time that many of us have been driven apart from family and friends Many of us sought solace in the games we could play in 2020. And we took inspiration from one another via the games we recommended each other, and the discussions we started as a result. So as a way to continue sharing and creating discussion, here are my 10 personal favourite games released in 2020, with honourable mentions (in a rough reverse chronological order):

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons : there is one game that dominated my entire year, and that is ACNH. There are few games I have devoted that much time to in a single year, with only World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV rivalling ACNH. It’s an impressive feat for a game that is simply about chilling on a desert island. But in 2020, a lot of us needed just that. Animal Crossing was an escape for my partner and I, a way to experience things that resembled normal when few things in our actual lives could be classified as normal. ACNH was a retreat, an ideal place to be our second home, where we could dress, decorate and do anything we wanted to. And, as of 2021, it remains that second home and refuge. I suspect ACNH will continue to be a part of our daily experience in this new year.

  • If Found…: I’m still negotiating my review of If Found. It’s a game I found deeply affecting, one that left me utterly drained at 2AM when I finished playing it. It deserves so much more than I can muster to say, but I am still so close to the moment I finished it that I still need more time to process. It’s a game that may be difficult for many people to play, it may resonate and feel painful to some, it may anger others, or feel hopeful to still others. You might feel all of those things when playing it. It is all those things and more.

  • Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics: If there is a runner up to ACNH in my house for best distraction in 2020, it is Clubhouse Games. My partner and I played this religiously throughout the year, right up to New Years Eve. Clubhouse Games is a meticulous collection of 51 traditional board and card games with a few sport/pastimes thrown in for good measure. Not only is it a fun way to play games with friends and family (even over long distances) it is also a thoroughly superb way to learn how to play each and every one of the games I noted collection. Nintendo crafted a simple and inviting tutorial system that will help even the easily confused to learn to play. It’s fun, and educational. What more could anyone possibly want!

  • The Longing: If I only knew how prescient this game would be when I began playing The Longing. Like me, the poor little creature is sealed in his home, waiting. While unlike me he is waiting in a vast underground lair, for his King to awaken, we do share a sense of longing for something just out of reach. And for those who have played the game, what we both long for is not at all very different. And like the poor little servant in The Longing, I did everything I could this year to make my small, cramped living space slightly more livable, slightly more cozy and inviting because that space would remain my only space for month on end. The Longing captures a perfect slice of the feelings that exemplify living in 2020, and probably deserves more recognition that it received this year.

  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales: This game is a joy to play. Somehow Insomniac managed to make a follow-up to their first Spider-Man games that feels more fun to play in every way conceivable. Traversal is somehow better. Combat is somehow better. The city in Winter/at Christmas is definitely prettier. And Miles is my Spider-Man. Sure, I grew up with Peter Parker. But I also grew out of reading Spider-Man comics with Peter Parker. Miles brought me back and has become a huge part of my revived love for all things Spidey. The game still has it’s flaws, chief among them the fact that Insomniac stumbles when it comes to dealing with representations of the police, but part of that is unfortunately baked into Mile’s storyline from the comics, and Marvel writer’s complicated relationship with representation of systems of authority and power. It’s something I can’t completely give Insomniac a pass on, but I still think they did many other good things with the game and it remains the only game of the year that I played twice back-to-back simply because I wanted to experience it all over again.

  • The Last Campfire: This game is a very sweet, if not somewhat simple, exploration of grief and death. It’s also a beautiful little 3D puzzle game that is very enjoyable to play thanks to uncomplicated mechanics and a wonderful narration. I largely don’t fault The Last Campfire for the simplified exploration of its central themes because I interpret the game as an interactive storybook. This is partially thanks to the very deliberate and direct narration that reminds me of someone reading a bedtime story. The narration is soothing, even if some of the themes are difficult. But it is also hopeful and bright. The Last Campfire does a wonderful job weaving a delicate tale about the things we ultimately lose, but also the things we gain on the journey there.

  • Streets of Rage 4: I bought this on a whim because Special Reserve still had physical copies after their initial shipment, and I was intrigued by the art. I’ve played previous games in the series, but only in passing because I didn’t own a Genesis as a kid. Picking up Streets of Rage 4 was a gamble, and it paid off. This game nails it’s execution in every single way that I fee River City Girls missed the mark last year. While River City Girls still has some redeeming qualities, Streets of Rage 4 knocks it square in the jaw and out of the park. Story mode is fantastic. Multiplayer is fantastic. This game is a joy to play and I’m glad I took the risk picking it up.

  • Carrion: likely the most visceral of the games I played this year, Carrion is a game about being a monster. Not a metaphorical monster, nor something simply misunderstood, you are a pile of flesh with mouths that rends its way through a facility filled with scientists and soldiers, eating and ripping its way to freedom. A theme that seems to populate several of the games I played this year, movement is at the heart of the game. Never have a played a game that captures both a feeling of raw power combined with a fluid mass of malleable form s well. Carrion lets you become a monster, and it feels fantastic.

  • Final Fantasy VII: Remake: I didn’t know what to expect going into this remake, and I am sure I feared that Square Enix simply couldn’t pull it off without failing on some level. Yet fail they did not. More than that, they succeeded spectacularly, creating a game that is both in dialogue with and distinguishes itself from the original. Did it hit me in the nostalgia centres of my brain and heart? Of course, but it also did much more than that. It broke from the story of the original enough to make me love these characters all over again, in a new, often more profound way than I ever could have with the original. Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Barret, Red et al. all have more depth, and humanity, more character and story, than they ever did before and I am here for that. I am here to travel on whatever fantastical nonsense journey they have in store for me.

  • Wide Ocean Big Jacket: there is a central idea or feeling that I think Wide Ocean Big Jacket captures, and it is expressed at one point during the game. I have condensed it a bit to fit within the following image, but I think this captures what made this game click for me:

Honourable Mentions:

  • Doom Eternal: Doom Eternal gets several things right, including some elements that drastically improve on the original 2016 game, but it falters in ways that make it difficult for me to love as much as the original. One of them is platforming sections that I feel take away from the otherwise very enjoyable action of the game. The other is collectibles and bloat, neither of which adds value to the game.

  • The Pathless: I will admit, the Pathless has flaws. It’s not a perfect game. During at least two boss fights I wished for a FoV slider so that I could see more around me because attacks were frequently telegraphed just off screen. Other times I grew frustrated with the fact that the developers bound to different forms of the jump or updraft mechanic to the same button, making it difficult to nuanced control. And navigating the map had its issues as well. While most of the time I could find my bearings using landmarks, there were occasions when finding a final shrine was nearly impossible due to the inability to see perfectly around every corner. Yet despite these flaws, The Pathless imparts a sense of movement and fluidity of traversal that rivals the near perfect traversal mechanics in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Movement in The Pathless feels joyous, nimble and freeing. It feels natural from the moment you start the game, like an extension of the players own movement through real space yet amplified and expanded. And combat, a mechanic that is built directly upon and an extension of the traversal system in the game, feels equally freeing. The end result is a game that feels nearly perfect to play despite its flaws, that feels like a breakthrough in traditional movement and traversal mechanics that have remained largely the same across 3D games for decades.

  • Spinch: Spinch is not perfect, but it is loud and psychedelic (thanks to Jesse Jacob’s art), absurd and surreal, and a blast to play even if it can be tough as nails hard. It’s not for everyone, but if you ever thought “I could use a game that is as hard as Super Meat Boy but is a trip on acid rather than a trip to the abattoir”, this is the game for you.

  • Townscaper: to be fair, it is hard to really rate Tonwscaper. It is currently in early access and in many ways very bare bones. But it is also a superbly relaxing town building game that has zero stakes and only good vibes.

  • I am Dead: I am Dead is a sweet and earnest exploration of memory, personal stories, and community. It stumbles a bit with it’s ideological approach in places, and carries a bit of colonialist baggage, but does try very hard to be inclusive and thoughtful despite its blindspots.

  • South of the Circle: an excellent exploration of the nature of, and failings, of memory as well as historical ideas about masculinity and, to a lesser degree, femininity. I may have liked a version that explored these concepts through the character of Clara.

  • Granblue Fantasy: Versus: Of the several Arc System Works fighting games my partner and I played this year, Granblue Fantasy: Versus struck a chord. Perhaps it is due to the slightly simplified controls, or due to the single player mode that borrows RPG elements to create something more compelling than the average story campaign. Whenever it was, it was memorable enough to place on this list.


Now for my 10 favourite games that I played in 2020, released in any year (except 2020, as with last year I will leave out games last year to avoid crossover with my previous list). This was a slightly more difficult list to create this year, because I played fewer games thanks to ACNH, and significantly fewer older games as a result.

  • Monster Hunter IV: A delightful, if simple, entry in the Wonder Boy series that delivers the series’ first female protagonist. It is also likely an inspiration for the Shantae series, although my mixed feelings for Way-Forward’s darling means that I am largely ambivalent about that. Regardless, it is a very pretty Genesis game that is well worth a play through.
  • Thumper: my god, how did I miss out on this game at the time of its release? Thumper is a thoroughly addictive, yet brutal, rhythm game. It is so complexing that even I, with my absolute lack of rhythm, forced myself to improve just to have an excuse to keep playing. Thumper is a gem of a game that everyone should try at least once.
  • No Man’s Sky: I adored No Man’s Sky at launch. It was one of my favourite games that year and made my top ten list here on Grouvee. Yet it was a game I was afraid to jump back into years later due to a dread about new systems and changes to the base game. I was positive I could never enjoy it as much as I did the first time. I could not have been more wrong, and I am thankful to JoeMD for convincing me to take the plunge. I easily doubled my original playtime and fell in love with the game all over again. I have a stupid amount of bases scattered across multiple star systems, a fleet of gorgeous S-Class ships and hours upon hours of genuinely great times reinvesting in No Man’s Sky as a result. It was the only game that managed to largely pry me away from Animal Crossing all year.
  • Super Mario 3D Land: I know this game is not everyone’s cup of tea, and many prefer Super Mario 3D World, as do I. Yet I still have a soft spot for 3D Land. It’s not quite as tight and polished as 3D World, but it does establish and experiment with a lot of mechanics and level design that is later tweaked and perfected in 3D World. As such, 3D Land is both worthwhile as a historical object that shows progression from previous 3D Mario games to the superb 3D World, and as a genuinely fun little game to play on the 3DS/2DS.
  • Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap: I fully expected to dislike this game. I disliked another recent Wonder/Monster Boy game, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, a game with a similar transformation mechanic. The Cursed Kingdom has very floaty controls, poor platforming, bland combat and average level design. Thus I had very low expectations for this remake of one of the original Wonder Boy games. To my surprise, it excels in every area that I find lacking in The Cursed Kingdom. Perhaps it is partially due to the charmingly updated visual style combined with much more enjoyable platforming mechanics, or the simple fact that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed my time with The Dragon’s Trap immensely. Coincidentally the game was made by Lizard Cube/Dot Emu, the same folks that worked on Streets of Rage 4. I look forward to what they have on their books for the future.
  • Moonlighter: I enjoy a well designed grind fest, and that is essentially what Moonlighter is. It’s a game that revolves around some basic dungeon grinding followed by the running of a shop to sell the goods found on that grind. Rinse and repeat. It’s simple but satisfying, and wrapped in an unexpected sci-fi plot that is enough to explain the absurdity of the gameplay loop. It’s a game designed for people who like the satisfaction that comes from a certain kind of progress through repetition.
  • Mario Party: Is there such a thing as a bad Mario Party game? If there is, it certainly isn’t this one.
  • Silent Hill 3: although this is a replay, I haven’t played this since the PS2 days, and it was great to replay with my partner. It’s the last of the truly great Silent Hill games.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: BotW was my game of the year in 2017, a rare declaration of a clear favourite that year. Three years later BotW remains one of my absolute favourite games. Just as it did then, it still feels like home.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: It has been a long time since I played the original on GameBoy, so the remake felt much fresher than I initially expected. I forgot how weird and also familiar the game feels, how completely unalike and alike it feels to A Link to the Past. At the time of the GameBoy version I felt that Link’s Awakening was just a bit too odd compared to ALttP for me to fully enjoy. Now it’s the bizarre ways that it is unlike ALttP that attracts me to the game. Extra points for the Animal Village Song:

Honourable mentions:

  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard: My partner and I adore this first half of this game. It’s a tense horror filled game that rivals the atmospheric horror of Silent Hill. But half way through, after completing a very enjoyable escape room, you are thrust into an action packed second half where your arsenal of weapons outstrips the threat presented by your enemies. What starts as a truly terrifying game is left toothless by the end. While we still enjoyed the game, both of us would have liked something that maintained the tone of the first half throughout.
  • Control: Control is a mess of great ideas, strapped to a conventional shooter, that simply doesn’t quite come together. Despite this, I did enjoy a great deal of the different pieces despite their lack of cohesion.
  • Gylt: I once called Gylt the Silent Hill for children. I stand by that as an accurate description of the game. Gylt not only borrows a lot of it’s ideas about atmospheric horror from Silent Hill, it also borrows its articulation of strange geography, and a few of its primary themes. Ultimately Gylt’s execution is a bit rough and uneven, but there are brief moments where the game absolutely soars and had me racked with fear (the mannequins are truly eerie and haunting).

I love these sorts of threads!

Released in 2020

I only got around to playing ten games released this year that I liked, so this is less of a “Top Ten” and more of an “Only Ten!” :sweat_smile:

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons :star::star::star::star::star:
    While it didn’t quite live up to my experience with New Leaf, there’s more I like about the latest entry than I dislike, and it was the game my brain needed. It was also quite fun meeting up with a few Grouvee folks virtually and seeing their towns, trading items with @bmo, etc. I plan to continue revisiting for events and when seasons change, or when I just feel like putting around my town.
  2. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics :star::star::star::star::star:
    While ACNH gets all the hype, this was the unsung hero of our household.
  3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 :star::star::star::star::star:
    The rare sort of remake that feels as good as my memory of the originals.
  4. Streets of Rage 4 :star::star::star::star::star:
    I’m terrible at this game, but the visuals and music are so delicious and it’s such a blast to play that I didn’t mind weathering sore fingers through multiple playthroughs.
  5. Super Mario 3D All-Stars :star::star::star::star:
    Put aside Nintendo’s predatory limited release strategy and the lack of new content, and this was still an excuse to revisit three of the best 3D platformers of all time.
  6. Wide Ocean Big Jacket :star::star::star::star:
    What @bmo said, this was delightful.
  7. Kuukiyomi: Consider It :star::star::star:
    This may seem an odd pick, but my partner and I would often play a round or two of this in between various Clubhouse Games. Just some honest, silly fun.
  8. Moon Raider :star::star::star:
    An acquaintance of mine made this Metroidvania, so it was fun to finally play through!
  9. Helltaker :star::star::star:
    Although the final boss was pretty frustrating compared to the rest of the game, this was a quick, silly adventure that’s surprisingly chaste given its premise.
  10. The Solitaire Conspiracy :star::star::star:
    While it hasn’t stolen my attention away from the Klondike Solitaire included in Clubhouse Games, this was still a very stylish surprise.

Played in 2020 from years prior

  1. Persona 5 Royal
    The best version of one of my favorite games of all time.
  2. Grindstone
    I know @bmo disagrees with me on this, but I think Grindstone is one of the best puzzle games I’ve ever played. I enjoyed the heck out of it on iOS, and I’ve started replaying it on Switch.
  3. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
    I’m sad it took me so long to discover one of the best 3D platformers of all time. I loved this one so much I 100% completed it twice this year.
  4. Wandersong
    Surprised and delighted me from beginning to end, a true gem of a game.
  5. Yakuza 4
    The way this entry’s multiple character arcs complimented each other and eventually converged was masterful. An underrated entry in the series.
  6. Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
    The new definitive versions of some of the best-aged formative 3D platformers.
  7. Sayonara Wild Hearts
    Stunningly beautiful and spiritually similar to my beloved Rez.
  8. WitchWay
    An oft-overlooked but very fun indie puzzle platformer, I couldn’t help 100% completing this one.
  9. Spring Falls
    The sort of puzzle game I’m angry I didn’t think of. Minimal but pretty much perfect.
  10. Judgment
    Before Like a Dragon came out, this side story proved Kamurocho can be fun even without Kiryu.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hob
    I was enthralled with this world from beginning to end.
  • Polyroll
    Why don’t more Sonic fans talk about this game?!
  • Jak 3
    Redeemed the series after Jak II tested my patience.
  • Sonic Robo Blast
    The 32-bit classic 3D entry that never was.
  • AI: The Somnium Files
    I was engrossed in the story through multiple endings.
  • Toonstruck
    An overlooked adventure from the genre’s heyday with an interesting story and great performances.
  • Wario Land: Shake It!
    I’m a sucker for hand-drawn animation!

I completely forgot about Streets of Rage. It was supposed to be on my list of top tens from this year but I somehow forgot (it’s in my rough list I drafted last week). Which explains why I was fishing for a tenth title and put The Pathless on my list rather than in honourable mentions. This is what happens when you complete your list at 2AM. I’ll have to got back and adjust, and write a short blurb about Streets of Rage.

1 Like

i don’t think i played quite enough games in 2020 to make a full list, but i do have some favorites i can add to the discussion. i generally used to play a lot of mmos until a few months ago, and so they took up most of my free gaming time. i decided to give them up for a while so i could get through my gigantic backlog of games, and hopefully have a more meaningful experience than mindless repetition and muscle memory. i have nothing against mmos, i think they’re wonderful particularly for the social experience, but i also think i’ve spent enough years of my life on them at this point.

anyway, my list goes (with links to my reviews wherever possible):

  • the long dark. very compelling survival game where you’re stranded alone in the canadian winter after a geomagnetic storm causes a mild (or big, no one knows) apocalyptic situation.
  • hades. i accumulated 100 hours of play in this game within a week. enough said
  • my time at portia. i haven’t reviewed this baby yet, but boy did it get me through a good portion of 2020. it’s not even that good of a game — it’s mostly a clunky harvest moon clone in the end, but it has its own charm and something about it just captivated me. the farm mechanics can get pretty hard the further you get into the game, so if you want a farming/industrial sim with lots of crunch, this might be your thing.
  • persona 4: golden. i didn’t finish this one, but it was definitely a highlight of the year to finally be able to play it.
  • baldur’s gate 3. i’m just really looking forward to this game, and early access, though i didn’t get too far, was tons of fun. i love rolling dice and getting completely destroyed by fate’s whims, what can i say.
  • ooblets. another early access game. a cross between pokemon and harvest moon. it’s super cute and entertaining and i played it a lot for a week or so when it released. i don’t know what’s going on with it at the moment, but hopefully even more features have been implemented.
  • the last of us 2. requires no introduction. not my goty (that’s hades), but close.

Wooo lists!

My list is made up of games I played this year. Not all came out this year but, that’s life! Here we goooo;

  1. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4) - What an epic game that I sunk 120+ hours in. Not many games compel me to play the post game, especially ones with such a lot of extra content. The post-game for the true ending took 40 hours! But in the end it was worth it. I love the cast, the look, the soundtrack, the gameplay, the story. A 5 star game.

  2. Celeste - The only other game this year I gave a 5 star to. A very thought provoking game, charming and challenging. It made me think of my wife’s mental health struggles and I saw a lot of her in the main character.

  3. Paper Mario: The Origami King - What a joy to play. Yes the fighting is a bit cumbersome but honestly, I’d rather have a unique battle system that works most of the time then a slow, traditional “select attack to attack” one that we’ve all seen 1000 times before. And as for the moans about creativity, eff me there’s so much of it DESPITE the restrictions on some character design. I had a great time.

  4. The Last of Us Part 2 - I got really immersed in the story. The characters are pretty deep and I’m honestly not fussed about not liking them all. I think that’s the point! My problems with it that made it lose a star for me were more about the gameplay between battles, trudging around searching everywhere for anything useful and not finding anything. The pace of the whole thing and indeed the length could have been shortened. But overall, I’m very interested to see what comes in a Part 3.

  5. FTL: Faster than Light - Picked this up in the Humble Bundle for Racial Equality. I had barely heard of it, but I had a lot of fun with it. I just wish I could unlock more ships! It’s pretty intense but it’s another game I easily lost several hours at a time to without really noticing.

  6. Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle - Another lots of fun game but with a decent challenge too. I love any Mario themed game that adds character and quirks to the sometimes sterile Mario Universe we get in the main games sometimes. I want to play the DLC some time.

  7. Luigi’s Mansion 3 - First game I finished in 2020. Weird to think what a simple time that was. Another Mario Universe game with lots of creativity that adds to world. Good, challenging gameplay, worth playing in the dark with ear buds in as you really need to hear and concentrate.

  8. Pokemon Shield - Played this with the Mrs in charge! We had a jolly good adventure, including with the DLC. Pokemon is still fun but the mechanics are starting to feel old now. Hope the Pokemon Company embraces a full open world pokemon game next gen and makes pokemon look and play like a franchise that’s one of the most successful in the world, rather then just a 4 star good game.

  9. Golf Story - Here’s another that I can’t even remember how I found out about but picked up in a sale and had good fun with. The gameplay is solid and the story is entertaining, even if it ends on a bit of a bum note for me. There wasn’t the pay off at the end I was expecting for all the hard graft and downright abuse the main character goes through in his quest.

  10. Shantae 1/2 Genie Hero - Love a good Shantae game and this feels like a step up from the previous games. I did, as usual, get lost but not so much that I wanted to give up. It was just clear enough this time that I knew what I had to do. Lots of charming case members and a decent setting and soundtrack help a lot to make you want to carry on when stuck.

A decent bunch of games in 2020. I had a good time. In 2021, I’m having a baby, so I’ll be intrigued to see if I even have 10 games finished to make a list by end of year! Mine you, we’re in another lockdown here in the UK, so maybe I’ll have more time then I realise!

Stay safe all!

1 Like

NG’s Top 10 for 2020:
1 Black Mesa. :star::star::star::star::star:
Good. pure and excellent remake (not really fair to call it a 2020 release)
2 Superhot Mind Control Delete :star::star::star::star::star:
As far as replayable games go it’s one of the best one’s i’ve come upon in a while. nice 20 min sessions
3 Receiver II. :star::star::star:
Has kinks but this is a good series that is shaping itself nicely. Hoping for a third.
4 Drug Dealer Simulator. :star::star::star:
Despite its issues I really did like this game it’s unique business management sim.

(Not 2020 Releases)

5 Dead Space. :star::star::star::star:1/2
Awesome game. I wasn’t expecting to like it that much but enjoyed just about everything.
6 Lakeview Cabin Collection. :star::star::star::star:
So many little secrets and things in this game that make it very replayable.
7. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. :star::star::star::star:1/2
Its one of those things where once you play it you realize just how heavily people do reference it.
8. Abzu. :star::star::star::star::star:
IMO it’s better than journey.
9 Sin & Punishment. :star::star::star::star::star:
Another one I really wish I had played 900 years ago.
10 Darkula. :star::star::star::star::star:
The perfect retro arcade game. It’s free. Colorful. Great design based on the classics. Highly replayable