To wrap up our annual award period, which recognizes the year’s best games across many different categories, we now arrive at the best of the best. Voted on by Twinfinite’s editorial staff, these were our top five favorite games of 2020. Starting with a couple of honorable mentions and runner-ups, we are now ready to reveal our overall Game of the Year for 2020.
Note: This article does not contain any explicit spoilers, but in some entries, it does mention elements of the plot when relevant that someone that wanted a completely blind experience may want to avoid. We suggest skipping over any section you want to remain totally blind on.
Game of the Year 2020
Honorable Mention: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Deputy Guides Editor Tom Hopkins: Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ early 2020 launch was timely; just as COVID-19 stay-at-home measures were rolling out, it offered the perfect escape for many — their own tropical island, where they could do anything from fishing to building up their little community.
As such a lighthearted game with a near endless stream of things to manage, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an incredibly easy game to get lost in. Working in real-time, your virtual world is constantly changing and evolving, with much of the advancements down to the time you invest.
Turn up every day to collect free items and tend to your crops and you’ll quickly earn the money needed to repay your loans. Even just checking in on your new neighbors became part of daily routines.
Every cute interaction puts a smile on your face, making Animal Crossing New Horizons the perfect game to take your mind off the real world.
There’s a deep game here too as well, however. With certain items and creatures only available at specific times and in strict quantities, a lot of planning has to go into getting the most of Nintendo’s game, and that’s before getting to the turnips investment meta-game that turned a Twinfinite slack channel into an off-shoot of Wall Street for a month or so.
To this day, nearly a year since its release, it’s constantly being updated with new content to match the time of year, adding reasons to continue logging in every day.
Even if you’re not going to get lost in the minutia of everything, though, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is still an adorable game that you’ll find hard to put down, just like millions of other players have already found out.
Game of the Year 2020
Honorable Mention: Final Fantasy VII Remake
Editor-in-Chief Ed McGlone: So much could have gone wrong for Final Fantasy VII Remake, but it just didn’t. In fact, not only did it live up to the sky-high expectations of many fans that wanted something familiar to the classic PS1 JRPG, Square Enix found room to implement some clever new twists as well.
The developers made development decisions that if you told me about them when Final Fantasy VII Remake was first announced I would have said that this project would be doomed from the start.
That’s because you obviously can’t take a game cherished for its turn-based JRPG gameplay and turn it into a modern action-RPG, especially after the lukewarm reception to Final Fantasy XV’s gameplay.
You also can’t split the game into multiple parts. Fans want a complete experience just like the original was.
And, perhaps most importantly, you cannot under any circumstances make any changes to the game’s story. That’s the one thing, if nothing else, that completely untouchable.
Yet all three of those features, which I would classify as pillars of the original game, were messed with; and yet, Final Fantasy VII Remake still stood and stood strong.
The developers found a way to successfully fuse together action-RPG gameplay with elements of the ATB battle system beloved from the original
Final Fantasy VII Remake was jam-packed with so many new cutscenes, dialog, side quests, and story beats that it turned the entire Midgard section of the original into a full-length game; eliminating many concerns that the original was being split into multiple games to milk fans of their money.
And finally, the developers dauntlessly changed the story, quite dramatically in fact. The jury is still out on this move, though, as we’ll need to see how it plays out across all of the parts. Still, the changes are intriguing and certainly didn’t blow up in Square Enix’s face, at least not yet.
At the end of the day, the developers accomplished their goal of remaking Final Fantasy VII their way, which is to say doing more than releasing a simple graphical update. And by most measures that I can see, they were able to pull that off while still pleasing the majority of their passionate fan base.
Game of the Year 2020
Second Runner-Up: Hades
Reviews Editor Zhiqing Wan: It was no surprise that Hades would turn out to be such a critical hit, especially when you consider that it’s been in early access for two years, with the developers accepting feedback and improving upon the game with the players every step of the way.
The result is an excellent game that not only delivers a compelling story with great art direction and characters, but also pushes the envelope in the roguelite genre with fun combat and by weaving the plot itself into the punishing roguelite elements.
Not to be hyperbolic, but I struggle to think of a single major flaw with Hades. It embodies everything Supergiant Games is known for: a solid story, a cast of diverse and interesting characters, and a soundtrack that will likely stick in your head for weeks even after you’ve put it down.
Every element of this game helps to serve the story in some way, whether it’s an NPC commenting on your repeated defeats to the same enemy or the discovery of a new side story or character that you might’ve missed if you hadn’t died quite enough times.
Even for players who aren’t necessarily fans of the genre, Hades takes great care to make sure that anyone can play it with the implementation of God Mode, which makes the game gradually easier the more you die.
It’s an extremely well-rounded game that simply fires on all cylinders in every aspect, and is undoubtedly one of the most impressive game releases of 2020.
Game of the Year 2020
First Runner-Up: Ghost of Tsushima
Senior Editor Alex Gibson: Ghost of Tsushima’s clever design is a breath of fresh air for a genre of games that are so often formulaic. Admittedly, it doesn’t stray too far from the blueprint itself, but the sum of many small innovations ultimately combine to create something exceptional.
In particular, the minimalist HUD and lack of a conventional waypoint system put a pleasing focus on exploration, encouraging player-discovery in a way that reminds me of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Similarly, too, the points of interest waiting beyond each lush forest or spectacular waterfall often inspire a similar sense of wonder.
Composing Haiku poetry for new cosmetic items, for example, or relaxing in a hot spring to reflect on story beats to increase Jin’s health were such brilliant touches.
I really appreciate the concerted initiative on the part of Sucker Punch to weave magic into otherwise be mundane open-world activities. Are they ultimately busy work? Maybe, but the effect is that Ghost of Tsushima feels special where other games are tedious. Particularly so, as it’s all set to the backdrop of an utterly beautiful sandbox — arguably the prettiest ever seen in gaming.
Then there’s the excellent combat system, which is both immediately exciting and deep enough to remain engaging throughout. I couldn’t get enough of switching between stances and slicing Mongols in gloriously cinematic fashion. Ghost of Tsushima certainly does feel like an interactive Akira Kurosawa film.
One of my very few criticisms is its lack of quest diversity. While the story and writing that binds each quest together is generally great, there’s a little too much repetition by game’s end. But you know what? That only makes me even more excited to see a bigger and better iteration in the inevitable sequel.
Game of the Year 2020
Winner: The Last of Us Part II
Guides Editor Chris Jecks: Where do you start when trying to sum up a game like The Last of Us Part II? Its impeccable story, which raised thought-provoking questions on morality and quests of vengeance? The stellar gameplay? It’s incredulous levels of detail in its visuals and animations? Or the thoroughly fleshed-out, gritty world that Ellie, Abbie and the rest of the cast find themselves stuck in throughout the course of the 15-20 hour adventure?
The Last of Us Part II doesn’t have one standout element like many other games do. The entire game raises the bar for the entire industry.
Its story has you almost reluctantly pressing through its gameplay (I’m being vague for the sake of spoilers), and on more than one occasion I was left surprised that Naughty Dog managed to outdo that incredibly tense boss fight with David from the first game.
It left me pontificating deep philosophical questions over the wants of one over those of the many, particularly in a world so dark, gritty, and oppressive as that which Ellie, Abby and Co. find themselves in.
A world where you need some bastion of light to see you through to the end of the day. It’s a stark reminder that you can’t simply know the full story by viewing one perspective. A person’s motives can seem unjust from one angle and completely validated from another.
While the narrative is the driving force behind The Last of Us Part II, it wouldn’t be enjoyable were it not for its tense, often-stealth-based gameplay.
There’s a level of finesse to the design that’s seldom seen elsewhere. The intelligent AI often groups together to press your position and force you out of hiding. They will pin you into a corner and close in like a pack of wolves.
The combat forces you to think on the fly, crafting the various scraps of materials that you’ve gathered over the course of your adventure to create a makeshift smoke bomb, just so you can have a few extra seconds to ponder your next move.
The whole experience is then bound together with an exceptional level of presentation befitting of the narrative and gameplay. Naughty Dog has always been — in my opinion — unrivaled in its attention to detail, and The Last of Us Part II is no exception.
From the stitching in the character’s clothing to the bones in the character’s hands that can be seen so clearly in cutscenes.
There’s also the way a nearby fire casts an orange glow across nearby snow and the lifelike tracks your characters leave in it as they trudge through, and the obscene levels of detail that’s gone into little things like moss clinging to trees.
Oh and there’s the fact Ellie actually plays real-life guitar chords when she kicks back for a quick jam amidst the apocalyptic chaos, through to the detailed workbench upgrade animations as she and Abby disassemble their weapons, before using various different tools and materials for each upgrade you make.
It truly is a stunning game, and Naughty Dog has left no stone unturned in its quest for perfect visual fidelity.
No matter how long I preach about The Last of Us Part II, I’ll never be able to do it justice. This game demands your attention. You simply have to play it, engage with its narrative, soak up all that immersive detail, panic when enemies start hunting you down like a wild animal. Feel what Ellie feels. Feel what Abby feels.
It’s an absolute pleasure to merely exist in its gritty, depressing world from the comfort of your sofa, if only for 20 hours. I didn’t think The Last of Us could be topped, but I’m more than happy to stand corrected. It’s Twinfinite’s Game of the Year for 2020, and quite possibly my favorite PS4 game of all-time.
Congratulations to our Game of the Year for 2020, The Last of Us Part II!
2020 was a disaster of a year for so many different reasons, but if nothing else, the video game industry still found a way to have another banner year and helped a lot of us get through some rough times.
The hard work that was done under such challenging conditions this year by game developers and other team members across the industry is absolutely appreciated here at Twinfinite.
We’ve done the reader’s choice vote now for two years, and both times our readers and our editors selected different games for GOTY. Will it be three for three? Find out tomorrow. We love democracy, so tell us how wrong we are!