2020 may forever go down in history as one of the worst years on record for reasons outside of the gaming sphere, but luckily when exterior world events seemed in doubt, video games were always there to provide us with some much-needed escapism. And what a year it was! Whether you’re a player that’s usually more taken by beautiful indie games featuring a whimsical arty style or Triple-A platform exclusives that enable you to explore a sprawling open world, 2020 had a lot to show for it regardless of your genre tastes.
The following is the definitive Console Deals ranking of the 10 best games of 2020, as listed and agreed upon by myself and the rest of the team. Though Matt would gladly give the top spot to Tetris 99 every year, we’ve locked him away with an Xbox Series X to hopefully wean him onto Tetris Effect Connected. Just as a disclaimer: we obviously couldn’t play every game that released this year, but we beat a good crop of them. So, without further ado, let’s heap some praise on 2020’s best:
10. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Warriors games are often given a bad rep, explicitly known for their nature to let players wade through hordes of enemies across an empty map and not much else. Nintendo and developer Omega Force had previously combined this template with the world of Zelda once before in 2014’s Hyrule Warriors, but by placing more emphasis on story, character developments and cut scenes that further provide additional narrative context for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity became the best instance of Dynasty Warriors crossing over with a license.
If ever you wondered why Hyrule’s four diverse champions first came together, how Calamity Ganon eventually took over the kingdom or why Link was sent into a 100-year sleep, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity provides all these answers and more. Combine this with a generous character roster of heroes each featuring their own unique move sets and weapons, along with great-feeling hack-and-slash action, and Age of Calamity just sneaks onto our list of the 10 best games of the year.
9. Gears Tactics
Speaking of series dropping their traditional format in favour of another genre, Gears Tactics releases earlier this year as one of the first Xbox exclusives (albeit released initially on PC). Styled in the same vein as other tactics games like Fire Emblem and X-COM, it tells a prequel story set before the events of the first Gears of War game, with you as Sgt. Gabriel Diaz commanding an elite military unit against a new Locust threat. Such a premise makes for a gorgeously gory turn-based tactics game.
What allows Gears Tactics to excel is just how well it translates gameplay mechanics from the mainline Gears of War games into the isometric top-down format, with franchise hallmarks such as chainsaw gun kills, emergence holes and cover all playing an important role amidst every strategic battle. For all this and more Gears Tactics managed to usurp this year’s X-COM: Chimera Squad and beat the premiere PC tactics franchise at its own game. It finally released on console this November with the arrival of Xbox Series S|X, being the best Gears game in which to take your next-gen console for a spin.
8. Fall Guys
When most of us were locked up indoors looking for a way to connect with other people, what we didn’t see coming was that this human connection would be provided by a gameshow-style multiplayer game featuring colourful beans. Before a certain other game centred on bean protagonists arrived, Fall Guys delivered online social hilarity in spades, casting you and 59 others to make from one end of the other while avoiding all manner of pesky obstacles.
Awkward controls had been used various times before by games in the pursuit of being funny, but by pitting you against other people and mixing Takeshi Castle with the Battle Royale genre it was a guaranteed good time. Popularity around Fall Guys may have since died down a bit, but seasonal events, limited-time outfits and new game types always ensures there’s something fresh to see when you dive in. The fact it was initially released for free to PS Plus subscribers is the icing on the cake.
7. Streets of Rage 4
Brawlers and beat-em-ups had a bit of a come back in the indie space throughout 2020, but far and away the most successful was Streetsof Rage 4. Based on a series that hadn’t been seen for the best part of two decades there were so many ways it could have gone wrong. And yet, thanks to a gorgeous comic art style, tight fighting mechanics and seamless online and local co-operative play, Streets of Rage 4 took all the tenants that made the original trilogy great and smartly updated it for an all-new era.
Classic characters like Axel, Blaze and Adam all returned alongside newcomers like Cherry and Floyd, each handling wildly different from one another to better suit multiple playstyles. It running at a silky 60 fps on all platforms (including Switch) helps the gameplay really soar, as you further unleash standard hits, throws, blitz and star moves against minions and the challenging boss waiting for you at the end of each stage. If you haven’t yet played Streets of Rage 4, you owe it to yourself to play one of the best and most action-packed indies of the year.
6. Immortals Fenyx Rising
Ubisoft seemingly took the arrival of next-gen consoles almost as a personal attack, wanting to prove how new and shiny its games good look by releasing not one, not two, but three massive open-world games at the end of the year. All each have their own merits, but it was Immortals Fenyx Rising that came as the biggest surprise, setting you off within a colourful world packed with fun puzzles to overcome, charming humour to back up the action and the constant feeling of progression. Sure, the comparisons with Breath of the Wild were always inevitable, but it also finds room to stand apart.
Immortals Fenyx Rising might not pack in the mystery seen in Nintendo’s 2017 modern classic, but what it lacks in ambiguity it more than makes up for with the ability to climb anything and go anywhere. Throw in a beautiful Pixar-like art style and you have an ideal open-world adventure set to appeal to every member of the family. Ubisoft took a risk by releasing a new IP alongside its Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed juggernauts, but this enchanting world of Greek Gods and Monsters is simply a joy to be in and explore.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when a whole generation of players were doing everything they can, pretending they’re a superman. In actual fact, however, it had been over 20 years ago since we first took to the halfpipe with our virtual skateboard in the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on PS One. Revisiting that initial game and its sequel as part of Activision’s TonyHawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 collection was one of 2020’s biggest joys, with each stage and skater painstakingly remade from the ground up with both games’ original soundtracks safe and intact.
Pulling off grinds, ollies, 1080s and more all feels just as natural as it did back in 1999, only now you can do so with visuals that fool you into thinking that this is a contemporary game. Developer Vicarious Visions had proved their remake prowess before with 2017’s Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, yet Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 takes the concept further by nailing the same sense of speed and handling primed to make veteran players slip back into old habits. The best sport(ish) game of the year.
4. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Another game to release early on in 2020, Ori and the Willof the Wisps was initially an Xbox console exclusive before eventually arriving on Nintendo Switch. Wherever you choose to play it, however, you’ll be treated to one of the most beautiful and poignant 2D metroidvanias ever made. Several mechanical improvements have been made to this second Ori entry, including a much deeper combat system and more creative ways to explore the landscape. All this is backed up by a water colour-like art style and magical soundtrack composed by Gareth Coker.
Absolutely no knowledge of the first game is needed to jump directly into Will of the Wisps, meaning there’s no excuse to get lost within this map littered with natural environments. Most feature enemies and bosses set to challenge your mastery of Ori’s nimble skillset, all of which comes together wonderfully as you hop, fly and swoop your way through a simple quest to save your lost owl friend. Blind Forest was already an exceptional game, but Will of the Wisps betters it in almost every way.
3. Astro’s Playroom
When picking up a next-gen console, you’re always looking for that one showcase game expertly positioned to demonstrate what the new hardware is capable of. Astro’s Playroom turned out to be exactly that, being an old-school 3D platformer guiding you through the entire history of PlayStation in one bite-sized 4-hour experience. It’s been likened to certain Super Mario games for how well it handles platforming and exploration, and this high praise is well earned.
Astro himself feels great to control, not least due to the amazing haptic feedback available on the PS5’s new Dualsense controller. The gamepad vibrates with the pitter patter of each step on sand, firing a bow and arrow feels great thanks to the additional trigger tension. Features like this bring you closer to the experience than few modern 3D platformers can. It might just end up being a fad and only time will tell how other developers will utilise these possibilities, yet for now Astro’s Playroom is a good enough reason to pick up a PlayStation 5.
2. The Last of Us Part II
Easily one of the most controversial games of the year, not everyone was happy with how Ellie and Joel’s story was handled. But it’s precisely because this sequel story is willing to challenge players’ expectations and venture into bleak directions that makes The Last of Us Part II one of the year’s best. It helps that it looks gorgeous on PlayStation 4, truly pushing the console’s technical capabilities to its limit to engross you better in this world ravaged by the cordyceps virus.
Almost every character is in a wildly different place than where we left them in 2013’s masterpiece, wrapped up in a story unafraid to tackle the grizzliest themes like revenge, deceit and torture. We may not always like the turns it takes or where said characters end up, but The Last of Us Part II should be commended for its insistence to a single story free of dialogue options and multiple endings. It just narrowly misses our top spot for the best games of 2020.
Technically available to PC players last year in Beta form, it was only when Supergiant’s fast-paced and super stylish roguelike Hades entered full release on Nintendo Switch this year that it took many players by storm. What sets it apart from other genre pioneers is its ability to weave an interesting world and narrative alongside excellent gameplay, simultaneously empowering and rewarding you upon death instead of making you feel defeated.
Rendered in a stunning cell-shaded art style that works brilliantly from the top-down isometric perspective, Hades is filled to the brim with combat opportunities thanks to how differently each weapon enables you to play. Plus, finishing each of the four through worlds once only opens up the beginning of the story, as you’re encouraged to go back and do battle with your titular father over and over again. When it comes to 2020 games Hades is the complete package.