11 Best Video Games of 2020

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By all accounts, 2020 was an incredibly rough year. Even through the hellish landscape of COVID, game developers were able to bring a little bit of light to help us get to the end of the tunnel. Video games are often seen as a medium for escapism – to become someone or do something grand and self-actualizing. Thankfully, 2020 was filled with great games that did just that. Throughout the month of December, UzerFriendly congregated and discussed what we felt deserved recognition as the best games of 2020. Any game released or 2020 was eligible for this list.

Blaseball

Geoff says: “Blaseball is a simulated baseball league with funny teams like the New York Millennials and the Kansas City Breath Mints. Blaseball is an absurdist horror game where players are incinerated by Rogue Umpires and the fans can coordinate to perform necromancy. Blaseball is working together to stand against unfathomable evil. Blaseball is 2020.”

Samurai Shodown NEOGEO Collection

Cherry says: “Despite the fact that finding a match online is like finding water in a desert and that the AI is, frankly, psychic, Samurai Shodown NEOGEO Collection is something worth geeking out over for how much is in here. Six games, illustrated art, interviews, and high level tournament gameplay with complete match analysis —this collection is incredibly thorough on every level.”

Persona 5 Royal

Louis says: “I loved the original Persona 5. I put over 200 hours into that game over multiple playthroughs. Royal is truly the definitive version of this story.”

Bastet says: “Persona 5 Royal was my introduction to the series, and I quickly fell in love with the game. I co-played with Anthony, and I quickly cared so deeply for the Phantom Thieves and friends. The story and characters touched me more deeply than I was prepared for, and Royal now has permanent residence in my heart. The soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time, and it constantly plays in my head and heart. I’ve always been a fan of JRPGs, (thanks, Final Fantasy!) so it was no surprise I liked this game right away. But I was not prepared for how emotionally invested I would become with this game.”

Paradise Killer

Geoff says: “Paradise Killer is a murder mystery at heart, but the game’s bizarre setting and aesthetic (vaporware by way of Assyrian art and architecture) are what make it shine. Kaizan Game Work crafted a beautiful, horrifying world of immortals and alien gods which left me wanting more.”

Hades

Louis says: “With most roguelikes, I’m captivated by fun and simple gameplay that allows for wild customization of your playstyle based on what the game gives you. While Hades does this, albeit to a lesser extent then, say, The Binding of Isaac, it more than makes up for it with how it delivers its story to the player and the incredible cast of characters that star in it. I couldn’t recommend this work of art enough.”

Bastet says: “I am still playing this beautiful game which feels like it never ends, in a good way. I’m always finding out some piece of lore, always wanting to know more and more. I’m absolutely hooked. How is everything about this game so beautiful and aesthetically pleasing!? Oh, hi, this is also super queer? And it’s a roguelike? Done. I relate to the main character Zagreus, and feeling like it’s me running through hell is something special. I feel for Zagreus and have cried over the emotional pain he endures. Each character is beautifully written and all have something to add to the story and Zag’s journey. I can’t wait to see what I find next.”

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Autumn says: “Easily my most anticipated game of the year, and it did not disappoint. A great homage to Breath of the Wild while still keeping its own identity as a Warriors game, including a great cast of characters to play and a plethora of improvements over the original Hyrule Warriors.”

Daemon x Machina

Cherry says: “Mecha action games and I have had a long-time love affair. They exist in an odd niche, often boasting difficult controls that require memorization. And, because they’re so niche, balancing multiplayer in these games to be accessible and fair is a pipe dream. But, c’mon, giant, high-speed robots with lasers and blades fighting towering mecha fortresses? I’m already getting the itch to play again!”

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

Autumn says: “It was my first time playing all the way through Xenoblade Chronicles, and not only was the story one of the most brilliant I’ve ever experienced in any form of media, but the remake did a phenomenal job of cutting away at a lot of the headaches that deterred me from playing through the original title.”

Ikenfell

Anthony says: “This game won my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on it. Ikenfell was a phenomenal experience from start to finish. A turn-based, strategy RPG that’s focused primarily on diversity, friendship, accessibility and queerness. It’s like if you took all the parts of Fire Emblem, made it modern and actually acknowledged the existence of a gender and sexual spectrum. Without getting into spoilers, the game features multiple non-binary characters, neo-pronouns and pure, unadulterated Black excellence. Even the soundtrack, which has tracks written by Steven Universe’s own aivi & surasshu, blew me out of the water. Ikenfell has raised the bar for better representation in the medium.”

Call of Duty: Warzone

Pandit says: “This game has elevated Battle Royale gameplay for me. The pacing, strategy and design of the game has me hooked. It came out in March, right at the beginning of the lockdown, and seemed to be immediately popular with streamers. I had been a longtime fan of streamer Stone Mountain 64 and his over-the-top “commanding officer” videos featuring military-style shooters like Battlefield and PUBG. Watching him take to Warzone and start doing streams and making gameplay tips videos was great, and I found other creators playing the game through his channel. Their new gameplay videos and streams have kept me engaged in the game, coming back to it to test out the new things I learned from their videos. They are lighthearted and funny but also love to talk about the strategies they use, the different gun loadouts and how they compare to the popular meta. It’s fun and engaging to watch them pick apart each update. This is why I feel like I have a vast amount of knowledge and am confident with my choice of loadout even when I have to jump onto a team of strangers. I have a bunch of map knowledge and understand how to approach each battle. All this has eased my anxiety about jumping into a game. I have so much fun playing this game, and even though I only have a few wins, they all feel well deserved and like big accomplishments.”

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Game of the Year Pick)

Olivia says: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the best addition to the series. I played this game the most during 2020, and there are so many little details hidden for players to find. This game lets me relax and accomplish daily tasks, boosting my mental health. I absolutely love the crafting system and making cute points of interest on my island. The first several months were the best, because after the game was released its popularity was on par with the launch of Pokemon GO.

“The game starts off slowly rather than moving to a town full of shops and preset animal villagers. Previous games never let you have enough inventory space, and you weren’t able to decorate outside your home. Building an entire island from scratch is really satisfying after weeks of building and decorating to show off to your Animal Crossing friends.”

Bastet says: “I’ve been a big fan of the Animal Crossing series since New Leaf, and I was so excited to get a main series game after all that time. The timing of New Horizons was perfect. We just went into quarantine and were able to pick it up before we went into lockdown, and it honestly carried me through the lockdown. Sure, the game was missing features that have since been added, (i.e. diving, art, etc.) but it had enough of the basics to keep me and my friends happy and entertained. The increase in clothing options made my goth fashionista heart happy. The default of referring to players with they/them pronouns is something I strive for in our real life, and seeing it flawlessly executed in New Horizons made me cry happy tears. New Horizons had the feature to visit your friends’ islands with up to eight people, and this feature meant so much to me and my friends. We were heartbroken, missing each other constantly during lockdown, and this helped numb some of the pain. The times spent on Discord island-hopping and laughing with my friends saved my life.”

Badlex says: “The majority of my time during the spring was spent doing three things: Working extended hours at my job, trying to maintain my well-being while helping my family and playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

“New Horizons was the only new game I played in 2020, and play it I did. For several months. Hours and hours of time poured into building relationships with my villagers, covering my home with turnips and visiting friends that I would not be able to see otherwise. I was never a fan of the Animal Crossing franchise before this point, but thanks to one of my best friends, Anthony, I was able to experience the wonder and amusement that could only be provided by a game that allows you to fill every inch of your island with mannequins while you try to consolidate your rocks into one location as to avoid venturing across your entire island to find that dang money rock hiding in the orchard with your trees. 

“In short, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the best game that I’ve played in 2020, and one of the best games I’ve played in general. Who knows, maybe now that I’ve reminisced on the game, I may just visit my island again, say hello to whatever old neighbors are there and begin plucking the 4,500 weeds that have grown since I last played in June. 

I hope Teddy is still there. I’ve missed Teddy.”

Pandit says: “My second favorite game was Animal Crossing because of all the cute animal villagers!”