If you look back at my Top 5 games of 2019 list, I was so hopeful for what’s coming in 2020. Next-gen consoles. Cyberpunk. Immersive sims. And 2020 turns out to be a bummer of a year where a pandemic appeared. And so many social issues have been exposed and called out. And a pandemic isn’t stopping people marching outside to let their voices be heard.
It’s a year where the global situation of the world has to be remembered as it has impacted the video games being made and the games we play today. And hopefully brings a better change for the world.
Also, the three immersive sims I look forward to are either caught in controversy, delayed, both, or not really an im-sim. It was not the year of im-sims, sadly. For me, it’s actually the year of great JRPGs.
These are the top 10 games I played in 2020.
10- Cyberpunk 2077
It’s pretty clear how I was pretty stoked about Cyberpunk 2077. I was hoping for something to fill the void of Deus Ex now that that series is laying dormant. I’m always been interested in the cyberpunk aesthetic (and so are the rest of the Gamer Matters crew), and for one reason or another I can’t get into The Witcher 3 (probably the gritty medieval aesthetic). Maybe this is the game I will enjoy from this well-beloved developer.
Haha, innocent times.
Cyberpunk 2077 really could have used another few more years in development looking at the finished game right now. It’s no Deus Ex, but it’s not quite GTA with RPG mechanics either. It’s totally not an immersive sim, but it’s also a pretty shallow RPG and more of an FPS.
CD Projekt Red is just like any publicly-traded publisher/developer now- they can’t be trusted with this much hype anymore moving forward.
That being said, I still spent 50 hours in Cyberpunk 2077. Night City is gloriously well-realised (not taking account the AI of pedestrians and traffic). The aesthetic is supremely on point. I love this dark, oppressive, unwelcoming world where we may or may not head to in the future.
If anything, Cyberpunk 2077 has gotten me interested in the original R. Talsorian Games’ tabletop sourcebooks, and I’ve recently installed Destiny 2 again.
With some mods, free DLCs and much-need fixes and updates down the line, maybe it will be a good enough game. As it stands, I have very mixed feelings about it- but I do have to say I enjoy some parts of it.
Check out the First 30 Hours Impressions of Cyberpunk 2077 here.
9- PGA Tour 2K21
How in the world did a golf game, of all things, made it to the list? The simple answer is because this is a Top 10 list instead of the usual Top 5- so there’s room to add in more weird titles I enjoy this year.
I will never be motivated enough to actually build the strength to pull 300yd drives in real life, or sink 30ft putts, or even afford a golf club membership. But I’m really good at golf in video games back in my childhood. PGA Tour 2K21 is nice excuse for me to give golf games another swing.
Okay, the game itself isn’t the best sports game this year. This is mostly here because I personally enjoy it. This is 2K’s first entry of a PGA Tour title. Maybe one day it will be as competent and as wacky as the glorious Tiger Woods PGA Tour games from the early 00’s. Despite its many faults, I deeply enjoy my time rekindling with my long-dormant video game golf skills.
We have a review for PGA Tour 2K21 here.
8- Crusader Kings 3
I always love spreadsheet games. Games that present a bunch of data points, but if read in certain ways you can weave your own story with your imagination filling in the gaps.
Crusader Kings 2 is just that, but it was also so hard to get into. It’s either thanks to its dense mechanics that are at play or the bazillion DLCs that make you feel inadequate with the base game.
Crusader Kings 3 adds some more visual flair (3D models!) and makes more effort to improve the new-player experience. And you know what, I now can conquer lands and be the King of Sweden this time! Well, after the first king died a war of succession happened and my dynasty crumbled. But still, I very much know what I’m doing more than before!
Thanks to the many mechanics that interact with each other, wild scenarios that can play out (some are visual novel-style choose-your-adventure choice-making kind), and you can instigate or manipulate these machinations yourself. I haven’t got tired with seeing family members courting each other, and other wild happenings you can do in this grand strategy game. It’s a great time, now accessible for more players.
You can listen to our CK 3 shenanigans in this episode of dia.log- The Gamer Matters Podcast.
7- XCOM Chimera Squad
Out of nowhere! Firaxis one day announced a new XCOM game, it’s coming in a week, and for cheap. Expectations were made clear from day 1.
This standalone spin-off is still XCOM, but interestingly with more restrictions. What if XCOM becomes a cop and you have pre-determined squad members- some of them being the xenos you tirelessly exterminate in past games?
It’s an experimental title, and I love that they are trying new things without going too far. Firaxis’ attempt on telling a story and doing world-building in this manner is applaudable, and the fresh new breach mode does shake up the usual XCOM formula, well, just a bit.
Check our review on XCOM Chimera Squad here.
6- Sackboy A Big Adventure
I always have a soft spot for family-friendly 3D platformers, and I’m glad that I gave Sackboy: A Big Adventure a shot. It’s charming, it controls well, it looks good (even on a base PS4), and my goodness the levels.
Sackboy’s levels are short and sweet, but they also have fun gimmicks. How fun you’d ask? There are many, but the most exemplary are the musical levels. With music you’ve heard from mainstream radio. Sackboy is just a bundle of joy and I would definitely revisit this when the PS5 drops in rarity and is something I can buy without paying a scalper tax. There aren’t that many being sold around here in Malaysia right now, sadly.
Our review of Sackboy: A Big Adventure here.
5- Watch Dogs: Legion
I was never a Watch Dogs fan until 2020. After trying Watch Dogs 2, I found a soft spot for Ubisoft’s open-world romp. It’s what you expect – but there’s potential for shenanigans with NPC manipulation thanks to the hacking ability. It got me through 20 hours before I got bored.
So when Watch Dogs: Legion arrived this year promising an even wilder set of mechanics with the Play As Anyone system, my interest has piqued, and I have to play it.
Turns out, I enjoyed enough of Legion to see it through to finish- despite the rough performance on PC and save issues on launch. Peering into an NPC’s privacy is a gameplay incentive, and I admit to may have stalked some NPCs just to see their life schedule at play.
Seeing the diversity of Londoners that eventually rise up and join the hacktivist DeadSec group to take down an authoritarian regime in a cyberpunk near-future is not something I expect to enjoy a lot this year.
4- Ghost Of Tsushima
This is another open-world game, but one that cleverly makes the world a joy to explore instead of a checkbox to tick. Ghost obfuscates the collectibles and makes it matter each time you discover and attempt to collect one, and it’s sparse but beautifully crafted world is a joy to behold.
If you love samurai films, this game perfectly captures that fantasy with its excellently executed (but familiar) swordplay combat. And you can be a sort-of ninja too.
A simple story and premise, delivered in dramatic fashion will make me remember Ghost Of Tsushima for a long while. Also, the free addition of a multiplayer mode is genius. It’s not doing it for me, but that’s a great looter game by itself, even compared to dedicated looter games.
3- Fall Guys
The battle royale genre has a new subgenre: the game show game. Fall Guys is what happens when you try to recreate the absolute chaos from the obstacle course challenges from the old TV show Takeshi’s Castle in video game form and it delivers so, so well. Add a charming aesthetic on top of this (supposedly) stress-free online party game and you’ll get one of the surprise hits of 2020.
I barely get any wins anymore but just being part of the show, agonising each loss as another run of bad luck, is a great time for me to unwind in this depressing year.
You can stumble into our review of Fall Guys here.
2- Final Fantasy VII Remake
I have gone on record multiple times of how I am not sold that Square Enix can deliver Final Fantasy VII Remake. The long development time, the game to be split up in multiple parts, and the insurmountable expectation it has to live up from its die-hard fans of the 1997 classic. It’s going to be an almost impossible task to make a good remake.
I stand corrected. Final Fantasy VII Remake blends action and RPG elements in a much better way than any of Square Enix’s previous entries. The team demonstrates that they understand what the original game meant to the fans (look at the fanservice, my god) and delivered what they expected. But also twist that just a bit- this is not intended to replace the original- but fans old and new will enjoy this.
The first part of this “unknown journey” of how many more entries will be something I look forward to this time. I’ve joined the bandwagon now.
1- Yakuza: Like A Dragon
A running joke at Gamer Matters is that we are all fans of the Yakuza series, but never played the new releases on time. So by the time we dish awards, they are a mainstay favourite in the “Best Game We Didn’t Play” award category.
But not this year. I decided to give this a go on day one to break this long curse. And guess what’s Gamer Malaya and Gamer Matters’ Game Of The Year 2020 was.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon is the series refresh it needed after seven mainline entries. With a new protagonist, a new setting, a new combat system that turns it into a full JRPG and a fresh story, this is a great place to start for newcomers.
It has all the same hallmarks of the previous Yakuza- a serious crime story (that surprisingly has nuance despite the many TV-soap -opera-level twists). It has wacky but heartfelt side quests that are fun diversions. And it’s chock full of mini-games, including actual Sega arcade games.
I know a Yakuza game is coming this year (like every year it now feels), but I never expected to rate Yakuza: Like A Dragon this highly. I do have various nitpicks about the new combat system. Yet this game took over 80 hours of my life and I enjoy almost every minute of it.
An RPG about middle-age folks in Japan climbing out of rock bottom and empathetically explores the world in various shades of grey is my favourite game of 2020.
What’s Coming In 2021?
2021 will be the first proper year for the next-gen consoles. It will be exciting to see how developers will make use of the bump in performance power and new features in upcoming games. But it’s also important to see if folks can actually get one with the current limited stocks.
Hopefully the new normal stops being normal anytime soon. And let’s be open to any new surprise game releases that may drop this year. If there’s a takeaway from 2020, it’s that being surprised with a game being better than expected is a great feeling.
Until then, stay safe, folks.