Sac City Gamer’s top games of 2020
These are the games we enjoyed the most last year
To say the least, 2020 was a crazy year.
From the coronavirus pandemic, to another round of California wildfires, to national and local protests over social justice issues, including police brutality and racism, to the U.S. presidential election and so many notable celebrity deaths I can't even bear to count them, it was full of doom and gloom like no other recent year most of us can remember.
But when it comes to video games, it was a pretty good year. I’d even go as far to say it was an excellent year.
We saw the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S, more big game releases across the spectrum of platforms than we could keep up with and some pretty big game announcements to take us into the future.
In fact, in many cases, the pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home and work-from-home orders made gaming even better because it gave us more time to focus on our favorite hobby. That said, I do want to take the time to acknowledge the tragic loss of lives around the world and all of the other negative effects of the pandemic, like the lasting impact on the world’s economy and the loss of jobs, businesses and other financial and social impacts of the pandemic and other events of the last 365 days.
For most, it’s been a year full of pain and anguish and I don’t want to take away from that in any way.
The coronavirus pandemic has been very hard on the majority of people in California, the United States and the world, but we should also be grateful for the positives in life and try to focus, at least to some degree, on the things that make us happy.
For us at SCG, that’s video games, of course. So, we’ve put together a list of the top games that helped us get through the extremely difficult year that we call 2020.
SAC CITY GAMER’S TOP 10 GAMES OF 2020
Number 10: Minecraft Dungeons
This game came completely out of left field for me and I'm only putting it at No. 10 because I haven't had a chance to get very far in the game, so I don't want to judge it too early. However, it made a big enough impression on me to make my list.
I first played Dungeons on Xbox Game Pass and though I'm not a Minecraft fan, I wanted to give it a shot because I did enjoy Minecraft Story Mode and I wanted to see if I'd like this spinoff as well.
And, I definitely do. This is a very fun adventure game and it fixes the one issue I have with Minecraft: There's actually stuff to do in this game beyond crafting. It's a great take on the top-down dungeon crawler genre and I'm looking forward to playing more.
Number 9: Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Being a huge fan of Super Mario 3D World and LittleBigPlanet, I was excited when Sackboy: A Big Adventure was announced. In fact, I was really excited, especially because it was another game my wife and I could play together.
The game definitely delivered, but I put it lower on my list because it didn't do a whole lot that was new. It was very much a clone of 3D World (not really a bad thing) and had a lot of elements of LBP (again, not really a bad thing). The problem I have with this is that it just all felt very familiar. I mean, that isn't bad I guess, but it was a bit too predictable.
I haven't had a chance to check out the online, having completed the game prior to that update, but the single player experience is great.
The music, the graphics, the worlds, and the super tight gameplay make this an enjoyable experience with tons of replay value.
If you're looking to play it with kids or non-gamers, it did get a little too challenging for my wife toward the end and it had its fair share of frustrations (those sponge wheels are still terribly programmed), but overall it's a fun game.
Number 8: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2
Being someone who grew up with the Tony Hawk games and having owned just about every title in the series over the years, this was one of my most anticipated titles of the year. And it did not disappoint. It's everything a remaster should be and then some. The only downside is that I played the first two games so much as a kid that this collection got stale quicker than I expected.
Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful and it's definitely a game I'll return to for years to come, but I guess I just played the games out a bit too much when I was a kid.
That said, I'd love to see more Tony Hawk remasters, especially because I didn't play the later games in the series nearly as much growing up, and hopefully the popularity and praise for this remaster leads to a better sequel than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5.
Number 7: Spider-Man: Miles Morales + Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered
Having played the original Insomniac Spider-Man game on PS4, I was pretty excited about Miles Morales, but I also wasn't excited enough to necessarily pre-order it or even buy it at full price.
However, when I heard it was being bundled with a remaster of the Peter Parker adventure for PS5, I quickly pre-ordered. It was one of the games I struggled with while dealing with my issues with the PS5, which you can read about here, and so I wasn't able to play it right away.
Luckily, it was worth the wait. While shorter than the Peter Parker game, Miles Morales is a great protagonist and his story was fun to play through. That's especially true because I'm not a big comic book guy and didn't know much about his story going in.
The game is a bit repetitive in that it's mostly stealth missions and doesn't have as much variety as the original game, but the gameplay (along with the new abilities) and open world are just as solid as in the first game.
I was also happy to see that the implementation of side missions was improved this time around, which was really my only complaint with Marvel's Spider-Man.
The remaster of Marvel's Spider-Man runs great on PS5 and though I don't have the proper equipment to fully take advantage of it just yet, I'm looking forward to returning to it when I do.
Number 6: Bugsnax
Like trying a new food for the first time and it becoming part of your usual rotation of goodies, this game was a pleasant surprise for me.
This was a game that looked cute and interesting when I first saw it announced — and it had that catchy theme song — but that was about as much thought as I gave it. Then I heard it would be free for PlayStation Plus members and it began to pique my interest. I was excited to give it a shot, especially since there wasn’t much to play on my shiny new PlayStation 5.
I completed it throughout the course of my wild adventure with the PS5 and it was a very enjoyable experience.
I put it at No. 6 on this list because at times, the game is as frustrating as it is fun. Some of the AI-controlled “bugs” can be very unpredictable and sometimes catching them comes down to luck even when you know exactly how the game intends for you to do it.
Overall, the zany cast of characters, top-notch voice acting, the hilarious way each Bugsnax says their name from your controller speaker, element of discovery, fun story (that stars a journalist!) and mostly-relaxing gameplay made this one of my favorite experiences in 2020.
Number 5: Moving Out
My wife and I did something pretty wild during the early days of the pandemic. We moved.
It was a strange experience having never been able to see our new apartment in person before we signed on the dotted line. We also never met the manager or apartment complex staff until well after we had completed our move. But modern technology helped make it a fairly painless transition.
One thing we didn’t do after playing Moving Out was to hire a moving company to transport our precious belongings. We played Moving Out just before our move and it just felt odd to hire anyone after the unspeakable things we did to those poor couches, tables, TVs and beds in that game.
Moving Out is a blast to play, especially with a friend, your spouse or the young people of the world. If you played and enjoyed the Overcooked games, you’ll be familiar with the concept here. It’s very similar but also unique in its own ways.
I especially loved all the accessibility and difficulty adjustments that allow players to make the game extremely easy or extremely difficult. My wife isn’t much of a gamer, so it allowed us to make it approachable for her while still fun for me.
Number 4: Astro’s Playroom
There’s really just one word to describe this game: Wow.
For being a game that was described prior to release as a tech demo to show off the PS5's DualSense controller, Astro’s Playroom became one of the best titles of the year.
Sure, it’s short and its main purpose is to show off the adaptive triggers, haptic feedback and other features of Sony’s fancy new controller, but that doesn’t make it any less of a game.
And for PlayStation fans who’ve been around since the start, it’s a nostalgia trip that is unlike any other. The game is jam packed with Easter eggs and unlockable artifacts celebrating PlayStation products of the past.
The speed run challenges provide a replayability factor that will keep me and many others coming back for a long time. It also really is a great showcase of the DualSense, taking advantage of and showing off every feature of the control pad.
Hopefully the success and popularity of this game, which is pre-loaded for free on every PlayStation 5, will prompt developer Asobi to follow it up with a true Astro Bot: Rescue Mission sequel (maybe something that can be played with and without VR this time) in the near future.
Number 3: The Last of Us Part II
In my review of The Last of Us, I called the game a masterpiece.
I didn't get a chance to fully review The Last of Us Part II but it just about lives up to the status of the first game.
While it has its flaws and while I still think Naughty Dog would have better served the first installment to not follow it up with a sequel, Part II is an excellent game with a story that truly takes the player on an emotional rollercoaster while once again ending on a feeling that is very difficult to pin down.
I’m not sure if I’m happy with the decisions or actions of the characters and I love that it made me feel that way just like the first game.
The new gameplay elements, weapons, more open environments, expanded crafting and upgrade system and of course the absolutely top level music and voice acting made this game a true accomplishment.
This was another game by Naughty Dog that achieved something masterful and it shouldn’t be missed by anyone.
Number 2: Ghost of Tsushima
While Ghost of Tsushima feels very much like a Sony game, with similar structure, button prompts, presentation and overall gameplay to titles like Uncharted, The Last of Us, Days Gone and others, it’s a great experience that was truly memorable.
The game has unforgettable visuals, a vast open world to explore, phenomenal combat gameplay and a story that will live on in my memory for years to come.
Number 1: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing has long been a favorite series of mine.
I’ve played just about every title in the series and when someone says they’ve played an Animal Crossing game, they usually mean they’ve played it non-stop for a year or more. Or at least that’s true for me.
My favorite game in the series is Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS and while New Horizons leaves a bit to be desired when comparing it to that game, it’s still an excellent entry in the series.
The new things it does — terraforming, DIY recipes, Nook Miles and much more — have also added a lot to the series and I’m excited to see what Nintendo does with this game in 2021 as it continues to evolve and receive monthly updates.
The reason this game is No. 1 on my list is because, aside from being a lot of fun and being a very strong entry in the series, it truly was the perfect pandemic game. It released in March, right as the coronavirus situation was ramping up, and it gave all of us who were forced to work from home and stay barricaded inside our living rooms something to do. I pretty much lived my life to the tune of New Horizons in 2020. In fact, the only celebrating of the New Year I did was in Animal Crossing.
THE REST OF 2020’S GAMES
Our list of honorable mentions for 2020 game releases is simply that. It’s a list of games I also loved last year, but not enough to put them into the top 10.
Some of these are also here because they were remasters and I didn’t feel comfortable really calling them 2020 games.
Still, if you haven’t already played them, these games are worth checking out.
One game I do want to comment on further is the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection. It would have been part of my top 10 if Nintendo had put more effort into it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great collection and it’s awesome having these games on a modern system, especially my wife’s favorite Mario game of all time Super Mario Sunshine, but this collection should have been a full-on remaster in the style of collections like Crash and Spyro and games like Destroy All Humans! and Mafia Definitive Edition.
Honorable Mentions (no particular order): Maneater, Destroy All Humans! Remastered, Crash Bandicoot 4, Mafia Definitive Edition, Two-Point Hospital (console edition), Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2, Watch Dogs Legion, Angry Video Game Nerd 1+2 Deluxe and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered.
When it comes to the games that disappointed me this year, there weren’t a lot, which is surprising.
Part of that was because my GameFly account was turned off for much of the year, so I simply played less games this year.
But it was also because I enjoyed most of the games I played in 2020.
The exception to that was WWE 2K Battlegrounds. With WWE 2K21 being canceled after the poor reception of WWE 2K20, 2K put out Battlegrounds as a way to sort of hold fans over until WWE 2K22 presumably release in the fall of 2021.
The game was developed by the team behind NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 and like that game, is full of microtransactions. There isn’t much you can do in the game without grinding for in-game currency or paying real money to make purchases. Even extra created wrestler slots cost in-game currency.
But that’s fine because those of us who bought it went in knowing that was the case. Not to mention, the game is regularly receiving new DLC wrestlers and arenas at no additional charge, but many do have to be purchased in-game.
The real problem with the game is that it has terrible AI, very limited movesets and a lack of modes and features overall. All of those things add up to a game that just isn’t worth putting enough time or real-world currency into to unlock everything.
It’s a shallow game, the microtransactions are far too expensive and all the wrestlers basically feel the same. Add to that the strange art style, lack of any meaningful depth and frustrating gameplay mechanics, and it’s just not a game I enjoyed.
And that’s coming from someone who typically can find enjoyment in even the worst of the worst when it comes to wrestling games.
There is one other game I want to mention, though I haven’t played it and don’t have any intentions to play it seeing as it’s a game I was never really interested in. But I’d be remiss to not mention it at all in this section.
That game, if you haven’t already guessed, is Cyberpunk 2077. There’s been so much written and said about the game’s inaccurate advertising, rushed launch and plethora of glitches and AI shortcomings that I probably couldn’t add much to the conversation anyway, especially since I haven’t played it.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the situation, there’s a great video produced by IGN that covers the topic pretty well.
So what do you think of our list of top games for 2020? Agree? Disagree? Join the conversation in the comments below.