The start of this year marked a new decade, and as it comes to a close, it feels as though, somehow, another has passed. In every sense, 2020 has been a year that has both separated us and drawn us closer together than ever before — and games have been here for us throughout it all. We attended weddings in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, betrayed our friends in Among Us, and revisited our childhood selves in games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, and the Super Mario 3D All-Stars trilogy. We shared our Ghost of Tsushima photos — all captured in Kurosawa mode, of course — and the builds we used in Hades, faced Sephiroth yet again in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and joined Joel and Ellie for a final adventure in The Last of Us 2.
With 2020 also came the next generation of consoles: the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X and S. These releases come with promises of innovation and excitement — of new voices telling new stories and creating beautiful worlds for us to both cherish and explore. As we step bravely into the unknown — which is absolutely what 2021 feels like — we’re doing so with the same excitement and anticipation games have bestowed upon us through this year. But before we dive into that, let’s take a final look back at the greatest gaming experiences this year had to offer as decided by a vote from the contributing writers and editors for UPROXX Edge Gaming.
The Last Of Us Part II
I was talking with a co-worker who is evangelical about The Last Of Us 2 and when I told him where I was in the game he delighted in telling me how I was nowhere near as far as I thought I was. Then he told me how happy he was for me that I still had so much to discover. Normally, this kind of thing would freak me out. I’m still working through the idea that games are to be experienced not just conquered. I buy them, I play them, and I either finish or tire of them before moving on to something else. With Last Of Us 2, however, I genuinely feel a pull to go back to it after trying to love CyberPunk or getting destroyed in Warzone. Even though things operate on a track the storytelling and performances are at such a high level that I fall in, forgetting how long it’s taking and how far I’ve gotten. I’m captivated. Utterly. — Jason Tabrys
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is not the kind of game you’d expect to see on a year-end roundup like this. There aren’t any first-person shooter elements, it hasn’t really broken through the cultural zeitgeist like Fall Guys or Animal Crossing, and it’s a sequel title that doesn’t wholly capture the aura of mystery that made its predecessor so intriguing to play. But you know what? It doesn’t f*cking matter. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an adventure as beautifully-wrought as this — with its dense forests and lush nature scenes that rival artwork you’d see in Soho gallery — with a story as emotionally gripping and gameplay as complex, thought-provoking, and addictively fun. Whether you’re looking for a break from your normal line-up or just craving a game with a bit of magic and an adorable, genderless pixie hero, you won’t regret joining this quest. — Jessica Toomer
Kentuck Route Zero
We’re admittedly missing some really great games from this list, including some titles that have won GOTY elsewhere. But no game impacted me emotionally anywhere close to Kentucky Route Zero, a title whose decade-long creation story ended in 2020. Part V of that story was a satisfying conclusion to a beautiful journey about loss, debt and making the most of life’s quiet moments. Ben Babbit’s music is gorgeous throughout, and the story is densely packed with vignettes about lost souls, wandering travelers and sleepy gas stations. There’s no way to lose with Kentucky Route Zero, unless you never play it at all. Once you do, I guarantee you’ll find yourself wanting to go back and follow that same path again to see what else you may have missed. — Ryan Nagelhout
5. (tie) Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
What do you want in a video game? If it’s some realistic, mega lifelike celebration of graphics and realism and movement — “Wow!” you exclaim, “These graphics! This looks like real life!” — then there are probably other games for you. If your thing is more fun and whimsy and general silliness, then Fall Guys is a perfect game for turning your brain off and losing track of time. The concept is simple, and the goal is incredibly straight-forward, but despite this, the game prides itself on being hilariously maddening. You are punished if any tiny move in your frantic mad-dash for a finish line, one determined by either time or a literal finish line, goes awry. It is hilariously addicting. You might get lucky and win one time, but probably not. The pursuit of one win is still worth sinking hours and hours of time into, however. — Bill DiFilippo
5. (tie) Final Fantasy VII Remake
In 1997, a little game by the name of Final Fantasy VII was released and nothing was the same. It received nearly unanimous critical acclaim, popularized JRPGs in America, and raised the bar for storytelling, music, and games as a whole. So, after reading that, here’s my question for you, dear reader: How do you remake a game that revolutionized gaming? How do you recreate something loved so dearly by so many, while also engaging with an entirely new generation of gamers?
I certainly don’t have the answer, but Square did, and the result is an extraordinarily impressive game that not only retains the spirit of its predecessor but expands upon it in meaningful ways. Outside of the significant and striking visual and audio upgrades, the remake gives the original story breathing-room and opportunities for us to explore our characters and their emotions profoundly. Sure, in turning the first seven hours of Final Fantasy VII into a separate 30-hour game, we ended up with a bit of excess padding, but when a city is as alive as Midgar, it’s not so bad getting lost in it. — Jess Howard
Simply put, Supergiant Games does not miss–and Hades is no exception. Hades is what you get when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. In this case, the force is Zagreus, a young god grown weary of his responsibilities as the prince of the underworld. And the object is Hades, his cruel and distant father. The game follows Zagreus’ repeated attempts to escape his home and discover his place in the Greek pantheon, regardless of how many times he must die and return to hell to do so. With repeated strokes of clever storytelling, luscious music and visuals, fun, adaptive gameplay, and a loop that both rewards and motivates players in a way games seldom do, Hades is an exemplary entry in the roguelike genre–but it doesn’t stop there. It’s also narratively compelling and asks players just how far they’d go for both hatred and love. — Jess Howard
3. Call of Duty: Warzone
The task was simple: create a battle royale shooter that isn’t as buggy as PUBG, doesn’t have superpowers like Apex Legends, and isn’t called Fortnite. Let me group up, spend less time looting, and give me that patented Call of Duty gunplay and movement. It’s no surprise (or is it?) that Call of Duty gave us the Call of Duty game we were asking for before anyone else could. The surprising part is that Call of Duty: Warzone is actually really good. It’s addicting. It has a stable netcode. The crossplay is actually useable and I can play with all my friends whether they have a PC or console — it’s the closest game this year to emulate the feeling of sitting side-by-side playing a split-screen shooter, which is something I would try to do with my friends every couple weeks when the world wasn’t in lockdown. Warzone has brought me plenty of great, hilarious memories this year and it stands alone as being the most solid battle royale experience yet in a “genre” riddled with gimmicks and frills. — AJ Lodge
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was our entire world for a few months this year. In this world, I was an expert fisherman with nerves of steel and I wore funny hats every day. My fiance was an accomplished botanist whose best friend was an upset chicken and, although she hated him profoundly, she couldn’t bear to let him move off our island. It was in this world where we found comfort and, above all, a sense of certainty in the most uncertain time of our lives. It’s because of this that I’m confident in saying that Animal Crossing is the most important video game of 2020. Yes, any other year it might not have even made my Top 5 on gameplay alone, but especially now when video games are at the forefront of the cultural discussion– rivaling (and in some cases usurping) movies, TV shows, books, and music– it’s both unfair and impossible to not consider the context in which it was released when judging its merit. The world is and was a scary place back in March and Animal Crossing was there for us. It was a lot of people’s only gaming experience this year and, hopefully for some, their gateway into a lifelong hobby of picking up a controller. As someone who has loved video games for so long, I could not be more proud of the things that Animal Crossing did that it never intended to do. — AJ Lodge
1. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2
This might not be a pick that other outlets choose as their Game of The Year but there wasn’t quite a game that captured the hearts and minds of an entire staff like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 did for us. Call it nostalgia. Call it shallow. This game shreds and it absolutely did not have to.
This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to remake Tony Hawk or even bring back the Pro Skater franchise for that matter, but all of them failed, because they never quite captured what it is that makes Tony Hawk fun. Ridiculous combos, lots of speed, and a little bit of skill go a long way to making these games great and this one understood that. You know it understands it because there was every reason in the world for the team over at Vicarious Visions to make this a complete cash grab. Just remake the old games as-is, fine-tune the controls a bit, and throw some HD paint on it. That would have sufficed but Pro Skater 1+2 took the best aspects of every Tony Hawk game, such as wallrides or wall plants, and put them in. Yet even with the new additions, you’ll see long time players immediately cling to it like they’ve been playing for years. The first time you drop into Warehouse it will feel the exact same way it did all those years ago even with improved controls. They nailed that feeling perfectly.
In a year like 2020 where it felt like there was just nothing to be excited about. Nothing to feel joy from. It was nice to return to some old familiar lines just like we did back in the day. Is Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 nostalgia? Yes, but it’s the exact kind of nostalgia that should be celebrated. This is how you do a remake. — Chris Barnewall