The best game releases of 2020

These releases saw acclaim from critics and gamers alike.

Image via Riot Games

This past year featured a ton of incredible game releases across a variety of different genres. As we approach the end of 2020, we would be remiss not to look back on some of the best releases we had this year.

In any list highlighting the “best” of anything, there’s subjectivity and opinion involved. But every game on this list was received well by critics and gamers alike and pushed the gaming industry forward in one form or another.

Here are some of the best game releases of 2020.

VALORANT

Valorant Player Discovers a Problem With Movement and Firing Accuracy
Image via Riot Games

When Riot announced the free-to-play tactical shooter VALORANT as its newest esports title, it immediately exploded in popularity. Even before the full release of the game, professional players from across the esports landscape started announcing their intention to play Riot’s new shooter at a pro level.

Not only does VALORANT capture the magic of tactical shooting games like CS:GO to perfection, the game also features a unique set of agents, each with their own special abilities. As a result, there is a lot of depth to VALORANT, since your team must manage their team composition, individual abilities, and overall economy. VALORANT is a modern twist on Counter-Strike’s iconic attack/defend bomb plant game mode and is no question one of the best releases of 2020 given its wild popularity.

Animal Crossing: New Horizon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons | Nintendo Switch | Games | Nintendo
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Animal Crossing: New Horizon is a social simulation game developed and published by Nintendo. The game features customized playable characters who help create their own town and build relationships with the various animals who will move there.

The game was a god-send for casual and serious gamers alike during this stressful year. At the start of many statewide and nationwide lockdowns across the world, this game came out for the Nintendo Switch. Animal Crossing games have always performed well, but no Animal Crossing title has gained the massive notoriety and acclaim that New Horizon earned this past year. The game has sold over 25 million copies so far, putting it on track to be Nintendo’s best-selling Switch game so far.

If you have a Switch and you enjoy town building and social simulation games, then you should definitely consider picking up this title.

Call of Duty: Warzone

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Call of Duty: Warzone is a free-to-play battle royale title which can feature as many as 150 players on a server at once battling to be the last team standing. The game is developed and published by Activision Blizzard, and quickly became one of the most popular games to play and watch this past year.

Warzone has a unique take on the battle royale genre, bringing in a number of elements from traditional Call of Duty titles like perks and deployable airstrikes and combining it with a money-based model. In addition to guns, players can find cash throughout the match which can be used to buy kill streaks, revives on players, and full loadouts even. The game also features a unique respawn system called the Gulag, where players go when they are killed to fight a one-vs-one duel for a chance to return to the battlefield. Warzone is an awesome game and definitely a top release in 2020.

Legends of Runeterra 

5 powerful decks to climb ranks in Legends of Runeterra
image via Riot Games

Legends of Runeterra is a digital online collectible card game in the vein of Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone. The game was released in late April after a few months in beta. Set in the world of League of Legends, LoR brings its own fun and unique twist to the dueling card game genre and is definitely worth checking out if you are into online card games. It even won Apple’s award for iPad Game of the Year in 2020, further evidencing the critical acclaim for this game. 

Hades

Hades' Is So Much Fun!!!! | The Mary Sue
Image via Super Giant

Fans of roguelike games have been raving about Hades since its release in September. Although this game technically saw its full release this year, it has been in early access since late 2018. The game is developed and published by Super Giant, the same game studio that created Bastion, Pyre, and Transistor, all of which received positive critic and player feedback.

Hades takes many of the same principles that are on display in those former games and translates them into a wicked-hard roguelike experience which sees the main character attempt to escape the seven rings of Hell. This game features neo mythology, a very cool art style, and plenty of fun lore to discover while you are smashing monsters in the underworld. If you like difficult, action-oriented roguelikes, this is a great one.

Ghost of Tsushima

Grandes jogos do PS4 entram em promoção - Última Ficha
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Ghost of Tsushima is an action-adventure title developed by Sucker Punch Productions. The historical game is set during the first Mongol invasion of Japan, with the player filling the shoes of a Samurai named Jin Sakai. Jin Sakai must defend the island of Tsushima, and to do that you must explore an open world and accomplish numerous tasks along the way.

The game received excellent marks from most game reviewers, who commented on its incredible graphics, striking art direction, and satisfying combat. The only big downside to this game is that it is very open world, offering little direction for the player. So if you are a player who likes to be told what to do, maybe skip this game. But for the gamers who are looking for a beautiful, violent open world to explore, this may be a good game to consider.

The Last of Us Part II

I made my own The Last Of Us Part II wallpaper : fanart
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The Last of Us Part II is the sequel to the smash hit The Last of Us game which was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony back in 2013. This sequel keeps all the heart and intense gameplay style as the original, but brings in new characters and improved mechanics.

Naughty Dog continued to push the limits in regards to the graphical quality and narrative this time around, leading to an excellent narrative experience for anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic action titles. Not much can be said about the story itself without risking spoiler territory, so it’s suffice to say, if you liked the first The Last of Us, this one lives up to its legacy and was certainly one of the best single-player releases in 2020.

Doom Eternal

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Doom Eternal is a single-player, first-person hero shooter developed by id Software and published by Bethesda. Much like Animal Crossings: New Horizons, Doom Eternal was released during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns in the spring of 2020. That is the only similarity between those two games though. The game was received well, earning high marks from most major review sites.

If you know anything about the original Doom or the 2016 reboot of Doom, you probably already have a good idea of what this game is about. You play as a Doom Slayer on his mission to fight demons and prevent evil forces from taking over the world. To do that, you will be using a series of different weapons to smash, rip, blast, and explode your enemies into smithereens as you rampage through Hell. If dark, gory, fast-paced hero shooters are your thing, you are going to like Doom Eternal.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout - Season 2 Out Now!
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Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a simple battle royale platformer developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver Digital. The game is inspired by game shows like Wipeout or Takeshi’s Castle, and features a series of minigames designed to weed out a field of 60 players down to a single remaining player who will claim the victory. Players control a small jellybean-like creature and compete in both individual and team-based minigames to earn their way to the top.

The game saw unprecedented popularity around its release time, to the point that many of the servers became overloaded, causing connection errors for people trying to play the game. There were even some Twitch Rivals events which featured big streamers competing to prove they are the best Fall Guys players around. As of writing this article, Fall Guys is in its second season, with plans for many more seasons to come. If you are into 3D platformers and battle royales which feature a healthy mix of chaos and skill, check out Fall Guys.

Spelunky 2

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Spelunky 2 is a roguelike 2D platformer released in September of 2020 for PlayStation 4 and PC. The game was developed by Mossmouth and Blitworks, and is the sequel to the 2008 cult-classic platformer Spelunky. In this game, players will play as Ana, an explorer looking for her missing parents on the moon. You will use your wit and mechanical skills to explore a series of caves, discover treasure, kill enemies, and dodge traps along the way.

The sequel has a number of cool features, including a new physics system, as well as co-op and competitive multiplayer modes. If you are a fan of the original or 2D platform exploration games in general, this game will be a great investment of your time and money.

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion preview -- Hacking new energy into the series |  VentureBeat
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Watch Dogs: Legion is an action-adventure game developed and published by Ubisoft. It is the follow-up to Watch Dogs 2, which was released in 2016. The game is set in a dystopian future version of London and focuses once again on hackers, especially the fictional hacking group Dedsec.

The most unique aspect of this game is its recruitment system, which allows you to recruit nearly any NPC in the game to your cause and play as them. Each one of these characters features a unique set of motivations and back story. There is even a permadeath option, which makes it so that if a character dies, they are gone from your save file forever. If you liked the original Watch Dogs games, or are just looking for a fun open world city crawler to spend some time in, this game is excellent and features some great writing.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order 

EA confirms 'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order' kicks off a new franchise | NME
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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a single-player action-adventure game developed by Respawn Entertainment. Although the game was released in November 2019, the Stadia version launched in 2020 and was included in mostly the 2020 game awards events due to how late in 2019 it was released.

It is set in the Star Wars universe in the time period following the events of Star Wars: Episode lll – Revenge of the Sith. Players will control Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan who is trying to survive persecution in a post-fall of the Jedi world. The game features an excellent story and some of the best action gameplay to ever be presented in a Star Wars game.

Crusader King III

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Crusader Kings III is the third installment in Paradox Interactive’s hit grand strategy and kingdom simulation Crusader Kings series. Like the two games that came before it, Crusader Kings III places you in the position of a medieval ruler, building alliances, developing your economy, and passing your power to your descendants in a multi-generational attempt to accrue hegemonic influence.

The game has been praised for the depth of its management systems. Players can control everything from religion, to succession, to the form of government, and everything in between. You can also play as any number of historical European, Middle Eastern, and North African nations in your attempt to become the strongest ruler in Europe. There is also an active mod community, letting you play all sorts of scenarios not included in the base game. If you like historical grand strategy games, this is one of the best one around.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Pipistrel Virus SW 121 will be part of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator!  – Pipistrel Aircraft
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Microsoft Flight Simulator is a flight simulator developed by Asobo Studio and published by Microsoft. The game is the 11th title in Microsoft’s long running flight simulator series, the first of which was released all the way back in 1982. This version of the simulator simulates the entire face of the earth using data from Microsoft-owned Bing Maps, making for some incredibly fun and interesting flights.

It was received well by critics, getting high marks for the graphical quality, impressive realism, and responsive controls. Anyone who enjoys this type of game is sure to be impressed by Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020). A VR version is also set to come out in late December, which is a great value proposition for anyone with a VR headset.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few games that nearly made the list:

  • Mount & Blade ll: Bannerlord
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Rogue Company
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake