No matter how you look at it, this year sucked. But for many of us—including us at IGP—games have provided some much-needed relief. Luckily, 2020 was one of the best years for games in recent memory, giving us plenty to keep us busy and chat about in our recent game-of-the-year podcast.
In the pod, we discussed our biggest disappointments of the year, the best non-2020 games we came to appreciate this year, and—of course—our games of the year overall. Keep reading each IGP host’s game-of-the-year pick for 2020, transcribed from our GOTY pod.
Jeremy: Ghost of Tsushima (Suckerpunch)
“To me, Ghost of Tsushima is all about discovery. It melds exploration and art in a way that’s not only compelling and beautiful but also seamless. That’s at the heart of GoT’s design philosophy, and that’s what makes the experience so special. My only criticism is the story, which is still good but suffers from a common case of the ol’ ludonarrative dissonance—pretty jarring in an otherwise fluid experience.
Despite all this, the narrative still manages to sidestep the fumbling of its first and second acts to crescendo in a glittering third act. And I cannot stress this enough: this game is stunning from start to finish. Everything feels purposeful, everything feels full.
Lastly, the game takes place in Feudal Japan, and its handling of Japanese culture is defter than I’ve seen in any game. The way Ghost of Tsushima plucks inspiration from Japanese art, film, and legends goes above and beyond even Assassin’s Creed’s TLC. It’s just such a treat to play a game that pays homage to the great Akira Kurosawa” – Jeremy.
Tom: Hades (Supergiant Games)
“Hades is everything I want from a game. First and foremost, the gameplay loop is incredibly satisfying and diverse; it’s roguelike meets dungeon crawler. These kinds of games typically rely solely on their core gameplay loop, as the learning curve is part of the fun, and roguelikes are all about replaying and restarting every time you die. Hades scratches that Soulsborne itch.
Where Hades goes beyond, though, is by encouraging players to carry on for narrative reasons—as well as gameplay goodness. I have so many runs logged in Hades, and I’ve never heard the same voice line or piece of dialogue twice, and I’ve never played the same build twice, too.
The replayability is insane. It all comes together—the character, the story-building, the art style, the aesthetic, how the story progresses. Everything about Hades screams 10 out of 10’’ – Tom.
Rhys: The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog)
“Everyone saw it coming: it’s my game of the year, it’s probably my game of the generation, it’s The Last of Us Part II. There are so many reasons for his, but let’s get this out of the way—it had HUGE boots to fill. Yet, somehow it improves upon the practically perfect first game in every single way. In terms of both gameplay and narrative, The Last of Us Part II raises the bar, and merges its minute-to-minute gameplay with narrative in way that’s never been done before.
Part of this is the tried-and-true environmental storytelling that put Naughty Dog on the map. The world is so believable, it feels lived in, and—just like in that seminal first game—discovering the stories of survivors through left-behind notes and other environmental trinkets really paints a picture of this bleak world.
Complementing this established design is the screenplay itself. While on paper it may seem like your typical cliched revenge plot, one we’ve seen countless times across film, TV, and games already, The Last of Us Part II artfully connects you to the protagonists and the world in ways that just aren’t possible in other mediums. Simply put, this game toyed with my conscience and morality in ways that I wasn’t expecting. Nothing is as it seems, everything is a shade of grey, and everything you do—every choice you make—will come back to you later. This game will stick with you for months and even years later, and we’ll be talking about it for decades” – Rhys.
Catch Rhys’ full picks here or in the vid below:
Richard – World of Warcraft: Shadowlands (Activision-Blizzard)
“The latest World of Warcraft expansion is my game of the year. It’s definitely what I played most this year and had the most fun with, so it’s ticked all the boxes I wanted it to tick (and more!) When I played the beta earlier this year, I thought Shadowlands was going to be terrible. But I’m happy to report that I was completely wrong. I’ve levelled four characters to the max level already, which is a testament to the stellar pacing and variety.
But it’s the endgame stuff that really secured Shadowlands’ #1 spot; there’s just so many different things to do in this world. Previous expansions dropped the ball on this crucial endgame content, demanding that players play every day, grind for months on end , and play every single piece of content (good and bad) just to stay in the loop.
Shadowlands lets players cut out the crap and only play the content they want to play—while still letting their characters progress. Blizzard is finally making some good choices: they’ve given classes an identity again, the endgame is exciting, the dungeons are terrific, and the challenge is spot on. The game also appreciates my time, which is perfect for where I am in life right now. I just played the new Mythic Raid, for example, and it didn’t take a whole day to finish. Shadowlands was exactly what WoW fans were asking for, and I can’t wait to dive deeper in 2021 and beyond” – Richard.
So there you have it: the IGP crew’s games of the year 2020! We also ran a Twitter poll asking you guys what your top pick was, and you chose …The Last of Us Part II! Needless to say, Rhys was chuffed, but we also saw love for Hades, Ghost of Tsushima, Animal Crossing, Demon’s Souls, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and more! Got anything to add? Join the @IGPubcast community on Twitter, and let us know!
Want to know our biggest disappointments on 2020? What about the best non-2020 game we played this year? Check out the full GOTY episode!