Hello, this is Evil Uno of the Dark Order. I’m a pro wrestler for All Elite Wrestling and now a Twitch streamer. It’s an honor to meet you.
2020, right? What a year. As shitty as 2020 has been, it's been a great year for video games. Last year I would have predicted some of my honorable mentions as being in my top three games of the year. The fact that they're not is a testament to the incredible line-up of games that released in this otherwise awful year. Remember that this list is subjective and there is no particular order to it; I’ve also included games that were released prior to this year. Please refrain from being angry if you’re game didn’t make my list, it probably sucked anyway.
I have never really been interested in city-life sim games. I never enjoyed improving a little tiny homestead, I never enjoyed interactions with villagers just for the sake of enriching a relationship, I never enjoyed farming or mining--that was until I fell in love with Stardew Valley. Since then, I’ve been anxiously awaiting a game that would give me a similar experience.
New Horizons was my very first Animal Crossing game and I was excited at the prospect of it. Then when March 2020 came around, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t see my friends and family, I was uncertain about my future and wondered if my life’s work was about to slip through my fingers, I was terrified of leaving my own house. I honestly don’t know what my life would’ve been like in 2020 had I not played this game. For about four months I played New Horizons religiously, it became my whole world. Can’t see my friends in real life? That’s fine, I’ll go visit their island. Not sure what to do with my free time? I’ll just chop wood, collect bugs, and fix up my own little island. This became my escape from reality, it became my therapy. I loved every minute I played of Animal Crossing. I loved seeing other people’s creations. I loved downloading custom clothing and hilarious paintings to hang in my house. I loved decorating every room. Most of all, I loved the daily routine that I had built within the game. It was a beautiful world to just disappear into for hours.
Eventually, I went back to work and my real life took precedence over my Animal Crossing life, and I have not logged back in since. I truthfully do believe that Animal Crossing: New Horizons saved a lot of lives this year, and while it isn’t my number one game of the year, it may very well have been the most important and impactful game of 2020.
While I don’t have much nostalgia for the Streets of Rage series itself, I do have a special place in my heart for beat-‘em-up games. So much of my childhood was spent playing TMNT Arcade on my NES or spending a ridiculous amount of pocket change on the X-Men & the Simpsons arcade games at my local Midway. Really good beat-‘em-up games are rare finds nowadays, but Streets of Rage 4 was just what I needed to fill that void in 2020.
The art style is gorgeous and really fits the Streets of Rage atmosphere. The soundtrack is filled with a lot of catchy tracks (“Funky HQ” and “The Streets” frequently pop into my head). The story mode is short enough that I can play it a few different times with each character without it feeling repetitive or stale. There are also a remarkable amount of unlockables and secret boss fights that’ll give you a reason to keep playing.
I really don’t have much to say about Tony Hawk that isn’t obvious; it’s a very polished remake of two games that I cherished as a teenager. Mechanically, it feels just like it did when I was just a little 13-year-old masked luchador; or at least, what I remember it feeling like.
The soundtrack features new songs that I wasn’t particularly thrilled about, and did not include every tune from the original games, but they did keep “No Cigar” and “Superman” on there, so that’s good enough for me. I would throw money at my screen if this game was updated seasonally with new maps, challenges, characters (Darby Allin?) and tunes (give me some damn Distillers). Heck, let’s remaster Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 while we’re at it!
I've never enjoyed playing multiplayer games online. In fact, I HATE speaking to others on a headset. Something about it has always irritated me; that changed in 2020. THIS is the game that taught me how to love online gaming. Divinity: Original Sin II is essentially a computer role-playing game in the style of Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights. You choose or create your character, build your party and get yourself into a slew of trouble. The combat is challenging, yet rewarding. There’s an immense amount of content to get through and a ton of replay value considering there are multiple ways to proceed through the game. This is one game you can truly play the way you want to.
While it’s definitely a fantastic game on its own, it’s the option to get into trouble that has made me really love this game. I would regularly split from the group and get into fights with NPCs, forcing me to beg for help from my teammates. Where else could I be robbed by dwarves after paying a lizard for sex? Or save my party from an enormous boss fight by planting a kiss on a giant spider--making me a hero to all spiderkind? This is a game that has created some of the most memorable moments for my pals and I.
There's always at least one weird or obscure indie game that sinks its claws into me, and Paradise Killer was that game for me this year. I am aware that this game may not be for everyone, as it is more of a narrative-focused than an action-focused adventure game, but it is definitely something worth checking out. Right from the get-go, you plunge into an ultra-stylish vaporwave world full of Jojo-esque anime characters. You play as a detective combing through the open world trying to piece together what happened the previous night and looking for clues to use during your next interrogation. Who committed the murder? With which accomplices? And why? You choose who to interact with and what questions to ask. You even choose when you think you have enough information to complete the game and bring the case to court.
The game lets you play it however you want, and complete it with as little or as much information as you please, letting you tackle the ending and influencing it depending on what YOU think happened on the island. I, personally, had to see everything the game had to offer--I explored every lead, every collectible, every clue, and asked every possible question before I brought the case to court and decided what the solution was. It's a very unique game when you compare it to everything else on this list.
This game also happens to have one of my favorite soundtracks of the year. Outer Wilds, Hades and Final Fantasy VII Remake follow closely, but no other game soundtrack has had as many plays on my Spotify playlists as Paradise Killer. The OST just has a joyful sound to it that is very uplifting and different from every other game in 2020.
Ghost of Tsushima is an extremely polished game in every single way; it is one of the few open world games that felt so good to play that I went out of my way to earn the Platinum Trophy.
Jin Sakai’s journey through Tsushima Island is stunning, filled with breathtaking scenery and really impressive particle physics. The game is so pretty, in fact, that this was one of the only games in which I have ever bothered to dabble with the photo mode. The combat is smooth and makes you feel like a true samurai badass. My favorite thing to do in Ghost of Tsushima is walk up to a camp of 30+ enemies and just taunt them into fighting me. I legitimately shout at my TV every single time. As if the single-player campaign wasn’t enough, Sucker Punch released a jaw-dropping multiplayer mode out of nowhere. My love for Ghost of Tsushima doubled when Legends was released, because it was one of the only games my group of friends all unanimously loved playing. Every class plays differently, and having a variety of classes in your group is a huge asset when facing the higher difficulties. The survival/horde modes are progressively more challenging and frantic. The co-op story missions present some really unique platforming and combat puzzles. And the raids? Intense. The amount of communication required to even come close to beating one of them is a challenge in itself. I really hope they keep adding updates to this game, because it’s an absolute joy to play.
This is the only game on the next gen systems that has made me feel like there was a noticeable difference between a PS4 and a PS5, and the crazy thing is that it's FREE--preloaded into the PS5 system! The way it utilises the PS5's DualSense controller is a marvel. It manages to use the built-in microphone, the haptic feedback, the touchpad & the gyroscope in a bunch of unique and fun ways. Every level plays differently and really gives you a sense of what can be done with the new DualSense controller. It's actually ruined all PS5 games I've played since, because they've failed to use the haptic feedback on the triggers as well as Astro’s Playroom has.
Every level of the game gives you a ton of variety all while explaining the new hardware that’s built into the PS5 console. The entire game is essentially a commercial for the PS5, and while that would typically be a complaint, it is somehow very endearing in Astro's Playroom. Collecting all of the previous PlayStation hardware within the game made me feel nostalgic about growing up with Sony products.
I've platinumed this game and was so sad when there was none of it left for me to experience, which is the mark of a truly great game. Oh, and I just can't get that damn GPU Jungle song out of my head.
I've fallen in love with the Yakuza series over the last few years, so I was a bit nervous when they publicly announced that the Yakuza formula was going to change. A brand-new main character and new JRPG style combat--it’s a Yakuza game with a coat of Persona paint over it. There are a variety of classes, characters, and skills to play around with. Yakuza’s take on a “summon” system (my favorite trope from RPG games) is absolutely hilarious. I’m happy also to admit that the new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, while completely different from Kazuma Kiryu, is extremely likeable. The way he is written and presented just fits within the wacky Yakuza universe. The character change also rationalizes the change to an RPG battle system, as Kasuga is a huge Dragon Quest geek with a vivid imagination.
All that being said, it is still very much a Yakuza game at heart. What the Yakuza series offers, unlike any other open world game, is variety. Gambling, old SEGA arcade games, baseball, golf games, karting games… FUN. Every little bit of it is FUN. And while every open world game is trying to be serious and gloomy, Yakuza 7 is able to find a balance between genuinely touching moments and batshit insane out-of-left field situations. One moment you are saving the life of the homeless man who nursed you to health when you were left for dead in a literal dump; the next moment you are befriending an old-Yakuza boss in a diaper who has a very particular fetish. I can never predict what will be around the corner in a Yakuza game and I think that’s the reason the series is so damn good. Evil Uno loves unpredictability.
Truthfully, I haven't finished Yakuza 7 yet. I want to see and play EVERYTHING this game has to offer. I want to sleep through every boring movie at the theatre, hit every home run, go on every single date. I don't want to rush it; I'm not even certain how far I am from the ending and I don't care. I don't even need to finish the game to consider it one of my favorites of the year.
I’m convinced that Supergiant Games cannot make a bad game. When Hades originally came out in Early Access, I played 30 minutes or so and knew I should hold off until the final product was released. I could just tell it was going to be something I would love. I'm so glad that I waited.
The gameplay loop is eternally satisfying. The world is procedurally generated, so you never feel like you are stuck going through the same content. Every enemy has their own quirks that you need to uncover and adjust your playstyle to. Every starting weapon offers different dynamics to the combat. The boons you acquire during a run can change the feel of combat entirely. It can also switch around the momentum pretty drastically, turning an awful run into a potentially successful one--and vice versa. There’s a modifier system that can drastically raise the difficulty and truly offer challenges to even a seasoned Hades player. Just based on combat alone, this game would make my top 10 list. The soundtrack is memorable; a few of the tracks have a permanent place in my daily playlist. The art style is gorgeous; every character is beautifully drawn, the colors are vibrant, and every background is extremely detailed. The game is just a pleasure to look at.
Above all of this, the game’s narrative is what kept me playing it over and over again. Zagreus, son of Hades, is a rebel and wants to escape the Underworld at any cost. He’ll accept the help of even Hades’ most hated brothers and sisters to escape, if he has to. I’ve played over 70+ hours of this game and I can’t stop playing until I find out what happens with every character. I need to know if Zagreus & Hades will finally embrace their differences. I need to know why the Gods of Mount Olympus have it in for Hades. Every character is masterfully voice acted and every piece of dialogue is captivatingly written. It makes me want to know more about each character’s relationships and motives for helping Zagreus escape. Even the small side characters have story arcs. You never feel like a run is pointless, regardless of how long it takes to complete. You are always rewarded with at least 2 or 3 new pieces of dialogue that will advance one of the many relationships you’re cultivating. I genuinely look forward to death within the run, as it means I’ll learn more about Zagreus’ estranged family. I’m not even certain if there’s a point in this game where the story ends, and I love it.
I had given Outer Wilds maybe five minutes of my time in 2019, and just didn't think much of it; I couldn’t wrap my head around the flying mechanics and just assumed I wasn’t missing anything special--boy was I wrong. A lot has been said about this game--heck, it’s Giant Bomb’s game of the year for 2019! If this is the first you have ever heard of it, purchase it now and experience it for yourself. It is that good. The less you know, the better.
Flying around in the galaxy can be a little clunky, and exploring the planets can be a bit confusing at first, but once it clicks and you understand the scope of what’s happening, it becomes incredibly engrossing. There aren’t many games in my life that I think about regularly, but Outer Wilds is now one of them. I often find myself staring into space, stuck within my thoughts about the game and reliving some of the experiences I had. I wish I could wipe it away from my memory and experience it for the first time all over again. There’s a sense of discovery in this game that is unrivaled and knowledge is your reward. Knowledge is what drives you forward; it is the key to every secret the game has to offer. It’s also that knowledge that makes the story and ending of this game so poignant. Once you figure out what’s going on, once you acquire all the knowledge you need to get to the ending, it culminates to a moment that, honestly, made me emotional. A big part of this is the way the soundtrack is used throughout the game. I listen to the Outer Wilds soundtrack regularly on my flights and get teary eyed thinking about it (it’s the high altitude, I swear). I’m going to spend the next few years looking for a game that makes me feel like this game did. Whatever Mobius Digital makes next, I will be purchasing day one.