Au revoir year of E3
It’s easy to say that 2020 was a hell of a troubling year. So I’ll do just that. 2020 was a hell of a troubling year. Not only did we have the hell of another US presidential election to deal with, but on top of that, there was a pandemic and complete severance of any type of life outside the house. With all of us being told to stay home, it was obvious that video games would rise to the forefront of our entertainment.
While there were many delays and one game that should have continued to be delayed, we got a ton of great games over the past year. So we put it to you, the community, to vote on what you thought was the greatest game of the year. There were nearly a thousand legal votes cast and the vote reached far beyond that of our little community here and brought in more of the gaming community at large.
As always I’ve asked some of the community and staff to write a little bit about what the game meant to them over the year, this both gives us multiple accounts of the year and also covers for me having only played two of the feature five games.
Without any further pomp and circumstance, let’s get to the Destructoid community’s top five games.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
In fifth place is a game that could not have come out at a more perfect time. Animal Crossing: New Horizons released at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown and for a time helped to alleviate the stress of the new world we inherited. I put in almost 200 hours before calling it quits; my girlfriend put in over 600 hours making her island look perfect three times over. Community manager Mike “PhilKenSebben” Martin, speaks for all of us I feel with what the game meant to him when it released:
It was a shit month. My health was failing. I was being robbed left and right. We had just been locked down, and everything else was about to be shut down. Things were stressful. I stopped by Gamestop to grab an eShop card for Doom 64, so I could blast away some stress. Everyone inside was freaking out. The governor had just ordered everything closed. I was told to grab my item, and get checked out, so I could get out (and they could shutdown). As I waited, I stared at this beautiful poster behind the counter. A tropical island, filled with weird animal people… things. Some Dr. Moreau shit, to be sure. I’d never played an AC prior to New Horizons, but man I needed some escape right then. I rolled the dice, and picked it up. I was sneered at for not pre-ordering, or wanting a pro subscription, but fuck them. It was time to hop on Dodo Airlines.
After a financial fucking from a shady raccoon, I was let loose on an island. An island that immediately brought smiles to my face. By the time I came up for air weeks later, my island was blooming. I had my own designs hanging in stores, my house upgraded, painted, and customized, horrifying yet cuddly hybrid friends. My virtual life was amazing. It bled into my real life. I’d never really experienced such a thing. It even connected me with friends I hadn’t talked to in a long time, and allowed me to get my hustle on with turnips of all things (I believe that the pig woman smuggles coke in ’em). New Horizons brightened my life and brought me happiness for a short while. It gave me two months of awesome memories, in a year that changed my life forever, and not in a good way. Animal Crossing will always have a special place in my heart for that. The devs will always have my deepest thanks as well.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Fourth place goes to Final Fantasy VII: Remake. It’s been 15 years since Sony used the opening scene of Final Fantasy VII to show off the graphical capabilities of their soon-to-be-released PlayStation 3, and ever since then there has been a persistent rumor that the seminal role-playing game would be getting a modern remake. It only took 15 years but the first part of Square’s re-imagining of the game that cemented them in video game history finally released in 2020. CJ Andriessen summarizes the entire decade and a half lead-up and his feelings on it here:
Sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. There was a lot of excitement in 2015 when Square Enix announced that it was finally remaking Final Fantasy VII. A decade earlier, it managed to put smiles on the faces of fans around the world with its PlayStation 3 tech demo. Unfortunately, like many tech demos, it wasn’t a showcase of work in progress and development on a remake wouldn’t start for another 10 years for a whole new generation of consoles.
The reveal was good and well, but it wouldn’t be until 2019 that we actually started to get concrete information on the remake. The more we learned, the curiouser it became. Remake wouldn’t be a single game, but the first of potentially several titles covering this adventure in Gaia. The battle system would be completely overhauled from the original to look more like what was found in Final Fantasy XV. More leaks pointed to game taking place only in Midgar, and covering just the first several hours of the original game’s story. And then we started hearing about changes to the narrative, always a dangerous card to play with a fanbase this passionate.
All of that and more proved to be true and a bit divisive when Final Fantasy VII Remake released in April of last year. This wasn’t Final Fantasy VII exactly as we remembered it. It was bigger, bolder, and a bit more befuddling. Characters who were minor NPCs in the original were reimagined and fully detailed. Quick quests from the first game became sprawling adventures. New enemies were added with their own storylines and motivations, while heroes and villains who originally didn’t show up in Midgar found their way into the narrative, however briefly.
I understand a lot of people did not care for these changes, the last act of the narrative, or the fact they’d have to shell more money out for who knows who many more games just to experience the rest of the story. But for many, including myself, all the changes, as well as seeing Midgar recreated as a living, breathing place, made it one of the best games of last year. Enough of our community agreed, landing it at the #4 spot.
Ghost of Tsushima
From the first time I saw our third-place game, Ghost of Tsushima in action, I knew it was going to be something special. Long have I been a fan of Japanese jidaigeki films, and Tsushima wore the genre’s influence on its sleeves. It even had a “Kurosawa mode” which, sure, was just desaturated graphics but as evidenced by my slavish love of L.A. Noire and its noir setting, I’m a sucker for these things. While I’m holding out for a potential PC release down the road, community member Dere dove in headfirst like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting and had handfuls of love to heap on the samurai action game:
The setting, the atmosphere, and the graphics of Ghost was by far the most inspired out of anything I played in my gaming history. I usually don’t go gaga over open world games but the stuff in Ghost felt meaningful to me. I got to make my own haikus man! Also petting foxes is my highlight of 2020. Also it legit made me feel like a badass samurai, so that’s like +69 points. Oh and combat was chef’s kiss gif. So damn addicting.
Hades comes in at second place with all of its lovely Gods and snappy dialogue. As I just hopped on the Hades train thanks to community member TheBlondeBass’ gracious Christmas gift, I’m the one handling the love train for Hades, so here we go:
I’m a huge fan of roguelites. I poured over a hundred hours into Nuclear Throne and I have the broken keyboard to prove it. It’s arguably my favorite genre of action games because it’s usually a harsh but fair challenge that has a ton of variety and forced adaptive strategy in it. So when I saw that everyone (and I mean everyone) was beating Hades in such short amounts of time, it felt like a betrayal to the genre.
It was only when I actually put my stupid baseless theories behind me and actually played the damn game that I saw why everyone was loving on the game so much. Because it was a damn fine roguelite that also managed to tell a wonderful story that also fit with the gameplay loop of live, die, repeat. Earlier in the year I had lamented at how West of Dead tried to do the same thing, and failed pretty bad at it. Supergiant managed to combine two diametrically opposed aspects of game design and make it work, all with style and impeccable voice acting. Still feels weird to be so trusting of a group of Gods after a lifetime of playing the God of War series but Hades managed to warm my cold 9th level of hell (yes I know it’s a different interpretation of hell, don’t @ me) heart.
The Last of Us Part II
Finally we come to the winner. The Last of Us Part II received a ton of votes in very short amounts of time. It may not have been everyone’s favorite game but for a sizable portion of the voters, it was by and large their favorite game of the year. Everyone’s favorite community-opinion-haver TheLimoMaker took time out of his day of watching kino films and sending me a glut of well-loved Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy memes to wax poetic about the tragedy-ridden action shooter.
The Last of Us was my game of the year for 2013 and yet, I don’t even think it’s a great game; it suffered from rudimentary gameplay that felt dated mere months after its release, and a world that felt a little flat even if it was rendered in stunning fashion.
The sequel, however, manages to fine-tune a lot of the issues I had with the original game, and improving upon it in so many ways, from introducing an excessively compelling character in Abby (Laura Bailey, you are an absolute gem of a voice actor), to making the gameplay so smooth that I believe it to be among some of the best third-person action games to release in the last ten years, and making Seattle feel like a full-blown world in and of itself… seriously, the WLF and Seraphite cultures were absolutely fantastic and brilliantly realized.
I even loved the story, the thing that is apparently the worst thing ever for reasons… I guess.
I have a couple of quibbles, specifically a couple of the antagonists not really landing for me, and that the ending relied a little more on telling and not showing (seriously, this is my main sticking point and I am amazed at this oversight), and these issues really preventing it from being my GotY.
That having been said, I genuinely adored it, it was a grimy, dirty, brutal game that played by its own rules. I didn’t enjoy every moment of it, but I can’t help but respect all of the people behind this game, for telling the story they wanted to, the way they wanted to, public reception be damned.
Creating discussion should be a part of all art, and in the case of The Last of Us Part II… Mission accomplished.
And there you have it. Also of note, the optional question of favorite game not from 2020 was Death Stranding, edging out Control by just three votes. I unfortunately started Death Stranding just before leaving for a week away from my computer and sadly have yet to return to it, even though my love of Kojima only grew stronger over the past year.
The community’s top 25 games of 2020 are listed in the handy graphic below, as well as the full rundown on all the legal votes cast and the point totals in this spreadsheet. You’ll remember that this year we went with weighted voting and the first choice received three points, while the second and third choice received two and one point, respectively.
To the three of you who wrote “Your mom” in the best game not from 2020 that you played for the first time in 2020, Scorsese wants your contact info for his highly anticipated sequel The Kings of Comedy.