It feels as though it has been a decade since we last wrote the introduction to a GOTY post. Such is the effect of 2020, a year that has been incredibly challenging for just about everyone. For Finger Guns as a site, this past year was a rollercoaster. On one hand, we added a few new members to the team (Hi Andy & Toby!) and finally realised a goal a few of us have had for a decade – we were accepted as a critic on Metacritic. On the other, we’re living through a pandemic AKA ‘The Global Bastard’ and a few months ago, someone managed to hack their way into the back end of the website and we lost years worth of work. That still stings a lot but we’d like to say thank you to everyone that supported us through a very difficult few weeks.
While 2020 has been a grueling year in almost every regard, gaming is one aspect of this year that has remained buoyant and reliable. The quality of titles released this year from AAA blockbuster studios right down to two man indie teams has been astonishing. This post, the 4th annual Games of The Year selection, is in celebration of those games.
Much like every other year, we do our GOTY lists a little differently at Finger Guns. Instead of trying to argue about which is the one ‘best’ game in a genre or overall, each critic has the opportunity to pick their favourite three games of the year and wax lyrical about them. We can also make honourable mentions for games that would likely be part of the three in any other year. In 2017, we selected nine games including Edith Finch, Night In the Woods and Super Mario Odyssey. In 2018, we honoured seventeen games from Where the Water Tastes Like Wine to Dead Cells. The class of 2019 included twenty one games, each of which got the Finger Guns nod of approval. In 2020, we’re adding twenty four games to the Hall of Finger Guns fame. These are the games from 2020 we each think deserve to be called the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the games we’d recommend you play in a heart beat. Without further ado, here are The Finger Guns Games of the Year 2020.
Animal Crossing New Horizons
There’s just something about it, isn’t there? I can chalk surviving the hell of 2020’s lockdown down to being able to escape to my own personal paradise for hours on end and feeling like life wasn’t so bad after all.
It’s just so wholesome. New Horizons simplicity boils down to the fact that absolutely anyone can pick the game up and understand it. There’s no mechanics you need to learn (except for maybe an awful lot of patience), no real technical jargon that gets in the way, it’s so easy to create the island of your dreams and feel like you’ve really accomplished something quite majestic, and the community of creators that share their fantastic art enables you to change up your island whenever you want. It’s entirely up to you how your island looks and well, the possibilities are genuinely endless.
There will always be those who wear tin foil hats that believe Nintendo knew all about the virus and as such, released New Horizons on the same week most countries went into lockdown to capitalise people being stuck at home and well, nearly 30 million copies sold later, you have to wonder if there’s something to it?
OK, there isn’t. It’s just an absolutely bloody fantastic video game.
In Other Waters
It’s just the best when I fall in love with a game I know nothing about. For 2020, In Other Waters was that game. Now, look at the screenshot. Hugely exciting? No, not even a little bit. But under the surface (heh), lies perhaps one of the most touching, beautiful and powerful games I’ve played this year. Perhaps since I put down the controller and cried manly tears at What Remains of Edith Finch.
I don’t even think I can say it better than my own review did, so I’m going to cheat on this one and add a couple of paragraphs;
When it was over, I had to catch my breath. The narrative is by far the most engaging and wonderful I’ve had the pleasure to experience this year so far and perhaps I can owe that to a variety of things. Not just the staggering writing throughout, or the fact the game came out of nowhere only to knock me sideways, but that it happened now. Right now. When the world is upside down and there’s so much fear and uncertainty surrounding us without any indication of when it may be over. It’s figuratively and literally, isolating.
Thankfully, we’re the ones who have video games. We can build worlds in our head away from the one we physically embody and imagine a life so much more fantastical and fairer than our own, and in a time where we can perhaps feel somewhat helpless, there’s very little like this medium that can encourage a mindset of peaceful underwater exploration, and a story that moved me to tears whilst I simply navigated a dot on the screen to go from one triangle to another. What a wondrous gift In Other Waters is.
Play In Other Waters. You simply must.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I feel like Ori and the Will of the Wisps isn’t getting the credit it deserves. The Xbox launch wasn’t great, we know this. The game was riddled with bugs and framerates that took us immediately out of Ori’s beautiful, scintillating world. It was a damn shame, because on the right screen there’s very little as gorgeous as the Ori series, and it sure knows it.
Fast forward to the end of September and The Will of the Wisps lands on Nintendo Switch, where for all intents and purposes has become one of my most loved games of the year. It’s here I played the game for hours, and hours and hours. Not because I was fortunate enough to grab a code and was duty bound to do so, but because I loved it. I loved it to such an extent it rocketed into my Top 3 of the year without much hesitation. A huge step up from the already great predecessor, Wisps took the blueprints and built a puzzle-based emotionally-charged platformer that captivated me from beginning to end.
There’s very little I didn’t like, and the Switch – whilst of course does not stack up to the recent Xbox Series X upgrade – gave the game a home where I feel like it truly belonged. The Switch screen brought Ori to life in a way I didn’t expect, and I’m absolutely convinced it should have been a Nintendo title all along.
Both Ori games are currently available on Xbox Game Pass, but I recommend seeking out the Switch versions, as when you see them on a handheld screen, the wizardry at work is something to behold.
Honourable Mention – The Last of Us Part II
I’ll admit, I went back and forth on whether or not I was going to include this one. I have a list of six games I knew I wanted to include, and The Last of Us Part II wasn’t on it. Not because I didn’t think it was worthy, but purely because I’ve enjoyed a ton of video games this year and I started to to wonder if I ‘enjoyed’ the Naughty Dog sequel. Can you ‘enjoy’ a game that’s just so harrowing?
In the end, I woke up this morning and figured that if I didn’t ‘enjoy’ the bleakness of The Last of Us Part II, I simply couldn’t leave it off. This absolutely spectacular sequel left me speechless earlier this year, with an ending that continues to stay with me to this day. The story, that took roads I never saw coming – with some jawdropping moments throughout – had its claws in me immediately, and Abby’s impact on Ellie and Joel blew me away, leaving me sympathising and sad about a character I should have hated beyond measure.
Such is the power of The Last of Us as a world. It’s not nice, it’s not happy endings, it’s brutal and horrific around every corner. I remember feeling relieved when I ran into a building full of clickers as it was almost light relief from the human story at the centre of the game.
Playing as a reckless Ellie with nothing but revenge on her mind, brutal and with nothing to lose was incomparable to most anything else I’ve played this year. There’s just no way I couldn’t let this year pass without giving the game the credit it deserves. I can’t wait to see what Naughty Dog does next.
Streets of Rage 4
Streets of Rage, those words are enough to give any Mega Drive owning gamer the chills of excitement. Arguably the finest scrolling beat-em-up made. When news hit FG Towers that Streets of Rage is making a comeback, I pleaded to the powers that be to let me review the new installment.
The good news is that it plays exactly the same as the original games, which is testament to how good they are. Of course there are some new modern bells and whistles and a fantastic new art style but underneath all the spit and polish the fundamentals are the same. New enemy types, new moves are all present and correct, adding a fresh challenge, plus there are modern updates to the old fashioned blue/green generic thugs.
Everything is just perfect with this game, all my memories of playing SoR, or any other scrolling beat-em-up came flooding back to me and simply made me smile. In this year of years, if something makes you smile, then it surely deserves some praise.
Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima is a total work of art. Not only is it arguably the best looking game to have graced a system but it also dared to do something different and break the mold. Out are waypoints and blinking lights. In are subtle smoke plumes and haunting gusts of wind. But that’s not all that’s so good about this game. Sucker Punch have genuinely re-invented the age-old Arkham combat with something far more tactical. Applying different stances to affect different enemies and weapons is genius and and the same time made it so accessible. It really a magnificent game.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Although it hasn’t been outgoing, Ubisoft has come gate-crashing the end of year awards show with the excellent Immortals – Fenyx Rising. This isn’t just your standard Zelda clone, although you could be forgiven for thinking it’s an exact copy. In reality, yes it follows the same blueprint but has done things a lot differently, and for the better. I am one of the few people who didn’t actually like Breath of the Wild, with all its cooking and stamina and getting your weapons destroyed by a lighting bolt etc. Immortals has the same elements but it’s not as infuriating. Yes there’s cooking but it’s a simple process of mixing potions, the stamina bar isn’t nearly as cruel and the combat feels much more weighty. Immortals looks great, but looks aside, the real winner is the story and the narration with a funny flippant take on Greek mythology. What Ubisoft have done is take the best parts of a variety of games – Assassin’s Creed, Zelda, God of War – and put them together like a perfect fitting jigsaw.
Honourable Mention – Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues
This one surprises me as much as you guys. From the early trailers that were released this game looked terrible, but in fact it’s one of the unsung heroes of 2020. It’s not perfect but I never expected it to be. Instead what we have is a satisfying beat-’em-up which. Lots of special moves, lots of character and some nice 2.5D levels. Also it’s a direct continuation from the excellent TV show and features the cast for voice duties. If you haven’t had your fill with Streets of Rage, this is definitely a game you should check out.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal makes this list for me, not least for being the game I spent the longest time playing all year; through the early months of lockdown and then far into the summer, I spent my 2020 attending high-school in Tokyo, doing my studies, meeting friends, and taking on the ills of society because, dammit, the adults weren’t doing anything! What makes Persona 5 Royal so addictive besides its living anime presentation, and 120+ hour story, is that feeling of it basically becoming your second life.
I grew so attached to the quirky crew of Phantom Thieves as they broke into the minds of the villains of their world and literally changed their hearts from the inside, that I never really wanted to leave it behind. There’s a lot to be said about stories that take on difficult themes, and Persona 5 Royal dealt with grooming, corruption, injustice, and the darker aspects of Japanese society with a pretty unflinching touch. Certainly some of the most serious themed anime I’ve seen in a long time.
A dynamite soundtrack, quirky and stylish visuals throughout, and a story that puts most of the RPG genre to shame secures Persona 5 Royal its place in our Games of the Year. I can’t wait for the literal sequel to come in February!
Final Fantasy VII Remake
My most anticipated game from 2020 wasn’t Cyberpunk 2077, it was the Remake of my favourite RPG ever. Clamoured for and dreaded in equal measure, Final Fantasy VII Remake managed to confound expectations by being possibly more than a remake ever has; it was gorgeous, the battles were more fun than FF had been in a decade, and the story told the one you knew, but also reworked it into a fourth-wall-breaking timeline-changing beast of epic possibilities in years to come. By remaking the timeline, not only was it accessible to newcomers, but also new for those who played it back in 1997, which was quite a feat.
Remaking a classic clearly wasn’t enough, Square-Enix had to outdo themselves in almost every respect. Gaming’s most popular and most enduring RPG of all time, and they managed to not only NOT mess it up, but make something truly great that does its memory proud. Even better, we can expect at least two more games, of hopefully the same caliber, in the coming years.
The best Final Fantasy has been in a decade is no small feat, earning Final Fantasy 7 Remake a place on our Game of the Year list.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
If there was a game that just made my eyes light up in 2020 it was 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. I knew nothing about it until targetted Facebook Ads decided to bombard me day in, day out, and with good reason; massive Mechs, hand-painted anime, high-concept science fiction and time travel. It’s like they knew all the things I had liked on Facebook for years. It was the most narrative-focussed game of the year literally screaming to the most narrative-minded player – play me! play me! So I did.
I regularly think back on 13 Sentinels now, wishing there was just more of it. 13 different POV characters each experiencing different parts of an alien invasion, and awakening to their power to command a huge kaiju-killing mech. Each one spirals into a time-bending twister, but they all compliment and yet never copy each other. It’s full of lovable anime characters and you could approach it in almost any order you wanted. And to cap it off it had a bloody addictive strategy mech battle system between the story segments.
A truly class act, and pretty damn niche, 13 Sentinels probably wasn’t played by many, but those who did will agree it earns a spot on the Games of the Year. They don’t make them like this very often.
Honourable Mention: Chicken Police
Having only three spots makes choosing our games of the year pretty tough, so we have to have an honourable mention, and mine goes to my Indie of the Year – Chicken Police. I’m not sure a game has ever ticked more boxes for me than Chicken Police; Noir, story-rich, and populated by animals, Chicken Police was the best kind of surprise, a video game that lived up to the hype in my head.
It’s dark, funny, well-written and pretty adult in tone, with some of the best voice-acting I think I’ve ever heard in an indie before. Everything screams atmosphere at you from the soundtrack to the visuals to the dialogue, and the gameplay manages that fine line between simple and accessible. An absolute triumph of a game, and my honourable mention for 2020.
art of rally
I’ve probably enjoyed racing games more consistently than any other genre of video game over my 38-ish years playing them, but – truth be told – it’s been a case of ever-diminishing returns over recent years with (whispers it quietly) quite a few of them looking and playing very similarly. So, bless art of rally for daring to approach the genre differently. Almost melancholy in design, it’s a minimalist masterpiece that handles beautifully and pays perfect reverence to the motorsport it’s recreating.
It shouldn’t really work. It’s a multiplayer first-person shooter with a) only one map, b) a limited variety of enemies, c) functional graphics and d) permadeath. These are all things that traditionally turn me straight off this type of game. But the tension…good Lord, the tension. With fantastic sound design and high stakes with every round, Hunt Showdown is a frankly terrifying game that has you on edge from start to finish of every round. Completing a bounty is only half the battle. Escaping with said bounty by fending off the real monsters – the other human players on the map – is where the real horror lies. It’s giving me the heebies again, just thinking about it.
As with most years these days, we haven’t been short of good new multiplayer shooters in 2020, but none have drawn me in quite like Rogue Company. It’s not that it does anything particularly innovative. It’s just that it executes on its mechanics so perfectly that it’s actually really difficult to pick any faults with it. Its presentation, its character design, its map layouts, its progression system, its flawless shooting – it all marries together into a fantastically fun and accessible package that you can play for 15 minutes or three hours at a time. And it’s free, people. There’s literally no excuse.
Honourable Mention – FIFA 21
No, please, bear with me for a minute. As a single player experience, it is largely what you’ve come to expect from FIFA in recent years – a little soulless, a little too up itself – and the doubling-down on the Volta mode does almost nothing for me personally. But co-op Ultimate Team is an entirely different story and the thing I have played most in the last six weeks by quite some distance. There’s still not much quite as exhilarating as scoring a brilliant team goal or a last-minute winner as a shared experience with a mate and this is where the game’s presentation really shines. In fact, I’m away for another shot now.
If we were doing more than one award, Hades would also win the “Game I Least Expected To Change My Mind On A Genre” award too. Before this, I could take or leave roguelites. Sure, I reviewed and enjoyed Dead Cells, but Hades is something else. It had me invested because of the story it tells around a repetitive gameplay loop.
But it’s not just incredible story and narrative alone that sells it, as Supergiant continue their streak of beautiful looking games with the presentation here. It’s so vibrant and colourful, in both world and colour, that it’s hard not to be taken in by its appeal. It makes you not care that you’ve died, because you know death will be rewarded with more story and discovery.
Addictive combat, catered to different playstyles and absolutely nails the “ooh, one more go” concept, Hades is a must-have for any PC/Nintendo Switch owner. I didn’t review this, but if I had, I would have been telling you all to buy it.
If I’d try to sell you the idea of playing a long haul game across icy lands, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it sounded boring. Admittedly, it does. It’s not a game that takes you immediately with all the razzle dazzle of, say, Forza Horizon. But if you’re willing to invest enough time into it, it is a deeply satisfying game.
Starting off slowly, when you’ve upgraded your haulage “empire” and acquire big trucks for bigger hauls, SnowRunner is a tour de force of a game. It’s somewhat therapeutic calmly navigating uneven and slippery landscape at a sedate pace. Yet it can also be tense and frustrating, flitting on a knife’s edge when it threatens to tip you off balance or tempt you into deeper waters.
I had insane amounts of fun in my time with it, and keep telling myself to go back to it.
When a game does “retro”, it’s normally just trying to emulate a classic style of game with maybe a few references and callbacks in it. Huntdown, in that sense, is the retro game. Going back to the run ‘n’ gun stylings of Contra, Gunstar Heroes and Super Turrican, Huntdown plays like an absolute love letter to the genre.
But more so than the gameplay is the attention to the era it’s replicating. Emulating that “retro-futurism” seen in the likes of Cyberpunk, Huntdown doesn’t just put nods in haphazardly like Duke Nukem does. Half the fun of the game is getting lost in the setting, spotting all the nods and shout-outs to the staples of the genre, like Blade Runner, Terminator and many more.
Think of it on par with Cuphead in terms of its running and gunning levels: it’s not insanely hard by narrative choice. But it evokes that old school mentally that we need beating back into us, as we’ve clearly gotten soft.
Honourable Mention – Resident Evil 3
I gave my Resident Evil 2 review a perfect score back in 2019, I loved it that much. The only real sticking point were some of the cut corners and drastically shorter time. So, I thought, when Resident Evil 3 was announced as next, they might rectify this. Unfortunately, they doubled down instead.
If you go into this with a “Resident Evil 2.5” mindset, there is fun to be had here. The original was seen as a more action-focused counterpart to Leon and Claire’s adventure, if a bit shorter. Well, so is this. Criminally so, in fact. Certain areas completely bypassed, iconic sections replaced with cutscenes or linear action pieces, it was disappointingly short. It looks great, and the DNA of the original is here in traces, but as an experience it’s largely forgettable because of how quickly you can whiz through it.
Doom Eternal is a loud, brash, pedal-to-the-metal-so-hard-that-it-bends game. It’s not alone in that regard – there are plenty of bombastic shooters out there – but what stands this game out from the crowd is the masterful design and interlaced systems that underpin the brutal nature of the action. Doom Eternal is a game that forces the player to play the game in a particular way – attack, attack, attack – and rewards them with a constant drip feed of dopamine inducing action sequences. The first person platforming and parkour work as respite from the chainsawing and jibbing which means by the time you’re facing your next group of demons, you’re ready to rip and tear all over again. It’s a game that makes you feel like Doom Guy with nothing but a pad in your hand.
In my 10/10 review of the game I described it as “polished to the nth degree, visually sublime and with a soundtrack that’ll get your heart racing” and that “it’s a thrilling game from bloody beginning to gory end”. What I didn’t say was that Doom Eternal was one of the best first person shooters I’ve played this decade. A worth GOTY winner.
Lair of the Clockwork God
When I wrote my review for Lair of the Clockwork God, I was struggling to find the words to describe the feeling I got when playing this game. I described it as like “pulling up a stool at a table with old friends who are 4 pints deep and about to regale you with the very best story” but that’s not quite what it is. It’s the feeling that I got as a youngster playing Monkey Island and Full Throttle. It’s the buzz I got playing Beyond Good & Evil. It’s the feeling you get when you’re playing something really quite special.
A combination of a point and click adventure and “indie darling” platformer, Lair of the Clockwork God is the best of both genre’s and something new when mixed. It’s a game that celebrates the best and pokes fun at accepted flaws that both genre has. It’s accompanied by the rib tickling wit and humour that only long time friends can write for one another. Ben and Dan have been on adventures with one another before but none so relentlessly funny, imaginative, occasionally serious and well designed as Clockwork God. This is their magnum opus and a game I think thoroughly deserves its place on this list.
On the surface, Roki is a game about a girl venturing through Norse mythology in order to rescue her brother. There’s deeper meaning here though, a message of reconciliation and forgiveness, that’s mirrored in two sets of characters. It’s a touching, heart-warming story and while it’s in a mythical setting with fantastical characters, the events mirror real human drama in a way that evokes real passion and emotion.
It helps that Roki looks, sounds and plays like a dream too. A game that uses all the best parts of the point and click adventure and trims the fat to make it a very accessible experience, it’s a game that you can pick up and play – if you can actually tear yourself away to put it down that is. It’s bursting with charm and little details that clearly communicate the love and care that developers Polygon Treehouse have poured into it. Roki is one of the best games I’ve played this year and a game I recommend you give a chance if you hadn’t already.
Honourable Mention – Dreams
Dreams released in February 2020. I know. I know. It feels like it has existed for years but it’s actually less than 10 months old. And what a 10 months they have been. A steady stream of new content including new instruments, the All Hallows’ Dreams event and PSVR support have kept the game relevant during a year that has been challenging for the biggest of AAA games, never mind a creation sandbox title.
I’ll just lay this out there – there has never been a better suite of tools for users to generate their own content than what can be found in Dreams. The team at Media Molecule have created a system that’s incredibly intuitive, assisted by some excellent tutorials, that make it easy to make a masterpiece. It feels like every other week there has been a creation made in Dreams going viral on Twitter. And rightfully so. That forest? The Breakfast? An astonishing amount of detail.
And for people who don’t have a creative bone in their body, there’s a mountain of content in Dreams to experience now. From platformers to racing games, pinball games to fighters, Dreams has a bit of everything. I certainly hope Dreams has the longevity it deserves. Dipping in and out of the game at various times in 2020 has proved to be a delight and the reason it is my honourable mention for this year.
So, that’s our picks for Games of the Year. Agree with our picks? Think we’ve missed one? Got a favourite you need to tell us about? Head to the comments section and sound off.
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