New Game Plus’ Top Five Games of 2020
December 24, 2020
Written by Jamie Galea
2020 was not a great year, but you’re probably well aware of that. It was a year that many of us struggled to get through, and saw the world adapting to a new normal in record breaking time. For us here at New Game Plus, we were unable to film out of our studio space at RMIT due to the pandemic. However, thanks to the ingenuity of our team, we were able to quickly and easily adapt the show to work recording from our homes. Up until we’d filmed our Game of the Year episode, we hadn’t filmed a television show in the same space together in over 9 months.
Even amongst the unpleasantness going on in the world, it just so happened to be a great time to play video games. While the releases of the Playstation 5 or Xbox Series consoles felt a little underwhelming, there were still plenty of great games on offer for everyone. This year proved to be one of our more competitive GOTY deliberations, as it felt like at any point our number one game could shift at any moment. However, only one game could be our undisputed GOTY, so here are our picks for the Top 5 games of 2020, as voted by the New Game Plus team.
5. GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
Sucker Punch released one of the PS4’s earliest first party exclusives, inFamous: Second Son, back in 2014. It’s somewhat fitting that Sucker Punch just so happened to be involved with the last first party exclusive for the PS4, Ghost of Tsushima. It provided a vast world to explore with minimal loading times and stunning visuals. On top of that, there’s now a well-received free multiplayer add-on and a host of improvements to make it even better to play on a Playstation 5!
While it’s a well made game in its own right, where it worked for us was the setting. The game takes place on Tsushima Island during the Mongol invasion of Japan during the late 13th century, a setting that isn’t normally seen in most games covering Japanese history. Sucker Punch’s take on Tsushima is nothing short of gorgeous, coupled with a ‘navigational wind’ mechanic that works beautifully to show you where to go without feeling too distracting. Credit also goes for even attempting to mimic Akira Kurosawa’s iconic filmic techniques in the games “Kurosawa Mode” (its actual name), even if it left a lot to be desired.
If you’re feeling a little burned out on open world games, Ghost of Tsushima does some amazing things. It’s a fantastic send off to the Playstation 4.
I’ve already spoken repeatedly about why Hades has stuck with me: The taut as a bowstring gameplay, the voluminous yet vivacious story, the masterful Darren Korb soundtrack. This time, I’ll outline how this game has stuck with everyone else. Hades currently has a Metacritic score of 93, beating three of the other games in the New Game Plus GOTY list and matching The Last of Us Part II. At The Game Awards it stood in the Game of the Year category as the only indie title. Since its full release, Hades has remained in Steam’s top sellers list (by revenue) for all but one week, seeing off the likes of FIFA 21 and Destiny 2: Beyond Light. Within this game, Zagreus has to overcome the monsters and gods of the Underworld. In real life, Supergiant Games has conquered the titans of our industry with what is undeniably the best game of 2020.
– Donald Duong, On The Level Host (@an_bear)
Supergiant Games are a developer that’s not afraid to try a different genre with every release, and are certainly not afraid to bring something new to the genres they tackle. Take 2017’s Pyre, a sports game that included a rich and detailed narrative, something that most actual sports games baulk at. So when Supergiant announced they were tackling the roguelike genre, arguably one of the more crowded genres in recent memory, there was always hope it was going to be a good time. When Hades finally came out of early access in September, it very quickly became apparent that it was something really special.
Playing Hades is a delight, thanks to some tight gameplay and a great sense of risk and reward. Supergiant’s games are known for excellent writing, music and art direction, and Hades is no exception here. In fact, Hades contains some of the developers strongest work as far as writing, music and art are concerned. Where Hades truly shines is the way it rewards players who stick with it”. There’s always new dialogue and things to discover as you play, meaning that death isn’t always as punishing as it is in other roguelikes. Even God Mode does a great job of allowing people to enjoy the game without feeling condescending.
Even if you’re sick of roguelikes, Hades does enough to set itself apart from its competitions that even if you hate the genre, it’s worth playing.
3. FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE
Final Fantasy VII Remake is not a particularly difficult choice to defend for one of the biggest games of 2020. Big studio behind it, massive existing fanbase, metacritic score in the high 80’s – it definitely has that ‘AAA easy choice’ feel to it. Still, from the first tech demo, FF7R set impossible fan expectations, yet still felt and played like a great game. It had the challenge of retelling a 23 year old story, yet somehow managed to balance old and new. It needed to feel both like a game from 2020 and a game from 1997, and it achieved that as well through a solid balance of RPG and action elements. FF7R isn’t a perfect game, but it’s a game that managed to achieve greatness in a lot of areas where other remakes, reboots, and reimaginings have failed. The game mixes new and old experiences so well that now I have to give praise to a game that literally has the word “remake” in the title, for being an original experience. That’s the kind of thing that makes a game worth of GOTY in my experience.
– David “Prospect” Lewis, Technical Director
For many people, Final Fantasy VII is The Game which pushed the medium forward. Whether you love its characters, its music or its story, it’s a game that many people hold very near and dear to their heart. So when Square Enix officially announced that the game was getting a remake five years ago, the question we all asked was simple – just how do you remake Final Fantasy VII?
That question is answered within the game itself, as it spends its time challenging the very idea of what a remake is. It has everything you’d expect in a big budgeted remake: Midgar has never looked better. Its iconic soundtrack has never sounded better. Then just as you’re getting settled into the game, it subverts it with its story and character work. Nearly every character has been expanded upon and given some more depth; the Avalanche Trio might low-key be some of 2020’s best characters. On top of that, the game’s new combat system is now real-time, but still finds ways to bring in the strategic elements and planning that a turn-based game brings.
Even if its story ended up being a bit more frustrating than satisfying, and it’s only part one of a series of remakes, it’s going to be fascinating seeing how and where Square Enix take further entries of the remake and how far they’ll go challenging what’s already been established.
2. ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS
After seven years since the last major Animal Crossing release, things were not looking great. After years of spinoffs and mobile games, it felt that the series was going the way of F-Zero or Mother in that it’ll be great fodder for Super Smash Bros, but never an actual new game. And then in 2018, hell froze over: Animal Crossing is coming to the Switch. Not even a delay from its initial 2019 release date was going to change how excited we were for a new Animal Crossing, and sure enough, it hit at just the right moment for it to become a hit for many, many people.
It adds everything you’d want out of a modern Animal Crossing game, with more characters, better item management, and a crafting system that surprisingly works for that game. It also pivots slightly towards a live game thanks to its frequent & significant updates made for a game that was always worth checking in on. Checking in on other people’s villages, swapping items and finding new and exciting ways to socialize in Animal Crossing made for one of 2020’s best experiences that just about anyone could enjoy. Not even Nintendo’s frustrating inability to understand how online play works could undermine the fun people were having with the game.
Even if Nintendo itself didn’t exactly have a stellar year creatively, the success of Animal Crossing has done wonders making up for its shortcomings. Though speaking of games we last saw seven years ago…
1. THE LAST OF US PART II
For mine, the biggest complaint I have about The Last of Us Part II is the bad faith campaign surrounding it. Out of context spoilers and thinly veiled transphobia do not a valid criticism make, and let’s be real: Joel’s actions in the first game earned him his last round of golf. The game isn’t perfect: second half pacing is definitely off, Abby is one of Laura Bailey’s weaker performances etc, but as a continuation of one the best character pieces in modern gaming it is still a grand work, and Naughty Dog should be proud. Just don’t follow the devs, especially THAT guy, on Twitter and play the game without the furore – you’ll appreciate it much more.
– Jason O’Callaghan, Executive Producer (@catpainbilly)
The ending to 2013’s The Last of Us remains one of the strongest in recent memory — more than earning our Game of the Year award that year. Following this on would take nothing short of a miracle; yet Naughty Dog managed to craft another memorable narrative.
Naughty Dog have proven yet again they’re arguably the most valuable developer in the Sony Interactive Entertainment family, creating yet another tense and challenging experience that pushes just what games are capable of not just on a technical level, but also on an emotional one. Exploring the remains of Seattle was a gaming highlight, thanks to the near obsessive level to detail present in every moment…even if it resulted in a near-endless period of crunch to get there. Coupling its technical achievements was a story that had a hard act to follow, but managed to follow up with some great characters and some brutal moments.
In the end, Naughty Dog did what many people thought was impossible — follow on from The Last of Us and create a sequel that lives up to that expectation. 75% of our voters placed The Last of Us Part II in their top three, definitively earning it our 2020 Game of the Year.