Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: GameCentral Readers’ Top 20 of 2020

Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: GameCentral Readers’ Top 20 of 2020

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The annual readers vote for the best games of the last year chooses between greats such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Hades.

Although we’ve already revealed what we think are the best games of 2020 we always make sure to give readers a chance to vote for their favourites and the chart you see below is the end result of all the emails we’ve received during the course of the week.

The top three were easy enough to predict, even if the order they’d appear wasn’t, while Ghost Of Tsushima was the highest polling game to appear in the reader chart but not ours.

Readers’ Top 20 – 2020

1. The Last Of Us Part 2 (PS4)
2. Final Fantasy 7 Remake (PS4)
3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NS)
4. Hades (NS/PC)
5. Ghost Of Tsushima (PS4)
6. Astro’s Playroom (PS5)
7. Demon’s Souls (PS5)
8. Immortals Fenyx Rising (XO/PS4/NS/XSX/PS5/PC/Stadia)
9. Doom Eternal (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
10. Star Wars: Squadrons (XO/PS4/PC)
11. Cyberpunk 2077 (XO/PS4/PC)
12. Ori And The Will Of The Wisps (XO/NS/XSX/PC)
13. Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS4/PS5)
14. Streets Of Rage 4 (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
15. Horace (NS/PC)
16. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (XO/PS4/NS/XSX/PS5/PC/Stadia)
17. Wasteland 3 (XO/PS4/PC)
18. Paper Mario: The Origami King (NS)
19. Half-Life: Alyx (PC VR)
20. Lonely Mountains: Downhill (XO/PS4/NS/PC)

Standout release
I’m sure that most would view the last year as a nightmare, but in amongst wading through some of my gaming backlog, it did have a few good new games that helped get me and my family through lockdown.

The game that stood out most to me last year was The Last Of Us Part 2. While it was perhaps a tad long, with several false endings, it had a fantastic story and several good set pieces, with well voiced characters that let you see both sides of the story. While the gameplay wasn’t revolutionary it was very good and it looked absolutely stunning on the ageing PlayStation 4. I can’t wait to see what Naughty Dog do with the PlayStation 5 tech in the coming years.

I was lucky enough to get hold of a PlayStation 5 at launch and the free game, Astro’s Playroom, is a fantastic showcase of the console’s new features, and also a loving homage to PlayStation’s past. I played it with my son, and we both had a blast, and I pointed out the past consoles and franchises that have been a part of our lives for well over 20 years. The levels were well designed and there was a definite Nintendo feel about them, with lots of variety in the gameplay and loads of hidden secrets.

The third game that I’d mention is Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which is a much more focused game than the last Spider-Man, with a story that keeps you playing. The action is slick, and action-packed, with some cracking set pieces, and puzzles that add a sprinkle of variety to the proceedings. It also looks stunning on the PlayStation 5 in 4K, especially with the ray-tracing, which adds a lot to the reflections on the skyscrapers that you swing around.

I look forward to seeing what the next gen consoles can do this year, and I hope that more gamers get a chance to pick them up in the coming months, without paying ridiculous sums on eBay.
Cubes (PSN ID) and Cubes1 (Twitter)

Obvious choices
Picking my top three games of 2020 was easier than I expected. Not because I didn’t play a number of quality games that were released last year but because there were three that stood out ahead of the rest.

3. The Last Of Us Part 2

Whilst I think it should have been a little shorter, and I wasn’t comfortable with all of Ellie’s decisions, I still found The Last Of Us Part 2 to be a great experience. The gameplay is an improvement on the original and the graphics and voice-acting possibly the best ever. I am not sure if a Part 3 is necessary but if it had the same quality then I couldn’t say no.

2. Final Fantasy 7 Remake

This was my first ever Final Fantasy game and what an introduction it was. I loved the characters and the combat system is up there among the best I have played in a role-playing game. I was totally immersed from start to finish and can’t wait for the next instalment.

1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I have been a fan of Animal Crossing since the GameCube but New Horizons is easily the best. It doesn’t change much but refines everything and what it does add slots in perfectly to the existing gameplay loop. It would have been my favourite in any year I think but was the perfect escape from the troubles of 2020.
Pigfish2 (PSN ID)

2020’s playroom
My top three for 2020 are:

3) Immortals Fenyx Rising. OK, so it’s a pretty obvious Zelda: Breath Of the Wild rip-off, but it’s also an excellent game in its own right. The combat is enjoyable, the puzzles are varied and challenging, and I also found all the characters very entertaining. The sense of humour, though admittedly not to everyone’s taste, really amused me, and how it expanded on Greek myth was very inventive. Just a fun and underrated game.

2) Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin. A bizarre mix of 2D dungeon crawler and farming sim shouldn’t work but what a combination they make. You must clear an island of demons in the dungeon sections and the only way to improve your character’s stats/levels is to grow more and better rice. Trust me, it makes sense in context. While neither section quite holds up on their own, the game is far more than the sum of its parts and if you like either of the genres it is definitely worth trying.

1) Astro’s Playroom. While it’s basically a glorified demo for the DualSense, it’s the most impressed I’ve been with how a game combines with technology since, well, the last Astro Bot game. The haptic feedback elevates everything of course, but it’s the little touches that make the game shine.

Seeing the bots as different Sony characters and unlocking hardware in the labo were the highlights but I played through it all with a huge grin on my face. Even the soundtrack is awesome and the GPU song is a work of genius. As a love letter to all things PlayStation, ASOBI Team have excelled themselves. Fingers crossed they will make a full sequel soon.
andy_b720 (PSN ID)

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Going rogue
My top three games of 2020 were:

1. Until You Fall (PSVR)
2. Immortals Fenyx Rising (PS5)
3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

I’ve struggled more this year than any other to decide my top three, mostly due to the fact almost all the games I completed in 2020 weren’t released during that year.

The above three represent the ones I had the most fun with and had the biggest impact on me.

Until You Fall is a roguelike (or roguelite, I’m not sure I know the difference) in VR. The visuals and soundtrack make this pop and the gameplay loop is both addictive and fun. A superb package that really left its mark on me.

Immortals Fenyx Rising wouldn’t have even been on my radar had it not been for the GC review. Thoroughly enjoyed this one through new year and beyond. I prefer it to Zelda: Breath Of The Wild due to the lack of annoying rain and coat wearing! The puzzles did get a little repetitive, but the bright colours and humour made it a joy to play and Apollo’s arrow was a real highlight.

Animal Crossing sneaks in here probably solely down to the timing of its release. It landed just after lockdown and the vibrant world it offered was a perfect contrast to the bleakness of the real world. I completed the story element over a couple of weeks and had I been more creative, I may have continued for much longer. The sheer scale of the customisation for your island was too overwhelming for me, but my slice of island life was a good tonic.

Keep up the great work GC.

GC: Roguelites tend to have less harsh punishments for death, or be overall easier, than roguelikes.

Series best
My top 3 games of 2020 are:

1. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
2. Wasteland 3
3. Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is, for me, the best in the series to date; prior to it I would’ve said Black Flag. I’ve always really enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series, while I agree with its criticisms of being overly bloated with repetitive side content, and they’ve always struggled with how to open the games with long drawn out prologues lasting several hours. But they have been improving greatly since the first big break they took to develop Assassin’s Creed Origins, which really took several steps to refining the formula with less bloat and far more substantial side content.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, I felt, was too over-bloated again, although I did enjoy it. It had way too much side content, the world was way too big, it was a chore to traverse it and the levelling system meant grinding through a lot of the dull filler side missions in order to level up enough to continue the main story.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is much more refined. The world is sizeable but much less overwhelming than Odyssey. The levelling is much better and so is the side content. Gone are the rinse and repeat fortresses and bandit camps. In their place are mysteries which offer dozens of unique sub-stories featuring interesting characters with a lot of gameplay variety and they’re often very funny. You still raid big castles and monasteries, as you would expect given the Vikings setting, but they are held for big story moments and optional raids you can do to get materials to upgrade your equipment and settlement with.

Raids feel much more epic too, when you’ve got dozens of non-player character Viking allies fighting the Saxons with you in massive battles. The combat is really great and satisfying, with lots of cool moves to unlock with your skill points. I really like the story and the game has dozens of characters and I found them all likeable, especially Eivor the main protagonist. I played the game for over 60 hours and had a blast. I’m patiently awaiting the DLC.

Wasteland 3 really surprised me. I’m not typically a turn-based strategy fan but I tried Wasteland 3 because it’s on Game Pass and loved it. Perhaps a lot of it was to do with it’s something different for me and outside of my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout my 30+ hours playthrough. I found the game very funny, with lots of funny characters and factions. The combat is really well done and I found it pretty easy to get to grips with. Not to say the game isn’t challenging, a lot of encounters did take several attempts for me to get past. But it is easy to pick up, difficult to master.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake I thoroughly enjoyed. I do remember the original quite fondly, but I was too young to fully appreciate it at the time. I found myself way more invested in the story and characters in the remake and I felt like they did an excellent job fleshing the Midgard section of the story out into a full 35-40 hour game. I’m looking forward to part two when it eventually happens.
Big Angry Dad82 (gamertag)

Enjoyment not guaranteed
My top 3 games of 2020 were:

1) Hades (I played on PC): The combat just feels ‘right’, the characters are interesting and the progression loop is wonderful.

2) Hearthstone: Scholomance Academy expansion (iPad): Hearthstone is my most played game of all time. I had taken a break from it for a while but came back to it to it this year and it’s still as brilliant as ever.

3) The Last Of Us Part 2 (PS4): I’m not sure I enjoyed playing this game but I don’t think I was supposed to. The graphics, world building and motion capture were terrific and the story stayed with me for a long time after I completed it.

My honourable mentions of games I played in 2020 but were released earlier are:

a) Eleven Table Tennis (Oculus Quest 2): Like many people, I missed being in my office for work this year, where we are lucky enough to have a table tennis table. Eleven Table Tennis is incredibly lifelike and a brilliant substitute to lunchtime table tennis games.

b) The Outer Wilds (Xbox One): I don’t normally like this type of game, but this turned out to be one of my favourite games of all time. The design is so clever – I have enormous admiration for the people that thought of it.

c) Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Xbox Series S): The best Star Wars game I’ve played for a long, long time.
IgnatiusOReilly (gamertag)

Soundtrack of the year
The list of new games released in 2020 I wanted to play but didn’t have the time to is pretty substantial. The list of new games released in 2020 I actually did play is about half a dozen games, so this should be an easy list to compile.

3. Superliminal

There’s enough puzzle games out there that owe a debt to Portal that they could easily be a sub-genre in their own right and Superliminal, released on the Switch in July, is probably the most Portal-like of all the Portal-inspired puzzle games. It’s a first person puzzle game divided up into various test chambers, there’s a slightly sarcastic disembodied voice that occasionally chimes in with comments about your progress, and occasionally you can see behind the curtain as you start to escape the test chambers and see the inner workings of the facility you are in.

So far, so Portal, but that description really doesn’t do this game justice. The game bases its puzzles around the idea of optical illusions and forced perspective – does this object appear to be big because it is small but really close to me, or it is far away and genuinely large? Each puzzle is pitched perfectly in terms of difficulty, so that I was never really stuck for too long but still felt that lightbulb moment when the solution came to me.

My only real gripe was that the game could have been longer – I finished it in around three hours but felt that the concept could have been expanded a little more. And just in case you miss the point that the developers were trying to make throughout, the game will handily spend the last 10 minutes spelling it out for you, which was a bit weird but still quite nice.

2. Paradise Killer

I’m not a fan of X + Y descriptions of games but the short version of this is that it resembles what you would get if Suda51 made a Danganronpa game. That either sells you instantly or this game isn’t for you. It’s a game set in a pocket universe in which humans are kidnapped and taken to an island and forced to worship the Old Gods but by doing so open the island up to demonic invasion, thus necessitating the creation of a new island. On the eve of the birth of the final, perfect island, the ruling council are all murdered and you, the player character, are brought back from your exile to investigate. The backstory isn’t strictly necessary though as you are here to simply investigate a murder.

The overwhelming majority of the game involves walking around the island, looking for clues and talking to its various inhabitants, all weird and wonderful characters. It’s an open world investigation game so right from the start you are free to wander off in any direction, look for clues and talk to people in any order you wish. Regardless of how much investigation you have completed or evidence gained, you can begin the final trial at any point you like and accuse whoever you wish. Will you accuse and convict the right people? Can you get to the truth? Is there even an objective truth to be had?

The great strength of the game comes from the fact that it holds up despite allowing you to do things in any order you want – a lot of time has obviously gone into making sure that the conversation trees make sense and that the game can be finished at any point, which is staggering when you consider that the dev team is remarkably small. It also has the second best soundtrack of any game I played this year.

1. Hades

Quick: think of a way in which you could improve Hades. You can’t, because it can’t be improved upon. The 1.0 release of Hades seems like the culmination of not only the two years it spent in early access but also the culmination of everything Supergiant have been trying to accomplish with their previous games. It’s a roguelike but removes everything that annoys me about roguelikes. Each death, and there will be many, allows you to keep your experience points so you can start your next run a little upgraded.

It’s a small thing but one which provides a tangible benefit to each run, unlike other games where you just hope you are getting better at understanding the mechanics. But each death also affords you a chance to speak to the many characters who inhabit the House of Hades and I started to look forward to returning just for a chat. There must be a point where you run out of new dialogue but so far I haven’t hit it.

There are enough weapons in Hades that all play differently to each other, but that all compliment the strengths and weaknesses of each other, to allow you to find a build that suits your preferred play style and in that regard it seems to be like a fighting game – choosing a new weapon is like choosing a new character to main.

Hades is the sort of game you play intending to do one run before bed but then realise it’s three in the morning and you have work tomorrow. It looks great and it plays great. It also has the best soundtrack of any game I played this year.
Eiichihoba (PSN ID)

Short answer
A Short Hike, Astro’s Playroom, and Horace. I’ve decided that the overly bloated games don’t get a vote this year.

It’s time to trim the excess fat developers (even you Nintendo)

A good year
The list of games I have given are games I have completed or attempted but still yet to finish. Tough choices really, as I mostly played previous years’ games for a lot of last year but here are my top three.

1. Final Fantasy 7 Remake

An absolute masterpiece in my eyes. Remaking this game and coming anywhere near the classic version seemed like mission impossible. But it certainly was given a blooming good remake all right, a dream remake really.

I rate this game very highly and it hits most of the original’s charm and really takes the story into an intriguing direction. Which leaves me guessing like mad as to what is in store for the next chapter in this epic masterpiece.

2. Ori And The Will Of The Wisps.

I did not play the first instalment of this enchanting game but decided to get the second for my laptop, which I don’t usually use for gaming much but this really tempted me for its fantasy fairy tale mystical charm. The Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night style gameplay, and the musical delights also, helped in my decision. I got the original soundtrack too and just had to see how this synchronised with the game’s story and gaming world’s mechanics.

It worked, and truly charmed me with its amazing creatures and life forms, also the clever level designs to challenge the player in very unique situations, with some amazing boss battles. The story is of a dream-like quality, and the sound and music just complement it so perfectly. Just simply wow.

3. The Last Of Us Part 2

Now this is a game which I still need to complete, I took longer than I should have to get past the first one of the series. Not the game’s fault, just so many other games to catch up on around the same time. But I am loving the brutal nature of this game and its compelling me to get back to it ASAP.

It’s quite an interesting game, with gamers loving it or being disappointed with it. Mainly the controversial storyline seems to split people. To me it’s no more controversial or hard hitting than a very good film or TV show. But I can see with the main protagonists development from the previous game and her mindset, it is quite a departure from the first game. By the time the second game starts you know Ellie has grown up to be tougher and meaner.

But the bloodthirsty world she’s in, it would toughen and psychologically change the persona and temperament of a lot of us also! It is a game to be respected and to question one’s self for sure. But to me, this is what I wanted and can’t wait to fight my way through this savage landscape to the bitter end.

So a good year in my gaming books and one to remember. Not as great as some years, but I don’t look too deeply into that aspect of it. What I played was amazing and 2021 looks to continue my gaming journey of a lifetime.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

MORE : Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: GameCentral Readers’ Top 20 of 2020

MORE : Games Inbox: PS5 stock in February, Joanna Lumley as Lara Croft, and Xbox Series X love

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