Thursday, December 31, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2020

With hours left in 2020, it's finally here! After multiple awards and dozens of games already listed in past categories, we arrive at the final category of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards. It's time for the Top Ten Games of 2020, where we officially crown one game with SPC'S coveted* (*your mileage will vary) Game of the Year award!

Although 2020 itself was a horrid, disastrous and utterly depressing year, gaming-wise it wasn't half-bad! Two new next-gen consoles launched with promises of new and improved experiences and several truly excellent and magnificent games released this year as well. This ultimate list of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards obviously focuses on the latter. These are the games that brought the most joy, the highest quality, and were the ones that made 2020 a year that could give us a semblance of tolerance for this otherwise miserable year. With that ringing endorsement of the year out of the way, let's get to the countdown of SPC's Top Ten Games of 2020 starting with number ten!

10) Doom Eternal (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

A game that strikes a brutal balance of making you feel like an unstoppable badass--running, gunning, jumping, revving your chainsaw, and ripping and tearing into the flesh of enemies--and simultaneously treating you to getting your teeth smashed via a bloody curb stomp in later skirmishes, Doom Eternal is one killer FPS. So much about Eternal is improved from Doom's 2016 outing, from the increased adrenaline junkie action to the movement options available to the Doom Slayer and the incredible level design. A couple end game boss battles and a weak multiplayer mode aside, Doom Eternal still helped get some of my aggression towards 2020 out with this visceral and ultraviolent first-person shooter. Playing it is like juggling three chainsaws--you're always in danger where one false move can result in death, but you can look awesome doing it. (Caution: Do not actually try to juggle three chainsaws, to the folks at home. Instead, play Doom Eternal for a similar pump of adrenaline.) For these reasons, Doom Eternal kicks off this Top Ten Games of 2020 countdown.

9) Resident Evil 3 (PS4, XB1, PC)

A lot of fans of the original Resident Evil 3 as well as fans of last year's Resident Evil 2 remake (you'll find many of these fans in the center of a Venn Diagram) felt shortchanged by this year's remake of Resident Evil 3. Cut content from the original and the game's brevity meant that many considered it not much more than DLC-like content rather than a full-fledged game. I see things much differently. Not only did the shorter run time actively encourage someone like me who adored the game to run through it multiple times, once I did it twice in the same day, but it makes for a snappier-paced game as well. Jill Valentine was as magnificent as ever in her starring role in the game, and Carlos's upgrade as a character was awesome to see, too. Nemesis might not stalk players, appearing whenever and wherever, like he may have in the original RE, but in this remake, the sections where he did show up to hunt Jill were truly terrifying. I greatly enjoyed my time with Resident Evil 3 this year, and while it doesn't outshine or out-fright the fun I had with 2019's Resident Evil 2, it's still a thrill ride of a game regardless!

8) Paper Mario: The Origami King (NSW)

After a couple of relatively ho-hum entries in the Paper Mario series as Nintendo and Intelligent Systems experimented with the formula, trying to not only change things up considerably but nail down the concept at the same time, with Paper Mario: The Origami King, a super satisfying Paper Mario has returned to gaming. It's not the sequel to The Thousand-Year Door in gameplay style that many fans lament, but taken in its own context and by itself, Origami King is an exceptional entry in the series. From the engaging exploration and smartly designed areas to journey through, to the improved battles--whether they be the normal "spin-to-win" puzzles or the more complicated boss encounters--Paper Mario: The Origami King delighted in almost every which way. It even managed to go to some emotional places that I certainly did not expect out of an otherwise wholesome, hilarious and colorful adventure! Paper Mario: The Origami King was one of the bright spots in an otherwise light lineup of original games from Nintendo this year, but one that stands as one of the year's and one of the Switch's strongest titles.

7) Ori and the Will of the Wisps (XBS, XB1, NSW, PC)

The original Ori and the Blind Forest brought both touching emotional moments and engaging and precise platforming design to players in a gorgeous Metroidvania-style world. This year's sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, took the fantastic foundation of the original Ori and further iterated on it to create one of the best gaming experiences of 2020. Similar amounts of emotional moments and story beats that accentuated the original's plot are present and ever tasteful in this sequel, while gameplay-wise, Ori has an enhanced move set. The game is at its greatest when Ori is freely chaining between jumps, bashes against enemies and their projectiles, and soaring through the air with unrivaled skill and grace. The added boss encounters, town-building aspect, and side quests only further brought increased excellence to this Ori sequel. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is beautiful inside and of course outside, and those things easily put it in the running for me as one of the best games released in 2020.

6) Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

As the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards has shown already, it's been a terrific year for remakes and remasters. Thus, it's no surprise that this best of 2020 list will see a fair number of them. One such game is a blast from the past, and one where players skateboarded, held grinds, manuals, and performed flip, lip, and spin tricks like it was 1999. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 offered the entire suite of levels from the original two THPS games in gorgeous remade and fully realized glory. However, that would have been for naught had the skating not felt as tight, responsive, and as good to control. We've seen this with Activision's first attempt at remaking THPS. Fortunately, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 was a testament to the developers, showing that they knew and understood what made the classic games so spectacular, beloved and well received. The game holds true to the legacy of the originals, and very much stands toe-to-toe--or in this case--skates board-to-board with them. A brilliant achievement, and a stellar, nostalgic trip.

5) Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Many of the remakes and remasters of 2020 essentially stayed true to their originals. Now, don't misconstrue my meaning here--Final Fantasy VII Remake definitely kept many of the things that made fans love of the 1997 PS1 original, but the game also boldly went into a totally new direction, too. It would have been disastrous if this risk hadn't paid off, but fortunately, it very much did. Everything from Final Fantasy VII Remake's story beats to its combat, turning to a more action-oriented real-time approach, saw alterations from the original. Some of this was a necessity, as Remake takes place entirely in only the first city of Final Fantasy VII, Midgar--which only takes about two handfuls of hours to complete. Therefore, some necessary filler and padding was added. While some of it was less than savory, the majority of new content was worthwhile. I have to applaud the development team of Final Fantasy VII Remake, because not only did they successfully change several of the original FF7's conventions, be it story or gameplay-related, but did so in a way that fully engaged me from the beginning of the game to the very end. And man, what an ending! Talk about your bold, risky choices! That's why Final Fantasy VII Remake, for me, stands as one of the best games of the past year.

4) Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)

Another PlayStation 4 exclusive, Ghost of Tsushima surprised me with how much I was immersed in its world. Sucker Punch did a phenomenal job with creating 13th century Tsushima, making for a gorgeous countryside, rugged mountains, running rivers, vibrant forests, and rural villages and towns that I couldn't stop exploring. Protagonist Jin Sakai's journey was also something I was absorbed in, watching him see his fellow samurai get massacred by the Mongol invasion, and how his vengeance sees him butt heads with his own samurai code and honor was an enthralling tale. Whether I was engaged in the story and its various oftentimes depressing-in-tone quests that seldom didn't end on a downer, unsheathing Jin's blade and using it against Mongols and bandits alike, discovering the myriad points of interests in the three unique areas of Tsushima Island, or just being in awe at the stunning visuals on display, Ghost of Tsushima continues Sony's first-party magnificence. It makes for an emotional journey that will no doubt stay with me for a good while, the mark of a game that's like a samurai blade--finely crafted.

3) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (NSW)

I was hesitant to put the game that won SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2012 award so highly on this year's list eight years later, but playing through Xenoblade Chronicles all over again, not only did I enjoy this RPG epic more than ever before, but I learned new things to love about this game that I didn't note in 2012. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition takes a game that the Wii or New Nintendo 3DS hardware just couldn't do justice and puts it on a system that finally shows this sensational adventure in all its awesome, beautiful and expansive glory. The environments are easy to lose yourself in, not just travel-wise, but just by being mesmerized by all the beauty in the game's overwhelmingly large world. There's a lot to take in and explore, quests to complete (though the Definitive Edition makes tracking these abundantly easier), and creatures to battle. The addition of the bonus epilogue, Future Connected, and its brand-new, never-before-seen area means that even after the lengthy base story is complete (and that's even without counting the New Game+ option!), there's far more command-based action-RPG goodness to savor. Xenoblade Chronicles was already one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and this Nintendo Switch Definitive Edition makes it even better and all the more impressive.

2) Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

Here's a platforming game pick that might be an oddball of the bunch, but one that I absolutely adored from start to finish. Sackboy: A Big Adventure removed the floaty physics and handling of its stitched star and that made for precise and great-feeling game to play. From Sackboy's run, to his roll that could be chained into a jump, to his Yoshi-like flutter at the end of a leap, Sackboy felt fabulous to move around and control. Much, MUCH more impressive, however, is how developer Sumo Digital constantly created crafty levels that continued to impress and amaze me as I played through the game. Like its clear inspiration with Super Mario 3D World, each level in Sackboy: A Big Adventure delivers to players a new concept that is fleshed out more and more, with increased challenge, as the level progresses. The levels featuring licensed songs like Foster the People's Houdini or Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, where the music syncs to the platforming and obstacles in the levels, are some of the strongest and most clever of the bunch in an already absurdly creative, charming and challenging 3D platformer. I can't understate how much I enjoyed this year's Sackboy: A Big Adventure, nor how much I surprised even myself for liking the game so much.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2020 award goes to...



1) Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

A game released at the right place and at the right time, for many, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect pandemic game. It allowed players to be social with one another in a responsible, virtual way, as they ventured to one another's islands to enjoy each other's company. The game itself is also a true and radical upgrade from past installments, offering more freedom than ever before. The ability to customize and craft your island as you see fit to truly make it your own home away from home was unprecedented for the series, and was a long awaited one, for that matter. Starting with a desolate deserted island covered with weeds at the beginning of the game and seeing it blossom and flourish into a bustling island community is one of my defining moments of 2020.

Despite any problems I might have with New Horizons--and there are slight annoyances and issues present, don't get me wrong--they don't take anything away from how much I loved playing this game over this past year, catching bugs and fish, building my collection of furniture and clothing, paying off my debt to that rascally but ultimately lovable tanuki Tom Nook, decorating my house and island my own way, and visiting real-life friends and animal islanders alike. Through the nearly 300 hours I've put into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game has continued to bring me immense joy and was a bright, bright spot in a year that was otherwise unsalvageable, dark and dreary. Here's to hoping that 2021 will be a year where Animal Crossing won't be as needed to find happiness with friends, families, and gamers as it was in 2020.


And with that, the conclusion of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards arrives. I hope you've enjoyed but a small glimpse at the immense amount of notable games released in 2020. Here's hoping that 2021 is a brighter year for all of us! See you in 2021, everybody!

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