As a warning, my game of the year lists are always a bit strange. You see, I have a huge backlog of titles to get through. I also have an incessant desire to give credit to the very good games that I play, even if it’s more than a year after their release. As a result, you’ll find more than just games from 2020 in this list. At the very least half of them came out this year or had significant expansions, so you try to take solace in that. Just don’t be mad that there’s no Hades or Last of Us Part 2 here.
This whole process does, however, make it hard to emphasize which games didn’t make the cut. Last year, for example, I didn’t end up including Horizon: Zero Dawn or Nier: Automata. There’s another title like that this year, but we’ll save that for the end.
Sea of Thieves, Gwent, Legends of Runeterra, Don’t Starve Together
10. Fire Emblem Three Houses
I expected to like Fire Emblem: Three Houses more than I have. Sure, I haven’t completed it yet, but I’m 70 hours into the darn thing. While I have enjoyed my time with it, the relationship management part of things starts off as a challenge but quickly devolves into min-maxing and then you’re left with an overabundance of time to kill. Unless you’re trying to max out absolutely everything, there’s so, so much filler time in Three Houses. There needs to be a slow introduction and wiggle room for players to make mistakes with their time, I get that, but it’s just ended up being too much for me.
I’m just now hitting the time-skip and good lord have the story points been so painful, telegraphed dozens of hours ahead of time and every single time Byleth is somehow astonished at the revelation. Though astonished is too strong of a word for our silent protagonist. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Fire Emblem Heroes which somehow has better writing than this? Three Houses has been a fun sandbox, but I really hope things pick up now that I’m five years into the future.
9. Yakuza Kiwami 2
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is my least favorite Yakuza game that I’ve played thus far. Granted that list only includes Yakuza 0 and the original Kiwami, I had really high hopes for the title going in. It delivers on some, but not all of the points I expected, but overall it was enjoyable. The return of the Cabaret Clubs minigame was certainly welcome and a fun reminder of how good Yakuza 0 was. The new characters are wonderful additions and I look forward to seeing where they go. At this point, I’m just a little worn down from playing so many Yakuza titles. I’m going to give it a bit of a break before diving into The Remastered Collection.
8. Elder Scrolls Online
This was the first year I got into playing with a group in Elder Scrolls Online. Sure I’ve played with my wife pretty frequently, but we made legitimate attempts to do both normal and veteran dungeons, which is the true endgame content. Unlike other MMOs, raids are actually easier to do, they simply require more players. While I’ve definitely been more into ESO on a hours played basis, this was the year where I dove into what the title’s endgame is really like. I thoroughly enjoyed what I found though I’m nowhere near a true endgame build even with 800 hours played.
7. God of War (2017)
For me, the early months of 2020 were largely spent catching up on PlayStation titles I never got around to playing. God of War was one of the many and it was a huge breath of fresh air to be honest. I never expected a franchise known for gritty, gory, thoughtless violence could end up the exact opposite. The relaunched God of War is full of love and was a fresh breath of cold, winter air. Out of all the titles I played this year, it’s easily the one I wish I had spent a little more time with.
6. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Only a few weeks after the announcement of Hellblade 2, I finally decided it was time for me to experience the original title. I mean it when I tell you there’s nothing that could have adequately prepared me for what I was about to experience. Going in having never seen gameplay or knowing what the story was about is easily one of the highlights of my year. A haunting experience, through-and-through.
5. Fall Guys
After the year of Battle Royales, Mediatonic decided to come out with a Gang Beasts meets – well none of the other Battle Royales really compare. My point being, after 2019, I was thoroughly done with giant multiplayer games where only one person can come out on top. At least I thought I was until Fall Guys came out of nowhere. I’ve put about 60 hours into it since release, which isn’t a ton, but the game gets me to come together with three other friends more than any other game I’ve played in the last few years. As a predominantly solo gamer, that’s saying a lot.
4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
My anticipation for Animal Crossing was so great that we went out and purchased a Switch Lite to go alongside our main console. For a few months, New Horizons was my go to activity every morning before work. It also happened to be one of the biggest titles I’ve ever covered for Fanbyte. There’s not a ton to say about Animal Crossing that everyone doesn’t already know to be honest. I have fond memories of my wife and I both going on Turnip Exchange every week, looking for good deals, and working together when one of us had good prices. A mostly fantastic community and a much needed shared experience during a troublesome 2020.
3. Destiny 2
If you take a look back at my previous four years of Destiny 2, you might notice that Year 3 was by far the most I’ve ever played Bungie’s looter shooter. I don’t think Shadowkeep was particularly the expansion that I wanted, but rather, the game really found its stride in the lead up to Year 4. It was a perfect storm, really. The game was in a great place, lots of things felt obtainable (I finally got my first title), and Bungie heavily incentivized running all the raids again. The Fanbyte crew did so as a group and honestly it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing. Except Garden of Salvation, fuck that raid.
2. Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator was easily my biggest surprise of the year. I only downloaded it because it was free and thought heck, maybe I’d enjoy it. Turns out that was an understatement. Over the next few months I jumped from topic to topic. From simply learning how to fly a plane to understanding the different autopilot systems. Then I fell into the rabbit hole of trying to follow real world VFR and IFR flight rules and flight planning including arrivals, approaches, departures, and taxiing instructions.
While I never got to the point of buying a flight stick and throttle quadrant – which is good by the way, those things are still as rare as a PS5 or Xbox Series X – I did end up trying and subscribing to a bunch of external flight sim products. From Navigraph Charts which provides details on thousands of airports around the world, to OnAir which effectively functions as an external campaign where you earn money by completing jobs in an effort to build up your own fleet of planes.
I’ve honestly spent an equal amount of time in Microsoft Flight Simulator as I have out of it, researching ways to generate random flights, methods of injecting real world traffic chatter so the game isn’t as dead, and trying out tons of mods. It’s something I’ve legitimately never experienced with any other game before and has opened me up to trying more simulation games in the future.
1. Persona 5 Royal
It was honestly hard to decide between Microsoft Flight Simulator and Persona 5 Royal for my top spot, but in the end I’m giving it to Persona. At some point near the start of this quarantine, my wife stopped and commented on how she couldn’t remember the last time I played a game so frequently and for such long stints. For the most part, I find it incredibly difficult to play one game longer than two to four hours in one sitting. I just can’t convince myself to play one game all day long. Inevitably I end up feeling the need to take a break and play something else. Persona 5 is the one game in recent memory where that hasn’t been true.
Perhaps Three Houses would have been better if Persona 5 wasn’t also this year, I can never be sure, but it absolutely nailed the relationship management aspect. Sure, the combat was…frustrating at times. It’s still one of the few games where I had to drop it down to super easy because I was under leveled and didn’t feel like mindlessly grinding just to continue. But for all it’s faults, Persona 5 is a title that will stick with me for some time. I just wish I could experience the soundtrack all over again. It still hits, but words cannot describe the feeling of walking into Leblanc and just sitting there with my eyes closed. And god forbid it was raining outside. Such inner peace. Here’s to you, Behind the Mask.
Games That Missed the Cut
Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Epic Seven, No Man’s Sky 3.0, Crusader Kings 3, FUSER
For every game but Assassin’s Creed: Origins, they missed the cut because while I enjoyed them, they didn’t hook me in enough to rack up a significant amount of game time. All currently sit under about 15 hours and while they were fun, that’s not good enough to make this list.
The lone exception is Origins which I gave up on after about 30-40 hours. I had really high expectations as it’s the first Assassin’s Creed game I’ve tried since 2013’s Black Flag which I played at release. Even with seven years between games, the switch in playstyle wasn’t even what did me in. Instead it was a lack of interesting characters and the location. Egypt is cool as hell, but there’s just so much empty space and desert. Bayek is uninteresting and my entire time was spent wishing I was either playing as Aya or that she played a much more prominent and consistent role. Here’s to hoping Odyssey hooks me in better. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is one of my favorites and I’d hate for that to no longer be the case.