The end of 2020 is coming to a close. Ravaged and torn by the effects of COVID-19 all across the world, it did little to quell the might and passion of players everywhere. The 2020 Game Awards have come and gone and all remaining major releases have been pushed to 2021. All there is time to do now is reflect—the ups and downs of a continuously evolving industry and the impact they’ve had on billions of people, no matter the circumstances. In this time, what better way to jog along memory lane than to succinctly organize the best that 2020 had to offer? This is KeenGamer’s top games of 2020, voted on by the writers that make up the site.
Before we settle in, be sure to also check out our favorite games as organized by genre! Or read them together, both at once. Whatever works for you!
Every game that got at least one vote—whether as a first choice or second choice—will be included in the following list, organized by most to least overall votes. Let’s take a gander!
The Last of Us Part II
[9 first choices, 2 second choices]
Five years after their dangerous journey across the post-pandemic United States, Ellie and Joel have settled down in Jackson, Wyoming. Living amongst a thriving community of survivors has allowed them peace and stability, despite the constant threat of the infected and other, more desperate survivors.
When a violent event disrupts that peace, Ellie embarks on a relentless journey to carry out justice and find closure. As she hunts those responsible one by one, she is confronted with the devastating physical and emotional repercussions of her actions.
“For me this game is the best because it tells a powerful story and isn’t afraid to take risks; it doesn’t tell the story that a lot of people expected and that’s a good thing because Naughty Dog are the experts. The ways that it makes you feel as a player are incredible with its story of revenge, empathy and trauma. By forcing you to face your own violent actions as a player you eventually realise that you (Ellie) might be the ‘bad guy’ – even if a concept like that doesn’t really exist in the world of The Last of Us.
This is also alongside flawless animation, music, gameplay, performances, graphics etc. No other game this year (or ever actually) has stayed with me in the same way as The Last of Us Part II. I think this is because of how the game connects with the player in ways and attempts to manipulate you on such an emotional level.“
“The way I picked my Game of the Year boils down to this question: ‘What’s the game I was most obsessed with?’ For me, it was The Last of Us Part II. Once “that moment” happened, I couldn’t go more than 20 minutes without playing it or thinking about playing it.“
“One of the most compelling narratives in a video game with a strong emotional punch. The gameplay took everything from the first game and improved on it tenfold.“
“Issues with pacing and crunch culture in its development aside, the feats of The Last of Us Part 2 cannot be denied. As well as being one of the most visually exquisite games to date, the way that this game alters your perception of what a villain is, remains as nothing like anything that has ever come before or after in gaming as a medium.
The sequel rejuvenates both the exhilarating combat mechanics along with the parallels between what it means to be a story’s protagonist and antagonist. Whether playing as the beloved Ellie or the fantastically-written Abby, The Last of Us Part 2 redefines the lesson that the role of the hero or villain is all but a matter of perspective. Great feats in storytelling can often be polarising, making those that are truly groundbreaking prove themselves by rising above the controversy and standing the test of time. The impact felt by The Last of Us Part 2‘s superb narrative will be felt unchanged for years to come.“
Ghost of Tsushima
[5 first choices, 6 second choices]
In the late 13th century, the Mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning general, Khotun Khan.
As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the Mongol assault, samurai warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved to do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima.
“Despite years of open world games, this one provided an experience like no other. From its elegant but deadly combat to the beautiful world of Tsushima, the tale of samurai Jin Sakai is enthralling from start to finish in a way that few other games accomplish.“
“In an industry becoming increasingly riddled with open world fatigue, Ghost of Tsushima jumped out of the shadows and stealth killed our expectations. In the final months of the current console generation, this magnificent tale of a samurai sacrificing his honorific warrior code to protect those he loves doubles as a reminder as to why exploring a vast open world can be one of wonder and majesty.
Beautiful in scale and a marvel to behold, riding your horse through the massive island of Tsushima never becomes tiresome, with each of its many quests and collectibles adding a sense of fulfillment and admiration for the game’s world upon completion. Paired with a refreshing combat system along with a nuanced tale of loss, vengeance, family and love, Ghost of Tsushima is a journey of twists and tales like no other in 2020. Perfectly paced throughout, the story of Jin Sakai never lets up, both when it comes to immersing you in its narrative and sticking with you after finishing each act.“
– Ben Williams
[5 first choices, 1 second choice]
As the immortal Prince of the Underworld, you’ll wield the powers and mythic weapons of Olympus to break free from the clutches of the god of the dead himself, while growing stronger and unraveling more of the story with each unique escape attempt.
“Roguelikes are something I really enjoy in concept, but it takes a lot for them to click with me. Hades had its hooks in immediately. Aside from the fantastic gameplay and beautiful art direction, my life-long fascination with Greek mythology was renewed, as well as my deep attraction to fictional characters. How is everyone in this game so attractive?“
– Geoff Girardin
“In a year where some big studios came under fire for crunch policies and releasing games that didn’t quite live up to their hype, the positive working environment of Supergiant Games just quietly put out one of the best games of 2020. I found Hades an absolute delight to play – a mind-bendingly polished experience with a colossal amount of depth and replayability built in and little details out the wazoo to make that core roguelike experience of dying over and over again much more enjoyable.
The varied and action-packed gameplay (including an admirable approach to adaptive difficulty), exquisite visual style and incredible music would be good enough on its own, but the team also managed to squeeze in an impressive roster of wonderfully charismatic, beautifully drawn and expertly voiced NPCs, each with their own side stories that unfold a little further each time you return to the House of Hades or encounter them on one of your runs. Whether you’re an avid speed-runner or just there for the story, Hades is sure to be a joy to play.“
– Max Fagandini
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
[4 first choices, 1 second choice]
Escape to your island getaway—however, whenever, and wherever you want! Collect bugs, decorate your paradise throughout the day, or enjoy sunset on the beach while fishing in the ocean. Craft everything from tools to creature comforts as you create and customize your island community. Show off your island utopia to family and friends—or pack your bags and visit theirs.
“My love for the series has never waned, even when my attention has. But New Horizons was the first Animal Crossing game to release when I’ve got a family to share it with. Besides the many hours I’ve dropped into it over the year, I was able to share an island with my son, and my wife even got in on the action. Now, she plays more than any of us, and I had to get a Switch Lite because our family console is always in use. GOTY.“
“In many ways, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was exactly the game we all needed this year. Released back in the heady days of March as the pandemic was really starting to get underway, it provided folks with a calm, idyllic sort of escapism even as we hunkered down for quarantines and lockdowns. The chipper desert island paradise sim even gave us a chance to visit and hang out with our friends in a way, as we chartered a Dodo Airlines flight to Isle Beback or Quarantino or some other humorously-named destination.
Nintendo made sure to keep things moving over the course of the year too, with several content-heavy updates drip-fed to us over 2020 to keep us occupied searching for pearls or building snowmen. Just… nobody mention the Bunny Day fiasco, OK?“
“New Horizons managed improve on the older games by bringing certain aspects into the modern era, while still capturing the overall spirit of the series. Launching right as people all over the world had to start staying indoors for the pandemic, New Horizons provided a cheerful experience that let us gather with friends and simply enjoy each other’s islands and company. Though it isn’t perfect, it really feels like a game made for this year.“
[1 first choice, 4 second choices]
Hell’s armies have invaded Earth. Become the Slayer in an epic single-player campaign to conquer demons across dimensions and stop the final destruction of humanity. The only thing they fear… is you.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
[2 first choices, 2 second choices]
The world has fallen under the control of the Shinra Electric Power Company, a shadowy corporation controlling the planet’s very life force as mako energy.
In the sprawling city of Midgar, an anti-Shinra organization calling themselves Avalanche have stepped up their resistance. Cloud Strife, a former member of Shinra’s elite SOLDIER unit now turned mercenary, lends his aid to the group, unaware of the epic consequences that await him.
“Picking this game for GOTY was truly a pick from the heart. No other game this year captured the same sense of wonder as FFVII Remake did in its opening seconds; seeing Midgar from above, over twenty years on from the original, is a memory that will stay with me forever. Re-telling one of the greatest gaming stories ever told, Final Fantasy VII Remake is everything I dreamed it would be.“
– Will Hitchcock
“Before its launch, we all wondered if Final Fantasy VII Remake would balance introducing new players to the world of Midgar while also pleasing longtime fans. After only a couple of hours into my first-ever Final Fantasy, the hooks were in deep enough that I struggled to ever put the controller down. This remake offers stunning visuals, a soundtrack that still finds its way into my head months after beating the game, and, most importantly, exciting characters.
For most of my life, I had assumed that Cloud Strife would be a bit more cliché as the protagonist but was surprised to see his growth in this beginning chapter. This game has officially piqued my interest in the long-running series, and I can’t wait for the next chapter to be released so I can figure out what the heck a Cait Sith is.“
[2 first choices, 2 second choices]
Cyberpunk 2077 is an open-world, action-adventure story set in Night City, a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification. You play as V, a mercenary outlaw going after a one-of-a-kind implant that is the key to immortality. You can customize your character’s cyberware, skillset and playstyle, and explore a vast city where the choices you make shape the story and the world around you.
“Cyberpunk 2077 is a game where your choices matter; the actions you take whether its gameplay or narrative have an impact. The streets of Night City are filled with lore and stories that are worth exploring. It’s addictive as well as imaginative the more you dive deeper into this hyper-tech dystopia.“
[1 first choice, 1 second choice]
Play as Stella, ferrymaster to the deceased, a Spiritfarer. Build a boat to explore the world, then befriend and care for spirits before finally releasing them into the afterlife. Experience moving, emotional stories filled with unforgettable moments. Spend relaxing quality time with your spirit passengers, create lasting memories, and, ultimately, learn how to say goodbye to your cherished friends. What will you leave behind?
“Spiritfarer was the game I didn’t know I needed until I started playing it. While the core gameplay seems pretty simple on the surface, the narrative drew me into the game’s warm embrace and I never wanted to let go. In this game, your goal is simply to help lost spirits find their way to the afterlife by inviting them on your ship and helping them find closure.
Spiritfarer is a beautiful game that allowed me to invest in wonderfully written characters and then let me give them a proper good-bye. Every element of the title works in harmony with each other, from the hand-drawn animations to the incredibly catchy music.“
– Kyle Chamaillard
[1 first choice, 1 second choice]
An island outside of reality. A rogue human civilization hoping to resurrect dead alien gods. A murder behind locked doors. Paradise is an island that regenerates every few millennia. The psychic power that the alien worshipers within release into the universe is meant to feed and eventually resurrect their fallen deities. But this force also attracts undesired interest from demons, who eventually corrupt each island — until a new alternate reality is birthed by the Council.
The system isn’t perfect, but it will be one day — on Perfect 25, the next island-to-be. But on the eve of rebirth, the Council is murdered and Paradise is killed. In the aftermath, the “investigation freak” Lady Love Dies is summoned from exile to find the culprit. This is the crime to end all crimes.
“This has to be the most stylish game I have played in a long time, an engaging whodunnit from start to finish with great characters and a unique, compelling story and setting.“
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
[2 second choices]
In the latest adventure in the Marvel’s Spider-Man universe, teenager Miles Morales is adjusting to his new home while following in the footsteps of his mentor, Peter Parker, as a new Spider-Man.
But when a fierce power struggle threatens to destroy his new home, the aspiring hero realizes that with great power, there must also come great responsibility. To save all of Marvel’s New York, Miles must take up the mantle of Spider-Man and own it.
[1 first choice]
Following the death of his parents, Oran has returned home. But things have changed in the town of Vann’s Point and Oran hopes to reconnect with those he once knew. Although, not everyone is open to a prodigal son, and it’s up to you to work hard and earn your place back in town.
“Everything you could possibly want in a retro Zelda title in an age where everyone has already copied The Legend of Zelda to some extent and still be impressed with the results. This is an indie game studio to watch in the future.“
[1 first choice]
In his quest for power, the 12th King of Boletaria, King Allant channeled the ancient Soul Arts, awakening a demon from the dawn of time itself, The Old One. With the summoning of The Old One, a colorless fog swept across the land, unleashing nightmarish creatures that hungered for human souls. Those whose souls were stripped from them, lost their minds – left only with the desire to attack the sane that remained.
Now, Boletaria is cut off from the outside world, and the knights who dare penetrate the deep fog to free the land from its plight, are never seen again. As a lone warrior who has braved the baneful fog, you must face the hardest of challenges to earn the title “Slayer of Demons” and send The Old One back to its slumber.
Demon’s Souls is available to purchase via PS5.
Persona 5 Royal
[1 first choice]
Wear the mask. Reveal your truth. Don the mask of Joker and join the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. Break free from the chains of modern society and stage grand heists to infiltrate the minds of the corrupt and make them change their ways!
“Not often have I played a game that merges all its elements together so effortlessly, and where some games may pull this off well, Persona 5 Royal did this with flying colours. Amazing story and characters, diverse and layered gameplay and a ton of new features and extras made this already great game even better. It’s an RPG masterclass, and deserves nothing less than being my pick for GOTY.“
Persona 5 Royal is available to purchase via PS4.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
[1 first choice]
Become Eivor, a mighty Viking raider and lead your clan from the harsh shores of Norway to a new home amid the lush farmlands of ninth-century England. Explore a beautiful, mysterious open world where you’ll face brutal enemies, raid fortresses, build your clan’s new settlement, and forge alliances to win glory and earn a place in Valhalla.
England in the age of the Vikings is a fractured nation of petty lords and warring kingdoms. Beneath the chaos lies a rich and untamed land waiting for a new conqueror. Will it be you?
[1 first choice]
Explore the cursed ruins of failed tech startups in this dystopian dungeon crawler! As an unpaid intern in the dystopian city of Neo-Cascadia, you’ll wield office junk as weaponry as you make your way through the offbeat procedural dungeons beneath your company campus.
[1 second choice]
Sheepo is a quirky metroidvania platformer featuring a shape-shifting sheep-thing, who must traverse an uncharted planet in order to collect samples of each living species for an intergalactic species database.
To capture a creature, Sheepo must find their unhatched egg, which happen to be highly guarded by that species’ “queen” (aka, a boss). With each egg Sheepo collects, you then gain the ability to transform into that creature on contact, and explore the deeper reaches of the planets sprawling environment.
“This is an incredibly bizarre game that seemed to be thought up on the spot by a magnificently creative mind. This, combined with the fantastic implementation of Metroidvania goodness, makes SHEEPO an underrated gem that more people need to discover.“
– Dakota Gordon
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
[1 second choice]
Black Ops Cold War will drop fans into the depths of the Cold War’s volatile geopolitical battle of the early 1980s. Nothing is ever as it seems in a gripping single-player Campaign, where players will come face-to-face with historical figures and hard truths, as they battle around the globe through iconic locales like East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey, Soviet KGB headquarters and more.
“Although it hasn’t been out very long, Black Ops: Cold War has tons of potential that’s easy to see. As someone that’s been in the Call of Duty community since Black Ops 1, I’ve witnessed what makes an outstanding COD game, and what can cause one to “fall off” before the next title releases. With Cold War, it feels like the community has been thoroughly acknowledged. Many things we’ve been asking for has been implemented through and through within this game.
The countless ways to customize your load out to accompany your play style, the ability to prestige within each season, the opportunity to unlock new gameplay items without having to get through a paywall — the list goes on. Season 1 recently released, and it is packed with tons of awesome content to enhance gameplay. Campaign mode is back. Zombies is back. Being able to level up in a streamlined way that reflects in every mode in the game gives players more encouragement to try out different modes they typically might not usually delve into. I’m excited to see where the course of the year takes us with Cold War, because it’s starting off with a bang. No pun intended.“
Resident Evil 3
[1 second choice]
Jill Valentine is one of the last remaining people in Raccoon City to witness the atrocities Umbrella performed. To stop her, Umbrella unleashes their ultimate secret weapon: Nemesis!
[1 second choice]
Set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Alyx Vance and her father Eli mount an early resistance to the Combine’s brutal occupation of Earth.
The loss of the Seven-Hour War is still fresh. In the shadow of a rising Combine fortress known as the Citadel, residents of City 17 learn to live under the rule of their invaders. But among this scattered population are two of Earth’s most resourceful scientists: Dr. Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx, the founders of a fledgling resistance.
Half-Life: Alyx is available to purchase via Steam. Note that the game is a VR-exclusive.
[1 second choice]
Monster Jaunt is a 4-player minigame party with more variety and less randomness. Compete in a diverse assortment of minigames between rounds of a simple-but-deep strategic board game.
From high-speed penguin races to competitive inventory management to cerebral memory challenges, twenty-three challenging and varied minigames await. Whether you want a fresh take on a classic minigame or a brand new concept you’ve never played before, there’s a minigame for you!
Monster Jaunt is available to purchase via Steam.