2020 was a bad year in a lot of regards, but thankfully, it wasn’t all bad in the gaming industry. We had a lot of really good games to see us through the pandemic, and while the games were really the only good thing to come out of the gaming industry in 2020, there were a lot of high points on the release schedule. We’ll get to the bad parts of the gaming industry in 2020 with a separate article, but for now, let’s recap the year in gaming by running down some of the solid titles we saw release in the past 12 months.
Even though Microsoft and Sony both launched new consoles in 2020, the big game releases didn’t really slow down all that much. The PlayStation 4, for instance, had two huge first-party games in The Last of Us Part 2 and Ghost of Tsushima. Both games were met with very solid reviews, and though The Last of Us Part 2 had a more divisive reaction among fans, it went on to sweep The Game Awards in December.
There were two games that seemed to define the early stages of the pandemic for a lot of players: DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Both games launched on the same day in March, which is when statewide lockdown orders really started going into effect in the United States. With many people looking at spending a lot of time at home, DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons both became highly-anticipated games, with the latter even taking on a life of its own as something of an antidote for the anxiety of life during a pandemic.
Though Microsoft has seemingly eased up on exclusives in recent years as it shifted focus to building out Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud game streaming, it had two big exclusives itself in 2020. First was Ori and the Will of the Wisps from Moon Studios, which is required playing for any Metroidvania fan, but the company’s biggest release of the year came from the revival of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Not only did Microsoft Flight Simulator manage to snag critical acclaim, but it also seems to be a hit with fans. How do we know? Because flight sticks are still sold out everywhere, months after Microsoft Flight Simulator‘s release. As someone who would really like to buy their first HOTAS to use in Star Wars: Squadrons, that isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it certainly speaks to the success of Microsoft Flight Simulator if nothing else.
Speaking of Star Wars: Squadrons, it’s worth mentioning that game specifically because it’s a Star Wars game without the nickel and diming we’ve become used to from Electronic Arts. It was just a few short years ago that Electronic Arts and DICE found themselves on the wrong side of the Star Wars fanbase with Battlefront 2 and its overbearing loot boxes, and in the time since then, we’ve received two Star Wars games without aggressive post-launch monetization – Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars: Squadrons. Any year we get a Star Wars game that launches without a bunch of nonsense microtransactions and loot boxes can’t be that bad.
It was also a good year for the indie scene. Hades, for instance, exited early access on PC and launched on Nintendo Switch, quickly becoming the best game of the year for a lot of people. We also saw the release of the long-awaited Spelunky 2, while fan favorites Stardew Valley and Terraria both received massive, free updates that vastly expanded the content in both games, proving once again that indie games are really where the value is these days.
The hits weren’t even limited to consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, either. Those who managed to secure the PlayStation 5 had a couple of launch exclusives to play in Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls. Though Spider-Man: Miles Morales was on the short side, its Ultimate Edition did come bundled with the fantastic Spider-Man Remastered, while Demon’s Souls single-handedly had droves of people clamoring for a PlayStation 5.
Even Astro’s Playroom, the pack-in game for the PlayStation 5 that’s intended to show off the capabilities of the DualShock controller, is a solid game in its own right. It should be the first game that every new PlayStation 5 owner plays, even if it’s just for a little bit, because it shows what the DualSense can do in impressive fashion.
Good news on the next-gen front as well: both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 seem to be significant steps forward for gaming consoles. They’re both expensive at $500 a pop, but the SSDs at the center of each console make them feel super fast compared to the previous generation. As game developers get more comfortable making games for these consoles, we should see some really impressive things.
2020 saw a lot of really good games release, and given the sheer number of indie titles that launch each year, this list probably only scratches the surface of new games that arrived on the scene. Even though it was a strong year for games and the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft don’t disappoint, there were a lot of lows throughout 2020 for the gaming industry, and we’ll be covering those in the next article. For now, head down to the comments section and let us know what your favorite games of the year were.