2020 has been an exciting (and somewhat turbulent) year for gaming. This year we ushered in a new console generation, in the form of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, and saw the release of some big hitter games we’ve been waiting years for - along with some dark horses.
It hasn’t all been smooth running. But while the Covid 19 pandemic has seen game development disrupted and some big titles delayed into next year, it’s also highlighted the importance of gaming as we have seen gamers from all walks of life embracing the power of play.
Despite the circumstances, we’ve seen some fantastic games releasing this year. We’ve pushed and shoved our way to a coveted crown, revisited Midgar, hack n’ slashed demons and soaked in the ambiance of ancient Japan. But which games have truly stood out for us in 2020?
It hasn’t been easy, but the TechRadar team has put their heads together and thrashed out which games were our favorites this year. These aren’t necessarily the games we think have had the most cultural or technological impact, nor are they ranked, they’re simply the team’s favorite games from this year. Let’s be honest, you may not agree with all our picks - as we all have different tastes and opinions - but it's hard to put together a list that will please everyone.
So, without further ado, these are TechRadar's games of the year 2020.
Best Virtual Reality Game
It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Half-Life: Alyx redefined AAA VR games in 2020. It set a new standard for immersive gameplay while simultaneously extending a bridge back to some of PC gaming’s most vaunted games. It was a tough task but, after years of work, Valve created a sequel to its groundbreaking franchise in a new medium that is fresh, innovative and completely deserving of all the praise it’s been getting this year.
Honorable mention: Star Wars: Squadrons
Best Mobile Game
Genshin Impact is everything mobile gaming hasn’t been in the last decade: it’s expansive, it’s cutting-edge and it rarely begs you to fork over your wallet. While some have called it a Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild clone, Genshin Impact finds its footing as an online action RPG with fast combat, varied spells and, of course, recruitable allies.
The combat is simply a joy to be a part of and while we don’t love the end-game loot grind, the beginning segments are exceptionally good - especially if you’ve got three friends to play alongside. If you haven’t played it yet, there’s nothing to lose by giving it a shot. Worst case scenario, you lose a few hours and the best case is that you’ve got a fun, free new game with a ton of content to sink your teeth into.
Honorable mention: Legends of Runeterra
Best Action Game
After 2016's Doom, you might've expected ID Software to do a big and better version of the same wave-based demon combat in Martian environments. Instead, Doom has been retooled into a hybrid of FPS, platformer and resource management game, building on the 2016 game's knockback-finisher combat to create an intense arcade shooter where you're constantly balancing ammo, health and shield needs.
It's a real treat, and one of the most cathartic games ever made – it's a heavy metal album cover come to life. Its secrets are actually fun to find, too, which so many developers don't seem to understand when they're filling a game out with collectibles.
Honorable mention: Hades
Check out our full Doom Eternal review.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Anticipation for Final Fantasy 7's remake was out of control – and the first part of Square Enix's revamp doesn't entirely live up to it, with a truncated-feeling Midgar and a sometimes overstretched main story. That said, it looks incredible in places, recaptures the tone of the original perfectly while making some choice updates, and the hybrid of turn-based and real-time combat means the battles are tons of fun. It bodes well for the next few chapters of the remake, which are looking like they'll be more than a simple retread of the original's plot beats.
Honorable mention: Demon’s Souls
Check out our full Final Fantasy 7 Remake review.
Best Online Multiplayer Game
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and World of Warcraft Shadowlands
Is it a cop out to pick two games for the award for the best online multiplayer game of 2020? Yes it is. And yet, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and World of Warcraft Shadowlands did something special for their respective online communities this year and both deserve the recognition.
Fall Guys from developer Mediatonic became a smash success practically overnight by mixing a game show-style battle royale with the cute aesthetic of blobby, floppy avatars. The chase for a crown was maddening and addicting, but the taste of victory was always worth the struggle.
Shadowlands, on the other hand, gave something new to one of the most loyal communities of online gamers with exceptional endgame systems and new graphics tech makes the game look more modern than ever before. It’s right up there with Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Pandaria as some of the best expansions the game has ever seen, and deserves a spot on any self-respecting game of the year 2020 list.
Best Action/Adventure Game
Ghost of Tsushima
Yes, the comparisons to Assassin’s Creed are valid, and yes, Jin was a bit of a dull protagonist. But those two elements aside, Ghost of Tsushima was a sweeping and dramatic adventure. It’s katana combat is precise and bloody (stylish, one-hit-one-kill standoffs should appear in all games from here on in), and its recreation of feudal Japan lush and dreamy. One of the PS4’s best-looking games, it’s a fitting swansong for the console and a new series that we can’t wait to see more of in the future. Akira Kurosawa, eat your heart out.
Honorable mention: Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Check out our full Ghost of Tsushima review.
Best Racing/Sports Game
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2
Can we kick it? Yes, we can! Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a sublime remake of the two classic titles, and a wonderful reminder of why a generation of gamers were so infatuated with popping Ollies, kickflips and racking up crazy score combos all those years ago. With sumptuous new visuals and excellent quality of life additions from later entries in the series, like the ‘revert manual’ mechanic from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, the satisfying gameplay that these great skateboarding games pioneered certainly haven’t.
Honorable mentions: MLB The Show 20 and DIRT 5
Check out our Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 review.
Best Fighting Game
Streets of Rage 4
More than just a retro throwback, Streets of Rage 4 brings the classic Sega series kicking and punching into the modern era. Stylish cartoony graphics meld with bone crunching action, with a faster, smoother feel to the combat than the series has ever had. This is the Streets of Rage you’ve been playing in your head since you were seven years old, come to life.
Honorable mentions: One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows and Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
Best Narrative Game
The Last of Us: Part II
We waited seven years for the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Last of Us - but the wait was certainly worth it. The Last of Us: Part II is an emotional, captivating (and sometimes uncomfortable) title that explores themes of vengeance, tribalism, and the gray areas of morality. It’s hard to describe this stunning sequel without spoiling the game’s story, but Naughty Dog has done a stellar job of building on the relationship players had developed with the series’ characters and implementing twists and turns that sometimes had us shouting at our TVs or squirming in our seats.
Honorable mentions: Cyberpunk 2077
Check out our The Last of Us 2 review.
Best Indie Game
The rogue-like game for people that hate rogue-likes, Hades is full of literal endless charm that coaxes you into playing for ‘just another hour’. From the brilliant soundtrack to the amusing character interactions, Supergiant Games has created a seamless mesh between genres with heavy RPG elements to gameplay that resulted in one of the most exhilarating experiences of 2020.
You play as Zagreus, son of the titular Hades, slashing his way through the ever-changing layers of the underworld to defy your fathers will and finally escape your homely prison. Assisted by the greek pantheon and various legendary weapons, every playthrough feels fresh and addictive, proving that you don’t need to create an open world sandbox to provide satisfying character attachment and gameplay. Just remember to give Cerberus a pet on your way out the door, you blood-soaked monster.
Honorable mentions: Bugsnax and Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Game of the Year 2020
Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima is our Game of the Year winner, and it’s easy to see why. The game has received two major new updates since its release: Legends, an expansive new multiplayer mode, and a 60fps patch when playing on PS5. These two additions have only served to add more value and improve on a fantastic overall experience. With its phenomenal visuals that often wow on a HDR capable display, and innovative gameplay systems like the guiding wind, if you own a PS4 or have recently picked up a PS5, don’t miss this excellent PlayStation exclusive.
Honorable mention: The Last of Us: Part II
Games we’re most excited about in 2021
It has been a tough decade for the Fable faithful out there. After finally getting Fable 3 in 2010 in Xbox 360’s twilight years, Microsoft got our hopes up that maybe Fable Legends might see the light of day on Xbox One, only to pull the plug after four long agonizing years of teases and trailers. Now in the hands of Playground Games - best known for its work on the exceptional Forza Horizon series - we have a renewed hope that Fable 4, or whatever it ends up being called, could be the Albion homecoming we’ve waited for these last 10 long years.
Agent 47 is back and it's not long until we get to see what his name chapter will entail, with the third mainline entry in the series scheduled to release in January 2021. So far, we know Hitman 3 will see the iconic assassin doing his usual 9-5 of assassination tricks, from falling chandeliers to sneakily throwing someone off the side of a building, but the latest entry also promises more avenues than ever before to complete your murderous tasks.
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West was confirmed by Sony during a PlayStation showcase in June 2020. The first, and only, trailer for the game we’ve seen so far revealed that Aloy will be traveling to America’s wild frontier (and we’ll be spending some time exploring underwater). We still don’t know a whole lot about Horizon Forbidden West, but we’re excited to play the next chapter in Aloy’s journey and see how Guerrilla Games harness the power of the PS5.
God of War Sequel (Ragnarok)
Sony officially confirmed the sequel to the critically acclaimed God of War (2018) is in the works with a teaser trailer at the end of its PlayStation showcase in September 2020. We don’t know much about the God of War sequel yet, but Sony’s teaser suggests that the game will focus on Ragnarok. In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of events and battles that see the end of days and the death of icon Norse Gods, including Odin himself. We’re hoping to jump straight into the action with Kratos as the events unfold, and can’t wait to see how this title will look on PS5.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
How do you top a game like Breath of the Wild? Well, we’re going to find out. Nintendo confirmed during its E3 2019 presentation that a sequel to the lauded title is in the works - though we’re not quite sure when we’ll get our hands on it. We don’t know much about Breath of the Wild 2, but we’re hoping Nintendo builds on Hyrule while adding some new fresh twists.