2020 has been a unique year for games, in many ways, because no one could’ve predicted it. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world across numerous fronts, and the games industry was no exception. Still, developers and companies managed to stay the course amid challenging times, meeting the demand of those quarantining with an abundance of fantastic games and exciting new hardware on which to play them. As you can imagine, the quality on display across this year’s finest games has made it difficult for us at GameSpot to choose what makes it into our Best of 2020 awards. But after spending numerous hours across multiple rigorous deliberations, we have finally narrowed down a list of 10 nominees for our Best Game of 2020.
Below you can find the game nominees we consider to be the most memorable and innovative games of the past year. Each nominee below is qualified to be considered our game of the year, but like all prestigious awards, there can only be one winner. On December 17, we will unveil which of these exceptional games takes home GameSpot’s coveted Best Game of 2020 award. But until then, we want to give each of the nominees a moment to shine and hear your thoughts on what we consider to be the best games of the past year.
Our nominees for this year’s game of the year isn’t the only thing we’ve prepared. In the lead up to our big reveal, we’ve also looked back at the best games on every major platform and weighed in on the performance of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo this past console generation. To find all of our latest and upcoming content, check out our Best Games of 2020 hub. Though, if you’re keen to look to the future, you can also check out our Most Anticipated Games Of 2021 hub, which houses our features around some of the biggest games to play next year.
Editor’s Note: the following list is organized by each game’s release date.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a slower pace even than other Animal Crossing games, and at times, that can feel unnecessarily restrictive. But there’s still plenty to do, and each of those activities feeds into the next brilliantly for a rewarding and relentlessly cheerful experience. New Horizons certainly came at the right time, and its strengths are particularly comforting right now. I’m as excited to see what random events await me each morning as I am glad to have it during hard times, and that’s sure to keep me coming back for the foreseeable future.” — Kallie Plagge, Reviews Editor
Read our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review.
“Half-Life: Alyx is familiar. In comparison to previous installments in the franchise, it even looks a bit samey. You get guns, you fight terrifying headcrab-controlled zombies, mow down the militant Combine, solve puzzles, and try to liberate a world from a multi-dimensional alien takeover. On paper, it’s hard to pinpoint a hugely notable difference between Half-Life: Alyx and Half-Life 2, a 16-year-old game. Yet, Half-Life: Alyx is unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Yes, it’s a VR game, and the immersion that comes from that defines the experience. However, beyond the virtual reality is a video game so meticulously crafted and so spellbinding in its execution that the familiarity and simplicity becomes a stroke of brilliance.” — Kurt Indovina, Host/Prdocuer
Read our full Half-Life: Alyx Best of 2020 Nominee write-up.
“As Persona 5 Royal comes to a close, it tries to ease you into its end with heartfelt scenes, some new and some familiar. But in doing so, it only makes it harder to say goodbye again. Persona 5 Royal is many things: a collection of small inspiring stories, an ambitious harrowing journey with some good friends, a stunning visual and auditory experience, a resounding call to action. By refining what was already great and building on its best qualities with a brilliant new story arc, Persona 5 Royal asserts itself as an unforgettable and empowering RPG that should be recognized as one of the best games of our time.”
Read our full Persona 5 Royal review.
“Regardless of your history with the original game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding achievement. The wait for its release was a long one, but in gameplay, story, characters, and music, it delivers–the wait was worth it. For first-time players, it’s an opportunity to understand why Final Fantasy VII is held in such high regard. It’s the chance to experience a multifaceted story that grapples with complex subject matter, be in the company of memorable characters, and be moved by their plight. For returning fans, this isn’t the Final Fantasy VII your mind remembers, it’s the one your heart always knew it to be.”
Read our full Final Fantasy VII Remake review.
“In the original Last of Us, I wanted to make Joel’s bad decisions right along with him; I knew it was “wrong,” in a sense, but I wanted to save Ellie anyway. In The Last of Us Part II, I wanted nothing to do with Ellie’s bad decisions. There’s no “oh god, I’m the monster” moment; just profound sadness about all the pain she’s caused. Without Abby, none of that works. Abby is a fantastic character in her own right, and the way the game pits her against Ellie is what makes the story powerful. It’s a tragic, heartbreaking exploration of the consequences of the first game, even if not all your actions here have real consequences.”
Read our full The Last Of Us Part 2 review.
“Ghost of Tsushima‘s story hits hard in the game’s third and final act, and ends in spectacular fashion. It left me with the same kinds of strong emotions I felt at the end of all my favourite samurai film epics, and had me eager to watch them all again. The game hits a lot of fantastic cinematic highs, and those ultimately lift it above the trappings of its familiar open-world quest design and all the innate weaknesses that come with it–but those imperfections and dull edges are definitely still there. Ghost of Tsushima is at its best when you’re riding your horse and taking in the beautiful world on your own terms, armed with a sword and a screenshot button, allowing the environmental cues and your own curiosity to guide you. It’s not quite a Criterion classic, but a lot of the time it sure looks like one.”
Read our full Ghost of Tsushima review.
“Spiritfarer is somehow a game with no risk but all reward. There’s no death, no pain, no rush on any task, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever felt this complete. You’re allowed to totally take your time, play on your own terms, and even though your tasks are easy, they are incredibly fulfilling. If the game had kept giving me quests, I feel as if I would have kept doing them for eternity, just because I wanted to. All of Spiritfarer’s novel mechanical variations kept potentially repetitive actions from ever growing old. Its gleeful little islands got more exciting to explore as new platforming abilities were unlocked. The characters, even small ones with funny little quips of dialogue that you encounter, were friends that I cherished. I absolutely adored existing in Spiritfarer’s beautifully animated, compassionate world so much that it genuinely came to feel like home.”
Read our full Spiritfarer review.
“I’m also thinking about how much I still have left to learn about Hades, both the character and the game, even dozens of hours in. Like in the Greek myths Hades takes inspiration from, endings aren’t tidy, and they’re almost never final. They’re protracted, often unsatisfying, and are hard to find real closure in, and the fact that Hades understands this is its greatest strength. I’m sure there’s a point where, after running through hell enough times, I’ll have seen all Hades has to offer, both in its clever and endless fights and its many alluring characters, intimate moments, and rewarding quests. The story does end. But what matters so much more are all the moments between the start and end of a story, and the people who help us see those climactic moments but also stick with us between them. They’re the reason we keep trying, and the reason we keep coming back.”
Read our full Hades review.
“For RGG Studio’s first crack at an RPG, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a damn fine result. It delivers what I love most about Yakuza and introduces new ideas that largely pay off. Ichiban isn’t doing it alone, either. He has friends and mentors, ones who’ve helped him fight and overcome personal tragedies. It was an absolute thrill to watch him grow, and that’s what’s most important for a game so focused on its characters. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a passing of the torch, and a fantastic entry in a beloved franchise that proves that it’s in good hands with Kasuga Ichiban.”
Read our full Yakuza: Like a Dragon review.
“Quirks aside, Bluepoint’s Demon’s Souls remake is an unmitigated success. It is a technical tour de force and a true showpiece for the PS5 and the power of Sony’s next-generation console. But, more importantly, it’s also a creative marvel coming from a studio that is clearly showing the world it has its own voice. Bluepoint has taken From Software’s original game and expressed it in a richer and fuller way, and in doing so given me something I thought was impossible: the opportunity to relive the experience of falling in love with Souls games for the first time.”
Read our full Demon’s Souls remake review.