The rather chaotic 2020 is coming to a close, which means the GameSpot staff is sporadically taking breaks from the regular day-to-day coverage to look back on the year that was and discuss the games we liked the most. In the following article, we detail our five favorite Xbox games for 2020–so any game that released for Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S this year.
All said and done, 2020 was a pretty good year for Xbox. No standout first-party exclusives like PlayStation, but plenty of third-party games look great on Xbox One X, and they look even better (and load a lot faster) on Xbox Series X|S. So yeah, you can find all of the games on this list on other platforms, but that doesn’t detract that they all look and play very well on Xbox platforms. Three of the five are on Xbox Game Pass, too. So if you’re curious about trying Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Spiritfarer, or Doom Eternal, you should consider investing in the best deal in gaming. Doing so will also net you the somewhat niche but impressive line-up of Xbox console exclusives that were released this year, like Call of the Sea and Tetris Effect: Connected.
Developer Moon Studios’ Ori and the Will of the Wisps takes a more action-oriented focus than its predecessor, giving brand-new combat abilities to the titular Ori in order to help them overcome nightmarish enemies and monstrous bosses. But it’s in the platforming segments where Will of the Wisps truly shines–the game leans on its floaty jumps but tight controls to curate challenging gauntlets that encourage you to dash about the world with fast, fleeting movements. The charmingly colorful visuals and beautifully somber orchestral score only improves the experience, creating a sensation that Ori is dancing, not jumping, through the air. Will of the Wisps doesn’t quite reach the highs of Ori and the Blind Forest‘s Ginso Tree escape, but it makes up for it with a memorable story that’s sure to shed a few tears.
In GameSpot’s Ori and the Will of the Wisps updated review for Xbox Series X|S, Mike Epstein gives the game a 9/10, writing “[Ori and the Will of the Wisps] was always an impressive visual showpiece, despite the technical flaws that initially held it back. It’s more straightforward, combat-heavy flow may still put off die-hard fans of the original Ori, but that’s a small nitpick for a game that retains its identity while finding a new flow. Most importantly for the Series X and S upgrades, next-gen hardware turns one of Will of the Wisps’ original weaknesses into a point of pride, and that’s worth celebrating.”
Kiryu’s adventures are a bit difficult to get into. The first few games have begun to show their age to those who haven’t yet bought into the franchise. His later games are far better, but understanding and appreciating their stories rely upon playing the first few games. That’s why Yakuza: Like a Dragon is such a welcome sight. The game builds upon the winning formula of heartwarming storytelling and rambunctious mission structure that’s been refined throughout Kiryu’s games, while also switching things up and introducing a brand-new protagonist and cast of lovable characters. It’s the best way for newcomers to finally see why Yakuza fans won’t stop talking about this series, and it’s also just really, freakin’ good.
In GameSpot’s Yakuza: Like A Dragon review, Michael Higham gave the game a 9/10, writing “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.”
If you’ve ever played one of the Animal Crossing games and thought to yourself, “Ya know, this formula would be vastly improved if an overall narrative acting as a throughline pulled me through the grind of daily tasks,” then Spiritfarer is the game for you. This cute management sim sees you care for your sentient animal neighbors, each of whom needs your help in building them homes, as well as personal services to improve buildings and the tasks you’re able to do. But here’s the catch: you’re basically the new Charon, a spiritfarer designated with helping your neighbors–who are really spirits–work through their grief, regrets, and hangups in order to assist in their transition to the afterlife.
In GameSpot’s Spiritfarer review, Hope Corrigan gave the game a 9/10, writing, “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.”
The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its sequel were released in 1999 and 2000, respectively. That’s 20 years ago, and for many folks in their early to mid twenties (like me), that means they didn’t get a chance to play them. We were babies when those games first came out. But along comes Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 and suddenly, two of some of the best skateboard video games ever made are easily acquirable for a whole new generation. Revamping the levels and skaters from the first two games and building upon the original games’ already solid trick system foundation with the improvements introduced in later entries, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 creates an experience that’s approachable for new players while still offering what made those early games so appealing to the now veteran crowd.
In GameSpot’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 review, Mat Paget gave the game a 9/10, writing, “Because it nails so much about that original Tony Hawk experience, it’s really hard to be mad at Pro Skater 1 + 2 for any of its downsides. The load times aren’t enough to keep you away from the plethora of satisfying combos, and the lack of level goals for every skater isn’t enough to keep you from jumping back in with a new character. Playing through the newly remade levels is immensely enjoyable, and that on its own is enough to call Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 a success. However, smart additions and an engaging challenge system make it an experience that’s more than just a brief skate through Tony Hawk’s past.”
Doom Eternal is like the opposite of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Instead of being a sequel to a platformer that adds more combat elements, Doom Eternal is a follow-up to a combat-heavy game that adds platforming elements. While that remains a contentious addition among fans, Doom Eternal still manages to deliver fast-paced, satisfyingly tight shooting mechanics that shine in its more self-contained, linear levels. Ya gotta love a game that knows what worked with its predecessor–big guns, bigger baddies, enough frantic blood and gore to satisfy any budding sociopath–and just doubles down, creating another great first-person shooter experience.
In GameSpot’s Doom Eternal review, Phil Hornshaw gave the game an 8/10, writing, “Though it can take a bit to get the hang of it, the intricacies of Doom Eternal’s combat, combined with its enhanced mobility and option-heavy level design, create a ton of white-knuckle moments that elevate everything that made Doom 2016 work so well. Its combat is just as quick and chaotic, but requires you to constantly analyze everything that’s happening in order to come out victorious. Once you get the hang of the rhythm of Doom Eternal, it’ll make you feel like a demon-slaying savant.”