2020 was always set to be a banner year for video games.
With the next generation of consoles, Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, scheduled to arrive around the year’s end, the preceding months were sure to see their fair share of swansongs, as the existing console technology is pushed to its breathtaking technical limits.
While some of the year’s most anticipated releases are yet to come – such as Assassins Creed Valhalla, and Cyberpunk 2077 – there have already been a host of great titles released in the first half of the year, from indie gems like Bloodroots to major studio releases such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Last of Us Past II.
As everyone has been instructed to stay indoors, video game usage has skyrocketed; it’s a blessing, then, that there has been a litany of great new games to enjoy.
Here are the best video games of 2020 so far:
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition (All platforms)
Created by Cardboard Computer over the span of nearly a decade, Kentucky: Route Zero is an ambitious, medium-expanding opus. The game centres (initially, at least) on Conway, an antique delivery driver who travels with his dog around the labyrinthine map of Kentucky. Exploring heavy themes such as alcohol addiction and the corruption of the American Dream, Kentucky Route Zero goes about its business with a maverick inventiveness. Steeped in the languages of literature, theatre, film and music, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. ★★★★★
Media Molecule’s dense, expansive creation system has already built up a devoted ecosystem of players sharing their own content online.
“Time will tell whether Dreams is able to grow its tight-knit creative community into a LittleBigPlanet-esque sensation, whether the toolkit is fluid and comprehensive enough to support increasingly ambitious projects. For now, Dreams is a game that fizzes with possibilities: just big ideas and open doors.” ★★★★☆
Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary re-release (PS4/Xbox One)
“PlatinumGames re-released its decade-old favourites Bayonetta and Vanquish, packaged together in one remastered bundle for the PS4 and Xbox One. Bayonetta has already been re-released in various incarnations several times over the past 10 years; the body has never had a chance to grow cold. For many current-generation console players, however, this is the chance to experience the games for the first time – and they’ve never seemed so polished.” ★★★★☆
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox One/PC)
A sequel to the 2015 game Ori and the Blind Forest, this cute but deceptively tricky platformer was a huge step up in scope and scale. In it, you inhabit the role of Ori, a guardian spirit who must traverse beautifully designed forest environments to save their friend, Ku. With a sweeping score and Metroidvania-style level exploration, there’s a whole lot to draw you into Ori’s heartfelt, winningly idiosyncratic world. ★★★★☆
Bloodroots (All platforms)
Bloodroots, developed by indie game studio Paper Cult, is a cartoonish hack-and-slash game with a fun Japanese aesthetic, a superb score and a propulsive, kinetic gameplay style. Your enemies perish after one good wack – but so do you. Giving you the edge is a Bugs Bunnyish resourcefulness and the ability to wield any and all objects you encounter with lethal intent, from javelins to carrots. ★★★★☆
Nioh 2 (PS4)
The first Nioh, a notoriously difficult action game that transposed the combat mechanics of the Dark Souls games to a historical Japanese setting, was a big win for Sony and its developers, Team Ninja. Nioh 2 does everything even better, introducing an intricate character creation system and fine-tuning the combat to an even greater degree. The choice of weapons and fighting styles helps flesh out a robust and deeply rewarding gameplay experience. ★★★★☆
Doom Eternal (All platforms)
“You know what you’re getting with a Doom game. Or, at least, you ought to by now – the game franchise that began in 1993 has remained relatively unwavering in its core principles: quick-fire first-person action, a heavy metal aesthetic and bloody, bloody violence. Doom Eternal won’t quite revolutionise the medium the way the original Doom did, but you can’t say it doesn’t deliver on expectations.” ★★★★☆
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo Switch)
Nintendo’s cutesy social simulation franchise has amassed a mammoth following across the years; its debut on the Switch was one of the year’s biggest tentpole releases.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons is at its best when it is at its most ambitious. [...] New Horizons’s sugary innocence won’t be for everyone. But for those young enough, or young-spirited enough at least, to buy into its charms, there’s no warmer comfort blanket on offer.” ★★★★☆
Bleeding Edge (Xbox One/PC)
Acclaimed developers Ninja Theory turned their hands to multiplayer action with Bleeding Edge, a stylish 4v4 brawler with a twist.
“It’s impossible to tell whether people will really take to a video game – some of the industry’s biggest hits can spring from seemingly nowhere. But Bleeding Edge has all the makings of a multiplayer sensation – great visuals, addictive action and a fresh angle. In this time of interpersonal distance and enforced antisociality, the chance to team up and get stuck in with three complete strangers might be just what we all need.” ★★★★☆
Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)
“When you first load up Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s hard not to be bowled over. Gliding around and above the streets of the fantastical city of Midgar, the game feels immediately epic, breathtaking in scale.
It should be no surprise – this is a game balanced unapologetically on the shoulders of a giant, the original 1997 PlayStation release that remains one of the most beloved video games ever made. Anything less than breathtaking would constitute a rank disappointment.” ★★★★☆
The Last of Us Part II (PS4)
“The Last of Us Part II transcends expectations. There is nothing expected about the game’s performances, especially those by Ashley Johnson (Ellie) and Troy Baker (Joel), which are, by a yard, the two most moving I’ve seen in a game.
Nor is there anything expected about the storytelling, which is layered and uncompromising, willing to flip sympathies and subvert conventions. Quiet character beats are given just as much care as expansive action set-pieces, and are just as compelling.” ★★★★★
Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)
“With a huge, gorgeous map to explore, mostly on horseback, and a plethora of side quests and collectables, Ghost of Tsushima often feels like a samurai-themed Red Dead Redemption 2. Its combat mechanics fit the Soulslike mold, specifically the stance-switching swordplay of Nioh. Unlike in Nioh, however, you do not get bogged down in the obsessive collecting and replacing of different weapons. It is also – mercifully – less difficult.” ★★★★☆
Paper Mario: The Origami King
“The Origami King may not hit the heights of some of its Switch contemporaries such as Odyssey or Super Mario Maker 2, but it’s still an engrossing adventure. Like its two-dimensional papier protagonist, this is a game that appears outwardly familiar but, on closer inspection, stands as its own thing: an affably weird addition to Nintendo’s ever-growing catalogue of crowd-pleasers.” ★★★★☆