It’s hard to remember a slower start to a year for video games than this one, but things really started to pick up and the first half of 2020 has been pretty spectacular overall.
With new consoles on the horizon, every new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game feels like a bit of a last hurrah for the current gen. And while Nintendo hasn’t so far done much more this year than revive a couple of its great franchises, that has been plenty so far.
This list will be getting a lot longer as the year progresses, but for now, here’s everything we think is worthy of your time and money.
Additional words by Andrew Hayward
The Last of Us Part II
Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II was our most anticipated game of the year before its release… and even amidst that kind of hype, not to mention being the sequel to what we considered to be the greatest game of all time, it didn't disappoint.
Part II is a deeply ambitious follow-up that manages to step up every bit of the original's design, from staggeringly gorgeous graphics to larger-scale environments and bold storytelling. It is hardly the kind of thing we'd call escapism in this day and age, but if you can stomach it, this is a hell of an adventure,
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Few games are more iconic and impactful than Final Fantasy VII, which kick-started the modern, cinematic role-playing game. Amazingly, Square Enix has done the legend justice with this remake.
And it's not even the complete experience. Square has essentially sliced off the first 10 hours of the original game and expanded it out into a proper 40-hour adventure, complete with dazzling presentation and modern enhancements. The rest is still in development, but for now this first chunk is an incredibly impressive start.
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
What do supporting Leeds United, baking crispy jacket potatoes and being a Kentucky Route Zero fan have in common? They all require extreme patience. We won’t go into the many trials and tribulations of Leeds here, but it’s fair to say that after seven years, those who stuck with KRZ have earned the beloved point-and-click series’ excellent finale. And all of its five acts are now available to play on consoles as well as their native PC.
There is little in the way of plot here beyond a truck driver called Conway who’s trying to make his last delivery by crossing the titular highway, but it’s the game’s meditative pacing, oddball characters and magical realist backdrop that make it so memorable.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Ori and the Will Of the Wisps
Ori and the Blindforest was one of the relatively few Xbox One exclusives to really make PS4 owners green with envy, and the same is true of its sequel.
Will of the Wisps builds on the original’s ‘Metroidvania’ gameplay in a ludicrously beautiful 2.5d world by adding a far more involved combat system that makes Ori a far more capable protagonist. Although you’ll still have to hot foot it away from some of the game’s enormous bosses.
Thankfully, a lot of the technical issues present at launch have since been ironed out, and while we’re still undecided on whether Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a better game than the majestic Blindforest, it’s still comfortably one of the best Game Pass offerings to date.
Platform: Xbox One, PC
We’re not sure you can even call Dreams a game. It’s a creation tool, and one not just for games. You’re just as encouraged to make animations, music videos or art installations with the remarkably intuitive toolset that Media Molecule has created.
And already, you’ll find an incredibly varied and frequently impressive selection of experiences created by Dreams’ online community. We’ve played everything from platforming tribute acts to multi-stage RPGs and hilarious self-voiced point-and-click adventures. If creators are already coming up with stuff this good, who knows what we’ll have two or three years down the line, especially when the inevitable PS5 version arrives.
Anyone who enjoyed creatively slaughtering demons in the brilliant Doom 2016 will be happy to learn that there are twice as many of them this time round, as well as a host of new weapons to shoot them with.
The frenetic follow-up does try a little too hard to make you care about its story, but not enough to distract from the game’s core appeal: brutally fast ultraviolence and what’s probably the most satisfying gameplay loop you’ll find in any title this year.
There really is nothing else like Doom, and Eternal is as good as the series has ever been.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia, Switch
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
A cursory glance at the headlines at the moment is enough to make anyone long for a desert island escape. And in the one Nintendo is providing, you won’t have much more to worry about than the going rate for the local fruit.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons differs from previous entries in Nintendo’s adorable life sim series in that you start the game on an unoccupied plot of land in the middle of the sea, rather than an already established village. And it’s up to you and your anthropomorphic animal pals to build this new community from scratch.
It sounds daunting, but the wealth of customisation options afforded by this greater freedom arguably make New Horizons the best Animal Crossing yet, and it remains Nintendo’s most strangely captivating creation.
It may not be the fabled Half-Life 3 that devotees have demanded for more than a decade, but Half-Life Alyx is not only a legit and brilliant new series entry… it's also the most incredible VR game you can play.
Set between the first two first-person shooter entries, this PC VR exclusive sees you exploring eerie terrain and getting into tense shootouts, all amplified by the 360-degree immersion. Play it with the Valve Index if you can so that you can take advantage of those amazing finger-tracking controllers.
Platform: PC VR