Charlie loves her video games as much as she loves dumb, charming JRPG protagonists: probably way too much. You can often catch her spending too much time being emotional over LGBT stories in games. She also thinks Yakuza 6 is the best one.
2020 was an absolutely stacked year for gaming. So much so that whittling a list down to just ten games is quite hard. We’re very proud of our top ten list of Game of the Year 2020, which you can check out here. Although we thought it fair we also give credit where credit’s due to some other wonderful games released this year. Without further ado and in no particular order, here’s Checkpoint’s Game of the Year 2020 runners-up.
The new Yakuza is a serious contender for my personal game of the year because it seems to have been designed for my specific tastes. Protagonist Ichiban is an adult man who isn’t afraid to talk about his feelings, tell his friends he loves them, or bawl his eyes out at a moment’s notice. The game has a genuinely emotional story full of joy, heartbreak, and shocking twists of fate. But it also has dozens of hours of wacky side-quests and minigames that run the gamut from helping a scientist build a giant Roomba, going on a date with a woman who may or may not be a ghost, to mashing buttons to avoid falling asleep at a vintage cinema.
Plus, it’s the first game in the series to be a turn-based JRPG! It smartly takes cues from modern games like Persona 5 to stylishly convert the series’ action combat to something more strategic, but just as flashy and quick. It’s also an homage to JRPGs of old, breathing new life into mechanics that games of this scale haven’t touched in years. If you’re looking for a fresh take on the customisable class systems of Final Fantasies 5, 10-2, and Tactics, then Yakuza: Like a Dragon has you covered. – Pedro
So many indie titles these days follow the farming sim model. Spiritfarer is the first one that I sunk a proper amount of time because it feels meaningful. As Stella, a Spiritfarer, you sail your ship through an oceanic purgatory, collecting spirits, and help them move on. Keep them fed, give them a place to stay, and help fulfil some final wishes. Throughout the campaign, is the constant hum of improvement, a continual upgrade of the ship and its amenities. You start off with a kitchen and basic plants, and soon you’re making flat-screen TV from smelted, smithed ore. Also, praise the simple and cute stylization and animation. It’s top-shelf in all regards. Spiritfarer has the static routine of a farming sim, with the dynamic world full of characters and resources to collect. Even when the loop slows a bit, you’re invested enough that you don’t feel it. This is a game that, despite a long run time is not without end.
One of the big things that set Spiritfarer apart from other farming sims is the fact that it is finite. I can’t play forever cute stuff forever; death and entropy still exist. It’s a problem I have games that try too hard to be cute. Some wholesome games are happy without any kind of hardship. Without hardship, any kind of achievement feels arbitrary. The finitude really plays into this balance. This is, after all, a game about helping people move on. Doing so helps your progression and is doing right by your charges, but it also means saying goodbye. Spiritfarer is about people grappling with what they want to do and to leave behind. It’s a wonderful emotional experience, that many games fail to pull off. Spiritfarer leaves the melancholy right on the table. – Sam
Ghostrunner is hardly unique when it comes to (what is now) the oversaturated genre that is cyberpunk. However, what it manages to achieve despite its aesthetic trappings is something that is highly engaging and just downright fun to play. Leaning into its aesthetic roots was the right call, as it marries the relationship with player and player character seamlessly. You are the Ghostrunner, and your co-development is signified by the unlocking of new abilities and skills, as well as you the player just getting better at the game as time passes. Revisiting earlier levels after completing the main story, had me breezing through encounters in minutes whereas before I’d struggled quite a bit.
As cheesy as the dialogue and setting maybe, it’s endearing enough to make you play and live the fantasy of being a super cool cyborg ninja with a cool sounding voice. It scratches that speedrunner itch for those looking to test the boundaries of what is possible, and is able to maintain your focus for a short but engaging 6-8 hour campaign. While this does leave you wanting more, it’s only a testament to the game’s quality and focus on keeping players engaged in both the story and gameplay till the credits roll. – Taylor
Now, I have been hyped for this follow-up to 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man ever since it was announced, especially as it features the breakout star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I received Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales alongside my PS5, and found the game’s detailed visuals and fast loading times an excellent preview of the console’s capabilities. Although admittedly smaller in scope compared to its predecessor, I didn’t feel like it held the game back very much. With just enough side activities and story content so that no individual element became tiresome, I found Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ faster pacing rather refreshing.
Admittedly, despite some really likeable supporting characters and a great lead, it does fall into cliché territory with some of its villains and story elements. Still, there is nothing wrong with the fundamentals, even if it does not push the envelope very far with its plot. The new gameplay mechanics, such as Miles’ varied Venom powers which add variety to both combat and mobility, make it feel like much more than just an expansion pack to Peter Parker’s game two years ago. Marvel has had a somewhat mixed 2020 in the video game space, but Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales still stands as one of the best superhero games around. – Tom
Dreams is the most unlike any game in this list. Largely because it’s not a traditional game. Dreams is the latest project from LittleBigPlanet creators Media Molecule. In it is the most creative and accessible tool set that I’ve found to date. Create your own music, movies, paintings, art or even a video game. With Dreams you’re able to make anything you want into reality, right on your readily accessible PlayStation 4. I reviewed the game for Checkpoint and gave it the site’s first 10/10. The reason I glowed about it so much is that it really felt like Media Molecule’s magnum opus. To go from creative platformer LittleBigPlanet, where the creative tool set is already quite extensive, to this is amazing.
The tools are a lot more friendly and approachable than that of Unity, meaning just about anyone can go ahead and get creating. On top of that, a passionate community exists with unique innovations that you can go ahead and explore. Hell, it’s even got a surprising and moving little campaign going for it. Dreams may very well be the sleeper hit of 2020, being a title that will be remembered passionately, albeit by a more limited in nature audience. – Charlie
Being an open-world Ubisoft games sets certain expectations. As you might guess, Immortals Fenyx Rising features a fogged map that can be cleared by climbing tall vantage points, revealing dozens of objective markers dotted across the world. What surprised me is how Immortals reinvigorates this formula with passion and gusto. This is a game that bursts with character, fully embracing its fun and irreverent tone in retelling the classics of Greek mythology. The icons on this map aren’t faceless collectibles; each presents a puzzle to solve while learning a tale from Greek mythology. Narration from a bickering Prometheus and Zeus provides the story while you play, giving context for your objectives or sniping at each other with references to Greek legend. For example, while solving a puzzle at the grounds of the Adonia festival, Prometheus will recount the fall of Adonis and the origin of the anemone flower.
Interestingly, Immortals also does more with its core combat than either of the Ubisoft heavy-hitters that came out this year. Both light and heavy attacks have their own combo sets, which can be mixed up to allow a light set up into a heavy finisher or vice versa. Combo sets are different whether your on the ground or in the air, with air combos enabled by jumping and gliding as well as an ability to knock enemies high and juggle them much like Insomniac’s Spider-Man. On top of this are sprinting, jumping, and counter attacks plus a set of god powers that can be chained into your combos for more flair and versatility. When you’re not fighting, the game will engage you with Zelda-like puzzles or just a peaceful walk in a beautiful setting. Immortals Fenyx Rising’s blend of strong gameplay, rich visual design, and undeniable heart guaranteed it as my pick for honourable mention this year—even if it does have a silly name. – Cal
Known for its third-person shooter games in the original Gears of War franchise, the quality of The Coalition’s Gears Tactics really surprised me. Gears Tactics is the studio’s first foray into the strategy genre, and they delivered an impressively engrossing game for strategy fans, with plenty of twists on classic strategy gaming formulas. Similar to XCOM, combat is turn-based and your characters and enemies only have a limited set of action points per turn. However, there’s no traditional grid to move across in battle, which gives players a lot more freedom. In my eyes, this also helped to heighten the pace when it comes to combat, and in turn raise the stakes when it comes to story.
I enjoyed that the game didn’t compromise on story either, which, for a strategy game, isn’t a given. Playing as the disillusioned Gabe Diaz (who also happens to be Gears 5’s Kait Diaz’s father), it’s up to you to defeat the Locust’s evil mad scientist baddie, Ukkon. Fittingly, for the Gears of War franchise, the story is told in traditional gory Gears-style, with plenty of badass enemies and monsters to go round. For me, Gears Tactics easily distinguished itself from the other strategy titles within the genre. Its thrilling combat and story had me hooked in the first few hours of playtime, and I’m sure I’ll spend a lot more hours in the world of Gears Tactics in the future. Suffice to say that if you’re a strategy aficionado, this game is not be missed. – Lise
It must be so difficult for a new competitive multiplayer FPS to enter into an already stacked market and find a player base willing to give it a shot. So many games, even just this year alone, have failed to make an impact within this space, yet Valorant somehow defied those odds and smashed into the competitive FPS scene. Riot Games know how to make a compelling competitive game. They didn’t just have to convince players to give them a shot but they had to convince them to stick around and they did so superbly. Valorant is just such a tight and polished experience. In a sea of Call of Duties, Counter-Strikes, Overwatches, Fortnites and more it somehow got me to check it out and feel good enough about my time that I wanted to keep playing. That in itself is a huge accomplishment.
A game like Valorant has to be balanced, smooth, and satisfying. It has to allow the player to feel powerful and capable whilst never making any triumphs feel easy or undeserving. It has to get an eSports following and get streamers on board to not only check it out but to fall in love with it and dedicate their time to learning a new competitive experience. Valorant did all of this and it continues to kick goals as it further nurtures this competitive scene and supports its players. I honestly can’t wait to see more from this game and that alone is a very exciting prospect. – Elliot
In a year like 2020 we needed a game like Fall Guys. People love playing competitive games, they love playing online with their friends, but they also like to be a bit silly and not take things too seriously. Fall Guys was that perfect balance of casual and competitive. It kept a large community of players coming back every single day striving to take home that crown. It’s a game that made you smile from its lunacy but still engaged in its gameplay. Was it a perfect launch? Absolutely not. But it was a charming enough prospect that people forgave any of those bumps along the way and came back to see what the latest update brought.
Fall Guys also totally inserted itself into a mainstream audience which is shocking considering the size of the team and the type of game they were making. It was full of memes and inside jokes and a Twitter account that just didn’t let up. It became a part of pop culture and an undeniably huge part of 2020 in gaming. To not consider it an impactful or deserving game this year would be to do this game and its adorable cast of silly bean characters a massive disservice. – Elliot.
Souls games are certainly not for everyone. That’s why it’s almost puzzling that one of the biggest launch titles to hit either the Xbox Series X or the PlayStation 5 was the challenging, brutal, devastatingly gorgeous and addictive Demon’s Souls. With the new generation firmly in the spotlight, Demon’s Souls delivered on what we’d all hoped; it looks just stunning, with an incredible amount of detail in its dark and dreary universe, along with fast frame-rate that feels slick and makes timing your parries and dodges more refined than ever before. Then, when you die (and die lots)? You respawn within a couple of seconds. We can’t ever go back to the loading times of old, that’s for sure.
Not only are all of these new features a great showcase of the PS5, but they have allowed a whole new generation of gamers the opportunity to play one of the toughest action RPG’s ever created, and the launching pad for a genre that has become a staple in video game history. Bluepoint Games have once again proven that they are more than confident in taking a much-loved game – in this case a PS3 game from 2009 – and modernising it with smart gameplay tweaks and breathtaking art direction. Yes, it’s tough. No, it’s not for everyone. But holy hell this game is incredible. – Luke