Editor’s note: Take a breath. We’re almost there. 2020’s been quite the year, and it’s very nearly over. Across the festive break, members of the Eurogamer team and our contributors will be running down their personal top five games of 2020, before we announce our game of the year – and before, of course, we hand over to you for the annual Reader’s Top 50. Thanks for being with us this year, and see you on the other side.
Of the five games that have had the greatest impact on me this year, four of them weren’t even on my radar when the clock ticked over from 2019 to 2020.
I knew Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was on its way, of course, but I was… indifferent, I suppose? Burned out on all things Creed, perhaps? I’d loved my time with Bayek, and had a lot of fun with Alexios, too, but I couldn’t reconcile how an Assassin’s Creed game could work with a Viking at the helm. Let’s face it; Viking’s aren’t particularly renowned for their stealthy ways, and I couldn’t work out how – or even why – the ancient brotherhood would court a warrior with a tendency to axe first, ask questions later.
By the time I’d arrived in Mercia, though, I was thoroughly hooked. Despite its homogenisation, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for Ubisoft’s soothing formula of action sequences and puzzling, and while we likely all anticipated that it was going to be a striking world to explore, I utterly underestimated how gripping Eivor’s story would be. It took me forever to complete her main questline, chiefly because I was forever tempted off the path, distracted by new loot or uncovering buried secrets.
The Last of Us Part 2, of course, had very much been on my radar. The original instalment was one of my games of the decade – maybe of all time – as it so perfectly blended my love of horror and character-driven storytelling. Between us, I finished its successor this summer feeling a tad unsatisfied and as though the game had limped on several hours longer than it should’ve done.
Now, however? Several months on, I still think about that ending, and while I don’t necessarily hold it in the same regard as its predecessor, there’s little doubting The Last of Us Part 2 was astonishingly ambitious in both scope and technical accomplishment. There are caveats to that, of course – we should all be cautious of praising studios for anything if those accomplishments come at the cost of crunch – but it was a tale that gripped me so tightly, I spent several nights playing way, way later than I expected – hell, wanted – to, because I was that desperate to know how Ellie’s story would be resolved. The more I think about that uncertain conclusion, the more I wonder how else it could’ve finished…
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, on the other hand, came as a complete and utter shock. I’d spent some time with New Leaf, but honestly, I classed myself as way too cool for games like that. I’ve spent my entire life swimming against the tide of assumptions that women want pink bloody keyboards and headphones, and those kinds of games – however innocuous – seemed to stand for everything I was fighting against.
Imagine my surprise, then, that two weeks after lockdown, I’m sat in a committee meeting on Zoom whilst surreptitiously whacking rocks on my island, YuccaVee (it’s a bad joke only the Welsh will understand, I’m afraid). Even now, few things can unbunch my shoulders and elicit a long sigh of relief as the sound of the wind whistling through the fruit trees. When our lives were unceremoniously uprooted, those gentle daily routines gave my life much-needed order when everything else was in chaos.
But the game that stunned me most was Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Spiders halted me in my tracks during its predecessor (and almost stopped me completing this one, too), and the idea that my aracnaphobia may have prevented me from experiencing Ori firsthand is just… oh, it’s maddening.
Though not without its technical issues, every single second of that world was crafted with love and care and purpose. Every character, every biome, every new twist; it never failed to shock or awe me, stuffed with colour and a light dusting of something indefinable – something magical. I still have a bit of a love-hate thing with Metroidvanias, not least because my fat fingers often lack the dexterity they demand, but Ori is a game that wants to reward, not punish, you, even if you make mistakes. As I gushed in my review, I adored the gentle storytelling and the ethereal atmosphere and its memorable cast of delightful creatures and even just writing this, I feel like Niwen is calling out to me again…
Last but not least? It’s Fall Guys. No, it’s not a particularly cerebral experience, but like battle royales, it’s the perfect, pleasing palate-cleanser to a steady diet of never-ending GaaS. It doesn’t matter how much you do or don’t play it. There’s no gnawing sense of FOMO or obligation to your fireteam. Fall Guys in all its wobbly physics, Day-Glo colour plastic glory was exactly what we needed – what 2020 needed – and I’ll forever be grateful to those joyful jellybeans… even if I still don’t have a bloody crown yet.