Game of the Year 2020

Best Looking - Shea Hates Everything Game of the Year 2020

Best Looking

This isn’t best (or most) graphics. Best Looking Game is simply a list of the games that I liked looking at the most. Some of them are on the more realistic side of things, while others lean in a more artistic direction. Some of them may blow you away with their high fidelity while others may be more toned down. Any approach qualifies for this list — I just want to highlight the games that deliver best on what they’re trying to achieve visually. To me, these games are the best combination of artistic idea and technical execution.

Honorable Mentions

Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk doesn’t make the top 5 because of how poorly it ran at launch, but if you look only at its artistic direction, sense of scale, and attention to detail, few 2020 games can top it.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Miles’ new venom powers look incredible, but otherwise, this looks pretty identical to the 2018 Spider-Man game – only on a smaller scale. NYC still looks great, though. 

Star Wars Squadrons
If a Star Wars game releases, it’s a pretty safe bet to make this list in some capacity. I don’t love how the outside the cockpit stuff animates, but flying really takes you to a galaxy far, far away.

Void Bastards
There is such a cool retro-future vibe to Void Bastards’ visuals, from the comic book cell shading to the jittery movement, to the neon colors and enemy design. 

5. DOOM Eternal

DOOM Eternal - Best Looking 2020

DOOM took down strong graphics honors back in 2016, and DOOM Eternal really expands on the visual design in some smart ways. There are cool new enemy and gun types to look at, but the game also takes you to so many more environments, like the fantasy-inspired Exultia.

On top of that, there are subtle visual changes that impact gameplay in fun ways, like the increased detail on enemies when you shoot pieces off of them. There are also plenty of moments where the sense of scale hits you, and it’s incredible. Eternal is a more focused DOOM game in many ways, but the visuals go the opposite direction in terms of variety. 

4. Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero - Best Looking Game 2020

I was immediately struck by the look of Kentucky Route Zero: it’s the main reason I checked the game out, and certainly the reason I played it longer than I otherwise would have. The game builds this nagging sense of unease and mystery that is amplified by the stark blacks and lack of detail in the environments. There’s something unsettling about the visual design in this game that reminded me of Inside, though Kentucky Route Zero is far more abstract.

Unfortunately the interactive parts of the game got a little too abstracted for me to see this one all the way through. But the look of Kentucky Route Zero – enhanced by the camera work –  certainly left a strong impression. 

3. Astro’s Playroom

Astro's Playroom - Best Looking Game 2020

Talk about a breath of fresh air in an otherwise depressing year! Astro’s Playroom exudes nostalgic joy from the moment you boot it up. It was so fun to check the tiny details to see how the visuals tied back to PlayStation history, like jumping on bluray discs and connecting power cords together.

The individual zones are all a bit tropey and expected, with a beach world, jungle world, etc; but that didn’t take away from the desire to explore every nook and cranny to find another call-back to PlayStation of the past. I wish the PlayStation system and accessory collectibles were a little more interactive, but they’re lovingly rendered and neat to look at in close-up due to the insane level of detail. 

2. The Last of Us: Part II

The Last of Us Part II - Best Looking Game 2020

What else can I say about Naughty Dog at this point? There are honestly slight – and I mean slight – diminishing returns in coming back to this post-apocalyptic world, but Naughty Dog was smart in taking the player to different locations throughout this story to make things feel fresh. The dilapidated buildings, overgrown streets, and horrifying clickers all look better than ever, but the real treat comes from the opening winter area, the Seraphites’ home base, and set piece moments like the crane walk.

The scale is also worth mentioning, with multiple large, highly detailed settlements and a super cool open area in Seattle. And that’s to say nothing of the facial capture and animation, which remain the best in all of gaming.  

1. Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima - Best Looking Game 2020

Compared to The Last of Us’ facial animations, the characters in Ghost of Tsushima look downright janky. But that’s where The Last of Us’ advantages end, in my opinion. There is no game with a greater sense of beauty than Ghost of Tsushima. It is the most gorgeous, regal, wondrous game I’ve ever played.

The fluidity and ease of movement in combat really sell the samurai experience, and considering the game all takes place on a single island, there is far more variety than I initially expected: from swamps and bamboo forests to beaches, guard towers, and flower-filled plains. And all of them are exploding with color (and the best particle effects in any video game ever). The calmest moments in the game were often my favorites because it forced me to stop the action and appreciate the splendor of Tsushima.

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