Game of the Year 2020

Shea Hates Everything Game of the Year 2020

Best Characters

This category is all about a game’s cast. It isn’t limited to the main character, but also includes party members, antagonists, and NPCs that have an impact on the story. Having only one great character won’t land a game on this list, but in the same vein, having a lackluster lead isn’t necessarily disqualifying — assuming the other cast members are awesome. Dialogue, writing, vocal performance, and motion capture obviously have a large impact on the success of a character, but I also want to highlight unique characters, ones with an interesting backstory, and well-developed character relationships.

Honorable Mentions

Bugsnax is a weird game in every sense of the word. The characters stand out and are overflowing with unique personalities.

Final Fantasy VII Remake
Spending more time with the early parts of Final Fantasy VII allows more side characters to shine, which is a welcome change from the original.

5. Haven

Haven - Best Characters 2020

Haven doesn’t work without its main characters, because I honestly didn’t find the exploration or combat in the game to be all that fun. Yu and Kay are a real-to-life couple. They fight, flirt, challenge each other, romanticize each other, and relax together in such a realistic way. I pushed my way through the game because I wanted to get to the next dialogue sequence.

And what’s great about the game is that these two talk so frequently, constantly commenting on their battles and areas of exploration – both in small “cutscenes” and in real-time. Their banter feels natural and definitely changes and expands as the story progresses. The sheer amount of strong character writing is laudable in a game of this size. Haven also gets bonus points because Yu can GET IT. Even in a year with Tifa and Panam, she’s still a slammin’ hottie.

4. Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spider-Man: Miles Morales - Best Characters 2020

Nadji Jeter’s Miles Morales was a great character in the 2018 Marvel’s Spider-Man game, and it’s super cool to see him take center stage in this offshoot. The roster of characters, much like everything in the game, is smaller this time around. But Ganke and Phin are both fantastic as the main friends you interact with throughout the game, and it’s fun to see the relationship with Hailey blossom.

I love Troy Baker, but I think his Simon Krieger is the weak link from a character perspective. He’s a pretty one-note and cheesy villain, whereas there was so much nuance to Mr. Negative and Doctor Octavius in the first game. And while Phin’s fall to villainy was extremely easy to see coming, the actress does a great job keeping her reasoning compelling.

3. Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima - Best Characters 2020

It’s weird because I wouldn’t consider the characters of Ghost of Tsushima to be one of the game’s highlights, but when thinking about my favorite characters of the year, a lot of them came to mind. Jin I think is one of the best protagonists of the year, with a huge level of character growth (and even a fair amount of regression) throughout the game. It takes a while for him to build his confidence in being his own man, and certainly to own the mantle of The Ghost.

Yuna is a fantastic sidekick that I’d like to see be the playable character in an inevitable sequel. Lord Shimura and Ryuzo act as brilliant foils and the opposite extremes of the man that Jin could become, depending on his chosen path. Kenji, Norio, Sensei Ishikawa, and Lady Masako round out a great stable of friends, mentors, and partners on the path to retaking Tsushima Island. I would have preferred Khotun Khan get more screen time to further his development, but the story pacing doesn’t really allow for that.

2. Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 - Best Characters 2020

Yo, the characters in Cyberpunk 2077 are so damn awesome. Almost every person you interact with in this game comes across as fully developed and with strong opinions and backstory. The main companions are all incredibly complex people with great side missions, but Panam was my obvious favorite. Love you, bae. Jackie and Johnny Silverhand? Best bros for life.

This is a game where it’s honestly hard to list my favorites because there are just so many characters that have a meaningful impact. It was honestly disappointing to see certain characters not involved as much as I’d like, such as Viktor, Misty, Rogue, and Placide. It’s rare that a game makes me want to choose every single dialogue option with every single person I talk to, but the writing and characterizations in Cyberpunk 2077 truly are that strong.

1. Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer - Best Characters 2020

As badass as the characters are in Cyberpunk 2077, there was no game that was going to beat Spiritfarer in this category. Here’s a slight spoiler, but I wasn’t able to send off Atul the way he wanted me to because I was so determined to keep him around as long as I could. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. And then one morning I woke up and he was just gone from my ship. It was absolutely heartbreaking. No joke, but I turned the game off then and there and had to take a few days before I was ready to come back to it.

The entire package of Spiritfarer is incredible, with the music, exploration, and writing all coming together to create a uniquely sad yet charming experience. But none of those things would matter if the characters didn’t work. Atul was definitely my favorite, but Gwen, Summer, Bruce and Mickey, Stanley, Albert the shipwright, and so many more left a lasting impression that I won’t soon forget.

Building on Best Characters, check out the next page for the best stories of the year!

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