Game of the Year 2020

Shea Hates Everything Game of the Year 2020

Best Gameplay

This is arguably the most apples to oranges category of them all, because games can have such a huge variety of ways that you interact with them. In previous years, it always felt like a few games got short-shrifted in the categorical awards because they were more mechanics-driven than they were focused on story or visuals or music. So regardless of genre, these are the games that bring all their mechanics together to create an awesome gameplay experience.

Honorable Mentions

Star Wars Squadrons
I’m not a huge flight sim person and I’ve become less of a vehicle combat person as I’ve gotten older. That said, Star Wars Squadrons nails the feel of flying a spaceship. I might suck at first-person flying, but it sure looks cool!

The Pathless
I found the boss mechanics to be a little underwhelming in The Pathless, but the fluid sense of speed is what lands this game on the shortlist. Shooting targets for a speed boost really creates a great flow state.

The Pedestrian
This game went unnoticed by so many and I’m grateful to Xbox Game Pass for introducing me to it. It’s such an inventive 2D puzzle game that starts out deceptively easy and then slowly adds more and more complexity.

5. Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 - Best Gameplay 2020

Real-time RPG gameplay can be hard for me to rate because I tend to power level without even intending to. It often gets to the point where in the late game, I’m not having that much fun because I’m so overpowered. 

And look, the late game in Cyberpunk 2077 definitely starts to feel easy once you have your kit built out just the way you want it, but getting there is the fun and what makes the gameplay so special. It also doesn’t hurt that the first person shooting and movement mechanics are solid beyond what a studio should be able to do on a first try. There are so many potential solutions to each challenge that the game throws at you. I haven’t seen this level of gameplay personalization since Dishonored. 

4. DOOM Eternal

DOOM Eternal - Best Gameplay 2020

I’m not sure what I can say about DOOM Eternal that I didn’t already say about DOOM back in 2016, but I think the smartest thing that id did was just dial everything up another notch. More enemies on screen at once, more customization and variety in how you level up your guns, more enemy types (though I’d prefer the marauders go back to not existing), and more big boss moments. 

And I don’t know if the game was tuned differently or if this was just my perception having played the first game, but I enjoyed the speed of the combat more this time around. You really get into a flow state in the combat arenas that is overwhelming yet manageable at the same time. I constantly had to remind myself to breathe.

3. Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake - Best Gameplay 2020

Final Fantasy VII Remake has an advantage with its active time battle system, a good mix between real-time and turn-based combat that I tend to enjoy a lot. The unfortunate thing for me was discovering halfway through the game that I didn’t like playing as Cloud that much. He was a little stiff and slow for my tastes.

So from then on, I mained Tifa in combat and it was a whole other world of fun. She was fluid, fast, dynamic, and got up close and personal with her moves and combos. I wish the game encouraged you to mess around with multiple characters more in the early game, as I can’t imagine that I’m alone in liking Tifa more than Cloud. But from the solid variety of enemy types to the absolutely over the top boss battles, this game does spectacle combat better than most.

2. Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima - Best Gameplay 2020

Ghost of Tsushima has my favorite combat system of the year. I wasn’t expecting the different stances to feel as different as they do, and a huge part of that is how the power creep works as you level up and unlock new moves within each stance. On normal difficulty, you can totally beat enemies by staying in the same stance the whole time, but where’s the fun in that!

Equally excellent is how you navigate the world in Ghost of Tsushima. Too few games have learned lessons from the open world exploration in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t have towers where you place map markers for points of interest, the guiding winds, yellow birds, and friendly foxes create immersive ways to drive you to your next quest step or uncover something hidden without resorting to an overly-populated map full of icons.

1. Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spider-Man: Miles Morales - Best Gameplay 2020

It’s the same combat and movement from 2018’s Spider-Man, only this time with extra awesome electrical venom powers and cooler background music while you’re swinging through the city. ‘Nuff said.

In all seriousness, Miles Morales is a surprisingly large leap forward from the first game. The venom powers are a game-changer at making you feel more dynamic in combat and giving even more variety to create combos and cool finishers. And I don’t want to undersell the invisibility power either, which makes stealth easier and more fun. At this point I’m only wondering how they’re going to make Peter’s combat not feel like a step back when Spider-Man 2 comes out.

Alright, it’s the reason many of you are here. Most Disappointing Game is on the next page…

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