Spotlight

The best games of 2020 according to the XboxEra staff

It’s finally 2021. This means we can close 2020, which was a horrible year in the real world. Luckily, it was a much better timeframe for our beloved videogames. To shine a light on some of the greatest titles the team at XboxEra has played, we decided to create a Top 30 of 2020.

We are an Xbox focused community, but we do play on other systems as well, which is shown on some of our picks. This list is a reflection of the games the team at XboxEra has enjoyed the most in 2020, and in no way it means to be an objective classification of games’ qualities.

I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this a community website? Where’s my chance to shine? When can I show my superior taste in videogames? No need to wait any longer! We are also hosting the Official XboxEra Game of the Year 2020 in our community right now. RIGHT HERE!

So, go ahead and vote on your favorite game of the year, and show us how we’re totally wrong with this staff list!

Without further ado, here’s the 30 games from 2020 that resonated with the XboxEra staff the most.

30 – 26

30. Hades

Though my time with the game itself has been limited there are few games I have spent more time adoring than Hades in 2020. As a ¾ perspective rogue-like developer Supergiant used the early-access program to craft a masterpiece. The graphics are stellar, voice acting is excellent, the story is compelling, and the gameplay is sublime. Gameplay balance in a rogue-like can be difficult. Game-breaking builds can become common but Hades spent its time finding that razer thin edge of hard but approachable.

Never once have I found a build that was significantly better than another. So much of it just comes down to what you enjoy and do best with. Hopefully, this one hits consoles in 2021 so that the non-PC owners can get a taste of the best that gaming has to offer. Doncabesa

29. Destiny 2: Beyond Light

Destiny has had a complicated history.  With a  rough first launch, bungie always improves upon the base game and just makes it better.  Bungie has opted to almost do a fresh start for players.  The story in First Light is engaging and I found myself going back to this world to complete missions an strikes.  The gameplay hook is still there with great weapons.  The lore is deep as always.  Also Destiny 2 finally got a 60fps update with the next gen consoles and even a 120fps mode for the crucible for Series X and Playstation 5.  With Bungie doing consistent updates and creating seasons for the game, players will have something to look forward to during the coming months before the next expansion. 

I have to admit, Bungie knows shooters and knows how to make them fun to play. Even though the enemies are bullet sponges, I felt like the engagements never get old. The weapons may feel the same but then can be upgraded for better stats and offer different abilities. TheFalconX

28. New Super Lucky’s Tale

While not an entirely new game, New Super Lucky’s Tale fixes many flaws from the previous game: Super Lucky’s Tale. When the latter was released, I always felt it was unfairly compared to juggernauts like Super Mario Odyssey as it released around the same time. While Lucky’s Tale isn’t a AAA platformer, I found it still held itself nicely within the genre. The levels are all well sized, the controls feel tight, the music is memorable and most importantly; the game did a great job at incentivizing you to collect everything. In most platformers, 100%ing a level almost always feels like too much work, or not enough work. Lucky’s Tale found the perfect balance between the two. If you’re a fan of platformers and heck, even if you’re not, New Super Lucky’s Tale is deserving of at least a try. SoulBlazerz

27. Astro’s Playroom

Astro’s PlayRoom feels like a handcrafted video game. From the ridiculously clean and solid 60 visuals, to the super tight gameplay, it all just feels…premium. Right up there with the best Nintendo has produced of late. It’s also going to be both the standard bearer and best example of use of haptics for the DualSense and frankly any other controller that uses the tech. It’s ridiculously well implemented here. Arguably the best game from the PS5 launch and it’s free! Spheshal Ed

26. Welcome to Elk

I was only made aware of this game by This Week on Xbox, but I was intrigued enough to buy a copy. This is a game that is all about searching for and discovering the stories of real people living in a harsh environment and they are stories worth listening to. With a mixture of art styles, fourth wall breaking sections and very unique mini games (stitch up the head wound being one of them) there is no other game quite like this. I really enjoyed the time that I spent on Elk. Harm0nica

25 – 21

25. Super Mario 3D All-Stars

What can I say?  Each of these 3 games have been with me during different point of my life in a big way.  Super Mario 64 released when I was in Grade school and I got the game the launch holiday of the Nintendo 64. I will be honest, I just played Star Wars Shadows of the Empire a lot more.  However after sometime and learning about Super Mario 64, I grew to love it.  Getting all 120 Stars was a strong goal of mine and I achieved it back then.  Super Mario Sunshine release when I was in High school.  I was a big New Jersey Shore kid and during ym high school days I didn’t get down to the beach as much as I would have liked.  Super Mario Sunshines location made me feel pretty at home even though it didn’t feel like past Mario games the Mushroom Kingdom.  Using the gadget to in different platforming scenarios actually felt great.  The music was top notch.  Super Mario Galaxy released when I was in college and it was an epic game. Flying from small planet to small planet and getting Stars never got old.  Each planet offered something unique. The music was excellent and you may occasionally find me listening to the soundtrack on Youtube.  So as you can see, having all these games in one package means a lot me.  They are a part of history and a big part of my early years growing up.  If you can, buy it digitally through the Nintendo EShop. TheFalconX

24. Call of Duty Warzone

I admit I don’t play as much Warzone as some of my friends.  However I understand why its so fun to play.  There is so much to do and being added for the Battle Royal.  Obtaining bounties or small missions to control points for money, which can then be used to get your best loadouts.  Coming up with a strategy on where to land and what to do with your squad or buddy is key here and while the engagements generally feel the same, they never get boring. The map Verdansk is huge and offers a nice variety of locations for different play styles.  The battle pass offers a lot with great weapon blue prints, characters to play as, emotes, and banners, there is no shortage of things to unlock. It was definitely the best Battle Royal of 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down.

I love creating strategies with my friends on where to push next and what loadouts we should grab based on what is going on in the map.  Since it will be near impossible to unlock all attachments for weapons, you can instead get blueprints for those weapons.  This is an amazing idea and means that players do not have to buy the main CoD game for that year.  Having a few myself, they are very helpful.  Some blue prints are apart of the Battle Pass while others you can buy separately in the store.  The skins are very much CoD.  I will admit, I played more Apex Legends this year, but in terms of content and the cost for that content is higher compared to what CoD has offered. Its no wonder why the game is so popular with doing everything right from its gameplay to the games economy. TheFalconX

23. F1 2020

A yearly title making a top 30 is surprising, as most of these games are iterative. F1 2020 did add something to the.. Formula though. The MyTeam mode offers players the option to start their own team. Create your own logo, team colours and fill your fancy racing car sponsor logos. You’ll have to manage the R&D, cashflow and the second driver of your team. Meanwhile the rest of the game remains a great experience for F1 fans. SuikerBrood

22. Deep Rock Galactic

Looking for a fun co-op experiences? Deep Rock Galactic is what you are looking for. The silly humour, functional but beautiful artstyle and engaging gameplay make for an excellent co-op title. The 1.0 version of Deep Rock Galactic released this year and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Available on Xbox Game Pass and the perfect dumb fun during a lockdown. SuikerBrood

21. The Messenger

In the year of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, it’s a tough ask for any side scrolling game to stand out, let alone one with such a classic art style. Yet that’s exactly what The Messenger was able to do. With great level variety, charming humor, some well placed twists and a top of the line soundtrack, this game was one of the best gamepass launches we’ve had. If anyone is a fan of 2D sidescrollers, ninjas, or stories narrated by dubious hooded figures, you owe it to yourself to play this game. SoulBlazerz

20 – 16

20. Haven

It is unlikely that I would have ever played Haven if it had not been available on Gamepass, so it is pleasing that it is my second favourite game of 2020. The game is colourful, the controls are fluid and the electronic soundtrack is extremely chilled. It also boasts one of the best opening sequences in a game that I have ever played. Gameplay is varied and the relationship building aspect really made me care for the lead characters. Taboo subjects which are part of everyday life as a couple were covered in a mature manner and were a refreshing surprise in a videogame. Harm0nica

19. Carrion

Carrion is a reverse horror game where you play as the source of the horror. Instead of running from the creature, you are the creature, wreaking havoc, killing lab workers and trying to escape a labyrinth. A blend of horror and metroidvania, you make your way through the lab finding upgrades and power ups to help deal with new situations like flamethrower enemies or cloaking to get by laser detectors. It’s a focused experience that is a fresh take on the sidescroller genre, offering smooth movement and interesting gameplay mechanics. It’s also on Xbox Game Pass and is worth a download at least. 10k

18. Tell Me Why

Telling a meaningful story through interactive entertainment is at the core of what Dontnod creates. Tell Me Why is no different in this regard. The story of two siblings in an Alaskan town is a good example how episodic content can work in Microsoft’s new reality. If you are into story focused games and want to have a relaxing evening playing video games, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Tell Me Why. Alaska looks gorgeous and the characters are well developed. SuikerBrood

17. Minecraft: Dungeons

Minecraft Dungeons could well be one of the most divisive games in this list. People expecting a game with the depth of Path of Exile or Diablo in a Minecraft world were disappointed. But, I believe Mojang has succeeded in the goal they’ve set. They’ve brought in a new audience with accessible mechanics and a recognizable and more colourful artstyle.

Minecraft Dungeons won’t win awards for reinventing the genre or for great storytelling, but it did keep me hooked because of the difficulty spikes and engaging gameplay. Dungeons is a great addition to the Minecraft set of games and can proudly stand tall next to other games in our Game of the Year Staff List. SuikerBrood

16. Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima, or as it’s more commonly mistaken as, Ghosts, is a sprawling, beautiful game filled to the brim with things to do. It follows the story of Jun as he transforms from a noble samurai into a dishonorable ‘ghost’, doing whatever he deems necessary to save his people. With breathtaking vistas, a memorable soundtrack, and a refreshing take on open world design, Ghost of Tsushima is a must play for fans of the genre. SoulBlazerz

15 – 11

15. Spiritfarer

Independent games can be hit and miss. I remember when this game was revealed at Microsoft’s E3 press conference back in 2019. Keanu Reeves had just left the stage after revealing the release date for Cyberpunk 2077 and telling us we’re all breathtaking. The contrast couldn’t have been bigger, as the trailer for Spiritfarer was a peaceful and colourful experience which capitvated me. When I played it this summer, that same feeling happened again. I was captivated by the colour world and mysterious but sad storyline. A game about death has never been this colourful and emotional. A true indie classic which deserves more recognition.  SuikerBrood

14. Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 is everything I could have wanted in a sequel to such a venerable series that I’ve always held in such high regard. It’s clear that both Lizardcube and Guard Crush get it. They managed to create a sequel that belongs right alongside its predecessors despite having to manage fan expectations and the ever present nostalgia that can inflate people’s memories of the old games, particularly after some three decades and change. Spheshal Ed

13. Cyberpunk 2077

The launch was certainly a scandal of biblical proportions, to the point that even mainstream media like BBC decided to take a look at what happened. Broken promises, practically unplayable last-gen versions, missing enhancements from the new consoles, all kinds of glitches and overly simplified game elements. It is clear that this game was not ready to be released, and CD Projekt Red had to cut all kinds of corners to satisfy a release date, asked by shareholders. And yet, underneath all of the issues, lies one of the most ambitious and exciting open world games ever. A brilliant futuristic dystopia, excellent characters with no less than Keanu Reeves in the cast, a surprisingly satisfying first person gameplay loop for an RPG and all kinds of fascinating tech that made our heads spin. That mess of a launch probably denied a the game from a top 3 finish in our chart, but its qualities are demonstrated by the fact that it’s still going strong in our picks despite the issues. FairyEmpire

12. Yakuza: Like A Dragon

Having played three other Yakuza games on Xbox during the house arrest that was 2020, I feared that I might have series burnout when I started playing this title. It soon became apparent that I didn’t and I was able to sink a solid ninety hours play into two and a half weeks. The move to Turn-based RPG freshened up the gameplay and it was pleasant to be able to hang around in a gang when in real life I could not do anything like that. A fresh setting, a complex story of friendship and betrayal and a new bunch of somewhat eccentric characters made the game a real standout in the Yakuza franchise. Harm0nica

11. Gears 5: Hivebusters

Hivebusters is a great, contained game that makes great use of what makes Gears so special and expands on the formula in many ways. Gears 5 was a bit of a let down for me as I thought it expanded on the series weaknesses while not focusing on any of its strengths. Hivebusters goes in the complete opposite direction and is an action packed 3-4 hour game that has awesome locations and setpieces.

Hivebusters is easily the most colorful game in the series, breathing a lot of life into a series that has often been criticized for being a little to gray. If you are at all interested in this series, Hivebusters is a must play Proven

10 – 6

10. Gears Tactics

Tactics takes the turn based strategic combat made famous by X-Com and blends it with the Gears of War universe. It’s a more accessible strategy game than X-Com and is well optimized to be played with a controller. The missions have enough variety to make the campaign interesting and it serves as a prequel to the whole series so knowledge of the previous games isn’t needed. It’s a fun experience that adds new life to the Gears IP and is well polished. Highly recommended to try if you have game pass. 10k

9. Microsoft Flight Simulator

In a year when we’re all stuck indoors, being able to virtually take to the skies and explore not just our own neck of the woods, but the entire world, was a blessing. A beautiful marriage of technology and innovation and a must play for anyone with a good rig. The end of 2020 saw VR support added, alongside a Series X|S release announced for 2021. I’m looking forward to taking to the skies once again on console. Sikamikanico

8. The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part I is probably my second favorite game of all time. It’s combination of great storytelling and engaging and memorable characters made it a near perfect game.

The sequel is a lot more complex. The game is more than twice as long, many more times more complicated, and a lot harder to unequivocally enjoy. It took me about a week to get through its 20+ hour run time. During the playtime, I was able to appreciate the insane level of detail, the vastly improved combat, and the nuances of some of the characters and story.

When I finally wrapped the game up, I felt a lot of mixed feelings. My initial thoughts had me feeling gross, discouraged, and tired.  I wasn’t totally sure if the game had succeeded in telling a story that would make you feel like you had wasted your time, or if the story Naughty Dog had just told was a waste of time.

Many months later, I’m still not quite sure how to feel. After the first game ended, I immediately jumped back in and played through it several more times. I just wanted to be back in the world and experience what I considered a near perfect game. After I wrapped up The Last of Us Part II, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to play it again.

Maybe that is what Naughty Dog wanted. They made it overtly clear that this game was made to make you feel uncomfortable. You didn’t necessarily need to agree with everything you had just experienced and that was okay. Maybe this game was aiming to make me not want to play through it again. Or maybe Naughty Dog just missed the mark and didn’t make a a game that could stick the landing.

Just recently I began replaying the game after several months of contemplating how I truly felt. The insane attention to detail is there. As is the lifelike graphics and animation. The characters I truly enjoyed are still there, and the game still feels great to play.

There are so many moments in this game that are among the best sequences I have ever played in a game. But as I keep playing, I continue to remember what I didn’t like and how I felt at the games conclusion which makes the game something of a flawed masterpiece in my mind.

I just spent a lot of time writing about how Part II doesn’t quite hit the mark, but not quite hitting the mark for Naughty Dog is still a pretty damn good game. Very few games are this ambitious, and no one can deny that Naughty Dog went all out. This game isn’t as purely good or rewarding as the first game was, but maybe that is okay. The Last of Us Part II is no doubt an achievement, for all its good and bad. Proven

7. Wasteland 3

One of my first reviews for this site this was a game that had not been on my radar at all. Within the first few hours of playing it I became hooked in a way that few things had grabbed me before. The writing is an excellent blend of dark humor and genuine emotion. The graphics are serviceable, the music if fantastic, and the gameplay is sublime. Choices matter and even on easy the game is no push over. Whether it is a dialogue option or every step of a fight you have to think through every decision you make. Start up a fight the wrong way and you can kiss your butt goodbye. Piss off the wrong person and a scenario that could have ended peacefully will quickly turn into a bloodbath. For a genre that is not normally up my alley this game delivered. The extra time and budget offered by inXile Studio’s purchase by Xbox turned what had been a good game into an all-timer. Doncabesa

6. Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris Effect: Connected is to this point the best version of Tetris that exists. I adore Tetris99 and up until now, Tetris DS was probably my all-time favourite, but Connected just blows right past both. It’s mandatory for Tetris and puzzle game fans, a must for music lovers and anyone who appreciates good visual artistry. But most importantly, it’s just so damn fun. Xbox owners have no excuse not to dive in as Tetris Effect: Connected launched straight into Game Pass and I implore everyone to give it a try. Spheshal Ed

5. Call of the Sea

Call of the Sea is a very personal story, but also a wonderful blend of puzzle, adventure and emotion. Sumptuous graphics and a well acted script go hand in hand with a suitably lovecraftian adventure full of mystery and intrigue. The real achievement here is making the island on which this adventure is staged feel alive, engrossing you within it. This was developer Out of the Blue’s debut title, and it certainly makes the studio one to watch in the future. Sikamikanico

4. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the best game in the series since it turned into an RPG and overall best game since Assassin’s Creed II. Valhalla continues to evolve the ever familiar formula of the standard Ubisoft open world. The game feels more natural than most Ubisoft games, as you will stumble upon open world events and activities and not solely rely on question marks on the map.

Beyond the evolution of the open world the game sees an evolution in almost every aspect of the game, making it an exceptional action game and a game that I highly recommend checking out. Proven

3. Immortals: Fenyx Rising

I didn’t know a lot about this game, even before changing the name. Completely off my radar. And it was recommended to me by a guy who plays PUBG 95% of his time. When I started playing, the setting, movement, combat, art, puzzles, and gameplay loop kept me glued to the screen. I knew Ubisoft had something special when they managed to make an open-world game that is fun to play without a grind and boring mechanics. The main story unfolds like the history book for a Fortnite generation. Most of the dialogs and humor are cringe-worthy, but that it’s, somehow – cute. In the end, you are becoming a champion in the ancient mythology telenovela show – so the bar for seriousness is already low. But that is all just a shell for the game. The pearl is polished gameplay, and whatever you do in the game – it’s fun. Predrag

2. Doom Eternal

Bigger, badder and bolder is the philosophy Texas-based id Software went for with this bombastic sequel to one of the best first person shooters of the generation. An even more exhilarating combat loop, a crazy story with buckets of fanservice, yet another timeless soundtrack by the legend Mick Gordon, a brilliant technical aspect, and an astonishing amount of gore to paint the arenas with. Doom Eternal’s magnificient single player on a demon-infested planet Earth may just be the best first person shooter campaign of the entire 8th generation of consoles, and Microsoft most certainly hit jackpot by putting their hands on this legendary software house when opting to buy their publisher, Bethesda. Only one question: how can they top this? And speaking of sequels that practically perfected a formula in every possible way… FairyEmpire

1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps  

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a title that soars above the expectations of a platformer, and its predecessor alike. The second Ori manages to tell an even more powerful story about family and loss, whilst simultaneously expanding on the world and its lore, without feeling contrived. Players traverse this lovingly-crafted world with even more tools and means of customizing the game to their play-style, so that the journey feels somehow even more personal than that of the first. The game flourishes with a bevy of NPCs that provide further context for the player, and which offers sidequests to differentiate itself from other Metroidvania’s that have come and gone over the past decade; perhaps more importantly, these sidequests never feel like chores or filler-tasks because Moon manages to make the player *care* about these side characters. 

I could write an entire novel about all the reasons it holds a special place in my heart and I haven’t even mentioned the impeccable soundtrack from Gareth Coker, the beauty of the game’s graphics and art style, or how it feels like a Studio Ghibli world come to life. Suffice it to say, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a rare masterpiece; a game that collides with perfection seldom seen in the industry, and one that deservedly received universal acclaim from critics, including the staff at XboxEra. Knottian

Now it’s your turn.

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So, that’s our list. What’s yours? You can now vote for the XboxEra Community Game of the Year right here. We are creating a community Game of the Year list. Everyone on the XboxEra Forums can enter their favorite 10 games of 2020. At the end of January we’ll compile everything in a list and analyze the data.

We’d love to see what you think were the best games of 2020.

Pieter "SuikerBrood" Jasper

29 year old gamer who grew up with Commander Keen and Jazz Jackrabbit. A PC Gamer. (Sorry, not sorry). Dutch, but actually Frisian. Loves Age of Empires, Sea of Thieves and wishes for a new Viva Piñata.

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