EGM’s Best of 2020: Matthew Bennett’s Picks
I’ve never been happier to write a Game of the Year list, as it means that the wretched year that is 2020 is almost over. But I don’t want to dwell on it, so I’ll leave the talk of how terrible 2020 has been at that.
Moving onto gaming, it’s been a mixed year for obvious reasons. There was the arrival of the long-awaited Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, and some heavy hitters from triple-A studios that actually delivered—and a few that didn’t. On the flip side, a number of big games that I was looking forward to have been pushed to 2021, such as Halo: Infinite and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.
Finally, the one shining light of 2020 for me has been Xbox Game Pass. I finally rejoined the Xbox ecosystem with the release of the Series X and instantly subscribed to Microsoft’s service. The value that the pass offers is ridiculous, and it’s given me the chance to start catching up a number of games I’ve ignored over the last few years. I’m now looking forward to seeing which games Microsoft has up its sleeve for the next year.
|#5||Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Publisher: Activision ▪︎ Developer: Toys For Bob ▪︎ Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch
The orange marsupial is back and better than ever. I was a little surprised to see Toys for Bob in charge of Crash’s latest outing after the stellar job Vicarious Visions did with the N. Sane Trilogy. However, the team delivered. Not only did Toys for Bob manage to capture the feeling and gameplay of the classic trilogy, but also built on it with the introduction of new playable characters and even more levels. The studio also brought a new suite of masks to the party that almost all felt great to use. The gravity mask felt a little unpredictable at times, and caused my death on a number of occasions. However, the rest felt like brilliant additions to the series. After 22 years, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped finally has the sequel it deserved, and I can’t wait for the next one.
|#4||Mafia: Definitive Edition
Publisher: 2K ▪︎ Developer: Hanger 13 ▪︎ Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
I never got to experience Tommy Angelo’s story until this year when Hangar 13 decided to bring the original Mafia into the modern age. Previously, his tale had always been a footnote in my enjoyment of Mafia II, but now I realize how much I was missing out on. The way Tommy’s story is told and the camaraderie that he has with Paulie and Sam dragged me in and made me want to see him succeed. I obviously won’t go into how it all plays out in the end, but I will say that it cemented Mafia as my favorite entry in the series.
|#3||Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Publisher: Devolver Digital ▪︎ Developer: Mediatonic ▪︎ Platforms: PS4, PC
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout took up a large chunk of my gaming time this year, despite only launching in August. From the first time I battled my way through to the final and grabbed the Crown just moments before another player, I was hooked.
To boil it down to it’s core, Fall Guys feels like you’re playing an episode of Takeshi’s Castle, except instead of people, there are 60 little lovable beans bouncing around. And it’s these beans that really make the experience so memorable as they fall over each other, get bashed by giant swinging axes, and fight over eggs. There’s also the unpredictability. Will a crowd of players bump me off the map? Will my bean randomly fall over at a pivotal moment? The chaos is both enjoyable and frustrating at the same time, and this is why it placed so highly on my list.
|#2||Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Publisher: Sega ▪︎ Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio ▪︎ Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, PC
If you’ve seen any of my previous Game of the Year lists, then you’ll know that I’ve become a pretty big fan of the Yakuza series since playing Yakuza 0. However, I’ll admit that I was a little nervous when Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio announced that it was turning the series on its head with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. I needn’t have been though. Yakuza’s action combat fits seamlessly into the new turn-based RPG system, and has even been expanded with the addition of permanent party members and jobs.
Then there’s the new protagonist: Ichiban Kasuga. He’s no Kiryu, and that’s a good thing. Ichiban can still deliver the serious moments when needed, but he’s also a goofball who isn’t afraid to show his emotions. It’s a very nice change of pace that helps to set Like a Dragon up nicely as the start of a new adventure away from Kiryu. I’ll miss Kiryu as the series protagonist, but I’m more than happy with this new direction.
|#1||Final Fantasy VII Remake
Publisher: Square Enix ▪︎ Developer: Square Enix ▪︎ Platforms: PS4
In a year filled with remakes, Final Fantasy VII Remake set itself apart by expanding on the original game and turning it into something new. All the story beats that I remember from my childhood are there, such as blowing up the first reactor, meeting Aerith, and reaching Wall Market, in all their HD remade glory. However, now there’s a whole mess of new areas to explore, quests to complete, and characters to meet. Accompanying these new additions is a massive expansion of the original story that fills in the gaps and introduces the Whispers. These ethereal creatures play a pivotal role in the remake, and I’d love to go into why they are such a great addition, but spoilers.
With the new content, expanded story, action/turn-based hybrid combat, and gorgeous graphics, Square Enix has managed to create something that is even better than the original Final Fantasy VII—at least the first part of it anyway. Whether the team can keep it up until the remake is complete is yet to be seen.
The “Just When I Thought I Was Out” Award
This award returns for a second year with the same winner. I just can’t seem to peel the suckers of Epic’s battle royale off me. Every time I tell myself I’m done, Epic sends out another season, releases Gaming Legends skins such as Kratos and Master Chief, or dangles a Baby Yoda Back Bling in front of me.
The “Old Faithful” Award
Final Fantasy XIV
Like a comfy pair of old sneakers, I’ve found myself once again slipping in and out of Eorzea over the past year. Even though I’m yet to catch up on the available content, I’ve still found hours upon hours of enjoyment from Square Enix’s long-running MMO.
The “I Don’t Want to Think About It” Award
The number of games sitting in my backlog is daunting at this point. Just this year alone I’ve added a ton of games to it, including Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Wasteland 3, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Hades, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, and more. I need to spend less time playing live service games and focus on clearing out my backlog in 2021.
Matt is one of the longest-serving members of the EGMNOW team. An ability to go many hours without sleep and a quick wit make him ideal for his role as associate editor at EGMNOW.com. He often thinks back to the days when the very idea of this career seemed like nothing but an impossible dream.