As we near the end of the year, it’s time to kick off our Game of the Year awards, diving into over a dozen different categories to celebrate the best of what we’ve seen since the start of 2020.
The last few years in particular have seen the trend of quick remasters that do a minor sprucing up of a game’s visuals making way for full blown remakes of older classics. Publishers have been more than happy to mine the nostalgia that people felt for games like Crash Bandicoot (our 2017 winner) or Resident Evil 2 (our 2019 winner), but the developers have then gone the extra mile to actually make them. There’s a difficult balancing act beyond simply making the graphics anew, as they judge if the gameplay still holds up for modern gamers, and where to make changes, improvements, additions.
In development for the last five years, but having been constantly demanded by fans for the last fifteen, our winner is…
How do you go about remaking one of the most beloved video games of all time? Well, you probably don’t start by ramping up expectations with a graphical tech demo that you have no actual intention of following up on. It might have been a PR faux pas through the PlayStation 3 era, but the PS3 tech demo Square teased us with way back in 2005 only proved that the demand was there for a full on remake of Final Fantasy VII.
Even then, Square Enix were true to their word that this would be a vast project to undertake, not content with simply rebuilding the game’s graphics, but also deciding to delve in and expand upon the underlying story and character relations. It’s expanding the game to the point that this is being broken up into multiple parts, allowing Square Enix to flesh out ideas and areas that maybe weren’t so fully formed in the original. It might not have been strictly necessary (and some of the changes are a little divisive), but it largely works.
Turn-based battles still have their place in the JRPG genre (hello, Dragon Quest XI) yet Square decided to shelve these for the Final Fantasy VII Remake. The combat here still has elements from that original ATB system though flows more dynamically, packing in just as much tactical nuance while admittedly looking way flashier. On the whole, this is a staggering remake and hopefully – now with the foundations in place – we won’t have to wait as long for Square to deliver the next instalment.
Demon’s Souls – Runner Up
Definitely revered as more of a cult classic compared to Final Fantasy VII, Demon’s Souls is the precursor to one of gaming’s most celebrated franchises. However, at the time of its original launch on the PlayStation 3 back in 2009 it was the definition of niche, gaining popularity through word of mouth as RPG die-hards chased down imported copies.
Demon’s Souls is just as obtuse and unfriendly as it was all those years ago, Sony and the remaster… masters at Bluepoint Games thinking it would be the perfect launch game for the PS5. In some ways it is, showing off the console’s raw power while also proving that Sony aren’t just pandering to mainstream audiences. Although some purists have taken issue with some of Bluepoint’s visuals upgrades, this remake perfectly mirrors FromSoftware’s brutal fantasy RPG from its gruesome tome down to the fluid combat and oodles of character customisation options.
– Jim H
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 – Runner Up
Tony Hawks Pro Skater has been one sports franchise that’s managed to ride the swiftly changing half-pipe of popularity. While Activision tried to refresh the first game in 2012 with Pro Skater HD, it wasn’t the hallowed return that fans had been yearning for, but this year’s Tony Hawks 1+2 was thankfully exactly what they’d been hoping for.
Drawing together the first two games in the series, this time around the visuals were given a full current-gen buffing, the soundtrack was given a suitably Hawks-ish update, and it stuffed the roster with every skater you could possibly want to smush into every obstacle out there. Add in a host of accessibility options and an enhanced endgame and you can see why this earned one of our hallowed 10/10s.
– Dom L
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition
- Resident Evil 3
- Spider-Man Remastered
What was your personal favourite of the year? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to stick with us through the rest of this month as we tick our categories off one by one.