While there’s several staples of multiplayer gaming that seem to remain consistent year in, year out, 2020 and its unique… challenges have provided fertile soil for new and inventive multiplayer games to flourish.
This summer in particular saw several games coming almost out of nowhere to become Twitch and YouTube sensations, and more fun, social types of multiplayer coming to the fore (both new and old). Then there’s the battle royale genre, which continues to rumble in the background, a handful of new challengers emerging to Fortnite’s crown.
This year’s winner, though? Well, it combines the two.
As soon as it was announced, I had a feeling I was going to love Fall Guys. The cute and cuddly visuals and the daft shenanigans of Total Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle, all to the tune of the current Big Thing™ in video games, the Battle Royale. It was instantly appealing the first time I got to go hands on at Gamescom, and it was a delight to see my slight fears of it being a lightly obscure release laid to rest by its barnstorming launch.
Of course, it was helped along the way by being bundled into PlayStation Plus, but it was sensationally successful on Steam as well, and Mediatonic had to scramble to shore up their servers, patch out issues and ease their way into the typical seasonal content drops that we see so often in games these days.
Is it perfect? No. Are the waits between rounds a bit too long? Maybe. Is it a whole lot of fun that captured the imaginations of millions over the summer? Absolutely.
Fall Guys is our deserved winner of Best Multiplayer Game 2020.
Runner up – Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty: Warzone might feel like it came out about three years ago, but it actually only arrived back in March. Merely calling it a free to play Battle Royale spin-off feels almost like it’s being undersold, as it builds on the shooting mechanics and graphics of 2019’s Modern Warfare. As a result the controls feel tight and responsive and the game looks gorgeous.
More importantly, it brought its own twists to the battle royale genre. The Gulag, where defeated players face off one on one and the winner goes back into the match, and the ability to buy squad mates back into the game were excellent additions. You could even argue that the battle royale mode isn’t even the best one; personally I’m partial to Plunder, where you run around collecting cash and putting it in helicopters that tend to attract nearby enemies.
Since March, Warzone has gone through all kinds of modes and additions, such as the Halloween update that had defeated players respawning as undead, and it’s even just been updated to integrate into the recently released Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. The main gameplay remains the same, however. It’s tense and strategic, and playing in a squad is one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had this year.
– Gareth C
Runner up – Phasmaphobia
In recent years, we’ve seen a subgenre of multiplayer horror games carve a niche out for itself in the industry. Most of them follow the lead of competitive killer games like Dead by Daylight and infuse high-intensity objective focused competition with spooky sights and sounds, but what makes Phasmophobia so special (aside from the gut-dropping terror of the VR support) is the fact that it takes such a wildly different approach to horror multiplayer.
As a purely cooperative, slow-paced ghost hunting experience, it delivers on healthy scares while also creating a gameplay environment that naturally gives way to horror tropes like losing sight of your friends in a massive abandoned school or having yourself locked into a bathroom by ghosts as soon as you say “I bet there aren’t any ghosts here.” It’s an entirely unique multiplayer horror experience that paves the way for more slow and sophisticated horror experiences like it in the future.
– Miguel M
Special Mention – Among Us
The tricky business with online-focused games, especially during awards season, is that the year a game came out in might not align with the year it actually takes off and finds an audience. Plenty of games may establish their audience or find their footing a year or two into release, but it’s incredibly rare for an under the radar indie game made by 3 people to come out in 2018, only to suddenly explode in popularity and become a global phenomenon in 2020.
Among Us isn’t just a popular indie game that is well known by regular gamers, it is a pop culture hit that kids in middle school and grandparents in retirement homes alike are playing. While its 2018 release date means it isn’t in line to win any awards (except for Best Ongoing where it was a runner up), it’s impossible not to acknowledge the fact that 2020 has, without a doubt, been the year for Among Us.
– Miguel M
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Cake Bash
- Deep Rock Galactic
- Destiny 2: Beyond Light
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list:
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. Our next category? Best Gameplay!