You don’t need a great story for a game to be an all-time great, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. This year has seen plenty of games built around a deep and immersive story, whether they want to engage you through making decisions that change how a story or simply tell a tale that will stay with you for days and weeks after you’ve finished.
Our winner? Well, it’s one of the most anticipated games of the year…
As soon as our Game of the Year 2020 discussions moved on to the “Best Narrative” category, we all knew what was coming. Despite its incredible visceral combat, layered environmental designs, and stunning visuals, even months after The Last of Us Part II launched on PlayStation 4, there’s still a divisive discourse clinging to the game’s story.
It should come as no surprise, really. Joel and Ellie’s emotional journey through the apocalypse was what made The Last of Us such a landmark exclusive, and one that didn’t end with our protagonists riding off merrily into the sunset.
We always knew Naughty Dog would try and outdo themselves with The Last of Us Part II, but no one could predict this is the path they’d take. The price of revenge is the overriding theme here and one the studio brutally portrays over more than twenty hours as we see Ellie and Abby put through the wringer. Although certain characters and subplots are disappointingly underused, Naughty Dog deserve credit for pursuing such a challenging storyline – one that adopts multiple perspectives, both looking to the past and future without being compromised in the name of quick and easy fan service.
– Jim H
Runner Up – 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
13 Sentinels features one of the most insanely ambitious stories of 2020, starring thirteen fully developed protagonists and letting you pick which stories and scenes to play in the order you want. That it still manages to come together in the end sounds dumb and impossible, but it actually works!
It’s constantly intriguing, characters are always growing and revealing new layers, and the Telltale-style adventure gameplay keeps the pacing fresh and involving the entire time. It’s a massive, massive sci-fi epic that tackles the ideas so many other western sci-fi stories over the decades have tackled, but mashes them all together in a really inspiring and uplifting story about human perseverance in spite of silly human error.
– Miguel M
Runner Up – Tell Me Why
After two critically acclaimed seasons of Life Is Strange, 2020 was the year that saw Dontnod step away from the supernatural-infused teen dramas, but still exploring the graphic adventure game’s potential to tell nuanced and intimate stories.
Of particular note are the twin lead characters in the game, the story picking up as Tyler, a transgender man, is released from juvie and reunited with his twin sister Alyson. Returning to their Alaskan hometown of Delos Crossing and unintentionally digging up the traumatic events surrounding their mother’s death and Tyler’s coming out. There’s a slight supernatural element still, with the twins having a special bond that lets them explore their differing memories of events, but it’s really the maturity of the story, the considered representation, and how it explores family trauma and relationships that make this stand out.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Call of the Sea
- Immortals Fenyx Rising
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list!
- Best Independent Game
- Best Visual Design
- Best Original Soundtrack
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Remaster/Remake
Stories and how they’re told and engage you are always going to be deeply personal things. What do you think of our chosen winner and runners up? What games have stood out for you in 2020?