Game of the Year 2020 – Overall Winner

We’re finally here, standing at the precipice that is New Years Eve, and as is customary around these parts, that means it’s time to reveal the overall winner in our Game of the Year awards.

The last few weeks have seen us celebrate what we consider to be the very best games out there, from championing the exceptional Hades as Best Independent Game, to celebrating hot new multiplayer games like Fall Guys, and outstanding big budget VR games like Half-Life: Alyx.

At the end of the day, it’s the overall winner that matters most to people, and I’m sure that everyone has a particular favourite. Sometimes it feels like there’s a game that’s preordained, other times it’s more controversial or uncertain. 2020 has been nothing if not controversial and uncertain…

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This year’s overall winner is one that looks to the past, while also paving the way for things to come.

There are very few games with the prestige of Final Fantasy VII. Despite the limitations of the PS1, the 1997 classic is a hallmark of what games can achieve, both in terms of storytelling and cultural reach.

Not only was this a tale of epic proportions, spanning a whopping four discs, but it was truly excellent throughout. An unlikely bunch of eco-terrorists, working with a gloomy merc try to save the planet from big corp, finding mutual respect, admiration and friendship along the way. It made you laugh, it made you cry, it made you nag Sony for a remaster for two full console cycles.

It would surprise nobody if this was the most requested remake of all time, which would generally mean that the final product would never live up to the hype. I mean, look at the hype around Cyberpunk 2077 which has built up over the past console cycle alone.

When Square Enix finally relented and announced the remake, die-hard fans were initially outraged to hear that the game would be split up, the first entry only covering the first disk, but this sentiment quickly dissipated onceeveryone got their hands on the game. The graphics are sublime, the now real-time combat is tight and the little things that fans loved — like the Honey Bee Inn — has been given new life. This isn’t a soulless rerelease of a timeless classic, this is a ground-up remake which takes a game that millions loved and somehow makes it even better. Everything is as good as you remember, but more so.

The true test will be seeing whether the eventual follow-up is just as watertight — we’re all just praying we won’t have to wait for the PS7 to get it…

– Nic B

Runner Up – The Last of Us Part II

At the start of 2020, I’m sure that many would have expected Naughty Dog’s eagerly awaited sequel to walk away with the Game of the Year awards, and in many cases it has. However, simply being one of the most hotly anticipated and talked about video games of the year isn’t enough to automatically win.

Even now, months after The Last of Us Part II launched exclusively on PlayStation 4, Naughty Dog’s sequel is still at the heart of fiery fan debates as players continue to dissect its story, themes, and characters. Some loved it, savouring the bold direction that Naughty Dog took, but others have come away disaffected.

At the end of the day, you can’t separate The Last of Us: Part II from its gritty, gripping narrative, but this is only one aspect that helped the game ascend so close to this year’s GOTY summit. That persistent feeling of desperation – that overwhelming lust for revenge – is something that seeps into every aspect of how Part II plays, especially with some of the more intense stealth/combat encounters ever crafted. Naughty Dog gambled with their story while intuitively refining and expanding everything around it, creating one of the most essential games of 2020.

– Jim H

Runner Up – Animal Crossing: New Horizons

No game had an impact in 2020 quite like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Arriving as the first wave of the pandemic was forcing people to work from home if they could, to furlough if they couldn’t, to do anything but go outside, New Horizons provided a little island of tranquility where players could take back a little control, take solace in the mundanity of some daily chores to hunt for fossils, do a spot of fishing, pay off loans for your home, and eventually start to decorate and transform the island as you saw fit.

It wasn’t just timing and was also a huge step forward for the series, while admittedly featuring plenty of Nintendo’s weirdness surrounding save files and clumsy online and local multiplayer options. The game looks fantastic, the museum that you fill with discoveries is a wonder to visit and explore, and the way that the experience transforms once the credits have rolled is equal parts liberating and daunting once you see the magical islands that others have managed to create with the newfound freedom.

Arguably, you could step away from the notion that Game of the Year means the “best” game (for a given value of best), and pick the game that had the greatest impact. Animal Crossing New Horizons defined a long stretch of 2020 for myself, my partner, my friends, several of the writers here at TSA and millions and millions of others.

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • Hades
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps

To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out, here’s a handy list!

Our Game of the Year 2020 awards are finished! Now, who’s ready for 2021?

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4 Comments

  1. Not meaning to be nitpicky but it doesn’t make a lot of sense how FF didn’t even get a runner up spot in single player game category but can win overall game of the year.

    • Different aspects come to the fore at different points as we go through the categories, and we hash things to let our dozen or so voices and opinions come to the fore. So FF7R wasn’t as prominent when discussing Best SP, but was still an honourable mention, and it then won Best PlayStation and was a clear winner for Best Remake.

      The overall GOTY is then more of a straight up vote between us, taking everyone’s top three and weighting them together.

    • Makes no sense whatsoever! Its the best game you can play alone this year and apparently has the best narrative but its not the GOTY or best PlayStation game, no, those awards go to another single player, narrative heavy game that lost out in those categories… lol.

  2. Any other year, I’d be wondering how this happened. But 2020, so yeah, whatever. Nothing makes sense anyway.

    I’m not saying FF7R is bad. It’s clearly not. Looks and sounds great and it’s a decent enough RPG. But it’s a huge disappointment with half a dozen hours of game stretched out to 40+ hours. I think I hit 37 hours originally, 20+ years ago. So to stretch out the first of 3 discs to that same length was always going to involve a lot of unnecessary filler. And the Wall Market section seems to go on forever when really that whole bit should have been cut out entirely. It’s even more dubious than it was all those years ago.

    And the combat is a bit lacking too. Take a nice turn based system with plenty of difficulty and strategy and replace it with some button bashing and the odd bit of using the assess materia and then pounding them with whatever it says you should be using. Then take away most of the opportunity to actually fight and level everything up. Not that “take 3 steps then have a random battle” was ever the best way to do that.

    It’s an above average RPG with excellent production values, but doesn’t come close to the original in a lot of ways and doesn’t deserve to beat everything else for GOTY.

    The fight against the magic shed is quite cool though. That adds extra strategy by having to see what magic it’s vulnerable to every couple of minutes and doing some healing.

    Oh, and the summons are a bit crap. In the original, they were impressive things that took some time to appear (possibly too long, especially that Knights of Round animation) and did lots of damage. Now they just sort of happen and do a fair bit of damage every now and then for a while and the disappear.

    It’s a 7/10 game designed to appeal to young people and those who quite liked the original but probably never finished it all properly. (And yes, all that effort with chocobo racing and breeding to get KoR and stand a chance against emerald/ruby is probably the definition of padding out an already long game to ridiculous lengths)

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