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Ars Technica’s best games of 2020

2020’s top titles — These 20 titles helped a quarantined 2020 pass by that much more quickly. Ars Staff – Dec 22, 2020 5:10 pm UTC Collage by Aurich LawsonWhen the world at large looks back at 2020, how much will video games figure into our memories? Frankly, humanity has a pretty massive bullet list…

2020’s best titles —

These 20 names helped a quarantined 2020 pass by that much more rapidly.


Ars Technica’s best games of 2020

Collage by Aurich Lawson

When the world at large looks back 2020, how far will video games figure to our memories? Frankly, humanity has a pretty massive bullet list of mad, important, and scary moments that will likely outweigh the significance of, say, knocking out your dailies in an MMO.

But in Ars, we know that you’ve still been keenly interested in gaming posts this season –if because you had queries regarding sold-out consoles and graphics cards, since you happened to be dwelling near your gambling machines more often, or because your social life began revolving less around the neighborhood pub and more about a Discord station. In an increasingly stressed out and homebound calendar year, video games supplied equivalent parts refuge and escape.

Thankfully, evolution studios instantly figured out that the work-from-home thing well enough to finish and launch some incredible video games. (Well, some over other people .) Hence, we have repeatedly realised that the Ars gaming braintrust to rate the matches which provided the most comfort in a year where relaxation was in severely short supply.

(As the creators of this unscientific but heavily researched pollwe look forward to some ideas and responses in the comments section–so long as you are kind about it. Bear in mind, 2020’s been demanding. Be nice.)

20.  Astro’s Playroom

Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan (Asobi Team); PlayStation 5

Games which come packed with a brand new console on launch day carry a heavy burden. They have to represent the promise and potential of their new hardware into a passionate audience without slipping to the dull obscurity of a mere tech demo. Astro’s Playroom walks this tightrope absolutely, highlighting by example the very best of what the PlayStation 5 can perform while functioning as a light yet surprisingly deep platform game in its own right.

  • Welcome to Cooling Springs, just one portion of the adventure through a PS5’s innards in Astro’s Playroom.

  • Why… why was I made to appreciate cake?

  • Nice view.

  • I can never relax on holidays…

  • And me with no bathing suit.

  • Walking through this sandstorm is accompanied by an appropriate blowing sound effect on the DualSense controller.

  • In the frog match, you have to actually squeeze the causes to compress the elastic legs.

  • Boingy boingy boingy…

  • What’s cooler than being cool?

  • I can not hear you. I said, what is cooler than being cool…?

  • All rightall right, all right, all right, all right, all rightall right, all rightall right, all right, all right, all rightall rightall right, all right, all right, all right, all right…

  • Exploring can unearth pieces of PlayStation history similar to this oversize artifact.

As we mentioned in our initial feelings back in October, Astro’s Playroom functions as the ideal showcase for the PS5’s brand new DualSense controller. The game combines subtle, positional vibrations, perfectly synced audio feedback from the controller’s speaker, and well-tuned immunity in activates to expand a game’s sensory adventure beyond the screen in a new and unique way. The game’s use of ray-traced reflections and high-definition rendering, while more subtle, additionally highlight the PS5’s cutting-edge CPU, GPU, and SSD.

More than that, however, Astro’s Playroom functions as an interactive museum of 25 years of PlayStation history littered with collectible trinkets and Easter eggs that evoke memories of their best hardware and applications under the PlayStation umbrella. Combine this with the tongue-in-cheek exploration of this PlayStation 5’s innards, and you obtain a corporate love letter that rivals Super Smash Bros. because of its sheer fanboy glee.

This quick pack-in game only takes a couple of hours to overcome, though concealed secrets and speedrun optimizations can easily add more hours of pleasure. Still, this endearing little adventure through the innards of the PlayStation 5 will probably stick with Sony lovers for as long as they like their new console buy.

-Kyle Orland

19.  The Last of Us Part II

Naughty DogPlayStation 4

If you browse Ars Technica’s review of the game), then you might be surprised to see it with this yearlong list. And yes, back in June I took TLOU2 to task for a plot that devolves into borderline nonsensical character motives, muddying a valiant attempt to tell a cohesive narrative about a cycle of trauma driven by boundless revenge. Compared to this tight, driven, emotional plot of the first game, Part II felt like a step back into a more self explanatory, less affecting storytelling form.

  • Oh, hello everybody.

  • I’ll confess I was surprised when Ellie broke into a full version of Lonely Island’s”I’m on a boat!” Inside this scene. Can I kidding? Play the game and discover out!

  • Horsemanship isn’t as integral for this game as it’s in Red Dead Redemption or anything, but it provides a nice interlude from running.

  • Someone please create a theme park that catches the beautiful decay of TLOU2‘s Seattle.

  • OK Ellie, you are not Batman, get moving.

  • For a basement with this much water harm, you are gonna want the industrial dehumidifier. That costs extra.

  • Motion blur!

  • Sure, bring a knife to a gun battle. See how that works out.

  • That light ring looks even better using an HDR color gamut.

  • Guitar solo!

But those structural flaws can’t take away from the intense, memorable moments available inside the sweep of Naughty Dog’s newest grand epic: plucking notes on a guitar at a quiet, abandoned construction; exploring the ruins of a long-decaying museum as a joyful birthday present; gawking in the marvel of a sports arena converted to military housing for thousands; stealing a moment of love while hiding out of a ferocious storm; riding a horse during the flaming wreckage of a doomed village.

These moments and more adhere out, months afterwards, shining amid the tangled and messy plot as a number of gaming’s most well-constructed setpieces. And while those pieces don’t come together into a satisfying narrative whole like its predecessor did, their construction still merits observation and recognition by anyone interested in today’s era of video game storytelling.

-Kyle Orland

18.  The Longing

Studio Seufz; Windows, MacOS, Linux

The Longing has a good deal out of a bit. This little-hyped sport from German programmer Studio Seufz is part point-and-click adventure, part idle game, part Animal Crossing-esque home furnishing simulator, and part existential Tamagotchi.

You play as a delicate, soot-covered character only called A Shade. Deep below the surface, at a massive network of underground caves, you’re hauled from the hands of a giant earthy king. He tells you he must slumber to recover his strength and also to wake him in 400 days, at which point he claims to end all dread and longing on earth.

Then, a constant timer at the peak of the screen starts ticking down–in real time. 400 actual days. The rest is on you. Will you follow orders, bound by a sense of duty? Will you seek out an escape, unsure of exactly what the consequences may be? Will you risk exploring for keys? How exactly will the king fulfill his promise? No matter what you do, the timer is always ticking toward an ending. That may sound familiar, especially as most of us wait for the past few ticks before a vaccine finishes Our Pandemic Year™.

You are able to speed up the in-game countdown, mercifully, by reading novels, sketching artwork, and supplying your in-cave home. The timer continues even when the match is shut, and numerous endings do not require anywhere near the full 400 days. (My playthrough took approximately 25 hours)

Stillthis is a sport about patience and isolation. You are alone in the caves–there aren’t any enemies to confront, no compact gameplay systems to nestle into. You can not starve to death or anything like that. You just sitexplore, or kill time. You may bookmark specific places in the caves to the Shade to remember, but he walks dangerously slow, and returning home means walking all the way back.

This really is really a titanic subversion of hot video game design, and it’s certainly not for everybody. But in the process of playing, The Longing forces you to reside at the adventure of waiting, wondering, being alone with your ideas, the unanswerable, and also exactly what it means to be satisfied. All of this catches the state of being in 2020 exceptionally well, but more than that, The Longing generates a fundamentally human battle. 1 way or another, we all have lords we must serve. Right?

-Jeff Dunn





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