We’ve made it to the halfway point of 2020, and while most of the world has been turned upside down, there has been no shortage of great video games to take our minds off of the chaos of everyday life.
Titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Resident Evil 3 provided completely fresh takes on some of the most beloved games of all time, while The Last of Us Part II and Doom Eternal pushed storytelling and action to exciting new heights. And then there’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which continues to take the world by storm by providing the virtual island escape we need right now.
This list of excellent games is all the more impressive when you consider that the current generation of consoles is winding down to make way for the PS5 and Xbox Series X this fall. If you’re looking to catch up on what you’ve missed, here are the best games of 2020 so far.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
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Final Fantasy VII Remake is easily my favorite game of 2020 so far — which is impressive, considering that I didn’t want to play it at first. While the original FFVII was one of the formative games of my teenage years, I didn’t see what good remaking it could do, other than making the graphics prettier.
FFVIIR is more than just a fresh coat of paint, though. In addition to a completely revamped and highly strategic battle system, you also get wildly expanded levels, a completely new script and much richer characterizations. The combat is challenging, the environments are fully realized and the voice acting is spirited. If you’ve never played FFVII before, this is arguably the best way to experience.
However, if you have played FFVII before, then FFVIIR is an even more fascinating game, thanks to smart, subtle and subversive ways in which it builds on the original’s story. If you haven’t seen the ending yet, then brace yourself — a sequel to FFVIIR could go to some very strange and satisfying places. — Marshall Honorof
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
I was a month or two late to the Animal Crossing: New Horizons phenomenon, but I've certainly spent the following months making up for lost time. Over the 285 hours I put into this game, I found the joys of interior decorating my island home and levelling that domestic paradise up with room after room. Animal Crossing is an ultimate challenge, though, as you'll probably need to play the Stalk Market in order to rack up cash fast and pay off your in-game debt. Yes, somehow, Animal Crossing made debt relief kind of a fun experience — mostly because of how all of my friends were also tracking their turnip prices, leading us to constantly communicate and help each other cash in.
New Horizons succeeds because of its amazingly cute designs and characters, in spite of how slow its dialogue-driven menus are and how bad Nintendo continues to be at Online. When someone visits your island, life shuts down while you spend a minute watching a loading screen. That I could spend more than 200 hours of time, enjoying a game with that kind of flaw shows you how strong its good parts are. It's practically become my preferred way to warm my brain up in the morning, digging for fossils, planting bags of money and tidying my personal island. Animal Crossing also owes some of its success to how much we all want to be on an island adventure now that we're all stranded in our own not-virtual houses. Heck, Animal Crossing New Horizons even played a decent stand-in for my spring vacation. — Henry T. Casey
The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us was one of the defining games of the PS3. It was the kind of game you can only get late in a console’s life span, with gorgeous graphics, refined gameplay and detailed levels that pushed the aging PS3 to its limits. Now, The Last of Us Part II has done the same thing with the PS4. This dark action/stealth game casts you as Ellie, who embarks on a quest for revenge after witnessing a brutal murder.
Like the first game, The Last of Us Part II has tight, intense gameplay that challenges you to solve environmental puzzles, explore huge levels to scavenge resources, fight off grotesque Infected enemies and sneak your way past human foes. You can improve your abilities and weapons over time, and both open combat and total stealth are viable options.
But what really elevates The Last of Us Part II is its story, where the plot twists come fast and frequently, and Ellie’s cause is never quite as righteous as it seems. The Last of Us Part II asks some tough questions, and the answers it provides are dark, unsettling and insightful. — Marshall Honorof
Doom Eternal takes the first-person-shooter rollercoaster ride that is 2016’s Doom reboot and cranks everything up tenfold. The game’s brutally frenetic combat is more strategic than ever, as every shotgun round, flamethrower blast and brutal melee kill all flow together to create an irresistibly fun gameplay loop in which every part of your arsenal serves a purpose. Eternal puts an even greater emphasis on movement, with double-jumps, wall-climbs and dashes that give you exciting new ways to approach enemies and explore a hell-infested Earth. And it’s all set to a buzzing heavy metal soundtrack that perfectly fuels every explosive encounter. Doom Eternal isn’t just the best take yet on the most iconic shooter around — it’s one of the best pure action games out there, period. — Mike Andronico
Resident Evil 3
Following the superb Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 remake, the 2020 version of Resident Evil 3 continues to usher in the series new golden era by delivering an intense, engrossing take on one of survival horror’s most beloved classics. Shorter and more action-focused than last year’s Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 is a pulse-pounding survival experience that weaves together explosive setpieces, nerve-wracking zombie encounters and some truly memorable face-offs with iconic big bad Nemesis. While not quite as content-packed as the RE2 remake, Resident Evil 3 offers up some of the best gameplay and visuals the series has seen yet, and has us chomping at the bit for next year’s Resident Evil Village. — Mike Andronico
Persona 5 Royal
Some games are so nice, you play them twice. That's what I've just experienced with the 127 hours I sunk into Persona 5 Royal, the expanded and perfected version of Persona 5, a widely lauded Japanese RPG from 2017 (that I spent 107 hours playing). The latest chapter of the long running Persona series, P5R delivers a world where teenagers discover the evils of their teachers and other devious adults, and jump into the “metaverses” of their screwed up brains and warped desires to trigger confessions of their crimes against society. In order to "steal the hearts" of their targets, you and your crew find your inner "persona" — monsters with serious power that appear in the metaverse that fight the other personas that inhabit the minds of the villains.
Persona 5 Royal was truly worth the extra 127 hours of my time because of how Atlus improved an already great game. The tweaks start with the quality-of-life improvements that P5 lovers will notice, such as increased localization work and graphical flourishes. And while improvements to the combat system in technical damage add welcome complexity, it's P5R's two new characters, the gymnast Kasumi Yoshizawa and school counselor Takuto Maruki, who add a greater level of emotional depth to the game. After having played both, I'd say it's inarguable that Royal is the definitive edition of my favorite RPG of all time. — Henry T. Casey
Streets of Rage 4
Talk about a glorious comeback. Streets of Rage 4 manages to be nostalgic and fresh all at once, bringing back the classic beat-em-up gameplay of the beloved Sega Genesis series while wrapping it up in a stunning new hand-drawn art style. The game’s accessible side-scrolling action will feel familiar to anyone who’s played the classics, while its dynamic new combo system gives you plenty of creative options for juggling groups of bad dudes. And with tons of difficulty settings, online and offline co-op and a trove of unlockable characters from the series’ past, Streets of Rage 4 will keep fighting fans busy for quite a while. — Mike Andronico
Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet helped define the PS3 era by letting players create their own adorable 2D platforming levels. The studio’s newest game, Dreams, takes that concept to staggering new heights. This delightful sandbox experience lets you build entire games, movies and pieces of music, whether you want to create a simple pick-up-and-play arcade game or a detailed cinematic adventure. And if you’re too daunted by the thought of making something, the amazing ingenuity of the Dreams community has already produced a ton of great experiences that range from striking horror game tributes to classic platforming action. And with new creations popping up every day and VR support on the way, Dreams is the kind of community-driven experience that only gets better over time. — Mike Andronico