Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Microsoft, Nintendo, and Playstation (2)), Animal Crossing, The Last of Us Part II, and Microsoft Flight Simulator are all pictured clockwise from top left.
The Last of Us Part II, Animal Crossing, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and clockwise from top left: Nintendo, Microsoft, and Playstation (2)
Video games became a haven for many in a strange, unsettling, and frequently downright terrifying year, whether they were seasoned players, retro gamers picking up the controller after a break, or newcomers looking for a fun way to pass the time or stay in touch with friends during pandemic lockdowns. The fact that it was also a stellar year for great video games to play is a little gift in that regard.
Here are TIME’s picks for the top video games of 2020, as determined by our community of local gamers. Read TIME’s choices of the 100 must-read novels of 2020 as well as the 10 finest fiction books of 2020.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is ten.
Although nostalgia is already big business, it rarely still provides the same rush as the original. Let’s go on to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Against all odds, this remake manages to update these early aughts skateboarding games for contemporary systems and audiences without losing any of their magic. These games also provide consolation throughout a trying year by reawakening long-forgotten muscle memory, the desire for high scores, and the need to hop on a skateboard.
Guys Who Fall
What happens when you mix Fortnite’s lose and you’re out pressure with Mario Party’s obsession with minigames? That is, Fall Guys. During our epidemic summer, its deliciously straightforward multiplayer mayhem was a nice respite, and the fact that players frequently must work together to ensure individual triumph belies a deeper message than its cartoonish stylings might suggest. Additionally, like Animal Crossing, it disavows the notion that video games must be challenging in order to be fun.
Microsoft Flight Simulator, version 8
For almost 40 years, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series has set the standard for virtual flying, encouraging many gamers to pursue actual flight training while giving countless others a taste of the air. The most recent installment in the series upholds that illustrious legacy by fusing realistic flight physics with stunning visuals and the most lifelike representation of Earth ever to appear in a video game to create an unforgettable experience. You can choose to test your skills by performing some of the world’s most difficult commercial jet takeoffs or landings, or you can putt-putt over your hometown in a slow-moving Cub while admiring the scenery.
Warzone from Call of Duty
Warzone, a free expansion for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare from 2019, is a battle royale shooter in the vein of Fortnite with just enough unique concepts to feel new. The majority of Fortnite clones have failed, but Warzone’s systems, techniques, and progressions gave us many hours of entertainment as we became used to staying at home more often during lockdown. Additionally, this intense, addictive game’s creator, Infinity Ward, has continued to support the experience with deep seasons, map updates, and new ways to play.
The Will of the Wisps
The eagerly anticipated Ori and the Blind Forest sequel does precisely what a sequel should, building on the foundation of its predecessor to create a more intricate, colorful, and expansive environment. Ori and many other endearing characters nurture and raise a baby owl in the game’s prologue. But when Ori and the young bird are split up, catastrophe ensues. After then, the player must navigate a stunningly depicted countryside and resolve a string of tricky mini-puzzles as part of a heartbreaking reunion mission. Key elements are lost in the mix due to the game’s larger size than its predecessor, making it easy for the player to overlook some crucial talents. But the difficulties call for inventiveness, and the setting is breathtaking.
The game Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the most recent installment in Nintendo’s long-running life simulation franchise and the unofficial game of springtime pandemic lockdowns. This time, a cheeseparing capitalist raccoon-dog drags you to an island where you (along with a few other anthropomorphic animals) set out to build a settlement and settle your debt with him. You can enjoy New Horizons’ large player community partying, playing the turnip-powered “stalk market,” and even holding talk shows on their own personalized virtual islands when you’re not creating things for your home.
In Among Us, a form of online Clue where you have to “suss” out the impostor on your spacecraft, deception is the name of the game. While the “Impostor” sets out to covertly disturb and murder the Crewmates, some players known as “Crewmates” are tasked with doing minigame-style repairs around the ship. Are you wary of anyone? Call a meeting to debate potential Impostor candidates, then vote to launch them into the icy depths of space—but be careful, you might be mistaken. Because of the PG-rated violence and childlike, hand-drawn aesthetic of Among Us, which is reminiscent of early web games, prominent individuals like U.S. lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have turned to the game as a way to connect with voters on their terms. Among Us may have been released in 2018, but it’s understandable why it’s become so popular this year. It’s a mix of social deduction and mob rule.
The Second Us
The Last of Us Part II’s post-apocalyptic huge swings will startle, annoy, and even anger many players—but they are worthwhile risks. The sequel follows Ellie as she deals with the fallout from her father figure Joel’s ethically dubious choice in the original game. Ellie is a grown woman who is still immune to the infection that has turned much of humanity into zombies. Ellie is frequently by herself, which is unfortunate because the Uncharted and The Last of Us series’ creator Naughty Dog has a history of mastering the art of establishing relationships through joking. But Ellie’s isolation serves a larger narrative purpose: as Ellie loses human connection and develops a vengeance complex, her adversaries change into more relatable individuals. The player is presented with a number of crushing moral dilemmas as a result of his or her split sympathies. The conclusion will stay with you for weeks, if not years.
Miles Morales as Spider-Man
Peter Parker, a nerdy white man, may come to mind when you think of Spider-Man. But in New York, there’s a second webslinger who’s seizing the mic and taking the stage this time. The 2018 smash hit Spider-Man is expanded upon in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which puts you in the role of the titular Black-Puerto Rican kid when he moves from Brooklyn to Harlem and takes on the responsibility of policing the city while his mentor is away. As Morales negotiates the agony of a growing friendship, his relationship with his mother, and his new responsibility to keep Harlem (and the rest of the city) safe from evildoers, the game nails the experience of zipping from building to building and fighting criminals in a wintery New York.
The past ten years have seen a rise in popularity of so-called “Rogue-like” games, which emphasize difficulty, replayability, and repetitive fatalities, but Hades represents the sub-greatest genre’s point to far. Players assume the character of Zagreus, the son of Hades, as he struggles to escape the Greek underworld while being supported by the entire Pantheon and facing off against famous heroes. The fighting is delightfully varied, the art is outstanding, and the progression systems are brilliant. In a game designed to be played again, Hades reinvents the way a narrative can develop. Paul Allen Clark