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While general consensus is often unattainable, there is one solid axiom of 2020: It’s been a challenging year.

True as that may be, it was also a year in which video games further solidified their premiere position in popular culture, driving conversations on art, culture, politics and providing a welcome respite for millions amidst a global pandemic.

Presented below is a curated selection of the 10 best games of 2020, voted on by members of VENN’s editorial team. They represent the wide range of genre, subject matter and overall creativity of an industry that has come to dominate the cultural zeitgeist of our world. The selections on this list are not ranked nor judged on any set rubric of criteria. Rather, they simply represent the team’s opinions on the standout titles of the year, from AAA blockbusters to family-friendly escapes to indie breakouts.

In a year when most of the world was in need of a temporary escape, these are the games that provided it. — Patrick Shanley, VENN editorial director

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

In a year where most of us weren’t able to head to our favorite beaches, Animal Crossing: New Horizons delivered a fantastic reprieve from the world. The addition of crafting to the AC formula through DIY recipes was genius, the online multiplayer capabilities allowed us to connect to those we couldn’t see, but, most importantly, the game is simply fun. Fishing, bug-catching, gardening, everything New Horizons offers provided approachable, family-friendly fun that could easily take hours of your life without you noticing. — Jason Fanelli

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

The Assassin’s Creed renaissance that began with 2017’s Origins is still riding high in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, placing us in a band of viking marauders in search of a new life in a new land. Vikings and Assassin’s Creed go together like peanut butter and jelly, as raiding villages for materials and fighting as a Nordic warrior is as joyous an experience as … well, not having your village raided. Protagonist Eivor is also one of the best Assassins we’ve played to date, their sharp wit and sharper blades making for a perfect new addition to the Order. Valhalla awaits, luckily the path there is a fun ride. — Fanelli

Call of Duty: Warzone

Call of Duty: Warzone dropped into the gaming-sphere right as stay-at-home orders were being issued nationwide, providing the perfect outlet to squad up with friends in a safe way. When Warzone launched in March, players geared up and dropped into the new Verdansk map with 99 opponents. Since then, the game has doubled the number of players in a match to 200 and opened up new areas of the sprawling map for exploration and, importantly, survival. Exploring secrets the map had to offer provided countless hours of entertainment, as did trying to recreate viral videos of insanely cool kills (here’s one of a five year old shooting someone midair). Not to mention, there are few joys in 2020 greater than downing your opponent in the gulag and earning redeployment. Hooah! — Brittany Spurlin

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

You’d think the Battle Royale genre would have died down after PUBG and Fortnite took center stage over two years ago, but Devolver Digital and Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout proves there is still an audience looking for new and creative ways to be the last one standing. Taking inspiration from reality game shows like Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle, where the aim is to run through a wacky obstacle course and reach the end without failing, Fall Guys presents a similar setup where 60 players avoid swinging balls and jump through hoops in the hope of reaching the end of a stage. Fall Guys is a chaotic fun that continues to offer long gaming sessions with friends months after its initial launch in August. Released in a time where online communication felt more like a necessity rather than a luxury, Fall Guys was, and continues to be, a place of relief where the worries of the world get drowned out by the screams of friends who just barely made it past the goal line. — Michael Koczwara

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake is a game that we never thought would exist, but we’re extremely glad that it does. A complete, ground-up remake of the 1997 PlayStation original, this souped-up RPG tweaks the story just enough to keep it exciting for veterans while still roping in newcomers. FFVIIR manages to offer the same emotional punch from the original game while reinventing itself in meaningful ways, even though this first chapter takes place entirely in Midgar and stretches what took around five hours in the original into a full 30-40 hour AAA offering. But it’s still the same story you know and love at heart: Cloud Strife and eco-activist group AVALANCHE work to save the planet from the malevolent Shinra Corporation. A few heartbreaks later, what they discover will change the world they all know forever. And you’ll definitely want to be along for the ride. — Brittany Vincent

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact is a game-changer for the RPG mobile genre. Some titles have tried before to bring their vast universes to the handheld world, but rarely to any success. At best, they were smaller extensions of larger game stories, such as Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. At worst, they were just … bad. But Genshin Impact is utterly enchanting from its first scene, drawing players into the world of Teyvat and the story of the Traveler searching for their lost twin. Throw in an ancient order of knights who need help vanquishing a dragon and the result is a story that’s hard to put down. One unique aspect of Genshin Impact is the player’s ability to switch between four characters at any time, allowing them to harness each character’s specific abilities to create a unique fighting style. The game is a shining beacon of what mobile gaming can achieve. — Spurlin

Ghost of Tsushima

Ever wanted to play through what is, by all accounts, an interactive samurai movie? Well, Ghost of Tsushima is exactly what you’re looking for. Not only is the game beautiful, but it’s also a lengthy and satisfying open-world title that represents the best of what developer Sucker Punch has to offer. Take on the role of samurai Jin Sakai as he valiantly defends his homeland from the invading Mongols headed by the imposing Khotun Khan. Impressive swordplay, stealth mechanics and a variety of intriguing skills work together to make Ghost of Tsushima an exemplary action experience that’s a must for any fan of open-world or action games — or Akira Kurosawa films. — Vincent


Though it may not have taken home the game of the year trophy at this year’s Game Awards, Hades is arguably the best title released in 2020. A roguelike from indie studio Supergiant Games, you play as Zagreus, the rebellious son of lord of the dead Hades himself, trying to escape the realm of the underworld and meet his family on Olympus. What makes this game special is the intricate story that can only be uncovered through developing relationships with the characters. It’s also one of the few very queer video games, allowing you to romance men and women (or, if you’re so inclined, both). — Spurlin

The Last of Us Part II

Few games hit as hard as this tale of revenge, which came on strong and continued to pack a punch as it introduced players to protagonist Ellie, then shifted gears to introduce the deuteragonist Abby. The Last of Us Part II combines a mature narrative with gritty, visceral gameplay that continually has you questioning the morality of your actions. The original The Last of Us was the pinnacle of PS3 game design back in 2013 and its sequel is among the best titles available on its predecessor, the PS4. The system needed one last, major hurrah to end the console cycle, and The Last of Us Part II was able to deliver on that promise. It’s one of very few last-gen experiences that truly gave us a look into the future. — Vincent

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an incredible superhero game with smooth controls, phenomenal views of New York City, a fun and relatable protagonist and a tight story that doesn’t overstay its welcome. That said, it’s not all that revolutionary. Compared to its 2018 predecessor, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Miles Morales is more of an upgrade than a whole new super-suit. And that’s great! Not everything has to be some wild new idea or feature some gameplay mechanic that’s never been done before. Sometimes, a game is simply excellent at doing things like beating up baddies with slick combos or sneaking around an enemy laboratory stealthily taking down enemies. Playing on PlayStation 5 is also quite the treat. Making use of the upgraded hardware to include dynamic lighting with ray tracing makes a large difference. As for Miles Morales himself, his portrayal by actor Nadji Jeter delivered a clumsy and naive Spider-Man that clashed against friends and foes in a way that felt unique. His Puerto Rican and African American heritage gave an often overlooked form of representation a spotlight that helped create an electrifying and vibrant story at the core of the new adventure. — Koczwara


Photo courtesy of Insomniac Games