This is a series about the games that kept me busy this year. These are my favorites, not necessarily “the best.” Also, these posts will be in no particular order. We’ll do a podcast in the near future ranking our top games of 2020.
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
If you’re like me, and you love old samurai movies, you should definitely play Ghost of Tsushima (if you haven’t already).
I love that developer Sucker Punch Productions went as far as to add a Kurosawa mode that makes the game playable in black and white with only Japanese dialogue for the hardcore enthusiasts – even if I was so awe-stricken by the vibrant colors of the landscape that I couldn’t keep the mode on for too long.
When you get on your horse and start riding around the landscape and the wind starts blowing the grass and falling leaves around the sun is setting, and you can see for miles… I don’t think I’ve been so constantly impressed with a game visually in this console generation. And I love that the game gives you a minimal HUD and uses wind to guide you so that the views are rarely obstructed.
Ghost of Tsushima is far from a perfect game, but it’s beautiful aesthetic and cinematic storytelling are some of the best this console generation has produced. The combat is well-designed and has just enough nuance to stay interesting throughout. I’d even go as far as to say I felt underwhelmed by Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s combat after having played this game.
As a fan of old Kurosawa films, I was ready for a good Samurai story. While I don’t think it necessarily nailed every aspect of the story (which I won’t get into for spoiler reasons), it gets enough right, and some of the performances are good enough that I stuck with it and ended up enjoying some of the directions it takes. And that’s despite one particular plot point that felt like it betrayed the notion of player choice (in terms of playing as the ghost or maintaining honor as the samurai) that the game presents you with from the beginning.
The real star probably is the gorgeous environment that had me stopping to take screenshots nearly everywhere I went. The foliage, weather effects and vibrant colors are incredible, such that it felt like a taste of next-gen at the tail end of the current gen. In retrospect, the polish of Ghost of Tsushima made me scratch my head when seeing all the reports of how poorly Cyberpunk 2077 was running on base consoles. How could Sucker Punch could nail the look and presentation of a game and the performance (it’s not perfect, but it’s very good) and another developer could get it so wrong? Clearly the last-gen consoles are capable of outputting impressive visuals.
But the ace in the hole for Tsushima is the cooperative mode, Ghost of Tsushima Legends – that was added months after the initial release. For me, it recaptured all the cooperative fun of Mass Effect 3’s cooperative mode that had me addicted to a game long after I had finished the main story. It’s a compelling take on cooperative survival that puts the game’s well-designed combat to good use and gives players a reason to stay in the game’s unique world.
My other favorite games of 2020 (in no particular order):