Fawzi Mesmar’s Top 15 games of the year 2020

2020 will be a year that we’ll be talking about for generations to come. What a crazy year it has been. In a year that separated us physically from each other, our loved ones and colleagues, we turned to new ways to connect, to have fun and to stay sane.

It was a year that us as game developers felt that it was our time to step it up and help humanity in the way we know best: create damn fine video games. Here’s a list of my favorite 15 of those that came out this year.

15 – Among us

Technically, this game did even come out in 2020 as it was released a couple of years back to little fame. Its the nature of this year that made this game come into the mainstream, it is the game we needed as we wanted to socialize with our friends, while doing something goofy and fun. The ability of Among us to translate popular pub games like Mafia or Werewolf into the digital format, having it freely available on phones everywhere then all other devices contributed to the game’s massive success and it’s association with this batshit year.

14 – Desperados 3

It must’ve been 18 or 19 years since a played a Desperados game, and way more before that since I played a Commandos game. This genre of top view stealth based games where you need to be patient, try all sorts of stuff, fail and raise hell then load and try again is been something I enjoyed a fare bit a while ago and often wondered “why don’t they make games like this anymore?” Lo and behold, Desperados III not only does that, but does it better than anything that came before it by miles.

13 – Valorant

Valorant took me by surprise in a bunch of different ways, the house of LoL creates this super solid team shooter that initially gave CS:GO vibes but ended up being a lot less twitchy, very grounded and relies on team character synergy in a way that resembled Overwatch a lot more. The thriving community around this game will make it a staple of shooters for a while to come.

12 – Spiritfarer

A wholesome game, very warm feelings as you build your boat and take it on a journey to explore the world, meet a bunch of interesting characters, and if you’d like: give them a hug. It was somewhat ironic that I played a game about what happens after death while I was very sick earlier this year, and better yet, found a lot of comfort in it.

11 – Microsoft Flight Simulator

It’s probably the largest open world to ever be presented in a video game as it literarily has the entire planet Earth on it for you to explore. A technical marvel, MS Flight simulator is a game that will have you utter an audible “wow” every now and then. It was amazing that this year I got to fly an actual plane that made me enjoy this game so much more. Now with VR support, this MS Flight Simulator is the gift that keeps on giving.

10 – Hades

This is by far Supergiant games’ best output, a rogue like with tight controls, successfully telling a narrative in an ever changing repeating world, lovely take on the Greek mythology and most importantly lots of combat systems to try to min max. I found myself constantly trying to find a build that will help me break the game wide open, but it’s craftsmanship kept me trying, failing, trying again and having fun doing so in the process.

9 – Genshin Impact

Breath of the wild for me is one the best games ever made, and when I played it in 2017, I was positive that it’s influence will spread to other games that will come after it. A couple actually released this year, but Genshin Impact took what Zelda did great, added MMO elements and then went ahead and made it free to play and available on everything really becoming one of the most commercially successful games of the year on mobile and otherwise in the process. GI is a game to study, but beware, it’s very addictive.

8 – Crusader Kings III

If you’ve never played a crusader kings game before, this is the perfect time to start as the third installment is the definitive edition. Perhaps one of the deepest strategy games you’ll come across, the many intricate systems that form the game is a work of several mad geniuses at Paradox that combine incredible game design intuition with even more impressive history knowledge to create this gem. This game demands a lot of you to get into it, but your efforts will sure be rewarded, as this is a game you’ll keep discovering.

7 – Paper Mario The Origami King

Absolutely the most charming game of the year. The trademark Paper Mario cuteness combined with the clever writing of the Nintendo localization team will guarantee that it’ll crack a smile out of you at least once or would have you laughing out loud on the regular. While I applaud the team for trying new things with the combat, it was a bit of a drag at some points, but the delightful world and wacky events that you come across will make any such inconveniences forgettable in the overall package.

6 – 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

So if you take “Dark” the Time travel German Netflix show, a front mission tactical mech game, a high school anime of your choice put all of those in a blender then heat up the mix in an oven of the nonary games non linear story telling then you will get this game. A fresh way of telling complex narrative, the story kept on unfolding in ways I can’t imagine being told through any other medium. A giant cast of characters, a saga of monolithic proportions Aegis Rim is a must play for story tellers everywhere.

5 – Final Fantasy 7: Remake

Impossible for me to remove the nostalgia goggles while playing or thinking about this game. The original was a monumental game when it came out, and it has effected me – as it did many others around the world – deeply. In the many RPG games that came before or after it the world of FF7 remains unique and the carefully crafted remake proves that it can stand the test of time. It was wonderful being in Midgar again and I can’t wait to see where the rest of the series is going to go.

4 – Captain Tsubasa Rise of new champions

There’s not a kid that grew up in the Middle East that wouldn’t be able to recognize Captain Majid, the insanely popular anime has had many games adaptations over the years, none are as tight and true to the anime as this game. Controls great, has insane anime like shots and tackles, and interesting rock-paper-scissors mechanics that allow for lots of mind games, approaching this game like a regular football game would be a mistake, this is a fighting game in disguise, with loads of content to delight and entertain for hours.

3 – Animal Crossing New Horizons

It’ll be impossible for me to look back at 2020 even years from now without thinking of Animal Crossing. When the world was going through mass hysteria in march, when we all hid in our homes fearing what’s going on outside, this little thing dropped. It allowed us to live the freedom that we couldn’t have, a bright fantasy to counter our then grim realty, I have never seen so many of my friends play the same game at the same time, message boards, discord servers, you name it. In March 2020, people were talking about two things: viruses and Animal crossing. It helped a lot that this is one of the strongest entries to the series and the welcome return to the big screen on top.

2 – Ghost of Tsushima

I love the open worlds that Sucker Punch create, they are so good at making the player lose themselves in the world, the flow of the main missions and side quests just come together naturally, there’s always something interesting to see, the combat is varied and entertaining, and the game changer of following the wind in the world instead of constantly needing to stare at a mini map is so refreshing that I would love to see other games take cue and find ways to use in world elements to guide the player that are not directly UI based. Second son was one of the few open world games that I 100%ed, Ghost followed suit.

1 – Cyberpunk 2077

Alright hear me out. Sure, the game had a buggy launch. Sure, it was barely playable on a lot of systems. Sure, there were some questionable decisions about the release of the game and the work culture. Sure, it got delayed a bunch of times. HOWEVER, the game itself, is wonderful. Amazing world building, loads of interesting characters, a could-not-put-it-down campaign, complex systems that make shooting fun, impressive trees, loads of side content, wonderful open world, daring narrative decisions … Cyberpunk 2077 is a massive game, I enjoyed every second of it. I hope once it gets fixed and the dust settles that the masses get to enjoy it as well.