It is that time of year where every gaming website publishes their favourite games of the last 12 months, and we at TheXboxHub are no different. But after reviewing our list, I can confirm it is one of the more varied ones out there. With 2020 throwing a wobbler, we’ve all had that bit of extra time for gaming, and the variation of our entries showcases that especially well.
Unexpected entries? Yes. Controversial? Most definitely. Here we go then, with TheXboxHub’s Games of the Year 2020:
Tetris Effect: Connected
Launching on Xbox the same day as the new consoles were released, Tetris Effect: Connected was ridiculed by our podcast crew for being a Tetris game launching on next-gen consoles. A waste of processing power we would jest. But how wrong we were.
Tetris and relaxing aren’t two words traditionally put next to each other – not when I play it anyways – but Tetris Effect Connected gave Tetris a new aesthetic that made the experience almost cathartic. When playing Tetris Effect: Connected, players are transported by lights and sounds to an almost ethereal world. This is still very much a Tetris game, but unlike any form of Tetris that has been before.
The version that has launched on Xbox Game Pass also includes multiplayer modes, both competitively and co-operatively, meaning players can experience the pulsating block breaking together.
Tetris is the gaming incarnation of the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but Tetris Effect Connected is the best-looking version of it you will ever play.
If ever you needed to know the value of Xbox Game Pass, the first two games on our list both launched straight into the subscription service. In total, six games from this list are all available to play right away in Game Pass.
Where Fallout 3 took the post-apocalyptic series to a more first-person shooter perspective, predecessor Wasteland has remained with an isometric view. In the third instalment, set in a snowy Colorado, Wasteland 3 features branching narratives where player choices matter.
As members of Arizona Ranger Team November, your job is to liaise with The Patriarch. As they continue on their journey though, players begin to learn how ruthless The Patriarch can be, before a final decision needs to be made that has serious repercussions.
Wasteland 3 also features multiplayer for the first time, meaning players can explore this take on a post-apocalypse together. Whilst gamers wait patiently for news of Fallout 5, Wasteland 3 is a superb game to tide us over.
Remember when I said this list would be controversial? Well, here we go with our 8th best game of the year, though this would depend entirely on which Xbox console you have played it on.
After four different 2020 release dates, Cyberpunk 2077 finally arrived on 10th December, eight and a half years after first being announced. It hasn’t been without its – bounty of – issues, particularly for those playing on Xbox One consoles. However, even my non-gaming family are aware of the issues that Cyberpunk 2077 has had, and this is neither the time nor the place to discuss that.
For those playing on Series X|S though, players are treated to a visual delight. Night City is an incredibly detailed city to explore, but it pays to always have your gun handy. V could be any person you want them to be – right down to the size and shape of their genitals – but there is also a supporting cast of characters all brilliantly written. By using body modifications and cyberware implants it ensures that no two versions of V play the same throughout the huge open-world.
Many players are holding out for a next-gen update – and several patches and bug fixes – before jumping into Cyberpunk 2077. But those that are waiting are going to be in for a real treat in 2021.
Journey to the Savage Planet
I’ll be honest with you here: for some unknown reason I get this and The Outer Worlds mixed up in my head (The Outer Worlds I then get mixed up with Outer Wilds as well for more obvious reasons). Both very good games, but both very different.
Journey to the Savage Planet is a humorous romp across ARY-26. On this planet, players must research and catalogue the various fauna and flora that inhabit this strange and colourful place. Perishing on this planet though doesn’t mean game over, as a new version of you is simply 3D printed back on your spaceship – your badly damaged and in desperate need of fuel spaceship that is.
Fear not though, as Journey to the Savage Planet is a sort of Metroidvania game where you will be constantly upgrading various aspects of your person to allow you to navigate this deceptively dangerous planet.
Humour has always been an aspect games have traditionally struggled with, and any game that gets it right usually nails all other aspects too. Journey to the Savage Planet has plenty of laughs, but also a lot of great level and creature design, making it worthy of a place on our list. And it is also another title available to play in Xbox Game Pass.
Tell Me Why
Episodic games sometimes do themselves a bit of a disservice in that they can launch across multiple calendar years, which would exclude them from the traditional end of year lists. Tell Me Why however managed to launch three episodes in three consecutive weeks.
Coming from Dontnod Entertainment, fans of Life is Strange knew instantly what they were getting into. The story tells of twins set in the Alaskan town of Delos Crossing. They are reunited after one of the twins’ stint in a juvenile correctional facility comes to an end, and they decide to sell their childhood home. As players progress, they will have to make decisions based on past events that affect the outcome of the story, with multiple endings achievable.
But Tell Me Why was also praised for being one of the first major studio releases to feature a transgender character. Tyler, one of the twins, was voice by August Aiden Black, who is also a trans man. This inclusion rightly earned Tell Me Why the Game for Impact award at The Game Awards 2020 and a place in our GOTY list.
Now it is time for my personal Game of the Year: the brilliant visual novel set in a late-night supernatural coffee shop, Coffee Talk. I am also fairly confident this is the first ever Indonesian developed game to appear on our end of year lists.
Don’t let the visual novel tag put you off though; Coffee Talk is so much more than reading and clicking the A button. You are the owner of a coffee shop set in an alternate Seattle where vampires and werewolves are the best of friends, succubi have boyfriend trouble and spacemen come to visit. As well as serving them drinks by mixing several ingredients together, you must listen and advise on their very real and very human experiences.
Coffee Talk also features a very unique aesthetic with pixel art inspired by anime of the 90s, and an incredible lo-fi soundtrack by Andrew Jeremy. The soundtrack is available on Spotify and I am not ashamed to say several tracks from it appear in my most played playlist for 2020.
It is the perfect accompaniment to the coffee shop setting; the exact kind of place you wish you could visit for some late-night coffee and chill. And it is not just fully deserving of a place in our top 10 Game of the Year titles, but also on that of our Hidden Xbox Gems of 2020.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War
I could sum this next entry up and justify its position in our list with just a few simple words:
Co-operative Nazi zombie shooting.
Following on from 2015’s compilation Zombie Army Trilogy – a spin-off from the Sniper Elite series – is our number four on the list, Zombie Army 4: Dead War. But this latest entry is easily the best in the series so far and has taken the crown of our Indie GOTY 2020 too.
Set a year after you literally kill an oversized Nazi Adolf Hitler, Zombie Army 4 is set across multiple campaigns. It doubles down on the B-movieness, and in this instalment fully embraces the cheesiness. Where you could criticise Zombie Army Trilogy for having a lack of variation in enemies, this is certainly not the case in ZA4. Running through a zombie infested zoo – including undead zoo creatures – or fighting against a zombified tank will never be boring. And as it is built with the same engine as the Sniper Elite series, it also has gunplay that is far more satisfying that it has any right to be. So much so that Zombie Army 4: Dead War also featured in our best games of the last generation.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Into the top three now, and what a delight to see a Yakuza game in our GOTY list! Yakuza: Like a Dragon might not be the only Yakuza game to land this year on Xbox – nor is it the best one – but this is the only one to launch in 2020!
Let it be said though that an inferior Yakuza game is still head and shoulders above many other games.
Like a Dragon also represented a fresh start for the mainline Yakuza series. Having had the same protagonist for 15 years, a change of pace was deemed necessary. In fact, it was the biggest facelift the franchise had ever known; there was an entirely new turn-based battle system and a brand-new city to explore.
This time, Ichiban Kasuga awakens in an unfamiliar city after being released from prison and shot by his former mentor. He must piece together what happened in the 18 years he was locked away, whilst also dealing with a delicate truce between three gangs that could bubble over at any moment.
It manages to do all this and yet remain faithfully Yakuza with a myriad of minigames to distract, bizarre substories to enjoy, and another brilliant soundtrack. If you have yet to jump into the series, this is a great starting point, but with four more Yakuza games coming to Xbox Game Pass in 2021 you will be spoilt for choice very soon.
I am pleased to announce that our top two games on our Game of the Year list for 2020 are both Microsoft-owned IPs! Who could have imagined that at the start of the Xbox One console cycle?
Disclaimer (because I feel it needs to be said in this day and age): no, we have not received any reimbursement for our own opinions. These are just good games.
Gears Tactics launched initially on PC back in April, then onto Xbox consoles with the release of the Xbox Series X|S.
Taking inspiration from the likes of XCOM and Mutant Year Zero, a real-time strategy game set in the Gears of War universe sounds like a perfect combination. I am surprised it took this long to concoct. Centred around Sgt. Gabe Diaz – Kate Diaz’s father – Gears Tactics on Xbox is set before the events of the original Gears of War, but ties in extensively to Gears 5. But other than expanding on the Gears lore – which is going from strength to strength, it has to be said – the gameplay is also excellently executed.
Players have free roam of the map, but in true Gears style it is highly advised to remain in cover at all times. The transition from PC to console is always a cause for concern when related to controller inputs, but Gears Tactics has no issues.
Whilst the Gears Tactics console announcement may have felt hastily added to the launch line-up when Halo: Infinite disappeared, it certainly does not disappoint, even adding in Jack as a playable character and a new enemy type. Hopefully Tactics can spawn its own spin-off franchise, much like Halo Wars did.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Our Xbox game of the year for 2020 is Ori and the Will of the Wisps – a game that has felt at times like it was never due to release, but that wait was absolutely worth it.
A direct sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest, players once again control Ori through a variety of gorgeous 2D locations. These 2D environments are multi-layered though, giving a more 3D feel to proceedings, unlike the first title.
Taking place straight after the events of the first game, a baby owl called Ku hatches from Kuro’s last egg with a damaged wing. After being repaired, Ori and Ku venture off briefly, where they are separated from each other by a raging storm. Once again gameplay is very Metroidvania, whereby Ori unlocks new abilities and upgrades to then access new areas.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps improves the combat greatly over the original and gives the sequel a newfound difficulty in the process. Will of the Wisps also introduces boss fights and chase sequences, all of which were lauded when it released back in March.
Indeed, our review praises the emotional storytelling, soundtrack, improved gameplay and visuals. Pretty much everything is praised actually, hence why it is fully deserving of our top spot.
And that is our list for 2020- TheXboxHub’s Games of the Year! But what have we actually learnt here? Well, if you aren’t yet an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, then why not? Six of the titles in our list are currently in the subscription service; five of them launching straight into it on day one of being available on Xbox. And speaking of Xbox, it is fair to say that Xbox Games Studios are on an upwards trajectory, from looking at this list. Going into 2021 it is looking like being an excellent time to be an Xbox gamer.
Let us know what your favourite Xbox games of 2020 have been – the comments are below!