The games that helped me get through 2020

Here are my favourite games of 2020 and some thoughts on which ones I am most excited to play in 2021.

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Ever since my parents gave me a Super Nintendo when I was 12 I have been an avid gamer and still to this day enjoy grabbing hold of a mouse or a controller at unsocial hours to feed my obsession!

In my capacity as a Global Ambassador BAFTA Games and a Judge of the Best British Game Award, I have had the good fortune to get my grubby hands on a bunch of well-crafted games over the last few years.

Obviously 2020 has provided many of us with a few more hours than expected to have a pop at some new titles or finish ones that were waiting for a rainy day. Here are my favourite games of 2020 and some thoughts on which ones I am most excited to play in 2021.

For the curious, I play games on a PS5, Xbox Series X, iPhone 11 and a Radeon-powered gaming PC. If you want to connect on PSN or Xbox Live my profile name is: hillfarrancevc

The Last of Us 2

For those of you who played The Last of Us, we were treated to some of the finest visuals, storytelling and gameplay ever seen on console. Naughty Dog Studios (who also created the Uncharted series - my other favourite action-adventure games) surpassed their previous efforts with this massive narrative-rich title that explores a dark, post-apocalyptic Earth that is clinging to humanity after a spore-driven virus ravages the world. With a bunch of interesting character twists, some truly epic visuals that look worthy for a PS5, and gameplay that feels gritty and real, this title is essential for all adult audiences.

It is a little long and probably could have been an hour or two shorter, however I never felt like there was any unnecessary padding of the story. This game is on PS4 and I expect Naughty Dog to produce a PS5-suped up version this year.

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The Ghost of Tsushima

Developed by Sucker Punch Productions who developed the Infamous series, this PlayStation open-world action adventure was a major time suck during lockdown.

Set in feudal Japan, you wear the shoes of Jin Sakai, a samurai, as he retakes the island of Tsushima from the Mongol hordes. Blending excellent swordplay gameplay with many of the tropes and characteristics from our favourite open-world games (GTA V, Assassins Creed, The Witcher etc.), Ghost has a detailed and beautiful world that is dying to be explored. It also doesn’t lack in the narrative department with a storyline that charts Jin’s progression to becoming the legendary Ghost of Tsushima.

Visually, the game is a stunner and also is one of the best titles for practicing and taking in-game screen shots with heaps of editing tools and options. One of my favourites is applying the Akira Kurosawa mode, which transforms the game with a grainy, black-and-white filter.

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Assassins Creed Valhalla

You can probably see that I like open-world, single player games and you are absolutely right. The very first Assassin's Creed (released in 2007) game propelled my love for this type of genre to new levels and introduced me to a story that I just can't get enough of. From the games to its graphic novel series, I am all in on the AC world and its story that follows a mysterious group of assassins who right the wrongs of another clandestine group (The Order/Templars) throughout momentous times in history. The series has taken us to Ancient Egypt and Greece, industrial-age London, the Italian Renaissance, the Crusades, the French Revolution, and now the Viking era through the latest title - Assassins Creed Valhalla.

The previous two most recent games, Assassins Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed Odyssey, revamped the gameplay and set a high bar for the Ubisoft team that was tasked with developing Valhalla. Based on the 65 hours I have spent with this game so far they have knocked it out of the park.

I may be slightly biased as I am obsessed with Norse mythology, but the depth of the story, the beauty of the open world they have created, and the reassuringly familiar gameplay mechanics have made this my top title of 2020.

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Crusader Kings 3

If you are a fan of the intrigue of the medieval times, world domination and Game of Thrones-style politics, Crusader Kings 3 is for you. In my opinion it is also one of the finest role playing games ever created (big words!).

Fundamentally most RTS (real-time-strategy) games try to emulate warfare strategy or expansion into new lands, Crusader Kings 3 allows you to emulate people and the decisions they make. Whether you are striking war, plotting a murder or arranging marriages, you will need to master all of these actions to elevate your character from a humble Lord to a King or Emperor.

You can step in the boots of many well-known and less-known characters throughout history, spanning the then-known globe from Britain to the Steppes of Mongolia. This is a truly expansive game and will take up days of your gaming time if you let it. It also encourages you to open pick up those history books and learn more about Roman emperors or the Mongol dynasty that you are playing with.

The initial learning curve and sheer number of options is quite daunting, however if you stick with it you will not be disappointed. This game whittled away a number of hours whilst we were in MIQ.

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Marvel’s Spider-Man - Miles Morales

In 2018, I thoroughly enjoyed Insomniac Games’ take on the Spider-Man lore and especially enjoyed it when they introduced Miles Morales into the narrative. When Sony announced that they were making a follow-up game to launch aside the PS5 I was stoked.

Whilst the game, mechanically, is not much of an evolution of the original, the character of Miles Morales is much more interesting than good ole Peter Parker. The voice and motion performance actor for Miles Morales, Nadji Jeter, is a serious talent and his portrayal displays humour, empathy and an obvious love for the titular character.

Of particular note - the opening sequence between Rhino, Spider-Man and Miles is a true delight and one that should not be missed.

This is also a title that shows off the potential power of the PS5 with almost instaneous loading, incredible draw distances and superb texture mapping.

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Plague Inc.

Technically, I have been playing this game on and off since 2012, but picked it back up again this year to better understand the potential behaviour of a novel virus like COVID-19. To the uninitiated, Plague Inc is a mobile/PC game that allows you to play the role of a variety of different strains of real and fictitious viruses with a somewhat scary objective of wiping out humanity.

If you can take this morbid goal and put it to one side, this game is a highly detailed simulation of how a virus can spread. Built by a Ndemic Creations, with the support of the CDC, this game has now developed a COVID-19 mode to show how the virus can create an epidemic and also be cured.

Prior to COVID-19, I spent countless hours using the Planet of the Apes version of the game and it’s Simian Flu.

It is easy to pick up and play and is still in the all-time top 10 of paid-for games in the AppStore.

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The games I want to play in 2021

With the shift from game development teams building titles in offices to homeworking, I think there might be a slightly slower velocity of new games being published in 2021. However, here are the ones that are getting me excited:

Far Cry 6

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Horizon Forbidden West

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Hitman 3

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Hogwarts Legacy

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Stronghold: Warlords

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Happy gaming and I hope to see you in a gaming world sometime soon.