It could just be a mechanic or two that make playing a game feel so special. Othertimes each detail and the way you play a game can feel so tightly woven it makes it hard to put down. It all comes back to gameplay for this list and the games that showcased the best in game design.
Here are our picks for the Top 5 Games with the Best Game Design in 2020.
5.) Ghostrunner [PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PC]
Smooth, stylish and super cool. You will die a lot playing Ghostrunner, but when you’re winning there was nothing else quite as satisfying in 2020. As you run on walls, slide through gaps and leap toward foes dodging bullets in slow-motion, whenever you clear a room of enemies in Ghostrunner you’ll feel you’ve earned it.
The game owes a lot to one-hit-kill game’s like Hotline Miami, but by taking it to the first-person view, there’s a level of adrenaline here you can’t get in other similar games. None of it gets boring either as new enemies, platforming obstacles to overcome, and boss fights keep you on your toes. As far as gameplay on a minute to minute basis goes, Ghostrunner was one of 2020’s best.
– Dylan Blight
4.) The Pathless [PS4, PS5, iOS, macOS, tvOS, PC]
There’s something to be said about recent design decisions to move away from mini-maps in open-world games. When it’s done right, it feels great. The Pathless is one of those games as it invites adventure and never has you feeling lost thanks to a ‘Hunter Vision’ that lets you see locations of interested highlighted in the distance in red.
The Pathless is somewhere between Journey, Abzu and The Witness. As you fly across the world of the game with a burst of speed gained from hitting totems littered across the island with your arrows, you feel the wind between your figurative ears. It’s fast-paced and utterly antithetical to the game’s puzzles also littered around the island. It’s a great mix when it all comes together and makes for one of 2020’s best-designed games.
– Dylan Blight
3.) Animal Crossing: New Horizons [Nintendo Switch]
You can build your daily routine around playing Animal Crossing. All the positive and negative connotations will follow a statement like that. Still, it’s the most straightforward way of explaining how much there is to do in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Between planning out where to build attractions on your island to maintaining a healthy and profitable farming area, aiming to be mayor of a respect island getaway isn’t easy, and it’ll take many hours. It’s somewhat addictive, but mastering the design elements of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and gathering your perfect island of residents is a euphoric feeling worth chasing
– Dylan Blight
2.) Ghost of Tsushima [PS4]
Sucker Punch put a lot of effort into making Ghost of Tsushima feel immersive. While most open world games would have some sort of mini map or tracker, Ghost of Tsushima has very minimal HUD with players instead swiping up on the touchpad to summon a guiding wind that will direct you where you need to go. Sucker Punch may have made the best/most use out of the Dualshock 4’s touchpad ever. The guiding wind works perfectly and also helps you feel free to discover things in the world, with a bird occasionally popping up to lead you to some hidden treasure. While there is little information on the screen, it is never far away with pop up displays for changing weapons and a organized menu system.
The combat in Ghost is really good as well, seeming to take bits of other combat systems to make one best suited for this game. Switching between the multiple stances adds a layer of depth to combat while the standoffs and duels which mix things up nicely. The stealth may not be as hardcore as some people wanted but with few instant-fail stealth missions, it doesn’t really matter. Easily one of the best samurai/ninja experiences to date.
– Ashley Hobley
1.) Hades [PC, Nintendo Switch]
Rogue-like games have never really gone well with me, the constant live, die, restart, die cycle of the genre is not something I find rewarding but SuperGiant Games manage to add the narrative reward each time you fail in Hades. With each run through the levels of the underworld you may not find yourself progressing in terms of levels but with each death comes more story in such a natural way that truly makes the player feel the progression.
This excellent narrative design combined with the varied boons provided by each of the gods that can be found within each run and a variety of weapons can make the gameplay loop of each run feel fresh and interesting. Character builds in themself are interesting puzzles that can find the player starting weighing up the pros and cons of a boon for their build each time they run into a God.
SuperGiant Games have truly broken through any glass ceiling that was previously made for the genre. I am so excited to see how future rogue-like games are influenced by this master class in game design and their example of how to truly take advantage of an early access period.
– Ciaran Marchant
This Top 5 list was compiled by Dylan Blight, Ashley Hobley and Ciaran Marchant.