The 25 Best PlayStation Games of 2020

Games Lists Best of 2020
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The 25 Best PlayStation Games of 2020

Oh, damn, there are two PlayStations now.

Okay, I guess there have been two PlayStations since the year 2000, but after six or seven years of the PlayStation 4 being the top dog in the Sonysphere, the PlayStation 5 has come around to steal the spotlight. Of course it’s basically impossible to find right now, but if you have gotten your hands on one you know that it only has a few true exclusives. Most games you can play on the PlayStation 5 right now are upscaled versions of PlayStation 4 games. Thankfully they make it easy as heck to install those—all you have to do is log into your PSN account and you’ll see your full game PS4 library just waiting to be downloaded anew (or installed if you own it on disc). There are a few high profile games that have come out in both a PlayStation 4 version and a separate edition for the PlayStation 5 that’s been optimized for the new console—mostly games that have come out since the system launched in November. It can get a little confusing; I spent a few hours playing what I thought was the PlayStation 5 version of the new Call of Duty only to find out it was the PS4 version. Whatever.

Given that confusion, here’s a quick note about the “platform” listings below. Any game that we’ve listed for the PlayStation 4 is also playable on the PlayStation 5. Games listed only for the PlayStation 5 are exclusively available on the PlayStation 5. Games listed as both have both a PlayStation 4 version and a separate optimized PlayStation 5 version. Yes, it’s a little confusing, but so is the PlayStation ecosystem right now.

And finally, no, we’re not considering remakes like Demon’s Souls. We’re capricious like that.

Okay, let’s go. Here are the best PlayStation games of 2020.

All uncredited blurbs by Garrett Martin

25. The Last of Us Part II

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Platform: PlayStation 4

For a game ostensibly about hate, The Last of Us Part II revolves around the complexities of love. It shows love at its most positive, between two people whose love is rarely normalized in media; as the driving force behind a powerful, overwhelming, all-consuming quest of anger, murder and retribution; as a means of defining identity and community, where we belong and where we are dehumanized. It conveys how love — in its equal potential to be merciful and violent — is intrinsically tied with survival.

It’s a story about — among many things — a young woman who screams and breaks and destroys, who is fucked up and has to deal with the painful consequences of ruining things and lives, and having her own ruined in turn. It’s a story about powerless, ruined people who think they can fix themselves by ruining each other. There are no villains, but there are also no heroes, and The Last of Us Part II is intelligent enough to not pretend it can decide who fits in which category.—Natalie Flores


24. Ghost of Tsushima

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t really do anything poorly, but it also doesn’t try to do anything that we haven’t seen before. It’s a well-produced B movie of a game that lifts the look of actual art—a slick, commercial piece of work using Japanese cinema as set dressing. It demands almost nothing from me other than my attention, and makes sure to have enough clearly defined goalposts and climaxes to keep teasing out my interest. I may not remember too much about it going forward, but I will remember that it exists, which is more than can be said about a whole host of games I’ve played.


23. Maneater

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

I’ve never had to wrestle with a controller as strenuously as I do in Maneater. Sharks might be efficient killing machines, but trying to play as one can be hell on your hands and your DualShock. Every time I try to munch on an alligator or mako I have to beat my controller into submission, pounding on the shoulder trigger to take a bite, and then immediately smashing the right joystick to flip around and keep my prey in sight. When we’re evenly matched, these little duels can go on for minutes; when I’m trying to eat up a beast that’s bigger or stronger than me, I have to resort to guerrilla tactics, ambushing them from out of the seaweed, and regularly making short tactical retreats to swallow down some grouper or catfish to regain strength. Maneater reinforces the life-and-death struggle of these undersea squabbles by making me really feel them. These shark fights are the best thing about this weird, ambitious, and inconsistent game, which can veer from disappointing to exciting within seconds.


22. Immortals Fenyx Rising

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Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

Immortals Fenyx Rising is loud, abundant and abundantly loud. The colors are brighter, the map is fuller and the dialogue is frequent and boisterous, with jokes that land, fall flat, and somehow land by falling flat—which feels in line with how farcical Greek mythology tends to be. Furthermore, everything feels a lot less like a process in Immortals. Resources are plentiful, weapons are unbreakable, everything can be upgraded, and the combat is challenging while still being an absolute, fast-paced blast that leaves you walking away from battle feeling pretty damn good about yourself. It doesn’t invoke the same feeling as the somber and delicate hero’s journey Link undergoes in Breath of the Wild, but instead channels the same energy as a Disney movie, complete with jokes that might go above players under 10 but will certainly raise eyebrows (see Aphrodite telling Hermes he’s been loving on himself so much he needs to clean his toga). Also in line with a Disney movie is its story, which is parabolic and surprisingly heartwarming.—Jessica Howard


21. Doom Eternal

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Platform: PlayStation 4

I am not generally a Doom man—younger me felt the original sent games as a concept spinning off into the conjoined shitty paths of thinking violence equals maturity and that heavy metal made with computers is actually listenable—but Doom Eternal is one of the least Doom-like Dooms I’ve ever Doomed. It’s also 100% certified Doom, just like a pure unfiltered toot of the totality of Doom. No, these thoughts don’t contradict each other.

Despite carrying around a few extra layers of business, Doom Eternal feels good. It is physically, mentally and emotionally a much-needed jolt out of all the ruts I’ve been stuck in—a shot of manufactured, harmless stress to take my mind off all the real stresses of today. Visiting a fictional hell world will always be preferable to dealing with the hell world we’re actually living in. Doom’s ripping and tearing is more vital today than ever—and not just that which I visit upon my enemies, but, importantly, the torturous ways in which they rip and tear through me. Doom Eternal is a two-way street—the doom I perpetrate and the doom I have to welcome with open arms. It’s a kind of penance, and I am ready to accept my punishment.


20. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Assassin’s Creed games are massive, messy spectacles that elevate boilerplate Ubisoft drudgery with the epic sweep of history. They’re absolutely ridiculous, highly repetitive, and entirely my shit, in a way few big budget franchises are. I haven’t enjoyed them all, and yes, I don’t always finish these mammoth adventures, but every few years a Creed hits me just right. Valhalla makes two in a row, after 2018’s similarly fine Odyssey. It turns the Viking invasion of 9th century England into yet another chapter in the eternal struggle between two secret societies devoted to recovering powerful artifacts left behind by a godlike race of ancient aliens—and I will never tire of typing sentences like that. Valhalla has what I look for in an Assassin’s Creed: memorable characters, vivid recreations of a long gone past, and a completely ridiculous, increasingly tangled, sci-fi conspiracy story rooted in a cartoon version of history. And this time it has way more mead and decapitations.


19. Genshin Impact

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Genshin Impact is a free-to-play action RPG that feels a hell of a lot like an MMO without the whole multiplayer part, which is, I know, a vital part of that acronym, but if you play it I swear it makes sense. The game takes place in the massive open-world of Teyvat and follows the story of a pair of fallen twins (you play as either the male or female sibling) as they are thrust into a new world filled with magic, monsters and, of course, cute (and surprisingly well-written and charming) anime people that look fresh out of RWBY. What sets the game apart from feeling like just another MMO or a Breath of the Wild clone is that in Genshin, you can play up to 24 different characters, with each having one of seven unique powers. By cleverly using these elemental powers, you can do some pretty interesting things both in combat and exploration.—Jessica Howard


18. Ikenfell

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Ikenfell is the type of game I wish I’d have played when I was 12. It doesn’t try to be cool or “quirky.” Instead, its charm comes from its awkward sincerity—its unpretentious presentation that could include eyerolls or cringe in those unacclimated to the genuine. Ikenfell is a night spent hunched over the family computer reading fanfiction you’re ready to minimize if you hear footsteps. It’s playing Neopets and flash dress-up games while binge watching Drake and Josh. It’s an experience that takes you back to those fleeting instances of unabashed joy you had in the comfort of your house between your school days and those weird Friday night roller skating things that were popular for like, a year—you know what I’m talking about, right? Right.—Jessica Howard


17. A Fold Apart

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Platform: PlayStation 4

After finishing the adrenaline-pumping, 50-hour epic that was Final Fantasy VII Remake, I was looking for something much shorter and lighter for my next game, and found just that in A Fold Apart. It’s a sweet puzzle game about navigating a long-distance relationship, and although I found the narrative to be a little too on the nose and the puzzles to mostly all follow the same formula, it ended up being the game I needed. Only around three hours in length, I was able to complete A Fold Apart within just a couple days, and I let myself slip into a dream-like trance as I folded the paper and guided these lovebirds through their streams of consciousness. If I didn’t have the game included with Apple Arcade, I probably wouldn’t ever have given it a chance. But I’m glad I did, since its adorable art style and characters coupled with a calming and meditative gameplay loop helped calm some of the anxiety I’ve been feeling about the world. — Joseph Stanichar


16. Sackboy: A Big Adventure

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Platform: PlayStation 5

The PlayStation 5 launched with not one, but two glorious platformers. Sackboy: A Big Adventure dumps all the creation stuff from Little Big Planet (you know, the reason those games existed) to focus on the star of that series, the adorable little burlap buddy known as Sackboy. The peculiar flightiness of those games’ physics has been greatly reduced, resulting in a more precise and easier to control Sackboy. This has made possible some of the most rhythmically minded and musical platforming levels since Sound Shapes. It’s not quite at the level of Astro’s Playroom, but fans of running, jumping, and general Mario-ing about should make room for Sackboy.


15. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Streaming smash Fall Guys can be vicious. It can be one of the cruelest games you’ve ever played. You can be poised to win a round from start right up to the finish, only to shockingly get bumped from contention by a last-second surprise. It takes that element of risk and unpredictability from other forms of racing—from horse to car to track and field—and amplifies it into a candy-colored form of trolling online strangers. You can’t take anything for granted in Fall Guys, which gives it a strong sense of tension.


14. Spiritfarer

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Continuing in the trend of “games that easily could be a children’s film,” SpiritFarer exhibits a winning combination of heart and magical whimsy. Set aboard a ferry for the deceased, the game is equal parts puzzle-adventure and management sim. Rooms can be built, a garden grown, and adventures embarked upon as the ferrymaster Stella and her merry band travel the world and learn how to self sustain through mining, farming, cooking, fishing and crafting. Along the way, Stella also cares for the spirits of the dead, fulfilling their final wishes before saying goodbye. With a direct but life-affirming approach to the topic of death, the game’s optimistic vulnerability is as wholesome as its charismatic and upbeat characters.—Holly Green


13. Streets of Rage 4

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Platform: PlayStation 4

This loving tribute to Sega’s early ‘90s beat-’em-up doesn’t just channel an overlooked classic. It’s one of two recent games, alongside March’s smarter Treachery in Beatdown City, that revive a genre that was once a cornerstone of the whole medium. The primal thrill and eternal allure of pulverizing waves of bozos with your fists, feet and special moves might have ebbed since their quarter-swallowing heyday in the early ‘90s, but Streets of Rage 4 shows that, when done with love and attention, this kind of violence can be as invigorating as ever.


12. Skater XL

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Skater Xl is not so much a return to form for skateboarding games as it is a distillation of what made them great in the first place. Yes, it borrows its core control scheme (with a few minor changes) from the Skate series, but it adds an extra layer of challenge to it. The physics are more grounded, and it’s cool that the game minutely recreates some of the most famous skate spots in America—from the Radio Korea plaza to the Staples Center and the West L.A. Courthouse. The fact that Skater XL is grounded in reality is not what makes it truly special. What makes it so compelling is that you can customize your skater with real skate shoes, pants, boards, and more. Okay, that is not what makes it so great, but it is cool nonetheless. What makes it one of the best games of July is how it just distills the pure joys of skateboarding into a deceptively simple experience. No real objectives or stories or challenges are in the game—just various levels, your skater, and their board. It is all one needs because skateboarding is boundless. Use your imagination, try to skate new spots, craft compelling lines, and then get lost in the simple-yet-fun in-game video editor.—Cole Henry


11. Wasteland 3

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Wasteland 3 puts you in the shoes of an external force with the unique capability to see through internal affairs, and gives players a glimpse at what a stranglehold on power can result in. Every choice you make, from dialogue options to money management, gives the feeling that you really are in a wasteland, just trying to get by. It’s a harrowing vision of a world that could come to pass, and a poignant commentary on the one we’re just trying to make it through today.—Nicolas Perez


10. Dreams

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Dreams takes the creative aspirations of MediaMolecule’s previous franchise, Little Big Planet, and expands them into something almost overwhelmingly broad. You can make all manner of games within Dreams, or dig in on a more granular level and work on game mechanics or assets. You can even dabble in other mediums, from animation to music. It’s a powerful portal into ideation, with perhaps the freest and most open-ended tools for creating within a game platform. And the community has wasted no time putting those tools to good use, with a massive amount of homegrown content worth playing and exploring.


9. Going Under

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Platform: PlayStation 4

The breadth of its options makes each run an exciting, different time, and makes Going Under a highly replayable roguelike that you shouldn’t miss. When you’re away from the keyboard for a second your character throws her weapon away, sits down, and starts scrolling on her phone. If I was bored in a dungeon, I would do the same thing! Little moments like that are found throughout the game, and showcase that Going Under is plugged in and timely. A lot of the early game is goofs and fighting, but as you progress deeper through the dungeons it becomes an inspiring story about fighting back, unionization, and solidarity. These days it’s way too easy to get down in the dumps, doom scroll, and instantly complain about anything online; this game distracted me from that. It made me laugh, transporting my mind into a world where evil sentient emojis run a corrupt dating app, skeletons are motivational speakers, and goblins drink coffee from a pot. It gave me hope, and made me more optimistic at the prospect of real change, which can only happen when people respect each other, work together and rip it out of clutches of a CEO after slaying them with a giant sword.—Funké Joseph


8. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

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Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

Sony’s excellent Spider-Man game gets a follow-up starring everybody’s new favorite Spider-Man. Miles Morales is a timelier and more human take on the webslinger than the 2018 original, and although it disappointingly doesn’t fully commit to its politics, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable action game with a conscience. It’s also just about the perfect length for this type of game—you can probably 100% in half the time it takes to do that with the first one. If, y’know, you care about things like 100%-ing a game. Swinging through Christmastime Manhattan never gets old, especially when you have Spider-Man the Cat poking out of your backpack.


7. Fuser

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Remember DJ Hero? Cool, now forget all about it. Harmonix’s new DJ game captures the feeling of a real DJ set better than Activision’s short-lived series ever did, and you won’t need a big chunk of plastic that you’ll never use again to play it. Fuser does for DJing what Rock Band did for rocking, with a deep selection of real songs from the past six decades to chop up and recombine however you see fit. It’s a fun game, sure, but it’s also an amazing tool for musical creativity, turning every player into their own personal mash-up machine. You should play it, is what I’m saying.


6. Final Fantasy VII Remake

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Square Enix pulled off an impossible trick here. They not only remade one of the most beloved games of all time in a way that thoughtfully builds and expands on the original; they somehow turned what was about five hours of story in 1997 into a 30-hour game without it ever feeling all that padded out. Remake preserves the strong political consciousness of the original game while greatly fleshing out many of its secondary and background characters, giving it all a greater emotional resonance than it had back in the day. This game has something to say but remembers to keep the focus on characters and their relationships, preventing it from ever becoming too preachy. It’s not subtle, at all, but it’s more subtle than the original, or what you would typically expect from a JRPG.


5. Spelunky 2

Platform: PlayStation 4

With most videogame sequels you expect the three “-ers”: bigger, badder and better. At least that’s what the standard marketing boilerplate drones on about at every E3 press conference. Spelunky 2 can scratch off that “bigger” tag, at least—it has more worlds than the first game, although its branching structure makes sure that you don’t see them all during a single playthrough. There are multiple tweaks throughout that marks this as its own unique game, and yet despite those changes the ultimate experience perfectly recaptures how it feels to play Spelunky. It’s less a sequel than a continuation, or some parallel dimension’s version of what Spelunky has always been.

The genius of Spelunky 2 is that it somehow adds new possibilities to a game that already had endless possibilities. That’s legitimately impressive. And that’s why I’m sure I’ll be playing this for as long as I’ve played the original, both games coexisting blissfully together as one of the absolute best parent-child pairs in gaming.


4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 remasters the first two games in the iconic series, updating all the levels from the original games and featuring both the original skaters and new ones. If you’ve been hoping a skating game could recapture the look and feel of those old classics, well, here you go. When I picked up the controller it was like no time had passed. I haven’t played the warehouse level from the very first game in literally decades, and yet it all came back to me immediately once I put thumb to stick.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 isn’t mere nostalgia. It’s a revival. It exhumes a true classic but roots it deeply in the modern world and not in some idealized version of its past. It doesn’t try to hide or ignore the changes of the last 20 years. And that’s one reason it’s one of the best games of 2020.


3. The Pathless

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Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4

Games should have secrets. They should feel like worlds that exist outside of the game and your presence in it, like something you’ve surreptitiously trespassed upon, and that, at best, are ambivalent towards your existence. The Pathless creates that feeling as well as Breath of the Wild, Demon’s Souls, or any of Team Ico’s games. This mythic adventure is set in a land on the cusp of apocalypse, in a battle between a benevolent god and a self-proclaimed godslayer, and trusts you and your eagle companion to sift through the ashes of its civilization to find a way to save it. There’s no violence outside of boss battles, and no threat of death to worry about. It’s built on movement and exploration, with your character slicing through the countryside as quickly as possible, or gliding through the air as your eagle carries you, while searching through decaying temples and fortresses for the tools you need to beat back Armageddon. If there’s anything to criticize about The Pathless, it’s that it’s maybe a little too linear—a little too similar to an Ubisoft game, moving from tower to tower to unlock the next step in the story. That doesn’t lessen its impact, though, or its beauty. This is one of the best games of the year.


2. Astro’s Playroom

Platform: PlayStation 5

Is this a perfect game? I can’t find anything to criticize in Astro’s Playroom, the short but endlessly enjoyable platformer that comes installed on every PlayStation 5. Judged on both style and substance, Astro’s Playroom is an ideal pack-in game. It’s fun, beautiful, deeply entertaining, and also elegantly introduces the major new features of the PlayStation 5’s controller. And with its meta concept of playing entirely within the new system, while also tracking down art and items from the 26 year history of the PlayStation, it pays tribute to the company’s past and present without getting too schmaltzy or nostalgic. If you’re getting a PlayStation 5, this should be the first game you play.


1. Kentucky Route Zero Act V

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Platform: PlayStation 4

Kentucky Route Zero’s final act finally came out early this year, and capped this brilliant game off perfectly, with the same combination of mystery and mundanity that has always been its hallmark. Kentucky Route Zero is one of the slipperiest, most subtle games ever when it wants to be, and thuddingly, powerfully upfront when it needed to be, turning the classic point-and-click adventure framework into an existential Southern Gothic allegory about work, art, life, and everything else. Despite the seven years between Acts I and V, Cardboard Computer somehow never lost the thread along the way, with all its digressions and discursive plot points contributing to its magical realist explorations of life. If you haven’t played it before, it’s the perfect time to jump in, now that it’s finally finished.