Years from now when we all look back at 2020, hindsight should tell us a lot about this year and everything that went down. Australian wildfires, Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman’s deaths, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, the impeachment of US President Trump, the stock market crashing, Black Lives Matter protests, rumors that Kim Jong Ill was dead, Twitter being hacked, murder hornets arriving in the US, the Beirut explosion, the US Presidential election, and of course the Coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed the news and basically stamped 2020 as one of the worst years ever at too many points. But this was a great year for games, so we are going to shine a light on 2020 with Nintendo Link’s first annual Game of the Year!
There were many solid games this year that it was tough to nail down which ones to focus on. Nintendo released some big first-party titles for the Switch, and there were also excellent indie titles that breathed positivity on this negative year. The following will list our Honorable Mentions, and then we will go down our nominees before crowning our Game of the Year.
DISCLAIMER: All Honorable Mentions, Runner-Ups, and the Winner are all games that released on a Nintendo console in the year of 2020. Some may have released in previous years elsewhere, but we still wanted to honor these games for still being amazing even as a port.
These are titles that deserve to be here but did not quite get the votes and attention from our team during the Game of the Year discussion.
Super Mega Baseball 3
Super Mega Baseballs 3 came out at a time when sporting events were shut down, and the team at Metalhead Software genuinely put together a baseball game that rivals the MLB titles and even does significantly better in most areas. It was great to swing a bat (virtually) and enjoy some ball games during a weird year, even playing quite a few games on their with my son.
DOOM Eternal is an excellent title and deserves all the praise it has gotten, but Panic Button deserves another huge round of applause for somehow getting a functional version of DOOM Eternal on the Nintendo Switch. The game looks and plays great without compromising too much, and that is huge in my book.
This is an amazing reverse-horror experience from Devolver Digital. In Carrion, you play as the monster, and you are devouring and killing everyone in your way to escape the facility in this brilliant Metroidvania.
A late entry in the Switch Game of the Year contention, Among Us took 2020 by storm despite releasing years prior. The social deduction game helped bring so many people together this year for some fun, board game-like gameplay. Similar to Mafia or Werewolf, Among Us is about finding who the Imposter is and getting them off the ship. A wonderfully fun multiplayer game now available on Switch with crossplay capabilities with PC and mobile.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was one of Nintendo’s biggest releases this year. The hack-and-slash warriors game takes place before the events of Breath of the Wild, and it was been widely accepted as one of the best in its genre. Great storytelling, fun gameplay, and you can play as Urbosa. Need I say more?
I hate writing this one, because Bloodroots was one of my dark horses to win the whole thing. Sadly, I did not get a lot of support, but this game absolutely deserves your attention. It is an amazing action game where anything and everything can be used as a weapon as you make your way towards the people who betrayed you. I cannot recommend this one enough!
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
Finally, to round out our honorable mentions, it is Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling. Although this released in 2019 on PC, it did arrive earlier this year on the Nintendo Switch. This wonderfully charming Paper Mario-like game did a better job at being Paper Mario than Paper Mario: The Origami King did. If you are a fan of RPGs and Paper Mario, this is a must-play.
The next five are our nominees that just barely missed the cut. These are our runner-ups for Game of the Year 2020.
5th Runner-Up: Cake Bash
Starting things off, we have a fun party game about bashing each other in the form of different cakes: it’s Cake Bash! Cake Bash came out just before we started considering our Game of the Year for 2020, and it was fresh on our minds because so. The Mario Party-like game boasts lots of unique gameplay and numerous ways to play with family and friends, with local and online options widely available.
It is not every day that a new party game comes out and impresses in just about every way, and Cake Bash did just that. Just before the holidays, High Tea Frog and Coatsink Software released a game that tons of gamers needed to play: something silly, fun, and unique. We know party games are not normally ones considered for Game of the Year contention, but we firmly stand on Cake Bash‘s entry. This is a wonderfully chaotic party game that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch console.
4th Runner-Up: Streets of Rage 4
With the plethora of top-tier games and highly praised indies that released towards the end of 2020, it is easy to forget that the brilliant Streets of Rage 4 came out in April of this year. It had been 26 years since Streets of Rage 3 released, and the fourth entry in the series picked up where the last one left off perfectly. Many people thought the beat-em-up genre was slowly fading away, but then Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games delivered what is arguably one of the best beat-em-ups in history in the form of Streets of Rage 4.
The game boasts a stellar campaign mode, numerous playable characters, an excellent soundtrack, and even some other modes like Boss Rush and Battle that just add significantly more to the value. This is just another one of those games that came out right when the pandemic was hitting hard initially, and it was something to punch and kick our rage out to. Streets of Rage 4 simply feels great to play for so many different reasons.
3rd Runner-Up: Hades
Hades is the rogue-lite that even got haters of the genre on board, and for that alone, Supergiant Games did something amazing. This top-tier action game has been sweeping many awards around the gaming world, and it is obvious why. The characters and Greek mythology mixed with some sexy animations and colorful storytelling draws the player into its entrancing world. The gameplay, albeit difficult, has a great learning curve that helps new players of the genre to wiggle their way in and grow.
Like all of the top rogue-likes, Hades is simply one of those games you cannot stop thinking about when you are taking a break from it. Figuring out how to tackle bosses and deciding which paths to take will mess with you and have you coming back for more over and over and over again. This is truly a masterpiece in many ways and absolutely deserves every ounce of praise it has gotten thus far.
2nd Runner-Up: Mars Horizon
As Peterdea says in his review, “Mars Horizon is an absolutely fantastic management simulation game, and quite possibly the best you’ll find on the Nintendo Switch.” This is a simulation game that tasks you with with leading a country’s space program and accomplishing as many milestones as you can in a given period. You are in charge of building rockets, expanding your base of operations, and researching things to open up new and more complicated missions, and you are also running against all of the other countries in the game in attempt to reach these goals.
It may not be the most action-packed game on this list, but there is something truly magnificent about how Auroch Digital took something that literally took over the world stage many years ago and turned it into a management simulator that is exhilarating. This is one of those titles that you will play through numerous times and may even become one of your most-played games before you even realize.
1st Runner-Up: ScourgeBringer
It is hard for me to not crown this game as Game of the Year, because ScourgeBringer literally blew my socks off at every corner possible. Not only was this our first ever 100/100 score on the site, but it is even better now than it was when it first came out. Eurogamer said it best when they initially described it back in August 2019 as “Dead Cells meets Celeste“, two games that I personally have very high on my gaming pedestal.
This stellar rogue-lite officially released shortly after Hades, and I think it was unfortunately buried by the press in light of its release window. But do not let that fool you! This is one of the best and most unique rogue-platformers ever, and Flying Oak Games keeps promising that ScourgeBringer will continue to get better and better as time goes on. The gameplay, boss fights, and soundtrack are all top-tier, and the accessibility menu makes it possible for anyone to be able to play this game.
Make no mistake, ScourgeBringer would be Game of the Year in my books if it were not for the following game and the year we just had.
Game of the Year 2020
And the winner of our first annual Nintendo Link Game of the Year is…
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
In any other year, Animal Crossing: New Horizons would be an above-average game. Like its previous entries, New Horizons offers a laid-back and cute approach to life simulation, and it gives players tons of control over their new island life.
But 2020 has not been kind to the global majority, and to say Animal Crossing: New Horizons released at the perfect time would be a serious understatement. When it released on March 20, 2020, the Coronavirus had already spread to numerous countries, and lock downs began to show us a glimpse of how the rest of the year would pan out. Thankfully, for many of us gamers, New Horizons was a necessary outlet to connect with family and friends during a trivial time and just play.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is not the game we wanted in 2020, but it is absolutely the game we needed. It helped us to breathe as we panicked, it helped to distract us from the constant stream of bad news, and it helped us to connect when we were forced to distance.
It is an easy game to pick up and has been a gateway to casual gaming for so many people this year, and it is no surprise that it has sold over 26 million copies in only 9 months. In any other year, this most likely wouldn’t have happened, but here we are at the close of 2020 looking back and this will be remembered in the gaming world as the “Year of Animal Crossing”.
For that reason alone and so much more, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is Nintendo Link’s Game of the Year for 2020.
Thank you to all of the developers and publishers who pushed through this year to deliver some of the best games I have played in ages. Without you all and the insanely hard work you put into your games, 2020 would have been so much harder. It is with a sincere heart that I send my thanks, wish you luck moving forward, and hope for your safety as we continue to fight this pandemic.
And thank you to our fans for supporting us as we continue to grow Nintendo Link. You all are awesome, and I promise you that 2021 is going to be a huge year for us! Look forward to that.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link for our Game of the Year article! What did you think of the format? How about our choices? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below! And as always, happy gaming, everyone.
What's Your Reaction?
My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.