Review aggregator site Metacritic recently released their list of 2020 games which received the highest reviews. In 2020, sixteen games received a score of 90 or above - a significant increase from 2019, in which only nine games received that honor. The sixteen titles also represented a fairly even spread of games for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and PC.
This list was based on titles' "Metascores," which are primarily calculated using reviews published by professional gaming sites and critics. Each game also has a "User Score," which ranks how average players rated it.
Here's the sixteen titles which earned a 90 or above, organized by console, and just what reviewers found so great about them:
Metacritic's most highly-rated game of 2020 was Persona 5 Royal, a PlayStation 4 exclusive which received an impressive score of 95. Royal is an updated re-release of 2017 JRPG Persona 5, featuring new characters and an entire new semester's worth of playable content (including new endings). It was praised for its story, art style, music, characters, and for making an already-released title worth purchasing all over again.
Also scoring well was Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II with 93. This title, which also swept the 2020 Game Awards, was praised for its environmental design and handling of heavy themes, as well as its many emotional moments. Interestingly, this was also the title on this list with the biggest disparity between its Metascore and its User Score, the later of which currently sits at 5.7.
Finally, the PlayStation 4 Definitive Edition of another previously released JRPG, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age also scored 93. Critics highlighted the quality-of-life upgrades added to the original game, including updated music, the ability to switch between 2D and 3D graphics, and scenarios which explore the adventures of various characters during a period when the party is split up.
As the PlayStation 5 is a relatively new console, it does not yet have many high-scoring titles. However, one PS5 exclusive, Demon's Souls, earned a Metascore of 92. Critics praised its difficult yet rewarding gameplay as well as its crisp next-generation graphics. Multiple reviewers even lauded Demon's Souls as "the best launch title of the decade" - high praise indeed!
In its last year as a current generation console, the Xbox One had a whopping four titles receive a score of 90 or higher. The recently released Xbox Series X/S, on the other hand, has not yet had any highly rated console exclusive titles, with Tetris Effect: Connected taking the top spot with an 88.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age makes another appearance on this list, with its Xbox One version earning a score of 92. The Xbox version of the game received similar praise to its PlayStation counterpart, especially in regards to the quality-of-life improvements made when the game was re-released.
F1 2020, the latest entry in the popular car racing series, scored a 91 on Metacritic. Reviewers especially loved that players could create their own team for the very first time in series history. It was very much considered to be an evolution for the series and a step forward from previous titles, with a smoothly running engine, further improved graphics and brand new game modes to explore.
Two Xbox One titles received a score of 90. The first of these was Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the long-awaited sequel to platformer Ori and the Blind Forest. As with its predecessor, the game's visuals and music received high praise. Wisps was considered by several critics to be even better than its also well-reviewed predecessor.
The other 90 Metascore went to Yakuza 0, which had previously released for PlayStation 4 and PC before finally making its way to Xbox One. Fans were very excited about this release, and critics agreed that it was a smooth, slick playing experience and a worthy debut for the Yakuza franchise on this particular console.
Only three Nintendo Switch titles received a score of 90 or higher - but those that did included some fan favorite titles from 2020. Even as the next generation of consoles is being released, the Switch is still holding its own.
Roguelike indie title Hades scored 93, with reviewers admitting that they found the game just as addictive as average fans. The game is fast-paced and death is not final, making it extremely easy to say "just one more run" instead of putting the game down. It also received praise for its unique art style as well as its likeable cast of Greek mythology-inspired characters.
The Switch version of Ori and the Will of the Wisps also made this list with a score of 93, making Ori the second game to score a 90 or higher on two different consoles. Some critics felt that Moon Studios' creative vision was more effectively brought to life on the Xbox One, while others preferred the switch.
Finally, what many have called the "definitive game" of 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, ended the year with a Metascore of 90. Reviewers tipped their hats to the way Animal Crossing's relaxed gameplay and multiplayer options were exactly what a lot of gamers needed during such a difficult year.
PC was the big winner in 2020, with five entire titles scoring 90 or higher. Highly rated PC games ran the gamut from AAA titles to beloved indies, and represented a variety of genres and styles of gameplay.
Half-Life: Alyx led the board with a score of 93. Fans had been waiting years for a new game in the Half-Life series, and critics felt that Alyx did not disappoint. It was praised for its innovative nature as a VR-based experience which took advantage of the new technology's opportunities. VR is still a growing field, with many games not reaching their potential and others creating memorable experiences like nothing we've seen before. Critics felt that Alyx fell into the latter camp.
Hades makes another appearance on this list, once again scoring 93 - the same number of points which its Nintendo Switch version received. Once again, people loved the graphics, characters, soundtrack and especially the innovative gameplay loop as you try time after time to escape from the Underworld and free yourself from the titular god of the dead.
Coming in third with a 91 Metascore is another ambitious PC project: Microsoft Flight Simulator. Critics pretty much had one thing to say: this game's scale is downright impressive, recreating large pieces of Earth as seen from above with stunning visual clarity. As with Animal Crossing above, it was acknowledged that this game was extremely valuable in 2020, with real-world travel limited and banned in much of the world. In response, the game received an update allowing players to explore America in even more depth.
Crusader Kings III received 91 points, tying with two other entries on the list of high-scoring PC games. The sequel to a popular strategy game, Crusader Kings III was lauded as an improvement over its predecessor. In particular, it was liked for having a larger world, a greater amount of available content, and a simpler and easier to understand UI. It was mentioned by critics as a game both newbies and series veterans could enjoy.
Fifth on the list with 91 points is yet another highly anticipated title, the notoriously difficult Spelunky 2. It preserves the "randomized roguelike" gameplay which earned the first Spelunky praise, but also added a large amount of new obstacles, challenges and secrets to discover. Critics especially liked the fact that the game managed to be rewarding and satisfying for all levels of player despite its notorious difficulty.
Congratulations to all sixteen of these games, and here's hoping that 2021 sees even more games receiving top scores on Metacritic and other sites around the internet!
If you're interested in even more "Best of 2020," Metacritic also offers ratings for film, television, music and more.
The team at GameLuster also took the time to praise some of the best new releases of the year. To see what we thought, check out the winners of The Lusties 2020!
Did you enjoy any of these games? Do you feel that they deserve to be so highly rated? Are there any other 2020 titles you would have liked to see receive high scores? Let us know!