I have updated our Shacknews Year of the Games 2020 article with the latest of The Shacknews Awards 2020 to be announced. Here's an easy to consume list of all the awards announced as of the evening of December 28, 2020.
Most Improved Game of 2020 - Tekken 7
Check out our Shacknews Most Improved Game of 2020 - Tekken 7 article.
Best Strategy Game of 2020 - Wasteland 3
Check out our Shacknews Best Strategy Game of 2020 - Wasteland 3 article.
Best Graphics of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx
Check out our Shacknews Best Graphics of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx article.
Best Multiplayer Game of 2020 - Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Check out our Shacknews Best Multiplayer Game of 2020 - Animal Crossing: New Horizons article.
Best Hardware of 2020 - NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
Check out our Shacknews Best Hardware of 2020 - NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti article.
Best VR Game of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx
Check out our Shacknews Best VR Game of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx article.
Best Narrative Game of 2020 - The Last of Us Part 2
Check out our Shacknews Best Narrative Game of 2020 - The Last of Us Part 2 article.
Best Art Style of 2020 - Hades
Check out our Shacknews Best Art Style of 2020 - Hades article.
Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of the Year 2020
Check out our Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of the Year 2020 article.
Indie Game of the Year 2020 - Hades
Congratulations to Supergiant Games! You have won the prestigious title of Shacknews Indie Game of the Year 2020. For more, check out our Shacknews Indie Game of the Year 2020 - Hades article.
Best FPS Game of 2020 - Diabotical
Check out our Shacknews Best FPS Game of 2020 - Diabotical article.
Best Gaming Accessory of 2020 - PS5 DualSense Controller
Check out our Shacknews Best Gaming Accessory of 2020 - PS5 DualSense Controller article.
Esports Hero of 2020 - Shane "Rapha" Hendrixson (Team Liquid)
Check out our Shacknews Esports Hero of 2020 - Shane 'Rapha' Hendrixson (Team Liquid) article.
Best Horror Game of 2020 - Amnesia: Rebirth
Check out our Shacknews Best Horror Game of 2020 - Amnesia: Rebirth article.
Best RPG of 2020 - Wasteland 3
Check out our Shacknews Best RPG of 2020 - Wasteland 3 article.
Best Early Access Game of 2020 - Teardown
Check out our Shacknews Best Early Access Game of 2020 - Teardown article.
Best Expansion of 2020 - Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra
Check out our Shacknews Best Expansion of 2020 - Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra article.
Best Co-Op Game of 2020 - Deep Rock Galactic
Check out our Shacknews Best Co-Op Game of 2020 - Deep Rock Galactic article.
Best Trendsetter of 2020 - Among Us
Check out our Shacknews Best Trendsetter of 2020 - Among Us article.
Best Mod of 2020 - Black Mesa
Check out our Shacknews Best Mod of 2020 - Black Mesa article.
Best Fighting Game of 2020 - Granblue Fantasy Versus
Check out our Shacknews Best Fighting Game of 2020 - Granblue Fantasy Versus article.
Best Sports Game of 2020 - NHL 21
Check out our Shacknews Best Sports Game of 2020 - NHL 21 article.
Best Remake of 2020 - Final Fantasy VII
Check out our Shacknews Best Remake of 2020 - Final Fantasy VII article.
Best Racing Game of 2020 - F1 2020
Check out our Shacknews Best Racing Game of 2020 - F1 2020 article.
Most Overlooked Game of 2020 - Fuser
Check out our Shacknews Most Overlooked Game of 2020 - Fuser article.
Best Sound Design of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx
Sound design can make or break a virtual reality experience. In the case of Half-Life: Alyx, the in-game audio elevated a lot of the other design elements in the game. Valve has done an amazing job of creating a living, breathing world in Half-Life: Alyx and the game's sound design truly adds to the overall experience. The sound of headcrabs crawling around players in the dark is truly haunting. Check out our video above to find out some of the other video games that were nominated this year, but we are happy to honor Half-Life: Alyx one more time with The Shacknews Award for Best Sound Design of 2020. -Asif Khan, CEO
Best Voice Actor of 2020 - Laura Bailey
The Last of Us Part 2’s narrative is anchored by incredible performances all around. Returning cast members Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker once again deliver amazing performances as Ellie and Joel. However, it’s Laura Bailey that shines the brightest as newcomer Abby. An industry veteran, we’ve seen numerous admirable performances from Bailey over the years, but her work in The Last of Us Part 2 may be her best work yet. A character we’re meant to hate at first but then come to love, Abby is a deeply flawed, broken, and tortured character hiding beneath a rough and tough exterior. It’s Laura Bailey’s performance that propels The Last of Us Part 2 to the next level. -Donovan Erskine, Contributing Editor
Best Music of 2020 - Final Fantasy 7 Remake
The original Final Fantasy 7 had a lot going for it, including a memorable soundtrack. Square Enix went the extra mile to make it something special for Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake's music excelled at setting the adventure's tone throughout the game, whether it was the frantic nature of the Bombing Mission theme, the serenity of Aerith's Theme, or the impending doom of the various tracks during the Sector 7 Plate collapse sequence. The encounter track ("Let the Battles Begin!") will be the one that's most frequently heard, but it's also the one that sets the stage for a showdown the most perfectly. All of this is without even talking about the epic orchestral score that kicks in during the game's final moments. Final Fantasy 7 Remake isn't as memorable as it is without the soundtrack to back it up. Square Enix thankfully stuck the landing and that's why Final Fantasy 7 Remake has the best music of the year. -Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor
Best Action/Adventure Game of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx
Half-Life: Alyx is taking home a lot of awards this year, and the title of Shacknews Best Action/Adventure Game of 2020 may surprise some people. It is hard to argue that the game was not full of action and adventure, as players settled into the role of Alyx Vance and fought off all sorts of baddies from the Half-Life universe. From immerseive level design, to really impressive gameplay systems, Half-Life: Alyx really shined above the rest of the games in this category in 2020. Check out the video to hear a lot of debate, and honorable mentions of many other great games that shipped this year. -Asif Khan, CEO
Best Headshot of 2020 - Cyberpunk 2077
Nailing a headshot and watching the enemies head explode is one of the greatest satisfactions in any shooter. In Cyberpunk 2077, you can blast an enemy head right off with a well-placed headshot. This is even more gratifying once you start upgrading perk trees and acquiring powerful weapons, as players can easily dispatch some pretty powerful enemies. -Donovan Erskine, Contributing Editor
Quiestest Lobby of 2020 - Rocket Arena
There's a certain expectation that comes with the name "Rocket Arena." When EA and Final Strike Games released their third-person shooter, it very much wasn't what long-time players expected. Rocket Arena has had a rough launch for many reasons. It wasn't what people expected, it launched for a whopping $40 USD and fell to roughly $5 USD after less than two weeks on the market, and various other reasons.
However, putting aside mismanagement and off-target preconceptions, Rocket Arena is a pretty good game. It has some creative ideas, fun game modes, colorful characters, and an entire premise centered around fighting with rocket launchers only. It's a really good time once you actually get into it and it certainly deserves better than it's gotten. We hope for a better 2021 for Rocket Arena. -Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor
Best Free-to-play Game of 2020 - Spellbreak
Out of all the free-to-play games released this year, Spellbreak was the most surprising and unique. For those that have perhaps grown tired of battle royale games, Spellbreak offers a rather unassuming twist on the tried and true game mode turned genre. Instead of guns, Spellbreak offers magic. It’s so simple it’s a wonder no one had done it before. By wielding a different magical gauntlet in each hand, players can sling spells at their opponents and even form powerful combos by mixing various elements together. And this is where Spellbreak separates the casual players from the elite. Teams that are able to capitalize on one another’s spells quickly become an unstoppable force, taking the chaotic and explosive combat and controlling it, just like a real mage would do. With skins and other cosmetics to unlock in-game by leveling up your preferred elemental type, there’s plenty of value to be found in Spellbreak, the Shacknews Best Free-to-play Game of 2020. -Sam Chandler, Guides Editor
Best Cameo of 2020 - The New Day (Gears 5)
Nobody can really deny that Gears 5 in 2019 left some of us at Shacknews feeling a little sour. But don't you dare be sour! Clap for your world famous WWE tag team champs and feel the power!
The New Day's addition to Gears 5 wasn't the first collaboration between The Coalition and WWE, but it was the most surprising. That's because there's always been this serious atmosphere to the Gears franchise, the game about taking chainsaws and bisecting alien insects, and The New Day is very much... festive. They're about dancing. They're about pancakes. They're about booty-shaking! And now you can shake your booty as you bisect some alien insects. The trio's colorful armor set and signature mannerisms have turned out to be the most fun addition to Gears 5 so far and have made it worth jumping back into The Coalition's shooter on our new Xbox Series X. -Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor
Best DLC of 2020 - Super Mario Maker 2
When the COVID pandemic pushed the world into lockdown, video games were affected just like anything else. Few were impacted more than Nintendo, who were shifting to a work-at-home environment and suddenly saw their projected 2020 schedule in jeopardy. Among the items on their to-do list was a series of updates for Super Mario Maker 2. When April rolled around, the publisher threw up their hands and decided to throw out the whole shebang as one massive, final update.
Super Mario Maker 2's 3.0 update included a series of new additions to the core game. There was World Maker, which allowed creators to assemble their own Mario campaigns, complete with an overworld interface. There was the Super Mario Bros. 2 Mushroom, which introduced an entirely different set of mechanics to the game. There was the Frog Suit, the P-Balloon, ON/OFF Switches for 3D World, and so much more. For people stuck at home for the foreseeable future, Nintendo was determined to give them more than enough to keep them entertained. A truly remarkable batch of DLC, we're giving this award to this update for Shacknews Game of the Year 2019. -Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor
Best NPC of 2020
Hooooo… WHO?! Blathers, that's who. Entertaining and edifying, Blathers becomes a favorite of the island dwellers of Animal Crossing: New Horizons not only for the real-life information he shares, but how he shares it. He's enthusiastic about dinos, artwork, and fish, but disgusted and creeped out by bugs--so of course, making him tell you all about the dung beetle or monarch butterfly you've just brought in is a blast: He'll give you the info you want, while making snide remarks about the vileness of each bug.
I've saved countless screenshots of Blathers' information either because it was hilarious and I wanted to share it, or because it was a factoid I hadn't known and found fascinating enough to do further research into the subject. Don't wake him up during daylight hours, though. You'll scare the feathers right off him. -David L. Craddock, Long Reads Editor
Best Water of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx
Half-Life: Alyx isn't just one of the most immersive VR games ever made. It's one of the most immersive games ever made independent of hardware. Valve came roaring back this year with signature touches that have made its best games, particularly those in the Half-Life series, such a joy to visit. Water stands out, and not in the usual, "Look how realistic and pretty this virtual H2O looks" sort of way. Sure, you splash water when you run through a puddle, but pick up a can of liquid and twist it, shake it, bop it, and throw it at the wall. It behaves the way water should behave.
No gameplay mechanics dictated Valve add those little details, but that's what Valve does, and it goes that much further to making Half-Life: Alyx one of the most memorable games of all time. -David L. Craddock, Longs Reads Editor
Best Nintendo Switch Port of 2020 - Hades
Nintendo Switch turns four next March, and in the past three years and change, indie games with unique visual styles have thrived on the platform. Hades might be the pinnacle of that group. Tight, responsive controls pair with Supergiant's excellent narrative devices that propel the story forward (Story! In a roguelike!) and a comic book-like visual style.
The game has little to no downtime, and Supergiant has put a unique spin on roguelike elements, such as choosing which gods to favor as you hack and slash and shoot your way through "dungeons." All of that adds up to the best Switch port we've played in 2020, and yet another must-have for Nintendo's console/handheld mashup. -David L. Craddock, Long Reads Editor
Best PC Port of 2020 - Death Stranding
More than any other console game ported to PC in 2020, Death Stranding leveraged the power of enthusiast hardware to push itself into an entirely separate visual tier. Thanks to the use of NVIDIA's DLSS technology, many PC gamers were able to experience Hideo Kojima's parcel delivery opus at resolutions and frame rates that are eye-popping. While the world of Death Stranding looked nice on PS4, it truly came alive on PC, with an optional 4K 120Hz presentation that has to be seen to be believed. -Chris Jarrard, Tech Editor
Best Online Presentation of 2020 - NVIDIA RTX Spatula Reveal
NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang has a cool house and a very, very nice kitchen chock full of secrets. It was this culinary sanctum that he chose for the hallowed grounds of some of NVIDIA's most important technological reveals of the entire year (arguably the best in PC gaming hands down). And it was the presentation that brought all of that together. We remember watching that show thinking, "dang, Jensen has a lot of spatulas." and it turned out there is a reason besides a love of baking cakes and mixing sauces. Jensen was hiding the new standard for NVIDIA GPUs right behind it in the form of the RTX 3080. There were so many twists and turns in this presentation that just made it delightful from top to bottom, and there were a lot of other great presentations in 2020 gaming spurred by a rhetoric of safety and responsibility, but if we remember one thing from this year, it will be the cutting-edge tech hidden behind the spatulas. -TJ Denzer, News Editor
Best Video Game Pet of 2020 - Sea of Thieves Cats & Dogs
Out of all the pets introduced to players in 2020, Sea of Thieves’ cats and dogs are by far the best on offer. Players were originally given access to birds and monkeys back in 2019, but this year saw Rare give players the opportunity to own a variety of cat and dog breeds. These furry friends go on adventures with you, tag along as you search for treasure or fight skeletons, and are there on your ship between the emergent chaos the game offers. Whether you’re firing them out of a cannon, feeding them some fish, or playing a song on a hurdy-gurdy to see them dance, your cat or dog is there for you.
Speaking from a personal level, the pets in Sea of Thieves allows players to see their real life pet expressed in-game. Shacknews’ Video Editor Greg Burke’s Nessie passed away this year, but she is able to continue going on adventures with her beloved owner. Sometimes a seemingly mundane addition to a game can be the most meaningful to a player. -Sam Chandler, Guides Editor
Best Platformer Game of 2020 - Spelunky 2
There is a quickly learned understanding about the entire nature of Spelunky 2: It will kill you, and the challenge you face upon return will be altogether different, for better or worse. But it's also kind of part of the entire charm of the game. Whatever challenge it throws at you, whether unfair or suspiciously easy, Spelunky 2 is made to create impromptu comedy. You might fail, but you almost have to laugh at the sheer absurdity of its machinations. You might be attacked by a crazy old shopkeep with a shotgun for stealing from him, crushed by a boulder for grabbing some sweet treasure, or attacked by an old man because a boulder from a treasure you took rolled through his shop.
The first Spelunky set a bar in hap-hazard adventure and failing alongside a platformer full of various tools and opportunities to thwart death. Spelunky 2 built upon that fantastically and made it an procedurally-generated adventure that we'll probably be returning to for years to come. -TJ Denzer, News Editor
Best Strand Game of 2020 - Death Stranding (PC)
2020 really showed everyone just how important delivery people are in our everyday lives. Sam Porter Bridges graced our TVs last year on the PlayStation platform, but this year we were treated to Hideo Kojima's genius on PC. The game is still about connecting the strands but now players get to witness the amazing visual experience in DLSS 2.0 greatness. Congratulations to the team at Kojima Productions on yet another achievement genre-defining game production. -Asif Khan, CEO
Biggest Surprise of 2020 - Microsoft buying Bethesda
2020 has been a year full of surprises, twists, and turns. When we think of what surprised us the most in the world of gaming, nothing stands above Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media and Bethesda. Hungry to add more first-party studios to its arsenal, we’ve seen Phil Spencer and company pull in studios like Ninja Theory and Obsidian. Bethesda is without-a-doubt the biggest name Microsoft has acquired to date.
What’s most interesting about this move is the potential for the future. With franchises like Fallout, Doom, and The Elder Scrolls now under the Microsoft banner, we could see Xbox receive some high-profile exclusives this generation. Only time will tell if Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase was worth it. -Donovan Erskine, Contributing Editor
Best Puzzle Game of 2020 - Carto
A good puzzle isn't necessarily something you've yet to see before. Sometimes, a good puzzle is simply a fascinating approach to something you know all too well. Maps are nearly as ancient as time itself, but what would happen if you took a map, turned it into a jigsaw puzzle, and added a little magic and imagination? Well, then you might get something like Carto.
This is an indie game that caught us by surprise in its charm and simplicity that advances into complexity. Carto is much like Shacknews 2019 Puzzle Game of the Year Baba Is You in that it begins so fundamentally in sharing its design with you, yet expands so wonderfully throughout. As a young girl with a magic map, you have the means to take known locations and move them around on your map like a puzzle board to shift the topography of the world around you. The story then gives you hints as to what needs to happen in order to move the narrative forward by way of the map. Sometimes the story dictates that a man by the sea must be on the east end of the island to be home. Sometimes a forest demands that your travels through it must lead you west if you are to avoid becoming lost.
Carto's chapters each add a growing collection of pieces to the puzzle as you rearrange the map and world to tell the story properly. And with a charming art style and lighthearted narrative to boot, it was quite exquisitely a puzzle format that kept us engaged throughout. -TJ Denzer, News Editor
Best Old School Throwback Game of 2020 - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2
When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater first hit the scene at the turn of the century it was a pioneering new game that essentially created its own genre. As the series continued, so did the gameplay integrations. Sequels added even more potential for massive, out of this world, trick combos by throwing in manuals and reverts. And who could forget about those iconic soundtracks? When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 hit the pavement this year it was like a shot of adrenaline for the skateboarding genre. Not only did it make visual improvements and integrate the aforementioned reverts and manuals into its earlier titles, it also continued the series’ message of inclusion by adding nonbinary skater Leo Baker to its roster of playable characters. The first two Tony Hawk games were already bangers, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 did a great job of reminding folks of that fact while bringing life back to the series, which had admittedly been struggling over the last few years. How could we not give it Best Old School Throwback of 2020? -Blake Morse, Reviews Editor
Best Airline of 2020 - Dodo Airlines
Microsoft Flight Simulator soared among the clouds this year, but you have to fly those planes, and in 2020, I'm not up for additional stressors, thank you very much. Dodo Airlines made the friendly skies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons that much friendlier by offering clean, spacious flights, gregarious pilots, and 24/7 access to friends who wanted to visit me, and who I wanted to visit.
Let me ask you this: Did Dodo Airlines have to cancel flights due to COVID outbreaks? Nope. Did Dodo Airlines have to remove passengers who refused to wear masks? Nuh-uh, and they'll never have to, because Dodo Airlines is the most sanitary airline you'll ever fly. When it doubt, do what dodos would do! Not go extinct. The other thing: fly safely and healthily. -David L. Craddock, Long Reads Editor
Keep it locked on our Year of the Games: 2020 article to find out more awards as they are announced each day leading up to our GOTY 2020 reveal on December 31.