January 15, 2021
Welcome, welcome, one and all to the fourth(ish) annual TGPZ Awards! I’d like to tell you how long we’ve been doing this, but most of us are better at drinking than we are at counting, so just know the TGPZ Awards were founded at least seventy beers ago.
I am your host, as always, Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson, aka Spamoman on other platforms. I’m joined today by the entire TGPZ staff to bring you the most comprehensive and in-depth awards show article on the site! Each year we poll our staff – and this year we opened it up to the entire community via our Discord server. Votes were counted, tears were shed, friendships were destroyed, and we drank all the beer in the bar [EDITOR’S NOTE: Bars are still closed because of COVID. And we are not happy about it]. But after intense, drama-filled hardship, we came to our final conclusions about the absolute best games of the year. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them!
This list was put together by me; however, I could not have done it without my colleagues here at TGPZ. If you find a funny quote or get sold on a game, or hell, just if you enjoy their writing, go check out the writers page and find out what else they’ve done on the site!
Be sure to sound off in the comments or on our Discord server, and let us know what your favorites would be, and what you think of our picks. We love it when we can keep the conversation exploding!
Action Game of the Year: DOOM Eternal
“This is DOOM at its best. Fast paced, blood curdling, well designed, non-stop action that doesn’t take it easy on you. Combined with some of the best music direction in gaming, DOOM Eternal knows what it is, and is some of the best action gameplay in any game in the past couple years.”
~Breath of the Lyle
“Shotgun shotgun shotgun shotgun shotgun shotgun CHAINSAW shotgun shotgun shotgun shotgun…flame belch?”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
Adventure Game of the Year: Ghost of Tsushima
“It would be easy to call Ghost of Tsushima an action game, but the massive open world and focus on exploration as well as combat slides it into the adventure category for me. And what an adventure it was! Tsushima was a breathtaking world to explore, and the story offered genuine emotion and heartbreaking twists. Throw in some platforming sections, well-developed supporting characters, interesting side story arcs, and combat that is silky smooth, and GoT is easily my adventure game of the year.”
Best Graphics: The Last of Us Part Two
“When Metroid Prime released on the GameCube, I remember being wowed not by the realism of the graphics (though they were stunning at the time) but by the minutiae. Tiny details such as raindrops sliding down Samus’s visor, glare caused by shooting a target too close, and other tiny details solidified it as the most graphically impressive game at the time.
The Last of Us Part Two evokes similar feelings. Before release, Naughty Dog showed off a short clip of the animation used for Ellie reloading a rifle. Arm up, slide back, casing out, new round in, slide forward, mount on shoulder, and fire again. Sounds simple, but it is the small details of Ellie’s body moving, clothing fitting around the rifle or blowing in the wind, or actually combining this animation with moving in combat heightened the experience to a new level.
Each weapon in the game has a separate reload animation for Ellie or Abby, and they don’t miss a single detail. It just shows how far we’ve come from the days when Master Chief took out a cartridge from his assault rifle and then put it right back in.”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
“I picked The Last of Us 2 for best graphics because the atmosphere is beautiful and the attention to detail for the characters is magnificent. One of my favourite parts was when the characters played guitar – that can be a difficult thing to animate and it was executed nicely [EDITOR’S NOTE: I can’t hear Take On Me without tearing up just a little bit now].”
Best Graphics Runner-Up: Demon’s Souls
Before we move on, I thought we might want to bring up our runner-up for this category. Since the Playstation 5 is early in its life cycle, I don’t believe Demon’s Souls was given a fair chance. I believe it might have gotten the win if more of us had played it, as most staff members who own a PS5 voted for this game.
“There is not a more visually stunning game on the market, console or PC, right now. THIS is the definition of next gen, as the visual fidelity of this game perfectly compliments the gameplay’s dynamic with sound design being a cherry on top. Lots of games lose SOMETHING when too much work is put into a specific foundational pillar of construction. This game is the perfect balance. It speaks for itself too, being a remake of a PS3 game.”
~Breath of the Lyle
Best Music/Sound Design: The Last of Us Part Two
“I still like to listen to the soundtrack on YouTube. It just captured the game perfectly.”
“Many would likely put DOOM Eternal on here, and if the category were purely music I’d agree, but it is best music and “sound design”. TLoU2 may not have the BEST soundtrack per se (though it certainly has a good one), but the sound design is a truly integral part of the gameplay experience. The littlest details, from voices in the distance, to the rustling in the grass, the draw of a bow or click of a gun loading, and was that a clicker you heard or is the tension getting to you? Sound design is a grossly underappreciated part of any experience, not just with gaming, and when it creeps into every aspect of your game, you’ve got a winner. Special shoutout to Laura Bailey who put on a phenomenal performance as Abby, voice acting is also a key part of sound design, and this game delivers.”
RPG of the Year: Final Fantasy VII Remake
“This was my personal favorite game this year, and I couldn’t imagine the year without it. In the darkest of days, I could slip out of my depressing, quarantined life and slip into a world riddled with intrigue, monsters, magic, and so much more. I seldom find a connection with a game this strong; a game this special is a once-in-a-generation experience if it happens at all. The combat system was flawless, the visuals blended photorealism with stylization in such a way that it looked better than any game before, and to cap it all off the characters I grew up with felt more real than they ever have. One hundred hours well spent.”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
“The game had me captivated throughout my time playing it (and I’m still playing it), I really felt for each of the characters.”
Most Creative Game Design: Ghost of Tsushima
“One of the most creative games I’ve ever seen when it comes to the design.”
“I haven’t actually played this game as of yet, but all of the trailers and gameplay that I have seen so far on YouTube has me mesmerized and my mouth watering to play it very soon.”
“I liked The Last of Us Part Two okay, but shortly after, when Ghost of Tsushima released, I thought maybe I picked the wrong game.”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
Video Game Character of the Year: Miles Morales, Spider-Man: Miles Morales
“This was a hard one, as we got some truly spectacular performances this year, especially with Abby and Ellie from The Last of Us Part Two. Miles, however, was different in that he was an excellently performed character, and everybody loves him. Nadji Jeter and Insomniac Games did a phenomenal job selling the fact that Miles is still a teenager, trying to live his best life while also figuring out school, girls, growing up, and also being a freaking superhero. Thrust into a crisis and filling the shoes of his mentor, Peter Parker, it feels at times like Miles’ whole world comes crashing down time and time again. You genuinely feel for the kid, and are really hoping things pull out for him okay, because Harlem is his home, and it means everything to him, and it starts to mean something to us too.”
“He’s been brought into the Spidey-game-o verse and he’s not just another Spiderman. The versatility in his style, combat, personality, and overall ability, is so different from what we’re used to in all good ways. Insomniac took a character from the comics and made me care more for this version than I ever did for the comic versions.”
~Breath of the Lyle
Nintendo Switch Game of the Year: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
“It’s been a quieter year for the Switch in comparison to its previous outings. But such is the quality of a Nintendo product we have still been treated to Mario Kart Live Home Circuit (strong contender for this category), a storied Breath of the Wild prequel (another strong contender), a mini game collection in 51 Worldwide Games that rivals previous collections Nintendo has created, and the brilliantly underrated (and free to those who have an online subscription) Super Mario Bros. 35. However, the shining beacon of Nintendo’s year appeared a lot earlier in quarter one with the latest installment in the Animal Crossing franchise. Anyone that makes me, someone who has never owned any of the previous entries, sink 200+ hours with Nook and Co. deserves admiration and credit. Credit that we may investigate further, a little later on [EDITOR’S NOTE: we sadly don’t investigate further in this article].”
“I picked Animal Crossing: New Horizons partly because it was released at such a tumultuous time, and it was such a relaxing adventure. The adventure is uniquely yours and it was such a welcomed calmness once quarantine started.”
PlayStation 4 Game of the Year: Ghost of Tsushima
The following entry was written as Red’s pick for Game of the Year:
“While The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 would both be acceptable answers here, the absolute best all around game I played this year was Ghost of Tsushima. When we first saw the teaser for it years ago, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hyped. When it was revealed it would be yet ANOTHER open world game, my expectations plummeted. But holy hell, did this game blow away those expectations!
Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t reinvent the open world genre the way something like The Witcher 3 did, but it polishes it and damn near perfects it. Everything in GoT is just expertly done. Combat is fun and remains engaging with skill trees and 4 unique styles. Exploring the beautiful world is a blast, and the wind mechanic to guide you blows waypoints out of the water. The side missions go beyond generic, and are almost all tied to longer story arcs for the major supporting characters. And the story itself has enough twists and turns, emotions, gut punches, and moments of triumph to keep you engaged the whole way through, which is rare for an open world game.
I also felt like, unlike a lot of open world games with maps overflowing with collectibles, GoT didn’t overstay its welcome. Throw in some of the best graphics of the last generation, and Ghost of Tsushima takes home my vote for the best game of 2020.”
PlayStation 5 Game of the Year: Demon’s Souls
“It was a difficult decision when this game was up against such masterpieces as Destruction All Stars and Godfall, but Demon’s Souls just barely eked out a win. Sarcasm aside, this game is a true testament to the PS5’s raw power, with unmatched graphics and an unbelievable sense of scale, as well as making good use of all of the console’s hardware. The only game that stood a chance (that I almost picked), is Astro’s Playroom, which is like if Sony made a Mario game, but makes full use of all the Dualsense’s features, and really highlights just how innovative this new controller is, while still being a complete and really delightful game. Demon’s Souls however still wins out as being a better game, and providing a much bigger, better experience.”
“With the limited (but still bigger than Xbox) launch lineup of unique games for the platform, DS remake takes the cake. As an avid FROMSOFTWARE player, this couldn’t have been a better constructed game. The gameplay complements the visuals, sacrificing NO fidelity on either end in execution. Of course, when standing against other great games like Astro’s Playroom, Bugsnax, and Sackboy’s Big Adventure, it’s a no brainer for me.”
~Breath of the Lyle
“I picked Demon’s Souls for PS5 game of the year because I always enjoy a challenge, and this series is no stranger to challenges! This remake was a great reason to upgrade to the next gen PlayStation!”
XBox Game of the Year: Cyberpunk 2077
“Even with the glitches it’s an outstanding game. Barely beats out AC Valhalla because it’s so creative.”
“Didn’t play any XBox exclusives this year. I would say Cyberpunk 2077 since I am playing it on the Series X (and loving it!) but it’s cross-platform, so I don’t really count it.”
“Well shit. This is a weird category this year.”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
Indie Game of the Year: Hades
“Unquestionably the easiest category to decide upon. Not for the lack of quality in the indie genre which has seen some stellar hits this year, but simply for the immense quality and accessibility this title has bought to Rouge Likes. The popularity of the aforementioned has grown in the last few years and has enjoyed notoriety thanks to the likes of Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, Cadence of Hyrule and Dead Cells to name but an excellent few. Some have argued however, that it is a very niche genre. Enter Hades, a top tier product with excellent voice acting and character design, an engaging gameplay loop that rewards failure and a narrative and setting that wants you to descend into the very depths of the Underworld. In a world where we are treated to annualised, multi-million dollar games from franchises, this game shows that, actually, all you need is a good idea and a team with passion and heart.”
“What can be said about Hades that hasn’t been said already? It’s an innovative experience that takes a saturated market in roguelikes, and puts its own unique Greek spin on things. The characters are all likeable, which in and of itself is a success because the Greek Gods are written largely as perineal douchebags. The sprites and designs are very pleasing to the eye, and the animations of the game are anime as [email protected]#k! It also has a pretty great soundtrack, and the gameplay just feels smooth and manageable, so it’s easy to get hooked because you always feel a sense of progression with each new run.”
Indie Game of the Year Runner-Up: Streets of Rage 4
I decided to include this runner-up as well because of how well Red described it. It didn’t come up in any other category, but I wanted his quote to be used. So there.
“This answer may be different if I had played Hades, but I haven’t, so Streets of Rage 4 gets the nod. And it is well-deserved!! It is pure, unadulterated fun, an amazing throwback to the days of simple beat-em-ups. The graphics maintain that classic, 2D feel but have been completely updated to take advantage of modern hardware, and the game absolutely pops off the screen. The music just screams 80s too, helping to capture that throwback feel. I had the added bonus of playing this co-op with my girlfriend, and our battles to see who could get the high score on each level were just epic! Streets of Rage 4 is the perfect example of bringing an old genre into the modern age, making it absolutely shine without losing what made the originals so special to begin with.”
DLC of the Year: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Pass Vol. 2
“One of the smallest DLC of the year takes the cake as having one of the biggest impacts on the gaming world. Min Min was a wonderful addition to Smash and brings some attention to a game that was left behind before its time, giving hope that an Arms 2 is in the works (Min Min for the win win). Steve and Alex, although not one of my personal choices, was a top pick for many players the world over, and absolutely broke the internet upon their reveal. Then we have Sephiroth, who just, I mean go watch his trailer and tell me that isn’t hype incarnate, especially after nearly and completely ending Mario. With three more fighters still to come, and half the fun lying in the speculation, this DLC is thus far absolutely worth the $29.99 USD asking price.”
“The Fighter Pass roster has been a little mixed since the peak of Banjo and Kazooie in Season 1. The quality and trademark design of Sakurai is still there, but people felt let down by some of the character choices. Minecraft Steve re-emboldened fans as it seemed Nintendo were looking more at left field again to fill their roster. Then they rediscovered gold with Sephiroth. On a selection screen emboldened by heros, it was nice to see the strengthen of team villain. Not only that, his introduction at the Game Awards had fans gasping (HE KILLED MARIO!!! O o … no he didn’t). Agreeably more balanced than previous DLC fighters from the pack (don’t mention Hero) and loyally devoted to his source material, Sakurai even broke the mould and gave fans a chance to unlock him early in his own boss battle. Sakurai and his team has never failed to deliver … but this may be their best content expansion yet.”
“I beat the boss fight version of Sephiroth by playing Donkey Kong and spamming Down B.”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
Worst Games of the Year
For this category, the answers were all over the place, but the one thing tying them all together was how fun they were to read. I included every pick for this category from our staff, since they were so vastly different, and not a single person voted for the same game as another.
Kendra’s Worst Game of the Year: Street Power Soccer
“I picked Street Power Soccer as the worst game of the year because the sports genre is my least favourite, and it seemed like this game was trying to reinvent the wheel. I found that the variety of game styles strayed too far from soccer, and the overall experience was standard at best.”
Crowbird’s Worst Game of the Year: Fast & Furious Crossroads
“Bet you thought I was going to take a shot at the latest once-in-a-generation-prodigy-turned-once-in-a-generation-flop game of the future, huh? Or maybe talk about a certain GOTY winner whose studio took advantage of its employees and in all likelihood bought out The Game Awards to sweep more categories than they deserved to win? Maybe a certain soccer game that was a literal copy-paste of last year’s garbage, which was a copy-paste of the garbage before, etc.?
No dear readers, this game is a special kind of terrible. Revealed at last years game-trailer awards, this capped off an otherwise underwhelming night, with graphics and writing that looked like a rightfully forgotten game from 2007 for the Xbox 360. Crossroads was a shameless publicity stunt to advertise the latest Fast & Furious movie (that ended up being delayed anyway), that either saw HEAVY executive meddling in the development process, or was written as a fan-fic by a child, or both.
Regardless, it was a game that had the balls to ask $60 at launch for a half-baked experience at best and reminds everyone that isn’t a die-hard F&F fan that this franchise has beaten the dead horse so much they’ve dug their own grave in the place where it died. Dear readers, do yourselves a favor, do not waste your money on this game, when you could spend it on something better, like literally anything else.”
AJNation’s Worst Game of the Year: Cyberpunk 2077 (console version)
“Let’s get the blindingly obvious out the way first. Cyberpunk is an outstanding and ambitious achievement in game design and world building. However, if you are playing on Xbox One and PS4, it feels like a half finished mess. It is inexcusable that the boardroom decisions made an overworked, exhausted team push out a product that was still months away from completion. Many a gamer would have preferred the the disgruntlement of a further delay than having to play the blurry, glitchy, broken monstrosity that they were presented with on launch day … and still are. Not to mention the abhorrent, blatant deception that CD Projekt Red presented by only allowing review outlets to show the game running on high end PCs. It’s easy to lose sight as a disgruntled gamer who feels deceived, but the ones who really deserve sympathy are the developers and artists involved in the project. They worked tireless, extra hours to release a compromised product that they didn’t have control over. In respect to those who had their vision restricted, I will wait until the Smart Delivery patch is released for the Series X version of the game to play.”
Usmania’s Worst Game of the Year: Marvel’s Avengers
“After the blockbuster success of the beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the Spiderman PS4 game taking the world by storm, the stage and the precedent was set for the release of an amazing Avengers game to further consolidate Marvel’s successes. But what we got was something completely different. A game which was dumpster fire of the highest order, failing on many fronts. The combat system was pathetic, the story was as bland as an ice cream without sugar, the graphics seemed like they were created by an eight-year-old who’d never even played a video game, and the obsession with making 3rd-rate characters such as Ms. Marvel the main focus was mind baffling. Crystal Dynamics, you had one job, which was making an Avengers game at least semi-decent, and boy oh boy, you made a right mess of it.”
Breath of the Lyle’s Worst Game of the Year: Pokemon Sword and Shield
“Overall not a poorly constructed game. The ONE thing that makes this game unplayable for me, was the fact that for the first time in the entire Pokemon series, they badge-gate you from catching pokemon. In the past they’ve badge-gated from battling with higher level pokemon, which is perfectly fine. But to further prevent me from catching creatures in a game about catching creatures doesn’t make sense. For example, I was level 24, I was fighting an onix at level 26, I weakened it to the red with ease, tossed a ball, and it was immediately swatted away, say ‘the pokemon is too strong to be caught!’. Excuse me? I just weakened it, and it won’t even go in the ball?
I’m sorry, but that’s a game-ruining, poor design choice for me. For a franchise that has never had something like this up until now, this is disappointing and has turned me off of future games.”
Sean’s Worst Game of the Year: Paper Mario: The Origami King
“This game is a confounding concoction of awesomesauce and weaksauce. Take an incredible soundtrack, tack it on to a fun, heart-filled story with fantastically funny dialogue, and staple it to the world’s most repetitive combat system, then you’re halfway there. Now you need to add a dash of “The Battles Give No Meaningful Reward,” and suddenly it’s actually more fun to not play the game than it is to play the game.
Origami King introduced a combat system that had a lot of interesting potential, but regurgitating the same puzzles with stronger enemies didn’t really make it any more interesting. Then on top of that, you don’t get experience to level up, nor even collect items to use in battle. Battling yields coins in a far less efficient way than just finding them in the levels, and THAT’S IT. I found myself only an hour in and avoiding as many battles as possible as though I had reached max level in a Final Fantasy game, but I was still in the tutorial area.
For as many things as this game does right, it is impressive that they screwed up the gameplay so badly that none of them matter to me. I don’t care enough to find out what happens in the story because the game is dishearteningly dull. If you can force-feed fun to yourself then more power to ya. Origami King put me to sleep more times than any other ten games combined.”
Red’s Worst Game of the Year: Final Fantasy VII Remake
“Full disclosure: I have not played Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I’m sure it’s a perfectly wonderful game. What makes it my worst game of the year is the fact that it is nothing but a blatant, greedy, corporate driven cash grab by Square Enix. SE took a 4 hour PROLOGUE to a game and stuffed enough padding into it to make it a 40+ hour experience, then sold it to sucker FF7 fans who were all too happy to shell out $60 for the privilege. It’s completely laughable that SE took 5 years to recreate the freaking INTRODUCTION of the original. How many parts is it going to take to complete the entire game?? Will people who played the first part even be alive when SE finally completes the remake?? Why are they even remaking a game already widely considered a masterpiece?? ALL GOOD QUESTIONS!! And they all have the same answer: pure, simple greed. This is no passion project. This is no love letter to FF7 fans. This is Square Enix’s wet dream of milking FF7 fans for what is going to end up being hundreds of dollars, all for a game they already played 15 years ago. Seriously people – it will cost you hundreds of dollars to play what was once sold to you as a complete game. And we’re ok with this?? We shouldn’t be. Final Fantasy 7 Remake, you are by far my WORST game of 2020.”
Special Mention – The Zelda Game We Nearly Forgot: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
This is the first year I have put together the TGPZ Awards where the yearly Zelda release was not mentioned once. Usmania voted it for it in almost every category, but somehow it managed to come away with nothing. Maybe it’s because it’s a Warriors game with a Zelda skin? Maybe it’s because too many other awesome things released this year. Whatever the case, I at least wanted to mention the fact that Age of Calamity exists, since it’s my duty as a guy who writes for a Zelda fan site. Pretty sure it’s the law. Here’s what Usmania had to say in his Game of the Year vote:
“Overall, the story of the game was an adventure of complete brilliance. It had thrills, moments of sheer excitement, moments which hit me in the feels and moments which shocked me. The gameplay was slick, smooth and easy to get to grips with whilst eliminating some of the issues I had with combat around Breath of the Wild (yes, I know both games are different in terms of genre). And although not perfect, being able to control the Divine Beasts and mashing hordes of enemies was thoroughly enjoyable. The game gave me everything that I felt I was sorely lacking in Breath of the Wild, deeper character arcs, higher levels of satisfaction with my achievements, beautiful and phenomenal music but most of all, a story which was a work of art and potentially, the finest a Zelda game has ever told.”
TGPZ Game of the Year: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
“Our winner this year shocked exactly one person. Sorry, Usmania. This game was not one that appealed to me personally, but I truly appreciate what it did for society. It helped people through the worst moments of the pandemic. What I experienced in Final Fantasy VII Remake was experienced by most gamers by Animal Crossing, as well as many people who would never have called themselves gamers.
This game brought people together, it got them out of their quarantine mindset, and it kept them sane. While it isn’t my game of the year, I honestly believe it was the game that made 2020 bearable for an unimaginable number of people. This is a case of a video game bringing the darkest thoughts out of people and replacing them with pure joy. Final Fantasy VII Remake was my favorite game of the year, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons embodied the year like no other game could.”
~Sean Michael-Patrick Thompson
“No game defined 2020 like Animal Crossing did. It was my first Animal Crossing game and I fell deep, spending many hours online every day for the first 3 months. You can never run out of things to do and it’s just so well done. It’s such a happy, weird little world full of characters that soothed my heart from the chaos going on outside. It was also the only way I could spend time with my friends, all of us sharing our creativity with one another.”
“This for me was ultimately the most contentious category. In recent years I believe there has been more clear cut winners, however this year felt more competitive. What my decision ultimately boiled down to is the cultural impact my winner has had and simply being the right game, at the right time. Animal Crossing New Horizons would have been a hit even if it wasn’t for the pandemic, but the positive influence it had on a darkened world helped many stay sane.
A vast improvement of a relatively successful formula, New Horizons expands on what the series did so well and adds in abundance. Not to mention the constant support in the form of events and updates. Animal Crossing may have came out in 2020, but such as its presence, it will see just as many gaming hours in 2021.”