Truth be told, 2020 has been a surprising year for everybody, not just for players or those inside the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the entire world and drastically changed the way that we live and work. Of course, the virus has had an impact on gaming, shifting the way teams work and influencing the popularity of releases. But there have also been a number of key surprises in 2020 that were largely independent of the virus.
This includes both shocking hits that no one saw coming to the confusing states that certain games were released in. Whatever the case, 2020 had plenty of surprises in store when it comes to video games.
Star Wars: Squadrons
The Star Wars franchise has been somewhat mismanaged since EA acquired the rights to the sci-fi series. The Battlefront games, in particular, have drawn criticism — as has the decision to cancel several promising projects. However, it now seems as if the publisher is finally getting to grips with Star Wars.
Following on from the success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, EA announced a surprise release in 2020. Star Wars: Squadrons takes inspiration from both Rogue Squadron and the classic X-Wing series. The very existence of the title had been a well-kept secret. But the quality of the final product was also a welcome surprise. The exhilarating yet accurate gameplay gave fans a taste of what it would be like to be a pilot.
Streets of Rage 4
Streets of Rage 4 was first announced way back in 2018. That means that its eventual release this year was not a surprise on its own. What was refreshing, though, was how the game managed to capture the spirit of its predecessors. There had been some considerable concern that the updated version would not live up to the series’ reputation. Yet, the developer managed to craft an experience that felt true to the origins of the beat ‘em up franchise.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is another that has been on hiatus for a long time. While the original releases were lauded and hugely popular, modern takes on the formula have fallen flat. That might be why Activision has been remarkably quiet about the future of the series for some time.
That all changed when the publisher announced Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 midway through the year. The title is a remastered version of the first two Pro Skater games. That made it not only the best-looking entry in the skateboarding series but also one that has fun gameplay.
Fall Guys made an early bid to be the most surprising game of 2020. The indie title was developed by Mediatonic, a small British outfit. Despite the fact that it had received very little attention, it became one of the biggest hits of 2020. This was largely down to the fact that it was given away free to PS Plus subscribers. That move meant millions downloaded the game and began to experience the chaotic but incredibly fun gameplay.
The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us Part II was, in many ways, not that much of a surprise. It turned out to be a fantastic game that garnered critical and commercial success. However, there were a few twists before it finally launched. Firstly, there were numerous delays and then a series of high profile leaks that spoiled much of the story. Although, most outrage was sparked by some of the plot choices and character developments. Some fans did not take kindly to the death of a certain individual or how a new protagonist was portrayed.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The Animal Crossing series has always been a winner for Nintendo. In that sense, its tremendous success should not be considered that much of a shock. However, the way that the latest game transcended gaming to become a pop culture phenomenon was not predicted. This was largely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people inside, allowing the game to shine when it released. Months later, people are still drawn to the title that was all the hype at the start of the year.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars
There had been lots of rumours and speculation about a possible Super Mario re-release. After all, it was the 35th anniversary of the series. Nintendo still caused something of a stir when it announced that it was launching Super Mario 3D All-Stars. This collection included Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy all on the Nintendo Switch. While fans had been expecting some sort of celebratory release, this was better than many had imagined.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Like some of the other entries in this article, this game was surprising because nobody expected it. Other than the successful remastered collection of the original trilogy, the series had been dormant for years. But seemingly buoyed by the success of N’Sane Trilogy, Activision suddenly announced Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. It launched to somewhat mixed reviews, although it did seem to capture the spirit of the older titles.
Cyberpunk 2077 has been in the news all year for all the wrong reasons. At first, there were numerous delays. A game that was supposed to launch in January only released in December. Then there were stories of staff being forced to work overtime, despite promises that the studio would not implement crunch. Finally, the finished game, at least on consoles, has been something of a disaster. Glitches, bugs, and generally poor performance left many players unsatisfied and shocked longtime fans who are used to quality from CD Projekt Red.
Out of all the games in 2020, it is perhaps Among Us that has caused the biggest stir. This is strange for a title that originally launched back in 2018. However, the fact that more viewers were watching streamers due to being stuck indoors helped it enormously. Suddenly, the game became popular with PC and mobile players, becoming the must-play title of the year. It has even inspired all kinds of fan art, spin-offs, and other creations.