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GameSpot's Best Of 2020: Editor's Spotlight Awards

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Check out some of our other favorite games this year on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

This year's GameSpot countdown has finally come to a close, with Valve's Half-Life: Alyx claiming our coveted Game of the Year award. While every game we've highlighted in our Best Of 2020 awards is exceptional, there are still so many others worth discussing. As such, we're taking the chance to present our staff's picks for the 2020 Editor's Spotlight Awards, which showcases games that didn't make it into our top 10 list or category awards but we still loved.

GameSpot's multi-disciplinary team is diverse and varied when it comes to our tastes in games, so you'll find quite an interesting mix of things below. We guarantee that each game we've listed is well worth your time and bound to leave an impression on you.

Which games do you think stand up as some of the best this year? Let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, read on to see our picks for this year's Editor's Spotlight Awards.

For more about the games we've highlighted in our Best Of 2020 awards, be sure to check out our Best Games of 2020 hub. Though, if you're more excited about next year, jump into our hub for the Most Anticipated Games of 2021, which contains features detailing the biggest games coming out next year.

Paper Mario: The Origami King | Switch

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Humor is often difficult to nail in video games (just look at Immortals: Fenyx Rising for a prime example), but Paper Mario: The Origami King is so effortlessly funny and endearing that it's easily among the best Switch games I played all year. These qualities come as no surprise; humor has been a hallmark of Paper Mario since its earliest installment. Even when the series' gameplay experiments have divided fans, its writing has remained consistently strong, and it's arguably never been sharper than it is in Origami King.

It's hard to convey just how funny the game is without spoiling any of its jokes, but part of what makes it--and Mario RPGs in general--so charming is that it presents the familiar Mario cast in a different light. The dialogue goes a long way in coloring in personalities that don't quite shine through in the main series. Bowser, in particular, is one of the game's best characters, full of buffoonish swagger until Princess Peach comes up in conversation and he sheepishly asks about her.

Of course, as funny as Origami King is, it can also be surprisingly moving. There are many genuinely poignant moments peppered throughout the story, making it one of the most touching Mario games I've ever played. And underpinning the whole adventure is its novel battle system. Although it's proven divisive among some longtime fans, the battle system offers a clever spin on turn-based encounters--quite literally, as you need to spin and slide panels to line up enemies before attacking them. This makes every encounter feel like a rapid-fire micro puzzle, and it's very satisfying to suss out the proper solution before time runs out. Origami King may have been overshadowed by some of this year's other releases, but it's a wonderful adventure that's well worth embarking on. -- Kevin Knezevic, Associate Editor

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time | PS4, Xbox One, PC

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Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time works so well because, like so many of its revamped retro-platforming colleagues, it doesn't try to be more than it is. Though don't let that fool you, developer Toys 4 Bob's long-expected sequel still does a great deal to make the whole package shine.

There's much about Crash 4's accomplishments that warrant explicit praise, but chief among them is the quality of its platforming. Playing as Crash or Coco feels excellent, if not greater than it did in the first trilogy, making navigating and hopping across its multitude of chasms a joy. The challenging levels you'll run the game's starring marsupials past are laid out astutely, frequently throwing dangerous hazards at you and changing perspectives unexpectedly to continually test your platforming fortitude.

New abilities, such as wall-running and magical masks that allow you to spin endlessly or shift the environment around you, also keep the series' signature platforming and level design fresh and regularly exciting. These additions highlight and accentuate an already delightful experience, even if they brought on tribulations that skyrocketed my stage failure counts well beyond what I'd feel comfortable sharing. But for as much as I bashed my head against them, trying hard to time my jumps to clear some ridiculous gauntlet, the eventual victory I achieved always gave way to bliss and relief over what I'd accomplished. Such results are a testament to the confident and shrewdly balanced difficulty of its level design.

There's far more I adored about Crash 4 that I, unfortunately, can't go into full detail around because of the maximum word count gods. I've spent plenty of time discussing its platforming--which is my favorite part of the game--but don't even get me started about the new art style. Seriously, look at the screenshot above. Everything has so much more personality!

As a longtime fan of the series, I couldn't ask for a more gratifying return than the one that Toys 4 Bob delivered in Crash 4. If you have any nostalgic inklings or earnest affections toward Crash Bandicoot, please put this game at the top of your list. -- Matt Espineli, Editor

Gears Tactics | Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

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Gears Tactics takes one of the most intense shooter franchises--known for fast-paced combat and thinking on your feet--and somehow turns it into an incredibly engaging turn-based strategy game. The addictive XCOM-style missions send your small squad into a battle against numerous enemies, but always with just enough firepower and tools at your disposal to keep it from feeling hopeless.

It's XCOM for those of us who aren't masochists, as well as newcomers to the genre who are likely to make a few mistakes but don't want it to derail their entire experience. Just as playable on an Xbox console as it is on PC, Gears Tactics doesn't dumb down the mechanics to suit longtime Gears of War fans. You still have to keep track of hit probabilities, ability cooldowns, enemies' line of sight, and protecting against reinforcements, but developers The Coalition and Splash Damage have found just the right balance between "too easy" and "infuriating."

There is plenty here for those more interested in Gears of War than turn-based combat, too. Set before the other games during an early phase in the Locust War, the story features some fan-favorite characters and adds context that makes the original trilogy and even Gears 5 feel more important. Classic series mainstays like emergence holes and the Lancer's chainsaw play a crucial role in combat, as well, making this still feel very much like a Gears of War game despite the genre change.

Gears Tactics is arguably a more successful move to strategy than Halo Wars was, excelling both as a standalone game and as a spin-off for the franchise. It's begging for a sequel, having nailed it so much that another campaign with a new story--even without much in the way of new features--would be more than enough. -- Gabe Gurwin, Associate SEO Editor

Monster Train | PC, Xbox One/Series X|S

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I've only ever dabbled in card games, but Slay the Spire finally offered a formula that worked for me: By placing that deckbuilding within the context of a roguelike, I was free to experiment within the confines of what options were presented to me during a given run. Those limitations allowed me to understand and appreciate deckbuilding, and Monster Train takes that basic sub-genre and does something radically different with it.

Whereas Slay the Spire involves playing cards on a turn-by-turn basis, Monster Train involves summoning units that persist across turns. Enemies enter your train and advance one floor per turn, doing battle with your units along the way as they attempt to reach the top, where they can deal direct damage to you.

You still get to play cards that do damage, buff your units, or debuff enemies, but the element of strategy with unit placement is what makes Monster Train so much fun. Enemies typically damage only the front-most unit, so you're incentivized to keep those who can take a hit up front. But you have a limited amount of room for units on a given floor, need to deal periodic damage to a boss who will be exposed on a higher floor, and can receive buffs by casting spells on floors with certain units, so you're presented with a ton of factors to consider.

With different factions, each with their own units and strengths/weaknesses, card upgrades, and different unlocks, Monster Train is an impressive package, and one that has seemingly gone under the radar. Hopefully, its recent release on Xbox Game Pass has brought some newfound attention to this terrific game. -- Chris Pereira, Senior Editor

Also Available: Xbox

Signs Of Sojourner | PC

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Signs of Sojourner is a deckbuilding game about relationships and human connection. It's incredibly approachable, but the game carries an emotional weight in its metaphor, ultimately delivering an experience that's unlike anything I've tried.

In Signs of Sojourner, you talk with other characters by matching the symbols on your cards with theirs. Match enough, and it results in a good conversation while failing to do so ends in miscommunication. Whenever you finish a conversation, you must replace one card in your deck with one from the other person's deck.

Early on, conversations are easy. All your friends talk like you, so everyone uses cards with symbols like yours. But this becomes rarer the further you travel from your hometown. And when you do return home, you'll find it's harder and harder each time to hold conversations with the friends you grew up with because you're losing the symbols they use and thus no longer talk like them. But by choosing to speak with them, you can regain some of your old vocabulary.

Of any video game I've played, Signs of Sojourner is the closest I've ever seen when it comes to capturing what it's like to move away from home and start to adopt new values and speech patterns, all while trying to retain a part of the culture and people left behind. The game manages to take something figurative--connecting with other people--and makes it literal. I still struggle to wrap my head around how well it works. -- Jordan Ramée, Associate Editor

Ooblets | PC, Xbox (early access)

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In a year when we all needed some comfort, cozy games were all the rage. Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Spiritfarer both made our Best of 2020 list in part for how well they met the moment, and the early access game Ooblets shows we have more to look forward to.

Ooblets is an odd game. At first, the sea of placid, smiling faces and bubblegum brightness seems too cute, almost aggressively so. But as you start to internalize the rhythms of this happy, cotton-soft world, it becomes engrossing. This is a world so gentle that it's sanded off the rough edges of Pokemon, letting your monsters best each other in dance combat instead of violent fisticuffs. Winning one of the card-based dance battles against a wild Ooblet nets you a seed to grow one of your own, but they won't take part in your groove competition at all unless you provide the proper ingredients or foods.

And so the loop of Ooblets goes: growing crops to make money and expand your ever-growing farm while devoting some of those resources to initiating dance combat and gaining new species of Ooblets and their associated card powers for even more dance battles. The hybrid mash-up of farming, card combat, and creature collection is hard to pull yourself away from, even if this early access release lacks much of a story. Future Ooblet farmers appear to be in for a treat when the full release comes, but there's no reason to wait if you just want to pass away some hours with a big fuzzy quilt of a video game. -- Steve Watts, Associate Editor

Also Available: Xbox

Ori and the Will of the Wisps | PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch

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Like its predecessor, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a gorgeous game with a stunning and exciting world to explore. It's the kind of sequel that doesn't tread too far from what made the original work. Yet, it still manages to take a different enough approach that makes you appreciate the unique vision of the series that pays tribute to classic animated films. Developer Moon Studios took the framework of the original's Metroidvania design and expanded upon it in ways that flesh out what makes the whimsical world of Ori so enticing and offers a fantastic action platformer that shows a remarkable amount of depth in its moment-to-moment gameplay.

I was a great admirer of the original game, and getting to revisit the same world in a much bigger way was something I was immediately drawn to. Will of the Wisps takes many of the more fanciful and darker aspects of the previous game and gives them some greater context and weight. In the sequel, there's a greater sense of harmony with nature and the community of side characters you'll come to meet along your journey. The sequel leans further into not only expanding Ori's plethora of powers and skills to fight monsters and traverse the dangerous terrain of the forest, but it also has you interact with other inhabitants who are trying to survive. When you couple this with the Metroidvania formula, it can feel satisfying seeing your growth in power and how your choices will make for a better situation for your newfound allies.

An aspect of Ori and the Will of the Wisps that I especially loved was the sense of grace when traversing through the world and fighting enemies. The sequel gives you a remarkable amount of new tools to use to explore the world and fight enemies, and using them all together in unison while trekking through some of the most gorgeous 2D animated backdrops I've seen in years was a total joy. I immensely enjoyed my time with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and I'm anxiously anticipating what's next from Moon Studios. -- Alessandro Fillari, Editor

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 | PS4, Xbox One, PC

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A few hours into my 2020 reintroduction to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with THPS 1+2, the phrase “like riding a bike” popped into my head and lodged itself there. I rolled the phrase over in my mind as I bailed on over-rotated vert ramp tricks and skinned my characters’ knees bloody tumbling from grind rails and the lips of drained pools. “Why can’t I do this anymore?” I wondered. I’d thought my return to the warehouses and schoolyards of THPS would be a seamless reentry into the kick flipping virtuosity of my high school days, a prima ballerina on four wheels.

After all, the original THPS was one of the first games I ever poured myself into entirely, hunched over on my couch or the foot of my best friend’s bed for hundreds of hours--maybe a thousand--skating run after run. Vert grab, revert, special grind, manual-to-quarterpipe, kickflip-to-grind, and on and on while I watched that Combo Score whirl upward like an odometer strapped to a spaceship, into the hundreds of thousands of points, then into the millions. So why couldn’t I do that now? Why wasn’t playing THPS just like riding that proverbial bike?

Then I realized that the phrase “like riding a bike” isn’t about an ability snapping magically and immediately back into place, it’s about the pleasure of gradually rediscovering a skill you’d let atrophy. It’s about getting reacquainted with your past self and experiencing the paradoxical flush of learning something that some version of you already knows. Eventually, with effort, my hands slowly began to obey commands that my brain only half-remembered. Vert grab, revert, heelflip-to-manual, nollie-to-rail. A lost language re-emerging from my past, both new and familiar, exciting, and comforting at the same time. It's a wonder that THPS 1+2 encapsulates and refines what made the series such a joy to play with such painstaking detail, making it feel so unbelievably natural and fulfilling to shred across its classic virtual skate parks--as I had so many years ago. Any game that can stick the landing on that trick deserves to be on some list somewhere. -- Eric Sams, Social Media Manager

Astro’s Playroom | PS5

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As a huge admirer of Astro Bot Rescue Mission for PSVR, I was intrigued when I heard Sony would include a new Astro game as a pack-in title on PS5. But even though I was looking forward to playing it, I couldn’t help but think it wouldn’t be much more than a tech demo. Thankfully, I was wrong. Astro’s Playroom was not only my favorite PS5 launch game, but it’s one of my favorite 3D platformers ever.

While certainly not a lengthy platformer--it took me around six hours to earn the Platinum Trophy--Astro’s Playroom still feels like a complete game, with distinctive levels with unique mechanics, differentiated worlds, and tons of collectibles to uncover along the way. Though it doesn’t offer much of a challenge compared to some modern platformers, it’s positively oozing with charm. Given that this year has been so awful, I really appreciated how bright, colorful, and genuinely relaxing it was to spend a handful of hours in this world.

It’s easy to reason that Astro’s Playroom was at least partially created to show off the DualSense controller’s capabilities. The DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers shine in Astro’s Playroom. From the feedback you feel when shooting arrows to the steady compression of the Frog Suit springs when preparing for a jump, Astro’s Playroom simply felt like nothing I had played before. It’s the only next-gen game I’ve played so far that actually felt next-gen. In a lot of ways, Astro’s Playroom provided a similar sense of awe that I felt when I played a video game for the first time as a kid.

In a smart move, Astro’s Playroom both celebrates PlayStation’s history and future. All of the collectibles you find are PlayStation hardware and accessories, and all throughout the adventure you’ll find little robots paying homage to hit PlayStation franchises. As a longtime PlayStation fan, scouring each vibrant level to find every little secret and sly nod made for an infectious, nostalgic experience that cemented a warm grin on my face the whole way through. --Steven Petite, Associate Editor

Astro's Playroom is included with the purchase of a PlayStation 5.

Dreams | PS4

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2020 had a lot of great games, so what if I told you there was a game this year that was a compilation of a ton of games--and not just any games, but specifically user-created games and even games you could make yourself? That game, my friend, is called Dreams.

Developed by Media Molecule, a developer most known for the LittleBigPlanet series, Dreams feels like a superior evolution of the ideas presented in the studio's previous game creation systems. Because of that, Dreams is so vast and comprehensive of a creative tool that you might not even know where to start. Fortunately, a single-player campaign is included to teach you what's possible using the systems available. It's an excellent two-hour campaign that sucked me in from the start, but it's the message at the start that inspired me, which said, "This story was made entirely possible in Dreams, to give just a glimpse of what's possible with our tools." I don't have any background in game design, but after experiencing the quality of the campaign, it invigorated me to try my hand at making my own games in Dreams. And while my creations were nowhere near as good as the ones on display in the game's single-player and online community, I still found great fulfillment in my rudimentary attempts, trying to make games around any old idea I had.

If you didn't play Dreams back when it launched, then don't worry; you didn't miss out on the game in its prime. In fact, now is the perfect time to jump in. Tons of new creations are still being made every day, and it seems like creations are only getting that much better as time goes on. The game also got a VR update since its release, so if you have a PSVR, you can quite literally get inside someone's head to see their Dreams creations. And for those who've picked up a PS5, you can still play Dreams through backwards compatibility, and I wouldn't be surprised if it got a proper PS5 update soon, likely adding even more to the already wonderfully captivating experience on display.

Dreams is a lot of things, but what it really boils down to--for me at least--is that it encourages you to share your personality with the world and be as creative as possible without any restraint, and in a time where it's easy to feel tied down and restricted, Media Molecule's Dreams is that much more of a "dream" come true. -- Evan Langer, Video Producer

World of Horror | Xbox One, PC (early access)

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Living through a pandemic while doing a job like writing about video games has created a weird situation. So much of life has been strangely, drastically different in 2020, but for me, part of the experience has been an uncanny sameness. I worked from home before the pandemic, mostly alone, playing video games, and having thoughts about them. Most things about my life went unaltered--until I went outside. And while I've played a lot of video games this year, more than most years even, nothing captured quite how the world feels right now like World of Horror.

It's in early access right now and still a work in progress, but what exists of World of Horror is pretty remarkable. It's a low-fi, '90s-esque, text-based role-playing game inspired by the works of horror manga author Junji Ito. Everything about World of Horror's aesthetic and presentation captures a feeling of the surreal as you wander around its small Japanese town. The game's graphics are rendered in pixelated, low-color stills, mostly created in MS Paint, further building on the sense of time, place, and safety.

And then you start running into people with upside-down faces, wielding bloody scissors.

World of Horror is about investigating strange goings-on in a small town slowly being gripped by the rise of an elder god, and it perfectly channels the feeling of something being off that is exactly what living through 2020 has been like. The stories it tells range from terrifying to spookily goofy, but everything about World of Horror manages to play into a general atmosphere of vague oppression. It's a weird throwback, a frightening horror title, and a tough challenge with its text-based gameplay systems--but mostly, it's just a more pointed encapsulation of the existential horrors of life right now. At least you can fight the monsters in World of Horror. -- Phil Hornshaw, Editor

If Found | PC, Switch

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When a game is able to communicate complex character emotions and messaging with sharp subtlety, I'll never forget what it was like to pick up on it and how I interpreted it. If Found is full of those moments. The sketchbook art style gives life to so many of its characters with just a few colors and pencil-like strokes, letting their facial expressions and body language communicate just as much as the words and dialogue that accompany them. If Found evokes feelings of coziness, heartbreak, despondency, and love, and it's painfully relatable at times. It's also a call for empathy for those who face the hardships of wanting to be recognized for who they are, especially by their loved ones.

If Found's story is told through the mind of Kasio, a young adult from a rural coastal town in Ireland. She's a bit lost after college, and after spending some time back home with her mom and knacker of a brother, it's quite apparent that they don't care to respect her as a transgender woman. She reconnects with old friends, meets a few new ones, and squats an abandoned house with them that becomes a warm living space for a short time. Every moment of joy is fleeting, however, and through the various conversations with different people in her life come sobering perspectives. There's a consistent feeling that Kasio will have to reckon with her demons sooner rather than later.

Throughout the game, you erase the memories drawn on pages to transition from one scene to the next, and that's all you really do as the player the entire game. But the ways scenes transform, and what you reveal behind each memory as the story progresses, pull you in as if you're investigating Kasio's own mind. It's odd how this builds a distinct momentum, where the music, emotions, and severity of situations propel you, and it's always a mesmerizing sensation.

If Found doesn't overstay its welcome either. In its two-to-three hours, you come to understand Kasio and the people important in her life. Its sharp, smart, and effective in characterization--illustrative yet minimal in its approach. Feelings are complicated but the game trusts you to understand them in key moments, and none are more critical than in its conclusion that's quite simple yet revelatory. I'll always remember the pieces that made If Found important to me, but if there's one thing I want others to take away from the experience, it's that respect goes a long way. -- Michael Higham, Associate Editor

Also available: PC

Phasmophobia | PC (early access)

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I'm the kind of person who doesn't necessarily believe in ghosts but has gone on a "ghost tour" of bubonic plague houses in England and got really excited when GameSpot's hotel for E3 one year was described as "very haunted." I just think they're neat! And Phasmophobia captures the exact atmosphere I'd want from a ghost hunting game--its early-access jankiness makes for a fun and silly time until a ghost shows up and your whole crew scatters into various closets trying to survive a level-10 haunting. I've never laughed so hard and then stifled a scream in such quick succession before.

And yes, Phasmophobia is kind of janky. The character animations are almost creepy; looking up, for example, will cause your character to do a full backbend, and my friends and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of running at each other in this position like a scene out of The Exorcist. But the beauty of Phasmophobia is in its simple, easy-to-understand premise and the ways in which it manages to scare you within those parameters.

The early game is always the same: You walk slowly through an abandoned-looking house or school or even asylum, ghost-detecting tools in hand, trying to locate the room that's being haunted. You call out the ghost's name, provided to you at the beginning of a job, trying to provoke it into attacking you. If you're me and my friends, you take this all very seriously, using in-game proximity chat and walkie-talkies to make various callouts (shouting "I've got freezing temperatures in the attic!" over the radio will prompt everyone to hurry to the attic, for example).

And then you wait. Maybe your flashlight will start flickering, or maybe you'll hear the thump of a ghost's footsteps, but whatever it is, you know it's time to book it out of there (or risk getting killed). One of my favorite moments in all my hours with Phasmophobia was when the ghost locked the front door after all my teammates had left the house, leaving only me inside. I screamed and locked myself in a hallway closet. I could hear the ghost walking in the hallway as my teammates tried to open the door, not knowing if I'd been killed--and knowing that the game's microphone integration meant I had to literally stay quiet for fear of the ghost hearing me. I lived to tell the tale and we got the hell out of that house.

Even with Phasmophobia's simplicity and the rough early-access edges, I have fun in every match--whether I'm laughing at my friends getting freaked out or getting absolutely spooked myself. I'm excited to see how it continues to evolve as time goes on. | Kallie Plagge, Reviews Editor

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Oxygen Not Included went GA during this calendar year, so it's on the "best of" lists for this AND last year.

Gears Tactics and Ori are obvious must-play games on either platform.

But Dreams... Don't bother -- it's a scam. Anything and everything you "dream" up belongs to THEM, not you! Download Unity and some toolkits instead. Or GameMaker, Godot, Itch.io, or even CORE from Manticore... Anything that allows you to own your work.

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