The Most Underrated Games of 2020
It happens every year. There are so many game releases that we just can’t keep up with all of them. It’s a shame, because a lot of times, some truly outstanding titles don’t get the hype or recognition they deserve. Other times, they do but are quickly forgotten. Worse still, sometimes these underdog games go almost completely ignored. These games might not have been on many “best of” lists this year, but they’re still worthy of recognition and they’re totally worth playing.
Here are some of the most underrated games of 2020.
Super Crush KO
Vertex Pop released Super Crush KO so early into 2020 that it almost feels like the game came out last year. As such, it’s easy to see how it’s flown under the radar as we get closer to the end of 2020. That said, there’s just no denying that this is one of the most entertaining 2D action games of the year. It mixes fast-paced arcade gameplay and offers bright, candy-colored visuals. In a year filled with great beat ‘em ups, Super Crush KO is easily one of the best.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds
WWE programming and the WWE 2K games may both be fairly mediocre these days. That said, we were kind of thrown a curve ball this year with the release of WWE 2K Battlegrounds. At first glance, you might think it looks pretty dumb — those character models are definitely an acquired taste. But when you peel back that hit-or-miss aesthetic layer, what you get is a mechanically sound arcade wrestling game with fun modes, crazy cartoon violence, and over-the-top moves. It’s not perfect, but WWE 2K Battlegrounds is the first good WWE game to come along in quite a while.
There were a lot of incredible roguelites this year. While titles like Hades and Spelunky 2 got plenty of well-deserved recognition, other entries in the genre went largely ignored. Neon Abyss from Veewo Games is one such title. It almost feels like a cross between Enter the Gungeon and Dead Cells, which is to say it’s really awesome. Neon Abyss isn’t derivative of these games, though, because it also introduces a bonkers upgrade system where every buff you find stacks on top of your existing power-ups, effectively turning you into a messenger of destruction but still offering a hearty challenge.
If you fancy yourself a roguelite fanatic and missed out on Neon Abyss, it’s most definitely a must-play.
Okay, yes, Wasteland 3 released to a good collection of positive reviews and plenty of praise, but it almost feels like people forgot about it fairly quickly. This could be because the game was released in the summer and a lot of folks moved on. Or it could be because it’s a CRPG, which is kind of a niche genre. Whatever the case may be, when you’re talking about the best games of 2020, inXile Entertainment’s latest should easily be in that conversation.
The game expertly blends old school mechanics with modern polish to create an outstanding RPG experience filled with incredible world-building, character dialogue, and turn-based action. There’s this immense level of depth in every aspect of Wasteland 3, from its character creation to the upgrade options you’re given. There’s truly never a dull moment to be found, which is great considering the game will take you quite a bit of time to get through.
Crown Trick from Next Studios is another in a long list of awesome roguelites released in 2020, though this one wasn’t talked about nearly as much as it should’ve been. Set in a fantasy nightmare world, Crown Trick is a roguelite turn-based RPG. It starts out a bit easy, but as you go deeper into the game’s dungeons, enemies and bosses get progressively tougher. Like other great roguelites, this game succeeds because of the way it handles buffs and abilities, as well as long-term unlocks.
It’s a shame more people didn’t talk about it, because Crown Trick is very much right up there with Hades as far as quality and polish are concerned.
Serious Sam 4
Arrive. Shoot hundreds of aliens. Leave. That’s the unwritten motto of the Serious Sam franchise, and Serious Sam 4 delivers on exactly that. The biggest complaint directed toward this game was that it was more of the same. Um, yeah, and? Look, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t play Serious Sam games for deep RPG mechanics or gripping story beats. I play these games to, well, arrive, shoot hundreds of aliens, and leave.
It’s worth noting, though, that while Serious Sam 4 may be driven by a retro ideology to just drop you onto large environments and force you to survive waves of alien monsters, it’s still really polished. This style of shooting action is old school, sure, but it feels much tighter this time around. Does Serious Sam 4 reinvent? No, but it doesn’t need to because it’s badass as it is. Good on ya, Croteam!
Gonner2 sort of just came and went. That’s kind of a bummer when you take into account that it was preceded by one of the most stylish and enjoyable roguelites in 2016’s Gonner. That first game’s quality and weirdness should’ve been enough to draw more hype for this sequel from Art in Heart. What you get here is an even more bizarre 2D adventure that turns the dial all the way up to deliver a truly strange, psychedelic shoot ‘em up experience. This time around, you can shoot in all directions, and the game has a more claustrophobic level design.
Admittedly, Gonner2 wasn’t able to surpass its predecessor, but even then, it’s still a really good roguelite shmup in its own right.
There’s a Super Meat Boy-esque charm to Rite, the super-challenging 2D platformer from Pond Games. Granted while it’s not as punishing as that game, it’s still very much in line with that style of hyper-challenging 2D platformer. It’s well worth a look for folks who enjoyed games like Celeste. There’s a lot of tight precision platforming to be found here, and at just $5, it’s a total steal.
One look at Resolutiion and you’d think it’s a fast-paced hack-and-slash action game. While there is plenty of hacking and slashing, the game’s pacing is much slower than you’d think. That’s not a bad thing, though, because this deliberate pacing is used to create meaningful combat against tough enemies. Truth be told, Resolutiion is very much unlike other similar-looking indies. For example, you’ll run through entire spaces of empty land — there’s nothing there in terms of combat and enemies, and you’re left to soak in the ambiance and mood of the game.
Developer Monolith of Minds, which consists of two brothers, set out to create a very focused and driven cyberpunk action game, and it’s obvious the team succeeded. It may not be for everyone, but for those who do check it out, you’re in store for a tough, methodical, and thoughtful game.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
Maybe it’s because Paper Mario: The Origami King released on the same day as Ghost of Tsushima. Or perhaps it’s because the last couple of Paper Mario games were met with more of a mixed critical reception. Whatever the case may be, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a great game that was soon forgotten shortly after it launched on Switch. It’s a damn shame, too, because this is easily the best entry in the series since Thousand-Year Door.
Though not entirely a return to form, Origami King offers fun turn-based battles that are a bit of a throwback to the series’ beginnings. Rather than leveling up as you play, though, you’ll collect and use special items to take down enemies in the puzzle-like combat sequences. This installment also features one of the most enjoyable worlds to explore in the franchise. It’s a shift for the series, but it’s definitely a good shift, and it makes this latest Paper Mario a trip worth taking.
West of Dead
Come on, you’ve got freakin’ Ron Perlman doing voice work for one of the coolest roguelites of the year and it wasn’t a bigger deal? West of Dead is stylish, action-packed, and moody as hell. It helps that the isometric cover-based gameplay is so good, but the presentation is a major reason the game is as memorable as it is, too. This is a dark, gritty weird west shooter that’s intense, difficult, and a massive joy to play.
Like Streets of Rage 4, the Battletoads series saw a huge return in 2020. Simply titled Battletoads, this latest installment features fast-paced beat ‘em up action, bright and colorful graphics, and quirky voice acting. That’s right, the Toads are all voiced in this game, which features a bunch of cutscenes that have a distinct Saturday morning cartoon allure to them.
There’s a lot to love in Battletoads. Specifically, though, if you played the original, you’ll be stoked to find out that this sequel also features driving levels, but they’re not absolute garbage like they were back in the day. That aside, this is just a good time. For a game that has quite a known legacy, it’s a bit surprising that the hype train stopped rolling. In any case, if you’ve been on a beat ‘em up kick thanks to the great titles we’ve seen the past couple years, Battletoads is a worthy addition to that list of games.
Did we overlook your favorite games of the year? What are some underrated games from 2020 that you enjoyed? Let us know!