Here is GameSpot’s roundup of 2020’s best RPGs across different platforms.
Throughout its history, the role-playing game genre has offered some of the more complex pieces of storytelling and gameplay within the medium of games. In 2020, the RPG genre hit some notable strides with some great releases. Along with the revival of the legendary JRPG Final Fantasy VII with its remake, we also saw other games lean further into the craft of letting players chart their own stories and character dynamics in games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Crusader Kings III.
In the following roundup, you can find a selection of RPGs that GameSpot has rated an 8 and above throughout 2020. This year proved to be a remarkable year for the RPG genre, and the games we’ve pulled together below take the familiar tenets of the genre and reincorporate them in some exciting ways. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim — 9/10 “But ultimately, the biggest problem with 13 Sentinels is that a chunk of the game is merely good while the majority of it is outstanding. The stories of these kids and their giant robots absolutely consumed me during my playtime, and even now, I’m ruminating over certain plot points, events, and relationships, wondering if I should go back through the archives to see what I’ve missed. I don’t think I’ll forget my time in the 13 Sentinels world, and I doubt you will, either.” –Heidi Kemps, Freelance Reviewer Assassin’s Creed Valhalla — 8/10 “Despite its strong connection to past games, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is more than capable of standing on its own. It takes a little while to build momentum, but when it hits its stride, Valhalla is a confident Assassin’s Creed title that takes a few narrative risks which, as a whole, pay off. Eivor is a good hero with an identity that drives the mystery behind the main narrative, and she shines in the self-contained arc structure of Valhalla’s story. The supporting cast may not shine as brightly, but it’s easy to forgive that when exploring England and discovering new nuggets of worldbuilding is so rewarding.” — Jordan Ramée, Associate Editor Crusader Kings III — 8/10 “In a sense, Crusader Kings 3 is all over the place. It doesn’t always work perfectly, and at times it really makes you work for it, but there’s something amazing in that any of it works at all. Strategy games can tell interesting stories as their empires rise and fall, but their procedural narratives are rarely as affecting and poignant as they are here.” — David Wildgoose, Freelancer Reviewer Demon’s Souls — 9/10 “Quirks aside, Bluepoint’s remake is an unmitigated success. It is a technical tour de force and a true showpiece for the PS5 and the power of Sony’s next-generation console. But, more importantly, it’s also a creative marvel coming from a studio that is clearly showing the world it has its own voice. Bluepoint has taken From Software’s original game and expressed it in a richer and fuller way, and in doing so give me something I thought was impossible: the opportunity to relive the experience of falling in love with Souls games for the first time.” — Tamoor Hussain, Managing Editor Desperados 3 — 9/10 “Desperados 3 is a superb package. It’s a clever, cunning game of stealth and tactical thinking that, thanks to a generous quick-save system and wealth of informative visual cues, entices you to tinker with all the toys it has on offer and fully explore the possibility spaces of its elaborate levels. There’s no need for a do-over here; Desperados 3 is a dead-eye shot on the very first try.” — David Wildgoose, Freelance Reviewer Destiny 2: Beyond Light — 8/10 “Beyond Light might not be the biggest expansion, but it does feel like we’ve entered a new chapter in the game’s life, with new priorities and an approach that makes the game more resonant in a way that goes beyond satisfying shooting. On the whole, Destiny 2 might be more of the same than it is different, but what’s the same about it–like its phenomenal raids and tight, satisfying gameplay–is still largely pretty great, and what’s different is mostly making the game all the more worthwhile.” — Phil Hornshaw
Final Fantasy VII Remake — 10/10 “Regardless of your history with the original game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding achievement. The wait for its release was a long one, but in gameplay, story, characters, and music, it delivers–the wait was worth it. For first-time players, it’s an opportunity to understand why Final Fantasy VII is held in such high regard. It’s the chance to experience a multifaceted story that grapples with the complex subject matter, be in the company of memorable characters, and be moved by their plight. For returning fans, this isn’t the Final Fantasy VII your mind remembers, it’s the one your heart always knew it to be.” — Tamoor Hussain, Managing Editor
Hades — 9/10 “I’m also thinking about how much I still have left to learn about Hades, both the character and the game, even dozens of hours in. Like in the Greek myths Hades takes inspiration from, endings aren’t tidy, and they’re almost never final. They’re protracted, often unsatisfying, and are hard to find real closure in and the fact that Hades understands this is its greatest strength. I’m sure there’s a point where, after running through hell enough times, I’ll have seen all Hades has to offer, both in its clever and endless fights and its many alluring characters, intimate moments, and rewarding quests. The story does end. But what matters so much more are all the moments between the start and end of a story, and the people who help us see those climactic moments but also stick with us between them. They’re the reason we keep trying, and the reason we keep coming back.” — Suriel Vazquez, Freelance Reviewer
Moon — 8/10 “With a bit of good old determination, however, Moon’s flaws and frustrations are easily overcome. Despite being almost 25 years old, Moon remains a thoughtful, beautiful experience that has a lot to say about the static nature of video games, how the way stories are presented affects our perceptions of reality, the rewarding nature of kindness and stewardship, and how simply being a part of the world makes us important and valuable. I don’t think I’ll forget my experience in Moon World anytime soon, and should you embark on this journey and see it through to its conclusion, I doubt you will, either.” — Heidi Kemps, Freelance Reviewer
Mortal Shell — 8/10 “Still, Mortal Shell succeeds more often than not at capturing the specific feelings intrinsic to Souls-like games. The twists it adds to From-inspired mechanics do well to help this sort of game become more approachable than most while maintaining the same air of mystery and foreboding that makes the genre itself so intriguing. Mortal Shell makes for a strong introduction to Souls-likes, a demonstration for new players of what so many have found so interesting about From Software’s games and those like them. But Mortal Shell is also a lovingly crafted, weird, and deceptively deep game in its own right that rewards you for wandering its twisted paths and challenging its deadliest foes.” — Phil Hornshaw, Editor
Nioh 2 — 8/10 “At times, I wondered if maybe some of these bosses should be a little shorter, as there were many bosses where I felt I had mastered their patterns but couldn’t finish because they landed a single one-hit-kill late in the fight. Ultimately, that excruciating difficulty and the feeling it evokes are baked into Nioh’s DNA, though, and its boss fights remain compelling even as they vex and frustrate. Though it sometimes feels like a curse as you play, it is a testament that Nioh 2 successfully grabs and holds your complete attention so close for so long.” — Mike Epstein, Freelance Reviewer
Paper Mario: The Origami King — 8/10 “It’s a concession I’m willing to take, though, since just about every other part of Paper Mario: The Origami King works so well. With a newfound combat system that steals the show and offers a novel take on turn-based combat, it’s winking, nodding, and adventuring shine all the brighter. Its world and characters might not be the series’ best, but it’s still able to consistently throw left turns, good gags, and smart surprises at you. Each piece of The Origami King elegantly fits into its whole, taking its irreverent flair to new heights. The Paper Mario series has recently shown that being clever and being smart are two different things, but thankfully, it’s once again managed to be both.” — Suriel Vazquez, Freelance Reviewer
Persona 5 Royal — 10/10 “As P5R comes to a close, it tries to ease you into its end with heartfelt scenes, some new and some familiar. But in doing so, it only makes it harder to say goodbye again. Persona 5 Royal is many things: a collection of small inspiring stories, an ambitious harrowing journey with some good friends, a stunning visual and auditory experience, a resounding call to action. By refining what was already great and building on its best qualities with a brilliant new story arc, Persona 5 Royal asserts itself as an unforgettable and empowering RPG that should be recognized as one of the best games of our time.” — Michael Higham, Associate Editor
Risk of Rain 2 — 8/10 “Risk of Rain 2 is lo-fi beats to relax with the bass boosted until the subwoofers catch fire. And explode. And bleed? What begins as a chill loot-shooty time quickly escalates to a frantic fight for your life where everything is burning and there’s a big red target on your back. The lack of any strategic layer between the action did leave me feeling burned out. But the addictive nature of the game’s builds gives Risk of Rain 2 the feeling of a pebble skittering along a rocky cliff. When the avalanche begins, enemies would be well advised to get out of your way.” — Andrew King, Freelance Reviewer
Star Renegades — 8/10 “No matter how many hours I spent in Star Renegades, every run, every battle, every turn felt like a new captivating puzzle to solve. In my experience, roguelites lose their luster when the runs start to feel the same no matter how you change things up. Even after playing for dozens of hours and having seen the vast majority of what there is to see, I never lost interest in picking apart each battle to dismantle an opponent for a turn, then another one, and another until the battle is finished. The satisfying feeling of living in the moment and conquering it never gets old.” — Mike Epstein, Freelance Reviewer
Treachery in Beatdown City — 8/10 “Treachery in Beatdown City uses humor skillfully as a tool to deal with contemporary issues with the gig economy, insidious tech company ploys, and obnoxious bigots. It has some lulls and a bit of an abrupt conclusion, but that’s overshadowed by how especially fun the conversations and combat are. The mechanics stand out and push against the standards of the brawler genre, injecting a strong tactics twist that lets you make some freestyle combos in the blink of an eye. In the end it was a short, satisfying playthrough that maintained its action movie aura the entire time. Treachery in Beatdown City is all about fighting, but it shines because at its core it’s about fighting back.” — Funke Joseph, Freelance Reviewer
XCOM: Chimera Squad — 8/10 “By stripping back XCOM combat to its bare minimum, Chimera Squad is able to make nearly all your choices vital. This isn’t a series of small choices that slowly accumulate into something interesting; it operates more like a one-two punch of big decisions. You don’t spend any time in an encounter here patiently edging forward, stationing your squad on overwatch, and wearing down the enemy. Instead, the enemy is right there in your face from the jump, and you’ve got to act now and act decisively. Luckily the Chimera Squad is there to back you up.” — David Wildgoose, Freelance Reviewer
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition — 9/10 “Although not every aspect of Xenoblade Chronicles has aged as well as others, Definitive Edition proves that Xenoblade Chronicles is still a fantastic JRPG with an immense amount of strategic depth that’s still impressive in 2020. Its bevy of improvements and additions, as well as its fantastic epilogue, make this an adventure worth embarking on a decade later.” — Jacob Dekker, Video Producer
Yakuza: Like a Dragon — 9/10 “For RGG Studio’s first crack at an RPG, it’s a damn fine result. It delivers what I love most about Yakuza and introduces new ideas that largely pay off. Ichiban isn’t doing it alone, either. He has friends and mentors, ones who’ve helped him fight and overcome personal tragedies. It was an absolute thrill to watch him grow, and that’s what’s most important for a game so focused on its characters. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a passing of the torch, and a fantastic entry in a beloved franchise that proves that it’s in good hands with Kasuga Ichiban.” — Michael Higham, Associate Editor