The Digital Fix Gaming's Generation Awards: Best Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PC, and PS4 ExclusivesPlatforms: All | Sony PlayStation 4 | Microsoft Xbox One | PC | Nintendo Switch
BEST NINTENDO SWITCH EXCLUSIVE
Pokémon Sword and Shield
Pokémon Sword and Shield received just under 1/8th of the votes in the Switch category, as the series continues to be popular in 2020 as it was back in 1996 when the original games launched. The introduction of the ‘Wild Area’ – a large, open-world area where Pokémon roam in the wild – and the two expansion packs released this year, have moved the series from linear journeys up and down Routes to a more open-world experience. A worthy third for a game that keeps getting better.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
It’s hard to think of Animal Crossing being anything but a major Nintendo IP, but before this year’s iteration, the series wasn’t revered as some of Nintendo’s other big hitters. Enter New Horizons. Smashing sales records this year, it’s on track to become the best-selling Switch game in the next few months, the whole world seemed to have Animal Crossing fever, as we all entered some sort of lockdown and decided to spend those long hours indoors sprucing up our own island paradise. With Nintendo providing regular updates throughout 2020, the game has continued to be popular all year and has sold more Switches than any other, bar our winner.
The one reason that many gamers invested in a Switch when it released back in 2017, one that stands above all others on the system: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Open-world games were everywhere in the 2010s, as successes like Skyrim, The Witcher 3 and GTA V saw many games try to adopt a similar formula for success. Breath of the Wild still feels like a breath of fresh air, almost four years on, as Nintendo boldly chose to do away with what had become a standard formula for Zelda titles, and instead went back to one of the core themes of the very first game in the series: exploration.
Gone were the predetermined routes and dungeons that the series had become known for, and in its place was a vision of Hyrule that felt as big a leap as Ocarina of Time did in 1998. Gone were the cluttered mini-maps that gamers had become accustomed to, and instead we were encouraged to explore what looked interesting, what piqued our interest. Nothing is out of reach in Breath of the Wild, and with a physics system that players are still finding new ways to exploit in 2020, this 2017 launch title reinvented one of Nintendo’s great IPs.
It’s hard to convey in a couple of paragraphs just how monumental Breath of the Wild felt when it came out, and the impact it might have on open-world games going forward. In a series which features some of the best games of all time, Breath of the Wild stands tall as arguably the greatest Zelda game of them all.
BEST XBOX ONE EXCLUSIVE
- Kevin Ketchum
Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5 is a curious entry in the franchise. While critically well-received, it drew the ire from many hardcore fans, claiming it was a disaster of storytelling that barely resembled the greater entries in the series, both aesthetically and thematically.
While this certainly isn't a rehash of classic Halo designs, it is a thematically coherent follow up to the new trilogy 343 Industries set in motion with Halo 4, offering a myriad of fun new mechanics, masterful level design, and a story that was in keeping with the themes of the previous game. Perhaps the abrupt ending, split protagonists, and generally overwhelming ambition just didn't come together for some, but it remains a terrific single player shooter campaign with the best multiplayer suite the franchise has seen in over a decade.
At once a reinvention of the Gears of War franchise and an extension of its newest era, we find ourselves in the shoes of Kat Diaz as she searches for answers about her cursed lineage and how the fate of mankind will rest on her decisions. Bringing the acclaimed Gears combat system to a more open map with side missions and ambient encounters, the largest game in the franchise still manages to tell a heartfelt story of understanding one's place in the world, making it the most emotionally resonant entry thus far.
Mechanically and graphically as sharp as ever, it should also be commended for having an insane amount of accessibility options, something all games should have going forward.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone that this wonderful MetroidVania-style platformer took home first place. As gorgeous and serene as it is challenging and deeply rewarding, our story pick up after the events of Ori and the Blind Forest, with peace seemingly set upon the lands as our heroes come together to raise Ku, the infant daughter of Kuro.
The story unfolds as a sweet and somber tale of the passage of time, and immerses the player in a feast for the senses. A wondrous world awaits in one of the best precision and exploration-based platformers of the modern era, expanding upon everything that made its predecessor such a beloved classic.
BEST PC EXCLUSIVE
Joint: Half-Life: Alyx & Among Us
Coming in joint second are two very different titles. One requires top of the line hardware, at the very cutting edge of VR, and the other can be run on a potato. What brings these two games together is their commitment to innovation, providing players with a wealth of possibilities. Half-Life: Alyx resurrected the iconic Half-Life universe in fully immersive VR, offering players the chance to do whatever they liked within this world. Among Us showed us just how much fun can be had backstabbing and debating with friends and strangers. Whatever your price point, these two games gave PC gamers a lot of entertainment.
There is no other game like Disco Elysium. There are other point and click adventures, there are other Dungeons & Dragons inspired RPGs, but nothing combines these elements with an esoteric tone like this.
The depth of customisation and dialogue options available can ensure your own experiences with Disco Elysium will feel different to anyone else's; you can essentially build your perfect fictional detective. Well, not perfect, but you get to determine their flaws as well as their strengths; perhaps a lack of empathy makes them difficult to communicate with or maybe you lack the perception needed to find crucial clues?
There are some truly outside of the box options open to you and, unlike many traditional point and click adventures, they are not easily dismissed. Disco Elysium is a game where choices really do matter as they not only affect the world around you, they can re-shape the structure of your mind.
There is no game quite like Disco Elysium and it is a testament to the sort of unconventional thinking open to devs when they focus on the PC experience.
BEST PS4 EXCLUSIVE
The Last Of Us: Part II
If you would have asked me a year ago whether I thought The Last of Us: Part II would be number 3 on a list of the best PS4 exclusives from this generation, I probably wouldn't have believed you. High as it is, third place would have still sounded too low for me, given my love for Naughty Dog and their ability to make generation defining games.
Now though, after having played the game myself through multiple times and spent countless hours pondering over it, this makes a little bit more sense. The Last of Us: Part II will always be an incredible feat of technology and gameplay, though the controversy around its release and ending leave too many people on either side of the aisle, not sure if they love it more than anything they've ever played or if it all fell flat. For me, it's one of the best games I've ever played, though my own personal vote did in fact put this game in the number 3 spot as well when compared to other PS4 exclusives this generation.
This is also a selection that is not at all surprising, though it was not my personal choice for number 2. Marvel's Spider-Man stands tall as the best Spider-Man game of all time, and arguably the best super hero game of all time. I hadn't had as much fun just swinging around Manhattan since Spider-Man 2 on the PS2 way back in the day, but what really makes this iteration of Spider-Man stand out is the story and its execution.
Jumping in to the life of a mature Peter Parker trying to navigate his career, his love life, keeping his family safe and all the while being the friendly neighborhood web crawler all unfolds as one of the best Spider-Man stories I've seen in a while. It is a joy to play this game time and again, which makes the anticipation for Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the inevitable Spider-Man 2 extremely high, as we could very well get another generation defining experience.
It really could have been no other option. If you bought a PS4 within the last two years, chances are you did so to play God of War. Santa Monica Studios achieved something so rare, not just in gaming but in all media with their reboot of their classic series. You may be able to count on one hand the amount of times where an old IP has been successfully brought back, matured, and made better while still providing a road map for future entries. God Of War did that, and in doing so created what I at least consider to be a perfect game.
It takes more than just incredible visuals and story for a game to be the best of the generation; the gameplay in God Of War was refined from previous iterations and now is one of the best combat systems in games. The light RPG elements for gear customization mixed with a basic system that is simple to learn but difficult to master fits perfectly for God Of War, and the Leviathan Axe is one of my favourite weapons in gaming to date. The subtle feeling of throwing it and calling it back never gets old, and is just endlessly fun to use in combat and play around with.
All of this combined makes God Of War not just the best PS4 exclusive, but one of the best games of all time.