2020 was a fantastic year for video games, as many great titles like Hades, Among Us, and Final Fantasy VII Remake showed us the best that video games have to offer. Inverse polled readers about their favorite games of the year, and rather than the comfort of Animal Crossing: New Horizons or mischief of Among Us, an overwhelming number of readers chose the year's most controversial title as their GOTY.
1,638 readers responded that their choice for game of the year 2020 was The Last of Us Part II, which came out on top with 68.9 percent of the vote (1,128 votes).
The second-place game, Ghost of Tsushima, wasn't even close, only getting support from 6.9 percent of respondents (113 votes). While The Last of Us Part 2 was a controversial and divisive game upon its June 2020 release, Ellie and Abby's dueling adventures have stuck with people. Whether or not you thought it was the best game of 2020, there's no denying that it was one of the year's biggest and most important.
Naughty Dog's latest was one of the biggest PS4 exclusives, perhaps of all time. The Last of Us received universal critical acclaim and swept game of the year awards when it was released back in 2013, so it's no surprise to see its sequel to get comparable fanfare thanks to its steps up in gameplay, visuals, and storytelling.
That said, it didn't have as smooth of a journey or hype cycle before release as the previous game. The Last of Us Part 2 was marred in controversy from fans in the months leading up to its launch.
Spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2 follow.
The Last of Us Part 2 was supposed to be Naughty Dog's magnum opus and an amazing swan song for the PlayStation 4. People were eagerly anticipating the game since its announcement in 2016, but when the game's story leaked in April 2020, the general attitude toward the game shifted.
These leaks unceremoniously revealed that Joel, who players controlled in the first game, was killed early on by a new character named Abby. On top of that, those who spoiled themselves with the leaks learned that they'd then take control of Abby halfway through the game and have to hunt down and kill Ellie.
In-game, these moments and twists are poignant and powerful in a story that reflects on the cycle of violence and revenge. Divorced from their context, these moments are absolutely frustrating. But coupled with some early misinformation about Abby's identity and other aspects of the game, the confusion made it sound like these moments were cheaply constructed solely for shock value.
Because of this, people seemed divided over The Last of Us Part 2 before and after its release on June 19, 2020. But this has turned out to just be a vocal minority that seemingly blew the so-called "controversy" out of proportion. Many can admit that The Last of Us Part 2 is a technical marvel and very important in many ways. It even won Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2020, so there's really no denying its wide appeal.
While it isn't my personal game of the year, I can still admit that The Last of Us Part 2 is an excellent game that sets the bar for future titles in not just its storytelling, but visual fidelity as well. Especially on PS4 Pro, the graphics showcase some of the very best ever from that console generation — and they're even better than some facets of next-gen titles. The world is incredibly detailed and fully realized, and facial animations capture all of the story's intense emotion while avoiding the uncanny valley.
Even though the major twists of its story caused a bit of controversy, they are also very bold moves for a major AAA game. Video game sequels pretty much never kill off the main character. For The Last of Us Part 2 to force you into the shoes of that character's murderer is an extremely bold move. It's all backed up by excellent performances from Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, and the rest of the game's cast. Behind all that is a nicely polished third-person shooter with brutal and intricate combat.
The Last of Us Part 2 helped truly define video games in 2020 alongside titles like Among Us, Hades, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Ghost of Tsushima. It's sold extremely well and clearly stuck with players long after the credits rolled. As such, it is very understandable why it is game of the year for many of Inverse's readers.
Read more of Inverse's Year in Gaming coverage.