The year 2020 has mercifully come to an end, and all of us couldn’t be happier to see it go away. And while most of the year was terrible, there was some great games to come out for us to enjoy and escape with.
So with 2021 now upon us, let’s take a look back at the best moments of 2020 with Sports Gamers Online’s 2020 Gaming Awards.
Best New Feature – Free Next Gen Upgrades
With the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 launching in 2020 many players were concerned about the fact of if they’d have to pay twice for the same game.
Luckily many companies were aware of this and were willing to upgrade to the next-gen version of the games for free should you own a last-gen version of the title. The only company to not do this in the sports gaming world however was 2K as the only way you can get a nex-gen version of NBA 2K21 for free was if you bought the Black Mamba edition for $99 on PS4 or Xbox One.
Games like Madden 21 and FIFA 21 both offered next-gen upgrades for free. This alone created goodwill towards players knowing that they wouldn’t have to spend twice for the same game. It made the decision to get the games on the old consoles easier, knowing that you’ll have games for your new systems when you got the PS5 or Series X.
Best Mobile Sports Game – Retro Bowl
Sports and mobile games have rarely been a match made in heaven. However, that was before Retro Bowl hit the market.
A game that hearkens back to the days of Tecmo Super Bowl, Retro Bowl takes everything we loved about that era and brings it into the 21st Century. The controls are the most responsive we’ve seen in a mobile game, the franchise mode is deep and enjoyable, and there’s just so much fun to be had that the game is hard to put down. You only play on the offensive side of the ball, but it doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable. You have to manage your players’ happiness while keeping ownership happy. You’ll also have to deal with off- and on-field issues to make sure your team’s chemistry isn’t impacted as well as make the tough decisions as a coach.
With how fast each game can go buy, you often find yourself saying “just one more game” over and over before you eventually see that five more hours have passed.
Best New Game Mode – NBA 2K21’s The W
The biggest news surrounding this year’s NBA 2K entry was about the next-gen split. How different would NBA 2K21 play between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5? Visual Concepts answered that question quickly, with weekly Courtside Reports outlining how entire systems would be overhauled for NBA 2K21’s release on next-gen consoles. An exciting surprise to come out of the next-gen blogs was the reveal of The W, the new WNBA career mode coming to next-gen NBA 2K21.
The Women’s National Basketball Associate is criminally underrepresented in video games. The first video game to feature a full WNBA roster was EA’s NBA Live 18 back in 2017. In its debut game appearance, the WNBA had to settle for use in Play Now games only, with generic commentary that didn’t mention any teams or players by name. NBA Live 19 let players create women in its story mode, The One, but still doesn’t feature a league. Visual Concepts finally got on board last year, letting players play through the 2019 WNBA season as any of the 12 WNBA teams in NBA 2K20.
Now, with The W, the WNBA finally has a mode that feels like its own experience. It’s not just the female version of MyTeam. The W is its own game mode, built with care and love for the game. You can see it in the ways The W mirrors the WNBA. Your athlete can spend their time off the court helping improve the league’s popularity. This will, in turn, improve player salaries across the board. In real life, WNBA players are constantly pushing for better pay, where the average WNBA salary–around $100k–pales in comparison to the $7.7 million average salary of its male counterpart.
With The W, Visual Concepts has accomplished two things. One, it’s given WNBA fans a way to experience the league in a deeper way than quick play. Two, it’s created a unique game mode that offers an experience that players who may not know much about the WNBA can jump into, regardless. The W is the best new game mode of 2020.
Best Racing Game – F1 2020
If there’s one nice thing to say about 2020, it’s this: it was a great year for racing games. In a crowded category of potential winners, F1 2020 wins by half a car length. Codemasters has had a big year culminating in billion-dollar acquisition talks, and it’s all well deserved. In our review, we called it a “must play for anyone, racing fan or not,” and I thought I’d put that to the test.
I’m not a racing guy myself. The last racing game I spent any significant time with was NASCAR Racing 2 all the way back in the 90s. Even back then, I spent more time in the Paint Shop designing MS Paint-quality Mt. Dew cars than racing on the track.
For me, a game that carries the F1 title can be pretty daunting to try out with little racing sim experience. This is where F1 2020 shines. The free trial (available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) gives you enough content to show what kind of game you’re getting into. Plus, you get the full accessibility options, which let you adjust the ways in which F1 2020 does or doesn’t help you drive.
F1 2020 enjoys healthy support post-release as well. Codemasters released an entire second league, the FIA Formula 2 Championship, as free additional content earlier this month. The free update adds even more content to a game that already has a ton of depth between the game’s career, My Team, and championship modes. It’s also a sign of things to come, that Codemasters is willing to add such significant content to their game free of charge. It’s rare for a simulation game to have it all. F1 2020 is the best racing game of 2020.
Best Indie Game – Super Mega Baseball 3
When it comes to indie sports games, it’s hard to find anything much better than the Super Mega Baseball franchise. Metalhead Software has turned an arcade-looking baseball game into one of the deepest offerings you’ll find.
Super Mega Baseball 3 has fun and addicting gameplay, excellent modes, reliable online play, and even offers cross-platform multiplayer. The stadiums look great, players look fun, and it’s hard to find anything negative to say about the game. The addition of the new Franchise Mode added hours of replay value to the game on top of the fun Pennant Race mode. On the field, it’s a much more finely tuned baseball game that became the best baseball game of the year.
Best AAA Game – PGA Tour 2K21
With the likes of FIFA 21, NBA 2K21, and more out there, it’s no doubt surprising to many to see a golf game as the best AAA game of 2020. But, there’s a good reason for why PGA Tour 2K21 is just that, and it’s quite simple. The game is that damn good.
The first to be under the PGA Tour 2K name, PGA Tour 2K21 took so much from The Golf Club 2019 and improved upon it. The career mode puts you in full control of your own story as you try to become a PGA Tour champion. There are so many courses to play both real and user created gems that keep you coming back for hours on end, and the gameplay is as crisp as any golf game over the last 15-20 years.
Seeing highlights of PGA Tour pros during your events and having different presentation elements per event gives a nice realistic touch, and the course designer is the gem of all mode gems. It’s the deepest designer in the history of golf games, and leads to hours upon hours of building fun for the creative type.
Game of the Year – F1 2020
What more can you say about F1 2020? When a game is labeled a “must-play” game for anyone whether or not they like racing, there’s a good chance it’s one of the best games of the year. And with F1 2020, that turned into being SGO’s game of the year.
F1 2020 is a game that proved you can still add a lot to a game that seemed to have everything in place already. The control of your car, no matter the settings, feels as crisp as anything produce by Codemasters, and the addition of the My Team mode adds hours of more replay value on top of what’s there with Career and Championship play.
Everything about the game is incredible, and it’s hard to see the franchise falling off a cliff anytime soon.
What were your sports games of the year? Let us know in the comment section below, and stick with Sports Gamers Online for more!