2020’s best games took me under the surface

December 28, 2020
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Editor’s note: Take a breath. We’re almost there. 2020’s been quite the year, and it’s very nearly over. Across the festive break, members of the Eurogamer team and our contributors will be running down their personal top five games of 2020, before we announce our game of the year – and before, of course, we hand over to you for the annual Reader’s Top 50. Thanks for being with us this year, and see you on the other side.

Sometimes when I have trouble sleeping, I imagine myself climbing out of a vast underground citadel, stairways upon stairways following each other upward in the light of a single candle. I pass doorways heaped with dust and swivelling, gold-rimmed mirrors of the kind that often feature in Zelda puzzles. Reaching the top after many days I halt inside the entrance, listening to birdsong, my toes inches from a bar of sunshine. Then I rewind the daydream and start again. I fantasise that I’m some ancient creature roused from long slumber to right some epic wrong, but in the end, I don’t really need to know what lies out there in the surface world. I’m in it for the suspense and serenity of the climb.

I haven’t played Hades, the current Stygian adventure of choice, but I’ve spent a lot of time in virtual underworlds this year. You don’t have to look hard for a real-life parallel there. Nor do you have to be an ancient Greek adventurer to know that underworlds aren’t just places of death and disease. They are refuges for wayward imaginations, shelters and spawning vats for ideas swiftly killed by the harsh clarity of sunlight, the abrasive fresh air. The games that define 2020 for me understand this.

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