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1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Sure, Animal Crossing has had its core niche of fans for many years. And New Horizons on the Switch would probably have become a hit no matter what.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic turned this into one of the hottest games of the year. It’s easy to see why: the game makes fun out of things like managing finances and decorating your home. And it gives you just enough of an excuse to interact with others...which was quite important during a time when interacting in person was forbidden!
2. Among Us
Sometimes, gamers tend to forget that Among Us came out way back in 2018. After all, the game didn’t become explosively popular until the middle of 2020, when game streamers helped to make it mainstream.
After that happened, COVID-19 made this into one of the major titles to play during the pandemic. It helped that the game had the “whodunnit” aspects of games like Werewolf that players could no longer play in person.
And the popularity of Among Us grew even as the use of Discord became more mainstream as well. That made it easier for players to organize into groups large enough that nobody had to play with strangers if they didn’t want to.
3. Jackbox Games
Various Jackbox Games have enjoyed success in recent years as party video games that even non-gamers can enjoy. All you need is a cellphone and a weird sense of humor and you can dive into some hilarious rounds of games like Fibbage and Drawful.
However, Jackbox Games titles were all designed to be played by people in the same room. But as players got sick of being stuck at the house, they found creative ways to play these titles with others remotely using platforms like Twitch and Discord.
Because of this, Jackbox Games had to work hard to handle an extra surge of over 10 million people during the early months of the pandemic!
4. Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Relative to other titles on this list, Assassin's Creed Valhalla came out late in 2020. Nonetheless, it managed to enjoy additional popularity thanks to COVID-19.
That is because one of this game’s biggest claims to fame is how much of the world it allows you to explore. The sheer length and scope of this game really hit the sweet spot for players stuck at home and longing to see more of the world around them (even distant past versions of the world).
5. Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Presumably, Nintendo had no way to predict the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why they had their own insane strategy of making Super Mario 3D All-Stars popular by limiting how long it was for sale.
But Nintendo’s fake scarcity tactic wasn’t what really made this title successful. Instead, this collection of old Mario games enjoyed the same surge of popularity that everything retro enjoyed in 2020. All of us wanted to retreat into the past so badly that we were willing to overlook Nintendo’s crappy emulation of some beloved titles.
6. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was another game that achieved the trifecta of being popular among casual gamers, competitive gamers, and streamers.
And despite being very different in gameplay, there is a lot of surface similarity between Fall Guys and Among Us. Both are games where you can embrace the social element while kicking back and enjoying a simple game. And like Among Us, Fall Guys is the kind of title you can trick your non-gamer friends into playing, which was an important quality during the height of the pandemic.
7. Pokémon Go
Yes, Virginia: people still play Pokémon Go. While casual players mostly remember the fever this game sparked when it first launched, it still managed to be one of the most lucrative games of 2020.
That was hardly a shock, though. Once players were locked out of their real-life gyms, the next best thing was going for a walk in their neighborhood and trying to get a few virtual rounds in at the nearest Pokémon gym. The alternative, of course, was becoming as round as a Poké ball!
8. Microsoft Flight Simulator
Historically, flight simulators have been a very niche product. After all, there are only so many people that want to simulate tranquil plane flights or train rides. And only so many people who want to invest the time and money into these games to make the games truly enjoyable.
However, Microsoft Flight Simulator came at just the right place and the right time. Just when people were settling in and making peace with their inability to book flights, Microsoft gave us the ability to simulate epic flights to exotic locations. And for many, this was as close to a 2020 vacation as they got!
9. Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty is another franchise with an entire legion of loyal fans. However, the jury was out on whether or not those fans would take to the release of Warzone. After all, a cynical take on that game is that the COD devs wanted to get a real foothold on the popular landscape of battle royale gaming.
However, this game came out almost right when people were heading into lockdown. And in a world where many jobs were reduced to boring Zoom conferences, the ability to pop on a headset and destroy strangers with your buddies made Warzone more enticing than anyone could have suspected.
When the future of COD looks a lot like Fortnite, we’ll mostly have COVID-19 to blame!
10. Final Fantasy VII Remake
On paper, the Final Fantasy VII Remake shouldn’t have been that successful. After all, it’s a retelling of a game we’ve all played, and it comes from developers that want to sell you this game in pieces at $60 per installment.
And on top of that, the game can’t decide whether it is a straight remake or something ambitious and different. Put it all together and you get a game that could have been dead on arrival.
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