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The season is loaded with cool new games. Illustration by Cole Williams

If one thing has helped save the sanity of many in 2020, it’s video games. As moviegoing screeched to a halt, and various films and TV shows have had their productions slowed or halted by COVID-19, games have gone on strong, thanks to new releases and developers working from home. And that work is noticeable.

Early November saw the release of the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft, the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X. Both have relatively similar technical specs, and both are backwards compatible with the vast majority of games from the previous generation. They even cost the same at $500. That is, unless you buy a PS5 without a disc tray, which means you can only buy and download games online. Then it’s $400. So, the choice depends on whether or not you’ve bought most PS4 games physically or digitally. You could also buy the Xbox Series S, a system with lower specs than the Series X but that plays all the same games. Since it’s meant for only 1440 resolution as opposed to 4K and 8K, you’re looking at only $300.

If both systems are out of your price range or impossible to find right now, then don’t worry, as neither system is launching with a ton of must-have games. The PS5’s big hitters are Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a semi-expansion on Insomniac’s 2018 game, which is also available on PS4, and Demon’s Souls, a critically acclaimed remake of a 2009 PS3 game. There’s also the family-friendly insect food-themed adventure Bugsnax and Little Big Planet platformer spinoff Sackboy: A Big Adventure, both of which are also on PS4. Xbox, meanwhile, had to postpone the release of Halo Infinite into next year. Essentially, for those awaiting the next Halo or God of War, you’ve got a while before you really need one of the next-gen systems. However, it was announced before the launch of the Series X that Microsoft had purchased developer Bethesda, likely meaning that all future Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Doom games will be Xbox console exclusives. Alongside that is the Xbox’s Games Pass, which lets players pay $15 a month and have unlimited access to stream hundreds of games. That puts quite a lot of weight in Microsoft’s corner.

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There are also plenty of third-party titles coming to both generations of Playstation and Xbox. Long-running series are seeing new releases, from Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, their newest first-person shooter which has met with decent ratings, to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the latest Viking-themed entry in their historical/stealth-action series, released to very good reviews. There are also new IPs to keep things fresh, including Ubisoft’s Greek mythology-themed adventure Immortals: Fenyx Rising, which is coming to every major current system, including Switch, Stadia, and PC, on Thursday.  Not to be outdone, Nintendo has Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a prequel to the acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which features single- and two-player co-op in massive battles with hundreds of enemies. And PC gamers get bragging rights with the newest World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands, while RPG players have Balder’s Gate III from Larian Studios, which came out in early access in October for PC and Stadia.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated game for the holidays, though, is the oft-delayed Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red’s long-awaited follow-up to The Witcher III based on the Cyberpunk role playing game. Featuring sci-fi first-person action and RPG gameplay, it finally sees release on December 10 for PS4 and PS5, Xbox One and Series X and Series S, PC, and Stadia.

This would also be a great time to get the games your family and friends missed earlier in the year. Now that Switches are relatively more available, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is still a solid purchase, with content still being added to it, like the upcoming Toy Day event. Or if you want to go old-school, grab Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which collects the classics Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy and is available only until March.

Not to be outdone, the PS4 had a great year for exclusives, with Final Fantasy 7 Remake,  The Last of Us 2, and Ghost of Tsushima, while the Xbox had … a lot of games, like Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion, iD Software’s Doom Eternal, and Sega’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which are all also available on PS4. (That Bethesda purchase could not have come soon enough for Microsoft.)

Then there’s the usual barrage of indie games worth playing, from the beautifully animated Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games to Satisfactory’s 3D open-world factory builder by Coffee Stain Studios and the final episode of Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero, as well as upcoming crime management sim Empire of Sin by Romero Games. And while it came out in 2018, we’d be remiss not to mention InnerSloth’s Among Us, the game that exploded this year on streaming and mixed The Thing’s paranoia with backstabbing your friends and family in easy-to-grasp gameplay.

Long story short, a number of stellar titles, combined with the release of the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft, have helped make 2020 a great year for gaming, which is about the only thing it’s been a great year for.

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