Through continuations of acclaimed franchises, remakes of old favorites, and brilliant new IPs, 2020 had no shortage of single-player experiences for people to immerse themselves in. Players were sent everywhere from 13th century Tsushima Island in Ghost of Tsushima to the streets of Midgar in the Final Fantasy VII Remake with rich stories backing up these grand settings. Despite the heavy competition, only one game can blend its many components together well enough to be named the single-player game of the year.
And the winner of the 2020 ComicBook.com Golden Issue Award for Best Single-Player Game is…
The Last of Us Part II!
Developed by Naughty Dog, The Last of Us Part II released in on June 19, 2020, as a continuation of The Last of Us that released nearly seven years prior. The wait for the game was a long one, lengthened further by delays, and the launch was tumultuous following detailed accounts of poor working conditions within the studio and leaks that threatened to spoil pivotal parts of the game's story. Whether The Last of Us Part II exceeded one's expectations or not depended on the individual, but with all its unrestrained twists and devastating moments, it's hard to imagine it was exactly what anyone expected it to be.
The Last of Us Part II evolved beyond its predecessor by expanding its world for players to travel which incorporated more exploration and optional worldbuilding scenarios into the experience. Seemingly small changes like adding the option to lay prone in grassy areas and to climb to access new levels of verticality made possible by playing as Ellie and not Joel snowballed to create a noticeably different playstyle compared to The Last of Us.
However evolved it may have been, the gameplay itself mainly served as a shuttle for the story of The Last of Us Part II which was the main draw for so many players. "Plot armor" was largely nonexistent, as The Last of Us Part II reminded players of the grueling nature of its post-apocalyptic world by leaving characters' fates up in the air right until the moment it became clear what would happen to them. Having to put down the controller and take a break for a while was a common occurrence in The Last of Us Part II that nobody would fault you for.
As much as The Last of Us Part II owes to its gameplay and gut-wrenching story, the wait for the game itself played a huge part in how it was received. With only two games in the franchise and years between those releases, players had ample time to build up relationships and expectations between themselves and these fictional characters. Questions of necessary violence and who the real villains are that were raised within The Last of Us Part II weren't even profound ideas themselves, but they were amplified tremendously by these relationships forged over time. Naughty Dog seemed to relish in the idea of either subverting or destroying whatever preconceived ideas of the characters you had before.
Whether that motive was a positive or a negative for the player again depended on the individual, but its effects were impossible to ignore as indicated by the fierce debates about the game that went on for months after its release. Its impact on the community was a palpable one that's lasted long enough to make it a game of the year contender on its own, and with such a compelling, relentless story behind it and welcome gameplay improvements, it's no wonder The Last of Us Part II ended up being our Single-Player Game of the Year.
- Doom Eternal
- Ghost of Tsushima
- The Last of Us Part II — WINNER
- Final Fantasy VII Remake