The 2020 pandemic certainly boosted multiplayer games most of all, raising player figures across the board as gamers were essentially forced to stay inside for weeks or even months due to social distancing lockdown procedures.
At a time of crisis when meeting friends in person suddenly became huge challenging, multiplayer games offered the next best alternative with their mix of cooperative and competitive options.
Perhaps most exciting is the fact that three out of the five multiplayer games that made it into our shortlist are unexpected indie hits. It speaks to the creative health of the industry, in a way.
Also in Swaraz’s Best Games of 2020 lists: Action, Adventure, Horror, Platformers, RPGs, Shooters, Strategy & Simulation, Sports & Racing
Call of Duty: Warzone
Launched in March as the free Battle Royale spin-off of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Warzone garnered an absolutely huge following over the ensuing months. Last month, it registered more than 85 million players globally and that is with the game available on only three platforms (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One). Warzone has now been integrated with the latest mainline Call of Duty, Black Ops: Cold War, which means it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (8)
London-based developer Mediatonic found its own golden goose with Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, a peculiar twist on the usual Battle Royale formula. Whereas most Battle Royale titles are shooters, this is a platformer at its core and one with a unique visual style to boot. Just last month, Mediatonic proudly boasted over 11 million units sold on PC, and that’s in addition to all of those who got the game for free via PlayStation Plus subscription.
Fall Guys is an excellent chaotic multiplayer game that can be played by people of any skill level, and that is its greatest strength. Sadly repetition has well and truly set in after several weeks of play, but if the developers at Mediatonic keep dishing out updates and new content on a regular basis, this could be just as influential and essential as Rocket League.
Another surprise hit in the Battle Royale subgenre was Spellbreak from Proletariat Studios, which feels very different thanks to its fantasy setting and spellcasting mechanics.
Spellbreak deserves a place among the other Battle Royale greats. It breaks away from the others in the genre and does so with amazing polish, thoughtful design, and is most importantly just so much fun to play.
Phasmophobia is one of the latest examples of a Steam Early Access indie hit coming from the leftfield. Launched in September by Kinetic Games, this cooperative multiplayer survival horror game sees a group of four trying to collect information on a resident ghost (of which there are several types, from banshee to wraith)
To enhance the horror factor, players can also elect to fully play the game in Virtual Reality mode provided that they have a headset at their disposal. There’s no word yet on the full 1.0 release or on ports for other platforms, which could further enhance its popularity among trending multiplayer games.
2020 was the year when Riot Games finally made good on its studio name promise and went beyond League of Legends with Wild Rift and Legends of Runeterra. The real new IP, though, was Valorant, a free-to-play tactical first-person shooter that made a huge splash when it released in June.
Valorant doesn’t stray too far from Riot Games’ plethora of hero-focused titles. With the fusion of high-level gunplay and hero mechanics, Valorant is both highly competitive and unfortunately too highly skill focused for casual players to enjoy.
There’s a bunch of games that we still need to mention, even if they didn’t quite make the shortlist for best multiplayer games of 2020. Chiefly, Among Us, which originally launched in 2018 and is therefore technically ineligible for the shortlists. Still, it is the biggest story of the year when it comes to multiplayer games, that’s for sure; according to SuperData Research, the game managed to attract about half a billion monthly active users in November, making it the most popular game ever in terms of monthly player figures.
Beyond Among Us, Fortnite, PUBG, and Rocket League (which went free-to-play in 2020) continued to thrive, while Elder Scrolls Online brought players back to (Western) Skyrim with the Greymoor expansion.
- Among Us
- Rocket League
- Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor