The Biggest Video Game Surprises of 2020

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2020 was a year to remember, both in and out of gaming, but the year was especially filled with games wonderful, beautiful, tranquil, and just plain fun. And perhaps more than ever, video games were an much-needed outlet in 2020 for many.

The gaming world itself was also surprising, as news came in distinctive ways, and in a year filled with surprises, here are the biggest in no particular order.

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9 Microsoft Purchases Bethesda

It is hard to find a bigger surprise of the gaming world in 2020 than Microsoft's acquisition of Zenimax Media, parent company of Bethesda Game Studios. There are so many moving parts to this dynamic move from Microsoft and still so many lingering questions. Regardless of the specifics, the bombshell announcement that took place on September 28, 2020, is one that sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment world.

Part of the reason why the Bethesda purchase was so shocking was that there were very few, if any, hints of the acquisition leading up to the news. Although game studios are snagged quite often, this one is big for many reasons. For one thing, the $7.5 billion acquisition is the second biggest in gaming history, behind only Tencent buying Supercell. Secondly, Xbox has gone from a company that perhaps did not have the best first-party lineup, with only games like Halo, Forza, and Gears to show off to the company that owns Alpha Dog Games, Arkane Studios, Bethesda Softworks, id Software, MachineGames, Roundhouse Studios, Tango Gameworks, and ZeniMax Online Studios. As a result, it now owns Doom, Fallout, Starfield, The Elder Scrolls, Prey, Wolfenstein, Fallout, Dishonored, and anything else those talented developers come up with.

8 The Design of PS5

During The Game Awards 2019, Microsoft struck first by unveiling the design of the next generation of its video game console, the Xbox Series X. Many believed that it took a bold stance with the console, both with the rectangular design of the system and with the name choice being perhaps too close to the name of the previous generation. But that was so 2019. 2020 was when the PlayStation 5 was revealed, and it was rather jaw-dropping.

The design of the PS5 was unveiled in early June, and it instantly drew comparisons to everything from football stadiums to wi-fi routers. While the OG PlayStation up through the PS4 have all had traditional designs (as had the controllers even), the PS5 threw a curveball at fans and the internet had a field day. The PS5 memes were endless, but that didn't stop the sales when the console launched in November. It is nearly impossible to find a PS5 and the console is seen as a huge success. Even if the design is seen as a huge surprise for many, the success is not shocking at all.

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7 The Rise of Among Us

By now, the game Among Us is a surprise to almost no one. But when the game launched in 2018, and when it sat in the iOS and Android Marketplace for two years, it was known by a very small crowd. It could have easily gone on to be a little known title that was recognized by very few. Instead, Among Us is the most played game ever by some accounts and has won multiple awards.

The Biggest Video Game Surprises of 2020

It is remarkable that the game has risen to such great heights after laying dormant for two years. Among Us is also a game that is extremely fun to stream and follow along on Twitch and YouTube, as even politicians have joined online for fun and fundraisers. Ultimately, Among Us is a massive surprise hit and one of the defining moments of the industry in 2020.

6 New Mass Effect

During The Game Awards 2020, it was revealed that Mass Effect will continue. A nearly two-minute teaser trailer of the new Mass Effect shows off cinematic footage of far off galaxies, floating debris, space ships, and gorgeous music. Cryptic imagery is shown off during the final video of The Game Awards, so the audience is led to believe something special is being shown. The last bit of the trailer showcases a character in the snow, picking up an item that shows off the patented N7 insignia, and that is when it becomes obvious what is happening.

5 NEO The World Ends With You Announcement

As far as a game announcement, it would be difficult to find anything more surprising than a sequel to a cult classic Nintendo DS game, but that is the case with NEO: The World Ends with You. The original The World Ends with You is a fan-favorite RPG on the DS that released over a decade ago in 2007. After so many years of hoping for a sequel, each passing year made it seem less realistic that another game in the series would ever release. But finally, that dream became a reality when NEO: The World Ends with You was announced just last month. The game will release on the Nintendo Switch and the PS4 in the Summer of 2021.

4 Super Mario Anniversary

One of the more exciting rumors all year long was some sort of celebration of the 35 year anniversary of Super Mario. Whether it be a new game, a collection of 3D Mario games, or something else, it seemed that Nintendo had something Mario up its sleeve. But the longer the year went on, the more Nintendo fans doubted that anything would actually happen, and the fear was that nothing would happen at all was prevalent. Then, Nintendo came out of left field with a myriad of Mario goodness.

This anniversary revealed the wonderful Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection (Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy) and Super Mario 35, a last man standing game similar to Tetris 99. A third game as a part of the Super Mario anniversary celebration is a limited-release Game & Watch physical Super Mario game. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury was also announced during this Super Mario Anniversary reveal, a game that is headed to the Nintendo Switch on February 12, 2021.

3 Steve in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Fans have been imagining Steve joining Smash Bros. for years, which is why it is great that he finally joined the cast of the game. While so many characters are already natural fighters, Steve is all about surviving, exploration, and crafting. It's hard to imagine him being a good fit for the game, which is part of the reason why he was a surprise Smash fighter, and therefore a perfect fit.

The Steve Super Smash Bros Ultimate reveal trailer was amazing and shocking, as it blew fans away. Masahiro Sakurai, the game's director, had to rework every stage just to fit Steve's moveset to allow for his blocks, TNT, and more. The final result is a crossover character that very few Nintendo fans saw coming, but one that so many appreciate.

2 Halo Infinite Delay

One of the more disappointing surprises of the year, initially, was the delay of Halo Infinite. The game was supposed to be one that came alongside the launch Xbox Series X/S, bringing with it the next generation of gaming, very much like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did with the Nintendo Switch. However, in the end, this surprise will likely be a good thing.

The game clearly was not ready, as was made evident by some of the internet poking fun when the gameplay was revealed over the fall. If the game was released in a broken state, it would have made the release of the Xbox Series X/S look very bad, especially next to the PS5. As it stands, both the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S released rather well. And now, both consoles are set up to have some success moving forward, and the Xbox Series X/S has a game in Halo Infinite that could be huge in 2021. 343 says the delay of Halo Infinite will be worth the wait, and that will be good for fans.

1 Dan Houser Leaves Rockstar

Rockstar is one of the more rock-solid developers in the business. With companies going through turmoil or drama here and there, it seems like Rockstar is always there to make triple-A games every four to five years. When co-founder Dan Houser announced he was leaving Rockstar in February, it was a shocker, and the company will not be the same. It still has the talent in place to make great games, but this is the equivalent of a Miyamoto, a Todd Howard, Gabe Newell, etc leaving. It's never just up to one person, though, and Rockstar-quality games are still in the pipelines. Whatever he does next, Houser has earned his pedigree.

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About The AuthorJonathan Ammerman(1264 Articles Published)

Ever since Jonathan first laid his eyes on level 1-1 in Super Mario Bros., he has been hooked on all things video games. A self-proclaimed Nintendo nerd, Jonathan has owned every single Nintendo console (save the Virtual Boy) but also became a big fan of Xbox and PlayStation once the 2000s rolled around. Through news, features, reviews, and previews at Game Rant, Jonathan believes it is just as important to be critical in journalism as it is to be thrilled about the joy that top-notch game design can provide.

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