Call of the Sea harkens back to mystery tales of old, telling the story of a mysterious island, a missing husband, a cursed disease, and a woman on a quest to connect them all together. Not only is the tale compelling from start to finish, Call of the Sea’s logic puzzles are JUST tough enough to solve without beating your head against a wall, but still feel immensely satisfying – at the end of most of them, you feel like a bonafide genius, but it’s all in the game’s sly design. By the time you’ve finished this compact (but compelling) journey, you’ll just want to start it all over again, hoping something of its ilk comes to fill the void before the black ooze takes over.
Call of the Sea also won IGN’s People’s Choice for the best Xbox console-exclusive game of the year! For more, check out our full Call of the Sea review here!
Below are our other favorite Xbox console exclusives of 2020. You may notice that there were only four nominees in this category. After a lengthy internal debate, our editorial team felt there were only four truly great experiences on Xbox consoles this year, and didn’t want to add anything just to round out the numbers.
The Best Xbox Console Exclusives of 2020
Watch the video or click through the gallery above, or scroll down for the full list!
The only thing more surprising than the return of Rare’s long-dormant Battletoads is the fact that 2020’s revival is genuinely great. The notoriously difficult beat ‘em up returned after a 26-year hiatus with a compact 2D adventure tuned for a modern audience, thanks to more accessible difficulty options (though the endless frustration of its predecessors is preserved in its most difficult setting).
Battletoads’ greatest strength, however, lies in its delightful Saturday morning cartoon presentation and the unexpectedly engaging, self-aware story of Rash, Zitz, and Pimple’s attempt to escape the depths of irrelevance and reclaim their ’90s fame.
For more, check out our full Battletoads review here!
In hindsight, it makes perfect sense, but the gritty, bloody world of Microsoft’s Gears series adapted surprisingly well to the turn-based tactical battles of Gears Tactics.
This great-looking riff on XCOM-style combat has some clever ideas that allow you to chain together your movements and attacks if you equip the right loot and think a couple of moves ahead, and the results of executing a well-planned turn are as devastating to the enemy as they are satisfying to do.
For more, check out our full Gears Tactics review here!
Phantasy Star Online 2 (NA Release)
Xbox has never been known for its lineup of Japanese games or its MMORPGs, but Sega’s Phantasy Star Online 2 was a big stand-out surprise for 2020. Originally released in Japan almost a decade ago, this online action RPG carries the torch of the Dreamcast/GameCube/PC original into bold new directions.
Swapping the slow-paced targeting-based combat of most MMOs for something that feels more inspired by Devil May Cry, PSO2 is a jam-packed free-to-play game that’s stacked to the brim with content and character customization. It’s crossplay with PC as well so you’ll never have to worry about finding a group of ARKs to adventure with.
For more, check out our full PSO2 2020 review here!
There are plenty of other awards beyond just the Xbox console exclusive! Check out all our platform, genre, and design winners – and, of course, our picks for this year’s GotY – below!
Best Games by Platform
Best Games by Genre
Game Development and Craft Awards
Be sure to check out all of our other Game of the Year award winners, as well as our picks for the best movies, TV shows, comics, and anime of 2020!*Note: this category represents our choices for the best games exclusively on each console platform – while Gear Tactics is available on PC, for example, it is an Xbox console exclusive.