In one of the closest Game of the Year results we've ever had, Returnal takes a well-earned second place spot in our countdown. This is a notable release for many reasons; it's Housemarque's biggest and most ambitious game to date, it's one of only a few true PlayStation 5 exclusives, and it's the first proper attempt at a triple-A title with a rogue-like structure. More important than all of that, though, is that it's an absolute firecracker.
The studio is best known for its small but explosive arcade games, with the likes of Super Stardust HD, Resogun, and Nex Machina under its belt. For Returnal, the team has really pushed to reach a higher level, and we'd say it's definitely achieved that. The third-person shooter retains a very pure arcade-like energy, with wonderfully tight, fast-paced gameplay at its heart. This is paired with a smart and challenging rogue-like framework, where numerous variables mean each run through the world of Atropos is different from the last. Throw in some excellent combat design (and some brilliant bosses) and you already have a recipe for an incredibly addictive experience.
However, there's more to it than just a neon light show and some joyously slick shooting. Like Hades before it, Returnal is built around the idea you'll die many times, and so it slowly peels back the curtain on new upgrades, items, and weaponry that mean you're seeing new things consistently. This also includes narrative elements as well; despite repeating the same time loop over and over, you steadily learn more about Selene's plight as the game drip-feeds you an enigmatic story. It's wonderfully done.
As a combination, it probably shouldn't work, but it does, and it shows off the PS5 better than most for good measure. Loading is almost zero, the 3D audio is some of the best we've heard yet, and the DualSense usage is truly excellent. It might not take first place in our list, but we'd say this is one of PS5's best games to date.
You can read our full Returnal PS5 review here.
Push Square's Game of the Year list is primarily decided by an internal staff vote. Our community Game of the Year poll is also taken into account. Feel free to agree or disagree with our list in the comments section below!
You can check out all of our Game of the Year coverage by clicking the link.