Holiday gaming guide 2020: The year’s best open-world role-playing games

Also: subscriptions from Xbox and Apple Arcade

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This winter, there’s no better way to spend time in isolation than settling in with a video game. And while not everyone is getting a new console for Christmas this year—they are going to be difficult to find—there’s still lots of games you can gift this holiday season. My list includes things for all the different systems and for gamers of different ages and with different interests. Game on.

Open world role-playing

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Ubisoft)

Assassin’s Creed hasn’t seen an assassin quite like Eivor before. The Viking hero starts the game off as a crazed raider but through the course of the story, which takes you to early Britain, becomes a subtle and skilled hunter. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal also made it more fun to discover the narrative through exploration. Find it here. (PS4, PS5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X. Rated mature.)

Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt Red)

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Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt Red)

In Cyberpunk 2077, players become V, a mercenary in Night City, where cybernetic modifications are available to everyone and essential to your survival. This future is dangerous and profane, a world where corporations and gangs compete for control over resources and tech. Keanu Reeves has a substantial starring role as Johnny Silverhand. Find it here. (PS4, PS5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X. Rated mature.)

Ghost of Tsushima (Sony)

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Ghost of Tsushima (Sony)

Set in feudal Japan during the time of the samurai, Ghost of Tsushima will have you wielding katana, of course, and bows. You’ll roam the beautiful countryside on horseback, too, discovering Shinto shrines and hot springs. But where this game really differs from other open world adventures is that you’ll also compose poetry. Find it here. (PS5. Rated mature.)

No Man’s Sky (Hello Games)

No Man’s Sky (Hello Games)

Less an open world and more an open universe, No Man’s Sky has, through regular updates and improvements, delivered on its promise of being a game that might never end. You’ll embody an explorer who travels through space, discovering new worlds and the mysteries they contain. You’ll never know what to expect as you meander through the stars immersed in a perfect soundtrack from 65daysofstatic. No Man’s Sky is also playable in PlayStation VR and Windows VR. Find it here. (PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X. Rated teen.)

Watch Dogs: Legion (Ubisoft)

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Watch Dogs: Legion (Ubisoft)

Coming from Ubisoft Toronto, it’s difficult to play Watch Dogs: Legion without wondering if it’s non-fiction. This version of London is under the grip of corporate fascism, and it’s up to you to build the resistance. You’ll do that by recruiting people to join the cause, and in a video game first, any character walking around in the world is a potential recruit. Find it here. (PS4, PS5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X. Rated mature.)

Subscriptions

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

This subscription comes in one-month ($17) and three-month ($30 to $50) options and opens up a wealth of all-you-can-play gaming on Xbox consoles as well as Windows computers. It also includes Xbox Live Gold, which is required for some multiplayer gaming.

Included are more than 100 games ranging from Batman: Arkham Knight to Gears 5, Forza racing games, and the two Ori platformers, Blind Forest and Will of the Wisps. There’s also the remakes of Tim Schafer’s classic adventure games, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and Full Throttle.

You’ll also be able to play the entire Halo series over again while you wait for Halo Infinite next year.

And because Microsoft recently bought game publisher Bethesda, Xbox Game Pass is going to include the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Dishonored series of games.

Microsoft recently made a deal to include EA Play as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate which brings another 60 games to the catalogue, including Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, Sims 4, and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. Find it here.

Apple Arcade subscription

For gaming on the go, Apple Arcade’s $6 a month subscription gives you more than 100 ad-free games that you can play on an iPad, iPhone, computer, and on your big screen with Apple TV. And you can pick up on any of the devices wherever you left off.

These games are ad-free and also free of in-app purchases, and you don’t need an online connection to play these games.

All Apple Arcade titles are family-friendly and come in a variety of genres, including puzzle games (Grindstone from Toronto’s Capy Games is amazing, as is The Enchanted World from Saskatoon’s Noodlecake), adventure games like Beyond a Steel Sky and Creaks, both of which have fantastic art styles, arcade sports (Ballistic Baseball), and role-playing (Cat Quest II and Oceanhorn II).

This is Part 1 of the eCentralSports Holiday Gaming Guide 2020. Watch for Part 2, coming soon.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information see our disclosures here.

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