Persona 5 Royal is 2020’s best game according to Metacritic averages, but it’s flown under the radar, especially for a game of its caliber.
2020 saw the release of plenty Game of the Year contenders, but now that the year has come to an end, Persona 5 Royal has claimed the top spot on Metacritic’s charts – so why aren’t more people talking about it? When fans discuss their favorite games over the past year, flashy ones like Hades, The Last of Us Part 2, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake tend to come to the fore. Beyond those, 2020 also saw the release of juggernauts like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Ghost of Tsushima, helping establish a roster of contenders that’s arguably as good as any year that came before it.
Persona 5 Royal, for its part, is the best version of an already great game. Persona 5 released in 2016 in Japan and 2017 for the rest of the world, and currently sits at a 93 Metacritic score, cementing it as one of the best modern JRPGs of the past decade. Persona 5 Royal was released at the end of March 2020 in the west and enhanced the game’s core experience by making a slew of quality-of-life changes, complementing those with hours of new content, fresh characters, and more. Far from just preserving what was already loved by fans, Persona 5 Royal tweaked mechanics, listened to people who played it, and released what feels more like a remaster than an extension of the initial game’s experience.
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That’s why Persona 5 Royal ended 2020 as the highest-rated game on Metacritic, with a 95 average that put it a full 2 points ahead of contenders like Hades and The Last of Us Part II. So why aren’t people talking about Persona 5 Royal more? As it turns out, the game released into a perfect storm of external factors that made its reception more muted than might normally be the case. Animal Crossing: New Horizons released on March 20, 2020, 11 days before P5R graced western consoles, and by the time Atlus’ game arrived, Animal Crossing was a global phenomenon. Part of that can be attributed to people around the world being stuck inside and needing an escape – another factor that saw attention justifiably drawn elsewhere during the release period of Persona 5 Royal – but Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a legitimate game of the year contender regardless of the context it arrived in.
Persona 5 Royale’s Release Was Overshadowed By FF7
That’s a tough act to follow, but it didn’t stop there for Persona 5 Royal. The JRPG fanbase is a passionate, dedicated group of people that generally prioritizes releases into the genre far above other options, so even with Animal Crossing‘s surge in popularity, there were a number of people more interested in what Atlus was offering. Unfortunately for Persona 5 Royal, that same group of people ended up fixated on another JRPG that released 11 days after P5R: Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
What may be one of the biggest Final Fantasy releases in the history of the storied JRPG franchise happened almost immediately after Persona 5 Royal, and given the amount of time needed to complete either of those titles, a lot of players may have cut their P5R time short to focus on FF7R. Persona 5 Royal‘s status as a mostly-remastered version of a game most fans played in 2017 also hurt it here, as Final Fantasy 7 Remake was a completely remade version of a game most fans first played over two decades prior.
Obviously, the major game releases that sandwiched Persona 5 Royal‘s own launch didn’t hurt the game’s success or reception, but it certainly drew attention away from it and made for a dizzying period of options that made the entire month-long period feel like a blur. That, coupled with the fact that many would argue Persona 5 Royal isn’t fully a “new” game, made for a scenario that saw 2020’s highest-rated game on Metacritic feel like it was barely discussed at all by the time the year came to a close.
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