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How to prepare for 2020's biggest sequels

A new year; a new boatload of sequels to games you barely remember.

A cursory glance at 2020’s release schedule reveals that we’re in for a tremendously sequel heavy year. The triple-A games that are already announced — like The Last of Us Part 2, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2, Dying Light 2, Halo Infinite and Doom Eternal — are just The Tip of the Iceberg 2: Electric Boogaloo. We’re also in for some high profile indie sequels, like Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Spelunky 2, and a raft of follow-ups that will likely arrive in 2020 — Horizon Zero Dawn 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 5, and Assassin’s Creed Vikings to name a few — but haven’t been officially announced yet.

Whereas many of 2019’s most talked about games, like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Disco Elysium, Outer Wilds, The Outer Worlds, Control and Death Stranding, introduced us to compelling new worlds (or wilds), 2020 will bring back a yearbook’s worth of familiar faces. You know what that means right? You may have a lot of catching up to do, and we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find a list of all the biggest sequels of the year and estimated hour counts for the mainline games that came before if you want to catch up (using HowLongToBeat.com’s All Styles estimates). Additionally, we’ve bolded the games that will likely impact the story of this year’s iteration. We’ve also included brief plot and gameplay primers on those games if you know you won’t have time to catch up. And, finally, we’ve noted whether you might already have access to a game via a subscription service like Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Now.

Sound good? Let’s go.

The Last of Us Part 2

  • Release Date: May 29, 2020
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • The Last of Us - 16.5 hours
    • The Last of Us: Left Behind - 2.5 hours
    • Total - 19 hours
  • Subscription Options: The PS3 version of The Last of Us and its excellent Left Behind DLC are both available on PlayStation Now. If you want to play the prettier PS4 version, The Last of Us: Remastered, which comes with Left Behind, is one of Sony’s $20 PlayStation Hits titles.

Plot and Gameplay: The Last of Us is a story-driven series and, if you have time, you should plan on playing the original game as well as the excellent Left Behind DLC before Part 2 hits in May. If not, read on.

In The Last of Us, players take on the role of Joel, a grieving father tasked with escorting a teenage girl named Ellie across a post-apocalyptic America ravaged by a zombie outbreak caused by a fungal infection. Along the way, the pair discover that Ellie is immune to the infection, and Joel escorts her to researchers so that they can study her immunity to find a cure.

When Joel discovers that this process would result in Ellie’s death, he kills a heap of researchers and rescues an unconscious Ellie — rendering it impossible for the remaining researchers to discover a cure. At that game’s conclusion, Joel lies to a guilt-wracked Ellie, telling her that there were many other people with immunities willing to volunteer, and the researchers simply didn’t need her.

The Last of Us Part 2 stars a grown-up Ellie on a still-foggy quest for revenge. It’s unclear so far who Ellie is avenging, but the most recent trailer indicated that Ellie’s love interest, Dina, may be especially vulnerable.

Half-Life: Alyx

  • Release Date: March 2020
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Half-Life - 12.5 hours
    • Half-Life 2 - 14.5 hours
    • Half-Life 2: Episode One - 4 hours
    • Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 6 hours
    • Total: 37 hours

Plot and Gameplay: The series that introduced us to the narrative-driven shooter is back this year with a VR prequel to Half-Life 2, starring Alyx Vance.

If your memory of the 1998 original is fuzzy, here’s a recap: in Half-Life, Gordon Freeman, a physicist at the Black Mesa Research Center, accidentally opens up a “resonance cascade” creating a portal (*wink wink*) between our world and an alternate dimension called Xen. This event results in the destruction of the lab, the violent deaths of plenty of scientists and an alien invasion. From there, Freeman escapes the lab, fighting head crabs and Marines sent to cover up the event along the way. He then fights a bunch more aliens, including some really big ones, and defeats the Nihilanth, the being maintaining the resonance cascade. In the end, he meets the G-Man, a mysterious being with a role to play in Half-Life: Alyx, who, canonically, places Freeman into stasis.

Half-Life: Alyx takes place before Half-Life 2, so you won’t need a full plot refresher on that game before strapping into your headset this March. But, as a reminder, in Gordon’s absence, Earth was conquered by the Combine, a technologically advanced race that was attracted to the planet by the resonance cascade. Eli Vance is the leader of the human resistance in the cyberpunk City 17. Alyx, his daughter, is Gordon’s companion throughout much of Half-Life 2 and the subsequent episodes, and the protagonist of the new game.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

  • Release Date: 2020
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines - 28.5 hours
    • Total: 28.5 hours

Plot and Gameplay: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was released in 2004. The moody, choice-driven first-person RPG was developed by Troika, the company co-founded by Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain in the years following their work on the original Fallout (and over a decade before they would reunite on last year’s The Outer Worlds). Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines takes place in the universe of the tabletop RPG Vampire: The Masquerade.

Bloodlines 2 moves the action from Los Angeles to Seattle and includes a new cast of characters. So, you don’t necessarily need to worry about getting caught up on the story of the first Bloodlines, but a primer on elements of the world would absolutely help - start by checking out the five main playable factions.

Watch Dogs Legion

  • Release Date: Late 2020
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Watch Dogs - 27.5 hours
    • Watch Dogs 2 - 29.5 hours
    • Total: 57 hours

Plot and Gameplay: Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 follow different protagonists and take place in different American cities, but share common design elements — they’re both open world games — and themes: they both features hackers against The Man. Watch Dogs Legion transplants the action to the UK, and casts the player as a group of tech-savvy resistance members (there is no main character; instead, you’ll swap among dozens of recruits) fighting back against an authoritarian government in post-Brexit London. If you don't want to play the previous games, here's five games that feature similar themes and gameplay to Watch Dogs Legion.

Halo Infinite

  • Release Date: Holiday 2020
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Halo: Combat Evolved - 10.5 hours
    • Halo 2 - 10.5 hours
    • Halo 3 - 10 hours
    • Halo 3: ODST - 8.5 hours
    • Halo: Reach - 10.5 hours
    • Halo 4 - 8.5 hours
    • Halo 5: Guardians - 9 hours
    • Total - 67.5 hours
  • Subscription Options: Every Halo game is available with Xbox Game Pass for consoles. Halo: Reach is the only title currently available on PC given the slow-trickle rollout of the Master Chief Collection on the platform.

Plot and Gameplay: Halo is a first-person shooter series where you play as Master Chief, who is a big, armoured space marine, and battle the Covenant, an alliance of alien species. In Halo Infinite, you will play as Master Chief again, and continue to battle aliens. Despite the numberless name, Halo Infinite is not a reboot, but rather a direct sequel to Halo 5: Guardians.

Doom Eternal

  • Release Date: March 20, 2020
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • The Ultimate Doom - 7 hours
    • Doom II: Hell on Earth - 8 hours
    • Doom 64 - 7.5 hours
    • Doom 3 - 12 hours
    • Doom (2016) - 14.5 hours
    • Total: 49 hours
  • Subscription Options: Doom (2016) is available on PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass for consoles.

Plot and Gameplay: id invented the first-person shooter with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom back in the early ‘90s. With 2016’s reboot, they took the franchise back to its move-fast-or-die-fast roots, incentivizing quick and close play with a shower of health-replenishing orbs upon each successful melee kill. Story has never been Doom’s primary concern — series co-creator John Carmack once famously compared the plot of a video game to the plot of a pornographic film — but id’s most recent take did include reams of lore on its locations, characters and monsters.

In Doom (2016) a group of Union Aerospace Corporation scientists stationed on Mars are attempting to solve the energy crisis on Earth by drawing power from Hell. This, predictably, doesn’t go well, with UAC researcher Olivia Pierce making a pact with the demons and unleashing them on the station. In a ploy to fight back, UAC leader Dr. Samuel Hayden, recovers a sarcophagus containing the Doom Slayer from Hell, where he was entombed with his Praetor suit. From here, the Doom Slayer rips and tears through Mars and Hell, killing hordes of demons and eventually defeating Pierce. Hayden, meanwhile, survives and teleports the Doom Slayer to an undisclosed location. 2020’s sequel, Doom Eternal, follows some of the same beats as Doom II: Hell On Earth, and early looks have shown our favorite demon killer rampaging through hell, Earth, and even heaven.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

  • Release Date: 2020 (out now in Japan)
  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Yakuza Kiwami - 29 hours
    • Yakuza Kiwami 2 - 32 hours
    • Yakuza 3 - 24.5 hours
    • Yakuza 4 - 35 hours
    • Yakuza 5 - 61.5 hours
    • Yakuza 6: The Song of Life - 29 hours
    • Total: 211 hours
  • Subscription Options: Yakuza 4 and 5 are currently available on PlayStation Now. Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 are all headed to Xbox Game Pass (PC and consoles) in early 2020.

Plot and Gameplay: Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon dropped the 7 for its releases outside of Japan, and for good reason. With a new protagonist and a new combat system, Like a Dragon should be a good entry point for folks looking to get into the acclaimed open-world action series. All the previous games focused on the ongoing adventures of a few specific characters, but short of a few cameos Like a Dragon is set to be a completely fresh start.

Expect a story steeped in melodrama, an open city to explore, lots of optional activities and side quests that are equal parts heartfelt and horny.

Wasteland 3

  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Wasteland - 34 hours
    • Wasteland 2 - 65 hours
    • Total: 99 hours
  • Subscription Options: Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut is available through PlayStation Now and for consoles and PC through Xbox Game Pass. This version of the game typically includes a key to the original Wasteland, though this may be complicated by the subscription model. If it isn’t included there, you can get Wasteland 1 - The Original Classic for $5.99 on Steam and GOG.

Plot and Gameplay: Like the original Wasteland and inXile’s 2014 spiritual successor, Wasteland 3 is an isometric RPG that follows a group of Rangers in the post-apocalypse. While the second outing took place in Arizona and Los Angeles, Wasteland 3 moves the action to the chilly climes of Colorado, where they’ll play as the last surviving Ranger of Team November. Expect party-based tactical combat, lots of text and hard choices.

Rumoured 2020 Games

Horizon Zero Dawn 2

  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Horizon Zero Dawn - Complete Edition - 63.5 hours
    • Total: 63.5 hours
  • Subscription Options: Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition is available via PlayStation Now until April 7, 2020.

Plot and Gameplay: Horizon Zero Dawn introduced us to Aloy a red-haired warrior with a masterful command of a bow, who was raised as an outcast from her tribe, the Nora. Aloy’s quest for acceptance, and later for answers, also introduced us to Horizon Zero Dawn’s fabulous post-post-apocalyptic world of tribal warriors and robot dinosaurs. If you haven’t played this one, please don’t just read a summary or watch a gameplay video. The combat is excellent — both when Aloy is in stealth and when she goes bows-blazin’ — and it integrates Uncharted-style cinematic storytelling with Far Cry-style open world antics better than maybe any other game. You can find a full Horizon Zero Dawn guide here if you need a little help.

Untitled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel

  • HLTB Estimate:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - 87 hours
    • Total: 436 hours
  • Subscription Options: Breath of the Wild isn't available on subscription, but if you want to get old-school, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are available for free through Nintendo Switch Online.

Plot and Gameplay: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild opened with Link’s awakening (lol) from a 100-year sleep in a vast, dangerous Hyrule. Breath of the Wild was a radical reimagining of the Zelda formula. The hyper-linear structure of past titles was exploded, replaced with an open-ended game that allowed the player to take on Ganon within the first hour if they could pull it off. Traditional dungeons were out, replaced instead by roving mechanical giants that the player was tasked with infiltrating and manipulating to solve puzzles. And a chemistry engine was introduced allowing for surprising systemic interactions and emergent play.

Like most of the series, Breath of the Wild ultimately takes place in the same continuity as the rest of the Zelda series but is also broadly disconnected from everything that came before it. It is a stand-alone adventure - direct sequels are rare in Zelda. With that said, the as-yet untitled next Zelda title for Switch is a direct continuation of its predecessor - it is, for all intents and purposes, Breath of the Wild 2, following in the footsteps of a handful of other direct sequels in the series like Phantom Hourglass, A Link Between Worlds and Majora's Mask. That's why the HLTB list doesn't include about twenty games, by the way.

Given that this is set to be a fairly straightforward sequel to Nintendo's 2017 masterpiece, you probably won't need to brush up on your Zelda lore much beyond the events of Breath of the Wild. If you've no time for that, here's a quick primer: Link and Zelda vanquished Ganon and set about rebuilding Hyrule - and the teaser for this game showed the pair discovering a petrified skeleton that looked an awful lot like Ganondorf. Curious...

Assassin’s Creed: Vikings/Ragnarok

  • HLTB Estimate:
    • Assassin’s Creed - 19 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed II - 26 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood - 22 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Revelations - 17 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed III - 26 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag - 38.5 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Rogue - 19.5 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Unity - 29.5 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate - 32.5 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Origins - 55.5 hours
    • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey - 84 hours
    • Total: 370.5 hours

Plot and Gameplay: The Assassin’s Creed series got a soft reboot in 2017 with the Egypt-set Origins, that leaned heavily into RPG elements with color-coded loot, a Witcher 3-style sprawling open-world and Souls-like combat. Odyssey followed suit, moving the adventure to Greece, expanding the map and hour count and generally being an extremely massive game. Every Assassin’s Creed game has included some kind of modern day framing device, and the last two games have followed Layla Hassan, a former Abstergo researcher, who left the organization to work alongside the Assassins after an attempt on her life. If past games in the series are any indication, the next Assassin’s Creed will likely tell its own standalone story while continuing Layla’s narrative outside the Animus.

If that’s not enough to keep you occupied this year, know this: it will take you 122 hours to play every Call of Duty campaign in advance of the rumoured Black Ops V, 80 hours to slash through Nioh in preparation for Nioh 2, 17.5 hours to play Psychonauts and its VR sequel, Rhombus of Ruin, and at least 43 hours to get caught up on your Dying Light. Oh, and set aside 10 hours to play through Ori and the Blind Forest before Will of the Wisps comes out next month.

On the indie side, you may also want to dip back into Spelunky, Little Nightmares and Axiom Verge before their sequels arrive. And if you’ve never played the No More Heroes games you’ve got an undisclosed amount of time before No More Heroes 3 arrives sometime in 2020.

Like we said up top, that's a lot of sequels. And we’ve barely touched on what to expect from next-gen consoles. Recent delays have been disappointing, but sooner or later, 2020 will be a hell of a year for games with numbers in their titles.

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