The staff vote was relatively split here, but we ended up giving the Best Career Mode in 2020 award to NBA 2K21 and its MyPlayer mode. We did not differentiate here between next gen and current gen, but obviously they are different (minus the story mode components overall) between the two versions. That being said, we felt either version still ended up being at the top of the list here, but it was close. NHL 21‘s revamped career mode was in the discussion, and then Road to the Show and F1 2020‘s career mode also came up. We did not consider UFC, Madden, or FIFA for very long here, but all three also have some interesting elements.
As it relates to other choices out there, I want to mention I was a little surprised PGA Tour 2K21 did not come up, like, at all in either the staff or community vote. It’s not an amazing career mode, but I know a lot of people still play a ton of rounds — I guess the gameplay is more the draw there than anything else.
So why did MyPlayer win? Well, by being a volume shooter. The story mode, The City/Neighborhood, Rec, WNBA MyPlayer, and on it goes. There is just so much here to do. MyPlayer is simultaneously an incredibly in-depth and interesting mode, and then also a very disappointing mode at the same time. The microtransactions suck, there’s still no proper re-spec concept, and latency is still so hit or miss depending on the day. Even ignoring the buggy next-gen launch, MyPlayer can be very rough around the edges.
Still, you’re going to find something that you enjoy doing. Whether you spend all your time in The Rec, or you just play 2-on-2, or you want to go play 3-on-3 in the new WNBA environment, or you just want to wander around The City and dream about all the awesome things 2K could be doing with it if they weren’t so wrapped up in pilfering an extra couple bucks from you around every corner, look long enough and you’ll get hooked somewhere.
This is a long way of saying that this year it felt like we had some imperfect choices, and NBA 2K21 wins out in a way by just being crazy enough to try and shove as much stuff as possible into the career mode and win out that way.
With Road to the Show, it’s a faithful companion at this point, but it can’t quite compete with the depth found in 2K. The dynamic challenges, the relationships, and the RPG elements still work, and you’ll find people on staff who still run through multiple seasons every year. However, it’s just sort of there. I wouldn’t say that’s a negative because it doesn’t feel like the mode is falling behind, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be anything too innovative either. The MLB The Show series thrives on being consistent, and sometimes that consistency leads to playing it “safe” in some regards.
NBA 2K and MLB The Show are sort of polar opposites in that regard. I always have confidence most everything in The Show will work (sans stuff within franchise mode), but that polish means it doesn’t feel like as much goes into the game every year. With NBA 2K, I know I’m going to get new experiences every year, but I have little faith they won’t be buggy messes. Depending on what type of person you are, one of those experiences might speak to you more than the other.
With F1 2020, its career mode helped secure the Best Racing Game award, but it just did not have enough boosters among the staff to help it over the hump. Bob is the de-facto racing writer on staff, and so he has to try and sell people sometimes on these things. That being said, we can appreciate that F1 2020 finally unleashed a less restrictive career mode where you could manage your own team, deal with retirements, add fictional sponsors, and really cut loose for the first time in a heavily licensed F1 game.
Lastly, NHL 21 caught up with the times with the updates to its career mode, and we commend that development team for that. The issue with NHL is it just gets a little stale year to year. There is a certain flow to the seasons, and it works in this RPG mold, but it’s more interesting in the first year or two rather than in year three and beyond. Still, that development team had a ton of catching up to do after neglecting that mode for years, so to even get back in the conversation should be considered a job well done there.
Community Vote – Best Career Mode In 2020
- NBA 2K21 – MyPlayer
- MLB The Show 20 – Road to the Show
- F1 2020 – Career Mode
The community vote went somewhat similar to our staff vote. Again, NHL 21 ranked higher in our staff vote, while FIFA’s career mode and Madden’s Face of the Franchise did a bit better in the community vote. Nevertheless, I would say we were mostly aligned with the community in a general sense. If anything, the community voting was a little closer with NBA 2K21 MyPlayer winning with 39 percent of the vote and Road to the Show coming in at 33 percent of the vote.
In short, congratulations to the 2K development team as NBA 2K21 MyPlayer takes home the Operation Sports Best Career Mode in 2020 award.