Maybe there weren’t as many “heavy hitters” as there were the last couple years, but 2019 was definitely not a bad year in gaming as it was extremely difficult to come up with the 2019 releases I sincerely liked the most.
Last year was pretty much an arm’s race between Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War (though Spider-Man ended up being our Game of the Year), and while 2019 lacks anything that really packs the same punch, it was a fantastic year nonetheless.
In fact, we saw some releases we never thought would happen. Death Stranding was a Kojima punchline to a lot of people, but it saw its release more than a month ago. Remember how impossible it was to think about the releases of Kingdom Hearts III and Shenmue III? Well, they already happened. Not only that, but we’re actually expecting Final Fantasy VII Remake to come out next year, and that means we’re getting close to the end of the generation. Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t even the biggest release of next year, but we’ll talk about that once GOTY is over.
As I do every year, I do want to quickly take the time to talk about a few games that I played that didn’t quite make my Top 10, but deserved to be Honorable Mentions anyway…
Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch)
This was really going to be #10, but when I think about the amount of fun I had with Super Mario Maker 2, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Still, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a fantastic game with lots to do, and it’s definitely worthy of a pickup on Switch.
Baba is You (Switch)
This is an indie puzzler that’s basically a deep dive into basic programming. There are rules, and you follow them, with all sorts of gameplay logic involved. I’m nowhere near finished, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.
Ape Out (Switch, PC)
Ape Out was one of the Devolver’s heavy hitters, and it was about as stylistic as it comes. You use a crazed ape in an attempt to escape captivity, all while killing armed guards resulting in a euphoric and colorful mess of blood, and the music? Fantastic.
So without further ado, let’s get to my real top 10 games of 2019:
10. Super Mario Maker 2 – Switch
If Nintendo put the same effort into keeping Mario Maker 2 as updated as the original one, this would be much higher. Mario Maker is the very definition of evergreen gaming done right, and the Link DLC proves that. All that aside, the single player mode is actually the best 2D Mario we’ve gotten in a long time, and that makes it one of the best games this year.
9. Concrete Genie – PS4
Concrete Genie is a game that had my attention as soon as it was announced. It ended up being a far cry of what I thought it would be, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s a simple 3D platformer with a great message and fantastic art, and it was the perfect palette cleanser in a year that had a lot of deep games being released.
8. Life is Strange 2 – PS4, Xbox One, PC
Life is Strange 2 was nothing short of fantastic, and I thought every bit of the game was better than the original. The main problem with the game was that it was way too long of a wait between every episode, and oftentimes I found myself forgetting what happened. Either way, the developers took a bold approach by going with a new cast of characters and setting this game up in Trump’s America, and I think they succeeded in what they sought out to do.
7. Pokémon Sword/Shield – Switch
It’s been a while since a mainstream Pokémon release has gotten this many people legitimately excited. While we didn’t get the “Breath of the Wild” of the Pokémon franchise, it’s about as pure as Pokémon gets while taking the necessary steps to evolve as a series, and I can’t help but think of what’s beyond the horizon in the world of Pokémon.
6. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – PS4, Xbox One, PC
After the debacle that was Star Wars Battlefront II in 2018, getting a full-on single player Star Wars experience that’s actually good is the breath of fresh air we all needed. Though I would’ve preferred the game if it focused more on exploration and less about being the Star Wars version of Dark Souls, there was a lot of fun to be had and probably my best experience with a Star Wars game. I just wish they waited a few months to polish its rough edges because there are a lot of them, and that’s what kept me from putting in my Top 5.
5. Control – PS4, Xbox One, PC
I’m a fan of Remedy Games, and Control is a game that finally puts things together after Alan Wake and Quantum Break were so flawed. While I would’ve preferred a better map system and wish that AI wasn’t being cheap when things got too red and black, I enjoyed every minute of Control where I wasn’t dead.
4. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III – PS4
Yeah, yeah, there’s some bias here because the Trails series is beloved on this site, but it’s for good reason. NIS America actually did a bang up job with the translation, and the amount of depth and charming nods to the rest of the series really make Cold Steel III a treat for Trails fans.
3. Katana ZERO – Switch, PC
Katana ZERO is everything that defines awesome. Its unique blend of being cerebral, quick, and precise gameplay make the experience extremely satisfying. Devolver published a bunch of gems this year, and this is the one that shines brightest.
2. Tetris 99 – Switch
It’s crazy how a game virtually unchanged since its age-old existence can still feel new just by emphasizing on an aspect even more. Tetris 99 is still the only battle royale game I play and will continue to play and thanks to additional DLC making the game playable without a network connection, it’ll be a mainstay on my Switch.
1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Switch
It’s pretty typical of Fire Emblem to come off as imposing, especially with reports of the game being over 240 hours long thanks to multiple angles of the game’s overarching plot. Not only was it approachable, but the storytelling at meta did enough to make me want to play all the quests immediately after finishing the previous playthroughs. Fire Emblem has always been great, but the amount of time I spent thinking about this game has given it its GOTY potential.
That’s my Top 10. I gotta give a hand to Nintendo–at this time last year, if you told me most of my favorite games would be on the Switch, I would’ve thought you were insane particularly because we knew nothing about what was to come out this year. Next year is an even bigger blur, and with this console generation capping itself off, we’ll be in for some interesting tides in the near future, and I look forward to every moment of it.