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Alex Boniello's Top 10 Games of 2019

Broadway's favorite son found some time between scenes to bang out his favorite games of the year.

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Broadway Alex sings and dances on Broadway for your amusement. You can follow him on Twitter.

Hey Giant Bomb community! You may know me from hanging out on a few streams, but if you don’t, my name is Alex Boniello (or Broadway Alex as Dan so lovingly calls me.) I’m an actor who is currently on Broadway in a show called Dear Evan Hansen. It’s a good gig.

I played a bunch of games this year. I have some thoughts. Also, just assume that I’m going to spoil stuff, okay? So be careful!

First up, I wanna throw out two honorable mentions, as well as most disappointing, and best moment.

HONORABLE MENTION

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So, this is a quick one, and it didn’t make it onto my list purely because it didn’t come out this year. (Yeah, yeah, I know a new box did. But still) I just wanted to shout out the Jackbox games for bringing my friends and I some pretty great nights this year. I nearly pissed my pants laughing on more than one occasion.

Few experiences can bring “non-gamers” together like the Jackbox packs.

Devil May Cry 5

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I had a blast playing DMC5. It looked great on PC, felt snappy as hell, and had a lot of over the top action which is always hilarious. But…I fully forgot that I played it. No part of the experience stuck with me for more than a few weeks. Good game, for sure, but I won’t remember it past this year.

But if it’s on a Steam sale or something? Grab it! You’ll probably have fun.

MOST DISAPPOINTING

Kingdom Hearts III

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I simply could not have hated the experience of playing Kingdom Hearts 3 more. Like some of you, I have been waiting, foolishly, for this game since…like…2005. That’s a LONG TIME. It’s honestly probably unfair to ask a game to live up to 15 years of hype but…I was just asking for it to be decent.

The gameplay was mostly not fun, a lot of the voice acting was…nottttttt great, the worlds were just purely Disney with basically no Final Fantasy elements anywhere to be found, and holy shit don’t get me going on the story.

Parts of this game felt like they were specifically designed to piss me off. There were so many pregnant pauses in the dialogue that this game must have given birth to nine hundred children by now. And the story, fuck, it’s like it went entirely out of its way to be completely inaccessible and obtuse. Even the parts that made sense were just…stupid. And YES. I played the side games and did the work to follow along and also watched a 45 minute long recap video to make sure I grasped what I could.

I think this game sucked.

YIKES! Off to a negative start! Sorry! But…I’VE NOW GOT SOMETHING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT THIS GAME.

BEST MOMENT

Donald Duck Reveals Himself As The Most Powerful Mage In Existence

Okay so there’s a part near the end of KH3 where Donald Duck casts a spell called “ZettaFlare.” It’s an earth-shatteringly powerful spell that made me laugh so hard that I literally threw up one time. I’m serious. I haven’t stopped thinking about it all year.

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Lemme break it down.

As Donald starts to cast the spell, Goofy, a guy who knows Donald real well, goes “DONALD, NO.”

This, already, is hilarious because it’s like, what, did they talk about it? Like Goofy knows what Donald has been capable of this whole time? He quakes in fear of what this fucking Mage Duck is hiding in his cloak?

So then he casts it, and as expected, it absolutely wrecks the planet and Donald faints from exhaustion. Once again, hilarious. Because he is a duck.

But then I was like, “wait how powerful was that spell? Isn’t “Flare” a top tier spell in Final Fantasy games? Wouldn’t zetta imply…like…MUCH stronger?”

Thank god for the internet cause a dude broke it down. Basically. Flare is so powerful that it’s referred to as the “nuke” spell in many games. Above this is “Mega Flare,” usually only used by summons like Bahamut or like super super strong bad guys. Above this is “Giga Flare” which is like specifically saved for INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONS.

ABOVE THIS EVEN is “Tera Flare” which has been known to ERASE UNIVERSES. It literally is the spell that ENDED Final Fantasy XIV. Like it SHUT DOWN THE SERVERS.

AND THEN ABOVE THIS IS ZETTA FLARE. It is CANONICALLY ONE QUADRILLION TIMES more powerful than Mega Flare. DONALD DUCK is the only character in the history of Final Fantasy to ever use this spell.

LET THAT HORSE SHIT SINK IN. DONALD DUCK IS THE MOST POWERFUL BLACK MAGE OF ALL TIME.

I saw him at Disney World back in March and got SCARED of him. The little kids asking for high fives simply did NOT KNOW.

Anyway, so yeah, that’s my favorite moment of 2019. Onto the games.

10. What the Golf?

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I’m not much of a phone game guy, outside of Threes which I still play daily on the subway. What the Golf was delightful. A wacky puzzle/golf game reminiscent of Katamari was certainly enough to put a big smile on my face. I laughed out loud more than once purely through gameplay, which is pretty novel, I think!

Bummer that you can’t outright buy it. You currently need an Apple Arcade subscription. Hopefully that changes. I’d love more people to have a swing at it. Get it? Swing? ( I’m sorry.)

9. Luigi’s Mansion 3

I love spooky shit, and I love Luigi. He’s a good guy.

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This game made my heart feel warm and fuzzy. It looks great, it plays (mostly) great, it sounds great, and Gooigi is great.

It’s for sure the best in the series, and I think the hotel floor system to break up levels was a huge improvement. It made me feel like I could take the game down in short bursts which is super appreciated, especially on the Switch.

Also… can Luigi, like, speak? Or is it just those few words? Someone got any lore on this?

8. Cadence of Hyrule

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I almost forgot about this game. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I beat it over the course of 24 hours. I devoured it, and couldn’t get enough.

I don’t have much to say that better writers haven’t already said, but I’d just like to point out that I think Nintendo allowing other trusted devs to take a crack at their beloved characters is a really cool thing. I loved NecroDancer years ago, so I was already gonna grab this one, but I bet there were so many people who didn’t have that team on their radar who grabbed it because “Hyrule” was in the title.

Cool stuff.

7. Super Mario Maker 2

It’s Mario Maker. What’s not to like?

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I have some great memories this year of Dan texting me at like 3 in the morning with no message other than a level code.

It was great witnessing Dan’s babyface turn. He started as a monster who just wanted to watch people scream, and slowly developed into a guy who just made great and fun levels. And honestly? They were SUCH good levels! Good job, Dan!

Also, my nephew loves Mario Maker, so seeing him get into his first game was super exciting for me.

6. Void Bastards

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I love when a game comes seemingly out of nowhere and blows me away. Thanks Void Bastards! I didn’t know you even existed until 10 minutes before I bought you!

I’m a sucker for procedural generation and rogue-like/light/whatever games, and this one scratched alllllll of those itches for me. Don’t have much else to say! Pick it up. I think it’s on Game Pass.

5. The Outer Worlds

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So, I’ve actually never played a Fallout game, so I realize that a lot of things I like about The Outer Worlds may not be new to a lot of you. For whatever reason, I gave it a try and was really quite charmed. I still don’t think the gameplay is really for me. It quickly gets kind of stale and predictable. But I had a great time becoming a charming genius who could talk his way out of anything. Also, Parvati is easily the best new character this year. Her asexuality was really handled quite beautifully, and she served as my moral compass throughout the entire game. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a companion character quite like her.

4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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I loved Sekiro. I hated Sekiro. I played all of Sekiro backstage at my job. On more than one occasion, I went on stage for a scene full of absolute rage because of stupid Owl and his stupid counter. I’ll never forget the first time that the ogre at the beginning of the game absolutely powerbombed me to hell. I laughed. I laughed, because I would cry if I did not.

For weeks, coworkers would enter my dressing room saying “You’re still playing this fucking ninja game?”

And to them I would reply with a soft and quiet sob.

Also fuck Lady Butterfly. And also that gorilla thing.

3. Resident Evil 2

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This game fucking rules. I love it. You really gotta play it.

Seriously I got nothin’ else. This game was rad.

Oh, also, I am so thankful it gave us that clip of Mr. X punching Abby in the face. Fuck. I laugh just thinking about it.

2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

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This game dominated my year. I played through it backstage, on a flight to Italy, at home, and on the subway. I had a ravenous need to see how each and every playthrough would end up. Could I do anything to change the outcome? Could I save someone who died in a previous playthrough? Does any of it matter?

If you look back at the rest of this list, you’ll probably see that I’m more of a gameplay guy than a story guy. Not that I don’t love a good story, of course! But it’s usually the gameplay that really keeps me around.

Not the case this time. The battle system was fine, and honestly at times a little boring, but it was the story that had its hooks in me. The game made me truly and deeply care about my students. I went SO far out of my way on more than one occasion to ensure their safety so that I could finish their arcs. Frankly, it’s rare that I give a shit. And I really, really did. My first playthrough was with the Black Eagles, which made watching Edelgard’s descent into madness in the other runs heartbreaking to watch.

But… that’s what the game is about. Seeing something from all sides is complicated. Nothing is black and white. Just like in life.

1. Outer Wilds

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So, full disclosure. This game was originally farther down the list because I hadn't finished it yet. I thought it was impressive, but it wasn't fully clicking with me. Time wasn’t on my side, and I had to submit my list, so I just vowed to finish it later.

But then the last few hours of the game happened. I immediately texted Dan and was like “I’VE MADE AN ERROR, PLEASE LET ME UPDATE MY G.O.T.Y. LIST.” I’m glad he did, because I have much more to say about this game, and it totally deserves my number one spot.

Like I said earlier, the game just didn’t feel like it was clicking for me. I immediately recognized that the freedom and exploration offered was novel, but I didn’t like not having ANY sense of direction or purpose. So I asked Dan to nudge me in the right direction. Spoiler-free hints to jog my brain a little bit and get me moving. Turns out, that was the trick.

Once I understood what the game was asking of me, I was off to the races, and I started devouring ancient alien lore like it was my job. I had a little note file on my phone to keep track of what I was seeing. I stumbled upon crazy stuff. I started ACTUALLY dreaming about the game. I was googling quantum physics (no, I still don’t understand it).

I’ve heard some people talk about the “a ha!” moment with this game. To describe it wouldn’t be much fun on paper (and would totally ruin the experience for new players) so I’ll be vague. In one moment, all of my time searching, exploring, and wondering what the hell I was doing became clear as day. I instantly knew what I had to do, and happily bounced around the solar system in my little ship closing the loop on so many loose threads, until I was taken to the end.

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The final stretch was one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever had in games. Armed with the knowledge that I worked my ASS off to obtain, an actual item, and a direction, I embarked on my final mission with actual sweat rolling down my head. I was so nervous. People who know what you have to do to finish the game will know what I mean.

And then that ENDING! Of course I won’t spoil any of it here, but I’m still thinking about it.

I think my whole experience with the game can be summed up like this:

You know that feeling when you see someone you haven’t seen in a while, and you can’t remember their name? You KNOW you know the name, and it’s on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t figure it out. And then at some point, you start thinking of the memories of why and how you know them… and then BOOM! The name comes to you.

That’s “Outer Wilds.”

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And that’s it! Thanks for a great year Giant Bomb! I’m on Twitter and Instagram. Go see a broadway show (if you can afford it)! Support the arts! Bye!