Giancarlo Varanini is a Communications Manager at Ubisoft. Before that, he was an editor at GameSpot, Official US PlayStation Magazine, Nintendo Power, GameTap, EGM, and GameSpot, again. He's on Twitter.
As I sit here contemplating the very nature of my existence and the role video games play in it, I’ve concluded that I’m in the throes of a gaming mid-life crisis. Don’t worry, it’s not as depressing as it (mostly) sounds. Games are still very important to me. They are obviously still a very important part of what I do for a living at Ubisoft, but the reality is that my tastes changed to reflect a desire to return to an era of gaming that is maybe a little less demanding of my time, but no less entertaining.
To be clear, I’m still drawn to big, open-world games and what they bring, but I also don’t find myself in a rush to play them despite missing out on the thrill of the launch zeitgeist. I’m referring more to industry behemoths like Destiny 2. I played the hell out of it when it first came out, but not too long after the first raid hit, I felt like I couldn’t maintain a schedule that would truly let me enjoy it the way I enjoyed playing the original Destiny. It’s not Bungie’s fault--they need to cater to the audience that can do the thing.
It’s not anyone’s fault, really. Things happen. Careers change. Life happens, and as a result, the time I can set aside for recreational gaming just changes. But coming to the realization that a game is no longer “for you” (which is kind of what happened with me and Street Fighter V), sets off some weird emotions, a lot of them sad. I don’t want to be sad. Games should make you happy, dammit!
Perhaps it’s not so surprising then that I found most of my happiness this year on the Nintendo Switch. This is where some of my gaming mid-life crisis not only manifested in the types of games I played, but also as a desire to only buy only physical copies of Switch games to light the dimming corners of my brain that remember the joy of going to a store, buying a game, and then furiously unwrapping it when I got home. Yes, it’s a thing for me despite the ridicule I face from those who aren’t hesitant to explain the joys of the all-digital present. No, I don’t mind getting up to swap out cartridges and I love seeing all the great games I’m enjoying (or have enjoyed) on my shelf as brief respite against the seemingly constant bombardment of negativity that haunts our waking minutes.
At any rate, the Switch secret sauce is undoubtedly the fact that many of these games are designed around the idea of portability, and therefore, can be played in short, filling chunks that make me feel good about not being able to maintain the same gaming lifestyle I once had (especially as a former employee of http://www.videogames.com).
With that, here are my top good-feeling games of 2019 that I got to play in specific order of enjoyment (I have excluded Ubisoft games because that would be weird):
1. Children of Morta (Switch)
2. Tetris 99 (Switch)
3. Cadence of Hyrule (Switch)
4. Mortal Kombat 11 (Yes, Switch – don’t judge me)
5. Wargroove (Switch)
6. Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch)
7. Shakedown Hawaii (Switch)
8. Dragon Quest XI S (Switch)
9. Astral Chain (Switch)
10. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)
11. Valfaris/Blazing Chrome (Switch)
Here are the top games of 2019 I wish I played, and will somehow find time to do so, but it might be a while:
Thank you for reading. I love you all--but not more than my incredible wife who had some incredible achievements this past year and continues to make me so proud and honored to be a part of her life.