I am going to skip the beginning of a Game of the Year list where I recap small details that have occurred in our world. I don't do this as some sort of easy out or as a way to avoid confrontation. I am doing it because I spent all of 2019 avoiding 2019. I gave it the side-eye, I engaged in "discourse" until my mouth was dry and my throat hurt from screaming, I even started working out again. It's a strange feeling to think 2019 was rough because, personally, 2019 was relatively fine for me. I'd like to think I did what I could to make things a little better in the world at large this year: I rode my bike for three charities (one of these being for a local cause, which I think is important), donated to multiple electoral campaigns (again, some local), but I can probably make time to do more. I'll commit to doing what I can now to ensure 2020 is better.
Video Games were dramatically helpful this year when I wanted to take a break and process my thoughts. The ability to take the Switch with me when I go anywhere has continued to be absolutely amazing. It's a wonderful tool to bring people together, for Mario Kart or Neo Turf Masters or Smash, and be social. I don't think the roof-top party idea Nintendo pitched with was the ideal state but, anytime there is two or more people, taking the switch and a dock can be a real blast. The ability to also pick the switch up and share the TV instead of needing to go to another room when my wife wants to watch something also adds to the feeling of being available. If we're all avoiding looking out the windows, it is nice to do it in the same room.
Some of the fascinating discourse this year has been the lack of "good games" in 2019. I'm sorry if you feel this way but 2019 was absolutely stellar on the games front and should stand out as a year of future classics. So many games had so many interesting things to say and my only regret was not having more time to see them. The pile of shame this year is large and growing still at an alarming rate. I had to make time to write this now as I'm sure after the GOTY podcasts and list starting solidifying, the pile is only going to get larger. As always, I have kept a list of games I played this year here. I even wrote up some reviews of old games this year as community Giant Bomb reviews that can be found on my list.
The Best Old Games
Old games are the new New games. There are so many good ones getting ported to the Switch or other places this year that it was hard to keep up. Assume that Dragon Quest XI S is actually Number 1 on this list. Check my GOTY list from last year about how it's one of the best games ever made.
Geez howdy do I wish PoE 2 was a better game. I really enjoyed the first one but, after playing Divinity: Original Sin II last year, Pillars 2 didn't have the same thrill. Adding in some of the survival elements with stocking and maintaining the ship is a choice but, not a mechanic I was looking to engage with.
4) Halo: Reach
I think Halo: Reach does more to show Microsoft's current strategy than the announcement of a new Xbox. Please bring everything to PC and then let me throw a controller at it if I want. I have Xbox Game Pass now and I don't have an Xbox. This is WILD.
Speaking of things I would not have played without a subscription service, Subnautica is pretty good. Survival games are not my jam in any way and I really dug in to this for a couple weekends. I find the idea of that much water terrifying, more so than space for some reason, and diving in (hah pun) to this game was joyfully unpleasant.
I have a phone and am aware I could have been playing these games for a long time but, the Switch is the master at making me take a second look at something. These games are wonderful if not ALL of the writing continues to hold up to 2019's standards. I was happy to spend time with the visual genre novel as I don't have too much experience with them.
Double Dragon Neon was one of the first GB wiki edits I ever made. I'm not even sure if my change is on there or not but, I remember having so much love for the game and wondering if anyone was talking about it. I wrote something about it this year. Please go listen to the soundtrack, or I think it's on Xbox Game Pass so go play it. And please, play Neon with a friend.
When I say, Old games are the new New games, that doesn't mean that there are no new games at all. Rather, there are too many of everything. What I wanted to get to and did not is listed in the pile below.
Pile of Shame
Control, Baba is You, Photographs, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Astral Chain, Overland, Children of Morta, The Legend of Heroes (the whole freakin' series), Luigi's Mansion 3, Dauntless, MHW: Iceborne
10) Apex Legends
These were fun weekends, getting on discord and chomping away at some Apex. I love the movement, how the guns feel, and finally found the closest thing to a Battle Royale for me. Now, Titanfall 2 is still a -*Vaudeville Hook removes me from stage*
One of the greatest things Mario Maker 2 did was introduce me to the 8bitdo line of controllers. The Switch Pro controller is criminally ineffective for playing a Mario platformer, which boggles the mind. Luckily for literally everyone, Nintendo has already created the perfect controller for platforming and RPGs, so 8bitdo saw the opportunity and filed the gap. Playing Mario Maker 2 is extremely fun. I like Mario, and weird stuff, and this is a great mashup of people making weird Mario stuff. I really wish Nintendo could figure out the internet in 2019 to make the discovery process easier but, there is always the next console maybe? No?
Trials Rising is not the worst trials game so that makes it, by default, pretty alright. Sometimes you just need to ride a motor bike real fast through some loops with explosions and be a weird perfectionist about it. Trials is great for giving you something to obsess over, optimize, and continue to improve on.
7) Outer Wilds
I got a real kick out of this beautiful wooden space ship. I just wish navigating it was a bit easier (yes, with a controller). I really enjoy the story and the puzzle solving a whole lot. It's great to play a game that is more about discovering the mechanics and how the world works instead of stopping you with arbitrary numbers or powers. I wish I loved Outer Wilds as much as everyone else does though. I really like it, I do, don't throw rocks at me, I just don't think I am quite as in love with it as everyone else is. That's fine because it is excellent. I am happy to hear people tell me how much they love it FOR DAYS. I'm happy for them and wish them the best. I just REALLY like it. I'm sorry, I know, I'm leaving. I'll leave my gamer badge at the door, geez.
Disco Elysium will be thought more highly of later on than how it is ranked on my list in 2019. Disco Elysium will change how a genre I love is played. Everything will be different now that it exists, and the failure to live up to the expectations it has set and how it tells it's story will crush games for years to come. Or it won't. I'm not sure yet. I know that it is one of the funniest, most complex, and most mechanically interesting games I have played in a long time. However, on this list, in 2019, I have put 5 more games above it. Why, you ask? I enjoyed these 5 other games more is all, my sweet friend. Lists aren't objective. I get to think something is one of the most important games I will play and rank it 6th. That's how the world works. Hell, I'm mad about it and it's my list.
The soundtrack to River City Girls is my second most listened to album on Spotify in 2019, falling only behind the band Pup. I went back and played Double Dragon Neon after playing this, and I love any game that makes me want to do that. Wayforward can make absolute delights in music, comedy, and combat. I think I would let Wayforward at any beat em' up they wanted. I wrote up some comparisons to this and DDN over here.
While the switch controllers are terrible for most things, the button D-pad on the Joy-Con is absolute perfection for playing Cadence of Hyrule. After playing some of the regular Crypt of the NecroDancer on PC on a keyboard, the precision offered in the individual direction buttons on a joy-con seems almost required to navigate in rhythm. The music for the Legend of Zelda is always delightful and good on Nintendo for letting Danny Baranowsky take a shot at really making it work in the NecroDancer style. As someone with 10+ years playing drums under my belt, I found the rhythm gameplay much easier than the original game and not much of a challenge. The inclusion to play it as an almost turn based game is a nice touch though. This game (and others from this year even) prove that Nintendo needs to get their act together and start releasing OSTs so that I can buy them.
I freaking love Castlevania. I do. Hands down, Symphony of the Night's intro with Richter was eye opening to me, and then Alucard shows up and it rules! It RULES!! I play through SotN almost once a year near Halloween. Nothing puts me in the mood for spooky stuff like killing Dracula. I am elated to have a new
sequel spiritual successor to one of my favorite games of all time. Bloodstained plays pretty well once you can get your hands around some of the clunkiness weight behind the movements. Once I figured out how to do the dash-duck for faster movement, it felt much more like my back-stepping Son of Dracula of old. I had so much fun with all of the callbacks and references that I think I forgave this game for being kind of rough around the edges. At least I have something new to play around Halloween.
Puns: the Video Game. AI makes so many puns it is hard to keep track of them. Every single object you click on is some sort of wordplay and Dad-level joke that I laughed out loud at multiple occasions. I was initially not one for visual novels. I never really gave them a shot. After trying out Phoenix Wright earlier in the year and really getting my feet wet with them, I wanted to see what a newer one had to offer. I really enjoyed the voice-acting, the story, and the weird characters. I think the puzzles are some of this games weakest moments, not because they are bad, but because I ended up wanting to hear enough of the jokes that I eventually would rush through the difficult ones with a walkthrough. I was enamored with this rag-tag group of weird people trying to solve mysteries using dreams. I'm not sure I would recommend AI to everyone but, I really enjoyed my time with it enough to make it my number 2 game this year.
Why do cars have dashboards?
To make them go faster.
As of the time of this writing, I have spent 195 hours with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I am currently on my third time through the game, this time with the Blue Lion house. I love FE:3H. I think it may be the best strategy game I have ever played and definitely the best since 2012's XCOM. When I am done writing this, I am going to go back and play more FE:3H. My first time through, I chose the Golden Deer, and loved Claude and his group of weirdos so much. When I fought the other students once the war started, I played the game more like a slasher flick, hunting down all of the former students with a mad professor hellbent on revenge. Once time came to play through with Edelgard and the Black Eagles, picking off my former friends from Golden Deer was a nightmare (except Ignatz). I regretted the way I had played before and tried to spare as many of the sweet innocent children as possible. Going through a third time, with the Blue Lions and Dimitri and Dedue, it is just as much fun to learn a third group of people to feel sorry for and care for preciously. When Felix eventually crosses blades with Dorothea, I will feel sad knowing the strange friendship that could be if I had just let them eat lunch together a couple times in high school. I will feel an ache of futility knowing that this all could have been avoided. And I will move Felix to attack anyway and cheer when a jaded little brother comes out the other side unscathed as the songstress dies defending the cause she and her friends believe in. The soundtrack to FE:3H is appropriately dramatic and exciting. It is a crime that Nintendo has not released it and I'm stuck on youtube playlists to enjoy it. I will say, new game plus is far easier and ruins some of the drama with the initial first time through. I'm a little too frightened to start the game on nightmare but, there is always a fourth route, right?