Hey all, another year has passed and another bunch of great games have came out. 2019 felt like a really strong year in terms of video games which makes it slightly unfortunate that I've not been able to play as many 2019 release as I would have liked - hence, this list will be slightly different again, just like last year. Apparently I missed out on a game called Outer Wilds? I'll get around to it for next year...
Resident Evil Series
Yeah, so I got caught up a bit with the RE2 hype but I can't bring myself to play the second game chronologically in a series first. So I did what all good video-gamesmen do and played pretty much every surrounding title.
REmake is a fantastic game that really pushes the survival element of survival horror. I didn't actually realise how, for lack of a better term, hardcore these older games were - limited saves?! Every single bullet counts in this game. I completed Jill's story and moved on to REmake 2 but I'll eventually give Chris a try. I feel this is a game that will only get better on subsequent playthroughs, given you have a better grasp on the layout of the mansion and the rules of the game.
RE4 still holds up - what surprised me most about this game was the fact that it didn't necessarily feel like an action game despite the obvious shift in emphasis... each room and encounter felt like its own puzzle where you had to think and couldn't just spray and pray - games can still learn a lot from RE4.
I've developed a soft spot for RE0 - probably helped by the incredible save theme. I think more likely because the game uses a lot of the same rules as REmake but I was prepared this time. The highs aren't as high and the lows are lower but I think this is still a game worth checking out.
RE7 is easily the scariest game that I've actually finished. Again, every bullet matters - this is pure survival horror. I don't have much else to say about it.
I also played a bit of RE3 but going from REmake 2 to that is just too jarring. I'll get to the remake next year... One final word regarding RE5. I can see this game being fun in multiplayer but in singleplayer it's a complete chore. The encounter design is terrible - it controls exactly the same as 4 but the encounters are not geared towards that control scheme at all. It's a mish mash of half-baked ideas. I doubt I'll ever try it again. I didn't play RE6.
Devil May Cry 3 and 4 Special Edition
So yeah, a Devil May Cry game came out this year and well... you can see where I'm going with this. I actually did a write-up of my playthrough of DMC1 and DmC on this site. Whilst I appreciated 1, I didn't exactly like it... I picked up 3 around then and dropped it after an hour - "BORING" - how wrong I was. Both DMC3 and 4 are fantastic and really fun to play through. Surprisingly, I probably ended up liking DMC4 more than 3 - I like fighting games and 4 reminded me a lot of that genre. You have a bunch of characters to learn with some really cool mechanics - Dante alone will take hours and hours to get good with. The level design and story are definitely better in 3 but the depth of the combat system in 4 hooked me.
Street Fighter V
I still play this game a lot. I still watch this game a lot. Championship Edition seems really cool. I will continue to play and watch this game.
Blazblue Central Fiction
I wish more people played this game. I wish it was getting a sequel and not Guilty Gear.
Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge a few games.
Luigi's Mansion 3 has a lot of charm and a lot of heart but it just didn't grab me like I hoped... I wasn't particularly fond of the progression system feeling like segregated levels rather than one big area. The gold feels completely arbitrary and collecting it feels like busywork. It's not that challenging either. I'll definitely finish it but...
Fire Emblem: Three Houses - this game rules. I fell in love with it for the 10 hours I played... unfortunately I was away from my switch right when it came out and by the time I came back to it I just never got around to playing more. It's not you, it's me.
Kingdom Hearts 3 - this game came out at the wrong time for me. I remember how excited I was for the last Kingdom Hearts game I pre-ordered - Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep in 2010. Yeah... If this game came out then I would have loved it. I still liked it, it's just that Kingdom Hearts isn't as important to me as it once was. I still nearly teared up at the ending and watching the 358 Days Trio and BBS trio reunite still affected me. It's just... it's been too long. The mechanics in the game aren't too enthralling either and the lack of some of the Final Fantasy characters from 1 and 2 was pretty glaring. I loved those Big Hero 6 and Toy Story worlds though.
Without further ado... my top 5 games of 2019.
5. Tetris 99
I think it's worth stating that my taste in games have changed in the last few years as a result of various things but primarily I have less time to lose myself in large story intensive games. Not to say that I won't, but I feel like part of the reason I play fighting games is because I can find 45 minutes or so and just play the game. I don't need to set aside time to play them. I also want the games I play to have a learning process in a sense - if I can go in and tear through the game instantly then it's just not going to grab me. I always loved Spelunky, Dark Souls and the like but I think I can finally articulate what I like about those games. With that in mind, let's get to Tetris 99.
Tetris 99 is a battle royale version of Tetris that essentially has you playing Tetris against 98 other people, trying to survive as long as you can. It's pretty much the definition of a quick, skill based game and fits exactly into what I was saying above. I can dive into it for 30 minutes to an hour, have a good time and improve. I was looking up t-spins, watching high level players and trying to learn more about Tetris in a way that I never have. It's a credit to the core game that I wanted to improve because I wanted to win. I've not won yet, I've came second a few times but I know that I can through practice and learning which is exactly what I want.
4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I found myself muttering to myself "This game is actually really good" as I played through this. Ignoring the talking to myself for a second, I was right. This is a really good game which I didn't actually expect. All the pre-release stuff didn't look great and I just wasn't interested. I bought it when it went on sale after seeing some good press and remembering that I actually loved the last game they made - Circle of the Moon (shout-out to that, I inexplicably left it off my best of 2018 list).
Bloodstained is enjoyable because it doesn't hold anything back - it has the same metroidvania loop of explore and fill out a map as much as you can and then find something that allows you to fill it out more but it offers a lot of interesting systems in amongst this. The most obvious is the shard system - destroy an enemy and there is a chance that you'll steal its power. The thing is, these abilities range from completely useless to overpowered and broken but the game never prevents you from getting anything and using it. Go wild! I like a game that's confident enough in itself to give you dumb abilities to use.
3. Resident Evil 2
Yeah, I guess this was fairly obvious from the preamble. There are three key aspects that REmake 2 nails that make it such a delight to play. Atmosphere, encounter design and level design. The game is absolutely dripping with tension, aided by the police department, sewers and research facility that the game takes place in. The levels are claustrophobic, dark and winding which make the enemies seem even more frightening and your supplies seem even more scarce. Each encounter is a puzzle to work out and it's very difficult to brute force through the enemies given the scarcity of ammo and the specific ways that enemies have to be targeted. Mr. X manages to feel omnipresent and terrifying without ever becoming frustrating - a very difficult line to straddle.
In addition to this, RE2 looks great, with fantastic texturing and character models (and a PC port that is incredibly well optimised). The game also controls incredibly well and whilst the puzzles are a bit on the simple side, they remain enjoyable. The characters themselves come with a great dub and remain interesting and the stories throughout the two playthroughs are strong. There have seemingly been more updates since the games release which I'm itching to go back in and try. It's just a good time.
2. Final Fantasy XIV (Shadowbringers)
So in a sense this is cheating... I haven't actually played Shadowbringers at all this year. I have played a hell of a lot of Final Fantasy XIV though. I can't believe I'm actually putting an MMORPG in a game of the year list... weird.
I played all of a Realm Reborn, all of 2.x, all of Heavensward, all of 3.x and now a good chunk of Stormblood and whilst I've been in and out of it, I've never dropped completely because I can't get enough of the world of Eorzea. I used this game as an opportunity to finally try an MMO properly, similarly to how I used Street Fighter V as a means to finally get into fighting games and I'm glad I did - at high levels there is a surprising amount of depth to the classes (I'm currently a Paladin, level 65 or so) with a lot of strategies to consider. Thankfully I chose Tank - I need to actually learn the game to play this class and avoid being a liability whereas I feel any other time I've tried an MMO, I've gone for DPS and never actually considered the dynamics of a party.
The world is alive and the story is surprisingly deep and complex - unlike singleplayer Final Fantasy games, XIV has the opportunity to really flesh out its world and characters due to the continual nature of its medium and it thrives because of that. The game still looks great with a lot of personality in the character designs and some absolutely beautiful locales, especially in the expansion packs. There are parts that drag - midway through ARR and early 2.x the obvious contenders but I've been able to force through them and the highs - end of 2.x and almost all of HW - have been spectacular. The music stands out again - all my favourite games have great music. Tranquility and the theme of Ishgard instantly come to mind for me.
I'm going to keep playing this - not because I feel some weird sense of duty to see it through to the end of Shadowbringers but because I've fallen in love with the game and the world.
1. Devil May Cry 5
Devil May Cry 5 is an action game chock-full of satisfying and complex mechanics that you can combine to your hearts content. The depth Nero and Dante have in terms of playability is fantastic and then you add V, who whilst not as fun, is a different type of character who forces you to completely alter how you play - it almost matches DMC4 SE. The game urges you to replay it and keep upping the ante with the difficulty - you don't even access Nero's full move set until you've beaten the game at least once.
Again, the level design could be a bit better; again, it's frustrating how you can only play some characters in some levels but I felt these criticisms were just minor and the fact that you have these characters to learn and get better with plays exactly to what I'm looking for in a game. Add enjoyable personalities and some of the best music of the year - Nico's Theme and Devil Trigger being obvious highlights. I even ended up liking V's battle theme a lot. The game does the term "Stylish Action Game" proud. The models are also incredible - seriously, just look at Nero and Nico! Add in a story that whilst a bit dumb, does conclude a lot that started in DMC3 in a satisfying way whilst also setting us up for Nero to fully take on the mantle. It was great to get that final Dante vs Vergil battle - just one more fight...
I kind of want to go play this again now. What a game.
I actually struggled on the top 3 ordering for this year... but just typing this out, so much of Devil May Cry 5 stuck with me. I'm smiling just thinking about it. I feel like it maybe hasn't been given the credit it deserves... maybe that's just me. Let's give a shout-out to Capcom though - what a year. Monster Hunter as well which is apparently fantastic and now REmake 3? Is there a better company in video games right now?