Top 10 of 2019

I played... so many games this year. Even putting aside the ones that weren't released this year my list had over 20 games on it. Vinny's correct as always, there's never been a better time to play video games. When it comes to ranking them, however, the few at the top were a pretty easy choice for me.

List items

  • Space is my jam. I fucking love space, and were I not a huge dummy when it comes to mathematics I would have pursued an education and career in Astronomy. Everything Outer Wilds does scratches that amateur astronaut itch that has existed within me since I was a child. But this is just the innate appeal of the setting. Through its mechanics, design aesthetics, and storytelling it becomes an intricate and masterfully crafted package. It is put together in a way that no two people will have the exact path through the game and yet supports that approach through the method of the player being the one who progresses via their expanding knowledge of the locations and systems in play. This makes every 22 minute loop feel important and worthwhile because hey, even though you fell into the sun or got crushed by rising sand you still learned something that will help you out the next time around. Or if you last to the end, the music rises up and lets you know things are about to reset so stop what you're doing, sit back and take these last seconds to appreciate the world around you, because we're starting over. Now take a deep breath and lets get back to work uncovering the layers of this beautiful and intricate puzzle.

  • I've been deep into the genre that Dark Souls has become for years now. Dark Souls itself hooked me and i've absorbed as many games like it as I could. The Surge 2 takes the mechanics and adds some little twists and quality of life improvements that will make it difficult to go back from. I don't parry in Souls games. I hide behind my shield, or if one isn't available I dodge dodge dodge until I get an opening. This is admittedly a boring way to play, but it's safe and easy and works. The Surge 2 solved the problem for me. Through the attack indicator on the UI and the directional parry system this game encouraged me to learn and utilize its combat mechanics more than any soulslike i've ever played. There isn't a single time I can think of where I parried a boss in a soulslike before this, but here I was doing it constantly. Why? Because it directly told me I could in the moment. I didn't have to learn animation tells, I just see an indicator pop up in the UI. I still had to learn timings of attacks, still had to know the mechanics of my current weapon, and still beefed it hard and got smacked in the face frequently, but I was having a blast. No other soulslike has ever made me feel as cool as I did while I was playing.

  • It takes a little while, but once Control gets going it never stops. A lot has been said of its setting and characters, but honestly what kept me excited to keep playing was the combat. Once I had enough points in launch to kill most enemies in one hit combat became a frenetic puzzle of threat assessment and skill execution. Never stop moving. Launch a chair at that dude. Launch a cement slab at that guy. Shoot that one with pierce while energy recharges. Launch, launch, pierce, launch, dodge, launch, pierce. Now add the late game abilities into the mix? Forget about it. Then pile the cool-ass world on top of all that? Control is a damn good package.

  • I would probably rank the original Link's Awakening in my top three of best Zelda games. This remake does the job of taking that amazing experience and presenting it in a way that it feels exactly like the original did when I was 10 years old. The new things it adds aren't particularly anything special (custom map markers are great, but dampe's dungeon editor and the color dungeon are dull enough to balance that out), but seeing this island that I was intensely familiar with rendered in a colorful and adorable way was more than enough to make me want to spend every last second I could with it again.

  • It's anime dark souls. Nothing I say can sum it up more than those four words. Its story is nothing to write home about and its characters fill those good good anime tropes we all love and aren't annoyed with at all nope not at all, but its world design, gameplay mechanics, and character customization all make it worth experiencing. You can pick up a sword larger than you are and hit some vampire demons with it, and really who needs anything more than that?

  • Sometimes you need a chill-ass game to just sit down with and have a nice, tame, relaxing time. Take a walk in the woods, look at pretty landscapes, maybe chat with a bear or do a painting of them. Whatever you want, man, it's all good. Eastshade fills a nice, comfortable void. It sits you down and puts a blanket on your shoulders and gets you some tea. Part walking simulator, part rpg, part Redwall, there's a lot to enjoy on this island and all the time in the world to see it in. There's no rush in Eastshade, and everyone is welcome.

  • I'm not religious at all. I know nothing about Catholicism or even Christianity in general. Because of this all of the bonkers-ass imagery Blasphemous used may as well have been lifted from an imaginary fantasy realm for all it resonated with me. But even though I didn't have any personal attachment to the aesthetic I can't fault them for not going all-in on it and never taking their foot off the gas. I truly never knew what I was going to see next, and that combined with the enjoyable gameplay kept me hooked for the entire run and even beyond as I played through it a second time for the other ending. Metroidvanias are a crowded genre but they did a fantastic job in putting their own unique stamp on this one.

  • The Outer Worlds is not a Bethesda open world rpg. It isn't filling that same space or showing that other developers can fit the role that Bethesda seems to be ignoring lately. But honestly, I don't think it was trying to. The Outer Worlds wisely limits its scope and focuses on the things that we come to Obsidian for. Fun characters, good writing, an interesting setting, and narrative freedom. In all those aspects it does a great job. I won't ever go back to it, and near the end it started to drag, but I'm very glad they got to do a project on their own terms and I look forward to whatever they have next.

  • It's good that I don't come to Far Cry for story, because after 4 they seem to not go to Far Cry to tell a story anymore. I skipped 5 and barely listened to any of the characters in New Dawn, which as far as I can tell is the right way to do it if you want to enjoy this thing. But enjoy it I did, because their gameplay is still quite good at what it does. Clearing out outposts, driving around in vehicles, hunting animals, and clearing every icon off the map, it was fun before and it's fun now. Maybe someday they'll think to tell a good story in one of these again.

  • Greedfall is a B-ass B game. The kind of quality we don't get much of any more. There's some jank in the animations, the combat isn't the best, and the graphics aren't top of the top, but it manages to be more than the sum of its parts. It tells an interesting story about colonialism but manages to avoid most (though not all by any stretch) pitfalls that would come from tackling such a subject. It's a fun rpg with branching quests and stories, interesting characters, and a setting that isn't covered frequently. It didn't stick in my mind after finishing, but while I was there it was a decent ride.