18 Video Games From 2019 That I Thought Were Pretty Good

Well, here we go, another year done, another list of games making me disappointed I didn't play more games this past year. Each time I start thinking about a GOTY list I push the writing of it further back into January to give myself a chance to finish those couple of games I've been meaning to for months. At this rate by 2030 I'll be writing my GOTY lists in early summer.

2019 was a bit of a recovery year for me. Those who know me are aware of how hard and exhausting my 2018 had been and it was nice to have things relatively back to normal in 2019, and to have a bit more time to do the things I enjoy. One of those things is playing video games, and there were some pretty solid ones in 2019, some of which took me by surprise. So, without too much further typing, here's a list of 18 games that I enjoyed from this past year. It won't be in any particular order, but it does generally have a best to most-best of the year order as you scroll down. And I do definitely have a GAME OF THE YEAR that I will make clear. (Not only is it GOTY, but it might be one of the GOTE [Games Of The Ever])

List items

  • I really wasn't sure about this one at first. I don't play competitive shooters much anymore, I mostly only enjoy battle royale games from afar, and I was REALLY bummed they weren't working on Titanfall 3. Apex still grabbed me though and definitely dominated a decent chunk of my 2019. The shooting in Respawn games just feels so damn good, and the pinging system they built made playing a team-based game with strangers a viable option. A friend of mine and I embarked on a quest to win at least one game, and basically stopped playing after we finally did, but I still had a hell of time with Apex. Seriously though Respawn, where's my Titanfall 3? (Note: That drop music is so good, I'm listening to it as I write this and it's making me want to fire the game up again.)

  • Two years in a row where Tetris games have made it to my top games lists, and they couldn't be more different from each other. Last year's Tetris Effect was a beautiful, almost spiritual experience with Tetris at its core. Tetris 99 is a frantic nightmare battle to the death where only one Tetrisman will crawl out of the Thundertrisdome alive. I haven't played the game much since I won a few battles, but there were an intense couple of weeks I was obsessed with it. Winning my first 99-player Tetris battle was definitely one of the best gaming moments I had in 2019. So satisfying. Keep being weird Nintendo.

  • Luigi is my favourite Nintendo character but I've mostly been kind of "meh" on the Mansion series. The first game was pretty solid, I loved the setting and all the Nintendo charm but the gameplay was a little rough. Same goes for Dark Moon, which I finally played in 2019 before the third game came out. The core of it was great, but it was way too repetitive. LM3 however immediately grabbed me, despite it still rocking the fiddly controls from previous entries. The environments and animation and just general charm are all Nintendo at its best. And it has been really fun to play in co-op with my wife, well, for me it's fun, can't speak for her. It's hard to believe they didn't focus more on the co-op in the marketing for the game, it's one of the best implementations of co-op Nintendo has put in a big first-party release.

  • I'm only about halfway through it, but it's good, and almost exactly what you think it is. It's more Gears, which is not a bad thing. I continue to enjoy the gameplay and setting in Gears and have had a good time playing the campaign in co-op with a friend. The more open, sandbox style chapters are a neat addition even though there isn't that much to do in those areas. It's something I'd like to see them expand on in future entries. In short, it's gorgeous and those guns shoot real good.

  • Again 2019 proved itself to be a good year for co-op games in our household. It took some convincing to get my wife to play the game with me, especially after we both struggled with the rhythm mechanics early on. Though once we fell into the...hang of it we had a very good time. The world is colourful and fun, and the remixes of classic Zelda music are excellent. (Is there an official release of the soundtrack yet? Get on that Nintendo) It's short and sweet, and leaves you wanting more. PLEASE Nintendo, let developers do more fun, weird things like this with your properties.

  • This is more of an HONOURABLE MENTION than a top game award.

    I was a bit disappointed that I didn't immediately love this game. I played a lot of the first RG, way more than most people. The custom soundtrack options were great and had me spending hours pouring over my mp3 collection, agonizing over whether a track belonged in the "Ambient" or "Idle" folders. Outlaw is an objectively better game than the first was, but it just didn't grab me in the same way. For all its improvements, the basic structure of the game is VERY similar to RG1. Do jobs, buy better ship parts, do more jobs. BUT, if you didn't play RG1, this is a great place to hop into some fun space combat. Definitely one of the best modern entries in a space sim genre that doesn't get a lot of love these days.

  • Another HONOURABLE MENTION.

    I wanted to love this game more than I did. So badly. I love this new Wolfenstein series and was very excited for Youngblood. And I did still have a good time playing it in co-op (another win for 2019 co-op games), but I didn't love it. The open areas and mission structure at first were fun, but quickly grew repetitive. And there was a severe lack of that special Machine Games Wolfenstein weirdness. What was there was great, I enjoyed the new characters and story, but there was very little of it. Still, I'm glad I played it, and very glad I played it in co-op because from what I've heard the game is a slog by yourself. At least I had someone to talk to during the slower parts.

  • I really need to go back to this game. Dicey Dungeons is probably one of the most cleverly-designed puzzle games I've played. And with each new character you unlock, you're forced to think of a completely new way to play the game. It's remarkable how the tools remain essentially the same but the gameplay feels different. Go check it out if a Rogue-like deck-building dice game sounds appealing to you, it's charming and challenging. (I hope it comes out on phones so I can easily take it with me.)

  • You're an asshole goose, you get to mess with people in a small town and set up Hitman-like scenarios. Except instead of murdering people, you're just taking their stuff. What's not to love about this game? It's silly and fun, and made for a very enjoyable evening on the couch with my wife taking turns at the controls.

  • MUA3 definitely doesn't hit the same highs the first 2 games hit, but the fact that someone picked up this series and made a new one so many years later makes me happy. Building a team of our favourite Marvel characters and beating up thousands of baddies is still fun and playing in co-op with my wife has made the game's shortcomings more tolerable. Aside from the camera, seriously, I can't with the camera sometimes. When in co-op the game takes camera control away from you and will WAY TOO OFTEN place the camera behind a wall or at such an angle that you actually can't see the guys you're supposed to punch. BUT, they put some of my favourite characters in it, including Punisher who was inexplicably left out of Lego Marvel 2, so it gets a pass.

    If you play this game, do yourself a favour and turn the difficulty down to easy. It makes taking down the larger enemies feel like less of a chore and the boss fights less frustrating. Especially if you're playing in co-op with someone that doesn't play a lot of games.

  • I'm a sucker for some good cosmic horror and Observation hit the sweet spot for me. It's a 2001-esque setting except you're playing as the HAL-like AI on a space station, not a human character, which is a fun twist on pretty well-worn territory. It's a gorgeous adventure game that's fun to play with someone next to you on the couch. Don't read up too much about it if the premise intrigues you, experiencing the story fresh is the best part.

  • The Zelda franchise has long been a black mark on my game playing career. For whatever reason, I haven't actually finished many of the games in the series. Even Breath of the Wild which I loved and put more than 100 hours into, I technically still, in 2019, haven't finished it. The streak is broken however, I finished a Zelda game! I very much enjoyed Link's Awakening, it made me "get" the old school 2D Zelda games in a way I think I didn't before. It's a beautiful remake of a classic but a great new experience for me, having only spent a little bit of time with the original as a kid. It isn't super challenging, but was a genuinely fun and adorable world to explore.

  • Hey guys, do you like Fallout? Well what if we made one of those, but set it in space? The Outer Worlds is almost exactly what you think it is, they made one of those. Which makes sense, considering the team that made it. It's a very good one of those though. TOW starts stronger than it ends, but I enjoyed the setting and characters (How can you not love Parvati?) and exploring those Outer Worlds. Others have described it this way, but it's basically gaming comfort food. If you like those Bethesda-style RPGS this one is definitely for you. It'll only take you about 40 hours to do basically everything, which is short and sweet for this style of game. (Rather than the 240 hours I put into Fallout 4. Yes, you read that right.)

  • THEY CUT OUT SQUIRTLE! HOW YOU GONNA DO SQUIRTLE DIRTY LIKE THAT?!

    Sorry, that just came out. Anyway, it's a pretty good Pokemon game otherwise. The story sucks, your rival is annoying, the gym battles are laughably easy, they cut out half the Pokemon--INCLUDING SQUIRTLE--and parts of it look like garbage, but it's still fun. The new monster designs are mostly great (except the fossil Pokemon this time, who thought those were good?) and the Wild Area is a solid addition. This was my wife's first "real" Pokemon game, not counting last year's Let's Go Pikachu, and it's been fun playing the game alongside her and seeing which Pokemon she gravitated towards. We'll continue to do raids and trade with each other for a while I'm sure and as of this writing they've announced 2 expansions coming later in 2020. Which is good, but also bad because WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME PAY EXTRA FOR SQUIRTLE?! #FreeSquirtle

  • In the past I have been an avid Wii-Fit..head? Wii-Fitter? Wii-Fittist? Wii-Fit playing person. And as such I was hoping that Nintendo would make something along the lines of a "Switch Fit" so I could break out the Balance Board and do some Yoga in my living room again. Nintendo, being their weird selves, decided to go in a different direction and gave me something even better. (Ignoring that strange trailer with the two very creepy people talking at you.) RFA is the first successful attempt at "gamifying" fitness and I've loved it so far. As I mentioned at the top, aside from a few bright spots, 2018 was a very stressful year for me. The stress, coupled with my inherent laziness resulted in me getting really out of shape and gaining a lot of weight. RFA has helped put me on a path to getting back into shape and not feeling like garbage all the time. They crammed a full on turn-based RPG with character levelling and crafting into a fitness game and it's a remarkable feat. It can also be one heck of a workout. So if you're like me and know you'll never want to go to the gym, but want something to motivate you to exercise at home, look into Ring Fit Adventure.

  • I love that we all agree on which Star Wars movies are good and which are bad. Literally everyone agrees. And it's great. Jokes aside, Rise of Skywalker didn't hit the mark for me, for a long list of reasons. But, 2019 gave us The Mandalorian which was mostly pretty good, and this game, Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order, which is great.

    Now, I don't like the Dark Souls games. Or at least, I assume I don't, I've never actually played one, but I know that style of combat is not my thing. As such, I was worried about Fallen Order. Being a SW fan and being intrigued by the setting, I wanted to play it but thought I would probably bounce off the punishing, precise combat. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case. I actually ended up playing about 60-70% of the game on the normal difficulty and not hating it. I eventually bumped it down to easy because I was a bit bored with fighting the same enemies over and over while hunting for collectables and didn't want to get stuck on boss fights because I was enjoying the story quite a bit. (Let's take a second to praise Respawn for putting an easy mode in the game for those of us with jobs and other things in our lives. Sometimes we just want to finish games.)

    Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order: EA: Sports: It's In The Game has a solid story with likeable, memorable characters that I felt the most recent movie was lacking. Fallen Order has a lot of heart and embraces some of the concepts I really liked from Star Wars stories like The Last Jedi. Concepts of failure, the nature of The Force, what it means to be a Jedi and how hard it can be to move past mistakes we've made, or losses we've experienced. Also it's really fun to hit stuff with a laser sword. I hope we get to see future adventures with these characters, and please Respawn make Merrin a playable character in the second game.

  • Wow. Control. Just, so good. I don't really know what to say about the game other than I loved it. The setting and characters grabbed me immediately, it's kinda like Twin Peaks meets X-Files meets a Remedy game. The game is gorgeous, even on the Xbox One X where it had some serious performance issues, especially before patches started coming out. The visuals in Control convinced to start building a new PC which I will hopefully finish in early 2020 so that I can play it again with those fancy ray-tracing effects on.

    The combat took some getting used to, it's basically the opposite of Fallen Order's precise, measured fighting. It's chaotic and forces you to constantly move, dodge and attack to bring enemies down quickly because Jesse can't take a lot of hits. Aside from one or two boss encounters that were frustrating I found Control a blast to play. Watch a trailer and if the setting intrigues you play the game without looking up anything else, the game's reveals are best experienced on your own. And make sure you read every document you find, the writing is often hilarious and builds such a deep interesting world that I can't wait to explore more. Let's hope those expansions are as good as the main game.

  • AND THE DEFINITIVE 2019 GAME OF THE YEAR ACCORDING TO ME GOES TO....

    I'm scared to write anything about this game. Scared that I won't do the game justice or that I just won't be able to stop and the whole thing will be an incoherent mess. There was a lot of praise for Outer Wilds floating around the internet, especially as it got closer to the end of the year and many sites were beginning to compile their "best of 2019" lists. At the beginning of December I decided to dig into it before I got spoiled on too much because the one thing I kept hearing about the game is that it was best experienced fresh.

    I put a few hours into it, here and there over about a week and while definitely intrigued by what it was doing I found myself distracted by other things. I thought "this is really good, but I don't think it's grabbing me the same way it has others" and I put it down for a couple of weeks. During my time away from it I found the game still occasionally entering my thoughts, something was drawing me to it. After returning I couldn't be happier that I decided to push past some of the game mechanics that were initially giving me pause because finishing the game gave me not only the best gaming experience I had in 2019, but one of the best I've ever had. Outer Wilds is one of the best games I have ever played.

    So, that might read like hyperbole, and it feels almost silly to type it, or to say it out loud as I have to friends in conversation. I think it's true though. I love video games, and play as many of them as I can, but there haven't been many that have occupied my brain the way Outer Wilds has, even long after finishing it. As I'm typing I'm trying to figure out how much of the game I should talk about because the thing I heard was true, the game is best experienced if you haven't had anything spoiled yet. So, go watch a trailer for it, and if at any point during that, or while reading this you feel the game may interest you, just go play it.

    Outer Wilds is a game about exploration. You have a spaceship and can travel freely around a small solar system and learn things about said solar system. In typical sci-fi fashion there was an ancient alien race that left technology behind which you can use and study. Examining the alien ruins and devices reveals a mystery about the solar system and things that have happened/are happening/will happen in it/to it. There is not much of an inventory and no levelling up of your character, the only thing you gain as you explore the various planets is knowledge. Gaining knowledge of the ancient aliens, what happened to them and the nature of your surroundings is how you progress. The game starts you off with little direction, only hints of where to go or what to do which is a concept I struggled with at first. But I forced myself to explore, and learn, and as I did my skills developed. The solar system in Outer Wilds is a challenging place to explore, especially early on. Your ship obeys basic physics laws like momentum, which can make flying and landing a challenge at first. Your spacesuit only holds a limited amount of oxygen, the same goes for your its thruster fuel and you'll have to manage both to survive. Normally survival mechanics like that would push me away from a game but they never felt very punishing in Outer Wilds, especially as I became more efficient at exploring. After a short time in the game, flying, landing and spacewalks became second nature, so if you're struggling with those I implore you to press on.

    Now, a lot of games take place in space. Like a lot. It's not a new thing. Outer Wilds might be the only one I've played though, aside from maybe No Man's Sky, that gave me a sense of awe while exploring space. The scale and physics are exaggerated, the planets are tiny and it takes very little time to travel between them but the clockwork way that everything moves is both mesmerising and terrifying. Nothing stands still in Outer Wilds, the game world is not a static thing that waits for the player to interact with it. Planets rotate about their axes and fly around the sun at alarming speeds, massive storms shift around floating islands, a comet hurtles through the system and gravity enacts its force on you as you explore. It's one of the few games that has given me the sense of a living, breathing world even though the art style, while beautiful, is cartoony. It also has some fun uses of concepts like quantum physics, which make me want to dig out that book I bought years ago but never read. Where is that anyway?

    Even though exploring the solar system can be challenging I was propelled by the story. In all of the sci-fi stories that have some sort of ancient alien race I've never found myself caring about that race. However, messages you find on walls written hundreds of thousands of years before your character was born let you get to know the people that wrote them, their relationships, their fears, and hopes. What is revealed is a sad, yet hopeful story of a race of explorers and scientists that came so close to finding the thing they had searched for their entire lives, but failed and were wiped out. I won't spoil any more of it but suffice it to say I loved the story and it led to one of the most satisfying endings I've seen in a game. I expected to enjoy Outer Wilds from a gameplay and exploration aspect, I did not expect it to affect me emotionally in the ways it did. (I'm listening to the game's soundtrack as I write this, which is excellent by the way, and it's making me feel things.) Outer Wilds made me think about death, loss, grief and failure in an almost hopeful way. Maybe one day this will all end, but that doesn't mean we can't continue to try to better ourselves along the way.