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2019 - "Fire Emblem Three Houses" presents: Top Ten

(fire emblem almost made the list, I could easily see it in the number 10 spot)

2019 was a great year for video games. If you say otherwise, you're crazy. Here's my personal list of the best games that came out his year, of the ones I've played.

List items

  • Honorable Mention: KH3 comes very close to being an amazing game. It had the potential to be the perfect end to the Xehanort arc, but the pacing is stilted and a lot of important characters are pushed to the periphery. There are some fantastic moments and set pieces, but they mostly right at the end of the game. Most of the time is spent going through a mixed bag of Disney/Pixar worlds, with little to break up the trek from world to world. People talk about Kojima needing an editor, but Nomura could use a few pointers in basic plot structure if the end result we got was true to his vision of the game.

    I still really liked the game though, and we got lore reasons out of it from Waypoint so it gets a mention.

  • 10. The Outer Worlds, also, comes very close to being an amazing game. It manages to do so many things right that I have full faith that the sequel will be an improvement since these folks know how to make an RPG. The stats, build options, weapons, and companions were all a lot of fun to mess around with. I haven’t really played a first person RPG like this since Fallout 4, and it was nice to be back in this style of game. The writing is also much higher quality than Bethesda’s output, though not quite as good as Fallout New Vegas. By the end I was ready for it to be over, but overall I look back fondly on the game and remain open to doing another playthrough sometime. Obsidian should keep making these.

  • 9. Where do I start with this? No More Heroes is such a weird series. I’ll start briefly with my history with Suda, which is that I’ve only really played the NMH series recently and haven’t played much of his other stuff. So compared to the first two No More Heroes, Travis Strikes Again is a much more involved and dense game than those. Where those games had lots of action cutscenes, and less dialogue, TSA is full of text. Both dialogue and bonus material are on high offer, and I ended up doing a lot of reading. So you end up with this weird mashup of old style NMH combat (with a zoomed out camera and a new skill/LVL up system) with a Phoenix Wright-esque zany visual novel full of fourth wall breakage.

    I particularly liked all the little references and callbacks, one of which made me really want to play Shadows of the Damned next. At one point it is revealed that Travis possesses knowledge that he is in a video game, and that he was breaking the 4th wall before Deadpool did. I must therefore, as a nerd on the internet, correct Mr. Suda that Deadpool was created in 1991. He knew he was in comicbooks before the first No More Heroes video game entered development. Now Mr. Suda must issue a correction in NMH3 featuring my name in the credits, and send me a no-prize.

    Oh yeah uh, I loved every minute of TSA and people should really play it.

  • 8. I am a recovering Magic the Gathering junky. Back in the day all me and my friends used to do was draft. We would build decks from the current sets, or just use our custom Cube draft. As time went on and that friend group moved apart I drifted away from MTG, but still loved drafting. Slay the Spire taps into the same fun of those experiences and gives you a lot of fun challenges in a single player game.

    There is potential for hundreds of hours of play time, but I mostly tapped out after just 40. Still, the game is being supported and there is supposed to be another character coming out soon. So I’ll probably start it up sometime and get hooked all over again. I did actually boot it up about a month ago to try a sailor moon mod, and it was dope.

  • 7. “Butterfingers”, my sister said in a faux British accent as an inventory item fell off my character and I had to pick it back up. We’d been playing the game together for 3 hours straight, switching off every run. It is a game that greatly benefited from having a buddy along for much of the ride, since a lot of the situations are so ridiculous that it helps to have someone there to give you a second opinion of what to do next (or to just laugh at your misfortune).

    In Void Bastards, you raid hostile ships for resources and progress through space finding items for an evil corporation that uses prisoners as fodder. It is a great setup, and the space ships are immersive and have their own character despite being procedurally generated. I played through it once and haven’t gone back, but it was a blast to play through and felt like a possible future model for making immersive sims on a budget.

  • 6. Sekiro is really good. It deserved the TGA win, especially when you consider that From’s general output this decade has been so consistently great. I enjoyed my time with Sekiro, but haven’t felt the urge to go back and play it again. It has been pointed out to me that even though it lacks some of the replayability that the Soulsborne games had, Sekiro is just as good as those games because of what it offers. The idea is that the game teaches the player how to break out of the Soulsborne style of play, and you become a true ninja.

    That much is true, but that style of true ninja is still all the game lets you be. So if that mode of play disagrees with you, or you just have your fill of it, there is no reason to play this and not simply boot up one of From’s other games of the generation. You are left with a game that teaches you how to play it then…that’s it. Wait for a sequel. I guess what I’m saying is that for me, Sekiro “came and went”. It was great to play once, but parts of it were frustrating and I spent like 6 hours just on the final boss. Right after another 6+ hours fighting an optional demon boss because I’m stubborn. That’s what I remember most strongly about it.

    Still, you can’t deny the quality of the overall game. And who can forget that ape fake out!? Ape Out? That’s another game. Sekiro’s super polished and the combat/boss fights are mostly fun as heck. Easily top ten material, and any other year it’d be in my top 5. But these next five are real bangers.

  • 5. Ah yes, Bloodstained. I just started smiling while writing. This game makes me so happy. I’m so happy that it exists, that it got made. It is beautiful and perfect, it is everything I love about video games. It has a musically flawless soundtrack that I purchased and still listen to in the car. It is worth having waited so long with baited breath for.

    Why isn’t it higher? It is also quirky and parts of it were a bit rough. Also the problems with the switch version have kept me from double dipping, which is sad. I’ll probably buy it again next year. There are some negatives, but I don’t want to even mention them. Because everything about this game makes me happy and it needs to be protected at all costs.

    I hope there of more of these, and will play them all as long as Ikaruga keeps making them.

  • 4. Here we have the continuing trend of this year catering to my tastes so strongly that each of these games is a potential game of the year. Resident Evil 2 is a nearly perfect reimagining of the old classic, with everything fleshed out and made more modern. Capcom is back and making fantastic games now, and this is another home run. It is just the right length, with excellent reason for a second playthrough.

    More games need to do this. If there are two characters with different stories and cutscenes, along with a different model/weapon set or what have you, the player is infinitely more likely to play through the game more than once. Especially with a game like this that is so fun and well designed. It goes down like butter. X gon' give it to ya.

  • 3. Control doesn’t really go down like butter. Much ado has been made about Control’s somewhat lack of polish, and design quirks. How big a deal is it if a game has some friction or rough edges? No one who plays Control will fail to notice at least some of these, while other flaws relate to the platform/console the game is played on. The following isn’t a brag or anything, just a statement that I played Control on PC with mouse and keyboard. I tried playing with a controller but felt the combat was too awkward and I wanted more buttons along with mouse aim.

    The experience I had was that Control is the perfect blending of story/lore and combat that feels amazing no matter how many times you do it. Every opportunity for more combat was welcome, to the point where I didn’t mind reattempting sections where I’d died. The checkpointing is such that you usually have to do some backtracking to get back to where you died, but I saw this only as more motivation to play better and learn. It didn’t bother me. The boss fights were all winners for me, aside from the refrigerator boss that makes holes in the floor. That sucked.

    The world building and lore are so good in this game. As you find more videos, audio logs, and files, so many cool stories are told. Casper Darling is such a fun character to have guide you through the bureau, and Jesse is probably the perfect POV character for a game like this that has supernatural shit going on. She rolls with the punches so well and feels alive and aware of what is happening. I felt like I had to live up to her expectations of me as a player, because she had this sense of calm and…control about her. Very good stuff.

    The powers are all tons of fun to wield too, especially once you can do the dream float thing and just murder fools while platforming around combat arenas. If there is any justice in the world this game will be very influential and more people will build on the ideas here.

  • 2. Here we have another standout, that should probably be game of the year in most places. Disco has it all. It’s a Planescape: Torment type of game, re-imagined for a modern audience. It is like the RE2 of CRPG games. It gets rid of stilted, weird combat and builds out the dialogue and character trait systems of those older games. You can play any kind of character you want, only saddled with a premade character with a specific background. This game might use the trope of the player character having amnesia, but that’s because it is actually a good trope for a game like this. There is nothing wrong with your character having a lack of knowledge that allows the player to question people about very basic traits of the setting without breaking immersion.

    This is an *important* game, much more so than Bioshock Infinite (which I played for the first time this year, and hated everything about). Disco Elysium makes the case for the continuing use of the CRPG format, but with more focus on writing than combat. The writing is so well handled, that I felt like I was actually reading a good novel. DE is one of the best games of the decade, and only loses first place in my ranking for specific personal reasons.

  • 1. Alright, so why the heck is Death Stranding my number one game? Well, the short version of it is that this game touched me, and made me feel seen in a way that I really needed as I am going through a lot of real life challenges. A game about building bridges and making lasting connections with people made me feel a little less lonely, and hopeful about the future.

    I also just think it’s really well mad, and I had fun trekking across America. Building zip lines was so satisfying, and the general pacing was perfect for this kind of big budget action adventure game. The big moments felt epic and well earned, the boss fight with Troy Baker’s character is a highlight of the year. So are the performances of all the actors involved. A lot of the budget obviously went to the cinematics, and it paid off big time. I really enjoyed them, and the acting was so good that the story genuinely touched me. Call me a mark or a big softy, but I was absorbed by the game as a whole and thought the whole package made for something truly special.

    I’ll look back on Death Stranding as the defining game of 2019 for me, and that’s why it is at the top spot. It was really cool and tried something different than most big budget third person games. The whole game is structured to give you the full experience of Sam reconnecting the country, and I felt as though I lived through everything right alongside him.

    So that’s my list. Sorry it was so long! I just feel like it’s important to put some effort into these if you’re gonna do it at all. No one really cares about your top ten unless they know you or you are well known, so you may as well have fun writing it ;)