[GOTY 2019] I have played games and once again decided to write about them

My game of the year lists on this site sometimes exist in list form, but other times they don't exist at all. This is one of those rare in-between times where I both played games this year and feel like writing a lot of words about each one. So much so that I've included almost every game I played this year so that I can create a list of the top 19 games of 2019.

My style of writing these blogs is always very... reflective? To look at what games I like and why I like them I like to contextualize them within my life and explain my history with the game or genre. My life has changed a lot since I last wrote a game of the year blog, my last one being in 2015, and me basically uprooting my entire life in 2016 and starting fresh. I apologize in advance if these are too rambly or unrelated to the game itself. This list is mostly on pure gut feeling, but left to simmer for about a week before I gave it another pass to see if I still felt the same way.

Also shoutout to games like Slay the Spire, Disco Elysium, and Resident Evil 2, which I did not even get to this year and don't know when I will, but I just wanted to say, hey, shoutout.

Anyways, thanks for reading!

i am on my laptop and don't have any screenshots, so enjoy this unrelated image. it was this or a burger.
i am on my laptop and don't have any screenshots, so enjoy this unrelated image. it was this or a burger.

#19 Mario Kart Tour

Mario Kart Tour made it onto this list by reminding me that Mario Kart, real Mario Kart on switch, is actually a really fun and incredible racing game. That's one of the only good things I can really say about it. I was excited for it prior to it's release based on the quality of the other Nintendo mobile games I'd played, but it's execution was just kind of off. Neither type of steering mode feels particularly good or fun, with one feeling too simplistic and limiting, and the other giving too much freedom and not fine enough control. The gacha mechanics are also the most disgusting I've seen in a Nintendo mobile game, so only play it to remind yourself that Mario Kart can be great. If you even need to be reminded in the first place.

#18 Minoria

I love the Momodora series. I think I put Momodora III on one of my previous lists that made it's way onto the site? But if not, know that I adored it. This gave me confidence that a new game by the same developer, in the same genre, would for sure be something I'd love, but... I'm not sure what happened. Minoria has charm, but something about playing it feels off. Enemies do far too much damage, or feel inconsequential. The movement and look of everything feels at times jerky and unrefined, and at others extremely smooth. I honestly really wanted to like Minoria more, and maybe I'll get back to it at some point, but from the art style, to the animations, to the combat, it just left me wanting. There's little glimmers of hope here and there, tiny sparks of what made Momodora so enchanting. The atmosphere is wonderful, and some of the animations on their own are very satisfying. But ultimately I think I expected too much of Minoria, and I'm not sure whose fault that is.

#17 Pokemon Masters

Pokemon Masters could have been much different, and much worse than it ended up. It's a mobile gacha game, only the gacha doesn't matter. It's a Pokemon game, only you can't explore or catch Pokemon. It's such a wild departure from what the series is known for, but at the same time, it's a satisfying distillation of one of the more fun aspects of it. The game features real time 3v3 trainer battles, where each trainer only gets one "partner" Pokemon. The gacha aspect comes in where you can recruit new trainers and their partners for use in your squad. The story is told through a visual novel style, and is constantly rewarding you with new trainers and free gems for the gacha. The only bad part about this game, is it's extremely grindy, and for no real purpose. Things like co-op and gear items unlock far too late in the game, to the point where it feels like a tacked on afterthought to keep you playing. Aside from that, it's easy to recommend. You don't have to spend a cent, you learn a lot about Pokemon moves and the battle system, and it's got a decent story.

#16 Gears 5

I still remember emergence day. My friends and I packed into the local GameCrazy (which was basically half a GameStop stuffed into a steel cage, inside a corner of a video rental store, Hollywood Video) with a couple other sweaty nerds, waiting to buy our copies of Cliff Beezy's magnum opus, Gears of War, so we could go home and marathon through the campaign together in co-op. Gears 5 brings those memories rushing back. Though years have passed and my interest in the series had fallen into the negatives, Gears 5 being on game pass made it an easy decision to jump in and give it a shot. It felt like a vague suppressed memory slowly becoming more clear, "oh right this is what makes it satisfying. this is why i liked it". I didn't touch the campaign in Gears 5, but the multiplayer was just as I remember it. Paced well, chunky, and extremely fun. The escape mode is a very smart addition, though I'm not sure if it's new here or not. The idea is, a bite sized, maybe 30 minute, co-op horde mode style experience. Some characters even keep horde levels and perks in escape, making it feel like no matter what you do, you're progressing. Horde mode feels just as fun as ever, and helps bring in new players who may get overwhelmed by adding Jack to the mix as an invisible support drone who can heal teammates or stun enemies. Overall a very compelling package whether you want vs or co-op multiplayer. Definitely surprised how much I enjoyed this.

#15 Dr. Mario World

As a kid, I loved Dr. Mario. The music was infectious, the gameplay simple but fun. Dr. Mario World takes those elements and brings them to your mobile phone, but with a new twist. The puzzles and mechanics are extremely clever, and while the gacha is pretty gross, you can largely ignore it. The energy mechanic common in mobile games is also present, but I usually wanted to stop playing a session before I felt held back by it. For a quick fix of engaging puzzles, with hundreds of levels to burn through, check out Dr. Mario World. It's a very rare, good mobile experience that gives you enough satisfaction in a short period of time. The only reason I'm not still playing it, is in moving to a new phone, even synced to google play and my nintendo account, it didn't carry over my save. Soundtrack still slaps though.

#14 Yoshi's Crafted World

Full disclosure, I've only played a few levels of this as player two, but this game is so extremely cute and charming, it left a lasting impression. Yoshi's Crafted World is the latest in the series of soft and adorable platformers that are more about relaxing and collecting and cooperating than pixel precision and balls hard levels. Everything about it oozes sweet style, from the handcrafted look of the visuals, to the saccharine and addictive songs that you can't help but bob your head happily to. Playing with two players feels great, it completely changes the dynamic of the gameplay. In most platformers, you're just kinda running through things together, almost competing with each other to get to the goal first, or find items first. In Yoshi's Crafted World, you can play it like this if you want to, or you can combine forces to play as a suped up version of Yoshi. One player can jump on the other player's back and ride them. The rider is now a "gunner", they have unlimited eggs and take care of all the aiming and shooting. The player being ridden, is the one platforming and navigating the levels. It's an interesting way to give both players something to do and an extra perk for working together. If you just want to relax with a cozy, feel good game, check out Yoshi's Crafted World and you won't be disappointed.

#13 Risk of Rain 2

Risk of Rain was a game I spent a ton of time with. I think it was one of the first roguelikes that really clicked with me, and I felt like it sold me on the genre. Risk of Rain 2 takes that familiar feeling and characters and translates them into a fully 3D world. Some things are lost in the process, such as the intensity of the enemy swarms and the scale of the bosses, but i feel like it makes up for them in being much more immersive and fun right out of the gate. In the first game, a run could feel pretty boring in the first level or two, especially after you've played so many. In Risk of Rain 2, the 3D world and gameplay contribute a lot towards making even the earliest part of a run feel engaging. Some of the characters play differently in a third person shooter setting than in a sidescrolling platformer, which is to be expected, but that combined with the game's look, contribute to a vaguely unfinished feeling. If nothing else was added after today, Risk of Rain 2 still feels like a fun and challenging experience, but the promise of updates over time make me want to wait for a more "complete" version to really sink into.

#12 Heave Ho

Heave Ho is a game that really came out of nowhere and surprised me. I'm always looking out for fun new co-op games, simple and effective, more like Overcooked than Overcooked 2, where I felt like I just wanted more Overcooked, but it got too complicated and stressful to play. Heave Ho succeeds by almost being too simple, but still extremely effective. You have two buttons, grip left hand and grip right hand, all you can do besides that is move, make silly faces, and fart. But you have to use these tools, and communicate with your co-op partners, to work together to get all of your characters to the goal of a stage. You gain nothing by trying to cheese your way to the goal without your teammates or take on too much alone, but you find success through actual teamwork and coordination. It's extremely satisfying and fun to solve these levels together, while staying just chaotic and unpredictable enough to keep you on your toes and entertained. The style of the graphics is simultaneously cute and crude. You can unlock new outfits to dress up your colorful Geodude lookalike, but honestly I think more options up front would have been a better play here. It's easy to get engrossed in the game and not really stop every couple stages to roll for and equip new outfits, so they almost feel like an afterthought.

#11 Judgment

I've never played a Yakuza game, I've honestly never been too interested. But my girlfriend picked up Judgment one night on a whim, and it pretty much sold me on the franchise. I realize Judgment is a spin-off, and there's a lot in it that doesn't go back to Yakuza, but it still made me think "ok, so that's why people like these". Without giving the plot away, because it's an extremely cinematic experience, Judgment has you playing as a lawyer shamefully turned detective, uncovering mysteries, tailing people, chasing people, spying with drones, searching for evidence, playing arcade games, getting into fights, taking selfies, and photographing cats. It's an extremely unique game that just keeps surprising you. The combat system is wacky and fun, giving you so many options to play with, even though you get into a random fight every five minutes, they never have to play out the same way unless you want them to. While there's a lot of depth to the combat system, if that isn't your forte and you're just here to see the story, they've made it easy to just brute force your way through encounters. Some of the other mechanics could use some polish, such as tailing and chasing. Tailing is exclusively based on where your camera is pointed. If you hide behind a sign, but haven't adjusted the camera to keep the person in view, even if they're right next to you, it says you're losing them and starts the panic music. Similarly, the chases feel very finicky about what you should be dodging manually and what it assigns as a QTE. So a lot of times you're barreling towards a group of people on the left side of the road waiting for the dodge right QTE, only to run directly into them, so the next time, you see a group of people on the right, so instead of waiting for the dodge left QTE, you manually move to the left, but then it pops up while nothing is in front of you and you have to hit left again. It's a minor complaint, and hopefully they can get it ironed out if they make another one of these.

#10 The Outer Worlds

I never really played Fallout: New Vegas. I tried it and it burnt out my video card and I just never got back to it. loved Alpha Protocol, however, and even though The Outer Worlds is supposed to be closer to F:NV than AP, it still brought me back to the style of sharp writing I enjoyed from AP. I was a little bit disappointed that the game is only first person, as I generally like third person more in these types of rpg, but a couple of hours in and I was already used to it. I made my character an extreme himbo, just dumb as a brick, but hits like a ton of them. I felt like my style of play was just as fun and rewarding as if I chose something else, which I feel is a difficult thing to balance in games like this. A lot of them feel like, well you need x skill because you get all these perks and extra options and you really miss a lot without them. Playing a low intelligence character unlocked the [Dumb] skill dialog options, and while entertaining and well written, they didn't make a real difference in access to content or items, which was nice. There were some moments where I had a problem with this though. Such as a side quest where I needed to pass a persuasion check, a relatively low one if you're playing like a normal person, but for me it meant scouring more of the map for xp so I could crank some points into it and come back just for an unsatisfying ending to a quest that doesn't really matter. Overall I liked The Outer Worlds, I just kinda had my fill of it by the time I finished the very first planet.

#9 Mortal Kombat 11

I was exactly the right age when the first Mortal Kombat hit arcades. It was shocking and new and violent in a way that most games of the time weren't. It was such a rush to walk down to the Circle-K and see it looming over the magazine rack, a couple of kids my age crowded around it. Of course the years have not been as kind to that original entry as some other games. I feel like that's always an issue with the MK series, it ages so much faster than other games. If I'm playing Street Fighter V and go back to Street Fighter IV, both games look fantastic. But if I'm playing MKX and go back to MK9, it's such a weird night and day difference where you think "how did this ever look good to me?". But what absolutely has aged well, is the gameplay. What started out as a simplistic joke of a game with nothing but gore to sell it, has over the years evolved into one of the most fun and accessible fighting games. Pair that with an extremely good story mode that is exactly as corny and silly as you would expect from a game about kung fu wizards vs army guys and ninjas, and you have a real winner on your hands. They finally made the Krypt fun to engage with, making it feel like a third person puzzle-lite exploration game where unlocks tie back to your progress in the main game, or give you cool skins. Towers are... still towers. Nowhere near as good as the original tower from MK9, but easier to get into than whatever was going on with Injustice 2's towers. Something I wish they brought back is the factions from MKX, while not perfect, and while Injustice 2 replaced them with player clans, I actually thought it was cool to fight for your faction, and it made the towers a bit more engaging. Overall, MK11 is simultaneously a beautiful send off that celebrates the long running saga of MK, and a promise of even better things to come. It's hard not to like it, even if the gore has worn out it's welcome.

#8 Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem is a series I've always kind of admired from afar. My first exposure to it was visiting my coworker Dmitry's apartment after work one night where he'd just downloaded one of the older games. At the time I thought, "this reminds me of shining force" which in my book made it pretty dang cool. Fast forward multiple years and characters in Smash Bros of mysterious origin, and suddenly the world was ready for Fire Emblem. The 3DS games seemed to hit really big, and that Warriors game is totally a Warriors game, love it or hate it. But the big question was could it translate well from the traditional small handheld format to the hybrid handheld/full console experience on the switch? The answer as it turns out, is yes, absolutely, and much better than you would expect. All of the prerelease marketing materials for the game left me cold and uninterested, but seeing it come out and having people just gush about it, that wave of zeitgeist is what helped it catch my interest. The game plays as you would expect if you're familiar with the series or other turn based strategy games, but the units and environments look great, the battle system is fun, and the voice acting is fantastic. It really gives the huge roster of characters unique personalities, and helps you connect with them. Picking your titular house doesn't feel as corny or happen as early as you would expect, and the story absolutely took me by surprise. I've still not even seen hint of the time skip I know is coming thanks to twitter, but I'm still comfortable putting this game in my top ten of the year knowing there's a whole lot of this goodness left to enjoy.

#7 Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game is a very simple and charming premise. From the first minute of looking at the game you know all you really need to know about it. You are a goose, you have a little list of mischievous deeds to accomplish, and accomplishing enough of them will grant you access to the next area and a new list. Your tools are your beak, your honks, and flapping your wings, but mostly just some combination of the other two with moving your body and neck. The controls are responsive and simple and make piloting your terror goose stress free. The puzzles that make up your list are enjoyable to solve and execute. Everything about Untitled Goose Game just feels very light and paced well. The music creates a fun atmosphere and adds something to build and ease tension in a way, and you never quite dwell in one area long enough for it to overstay it's welcome. If I had one complaint about the game, it's that there aren't enough fun little hidden objectives to stumble across in your reign of terror. Mostly they reveal themselves in the post-game and are either extremely specific, or a very game-y "do it again but faster" that feels a little out of place. I'd rather just not have a post-game list than goals like that. Most people seem content just to watch a stream or enjoy the memes the game spawned, which is perfectly fine. The game shows well because the premise is so simple but elegantly executed, it's just as much of a joy to watch as it is to play.

#6 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

From the initial Kickstarter, I had no interest in Bloodstained. I was happy they were making it, as a fan of SotN and the GBA/DS 'vanias. But everything about the look of Bloodstained was not great. The 3D models for the characters and environments looked cheap and bad. It's something that's easy to dismiss as "it's just a proof of concept" or "it's just an early demo", until you're still saying it while you watch the launch trailer. Still, even after finishing the game, I can look at some of the screenshots I took and think "jesus that looks bad". It is then a testament to how good this game feels to play, that it doesn't even matter, and is not even something I thought about while playing it. This game is almost a love letter to SotN, if it's possible to write yourself a love letter. The variety of weapons and ways to spec your character, without having traditional RPG stats, is impressive. The shards the main character absorbs are fun to experiment with to find your favorite combo, and remind me of the souls from Dawn of Sorrow. You want to collect them all and upgrade your favorites, which leads to farming enemies and challenging rare bosses, things that extend the game a bit and help it feel a bit more worthwhile to engage enemies. My only complaint about this game, other than how poorly it looks, is actually just that there's not enough of it. I finished just about everything in 26 hours, which left me wanting more. For the style of game it is, exploration and finding new areas through upgrades and new abilities is key, but it felt like most of the time you unlocked a new ability and it would unlock one main path for you to take, and maybe one or two secret rooms if you backtracked. This makes the map feel poorly designed and the abilities almost an afterthought. Even one or two new areas per ability feels like it would extend the game a bit. Though, with the 13 free dlcs planned, maybe we'll get something to make up for it?

#5 Tetris 99

Tetris is one of my favorite games of all time. I can remember childhood vacations sitting up at night playing on my Game Boy Color, as well as years later spending overnight shifts trying to get better and better on Tetris Friends (which sadly shut down earlier this year). It's the most consistent game in my life, as every version I play I can pretty much enjoy on the basis of "it's tetris", even if nothing else about it is good. In my opinion, the ideal version of Tetris was Tetris DS, which I do still have and play from time to time, but my hands don't really find the DS (or 3DS in this case) as comfortable as they used to. Puyo Puyo Tetris was another outstanding version of Tetris, and much easier on my hands. I didn't really enjoy Tetris Effect, only because Mizuguchi's signature style felt like a poor fit for Tetris to me. I loved Rez (which isn't a music game), I loved Lumines, but Tetris Effect didn't add enough to Tetris to make it interesting beyond curiosity. I absolutely did not expect a third year in a row with a new and potentially exciting Tetris game, but then they dropped a 99 player battle royale with Tetris 99. The premise is right there in the title. It's Tetris, there's 99 of you. Go. And it's so simple it's brilliant. All the feelings of being in a Tetris Friends arena lobby are back, and multiplied by like 16. It controls exactly as you would expect Tetris to, the UI is clean and undistracting (which is a huge feat considering 99 games of Tetris are being displayed on it), and using the right stick to aim your garbage just feels like it makes sense. Some time after release, a couple of DLC packs were released that added more modes that made it an even more well rounded Tetris experience. But the heart of the game is the signature online mode. For the amazing price of free, Tetris 99 comes packed with a lot of fun and excitement in just that one mode, which initially sounded more like a joke than a genuine good game premise.

#4 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro was a game that I was cautiously excited about from just the announcement of it's title. People were still hype after Bloodborne, which I still haven't played, and seemed to expect ninja Bloodborne. When we finally saw gameplay and there was a grappling hook involved, people immediately thought of Tenchu. From Software does incorrectly get credit for the Tenchu series, despite only being the publisher (with the original developer Acquire most recently helping develop Octopath Traveler, and K2, now an internal team at Capcom, helping with Devil May Cry V (a game I hope to get to someday)), and the grappling hook did give off slight Tenchu vibes. Thankfully, Sekiro ended up playing like neither really, but feeling inspired by both. There's the slow, methodical stealth and memorization of enemy patterns, the perfect execution of taking each guard down one by one until an area is cleared to explore for items. But it's not mission based like Tenchu, it has a Souls/Bloodborne style inventory system and open world. There's no souls/xp, there's no levels, no armor or different weapons, you just find new equipment or upgrade your current set. It honestly feels like it's the best of both worlds, you get the cool ninja stealthy action, but then it doesn't play like absolute garbage when you get to a boss encounter. My main complaint with Sekiro, was that some of the bosses didn't feel like they fit in the theme or gameplay of the game. Like they felt like there weren't enough bombastic bosses and just copy/pasted in something from Dark Souls II with no regard for the fact that these are very different games. Bosses explicitly designed for Sekiro, like human enemies designed to take advantage of the combat system, or enemies that at least uniquely incorporate the grappling mechanics, are far more memorable and fun. A sequel to Sekiro is probably inevitable given it's reception and story, but I'd be more than happy if this was it. It feels complete and satisfying just as it released, in a way a lot of games don't these days.

#3 Super Mario Maker 2

I missed the wave on the first Mario Maker. I didn't own a Wii U, and while ultimately one game wasn't enough to push me over the edge to buying one, I instead settled for the late 3DS version, which was great even though it was lacking in features, but had the same problem as every 3DS game for me in that it was physically painful to play it for too long. Fast forward to this year, there's a new and improved Mario Maker on Switch. Such is the story for basically every Wii U game at this point, it really makes me feel better about not buying one. I can really spend hours just playing whatever random levels it decides to throw at me, playing through the top lists, or finding codes for levels people made on twitter or discord and giving them a shot. There's a lot of bad levels, especially at first, but there's also much more genuine fun and clever levels out there. I find my sweet spot for difficulty is like two notches above "automario". I don't want to be stuck for hours perfecting a section or even just one jump or mechanic. But I have no problem with easy, fun levels designed to make you have a good time or feel like you did something cool. Levels that make you think or use specific mechanics can be extremely fun, if they're intuitive and designed well. It's hard to describe, but you absolutely know it when you see it. You'll play a level and make note of helpful things that teach you what it wants you to do. Maybe with signs, or an easier version as a demonstration before the real thing. But small moments like this that internalize in you "that part felt cool" or whatever, which helps you get better organically, both at playing more levels or designing your own. Mario Maker 2 works so well because the baseline is responsive and familiar. Everyone knows how Mario jumps and runs, everyone knows how that's supposed to feel, and not having to tweak or mess with that to get it the way you want it, lets you be more immediately creative than something like LittleBigPlanet, as much as I liked it, just because you yourself know what you think would be fun. You're not contending with both the tools and the mechanics to try to make a good playable level. To me, that's the beauty of Mario Maker 2, it doubles down on everything that made the first one so appealing.

#2 Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers

Final Fantasy XIV is undoubtedly in my top 5 videogames of all time. There are layers upon layers that I could write endlessly about what makes them so great and how well they come together and overlap. But that's not why we are here today, that's just the setup. Shadowbringers is the latest and greatest expansion to one of the best games of all time. My girlfriend and I were sitting in the room at fanfest when it was first announced, there's no possible way I could have been more excited for or had higher expectations for this game. By the end of the patches that led up to Shadowbringers, I was unsure of what to expect from it, and that uncertainty led to me believing that maybe they could fumble this one. Some of the popular theories going around seemed lame, and while Shadowbringers didn't change the bullet point list of things that would be included, enough of the points were left vague enough to let that seed of doubt grow. Thankfully those doubts were unfounded. People had expected a repeat of Raubahn Extreme from Stormblood, where the instance servers were under such a heavy load from the new expansion launch, that players couldn't complete the main story quests, which are the gateway to... pretty much everything else in the expansion. But there were no such issues and Shadowbringers launched without a hitch. Not only that, but the story went in a direction that felt fresh and interesting. FFXIV has always had a good to great story, but the Shadowbringers content elevates it to a new height. Not to spoil for anyone playing through, but the world post Stormblood is ready to go to war, and that war feels like it's going to be a long, grueling, dreary, tiring affair, as wars often are. But Shadowbringers starts by literally whisking you away from all of the troubles of this world, to an alternate version of the world, ravaged by a calamity and slowly rebuilt by its survivors. It's a refreshing new take on the world you are used to, it's not 1:1, as different circumstances led to things being developed, named, and used differently, but those differences make things feel fresh and exciting. The new jobs added, Gunbreaker and Dancer, are both very fun and easy to play, and start at level 60, making them easier to catch up to where most people are starting Shadowbringers at level 70. The new races, Hrothgar (male) and Viera (female), both ended up looking fantastic despite limited customization options and gear restrictions. The new Trust system for story dungeons is amazing and almost serves as a stress free tutorial for each dungeon. And the post launch content is looking great as well, with the first major patch just recently to have finished releasing as I write this. The Nier crossover is executed well in its first raid, and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest. Smart additions, new story and lore elements keeping things fresh and exciting, jobs being balanced to reduce hotbar bloat, and constant updates and quality of life features mean I'm going to be playing FFXIV for a very long time.

#1 Pokemon Shield

After all the gushing and love I had for Shadowbringers, it would take quite the game to take this top spot away from it. I started this year almost 100% certain that when all was said and done, Shadowbringers would be right here. But in an unexpected turn of events, Pokemon Shield was released. I've not really played a lot of Pokemon in my life, all told. I started with Blue, but then there was a large gap where I thought they were too intimidating to get back into. Things started looking up with Sun/Moon, where things seemed to be simplified and improved from previous versions. Let's Go took this a step further, but almost went too far. Throughout all these games though, I never finished one. I loved the style and setting of Sun/Moon, but being on the 3DS made it difficult to enjoy for long. Let's Go was on the Switch, but was far too simple, and just a remake of Red/Blue/Yellow when all was said and done, so I had less of an interest in getting deep into it. From the initial trailer for Sword and Shield, I was intrigued. Seeing these big open areas, huge gyms, adorable starters, it was all extremely exciting, even for a casual Pokemon fan such as myself. With each new update and trailer, it felt like the entire Pokemon community found something else they didn't like about it, and by the time the game was about to release, they felt ready to completely write this game off. Even my girlfriend, a diehard lifelong Pokemon fan was starting to question it, so I was wondering if this would finally be a huge miss for a mainline Pokemon game. A week before the game came out, we hadn't seen the starters evolution line, there were wack 24 hour livestreams to promote one new variant of an old Pokemon, every new way they tried to market the game felt like a big wasted opportunity, and more and more information kept leaking that hurt public perception. But despite all of that, the game came out and that initial excitement shined through. This Pokemon felt good. There are some very smart changes to the underlying systems at work that are honestly long overdue. Everything is easier in this game, and I don't mean from a difficulty standpoint, I mean from an accessibility to content one. Hyper training can fix bad IVs, it's easy to train EVs, getting foreign Pokemon through surprise trade is effortless and almost guaranteed after a certain time of night, which makes using the Masuda method to hunt shinies even easier. Max raid battles are fun, and give amazing rewards. Being able to catch a Pokemon with good IVs or their hidden ability, on top of getting TRs, XP candies, and other valuable items, they're some of the most rewarding content. The story could be a little stronger, but the gym system is great, and the lore reason and mechanics for Dynamaxing are interesting without playing out the gimmick. The new Pokemon are well designed, some of my favorites in a very long time, like Corviknight, Dragapult, Falinks, Cursola, and Polteageist. I'm 290 hours into Pokemon Shield currently, and I'm not even finished building up my team to start competitive battles yet. Early next year I'm taking place in a player run Pokemon League, and I'm training up a monotype team for that. Playing Pokemon Shield is the most excited I've been to play a videogame that wasn't FFXIV in a very long time, and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. That's why Pokemon Shield is my favorite game of 2019, because I've already had so much fun with it, completing the story, filling out my pokedex and currydex with my girlfriend, and hunting for shiny Pokemon, but I'm still excited to play it and set new goals for myself.

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