Top Games Mike Played in 2019

Hey!

Long time listener of the GB crew, first time list-creator.

I finally have the energy and time to come up with a list of games I had fun playing throughout the year. As a parent, these items are a rare commodity, so I'm taking advantage of them while they're still available.

This list is also self-serving catharsis as I make peace with how I now interact with one of my favorite hobbies. It's a tale as old as time: parent of a toddler barely has time for anything besides work and parenting, let alone video games. There was this looming thought in my mind that was insistent that total hours played = commitment to the hobby. "Am I even a fan of video games if I hardly get to play them?", I asked myself. The answer is obviously 'yes', but it's tough to see that when everyone around you finds more time to play than you do.

What ended up allowing me to get past the time commitment thing was the context in which I was now playing games: my son. He just turned four, so most of this year has been spent introducing him to games. At first, he was just interested in watching me play games. That quickly turned into wanting to actually hold the controller and play for himself. It spiraled from there.

We started with simple games on the SNES classic and eventually moved onto more complicated games on the Switch. Besides loving 'Paw Patrol on a Roll' (toddlers, am I right?), he was smitten with everything Mario. We played Mario Kart, Mario Odyssey, Mario Bros Wii U Deluxe, Mario Maker 2. All this year. I even found a decently priced GBA SP on eBay for him, so he could play Super Mario Advance 4.

Watching him explore games and get excited made me realize that, just because I couldn't sink 50-60 hours into an RPG (as I am want to do), didn't mean I wasn't having fun with the hobby. Yes, I spend less time playing games by myself. I'm a 'gamer', though, and now having a ton of fun with my son.

That all said, here are the games I played in 2019. You'll notice most aren't from 2019 (my backlog is daunting, gigantic and embarrassing). These are the games I played the most and made the biggest impact on me.

List items

  • This game is fan-tastic. It's absolutely one of my favorite games of the year; more accurately, it's my favorite game of the last five years. It pulled me in from the start with it's world building. I really dig sci-fi shows/books, so to play a game that was a mix of X-Files/Fringe/Eureka felt exciting. "They made the game I've always wanted!", I said as I was going on another mission to contain a super weird inanimate object that was wreaking havoc.

    I think it was Brad in the 2019 GOTY discussions who mentioned the compelling nature of the collectibles, and I couldn't agree more. I had to read every case file, document and listen/watch to every audio and video file. It all connected to this larger story that was unfolding as I explored another corner of the Oldest House. The characters were fun to engage with and the power set was so cool. You basically get a set of Force powers without the burden of the Star Wars lore.

    The game definitely has its drawbacks: combat/boss fights can be unfair, the performance issues on PS4 are sometimes real bad (single digit frame rate bad) and the inventory stuff is clunky. That said, I couldn't get enough of this game and can't wait for the DLC.

    Shoutout to my long-time broski, JB Love, for recommending this game.

  • Me, my son and wife have put a combined 75 hours into this game. It's nuts, but also some of the most fun I've had playing games this year. "Can I play Mario Builder 2?" is a question I'd often hear from my son when I came home from work. The online functionality is weird and it's tough to find your friend's levels. That said, watching my son play through speed-run levels, playing levels that my wife made for him or seeing him add that 100th super mushroom to the level he was making made my heart warm.

  • This is my favorite Final Fantasy. It's a game I've played numerous times. I love the story, the mechanics, the characters and even the side quests. It's grindy as hell (thanks, Chocobo Hot and Cold) and super long. I still played it again this year (most of it on 4x speed) and enjoyed every minute of it.

  • This is the best Spiderman game. The DLC was lack luster, but the main storyline was so good. All the side missions were fun, albeit frustrating at times (looking at you, Taskmaster). Most importantly: it's the best Spiderman has ever felt. Flying through New York, dropping in on enemies or climbing up the side of a building. It all felt so good. It felt so Spiderman.

  • I'm terrible at fighting games, but love trying anyway! As most probably did, I played a ton of Melee and Brawl in school, so this game holds a special place in my heart. This version is definitely my favorite, not only because of the character variety, but because it just feels smooth while fighting.

    Snake is the best character. Fight me.

  • I still technically haven't finished this game. I'm on the last chapter. I've been playing it for ~4 years; I got it for X-mas in 2015. I think I put the most time into it this year, though, and I think that's because the story and mechanics finally grew on me.

    The story is bonkers and I still don't quite understand it. Noct, Iggy, Prompto and Gladio are good, good boys and are great characters, though. I loved being with them as they went on a hunt or did some dungeon delving. The battle system finally clicked with me and found myself enjoying mores than I ever did. And who doesn't like that fishing mini game?

  • This was the first 3D Mario my son really got the hang of and ended up beating (along with our help). It's a blast to play. The controls feel fluid, like most Mario games.

    The only bummer: 999 power moons? Who has time for that?

  • My brother-in-law came to visit last year for Christmas and brought his Switch. That's where I got to first play BOTW. While I've played most of the important Zelda titles, I've never been a die-hard fan. Also, open-world, survival-type games lose me. I get overwhelmed with the amount there is to do and fall off. However, after 20 min of playing this game, I was hooked. I looked for every shrine I could, loved the puzzles and made a ton of food!

  • You walk around vacuuming ghosts and collecting money. How fun is that? A ton, actually. The best way to describe this game is relaxing. The puzzles aren't too difficult, the story is light-hearted and gameplay loop is satisfying. I do wish the controls were better. I ended up fighting the tank controls to more than I would've preferred. I still had fun finding gems and taking down ghosts.

  • This was a Mario I never played when it was first released, but one I'm glad I was able to finally experience. My son and wife thoroughly enjoyed playing it for ~40 hours. It's hard as hell, but a lot of fun to play.

  • I only played this for about about a month (which is enough for me to get half-way through the Realm Reborn stuff). Final Fantasy is one of my favorite game series, so it seems like totally my jam. It just felt like such a slog of fetch quests. The mechanics were something to get used to, too. That said, every time I hear the Austin from Waypoint talk about it, I look forward to the day I can dump more time into it.

  • I vividly remember spending an entire summer playing Red and Blue with my brother, as well as trading/playing with Pokemon cards. Grinding for XP, doing the rare candy trick and catching Mewtwo. Those games were formative for me in terms of my love for RPGs. Fast-forward a ton of years, I picked up Pokemon X, sunk 40-50 hours into it and had a blast. Now, I'm getting to enjoy the first proper console Pokemon with my son. He likes catching Pokemon and I like the quality of life improvements. We're only ~5 hours in, but will be working to finish this one at some point.

  • This was my first YS game. Action RPGs are fun and this one is no exception. Not sure I loved it enough to be invested in the story or play others in the series, but I may go back to this one in the future.

  • My son has loved Cars since he was old enough to watch movies. When we found this game, he was stoked! The gameplay is fine; it's your standard Mario Kart clone (IMO). The voice-acting is pretty bad. I guess Owen Wilson was too busy working to voice McQueen. Kachow!

  • "Whenever you're in trouble, just yelp for help!". It's a simple platformer that runs well on the Switch. My son loves it!