Games in 2019 I have enjoyed

Not to put pressure on myself, so I won't even come up with ten games, as is typical.

List items

  • What if the happiness you sought was not out there, in the world of objects--no matter how coarse or refined--but within you, simply overlooked or hidden from you the moment you decided to seek that happiness in any other place than yourself? PLAYNE is a game, and it is not a game. It helped me create and stick to a meditation habit that I'm proud of and that has truly transformed my life. Can a game do that? Yes, if you stop looking...and start seeing.

  • I can't recall another game in which I wished so ardently that I could just explore the world and ...dare I say...write some side stories about on my own. The emotional journey at the center of Eastshade, a small island, is like its Great Shade tree: "it is the biggest thing, it is in its center, and you will know it when you see it." While you, the invisible artist, are never shown or given too much characterization, it's fine because you almost believe that having a fully-formed personality in a place like this would just be extra luggage you'd need to slough off. Enjoy the soundtrack, enjoy the vistas, and enjoy the experience of what an artist's paradise must feel like. I played this game twice through completely, and I might even play it again! Really cannot recommend this game enough.

  • If Breath of the Wild was a cool, refreshing (if long) drink, this is the concentrated form you can find in your grocer's freezer section. There's still an appealing amount of outdoor exploration, but it's very low stakes, low key. And after the year that felt like ten years that was 2019, sometimes low key is the best key.

  • We don't turn to popcorn for nutrition; we don't turn to gummi bears for sustenance...even though the packaging may claim the presence of real fruit, no one is truly fooled. Some things we eat because they delight us. This is the equivalent of those foods, right down to the plasticene nature of the graphics. I can admit that this game's ranking is due to a not-so-modest nostalgia boost, but even I came away with something new--the much-improved soundtrack. And for those of us who didn't play Hyrule Warriors, it's neat to see a more updated rendering of the Wind Fish, LONG MAY HE SLUMBER . . .

  • While technically this game is from 2018, I played it very late; my last play date according to Steam was December 30, 2018. I'm counting it here anyway if for no other reason than I seriously considered returning to it in 2019 multiple times, rationalizing whether I could start over completely (no secrets unlocked, no upgrades, et cetera). Though I came close a few times, I never actually did. I guess I'm only accepting now that my time with Yoku (and his stint on the island of Mokumana) is over. Now I'll just pray for a sequel.

  • Look to my blog for a longer piece I wrote about this game. It was one of the most dramatically affecting pieces of fiction I've ever interacted with, and I cherish my time with it. That's all I have to say at this point, I suppose.

  • I think the best games always give shape to something formerly shapeless, or give depth to something and shine a light despite its 2D platform. Telling Lies is just this, as a piece-by-piece collection, assembly, and destruction of a marriage, an undercover operation, and really, a man's identity. Wonderful acting and that same Sam Barlow "fucked me up in a way I didn't think it would" touch, Telling Lies is a great piece of software.

  • Pathea Games knows what they're about. They know that people love low-stress crafting games, exploration, relationships, stories of personal drama and triumph, and progress. My Time at Portia has all of these in spades. Personally, I treated this game as an Animal Crossing holdover; while it definitely served its purpose in that sense, it was obvious a lot of care and craft went into this sometimes glitchy, bug-infested project. Usually I'm willing to forgive bugs and glitches if they're in service to a game that lets you do nearly *anything* and solve problems in multiple ways. Indeed, MTAP suffers on that front, but it's still a stand-out "one of those" in an age where "those" refers to just a handful of titles.

  • HopFrog starts this game every time by reminding you that they worked very hard on Forager and hopes you enjoy it. Well, I definitely can tell a lot of work went into this, and I *did* enjoy it! Without being crass (but definitely doing some light ribbing) this at-first simple farming/harvesting/crafting and late-game industrial-age capitalist nightmare has neat, clean little doses of the things you love: mining ores, smelting bars, making tools, filling out a museum, discovering secrets, and getting powers on your weapons such that enemies explode loudly when you hit them. You'd think this game has a lot in common with its neighbor, My Time at Portia, yet it's astounding that two games that have such a similar premise came out completely differently. I mean it--there's absolutely no overlap or whiff of a copycat vibe across art direction and musical scoring up to and including how the economy and leveling up are handled. It's a boon of modern game design, in my opinion.