2019 Games Of The Year.

What's not on this list?

Outer Wilds. Maybe I'm a crusty old jerk for giving this game an hour and then tossing it based solely on the clumsy movement and flight controls? All I know is that I was promised a narrative masterpiece combined with the space and planetary exploration of No Man's Sky, and then when I found out that it was basically The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask I ran away. I will most certainly give it another shake when I'm bored this year.

Untitled Goose Game. On paper this game checks all my boxes - whimsy, geese, being a nuisance, and stealth action. It just wasn't all that fun to play, though. Too little information was given about how to do each piece... and figuring it out was more excruciating than satisfying.

Void Bastards. I've soured a lot on run-based games. Rehashing well-treaded ground is a huge turnoff in all but my absolute favorites. So despite the incredibly strong aesthetic I couldn't spend more than a few hours on this.

What is on the list?

10. Tetris 99. Winning a match in this game is one of my greatest gaming achievements this decade. I hate the fact that I can't change the music or visuals easily - it'd be such an easy add, as evidenced by the fact that it's locked behind rewards. I love pretty much everything else about this excellent riff on the best puzzle game ever made.

9. Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to). I think some of the best work my gaming PC was put to in 2019 was writing encouraging notes to folks in this world. And I got a few bangers from others to boot. I'm so happy this game exists, and I'd love to see it expand - more tunes, stickers, and ways to interact with others.

8. Control. This'd probably be higher on the list if I'd finished it, but the checkpoint system has me actively fearful that I'll get killed and lose 20 minutes of progress. So much so that I stop playing for days or weeks. I've put it aside several times, despite loving the vibe (government law enforcement mixed with the supernatural and with science, a la X-Files/Fringe) so much. I could watch an entire seven-season television series in this world. I love the vibe more than the bad run & gun gameplay and poorly executed metroidvania exploration for sure.

7. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. My third fave Star Wars game behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast. The Souls-like elements - refilling health at a save spot respawns enemies, specifically - were not appealing; and as someone who plays a lot of console games via PS4 Remote Play, where time-restricted parrying is much tougher, I had a hard time with a lot of the boss fights. The camera sucked, the platforming and sliding were painful, and there were a ton of glitches and performance issues. But it was a very satisfying Star Wars story, something I'm always down for, and when the combat wasn't cheap, it was fun.

6. Cadence of Hyrule – Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda. A delightful blend of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Crypt of the NecroDancer. Just long enough and challenging enough. Amazing music. So happy it got made.

5. Rage 2. Got flack for being unoriginal, but I hadn't played any of the other open world shooters from which it cribbed (i.e. Borderlands) so I found it refreshing, with just enough style to complement the absolutely fantastic combat. I mostly drove around for 30 hours knocking out enemy outposts and I was actually pretty bummed to see it end.

4. Super Mario Maker 2. What it lost in its creation interface, it gained in an improved set of level elements and scenery to add. The lack of web integration to share levels online (especially compared with Super Mario Maker) is unforgivable in 2019 but expected from Nintendo. I still had a ton of fun making levels with my kids, playing other folks' stuff, and digging into the story mode.

3. Luigi's Mansion 3. The first game my son and I have finished together cooperatively. It's perfectly crafted for this experience, with Gooigi the best designed-for-kids co-op companion I've ever seen. It's charming, colorful, thrilling but not scary. There's so much to interact with, so much attention to detail. The boss fights had nowhere near enough QA, and there's a lot of missing instruction that make something so obviously designed to be played by/with kids really frustrating. But we got past it and my son and I bonded over some awesome moments where he stepped up and took out some critical ghosts, or solved puzzles that I couldn't. What a treasure.

2. The Outer Worlds. I couldn't put this down, mostly because I loved exploring the different planets and environments, and because the combat and loot were really satisfying. A great, relatively succinct story that I'm eager to replay with another set of companions and choices and maybe even weapons and skills.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. A near-perfect remake of one of my favorite Zelda games, the first one that I replayed over and over. As much as LTTP or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are superior technically, there's so much in Awakening that are more meaningful to me. Playing the instruments in front of the Wind Fish for the first time still gives me chills. But what really cemented this was the impact on my kids. The adorable clay-character art style grabbed my kids, and my son really fell in love with the Zelda universe because of it. He listens to the soundtrack on his own, went full bore as Link for Halloween, and he and his sister dreamed up stories, wrote comics, and built Lego worlds based on Marin and Link and this world. Watching him drawn in by this game just like I was when I was a kid is a memory of 2019 I'll always love.

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