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Well. That certainly was a year.

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Game of the Year, 2019

I'd planned to be smart and get the list done early this year- avoid any last minute rush, make sure that I presented my thoughts clearly, with as little rambling or build up as possible. Just a really clean list that got right to the heart of why I like all of the games on it.

That didn't happen, because I've been sidelined by a case of the flu for like a solid week now, and so you get this list- the list made after I should be in bed, Christmas night, my thoughts gushing out through an unmedicated haze, typed between coughing fits. Enjoy!

List items

  • 10!

    A game that I wanted to love, and only liked a lot. It's good- very good, even. It's what I wish Armored Core had continued to be, with things I never knew I wanted; after spending an hour tweaking my custom character to look just right, I realized I could buy sick cybernetic enhancements and proceeded to get robot legs, a laser-sword for an arm, and some downright creepy glowing eyes that look totally bitchin'. The on-foot gameplay isn't as in-depth as your giant robot action, which is understandable. That it's there at all is an unexpected joy.

    The problem I had is mostly just that it feels like the customization of said giant robots is a little limited. It's like Armored Core with the more interesting and out-there options missing, and it was heartbreaking when I realized I was never going to unlock any of those sick reverse-jointed grasshopper style legs.

    I'll probably find the motivation to finish this sometime in the next year, and maybe I'll have a higher impression of it then- for now, it's solidly at the bottom of the ten best games of the year. Not a bad place to be, in a year as great as this one was.

  • 9!

    From Night School Studios, developers of Oxenfree- which was very similar and also fantastic- comes a game that is probably not as good as that one. I'll admit to some bias, as Oxenfree was a little more in my wheelhouse of weird modern fantasy/sci-fi and people solving mysteries while dealing with interpersonal issues. That also describes Afterparty, but being set in a bizarre alcohol-and-neon-powered version of Hell, it feels a little more fantasy than not.

    It's a good time, with a little less variability than I'd have liked or expected, but it didn't stop the characters, voice-acting and world-building from impressing me. Even then some of the little touches can be the best ones, like a constantly running and sometimes depressingly on-the-nose hell-based social media network you can check at any time.

    It's sometimes too blunt, sometimes a little melodramatic, but from time to time I find myself enjoying that kind of thing- if you do too, I'd advise giving this a go.

  • 8!

    People who care about Dexit don't deserve new Pokemon games.

  • 7!

    Spoilers: Nero is a better protagonist than Dante, and Vergil should have died for real. That didn't happen in this game, sadly, but at least it was gorgeous and fast-paced and had a bunch of absolutely absurd, cool fights happening in it all the time.

    It's what I would have wanted out of a sequel after Devil May Cry 4, for the most part: I'm glad they didn't toss Nero to the wayside, and while I could have gone for about half a game less playing Dante, or as V- a character I feel nothing but apathy towards most times- I thought they wrapped things up properly, if not neatly or definitively.

    Can we just let Nero have his own game next time, though?

  • 6!

    It's not my favorite game from Platinum; I was absolutely stunned, however, at just how much of this game there was. I thought, from the limited marketing I'd seen before release, that this was going to be one of their slimmer offerings, maybe a Vanquish-style quick and arcadey series of missions that you can blast through in an afternoon. Instead I wound up buried in side-quests and photo hunts and cat collection.

    Which was fun! As far as building up a fun cast of side characters, I'd say this is one of Platinum's stronger attempts in recent years. The gang hanging out at Neuron HQ is just weird enough to be memorable and fun, without seeming oppressively or unnaturally quirky.

    The fact that it's a gorgeous, fast-paced, incredibly well playing action game just goes without saying, I feel. The enemy variety is kind of absurd, the levels are packed with so many secrets that I gave up, and while I wasn't as much a fan of the combat design as I'd have liked, I can't argue that it doesn't work flawlessly for what Platinum wanted to create.

  • 5!

    I don't have a lot to say on this one; Iga delivered, this game is great, and my only real complaint is that it didn't keep going for a while longer.

  • 4!

    As someone who was generally unable to finish a Resident Evil game until RE4, and who didn't really like most of the games that came after that one, the Resident Evil 2 remake was an exciting prospect: finally getting to experience one of the classics of the Survival Horror genre, but with more modern controls and design sensibilities? Sign me up!

    This game is essentially the blueprint for what I'd like Resident Evil to continue to be for the foreseeable future; it feels like an actual perfect mix of what people liked from the old Resident Evils, and the gameplay improvements made through the sequels. As long as the balance holds, it's a winning formula.

  • 3!

    Fire Emblem: Awakening was stellar. Fire Emblem: Fates was the video game equivalent of ordering a steak and having someone serve you a live, diseased rat. Three Houses is a game that I like as much, or more than, Awakening- a damn high bar. And it restored my faith in Fire Emblem.

    The characters do kind of carry the story, but considering how the story develops, that both makes sense and makes later events all the more heartbreaking- especially if you failed to recruit a few students before things took off. It's a surprisingly dark and fairly well told story of a war where there isn't really a good, peaceful solution. Something's gotta give, and a fight is going to break out- it's just a matter how how you handle that inevitability.

  • 2!

    Remedy has produced a lot of fantastic games. Even Quantum Break, maligned as it was. I feel fairly confident saying that Control is their masterpiece. Control feels like the most complete game they've ever made- both in terms of content, and meeting the vision they had for it. They knew exactly what they wanted to make, and how to do it, and they knocked it out of the park. It looks great, it plays great, the writing and the world building are both absolutely phenomenal- the Oldest House is probably one of the coolest settings in a video game in probably forever.

    I don't like everything about it- you're about 100 percent less durable than I feel you should be, and the load times can be ridiculous, but it's a game that absolutely grabs you and sucks you into the story. Knowing there's still more of this game to come is one of the most exciting things about next year.

  • 1!

    Disco Elysium is a game about failure. It's a game where you are a failure- or, you have failed. You are currently failing- at your job, at remembering what your job is, at living. It's also mostly about how you choose to deal with that failure. You're put into a position where you have already fucked things up very nearly as bad as possible- the true extent of your failings will take both time and effort to understand, but even the limited scope you have paints a dismal picture.

    There are a lot of ways to approach the situation. You could try to make up for your mistakes- but there are so many of them, and you might just fuck up some more, right? You've already hit rock bottom, after all- you can just keep on spiraling towards oblivion. No one will care- you already let them all down. No expectations on your shoulders!

    It's a game about failure, and everything that comes with it- panic. Fear. Regret. Anger. Shame. Bitterness. The consequences of your actions, or lack of action. You can deal with your situation however you like, but you will not be let off the hook.

    It's also probably the best written game I've ever played, so you know- there's that part too.