2019. Let’s not talk about it. Video games. A few honourable mentions before I get into the top 10. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne and Luigi’s Mansion 3 are both games I know would fight to be on my top 10 list if I had given them more time. MHW was my number 1 last year and I think I played too much (I have about 400 hours in the base game) and burnt out, unable to fully enjoy Iceborne when I started. Similarly, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is charming as all hell and I was having a blast but I didn’t get more than a few hours before Pokemon hit and took away all the Switch time. Heave Ho is a fantastic local co-op game that has been endless joy in every configuration of friend groups and family members. Stomach hurting laughter and sheer rage at so-called friends - an absolute gem. Apex Legends had a short-lived run with me… It’s very good but I’m very bad. Play Titanfall 2 it’s the greatest. Spin Rhythm XD is a DJ deck inspired bright and exciting rhythm game currently in early access. It’s a ton of fun and the limited tracklist is already filled with absolute bangers. Lastly, King of Cards the final campaign for the incredible Shovel Knight came out recently and that has every possibility to be my favourite thing I’ll play in 2019 when I jump into it over the break.
TOP 10 TIME.
I constantly flip-flopped on FE and Pokemon for my number 1 spot. Both are incredible games that share such a common thread of ‘another entry in a franchise I enjoy but have recently felt less enthused about’. Before the release of Three Houses, I didn’t even think I would play it. Nothing about the pre-release cycle grabbed me and I was happy to let it pass me by. Well, I was very happy to be proven wrong. Three Houses is stellar. It’s a great story (split across three wildly different campaigns) with a gigantic cast of characters that I absolutely adore as they overflow with personality. It sounds amazing, it has a great style and design. The chances to the combat are all huge thumbs up from me and it’s a pleasure to play and witness. I’ve put so much time into it and I’ve still only finished 2 out of the 3 campaign routes. It’s strong.
So, again - It’s Pokemon, right? All the pre-release stuff just left me feeling ‘sure, I’ll play that?’ and ‘wow, people sure seem mad about this one?’. I’ve struggled to get fully hooked on a Pokemon game again since generation 3 on the GBA. Very happy to have that all change again for Shield. I had the joy of playing alongside a group of friends fully invested in Pokemon but even without that, the journey through the game feels so much tighter than ever before. It had me caring about Pokemon again. They did so well to not show off a lot of stuff before the game was out and that sense of wonder and discovery was felt all the way through. The build-up to the climactic gym battles are some of the most exciting ‘boss fights’ I’ve experienced in a long time. So many QoL changes to the series that, sure, felt like they ought to have been there already but are welcome regardless. Not to mention how (as with Fire Emblem above) it’s overflowing with personality-filled characters, a charming story, a great visual style/aesthetic and BANGING music.
Devil Trigger really got me feeling. DMC5 feels like the culmination of everything good that’s ever been in and around Devil May Cry. It’s the best parts of every previous game rolled together, mixed and polish to a near-perfect sheen. It’s the best combat the series, and maybe character action has ever seen. All of this across 3 wildly different and fun characters. It seems like an odd point for the series but it grabbed me with a genuinely great story and I got fully invested in characters old and new. It all felt so alive and I’ll be visiting this game a bunch. It looks gorgeous in the powerful RE engine and the OST rules!
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a playable album of synth-y pop tracks that oozes Styyyyyle and all comes together to tell a simple but effective story. It’ll steal about 3 hours of your time to once through, but I’ve already been on the journey about 5 times now. I suspect I’ll return to SWH on a pretty regular basis. I’ve already burned a digital hole in the soundtrack by listening to it a lot. It's something really special that I can’t recommend enough.
5. Tetris 99
They made a battle royale version of Tetris? and it’s Tetris but it’s a battle royale? and IT’S TETRIS. TETRIS! Tetris is the best game. Tetris.
I still can’t believe this got made. Crypt of the Necrodancer is a great game that marries two of my favourite genres (Rhythm & Roguelike), so you take that and then marry it to The Goddamn Legend of Zelda and woweeee. The music alone is enough for this to be one of my favourite things of the year. For the indie team behind this to implement an overworld and a more traditional Zelda progression and story mode. It all came together so well. Outstanding work. Nintendo let indies have your franchises more.
SMM2 should be my GOTY. It’s the keys to the (Mushroom) kingdom. It’s an endless playbox of the best 2D platformer out there. They brought some great things to the sequel and added a huge amount of new tools that continued to blow the doors off of possibilities. I still don’t know if I have more fun creating or playing levels and the single-player stuff they added is pure fun. However, Nintendo’s lack of any curation continues to be the thing that hurts so much, I try to load the game up these days and I want to be hit with the best of the best and instead, I have to wade through so much that it kills my interest in getting back on board.
8. Baba is You
Dumb is Me. Game is Puzzle. Game is Good. It doesn’t take long for you to understand what makes this game so special. Please check it out.
Can I Castlevania your homework? They made another SOTN game. It’s good like SOTN is good. I can’t say all that much more. It didn’t do anything to push SOTN forward but I commend it for hitting the same heights SOTN did. Lovely, to see one of these kickstarted spiritual successors from the original creator just come out and nail it. Interested to see what IGA and team do next.
Well, that took a while and like... I guess it’s not finished yet? ReMind me next year and it might be my number 1? I struggle to articulate my love for Kingdom Hearts. I’ve grown up with it. I’m not a massive Disney or SE fan but I got so invested in KH and never wanted off the ride. 3 had lots of fun and while others felt let down I did enjoy my time with it. Some story moments felt rushed/out of place and some characters got sidelined. Likewise, some worlds felt a bit too long, but never enough to upset me. Stories about friendships just get me, man. Utada 5eva.