Game of the Year 2019: We Back At It

What a year its been folks, and what a pair of months in between when I should have finished writing this list and when I'm actually publishing it. The reason? I wanted to give more things a chance, really. 2019 was a crazy year for a lot of reasons, and it unfortunately cut into my playing time significantly. Add onto that the fact that I'm A) Still playing Overwatch pretty often in my free time and B) Running a pretty expansive D&D campaign that sucks up a lot of energy, and my time for new games in 2019 was much lower.

2019 was the year my Switch really took over my life. Even when I couldn't find the energy to sit in front of a big screen and dump time into a game, the Switch was there to help pass some time. Luckily, 2019 was also the year where Big Bold AAA Games didn't jump out to me as much. I fell off The Outer Worlds for a lot of reasons, Sekiro did the same, among others. So expect some thoughts on smaller games here.

Finally, Honorable Mentions and Whoops Sorry, Missed It:

The Outer Wilds seems cool, and I hope I have the patience to get through it one day.

I liked Jedi Fallen Order a good chunk! Pokemon was a good Pokemon! Fire Emblem Three Houses was totally fine, but didn't drag me in as much as I wanted. I have narrative issues with Indivisble, but its a really cool game! Resident Evil 2 Remake Rules! On with the show!

List items

  • Every year for the past few years, there's been a game that captured my heart in ways I have trouble expressing. Last year, it was Florence, a game about change and love and happiness and how sometime's all those things don't click together. It’s a game about depression, and sadness, but also hope and joy. My favorite game of all time, Bastion, has a similar feeling. Things can be crumbling and broken, but moving forward is what counts. Moving forward with yourself and the people are you is what matters. Hope, in the end, wins out.

    Sayonara Wild Hearts isn't just a game with striking visuals and a killer soundtrack. It isn't just a game with Rez-like zen properties and flow either. It’s a game that abstractly grapples with who you are, fundamentally. It talks about love in the abstract, the love you find with people and the love you find within. It’s a game about forgiveness and beauty, and how no matter how far you fall, there is no such thing as a bottom.

    Because eventually you fall so far that you're flying. And can learn to begin, and love, again.

  • I had fun with Fortnite, and played enough PUBG to know it wasn't for me. That was my exposure to the Battle Royale genre at the start of 2019. I thought it was a neat concept that wouldn't ever grab me particularly well.

    Enter Apex Legends, a Battle Royale made by people who make shooters the way I want them to be played. I loved loved LOVED Titanfall and Titanfall 2, so the immediate gut reaction to Apex from me was well fuck, I am in. And in I was.

    The character powers and classes work. The gunplay is incredible. The ping system should be stolen by every cooperative shooter moving forward. But I think the thing that makes me keep coming back to Apex is the forced grouping of it. I have two friends who I play with, and its amazing to just get to shoot the shit and focus on a common goal together. We learned each others styles (my recklessmess, Craig's natural reluctance to engage, and Jason falling inbetween) and found ways to blend all that together. Its communal is a way few games are, and it made me really appreciate it.

    Plus, we win. Not often, but more often than you'd imagine for a bunch of people who don't play often. But we win, and feel good about it, and boot up the next game.

  • Control is a weird fucking game. Jesse Faden is a special person, with a friend in her head, a “friend” in her gun, not a friend in her brother, and especially not a friend in the world. So you help her struggle to figure out why the *fuck* it all came down to her to save this faceless organization full of weird things and even weirder people. There’s a man eating fridge that’s half as terrifying as the room covered in sticky notes from floor to ceiling. There are corrupted humans that can fly at you, but luckily you can fly too eventually for reasons. Don’t think too much about it. Or do. Maybe that’s the answer? Or maybe there aren’t answers. Maybe there never are answers.

    Control is a *weird* fucking game that I loved a lot for all above reasons, and because its just fun to play. The rhythm of gunplay and using your powers effectively feels good to get into. I accidentally played the entire game without knowing there was a shield power, instead relying completely on dodging and cover. And it didn’t lessen my enjoyment at all. There were moments of frustration, sure, but the package around it was just so engaging that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

    And man, Control is a WEIRD fucking game.

  • HONK. HONK.

    You are a jerk of a goose. In a wonderful game. About being a jerk of a goose. It is delightful. It is immersive. It is HONK. And HONK is life.

  • I love Souls games. It is a serious problem, really. There are few other genres out there that I am so willing to look past flaws, and get caught up in the hype of. So when I played Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I was suddenly struck with a thought; when did I stop enjoying these games? Because Sekiro just did not scratch the itch I wanted it to scratch. I didn’t have the time anymore to grind out getting mechanically better, and the inability to grind out skill points and attributes meant I was completely trapped. Either I devoted myself fully to the Sekiro experience, or I let it go. So I let it go.

    Fast forward to December of 2019, when on a whim (and a friend’s Game Pass) I decided to try out a game I had heard of early this year. A Soulsbourne-esque game built around replayability and coop. True coop. And I fell in love all over again.

    Is Remnant: From the Ashes a perfect game? Heavens no. The boss encounter designs can use some work. The movement is occasionally clunky (I’m looking at you, vaulting). And some of the weapons feel silly for focusing on (the fact that bosses are basically required gunfights is a bit of bummer). But through it all, I love it. I love the coop. I love exploring the environments for secrets and items. I love butting my head against a boss with a friend, to finally prevail. It is everything I used to love about Souls games, with the added ability of friendship. Things too hard? Go find some materials and upgrade your gear. Or, tell your idiot friend (which is me) to stop rolling off the side of a bridge. And more than that, shoot some headshots, shout some nonsense, and prevail.

  • I don't like deckbuilders, sort of. Constructed deck building games bore the hell out of me. Why? Because I don't have the patience to figure out Jack-of-All Decks, and I don't want to Google "Best Decks for less than 200$" in Magic. But drafts. Drafts are great. Drafts force you to be clever, and go on the fly. There are automatic weaknesses to everyone involved, just by the amount of cards that come up. You can be the smartest player at the table, and still get out worked by fate. And I love that.

    Enter Slay the Spire, the deck builder roguelike where everything is a draft, and a constantly updating one at that. No run is the same in the proper roguelike sense, but also no battle in the same run is the same! The balance between building your deck and limiting the amount of cards in your deck to get the cards you want is awesome, the different classes all have clear differing strategies that make sense. I love that a run can go wrong just based on the cards that come up, or the powers you're seeing. No matter how badly you want to make a Poison run happen, sometimes it just doesn't. And that's kind of cool.

  • It's More-io Mario Maker! It's still good! I'm not a Mario expert, and am very bad at Kaizo style levels, so that side of the game is still lost on me completely. But Makers are so clever in using Mario mechanics to make cool shit, and I love just picking my way through levels more my speed. While some of the changes to SMM2 aren't the greatest, I still think its a fantastic package to lose time in. Add onto all the Maker levels the campaign levels (which are pretty fun!), and the fun kept going for me. Now back to finishing my 3rd themed level, Hidden Nightmares 3: Mind the Gap?

  • When my only complaint for a game is that it might be too short, you know something good is upon us. Cadence of Hyrule was a very pleasant and kinetic two-ish hours that had me bopping my head to some absolutely fantastic music. The new Drop-Out-The-Beat mode is a great way to get people who aren't super comfortable with rhythm games to give it a try. But for me, it was just a great little Zelda package. I just wanted it to keep going.

  • I'm going to get this out of the way right now; the best Devil May Cry games are DmC: Devil May Cry, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengence.

    With that done, lets talk about the raw insanity of Devil May Cry 5: Dante Is Old Edition. The concept of character swapping through the story seems weird on its head for a DMC game, but it works pretty well here. I enjoyed my time with Dante and Nero, and had enough fun with V to float the game itself. For our two primarily sword bois, though, the combat is still as sharp and exciting as its always been. The flourishes (both visually and musically) work well, and the story is engaging enough.

    But really, DMC5 is just fun, man. I turned my brain off, let a dumb grin crawl across my face, and just enjoyed the ride. Sometimes, that's all you need.

  • Hoo boy, Teamfight Tactics is a weird thing. 2019 was the year I finally solidified kicking my League of Legends habit and moving onto other things. Then I hear the rumblings, the whispers, of a thing called Auto Chess. I check it out. Seems cool. I don't like DOTA, so I didn't really give it the time of day.

    Then Riot Games comes out and says HEY, WE'RE GONNA DO THE AUTO CHESS. And I said sure, I'll take a look. And *Sam Flynn Voice* I got in. TFT is a really well packaged version of the Auto Chess formula, with some neat ideas and pretty low stakes. I enjoy it mostly because its the perfect do something with your hands game; I'm watching a show or hanging out with my roommates, and can background play a TFT game with no issues. The Origins and Classes are easy to understand, the interface has improved overtime. If you're interested in a low-stakes version of Auto Chess, check it out.

    (Writer's Note: I don't think I like Set 2 of TFT very much, feels like there isn't a lot of room for experimentation. Your mileage may vary on this.)