TFP's Top 10 games of 2019

We survived.

Really that's about the only thing I can say about 2019 at large. Just once I'd like to intro these game of the year lists with a happy outlook at the year that was, but given the authoritarian hellscape humanity seems to find itself hurtling towards, it's difficult to look back at the year that was with a particular fondness.

That's not to say there was no positive world outcomes this year. After all, to slightly alter a quote from US Representative Rashida Tlaib: that motherfucker got impeached. The first real image of a black hole was published, which is pretty awesome. And of course, video games keep being pretty rad. So with the preamble out of the way, let's tackle a couple runners up before we move onto the list proper.

  • Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a really fun additional campaign added on to Monster Hunter World, already the best Monster Hunter game. I just wish they'd figure out more interesting ways to add on to the ultra-late game grind instead of just "these monsters will kill you in like 3 hits."
  • Normally I find games with this particular sense of humor to be not really my type, but Pikuniku is so charming I can't help but love it.
  • Tetris 99 is the best battle royale.
  • FMV games came back in a really big way this year with some really outstanding gems, like Erica and Telling Lies. I couldn't be happier about that.
  • Blood & Truth is the best VR game of the year. I'd say check out my review but Giant Bomb seems to have eaten it. Weird.
  • Pokemon Sword and Shield turned out alright.
  • And finally, games that I either enjoyed but didn't make the list, or enjoyed what I played but didn't play enough to potentially impact the list include the above, and: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, Hypnospace Outlaw, Baba is You, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Indivisible, and Metal Wolf Chaos XD,
  • EDIT: 2/24/20: I'm not going to go in and readjust this list, because it's unordered and that'd take more effort than I'm willing to put in, but I have immense regrets not playing Sayonara Wild Hearts last year. To quote a good friend of mine who also didn't play it until this year, it's basically the Persona 4 sequel I wish Persona 5 was. Overflowing with style and with the best soundtrack of the year, it'd probably slip in around number 4, and knock off Death Stranding or Resident Evil 2. Because I list weird, I guess.

List items

  • Number 10

    Grasshopper's punk rock return to No More Heroes may not be the most mechanically sound, but its ability to constantly reinvent itself through the different in-game worlds is worth experiencing. Each one adds just enough of a new wrinkle to the gameplay that it never stopped being interesting. A surprisingly compelling story further examining the bizarre world of Suda51's games and game design philosophies is what truly elevates the game into one of the best games of the year.

  • Number 9

    While not every aspect of Death Stranding works quite as cohesively as I think I was hoping for, the parts that do manage to come together: the world itself, the gameplay, and certain characters and performances more than balance the rest of the game's low points. There's something bizarrely relaxing about the gameplay loop of picking up packages, loading said packages onto a vehicle, and driving away into the wilderness. Additionally, the extra equipment left lying around or built by other players does a good job of making the game world feel both alive and connected to the rest of the players.

  • Number 8

    With exceptions (obviously), I don't like Resident Evil games before or after Resident Evil 4. Old Resident Evil games are a slog of inventory management and questionable control decisions that make playing them feel like a miserable experience. However, this Resident Evil 2 remake does a fantastic job of modernizing a bunch of the irritating control and gameplay bits from the PS1 era into current game design sensibilities, while also maintaining enough of the challenge from the older versions to feel like a perfect update to what others consider a survival-horror classic.

  • Number 7

    Yeah, yeah, Persona man puts Persona game on top 10 game of the year list, news at 11. I'll admit, much like putting Dancing All Night on my list back in 2015, Persona Q2 is a cotton candy game. But again, much like Dancing All Night, sometimes, when you're having a less than stellar go of it, you just want a cotton candy game to swoop in with characters you like to go "Hey. Guess what. You're gonna make it." And this year, Persona Q2 swooped in at the right time, becoming the perfect swan song to Nintendo's venerable 3DS system.

  • Number 6

    The way PlatinumGames seems to effortlessly reinvent the action genre with each of their tentpole new releases is nothing short of incredible. Astral Chain is no exception, blending essentially a dystopian Power Rangers show with an action game focused on denying enemy movement and area with your legion instead of long combos. The world of Astral Chain and its story were a surprising standout, despite coming from a developer not particularly known for focusing on those aspects. The shifted focus of the combat definitely took a moment to understand, but by the end it felt as natural and fun to use as almost every other Platinum game.

  • Number 5

    Not since Assassin's Creed Syndicate has there been such a great revival of a franchise on death's door. Poor decisions in basically all areas of Fire Emblem Fates seemed poised to finally relegate one of Nintendo's longest-running franchises back to the obscurity from whence it came, appearing only as those sword characters that are always high-tier in Super Smash Bros. However, Fire Emblem: Three Houses' school mechanics, characters with more depth than simple anime tropes, and interesting narratives have brought a shot of much needed life to the Fire Emblem series.

  • Number 4

    Obsidian remain one of the few developers I feel has a grasp on making player choices have meaningful, real impact on narrative, and The Outer Worlds is no exception. While there's nothing particularly new about the hyper-capitalist nightmare that plagues the outer reaches of the galaxy, it's so well executed that I can't fault it. It also provides some interesting alternative refinements to last generation's Fallout games that I feel work better for role-playing and make progression feel more meaningful than this generation's actual Fallout games.

    Additionally, I'm generally not one for replaying choice-based games. I tend to try and play them as I would, and feel generally okay about how things go from that perspective. The Outer Worlds is one of the rare games that I immediately restarted, rolling a completely different character type and vowing to play almost entirely the opposite way of how I did the first time. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.

  • Number 3

    As the latest addition to this list, I'm not sure if I can sing the praises of Disco Elysium enough. I can't think of a better debut game from a studio that has instantly sold me on whatever they do next. I'm not sure I can think of a better written game. Its particular brand of melancholy strangeness speaks to me on some kind of primal level, leading me to spend a lot of time just taking in the world. There's so much attention placed into every corner of the map, every character you interact with, and every time one of your stats chime into a conversation with either fascinating insights or inane nonsense.

    While it gleefully breaks almost every rule of a traditional mystery story, the ensuing chaotic narrative meshes perfectly with the just-slightly-askew take on the dystopian future Disco Elysium puts forward. The world of Revachol is a truly fascinating one, inhabited by some of the most fleshed out, compelling characters I've seen in a video game. The end result is a game I still find myself thinking about, long after having seen the credits roll.

  • Number 2

    Our second story, man who loves both Yakuza games and private detectives puts a game that combines both near the top of his top 10 list, still developing.

    Judgment is the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of 2019 video games. It combines the chocolate of the visceral beat-em-up gameplay and dense plots of intrigue of the Yakuza series with the peanut butter of a new, interesting main character, a look at Kamurocho from the other side of the law, and some neat detective work adventure game segments.

    Where Judgment truly shines is its story, and its handling of shades of gray makes it a different beast than a traditional Yakuza story. Yagami's struggles and successes within the realm of the law give the game a bit more of a human bent than Kiryu's underworld struggle. Propped up by an amazing supporting cast, Judgment is a shining example of how Yakuza won't need Kiryu to survive.

  • Number 1

    I can't think of a game that defines the idea of "complete package" this year more than Control. It's the best playing game this year. It's probably number 2 behind Disco Elysium as far as best writing goes. The stark architecture of the Oldest House seems like something that would get boring, visually, or too samey to enjoy, but each division Jesse comes across manages to feel distinct and exciting with each new room discovered. Plus, Remedy's overflowing amount of supplemental information in documents, FMV broadcasts, and radio shows make the Federal Bureau of Control, a completely fictitious government entity, feel real.

    Control features the most refined version of Remedy's consistently fantastic third-person shooting to date. The speed at which the firefights progress at, combined with controls that allow you to implement strategies on the fly, with a sprinkle of weaponry and abilities that just feel good to use all combine into a beautiful whirlwind of fun, engaging combat.

    The vaguely sinister FBC building, the Oldest House is a joy to explore and packed with oddities to discover. From general work complaints by the rank and file members of the bureau, to the deep dives Dr. Casper Darling, played fantastically by Alan Wake's Matthew Poretta, gives on how various aspects of the science behind the magic works, to the unsettling children's TV show produced by the FBC, finding a collectible always felt like it progressed my understanding of the world or story.

    There's so much more I could go on about, but Control is the type of game I feel should be experienced as close to fresh as one could possibly get. To summarize a few more errant thoughts: Jesse Faden is the best protagonist this year, I've never been more excited for DLC to release, and finally, Control is easily my game of the year.

    Thanks for reading!