ResetEra Games of the Year 2019 - Voting Thread (READ THE OP) [Ends Jan 26th 8:59am EST]

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Oct 27, 2017
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  1. Death Stranding - I always knew I would like this game since I've never been let down by Kojima's gameplay (fuck MGSV btw), but I didn't know what to expect. The marketing campaign being a slow-drip of information only helped lead to the build-up of anticipation until the release date and the payoff, IMO was golden. Game of the Generation for me, as I only play a few titles per year. Nothing else has come close in terms of the 'full package' as this and I still find myself putting it on 2 months later to make some deliveries and returning to single player games isn't something I've done in years. Since MGS3 to be honest. The graphics, the story, the gameplay, the music, the premise, the strands. So well done and I'd actually love to see a sequel just to see how crazy things can go. The only nitpick I have is how repetitive some of the dialogue got toward the end with characters explaining something and then re-explaining as though we didn't understand the first time. All in all, I understand the story kind of ended and is 'complete' but the world Kojima Productions created is breathtaking enough to want to return and get lost in it again in a sequel.

  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare - Most fun I've had playing COD since probably Black Ops 2. Hated AW, hated Infinite Warfare, hated MW3, and skipped out finally on WWII which I actually heard wasn't bad. But either way, the feel of the gunplay in MW2019 is unmatched imo. Hardcore MP FTW.

  3. Days Gone - Preface: I hate the zombie 'genre' in general. TWD was trash to me although I watched up to season 5 because people incessantly recommended it. That said, I'm a sucker for a nice overall package, and with Days Gone, Bend Studio delivered. Again, the graphics, sound, and then the bike made this a special game this year for me. I got over my intense hatred of zombies (still not interested in any zombie media after this, though) to find what was an excellent springboard for what I hope becomes Bend's next big franchise. Running from and setting up hordes will never not be just pure fun.

  4. Apex Legends - This kinda came out of nowhere, and coming from the excellent TF2, I had high hopes. It ended up not being as fun as TF2, but was amazing nonetheless and was much-needed in a world where I was addicted to Fortnite. Admittedly, I dropped it after a while and still play Fortnite occasionally, but that takes away nothing from what this team put together, and F2P? Bravo.

  5. Untitled Goose Game - Hilarity in the form of a video game. It's beauty is in it's simplicity.

  6. Tom Clancy's The Division 2 - Though not as good as the first one and kind of disappointing, I can't say I didn't enjoy my time with this immensely. Mostly due to the fact I play co-op with a friend (as we did with the first Division) so this became a daily 'retreat' from work until we beat it. Countless hours poured into missions and I love the depth, integration and length of the missions.


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Papercuts

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Oct 25, 2017
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2019 was a really solid year for me in gaming, the 5-10 slot was hard to order since there’s a whole bunch of games that could have fit in its place. I could pretty easily go to 15 deep but there’s a certain point where I need to just not.

Unlike most years, the top end was fairly easy, with number one being the easiest choice I think I’ve ever had to make.


X. Devil May Cry 5



DMC fans have had one hell of a ride in the last decade. Oh wait, DMC4 was 200-FUCKING-8 JESUS​
*ahem*​
DMC5 is finally a game that exists, a direct follow up of the best-selling game in the franchise that led Capcom to disregard that and give the series to an outside developer, as a part of their cocaine bender that lasted all too long. And it is exactly what you would expect and want from DMC. Blistering action, negative amounts of level design, combat, a lot of flesh hallways, did I mention action? Cuz, hey, action.​
Nero, Dante, and V are the rotating cast of this game. Dante is peak action game nonsense, a character honed to a sheen after so many iterations. The amount of options at your fingertips with him border on obscene, between weapon/gun switches and styles on the fly, which all work together into making the character incredibly fun to play. And how could he not? Every fight can be completely under your control, if you can get a handle on the wealth of options. Dante possibly has my all-time favorite DMC weapon, Balrog, which is pretty much a perfect rendition of a gauntlet-style weapon we’ve seen before. Special mention to the idea of having voice acted hype shout outs built into the weapon for the heat up mechanic, which makes the rapid flurry attacks INCREDIBLY satisfying to pull off. Good usage of frame stops for the impact of the charged punches add the extra spice on top of the feedback loop that DMC5 does extremely well.​
Nero, on the other hand, has had a lot to compete with. In 4 he filled a much simpler role, though the exceed mechanic on his sword always had benefits for proper timing. Beyond that, he only had Red Queen and Blue Rose, his single sword and gun. This was not a character of weapon swaps, but at the same time he kinda needs to not be a copy paste of Dante to stand out. 5 fleshes him out a lot more and makes him genuinely damn fun to dive into combat with as well—ESPECIALLY post game, where he actually unlocks quite a few things with DT, and the old charge shot makes its triumphant return. He has Breakers now, slottable arms that give him new abilities: Slow down time in a radius, punch out a (rideable) rocket arm, or overcharge your sword at the expense of lock on ability. He probably has around 10 of these, so this all works together to give him plenty of options, plus some new core moves that help flesh him out. Gotta say, though, even after beating this a lot of times I still don’t like the breaker mechanic all that much. Instead of being able to swap within your loadout, these…well, break when you get hit while using them, or having Nero himself explode them to swap. Instead of it feeling like a proper risk/reward situation it instead feels like it limits a game that otherwise encourages breaking all limits. Still, I can’t help but feel that Nero as a whole was a resounding success here.​
V is the newcomer of the group, and in my opinion less successful, but his entire style is pretty bold to even go for in a game like this. V is a more passive player, letting his minions do the legwork for him while he comes in for the final blow. Summons causing stuff to just happen all over the screen is fun for a bit but doesn’t offer the same breadth of options the other pair provide, on top of just not being as fun as Dante teleporting into that ass, or Nero pulling enemies to him directly. The style system completely breaks under itself for him as well, which is maybe for the best for some players, but it does mean that what options he does have really aren’t called upon as much as the others.​
As is to be expected, just being these characters is enough to carry the game. There’s a fun story wrapped around it all that ends up being heavy on the fanservice by the end, though it’s a bit lacking in the wacky cutscenes and Lady/Trish are underutilized. But if you want more than that? This ain’t the game for you, as the aforementioned level design is probably as phoned in as it could be. This usually doesn’t mean much to me in this genre, but at the very least there’s a lot that can be said for the sake of visual diversity when half of your game ends up in a kinda assy looking flesh hallway. The characters visually look incredible but end up being pretty let down by the rest.​
Still, Capcom is clawing their way back to old form, and I’m glad we were able to get a proper-ass DMC game again. Dante alone is probably the single most impressive feat action gaming has seen.​

IX. Gears 5



Since its inception, Gears has been a nice comfort food series for me. That may sound a little odd as the game is high octane, and the MP is infamous for making you die on the inside because of the gnasher’s often inexplicable ability to do 95% in one shot to an enemy that instagibs you. But the series still stands out to me in many ways due to just how much content get jam packed into it—Gears 2 paved the way for Horde modes to pop up in games, but the series keeps adding more on top of it. This is a game that now has a meaty campaign, a meaty MP component, Horde and Escape. The newcomer, Escape, is actually a lot more fun than I expected, offering a separate slice of PvE for people who don’t want to hunker down for hours in a horde match that ends in everyone quitting anyway. It’s a relatively brisk mode that changes a lot based on the map and modifiers and was something I found myself playing a lot more than I expected.​
MP has had its ups and downs, but I’m pretty happy with it in 5 overall. The gnasher will always be a gun of controversy in its pure dominance over the game, especially in KotH, but few guns tie into the core mechanics as well as this does. The usage of the cover system to initiate slides, which are then cancelled and aimed elsewhere to bounce around the stage will always be something uniquely Gears, that at a certain point you either get or you don’t. That said, this time the Lancer is no slouch, and there are plenty of map sightlines that leave you open to get crossfired if you just run around the map. It’s something that requires a good amount of consideration and keeps some of the crazies at bay. Also newly added is an Arcade mode, something that is more based around streaks and loadouts, though I personally found this to be a bore as it shows what happens when you don’t entice gnasher pushes—a lot of people sitting behind a wall, shooting at anything they see. No thanks. But in the core mode, there’s still nothing out there that can encapsulate the peaks and valleys of a Gears MP suite—the pure, unbridled rage that can come out from a bad round, or the euphoric feeling when a 1v5 clutch happens.​
But those same highs and lows can apply to a lot of the MP wrappings here. They’ve been pretty slow for my tastes on additional content, having an especially weak starting roster that is still plagued by crossover weirdness that can create a genuinely annoying imbalance when you’re fighting a squad of slender, black terminators on a dark map wondering in the back of your mind where in the hell Ben Carmine is. The Coalition have made it so characters need loadouts of a sense not just for Arcade mode, but Horde and Escape as well, which slows down what they can potentially do and honestly doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. There are already characters that are useless in Escape and I can’t give a damn about Arcade mode, so this feels like an experiment gone wrong. Further, the ranked system was baffling as all hell at launch, KotH was a mode to play if you wanted to get a flashbang bukkake, and the roster of maps felt a bit light. The map issue was not helped by the fact that some of them (icebound and exhibit) kinda blow, though YMMV on that. On the other hand, “living games” as it were are still a relatively newer concept, so these issues can all be remedied with time, especially when the core is so sound. Additionally, it costs the player nothing at that point as you no longer have to pay for maps, plus 4 ended up adding a lot over time so I’m sure 5 will be there all the same.​
The main reason Gears 5 is here, though, is the campaign. I did an unexpected blow through the entire series around August, and it was pretty eye opening when I got to 4 again. The crew felt much hollower than the original cast, often feeling like Marvel quip machines that blended together in a way that sullied them having any real identity for themselves. Awkward pacing leading to fighting way too many robots at the start, horde scenarios that were integrated into the campaign that lasted too long, etc.​
Gears 5 is a tremendous improvement in this regard, possibly being my top campaign in the franchise. JD is put through the wringer and takes a back seat to Kait and Del, who end up getting a lot of screentime to bounce off each other which was sorely needed after 4. Overall scenario design, pacing, etc. feel much better across the board, with clever little gimmicks added to a lot of fights, and a solid spread of (good as HELL looking) environments. The widened areas end up working a lot better than I expected with Jack in the mix as well, and while I’m not really rooting for every game to slap RPG mechanics onto a game, the upgrade system with him was a simple but effective way to make engagement with the side content areas constantly rewarding. Late game usage of abilities to hijack enemies, stim yourself while DBNO for a revive, or making a big ol’ “fuck you” barrier that reflects bullets back aren’t going to redefine the combat, but add some extra options to consider and help pull the game away from just hunkering behind a wall.​
The beauty of Gears is that any individual element can be worth playing the game for, and even if there’s a piece you don’t gel with, this is still a meaty package that likely offers something to everyone. People may not touch the MP or campaign at all, and just dig into horde, and still be completely satiated. And while I try to separate this from the overall feelings of the game, I still find it hilarious that I got it as a part of a service that was offered for $2 at the time. Videogames are getting weird, man. Gears continues its trend of being a good-ass-time for me, and I’m genuinely interested to see how 6 is even tackled after the way this game ends.​

VIII. Astral Chain



From the initial reveal, Astral Chain has always caught my eye. The general style, a switch game that actually doesn’t look like visual ass smear, plus Platinum doing something ridiculous with combat sounds like a solid combination to me.​
What we got is not what I would call the best Platinum has to offer, but it’s a weird experimental thing that I like to see from them. In many ways, Astral Chain feels like a smorgasbord of their previous games: The Revengance sword slicing, the slowmo on dodges, to the line drop straight outta Nier; this is indisputably Platinum, mixed in an extremely Anime aesthetic. The gimmick here is all about the Legion, a second being that you can control simultaneously; basically, we got Neon Genesis Jojo’s, with the eva01 color to boot. This takes…quite awhile to mentally adjust for regarding controls, but the combat ends up being a really fun romp, with special highlights to the connecting chain having some clever usage, ranging from manually spinning your Legion around an enemy to bind them, to extending the chain out to catch and fling an attacking enemy backwards. The different legions have different powers, so by the end of it there’s 5 sets of these, all with compounding abilities that are always at your fingertips. Unfortunately the ranking system doesn’t bounce very well off of this, instead being an incredibly easy system to game just by pure variety of actions, instead of showcasing genuine mastery over the systems. That can lead to plenty of top scores with little more than mashing, even if the potential depth is there.​
With a game pulling from so many sources, being unique on its own seems like a daunting task. However, due to clever theming, Astral Chain still stands out. You are a police officer; albeit a super cop of sorts, and in many ways are just meant to be an everyday hero. This is not a standard action game that ends up being a series of fights hamstrung together, this is a game that lets the player breathe. This is best shown off by the Police Station hub, which on a surface level is effectively a 3D player space in place of a menu, it helps give context to the world. You can do as little or as much here as you desire, from donning the police dog mascot outfit to cheer others up, to assisting the residential toilet phantom, or just reading logs in the computer, maybe messing with cosmetics in the locker room. Leaving via the helipad is a shit gets real moment, as you’re now flipping over to the meat of the game. But even here, Astral Chain is content to hammer in that you’re meant to handle anything, large or small. Picking up cans to throw away, wiping down extradimensional gunk off the streets, or a plethora of smaller scale side quests give this a very different vibe from the nonstop adrenaline games of this DNA typically have. That, of course, is a dividing stick in many ways in how much you enjoy something like this, but I personally really dug these moments. For the most part. They aren’t all winners, such as File 08 being loaded with some pretty trashy minigames (that are, of course, ranked…).The investigations are basic, ribbing some stuff from everyone’s favorite Batman, but it’s almost surreal to see a game that is otherwise so combat focused dip its toes into these other areas. You better believe I went Mario Sunshine on that gunk’s ass, cleaning every bit of it I saw.​
The other main part of Astral Chain is the Astral Plane. While the visual diversity isn’t quite there, these are surprisingly thoughtful from a level design perspective. The Legion gimmick offers a wider range of player options to toy with, and that is most often flexed in these segments. Sending out a hovering legion to jump to, ride the doggie down a timed pathway, hitting switches to trigger moving platforms—again, the gamut here is hardly new, but having it all mixed together in one big mechanical soup bowl means that you’re pretty often doing something new for the surprisingly meaty runtime here.​
Plotwise, this is peak Anime. The core ideas are sound, and the final boss is visually fantastic, but there wasn’t much else for me to grab on there. The most interesting area and character, Kyle in the off limits District 9, end up being the biggest standout, but they aren’t focused on for long and don’t get much of a resolution at all. The protagonist being mute is possibly the biggest misstep here, as it’s a constant reminder back to the attitude of their own other projects, or even other games within the same genre. A lot is lost when you remove the devil may care attitude Dante exudes. Nero’s cockiness. The playful sexuality of Bayonetta. These are often called Character Action Games for as good reason, as that Character MATTERS. It helps in so many ways to express charactization through animation, and when we have a wet blanket…there’s not much to attach to. It doesn’t hurt quite as hard as it would if Bayonetta 3 suddenly hit her with amnesia and the inability to speak, as this dips its toes into plenty of other areas, but it would have been a nice benefit for the already Anime as hell plotline if the MC was able to contribute to the increasingly over the top scenarios. You instead have a voiced twin sibling, who is an annoying, whiny trashcan of a character, which does not make for the greatest lynchpin for the plot. Devs, please stop making mute characters. They suck.​
But overall, this game helped reestablish why Platinum is a name I respect in a time where I feel they can sometimes dip into their usual bag of tricks too often. Astral Chain is not a game that always cleanly comes together, but this was a stark reminder that when they go for a more out there concept, they still got it.​

VII. Resident Evil 2



The Resident Evil franchise will always hold a special place for me, and the original RE2 is no exception. In the rise of digital media it’s an unfortunate blindspot that isn’t nearly as accessible as it should be, but it was always my favorite of the classic style games, though REmake is right on its tail. RE4 is my favorite game of all time, and this remake looked to be a marriage of the two styles. To say I was excited would be an understatement.​
In basically ever way, the camera conversion is a complete success. RE has been through A LOT since the inception of the original, the biggest one likely being the almost complete removal of the classic zombie threat. RE4 onward has had more aggressive enemy types, though I still remember the excitement when the RE5 DLC hit that maybe we would see our slow, lumbering pals again (spoiler: lol not so much). They are not only back, but they are more threatening than I ever would have expected. The narrow claustrophobia of the RPD hallways let them really shine, as they take a lot of firepower to fully kill. Despite that, the act of engagement is still satisfying and purposeful—a detailed dismemberment system is in place, so you can opt for some leg shots to rip it apart and have an easier time running by the now face-planted zombie. But that zombie will remain there, and this is where the magic happens.​
The zombies are but one part of this puzzle, since Lickers have always been an icon of RE2. For good reason, those are creepy motherfuckers. But the SYNERGY they have in this game with the other moving pieces is nothing short of incredible, and take them to another level. The best ways to handle a zombie? They all cause noise. Pulling one back, just to juke and run by. Whether you shoot one in the head or the leg, a gunshot is loud. Lickers are blind and attracted to noise, so a ceiling with a licker on it over top of a zombie creates a conundrum. A ticking time bomb. Then you hear the loud, thundering footsteps of an undying meat rectangle. You can’t write up about this game without mentioning Mr. X, but the pieces of this puzzle are why he’s so effective. Mr. X damn near blocks off the entire hallway with his frame, holding the role of forcing forward momentum right into this licker/zombie bomb. The final result is capable of being a giant mess, the zombie grabbing you as the licker screams out and lunges around, while Mr. X closes the gap to punch you in the back of the head. Handling all of this with quick on the fly decisions is a large part of why RE2 feels so great. It’s an incredible usage of just a few enemy types, especially when they’re all no slouches on their own. Mr. X especially is enough to cause anxiety just from his footsteps, knowing this unkillable monster is roaming the area.​
This all comes together as something pretty simple—the RPD is masterful, as it always was. A great usage of the old style RE staple, ridiculously overcomplicated building designs that don’t let you just open a pathway with a normal ass door. This lets them send the player back and forth between different areas without feeling like actual backtracking, which gets additional usage of previous zombie threats you left behind, on top of feeling internal gears clicking when you pick up a new key and think about the routes that are now open to you. This is still a remake however, and RE2 suffers in the same way the original did…leaving the RPD is a noticeable decline as you head into the sewers and lab, so this is very much a case of the strongest foot forward. This rendition has pros and cons with this, as it does absolutely nail the atmosphere of the areas, but it also cut some enemies that I feel could have helped out a bit. Mr. X is a double edged sword here, as his expanded role makes his presence impossible to ignore, but that also adds to the sting when you finally leave as he’s also out of the picture. That said, it’s not like these remaining sections are bad, just less engaging. There are still good moments dotted around the sewers and the lab, but it doesn’t reach the same level of the interconnected web from before.​
What hurts more than this is the axe taken to the zapping system. The Leon and Claire campaigns are still worth playing through, but without the interactions they shared before tying into the gameplay, they feel a lot like they’re here because it was RE2 and they had to be, instead of being present (or even expanded upon) to prop up the ideas in the original game. As such, the OG still has a lot to offer in this regard, though it was likely inevitable that due to how different this remake is--both games stand tall as entries worth experiencing, whereas the original RE1 is outright not needed post REmake.​
Needless to say, the early year 1-2 punch from Capcom worked pretty damn well on me. RE2 is a great reimaging of a classic, and is strong enough to be more than worth playing even without previous experience with the game or even series. Having two of their games on my list feels like it hasn’t happened in a long time, and I’m hopeful they keep up this upward trend. RE3 is not too far away, and I don’t think there’s much to worry about there given the role Nemesis already played. In some ways, this might have just been a testing ground for what we end up seeing in there, and that is extremely exciting.​


VI. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night




I have played plenty of great crowdfunded games, but games that I myself have backed are very few--two in fact, Yooka Laylee and now Bloodstained. I was not super thrilled about Yooka when it was all said and done, and Bloodstained was one that I got increasingly worried about. I paid for this in 2015, and kept seeing it slip back farther and farther, which despite the oft used Miyamoto phrase is not something that exactly exudes confidence. There was even a spinoff Bloodstained game that already came out, before the origin of the namesake. The hell!​
Of course, this is a game of the year list, and this is on my top 10, so it’s safe to say that this time I’m very happy with the end result. Bloodstained came out better than I imagined it would, and stuck the pitch in ways I didn’t expect. This is Castlevania under a different name in the most literal sense, and Bloodstained shows that from the very first screen as you mess with the buttons and just see how the SotN gamefeel is damn near transplanted here. The backdash, the arc of the weapons, the visualization of the map—it’s all very clearly done to remind you that Iga has returned.​
The gaming landscape has changed quite a lot when he was churning out Igavania’s on handhelds every year. Order of Ecclesia was in 2008, before Castlevania went into Lords of Shadow territory, only to trek further into the ether of space and time as Konami chokes on Pachinko money. He’s missed out on the rise of the indie game, something that oh-so-often uses the phrase Metroidvania. We have had a ton of games in this style, but they often lean harder on the Metroid than the Vania. There was still an itch I’ve had that is rarely scratched. It’s not just about the power up progression giving access to new areas, it’s about the lite RPG elements. The menu full of stats, level ups, and a nearly overwhelming amount of weapon options. Bloodstained is all of this, wrapped up in the same kind of dressing SotN skirted where it was fine just throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the player’s hands, even if balance went out the window alongside it.​
We got a Crissaegrim. We got references to the inverted castle built into mechanics via being able to INVERT EVERYTHING WHENEVER. And despite the kickstarter origins, we have a shocking amount of those small mechanical easter eggs I thought would be very hard to recapture with a more limited scope. A goofy toy boot weapon that squeaks each time you move, glasses that zoom the screen in and out, a voice changer that makes all of Miriam’s dialogue a squeaky high pitch. The game is chock full of this stuff, and it works well to recapture the goofy underbelly these games can have.​
While Bloodstained leans hard on the SotN, there’s still the whole shard mechanic which feels like a return to some of the cool ideas explored in Dawn of Sorrow. Almost every enemy has a drop that then gives you access to a move that suits them. These range from the ridiculously effective Heretical Grinder, an aimable shaft of rotating blades that can be held out for rapid damage, to something as simple as tossing a bone. Weaponize your money! Or transform into a rabbit demon. There’s so goddamn many of these things, that you could replay the game using entirely different sets and have a very different experience each time.​
And when it’s all said and done, that’s what this game encapsulates so well. It’s a plethora of options offered to the player, almost overwhelmingly so, while they’re unleashed for a romp into a castle that barely makes sense. It’s exactly what was pitched, and exactly what was delivered. Bloodstained is my feel good game of the year, doubling as both a nice return trip to the metroidvanias of past, and a reminder that this setup legitimately still holds up and works well on its own. Bloodstained may not topple the king, but it’s certainly in the upper echelon of Iga.​

V. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice




From Software have got to be the success story of the last decade. While they’ve been around for much longer, nobody paid them much attention until demon’s dark souls. Since then, they’ve pretty made it. The goofy name now inspires roars from a crowd during a reveal. It led to competition in the indie scene on trying to make soulslike even more prominent than metroidvania. Hell, it might have won that battle at this rate. But from such success can easily come shackles, an expectancy that every game they make must contain that same essence. While Sekiro isn’t the first IP they’ve had in their post-souls boom, it is the most they’ve pulled away from what they’re known for.​
If many ways, Sekiro is a spiritual follow up to Tenchu. This isn’t just about clanging swords with foes, there’s the element of surprise, and the grapple-arm which lets the environments stray more to the vertical end. This is a From Software game where the act of jumping isn’t sketchy as fuck! It’s also one where you can’t just circle strafe around enemies fishing for a backstab. Combat in Sekiro is a nice back and forth, broken out of the idea that stamina needs to be here as a leash. You can attack to your heart’s content, run as much as you’d like, and even dip out of fights by grappling away. This can often lead to some sketchy moments, like the AI being unable to handle what you’re doing, lining them up for a mostly undeserved “stealth” kill. However that AI goofiness is charming in a weird way, you’re not getting a hardcore stealth experience here, but you don’t need to be. Any exposed stealth that leads to a fight can always be handled with player skill, even if it can be made much easier by icing a priority target before this happens.​
Perhaps this speaks more to how similar From games have been getting, but Sekiro is probably the most I’ve gotten worked in their games basically ever. It started on something that wasn’t even a boss, just a giant chained up Ogre. That guy slammed me into the ground. Tossed me off the level. I probably died over 20 times to this fucking thing, and that’s where the aptly named title comes into play here, with a revival at your fingertips when death comes calling. This actually expands farther than just once, and it’s a surprising case where that is REALLY needed as the mainline path of Sekiro does not hold back. I finally toppled the Ogre, just to hit a new roadblock. This hits especially hard at Genichiro, a very clear example of a skill check that you NEED to be able to handle, with no ability to rally online help to cheese your way through. Souls games are known to be hard, but with so many ways of mitigation, this can be an eye opener here. Anyone who completes Sekiro will have to truly know how to handle the mechanics, and given what’s sitting along the mainline path, that’s actually a pretty bold ask.​
Attack recognition comes into play more than it possibly ever has in one of their games, as your victory is rarely coming from depleting enemy health bars, but from filling up their stagger bar from deflections or blocked attacks. This is an intelligent little design as that stagger bar naturally depletes if they aren’t under pressure, so it causes players to prioritize aggression when they might otherwise be comfortable taking a step back. Bayonetta may have coined the mode Infinite Climax, but in many ways Sekiro’s combat is a lot closer to that realization. The building anticipation as the enemy is nearly staggered, knowing you’re almost there, getting that sound cue as it fills and you see the mark to stab. The release.​
S H I N O B I E X E C U T I O N​
The gamefeel is off the chart here. The sound of the swords clashing, getting a deflection, plunging your blade to cause a geyser of blood to shoot out. These are all elements they’ve been good at, but Sekiro takes it to another level.​
The intimacy of the boss fights elevate this all to dramatic heights and gives some of the greatest creations they’ve ever had, such as the Guardian Ape. It seems hard enough, a rampaging, frantic monster that jumps around, has wide sweeping attacks, and does a hell of a lot of damage. He may get the better of you multiple times over, but eventually you get it, with a very satisfying beheading to boot. And that’s when the magic happens, a wonderful usage of ingame UI to toy with player emotions: A death fake out that still has the confirmation of a boss dying pop up, just to rip the rug from underneath the player as the now beheaded ape wiggles back to life. The unnerving animations here serve to not just tie this enemy into the lore of the world, a parasite now hosting the body, but it serves as an incredibly clever way to toss off the rhythm of the player. It’s a new, awkward pacing to deflect these second phase attacks, the offputting lunging that’s not entirely of this world anymore. A player that’s already on the backstep because, motherfucker, I JUST BEAT THE BOSS, yet they’re pulled from an emotional high back into the fray. They got blue balled after a release. The AUDACITY.​
That is but one example of quite a few on why Sekiro is so often seen on year end lists. The game is dripping in atmosphere, and once you get beyond the Bull and see how the game opens up before your eyes, it’s hard to not get giddy at the possibilities. It doesn’t quite go the lengths their previous games did regarding setting, but the cult-like obsession with immortality shown with the parasites, and the ability to sever that bond was one that I found really engaging. Story is more at the fore front here, and it’s pretty well done.​
Though as much of a sheen the game has when you’re locked into an intimate boss battle, some of the other mechanics suffer a bit. The usage of spirit emblems tied to other prosthetic arms, and most of the skill tree, come off as feeling a bit half baked. They have their uses, but tying things like that to a consumable item always has a pretty bad feeling that can’t help but linger. I found a lot of the consumables to be fairly useless as well, in a way feeling like a Souls hangover where you’re gonna fill out your inventory with a bunch of stuff for the sake of it, whereas Sekiro is often best handled with no bullshit, sword only, final destination. These are fairly minor blemishes when the rest shines so brightly, but I couldn’t help but shake the realization that as much as I liked exploring the environments, I was mostly getting junk out of doing so.​
Sekiro isn’t my favorite game From have made (Bloodborne still has that title), but it’s certainly up there. That was cemented further by the time the credits rolled around, after beating my head against the final boss for hours. He has so many health bars! Yet by the time he finally fell, I was barely getting touched. There’s a pathway of player skill in Sekiro that is very obvious in retrospect, especially with the early “forced loss” against Genichiro. What was the first thing I did after beating the game? Started again. And I kicked his ass without getting hit. You feel the improvement, and it feels really damn good.​


IV. Sayonara Wild Hearts



I went into Sayonara Wild Hearts pretty much totally blind. I actually thought it would be more of a traditional rhythm game, but I could not have been more wrong. Instead what I got was a fully playable pop album, and the visual/audio experience was something I was not ready for. This is a game that runs barely over an hour long, but it leaves a hell of an impression upon doing so.​
If I had to ding any part of this game, it would likely be the initial setup. You’re shown a pretty traditional level select, yet many of these individual levels are not much more than a minute long. This prompts the menu to come up again for you to select the next level and continue on. It’s an abrupt stop/go setup that made it so I wasn’t even sure if I liked what I was playing for the first 10 minutes or so. After beating the game, it unlocks an album mode that removes the level select and just plays the entire game strung together, which is where everything really clicked for me.​
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a game that is genuinely impressive in its craft. In such a short run time, there’s a shocking amount of variety on display here, and the way things just happen and the player must adapt is pretty cool. One level has you doing QTE fireball dodging, just to return to driving a motorcycle that drives over a separating cliff where you then backflip off and begin floating. This is in a manner of seconds, and is synced up to the song so the floating part is a big payoff of the song drop. Another level features parallel universes, with two characters that continue to snap their fingers which sends you back and forth between them, so you need to look ahead and really vibe with the song to collect everything.​
Obviously this all works better in tandem to the music, so here’s the aforementioned snapping song. Even without context in the game, you can pinpoint where they would put a “snap” in place and how rhythmic that would be within a level.​
But even beyond that, there’s the usage of the camera along with the music. A level where you drive a car that’s not unlike Outrun, where you do drifts around heavy road bends. The camera spins around to transition from a full car view to a closeup behind the driver’s seat where the handling swap along with it, no more drifting, now it’s just lane control. Again, done to the music, in a manner of seconds. There’s a level that is entirely in first person, based around movement on an x/y plane that is nothing like the rest. Sayonara Wild Hearts isn’t content to just have you just vibe out to the music, it wants to constantly mix up the minute to minute scenarios, whilst juggling a synced soundtrack on top of it.​
If I didn’t already dig this game after the album mode, then getting gold ranks on all of the songs is where a lot of these other parts get noticed. Sayonara isn’t a game that controls in the tightest fashion, so some of the levels require a bit of memorization to know when to preemptively start holding a direction so all of the hearts line up to get neatly collected. But while doing this, it goes without saying that the soundtrack is a complete ear worm, so I didn’t even care if I had to repeat levels. If anything, I welcomed it. Anyone would. What happens after you beat Begin Again ? You begin Begin Again again, so you can begin again. And you don’t care. It’s great.​
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a cool ass game. It’s an hour long playable pop album, with great imagery, a constant gameplay mixup, with a great soundtrack cherry on top. One of the best surprises of the year.​
L E T ’ S P O P​

III. Fire Emblem: Three Houses



Fire Emblem is not something I’ve been very well versed in. The 3DS was my first foray into the series, which might not be all that uncommon given how popular Awakening appears to be in comparison to everything else. Though even then, it didn’t leave a particularly lasting impression on me, but I didn’t fully commit to the strategy layer at the time. I didn’t play with permadeath on, as I was a big ol’ softie. Things have changed a lot since then, and I have many more strategy games under my belt, but that all lines up well for Three Houses to be a pretty big blind side hit for me this year.​
Three Houses always looked to be an appealing blend of settings, especially when they showed their hand regarding the time skip. What we have here is an almost Harry Potter-esque ground layer. You’re roped into being an instructor and must pick a class containing various amounts of goofballs that you’ll grow attached to for the next year. It clearly wasn’t meant to be a surprise, nor is the game very subtle about foreshadowing what’s going to happen beyond this—bad things will happen, this relatively chummy atmosphere turns dark as a time skip leads to a time of war, and the former classmates are pitting lives against eachother.​
First and foremost, I want to say that this game is...not the prettiest. I alluded to it in the Astral Chain write up, but this is much more in the “ass smear” category. Though I like the character designs and the stylings on the models themselves, a lot of the backdrops suffer. Most of the fields look pretty poor, the monastery is pretty damn ugly for a hub you spend so much time in, and there’s this incredibly weird effect in most conversations where the background is a 2D picture that has a weird seam down the middle. It doesn’t quite look right. It’s not all bad, as I like the combat animations, but there’s a bit of an adjustment period, though that’s not too uncommon with Switch games (have you seen that pokemon Wild Area? WOOF). However, unlike pokemon, Three Houses actually has ambition. It’s much easier to forgive this aspect when I see how much is happening, from the strategy layer to the sheer scope of the game. The different routes change a lot in the time skip phase, and this game is SO much longer than I expected. My first run through was Black Eagles, and it clocked in over 70 hours.​
Yes, I said first run. Despite having nearly 3 days of playtime in the game, the first thing I wanted to do after finishing it was restart it as the Blue Lions. I wasn’t sure if I was totally going to commit, but lo and behold I now have like 140+ hours in Fire Emblem and beat it twice. And I want to do a third, still. At the start of the year, I never would have pegged Three Houses as being one of my top played games at all.​
But why is that? Most of the systems just clicked with me in ways I didn’t expect. The monastery is a persona-lite that works on multiple levels. Each chapter gives everyone new things to say, with some quests that can tie into little mini-plots here. As a teacher, you have free range to tell your students what to study in, something you keep seeing every week as the bars fill (and these are some good ass bars). This is where you bond, google what gifts people like, and continuously rope Petra into tea time. This works multiple times over, as this makes you care a lot more about everyone. They’re all effectively units on a field when push comes to shove, but you can’t help but see the character through it all. It’s one thing to have unit X die to enemy Y, but am I letting Bernie get killed when she finally leaves her room? Hell no, she needs to ascend to Bow Knight. She’s been working on horseriding for so long, and you can’t take that away from her.​
The strategy layer is mostly what you’d expect from the series. Grid based movement, bonuses based on square type, etc. This is all backed by a very solid soundtrack, with preparation and map themes that are easy to hum along to. Combat Arts are a nice idea, adding the ability to expend weapon durability for the sake of specialized attacks, though these end up being a bit hit or miss beyond the early game where they’re very useful. Magic, however, gets a huge boost in TH, unshackled from needing to stockpile spell books that have finite uses. You instead get a per-map amount of charges for spells, which is so much more fun to play with. Hubert became an incredibly top tier unit for me, having super high crit chances to nearly one shot everything from absurd ranges while he laughed like a maniac. I’m here for it.​
Also new to the series are the monster units. Enemies that take up multiple tiles and require a different strategy to take down, namely that each “square” of space they have being breakable, putting them in a stun state, and typically having multiple life bars. They’ve dangerous if they attack, but with smart attack ordering, most of their threat can be diminished. But they add a nice wrinkle to the combat, especially mixed in with other normal units. The late game gets especially dastardly with usage of them, and I found them to be a great addition.​
It’s hard to disassociate how much you grow on the characters here, and how much that can make playthroughs fun. My Blue Lions run, which has a ton of close ranged power, was so much different from the Eagles which were comprised of mostly magic and ranged. Felix was an MVP outta nowhere, someone I barely interacted with in my 70+ hour initial run. He ended up being an enjoyable character in his many interactions, and an absolute slayer on the battlefield. Dedue could not take damage. He was a god. Nobody survived an encounter with Dimitri. It had such a different flavor to my other run, where Petra was a close ranged crit hitter while almost everyone else was squares away from danger. This is assisted by a smart NG+ system that makes it really appealing to start over, being able to rebuy stats and relationship levels so you can try a large variety of classes and characters out. Characters from other houses can be recruited into your own, though I think makes the second half lose a lot of impact if it’s abused. But in NG+? Who cares! The more options the merrier. There’s a ton of character conversations that cross over beyond the time skip that most people will never see. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to genuinely fill all of that out yourself.​
With so much ambition comes some failings, but that’s to be expected. The inventory management per unit could get a little much, as each character has a pretty large amount of skills to equip, weapons and items to have on, and as much as I liked the core gameplay, the actual class progression is fairly odd. The final tier is not essential to jump to, but it still feels strange that so much of it is so narrow in its focus, almost entirely dependent on having a high skill in Riding/Flying. Some of the gender locked roles are a bummer as well, which especially stood out during the Black Eagles as Gremory is female locked, but you have multiple male units that are heavy magic users. Though the Monastary still serves as your hub in the time skip, it loses a lot of purpose as it’s much more barren. This is pretty easy to mitigate, though, as you can spend as much or as little time here as needed. I instead opted to just do a lot of extra sermons, but the pacing in the back half can still get hit from these moments considering the structure is still based around one main mission per month.​
But the more I played, the less these things mattered to me. Three Houses is a triumph. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience the whole way through, and a much bigger time sink than I expected it to be. It’s hard to believe Fire Emblem was nearly on its death row before, but I’m thrilled to see the series thriving like this now. This is a series Intelligent Systems isn’t content to just churn out and spin their wheels on, and I can’t overstate how much this game benefits from that. Sign me the hell up for whatever else they do next, even if they have their work cut out for themselves trying to top this one.​

II. Apex Legends


Everything about Apex Legend’s existence has a pretty hilarious undertone to me. A f2p battle royale by Respawn. Under EA. The amount of record scratches on that is alarming. So alarming, in fact, it’s the entire reason this game was a complete secret until it released—they KNEW that was a marketing nightmare. The self-awareness on display there is great, and it works entirely in their favor as we saw from the slightly early leak. THE NEGATIVITY. GODDAMN.​
However, after actually getting to play it, Apex is incredible. While Fire Emblem shocked me with how much I played it, Apex holds the crown for the game I played the most this year. 15 days of playtime and counting later, there’s so much of this game that still stands out to me.​
From the getgo, Apex is a mixture of a hero shooter and a battle royale. 20 teams of 3 drop into the field, having to find and scavenge the areas for everything. Armor, weapons, ammo, attachments—mix that with a diverse range of characters that have abilities and ultimates, and you get a game that constantly has unique situations always cropping up. The places you fight determined by the ring, what weapons you have, how many meds you have, the state of your team in general, the variables here are vast and a reaffirmation of why Battle Royales work so well. You never see the exact same thing twice, and if one game ends early and poorly, the next can always be a victory.​
Respawn is a name I hold in high regard, as Titanfall is an incredibly great feeling mechanical sandbox. The effortless wall running, the level routes to chain around without touching the ground, down to the nitty gritty of the gunplay always felt great. Apex still holds true to all of that, albeit minus the wallrunning. Though it’s not hard to see why that’s missing, as there’s already A LOT going on, and the TTK is a very different beast here. That TTK is also a large part in why I find this game so fun: Loot isn’t particularly complex, and armor works in chunks of 25 so it’s never much of a surprise to know how strong or weak an enemy is. The act of shooting feels nice and punchy, from the crack of a longbow to the rapid death of an R99. There’s plenty of smart sound usage from damage feedback as well, such as the loud shatter sound that happens after you break an enemy’s armor. This works to not just FEEL good, but it genuinely useful information to relay to your team as that’s now a priority target. Mid-long range fights have so many possible options regarding repositioning, having time to back up and heal, or usage of specific abilities like Gibraltar’s dome shield for cover, so that games that end in a loss can often be thought back on with insight on what could have been done differently to prevent it. Sometimes, however, it’s just meant to be, as a team swooping in right after a fight to finish the weaker team off is very common and hard to avoid. This is practically a BR staple at this point, but the mobility in Apex makes it a strategy that needs to be considered more often than not.​
Apex is a game focused more on momentum—downslopes are always a joy to find as it’s a free ride to slide and pick up speed, sprinting is faster with no weapon equipped, and specific characters like Pathfinder can work all of this into his grapple to slingshot into slides. It all just feels right, and I especially like the mechanical interplay from putting your gun away for faster movement. It’s a very minor thing on the surface, but can be used to surprising effect within a fight to reposition or cut off angles, yet always holds a risk that the re-equip time will mess you up. It’s the type of elegant design that has me inadvertently doing the same action in other FPS games and wondering why I’m not going faster.​
Honestly, this is just a game I could gush over for awhile. The usage of colors is all over this game in such an intelligent way—from damage (blue damage numbers = blue armor), to looting (purple box? Purple loot). Running into a room and seeing 9 death boxes sitting around tells a story in this game. A story of shit going down and everyone dying. Whereas most games seem to just have enemies explode into a loot pile, this works in favor of the gameplay as well, since from the color coding it now sets various priorities on where to loot first. Sure, that gold box might not have the incredibly useful armor you’re looking for, but it’s an extremely clever way to signpost where to look as a general rule.​
On launch, the ping system and revive ability caused quite a ripple, and it’s easy to take those for granted as they feel so natural now. Some of my favorite, most memorable matches of Apex have actually been the sloppiest. Drops gone horribly wrong, where the team is nearly wiped but someone gets away. A sneaky recovery later, and we’re all back on our feet! But lootless, with a target on our back. Most games of this ilk would just be put on break after death, knowing there’s potentially 20 minutes of dead air to come. This works so well to craft stories in each match, especially when these turn into an outright victory. There’s so much risk involved in getting back to the boxes where everyone died, to summoning the ship that plenty of the lobby is looking right at, but it leads to some absolutely insane moments. But pinging? Man.​
The ping system is brilliant. Even in full voice chat as a 3 man squad, it’s incredible. No more “he’s in that building in the back! No, BEHIND THAT”, no “the armor was in the hallway where we landed…I think”. Now it’s an exact pinpoint of location, so everyone knows where you’re looking. It’s marking an area with doors already being opened, so everyone knows enemies have been there. It’s pinging good loot, which a teammate can dib to keep it on the screen and know its exact location. It’s pinging your own inventory to let people know what you need. It’s pinging objects within a dead enemies box, so they see attachments or ammo worth grabbing. It’s SO useful, all the time, and Respawn knew it would be. You can simply look at the controller layout for that—RB is a button of very high priority, and here, it’s used simply to mark things. It’s a great showing of innovation sometimes coming from the most basic and unexpected of areas. The idea of spotting is hardly new, of course, but to give such a clear attentive focus in making it so prominent within the game, it almost baffles you into wondering how nobody did it to this level before. It even works to bridge the gap with randoms without using a mic. Just landed and got decent armor, and ran into another? Ping it. Why not? The button is right there, and even if my teammates don’t end up grabbing it, they still see it as an option. This works right from the start of the game as well, pinging where people would want to land, being able to ping on their own ping for agreement…it’s simple, but offers so much.​
When it’s all said and done, however, Apex’s greatest strength is also its Achilles heel. This is a team game, and no matter how much certain systems like the ping system help, randoms can always derail a match. The jumpmaster, the choice of where to land, is offered to one player, but (naturally) people can split off and go where-the-fuck-ever. Do you join a random that split to hot drop? Maybe. Then you die, and see your teammate run right by your box, not even humoring the idea of a revive. Or you don’t go with them, see them die immediately and angrily spam pings. People are garbage, and that isn’t really Apex’s fault, but it does hinder how much playtime can be squeezed out of it without a solid crew unless you have a high tolerance for some bullshit. Some nights you’re hankering for some drops and your bud is playing some really awful MP shooter instead, and ya can’t do much about that. Apex has toyed with LTM modes, including Solos, but that mode showcased to me that this is truly built for and around groups of 3 going at it. Solos boosted the loot drops so nearly everyone had purple armor, there is no use for any character outside of Pathfinder, and you run into people teaming up because they’re garbage at the game (again, people suck). If that gets added permanently, hey, I’d play it more. But it also isn’t quite what the game is best at.​
My main issue with Apex is actually just the F2P wrappings. While characters can technically be purchased, any semi-regular player will be swimming in the currency to do so (They’ve added three characters since launch, and I can buy the next NINE CHARACTERS right now without playing anymore), so we’re mainly talking cosmetics. It’s the usual fare: Gun skins, legend skins, a banner you can decorate, weapon charms, etc. It has loot boxes, hooray, and the amount that drop is finite. This has been recently remedied to an extent as they massively expanded the level cap and added a lot more drops, but it’s a well that still runs dry eventually. That means crafting materials specifically are limited, and that means it’s hard to get the specific thing you might want outside of a loot box lottery. The à la carte option is both fairly random due to a slow rotating store, and also sometimes outright impossible if you want something that isn’t specifically a legendary character/weapon skin, but even if the stars align and you do get something you want…that asking price is high. Pretty much copying the Fortnite model, but in a game where skins are much less valuable due to the perspective. Specific cosmetic events seem to be a running theme, where the asking price for everything is really high, and each roll of the dice for a loot box cost $7 EACH. Though F2P does have its own perks, since even if you ignore all the cosmetics, the content still flows. Beyond characters and weapons, they added an entirely new map, which still shocks me. The battle passes are pretty much no brainers to support for people playing a lot, but that’s a potentially self-sustaining product as each pass pays out for the next one. I genuinely don’t think I’ve been in this position with a game before. I would best sum it up as this: Apex is a game I want to spend money on, and rarely find a good outlet to do so. Pretty weird.​
Anyway. Uh. Yeah. Apex is a fun fucking time. Had some of the funniest moments this year playing it, and there’s plenty more to come, even if I have to forcibly pull my friends into it sometimes. Keep on keepin’ on, Respawn.​

I. Outer Wilds


We are finally here: Outer Wilds. This videogame. I was pondering what to do with this, as something that commonly follows up a write up for this game is mostly a big emphasis that the less you know, the better. That is totally true! A big part of why this game works is the unraveling of a mystery, yet there’s so much game here to dissect and talk about, that I can’t help myself (if you couldn’t tell by how much verbal diarrhea is already here (boldly assuming more than like 3 people even read this lol)). The abridged version would be: Incredible open ended storytelling, with a sense of wonder I don’t think I’ve felt before. Outer Wilds respects and trusts the player’s intelligence, and takes them on a hell of a journey by doing so. But this game is so much more than that.​
Outer Wilds starts off on Timber Hearth, a small little planet with its eyes on the stars. You’re one of the Hearthians, about to take your first foray into space as a part of Outer Wilds Ventures. It all starts off like this is going to be a nice, quaint game. It has a heavy outdoor campfire vibe, with twangy instrumentals, and the residents are all pretty chill. A guided tutorial introduces the few mechanics there are to work with, and establish that this is a pretty small community not really comprehending much of the outside world. But even here—something seems off. Ghost Matter is introduced early, a hazardous substance that…kills you pretty much instantly just by making contact with it. Maybe this game isn’t going to be so jolly. A museum of your people’s space faring accomplishments is your first objective, featuring artifacts and pictures of things that are all too real in this world. It does not take long for the first venture into space to come to fruition, a journey that gets cut short. This is the first of many examples of showcasing how open Outer Wilds is—this first trip could end in many ways, from an early death, or fully experiencing the main hook of this mystery. The sun is exploding, with a supernova that envelopes and spells the end for all. This is not set up in a way to script the player into needing to see what happens, they may be inside and not sure of what’s happening when the music kicks in, or they may be out in space, wondering why the sun is turning so red. Eventually, they’ll know, and fully understand the issue in front of them.​
Something happens after all of this. A statue locked eyes with you earlier, and everything you just did happens in reverse before you. You reawaken at the campfire you began at. You are now stuck in a time loop, cursed to forever see everything you know repeatedly perish in front of you. But this curse is also budding hope, with infinite lives comes infinite time to figure out why this is happening, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent this. Conversations with the townsfolk go as you’d expect—people think you’re crazy, nobody else is reliving these moments. As such, the answers must come from the solar system before you. If you haven’t played the game, I wouldn’t read beyond this point.​
Outer Wilds is not a game on an especially large scale, despite being a solar system. There are only a handful of planets to observe here, yet the density of these locales cannot be understated. It’s hard to compare this to much else, but there are certainly influences that can be caught. Myst, Majora’s Mask, maybe even Metroid--this is an exploration game on ever-changing planets, where the only thing you obtain is knowledge. What is possible 5 minutes into a loop will not be when it’s 15 minutes. The story unravelling before you is open ended, criss crossing an engrossing tale between planets, with a handful of particularly powerful moments “locked” behind some of the more difficult mysteries. Those are your missile powerups. This is tied together on your ship’s log, a flowchart that displays what information you’ve learned, specific wider mysteries that may be linked towards, and a good resource to keep your head on straight. It’s like a game built out of the Bomber’s Notebook in Majora’s Mask.​
There are only precious few things you actually need to do in this game, and it features no combat. A probe to take pictures, a scanner to track objects, and a translator tool are really all you get. Yet despite that, there is incredibly strong level design throughout the game. Brittle Hollow is a planet being bombarded by balls of lava, which is taking chunks of it off at a time. By the end of a loop. It’s barely held together anymore. It exposes a black hole within the core of the planet, not to mention a hanging city beneath the crust. There are crystals that change gravity, let you walk upside down on the inner parts of the planet that get blasted away over time. How this planet is tackled changes dramatically based on how the loop is going, yet the player can often find ways around this anyway. Jump by the black hole and use the gravitational pull to do a massive arced jump onto what little remains. Giant’s Deep has extremely high gravity, and is full of whirlwinds that rip islands off of the planet. Ash Twins is a connected hourglass of a planet that is pouring sand from one half to the other, covering secrets on one while revealing areas on the other. I was constantly engrossed in not just finding out what was happening, but the vehicle for delivery in doing so. It’s genuinely a blast to mentally unravel what to do on these planets, seeing how it ties into the time loop, and how the knowledge from one planet may assist on another. Being on a cave on Ember Twin that’s rapidly filling with sand, nearly cutting off all passages is a uniquely thrilling experience that can’t help but be intoxicating.​
I have never experienced such a heavily feeling of dread from a game before. Almost the entirety of Outer Wilds got under my skin in an uncomfortable, unnatural way, surpassing most outright horror games I’ve played. The atmosphere in space is unnerving as hell, constantly feeling like you might just crash into who knows what while traveling around. Being on the surface of a planet just always feels so desolate, often having the sun always in view, knowing what’s going to happen, with nothing to accompany you aside from your character’s paced breaths. The earlier mentioned black hole is another good example of this, as that is something I already get shivers thinking about in real life. The droning sound when you’re near it, and the way the visuals around the edges refract are equal parts well down and terrifying. Losing my footing and falling into it for the first time, not knowing what was going to happen, might have killed me on the inside a little bit. But in Dark Bramble, I’m pretty sure I outright couldn’t breathe. This fucking song is so effective there, just droning nothingness. A planet of sorts that looks small on the outside, and is infinitely vast from within. It’s full of a cloudy fog that envelopes your sight, elevated by the horrors that lurk within--Angler Fish, making noises in the background of this music, hanging out all over this seed from hell. Dark Bramble is a series of expanding passages, but the only thing you can see is a light that leads to the next, and a view full of lights extending in all directions. What looks like a path, may just be the tip of one of these things, and it will kill you. This is a game where death is inevitable, you are effectively invincible, and yet you STILL feel weak here. But these elements extend beyond just this area—the Quantum Moon. Quantum objects in general. These all have such a disturbing, unnatural undertone. This game made me damn near realize I had phobias I never knew existed. It perfectly mirrors what space should be, the fear of the unknown, anything can be out there. Plus I’m not gonna lie, I straight up took my headset off to navigate in the Bramble, because the sounds were fucking me up too much. I have never done that with anything, ever.​

The tale of the Nomai are the core of the plot here, and it’s incredibly well down how the game unveils its hand here while still being so open ended. Most of this is essentially just finding out what happened many, many years ago—the reason the game’s atmosphere feels so desolate is because it is. The Nomai died out a long time ago, seemingly abruptly as they left all of their studies around the solar system. They come off as well meaning, if not over excited, science nerds with an infatuation on the so called eye of the universe. Their research reveals a lot regarding motivations, culture, history, and what led them to this point. Hours of decoding messages on planets, seeing similar names cropping up as you follow a pathway previously carved out by these characters. But things take a turn and I once again felt a sinking feeling that I’ve rarely seen before as the sun station became the new subject. Their plan to find the eye revolved around shooting out a probe, with usage of wormholes that they used to also discover the essence of time travel, so it would loop out in different directions and log the location. But what they needed was power, a LOT of it, and they were going to forcibly blow up the sun to to harness the energy to do so. Things turn dark, and these Nomai that felt so well meaning now change a lot. But the moment on the sun station is incredibly powerful. The hallway leap while right next to the sun is such a cool moment, and the revelation afterwards is just as good. The Nomai readings here now have a much more solemn tone—they actually failed. They aren’t the reason the sun is exploding, and your previous sickness turns to relief. Then…sorrow? Is it bad that they failed? But then there’s another hint at what happened next, and it points to the Interloper. This was a mysterious object that they felt incredible power from, so maybe there’s still a chance. Yet this ends up being their gravesite, as the interloper is what carries ghost matter, which exploded off and filled the solar system, killing everything.​
Ghost matter may be my favorite singular element of this game, as it’s a good standalone plotpoint that signifies why I like this game as much as I do. We get very little detail on what this substance actually is, and I LOVE that. It doesn’t matter why it kills you, or where it came from. So many franchises are eager to sever the allure of mystery and end up going so deep into explanations that it retroactively harms everything around it. From Midichlorians to Nanomachines, explaining the unknown can get stupid. The Reapers from Mass Effect get a whole lot lamer when they detail the motivations behind their dumb plot. Even standalone stories, like Death Stranding, all too often refuse to let some stones be unturned, and must explain away the “why” of every little thing as characters line up in an orderly fashion to explain the origins of their goofy ass name. Outer Wilds doesn’t do that, and lets this linger—everything you need to know, you get, and a player can infer from ingame knowledge the rest. Ghost matter wiped out everything, but avoided the Hearthians at the time due to them being water based creatures that later evolved to be on land. Thus, ghost matter, whatever it may be, is stopped by water. And whatever the fuck Dark Bramble is, as Angler Fish are still around. This, again, helps give the already rich atmosphere of the game another boost. What in the ever loving hell IS the interloper? It will always be flying around the area, and you know it’s the reason the Nomai died, which makes it creepy as hell. Dark Bramble already IS creepy as hell, and just becomes SSJ creepy. Maybe it was a created weapon, or a natural formation; either way, the player is left to use their imagination. And that’s a beautiful thing.​
All of this and more help culminate into an incredibly powerful ending. Finally figuring out not just what your main objective is, but how to actually pull it off, is great. Once you get the ash twin warp down and get inside, you know things are about to get super weird. The power charging this entire time loop is your source to the eye, and with it comes vulnerability…not to mention a trek into the most dangerous place you know of, the good ol’ Bramble. The vessel is reached, the coordinates are in, aaaaaaand a deafening silence. The eye is there, right in front of you, and it is goddamn unnerving. The trek onto it, walking upside down to jump into a void of nothingness, knowing you can now actually die, and that the solar system is exploding for the last time as there is nothing left to do but take the plunge into whatever lies ahead. A few crazy sequences later, and there is one last thing left to do: A final campfire song. The bits and pieces of the song that you’ve been hearing throughout the game with your tracker reaches its apex, as all the instruments hit at the same time. The universe is dying, yet this moment is uplifting. You cause a big bang, condense everything into one more chance for others to thrive, now little more than an observer. It’s the absolutely perfect endcap to an already unforgettable experience. Consciousness, mortality, failures, successes—it hits so many beats all at once. It’s in ways the most depressing game I’ve ever played, and subsequently the most inspiring. It’s goddamn incredible.​
Outer Wilds has such a great attention to detail permeating throughout the game. Even when it was all over, I couldn’t help but glance at the achievement list and saw the silly things the developers not only knew were possible here, but actively encouraged. The shell of Giant’s Deep that requires the specific knowledge to pierce, can actually be broken just by flying your ship absurdly fast right into the planet. The laboratory where the Nomai realized the black/white holes could be powered up to have an object exit the white hole before it enters the black hole can be sabotaged midway through, duplicating an object and causing space time itself to be consumed by black tendrils as the entire universe was just broken. This is even paired with a super sped up credit sequence, and a kazoo version of the main theme. Your fellow Hearthian bud Gabbro on Giant’s Deep is also connected to a statue, and is the only other person experiencing the time loops as you are. Yet he’s content to just hang out on a hammock and stay calm as everything keeps dying. As such, he can teach you to meditate and end a sequence whenever you want. It’s the only “ability” of sorts you can earn, yet is both easy to miss yet logical to obtain. The way a loop ends influences how one begins: Do said meditation, begin with a more relaxed, deep breath. End via suffocation death? The next cycle starts with a very loud, desperate gasp for air. Chert is the Heartian on ember twin, and he’s the one who’s most interested in charting the galaxy, and as such is actually the most reactive to change as his dialog changes through a cycle. He changes his demeanor a lot near the end, as he is seeing that supernovas are actually happening everywhere, and can tell your sun is about to do the same. And this is something the player always could see too: Closely looking at all the far away stars, you can see faint explosions, everything is dying. Nomai readings are all over the game, and their languages is based on swirls that branch off in various directions. Sometimes, you get big chunky lines, because these are logs from child Nomai—they are naturally not as well versed in this language yet. These are but a small handful of easily missed details this game is loaded with, but to me help show how much passion went into every ounce of this game. There was actually a patch in December that added an entirely new, weird easter egg. Who does that?! Such an incredibly small amount of people will ever see it, but they did it anyway.​
A huge portion of my list is known quantities. Veterans of the gaming industry. This is the first game Mobius Digital has ever made, and that is absolutely nuts. So much of this feels like it was backed via a master of its craft, when it really wasn’t, it just started off as a student project and spiraled into this. This incredible, unforgettable experience. This mechanical solar system toybox that tells an incredible story, which hits the gamut of emotions in a way I’ve rarely, if ever, felt before.​
Outer Wilds is my game of the year 2019. Yet that's also selling it short--Outer Wilds is one of the greatest games I have ever played.​
_____________________________________

That’s all I got this year. As mentioned, a lot of games could have easily made this list. Off the top of my head, that would include Luigi’s Mansion 3, A Plague Tale: Innocence, The Outer Worlds, and Jedi: Fallen Order. Special shout out to Slay the Spire, an incredibly good game that I played the hell out of years ago. I guess it technically falls under this year’s umbrella, but I don’t mentally associate it with that at all and didn’t really play it much at all this year, so it feels wrong to put it anywhere.

Videogames are something so great.
 
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Papercuts

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,155
  1. Outer Wilds - An incredible experience unlike anything I've played before.
  2. Apex Legends - Respawn making a strong case on being kings of the FPS genre with this slick, smartly designed Battle Royale.
  3. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - A game bursting with ambition and charm, and an incredibly fun tactical layer that lasted me far longer than I expected.
  4. Sayonara Wild Hearts - A fully playable pop album that constantly engages the player in different ways.
  5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - A brutal but gripping combat system, out here to remind you why From Software is so well respected.
  6. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - A reminder that the cliched saying about not knowing what you have until it's gone is actually pretty damn true. #TeamWhip
  7. Resident Evil 2 - A well realized revisit to one of the all time greats, and in many ways a project I can still hardly believe is real.
  8. Astral Chain - The chain counter made me feel very happy.
  9. Gears 5 - A solid leap in quality for a game stuffed to the brim with content.
  10. Devil May Cry 5 - Where the fuck is the Vergil DLC
Continued from here but split so the votebot doesn't keep cropping up if I edit the big post with everything.


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Nocturnowl

Member
Oct 25, 2017
12,761
Bearing the burden of being the new tomemaster, a weight papercuts carries, but we all silently appreciate it.
 

KiLAM

Member
Jan 25, 2018
1,453
  1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice- Was my most anticipated game of the year and it delivered. Some of the best gameplay and boss encounters I have ever played in a game.
  2. Metro: Exodus- I feel 4A games is THE most underrated studio out there. They are the best in the industry in making dark and atmospheric environments and Metro Exodus blew me away in almost all aspects. All metro games are some of the best games I have ever played and I feel like this is the best one thanks to a great cast of characters I was attached with from start to finish.
  3. Control- Was looking forward to this game since the initial reveal and was everything I hoped it would be and more. Loved the unconventional storytelling and weird fiction elements.
  4. Devil May Cry 5- Never been a huge fan of the series because the combat is just not for me. Still had a blast with this game.
That's all I played in 2019. Was very busy throughout most of it so I had to choose what I REALLY wanted to play first. Regret not playing indies like Outer Wilds and Disco Elysium. Hope to fix that soon.


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Christo750

Member
May 10, 2018
2,044
  1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses: As a fairly new Fire Emblem fan, I'd only encountered the more character sim based games since Awakening. Three Houses has skyrocketed it's way to the top of my favorite FE's, and is my game of the year. Some of the strongest character arcs in the series to date, and despite the branching paths, the path I picked felt so engrossing and off-beat to what I'd expect from a Fire Emblem game that I'm almost scared to have my experience tainted by playing through another storyline. No real choice I was presented with felt okay, or a black or white, good VS. bad option. It was shades of gray, messy and complicated, and all the more engrossing for it.
  2. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: 2019 has been less the year for artistry and more the year for comfort food. And there are few meals more comforting to devour than a polished Metroidvania that comes from the creator of one of the greatest of all time. It plays off Symphony of the Night too much in some places, but it's tough to argue that it's exactly what people wanted. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is what happens when the right mind can take a million people's memory of an all-time classic and iterate on it without feeling like their sense of nostalgia is being goaded, and without the creator feeling like he's taking a road already traveled. Sometimes, what people want is more than enough.
  3. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition: In truth, this is my first encounter with the Dragon Quest series, and it has won me over to the point of wanting to check out older Dragon Quest games. Throughout my playthrough, Dragon Quest XI reminded me a lot of how we perceive The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time today; a masterpiece, albeit formulaic in hindsight and at times obsolete in it's design. Dragon Quest XI does not try to reinvent any kind of RPG wheel; it insists on making you play the game that exists in front of you. It has a rigid old-school structure, and is very much Square Enix saying: "Like it or not, this is the game we made, and we're proud of it." That mentality could certainly be part of the reason the series can't find a breakthrough here in the West, but truth be told, I find a studio sticking to their guns that way refreshing. The music is hit or miss but at least with the Switch version, it's orchestrated. I can't imagine playing the PS4 version last year with the MIDI audio. It must've been hell.
  4. Resident Evil 2: Remake: Capcom has been on a tear these past 3 years and with Resident Evil 3 being less than 3 months away, it has the strongest possible schematic to be built off of. Resident Evil 2 is the prime example of a game's core ideas being so structurally sound, that it could be perceived in many different ways and all of them could be strong. The interpretation shines as much as it does because of the ideas they're built on, and that makes for a truly timeless classic.
  5. Katana Zero: This year's indie darling in my eyes. Katana Zero is a game that proves simplicity is key. Thought the story is anything but, there's little to do in the way combat. I've often said that so many of these serious action games could do without bullet and combo sponges and more one-hit kills to increase the tension, and Katana Zero plays with this concept to great effect. As your skill increases and you watch through replays of the levels, you see the payoff immediately. There must be something in the water over at Devolver Digital because they are publishing some real gems lately.
  6. Luigi's Mansion 3: Luigi's Mansion 3 is filled to the brim with personality. That seems like such a cliche description but Luigi's Mansion 3 really should be the poster boy for it. This game opens new doors of potential growth for characters almost 40 years old; Mario & Luigi, through the way they interact and the new ways they speak to each other, have never been more likable. On top of this, the puzzle design is outstanding, the hotel itself feels more interactive and alive than almost any other Nintendo setting in existence, and in the least condescending way possible, this feels like one of the first true AAA Nintendo outputs ever. Entries 4-6 can be mixed and matched in any real order, so despite this being the last of these three, I don't want to undersell just how much I loved it.
  7. Tetris 99: A Battle-Royale Tetris is never something I knew I wanted until it was given to me. Tetris is one of the purest gameplay concepts ever created and has more than stood the test of time. With Fortnite reaching a new peak this year, Apex Legends being introduced and PUBG still going strong, Tetris 99 was the highlight of Battle Royale for me this year. Infinitely replayable.
  8. Astral Chain: Platinum games delivered another triumph this year for the Switch. The action is a little slower and more methodical, which left room for Platinum to stretch its legs in other areas. It feels like a step forward for the company and hopefully, in a sequel, we can see Platinum try more new ideas to go along with their patented brilliant combat mechanics.
  9. The Outer Worlds: I don't have much experience with the Fallout franchise, and the few times I have, I've had problems with them that The Outer Worlds corrects. In The Outer Worlds, combat is so much tighter, the world has a greater sense of cohesion, and the role-playing mechanics feel like they have more customization than ever. This experience was fairly new to me and I really enjoyed it.
  10. Cadence of Hyrule: Probably holds my favorite OST of the year and is definitely the best 2D Zelda released this year.
  11. Kingdom Hearts 3: HONORABLE MENTION: I had a lot of problems with KH3, and as a massive Kingdom Hearts fan I found it fairly disappointing, but its high points were high enough to grant it place among my honorable mentions. Graphically stellar, the OST is spectacular, the combat is fun, but as a Kingdom Hearts game, nevermind the conclusion to so many threads, I was wildly let down.
  12. The Touryst: HONORABLE MENTION: While it gets a lot of platforming fundamentals pretty wrong, the Touryst is at it's best when it's a problem-solving adventure game set across a string of exotic islands with a stoically whimsy cast of characters and truly beautiful graphics. It's easy to miss on the eShop but I hope you don't.
  13. Pokemon Sword: HONORABLE MENTION: It's easy to point at GameFreak and say for the umpteenth time everything they did wrong, but 50+ hours spent in the Galar region and an almost completed Pokedex tell me that I'm enjoying it very much despite these things. I want to shout out Casual Controls; being able to play this game one-handed in the morning while I drank my coffee and my newly rescued dog sat on my lap was a really nice experience and probably helped me look more positively on this game overall.
  14. Picross S3: HONORABLE MENTION: In both 2017 and 2018, Picross S games were on my Best Of lists in the honorable mentions. Picross is one of the best puzzle games in the vein of sudokus or crosswords and I truly feel like a successful retiree while playing them and I am just happy as can be. Here's hoping theres a Picross S4 in 2020.
  15. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order: HONORABLE MENTION: I'm not quite all the way through this game yet, but what I'm playing so far, I'm enjoying quite a bit. There's a little slice of every other game found within it, the map is annoying to follow, and even after patches on PC, the graphical glitches are pretty gnarly. But a Dark Souls-type game where I play as a Jedi in cool Lightsaber fights and force push deadly enemies off a cliff in a quick attempt to finally backtrack through goddamn Kashyyk, well, that's all a win in my book.
I also played a lot of games on Switch for the first time this year so I wanna give a quick shoutout to:
-Dragon's Dogma Dark Arisen <3
-Cuphead <3
-Ori & The Blind Forest <3


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Oct 27, 2017
731
Idk last year started super super strong and had one of the driest droughts after Sekiro, and it never picked up the same pace. I also wasn't interested in a lot of the indies, so that didn't help. I think I only played like 13 or 14 games total (vs. 30+ in 2017), and haven't been able to play LiS2, Astral Chain, and a few others, so my list is pretty damn bland this year, but whatevs.

  1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - The Return of the King. Your boy IGA saw the avalanche of metroidvanias coming out of the indie scene, tossed his wine glass and said, "I need to remind you amateurs how it's done." RotN is on par with Symphony of the Night for me, and SotN is a top ten OAT tier game. While the graphics and soundtrack aren't quite there, the absolutely massive magic and movement list and ways to approach exploration and combat dwarf even the best the genre has offered recently, such as Hollow Knight. The alchemy and cooking systems provide a good incentive to explore, while the shard system (which allows stacking multiple versions of the same shard) pushes you to engage in the combat. It all makes for a game where all the gears are grinding as they should, where all the systems complement one another. Getting David Hayter and Robert Belgrade (Alucard) on board is just the icing on the cake. Turns out high profile Kickstarter projects can actually turn out pretty well when a true genius is at the helm.
  2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Claude gang rise up! I debated between 1 and 2 for a while, but settled for this order. This is the first Waifu Wars game I've actually beaten (twice even!), and damn I'm impressed. There is so much decently-written (all things considered), fully voiced dialogue in this game, I would have never guessed it was a Nintendo joint if I didn't already know. The core moral dilemma at the heart of the story is surprisingly nuanced for this sort of really anime-y title, reflected by how people are still debating the ethics of every characters' actions to this day. They also thankfully age up the cast, so you don't have to feel weird about picking waifus : 3 The gameplay is pretty good, though even on the hard difficulty ( I haven't tried the newer one yet) it's kinda braindead, but I was still entertained enough for over a hundred hours of playtime. I like this game so much that I wouldn't even mind a sixtieth FE character in Smash if they were from here!
  3. Death Stranding - I think we use the term 'walking simulator' a little too loosely. Stuff like Everyone's Gone to the Rapture and it's ilk don't REALLY simulate how hard walking can actually be. Death Stranding is arguably the first AAA walking simulator we've seen, and it turns out I really like that sort of thing. Saying that the gameplay loop is just running around is not doing the game justice when running around, in itself a pretty technical and demanding task, requires just as much brainpower as any action game. The shared world gimmick really sells the game's themes of uniting and rebuilding better than any half hour cutscene could, and I found myself really getting invested in helping my fellow players out. And while the dialogue is often clumsy and repetitive, I think a lot of the lore, concepts, and world building is the best stuff I've seen since the Witcher 3. Who could have even come up with Heartman's gimmick other than Kojima?!
  4. Devil May Cry 5 - This game may very well have the greatest combat system ever. Dante in particular feels like a fucking beast, and I think it's a shame that they don't seem willing to let him carry a whole game anymore. Which isn't to put down the other two characters, I had a lot of fun with Nero's Berserk arms and SSSing V's combat scenarios by summoning a giant golem and laser beaming everyone. Brain dead? Yes. Fun? Yes. This game very well could have vaulted to the top with some more interesting set pieces and environments; it mostly just locks you in a hallway and makes you fight some dudes. When the dude fighting is this good, though, it's hard to complain too much.
  5. Resident Evil 2 - Capgods. This could have been very, very easily been done poorly, and not only did they not fuck it up, they made a superior version of a classic. Despite the perspective and inventory management update, this is classic PS1/PS2 era horror, down to the ever expanding map, the supply management, and the little frustrations like not being able to see a ladder in the dark and running around the sewers for an extra hour as a result. At least it's organic; a more modernized game would have never let me stumble around in the dark for an hour without putting up sixteen things on my HUD telling me where to go. It also has the best encounter design since RE4, and I'll admit to actually being scared once, which is one more time than any RE other than 7 has scared me. Other than the trademark dumb story, I struggle to name any real flaws with the game; it's just missing the special sauce that would make it a top 3 contender.
  6. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Let's just knock out all TGA nominees in a row. Sekiro is a slightly mixed bag for me. It's undoubtedly a great game overall, but the couple of problems I have with it are pretty big. It has arguably the best FROM world design period, or at least alongside BB and DkS1; exploration felt so organic that I didn't even realize there was a boss fight with Genichiro until well after I should have fought him, the game just let me kinda do my own thing. I really like the parry oriented combat, as it forced me to hone my reflexes instead of just running in and mashing. BUT, I think the game's general design ethos is kinda sloppy. Combat is kinda garbo when fighting trash mobs, which encourages you to stealth it up. But the stealth is kinda weak; it very much falls in Last of Us territory in terms of variety, vs MGSV or Hitman territory. The worst part, though, is that because you're stealthing it up, you never actually learn how to fight until you get to the bosses, who proceed to fuck you up. I think if the combat was tweaked to better accommodate for bigger fights, or the stealth was more interesting, this could have easily been GOTY and even toppled Bloodborne as best FS game.
  7. Kingdom Hearts III - There's a universe where this was GotD and I want to live in that universe. The game is great, and I'll admit I haven't played the new difficulty which may well have bumped it up a couple of spots, but damn was it too easy. Like it's nice you have a lot of options but they all burn the enemy to cinders. It's a shame because these are easily the best worlds (in terms of map design) in the series, by a country mile. The SDG dialogue is also the best it's been, and some of the banter with villains is nice, but the main plot's pacing is absolute dog shit. Hope you don't mind waiting 40 hours to see all your favorite characters interacting! ... barely. And that's not going into how contrived some stuff ends up being, but that's a staple so I can't be too mad.
  8. Control - I feel like I've gotten my script mixed up with this game. It seems like everyone loved the story and just tolerated the gameplay, while for me it was the opposite. I had a lot of fun with mixing up the gunplay with the psychic abilities, flying around, throwing shit... it was a pretty good time, though the enemy variety and encounter design was kinda eh. And even after the patch, the game ran at like 25 fps pretty much the whole time. Guess that's the cost for having a weirdly robust physics and environmental damage engine. I just didn't really click with the story. I like Jesse and think some of the concepts are neat, but it just didn't come together for me. And no spoilers, but the plot isn't helped by having perhaps the most dogshit ending I've experienced in the past decade. Like wow. The game kinda feels like a launch title that came out a year too early, between the often sterile environments, the robust but unsustainable physics, and being a linear-ish shooter. A great game, I just don't see how it has the clout to be winning GotY from quite a few notable outlets.
  9. Cadence of Hyrule - I was a fan of Crypt of the Necrodancer and was pretty psyched that this happened, and the result is about as good as can be expected. I don't think how the crossover works is mindblowing or anything, but it gets the job done. I went like 8 hours without dying though, making it the probably the easiest roguelike I've played. It's really easy to cheese, but I like how many items they give you to play with. It's easily the best Zelda game released last year lmao.
  10. Super Mario Maker 2 - Yah idk this is kinda a filler entry. Everything else I played was either ok or mediocre like Outer Worlds or Pikuniku. Still though, while I'm iffy about putting a game creation engine here, the levels that Nintendo made themselves are actually still pretty fun and have the inventiveness that some of NSMB games lacked. And it still takes quite a bit of effort to make a creation engine simultaneously intuitive and robust, and they did a pretty good job of it.


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Papercuts

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,155
Thanks all!

Great stuff as always, friend Papercuts

I swear next GOTY I’m actually gonna write about games again
Yeah, I skipped the last two years so it was hard to break out of that rut. I went back and looked at older posts recently and liked being able to get a quick glance of my thoughts at the time so I regret skipping it now. Especially 2017 since that year was just insane.
 

Wonderment

Moderator
Oct 27, 2017
11,246
First, a PSA: the Division 2 and Edith Finch spreadsheet entries have spelling errors.

Next, my rationale:

Game released in 2019 in North America,

AND I first played it in calendar 2019,

AND (if it was a port), gameplay and style had to be markedly different than previous experiences on other platforms
(for Switch ports, for example, one difference could be a reliable and instant suspend/resume function),

AND the game best succeeded in meeting its mandate or surprising me, and its magnitude was unexpected. That doesn't necessarily mean I finished the game, or played every game mode, or even had the best time. But these had the most impact nonetheless:

  1. Forza Horizon 4 Lego Speed Champions - It's unusual enough for a game to pay devoted homage to a popular IP and get it completely right, but this game manages to do so with two IPs simultaneously - Forza and Lego. Everything from the in-world real-world Lego sets, to the map(s) constructed entirely from Lego bricks, to the quality of the Lego rendering (stickers and serial/manufacturing numbers on individual bricks), everything is just authentic out of the gate. For Forza to then provide a world that brings back some of the terrain types and features that were left behind in Forza Horizon 3, while adding a racing circuit and ringing in speed boosts/ramps a la Hot Wheels, just makes the entire driving experience complete. The grid of challenges, and its presentation, are really clever and great - as are the steady rewards of new Lego structures at your home base. That all the real-world cars are easily at home in this new Lego world means your favorite cars also have a new place to roam free. The no-pressure play when you want, where you want, how you want of it all, paired with the inherent destructability of Lego, proved to be the ultimate in surprise and success of 2019.
  2. Tetris 99 - Out of nowhere, a game I already know how to play can make me instantly competitive online. No other game has done that for me, ever. Not only can I complete, I can place and win! Don't need to level up or worry about someone lying in wait who is never going to move. I can even play against someone in the same room as me, if we time our joins well enough. So many hours of competition, haven't even touched the single-player. Neat themes, too.
  3. Days Gone - Remember them showing off that giant horde in an in-engine dramatic video? Well, before your journey down the highway is done, you get your chance to face off against that horde. In-game, in-place, no special loading or nothing. The hordes are all there throughout your time with the game too, until you choose to go and defeat them - your way, your options, your discretion. The even more surprising parts (especially since none of the characters are appealing at first) were the maturely-told story, the amazing presentation, and the backstory lore you could unlock by completing side objectives and challenges. It turned out to be true: this world will indeed come for you.
  4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - They did it. They told a complete Star Wars story, with authentic dramatic performances of authentic galactic denizens. Environments went deep and wide, with many unexpected and dramatic moments. Lots and lots of ecological moments, too. They also did it utilizing effective lightsaber combat, a presence I haven't felt since.... It looked and sounded pretty good too, with a special achievement in hair.
  5. Astral Chain - A game whose combat consists of drawing geometric line segments, curves, and shapes - then having you or your other-plane combat partner traverse these shapes in three dimensions, in order to land strong combat blows. It actually works. There's some story stuff, photo and other mini-games, and some silliness, but most importantly they delivered the chain-attack-with-actual-chain system, complete with customizability and higher combat rating grades for utilizing variability and timing.
  6. No Man's Sky Beyond - Another complete overhaul wrecking my bases to the point I have to basically start over, again. But with so much more functionality and QOL features, yet still holding on to the maddening step-by-step component-by-component progression of a space traveller in search of purpose and meaning. And now in VR, of which the experience keeps steadily improving with each patch. Turning on the VR mode, getting into the cockpit of your ship, launching from the planet surface, and flying into space was one of the most incredible moments of the year.
  7. MLB The Show 19 - By dumping a lot of the souvenir faff of the previous release, and for the first time coming up with pretty much a full year of supported live service content and giveaways, this franchise is ready to reap the rewards of multi-platform availability. Not only has it never looked better, with character models rivaling today's games' character models, there are so many little touches and moves in the presentation that it will now take a good amount of time to see them all. It's also a full RPG with multiple play modes, but you can still play just a season, do the home run derby, or go straight to the playoffs if you want to. It's easy to feel jaded and let down with yearly sports titles, but this one steadily improves, even as this generation grows old.
  8. Daemon X Machina - It was touch-and-go-leading up to release, but that final demo that tweaked the controls helped seal the deal to appeal. And once you got in there, you found snappy gameplay in a highly-customizable, interactive, chatty yarn that included real characters and motivations. This is one of those games where you get out of it what you put into it, but they successfully delivered the means to do so. Surprising post-game support and additions have made this quiet gem even better.
  9. Nintendo Labo VR - VR made this year's list - twice - after all! Although not the most advanced tech out there, and though you won't be playing things like Astro Bot or Vader Immortal on it, it is true wireless VR. The buildable accessories are fun, and the software will let you design your own minigames, even - surprisingly, it really works pretty well. And four retail games now have VR support, in a range from "fun" to "I can barely use this", but it's still neat to play with.
  10. Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn - Certainly the last chance to nominate a 3DS game for GOTY, so I'm going to take it - they successfully brought this game to a current console, if only for the remaining time the 3DS family has left on store shelves. Game hasn't lost any charm, either, and the new stuff is fun.

Honorable mention to Death Stranding, another game that seems to have wildly succeeded in what it set out to do, to the point where people have straight-up admitted they have become like some of the delivery characters in the game. From what I've played, all its systems just seem to work, but I haven't played far enough to see the story really unfold yet.

And of course, to all the games on your GOTY lists that are just great games. 2019 gave us a bounty to play. Here's to looking forward to 2020!


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Oct 25, 2017
5,870
This was a weird year. There wasn't any single game that I was head over heels about (like Celeste last year), but there were enough solid 8s and 9s to the point some of my ordering is kind of arbitrary, but here goes.

  1. Ring Fit Adventure - RFA has every bit of polish, creativity and thoughtful design as any marquee Nintendo title. In a year with plenty of games doing familiar things very well, RFA felt like the most original experience of the year.
  2. Resident Evil 2 - A nostalgia trip executed to near perfection, if it weren't for those sewers.
  3. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes - A game so out of step with the times that it's not even listed on the spreadsheet. They don't make games this weird, experimental, free, loose and endearingly rough around the edges these days. A real treasure, trust me.
  4. Astral Chain - Stylish cyberpunk noir action that has some issues, but remains a fun, polished, and enjoyably silly experience.
  5. Katana Zero - KZ is an even more drugged up, ultraviolent and disorienting action game than it's top down predecessor Hotline Miami. Settle in with some herbal tea and enjoy the madness.
  6. Super Mario Maker 2 - Including 3D World was a nice surprise and the story mode courses were great. What's not to love? Nintendo will get around to adding content whenever the fuck they feel like it and I'm OK with that.
  7. Devil May Cry 5 - A fantastically executed entry that is marred by the overuse of V and making my PS4 scream like a jet engine.
  8. Baba is You - Honestly I'm usually too mentally exhausted from work, family and existence to be able to play this game, but when I do, it's fantastic.
  9. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Solid FE gameplay bolstered by some interesting new systems that can start to feel like busywork when the plot turns/occasionally decent character conversations aren't up to par.
  10. Control - It's like if David Lynch began a mildly interesting sci-fi tv show mixed with fun combat that feels like inFamous indoors done right.

I also played and enjoyed Judgment, Luigi's Mansion, Sekiro, Dragon Quest XI S, Control, Yoshi and probably some other stuff, but the 8 games listed above were the cream of the crop for me in 2019.


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Net_Wrecker

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,105
I usually don't give a lot of words to honorable mentions, but it felt wrong this year to not list these games seeing as they're high quality releases in genres I love. So heeeeeere we go.

Honorable Mentions

Devil May Cry 5 - First up is the return of the king of character action. This is the series operating at its peak in terms of combat depth, combat style, and control responsiveness. DMC5 is a hyper focused game that places all of its eggs into the combat basket, and does away with any gimmicks, non-combat roadblocks, and in many cases, even does away with any level design at all. Capcom have chosen to go back to the mainline DMC games after over 10 years, eschewing all pretenses of a fully realized campaign, to create the ultimate Devil May Cry combat test chamber. On one hand it's a commendable accomplishment, with so much variety in action mechanics across its 3 protagonists that combat alone can carry this experience for multiple playthroughs. On the other hand the game does fall into a repetitive loop of locked room brawls in drab, uninspired environments leaving you wanting for something, ANYTHING to break the visual rhythm of another skirmish against another group of punching bags in another gray, flesh-goop covered cave. For a game with mechanics as stylish as they are, character models as impeccably rendered, and effects as eye poppingly gorgeous at 60fps, this is an oddly unexciting campaign and narrative. There are some early and late game environments that tease you with the potential of what the engine is capable of rendering, and a handful of ridiculous cutscenes that give a peek into what a truly outlandish, character embracing plot could've been, but most of your time is spent looking at the upper-inside of a demon's mouth while fighting things. It says a lot that the combat can still carry this experience to the level it's at. And hell, if that's all the game has to offer, at least it's executed to near perfection. I'm just happy this exists and did well.

Katana Zero - It's too bad that Katana Zero ends prematurely and right as it's hitting its stride, because this is otherwise a gorgeous, crunchy 2D action game with a very polished presentation. Being a blend of John Wick, cyberpunk, noir, samurai, and bullet time, the table is set here for dream action scenarios: A stoic future-samurai assassin charges headfirst into glistening and grimy cyberpunk locales using his precognition abilities to run infinite tests of stylish killing sprees on the way to his target. It can't be stressed enough just how satisfying it is to clear a screen in this game- dodging melee attacks, slicing bullets back at enemies, and making split second decisions with item pick ups and environmental interactions until you see that old school "Go" arrow from beat-em-ups of days past. Then your bloody handiwork is replayed back at you, Super Meatboy style, through the location's security camera feed, crystallizing your final test run, and letting you see, at real speed, just how unstoppable Katana Zero Man really is. Interestingly enough, all of that wacky action is contextualized even beyond the security cameras, essential to the sci-fi story at the heart of this game, and is what really elevates this beyond simple test chambers of stylish combat, into a narrative driven title with some pretty clever editing and storytelling, backed by a great synthwave soundtrack. Again though, just as the game is ramping up in creativity, difficulty, and intrigue, it comes to a swift end in what's less of a thrilling noir crescendo, and more of a 2nd act low point. With another 2 or 3 hours, this could've been something great.

Ape Out - For the first half of the year, Ape Out was one of best games I played. From the moment they showed this thing off in trailer form it smashed you in the face as an experience of stylish madness. Obviously it's not hard to make a good trailer that the finished product fails to live up to- the medium is mature enough that most of us can sniff fake trailers out from a mile away now (or so I'd like to think). It's another matter entirely to make a trailer that's ridiculously stylish, that looks to be real gameplay, AND which the finished product delivers on. Enter Ape Out, one of the most unique, energetic game presentations I've ever seen. The manner in which the whole experience, from UI, to the title inserts, to the visuals, and of course the music, commits to being an improvised jam session playing to the beat of this lost 1960s comedically violent rampaging ape cartoon is wildly invigorating. The jazz vinyl level structure theme and colorful abstract visuals warp and remix with each new twist in the gameplay scenario, and in conjunction with the cathartic guerilla style fight-or-flight Hotline Miami inspired combat, and the procedural adaptive music, create this freight train of intensity. It's the kind of thing that reaffirms your love of pure gamey videogames. It's a very brief campaign, but one that's highly concentrated, using every second of its 3-4 hour length to marvelous effect. The only reason it dipped this far is due to an upcoming entry, one that plays with similar design rhythms, but reaches higher peaks.

Astral Chain - Platinum Games comes through with essentially a surprise release, plopped onto the Switch a mere 6 months after it was announced, and quadruples down on almost everything they've been building since 2009. Astral Chain is what amounts to an action game canvas shot with paintball shotgun buckshot rounds of Platinum mechanics. It's actually kind of absurd and impressive just how many mechanics are dumped into this game. If not for a fully kitted-out Dante in DMC5 also happening in 2019, this would easily be the most input heavy, finger gymnastical game of the year. It's not difficult to execute anything of course, Platinum excels at approachable depth, but with each successive chapter in Astral Chain, more, and more, and more options are layered on top of your combat flowchart. You could be reductive and call out where all of these ideas originate- Bayonetta time effecting dodges and combo styles, Metal Gear Rising finishers and sword slash mechanics, Wonderful 101 enemy manipulation and multi-character control, Nier Automata animations and quasi action-rpg meta at the fringes- OR… OR, you could look at the way they managed to stitch all this together: A wild, intensely Japanese celebration of pressing buttons to kill things in an 80s/90s anime aesthetic. It's not new, but it's fun. And all that iteration means it's dependable and sturdy, qualities you want in an action game that asks you use the WHOLE controller. I mean like every button on there. This is also before even getting into the earnest attempt at making a fuller, more interestingly paced campaign. Credit where credit's due, Platinum is trying to evolve a bit here. And just as things are layered into the combat as you move along, the investigative and non-combat sections of Astral Chain are also attempting to do a lot. Sometimes too much, one mid-game chapter in particular feels like having to down a cup of vinegar alongside this meat-and-potatoes action game meal, but it's mostly a solid effort. Having said all that, it's unfortunate Platinum crafted such a strong core game here, and even experimented with their campaign design, then totally forgot to plug in the characters. For a company that seemed to pride itself on brash, recognizable, over the top personalities, Astral Chain is void of memorable characters and one-liners. The dreaded silent protagonist curse strikes here in a ludicrous manner, and the most boring sci-fi anime archetypes fill the screen spouting the most inane dialogue. If you would've told me that Platinum would make a cyber-demon anime cop action game and it would have this script, I would've laughed in your face obnoxiously. This might seem like an odd strike against a Platinum game, but there's quite a bit of plot here, and none of it is very good or interesting. As is, Astral Chain turned out to be a strong action experience surrounded by a dull package. With the jolt of life an entertaining protagonist and squad could've given this game, it would've been top tier Platinum.

THE LIST

TEN

A Plague Tale: Innocence - Coming into this I expected a sort of cross between The Last of Us and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The timing was right, both being 2013 games. The vibe was right, both being dour dual protagonist style advenutures. Instead, while A Plague Tale does start where I thought it would, it pretty quickly morphs into something altogether more strange and manages to stand on its own as longtime middling developer Asobo Studio leaned hard into their core gimmick: RATS. This game is The RAT Game, unabashedly, wholeheartedly, and confidently so. This game uses RATS like Hideo Kojima uses Low Roar. As 15-year-old Amicia de Rune, a noble in 1348 France, you start the game with a rock sling as your primary form of interaction with the world. From distraction to eventual full on self-defense, this little strange weapon is what you're working with for most of the game. With that in mind, the game moves forward offering up some of the gameiest, most linear puzzles of the year. Rooms and scenarios are designed intently for this little rock sling. Single solution puzzles that often serve as both tutorial and pacing device, mechanics right in your face. This is the first thing that gave me pause. Usually these kinds of cinematic, narrative focused action-adventure games go to more effort to "hide" their mechanics. A Plague Tale shows itself to very much be a game. Distraction tools are conveniently placed, AI routines are predictable and exploitable, tools upgrade in typical fashion, rule of threes is in effect. This become even more apparent as you travel alongside Amicia's little brother Hugo, who's plagued with some kind of chronic illness that occasionally causes piercing headaches (the medical term being I'll Carry Youitis), forcing you to protect him from soldiers that seek him for reasons unknown. Early on, after some narrative setup and an escape sequence, the journey is underway, siblings hand in hand, and that's when A Plague Tale turns apocalyptic and introduces you to the aforementioned RATS. More specifically, THE RAT TECH. In this new era of "mid-tier AAA" releases, you can clearly see where the budget is allocated. It's not like God of War 2018 where every single moment is dripping with the lost souls of crunch, and flaming dollar bills. This tier of game calls for focus and efficiency. In this case, that's RATS, goddamnit, RATS. They swarm and move like filthy rivers of death. Their beady bright eyes are always focused on Amicia and Hugo, or anyone in their path, ready to dissolve their target. They are obstacles, they are weaponized, they are enemies, they are what sets this game apart and sends it into some ridiculous territory. They are the embodiment of the plague, not just a simple virus passing from rodent to human, but also a living, breathing, thinking mass. An undulating, quivering hive mind. A CURSE HELLBENT ON SWALLOWING THE PLANET. Oh but they hate light and fire, so y'know, use them for puzzles and junk too, whatever.

The game does manage to reel in the near B movie RAT infestation somewhat with a tight handling of tone, atmosphere, and narrative. Olivier Deriviere's fantastic score has to be mentioned here. And I use "score" specifically because this is one scored ass game. Deep, rich, somber orchestration mixes with medieval melodies and percussion creating this weighty, droning unease. There's also the plucky dissonant tension of the RAT and action themes, which you'll pick up more and more as they begin to weave themselves into gameplay scenarios. This combined with the fantastic visuals makes for a mostly consistent and lavish A/V experience, one that only shows faults during cutscenes that require stronger facial animation than the game can deliver. That doesn't detract much from the overall vibe though, which walks the line between grim period piece and horror tale, survival story and The Goonies, revenge adventure and power fantasy. It's nice to slip into the comfort of an ultra linear game sometimes. It's not a campaign with a ton of huge moments, but it leaves you wanting more and opens Asobo Studio's next chapter as a dev to watch out for.

NINE
Judgment - As another step on the strange journey that has been Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio's Yakuza IP, this spin-off places us on the other side of the law, taking control of wily attorney turned badboy private detective Takayuki Yagami, uncovering everything from massive conspiracies to the mystery of a lost cat in the familiar streets of Kamurocho. With Yakuza 7 looming as a major shift in gameplay, it's more than a little difficult finding new ways to praise what's become a very traditional formula here with Judgment. You punch, kick, and talk you way through the streets and alleys of Kamurocho much in the same way you've done with numerous Yakuza protagonists over the years. This is a comfortable slice of game that never leans too far in one direction or the other looking to renovate or surprise. Where Judgment manages to carve its path is the fresh perspective of the narrative. In Yagami we have a protagonist who is opinionated and shrewd in a different way than Yakuza series front man Kiryu, carrying a history that weighs on him and creates intrigue from moment 1. Everything is colored through this lens, leading to plots, subplots, and lower tier side missions that all flow through character writing more than the typical brooding "punch first ask questions later" approach we've grown accustomed to. Much like Yakuza 6, you're thrown into this existing group of new characters, but instead of feeling like the stoic fish out of water, Yagami plays within his group of co-workers, friends, and rivals with a bit more pliability- jumping between rhythms of private eye stakeouts, courtroom melodrama, police procedurals, and modern action thrillers. It's in those moments of character interaction you find what makes Judgment tick. Considering the reduction of back-tattoo-exposing gang fight spectacle, Judgment spends a bit more time focused on a more subdued cast who attempt to solve issues with schemes and conversation before combat. This in turn bleeds into the Friend system, as you maintain relationships with many of the side characters and store clerks/owners throughout the city. These are admittedly superficial, reward based associations, but as you meet more and more people, befriend them, then come across them constantly in the open world, you start seeing Kamurocho as a district full of connections and intel rather than just debauchery and territory disputes. A lot of this runs somewhat parallel to the main plot though, and the detective side of the game isn't as fleshed out as you'd want (falling back to tailing, and simple investigative sequences far too often), but the potential is there, and even in this state there's an impact on the vibe of the game overall.

So it's more Yakuza, but different. It doesn't push as far as you'd hope, but "slow burn small stakes story becoming a maze of politics and power plays" once again shows itself to be a reliable and hugely satisfying arc. It's not quite Yakuza 0, but it's still a damn fine game.

EIGHT
Resident Evil 2 - I'll just be straight up. We all know how good this thing is. Top marks in mechanics, visuals, sound, and overall polish. It feels and looks like a high quality piece of videogame. The fact that they remade Resident Evil 2 and it can stand shoulder to shoulder with REmake… in 2019, from Capcom… in 2019, is nothing short of a miracle. But… This game is The RPD (feat. That Other Stuff). Taken on its own, the RPD is an incredible chunk of perfectly paced, atmospheric Resident Evil shenanigans. It's beautiful, the puzzles are ridiculous, the adventure elements are perfectly honed to take you on a tour of all of its distinct sections, and Mr. X's eventual inclusion only reinforces how well it's designed by applying pressure to the player's decision making, to which the game holds up flawlessly. It's consistent, and tangible, and iconic in a way the rest of the game isn't, and every moment spent away from the RPD I'm still thinking about the RPD. It's a remake, so it is what it is, but especially at this fidelity, with these particular changes, RE2 feels like the tale of 2 halves. At no point is the full package anything less than great, but the RPD section is special. It's a big ask of the upcoming RE3 Remake to match this, but if Capcom can keep this quality bar moving forward, I'd say we're well out of the pothole that RE might've fallen into few entries ago.

SEVEN

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown - To properly explain how Ace Combat 7 ended up on my list I have to take you back a few years. Not to the previous free to play or spin off entries, and not even to the last mainline game in the series which is already 12 years old (JESUS CHRIST). I have to take you back to Ace Combat 5 on the PlayStation 2 Home Entertainment Console. That's 2004. Two thousand four. I have to take you back because that's the last game in this series I put any real time into, and Ace Combat 7 represents that era to me, an era that I shamefully grew tired of for a few years in the following generation, an era that I now yearn for in its absence and praise every year on lists like this when I find games that hearken back. Ace Combat 7 is a pure throwback to Namco's arcadey heyday. I play AC7 and I get flashbacks of dead genres and dead IPs, some of which have nothing to do with Ace Combat or Namco, but other times I can feel Ridge Racer Type 4 on my flank. I'm not a huge sucker for nostalgia, seeing as if you sit there long enough it can turn rotten, but games with a focus this precise and execution this tight, that also carry the torch for the days where an arcadey combat flight game could JUST BE THAT get me going. I was hesitant on approach, starting the game wondering if I made a worthwhile purchase. I saw the praise, but I didn't know if the draw was there anymore. Even a few chapters in I was still unsure, where a wonky difficulty curve can leave you with a few deceptively strategic early/mid-game missions where you don't have a lot of plane loadout options. Could a dogfighting campaign still pull me in like they used to? Fast forward to the latter stages of the story mode and I found myself fully in sync with the game's cadence, unlocking better and better fighters, excited by the thought of high-g turns and tricky flight maneuvers on the brink of crashing. Then at some point in the back third the narrative takes a turn, and the war at the center of AC7's story becomes blurry and hard to manage for all sides. The norms of combat up to that point begin breaking down as the flow of information in this automated society is disrupted. The game subtly and smartly engages in this as much is possible from our airborne perspective, while also attempting to get across multiple other character views of the destruction. Through all of the game's disparate storytelling methods (dogfighting, CG, radio chatter, mission briefings), there's a collective mood built with not a ton of moving parts involved. All in all, though the plot's nothing to write home about, it's a pretty commendable effort to give context to launching missiles from a fighter jet. That's when I fully realized something here was puling me in again.

But if we're talking about tone in this game, I can't forget about the real showstopper here: THIS SOUNDTRACK. Keiki Kobayashi and crew revive Ace Combat's sound with a rousing suite of tracks that reach for the heavens, going well beyond the call of duty and granting these missions backing music fit for an RPG. For as quaint as the mission briefing and radio chatter storytelling might be, and for as melodramatic and stilted as the CG cutscenes are, this music is the glue that holds the narrative side of AC7 together. Hours of driving, electronic rock infused orchestral bombast coat your ears with the necessary hype for the climactic missions, lower key espionage laced thrumming for building tension and nighttime sorties, guitar fronted themes out in the deserts, and 90s Japanese arcade themes in the hangar. Even if you pay the faintest attention to the actual plot, leimotifs phase in and out of the soundtrack tracking the path of our protagonist and all you need to know is which squadron you're in. Whether it's accompanying a beautiful midday defense mission, an intense dogfight in a thundercloud against concept drones, or a desperate bombing run in a pastel sky, music lays the foundation for every moment in this game.

There's an almost hypnotic quality to soaring at the edge of control, hitting the limit of your plane, and stalling out before regaining your bearings and locking on to your next target. It’s the eye drying rush of arcade gaming where you forget to blink when you're so focused on hitting that target score, or beating the clock, or not screwing up the mission objective because yo these checkpoints are kinda ass. In the age of service models and mile long content tails, this kind of concise clarity is sometimes misunderstood and often abandoned completely. Ace Combat 7 isn't trying to take over your life, it's surgical strike from the darkest blue of a bygone era.

SIX
Luigi's Mansion 3 - Consistency. That's the word that kept coming to mind while vacuuming my way through Luigi's Mansion 3. In this third entry we see The Best Brother return in the capable hands of Next Level Games who take their industry leading slapstick animation work to… well, the next level. I promise I didn't realize that was happening until I typed it. This is an incredibly good-looking game. Like of course the ceiling for technical magic is limited by the Switch hardware, but because of the dollhouse diorama level design and camera framing, Next Level are able to pump out some of the best visuals you can get on a Switch. Every room, hallway, and area throughout the hotel's many level themes is dense with detail and well lit. Even more important to this visual consistency are the animations and physics based props. It's one thing to light and detail your game to a high level, but it feels like nearly every single room in this game has a custom animation, and dozens of interactive objects in it. The vibrancy and bouncy flourish that this kind of constant movement gives to a slow paced action-adventure game can't be overstated. We've all read "looks like a cartoon" before, and sure if you're playing Dragon's Lair you aren't wrong, but Luigi's Mansion 3 is one of the few times I've played something with the express purpose of feeling like a modern CG animated movie. It's the current peak of "Nintendo charm." Luigi's bumbling personality, the bosses, the special enemies, Polterpup, Professor E. Gadd, everyone, everything is given so much personality. It's bursting at the seams with intricate gags. If we judged games on the simple act of poking and prodding things for a reaction, LM3 would be the uncontested GOTY.

All of that extends to the actual gameplay as well though. The move from 3DS hardware to the Swtch affords Next Level the headroom to build bigger spaces filled with more puzzles, and more unique sequences. This is no more apparent then when they let loose with boss fights where we see all the mechanics, animations, and physics put through the wringer of the game's more extravagant set-pieces. I'd put this roster of bosses right up there with any mainline or spin-off Mario game ever, honestly, they're that good. So nearly every floor has a different theme, nearly every room has multiple unique gags, the soundtrack's working overtime to keep up with the theme changes, the animation work is insane, Luigi is dancing during one of the bossfights, and Charles Martinet- in year 157 of playing these characters- comes through with his best Mushroom Kingdom performance ever. It's a blast, top to bottom. Give Next level Games free reign to do whatever they want next, they're great.

PS: If you struggled with the B2 controls you suck, seek help, get new fingers.

FIVE
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - From Software continue their decade long run of cohesive, atmospheric, cryptic, and demanding action games here with another adventure that checks all of those boxes while taking combat in a new direction to set itself apart. In trimming away the RPG elements, from character builds to stamina, what Sekiro becomes is a more streamlined, fast, and precise action title focused on rhythmic, impactful weapon clashing and parrying. The game is drenched in that combat design, from the lowest ranking enemies to the many, many punishing bosses, which makes for an action experience markedly more dexterity based, in turn calling for higher levels of focus and moveset recognition. Being an exclusively singleplayer campaign, From Software's industry leading world design is expanded with additional verticality, grappling hook traversal agility, and set-pieces that would undoubtedly be awkward in co-op, bringing a newfound fluidity and explosiveness to a now familiar and often imitated template. So while the world art and lore isn't quite as evocative or interesting as Bloodborne, the creativity offered by a nimble character does a good job of keeping you interested purely through level design. Areas like Senpou Temple and the Sunken Valley are a joy to make your way through, offering up memorable platforming routes and unique pockets of combat in between the highlight encounters. Moment to moment as an action experience, it's by far my favorite Soulslike because of all these factors. Of course you can't talk about Sekiro without also mentioning the final boss. A final boss that puts every split second defensive reaction you've been taught since hour 1 to the test. A final boss so good it single-handedly kept Sekiro in the running for top 10 all year no matter which game I compared it to. A final boss so good it immediately entered the pantheon of all time great final bosses- not just from this team, but in history. If you've beaten the game, you know. If you haven't… this is probably why. If you've yet to play Sekiro, simply watching it will not do it justice. It's THE Sweaty Palm Award recipient of 2019. I'm no From Soft evangelist, not by a long shot, but they made a good one here. Not quite Ninja Gaiden Black, but it might be the closest thing since.

FOUR
Sayonara Wild Hearts - A pop album love letter to arcade games, anime, and self discovery through heartbreak. It's very easy to let Sayonara Wild Hearts go right through you and miss the greatness. Being the visual concept album that it is, the bubblegum aesthetic, flashy set pieces, well synced music, simple controls, and generous difficulty curve are built to be digestible. Unless you just straight up don't vibe with this genre of game/music and/or visual style, you will see this through to the end, which only takes 60-80 minutes. Now like many great works of pop entertainment, you CAN choose to leave it there, or you can dig a little deeper. Here that entails going for score, in true arcade game fashion, and it's where you begin to really appreciate the craft of this game. It's not just an exuberant, sugary visual style, it's a synesthesia tunnel built with clean lines for visibility at breakneck speed. It's not just extremely catchy pop music, they're contextually relevant themes that dictate the rhythm of hazards and pickups, and the pacing and tone of the internal journey. They aren't just flashy set-pieces, they're a flurry of mechanics being taught, executed, remixed, and tossed in RAPID succession. One minute it's a nod to Akira, next it's Star Fox. One minute it's rhythmic dance-fight choreography, next there are Sailor Moon transformation sequences and you're mid rail-shooter boss fight before you even realize you've been taught boss fight patterns. It ebbs and flows level to level, from hit singles to intermissions, from gimmick to gimmick, from gameplay style to gameplay style, and for all of its stylistic splendor, Sayonara Wild Hearts is completely clear in its design. Style CAN be the substance, and it's impossible to divorce the bops from the mechanics from the visuals. That alone would be more than enough to justify itself, so it says something that there's also a beating heart at the core of this neon explosion. Take a whiff of these good vibes, mannnnn. It's the only game in 2019 that is scientifically proven to make you a better person when you finish it.

THREE

Heaven's Vault - As my dark horse selection of 2019, Heaven's Vault is one of the best impulse purchases I've made this year, and maybe this generation. On the surface this seemed like a decent sci-fi adventure game about a planet-hopping archeologist, Aliya, decoding ancient alien text by matching shapes. What it steadily revealed itself to be was a slow burn epic mystery filled with absorbing world building, engaging conversations, and atmosphere that teetered between tranquil and spellbinding. Though Heaven's Vault lacks in traditional puzzle solving difficulty- the central text decoding mechanic is more about contextual symbol recognition than real language barriers- it more than makes up for that by using said mechanic for world building. Every new symbol you make sense of is another brick in the house that is this game's lore. Then there's the sheer amount of dialogue. You can hardly go more than 30 seconds without either your robot sidekick or NPCs pulling you into natural, endearing, fully fleshed out discussions, filled with branching options that shape where your journey will take you and how you'll come to understand this universe's many mysteries in your particular playthrough. It truly feels like a near never ending stream of information, filling in both narrative lore going back thousands of years, and tiny character quirks that keep the moment-to-moment beats fluid and entertaining. If you find yourself in step with the game's pace, you'll be anticipating and diving into these moments, especially as the story smartly recalls MANY of your choices, layering on itself in combination with words/terms you've managed to translate, locations you've visited, items you've found, NPCs you've helped, and big plot points you've uncovered. The interconnected web of discoveries coming together to make this journey feel like YOUR journey is quite unlike most narrative adventure games, and you get a sense that nobody will reach the same destinations in the same way with the same information. Everything matters.

What glues all of this together is a sense of grand adventure that punches WELL above its weight. With your oddly shaped sailboat spaceship, you ride the waves of the Nebula landing at various dig sites, ancient derelict facilities, marketplaces, villages, and landmarks hundreds of years past their prime. Some of these places become hubs, some are one-off visits, but at each location you continue to fill your dictionary, unravel character motivations and relationships, and slowly start to understand exactly what it is you're tracking through the cosmos. There's a remarkable sense of serenity and scale exuded by these locations, interactions, and the steady pacing; the kind of stuff I haven't thought about since imagining the potential of Mass Effect 1's uncharted world exploration. It's a contemplative journey that forms itself around every choice you make, yet still manages to keep a cohesive focus through your lumbering accumulation of small moments. From the Middle Eastern inspired designs, to the strange flat and framey 2D characters on a 3D landscape visual style, to the mournful exploration, to the joy of small running jokes and good character work- Heaven's Vault is one of the biggest surprises of the year.

TWO
CONTROL - Unmistakably Remedy. This surreal, SCP Foundation inspired, morphing-single-location set action game is Remedy boiled all the way down to their essence. In a sharp move away from the blockbuster goals it seemed like they and Microsoft had, we see Sam Lake and company going back to embracing the utterly strange with renewed clarity. Gone are the hours of cutscenes and literal TV show episodes of Quantum Break, gone are the years of insane prototypes for Alan Wake. In their place we have a game made in a tight 3-year window, without 1st party backing, focusing on what they do best: world building, characters, and frenetic action. You won't find the awkward staccato of Quantum Break's "cinematic" design here, this is a move back to player driven pacing. The heavy lifting is placed on internal monologue, environmental storytelling, and semi-Metroidvania exploration to bear the brunt of the narrative, and that makes for a kind of old school purity Remedy struggled to maintain against their talent for motion captured cutscenes last time out. Much in the same way Ace Combat 7 put me right back into that particular headspace, CONTROL is Remedy going back to the bread and butter. This almost feels like a game that could've been made right after Max Payne 2. Speaking of, CONTROL's combat system is also built on a foundation of absolutely incredible effects and a detailed, ambitious physics engine powering all the telekinetic abilities and destruction, which makes for some of the most spectacular looking 3rd person shooter combat you'll ever see. At times it really does look like a game built for next gen, to the point of occasionally buckling even the upgraded consoles, but it's so, so worth it. Visually the game is also a winner, with a unique architectural symmetry running throughout the Oldest House, sightlines marked by harshly lit monochrome palettes with the occasional burst of color cutting through. The Northlight engine's lighting continues to impress, and overall it's a striking artstyle that's immediately recognizable from any single frame, and fitting for a bureaucratic facility gone off the rails.

The recipe here is classic: Story and action, action and story. It's not breaking new ground, but it does what it does with the self-assuredness and flair of a veteran team with a vision, free to work from their unconscious mind and pour all of their eccentricities into a singular project.

GOTY

Outer Wilds - Simply put: Outer Wilds is one of the best games I've played this generation, and one of the best I've ever played outright. As initially enigmatic as it is ultimately awe inspiring, this game is a magical, riveting, and terrifying experience in equal measure. This game is a Trojan horse of existential panic that hits you in leisurely paced, confusing waves. I'd say for at least the first 10 hours I had no real idea of what was happening. You're jolted awake at a campfire with a strange alien bud next to you, and you go through the motions of a fairly standard tutorial, but within 20 minutes things get weird. Then 22 minutes later, precisely 22, maybe you've made it to space or maybe you're still on your home planet, but again- THINGS GET WEIRD. You are jolted awake again, back at the same campfire with your bud, and your adventure begins anew. Then, as long as you don't kill yourself- and there are a hundred different ways for that to happen- every 22 minutes the adventure resets and you do it again. Over, and over, and over. But therein lies part of the genius of Outer Wilds: Little by little, with every "run", with every leap you take- logic based and literal- you accrue knowledge. Knowledge of how the game's mechanics work, knowledge of how the minute-to-minute simulation works, knowledge of how the solar system's puzzles work, knowledge of the narrative and lore powering this clockwork mystery. Knowledge is your XP. This is a game you can finish in 15 minutes. This is a game that can take you 25 hours to finish. Both of those previous statements are true. Your progress is wholly dependant on you simply understanding the phenomena and systems you're witnessing. These are some of the greatest "AH-HAA" eureka moments you will ever experience, whether it's a puzzle localized to the room you're in, or a time and space bending paradox. At every scale of gameplay mechanic and environmental mechanism you are problem solving and interacting with sci-fi ideas. The progression in this game is brilliant.

Beyond being successful as a puzzle game, there's the sheer level design mastery on display as well. Every planet, ship, structure, and otherwise feels iterated to perfection. Everything fits, everything flows, everything pulls your eye where it's supposed to be and leads you, even as you are blindly fumbling around. There's one planet in particular, Brittle Hollow, that is a labyrinth of paths and potential dead-ends that could, in theory, be a nightmare to traverse; Not only because these winding, gravity defying paths are inherently strange, but due to the ever ticking clock, which on this specific planet carries another even more precarious element that could abruptly end your run. Somehow, SOMEHOW, you make sense of it. It might take you 5 return trips, maybe 10, maybe 15, but the game reveals itself to you. You observe events, you pick up clues from documents and recorded conversations, and then you experiment and come up with answers. This keeps happening. Every time you think you understand, you begin to understand more. This isn't just about uncovering deviously hidden keys. Everything is laid bare, always existing around you in perfect sequence, and you are simply SEEING more and more.

How such a well crafted puzzle box manages to entrance and also unsettle the holy hell out of you is the other part of Outer Wilds' genius: Atmosphere. More than any sci-fi game I've played, Outer Wilds captures the awe of space. You feel like a small piece in this universal happenstance. In the same way the game's soundtrack clashes folk twang with ambient synths, you are a scrappy, folksy species completely unprepared for the marvels they are uncovering. It slides from homely to staggering, cute to mind bending, clarity to confusion and back again. With its cyclical pattern and mechanic rules made clear, the larger adventure of Outer Wilds is allowed to unnerve, baffle, and engross. I'm not one for hyperbole, but there is no other way to express myself here: This is peak gaming. A near spiritual experience of game design excellence, a sci-fi fan's dream, and an exploration fan's paradise. If everyone at Mobius Digital never makes anything else that's even half as great, they should still sleep well at night knowing they made Outer Wilds and nobody else can say that.

For the thread:

  1. Outer Wilds - One of the most ingenious feats of game design the medium has ever seen. Brilliant.
  2. Control - Remedy puts it all together for their most whole adventure, connecting their past, present, and future into a game of infinite doorways.
  3. Heaven's Vault - A slow burn through and through. It's almost a requirement to play this while sinking into your seat and slowing your heartbeat to match, thoughtfully surfing the universe with a real tomb raider.
  4. Sayonara Wild Hearts - The natural terminus of modern pop music, synthwave, 80s retroism, and arcade games. This is what the last 40 years of human existence have been building to.
  5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - From Software finally make something I can fully sink my teeth into. May we never revert back to dodge rolling.
  6. Luigi's Mansion 3 - Luigi cements his place as Nintendo's real mascot, and Next Level Games steps into the vacuum left by Retro's disappearance. That one WAS intended.
  7. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown - 5th and 6th generation swagger brought back from the brink with a soundtrack delivered by the gods.
  8. Resident Evil 2 - It's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Capcom may actually... be back.
  9. Judgment - It's more "Private Detective: Yakuza" than "Phoenix Wright In Kamurocho", but RGG's talent for crafting engaging maze like plots and satisfying arcs shines bright. Midnight snack gaming.
  10. A Plague Tale: Innocence - In a perfect world this and Hellblade would be a sign of things to come for linear mid-tier narrative games with AAA technical ambitions.

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May 5, 2018
5,899
Nice Write Up Net_Wrecker. Appreciate the thorough posts people put work into their lists on these GOTY voting threads. I personally do standard lists with some middle length paragraphs on these threads.
 

HenryEen

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,701
2019 GOTY
  1. Monster Hunter World Iceborne - Monster Hunter World is amazing, however I feel like a lot of the monsters feels like a downgrade compared to the 3DS titles, which is really disappointing. Iceborne however pretty much fixed that major issue for me. The monsters in Iceborne (new and returning) pretty much what I expect from a current gen Monster Hunter, they feel absolutely amazing to fight. Not only that the various addition to gameplay like the Clutch Claw and various QoL improvement to fix many issues with vanilla World handily makes Iceborne easily the best Monster Hunter title I have ever played (and I have been with the series since the original PS2 title. I put down the game for now, but would easily jump back some time soon.
  2. Metro Exodus - Metro series is one of my favorite First Person Shooter series of all time. I fell in love with the series with Metro 2033 game with it's atmosphere, gameplay, worldbuilding and setting. Exodus took the series into a new direction, instead being sets mostly on the surface with occasional trip to a more claustrophobic place, a complete reverse of 2033 and Last Light, on top of being structurally more open. Exodus is also much more character-driven than 2033/Last Light. By the end of the game, I'm completely satisfied with how the game conclude Artyom's journey. The finale was pretty emotional for me.
  3. Borderlands 3 - Why fix what's not broken ? Borderlands 3 is basically a bigger version of Borderlands 2 and The Pre Sequel. Instead of going into a different direction, Borderlands 3 basically build off the tried and true formula of the series. For some people that may not be enough, but for me, Borderlands formula is so good that I don't care. Coupled with a much much much better gameplay and not-as-cringy writing as Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 is easily the best entry in the series. Tyreen sucks as villain tho.
  4. Oxygen Not Included - Easily the most interesting colony-management sim I ever played. Completely addicted to it thanks to unique premise, and amazing artstyle. I can't believe this game made me learn the basic of Physic and Math again....

LTTP GOTY

1. Prey (2017)
2. God Of War (2018)
3. Red Dead Redemption 2.


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May 5, 2018
5,899
same as above, you format is incorrect and your vote won't be counted
I clicked on the reply and it took me to the best soundtrack thread, which I believe you meant to post there but posted here by accident. I guess that format is still incorrect over there too because I think you’re suppose to provide links to the game(s)’s songs right? That’s what I did.
 

mazi

Member
Oct 27, 2017
31,405
I clicked on the reply and it took me to the best soundtrack thread, which I believe you meant to post there but posted here by accident. I guess that format is still incorrect over there too because I think you’re suppose to provide links to the game(s)’s songs right? That’s what I did.
my mistake! i thought it was a post in this thread. let me edit.
 

pazinyo

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,089
Barnsley, UK
  1. Outer Wilds - It takes a couple of hours to reveal itself, patience is absolutely required, but once the pieces of this epic jigsaw puzzle started fitting together it turned into a truly magical experience. I wish I could wipe my brain and experience it all over again.
  2. Sayonara Wild Hearts - I’m not really into rhythm games but this one sold me from the off with its striking art style, wonderful pop soundtrack and ever creative levels. It’s only an hour or so long but it’s the best hour or so I’ve spent in a game all year and at such short length I’ve even gone back to replay it.
  3. Devil May Cry 5 - I’ve played the original, 3 and the Ninja Theory reboot, this is my clear favourite of the series. It combines the style of the reboot with the silliness of the original games. DMC5 plays like a dream and contains two of my favourite new characters this year in V and Nico. As far as AAA games go, this is the most straight up fun I’ve had in a long time.
  4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - The first From Software game I’ve ever enjoyed enough to finish. It was still absolutely frustrating at times but this one clicked with me more due to the faster and more streamlined nature of combat.
  5. Resident Evil 2 - Having not played the OG, this was a brand new game to me and I really enjoyed it, the only problem is with me, I’m a coward and could only play up to 1 hour bursts.
  6. Control - Remedy’s best game yet. Only let down by severe technical issues on the platform I played on. Without those it would’ve been in my top 5.
  7. A Plague Tale: Innocence - What a pleasant surprise this was. It wasn’t revolutionary but if nothing else it marked Asobo Studio as ones to watch out for in the future.
  8. Luigi’s Mansion 3 - A nice game that you don’t really have to think about, just stick it on for an hour and hoover everything in sight. Easily the best looking Switch game too.
  9. Wreckfest - Like a blast from the past, a combination of all my favourite racing games including Burnout and Destruction Derby.
  10. Apex Legends - I tried PUBG but it runs and controls poorly, I tried Fortnite but didn’t like the shooting model, Apex managed to run great, feel great, play great while also including characters with personality and really smart gameplay additions not previously seen in other BR games. My main knock against it is the lack of a permanent SP playlist. Criminal.


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woo

Member
Nov 11, 2017
1,116
  1. Ring Fit Adventure - The best software Nintendo has released in years. Superbly well designed and considered and rammed full of Nintendo magic. It has rekindled my love of exercise after over two decades of being a slob. I am getting stronger, improving my health, wellbeing and mood, all while having enormous fun. Outstanding.
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - A delightful, purdy remake of a beloved handheld game.
  3. Luigi's Mansion 3 - A beautiful game that is a much improved LM game over NLG's previous effort. Their best game since Punch-Out!!
  4. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker - Special Episode - I am always ready for adventure when it comes to the adorable Captain Toad. Superb fun.


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Oct 25, 2017
4,203
Toronto, ON
  1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Action masterpiece and From continuing to work at the very top of their game. The combat system is insanely fun and addictive -- Sekiro doesn't have quite the same degree of mystery and world-building that you'll find in the Souls series (though it has some great lore and a very cool story of its own), but I'd say it's actually way more fun to play. It took a few hours for the mechanics to click with me, but when they did, I felt like an absolute ninja god. Once you really understand the game's rhythm, every kill becomes satisfying. The bosses are all excellent and demonstrate From working at a very high level; the final bosses, in particular, are awesome. It doesn't look like DLC will happen, which is a real shame, but I hope we'll get a great sequel that expands on everything.
  2. Astral Chain - I love over-the-top anime OAVs from the early '90s, and Astral Chain feels like they packed all of the tacky style, wild energy, and nutty sci-fi nonsense of one of those OAVs into a little Switch cart that is bursting over with cyberpunk attitude, eye-popping visuals, and great boss battles. Just a joyous action experience from start to finish; this is Platinum having fun with their success.
  3. Resident Evil 2 - The original was already a great game, and this remake made it even more special. Those damn lickers scared the absolute shit out of me all over again.
  4. Devil May Cry 5 - Between this and Astral Chain, action game fans were eating well in 2019. Fantastic return to form for the franchise, really fun...I have no idea what I'm doing as V, but I love playing as him anyway.
  5. Luigi's Mansion 3 - Very charming game, looks like a Pixar film...just amazing graphics. My wife's GOTY.
  6. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Great characters and strategy action.
  7. Control - Very cool presentation with a neat story and background, would make a great TV series.


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Donsonite

Member
Oct 25, 2017
379
Australia
  1. Devil May Cry 5 - The best combat system in a series known for great combat, weapons as good as 3, some cool story moments for fans of the series, impressive visuals and perfomance, expands on what is great about 4 while fixing most of the flaws. Not a perfect game, but I've played over 130 hours of it and want to keep playing.
  2. Resident Evil 2 - Great blend of classic RE and modern RE, just so damn good. I didn't think the route Bs were done too well but even still it's my second favourite RE game after 4.
  3. Sekiro - More FromSoftware goodness, art direction, level design, bosses, etc is all great as usual, the combat is very fun and satisfying, but lacking in variety. Still, I loved this game.
I finished a few other 2019 games but to me these are the big three games of the year so I'll leave it at this.


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zoku88

Member
Oct 27, 2017
549
This year kind of sucked, since I became really busy with work. I didn't have as much time to play games as I usually do. (or at least, didn't have the energy to do so.) So, my list is lighter than it usually is. I also spent some time finishing Witcher 3 (and Hearts of Stone and starting Blood of Wine) and also playing Atelier L&S and 428 earlier in the year when I was less busy.
  1. AI: The Somnium Files - I was really going back and forth between Ace Combat and Fire Emblem when deciding which game would be my game of the year. Then, I started listening to the soundtrack to AI again and remembered how much I loved this game. It hit me on an emotional level way greater than either of the two aforementioned games. Pretty sure parts of the ending made me cry for real. I loved the way it made be constantly doubt what was going on. I think I might like this more than 999, my previous Uchikoshi favorite. I really love the characters and I'm pretty sad that we'll probably never see any of the again. My only complaint was that the time limit prevented me from screwing around in the somniums as much as I would have liked.
  2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - I was somewhat afraid for this game. There were a lot of ways this could have gone wrong. I'm glad that they got rid of the eugenics since that had kind of overstayed its welcome (and its inclusion in Fates was really really weird). I like the way you are given control of each character's growth and can make an army more suited for your playstyle. The game is a bit too easy, though, and monastery parts on subsequent playthroughs gets kind of tedious. Really loved it overall, though.
  3. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown - There needs to be more games like AC7. Just mission after mission after mission. Very little bloat. My only complaint is that some of the missions were really annoying, especially the 'hunting things during a sandstorm' mission. The music is top-notch as always. Took way too long to release the soundtrack though (almost a year?)
  4. Touhou Lunar Nights - I think this is the first Metroidvania that I've ever liked (if Metroid Prime counts as a metroidvania, otherwise, TLN is just my first one period). Since I'm not very experienced with the genre, it's hard for me to justify what makes this game standout. I just had a lot of fun with it. I still need to finish the extra stage...
  5. Code Vein - This really wasn't on my radar until it was about to release. I don't really like Souls games that much. I played Demon Souls somewhat close to it's released and gave up on it after a few bosses because I just got bored. I tried Nioh way afterwards and stopped due to having to replay big parts of the level after losing to a particular boss and I aint got time for that. I bought this game cuz of anime and the ridiculous amount advertising it had on Steam. I'm surprised that I ended up really liking it. Maybe because it doesn't feel as lonely as other Souls games because of the companion. Maybe it's aesthetics. Or it could be because I feel like I don't really lose much time after I lose to a boss.
  6. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout - As Atelier always is, it's a pretty nice time. I get lose many hours just synthesizing things back to back. Don't really care much about the plot of this one since I'm more into the slice of life stuff. I prefer L&S (my most recent Atelier), but hey, at least this one doesn't have massive slowdown problems on the Switch!
  7. Devil May Cry 5 - This is probably the biggest loser of the year insofar that I barely had chance to play this. I've loved every DMC game I've played (albeit, that's only 1 and 4.) And what I played, I like this one as well. I was only about to play for like 4 hours though, which is a damned shame.
  8. Total War: Three Kingdoms - In other years, I probably would have played this more. I don't think it would have ranked higher though. I'm not really that into the total war formula, but I can appreciate what they did here and how they adapted it to three kingdoms. My major complaint is that I have trouble thinking of any of the heroes as actual people, which is a big problem in a three kingdoms game. They had lots of traits attached to them, but I guess I never really felt like any of the generals under me, or any of the other leaders had much personality. Still a pretty good game a straight strategy game, though. I want to see how ROTK XIV responds (if at all.)
  9. DATE A LIVE: RIO REINCARNATION - This isn't really on the list because of quality as a VN. As a VN, it's nothing particularly special. It's on here because I'm surprised anyone would have released it in the West at all. First of all, it's three games so it's probably a ton of work. Second, I don't think the anime series is even that popular over here. There was a third season that seemed to have been airing this year, so maybe that makes more sense (I had no idea.) Still surprising. The only bigger surprise for a VN localization was that Punchline game. That was pretty weird.
  10. Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story - Yea, I'll put a gacha game in here, I don't give a shit. I'm a pretty big Madoka fan, so I was going to play this no matter what. Most of the event stories are hit and miss, but I'm really like the main story (and the anime adaption is good so far.)
After writing this and reading through some other lists, I just recalled that I totally forgot about Pokemon Sword and Shield. It hasn't grabbed me like Sun and Moon did, so maybe it deserves to be left out. Wild area is kind of a pain with the lag too. Maybe it will get a chance when the expansion comes and I play more of it.

There are some games that released on the Epic Game Store that I would like to try to next year when they release on Steam (most notably, Control and Outer Worlds.) So looking forward to that!

Anyway, everyone play AI!


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T.Rex In F-14

Member
Oct 25, 2017
707
  1. Return of the Obra Dinn - (Console version, never played original release) Beyond brilliant concept executed to near-perfection. A giant puzzle where every piece needs to be in its right place. Made me feel dumb and stuck for long stretches followed by A-HA after A-HA. Literally did a fist pump and let out a ‘yes!’ every time the ‘Well Done’ screen/music cue popped up. Would play a thousand games like this but it is truly one-of-a-kind. Have not stopped thinking about this game since I finished it and probably won’t for some time.
  2. Luigi’s Mansion 3 - Pure fun. Endlessly charming with each ghost and Luigi so full of personality. The amount of environmental interactivity and little secrets to find are ridiculous, maybe the densest designed game I have played. Animations and graphics that are, ahem, next level stuff. Nintendo’s best-looking game and their best overall since Breath of the Wild.
  3. A Plague Tale: Innocence - Beautiful game with a story both large in scale yet personal in execution. Incredible performances from the entire cast of characters. It all excels because of the simple mechanics, doesn’t bog itself down with the unnecessary. Amicia de Rune is the best new character of the year and I truly hope she gets to star in more games.
  4. Resident Evil 2 - Best RE since 4. A remake that somehow keeps the feeling of the original while modernizing all the necessary mechanics. Flows from area to area so smoothly but with a constant tension and dread.
  5. Outer Wilds - A fully-functioning solar system filled with so many wonders to discover. An experience only available through the medium of games.
  6. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening - Never played the original, only read about how great this game was and the remake absolutely lived up to expectations. An interesting, unique, yet simple game that makes for a fun, bittersweet quest.
  7. The Outer Worlds - Like a warm blanket. Great companions and writing. Had everything that I wanted from New Vegas and was missing from Fallout 4.
  8. Super Mario Maker 2 - Loved the creativity of the story mode levels and the new tools allow for a lot more creativity with user created levels.
  9. Man of Medan - While inferior to Until Dawn overall, the new multiplayer aspects form a nice foundation for future installments.

2019 was a fairly weak year in my eyes, having an originally 2018 game top my list along with two remakes. In fact, my actual 2019 GOTY may be the same as my 2018 pick, Red Dead Redemption 2 but specifically the Online this time. RDO was easily half of my gaming time this past year. Most of the other big releases (Sekiro, Death Stranding, Fire Emblem, DMC) did not appeal to me and I didn’t get around to a couple games (Control, Disco Elysium) that are populating lots of lists here. Took me a bit to rank the Top 4, they could all be in any of those spots and I wouldn't mind.


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Feb 12, 2019
527
Well, I guess I'll post my list here, if only so I can make sure the "correct" games get points for whatever bland aggregate choice the people of ERA decide. Here's my full blog, in case you really wanted to read my multi-paragraph thoughts about the things on this list.
  1. Resident Evil 2 - It's like they made a video game specifically for me. Minor nitpicks aside, it does feel like they took the foundation of Resident Evil 7 and applied it to a much stronger package.
  2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - It's a Fire Emblem game I don't feel like I'm making constant excuses for like I did with Fates, with things like "worldbuilding" and "interesting characters". On the other hand? It genuinely looks really low-rent in spots and boy that monastery stuff turns into a slog halfway through.
  3. Devil May Cry 5 - As that one guy on these forums keeps saying, CAPCOM IS BACK(?)
  4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - One of my favorite games of this year! I never want to play it again.
  5. Apex Legends - Finally, a Battle Royale for people who hate building!
  6. Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Really, if not for Total War: Warhammer II bludgeoning me over the head this year with a giant sack of content, this would easily be my favorite strategy game in recent memory.
  7. Remnant: From the Ashes - Of the roughly 3 Souls-ish games to come out during the Q2/Q3 period, this is the best one because it understands how to make the basic grind of combat satisfying.
  8. Disco Elysium - Didn't get to me as much as it clearly got to some other folks, but I still am more than willing to recognize it for how ridiculous and unique it is.
  9. Kingdom Hearts III - In the end, all I know is that there was a giant laser, and everyone got norted.
  10. AI: The Somnium Files - Anime Inception Cyber Cop solves crime while being constantly horny and hanging out with underage kids. It's pretty good.


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mdf/markus

Member
Oct 30, 2017
17
  1. Resident Evil 2 - I'm not into the horror genre in general, but the B-movie storytelling did it for me big time. I love how there are basically no fillers in this tight experience. Technically and gameplay wise it's just really polished. Made me become a way bigger fan of the RE franchise and set the bar for upcoming remakes in gaming all across the board.
  2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - I'll be honest - after about 15 hours I hit a wall with this one. Still I respect the hell out of it. It controls just like a dream & everytime I fuck up, it's because of me and not the game itself. Really looking forward to From Software's next output.
  3. Apex Legends - The first pitch didn't resonate too well with what I'm looking for in shooters in general. MP only, BR, F2P ... but man - Respawn is on top of their game right now. The faster approach really works for me and they implemented some of the more revolutionary features with their ping system for upcoming multiplayer experiences.
  4. What the Golf - While a little bit clunky in some aspects, it hits all the right comedy notes for me. Cool ideas and gaming references while being really enjoyable in short bursts.
  5. Slay the Spire - This already feels like an all time great indie release for me. Right up there with Spelunky, FTL and so on. Would likely have ended up higher on my list if I had beaten it already. It's a game I definitely will come back to this year.

Shoutouts to Outer Wilds (respect what it goes for; wished it was a little bit more guided and controlled better), Grindstone (a really polished, no bullshit line puzzler), Age of Empires 2: DE (can't wait for the entirely new release of AOE), Control & Disco Elysium (haven't yet progressed too far in both of them; but they look promising)


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KLoWn

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,687
  1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Easily the most entertaining game I've played this year, and I haven't even played through all the routes yet (waiting for DLC classes). What it lacks in graphics it makes up for with great characters/voice acting, an EXCELLENT soundtrack, and an addicting gameplay loop.
    A tactical RPG masterpiece, and with the success of Three Houses I hope we get a game set in the countries outside of Fódlan to further expand on the world that they've built here.
    (The Edelgard route should've been longer though)
  2. Resident Evil 2 REmake - When it was announced that they were going full 3d with this one instead of going the RE1 REmake route I was kinda miffed. As a huge fan of the original I would've rather seen it remade as the first REmake with it atmospheric camera angles. That was until I played the game and realized I was being a dumbass. This is absolutely the way this game should be played, and it's a masterclass showcase of how to remake a game.
    For anyone that plans to play this game in the future I would suggest playing your second run with the original soundtrack enabled, it gives the game another vibe, and not in a bad way.
  3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Another masterpiece from FROMsoftware. The fact that I fuckin hate parrying in Souls-games and still loved Sekiro just shows how well made this game is. When the combat finally clicks it elevates the game from a great game to an outstanding one.
    I don't think it needs to be said, but the bosses in this game are, as usual, excellent. Both in design and gameplay.
    I can't wait for Elden Ring.
  4. Astral Chain - I LOVED this game, and It might actually tie with Sekiro tbh, but it had a few more thing that annoyed me in it, so fourth place it is.
    Anyone that like Platinum games, anime, and cyberpunk should give this game a try. It excels in creating a world that oozes with atmosphere and style, and that soundtrack.... goddamn. Masterclass.
    I REALLY hope we see a sequel to this game where they expand on the world, characters, and Legion gameplay.
  5. AI: The Somnium Files - As a huge fan of Uchikoshi's games since I played Ever17 Waaay back I was really looking forward to this one, and it delivered on most of what I'd hope it do. After playing through pretty much all of his games you kinda see where things are headed a lot of the time, but aside from that the game is a solid murder mystery game with quirky characters and a solid soundtrack.
    As a side note I'd like to mention that the game was completely fucked for me on PC, with constant crashes and bugs, and looking online I wasn't the only one with these problems. I had to buy it on Ps4 to be able to play it... So yeah, that's a minus.
  6. Disco Elysium - I remember being curious about the game back when it was called "No Truce with the Furies" (or something like that) and it's always nice to see one of the games you have high hopes for turn out this great. Cool setting, memorable characters, and a soundtrack that I can't remember really taking notice of when playing the game but now is stuck in my head (That fuckin Whirling Cafeteria tune...).
    I'll admit that, as much as I enjoy reading, it got a bit too wordy for me at times. When the characters start talking about a thing that related to a thing that has nothing to do with the thing I want to know about, but I got to ask since I might get information to complete a quest, I usually just involuntarily zone out.
    That's a nitpick though.
  7. Control - Solid game, but after all the hype I've seen for it, I'd call it a bit of a disappointment. My year's Horizon: Zero Dawn in that regard.
    Fun gameplay, but pretty boring setting, characters and story. Add to that HORRIBLE loading times on my PC, even though I have the game on my SSD. That said, I 100%'d it, so it must've done something right.
  8. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - It's Zelda, and Zelda is never bad. A bit short, but satisfying,
  9. Blasphemous - This game would've been much higher if it wasn't for the abundance of insta-kill spike pits and that infuriating knock back everytime an enemy hits you. It's no Hollow Knight, but it holds it's own with great design and combat (a bit shallow though).
  10. Borderlands 3 - I played through it with 2 friends and had a good time. It's Borderlands, if you played one of these games before you know what it's like. I didn't like the game trying to make my CPU take suicide though. Hope fully they fixed that.


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Farmboy

Member
Oct 27, 2017
374
  1. Tetris 99 - Tetris is probably the all time best videogame in my book and so a Tetris Battle Royale game seems like such a no brainer... in hindsight. Makes Nintendo Online worth it.
  2. Super Mario Maker 2 - A cut above the original in terms of sheer possibilities; I’ve actually played some of the best Mario levels of my life here. Shame it hasn’t been quite as impactful, here’s hoping it has long legs.
  3. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - A flawed but incredibly atmospheric adventure, that gave me my SW fix in a year where the cinematic effort was... let’s say lacking.
  4. Baba is You - Baba is You. Game is great. Water is sink. Puzzle is hard. Skull is defeat and hot. Player is stumped. Keke has key. Buy is must.
  5. Ring Fit Adventure - One thing I wasn’t expecting from this game: an actual, sweat-inducing workout! Had fun with Wii Fit but it never really challenged me. This did. Another thing I wasn’t expecting: one of the best new characters in the Nintendo pantheon.
  6. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening - My favorite 2D Zelda is still great, though I would have greatly preferred a LBW-style remix as I can play this blindfolded by now. Dampé’s make-a-dungeon thing was limited but surprisingly fun.
PS. This year, I mostly caught up with some acclaimed games I’d missed - Spider-Man PS4 (a joy), Hollow Knight (a gem), even Portal 2 (which shot into my personal top-5 of all time!).


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Bishop89

Member
Oct 25, 2017
12,845
Melbourne, Australia

  1. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - The best Star Wars game in a very very long time.
    I didn't encounter as many bugs as most people, so I had a relatively smooth experience.
    The music was classic SW, the combat was very fun and the worlds were very detailed and cool to explore.
    Loved cheesing enemies with force pushing them off cliffs and flicking stormtroopers away.
    I did think the overall story was pretty meh though, and the map was sometimes confusing to work out.
    The end boss though, hot dammmmmmnn.


  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - Best Cod since mw2.
    The maps are great, the sound, gameplay, guns are all cool. The issue i have is the matchmaking.
    You get kicked out of a lobby after each match and SSBM is implemented, which has no place in non-ranked games.
    I still have yet to touch the campaign though, but the MP is so good.

  3. Days Gone - The first 7-10 hours are a bit of a drag but once the world opens up it becomes such an exhilarating experience. Fighting Hordes is the best thing this game has to offer, they're just so much fun and intense. The sawmill horde is fucking crazy. The story is good, the characters are decent and that cliffhanger came out of nowhere! I will say the game is far too long though, way too long.

  4. Tom Clancy's The Division 2 - Didn't play the first game but from what I understand there isn't really much of a story to follow anyway.
    Had heaps of fun with it but ended up getting really repetitive by the end.


  5. Mortal Kombat 11 - Pretty much the same as 9 and X but prettier. My favourite thing about the game are definitely the fatalities, so creative.
    I thought the krypt was an interesting concept as well the way they designed it this time.

  6. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled - Best Kart Racer ever got a fresh coat of paint.
    Not much else to be said.

  7. World War Z - Hordes!! love em. I can't wait until next gen when the numbers are increased even more!
    This is a fun little title. You can play this solo or with friends. Pretty addictive game. Expected worse considering its based on a license.

  8. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown - Have not played an AC game since the ps2. This is visually stunning and plays fantastic. Dog-fighting is so much fun.
    Danger-zone plays in the background when playing.

Didn't play a lot of new releases this year. Most of the year was tackling my backlog.


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Imp the Dimp

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,098
  1. Outer Wilds - Best sci-fi game I've ever played. The OT has 20 pages. Era has a fucking awful taste in games.
  2. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - One of the best Castlevanias out there and probably the most addictive gameplay loop I've played all year. Top 3 Castlevania.
  3. Control - Again, one of the best sci-fi games I've played. It's the only game I ever bothered to read all the logs in.
  4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Very enjoyable once again, but a tad hard. This game is proof that Miyazaki isn't a one-trick-pony. I hope he's done with Souls for good.
  5. Code Vein - One of the better Souls games out there. Terrific combat and pretty decent level design made it one of the most enjoyable games I've played in 2019.
  6. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth - I didn't finish it, but I liked it well enough to play it for ~30-40h. I prefer the 1st game.


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Jaina

Member
Oct 27, 2017
189
  1. Outer Wilds - Perfect exploration, kept me curious, dangerous environments which demand respect for most of your time with the game - without having combat , surprisingly satisfying ending
  2. Judgment - awesome return to Kamurocho, good cast
  3. Astral Chain - nice combination of previous Platinum projects
  4. Trials of Mana - first time playing an official release of Seiken Densetsu 3 and it grabbed me again for hours
  5. The Outer Worlds - competent New Vegas on a noticeably smaller scale. But most games do not need to be 50+ hour
  6. Resident Evil 2 - fully keeping the RE 2 spirit but still a modern game, outstanding execution of a “remake”
  7. Super Mario Maker 2 - it’s fine and still Mario Maker
  8. What the Golf? - I’m getting annoyed with how often this game has been mentioned in mobile game discussions over the year, the references it does aren’t that genius. But I regularly open this myself when I want a quick game while watching TV
  9. Slay the Spire - I only played one run so far, but you notice right away how well crafted Slay the Spire is
  10. Devil May Cry 5 - it’s alright, played a few hours but won’t fight for it
  11. AI: The Somnium Files
  12. Bloodstained


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Nephilim

Member
Oct 28, 2017
3,123
  1. Death Stranding - one of the aspects i enjoyed the most of this flawed masterpiece is how coherent it is in its mindfuckery. It's mindfuck but on a solid foundation. i loved the gameplay loop and the technical side of the game is breathtaking. Very original, beautiful and rewarding experience. I had some problems how BTs were implemented in the world, not the optimal solution imo.
  2. Astral Chain - amazing, i totally enjoyed it from start to finish. Original in its combat system, cool looking visuals and great soundtrack kept me invested long after credits rolled. It has problems to keep you invested in to much selfcontained sidestuff, but otherwise a fantastic effort from Platinum games.
  3. Metro Exodus - the game didn't make a great first impression on me, mainly because it felt very clunky and unresponsive at first. Then it finally clicked and i ended up loving it. Great visuals and atmosphere and i welcomed the change to a more open ended leveldesign.
  4. Luigis Mansion 3 - incredibly charming and clever game. The visuals are outstanding, not only for Switch. LM3 reminded me a lot of classics like Banjo and Kazooie, basically good old Rare.
  5. Remnant: From the Ashes - this game is a gem. Soulslike with guns and yes they nailed it. Remnant is tense and the gunplay is simply great. Kudos to enemy design/variety and the cool bosses. Also one of the few shooters where i feel there is something like a AI at work.
  6. Days Gone - judging from my first 30 hours with the game this should be top 3 this year. But as the game went on the limits of Bend's good first effort in the open world genre began to shine through.
  7. Control - Control also should have been much higher on the list. It's a unique and great game, which flaws botched it down quite a bit in the end. The lack of interesting enemies to fight and also their poor variety made every encounter after halfpoint of the game increasingly tedious. Stupid checkpoint system, especially around bosses, made the long loadingtimes after death even more frustrating.
  8. Resident Evil 2 Remake - superpolished remake of a beloved classic. The fact it being a remake led me to put it not as high as it deserves judging from a pure quality point of view. They downgraded the story a bit to much for my liking. Great game from one of my favourite developers nontheless.
  9. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Complete Edition (Switch) - to have one of the best games ever created on the most flexible system in videogame history is mindblowing. I'm really impressed what Saber Interactive has done with this port and i'm happy to call it my own.


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Mivey

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,529
  1. Disco Elysium - Wake up, get drunk, some solve crimes, then get even more drunk and start a magical adventure about finding invisible bugs.
  2. Whispers of a Machine - For me the best point and click adventure game of the year. Great pixel graphics, great music, great VA, great sci-fi plot, amazing post-apocalpytic setting (and this time the world wasn't destroyed by nukes), and lots of choices to make.
  3. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition - The one Tales Of game everyone kept talking about, finally available on modern platforms. And it's every bit as good as I thought it could be. I love their take on the anti-hero with Yuri, and his bromance with Flynn.
  4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - Really great looking Metroidvania title. It's a bit rough around the edges, and doesn't truly live up to the SOTN, but a must have for any fans of it (with realistic expectations).
  5. Yakuza Kiwami 2 - Another stunt through the busy alleys of Kamurocho. This remake of the classic PS2 is truly the best Yakuza title I have played yet (after 0 and Yakzua Kiwami).
  6. Gears 5 - Gears 5 continues right where 4 took of, and it finally ditches J.D for Kait. I love their take on a more "open-world-ish" Gears game, with a central hub with lots of side quests to discover as you go. Better gunplay, amazing graphics.
  7. Life is Strange 2 - Came into this one expecting very little, as I wasn't a great fan of LiS1. But the brothers Sean and Daniel and their story is so much more interesting to me than Max and Chloe ever were. I love as well how this game doesn't shy away from taking a clear political stance, portraying the hardships of two latino brothers on the run to the Mexican border.
  8. Resident Evil 2 - It's not quite REmake2, it takes a lot of liberties and the added mobility (both on our part, and by the enemies too) changes things a lot. It's still clearly a surival horror game, with a focus on limited resources and enemies you can't easily beat, often running is the best choice. It was also great to finally experience the story of RE2 for myself, as I had never played the original game.
  9. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - It's Star Wars meets Soulsborne, and it's great. It's amazing what Respawn has acccomplished here.
  10. Metro Exodus - Pushes the franchise forward in so many ways. Better graphics, better gunplay, sure, but it's the focus on exploration that's really makes this one so great. Also, fucking quick saves! What's not to love


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Pirateluigi

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,914
  1. Baba is You - Baba Is You isn’t just another clever puzzle game. With nearly every puzzle, the game asks you to question your assumptions about the game. It starts easy, playing on your expectations based on years of playing other games. But then the game continues to challenge your understanding of the game itself. There are numerous moments that completely recontextualize your understanding of the rules and game systems. And with every one, you feel like a genius as you figure it out. This game is tough, but oh so rewarding.
  2. Katana Zero - This game is so much more than just a stylish action game. It is that, though, in spades. The music, sense of style, and presentation of the game are all top notch. More than that, the game excels in two areas. First is the gameplay, which is tight and impressive throughout. Second is, surprisingly, the story, which is creative and full of twists and turns. This game is one of the best action games of its ilk and really deserves more love.
  3. Cadence of Hyrule - I still can’t believe that this game exists. In hindsight, marrying Crypt of the Necrodancer’s rhythm-based dungeon crawling with Legend of Zelda’s progression and music makes perfect sense, but it still doesn’t feel possible. How could Nintendo just hand the reigns of their premier, award bait franchise over to indie developers of a quirky, brutally hard roguelike? And yet, we got it and the result is one of the most refreshing Zelda games in a long time. The game isn’t perfect (the difficulty curve is such that the first part of the game is EXPONENTIALLY harder than the latter parts and the game is pretty darn short), but the quality is high throughout. Plus, the remixes of classic Zelda music just sound so darn good.
  4. Slay the Spire - This might be one of the most replayable games I’ve ever seen. Hour after hour, run after run, I just can’t put the game down. The runs get brutally difficult as you up the ascension level, but it’s always fun to try for a new build or strategy. Even after countless runs, each individual session still feels unique.
  5. Tetris 99 - The battle royale genre is one that I’ve appreciated, but never really was able to get into. But, mix that with Tetris? GENIUS. I was hooked on this game from day 1 and getting 1st place feels like a real accomplishment. It’s Tetris, it’s competitive as heck, and it’s free if you have Switch online.
  6. Pokemon Sword/Shield - Before launch, the buzz was all about Dexit (the fact that the game wasn’t going to include all previous pokemon). There was so much worry about missing out on old favorites. But honestly, as you play through, you really don’t miss them. The dex in this game is still 400 strong and packed full of unique and charming monsters. The new Pokemon are some of the best the series has ever had and the game is as addicting as ever. A sparse post game and some shockingly bad online implementation are the only things keeping this game from my top 5, but I still have put hundreds of hours into the game and expect to put hundreds more.
  7. Ring Fit Adventure - It’s an exercise game. That really shouldn’t work, but it shockingly does because RFA put the focus on the game aspect. It’s a full-fledged RPG with a story, character progression, and tense battles. Beyond that, it’s actually a solid workout. If you don’t half-ass the routine, you can easily work up a sweat playing, which is something you could never really say for Wii Fit. Plus, as someone else pointed out, it may be the most immersive RPG ever made. As your character in the game becomes stronger, you actually become stronger in real-life. That’s pretty darn cool.
  8. Untitled Goose Game - This game is just so much fun. You get to be a goose, and geese are jerks. It’s really fun to play and the music, piano that rises and falls as you attract the attention of the neighborhood’s populace, is superb. Honestly, the only thing holding it back is the very short length. You can easily 100% the game in a couple of hours. #DLCWhen?
  9. Blaster Master Zero 2 - Blaster Master Zero was a surprise for me, turning a game I vaguely remembered from the NES into something very approachable and fun. The sequel does a lot better than the original, but the separate planets do lose that interconnected feel.
  10. Gato Roboto - It's Metroid but you play as a cat. This game is adorable and fun, if not a bit on the short side.


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RadiantDan

Member
Oct 26, 2017
313
Michigan
  1. Devil May Cry 5 - The game I've waited eleven years for and it didn't disappoint. It focuses on all the best aspects of DMC, fine tunes them, and makes the characters even nuttier, resulting in one of the best action games ever.
  2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - I've also waited long for another console FE game and Three Houses delivered. Multiple meaty campaigns, cool new mechanics, and a plot that's more interesting than the average FE.
  3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - From Soft delivers yet again. Sekiro I think has the best level design of any of their games and the extra mobility you have like grappling and swimming makes exploration so much more fun.
  4. Astral Chain - My second favorite Platinum game after Metal Gear Rising. I love the slower and more methodical combat, cyberpunk visuals, and the soundtrack.
  5. Tetris 99 - I've been that much into Tetris or battle royale but I became addicted. NSO is worth it for this game alone; victory feels so rewarding.
  6. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  7. Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  8. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
  9. Luigi's Mansion 3
  10. Blasphemous


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ZeroRay

Member
Oct 27, 2017
32
  1. Disco Elysium - Writing, narrative, storytelling etc. etc. We've heard this before. Lots of games in years past elevated the medium beyond whatever low-ass standards there were before to something more along the quality of a B-Tier cable TV show or maybe a decent anime. Disco Elysium may or may not be high art, but it sticks the landing in being an unashamed interactive Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. Actually scratch that, a novel. Novels are fancier than just "books". It's that in video game form. Game isn't perfect by any means, but its systems, writing, and characters does indeed take it to the next fucking level.
  2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - FROM has had a successful formula the last decade. The systems in place here had been refined and streamlined compared to even Bloodborne. In it's place we have arguably their best combat system and most certainly for me, their most enjoyable character movement. Just jumping and roping around stabbing people never gets old. Combine that with some really good environments that take advantage of the traversal abilities Wolf is equipped with, along with a nice variety of enemy NPCs, and finally some of FROM's best bosses - you got a classic Action/Adventure game.
  3. Devil May Cry 5 - Best Character Action game ever. Period. Better level design and more varied environments are really my only gripe.
  4. Control - We got a next-gen shooter a year early. Really satisfying combat and an intriguing story. I feel we only scratched the surface of the FBC. Unfortunately, I found the ending too abrupt and unsatisfying.
  5. Apex Legends - Don't really play a lot of multiplayer shooters anymore, but this is the one I played more than any other in years.


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Jyrii

Member
Oct 27, 2017
579
Helsinki, Finland
  1. Death Stranding - I wouldn't have believed Death Stranding would be my number 1 before I played it. Awesome visuals, good songs, interesting world and plot and the gameplay is surprisingly involving. There are certainly things that are annoying (repeated cutscenes, static BT encounters), but there is something special about the game.
  2. Ape Out - Good soundtrack. Gameplay is ok, but doesn't change at all. Quite hard.
  3. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - Haven't ever really played a Castlevania game. This was enjoyable, but there was way too much stuff.
  4. Disco Elysium - The only 2019 game here I haven't finished. I play a drunken loser that fucks up every way possible. Also he died of a heart attack. Enough to put it high on my list. Could be higher if I had more time.
  5. Dota Underlords - The game I probably put most hours this year. I quit playing in August, but have tried the last update. Not feeling it anymore.
  6. Life is strange 2 - I didn't love it like I did LiS and Before the storm. But it is very good and unique.
  7. Outer Wilds - Outer Wilds could have topped my list, but I got save corruption after like 12 hours and lost all my progress (namely the log). Getting that kind of a bug months after release isn't acceptible.
  8. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - I got to the final boss, beat first two stages, but realized finishing the game would require hours and hours of practice. Not worth to me anymore. Ok game, has high highs and low lows.
  9. The Outer Worlds - Loved the first planet, but there wasn't much else after that. Second game with game breaking bug. Luckily could be avoided with a different route.
  10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - Sekiro light. I absolutely loved the start, but the world felt empty afterwards. Combat didn't get any better and platforming was quite boring.
  11. Baba is you - Brain is melt, game is hard, Jyrii is annoyed
  12. Telling Lies - Not as good as Her Story. Uninteresting plot and the clips were usually too long.
  13. Kingdom Hearts 3 - Pretty clusterfuck. Has way too many characters and the plot is abysmal.
  14. Night Call - Interesting concept, but execution was lacking.
  15. Hypnospace Outlaw - I hated playing the game, but enjoyed parts of it, mainly music and visuals.
Edit. editing, because there was problem with formating.


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Shairi

Member
Aug 27, 2018
836
2019 was mostly backlog year for me, so my GotY List isn't that long.

  1. Apex Legends - I usally don't like FPS games that much, but this game came out of nowhere. I grew tired of Fortnite and when Apex launched and everybody was talking about it I gave it a try. Man, what a great game. I played it a lot until i got a bit tired of it, too. The battle pass is not great and the awful new map is just not for me. It's still my most played game in 2019 and it made me play Titanfall 2, which is also fantastic. So i choose it as my GotY 2019.
  2. Days Gone - First of all, I hate zombies. I'm not a big fan of post-apolyptic settings. And playing Assassins Creed Origins and Red Dead Redemption 2 back to back this year made me super fatigue on open world games. Yet, I somehow really enjoyed Days Gone, way more than RDR2, easily. There is something so satisfying about burning hordes to the ground. The game has awful transitions between gameplay and cutscenes, it had framedrops in the end game and it had a lot of bugs. Still, i pretty much enjoyed every second of the game.
  3. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled - Not sure what to say about this one. It's super fun in co-op.
All other games I played this year were either not from this year or don't belong on my GotY list.


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DGS

Member
Nov 2, 2017
751
Tyrol
  1. Death Stranding - Played 50 hours to see the ending. Played 40 hours more to get the platinum trophy. Played 60 hours more, because I couldn't get enough of it. I hope this is just a tease of what to expect of next gen.
  2. They Are Billions
  3. Surviving Mars: Green Planet
  4. Frostpunk
  5. Days Gone
  6. Control
  7. A Plague Tale: Innocence
  8. Resident Evil 2
  9. Destiny 2 Shadowkeep
  10. Tom Clancy's The Division 2

Games I haven't finished yet or games that weren't released this year, but I had a great time with:
  • Kingdom Two Crowns
  • Spyro the Dragon
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled


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Morrigan

Arrogant Smirk
Moderator
Oct 24, 2017
14,153
  1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Obvious choice for me, as a big fan of From Software's recent games. I was initially disappointed to learn that it wasn't an RPG, but honestly, after playing it so much, I don't care anymore -- it's just that good. The combat is unlike anything I've played, more rhythm-based than the typical methodical Souls combat, but still nails the incredibly satisfying animations and rewarding feeling or triumphing over your opponents. No other game evokes this feeling of raw, pure, sword-clashing fun, with rewarding the player for constantly applying pressure but still forcing them to read the opponents and time your counter attacks. I also really enjoyed the guerrilla warfare aspect of taking out a stronghold with a mix of stealth, agility, and brute force. The grappling hook and fluidity of movement made traversal a sheer joy, and it's also one of the strongest interconnected worlds yet, the best since the original Dark Souls, probably. From Software knocked it out of the park, with everything else, much as I enjoyed them, a distant second.
  2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - Metroidvania + From-inspired combat + lightsabers and Force powers? Sign me up. This game is pretty much everything I wanted it to be. Sure, combat won't be as fluid or balanced as Sekiro, but Respawn still managed to nail that lightsaber combat. Nothing is more fun than Force-pushing fools off a cliff, or Force-pulling more fools straight into your lightsaber. Some of the bosses, at least on Grandmaster difficulty, were really demanding of all your Jedi skills to triumph over, and the ending sequence is an absolute blast. The levels are huge, intricate, gorgeous, really fun to traverse, so I had no problem backtracking even if all I would find is some useless cosmetic skin or some piece of lore (but sometimes something more worthwhile like an HP upgrade). I'm not even a big Star Wars fan at all, but Fallen Order is probably my favourite piece of modern Star Wars media this side of Rogue One. It certainly has a better story than the JJ movies, anyhow. I recommend the PC version, as I hear the console versions have numerous bugs and performance issues, but my experience on the technical front was almost flawless.
  3. A Plague Tale: Innocence - AKA The Rats of Us. I was intrigued by this game but I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It's very reminiscent of The Last of Us, in all the good ways: engrossing story and characters, beautiful art direction, incredibly atmospheric. The puzzles and stealth were nothing out of the ordinary, but competently enough to serve the rest.
  4. Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark - Do you like Final Fantasy Tactics? Do you like Tactics Ogre? Then don't sleep on this gem. The story, while competent enough, won't reach Matsuno heights, no; but everything else, yes, pretty much. Class-based tactics with tons of depths and an addictive gameplay loop and a wonderous soundtrack, this game scratched the FFTactics itch like nothing else did in decades.
  5. Gears 5 - Played this with 2 friends and despite some problems I still had a great time. One of the last shooters with split-screen coop fun, and shooting and chainsawing them bugs never gets old.
  6. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - I honestly had fairly low expectations at this point. Hollow Knight blew me away and I suspected this would just be inferior in every way. And, in a way, it kind of was, and yet... there is something about a pure Igavania that you can't really find in all the other Metroidvanias out there. I can't really explain it, it's just... damn fun. Might be the Michiru Yamane soundtrack, or the gothic castle aesthetic (even if the visuals were a bit mediocre, it still worked somehow), or the way you can stack equipment/shards/powers and be completely OP. It definitely scratches that SotN itch, and that's a great thing.
  7. GreedFall - This is a pretty solid RPG with an interesting world and story and fun mechanics. Production values are pretty decent too for an AA game, with really stunning vistas and cool cities, though the budget limitations are felt on occasion with many NPCs being oddly static, or voice-over flubs with NPCs occasionally referring to my female character as "he" or "my lord" (oopsie). Combat has some Eurojank going on, don't go in expecting Capcom or From Software quality or anything, but it still plays moderately well, with Hard mode frequently forcing you to really use your skills adequately to survive. Quests are pretty interesting and well-designed, too, though there's a bit too much running around back and forth at times. Still, the game has a lot of heart and the story and world-building is pretty engrossing. Definitely Spiders' best game so far, by a long shot.
  8. Blasphemous - Solid Metroidvania with absolutely gorgeous art and fun bosses.


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