It's the end of the year and as we look one more time back into 2019 to reflect on our lives, we include those times we were thoroughly entertained. Be it with friends and family, or flying solo, video games have always held our sway in one form or another. I mean, that’s why you’re here, right?
There have been so many great games this year, but we want to focus on those that we cherished the most. Without further ado, here’s some of our editorial team's favorite games this year:
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.
Control (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
As a Remedy stan, there was no way I was going to pass this game up. Control was playing with themes that have always lured me in: paranormal weirdness, government conspiracies, small people getting dumped into big problems. Sign me up.
Control also has A LOT of X-Files vibes - another favorite of mine - and plays to that “mysteries hidden in the American condition” theme heavily. I loved the world building of this alternate ghostly sound dimension, bleeding into our world and effecting everything from our day to day life to our ancient myths.
The gun play was sound and the powers were cool, but the game still had its imperfections, such as being graphically intensive and causing major choppiness while engaged in big action moments. However, its charms run deep, and its imagery and mood is powerful far beyond its flaws.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PS4, PC)
FromSoftware has been the most consistent action roleplaying developer in this last decade. Through and extensive process of iteration and clever evolution, every game they drop seems undeniably better than the last.
It’s still somewhat jarring though that, 10 whole years after Demon’s Souls, something as transcendent as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice can even be made. Mechanically, it’s the formula they’re known for in shape, but something wholly new in volume. Narratively, it's more straightforward and storybook than any other Souls-like they’ve done, but still full of mystery and open to interpretation. It maintains that FromSoft gloom, but in a color palette and setting that has never been attempted by that team before.
Sekiro is an instant classic that may never outlive it’s Dark Souls predecessor, but will age well as one of the best games of this generation.
Remnant: From the Ashes (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Official Website: https://www.remnantgame.com/
- Official Wiki: https://remnantfromtheashes.gamepedia.com/
My favorite games each year are the ones that either come from nowhere and shock everyone, or the ones that look disappointing and overachieve. Remnant: From the Ashes was a little bit of both.
It seemed like no one was talking about this game the entire year, and then suddenly in a two week period, every outlet had something to say. No one expected anything from it, but about everyone who got their hands on it had the same response: this game is special.
As another Souls-inspired game, it takes relatively light influencing from the FromSoftware brand in comparison to its peers. Fog walls and boss fights might resemble the popular RPG, but gameplay wise, it feels more like a Gears of War. The shooting is solid, with both run-of-the-mill type weaponry and those that are more out of this world. The dungeons are randomly generated, but they have a sense of exploration and a constant feeling of reward that makes it feel hand designed. And the story, though told at an awkward pace, is a really cool take on the cosmic invader trope that sci-fi is all too familiar with. If you had to go back and play anything this year, make sure it’s this.
Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like G4, Empire, IGN, GamesRadar, Kotaku, GameSpot, Shacknews, and more. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!
Death Stranding (PS4)
- Official Website: https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/death-stranding-ps4/
- Official Wiki: https://deathstranding.fandom.com/
Hideo Kojima’s latest masterpiece left an imprint on me that I know I’ll never be able to pry off. From the star-studded cast (with the most amazing voice acting from Tommie Earl Jones) to the mind-bending narrative, I was transfixed with this legendary adventure as soon as I entered its magical world.
The story of Sam Porter Bridges and his struggle to reunite a fractured America was a heartrending and exciting journey that made it feel as if it were tailor-made for me. Nothing about it felt culled from run-of-the-mill games or cobbled from lesser-than parts. While I wouldn’t typically love running from one place to another as a primary sort of gameplay loop, it was done so fantastically here I couldn’t stop playing.
I harbor an extreme dislike for real children and babies, and yet I found myself falling in love with the BB, or “Bridge Baby,” left in Sam’s care as a tool to avoid the otherworldly monsters known as the BTs. Everything Kojima sprinkled throughout Death Stranding, he did so with so much care I was hard-pressed to find anything I didn’t like about the game. And because I fell in love with it so swiftly and deeply, right after I finished the game under embargo weeks ahead of its debut, I went out and got a tattoo to commemorate it. This game will be with me forever.
Resident Evil 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Reboots and remakes can make for precarious situations when it comes to your favorite games. As a massive Resident Evil fan who’s been there from the beginning, I was wary of what Capcom may have done to change this entry into the series in ways I wouldn’t like or find necessary. I’m happy to report that all of my concerns quickly melted away when I set foot in the new vision of Raccoon City laid out before me.
Resident Evil 2 was far more than just a remake - it was a loving reimagining of a story so many gamers played and loved during their formative years, given life to bear the fruits of something almost entirely new. While it preserved what made the original game great, it wasn’t afraid to break out of the box and add new content that still vibed perfectly with what the ‘90s survival horror classic originally presented. As such, I was thrilled to meet the new versions of Leon and Claire, both of whom were treated with dignity and class, and given fantastic redesigns.
This was one of the finest games I played all year, and will no doubt stand on its own as a beacon of what excellent game design can do for a remake. We don’t have to settle for lazy HD updates and better graphics. Our favorite games can transform into something more, and add new content for players both new and old to hungrily devour.
Disco Elysium (PC)
Admittedly, I didn’t expect to like Disco Elysium going into it, but when I came face-to-face with my bizarre detective, obsessed with being a hobo rockstar cop (my own choices, of course), I changed my mind. It only takes a few moments to fall utterly and deeply in love with this expertly-written adventure, and within less time, you’re already under its spell. At its most base level, the game puts you in charge of a murder investigation that you’ve got to get to the bottom of - if you can get sober long enough to figure things out.
Your character (who I won’t spoil the name of since you don’t know immediately) is a drunken fool with amnesia who can barely think straight. Yet, he’s a detective with a partner (Kim Kitsuragi) who demands he follow protocol and get off his butt and actually do something. From there, as the game shifts around you in a satisfying labyrinthine pattern, it’s up to you to shape your detective as you see fit according to the decisions you make and traits you acquire. It may sound complex, and it is, but in a satisfying, refreshing way that truly makes you feel as though you have real power over the character you’ve taken on.
Its dreamlike, surreal art is beautifully odd in its own way, and it features some of the catchiest tunes I’ve ever heard in an isometric role-playing game. The adventure swells up here and there to make for one of the most tantalizing mysteries you’ll ever have unraveled, and by the time it’s over, you’ll have become better for the experience. If you play one RPG this year, let it be Disco Elysium.
Chris "Zenkiki" Brosseau
Chris is a content creator on YouTube who covers all things gaming and nerdy! He plays a large variety of games, including competitive shooters and strategy games, but specializes in roleplaying games. Chris has been creating gaming content for over ten years and is an indie game developer in his spare time. He is also an avid tabletop gamer, and has a +3 bonus to devouring cereal.
The Division 2 (PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC)
The Division 2 was far and away my favorite game this year. The first game launched with plenty of issues, but became significantly better through multiple patches and DLC launches. However, the game hit the ground running by being conscious of the lessons learned from the development of the previous game. Personally, The Division 2 is one of the best examples of a “looter-shooter,” and continues to be a fantastic example of an excellent feeling shooter.
Jedi: Fallen Order (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Official Website: https://www.ea.com/games/starwars/jedi-fallen-order
- Wiki: https://starwarsjedifallenorder.fandom.com/
Jedi: Fallen Order was a surprise hit for me. There have been countless bad Star Wars games released over the years that have slowly eaten away at my soul, and I tend to be extremely cautious about my hype levels when a new one releases. Additionally, Dark Souls inspired games have never been something I’ve enjoyed, so I had especially low expectations in regards to Fallen Order.
But this game managed to get its hooks in me early, and keep me thoroughly enjoying the game all the way through. Something about the feel of lightsaber combat, platforming, puzzles, and story really worked for me, and I would love to see what Respawn could do with another entry into the Star Wars games.
UnderMine (Xbox One, Switch, Linux, Mac, PC)
I had heard nothing about UnderMine leading up to the launch of the game into Early Access, and had no expectations of the game when I jumped in to play for the first time. Perhaps it’s my recent love for Hades from Supergiant Games that got me in the correct mood for UnderMine to win me over, but the thing I know for sure is that it immediately became a game that I couldn’t get enough of. The charming aesthetic mixed with an enjoyable gameplay loop has had me consistently returning to the game week-after-week, hoping I can make just a bit more progress each time I play.
Michal's a wiki manager, writer, and a happily married husband and father. Video games are a big part of his life ever since the first shot fired in Wolfenstein 3D. Almost as big as books and history (don't get him started on it, though, or he'll talk your ears off).
The Elder Scrolls Online: The Season of the Dragon (PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, Mac, PC)
The Elder Scrolls Online has come a long way since its initial release in 2014, gaining new gameplay features, new areas to explore, and more content. So. Much Content. So much, in fact, that after five years of consistent, casual playing, I still have half of Tamriel left to explore. The steady release of new content does not help.
Season of the Dragon was a massive expansion spread out over all of 2019, finally giving us the chance to visit Elsweyr, the homeland of the Khajiit, defend it against dragons, and learn a lot of lore about the first people of Tamriel and the single best race in the entire franchise (I may be a little biased). For someone who loves lore and spends too much time discussing its minutiae, the whole Season of the Dragon was a treat from beginning to end.
My favorite part? It’s not the new Necromancer class, zones, or even the main story. It’s the characters. They make the entire expansion, and Khamira, Za’ji, and Caska became some of my favorite characters, while the overarching story, touching on themes of religion, politics, and identity, captures the best aspects of the Elder Scrolls franchise - bar none.
Steel Division 2 (PC)
War games are a bit of an acquired taste and Eugen Systems’ games are particularly so. As a hardcore fan of the first Steel Division, I was looking forward to the sequel. While improved gameplay mechanics and better graphics were attractive, the primary reason was that it would focus on the Eastern Front of World War II. It’s where the Soviet Union decisively broke the back of the Nazi war machine several times over, deciding the war in Europe.
Steel Division II is set in mid-1944, and focuses on Operation Bagration, one of the largest military operations in history. Through its Army General mode, allowing one to step into the shoes of a general and lead either side through decisive battles of the operation, the historical battles mode, and of course a roster of units that includes hundreds of them, it gives you the ability to experience the Eastern Front in a modern package.
The cherry on top? The Death on the Vistula historical DLC. Apart from a new campaign set around Warsaw on the eve of the failed uprising and new historical battles, it added Polish allied divisions: Armia Krajowa, the Home Army, representing the underground Polish state and its guerrillas, and the 1st Infantry Division “Tadeusz Kościuszko” of the Polish armed forces aligned with the USSR. For a Pole, that’s significant, and continues the tradition set by Eugen in its previous games.
Blade Runner (Linux, Mac, PC)
Technically, Blade Runner isn’t a 2019 game: Westwood Studios’ adaptation of the seminal 1982 movie by Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel was originally released in 1997 as a massive adventure game spanning four CDs. I’m including it because for the first time in 22 years it’s available digitally and it actually works on modern computers - even if you had the physical copy, like me, running it on Windows 7 or 10 was next to impossible.
It’s finally available on GOG after a decade spent tracking down the rights, ported in collaboration with the ScummVM community. Although it might look dated at 640x480, with its pre-rendered background and pixelated voxels, it remains one of the best movie/book- to-game adaptations in existence: It oozes atmosphere, encapsulates many of the themes from the book and the movie, without being derivative.
Much of the game’s strength is due to it being an original story set in 2019 Los Angeles (the other 2019 Los Angeles). Instead of following Deckard, you step into the shoes of Ray McCoy, a rookie blade runner, as a straightforward case of animal murder develops into something much, much bigger. You’ll meet, interrogate, and VK or shoot numerous distinct characters, with a few returning from the movie (though with voice actors that don’t always replicate the original performance well). Most importantly, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the finest adaptation of Blade Runner yet.
Matt lives for games and literature, a happy wanderer through the many fantastic worlds they offer. Whether it be shooting bad guys in some distant future or saving elves from the clutches of evil, he is always up for the journey. He shares this love with his wife who often travels those worlds with him as a welcome companion.
Oxygen Not Included (Linux, Mac, PC)
- Official Website: https://www.kleientertainment.com/games/oxygen-not-included
- Wiki: https://oxygennotincluded.gamepedia.com/
I have long been a sucker for a good base building game, with Rimworld numbering among my favorite games of all time, so, inevitably, Oxygen Not Included hooked me from the moment I laid eyes on it. With a quirky, but clean art style reminiscent of Don’t Starve, Klei Entertainment’s other survival-building game, I found my first forays into the world charming and intriguing. Side scrolling in presentation, and starting in the center of the world you inhabit, initially things feel closed off, quaint, and easily manageable.
Soon, however, the game opens up more and more as the lovable, sometimes bumbling, Duplicants have to expand ever outward and learn to exploit their limited resources to the utmost. Things get endlessly complicated as you realize that it’s not just a base you are creating but the support systems and infrastructure to keep everyone alive. I did not fully expect to have to learn a bit about electrical systems, gases, and waste management, but I loved the rather unique take on the genre.
Outward (PS4, Xbox One, Linux, Mac, PC)
- Official Website: https://www.deepsilver.com/en/games/outward/
- Official Wiki: https://outward.gamepedia.com/
Occasionally I like to be challenged with a game where I have the freedom to just go out and create my own story, as shown with the joy I found in Oxygen Not Included, and so I found myself drawn to Outward. Many people have said that the game is definitely not for everyone, but that if you sit down with it and really dive in you can find something very rare and enjoyable. So I planned, plotted, read, and researched, and finally decided that I had to see what this game was all about.
Made by Nine Dots Studio, a small but dedicated team, Outward is a game about doing just that. To be successful in this game you have to plan ahead before going out into the wide world. Combat is active and requires thought, space to carry items is limited, and your character wears down over time through hunger, thirst, and fatigue. The game map does not mark your location so you have to navigate by compass, and you have to discover a lot of the substance of the content yourself without being lead by the nose.
Through all of these growing pains, and extensive research of course, I found something utterly charming about the game. I had to think ahead and decide where I wanted to go, essentially planning entire expeditions around just leaving my house and exploring some cave or ruin. If I wanted to learn some skills to expand my build that was likely an entirely different expedition that would require me to rest and regroup. In Outward I found that rare sense of freedom of discovery.
The Outer Worlds (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
In Outward I had to find my own story, but in The Outer Worlds I had the opposite experience enjoyably thrust upon me. A slickly produced game from Obsidian Entertainment with a very nifty golden age aesthetic, The Outer Worlds is filled to the brim with stories to discover with your main character and his, or her, ragtag band of followers. While the environments are functional enough, and the mechanics fairly sound, it is the choices you make along the way that really keep you going.
I tend to gravitate towards games that embrace rewarding choices, and this game is a throwback to the old days of CRPGs with expansive amounts of it. The game starts you off as a frozen corpse-icle that is brought back into a mishmash of corporate greed, classic western style frontier justice, and a whole heaping of very gray morality. You start off confused, without hardly a clue as to the state of the world, and have to find out how you fit into the whole mess you awoke to.
Framed by the standard RPG fare of leveling and perks, companions and quests, there is a fantastic branching narrative that unfolds as you go. What you do in the world builds toward the final state of the game, and what happens to the people you meet along the way: Your decisions may have felt like the right choice at the time, but may also have harmed more people than you expected, and this uncertainty leads to a high level of replayability. Much like the members of the Board, I felt very invested in The Outer Worlds.
What about you? What were some of your favorite games of 2019 and what are you looking forward to in 2020? Let us know down in the comments below! We'd love to hear what you think.