2019 felt like a bit of an off-year for me. What a weird year! I think back to which games I was hyped for and there's a moment of hesitation as I try to remember what actually happened. It felt most like a very extended summer vacation where I had to dig for some games that weren't on my radar in the slightest until weeks before they became available.
I don't mean any disrespect to those games that did release! 2019 simply seemed to focus more on the future, what due to a console generation that's lasted this long while making huge marketing pushes for games that aim to release in 2020.
That's where my list of top 2019 games comes in! There's a lot here that I want to celebrate from 2019 and it was nice to have the time to really appreciate so many of these titles without feeling overshadowed by the "obvious" choices. Continuing to buck the trend of Top 10s, I opted for a Top 15.
I was a bit all-over-the-place with my gaming habits and, honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
THREE GAMES THAT GAVE ME REGRETS SO I INCLUDED THEM ANYWAY
Pokémon Sword and Shield
This one hurts. I normally have a spot guaranteed for catching all these Pokémon and I simply couldn't dig in to Sword and Shield.
There's quality-of-life changes here that I absolutely respect and I've been awaiting the evolution of the series away from its handheld-only roots. I like it and it's totally fine as is, but I'll be prepared to give it more of a go this year, especially once the DLC is available.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Okay, I lied before. This one REALLY hurts.
There might be way too many Fire Emblem characters in Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate right now, but there weren't enough Fire Emblem: Three Houses characters in my heart. I committed to #TeamBlackEagles, t-shirt and everything, then I dropped out of class and didn't return until January. I'm ready to give it the attention it deserves now that the Grimmys are over!
The Outer Worlds
If you're expecting me to say I lied once more about the hurting, I refuse to do it!
I'll admit that I didn't play as much of The Outer Worlds as I thought I would when it released. Obsidian put out my favorite Fallout with New Vegas and I was ready for them to show me that same energy here and, for the most part, they did! I simply felt I had bigger fish to fry when it came to award season and put my game on ice.
Now that I'm back in that space frontier looting and cracking wise, I can see myself being more INTO these outer worlds.
MY TOP 15 GAMES OF 2019
15. Resident Evil 2
Mr. X gonna give it to ya! I never played the original Resident Evil 2, so it's nice that 2019 helped to right some wrongs.
14. Luigi's Mansion 3
Wowee-zowee! This is the Luigi that we needed and deserved. Slamming ghosts in Luigi's Mansion 3 makes me feel good.
13. A Short Hike
The hike is indeed short in A Short Hike, but the feels will stay with me forever. Plus my daughter called the main bird character a penguin and damn if I really didn't want to dispute that fact. Video games penguins fly now!
12. Tom Clancy's The Division 2
Old Thomas Clance keeps em coming and I can't resist the loots with my shoots. The Division 2 feels like an improvement on the first game in almost every way, even if I committed to a different platform than the rest of the crew. Now that's true division!
11. Death Stranding
Kojima's latest envelope of weirdness is actually something that I'm enjoying! Death Stranding is a piece of work that I both hold in high regard and yet struggle to actually recommend to any particular person.
If routine package delivery and Norman Reedus urinating on Conan O'Brien's doorstep aren't your idea of a Saturday night, then you have my pity.
10. Dragon Quest Builders 2
We said Dragon Quest Builders 2 would be a Game of the Year. Nuff said.
Maybe 2019 was really the year to embrace the weirdness after all. Control got my attention by way of coming from Remedy, Alan Wake's developers, and ended with me uttering a satisfied "WTF was all that?".
8. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
We like Star Wars over here and Jedi: Fallen Order is no different. BD-1 is up there for the best droid boy and I'm glad we finally can feel good about being Jedis in a video game (that's not in virtual reality) again!
7. Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is a rogue-lite with cards. If you know anything about me, then you get why it's on my list.
6. Ai: The Somnium Files
I'm very much into visual novel and adventure games these days. Ai: The Somnium Files is so weird with its sci-fi premise that I practically loved it immediately. While another hard game for me to recommend blindly, it brings me such joy just remembering the experience!
5. Katana Zero
Cool and slick as hell, Katana Zero let me know immediately that this was going to be one of my favorite 2019 games. The soundtrack, the bite-sized story, and, of course, slicing and dicing fools until I got it right.
4. Astral Chain
A game likely created by tossing ideas into a blender, Astral Chain just hit the notes with me. That Platinum action never lets up, while the anime story and visuals glue it all together while running like butter. Hell, you can ride a big dog in this one!
Let me toss some respect at voice actor Greg Chun for both Ai: The Somnium Files and Judgment! I was rooting for his character of Yagami, a disgraced lawyer turned detective, from the start. This Yakuza spin-off nails its world and characters unflinchingly and rides the line of gritty drama alongside heartfelt goofs that I won't soon forget.
2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I love me some hard games and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice satisfies.
The setting pulled me in, sword in hand and ready to strike down all foes in front of me. Again, and again, and again. It's one thing to simply crank up some variables and call it "difficulty," but Sekiro is an action-puzzle game when you get down to it. Mastering your tools and overcoming the bosses is what the Souls games have been training me for this whole time.
1. Disco Elysium
Holy shit, how did I get here? My typical game of the year choices have been so clear-cut with last year's God of War, preceded by Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Uncharted 4, and The Witcher 3. I must have a thing for games filled with hours of action.
Yet here I am with Disco Elysium as my number one. A game that starts slow and strange (weird even) and never lets go of that vision, that intense attitude of inner melancholy about who you actually are or what you're even doing. This isn't a game about riding big dogs, sword chops, or huge explosions. This is about balancing your professional duty with preventing your own looming self-destruction.
I absolutely love this game, I think that's clear. My moments with it are so vastly different than what I usually look for in a game. It helps that I'm down for a lot of reading when connected to a experience like this and the flavor of it all just goes down differently.
So many avenues of what I've done make sense and yet make no sense underneath it all. Why does a character like me know so much about certain subjects and yet can't remember my own damn name? Everything is surreal and yet distinctly tangible like a phantom wearing a trenchcoat with the tags still on. It might be a long time before I experience a game like this again.
I must thank you, 2019. You've been deliciously weird.