There was definitely a shift in priorities this year. Games just didn't have a leash with me, but the ones that stuck really meant something. There are so many games. You don't have to settle for mediocre, or settle for something that doesn't fit you. That game is out there. It's why I found myself wandering back to close friends in between new releases that I kept bouncing off of. It's not that 2019 was a bad year, it's that video games have been so good and I haven't had my fill. 2019 kept everything rolling; it had a lot of great ideas surrounded by flawed experiments. We're gonna' look back on that greatness and see where it started when the next generation comes to town.
JDevL’s Top 10 Games of the Year 2019
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- Dragon Quest Builders 2
- Luigi's Mansion 3
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Resident Evil 2
- Apex Legends
- Remnant: From the Ashes
- Disco Elysium
- Void Bastards
You and me
This was my second life with Dauntless. I really enjoyed its Early Access run, but I was thrilled for the team when it launched (twice) in 2019. Once for cross-platform access and finally for 1.0. It got even better when we had a small crew running around killing behemoths for a while, too. I like nothing better than introducing a game I’m excited about to friends.
Eventually, that launch excitement wore off and I was left to Dauntless solo sessions. The game had come so far over the past 18 months, and everything felt new. I got into the gameplay loop without issue, and was soon picking and choosing hunts to level up my favorite gear.
At first, I just enjoyed the 1 on 1 nature of hunting these behemoths and getting to know their tricks. Beating a new behemoth for the first time never got old. Of course, that just meant I was getting better at the game and I started to embrace another side of the grind - speed. It was no longer enough to just survive or defeat these beasts, I started getting competitive with myself in trying to beat them as fast as possible. It was so easy to jump in and out of hunts that I found myself playing the game for short bursts in between other games. I never thought a hunt game would fit into my schedule like that, but Dauntless continues to be a pleasant surprise.
9. Void Bastards
Roguelikes are a bit divisive, but it’s a really fun genre to watch evolve. Different games stick for different reasons, and I just couldn’t shake Void Bastards. The comic book presentation pulled me in to start, because I’ve never seen it done this well. It sets up the story, the user interface, and is smoothly implemented in the gameplay. Then, I let my ears pay attention. Suddenly, I’m simultaneously laughing at all of the voice work while being creeped out by the derelict spaceship atmosphere and fantastic soundtrack.
The roguelike runs complement the combat system so that you’ll have to play slightly different on each run. Your character’s quirks don’t always match up with your arsenal, so you have to get creative. Sometimes you can go in guns blazing, but other times you are forced to rely on stealth. It led to a fun combination of problem solving on the fly depending on what my objective was for each stage/ship. Void Bastards never gets old for me, and I’m always up for another run.
Memorable Gaming Moments in 2019
- Snake guns and all the fire
- Baba is what?
- Exercise hurts
- Man bat owns me
- Good one, Barbara
- Was that in your game?
- There's a dragon in this game?!
- X gon give it to ya
- Lappy has an admirer
- And now I'm floating in space
- The barber isn't trying to kill you
- Hey bro! Awww, dog-gie
- Nah, I just shot him instead
- The commercial spoiled the game
The game is in here
8. Disco Elysium
I’ve really expanded my appreciation for RPGs the last couple of years. I like playing solo as well as balancing the dynamics that come with a good party adventure. I just never thought I could have both.
Disco Elysium’s party system exists completely inside of the head of your character. It’s mind boggling. I couldn’t get over it. I just wanted to play with the systems and leave the game for later. It was actually freeing, because in most decision-based games I get analysis-paralysis and never know what answer to choose. In Disco, I didn’t care about my fate, I just wanted to see what happened when I chose the answer I was most excited about...even if that answer was completely counterintuitive to the investigation at hand.
Personal distractions aside, Disco centers around a fascinating world and murder investigation. I’m not sure I ever liked my character, but I liked parts of his mind. You know, you’re never going to like your entire party, just a few pieces of it. Kind of like your relationship with yourself. Whoa.
What was that?
7. Remnant: From the Ashes
The only thing holding me back from more Remnant is what makes it so damn good. I only want to play Remnant with friends. At the same time, I want to finish the game multiple times because everyone’s game is so subtly different.
Remnant changed my expectations around procedurally generated worlds. They usually come with a lot of chaos to hide the seams of how the world is put together, but the seams weren't as prominent in this game. Remnant locks each world to its host which lets each world have a bit of unique substance to it.
On top of the amazing technical design, Remnant nails its third person shooting. I love the weight of the characters and the punch of the weapons. The character classes are a nice touch and really intuitive for working out co-op strategies on the fly. The enemies are odd and memorable in the best ways, and the story is just as wonderfully weird. Remnant would have been easy to miss, but it's nice to know that great game design will still rise up.
Most Honorable of Mentions (in no particular order)
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- The Outer Worlds
- Metro Exodus
- Slay the Spire
- Children of Morta
- Ring Fit Adventure
- Far Cry: New Dawn
- Kind Words
- Magic the Gathering: Arena
- Cadence of Hyrule
6. Apex Legends
My adoration for Apex Legends exists on two levels. The game itself is an absolute blast. It’s one of those competitive shooters that I wish I had during my prime gaming days. It is the closest thing I’ve had to scratching the nostalgic itch left by Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. The heroes/Legends are diverse and interesting characters. It’s fun to play with friends. It has the right balance of frenetic action and tactics that require communication with your team. If I had time to get good at anything, I’d stick with Apex Legends.
On the other side, the launch of this game was absolutely brilliant. It came out of nowhere because it had to. It was the only way it would succeed, and it blew up! Respawn wrote a new playbook for EA and probably salvaged a lot of their year. The genre updates were so good that they were immediately copied by the other genre competitors. Battle royales are so trendy and change so quickly that it may never get the credit it deserves. I hope Apex Legends has a few more tricks up its sleeve to pull me back in in 2020.
My kinda zombies
5. Resident Evil 2
It only took me 20 years to give the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time a fair chance. Every time I played Resident Evil 2 back in the day, I just wanted to play more Resident Evil 1. There’s a new king in town though.
Resident Evil 2 (2019) is the perfect Resident Evil. The franchise has become a lot of different things. This one captures the essence of what the franchise was and combines it with some much needed modern updates. I didn’t think Mr. X could become a celebrity again, but here we are. Resident Evil is more fun, more accessible, and scarier than it has ever been.
I Wish We Could Have Spent (More) Time Together
- Ai: The Somnium Files
- They Are Billions
- Creature in the Well
- MO: Astray
- The Outer Wilds
- Devil May Cry 5
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Steamworld Quest
- Vader Immortal
- Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
I have something for you
4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
What a relief. I really want the champions of my favorite retro franchises to do well, but it’s hard not to be nervous when they break out on their own. The biggest regret about Bloodstained for me was that I didn’t back the project because I had been burned by a similar one. I should have had more faith that Iga knew how to get a spiritual successor to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night done. And then some.
Bloodstained climbs my charts on its pedigree alone (I mean,HorribleNight.com, hello), but after all of these years, I was happy to find it added some subtle improvements to the genre it helped create.
There has always been a lot to do in these castles, but Bloodstained finally gives purpose to a lot of the smaller/repetitive tasks that fill your time between bosses. The food deliveries and bounty lists gave me more of a reason to get to know the nooks and crannies of the castle, while removing/disguising the idle grind of leveling up from previous Iga Castlevania games. I’ve always loved trying to 100% the map in metroidvania games, and these updates made it just a bit more fun to do so.
The characters, character customization, weapons, and demon shards felt fresh. I particularly enjoyed the weapon system and the way you discover special attacks by reading books scattered throughout the castle. It’s just one of those callbacks to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that are brilliant. Some are subtle, some are very in your face, but I like being in on the references so it all feels like a love letter to fans. I couldn’t ask for anything more, except...more, please.
Suck it up
3. Luigi's Mansion 3
The Mario Brothers universe doesn’t have many rules. It’s so safe and quirky that it’s hard to get too invested beyond the surface level. Luigi has always threatened to pull me in though. There’s a loneliness to him that makes his heroic acts stand out where Mario’s can feel pedestrian. Luigi would never choose to have a third haunted adventure, but he will do anything to save his friends and family. The intro endeared me to these characters all over again, and from the first trembling call out to Mario I was in. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the most fun I’ve had in this universe in over a decade.
I need some silly every once a while, and this gave me so many daily doses. After replaying the intro multiple times just to witness everything again, I was able to play the game in short sessions whenever I needed it. There was never any pressure to continue. I just got in, knocked out a floor and got out. Each floor has its own identity and every so slightly mixed up the puzzle solving to maintain my interest. Each new goofy ghost boss either entertained or annoyed me to the point that I couldn’t wait to get through its fight.
All the while, I’m getting to hang out with my boy and his ghost dog while we clumsily wreck an entire hotel. You can’t forget the core of this game is just an enjoyable vacuum cleaner physics sandbox, so you can make your own fun while getting around from puzzle to puzzle. It’s just video game joy the entire time.
Old Game Sidebar
While Rocket League was indeed the run away hit for me again (thanks, Kenny Loggins), I have to give a shout-out to the return of another old friend, World of Warcraft. My girlfriend and I got her into the game for the first time, and we leveled up characters all the way to 70. I got a heavy dose of World of Warcraft Classic but realized I could never keep a consistent schedule for any sort of group play. That all led me back to Battle for Azeroth and playing a max level character for the first time in years. All three WoW experiences mean different things to me, but I constantly want to go back to all of them.
And a little help from my friends
2. Dragon Quest Builders 2
I adore Dragon Quest Builders. It was just short of greatness. A quirky game caught in between genres that I assumed would never catch on enough to spawn a sequel with a chance to reach that greatness. I love being wrong.
The updates made to the sequel may as well have come right off of my wishlist. Picking at its flaws just feels greedy at this point since the game is just video game happiness. This time around, I felt completely in control of my own momentum through the story and quests/projects. Managing a handful of building projects at once meant I could bounce back and forth between them all at my leisure. Just when the tasks started to get repetitive or the project was looking too huge, my in-game friends jumped in to help out. Whether I liked them as individuals, it made me care about the community as a whole and made me want to finish projects to make everyone’s lives better/easier.
Away from camp, exploring and combat have a nostalgic hit that is the perfect break from construction activities. The hang glider made getting around much faster, and also allowed the map to spread out in some interesting ways. Having a conflicted combat buddy removed much of the stress from the battles of the original. Add in a bit of online co-op for helping each other with projects and it adds up to every game session feeling like I accomplished something. I walked away fulfilled every single time.
Fly together forever
1. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
I never wanted to stop playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and I can’t say that about more than a handful of games over the last few years. Every time a wart showed its ugly face, another portion of the game dragged me further in. No single feature was perfect, but they all coalesced into the best complete gaming experience of the year.
This Star Wars experience was entirely about the journey. After a brilliant start that pulled me into the universe, the game meets you with a bit of a rocky climb. I didn’t feel powerful. I didn’t like my crew. I wasn’t even sure if I liked the main character, Cal. Then there's BD-1. From the second he shows up, he gives you a reason to press on. Right around the corner, the combat becomes engrossing, your crew starts to show their layers, and the villain becomes worth tracking down while you try to decide if you want to try to save her before trying to fight her. All the while, BD-1 is cheering you on and becoming your best friend.
Fallen Order transitions smoothly between engaging exploration of Jedi/Sith history to weighty lightsaber battles sprinkled among force-filled combat playgrounds. Helping Cal realize his full Jedi potential results in the realization that you may be able to take on the strongest force users in the universe. Even when the challenge spikes and the failures start adding up in the double digits, victory never seemed far off. Every time the major battles almost broke me, my come down was greeted by an unexpectedly thoughtful character or story moment. It finishes in a satisfying flourish that so few games do. I’m not frustrated by wanting more Star Wars from Respawn, I’m thankful.