Man, 2019 has been a weird one for me. Normally by this point in the year, I have a pretty clear idea of what a top ten games list looks like, but not so much this time around. That isn’t to say it’s been a bad year for video games, in fact, I bet there’s people out there who were spoiled rotten by many of the releases.
The problem wasn’t a lack of quality games coming out, it was just an issue of those games managing to keep me engaged long enough to power through them. So with all of that pretext, here are the top 10 (11) games that I played this year.
HONORABLE MENTION: RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 PC
Before we dive into the list, I gotta pour one out for the PC release of Red Dead Redemption 2. Granted, it was an abysmal launch of a port in an age where PC ports have been pretty good, but returning to the old west that I fell in love with last year has been wonderful. Especially now that it isn’t running like utter garbage.
Technically it came out last year, so I can’t in good conscience put it on the list. Just know that it would probably be top 3 if it was.
10.) LATER ALLIGATOR
Later Alligator wasn’t a long experience, but it was a fun one. The hand animated, point and click adventure game that’s chock full of diverse mini-games really won me over this year. The writing was funny, the story and characters were all charming in their own ways, and the premise itself just oozed with ridiculousness.
9.) STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a tough game to talk about because I feel so conflicted about it. On the one hand, it’s scratching that Star Wars itch so well for me, telling an interesting enough story in a world that I absolutely love. Yet on the other hand, it can kind of be a trial in tedium the further in you get.
That isn’t to say I didn’t have a good time with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, because I really did. It’s just unfortunate that as you progress further into the game, it starts to feel very repetitive and uninspired. It also suffered from a lot of performance issues which consistently made themselves apparent.
But even through all that, I managed to find joy in the world and story that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was doling out. The satisfaction of chaining together all of your force powers and light saber abilities is a delight, and gave me those rare moments of fulfilling a Jedi power fantasy.
8.) RING FIT ADVENTURE
I’ve never played a game that physically hurt me, but Ring Fit Adventure is a game that’s left me sore while rubbing in the fact that I haven’t actually done much. In case you aren’t aware, Ring Fit Adventure is the latest in Nintendo’s attempts to make you healthier. It comes with a Pilates ring that houses one Joy-Con controller, while the other goes on a strap around your thigh. You then do exercises to progress through levels, fight battles, and sweat profusely if you’re like me.
Even if we set aside the exercising aspect of Ring Fit Adventure for a moment, it’s a pretty fully featured game with various modes including a full on story mode, mini-games and custom routines. You also do things like upgrading your gear to make your workout attacks and defenses better, as well as crafting different smoothies which will give you certain buffs in battle.
Oh yeah, also you battle monsters in this pseudo turn based workout fight. Each enemy is color coded to match a type of workout that you can do. For example, a blue monster is weak to leg based workouts, so selecting squats or knee lifts will damage the enemy more.
It is wild that I’m describing the RPG mechanics of a workout game, but it’s actually a lot of fun and really effective at what it does. Ring Fit Adventure has been my go to for working out, not only because I can work up a sweat with it, but because it’s actually fun.
One of the first new games I played this year ended up being one of my favorites. Pikuniku was a delightful little game in which you stumble through a world besieged by an evil corporation that’s trying to take over everything. Through a light mix of puzzle solving and platforming you make your way across the land, solving all the problems you can in service of overthrowing said corporation.
It’s oozing with charm, it’s light and breezy, and it’s weird as hell.
Control is a weird one for me. Early in the game I was completely enthralled, exploring every nook and cranny, reading every note and memo, and watching every video log I came across. Control does world building better than any game I played this year. But as I got further and further into the game, I stopped doing a lot of the side quests and stopped reading every piece of paper that wafted past me. The tension and intrigue that drew me in from the beginning began to feel rote and tiresome, and none of it because of any inadequacies in the story or world.
No, the real issue I had with Control was the combat and how frequently you had to engage with it. Every encounter became a chore that ended with me having to hunt down the one last enemy who got trapped behind a corner, or buried under some rubble. More importantly, the boss battles were the thing that eventually broke my back with Control. The difficulty spikes that usually centered around the bosses eventually made me stop playing the game all together for a while.
Eventually I came back to it and powered through to the end. The story manages to hold up its end of the bargain, but the combat never gets any better, even when you get some of the late game powers. It’s a real shame considering when it came out, I was ready to place it at the top of my list. Still though, Control is a hell of a ride despite its failings.
That being said, there’s a sequence at the end of the game that is absolutely incredible. Look up the “Ashtray Maze” if you’re curious.
5.) MY FRIEND PEDRO
My Friend Pedro is one of the few games I felt compelled to actually review this year, mostly because it’s just so damn cool. In another example of style over substance, My Friend Pedro isn’t the most elegant game to play, but it provides such an awesome power fantasy that I still will occasionally pop into just to get my Matrix fix.
It’s a game that really only has the one, slow motion, bullet-time gimmick, but it does it really, really well. It’s because of how well it does that gimmick, that I find myself coming back to it every once in a while, just to get that action movie feeling again.
The controls can be a little weird and cumbersome at times, but when it clicks, it just looks and feels so good to play.
4.) HEAVE HO
I’m pretty sure I pissed myself once while playing Heave Ho. It’s a game that’s so utterly absurd and preposterous, that you and the people you’re playing with can’t help but crack up.
Heave Ho is a physics based platformer, I guess? You and your buddies are these creatures with a face and two arms, each controlled using the triggers on the controller. You navigate levels using “teamwork” and your incredible climbing skills in an effort for everyone to make it to the goal.
It’s the kind of game that you need to play to really understand it, because describing it doesn’t do it justice. Do yourself a favor, get some friends and a copy of Heave Ho, and you won’t be disappointed.
3.) SUPER MARIO MAKER 2
Super Mario Maker 2 along with its predecessor, managed to tap into this primal horror that lurks inside of me – making people test their might in the crucible of my own design. I normally don’t engage with level creation based games, but with Super Mario Maker 2, I already knew the language of how everything interacts with each other from years of playing Mario games. I know what kind of blocks a shell with break and bounce off of, or what a super mushroom does, or that music blocks are evil. Knowing all of that just makes it so easy for me to dip into the creation suite and have a great time.
On the flip-side, I get to play near infinite amount of new levels, some of which are well designed, whenever I want. While the creation tools aren’t as easy to work with as they were on the Wii U, Super Mario Maker 2 has a permanent place on my Switch.
2.) THE OUTER WORLDS
It’s really odd that I enjoyed The Outer Worlds as much as I did considering my general apathy and dislike of the games it so clearly is building off of. Where The Outer Worlds succeeds as opposed to games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls is in its refinement and focus.
The Outer Worlds isn’t about the scale of the world as much as its about packing it with (mostly) meaningful and interesting things to do and see. From brilliant writing, excellent gameplay, interesting characters and a well thought out and engaging setting, The Outer Worlds is a complete experience that doesn’t waste your time.
I’ve heard some people grouse about how this game is too easy or too streamlined, striping away some of the deeper RPG elements they love, but they can huff my shorts because this is the first time a game in this style has ever won me over.
Honestly I’m shocked that The Outer Worlds is a game I enjoyed, let alone put this high up on my list. I would’ve never believed you if you told me this earlier in the year.
1.) UNTITLED GOOSE GAME
Okay, so hear me out. Untitled Goose Game isn’t the best game I’ve ever played, in fact, it isn’t even that good of a stealth game. But, what it did was bring me a ton of joy and made me laugh.
I’ve had more fond memories playing as a nasty goose than any other game this year. Untitled Goose Game constantly kept me smiling and laughing as I fought against the purposefully cumbersome controls in an effort to throw a rake in a lake.
The truth is that Untitled Goose Game is just pleasant. Even when you’re traumatizing a kid who clearly is terrified of geese, or stealing a mans crops, or getting a guy to break his neighbor’s vase, the game still manages to just be fun without being overly complicated.
I genuinely enjoyed my time being a nasty goose and come back to it pretty regularly to try and sweep up the additional challenges that unlock when you beat it. It may not be what you’d imagine a traditionally good game looks like, but this game made me happier than any other game I played this year.
It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s my game of the year for 2019.
So that’s it everyone, Game of the Year 2019 is in the books. I hope you enjoyed the articles that went up this week, because they were a lot of fun to write. This is the last post going up in 2019, so I just wanted to thank you for sticking with me throughout the year. You have no idea how much your support and readership has meant to me.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year everyone. See you in 2020.