2019 is almost at its end, and what a year it was. The year saw a plethora of amazing games released from the indie scene to the big Triple A developers. 2019 will also be remembered as the year that so many highly anticipated games, that fans have been waiting years for, finally released including: Kingdom Hearts III, Shenmue 3, Death Stranding, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and more. To celebrate such a great year, we here at mxdwn Games presents our Top 10 games of 2019:
10. Death Stranding
Hideo Kojima’s first game since his infamous split from Konami back in 2015 was one of the year’s most anticipated titles, and Death Stranding doesn’t disappoint. The game may seem like it’s all about making deliveries, but there’s so much more to it. The game has one of the most intriguing narratives full of Kojima’s brand of mystery and weirdness that sucks you in as you progress through the game. The star studded cast hold no punches with their performances with Mads Mikkelsen and Troy Baker bringing life to some of the best characters of the year.
You aren’t just traversing the world in solitude either as the world populates with other players’ items as you connect new areas of the map that are meant to help you along your journey, and it really makes it feel like you aren’t alone and helping each other in your quest to reunite America. Death Stranding being something completely different and engrossing compared to the usual action packed affair makes it a perfect opener for our Top 10.
Remedy returned this year with another fantastic game in the form of Control. Following protagonist Jesse Faden becoming the new Director of the Department of Control, the game tells a riveting story as players explore deeper and deeper into the “Oldest House,” one of the best yet strangest settings in a game this year, and uncover the truth about the department itself. The game itself entices you to explore every inch of the “Oldest House” for that sweet otherworldly lore, and the gunplay feels great especially when you start mixing in Jesse’s ever growing arsenal of psychic abilities.
The employees of the Department of Control are just as zany as you’d expect from people working with supernatural things on a daily basis, and the performances really shine through. The game continues to draw the player in as they progress and meet the awesome cast of characters. The ever growing strangeness, combat, and engrossing sci-fi narrative of Control is sure to leave a lasting impression on those that play it, and makes it one of the most memorable games of 2019.
8. Pokémon Sword and Shield
Pokémon Sword and Shield, the newest generation of Pokémon, made a huge impact upon their release last month. The first mainline games to come to the Nintendo Switch didn’t disappoint fans even with all the pre-launch hullabaloo. The games improved on almost every aspect in the long running series. Battles are fluid, the new Pokémon all feel different than what came before (with great designs too), and Galar actually feels like a connected and beautiful region.
The story feels completely different than past games as you are drawn into the professional sport aspects of the Gym Challenge compared to a lone child just gathering badges and catching Pokémon. The Wild Area, the biggest addition to the series, showed tons of promise giving the game a more open world feel when explored, and gives a hint as to how the series will continue to evolve. Pokémon Sword and Shield really stand out among a 20+ year old franchise, and one of the best (set of) games of the year.
7. Borderlands 3
Borderlands 3 was a major game this year, and something fans have been waiting years for. It broke several records for 2K Games, including being the fastest-selling game in the history of the company, after selling 50% more units than Borderlands 2 during its first five days. Borderlands 3 continues the same style of play from previous Borderlands installments—embarking on missions in which you defeat bad guys to earn experience and find loot. The game ended up being exactly what fans had been waiting nearly seven years for, and showed that the looter-shooter genre is still one of the strongest genres in gaming today. Since the game’s release, Gearbox plans to keep the game fresh by incorporating new in-game events in the future, as well as releasing updates to continue improving the game, which will likely keep players coming back.
6. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order takes Star Wars games out of the multiplayer field and revitalizes the Jedi Academy gameplay formula. Set only five years after the Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith, players take control of padawan in hiding Cal Kestis. Players follow Cal has he travels the galaxy in search of a Holocron. During Cal’s journey, we watch him redevelop his former skills and force powers to better counter the Empire and various environments.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order‘s combat is slowly paced and is a mix between Jedi Academy and Sekiro. Stormtroopers and most creatures are capable of being defeated with one well-timed strike, though some troopers are capable of blocking, and Cal will need to break their guard first. The main challenge of Fallen Order‘s combat comes from the mixture of enemies that players will need to cover come as they compliment each other well and can be overwhelming at some points.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order shines in its storytelling and the development of Cal. The story is intermixed with heavy cinematics focusing on Cal’s struggle to reconnect with The Force and adopt his role as a Jedi. We also get to play through many flashbacks, but they show the final days of the Clone Wars and we learn about how Order 66 affected Cal which leads directly to the introduction of Fallen Order. The story of Cal’s development into Padawan and eventually into a Jedi Knight takes the front seat and does an excellent job at keeping players attention, and marks Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as one of the best games of 2019.
5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Koji Igarashi’s spiritual successor to one of gaming’s most iconic titles in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, was one of 2019’s most anticipated titles. After years of build up, and a prelude game released last year, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night nails the classic Metroidvania style of gameplay. The game is pure fun and will bring a smile to the face of any classic Castlevania fan. From the insane amount of weapons and abilities that Miriam can use to the ability to even customize Miriam’s appearance, the game provides an ample amount of ways for players to experience the game in their own unique way.
Beating each enemy can provide players with new abilities to use. Thus, making you want to take care of as many of them as possible to get as many new abilities as you can. Boss battles are each unique and tough as nails, and the rewards, which allow you to progress further, give a great sense of accomplishment when you finally take them down. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an ode to a classic, and deservingly lands at number 5 on our list.
4. Code Vein
Bandai Namco revealed the power of blood in Code Vein. The spinoff from the God Eater Universe held its own with its compelling story, amazing combat mechanics, and its flexible class system. The combat mechanics were reminiscent of Dark Souls with players able to wander through this open-world RPG dispersing the lost with various weapons as well and numerous spells.
The Blood Code feature allows players to change up their strategy as they traverse the ruined world within the Goal Of The Mists. The weapon choices in the game also allow players to change their fighting style mid-battle going from close-combat to long-range combat. It is very clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into the development of this game and it shows why Code Vein is one of the year’s top games.
3. Resident Evil 2
Remaking something that’s extremely beloved is always a risky venture. Not being a 1-to-1 remake is even riskier but, Capcom was up to the task when they decided to remake the 1998 classic Resident Evil 2. They did not disappoint either with Resident Evil 2 being one of, if not the, best video game remake of all time. The game stays faithful to the 1998 classic, but the change to third person over-the-shoulder gameplay refreshes the game entirely in the best way possible.
Exploring the Raccoon City Police Department feels tense yet cozy as you unlock new areas, and grows more terrifying as the building fills with more and more zombies. The scares are still ever present, and getting caught unaware by a zombie taking a bite of Leon or Claire is sure to give any player a fright. Speaking of scary moments, Mr. X is one of the most terrifying enemies in video games. His relentless pursuit of the player makes exploring the police station go from tense and cozy to absolutely terrifying and dreadful as you hear his footsteps getting closer and closer until he sees you and you run away from that unstoppable force. Resident Evil 2 is what video games remakes should strive for, faithful yet new, and is absolutely one of 2019’s best games.
2. The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds doesn’t change the game when it comes to RPGs. There isn’t a crazy, new mechanic that every game moving forward needs to implement or a vast, open-world like Fallout, Skyrim, or The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Just because it doesn’t do anything new doesn’t make it great. The Outer Worlds is one of our top games of 2019 for a variety of reasons. For one, it was the game that Fallout fans were looking for. Everyone in the gaming community wasn’t sure of what to think when Fallout 76 was revealed. And, while that game has come a long way since its release, it still has a long way to go. The Outer Worlds is a game that knows exactly what is and what it wants to do. This is because of the people who were behind it. The game was lead by Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain, two game developers who helped create the original Fallout. One of the things that the early Fallout games are known for is its leaning into Dark Comedy. The Outer Worlds has that in spades.
Another thing that The Outer Worlds has in spades is sharp writing. Every character, description, and dialogue is unique and brimming with personality. While it isn’t a vast open-world, the places you travel to in the game are all beautiful and unique and ooze the same esthetic style that the Fallout games do in a different way. The lack of an open world like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt or Red Dead Redemption II is made up for in other ways. The thing that makes The Outer Worlds its own and makes it a very good RPG is that it provides a lot of options. From creating your character to creating a specific build, to choosing to what to say or not say, to how to complete a quest, every part of The Outer Worlds provides players the opportunities to create the character the way they want, and play the way they want in a way that makes a playthrough unique and personal to every player. The Outer Worlds is one of our top games of 2019 because it does what every good RPG does, allows the player to inhabit a world and get lost in it.
Game of the Year: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
A new game from FromSoftware, the developers of Bloodborne and the infamous Dark Souls trilogy, is a relatively rare experience. Like the games before, this one is meant to be savored. While still true to the precise, tactical, and sometimes punishing style of combat the previous games do so well, the fresh take on both world-building and fast, fluid combat makes Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice the best game of 2019 and well worth waiting for.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice differs from Dark Souls and Bloodborne in many ways, and this time around the game is a completely single-player experience. Yes, that means when it’s time to square up with bosses you are entirely on your own. It also means that Sekiro (also called Wolf), the game’s protagonist, is balanced to handle every situation and has to depend on the power of his blade, his ability to parry, dodge, and counter enemies, and his judgment in using a variety of ninja prosthetics to weigh the scales of war in his favor. Sekiro also has to depend on you, the player—while the game’s difficulty is higher than many other major titles and cannot be changed (well, you can ring a semi-secret bell to make the game even harder) the reward is so much sweeter when you conquer your foes. Every victory feels earned and satisfying, and you get a sense of pride in beating bosses that few current games deliver.
Alongside the new, rapid-fire combat are the beautiful environments, all packed with color and life that is uncommon in SoulsBorne games. The Senpou Temple is a real standout, showcasing vivid autumnal leaves and Buddhist-inspired structures. Of course, it’s by FromSoft and there’s some pretty disturbing stuff under the surface, but it is a finely executed change of pace from the dark, swampy, and decaying environments in Dark Souls.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a truly beautiful game with a direct but impressionistic narrative about duty and mortality with an excellent, challenging, and most importantly fun approach to combat. The narrative experience and the experience of the gameplay itself feel like they fit together, which is something that narrative-heavy or gameplay-heavy titles often struggle to balance. Where another game will give you a cutscene, Sekiro gives you a unique boss fight (no spoilers) that puts the control in the player’s hands, and you can’t beat that for immersion.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is beautiful, scary, sad, unique, and trying, but the rewards for trying are overwhelmingly worth it. Among fierce competition from major titles in 2019, Sekiro is unforgettable and will surely leave it mark on action games going forward.
2019 marks the last full year of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One generation before the next generation hits next holiday season. Looking forward to 2020, next year is jam packed with a plethora of what are sure to be amazing swan song titles for the consoles. One thing’s for sure, gamers have a ton to look forward to going into the next decade, and we here at mxdwn Games are just as excited!