Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Game of the Year 2019

Serving as my third year as a gaming blogger and second year as a Twitch streamer, 2019 presented the opportunity to play a wide variety of excellent video games. Having finished at least 32 games in 2019 with release dates ranging from 1990 to present, narrowing down my Top 10 has proved to be a difficult task. However, part of the fun of compiling these lists is making difficult decisions and absurd apples-to-oranges comparisons. With that said, I present my ten favorite games that I beat in 2019:

#10: Bomb Chicken
Anybody that's been following me for a long time could probably guess that the odd combination of Bomberman-esque mechanics and themes of animal liberation, makes Bomb Chicken a game that is uniquely qualified to appeal to my particular sensibilities. I had a blast (pun very much intended) with this cute and challenging puzzle platformer. (review)

#9: Devil May Cry 5
I was a little unsure about taking my first step into character action games by jumping right into the fifth entry in the genre's most iconic series. Much to my surprise, I fell into the gameplay fairly naturally and after watching a few YouTube videos about DMC lore, I was able to enjoy the story and characters of Devil May Cry 5 quite a bit. My experience with this game has me keeping an eye out for other character action games I might enjoy and also has me rooting for Dante to be included in Super Smash Bros. (review)

#8: Gris
This artsy puzzle platformer delivered powerful emotional themes coupled with solid gameplay and gorgeous graphics. It's no surprise that this game won the Games for Impact category at The Game Awards. Experiencing this game live on Twitch with my audience was one of my highlights of the year as a streamer. (review)

#7: The Gardens Between
The Gardens Between really impressed me with its clever time-bending puzzle mechanics and creative level designs. When people ask me to recommend a recent puzzle game, this is my go-to pick. (review)

#6: Gears 5
Except for a few drunken multiplayer sessions of the original game when I was in college, I came to Gears 5 with nearly zero experience with Microsoft's long-running shooter series. What I was expecting from this game was Michael Bay-like action, buff people with guns blowing stuff up real good, and I certainly got plenty of that (which is a good thing in a video game). On top of that, there was a surprisingly compelling drama unfolding involving the aforementioned buff individuals! I may have come to the series blind but after playing this game, I consider myself a Gears fan now! (review)

#5: The Messenger
Indie retro-inspired 2D platformers may be a dime a dozen nowadays, but The Messenger stood out with especially tight action and some of the most humorous writing I've seen in a game in quite some time. This game also sported some excellent chiptunes, in fact, I found myself humming The Messenger's item shop theme as I was typing this. (review)

#4: Prey
Featuring the intricate level design of Dishonored and the haunting atmosphere of Half-Life, Prey got its hooks into me deep. I lost a lot of sleep while I was playing Prey, not only from late-night game sessions but also just from thinking about the game's themes and the choices they present. It's a real shame this game got overlooked by so many when it was initially released. (review)

#3: Forza Horizon 4
As a guy who's about as far away from being a gearhead as one could get, I never would have guessed that a realistic-looking racing game like Forza Horizon 4 would ever sit so high in one of my game of the year posts. This game's combination of fantastic graphics, varied race types, open-world exploration, and a plethora of difficulty adjustment options made this an exhilarating and accessible auto racing experience, even for a lousy driver like me. If you have Xbox Game Pass, take a quick break from reading this post to go queue up the download for this game now! (review)

#2: Monster Boy
If it wasn't already apparent from the rest of this post or the mini-review roundup I recently released, I have played a lot of 2D platformers this year. Monster Boy stands head and shoulders over the rest with its delightful character animations, clever character transformation mechanic, top-notch map, and wonderful music. (review)

#1: Fire Emblem Three Houses
While I could describe many of the games on this list as "engrossing", none of the others consumed me to a level quite like Fire Emblem Three Houses. It's tactical gameplay, a memorable and engaging cast of characters, and intriguing branching story make Three Houses not only a standout game in the 2019 release calendar but in the Nintendo Switch lineup overall; what Breath of the Wild was for Zelda and Odyssey was to Mario, Three Houses is to Fire Emblem. (review)

Honorable Mentions:
This year's list was so contentious that I wrote several drafts of this post with the top few slots in entirely different, but still completely justifiable, orders. With a lineup this strong, it was only natural that many great games that I played this year just barely missed the cut. Here's a sampling of the best of the rest:
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider - The past few entries in this series easily took numbered spots in prior years, and in a less packed year, this one would have landed a spot as well. Square Enix's reboot trilogy of Lara Croft's tale is still a gold standard for action-adventure games. (review)
  • Tales of Symphonia - Streaming this bizarre and very length Gamecube-era JRPG was a wild experience. I'm very grateful to my Twitch audience for joining me on the twists and turns of Lloyd and Collette's quest! (review)
  • Ys Memories of Celceta - The Ys series continues to be a source of fun action RPGs with great music, and this entry was no exception. I'm looking forward to exploring more of this series in 2020. (review)
  • Resident Evil 2 Remake - I've never been a fan of Resident Evil or zombie horror, but this remake of the Playstation classic managed to finally win me over. Playing through this game with my wife was a real thrill! (review)
  • Cadence of Hyrule - Cadence's fusion of Zelda and Crypt of the Necrodancer gameplay was the crossover I had no idea I needed. It also blessed us with awesome arrangements of iconic Zelda tunes. This game makes me excited to think about what other Nintendo/indie collaborations we could see in the future. (review)
  • Astral Chain - While not quite as polished as DMC5, Astral Chain delivered an exciting and stylish anime-inspired character action experience that showcased the versatility of the genre. (review)
  • Bloodstained Ritual of the Night - In the crowded field of Metroidvania games, this one from veteran director Koji Igarashi, stood out from the rest with refined gameplay and a unique sense of style and humor. (review)
It's been yet another fantastic year of games and I'm really glad to have been able to share it with all the great gaming folks I've had the pleasure of getting to know via this blog, Twitch, and social media! Here's to a happy, healthy, and productive 2020!

Happy New Year!

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