It’s all fun and games until you have to pick the Game of the Year.
Looking back, this year certainly had its share of contenders for the top spot in our annual video game list. From new gaming IPs such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice to older stalwarts making a return to form like Resident Evil 2, there was no shortage of games worthy of the crown.
Like every year, however, we have to pick one title as the best of the best. Then again, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t recognize all of the other great games that came out, either.
Here are our picks for the top 15 games that we played in 2019.
It’s baaaaack. And by that we mean a campaign mode, which makes its return in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare after being conspicuously absent in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The story mode features all the political intrigue that comes with today’s, well, modern warfare, including the conflict between various international forces and terrorist groups. Naturally, you get several multiplayer modes as well for folks who want to take their fight online.
14. Atelier Ryza
If you’re looking for a charming role-playing game that’s different from most JRPGs, then Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is certainly worth a look. The long running alchemy-based series still lets you craft and create new items using stuff you gather from the field. But it also adds some new twists, including a real-time battle system that lets you do tag-team attacks with your allies. The game also features glorious visuals and colorful character designs that give off an anime-style fantasy vibe. It’s a bit of a sleeper but if you’re looking for a JRPG that’s unique, this one just might fit the bill.
By Jove, they actually finished it. Thirteen years after Kingdom Hearts II released, the long-awaited third saga of the Square Enix-Disney crossover is finally here. To make up for the long gap, Kingdom Hearts III is packed to the gills with content as well as characters from newer Disney IP such as Frozen. For fans who have played the series since the beginning, it also sports classic members such as the protagonist Sora and his pals Donald Duck and Goofy. This action RPG wraps up the story of Kingdom Hearts’ dark Seeker saga, providing some closure for longtime fans.
12. Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi time! Mario’s little brother gets his chance to shine in the spotlight — or is it flashlight? — for a third time by taking on dastardly ghosts inside a spooky mansion for a third time. Once again, Mario gets kidnapped and it’s up to the scaredy-cat Luigi to find his older bro. Along the way, he’ll do some exploring, puzzle solving and ghost busting in order to save the day. Lots of whimsical charm combined with excellent mechanics and creatively designed bosses make this game a scary-good time.
11. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Hey look, a Star Wars game that’s single-player, is not part of the whole games-as-a-service push, and is actually quite good! Following the debacle of Star Wars Battlefront 2 and cancellation of Visceral Games’ story-driven Star Wars game, the success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen order brings balance back to the Force by showing that you can still have a successful single-player Star Wars game. Think of it as a Star Wars action game with a sprinkling of Dark Souls, Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed.
Like a storybook come to life, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince features a touching story between a kind-hearted monster and a curious prince who end up taking a life-changing journey together. It features simple platforming action and some puzzle solving but the storytelling is what makes this game extra special. If you have a heart, this game will tug at it like kittens in a basket.
Hey, it’s-a Mario … Maker! This Mario game level creator improves on the original game and takes it to the next level — pun so totally intended. In addition to allowing you to create levels that emulate older games such as Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, Super Mario World on the SNES and the newer New Super Mario Bros. games, it also gives you the option to create stages based Super Mario 3D World. It even throws in a campaign mode to flesh out your Mario-making experience.
The old-school weapon fighter gets a reboot and boy is it a bloody brilliant one — literally. Samurai Shodown recreates the deadly, HP bar-sapping shenanigans of the classic SamSho games with beautiful visuals for a new generation. The purposeful combat isn’t quite as combo-happy as some of the more popular fighting games out there and demands more patience, self control and an affinity for high-risk, high-reward mechanics. Once everything clicks, however, you will be rewarded with the satisfaction of inflicting massive, giant enemy crab damage after baiting and countering your opponent. Some might even say that’s kind of historically accurate.
When studio Platinum is on its game, you better buckle those seatbelts for a wild ride, which is exactly what you get with Astral Chain. Part Persona, Patlabor, Bayonetta, Evangelion and Japanese “sentai” all rolled into one package, Astral Chain is the kind of kooky and unique game that could only come from a Japanese studio. All those moving parts work really well, too, resulting in a pulse-pounding action game that’s a breath of fresh air from the safer, cookie cutter games out there.
The devil you know is back and more stylish than ever as Devil May Cry 5 resurrects Capcom’s once seemingly dead franchise. This action game marks the return of devil hunters Dante and Nero, who are now accompanied by mysterious new character V. The game features the latest iteration of the game’s combo-happy mechanics, an awesome soundtrack, and the best visuals to grace a Devil May Cry game ever. Add the schoolboy banter between its cast and you’ve got a much welcome return to form for Sparda’s bloodline.
Move over Minecraft. Dragon Quest Builders 2 builds on its predecessor’s solid formula and takes it to new heights by giving players even more stuff to do. That includes new building materials and even some neat DLC for folks who want even more building shenanigans. DQB2 also comes with an excellent story that serves as a sequel of sorts to the original Dragon Quest 2 game from 1987. Add some nifty combat alongside its likeable characters and you’ve got an excellent building game for the young and young at heart. Your imagination is pretty much the limit.
What’s better than two houses? That would be three houses, that’s what. Following the dual-family narrative of its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Three Houses doubles down — well, triples down — on Fates’ multifaceted approach by giving you three factions to choose from (plus an additional hidden one). The first FE game on the Switch also adds improved visuals to its tactical role-playing game chops for an even more fleshed-out experience. Check it out if you like old-school RPG strategery.
Capcom’s thriller of a series hits a twofer with yet another stellar outing. Following the excellent Resident Evil 7, the survival-horror franchise’s resurrection continues with a stellar remake of Resident Evil 2, complete with all-new modern graphics and an even more polished version of the series’ traditional third-person gameplay. Series vets will appreciate this re-imagined retelling of the classic game while newcomers will enjoy Leon’s and Claire’s first introduction to Umbrella. Fans of Dolph Lundgren also get an added treat. In a trench coat. With a fedora. Seriously.
Sekiro is like the video game version of that Misfits song “Die Die My Darling.” Because you’re gonna be dying a lot in this game. And don’t let its name fool you, either, as you’ll definitely be dying more than twice. Like a samurai version of Dark Souls, this action game boasts punishing difficulty that requires you to master technical feats such as parrying as well as memorizing enemy patterns in order to survive. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart but rewards you with an increased sense of satisfaction every time you manage to take down a tough opponent. Or two. Or three. Or, well, you get the message.
Game of the Year
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
It’s deja vu all over again as Monster Hunter gets our game of the year pick for two years running. It really shouldn’t be a surprise. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne truly represents everything that’s right about gaming. This means no loot boxes, no predatory microtransactions plus continued free support with tons of new content months after release (Resident Evil tofu attachment for your weapon, anyone?). Don’t think of this as a mere expansion, either. The followup up to Monster Hunter World features enough new stuff for it to be a whole new game. We’re talking an assortment of new monsters, armor and an endgame area for nabbing new items and materials. Iceborne also adds some cool, new mechanics such as the clutch claw, which totally changes the game. The recently added Safi’jiiva siege even improves on the Kulve Taroth quest with a new living weapon mechanic that allows for excellent weapon customization. The combat, meanwhile, continues to be on point, with just the right balance between challenge and fun. All in all, Iceborne is a much welcome approach to responsible and enjoyable game design in a post-loot box world.
5 games we didn’t get to play but wish we did
We can’t play ‘em all. But here are some games we wish we had a chance to play this year given the positive vibes they’ve generated. Make sure to check these out if you have a chance as well.