2019 Community Game of the Year

Eleima wrote:

Be advised / full disclaimer, MEATER, Hakuoki is full on visual novel otome goodness. If you're not into visual novels, this is not going to be your jam. But it very much is mine. (and you can be sure I'm going to curl up in bed with my laptop once I'm done with my vote counting for the night!)

I like discovering unfamiliar types of games and how they appeal to their target audience. Since I never played an otome game this seems like a good place to start since it's on PC and on a discount. It might be something I drop after an hour or two but at least the next time a student makes a presentation about a game like Mystic Messenger I'll have a better understanding what they're talking about.

Preparing my taxes for 2019 I noticed that I also bought Beat Sabre in 2019. Could've sworn that was 2018. It's another game I came close to finishing and it's definitely in my top 5 VR games of all time. In the last levels it started throwing too many blocks at me and evenutally setting up the Rift became to offputting once the game started to feel like practice more than fun. Still, it's the game I recommend to everyone buying a Quest and if it wasn't on Rift it might even have sold me the Quest.

Can I still add Beat Sabre as my #6 game? Don't worry if it's too much of a hassle. At least I got to mention it as it's worth mentioning.

I haven't finished a lot of games this year since I had to be very focused on my job in 2019.
Therefore I started to play many games but only a few stuck with me. I treated myself to a to PS VR this summer, playing in VR was a totally new experience!
Here's my list of the 10 most captivating games I first started (and mostly finished) in 2019:

10. Dragon Quest XI
09. Costume Quest 2 (I played that one for our Extra Life stream)
08. The gardens between
07. The deadly Tower of Monsters (a very underrated game imho)
06. Statik (PS VR)
05. Wolfenstein: The New Order
04. Astro Bot (PS VR)
03. Raft (In coop mode with a friend)
02. Satisfactory
01. Stardew Valley

7 Quarantine Circular - I think I liked Subsurface better, but this was an interesting experience that at least felt evocative of the first one.
6 Blackwell Unbound - Picking one of the first three games just to pick one mostly. I did feel the most invested in this one, but that may have just been timing.
5 Katana Zero - I don't often play games like this. Not the same as Celeste, but it nonetheless reminded me of it in that I probably would have given up on it if it too didn't have a quick retry mechanic. Aesthetic goes a long way too.
4 Sexy Brutale - I needed help to progress at some points, but I loved the art style and vibe.
3 Gone Home - Played in one evening and was thoroughly enthralled from start to finish.
2 Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Many people have played through multiple times... I have only gotten about half way through one. I dropped off because I sort of dropped off of playing anything at all. Nonetheless, it's number 2.
1 Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers - I'm doing the expansion thing. Appropriate since this was also the year I was most into FFXIV (and maybe the most I'll ever be). I'd played a bit here and there before, but this expansion brought me in big time during the summer months. Great story. As others have said, probably the best Final Fantasy story in years.

Well, it feels weird posting this list. I even considered not bothering. I haven't touched my #1 game in months and I didn't finish my #2. As for FFXIV, as much as I enjoyed the experience, I don't think I really like having an MMO in my life. In general, I don't really know where I'm at with video games. I won't get into it here, but it gives me a weird feeling of disconnect from my list. It's a record of how I felt, but not how I currently feel, if that makes any sense.

steinkrug wrote:

3 Gone Home - Played in one evening and was thoroughly enthralled from start to finish.
In general, I don't really know where I'm at with video games.

As long as you can appreciate a game like Gone Home I assure you you're fine

MEATER wrote:
Aaron D. wrote:

7. Amid Evil - Part 2 of my rediscovery of shooters this year (well, 3 if you count Dusk in 2018).

Bought both in the bundle on the Steam sale. Loving both! Thanks for pointing me towards them!


Worthy of note, the soundtrack for both titles are written and performed by Andrew Hulshult. He's been scoring games for a while now but he's really developing a reputation with Dusk, AE, Quake Champions, Rise of the Triad and the upcoming retro-shooters Wrath and Prodeus.

Dusk launch trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbqN...

Amid Evil launch trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBlT...

I didn’t have a good year in terms of playing new games.

1 Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu - this was my first full Pokémon game. I enjoyed the story and actually won the final battle.
2 Paths of Exile - I just dipped my toes in the game. I will be playing more in the future. It seems to scratch the Diablo/Torchlight itch.
3 Mario Kart Tour - it looks really nice on my phone. I hated the controls and the FTP stuff. I would have been happy to pay for this if it excludes the FTP crap

I wasn't planning on writing one of these lists this year. Nobody remembers but me, but my personal criteria for GOTY is weird and pretty strict. I can't bring myself to just look at all the games I played this year and pick the best ten of those, because I wind up comparing across years. If I say something is the best game of this year, it needs to hit me in the same way that other games in past years did, because I've had some games hit me really hard in recent years.

That's why this has been a weird year for me. I've played a lot of good games. I've even had a handful that I put in 50+ hours on, which is really unusual for me. Yet, when I think back on those, there weren't any where I think "Man, I wouldn't trade my time with that for anything, and I wish I could go back and replay it again for the first time." That's a pretty rough comparison, but I definitely feel that way about other games that have been in my very short GOTY lists before, like Nier Automata, Hellblade, and Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey.

This year, nothing did that for me. I was almost ready to just skip it this year. Then I remembered two games where the game itself was in that same boat of very good, but not GOTY good, but the experience of playing it was impactful enough that they deserved spots. So here goes, Chaz's patented Very Short Game of the Year List:

2. Return of the Obra Dinn - My wife loves mystery novels. Reads them constantly. She also likes playing games together, but mostly co-operatively, and the mechanics of actually playing trip her up a lot. I suggested we try this thing with me driving the controller and her co-piloting. It worked out amazingly well. We started playing it in the evenings after the kids went to bed, but wound up playing it whenever. I've got a surprisingly strong memory of hanging around the living room on a Sunday afternoon in January, with the 2 year old running around, and the 4 month old baby napping in the swing, trying to figure out what's going on with this ship in this weird looking game. The kids are getting bigger now, and it's harder to do anything for more than ten minutes without having to chase after them, so I don't know when we'll get an experience like this again.

1. Heave Ho - This is a simple, dumb game. I hadn't heard of it before seeing a Giant Bomb quick look of it. In the game, each player is a head with two arms sticking out. Hitting a shoulder button makes that hand grab whatever it's touching, and you use the stick to swing your arms around. The goal is for everyone to get across a series of platforms to a goal by grabbing and swinging off the platforms, walls, and each other. After twenty minutes of watching those guys have a ball screaming at each other, I bought a copy. I convinced my wife to try it, and within ten minutes, we were having a ball screaming at each other too. Something about the combination of simple controls, low stakes, inability to tell left from right, enough control that you mostly do what you want and just enough slop that frequently you don't, and the way the levels scale to mostly require cooperation but sometimes not, was amazing. We had a blast with just the two of us. My family also came to visit twice since I got it, and both times we wound up all playing it for a few hours. It never stopped being funny when everyone was trying to make a chain to reach a distant platform, and suddenly the whole thing fell because someone's finger slipped or they mistook their left hand for their right. My family and I aren't super close, but this game has given me a lot of good memories of hanging out with them. It also manages to get my wife to yell and swear, which isn't something she does much of. Basically, the game is great, but the memories it gave me are even better.

Honorable Mentions or I Like You, but I Don't Like Like You
Astrobot Rescue - This is an absolutely stunning use of VR. Reviewers weren't kidding when they said that this feels like what'd happen if Miyamoto made a VR Mario game. Hell, my wife even likes it, and just asked to play it the other day. Only bummer is that the boss fights are very not kidding around, which does get frustrating.

Statik - It's Portal in VR.

Metroid: Samus Returns - I played the original Metroid 2 on the old Game Boy Pocket. In fact, it's why I got a Game Boy Pocket. I bounced off it pretty hard because the grayscale color palette made it so I had no idea where I was going, since every screen looked the same. This remake is the 2.5d Metroid game I've been wanting for years, and now want way more of.

Celeste - It's a pretty well known fact that I really hate games that are super hard. I try and avoid commenting on From games anymore because it inevitably comes down to me having hit a skill ceiling, and getting frustrated because I want to keep exploring the world and see the rest of the game, but don't have the time or emotional capacity to bash my head against it until I git gud. Then I complain about how there's different kinds of difficulty for different people, and I want to keep enjoying this element of the game, and people telling me too bad, that's not what the game is, artistic vision, blah blah. So knowing that Celeste was aiming at being a similar high skill ceiling kind of game, but with a storyline I was interested in, and had all those assists, I decided to try it, fully expecting to hit a frustration point and start turning on all the assists until I was basically watching the game play itself. Except turned out, I didn't wind up turning on any of them. I finished that game on the default, and got a bunch of the optional stuff along the way. It felt great. It also helped crystalize for me that what I hate about hard games isn't that they're hard, I hate when they're hard and also have a really long iteration time between attempts, and no safety net. Retrying a Souls boss includes a load time, the run back, then re-fighting them, and you can definitely die anywhere along there, so it's usually a few minutes or more to maybe get to try the thing again. Celeste? Instant reload, and you're never that far from where you died. Turns out that I can keep bashing my head against the wall for a really long time if I can try again instantly, without a few minutes to stew in my own failure and frustration. So, I'm pretty sure I can now tell the Souls games "Sorry, it's not me, it's you."

Dragon Quest Builders 2 - It's like a digital Lego set, and I liked it for the same reason I liked Lego sets: it's relaxing to just painstakingly follow a pattern and wind up with a thing. Whenever you have to build one of the really giant buildings in the game, the villagers helpfully offer to give you most of the bricks you need for it, and even build it for you while you go do something else. Every time, I told them "thanks, but no thanks, I got this", and then swiped all the blocks they needed and spent hours doing it myself while they ran around in frustration. This got hilarious, since if you dropped a block or put one in the wrong spot, they'd run over to pick it up and put it in the right place. So every mistake I made turned into a race with the computer people to see if they'd get there first.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 and Mario + Rabbids and Steamworld Heist- Apparently I got a little bit into tactical SRPGs on the Switch this year. Now I want more of them. Yes, I have Fire Emblem, and no, it doesn't seem to be clicking with me, because ten hours in, there's just so damn many characters that I have no idea who anyone is, so have a hard time remembering who does what or why I care. But I'll keep at it.

Observation - Stories Untold was one of my favorite little games from the last few years, and I love narrative bullsh*t where you've got a interesting and limited way of interacting with the world. A narrative heavy game where you're a space station computer that interacts with things by looking through cameras and doing computer things to ship systems? Why yes, I'll take two.

Overall there were 2 themes for my gaming this year - finish the Assassin's Creed Series (completed except for Odyssey, and play simpler games that were a labor of love (kind of did this).

Here's my top 10 list:
1. WoW: Legion
Despite this year's ranking, I'm not a hardcore WoW player. I'm not in any guilds, raiding is dumb to me, and I have historically played WoW only a couple of hours a week at the most. I skipped the Warlords and Legion expansions, but this is the year I played a LOT of WoW, the most since the Lich King expansion. The reason for that was NOT Battle for Azeroth, which I liked a lot (see below), but it was for the previous Legion expansion, which I had skipped when I was on WoW hiatus that brought me back to the series. So when I decided to try out Legion while playing BfA, I was blown away. The storylines in Legion truly felt world-changing. The storylines and gameplay mechanics were spot on, and the Suramar quest chain might be my favorite in any WoW expansion ever. The only thing that kept it from being perfect was the typical MMO need to see endgame content with Raiding and dungeons. Fortunately I was able to circumvent a lot of this by finishing up with an overpowered L120 character, but that lack of closure with solo play was an annoyance. The rest of the game? Wonderful.

2. WoW: Battle for Azeroth
If it wasn't for Legion, BfA would have secured my top spot. There's a lot of minor flaws in this expansion, but overall I enjoyed the story progression in the game, in the in-game scenes and especially in the cinematic clips. BfA did a great job with character development and quite simply I had a lot of fun with the expansion. Overall, nothing amazing was done with BfA but I enjoyed the sum of its parts

3. Children of Morta
I adore this game. Children of Morta is what happens when someone looks at Diablo 3 and says "what if we made all the heroes family members...and likeable? Let's give them a house and endearing cutscenes. Simplify the graphics, add easy but fun gameplay that's not too grindy, and make the art look hand drawn." In a world of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, Children of Morta is the gaming equivalent of that small town neighborhood bookstore with a tiny cafe in the back that makes the best capuccino in town and doesn't mind you reading the merchandise for 2 hours while you nurse that cup.

4. AC: Origins
Compared to Children of Morta, which felt like a labor of love from a tiny team, AC: Origins felt like something meticulously designed, conceptualized, and programmed by an army of developers, marketing strategists and playtesters. And that's ok. The game was great. Yes some of the old AC mechanics and gameplay styles are there, but here is where you can feel Origins is looking for just that - a new beginning. You can practically see the mission statement for the game: keep what works, dump what doesn't. I probably spent more time with this game more than any other non-WoW title. You could just travel through Egypt (in a game that seemed as large as Egypt) and just...discover. Go ahead. Walk the streets of Memphis (cue the song), listen to the citizens barter while their local tunes kick in. Explore a pyramid. Murder 11 bandits. This game is literally a sandbox title, and I am grateful to Ubisoft for letting me dive into a world yet again. The AC titles may be formulaic, but they are masters of the formula.

5. Remember Me
I did not see this title coming. Sure, it's been sitting in my pile for a while, but I'm glad I finally fired it up. Remember Me is another title that felt like a labor of love. Near future Paris is stunning. The main character Nillin is easy on the eyes, the dream-editing mechanics are novel, and the story was interesting even if predictable at times. Ok the combat had both positives and negatives and the Tomb Raider style parts were meh, but taken as a whole you could feel the desire of the game to give players something special. It didn't fully achieve that but I appreciate the effort, which is why I have it ranked higher then the next game on my list.

6. Jedi: Fallen Order
I liked JFO. Strongly liked. Liked it a lot. I really liked it a lot at certain scenes and time. But I don't love it. There's good characters here, I think the story premise is great, the exploration parts are challenging but not overwhelming, and come on it's a single player Star Wars experience. The combat though...I know I'm supposed to play it with a game controller, but I'm a mouse and keyboard vet. Against common enemies it worked, but the bosses were just ridiculously hard. And I felt too often like I was just mashing keys and hoping for the best. It felt very un-Jedi until I decided to just bite the bullet and play the bosses on easy mode and not let the combat mechanics get in the way of a good story. I enjoyed JFO. I appreciated JFO a lot, and I hope this is the beginning of more Star Wars. But I did not love it.

7. AC: Rogue
If you like the traditional AC formula, do NOT skip Rogue. This title has been overlooked by a lot of AC fans, and that would be a crime because it is such a tight, well-designed title. I liked how we finally see the Templar point of view and having the opportunity to see 18th century New York and the Hudson Valley (where I'm from) was a treat. I especially appreciate how the title was large but not too large both in story and setting. Often the AC titles feel too bloated and Rogue felt like a game that went on a diet and you could finally see the abs...ok that was a really bad analogy let's just move on.

8. Total War: 3 Kingdoms
I play every Total War game on day 1 and this has all of the mechanics for a great title that should make this #1 on my list. But for some reason, the game hasn't clicked with me...yet. Maybe it's because this came out after the Warhammer titles (which I love and are absolutely my favorite TW titles since Rome 1). It just feels...bland? Still, 3 kingdoms deserves more time due to the quality of the title. I like it, but I'm not kowtowing to the game just yet.

9. AC: Syndicate
From my review in June: "Basically, it's Grand Theft Horsebuggy, London version. After uninstalling the game, all I could think of was how you can clearly see at this point in the AC series exactly what Ubisoft has perfected and exactly what has become amazingly stale... Evie and Jacob Frye were both very charismatic and the story had very little fat. Also, the side quests and supporting characters were the strongest and most memorable I've seen in the series in quite some time. Ah, London. The best way I can describe it in this game is "beautifully ugly". It's filthy as hell. The Thames is basically a toilet with toy boats floating by. I would never want to visit the place. It's a Dickensian nightmare (including Dickensian nightmare quests. Seriously). And yet I couldn't help but visit everywhere I could. Ubisoft has continued to show its mastery of immersing the player in the setting to the point where each game is also a mini-love letter to the city, the time, the people, the costumes, and the setting overall. I basically play the AC games at this point precisely to become a serial murdering tourist...the story is still very typical AC but actually not as nonsensical as in prior games. You're once again trying to liberate a city while looking for the latest artifact macguffin (no spoilers). The villain is generic and forgettable, but I have to admit Evie and Jacob grew on me over time...I enjoyed the Syndicate a lot, but again once you complete an AC game you want to just shelve it and not touch anything like it for a while. Same situation here."

10. AC: Unity
From my review in March: "I really liked it. It was a good deal of fun, but ultimately it was like dating a Parisian model. Very beautiful, extremely stylish, excessively French, I had no idea what she was saying half the time with the dialogue and story, she was previously filled with bugs that were later addressed, and ultimately she was shallow but still a fun time while it lasted...I'm glad I played it, even if it was to walk the streets and rooftops of 19th century Paris. The city is stunning and so is the simulation, and nobody does large crowds better than Ubisoft. I was particularly impressed how the game simulated mobs watching executions. The ambient noises and conversations, the songs spilling out of cafes, the historical tidbits as you explore...highly recommended, especially since you can get it on a Steam sale for the price of a couple of baguettes."

Honorable mentions: either I played them a lot more in previous years or not enough this year to put them on a list
1. Imperator: Rome
2. Total War: Warhammer 2
3. Stellaris
4. Civ VI: Gathering Storm
5. The Sims 4

It’s a game: None of these are bad games. Just...well I played them and had a reasonable amount of entertainment from them
1. Borderlands
2. The Yawhg
3. March of the Living

Aaron D. wrote:

and the upcoming retro-shooters Wrath and Prodeus.

And here I was thinking I was done with the christmas sale And there is a bundle with Ion Fury AND Wrath...

Looks like 2020 is starting off as retro shooter year for me!

The short list for Eleima:


10) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
9) Void Bastards
8) Prey: Mooncrash
7) Teamfight Tactics
6) Fire Emblem: Three Houses
5) Slay the Spire
4) Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
3) Resident Evil 2: Remake
2) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
1) Outer Wilds

And the big list for me:

10) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Castlevania: SOTN! Part Deux. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy this after being so enamored with Hollow Knight last year, but the formula still works. Bloodstained was a little chattier than I wanted, but I had a great time collecting shards, trying out strange weapons, and exploring the castle. The music is great too.

9) Void Bastards
Void Bastards is a game about planning. Whether I was assessing threats on the path to my next upgrade, plotting a ship course, investing in relevant upgrades, choosing a loadout based on available resources, or plotting my route through each ship after landing, I was always thinking multiple steps ahead of my current objective. Void Bastards has a much less severe penalty for dying than traditional rogue-lites. There is very little in the way of backwards progress, making it perfect for people interested in the progression of a rogue-lite without the associated difficulty or need to repeat content. As someone that usually gravitates toward more punishing rogue-like/lites, Void Bastards’ more laid-back approach still managed to hook me with a solid mix of exploration, crafting, and planning.

8) Prey: Mooncrash
Prey x roguelike doesn’t sound like an obvious combo, but it works thanks to some inventive changes to the roguelike structure. The objective in Mooncrash is to escape a moon base with five playable characters. Each of these is a different character class with vastly different ability sets. There are numerous ways to escape the base, but when one escape route is used, it is no longer available for the remaining characters. Sure, you could make a beeline for the easiest exit with your engineer, but if two of the remaining exits available to your volunteer require hacking, he’s going to have a rough time when it’s his turn to escape. Figuring out an evacuation plan for all five survivors is no small task.

Mooncrash maintains its intensity by changing the environment as story objectives are completed. Finishing one objective may provide additional resources and abilities for your characters, but it might also cause a previously hazardless area to lose power, forcing your next character to find a different route or a way to turn the power back on. There are layers upon layers of small, impactful decisions like this throughout the game. This video convinced me to give it a try and does a far better job than I of explaining what makes Mooncrash so good. If you are a fan of either Prey or roguelikes, Mooncrash is worth a shot.

7) Teamfight Tactics
The League of Legends autochess entry has eaten up a lot of my gaming time this year. It’s a perfect mix of tactics and resource management with enough randomness to add variation, but not enough to feel like the reason for winning or losing. Autochess games look simplistic at first glance, but the depth becomes apparent after just a few games. A typical match will involve creating team synergies, positioning units, managing your economy, creating items, managing win/loss streaks, pivoting to new team compositions, and much more.

TFT has been a rare multiplayer treat in that it’s a competitive game that has more of a cooperative feeling most of the time. There are eight players in each match, but you only ever play against one other person at a time. Even when you do play against a friend for a round, all the tactical set up happens before the fight takes place, so there’s no uncomfortable pressure to perform.

Above all, the most exciting part of TFT is their plan to completely replace the entire champion pool every few months. It keeps the meta from going stale, and it gives a fresh starting point for anyone that feels like they’re too far behind to figure out the current champion set.

6) Fire Emblem: Three Houses
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/6z8dFsC.png?1)Fire Emblem: Awakening was one of my favorite games for the 3DS, but after the disappointment that was FE: Fates, my expectations for Three Houses weren’t particularly high. One of the biggest criticisms of Three Houses is how easy it becomes within hours of starting. It’s one of the weaker aspects of the game, but thankfully, I started the game on Hard/Classic, so the tougher enemies and threat of permadeath were enough to keep combat interesting. I never had to restart a battle, but I did come close to using all my combat rewinds to prevent permanent deaths on several occasions. Even though the combat never quite lived up to expectations, the story and the eclectic cast of characters far surpassed them.

The university setting serves as a great backdrop for the Persona style relationship building at the heart of the game. The way you improve these relationships can be a bit silly sometimes (How many Goddess statue gifts is it going to take for you to join my house, Mercedes? 6? 8? 8 it is!), but I wanted every scrap of dialogue I could get from every character in my house. Was Hubert a man of his word or one of hollow threats? Would Ferdinand ever figure out why Dorothea couldn’t stand him? Would Bernadetta find a way to cope with her social anxiety?

These questions motivated me much more strongly than what combat class each character would be by the end of the game. It’s a real testament to the cast that I still want to play through the game again to see the character storylines I missed the first time around.

5) Slay the Spire
I finally figured out why people like card games. StS devoured my gaming time for a couple months straight with its mix of deckbuilding and roguelike progression. Like many of the best roguelikes, the limits of StS’s rules seem to expand with your own experience. Some of the card combinations I was using 50 hours in wouldn’t have made any sense without my experimentation up to that point. The three distinct characters offer wildly different playstyles. Once I started to get a little tired of one, I would switch to another and be hooked all over. This is one I see myself returning to regularly.

4) Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Iceborne is as good as you could hope an expansion to be. It fixed most of the issues I had with the base game and included many improvements that I didn’t know I needed until I had them. It added a massive new campaign that’s equal in length to the base game, a vastly improved end-game for those looking to play beyond the campaign, and nearly doubled the roster of monsters to fight. This is also the first time I mustered up the courage to learn the Charge Blade, which may very well be the greatest video game weapon ever created. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of using this thing to burst down monsters.

3) Resident Evil 2: Remake
Capcom scores a 1-2 punch on my list this year. RE2: Remake is the best survival horror experience I’ve had since the original Dead Space. The story, setting, and characters are similar to the original, but every aspect of the game design has been updated to put it on par or ahead of its modern peers.

For years, people have argued that moving from static camera angles to full camera control would ruin the tension integral to survival horror games, but RE2: Remake buries that theory through adaptive difficulty and unpredictable zombie movements. It doesn’t matter how well you can aim when zombies stumble around like they’ve just had their 15th tequila shot. You will empty half a clip into a wall against a lone zombie at one point or another. Mr. X serves as both a terrifying pursuer to keep the player moving and as an in-game karma system to deal with those that amass stockpiles of ammo from constantly running instead of fighting. It has the best map system I’ve seen in a game.

I had such a good time playing through as Leon the first time that I started and finished a run with Claire immediately after, then again with both on a harder difficulty, and then once more just because. I’m very much looking forward to the RE3 remake in 2020.

2) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software is at their best when they’re trying something new. I know many Souls fans didn’t care for Sekiro because of the ways it differed from the Souls games, namely the lack of customization, but considering Dark Souls 2 and 3 are the most customizable and my least favorite Souls games, I don’t think I value that aspect all that much.

Sekiro is not a game about waiting for openings, it's about creating them. As I adapted to this mentality, I went from getting my ass kicked repeatedly to becoming an unstoppable ninja lord. Beating a tough opponent in the Souls games usually leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment and relief. I’m happy to best my opponent and happy to be on to the next obstacle. After some of the most difficult fights in Sekiro, I felt that same joy of victory, but I also felt a hint of disappointment because I wasn’t ready to move on. I just wanted to do it again. Besting a tough opponent in a Souls game often feels like you’re exploiting their A.I., but in Sekiro, it just feels like you outclass them, like they never stood a chance. You are a ninja master, and victory is inevitable. Trading blows with an enemy and perfectly countering every attack just feels incredible. Also, you can smash an opponent's blade to the ground with your foot, which never ever gets old.

Aside from combat, it’s going to be tough going back to a From game without a grappling hook after this. I love the verticality of the environments and how it ties into the stealth systems. Stealth in Sekiro is simple, but it allows you to speed through levels at lightning speed with enough understanding and a few key upgrades. The prosthetic tool system offers plenty of combat variation for those willing to experiment. A few of the set piece moments involving non-human enemies were some of my most memorable gaming moments of the year.

1) Outer Wilds
I was going to have this list posted a week ago, but after 90 minutes into Outer Wilds, I decided that I wanted to see it through to the end first. I’m sure glad I did. Even having just finished it less than 24 hours ago, I am positive that it’s going to linger in my mind for a long time.

Outer Wilds is the adventure game I’ve always wanted adventure games to be. It’s a game where exploration is its own reward, one where you play to learn rather than to win. The story is there to be discovered by you instead of told to you, and there is no correct order for piecing it together. There are no stat checks, no secret passwords, and no messy inventories to manage. Knowledge is the only currency and the only barrier in Outer Wilds. As long as you understand how something works, you can put that knowledge to use.

This all might sound overwhelming and maybe a little aimless, but your spaceship log does a great job of organizing your discoveries and showing you where there are breadcrumbs to follow. I don’t think I ever felt completely directionless outside of the very beginning of the game. Despite how open ended everything is, the story is very well-told. You will be able to piece the story together by the end, regardless of your starting point.

I cannot think of another game that has left me awestruck as often as Outer Wilds did, both in terms of what was happening on my screen and the story revelations I was piecing together along the way. There are incredible occurrences on some planets that made my stomach drop or my heart race the first times they happened, like the first time the you know what took me to you know where on Giant’s Deep, or when I rode the you know what on the Ash Twin to… well, I can’t really discuss most of this stuff without spoiling it. I can just say that this world, this solar system holds incredible mysteries to discover, some related to the mechanics of the world around you, some related to an ancient alien race, and some related to your own fate, and it trusts you to piece them together on your own.

The last hour of Outer Wilds is awe-inspiring, poignant, and humanistic. It was deeply affecting in a way I was not anticipating. It’s my favorite ending in a game since Undertale, and the first to make me tear up since then. The journey was its own reward, but in this case, the finale was what solidified its #1 spot on my list.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Beat Saber – I can’t vote for this again, but that didn’t stop me from playing it at least once a week this this year. I cannot get enough of swinging light sabers to music.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – A fun romp that’s marred by too many technical issues and a general lack of polish. This may have slipped into my top 10 in a year where I hadn’t played Sekiro, but putting the two side by side, there’s almost nothing that Jedi: Fallen Order does better. Still, I had a good time and quite enjoyed the conclusion of the story.
  • Rime – The general consensus from folks in the Rime Adventure Club Thread was that your character’s actions felt too disconnected from his objective to justify the ending, but I found enough justifications to my actions along the way to make the ending feel earned, or at least I was able to connect them to experiences of my own in a way that I found affecting. I’m glad I played it.
  • Dauntless – I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this Monster Hunter-lite game nearly as much as I did. It’s very stripped down compared to the full MH experience, but the combat core was solid enough to keep me playing for a couple dozen hours. It satiated my hunger for hunting while I waited for Iceborne.
  • Children of Morta – Part Diablo (but without the loot), part roguelike, and part awkward family reunion, Children of Morta is an interesting hybrid. Levels and items are randomized for each dungeon, but progression is saved every time you defeat a boss, so much like Void Bastards, there’s little in the way of backwards progress. My favorite touch was how the game incentivized you to use each of the six unique characters by giving them abilities with global benefits to the family. You became much stronger by utilizing the whole family than by focusing on an individual member.
  • Pokemon: Sword – I have more complaints that compliments for this game, but at the end of the day, I still love catching and battling Pokemon.
  • Audica – It’s Beat Saber with guns! Seriously, that’s it. Audica lacks the physicality that makes Beat Saber so enduringly addictive, but it’s still great fun to shoot things in space to a beat.
  • Alienation – I had a mostly great, occasionally frustrating time blasting through this with two other people during the summer. I need to check out more Housemarque stuff.
  • Resident Evil 7 – This game is sh*t-your-pants scary in VR. I suspect it would have found its way into my top 10 if I had played more, but I haven’t been able to make it more than a few hours in so far. I need to muster up the courage to get back to it or just take the easy way out and play it on the TV.

Other games I quite enjoyed:

  • Mutant Year Zero
  • Dragon’s Dogma
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts

Games I liked, but wish I liked a little more:

  • Ashen
  • Remnant: From the Ashes
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Moonlighter
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
  • Dead Space 3

2019 games I still want to play:

  • Control
  • Disco Elysium
  • Devil May Cry 5
  • Astral Chain
  • Death Stranding
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence
Budo wrote:

Here's my top 10 list:
1. WoW: Legion
2. WoW: Battle for Azeroth

I'm all for WoW getting votes, but Legion hasn't been active for a couple years so not sure how you can add it?

1. Noita !!!!

2. Dead Cells

3. - 10. Ehh, whatever. Maybe the revamped Inquisitor: Martyr deserves a place on their somewhere, but it isn't that great a game compared to other top shelf ARPGs.

I've been going through a rough patch with video gaming recently. Not much has been catching my interest and things I want to enjoy feel like work.

But, I picked up Noita a few days ago and OMG is it great!!! It plays in satisfying, bite sized pieces and I just want to go back and play another round and I just can't get enough of the chaotic interacting systems.

Dead Cells was the only other game this year that came close to getting me this engaged, and I pretty much lost interest as soon as I beat the final boss.

Noita is one of those games I still need to get around to. I'm a fan of playgrounds.

ranalin wrote:
Budo wrote:

Here's my top 10 list:
1. WoW: Legion
2. WoW: Battle for Azeroth

I'm all for WoW getting votes, but Legion hasn't been active for a couple years so not sure how you can add it?

I really enjoyed the Single player aspect and story beats. My only regret to your point is that I should have played it at launch.

Oh wow, you're answering the call, folks, that's awesome! MEATER, I'm fine with adding Beatsaber as your #6, that's an easy fix. zeroKFE, your edit has been taken into account! Thank you to garion333, SpacePPoliceman, Forbes, Marchantia, steinkrug, Ego Man, Chaz, Budo, Dyni and polq37 (phew!) for your lists.
Budo, one thing, as Ranalin points out, you're indeed skirting the rules there, if the WoW expansions aren't new to you in 2019 (recently dove back in, perhaps?). Nothing to see here, you're good.
Polq, 3-10 = whatever isn't a game, so I just keep Noita and Dead Cells for you.

Welp, that makes 98 folks for 399 games! You've still got more than a day on the clock, people! And we've got some ties, so how about you try and break them?

I also feel like I had a hard time breaking away from my go-to games this year so I just have a hand full that pulled me away from those for a period of time.

4) Moonlighter
3) Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
2) Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
1) Minecraft : Survival Mode

I'm sure that will be the only vote for my #1 lol

Short version for Eleima:


1. Prey (2017)
2. Device 6
3. Return of the Obra Dinn
4. The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective Game
5. What Remains of Edith Finch
6. Dicey Dungeons
7. Celeste
8. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
9. Sayonara Wild Hearts
10. Devotion

A good year for games, but not a standout one, at least in terms of what I played. I had a lot of trouble ordering the top half of the list, especially. Lots of stuff that released this year that I'm looking forward to getting to in the future - especially Outer Wilds and Disco Elysium.

10) Devotion - I don’t typically play horror games and I didn’t play this one. I would like to - it’s creepy and atmospheric and well-realized. Except it’s no longer available for purchase due to pressure from the Chinese government. So I watched a really good stream of it instead (by Kat Brewster and Jack de Quidt) and I’m including it on this list both in recognition of its quality and as an act of protest against the game’s removal from commercial sale.

9) Sayonara Wild Hearts - Clever, stylish, joyful, queer. Chalk full of references and homages to other games. Not actually as much fun to play as I hoped - I had trouble enjoying the experience because I was narrowly focusing in on the action - but great to watch.

8) The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine - A gorgeous (and actually bright and colourful) and dense new area to explore. Interesting quests from entertaining patrons. Builds on the best parts of the base game (in contrasts to Hearts of Stone, which doubles down on one of the worst aspects of the base: being railroaded into running errands for awful men while they tediously try to justify the awful things they did.)

7) Celeste - Sometimes you just need to climb that mountain.

6) Dicey Dungeons - What a clever twist on the deck-building rogue-like. Lots of great touches (I just yesterday did a thing that changed the entire nature of the run I was on in a way that I didn’t know was in the game’s vocabulary!) I don’t like all the classes - there’s a couple that take turns that are simultaneously complicated and repetitive - but I’m still impressed by the breadth of mechanics developed out of a simple concept. It’ll be great on mobile, too!

5) What Remains of Edith Finch - I used to think about death a lot and this is a game that caters to that tendency. A great game for a grey day.

4) The Haunted Island, A Frog Detective Game - Kind and quirky. Funny and silly. Brought a smile to my face and still does thinking back on it.

3) Return of the Obra Dinn - Murder! Betrayal! Boat mysteries! A game that again and again shows you something baffling and unexpected and then trusts you enough to let you investigate and make deductions and figure it out what in the hell happened aboard this most cursed of boats.

2) Device 6 - Another Simogo game. Very different from Sayonara, but a similar cleverness and attention to aesthetics. Creating an atmosphere and evoking a feeling of place are so difficult in a mobile game and yet Device 6 succeeds wildly by leaning into the characteristics of the platform, rather than trying to work around them.

1) Prey (2017) - Dense, intricate, interlocking world and systems. I see why people like these immersive sims so much. So much fun to explore and grow and adapt to the challenges that the game throws at you.

It was pointed out that i have the wrong name for my #3. Do i do a new list?

#3 Badlands 3 should've been Borderlands 3

ranalin wrote:

It was pointed out that i have the wrong name for my #3. Do i do a new list?
#3 Badlands 3 should've been Borderlands 3

A new list, no, but good thing you pointed it out, because I had it down as Badlands 3.

Awesome, thanks karmajay and 4dSwissCheese, got your lists.

I don't have 10 but now, thinking about it, voting is important and I want my old games recognized for posterity.

5. Gris - visually stunning, it offered much in immersion even if the gameplay was hardly worth noting. A game that's riding on charm and artwork, it was still fun to play.

4. Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order - Girlfriend Reviews summed this up really well for me - if it wasn't Star Wars I likely wouldn't have cared much - but it was. It rustled my jimmies in many a Star Wars fashion, and was my 2nd best Star Wars doodad this year after the Mandalorian.

3. Total War Warhammer II - late to the party with this whole series, this is the first Total War game I played. My nephew recently got into the tabletop game of Warhammer and its Kickstarted my appreciation for it. This was fun, made sense, I could play it on easy mode and stomp vampires and pinkskins with my Lizardmen and it made me happy. FOR SOTEK!

2. Spider-Man, PS4 - What a great game! I finally get what everyone else said about it, so I won't rehash it here. While lovely I didn't feel the need to keep playing it to 100% which brings me to my #1...

1. Overwatch - I play this nearly every day due to the amazing and wonderful people I met on this site who love it like I do. It's created a social circle I'd have never expected that has branched into D&D games, real life get togethers, and actual friendships. Overwatch is for me what social gaming strives to be in any part of someone's life - a key component in my well-being. I love you guys.

Short list for Eleima:


1. Nier: Automata
2. Persona 5
3. Control
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine
5. Firewatch
6. Overcooked Special Edition
7. Pokemon Sword
8. Ring Fit Adventure
9. Inside
10. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX

1. Nier: Automata (PS4)
None of the other games on this list came even close to having the same impact as Nier Automata. Having played the original Nier, I was expecting multiple playthroughs and things not to be as they seem initially but I was still blown out of the water. The first two endings really do feel like a prologue and some of the best mouments were in the third playthrough. The music, characters and story were amazing.
2. Persona 5 (PS4)
My first Persona game. I initially picked it up because of the buzz it got around release but for reasons that had nothing to with the game, I ended up shelving it without even starting it. It wasn't until the JRPG club here picked it that I got motivated to finally play it. I'm glad I did since I loved it. I liked how it mixed the social sim and dungeon crawling aspects. And the battles were interesting since they were more about finding the enemies weakness so you could hold them up and reap more rewards. It started dragging towards the end but that was still 100+ hours well spent. Now I'm looking forward to going back and playing the older entries in the series.
3. Control (PS4)
I haven't finished this game yet but I've got far enough that it's definitely made an impression on me. As a big fan of X-Files, I feel like this game was made for me. It has the perfect combination of weird supernatural occurrences, shady government meddling and a kickass female protagonist. The only thing holding it back is a lackluster checkpoint system and some technical issues.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine (PS4)
I finally closed the book on this game after three years. Hearts of Stone was ok so I went into this one not expecting as much but it was just as good as the main game. I loved Regis and the new region, Totoussaint. Other nice inclusions were the villa were you could display your armor and weapons, dyes to customize your armor and some really good side quests. Thank you, Witcher 3, for all the good times.
5. Firewatch (PC)
A great game to play when the outside world is a frozen hell. I love nature and hiking so exploring the wilderness in this game was a lot of fun. The banter between the main character and the other person over the radio was nice and it just goes to show how you can form bonds with people you never see face to face.
6. Overcooked Special Edition (Switch)
Fun times playing this with my little sisters. If I'm being honest, I haven't beat it yet since the latter levels get harder and require you to 2 or 3 star older levels to move on. We've had fun yelling at each other as we hurry to get all the orders in. Stressful but in a good way.
7. Pokemon Sword (Switch)
Pokemon is like comfort food to me so even a disappointing entry is still a good time. I think Gamefreak was on the right track with more social elements like the max raid battles and camping but it's implementation left a lot to be desired.
8. Ring Fit Adventure (Switch)
Any game that helps me get off the couch and moving deserves mention in my book. Hoping that I'm still playing this well into the new year.
9. Inside (PC)
A beautiful yet horrifying game. The end sequence of events still sticks out in my mind.
10. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (3DS)
The reason this is so low on my list is because I have a harder time getting into the 2D Zeldas and there were enough frustrating elements that brought it down. Having to equip and unequip even the most basic of items like the power bracelet and shield was a huge pain and it was hard to figure out were to go next without a guide. However, the game still managed to be really charming despite that.

Most disappointing game: A tie between Banjo Tooie and The First Tree. I played Banjo Kazooie a few years ago and it made me feel like a little kid again playing a Super Mario 64 type platformer. So a sequel that has more of everything - more powers, more complex stages and jiggies had to better, right? Nope. It was extremely tedious and hard to get through.
The First Tree is a game that I picked on a whim since I liked the promotional art but what I got was an extremely boring walking simulator. The fox was a chore to control, the areas were empty and the narration was bad.

Games that might of made the list if I had actually played/finished them: Life is Strange 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Death Stranding, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Luigi's Mansion 3, Untitled Goose Game

Having to equip and unequip even the most basic of items like the power bracelet and shield was a huge pain and it was hard to figure out were to go next without a guide.

For what it's worth, the Switch remake of the game largely fixes both these problems.

Forlorn Hope wrote:

Super good list.

I think there's a decent chance you are bizzaro me from a dimension where I don't play games as service games.

steinkrug wrote:

Well, it feels weird posting this list. I even considered not bothering. I haven't touched my #1 game in months and I didn't finish my #2. As for FFXIV, as much as I enjoyed the experience, I don't think I really like having an MMO in my life. In general, I don't really know where I'm at with video games. I won't get into it here, but it gives me a weird feeling of disconnect from my list. It's a record of how I felt, but not how I currently feel, if that makes any sense.

I like reading the lists even more so because of the context of where people are coming from. There is a tiny bit of pressure to play new things so you can put it on a list and be part of a discussion, but so much less than trying to keep up with most discussions and X-OTY lists.

Hope you find things to enjoy. If that's games, that's cool. If it's something else for a while, that's awesome too!

  1. Spider-Man (PS4)
  2. Untitled Goose Game (Switch)
  3. Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch)
  4. Heave Ho (Switch)
  5. GRIS (Switch)
  6. God Of War 2018 (PS4)
  7. Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)
  8. Luigi's Mansion 3 (Switch)
  9. The Outer Worlds (PC)
  10. DOOM 2016 (PC)

Honorable Mention: WWE 2K19 I only played it once and technically, I didn't actually control any of it, but the Royal Rumble for the TransLifeline charity stream was a total blast.

Thanks for your hard work, Eleima!

Here's my best shot. Ranking the top three was hard - I would consider any one of them to be GOTY material, and their relative order varies from day to day.

1. Total War: Three Kingdoms. Beautiful, challenging, and immersive, this was a return to form after the hit-and-miss Rome 2 generation. Whether desperately battling to save my capital from a superior invader; planning elaborate, multi-pronged campaigns; haggling with computer players that finally act believably and in-character; or simply admiring the aesthetic, this was almost everything that I hoped for.

2. Dragon Quest Builders 2. My unexpected hit of the year - I rarely play builder or Dragon Quest games. It turns out that I love building towns, rooms, fields, even defensive walls. I love DQB2’s charming, cheerful characters and world. And even after finishing the story months ago, I love tinkering with my island in the postgame: adding spas, barns, irrigation, and a rail network, fleshing out floor plans, and renovating my early projects with everything that I’ve learned since. I am pretty confident this will be my evergreen Switch game for the foreseeable future.

3. Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As a lapsed series fan, I was cautious about this; instead, this became my favourite in the series. It rewards careful planning — both in battle, and when strategising how to recruit, train, and develop my crew of heroes — with triumphant satisfaction when those plans come together. And its epic narrative, closer to Legend of the Galactic Heroes than to traditional fantasy, has me intrigued. I estimate I’m 70%-80% through my first run, and I look forward to seeing how it will conclude.

4. Rule the Waves 2. An indie naval strategy game with no music and almost no visuals or SFX, what makes this so brilliant is how it captures the essence of strategy — reconciling objectives to limited resources. You are in charge of a Great Power’s navy, whether that be mighty Britain or nearly landlocked Austria-Hungary: you design ships, build them out of a finite budget, and command them in battle, a bit like an oceangoing version of a space 4X game. But unlike a 4X, you are not the leader of your nation. You cannot control world politics, the rise and fall of international tensions, the national economy, or your government's priorities. You can influence these things – for example, ostentatiously warning of war will give you a bigger budget at the cost of higher world tension – but at the end of the day, it is up to you to make the most of what you are given. I’ve had spectacular results as Austria-Hungary, frugally upgrading my ageing battleships, focusing my meagre budget on fast, modern destroyers trained for night actions, and only picking fights I could win. I’ve had an equally spectacular rise-and-fall as France, building up a proud oceangoing fleet and dominating the Mediterranean, only to be crushed by enemies out of my league — first the British and then the Germans. I was a fan of the first game and this lived up to my expectations.

5. Wargroove. Probably my standout game for the first few months of the year, with its combination of elegant mechanics, a charming aesthetic, and a generally well-designed campaign. A map can be finished in an hour; but that hour can see quick land-grabbing dashes, a meticulous dance as you yield ground or search for weaknesses in the enemy line, and the final decisive moment when your dragons swoop on the enemy stronghold, or you manage to trundle your trebuchets in range. Despite some failings (skirmish AI), it succeeds both as an Advance Wars spiritual successor and as its own game.

6. Crying Suns. My surprise hit of the Steam Christmas sale. Like Wargroove, it shows what indie strategy games can do with a striking aesthetic and solid gameplay. Borrows mechanics from FTL but carves out an identity all of its own, with an atmospheric space-opera universe infused with genre homages and a certain bonkers Eurocomic sensibility.

Honourable mentions go to Steamworld Quest (great combat, forgettable writing) and Unity of Command II (elegant, attractive abstraction of mobile warfare).

I loved the concepts behind Baba is You and Heaven's Vault, but found the former too difficult and bounced off the latter. Another year, perhaps...

10. Hitman 2
A solid continuation of the series, with a lot of clever new assassinations. The complexity of some of the maps was sufficiently daunting that I didn't get anywhere near completing all of the challenges this time around. A good time throughout, but it didn't reach the heights of the last one.

9. Kenshi
Kenshi is one of those titles that looks completely impenetrable and scary at the outset, but if you get over the learning hurdle, it becomes the only thing you can think about as you're lying in bed. A true "do whatever you want" open world game, set in a world that is always ready to kill you. I highly recommend starting on the mode where you don't lose your stuff when you get whacked; it's hard enough just keeping your guys fed while you're learning, never mind trying to rebuild from scratch every time you get knocked out (which is often). Similar to my experience with Ark, when I read the feature list and saw it was an indie developer I thought there was no way they could actually realize their dream, but they managed to pull it off. A memorable game in a world of safe retreads.

8. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
This game came so close to lasting greatness. The mood was there, the set pieces were well realized, and it controlled well. It was hampered by lackluster boss fights, weirdly poor area connections/shortcuts, and too little need to ever change weapons or spells. By about halfway through I felt like I was constantly fast traveling, and the world lost that critical cohesive feel. One to be played through once and enjoyed, but it won't have me coming back the way a SotN or Shadow Complex will.

7. Oxygen Not Included
A terrific colony management sim with a lot of personality. I was very happy to discover that there wasn't any external conflict forced upon the player, and had a ton of fun learning while failing. At the time I played, getting the tiniest bit of slimelung into the settlement was more or less an irreversible problem, even after giving in and googling for YouTube gurus to show me how to remove it. This kept me from getting to the very last technologies on a couple of bases, but I look forward to getting back to it one day.

6. Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark
For those not in the know, this is a really well-executed Final Fantasy: Tactics homage game. They fixed a lot of the stuff that was annoying about FFT (no random overworld encounters, no "missing" items in story fights, no Calculators, no insanely complicated things requiring guides to discover), but left in the good chewy broken combos to find. If you enjoyed FFT, pick this up.

5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
It hurts to put a From Software game this low. It takes place in one of my favorite historical settings, and the combat really flows once you wrap your head around the unusual parry timing. On the other side of the ledger, I was disappointed with the tech tree and all the gadgety stuff, and the different areas felt too much like discrete set pieces joined with forced connectors, rather than a smoothly joined world with natural transitions. I think I played to near the end game, then it just started to feel like a chore to finish rather than an exciting journey, so I shelved this one uncompleted. Still, the first fifteen or so hours with it were absolutely fantastic. I'm sure I'll return to it years from now without such high expectations, and play it all the way through.

4. The Division 2
Ubisoft learned their lessons well in the first Division, and launched incredibly strong right out of the gate with this one. It's certainly the high water mark of the looter shooter genre. Some missteps with the implementation of gear crafting and upgrading, but I'm sure they'll keep iterating. The Dark Zone is the one thing they screwed up badly this time around; having three disconnected zones is dumb, there's very little consequence for death, and the drops are no better than PvE. Absent the DZ blunder, I'm sure this one would have come in at #2 this year.

3. Remnant: From the Ashes
Where the hell did this game come from, and why didn't anyone have the sense to kick in some dollars to get some marketing muscle behind it? An absolutely fantastic co-op FPS that has a near Souls-like feel of leveling yourself up as a player, not just leveling your gear. Tight combat, lots of tension, great mood, and a brilliant pseudo-random level/boss/equipment pathway through each run keeps you coming back for playthrough after playthrough. I hope this one sold well enough to get some DLC content, as I'd be more than happy to revisit it.

2. Satisfactory
I never could properly get going on Factorio, as I kept getting paralyzed by the realization that I'd gone and built it all wrong once again and I wasn't going to be able to fit the new production line I needed. Then I'd break my head trying to come up with a clever belt thing and quit. Satisfactory solves all this by letting you just build upwards. And up, and up, and up. You may have inglorious belt spaghetti, but you're never painted into a corner. Plus, just standing in a 3D world really lets you feel your factory in a way that an overhead perspective doesn't capture. The exploration is pretty cool, too, and I'm glad that they decided to hand create a single, static world rather than going for trendy procedural generation. This one is heartily recommended for anyone with a pulse.

1. Rainbow Six: Siege
So, I always knew this game was going to be good, but I also knew it was going to require a lengthy learning process, and I was afeared of getting started. Finally got into it this year, and it turns out I was dramatically underestimating both points. This is, bar none, the finest competitive FPS ever created, and I'd be floored if anything comes out in the next several years that tops it. It also has a Captain Insano learning curve, far steeper than anything I've ever played. Dwarf Fortress was nothing. Nothing.

There are currently 52 operators to learn and 12 ranked maps in any given season (I don't even know the total map count), and these ain't your grandma's map learnings. Room connections vary based on defensive reinforcement, shooting angles constantly open up due to wall, floor, and ceiling destruction, and you'll never get a handle on even a fraction of them by just running around solo in a custom game, because you have to see the way real people play them in ranked matches. Getting even remotely comfortable with a single map requires dozens of matches, because there are about two jillion tricks that can be employed on each one.

The result, once you start to get your head around things, is a unique blend requiring gun skill, situational awareness, yomi, strategy, positioning, communication, and countless moment-to-moment tactical decisions. It's a fantastic find for someone whose aim isn't nearly what it was 20 years ago, because there are plenty of opportunities to outplay instead of outshoot. The ranked matchmaking uses Microsoft's excellent TrueSkill algorithm and does an impressive job of presenting you with good, close games; there's a real sense of improvement as you develop your own set of solid plays and counters on the maps and watch your ranking climb accordingly, only to discover even craftier tricks and crazier headshot kings, forcing you to grow and adapt once more.

It's just completely beyond anything else out there, and I can honestly say that I learn something new every single time I play it. If you consider yourself a competitive FPS player, and you're not playing this, well...turns out you're just diddling around with a Playskool shooter.

Dishonorable Mentions
These ignominious efforts must accept their shame.

Borderlands 3
What the hell did they do with the character development and writing staff from Borderlands 2? What happened to the funny? An unmemorable slog through repetitive combat encounters and none of the joy of the last major outing. I should have known from the incredibly lackluster pre-sequel, but I optimistically wrote that one off as a side team working a borrowed franchise. A mistake.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
This one started out fun, and then fell completely flat in a hurry. I really wanted a more gradual progression of upgrading ships and weapons, some more interesting missions, and a real sense of increasing danger as you left the starting systems. Playing space trucker blindly hitting afterburners to avoid yet another ambush on my way to yet another jump point got old in a hurry.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I dumped a lot of hours into this entirely due to the convenience of the Switch, waiting and waiting for the combat to get interesting. It never did. The entire AI can be defined as "attack enemy within range of the most friendlies." Which is annoying with the permanent character death, as it boils down to just looking at enemy movement ranges to avoid suicidal dog piles.

Fell Seal had been on my radar, but most of the reviews were “yeah, it’s like FFT with a weaker story.” Glad to see it made it into a list, and I may keep an eye out for sales in the future.

My top 3 games of this year were really BATTLETECH, Slay the Spire, and Dead Cells as I think I probably put another 100+ hours into each this year, but as those were my #1, #5, and #2 games last year they are not eligible to be counted! So here is my top 10 of games that were new to me this year:

Just the list:
1. Hades
2. Heaven's Vault
3. Nova Drift
4. God of War(2018)
5. Age of Wonders: Planetfall
6. Total War Three Kingdoms
7. Baba is You
8. Katana Zero
9. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
10. Unavowed

Expanded thoughts:


1. Hades - Clearly inspired by Dead Cells, but from an isometric third person perspective rather than a 2D metroidvania feel. This is the game that has come closest to matching the feel of Dead Cells. It also has a similar art vibe to SuperGiant's other games (Bastion, Transistor, Pyre). They are trying some story things with this that I'm not quite sure are working for me, but don't detract from the game either. I'll definitely still be returning to this game in 2020.
2. Heaven's Vault - This game was a late find thanks to some of the early posts in this very thread. My wife and I played through it together over the last week or so, and it was great for that. Others who recommended it compared it to Return of the Obra-Dinn (which we also played together), and I definitely see where that is coming from. We really enjoyed attempting to translate the Ancient language, and exploring the world and trying to learn what the story was. I thought this game had a chance to make it to number 1, but it didn't quite stick the landing. Specifically, it launched us into the final sequence without the ability to go back while there were still a couple areas we hadn't gone to yet, and we would have liked to do so. We could do so in the new game plus, but don't want to have to play through all of the story set up to get there again. The game is not short enough for this to really work.
3. Nova Drift - Like a cross of a twin-stick shooter with the randomized upgrades of a rogue-like. The different feel of the various weapons was really good, they provided some interesting variety in the gameplay, ranging from the more traditionally spread bullets, to missiles that can only be fired in salvos, a rail gun, grenades, focusing on constructs (drones/turrets/etc.) rather than your direct shooting, etc. I liked it quite a bit, but seem to hit a difficulty level that I can never quite get past, and eventually repeatedly getting to that point but no further wore me out.
4. God of War (2018) - This is another late addition to the list, and is a game that I am still in the middle of. Its possible that if there were another week or two here, this one might move up even further. I have tried some previous God of War games, and didn't really love them, but what I kept seeing about it made me intrigued. I am really enjoying the gameplay, especially once I got far enough for it to open up a little more. I'm also finding the interaction between Kratos and Atreus interesting so far, certainly more interesting than Kratos had been in what I tried of earlier God of War games.
5. Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Outside of roguelikes the other thing I played a number of this year were larger strategy games, and this was the one I enjoyed the most (other than BATTLETECH). The moding of units makes things interesting, but can also be a bit of a pain to keep track of and have to check on every enemy unit you encounter.
6. Total War: Three Kingdoms - I want to like Total War games, but find the battles to never quite work for me well enough. They just degenerate into a big mess, and it is too difficult to learn what to expect from units. I can never read well enough what to expect when two units clash, and that murkiness kills the fun of it for me. I though the overall aesthetic was great, and really liked the strategy/map layer but that slight dissatisfaction with the battles kept me from falling in love with it.
7. Baba is You - This was a really ingenious puzzler. I think I admire it a little more than I enjoyed it though, as sometimes it was just more thought to solve the puzzles than I wanted to put into it.
8. Katana Zero - I picked this up on a whim in a steam sale as it looked intriguing. I loved the general vibe and story of it, and found the gameplay fun.
9. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - I wanted to like this game more than I did. I read a comment from someone saying they enjoyed it more as a Star Wars thing than as a game, and that described it well for me. I thought the story part was well done, but the game parts were only ok, and never really came together for me, I enjoyed it most once I eventually set it to Story mode. I never found the timing of the combat to feel quite right, and found the tendency for fights against groups of enemies to not work well with it. The exploration was almost good, but then some of the sliding sequences were just immensely painful. I'd like to see them try it again in another game and see if they can get things a little sharper. The long load times on PS4 were definitely also an annoyance, and part of what made the combat annoying. Playing God of War after this has highlighted for me how much the combat just felt off to me, and not sharp.
10. Unavowed - This is another game that I played with my wife. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but occasionally found the point-and-click adventure roots of it slightly grating, as it always seems to degenerate into puzzles that feel like you are guessing what the designed intended and not feeling like a real world.

Didn't quite make the list: Telling Lies, Children of Morta, Nuclear Throne, Warhammer 40k: Gladius of War

Sundown wrote:

Fell Seal had been on my radar, but most of the reviews were “yeah, it’s like FFT with a weaker story.” Glad to see it made it into a list, and I may keep an eye out for sales in the future.

I actually really like the story. That there’s combat and nothing else made me bounce off it.