2019 Community Game of the Year

On another day the order might be different. Aw, heck, who am I kidding? If I wait 5 minutes the order would be different.

  1. Control - Compelling story, tight combat, good progression of upgrades and powerups. Oh, and when the game's title track dropped deep into the game it locked up the top spot.
  2. Ape Out - I loved the implementation of this inverted rhythm game. The soundtrack adapts to your actions. Amazing and gratifying.
  3. Moss (VR) - Delightful gameplay of cooperation between the player and the game's titular mouse.
  4. STAR WARS: Vader Immortal (VR) - Light sabers, VR, Vader, Maya Rudolph. 'Nough said.
  5. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey - Cassandra and a solid supporting cast of historical characters made my first foray into the AC franchise a treat.
  6. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden - Walking, talking boar and duck soldier mutants? Let's go! This freebie from Epic grabbed my attention quickly and held it through the game's completion.
  7. Outer Worlds - My NPC of the year single-handedly moved this game into the top ten. I'm a sucker for sci-fi, but without Parvati I'm not sure I would have finished this one.
  8. Dead Cells - It just keeps me coming back.
  9. Baba is You - Mind-bending puzzles playable at whatever pace you like. Clever.
  10. Slay the Spire - Grabbed my attention long enough to get a completion with Ironclad. Lots of fun and I look forward to playing the other characters . . . just as soon as all these new, shiny things stop distracting me.
gorilla wrote:

[*]Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey - Cassandra and a solid supporting cast of historical characters made my first foray into the AC franchise a treat.

I thought I was the only one left (a little spoiler for my list).

Agathos wrote:
gorilla wrote:

[*]Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey - Cassandra and a solid supporting cast of historical characters made my first foray into the AC franchise a treat.

I thought I was the only one left (a little spoiler for my list).

Nope, you're not.
(Also a spoiler for mine.)

Bless up, Eleima. Thank you much.

The Top Ten, condensed


1. Hollow Knight
2. Void Bastards
3. Teamfight Tactics
4. Baba Is You
5. The Messenger
6. Northgard
7. City of Brass
8. Tharsis
9. 7 Billion Humans
10. Onirim

The Top Ten, expanded


1. Hollow Knight
I loved everything about it from the setting and the art to the platforming and the combat. The best Metroidvania I have ever played. I was sneaking in 15 minute play sessions I had the fever so bad.

2. Void Bastards
Another fantastic and fresh version of a genre I love, Void Bastards delivered on all the promise of Heavy Bullets and then some with superb art, humor, and a ton of fun ways to play. Confident enough to pack everything in under 10 hours, it was a perfectly tidy treat.

3. Teamfight Tactics
My most played game by far the second half of the year, it's got the perfect balance of strategy, decision making, gambling, and the ability to play without sound or paying attention half the time while I watch TV. It's a force.

4. Baba Is You
This year's highest finisher of brain tickling game I loved but didn't finish (or come close). Cute and makes you feel clever when you get your lateral thinking on.

5. The Messenger
A little bit of a different platforming mechanic, but once I got it I really enjoyed it. Amazing music and fun bosses. Yes, pacing is a little wonky but don't be afraid to look up a couple hints and enjoy the ride.

6. Northgard
I played a surprising amount of this. Refreshing pace for an RTS, and not too tactical, it's all about adapting to the map and thinking of the order you're going to build out in terms of units, buildings, and tech.

7. City of Brass
In the first person roguelike genre similar to Void Bastards, but one life run with very minor carryover between runs, this game is pretty jank and I never got that far, BUT when you do well you feel really in control of the 3D space around you. One of the best whips in video game history. Whip dragging an enemy into a trap never gets old.

8. Tharsis
I'm always down to play a game from the MASTER, Zach Gage. Great push your luck and least-worst decision making. This would work great as a board game, but I'm glad I don't have to roll bloody dice in real life.

9. 7 Billion Humans
Another great thinker, I got pretty dang far in this one. I'm now a computer programming expert.

10. Onirim
The game I played on the toilet the most this year, honorary 10th for this fun and easy to play solitaire game.

Also Amazing


Infinifactory - Great thinker, don't think I like it quite as much as Opus Magnum but I'm not far yet.
Bomber Crew - Had a lot of fun before I crashed and burned literally and figuratively.
Hades - Great game I decided to not burn out on before it was finished.
Celeste - Can tell this one is also great but got started too late in the year, need to pick it back up.
Pocket Run Pool - Another great one from the MASTER, Zach Gage. Best arcade pool game of all time.
Twinfold - Best phone roguelike for Android.
Minit - Perfect snack game.
A Short Hike - Perfect snack game, part 2.
Enyo - Very enjoyable phone roguelike.
Demon’s Tilt - Just picked it up but an enjoyable fantasy pinball game.
Factorio - I didn't put enough time into this but I can see it's very special.
Mike Fitzgerald Baseball Highlights 2045 - Best baseball strategy game I have played, fun little package.
Concrete Jungle - Surprisingly fun tile laying game.

There's something good in there


Wizard of Legend
Forza Horizon 4
Ori and the Blind Forest
Steel Rats
Slime Rancher
Creature in the Well
Heat Signature
Fortune 499
Gremlins, Inc.

I really wanted it to be better


Jon Shafer’s At the Gates
Cities: Skylines
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Bad North
Deep Sky Derelicts
Axiom Verge
Aegis Defenders
Star Vikings Forever
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!
Ape Out
The King’s Bird
The Metronomicon
NEO Scavenger
Space Hulk Ascension
Le Havre: The Inland Port
Mutant Year Zero
10 Second Ninja X

Long since forgotten


Marginalia Hero
Keyboard Sports
Binary Domain
Swords of Ditto
She Remembered Caterpillars
Grey Goo
A Story About My Uncle
Hard West

Yay it's this time of the year again!

I adore this thread and thank you to everyone writing up their lists and expanded reasons.

I had a quick look at my library however it's made all the more complicated as my gaming rig is now being shared with the 10 year old son thereby skewing hours played and installation dates. So far I don't think I will reach a full list of 10 games for 2019. I've spent some time on mobile titles and will include one or two entries as has been my habit in the last year or so.

That said, I'll also add a separate section for special mentions to cover what I saw the boy play in 2019.

Honorable mentions:
I can't put either of these games on my list because neither of them are new to me, but I have really enjoyed going back to both Final Fantasy XII and Halo: Reach. Both games have been released with upgraded graphics and some new features and it was a lot of fun to experience them again.

10: Anthem (Xbox One)
Oh how I wanted this game to be more than it ended up being. It was beautiful and was fun to play for a couple of days, but I very quickly lost interest. The BioWare of today is mostly just a pale shadow of what it used to be and that is a rough fact for us to have to come to terms with.

9: Rage 2 (Xbox One)
I was a big fan of the first game (I placed it at #3 in 2011) and I was also a big fan of Mad Max (again #3 in 2015), but this game didn't quite capture the magic of either of those games. It was a lot of fun at times, but unlike Mad Max the vehicle stuff was very weak. If anything this game basically felt like a post apocalyptic version of Far Cry... which is something we also got this year.

8: Sky Force Reloaded (Xbox One)
A mobile shump ported to more capable gaming devices. Lots of fun, but very grindy. You have to replay old levels to earn stars to upgrade your plane so that you can complete harder levels. Also has a bit of RNG in that there are random cards that can pop in levels that unlock passive benefits or parts for new planes. Probably wouldn't have played this if it hadn't been part of Xbox Game Pass, but when it left Game Pass I had to go buy it so I continue playing.

7: Mindustry (Steam)
A last minute addition to my list. Similar to Factorio, but a bit more approachable. Harvest resources, use those resources to build things that let you harvest other resources, process resources into new ones, and build towers to defend against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Very easy to lose track of time while playing this game and trying to optimize your production lines. One benefit of this game is that I think it runs on toasters so even my weak work PC and my old Hackintosh can run it.

6: Borderlands 3 (Xbox One)
Hey another Borderlands with good characters and the guns don't all feel like tickle cannons anymore. If you liked Borderlands 2 then this is for you.

5: Donut County (Xbox One)
Weird little delightful game. Scratched a bit of the Katamari Damacy itch I had been feeling.

4: SteamWorld Dig 2 (Xbox One)
The first game was my 4th game in 2017 and this one is just as good. Maybe a little less entertaining than the first one because it is a sequel, but more polished and with some nice new abilities.

3: Void Bastards (Xbox One)
I am not a big fan of rogue-like games, but this one was super fun. Rogue-like mechanics with FPS skill plus interesting ways to approach different problems made for a really fun experience. I might not have tried it if it hadn't been part of Xbox Game Pass and then I would have missed out on a great game.

2: The Outer Worlds (Xbox One)
Oh Parvati what an amazing character voiced by the amazing Ashly Burch and channeling much of the wonderful Kaylee from Firefly. This game sort of fails on what I like about the Fallout/Elder Scroll games (big open exploration of interesting spaces), but it gets the character parts that I like about classic BioWare games right.

1: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Xbox One)
I had begun to fear that this game would either never get released or be a giant mess when it did, but I was so very wrong. This game belongs right up near the top of the Metroidvania games list with games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Metroid, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Shadow Complex. It has a super interesting system for building up skills/abilities/companions with the Shard system and it really rewards exploration. My main criticism of this game is that it draws so heavily from Castlevania (SotN specifically) that it sometimes feels like it lacks its own identity.

Simple list in natural order for Eleima:
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
The Outer Worlds
Void Bastards
SteamWorld Dig 2
Donut County
Borderlands 3
Sky Force Reloaded
Rage 2

1. Persona 3
2. Borderlands 3
3. Gears 5
4. Anthem
5. Stellaris

I know I started Persona 3 a long time ago, but never got past what I felt was the introduction, and I don't think I ever listed it. This year I got a lot further in before I stopped for reasons unrelated to the game itself, which is wonderful. I could never put my finger on what the Persona games reminded me of, but now I think I know--River City Ransom. Some of that same sense of wonder.

Borderlands 3 was good. I'd say it was just that I'm not where I need to be to enjoy it because the game has so many improvements--the new map alone is worth it--but I saw an observation somewhere that I think hits the nail on the head: it's a much more linear game than the other Borderlands instalments. Even with the Tycho things and the Eridium shards, it's different. You move through an area, and you get to the next area by finishing off the last one, rather than straddling two areas for a while. The magic of the General Knoxx DLC was that it really felt like a place, and that's what is missing. The storyline would take you somewhere, and you'd find yourself pleasantly distracted by everything else you came across along the way. BL3 is probably the best of the bunch for co-op, though, so that could be fun at some point.

Gears 5 looks amazing, and is fun. Haven't touched the campaign or most of the modes, but man--they've really turned the Gears games into a carnival of content. Just hard to crack those nuts when playing solo.

Anthem also looks amazing, the whole flying around thing is amazing, but lost steam with this one and then heard something about a major overhaul, so I'll wait for that.

I think I'm done with what I think of as PC games after playing Stellaris (even if I played it on Xbox on a free weekend). It's not eligible, but the game I probably put the most time into this year was Colonization, since I don't have a computer that can run Stellaris or the new Civ, and I couldn't wait one minute more to scratch that 4X itch. It's too problematic for there to ever be another Colonization, but I couldn't find the old magic in Civ V or messing around in Stellaris. They seem very cool, but the spark isn't there. We'll see in the future if that changes, but I dunno--games and their systems and content don't seem as much fun to explore as they used to.

That's maybe the story of gaming for this year--it's a pleasant pastime, but the sense of wonder is gone, and with it the rewards for getting deep into any of them.

Besides Persona, of course!

Will they bring P4G to the PS4? To the PS5 along with P5R? Does that expanded content count enough for those games to be 'new' to 2020? Only your shadow knows!

1. Monster Hunter World: IceBourne
2. Fire Emblem Three Houses
3. Remanant From the ashes
4. Anthem
5. Daemon Ex Machina
6. Death Stranding
7. Total Warhammer II
8. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
9. Vemintide II

Well, I was almost done with my list when reading through everyone’s posts, I realized I had somehow omitted one of the best games I played this year!

I played so very few new games in 2019. A lot of it had to do with returning to old favourites, going harder on mobile games (it's my job) and simply being Uber Snail Gamer Supreme. I'll come back with the shortest of lists and probably stick a bunch of titles in to the "honourable mentions" category. It was tempting to name something GOTY for simply for having played it but upon further reflection they really missed the mark in several places so are actually undeserving.

Look forward to reading everyone's listicles!

Rykin wrote:

7: Mindustry (Steam)
A last minute addition to my list. Similar to Factorio, but a bit more approachable. Harvest resources, use those resources to build things that let you harvest other resources, process resources into new ones, and build towers to defend against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Very easy to lose track of time while playing this game and trying to optimize your production lines. One benefit of this game is that I think it runs on toasters so even my weak work PC and my old Hackintosh can run it.

Hey, cool, not only is this also available as free software, it is also available on the App Store for iOS! Gonna have to check it out, since it sounds right up my alley.

There's a distressing lack of Disco Elysium on these lists. COME ON, PEOPLE.

Vrikk wrote:

There's a distressing lack of Disco Elysium on these lists. COME ON, PEOPLE.

That's going on next year's lists i reckon.

Fully expecting it to be on mine.

Jonman wrote:
Vrikk wrote:

There's a distressing lack of Disco Elysium on these lists. COME ON, PEOPLE.

That's going on next year's lists i reckon.

Fully expecting it to be on mine.

Hoping the console port is good.

Vrikk wrote:

There's a distressing lack of Disco Elysium on these lists. COME ON, PEOPLE.

Console release in 2020 too, day 1 purchase for me.

Jonman wrote:
Vrikk wrote:

There's a distressing lack of Disco Elysium on these lists. COME ON, PEOPLE.

That's going on next year's lists i reckon.

Fully expecting it to be on mine.

I got Mr. Cop punched in a bar because I kept asking a dude if "his face wanted to take a ride on the c*ck carousel", but Mr. Cop's mental state made him able to only say "c*ck carousel" because I made him say it so much. At one point his mind said "please let me stop saying this". And I couldn't.

10/10 game.

Update with list.
1. Assassin's Creed Odyssey - Beautiful open world, fun combat system, great sailing and ship combat, and great writing. One of the best RPG's I've ever played and probably 2nd only to Skyrim. The cut scenes were a little long sometimes but oh so well done! I've got a hundred hours easily and not even half way through everything.

2. Atlas - I love sandbox building type games and Atlas does a great job of scratching that itch. It's a pirate sandbox themed game that had probably the most anticipated but also the roughest beta release in gaming history. It's been in beta for just over a year now and just got a new influx of players from the Xbox release. The game is run on a 15X15 server grid with 225 zones and even after a year I have probably only explored half the islands. I enjoy the ship building and sailing but there's quite a few annoying bugs that still need to be worked out and Grapeshot needs to figure out their direction. They seem to think there is just either all in PvP or all in PvE so each cluster of servers is one type or the other. The map is big enough that they should be able to combine both aspects but I'm just not sure they have the development power or the leadership to do it. I've played on multiple private servers that have done a great job of implementing both PvP and PvE zones but they lack players or die out quickly as it's costly to run the servers. Not sure why the official servers can't be set up this way. Crossing my fingers and praying that they find something that will work and soon or this ship may sink for good.

3. Anthem - Fun game (the flying was amazing), amazing graphics, and oh so much potential but alas never really got it's bearing. If they could have made this a more open world with quest hubs it would have been top notch.

4. Far Cry Primal - another great open world game. I only have a few dozen hours played and I probably would have played this game and enjoyed it much more if I hadn't purchased it at the same time as AC - Odyssey. I will play it more when I need a different adventure RPG other than Odyssey.

That's pretty much it for my list. Most of my gaming time goes into Atlas because it's an easy game to just pick up and do whatever. Really hoping they find their direction in Atlas because the game is beautiful and has so much potential.

Alright then! Thank you gorilla, carrotpanic, Rykin, cheeze_pavilion, Atomicvideohead and Sydhart for your lists!
Atomicvideohead, I had a few issues with the spelling of your games, so hopefully I got them right, particularly for Total War: Warhammer II and Warhammer: Vermintide 2? Skiping letters and words, there, aren't we?

I'm always disappointed that there's not at least 5 new GOTY lists everytime I look at this thread, which is multiple times per day

It's not been a great year for games, from my perspective, but these were my favourites:

  1. Spyro Reignited Trilogy
  2. Crash Team Racing: Nitro Refueled
  3. Apex Legends
  4. Control
  5. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  6. Pokemon Sword
  7. What Remains of Edith Finch
  8. A Plague Tale: Innocence
  9. Vector Man

Is that Vector Man for the Genesis/Mega Drive? If so, I love that game (and its sequel)!

For me, 2019 can be summed up in one sentence... “Can I have more Hollow Knight, please?”. It feels like most of what I sought out was an attempt to capture the essence and enjoyment of marathoning Hollow Knight over my Christmas break. And Silksong, which is supposed to be released in June, is now my most anticipated game of 2020. Which is kinda weird because, looking back at last year’s list, I only put Hollow Knight at #5... yet a year later, it’s one of only 3 games on my 2018 list I still think and talk about.
Anyway, here’s my list of best, worst, and near misses.

Top 10:
The top four this year were really hard to decide an order for. All were excellent and still occupy my thoughts days and weeks later. But Eleima runs a tight ship around here, so a decision has to be made...

1) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PC)
The first game I played in 2019 trying to recapture the feel of Hollow Knight, and it goes in at number 1! But I have a confession... Considering my love of MetroidVania games, it might come as a surprise that I’ve never played a Castlevania game. And technically speaking, I still haven’t, since Bloodstained is not Castlevania in any way... except mechanics, broad strokes, and from the original creator of the Castlevania series.
But whatever, the question is really “is it good?” and the answer is, “yes, yes, why aren’t you playing it right now, yes!” (Unless you’re holding out to play it on Switch, in which case, keep waiting from what I understand.) The PC version is solid, and I marathoned the whole thing, 100%ing and getting all trophies by playing it for about 2 weeks solid. I will admit that playing it at the same time as Tyrian and having a multi-hundred post chat thread between the two of us on Slack did a lot for my enjoyment of the game, so thank you, Tyrian! One of my fondest memories of 2019 and gaming in general.

2) Heaven’s Vault (PC)
Winning my “Return of the Obra Dinn What a Surprise” award, it’s Heaven’s Vault! A super late entry for me (much like Obra Dinn was last year), and I have Gremlin to thank for finding it, it’s been just an absolute joy to work through this puzzle/mystery game, even though all the puzzles are just figuring out a dead (fictional) language. It’s a lot like Obra Dinn, in fact... and I think anyone who enjoyed Obra Dinn should strongly think about picking this one up. If I were to compare the two, I’d say Obra Dinn is the tighter, more polished product, but if you’re hankering for more of that gameplay and feeling good when pieces of a puzzle click into place, then Heaven’s Vault is a very strong contender.
Obra Dinn.

3) Fallen Order (PC)
Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order: Revenge of the Subtitles is a rare treat of a game. A AAA game, put out by EA, and it isn’t a pile of garbage (I know, that’s very trolling of me, sorry). Of course, that’s possible in this case because it was developed by the Titanfall devs, and their work isn’t garbage.
That said, you can definitely tell this is the first non FPS game they developed, so while it’s amazingly good, it also feels like a sophomore effort. Bugs, really weird difficulty where three mooks pose more of a threat than a boss, mechanics that make no sense in the Star Wars universe and aren’t even attempted to be explained (but make the game really fun), a bland main character surrounded by actually interesting people (and I really wish they had let you choose the gender of your character)...
But really, this is the first Star Wars video game that I’ve played that actually makes me feel like a space warrior magician, but in a very vulnerable way, so of course I loved it and 100%ed it. It’s that combination of action game (Tomb Raider reboot style), Dark Souls mechanics, some MetroidVania mechanics, a splash of Shadow of Mordor, and a Star Wars skin that does it for me. I think they definitely hit a gold mine here, and I really hope they get to make more (unhampered by EA).

4) Control (PC)
You know... I haven’t been into much of what Remedy does. Alan Wake was ok, never played a Max Payne game, and Quantum Break didn’t appeal to me.
Yet Control just knocks it out of the park! Ok, the devs still stuck in a bunch of live action movies which break the game flow when you have to stand around or pause the game to watch them, but there’s something about the SCP inspired story and running around with 3rd person shooting and a bunch of neat powers that just works for me. It’s not perfect, but I don’t think any game on my list could be described as perfect, so what do you want?
And yes, the Ashtray Maze section is as awesome as you’ve heard.

5) DARQ (PC)
Hey! An ultra small indie title made it onto my list! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since Obra Dinn (which has, I think, one dev) made it on my list last year, but DARQ has a special place being a dev team I’ve never heard of before, releasing a really good (if short) first title. Also, this is the first game I’ve 100%ed in such a short time, I actually could have returned it via the Steam return policy and gotten a full refund, so that deserves an award.
Anyway, there’s something amazing about DARQ and how well it captures the surreality of a nightmare. This is a gorgeous game, and even though the puzzles aren’t particularly hard, the game is WAY too short, and the last 10 minutes are an out-of-left-field frustration, I seriously recommend it. They’re coming out with DLC soon (ish) and I can’t wait to play more.

6) Death Stranding (PS4)
A non PC game on my top 10 list?!? Wow. But in all seriousness, I do play my PS4 a lot, but it’s all stuff I picked up in previous years, so I can’t count it here.
Anyway, Death Stranding. I, like pretty much everyone, had absolutely no idea what Death Stranding was going to be based on the trailers, and that confusion definitely worked to sell me the game. But you know what? I kinda like it. Not “top 5” like, but I like it. The gameplay is meditative, and the fact that an entire story can successfully be told via the mechanics of “FedEx” is something to be applauded, though it went on a little too long and I found myself mainlining the critical path for the last 1/3 of the game or so. Also, considering this is a Kojima game, it’s impressive I basically understood the story at the end, which is more than I can say of the Metal Gear series.
That said, this is a Kojima game, and that carries some warnings. The story is very, very wordy (and not in a good way); women are treated poorly (better than any MGS, but still not great); and the plot as a whole is crazy, but not as deep as it thinks it is.
Still, if watching Norman Reedus pee is your thing, then Kojima has you covered.

7) Draugen (PC)
Ahh, back to the warm comfort of my PC.
Watching the trailer for Draugen, I knew it was a walking sim game, a la Firewatch, and would have given it a pass, except that it’s written by Ragnar Tørnquist, the luminary behind The Longest Journey trilogy and The Secret World, both of which I count as some of the best writing in video games.
And what do you know? Draugen is an exceptionally written walking sim with an engaging plot. It’s not a long game, but that works in its favor, as it keeps just enough of a brisk pace (pun) to not outstay its welcome or drag out plot revelations. In theory, more is coming in this new IP, and I will play every bit of it.
But do I recommend it? Well, if you like or can tolerate walking sim games, then yes! Absolutely you should pick this up. Reward one of the best writers in video games at present by buying his newest game!

8) Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)
Another non-PC game?!? OK, I’ll stop that now.
More confessions from me. I’ve never finished a Fire Emblem game. It’s not the game, it’s the way I play them. They always give you the ability to engage in an endless number of optional fights, making it super easy to over-level and then steamroll the actual story battles, which means the game stops being a challenge, and I lose interest. If I were to just stop doing that, I’m sure I’d enjoy the challenge and the series much more, but I find myself unable to play any other way.
So no, Fire Emblem, it’s not you, it’s me.
That said, Three Houses shakes up the Fire Emblem formula by mixing in some Persona, weirdly. You have an open area to run around in and build social links, find items, have tea with your students, build the story, etc., and that helps the engagement with Three Houses quite a bit.
So if you want more Persona social stuff in your Fire Emblem, or Fire Emblem tactical fights in your Persona, Three Houses is for you.

9) Disney Heroes (Android)
Ahh, another year, another F2P Android game. The basic premise is that Disney owns a LOT of IPs, and has decided that they want to do a fanfic crossover game for everyone to enjoy. So Simba and Nala can fight alongside Mr. Incredible and Alice from Wonderland, and it’s not strange...
OK, so it is strange when I put it like that, but for a F2P game, I definitely enjoy it.
At work.
When I should be working.

10) GreedFall
Number 10 on my list goes to a real go-getter of a game. Spiders (the company, put down the rolled up paper) decided they would try their hand at a BioWare style game, in the vein of Mass Effect or Dragon Age, and they deserve a place on this list for giving it a really good try.
Huh? Do I like the game?
So anyway, here are my honorable mentions.
Ok, ok, I’ll answer your question. Yes, I like the game, it’s just that I don’t choose to play it often. I like the characters, I like the world they built (basically it’s set in a fictional, magical version of British Colonialism), I like the story and lore they have... But if I’m honest, it’s really lacking that spark that drew me into Dragon Age, but I can’t pinpoint or articulate for you what that lacking spark IS.
So Spiders is to be commended for their solid, if somehow lacking effort.
Getting good reviews on Steam, though, so maybe you should ignore me.

Honorable Mentions
Layers of Fear (PC)
Sooo close. Sooo close to a wonderful horror game. So very, very close.
I really like what they did here, and I’ll pick up Layers of Fear 2 at some point (probably on sale), but there’s just enough working against the horror aspect in Layers of Fear to keep me from calling it a great horror game, or putting it on my top 10 list, even though I adore horror games.
If pressed, I think it’s the fact that every door you go through leads to a totally different room. Sure, illogical architecture is creepy, but only when used in moderation. After just 10 minutes of that, though, it stopped being weird or creepy and started being normal. Several hours later, I was almost surprised when I walked out of my RL bedroom and it actually led to the hall. Almost.
Add on the fact that I knew “something spooky” was going to happen in almost every room, and I was never caught by surprise, which is kinda a death knell for horror games.
But there are some amazing moments in the game which would have made for an incredible horror game, if the game had been tighter designed. Those moments stick in my memories, while the rest of the game blends into a grey fog of rooms leading to other impossible rooms.

Blasphemous (PC)
And here’s a game I played, attempting to capture the Hollow Knight blah blah that really... doesn’t. On paper, it has everything I would want out of a 2d MetroidVania game... but the execution is just a little lacking. Your commands seem to have a slight delay (throwing off timing), some enemy types and placements just feel unfair (not a challenge to be overcome, just unfair), and there’s too many equipment variables to ever get a handle on.
Combine that with the “Catholicism taken to the extreme” visual and story design, the grotesque-for-the-sake-of-being-grotesque graphics, and it’s just kinda... meh. Not bad, just meh. If you absolutely cannot get enough 2d MetroidVania, pick this up on sale.

Resident Evil 2 Remake (PC)
I struggled a little with placement of this game, based on Eleima’s rules. Is it a new game? They changed so much it might be. But at the same time, it really is just a very polished remastering of a game that came out for PS1.
In the end, it makes Honorable Mentions more because I have too many better games I want to put in the top 10. But if you liked RE4’s over the shoulder gunplay, but want more classic RE survival horror/puzzle mechanics, definitely pick this one up.

Sekiro (PS4)
I love FROM software’s games. Demon Souls, Dark Souls 1-3, and especially Bloodborne, I love them all. So when Sekiro hit PSN, I pre-ordered in a heartbeat.
So imagine how disappointed I am when I say I barely got anywhere in Sekiro, and don’t care about the game enough to go back to it. Ever.
I think it’s the fact that there’s no customization that kills it for me. I don’t mean of the main character, I mean of the playstyle. Wolf has one play style, the stealth and parry kind, and if that’s not your thing, then neither is Sekiro. Bosses felt less like a challenge and more like figuring out the specific literal steps the developers want you to take. And there’s somehow something lacking about both the story and the world that puts me off. I was bored and frustrated (in the bad way) with Sekiro, so here it is.

Conarium (PC)
I got this game for free on Epic, and you know what? That’s exactly the right price. On paper, this seems like it might be right up my alley, “a chilling Lovecraftian game, which follows a gripping story involving four scientists and their endeavor to challenge what we normally consider to be the ‘absolute’ limits of nature.” with tags like “horror” and “puzzle”. I turned off the lights, put on headphones, and sat down to enjoy it.
And a few hours later, when I finished the game, I was able to say that the description and tags are absolute lies.
This is not a Lovecraftian story. You play as one person whom you don’t even know is a scientist, starting in an Antarctic base, with many more than four scientists (though you only meet one of them right at the end of the game). The puzzles are all simple and obvious. There are no horror elements at all, and nothing about the game gripped me. It’s much, much closer to a walking sim than anything else.
Then there’s the fact that the devs seem to have straight up forgotten various plot points when they were writing the story. What’s up with the literal shadow cat that showed up for 5 minutes and then is never seen or mentioned again? Those 5 minutes were the most interesting and engaging part of the entire game, and they happened in the first half hour.

Best of the Worst
Salt n’ Sanctuary
Hey, what do you know? Another game I actually got refunded! That makes two in as many years! I must be getting picky as I age.
Here’s yet another attempt to capture the yada yada Hollow Knight, and boy is it ever so bad. I played for 30 minutes and that was too much.
For me, it was the graphic design, it’s just a mess. Enemies blend in with the background and the scenery, so I never saw them. These aren’t “surprise attack” enemies, they’re your introductory cannon fodder. The art style is pretty bad (IMO, of course), and combat felt very, very clunky. Hard pass, give me back my money. Not that I spent a lot on it over the sale.

cheeze_pavilion wrote:

That's maybe the story of gaming for this year--it's a pleasant pastime, but the sense of wonder is gone, and with it the rewards for getting deep into any of them.

Hear, hear.

10. Dark Souls II

Yes, the elevator goes up into an open sky and takes you into a cavern deep underground. This one bizarre, inscrutible event either encapsulates everything wrong with Dark Souls II or everything that's right. Where subsequent games from From Software have wound the clockwork of their game designs ever-tighter, Dark Souls II sprawls in whatever weird direction it wants to. Sometimes the springs break free of the gears, an unbeautiful mechanism, but it never fails to surprise.

9. Metroid: Samus Returns

Soon it will have been ten years since the release of the last wholly-new Metroid game, and while everyone has been busy waiting for Retro Studios to revive the dormant franchise on the Switch, MercurySteam's wonderful 3DS remake of Metroid II seems to have been quietly forgotten. Wisely eschewing almost all story content, Samus Returns instead focuses on merging the classic explorative gameplay of the Metroid franchise with the more muscular, aggressive interpretation of Samus Aran from Super Smash Bros. It's a confident, modern remake of a classic.

8. Crackdown 3

By all accounts, Crackdown 3 is a tired retread of the Xbox 360 original that fails to bring anything of note to a game released in 2019. Its saving grace might simply be that I never played either of its predecessors, but I loved Crackdown 3. In a gaming landscape crowded by open world action games with RPG-like upgrade trees that don't really give you any of the fun tools until the end of the game, Crackdown 3 skips the bullsh*t and starts you at the end: overpowered, practically invincible, and just clearing icons off the map. It's gloriously empowering.

7. Hollow Knight

Many games begin with promise and then collapse by the end; few stumble out of the gate but build to a spectacular finish. Hollow Knight is one of the latter. The game's opening hours are a distillation of every criticism leveled at the flood of games inspired by Dark Souls. It's directionless, repetitive, and needlessly punishing, with more reasons to quit the game than carry on. But once the game stops dragging its feet and gives you all the upgrades you expect, you'll find within it an engrossing, memorable world to explore and master.

6. Ashen

I have loved Bloodborne for years, but it was Ashen that finally made the "Souls-like" genre click for me and launched me into three Dark Souls games, Demon's Souls, Nioh, The Surge, Necropolis, and Lords of the Fallen. While I didn't finish all of those games, I dove deep into most of them and emerged on the other side still filled with love for Ashen. By bringing an openness to the game's spaces and a lightness to the world, Ashen carves out a unique identity for itself from the nascent genre. There's no other game in my list I'd rather see a sequel to.

5. Battle Breakers

At first glance, there's little to differentiate Battle Breakers from any of the hundreds of other gacha-style mobile RPGs, but it's the game's many small changes that allowed it to stick for me where so many other hero collectors have failed. There are no stamina timers limited playtime; no random character draws giving me unwanted duplicates; no byzantine upgrade systems that make me decide which heroes to hang on to for my collection and which to sacrifice. It's a thoughtful, respectful entry in a genre where those two words have rarely ever applied.

4. Resident Evil 2 (2019)

Despite its position as one of the venerable franchises of gaming, I mostly associate Resident Evil with bullsh*t. Bullsh*t controls. Bullsh*t stories. Bullsh*t dialogue. Bullsh*t deaths. This year's remake of Resident Evil 2, on the other hand, is delightfully free of bullsh*t and is the best action horror game I've played since the original Dead Space. Graced by smooth controls; tense, thoughtful encounter design; and characters who didn't wander in from the set of a sh*tty B-movie, Resident Evil 2 is fantastic.

3. Dragon's Dogma Dark Arisen

Defining Dragon's Dogma feels like the kind of puzzle Indiana Jones might solve. Line up all these different landmarks and find the point at which they converge. Even if it would seem to land you in the middle of nowhere, there's treasure to be found. Dragon's Dogma is an unexpected alignment of Western and Japanese role-playing tropes, Berserk-influenced dark fantasy, and MMOs that should be a hot mess but is instead a unique treasure. I've never played anything else like it, and I don't know that I ever will again.

2. Outer Wilds

My favorite part of Outer Wilds is that everything you discover and everything you can do was already there all along. No matter when or how you discover it, every place you can go was always available to you from the very beginning. Everything you can do is something you could have done at any point had you only known that it was an option. The game unfolds like a Metroidvania, but it doesn't depend on power-ups or keys. It depends on the player learning for themselves where (and when) to go somewhere and what to do when they get there. Few games show so much trust in players.

1. Below

I've always been drawn to games for the spaces inside of them: the castles you explore, the dungeons you delve into, the plains and mountains and swamps you run across. I like finding all the hidden nooks and crannies. My favorite thing to discover is a shortcut from a space that's new to a space that's familiar.

Consequently, I don't get along well with roguelikes. Roguelikes are about exploring and mastering a set of rules or mechanics, and the spaces within those games are a disposable backdrop against which those mechanics play out. Roguelikes throw away my favorite part of gaming every time you die.

Below is consitently referred to as a roguelike. The game's official description itself invites you to explore the "procedural subterrainian labyrinths" of the game's setting, The Isle. (Thankfully, I glossed over that description before I installed the game or I doubt very much that I ever would have played it.) But that term ("roguelike") and that description don't paint an entirely accurate picture of the game's spaces.

Imagine an apple in a coloring book. See the dark outline that defines the shape of the apple, that delineates the shine on the skin, the stem, the leaf, the friendly worm poking out its head. Now color that apple in with a crayon. Color it coarsely in big sweeping strokes with lots of space in between them. However you color it, wherever the strokes go, the shape of the outline stays the same.

Below is shaped like that drawing: the interior is chaotic, unpredictable, ever-changing, but the exterior is not. Every time you die in Below, you begin the game again at the bottom of the same cliff on a rain-lashed beach. You climb up the cliff and then down into a cave, and the world you find below the surface of the island is new every time you see it but only in part. There are shortcuts back up to the surface that will always be there. There are hidden nooks and crannies to explore that don't fade away. The Isle is a thick, dark outline with some randomness inside.

And what a delicious outline it makes! Taken as a whole The Isle is one of my favorite spaces in gaming. It loops back on itself, criss-crossing over and around a dark, Eldritch presence in its core. It delves so deep into the Earth that space and time lose their shape and all you have to anchor yourself is a pathetic puddle of light. Until you go deep enough, and it all breaks apart.

More than anything else I played this year, Below was an experience that took up residence in my thoughts and lingers still in my memory. I feel haunted by it and at home in it. The Isle is a place.

Disappointments of the Year

PlayStation Now

With all the current hype around both game streaming and subscription-based gaming libraries, it can be easy to forget that Sony has had a service that offers both of those things for years. A service they've never quite known what to do with and have consistently squandered through bad pricing, poor communication, and under-utilization. Over the course of the last few years, PlayStation Now has evolved from a pricey rental option for legacy games to its current status as a sprawling library of all-you-can-eat junk anchored by an ever-smaller list of monthly additions of years-old games, only now those games expire after a few months. What a deal.

PlayStation Now seems to be perpetually on the verge of being a great product and perpetually falls short. The only thing PS Now has going for it is that somehow Google's Stadia is even worse.

Nintendo Switch

In many ways, the Switch resembles its ill-fated predecessor, the Wii U. Its library is still a dirty harbor of mediocrity with Nintendo's beautiful flagships floating serenly atop an ocean of thousands of garbage indie releases and worst-possible-version ports of multiplatform games. (Conveniently, most of those Nintendo flagships are literally the same flagships that the Wii U had to offer.) It is still a machine that is too underpowered to offer a competitive home console experience while being too large and too limited to act as much of a portable. The Switch, like the Wii U, is bogged down by a running identity crisis about what kind of device it actually wants to be.

Everything about the Switch is a compromise. It stakes out a middle distance between every possible achievable goal and consequently does almost everything poorly but few things well. I have been an enthusiastic Nintendo fan for years, but the Switch has been a consistent disappointment. I am tired of sifting through the weekly dump of garbage games. I am tired of being duped by subpar ports of multiplatform games. I am tired of the flimsy feel of the flagship hardware model, and I am disappointed that my alternative is a handheld model that gives up a number of key features while also still being too large.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Switch to me is that it has so frequently let me down that I've stopped playing it altogether for months at a time. I used to roll my eyes at the meme of Wiis gathering dust, but there's my Switch doing just that. Luigi's Mansion 3 has recently inspired me to give it another chance, but it feels like a temporary reattachment, a brief fling with an attractive first-party game before I move on again.

It's a shame.

Clocking the Switch. Warms the clockles of my heart.

Eleima wrote:

Alright then! Thank you gorilla, carrotpanic, Rykin, cheeze_pavilion, Atomicvideohead and Sydhart for your lists!

Happy to contribute.

Thank you (and your predecessors) for doing the heavy lifting!

BadKen wrote:

Clocking the Switch. Warms the clockles of my heart.


List will come later, haven't played much but Disco Elysium will be my #1 easily. And I could give it that from the soundtrack alone.

Thanks all for the lists so far. I'm still putting mine together, and so far, there has been no mention of one of my top games. I think there's going to be quite a variety of lists, and I'm excited to see the results!