2019 Community Game of the Year

And Below becomes the second new game I must have. What a write-up, Clock.

My goodness Clocky that write up for Below is something else. I feel if that was on any of the big gaming sites with a large audience, the game would sell thousands more based on that piece alone.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your list top to bottom, everyone else is doing a brilliant job too!

GOTY

#1: Eliza – How am I liking a visual novel? I hate visual novels! Why is this coming from Zachtronics, makers of mechanistic puzzles, no wait, of course this is coming from them, the human psyche is the ultimate mechanistic puzzle. I found this game horrifying deep down in my soul – it presents such a believable near-future setup that is a damning indictment of the tech industry’s corporate inhumanity writ large, while still being a meditation on grief and regret. Smart, interesting, touching and intriguing, and one that’ll stick with you. The fact that it’s set where I live (and Zachtronics are local) added another layer of relatability for me.

#2: Football: Tactics & Glory – it’s XCOM with studded boots instead of plasma rifles. Even down to the infuriating RNG. Inexplicably brilliant, and doesn’t require you to be a soccer fan at all.

#3 and #4: WRC8 and Dirt Rally 2.0 – Spots #3 and #4 are, to the layman, effectively the same game. I could go on about the fine details between the two physics models, but ultimately, they’re both about throwing cars down narrow roads at terrifying speeds, white-knuckling it the entire time and getting your brain into that flow state where you can internalize the co-driver’s callouts without conscious thought. They’re both incredibly competent, wonderful in their own ways, and I’m going to be have put significant time into both. WRC8 just about edges out Dirt Rally 2: its Career mode is far superior, and I just slightly prefer the physics model. DR2.0 has a wider variety of cars, and offers Rallycross too, but WRC8 wins out for the purity of the driving experience.

#5: Luigi’s Mansion 3 – this might be my absolute favorite mainline Nintendo game on the Switch yet. It’s tight, clever, witty and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Also notable as the game which has encouraged my daughter to work on her controller skills (though I’m still handed the controller to fight the ghosts).

#6: Phoenix Point – a late-breaking entry. My love affair with the XCOM reboots was deep and abiding, so this was a shoe-in. Can be summed up as “fiddlier XCOM”, and I can see why that might not appeal to some, but the slightly grognardier amount of micro-management is right up my slimy-arm-shooting-off alley.

#7: Slay The Spire – Pretty sure I got into this as a result of it making the #3 spot on last year’s Community GOTY. Don’t think I need to say much more. It’s great, and keeps you coming back for more.

#8: Rage 2 – coming into Rage 2 right off the back of The Outer Worlds was a nice comparison to make. The gunplay here is so tight and on point, and while the worldbuilding is by-the-books post-apocalypic dystopia, it’s competently so. Kept my interest just to get into the next gunfight.

#9: Audica - It’s Beat Saber with guns, and comes from Harmonix, whose rhythm chops are so big you can cut cities in half with them. All you VR heads get on this, if only so I’ve got some more scores to chase on the leaderboards.

#10: Forza Horizon 4 – Feels like the WWE of racing games – big, loud and dumber than a bag of rocks, but the racing is pretty legit, even if the physics model is as lifelike as the Muppets. And the gotta-catch-em-all of the open world keeps you coming back for more.

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Honorable mentions

Spoiler:

Game Pass for PC – This might be the best thing to happen to my wallet this year, and potentially the worst thing to happen to Gabe Newell’s wallet. A metric buttload of games for a very reasonable fee that’s cut my gaming expenditures significantly.

A Fisherman’s Tale – The most notable VR games just wouldn’t work in pancake mode, and this absolutely qualifies. At it’s most basic, it’s a simplistic puzzle game, but the hook is the recursive space you’re popped inside of – look up and see a giant version of the room you’re inhabiting (complete with giant you) – look down inside the model on the table and see a teeny-tiny version of yourself. I won’t spoil it any more than that, but that kind of non-Euclidian space is a mind**** in VR.

Tetris Effect – With the cyber-goggles on, this is the best version of Tetris ever, with Mizuguchi-san firing on all synesthetic cylinders.

In Death – V-Arrrr-chery (#dadjokes). I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect VR archery game, and this is it, as far as I’m concerned. It’s got a roguelite structure, complete with perma-upgrades, procedurally generated levels, but most importantly a bow model that just feels correct – headshotting a dude at the end of a huge parabolic arc is a superb feeling. Couple that with some neat ancillary features - locomotion is achieved by shooting a different type of arrow at where you want to end up with the option of what is essentially a teleport grenade as an alternate for short hops, and you’ve got a winning combination.

Crackdown 3 – is objectively not a good game. It’s janky and repetitive to a fault. The AI would struggle to be stupider. Quite possibly the worst driving model I’ve played since the PS1 days. And yet it hit me at just the right time when just what a needed was A Particularly Dumb Bag Of Rocks, and on that note, it’s a rousing success.

Pistol Whip– My only problem with this game is whether to call it John Wick Simulator or Equilibrium Simulator. Either way, get your gun-kata on.

Assetto Corsa Competizione – Steepest learning curve I’ve found in a sim racer. It’s gorgeous, and you can almost feel the weight of these bigass GT3 cars, but by god is it a challenge just to keep your wheels pointing the right way down the track.

Spin Rhythm XD – it’s still in Early Access, but it’s showing promise as a stripped down, simple bite-size rhythm game.

What Became Of Edith Finch - melancholy is hard to do in games, but this knocks it out of the park. Dark and twisty, but in a slow, thoughtful way.

Untitled Goose Game – now I put this immediately after Edith Finch, it strikes me that it’s the polar opposite in tone – sheer unbridled chaotic glee. A little finicky on the controls to be perfect, but as a short experience, it’s hilarious to be the biggest (and featheriest) asshole in the village.

Valve Index controllers – a significant improvement over the stock Vive wands. While there aren’t many games that support the finger-tracking and open-handed nature of the controllers specifically, they’re my default VR controller of choice purely out of comfort.

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Would be great if I could get past the flaws

Spoiler:

Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Had I played on Hard difficulty instead of Normal, it might have held my interest. As it was, it was such a cakewalk that it waaaay overstayed it’s welcome (and for some inexplicable reason, you couldn’t switch up the difficulty). I was ready to be done at least 20 hours before the credits rolled.

The Outer Worlds – It was great until it wasn’t. What there is of this game is fabulous, but there isn’t enough of it to spread over the length. Except for Parvarti. <3 Parvarti. But not, of course, in a physical way.

Mutant Year Zero – I wanted to like this more, but something about it just didn’t click – the combination of real-time stealth and XCOM-a-like turn based tactics felt flat. At least until the mid-game, when the tactical options opened up for when stealth was no longer the better part of valor, but by that point, my interest had waned.

Baba is You – the first couple of hours were trancendant, but the complexity ramped up quickly until each new puzzle was utterly impenetrable, and googling the answer only to mutter “I would never in a million years have gotten that” wasn’t enjoyable.

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The “I bounced off but want to try again” list

Spoiler:

Return of the Obra Dinn - I bounced off this one pretty hard, and I’m not sure why. I half-suspect that when I give it another shake, I’ll have a big “ohhhh riiiiight” moment and fall deeply in love.

The Outer WILDS (not worlds) – another game I bounced off. I can see how good it is, it just didn’t grab me hard enough to keep playing. Something about the looping nature, slow-burn narrative discovery and lack of hand-holding stoked my disinterest. I think I need a little more direction to maintain interest.

Dishonored 2 – I think that “immersive” sims aren’t for me. Neither Dishonored really hooked me and neither did Prey. With Dishonored in particular, I find it oddly stressful – in that I’m never quite sure how I’m supposed to be playing it. I know there’s high chaos and low chaos approaches, but it comes off as a game that doesn’t quite know what it is. The stealth always feels wooly and indistinct, and the combat is crushingly hard. The many deaths, reload, try again approach doesn’t appeal that much.

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Poopy McPoopFaces

Spoiler:

Path of Exile – Sorry Elysium, I tried to like this, I really did, but I honestly don’t get the appeal of click-to-explode-enemies games.

Gears 5 – I gave it a college try, but my god what a yawnfest this game was. To be fair, I’ve never gotten into a Gears game, and now I know why. SOO TEDIOUS.

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Oldies that got replayed

Spoiler:

Bioshock Infinite – I played this and bounced off it on 360 back in the day, but this time it grabbed hold of me and shook me until the end credits rolled. Great action, albeit that it’s starting to show it’s age a little. And a great ending, haters be damned.

Into the Breach – Still plugging away at this occasionally. I’m sure I’ll 100% it sometime mid-next-decade.

Rogue Legacy - I’d honestly forgotten how dang hard this game is, but I thoroughly enjoyed a second go-around at it.

Invisible Inc – Returning to this one a second time resulted in a much greater appreciation for how finely honed its strategy is. The constantly ratcheting tension of a long mission can be palpable. If you like a turn-based strategy game and haven’t tried this yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past – courtesy of the Switch’s SNES package, I’ve been playing through this with my daughter watching. “Old games look weird, Daddy”. While there’s some anachronisms to the UI, the game itself still holds up. Proper masterpiece.

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Games that would be on my list again if you’d let me

Spoiler:

Beat Saber - It was my #1 last year, and it would be my #1 again this year if I was allowed. It’s probably vying with Rock Band for my #1 game of the decade. I’m still playing it, I’ve continuously been getting better at it, and at this point, straddling the very wide skill gap between Expert and Expert+, I’m using it as legit cardio.

RaceRoom Racing Experience – Another year of racing with The Racing Dorks, and I continue to learn how to be less crummy of a driver. Great platform, great chaps, great racing.

Jonman wrote:

#2: Football: Tactics & Glory – it’s XCOM with studded boots instead of plasma rifles. Even down to the infuriating RNG. Inexplicably brilliant, and doesn’t require you to be a soccer fan at all.

Nice shout-out. Man I love this game.

(Also need to carve out some time for Eliza. Been near the top of my Wishlist forever.)

Aaron D. wrote:
Jonman wrote:

#2: Football: Tactics & Glory – it’s XCOM with studded boots instead of plasma rifles. Even down to the infuriating RNG. Inexplicably brilliant, and doesn’t require you to be a soccer fan at all.

Nice shout-out. Man I love this game.

(Also need to carve out some time for Eliza. Been near the top of my Wishlist forever.)

F:TaG is hard tho - I've made it up to the Second League a couple times, but then I get spanked.

Eliza came outta nowhere - I bought it out of a mix of Zachtronics fanboyism, and curiousity as to what the hell it was about. I certainly wasn't expecting to get sucker punched by it.

Wow, I really didn't get much gaming done this year. Will come back to edit later with more spare time perhaps tonight. A lot of games didn't make the cut - these were games I had installed, played perhaps once or twice, then put down again without having first sampled them properly.

Short list - only 6 games!

Spoiler:

1. Total War: Three Kingdoms (PC)
2. Cliff Empire (PC)
3. Age of Wonders: Planetfall (PC)
4. Brown Dust (Android)
5. Mutant League Zero
6. Stardew Valley (PC)

EDIT - THE DISCUSSION

Spoiler:

1. Total War: Three Kingdoms (PC): this game was incredibly beautiful aesthetically with high fidelity to the literature it is based upon, from the recreation of the factional relationships, legendary characters, right down to specific weapons and mounts. I was surprised the team had so faithfully paid attention to all the settings and I am grateful for a focus on this particular era in ancient warfare; I mean, they've done Japan previously, but this kind of detail and faithfulness to the literature is about as close as you'd get in a KOEII Sengoku game. Diplomacy actually felt useful (although I didn't really use it as much as I could or should until towards the endgame). There's a lot of gameplay and replayability if you want to come across all the famous historical figures and recruit them. The strategic level was simplified a lot which made turns go faster rather than bogging down in the mid-late game as is wont to happen in most 4X. This, plus the mid-game twist mechanic like we've seen in other Total War games, makes the advanced gameplay nail biting as you start to see massive armies clash (although once it got to 5v5 stack combat I simply auto resolved).

2. Cliff Empire (PC) a beautiful if ultimately grindy experience in a city builder, it was fun to optimise an existing city build to really crank out more production and maximise use of space which was a new mechanic I hadn't seen before in a city builder. It did more for me than the Sim City reboot ever did.

3. Age of Wonders: Planetfall (PC): honestly, I feel like I could have played this game more but after a while the combat got tiring for me. I think I am getting old. But the artwork was pretty and the factions played very differently (those who have played Amplitude's Endless Legend or Even Endless Space 2 will know what I mean). A lot of replayability and optimisation I didn't get into deeply but will probably reboot next year if my work schedule is lighter.

4. Brown Dust (Android): this was a pleasant surprise as a mobile game - it was actually super generous with starting resources and the combat was quite tactical, reminding me of SW Galaxy of Heroes. I told my brother to play it and later found out he had gotten hooked too.

5. Mutant League Zero: I spent some time on this game but ultimately had to put it down with work commitments. It was quite interesting for the first couple of maps but I lost interest with the formulaic approach to turn based combat. Still, I enjoyed the lore and the characterisation, a solid effort for the developer.

6. Stardew Valley (PC): I played a bit after watching the boy get hooked into it. Again, didn't get as much time as I would have liked, and it seems there's no rush to get the best items and crops, so I may well return to this game when I need some easy gaming.

Honourable mentions - games I voted for previously

Spoiler:

Truly would have voted for these again because the expansions were amazing. But I have split them out in the spirit that only new experiences should make list.

A. Civ6 (with Gathering Storm): played a lot of this recently and some games pushed me past midnight. Really the definitive version and because it picked up Rise & Fall mechanism and global warming it really made Civ6 feel complete. To the point I would say I like it more than Civ5 or earlier Civs.

B. Surviving Mars (with Season Pass): like with Civ6, refinements to the game and technology together with terraforming made this game also feel complete.

The boy's gaming experience

Spoiler:

2019 was the year the boy really got into gaming at a much deeper level (in KB+M and in game variety). He games casually on his iPad and has almost taken full possession of my gaming machine. This probably explains why my gaming time was reduced.... He's also just gotten a headset and mic as he plays Fortnite with classmates. I've warned him to turn off his mic in random play. He's a smart kid though, he'd never reveal private information.

From what I saw, he played a ton of:

Just Cause 3
Fortnite
Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
ARK
Minecraft (modded and other servers)
Civ6 (he absolutely loves playing the Earth based map)
War Thunder (team battles)
King Arthur's Gold (team battles)
Crossout
Astroneer

There's a ton more games I could add to that list (especially as he's been vigilant in adding Epic's free fortnightly games to our shared library).

His 3D spatial sense and finger dexterity has leapt exponentially in the past 12 months. I wonder if this is tied to his progression in music studies as well? But one thing is certain, he's definitely inherited a love of PC games from me.

He's even dabbled in other FPS like Destiny 2 and had a go at playing more complex 4X like Age of Wonders: Planetfall. His gaming tastes are really maturing and it'll be interesting to see which genres he will eventually settle upon.

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)

Teaming up with my 14-year-old and playing 2v2 couch-co-op-vs-online has been my favorite gaming experience this year, as well as my favorite multiplayer gaming experience of the 2010s decade. 8-player couch 4v4 or free-for-all games with co-workers after hours have been a blast, too. Smash is, for me, a member of an exclusive club of multiplayer games, alongside Rocket League and not much else, that’s fun even when I’m not winning. Smash Ultimate is a really remarkable gaming achievement!

2. One Deck Dungeon (iPhone)

One Deck Dungeon is my favorite board-game-turned-phone-game since Ascension, Lords of Waterdeep, and (more recently) Through the Ages. This single-player-versus-environment game looks on the surface like a simple roll-and-place-dice game, but has a surprising depth of planning and strategy. Has an upgrade/customize system for heroes, so your roster of characters improves across multiple playthroughs. Runs nicely in portrait mode on iPhone. Highly recommended!

3. Ring Fit Adventure (Switch)

Ring Fit Adventure has managed to do what none of its predecessor “fitness games” have done: It’s been actually fun enough to keep me engaged and playing regularly, with 30+ days of workouts logged so far since I picked up the game back in October! The gameplay is a nice mix of jogging (in place) through courses/environments, and battling enemies using reps of various exercises as attacks. Light RPG elements abound, including an equippable gear system and a crafting system. Nintendo has really nailed the motion controls, too, which are near-perfect. This game has let me feel IRL “out of mana” a few times when deciding which exercise skill to attack with next, if I’m too tired from already having done lots of reps!

4. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (Switch)

At long last, a sequel to my #2 game of 2015, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and very surprisingly, a rare 3rd-party game to feature the Zelda license! Highlights of this one for me were the wonderful Danny Baranowsky soundtrack featuring Jules Conroy on guitar, and the faithful character adaptations, such as the playable Zelda getting her Nayru’s Love and Din’s Fire moves from the Smash Bros. games. Cadence of Hyrule does suffer a bit from a lack of replayability -- unlike NecroDancer’s daily run mode, Cadence’s daily mode takes at least a couple of hours to complete, which is too long -- but the main quest was still one of my favorite gaming experiences this year.

5. Opus Magnum (Steam / Mac)

I went into Opus Magnum totally blind, having picked it up on a whim from a Steam Sale, and I’m glad I did! The puzzles, which have you acting as a professional alchemist to fabricate substances or items by means of building and programming a machine to transmute and arrange base elements, were a lot of fun to build, and were beautiful when finished. There’s just enough story to keep things interesting, with your character working as the house alchemist for one of the noble houses of a city. I’m a computer programmer IRL, and this game scratched the same itch for me as writing little computer programs for fun.

6. Blaster Master Zero Two (Switch)

Blaster Master remains one of my favorite games back on the original NES (even though I never quite managed to finish it), and this game was both a fun enhancement to that original game while still retaining its essential style, and also a nice story sequel to Blaster Master Zero (2017).

7. Battle Chef Brigade (Steam / Mac)

I was pleasantly surprised by this game, whose main portion is an Iron Chef style competition where you (as a chef) are on a timer to hunt your own ingredients in an action-RPG-platformer section, and then rush back to the kitchen to cook them up via match-3 gameplay before time runs out. The story, featuring a young adult looking to find her place in the world, was also charming. Appropriately for a cooking game, the disparate gameplay elements combined to produce an experience that was greater than the sum of its individual parts.

8. Dragon Quest XI (Switch)

I was tempted to pick this up on PC, but after listening to the opening screen music that comes straight from the NES original, I decided to wait and get it on a Nintendo platform. And I’m glad I did, since the 2D mode of the game and its ability to quickly zip through random battles has been a good fit for my adult time-limited lifestyle. I suspect I’m only about halfway through the game -- and maybe not even that? -- I’ve been enjoying the old-school JRPG gameplay.

9. Link’s Awakening (Switch)

Modernized overhead Zelda-style combat meets old-school limited direction on where to go and what to do next! Although I don’t have any plans to replay it, I did enjoy completing this game, which I never managed to do with the GBA original.

10. Hoplite (iPhone)

This tactical phone game ticks many of the checkboxes for what I like in a mobile game: Premium game, portrait mode, turn-based, interesting decision-making, auto-save, easy to pick up and play for just a couple of minutes at a time. Hoplite also has good replayability in the form of tough-to-get achievements, which also unlock new abilities. I expect this one to have a nice long stay in the one screen of games that I let myself keep on my phone at a time!

Also receiving votes:

Fire Emblem Three Houses (Switch)
West of Loathing (Steam / Mac)
Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)
Overcooked 2 (Switch)
Katana ZERO (Steam / Mac)

Previously:

2018 (GOTY: Slay the Spire)
2017 (GOTY: Zelda: Breath of the Wild)
2016 (GOTY: Stardew Valley)
2015 (GOTY: Super Mario Maker)

Portrait mode phone games are where it's at. Shame so many of them aren't.

troubleshot wrote:

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.

Someone else has seen the Light!

-adds troubleshot to the Nice list-

EDIT: I added one to my previous list since I forgot that Cadence of Hyrule was a game, but I loved it quite a bit.

Disco Elysium 20% off on Steam. 22 hours remaining at the time of this writing.

Thank you rattlehead57, Taharka, ClockworkHouse, Jonman, Bfgp, and WolverineJon for your lists! Votes have been tallied and checked! So as of writing, we're about halfway through the month, and twenty-five folks have voted for 147 different games!! That's quite a bit, but I know a lot of you are waiting for the holidays. So keep those lists coming!!!

Oh, and for the record, Jonman, this laygirl is going to make a distinction between your number 3 and number 4. Because it's easier to track that way.

Eleima wrote:

Oh, and for the record, Jonman, this laygirl is going to make a distinction between your number 3 and number 4. Because it's easier to track that way. :D

You're correct - my original intent was #3: WRC8, and #4: Dirt Rally 2.0, but I can see now how that wasn't clear in my writeup.

Preamble

2019 will go down as the strangest and busiest year of my entire life. That says a lot because I got fired from the formerly-family business, started my own competing business, and then watched the previous place go out of business. 2019 saw me leave my own business to join my Dad’s start-up...in the exact same building and desk as I had prior to getting fired. With the money I got from walking away, I bought a townhouse. A week after my wife and I moved in, our son was born. All hail 2019, the year I tried to do all the things!

On to the video game opinions!

Honourable Mentions

Divinity Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition
I put a lot of time in the first area after heavily modding the game to make it less of a slog and commitment. I still burned out another 5 hours or so into the next area. As much as I love these games, I just don’t have the time to deal with them anymore. Not being able to play 5 hours at a time (the most I can get in on any day of the week is probably 3 max) has made these drag on and made it so I can’t be fully immersed.

Outer Wilds
There’s something really cool here but I don’t think I’ll ever unlock it. There are two things I just can’t do well in games: platforming and time limits. This entire game is based around both those mechanics. They make a lot of sense here, the world building, flight mechanics, puzzles, and exploration are all great. Just the basic movement and constant time pressure triggers too much anxiety in me.

Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark
I was deeply into this Final Fantasy: Tactics clone for 30 hours. Then I stopped wanting to play. It’s one combat encounter after another filled in with an intriguing story. The story can’t carry that all you’re doing is combat, though. Leveling your characters is great but once they max out a class, there’s no reason to keep using it. This became frustrating, grindy, and ultimately ended my time with the game.

Slay the Spire
A GWJ darling. It definitely is the sweet spot in card collection, roguelike, and turn-based combat. Does not grab me as much as everyone else here, however. Two of three available class, when I played, was a lot of fun while I found the mage-style class to be too obtuse and dependant on random drops to be fun. The leveling up of individual characters and unlocking trinkets didn’t seem to actually do anything as I was already getting those items in previous runs. I don’t think the artstyle is very good. It is interesting but just doesn’t do anything for me aesthetically. Ascension levels provide extra challenge but no real benefit and since I’m not a fan of increased difficulty for no in-game reward, there’s no appeal for me. The end game events are that interesting to me either. Combat, deck building, and the randomness of everything are all top-notch. I keep it installed and periodically jump back in between other games.

Mutant Year Zero: Seed of Evil
I loved Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. One of my favourite games of 2018. It was short (21 hours and I completely everything there was to do) but outstanding. For me, this is a wonderful expansion. There's a new set of enemies but they are pretty much the same enemies from the base game with a new skin and one new mechanic. There are a few new weapons and headgear, which is nice. There's a good amount of interesting new areas to explore and some side missions in old areas with good rewards (a 4th silenced weapon!). The new character has a good mix of skills (tanky like Bormin with some sneak capability like Farrow). He was a mainstay of my party as soon as I got him.
Despite what others have said, this is not a short expansion if you are playing on harder difficulties. I do not play on ironman mode and tend to save and load a lot. Seed of Evil took me 16 hours to complete. Well worth the price to nearly double my play time.
As for story, it feels like a "scouring of the shire" or epilogue. It quickly wraps up the loose end of the base game, introduces a new conflict, then leaves with potential for new ideas for a sequel. It's a great content for the game and I hope it does well for them. Excited for the next game, hopefully, in 3 or so years.

Just Missed The Cut

Void Bastards (10 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/857980/header.jpg?t=1570488537)

This is a video games media darling. Presentation is fantastic. Everything is cell-shaded and presented as a comic book/graphic novel. The humour is all cynical British sensibility. As a roguelike, it fulfills a fun loop and I always felt like I was progressing towards the very clear and attainable goals. It’s a very barebones first-person shooter where combat is best avoided and stealth is more important. Everything is a limited resource and some hard choices need to be made with risk vs reward. Where the game lost me was it’s short (10 hours), combat is very simple (2 weapons and 1 gadget), the loop isn’t very different from area to area, and the ending I found to be obvious and boring. It was fun and occupied my time for about a week but left no lasting impression.

Anthem (42 hours)
IMAGE(https://steam.com.uy/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/anthem.jpg)

Where did the Bioware magic go? Who can say!? Tell me. Please...I’m so lonely.

The game itself is fine if unremarkable. The flying and combat worked well for me. I felt the combo-system was implemented well and each suit was different in capabilities yet fun to play. The story was haphazard with a few good parts and a few interesting sections but missing all of the expertise, care, and skill put into previous Bioware games.

The biggest letdown were the technical problems. I was constantly getting kicked out of games. Experienced a multitude of freezes. Hangups would prevent me from even exploring the, empty, open world. A two hour session might yield no results and just leave me stressed and anxious. Would I get to play? I was never sure of the answer. The further I am from release, the more I realise how much of a negative effect that had on me.

Pathway (23 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/546430/header.jpg?t=1574165054)

The Pathway that you can buy now is very different than the one I played earlier in the year. The developer has released several updates that complete change combat, enemy encounters, and progression. When I finished Pathway, it was a very simple but fun tactical roguelike inspired by Indiana Jones. Select your team of team and travel along a map while managing your fuel and food. Increase your team to a max of 4, outfit with weapons, armour, and consumables, and level everyone up. You never lost your character progress so the next time you go take a character on an adventure, after a healing cooldown, they’ll have the same weapons, armour, consumables, and unlocked skills as they left with. There were 4 chapters to get through each with a different theme. I found them challenging but fair and fun. They were simple. The two factions only had 6 enemy types each and the zombie faction only slowly shuffled towards you. Weapons were different but they only came in 6 different varieties (and 1 of those is a melee knife). Of the 16 characters, some were very powerful while others were useless.

The game has seen continuous support by the developers and is currently in version 1.1.3. The combat, weapons, enemies, encounters, character progression, and exploration have all been overhauled and rebalanced. It was good and simple game. From the sound of it, there’s a lot more depth and variety than when I played.

Quick List

Spoiler:

1) Borderlands 3
2) The Outer Worlds
3) My Time At Portia
4) SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
5) Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
6) Rage 2
7) Moonlighter
8) Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
9) Disc Creatures
10) Eastshade

Main List

10) Eastshade (11 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/715560/header.jpg?t=1572175994)

Do you want to pedal a bicycle around a scenic island populated by anthropomorphic deer, bears, owls, monkeys, and [redacted]? Of course you do! Are you there to paint the beauty and fulfill your mother’s last wish? Of course you are! Does it get cold at night so you need to sell a few paintings in order to afford a nice winter coat? Damn straight! Is there are ghost mystery? A whodunit on an even smaller island hotel? Air balloons? HOOK IT UP TO MY VEINS!

Eastshade is the cutest game I played. Everything is serene and leisurely and wonderful. I had a dumb smile on my face as I pedaled my silly bike through the forests or by the windmills. It’s charming and literal stroll through the countryside.

9) Disc Creatures (31 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/1083190/header.jpg?t=1575358581)

A labour of love by a lone Japanese developer. I feel a bit of kinship with SATTO. He made Disc Creatures on his own using RPG Maker VX Ace. Somehow, and I have talked to him about how he did this, managed to get the game to run extremely well even within the limitations of that engine. It’s a treat.

Disc Creatures is alternative Pokemon. You turn-based battle creatures in the world and add them to your team after defeating them in battle. The primary difference is you have 3 creatures in your team at all times. Elemental considerations are even more important and you build diverse teams to specifically take advantage of weaknesses. Like Pokemon, your creatures can only have 4 turns at a time. However, as your creatures level up they unlock new moves and you can choose which are available at any time outside of battle. There’s a lot of complexity to the various systems.

The story is presented in chapters. These vary wildly in length. Each chapter tends to feature new creatures, a new area or dungeon, and usually at least 1 new mechanic. You’re encouraged to change up your team. This is my main complaint with the game. A new creature always starts at level 1. Getting 1 new creature up to the area appropriate level is time consuming and too grindy. It’s a good opportunity to make some spare credits and catch creatures you previously missed but roughly half my time in the game is grinding. The combat is great and I loved changing up tactics just to test out different combinations.

I am not affected by nostalgia like most seemed to be. Disc Creatures has hit that spot, though. I’ve been craving a Pokemon game and my financial status has made a Switch untenable. Disc Creatures has handled that thirst perfectly.

8) Rebel Galaxy Outlaw (40 hours)
IMAGE(https://brotorrent.net/uploads/posts/2019-08/1565766734_rebel-galaxy-outlaw.png)

A return to classic space shooters that is very light on the sim aspect. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw nails the atmosphere, attitude, flight, initial ship upgrades, ship painting, flight, and shooting. That’s a lot of key positive points! I was pretty invested in the not-at-all serious story they decided to tell. A fun little romp with betrayals and unlikely alliances. The ship upgrades and ship progression starts out fantastic but the game isn’t deep enough and doesn’t force you to engage with trying out different playstyles. I really wish you could own multiple ships and keep them in your own base. Once I started down the flying tankers, that’s all I used and they handled like a couch on wheels. The systems aren’t differentiated enough visually and there’s little reason to explore some of them. The gameplay and presentation is perfect, though. I completed all of the companion character quest chains as well as the main story. Once I was done, I was done. Would be very interested if they release another campaign, however.

7) Moonlighter (27 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/606150/header.jpg?t=1573228882)

A top-down action rogue-lite based entirely around inventory management. When you’re not dungeon crawling, you are selling your loot at your upgradable shop, upgrading the town’s services, or crafting new gear. It’s a delightfully relaxing loop. The game takes several mundane elements from other roguelites and wraps everything with wonderful presentation. The animation is top-notch and is its most striking feature. The town theme was stuck in my head for weeks. Moonlighter gets out of its own way by keeping the story present but not a focus. The vast majority of the upgrades feel meaningful. The DLC added a few new elements to the main game and an end-game dungeon, vendor, and new crafting gear. If you’re looking for a simple roguelike with clear and attainable goals, Moonlighter does this perfectly.

6) Rage 2 (34 hours)
IMAGE(https://www.hrkgame.com/media/games/.thumbnails/rage2_cover.jpg/rage2_cover-460x215.jpg)

I love my dumb game. If there was a story, I forgot it. Rage 2 is all about momentum. Roll up in your talking super car and get to work destroying everyone and everything you come across. Use all of your fancy tricks, upgraded weapons, and super power ability. The open world hints at imagination and exploration but does nothing with it. Mad Max, by the same developers, was better at driving, story, and exploration. Rage 2 makes up for those faults by being an excellent shooter. The guns and movement just felt good. It’s very much “Check List: The Video Game”. I tend to have a soft spot for those games. Rage 2 came right around the right time to distract me as my wife was sick, pregnant, and we were buying the house. The game felt like a good Michael Bay movie. Sometimes, a human needs some popcorn.

5) Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (151 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/812140/header.jpg?t=1567612269)

What an amazing, bloated game. I’ll start with the negatives since I kept a Note on my iphone full of them:
-very hilly and water centric terrain makes traversal slow
-story is poorly acted, directed, and explained
-doing things out of sequences can break the game
-quests will disappear out of the quest log
-NPCs t-pose and their AI gets broken often
-loading a save doesn’t bring in the same state
-resource gathering is a chore
-too many systems not integrated (ship, mercenary, and cultist hunt)
-points of interest don’t feel integrated into the locations
-quests, love interests, and dialogue choices feel like they’re from the mid-2000s
-assassination animations take too long
-desperately needed an editor and a narrower focus

BUT! There are positives. The game looks gorgeous. Cassandra is very well voice acted and animated. The RPG elements, equipment, and upgrade systems are fantastic with a great sense of progression and advancement as well as visual customization. I like that they had three branching story ideas (family, myth, and conspiracy) but they are so disparate. Only the myth storyline has a satisfactory ending, however. It’s also the easiest to achieve so I finished that about 50 hours before the other two.

Odyssey, for me, was a very disappointing follow-up to Origins. A big part of that is story (I loved Bayek and Aya’s journey and motivations) while the other is setting (I find Egypt is more interesting than Greece). I was engaged for over 150 hours. I have no interest in playing the DLC, though. I hope Ubisoft has taken the criticisms to heart and allowed the next one (Vikings? Ragnarok?) to have a more cohesive take on their weird history murder games.

4) SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech (31 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/804010/header.jpg?t=1562332945)

I’m a big fan of the SteamWorld games. Heist and Dig 2 are soooooooo goooood. Just give me this adorable setting in more genres. SteamWorld Quest is their take on a turn-based RPG deck builder. It, like the previous two Image & Form games, is fantastic. Just cute and fun. There’s a hidden deepness to the combat and an earnestness to the story. I’m not a fan of puns but, for whatever reason, these games are nothing but puns and it works.

Typically I would have a lot more to say about a game this high on my list but there’s not a lot I can expand on. It's just so well put together. Image & Form has been consistent great with their games. It has defined goals and hits on all of them. I’m incredibly excited for the next SteamWorld game.

3) My Time At Portia (95 hours)
IMAGE(https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/666140/header.jpg?t=1575275243)

I was expecting a 3D Stardew Valley and what I got was a post-apocalyptic gathering and crafting game with light combat, relationship, dungeon, and farming mechanics. I’ll preface this by saying there’s far more content in My Time At Portia than I was willing to dig into.

The world has been destroyed by an apocalyptic event. Builders are rare and material is highly sought after. Your father has written you a letter indicating he is going off on an adventure and leaving his old dilapidated workshop on the outskirts of the city-state of Portia (pronounced inconsistently as Por-tee-ah and Por-shee-ah). You meet the colourful townsfolk, complete crafting quests for them, forge relationships, and every Sunday you can pick up one new task to complete for the week. Buildout your workshop by crafting benches, smelters, etc. to craft more material and products in order to make bigger benches, smelters, etc. There’s also a seasonal component but that doesn’t really switch things up all that much. There are story quests and city events to participate in as well. It’s all a delight.

You can also enter into special sanctioned mining areas to gather materials (copper ore, dirt, etc.) and special artifacts. Complete the set of artifacts and combine them into a whole. Either display them at your home for a passive bonus or donate to the local museum for a relationship bonus. Essentially you are given a vacuum, artifact seeking goggles, and a jetpack for this task. It’s weird but very different than you see in other games of the genre.

Then there is my least favourite part of the game; the dungeons. These are necessary to complete in order to gain rare material and for certain story events. The combat is boring hack and slash with a bad dodge roll. It just doesn’t control well and moved far too slow. There’s occasional bad platforming too.

Of note is that this game was developed by a Chinese developer. It’s impressive and encouraging as we just don’t see too many games of this type get translated for a English-speaking audience. This has led to some odd translation errors and hugely inconsistent audio issues (voice lines being blown out, too quiet, sometimes no recorded dialogue, subtitles and spoken dialogue being completely different, etc.). It’s still commendable and is a minor issue in a very impressive game.

2) The Outer Worlds (37 hours)
IMAGE(https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/2gameimg/boxshotcu/51921_full.jpg)

I am a strong defender of Obsidian. Find an Obsidian game thread on here and I’ll be the one shouting from the rooftops that they haven’t made a buggy game since Dungeon Siege III. The Outer Worlds is Fallout: New Vegas, updated, and set in space. It’s pretty short for one of these kinds of RPGs and that is a positive. The game basically features two large explorable open areas and several smaller areas. It’s a little uneven in that you spend a lot of time on the first planet, then hop around to smaller areas, to then spend another big chunk of time on another planet. The writing and characters are great. A key feature of these kinds of games are the companions and their quests. I really enjoyed all their personal quests are some of the highlights.

Combat felt very good to me. Instead of VATs, The Outer Worlds has a triggerable slow-down mechanic. I mostly placed my points and perks into this as it allowed me to be more precise with my shooting. There’s lots of customization with how you want to play, however. Like any good version of this game, I completely avoided a final boss battle and got a concise Animal House ending. One of the most enjoyable games I played this year even if it is safe.

1) Borderlands 3 (96 hours)
IMAGE(https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/2gameimg/boxshotcu/54315_full.jpg)

Borderlands 2 is one of the few games I return to about once a year. The mindless shooting, the massive amount of loot, the character progression, the beautiful graphics, and the dumb popcorn story. Borderlands 3 takes all this and just injects it with some sort of sweet concoction. There’s the same amount of loot but it’s more relevant. Weapon manufacturers now play an important role and as weapons, shields, and grenades are more streamlined with what they can do but given much different qualities. While the previous games offered the promise of infinite gun possibilities and Borderlands 3 takes that away but that was never the reality in practice. Character progression has also been redone. Each class feels very unique and has a unique class ability per skill tree. I played as a sneaking robot with a monkey but the same class can be specced completely different and the other classes are the same. They’ve also added a separate skill tree for after the campaign.

A vehicle was finally added that I can competently drive; the Cyclone. You can now customize and upgrade each of the three vehicle classes. Some of these pretty dramatically affect what they can do in combat. The world design was a bit of a let down, however. There was a good amount of variety but starting on Pandora sucked. It was the same as we’ve seen in the first two games with the same characters against the same enemies. The areas after that are far more interesting but inconsistent. The cityscape isn’t utilized as well as it could have been and the monastery was very short with a fast travel point at the very beginning and nowhere else.

Story-wise, if you care about the Borderlands story at all, is a continuation of the previous games. One of the problems with Borderlands 2, for me, was turning the original’s into important NPCs. They just aren’t interesting or worthy of the worship they’re given. Two of the character classes return as prominent NPCs in Borderlands 3 but the others are ignored. I never played Tales from the Borderlands so I was not familiar with Vaughn or Rhys. Vaughn was in the last Borderlands 2 DLC and he sucked. He’s the first character you meet here and he continued to suck. Rhys had a mustache. That’s pretty much his entire character. The new characters, however, are quite good. The villains have a playfulness to their menace. I found them less annoying than Handsome Jack so that was a welcome change. Their motivation was extremely weak and their payoff didn’t exist. I was very disappointed with how they wrapped up that aspect of the story.

There was one part of the story I legitimately enjoyed. Sir Hammerlock, from Borderlands 2, has a boyfriend; Wainwright Jacobs of the Jacob’s Corporation. They have an adorable loving relationship and the interaction between Wainwright, Hammerlock, his sister Auerelia, and the smuggler Clay is really good! There are actual touching moments. I was surprised how much I cared about this part of the story. In the main series, this is probably the best expressed arc. It’s a shame that your character literally disappears for all cutscenes and the game acts like you don’t exist during crucial moments. It’s bad storytelling.

The game still looks great and the animations and reactions are much improved. Enemies flee, hide, dodge, retreat, take high-ground, cower, and charge. Your character can now mantle and they included the slam from the Pre-Sequel. There’s more tools at your disposal and the world reacts better.

Borderlands 3 isn’t some grand departure or a huge advancement in the series. It’s very much a step forward. A lot could have been done to rejuvenate the series. I would have been happy with any number of changes. I still put in almost 100 hours. Borderlands 3 was the safe comforting choice. I need that in 2019. The world is collapsing around us. I’m trying to build a family without the confidence that the world even wants me to. As someone who gets bored watching TV or a movie, video games are my escape. Borderlands 3 gave me ample time and space to escape. When my co-op buddy is ready, we’ll escape to the Borderlands together.

Hello dear GWJ friends!
May I present to you my top x games of the year:
# 1: Disco Elysium:
An RPG so dire yet so imaginative that I could not help get lost in its world.
# 2: Devil May Cry 5:
One of the best combat-systems ever seen in an action game this side of Bayonetta.

I have played plenty more games this year, but these are the only two ones that I truly feel warrant a highlight.

The console release of Disco Elysium needs to hurry on along. The intrigue grows with each appraisal.

And, damn it, Vector, you may finally have tipped the scales for The Outer Worlds.

GWJ, enabling my gaming since 2012!

These threads are always a great read, and they’re an interesting point of personal reflection for me. The more stressed I am from work, life, whatever, the more games I tend to play. Judging from this year’s list, this must have been a damn stressful year. As usual, my list is light on games that actually released in the current year. I’m intentionally holding off on some big releases—Jedi Fallen Order, Control, and Death Stranding—until I have some time to devote to them.

My Top 10:

Spoiler:

1. The Outer Worlds (XB1) – This was the right game at the right time for me. Not the best RPG I’ve ever played, and certainly not the most profound. That’s what I love about it—not every RPG has to be an epic masterpiece. This is a straight adventure, a caper with a fun premise and interesting companions, and lots of ways to resolve quests. Like my #4 below, this one took me by surprise. I didn’t hear anything about it until very shortly before it released. Awesome that it came to Gamepass Ultimate, but I never play it on PC because it has a weird controller drift that doesn’t manifest in any other game I own.

2. Pathfinder Kingmaker (PC) – I haven’t played Pathfinder before, but this is clearly a faithful interpretation of the tabletop experience, and it’s great. Very long, though. I put it down for a while shortly after gaining my barony, but I’m back to it and really enjoying it. I’ll be playing this one for months to come.

3. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire (PC) – Outstanding game. I liked PoE 1, but it dragged in places and some of the plot lines / characters were on the dull side. Not here. This one grabs you right away and is engaging throughout. With a little more time, this one could well supplant Pathfinder Kingmaker or even Outer Worlds as my #1, but for now a spot in the top three seems right.

4. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Stadia) – Gorgeous and fun. The best AC game I’ve ever played. Also my first dive into Stadia, and I’m impressed. No controller lag, and if the graphics aren’t true 4k, I can’t tell the difference. Seems pretty damn large, so I’ll be playing it well into 2020.

5. Greed Fall (PC) – Heard nothing about this one until close to release but took a chance and pre-ordered as soon as I heard about it. I almost never preorder games. Payoff! It checks off all my RPG boxes, with lots of secrets to find, not always defaulting to fighting to resolve quests, and an interesting setting. Some conversations go on a little long, mainly due to the awful “accent” that consists solely of pronouncing “i” as “oy”. But that’s a minor annoyance in an otherwise great game.

6. Bard’s Tale IV (PC) – I held back on this one for a while after release due to the mixed reviews. I tried it when it hit Game Pass immediately fell in love. Terrific art style and game play, and great attention to detail.

7. Operencia: The Stolen Sun (PC) – Nice dungeon crawler, better on PC than console. Like The Bard’s Tale IV, it has a Might & Magic vibe that I really dig. Plenty of secret stuff to find, and just the right amount of loot.

8. Detroit: Become Human (PS4) – Beautiful game with difficult choices. In most cases, failing a task is just as interesting as succeeding. While it looks terrific in 4k, it’s pretty impressive on my 1080p PC screen via PS4 Remote Play.

9. Far Cry 5 (PC) – Super fun. Religious nut hillbillies make a good substitute for Nazis when it comes to video game enemies that you just don’t have to feel bad about mowing down. I skipped FC 4 and Primal, but this makes me think I should go back to them.

10. Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC) – The only game on my top 10 list that I’ve actually finished, overall quite good. Varied gameplay, excellent graphics.

Honorable Mentions:

Spoiler:

The first one goes to a service rather than a game: GOG Galaxy 2.0. A single launcher for all platforms that works very well and looks great. GOG, Steam, Xbox, PS4, Epic, Uplay, Origin, Twitch, right there in one window. The only plugin I haven’t been able to make work is Humble Bundle, and that’s probably because I don’t use the standard installation path for it. Love it. Now, on to the actual honorable mention games in no particular order:

Assassin's Creed Origins (PC) – Really enjoying this one still. It was my first foray back into AC games since Black Flag left a bad taste in my mouth after I encountered a game stopping bug that many, many hours of backtracking and replaying failed to fix. This one convinced me to go back and play a couple of others.

Outcast: Second Contact (PC) – True to form, goofy as hell. A nice throwback game.

Forza Horizon 4 (XB1) – Beautiful, a turn-your-brain-off experience that I’ll probably keep installed for years. I doubt I’ll ever “finish” it, since I mostly ignore events and career stuff in favor of just wandering around at high speed.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC) – Quit after several hours. This one just didn’t engage me like Human Revolution did.

Just Cause 4 (XB1) – What the hell happened to the graphics? Graphics don’t make a game, but they kind of broke this one for me because the muddiness is so distracting. Quit.

Fallout New California (PC) – A total conversion mod for New Vegas, which never really grabbed me—though I know many people think it’s the best in the series. This one didn’t do it for me either, so I quit after a few hours. It’s weird, because Fallout 3 was an obsession, and I put over 100 hours into it.

Fallout 4 (XB1) – see above. I’m 5 or 6 hours in, not really doing it for me so far.

Enderal: Forgotten Stories (PC) – A total conversion mod for Skyrim and sequel to Nehrim, which was a total conversion mod of Oblivion. Really well done.

What Remains of Edith Finch (XB1) – Finished this one, which is becoming increasingly rare for me. Great atmosphere, weirder than I expected, like a combination of Life is Strange and The Dark Eye (a mid-90s game that didn’t sell well).

Resident Evil 6 (PC) – Action horror! Fun enough to keep playing, but nothing like my memories of RE1 and 2.

Tales from the Borderlands (PS4) – Funny. Haven’t finished yet, but I definitely will.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC) – Formulaic and repetitive, but fun enough to finish.

Metro Exodus (PC) - The first PC game I’ve played with Corsair RGB keyboard effects. So cool! But then I hit a launch bug that won’t let me play it anymore and can’t be bothered to spend hours troubleshooting. It doesn’t look as good on XB1, and I’m not going to pay for it again on Stadia. Uninstalled for now, maybe I’ll try again in a few months to see if it’s been patched.

Gorogoa (Android) – What a lovely experience.

Assassin’s Creed Unity (PC) – Fun!

Vampyr (PC) – One of the only Game Pass Ultimate games where I actually switch between console and PC regularly. Solid game.

The Elder Scrolls: Blades (Android) – A fun time waster that I put a few minutes into nearly every day. Took a while to finally beat the main story boss, and the multiplayer Arena opened the following day. I mostly get stomped there but do pull off the occasional win.

I love that top 5 conejote.

I still need to get around to Greed Fall.

I was a bit disappointed by Outer Worlds. Not because it is bad, it is great! But Obisidian has made some of my favorite games in the last ~10 years, and Outer Worlds feels like a stepdown from that. Unless something massively changes in the next 2 weeks , it is still very likely to have a spot on my 2019 top 10 though.

Was a bit lukewarm on Bards Tale IV. It is interesting, and I (luckily) only played it after the Directors edition release, but combat really started to drag on me.

Thanks for running this and thank you to everyone for their posts!

I bought a RetroTink 2x line doubler for my Playstation and got more into that this year. I can't recommend that enough.

My list is mostly more-of-the-same for me with the biggest exception being my #1 pick.

1 Final Fantasy VII
The game consistently suprised me. Played on an original Playstation. I've stumbled through the first halves of a few well regarded JRPGs, but this is the first I've finished. If you enjoyed the game or are interested in technology, https://www.polygon.com/a/final-fant... is an excellent and long article on the development of the game in the context of the Playstation hardware and other once-in-a-lifetime events. Yuffie is the best. ;)

2 Nier Automata
The game part of this is just OK. The Witcher 3 inspired side quests are really well done and the feeling of the narrative themes are pretty good. The philosophy never really solidified for me, which maybe was the point. I read an article about the designer wanting to build towards a feeling rather than a story and I think it worked.

3 Vampyr
Dark Souls 3 isn't on my list, just missing the cut-off. This has Dark souls-ish combat, fun characters, world building, etc. I don't like the ideas of Vampires and couldn't put the game down. It has some jankiness, but a lot of it does work.

4 Prey: Mooncrash
Fun to play as the different characters and eventually wake up early with a plan to complete the final all-character run and pull it off before heading to work. Enough story too.

5 Dishonored 2: Death of the Outsider
More of the game with some more involved side quests. New powers are interesting takes on the marking mechanic and hitman disguise mechanic. The story is OK in this one.

6 Resident Evil 2
Played on an original Playstation. Claire A, Leon B. Pretty fun how the two connect to each other which everyone has said. The 2nd run doesn't seem repetative since the puzzles and characters you meet are different. Ink ribbons / damage / etc has a decent balance on easy.

7 Resident Evil: Code Veronica X
The characters are silly, the Canadian voice acting and matrix stuff is whacky. The puzzles get a bit convoluted near the middle and end. The exploding bow ammo is very good.

8 System Shock 2 with recommended mods
Played mostly PSI with agility and invisibility. Melee and some projectiles. The ending was pretty silly. Played the first game which was also pretty fun.

9 Megaman Legends
Very fun early third person 3D shooter with a silly story. The fighting and upgrading is pretty good. The game has tank controls with a focus on straffing. It was fun to see how they tried to build the game around the controls. The graphics also hold up pretty well with the cartoon art style. Played Tron Bonne too, but haven't started the Legends 2 yet.

10 Spider-Man
Has great movement and pretty fun combat and gadgets. Probably too long. Like Sunset Overdrive where you get a lot of fun ways to move around and bounce from thing to thing.

That’s why I love the “new to you” rule. We can get lists with FFVII as #1 in 2019.

I clearly was too busy in 2018, because apparently I didn't even vote last year.

So my votes this year includes 1 game I played last year, but really only dug into this year. I gamed a fair amount this year, but I didn't really play a lot of any one game other than Fire Emblem and Dragon Quest Builders 2.

My gaming habits have a changed a lot in the past few years and because of that portable gaming is the way I play most of the time. This was a year where I rarely had time to sit in front of the TV unless it was a long session of BotW or Fire Emblem. So here goes.

Honorable mention favorite game ever - Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
I technically played this first in 2017 and put it on my GOTY list, so I feel putting it here isn't right. This is the year, though, that I finally dug into this game. I'm not a fan of Zelda overall and have never finished a 3D Zelda. I adored this game, though. The open world, running around in nature, climbing hills, swimming, just being in the world. I actually finished this one. I enjoyed the puzzles. I'm still going through and doing the temples. In a huge surprise in 2019 this game became probably my favorite game ever after sitting on the shelf for over a year.

1 - Fire Emblem - Three Houses (Switch)
I started this year thinking I wouldn't buy this game because I was kind of over the modern day Fire Emblem formula. By the end of my 2nd playthrough of this game I was wishing this was simply a visual novel and the combat was removed. The story is fantastic, the soundtrack is top notch. This is a game I'll return to quite a few more times.

2 -Picross S (Switch)
My first Picross game I've ever spent any time with. I'm really enjoying it and I frequently find myself eschewing more visually complicated games for 3 or 4 puzzles on my commute to work.

3 - Towerfall (Switch)
In December 2018 (this is my cheat) I took my Switch to visit my family and tried to entertain my nephews with Towerfall. They loved it. The hours flew by and we bonded over this game like nothing before it.

Then in 2019 when I wasn't playing games on the train I was generally entertaining children of a family friend who was going through a divorce. Same as with my nephews I busted out Towerfall and the kids loved it. I lost many an hour to trying to be the "cool uncle", playing some Towerfall with kids who needed a distraction.

4 - Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)
Another game I mostly played with kiddos. I would bust this game out and pick random levels to cooperate on. This was a big hit with the kiddos and I really enjoyed it. I didn't spend much time on it individually other than playing a family friend's child's levels. So I guess SMM2 was the game I used to bond with my friends' little ones while they worried about important adult stuff.

5 - Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch)
I really enjoyed this game in fits and starts. I briefly got a little too addicted to it, but eventually found a rhythm where I'd play it a lot over a couple of days and then cool on it for a while. I feel I'd probably more enjoy a version of this game where there was less story, no combat and just building stuff.

6 - Ni No Kuni (Switch)
Didn't spend a ton of time with this, but the gorgeous visual and soundtrack make me think I'll give it some more time.

7 - Untitled Goose Game (Switch)
Another game I meant to play more, but life got in the way. It's super charming and really amusing. I plan to play more.

8 - Celeste (Switch)
I started playing this with all assists on to try to enjoy the story. I haven't finished it yet, but I've enjoyed what I've played so far.

9 - Doraemon: Story of Seasons (Switch)
My favorite game of this type in a while.

10 - Tetris Effect (PS4)
If only this were portable it might be my #1.

Apart from your #10 you had the perfect anti-clocky list.

Is it just me or are we way down on the number of GOTY lists that we had at this point last year?

Hopefully there's an influx coming over the next 2 weeks! I'd also like to encourage Goodjers that maybe just read or browse the forum to pop down a list, we love lists here at GWJ

A large chunk of this list is brought to you by Xbox Gamepass for PC. That was the biggest 'new thing' for me this year, I think. I also played quite a few metroidvania games, which was nice. I've been a long time fan of the genre, but have stayed fairly cool on the genre for at least a few years now.

1. What Remains of Edith Finch

This was one of the first games I played this year, setting a very high bar for any other game to cross. No game managed to cross that bar and so it becomes my number one game for the year. Interestingly, my GOTY for 2018 was Return of the Obra Dinn - which also takes place in a single location centered around re-living moments of the past in order to uncover what happened to the previous inhabitants.

I think I've said this multiple times here now, but playing this game was like playing a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. That's extremely high praise, I believe. It was, from start to finish, a wonderfully captivating piece of magic realism that stayed with me long after the credits rolled. I went into the game knowing very little about it and that's really the best way to experience it, so that's all I'll say it, aside from my recommendation that you really ought to experience this game.


2. Wargroove

Wargroove is to Advance Wars what Stardew Valley is to Harvest Moon. Which is to say it's an indie-made clone of an existing series that has been seriously under-serving its fans of late.

However, whereas Harvest Moon had many flaws and room to move that Stardew Valley could improve upon, Advance Wars was pretty damn good from the beginning. So much so that even its own sequels did little to actually improve on the formula. This means that most places where Wargroove differs from Advance Wars are variations on the formula, rather than improvements or innovations. Which is not a bad thing seeing as, like I said, Advance Wars was pretty damn good.

It does feel a little wrong to give something so derivative my number 2 spot, but I enjoyed it enough that I really think it deserves it.


3. Yoku's Island Express

I had heard this game was good, it made a few GOTY lists last year if I recall correctly, but I really wasn't expecting to love this game as much as I did. I'm always a little skeptical of pinball + story/platformer/rpg/whatever games. I've played a few of them and they've always just really underwhelmed me. The best I can think of is maybe Pinball Quest on the NES. But Yoku's Island Express just completely blew those games out of the water. I've spent some time thinking about why and I think I have it. Where most of those games made the whole thing play like a pinball game, Yoku cleverly allows the player to traverse the levels somewhat like a traditional platformer, with bumpers on pre-determined paths taking the place of jumps. It saves the proper pinball action for special set pieces - think something like a Zelda dungeon.

So yeah, it's a pinball game set in a very open Metroidvania style that encourages exploration and experimentation and it's very well designed. But one of the other things I really love about it is that it's just so joyful. It brings to mind games like Yoshi's Story in that sense, though maybe not quite so saccharine.

4. Forza Horizon 4
This is one that's been ongoing in the background throughout the year. A chill out and relax sort of game. I think what I love most about FH4 is its commitment to letting you enjoy the game on your terms. It doesn't force you into anything. It simply offers a wealth of activities and it's entirely up to you which ones you engage with and which ones you don't. But whatever you choose, it's always rewarding you for doing it.

It does have some ridiculously priced content to purchase and also does the annoying 'daily/weekly activity' thing. Fortunately you can ignore these entirely and still have an increasingly huge amount of content to play through. But yeah, be warned they are there.

And on a personal note, it makes me long to visit Edinburgh again.

5. Supraland
Imagine a cross between Zelda, Portal and Metroid Prime all taking place in a childs sandbox.

A vital part of the metroidvania formula is the aquisition of new powers to unlock new paths in areas you've previously explored. At its worst, this is nothing more than finding the red key/weapon to unlock the red door, then the blue key for the blue door, then the green key and so on. However, the best games in the genre will give you abilities that alter your entire perception of previously explored areas. Supraland is probably the best example of the latter that I've ever played. Each new ability has multiple uses and some will have you completely reconsidering what previously seemed to be innocuous pieces of the environment.

I could elaborate a lot more, but if anything I've written catches your attention then it's best to discover on your own. It's extremely well designed, heavily play-tested with a very unique style and an hilarious sense of humour.

My only complaint is that the latter half of the game is spent mostly on large-scale set-piece puzzles, which is a double-edged sword. They're always mightily clever, but going through them can be exhausting for longer play sessions. That's completely a personal preference - if you're the sort of person that doesn't find that sort of thing draining, you'll love it. But for me, I often felt exhausted playing it for a while, hence it's a little lower on the list.

6. Telling Lies
A spiritual successor to Her Story, this follows a similar vein of uncovering a storyline by searching keywords to find related video clips. The story is bigger and more complex, following multiple characters on a multi-layered storyline filled with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. A crucial difference between Her Story and Telling Lies is that the story in the latter is much more straight-forward. Whereas Her Story left a lot to interpretation, Telling Lies has a pretty distinct version and order of events. The mystery is in uncovering this, rather than interpreting it as Her Story did. Sometimes it's a little heavy-handed, sometimes a little ham-fisted, but on the whole it's extremely well acted and kept me captivated from start to end. The only game, aside from my number one entry, that would keep me thinking and wondering on it while not playing it.

7. Jedi: Fallen Order
There's many ways a game can get my attention, but here's a few. A single-player Star Wars game. A single-player game by Respawn, makers of Titanfall 2. A 3D Metroidvania. Dark Souls inspired gameplay with difficulty options*. This game delivers all of that, so it was an easy day-one buy for me.

While it's fair to say it doesn't have much of an original concept or idea anywhere in the game, it does put it all together in a package in a way that hasn't quite been done before. It doesn't hit all the targets it aims for, but it comes so close. It really makes me hopeful for the inevitable sequel. Most importantly though, it's not just a good game, it's a good Star Wars experience. While EA's Battlefield series sure looked and sounded the part, neither entry really had that unique Star Wars feel. But Jedi: Fallen Order comes so very close to it. Moreso than most of the prequel/sequel/spin-off films, even.

*Just as an aside, I truly can't overstate the importance of this one. Seriously, just give me more of these.

8. The Outer Worlds
Take the gameplay of Bethesda era Fallout, give it the scope and structure of Knights of the Old Republic, then style it with a heavy dose of Firefly and a dash of Idiocracy and you've got yourself The Outer Worlds. Unfortunately, it is a game that hints at possibilities it never quite reaches, but even the fact that it hints at those possibilities makes it a notable game.

While I wasn't blown away by the game, I'm eagerly awaiting news of an expansion or sequel.

9. Metro Exodus
A small disclaimer - aside from about 1 hour of the first Metro game, I've never played any in the series. This is another game that never quite reaches its potential. For all the talk of this being an open-world FPS, there's really only two sections that are not very linear and of those, one is quite small. Which is a real shame as that one particular large open world section is really well done. It's probably the closest to a Far Cry 2 experience as I've had since that game was released. It had that mix of isolation and grittiness, where you can almost feel the sand blowing in your face. I felt that the stealth was actually handled really well too, and the mix of stealth and all out action good.

10. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
A game produced and written by Koji Igarashi, the man behind Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the subsequent Castlevania titles that earned the series it's place in the genre namesake of metroidvania. This game has very few original ideas, but what it does have is executed really well. I was a little skeptical of the 3D graphics over pixel art, given how good the pixel art of Igarashi's previous games were but they did grow on me after a while.

Also something that made me smile was a character voiced by David Hayter doing his Solid Snake voice.

Honorable mentions

Spoiler:

Pathway
I've had a really hot/cold relationship with this game. I love the concept enough to make it a day-one purchase. And I loved at first too. But it wore thin pretty quickly. Each patch the devs released were enough to get me coming back, but I'd drop off again. They recently released a fairly substantial update that really improves a lot of things, so it's back on my PC again.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War
Sometimes I refer to Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings as the 'big dumb action movie' version of the book. If that's the case, this is the 'big dumb action game' of the back of the box description of the 'big dumb action movies'. That sounds like a complaint, but it's really good at being exactly what it is. The game is at its worst in the story missions, so only do those to unlock abilities and new areas. Otherwise, enjoy a big dumb orc game that's very good at being a big dumb orc game.

Paperbark
It's very brief and more an interactive story than a game, but it is a beautiful little experience. It's a charming little story that genuinely captures the Australian bush (well, the Victorian bush at least). It evokes classic Australian childrens books like Mem Fox's Possum Magic. While it's probably a hard sell for adult gamers, I highly recommend it for kids.

Axiom Verge
Retro-inspired, but still very forward thinking Metroidvania. I probably would have enjoyed this more back when it was orignially released, but since then there's been so many more Metroidvania games that are just as good or better. The variety and creativity of the weapons still manages to impress though. The developer has just recently announced a sequel, which I'm pretty eager to learn more about.

With my 2 girls out of diaper town (and straight into "DADDY I DID A POO POO" screams from the bathroom territory), and thus a bit more daily gaming time, I can finally complete a top-10 for the first time in three years! Yay!

1. Disco Elysium (PC)

Why is Disco Elysium often considered the better spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, and not Tides of Numenara - the game actually developed by the same people? Because Torment towed the line a bit too much, and Disco Elysium did away with whatever holy cows they needed to slaughter. No tacked-on combat system but still fun ways to fail, a universe that feels unique but still familiar, and most of all: a main character that's more interesting than the NPC's. That's not to dismiss amazing sideshow Bobs like Kim or well anyone else. But the internal monologues within your PC are such a perfect solution to the empty shell issue main game characters suffer from. And like it's spiritual father (mother?), it's greatest strength as a storytelling game is how the game mechanics intertwine with the story in such a graceful and unpredictable manner. This might be the best RPG I ever played.

2. eFootball PES 2020 (PS4)

Prederick said it best: "FIFA is superior in every way, except the gameplay." Pre-release, Konami announced an overhaul of the menu's with great fanfare. And the game indeed greets you with an overlay that finally looks like something from this decade... and than one level down the same decade old menu's are still there. But somehow this makes the game more charming than anything else. Take the Master League updates: nothing changed except for the deliciously cheesy cut-scenes they added. Yet I cannot deny that when I came back from 1-0 to clinch the cup victory, watching my manager celebrate was tremendous in all its cheesy glory. Oh how fists were pumped! And that gameplay... perfect it is not, but never has a soccer game felt so real, especially the physical duels, the scrimmages, the hard work to get chances, the agony when you fail to stop the AI from scoring. This might be the best sports game I ever played.

3. Night in the Woods (PS4)

I finally got around to playing the game I kickstarted many moons ago. What started as a game about small town degradation in the US in an uncaring society flowed into a game about not only the Mae character (pun intended, #sorrynotsorry) but about your friends old and new. Superbly told, enticing, heart-breaking and heart-warming. This might be the best story-based game I ever played.

4. Astro Bot Rescue Mission (PS VR)

The first VR game to really click with me, and one of the few games that made me laugh out loud. Such a joyful experience, in all its silly goofiness. Like the Rayman games, I adored its silly nature without the sometimes saccharine feeling I get from the Mario games. No game I know has made such an effort to integrate VR mechanics into a game of any kind, let alone a 3D platformer. This might be the best VR game I ever played.

5. Slay the Spire (Switch)

I never expected to like this game so much. I generally bounce off of roguelike games, as I'm very adverse to repetition in games. But somehow this game made it easy enough to give it another shot, while keeping the mechanics just fresh enough with some new benefit, card, or game mode. This might be the best roguelike card-game I ever played.

6. What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4)

I'm more ambivalent about this game then when I played it a few months ago for some reason. This might be one of those games that make a huge impact upon release, but ages poorly? Still, some of the family stories are brilliantly told with just enough gamey elements to really pull you into its world. And I absolutely love the fine line between absurdly dark humour and grimdark themes they tried to walk - even when they fail here and there. This might be the best free monthly PS+ game I ever played since Rocket League.

7. Stories Untold (PC)

This Epic Game Store freebie suffered from the age old adventure game trope: I know what the game wants me to do, but have no idea how to translate that into the game itself. So finally I just pulled up a walkthrough and enjoyed the ride. Glad I did, because the final chapter really pulled it all together. This might be the best Epic Game Store freebie I ever played.

8. Mutant Year Zero (PC)

Another Epic Game Store freebie! This take on the XCOM style game shined in the way you could stealth kill opponents in real time, until you're discovered. Only then does it switch to an XCOM style turn-based mode. Main issue with the game is that when you're discovered too soon, the battles become almost impossible to win. I loved the world they built, but the grimdark story and dialogues fell flat due to the cliche density and poor voice acting. This might be the best XCOM style game that is not XCOM I ever played though.

9. New Star Manager (Switch)

Lovely how the soccer manager stuff is balanced out with fragments of actual match gameplay that work in a Superhot kind of way: nothing moves until you do. But the grindy nature of the management side of things got the better of me. Still had a solid dozen hours of fun though. This might be the best soccer game I'll ever play on the Switch.

10. Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)

I played this when on a business trip, when I had some minutes to spare in my hotel room. And it's the perfect game for short yet interesting bursts of gameplay. And the goofiness of the Rabbid franchise really works in the saccharine Mario universe. Another interesting take on the XCOM style game, but it also got too grindy after the few hours I thoroughly enjoyed. This might be the best tenth placed GOTY list game I ever played.

Spikeout wrote:

Is it just me or are we way down on the number of GOTY lists that we had at this point last year?

By my quick and dirty count we had 24 lists by the end of yesterday (December 16th). Last year, by the end of the 16th I counted 31 lists. These numbers may be off because of people revising their lists, posting a quick list then an extended list, and my own inability to count correctly.

Mantid wrote:
Spikeout wrote:

Is it just me or are we way down on the number of GOTY lists that we had at this point last year?

By my quick and dirty count we had 24 lists by the end of yesterday (December 16th). Last year, by the end of the 16th I counted 31 lists. These numbers may be off because of people revising their lists, posting a quick list then an extended list, and my own inability to count correctly. :P

Mine is almost finished, and I will post it soon!

Leastest good.

Void Bastards I like style of this game, but didn't find it something I wanted to go back to.
Gears 5 They made another totally adequate Gears game. Half way in, Microsoft tried to automatically conjoin three kinds of their own accounts into an infinite knot that keeps me from getting or playing MS games on PC. Good job guys. After that I gave up.
Super Mario Maker 2 I like Mario a lot, but would prefer a Mario maker that was completely 2D. The Marios that are 2D platformers rendered in 3D feel like crap. But the proper 2D style makes the cat go insane.
Outer Wilds (the astronauty one) This one I need to come back to. I think I'd prefer this game to run on a cycle rather than starting over.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider What is this, the sixth good Tomb Raider game in a row? They're supposed to make stinkers sometimes to make the good ones seem better.
Disco Elysium This should probably be even higher, but to assess it more I'd probably have to roll a new character because my first one keeps losing to existential ennui.
Borderlands 3 More Borderlands with lots of quality of life stuff. And Ice T? Why does Ice T show up in things. Are we making fun of him? Is this mean? When a game attempts pathos by killing off a character or two, but is also a game where humor is someone saying "Bro" a lot, that's almost as dumb as reality. The absurdity would make a Disco Elysium protagonist lay down in the street and give up.
Outer Worlds (the fallouty one) Part of my fascination with this game was the experimental nature of how much you could get away with altering the genre. But mainly its that you get to pretend Firefly.
Control A fascinating experiment with POV, narrative, and setting. Strangely memorable characters.

Mostest Good.

2019 you were a weird year, and probably only 50% Warframe.

dejanzie wrote:

With my 2 girls out of diaper town (and straight into "DADDY I DID A POO POO" screams from the bathroom territory), and thus a bit more daily gaming time, I can finally complete a top-10 for the first time in three years! Yay!

1. Disco Elysium (PC)

...This might be the best RPG I ever played.

Yes. The more I play, the more I tend to agree, and the more it gets gilded in gold in my #1 spot.

dejanzie wrote:

1. Disco Elysium (PC)

But the internal monologues within your PC are such a perfect solution to the empty shell issue main game characters suffer from. And like it's spiritual father (mother?), it's greatest strength as a storytelling game is how the game mechanics intertwine with the story in such a graceful and unpredictable manner. This might be the best RPG I ever played.

This is a really good point that I hadn't personally coalesced. I knew the inner-dialog sparring back and forth was something truly epic, but the why didn't spark until you mentioned it. A true strength in written fiction is the ability to jump into character's heads. To see the inner clockwork and reasoning. You rarely see it in other media at all sans the random inner monologue voice-over.

And you especially don't see this explored in gaming as you tend to inhabit an empty vessel as you mentioned that only reacts to outside stimuli. Disco shatters this concept by not only giving us a playable inner voice, but layering on like two-dozen voices all with competing agendas and needs. It creates an incredibly complex character that feels like something fresh and new as a design concept.

Aaron D. wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

1. Disco Elysium (PC)

But the internal monologues within your PC are such a perfect solution to the empty shell issue main game characters suffer from. And like it's spiritual father (mother?), it's greatest strength as a storytelling game is how the game mechanics intertwine with the story in such a graceful and unpredictable manner. This might be the best RPG I ever played.

This is a really good point that I hadn't personally coalesced. I knew the inner-dialog sparring back and forth was something truly epic, but the why didn't spark until you mentioned it. A true strength in written fiction is the ability to jump into character's heads. To see the inner clockwork and reasoning. You rarely see it in other media at all sans the random inner monologue voice-over.

And you especially don't see this explored in gaming as you tend to inhabit an empty vessel as you mentioned that only reacts to outside stimuli. Disco shatters this concept by not only giving us a playable inner voice, but layering on like two-dozen voices all with competing agendas and needs. It creates an incredibly complex character that feels like something fresh and new as a design concept.

And on top of that, it throws a wrench in your trust of everything you see since each of the Detective's vices and personality traits are warring with each other to get you to do something or go about a conversation a certain way.

Coupling this with your brain being riddled by years of violence, drugs, and alcohol, you can't really believe what displayed is actually real. If I remember correctly, early in the game the protag asks his partner "Am I the only one hearing this?"

It goes to show that what we see on the screen may not be what's actually happening, and the dreamlike way some of these side stories are told goes to further that narrative. So many NPCs are wild and fascinating and unnervingly unique that I often hypothesized that the Detective was seeing what he wanted to see, and the real world was as grim, depressing, and rusted as the architecture appeared.

Such a great game. I will go to bat for it every time.