2019 Community Game of the Year

Yeah, my list is ordered, but I want to write a little about each game and I haven’t made the time for that yet. Maybe this weekend...

My list and write up was basically done a week ago, but I’ve got a couple of late entries in Battlefield 1 and Monster Hunter World, both of which could now end up on the list (although there probably won’t be enough time to sink into MHW to put it high on the list, where it might have been if I had the time to finish the campaign).

Of course, that may kick some smaller darlings off the list that I liked, but I guess that’s what honorable mentions are for. I’m numbering those, too.

Here is a condensed version of the list without commentary:


1. Sekiro
2. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
3. Star Traders: Frontiers
4. The Outer Worlds
5. VtM - Bloodlines
6. Avernum 2
7. Children of Morta
8. Tactics Maiden
9. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
10. Vampyr

Games I didn't play, but badly wanted to:Disco Elysium, Control, Outer Wilds, Outward, Moonlighter, Into the Breach, Afterparty, Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order, Baba is You, Untitled Goose Game, Dead Cells, Noita.

Games that probably should be on the list save for the fact that they were on the list in a prior year or something I previous played or not video games but still I poured tons of time into them and now this category heading is too long so I'll stop typing now thank you for sticking with it: Stellaris, XCOM 2, Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Betrayal Legacy, Dungeon World

And now, the list...

1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PS4)
I wrote about my personal connection to Sekiro (and From games) here. It feels like that article covers everything I need to say about this game and why it is my GOTY.

2. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PS4)
I was not only late to the party, I was late to the afterparty. When this released on Switch, the title sounded familiar. As the discourse around it permeated just about every games person I follow on Twitter and seeped into just about every games podcast I listened to, I took note. I didn't act until I saw it onsale on PSN last week. It has been a revelation. I expected something interesting but dated. I did not expect a play experience that not only has held up, but feels downright visionary. A full seven years after this game first released, it feels fresh and exciting.

3. Star Traders: Frontiers (Steam)
As a kid, there were a number of space games that I loved. Rules of Engagement 2, Starflight 2. Privateer 2. (Wow, I was into sequels, I guess.) Star Traders: Frontiers feels like a game that is paying homage to every space game ever made. Impossibly, it is not only doing that well, but it is also very much its own thing. The systems are deep and wide. It is one of those games that has a ton going on under the hood but can be approached casually. There's a fun (though entirely optional) plot and dozens of ways to play it, each yielding a satisfying experience.

4. The Outer Worlds (X-box Game Pass for PC)
Firefly simulator is a very good Firefly simulator. Kidding aside, this is the best Fallout Game since Fallout 2. The voice acting is solid across the board and downright inspired at times. The various areas are all interesting and considered. The way the game makes social skills useful in combat is absolutely refreshing and worthy of recognition. It was a treat seeing a big, sprawling open world game that clocks in under 40 hours and doesn't overstay its welcome. If I have one complaint, it is that the Outer Worlds very much rewards compromise between factions at every turn. Despite having a strong editorial point of view right out of the gate, the game ends up feeling happy to bare its teeth but reticent to really bite. 

5. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (PC)
This game is a classic for a reason.

6. Avernum 2 (Steam)
My warm blanket turn (and nostalgia) based cRPG of choice in 2019. 

7. Children of Morta (Steam)
If it weren't falling into so many tired tropes, this game would have easily been higher on my list. Despite its narrative flaws, it was a pleasure to play the game. The design and aesthetics are top notch, and anyone who enjoyed the narrator from Bastion will appreciate the VO work in Children of Morta.

8. Tactics Maiden (iOS)
The bottom five of my top ten must include one random free iOS game. This is law. Tactics Maiden is an an interesting strategy/RPG that is everything someone who loves XCOM might want on their subway commute.

 9. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey  (PS4)  
Having never played an Assassin's Creed, I was genuinely surprised by how much I latched on to Odyssey. The game is too damn big for its own good, and when I got tired of playing it I got REAL tired of playing it, but while I was into it it felt effortless. Cassandra is easily one of my favorite triple A PCs of all time. Huge props to a game that allows you to recruit most of the people you romance, effectively making the game about sailing around the Greek world with all of your exes but everything is remarkably chill despite the fact you are all on a boat together. This game is like opening a bag of chips and expecting to have one serving and then discovering you have emptied the bag. There was next to no nutritional value, but it was sure fun to consume.

10. Vampyr (PS4)
Vampyr earns a spot on this list simply for the swing-for-the-fences ideas it had bubbling under the surface (and the Waiting for Godot part which was hilarious and surprising.) The idea of a complex social web where you could interact with and eat just about any NPC made the game feel a lot bigger than it was, at least for a time. It collapses spectacularly as it goes on as the seams become more evident and the limits of the budget more pronounced, but this double-a game had admirable ambitions that put a lot of its triple-A brethren to shame. A shame that it transitions away from being about esoteric vampire machinations into being some cookie-cutter hetero-normative romance, but the possibilities it presented more than made up for its many flaws.

Big thanks to Eleima for organizing all of this!

All on Switch if possible, PS4 where not available.

Generally I don't like playing games where you have to kill humans - a small amount is fine, but not overkill. I like anything with connection and emotional depth. I'm fussy that production is high quality, and mechanics work well. I care that I enjoy the setting.

A good year for me, in which I found many games from previous years that I enjoyed, and a couple from this year.

1. Celeste - A really tough platformer which I found hard, but loved. The ability to instantly try again, with frequent save points and an instant reset was amazing. I felt like I got better. I also felt like my struggle to play the game reflected the struggle of the character in their life. The whole experience was cohesive with links between the gameplay and story that were meaningful.

2. Subnautica - Very neat survival / crafting game, a genre I've never played before. What makes it special are the ocean world you've crashed onto and the rich sci-fi story told entirely in the game with no cut scenes but with multiple threads to it that you can follow. It had a metroidvania-like feel, as you got more powerful tools and could explore more places. I felt emotional about bases I'd built - that I had made them in hard circumstances bound me to them. It's really hard, I struggled and had to look things up in the wiki, it took me 70 hours to beat. I loved it.

3. Hitman 2016 - I bounced off this as the AI was hard for me to learn or predict, but a friend I trusted insisted and coached me through it. It's genius. Mechnically, it isn't too violent for me, as you can just kill one or two people in a whole mission. The level design, particularly Paris, Sapienza and Hokkaido is brilliant. The set of options, and way you have to use stealth and disguise and trickery, come together as a puzzle box. After finishing a level, I'd play them again - do it without changing out of my suit! Do it silently so nobody knows I was there! Do both! It never seemed possible at the start, but it is, and when you do, the satisfaction is unbeatable.

4. A Plague Tale: Innocence - Gorgeous authentic world in an unusual historical French setting. With beautiful realistic characters. I've never managed to get drawn into a third person action game story before, yet this sucked me in. It's very linear, which is good as it makes it short enough. I would rush home to play the next chapter. I liked the mechanics using slings and rats and other things, because they allowed intriguing action at a distance without resorting to the overdone gun. Stealthy puzzley, with a bit of a creative combat. It wasn't really hard, but was hard enough for me. I'd play any sequel.

5. Baba Is You - This, at least in simpler form, could have been made in the 1980s. Amazing that the whole world of simple sentence rules controlling the rules of a world and being manipulable in the world had never been done before. The first half is sublime. Towards the late mid-game (if you get there!), I got both exhausted, and often frustrated with the tricks being used. I feel like the narrative arc of level design wasn't good enough later on. Apart from that, it is brilliant - if you like puzzles at all, or are interested in totally unique new game mechanics, play it.

6. What Remains of Edith Finch - A sweet story unpicking the complex history of several generations of a family. About half the sections were stand-out genius, the other half didn't quite work - your mileage will vary which worked best for you. The mini-games within have surprisingly intuitive controls. Despite it's horror, the story was warm and teasing, with an overall message that I liked.

7. Slay the Spire - What wicked agent of the heart thought up this hellishly addictive idea! Take rogue-likes (which I find badly crafted in their randomness and repetition) and deck-builders (which I find burdensome, having to learn and understand so many cards to be any good) and smoosh them together... The result works so well. The deck-building is powerful and flexible, making the repetitive plays all feel completely different, and a constructive joy as you make a new deck. And the limited choices of new cards you get because it's a rogue-like, make fewer options for the deck-building so it is more fun, and requires creativity. So good that after beating the game with the 3 characters once, I had to uninstall it and delete the icon from my Switch home screen, so I wasn't tempted to try and play the ascension levels too.

8. Gris - Luscious watercolours of flowing paint and light. This game is beautiful. It uses zooming in and out a lovely way I hadn't seen before. Too few movement mechanics at the start, but enough by the end. My main criticism is the game doesn't lean on hard enough puzzles, or make full use of the possibilities in it. As a short lovely place to spend time, it excels.

9. Ori and the Blind Forest - Even though the story never engaged me emotionally, and even though I got lost and confused, and the world didn't ping together in my mind well... I still very much enjoyed this. It was fluid and fun. It didn't overstay its welcome. The set pieces and the music are remarkable. Lots of flaws in execution - too many powers, confusing iconography, bad sense of place - make me prefer Hollow Knight. But still, if you've already played that, this is very good.

10. Horizon Zero Dawn - The setting full of wild green places I loved spending time in, and the sassy gutsy main character who I cared about and loved being, made this shine. I enjoyed the combat, rich complex attacking of metal animal-like robots, but ultimately it was just too hard for me. I found the relentless noise too much - you couldn't travel far peacefully in this lovely world, I could tell it had been made by a shooter company. I'd like the sequel to have less combat, richer feeling real world purpose and movement of the animals, more puzzles, more organic exploring (I found the quests and main story broke that up too much). Not as good as Breath of the Wild, but ultimately a better combat system than that, and a deep sci-fi story and great characterisation.

Thanks for the great podcast, I got a few of the above from it, and it's very much appreciated!

This year I started and finished 30 games on my PS4, and these are my ten favorites out of all of those hours of entertainment:

1. Spider-Man
An amazing game. All the great things you’ve heard about it are true, so I won’t repeat them here. Also, the first Insomniac game I’ve ever played.

2. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
An amazing game. All the great things you’ve heard about it are true, including the claim that it is the best Uncharted game ever. It is.

3. Detroit: Become Human
Loved, loved, loved this game: the story, the main characters, the setting, the unbelievably amazing graphics —I thought it was phenomenal.

4. Horizon: Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Horizon: Zero Dawn was my favorite game last year, and even though this is “just an expansion,” it is longer and beefier than many games I played this year, so to me it does feel like a complete game I started and finished in 2019. Also, it is as incredible as the original (but I wasn’t going to give it the top spot on my list again… even though I could).

5. Tesla vs Lovecraft
I love twin-stick shooters, and I had as much fun with this one as I did with Nex Machina, one of my favorite games of all time. If you like the genre, you simply must get this game, because it is as much fun as its premise is ridiculous. I mean —Tesla versus Lovecraft? Really? Yeah —really.

6. Rayman Legends
Perhaps one of the most beautiful, most surprising, most adorable platformers I’ve ever played, and I’ve loved the genre for over thirty years now. And the music is extraordinary, and not just in the musical levels, which are also truly amazing.

7. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Talk about beautiful, adorable platformers with fantastic music! Plus, this one is a metroidvania! If you like the genre and love the 2D anime look, you must play this phenomenal game.

8. Alienation
Another twin-stick shooter, Alienation is probably the game I’ve spent the most hours playing this year. I played it through several times, both solo and co-op, and I never got tired of it. It is intense, atmospheric, stressful, and tons of fun. I said somewhere else Housemarque is one of my favorite developers, and this game is one of the reasons why. Thanks to ClockworkHouse for recommending it to me!

9. God of War
An incredible game that I feel might have been higher up on this list if it hadn’t had the “misfortune” of being the very first game I played this year. I know I adored it, but after twenty-nine other games, my memory of how much I actually enjoyed it in comparison to the other titles I listed is a bit diluted. In any case, it was an extraordinary experience, and also my first God of War ever.

10. Darksiders III
Loved, loved, loved this game from beginning to end. I’ve never played the first two (always wanted to, though), and finally being in a "Joe Madureira world” was everything I hoped it would be. A super fun game I thoroughly enjoyed!

I don’t usually do honorable mentions, but I’m making an exception this year to draw your attention to two games I have loved that would definitely be numbers 11 and 12 on my list: Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap (the remake) and Forgotton (sic) Anne. The idea of playing a game that looks just like a cartoon is something that I find incredibly appealing, and that’s exactly the look of these two games. Other than that, they couldn’t be any more different: the former is an action/platformer metroidvania, and the latter is a puzzle/platformer with some dialogue options. Both are tons of fun, though, and both are indescribably gorgeous.

Finally, here you have three awesome-looking games I didn’t get to play this year but that I will definitely get to next year: Resident Evil 2 Remake, Control, and A Plague Tale: Innocence. They are going to be fantastic, I’m sure of it!

Anyway, thanks for reading, friends!

Nice, lots of lists dropping this afternoon/evening. Let’s keep it rolling.

Just the list:


1. Marvel’s Spider-Man
2. Titanfall 2
3. Astral Chain
4. Tetris 99
5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
6. Return of the Obra Dinn
7. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
8. Prey
9. Total War: Three Kingdoms
10. Timespinner

But you know you want the mini-reviews:


1. Marvel's Spider-Man
I passed on this last year. Then two things happened: I watched Into the Spider-Verse, and the community voted this GotY 2018. I started to wonder, and I bought this when it went on sale.

It's the real deal. The swinging is so much fun, I’m not sure I ever fast-traveled except when told to. The brawling is just addictive. Spidey sounds so happy when he quips a greeting to the next wave of thugs, and I am 100% on board with him. And happily, this is a young adult Spidey at the height of his gadgeteer powers, sparing me the tired high school hijinks in favor of some meaningful exploration of his relationships with MJ, with Aunt May, and with one Dr. Octavius.

2. Titanfall 2
Another great game I skipped. Like a few million other gamers, I was too busy stroking my chin and wondering if I'd gotten my money's worth out of Battlefield 1 to consider buying another EA shooter that month. Eventually I picked it up on sale, then quickly lost it in the pile. Then suddenly Respawn was in the news with Apex Legends. Might as well check out their old stuff.

This is the best single-player FPS campaign I’ve played since Half-Life 2 Episode 2. A lot of it comes from the sheer joy of movement as I double-jump, wall-run, slide, and stealth my way through the maps. A lot comes from the imagination and variety in those maps and scenarios. A lot comes from BT-7274, one of gaming’s best robots. Surprisingly, the Titan-versus-Titan combat is well down that list. It was fine, but I think I mostly button-mashed my way through those encounters.

I didn’t try the multiplayer game after finishing the campaign on PC. And now, several months later, surprise! I (and every other PS Plus subscriber) now own it on PS4. Suddenly I find myself playing a match or three almost every day for the past week. I can’t remember when I last had so much fun while being so bad. If you see someone gleefully swinging around like Spider-Man (which review is this?) and very occasionally scoring kills, say hi.

3. Astral Chain
The story seems to have been assembled from spare tropes, raided from a dumpster behind the Evangelion studio. And I don’t want to oversell the investigation tasks, which can devolve to, “talk to witnesses until the game tells you to beat up a monster.” For me, though, the crowded shopping districts and anxious witnesses are just enough to sell the notion that this is a living city. It’s a little extra motivation to chase after people when a monster drags them into another dimension.

Not that I need extra motivation: the fights are splendiferous. Maneuvering two characters at once was enough of a hook to catch my interest, and its depth is still surprising me now that I’ve unlocked all the skills and am pushing my way through the post-story challenges. I’m filling up my Switch’s memory card with videos of my sweetest takedowns.

4. Tetris 99
How can I put a free pack-in sweetener for Nintendo Switch Online so high on this list?

How can I not?
I have had no greater thrill in gaming this year than getting into trouble, being targeted by seven or eight opportunistic predators, and turning it around on them because, dammit, I've been doing this for 30 years and I know how to clear a few lines of garbage when I have to. Plus, getting piled on gives me a huge attack bonus. I’ve even stumbled into the stream-sniping competitive Tetris community on Twitch, which is a whole new level of challenge. Still looking for my first Invictus win, but it’s going to happen and it’s going to be great.

That new team mode is a lot of fun, too.

5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Hold Sundown's perfect review of Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest up to a mirror and you have a fair review of Three Houses. Finally, totally reversing that prior failure, we have a messy story that defies you to choose the One Good Path. I thought things went pretty well in my Golden Deer run, but the game stirs in some genuinely shocking teasers of What Might Have Been. I had no choice but to start a Black Eagle run and see what they can do with my guidance.

Sadly, that step forward in storytelling is paired with a step back in gameplay. Fates: Conquest offers the best tactical puzzles in the series and this... does not. The lack of challenge is exacerbated by the obtuse decision to prohibit difficulty increases mid-campaign. I played on Hard and some of the optional objectives and paralogue missions pressed me, but that was about it. In adding so many ways to buff our troops between story battles, Nintendo may have piled our plates too high.

6. Return of the Obra Dinn
Thank goodness, there are still original ideas in gaming. Play a bit of dialogue and sound to stir up my curiosity. Then lay out a shocking, frozen-in-time tableau and give me a solid reason to study every pixel. Repeat. I could quibble that I shouldn’t have guessed my way to so many solutions, or that I want to know more about the background of the… stuff. But really I wouldn’t change a thing.

7. Assassin's Creed Odyssey
This game is a huge, overstuffed chair. There is no rational reason for it to be this big, and I feel a little lost in it, but I also feel really comfortable. I started on New Year's Day (because I respect the rules!) and I'm maybe halfway through, just stopping in to visit every couple of weeks. The slow, low-stakes start is an odd contrast with other open-world games like Horizon Zero Dawn or Breath of the Wild, which waste little time before pointing you at disasters and telling you to fix them. I have reasons to hunt cultists now and it feels a little more urgent, but the heart of this game is still about wandering around Greece, taking in the lovingly rendered scenery and characters.

This is also my first Assassin's Creed game. I don't know if you've heard of the series; it has sort of a niche following.

8. Prey (2017)
The opening is stunning. Amnesia has been done before, but they sell it hard and it ties convincingly into the setting. The exotic powers are fun and totally worth letting a few turrets shoot at you. To defeat the coffee cup, you must become the coffee cup.

As it went on, I became a little tired of some of the old survival-horror tropes, especially the expensive ammo and limited inventory. Doubling back to find a recycler because I’m loaded down with junk again doesn’t build tension; it’s just a chore. I almost didn’t finish because of it, which would have been a shame...

I love the Talos 1 setting and I especially like going EVA, which changes up the pace and invites me see the whole station as a real place. On the other hand, I hate running the gauntlet of the interior zero-g GUTS.

9. Total War: Three Kingdoms
This is my first Total War game since Shogun. That’s right, the first one. I vaguely recall Shogun as a refreshingly original real-time tactics game, paired with a diplomacy layer that feels like an afterthought.

I came back because I heard, especially from Three Moves Ahead, that Three Kingdoms presents a first-rate strategy and diplomacy layer. Sure enough, it has me managing character skills and relationships to produce a grand-strategy-RPG hybrid that compares to the incomparable Crusader Kings II.

This should probably be higher on the list, but what I haven’t seen yet is how it all comes together in the late campaign. I bounced off the complexity when I first started, and it took me a long time to sit down and watch the tutorial videos (give me a written manual, please!). Now that I’m finally under way, I see this eating a lot of hours in 2020.

Also, the prettiest tech tree in all of gaming.

10. Timespinner
While lamenting the awful reviews of the Bloodstained Switch port, I was still itching to play something in that vein on my Switch. Then I caught a glimpse of this in the Awesome Games Done Quick stream and fell instantly in love. Somewhere between the space operatic techno-magic story, the SNES-like art, the music, and our heroine Lunais, it was just what I needed. Pure comfort food. Remind me to do a new game+ run.

Honorable Mentions:


Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
I miss the starfighter sims of the 90s, but I was surprised at how closely this imitates Privateer, right down to the automatic landing zones and that one bar in every space station. Which is not to say Privateer had explosions half as beautiful as these. Or a tactical map mode that gives you the situational awareness your never had in any Wing Commander entry. Or a ship painting tool this powerful. In fact, this game sets a new standard for built-in painting tools. That alone tempted me to squeeze it into the #10 spot, but the record shows I was hooked on Timespinner and I keep getting distracted from this one.

I was playing this around this time last year, but I had just started and didn’t have my thoughts together enough to give it a blurb. Oops.

I really liked it. The music is another Darren Korb home run. I like the intriguing setting in vague brushstrokes. The little bits of story I receive for using an old program in a new slot are just enough of a cookie to stop me from settling on just one build, which would have grown stale. Instead I repeatedly have the satisfaction of saying, “Okay I can also use that there, that works.” My only complaint is that there probably should be another Jaunt-like upgrade to give me something to do between Turn()s.

Combat Brigade
So I can just draw a rectangle anywhere on the big map and it will generate a fun, reasonably challenging scenario against the AI? Like Three Kingdoms, this might have fought its way higher if I had more hours in it, and also like Three Kingdoms, it will probably get them.

No Man’s Sky Beyond
I picked up No Man’s Sky after the big Atlas Rises update in 2017, but I never thought to mention it in these threads. Maybe that says something. Still, this year’s annual visit was my longest yet and the VR adds a lot. And in VR, the space combat in particular easily wins the Most Improved trophy. This is another one that deserves more time.

Hoo boy I hope we all had fun watching this skid in and burst into flames. And yet, I also had a lot of fun playing it. I took my sweet time finishing the ho-hum main story and the far more interesting character side stories, and when Cataclysm came out I found other enthusiastic players and enjoyed seeing the prime-and-detonate teamwork come together. Soaring around in my javelin is never not fun. I will be watching for the rumored reboot.

Baba is You
Game is clever. Puzzle is hard. Player is distracted. Mindset is forgotten. Player is frustrated.

Kind of a funny year. It started slowly. By mid-year, I had played a bunch of 2016-2018 releases and had a wonderful time. But representing 2019 there was Tetris 99 and that was it. I had no knock-my-socks-off first-half releases to compare with (checking my old lists) Horizon Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, Nier Automata, Celeste, God of War, or Battletech.

Then I picked up Three Kingdoms, and then Nintendo dropped the quick one-two of Fire Emblem and Astral Chain and suddenly I didn’t know when I would find time to finish them (I have since “finished” two but I’m still playing all three). So I stopped buying games (with one exception). Some promising candidates from 2019’s tail end (Disco Elysium, Control, Fallen Order…) will just have to wait until 2020.

This is the best single-player FPS campaign I’ve played since Half-Life 2 Episode 2.

I have to say, I 100% agree with maybe the Portal games coming very close / possible exceptions.

The story seems to have been assembled from spare tropes, raided from a dumpster behind the Evangelion studio.

Never has a single line made me want to never look at a game ever again more than this.

Agathos wrote:

FE: Three Houses review

I'm both flattered and amazed someone remembers my Conquest review from last year. And I stand behind it.

Honestly, I think I agree with you that Three Houses is basically the inverse of Conquest. But I'll put down my complete thoughts on my own list, where *spoilers* it will definitely be showing up.

Definitely thinking about my list. I was all set to start typing something up, then while at home sick last week (there is something going around here!), I decided to give God of War a try. I had briefly attempted it last year but bounced off hard, and didn't make it far enough to rate -- but this year, I'm finding that everything really clicks. So I'm going to wait for a bit and see how it lands as I get a little farther.

As I look back on my year of gaming this year the two things that stick out to me is the dominance the GWJ CRPG Club Has had on my gaming time and just how few ‘new’ games I’ve played. Either because I’m replaying old games via the club or I’ve returned to old favourites. Like XCOM2. That I beat Legend Ironman. Yeah, I’m still bragging about that one.

I’ll sort my list soon but there’s not a lot on it to be honest. Nothing I’ve played ‘new’ this year has been standout but they have all more or less been enjoyable.

Pretty mediocre year for games in my opinion. Don't have a ton of strong feelings other than my #1. However, 2020 looks insane!


1. Teamfight Tactics (PC) - When AutoChess first came out, I was flabbergasted that people were so into it. It looked so boring and simple. Boy was I wrong. When Riot released their version, I decided to try it out since I had a long history with League of Legends. The amount of depth and replayability in this game is incredible. And just when you've "solved" it, they throw it all away and start from scratch with new champs and basically a new game.

It's also a great game to play with friends since it's not super competitive. You play alongside your friends and compete with them for resources (and ultimately placement), but since you're rotating against 7 other people, you never feel like you're in a hopeless back-and-forth against a superior opponent.

You have to manage your economy, manage the odds of getting certain pieces, and manage items/board positioning all at once. It's poker-meets-Starcraft-meets-League of Legends and I cannot get enough. It's a distillation of all the endorphin-producing elements of the strategy games I love.

2. Return of the Obra Dinn (PC) - Another game that I slept on for too long. I devoured it in less than a week and was legitimately sad when I finished it because I enjoyed it so much. I would LOVE to see a AA studio take this idea and create a 20+ hour game like this. It's so unique; there is no other game like it.

3. Bloodstained
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
6. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
7. Divinity Original Sin 2
8. Dragon Quest 11
9. Red Dead Redemption 2
10. Celeste

Dishonorable Mention: Shenmue 3. I kickstarted this garbage a long time ago and forgot about it. It's unbelievably terrible. From the graphics to the gameplay to the terrible story to the (perhaps the worst ever) dialogue...I don't understand how people can enjoy this. I only played 3-4 hours, but I'm done forever with this series, especially since I found out


that the entire game increments the story by basically an inch. They really want to stretch out a 10 hour story into 5+ 40-hour games. Unbelievable.

I know Shenmue fans are masochistic, but this is too much. It was more understandable in the early 2000s when we had far less options for these types of games. In 2019, this goes beyond masochism and into insanity.

I'm a Shenmue fan (loved the original) & instantly kickstarted Shenmue 3 at E3 2016. I have to say I'm flabbergasted at how bad the dialogue & acting are & I've literally just played 15 mins. Its putting me off going back but I need to give the game a fair crack. My brother who also loved the originals is further on than me & says its turning into a slog. I'll likely not touch another Yu Suzuki game after this, especially not a Shenmue 4.

I know at least one Shenmue fan who is enjoying Shenmue 3. Seems they're in the minority, though. Most were expecting a modern take on the formula. Few are thankful for an authentic revisit.

Shenmue never changed. It's exactly the same as it always was. Best I can tell. It's effectively time locked whilst the industry and its consumers evolved past it. I can somewhat appreciate that as someone who can and often does return to classic formulas without modernity hampering the experience. Mostly.

10. Plants vs. Zombies: The Battle for Neighborville (XB1X)
9. Gears of War 5 (XB1X Game Pass)
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (XB1X)
7. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (XB1X Game Pass)
6. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (XB1X)
5. Devil May Cry 5 (XB1X Game Pass)
4. Forza Horizon 4 (XB1X Game Pass)
3. Hollow Knight Voidheart Edition (XB1X Game Pass)
2. Slay the Spire (XB1X Game Pass)
1. Apex Legends (XB1X)

I sadly don't have a ton to say about these games. This year has been an unending nightmare that despite the kicking and screaming, pinching ourselves, etc. we cannot wake up from. My brain's therefore been Teflon to most experiences, but that said I'm thankful for each of these games' ability to help my brain escape reality here and there throughout the year.

As a huge fan of Titanfall's combat, Apex was a welcome and instantly enjoyable surprise for me as Respawn's take on the BR genre, a genre I'm terrible at overall but have grown to enjoy through this game. It's all executed really well and just a ton of fun. Slay the Spire surprised the heck out of me, despite the high praise it's received around here, as it doesn't scream "my cup of tea" at ALL. But god is it satisfying to play, even in short doses.

Special shout out to Fedaykin for running and gunning with me throughout the year in Apex, even tearing himself away from Destiny 2 with friends on occasion to do so. In hindsight it's been a bigger deal than you or I realized.

I also need to highlight Xbox Game Pass as being an incredible value for us Xbox Live Gold folks this year (even more if you also play on PC). We were able to upgrade to Ultimate for the life of our current subscription and I've loved having the library of great content at my fingertips. The only games I spent "real" money on were Modern Warfare (to play with my brother, which we rarely do, so my CoD days might be in the rear view at this point), and Plants vs. Zombies for my son who loved GW2 (and we both enjoy Neighborville). Star Wars was a nice surprise gift from a family member trying to help beat back depression, and I loved it despite it not quite being the killer Jedi game I'd hoped for.

The Ones That Got Away (still on the wish list)

Borderlands 3
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Disco Elysium
(no gaming PC anymore)

The most Honorable of Mentions ever in the history of my gaming life


As parents we've been the biggest holdouts of Fortnite that we know. My kids didn't play it and didn't think to ask because we'd proactively talked about the glorification of violence, the issues with other kids' behavior in chat, the way it addicts you to purchasing skins/emotes, the impact it's having on socialization, the distraction from joys and other important parts of every day life...

...then my son relapsed in February and life was brought into sharp relief. Even with him being only 7, he's fought this terrible blood cancer for half his short life - treatment's not doing what it's supposed to do - and the possibility of him not making it to an age appropriate for the game is (while something we agonizingly try to repress each and every night in order to get to sleep) a soul-crushing fact that we simply cannot ignore, even while maintaining the highest of hopes he'll pull through.

We made the decision that at 7 he was as ready for the game as he may ever be. He got a Switch before the start of his treatment from his wonderful friends and community, and we installed Fortnite.

The role this one game has had in his treatment is hard to put into words without choking up. It's been the most powerful anti-nausea, anti-depression, pain reliever to date, and that's saying a LOT. It's done the lion's share of keeping his mind away from the horror, keeping his spirits high, and his chin up in the darkest (and I mean pitch blackest) of times, and it has been one of the most incredible things I've witnessed a game do in my long, long time with the hobby.

WE played this game together, for most of the year, in the hospital. We chased the unlockables in the battle pass. We finished all the Season (9? 10? Both?) achievements. We played with one of his nurses into the wee hours of the morning after he got off shift from caring for him all day. It made being able to stay connected to his sisters, cousins and friends happen despite his isolation and captivity to the machines. This game has been everything.

While I still harbor regret about the position of the game in the social fabric of our kids' lives given its overwhelming popularity, I'm glad we made the call and I can't thank Epic enough for the gift it's been to us this year. It was also quite the gateway drug to Overwatch, which he's also now enjoying tremendously, to the point where it might be his go-to. Also awesome.

I hope everyone had a great gaming year and has the best of times in the coming holiday weeks. I'm ready for 2020.

Oh, and f*ck you cancer - eat sh*t and die in a motherf*cking fire!!!

Spikeout wrote:

I'm a Shenmue fan (loved the original) & instantly kickstarted Shenmue 3 at E3 2016. I have to say I'm flabbergasted at how bad the dialogue & acting are & I've literally just played 15 mins.

It doesn't get better. It's worse than the first two games in that regard.

I will update this later with text, but I wanted to get the list out there before I get it the car.

Honorable Mentions A: Games that I haven't played but really want to:


Sayonara Wild Hearts
The Outer Worlds
Outer Wilds
Life is Strange 2

Honorable Mentions B: Games that Ive put a few hours in, put down, and want to get back into.


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Last of Us
Nier: Automata
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Titanfall 2

The List:

--Under Construction--

Edit 1: Now with pictures!

10. The Walking Dead: The Final Chapter


9. Assemble With Care


8. Far: Lone Sails


7. Kingdom Hearts 3


6. NBA Playgroundz 2


5. Photographs: Puzzle Story


4. Neo Cab


3. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order


2. Eliza


1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses


The List (with nothing but numbers, for Eleima)


1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
2. Eliza
3. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
4. Neo Cab
5. Photographs: Puzzle Story
6. NBA Playgroundz 2
7. Kingdom Hearts 3
8. Far: Lone Sails
9. Assemble With Care
10. The Walking Dead: The Final Chapter

Thank you to Amoebic, TheHarpoMarxist, frabcus, Mario_Alba, Agathos, Free, WizardM0de and UpToIsomorphism for your lists! Votes have been tallied.
Amoebic, bless your heart for not picking favorites, but I have to rank them, or the numbers are off, and so I just took them in order.

At this point, we're minutes away from December 20th, and I only have 41 lists with 212 games. Get crackin', people, don't leave it off for the last minute!!

Eleima wrote:

At this point, we're minutes away from December 20th, and I only have 41 lists with 212 games. Get crackin', people, don't leave it off for the last minute!! :D

Sorry, too many games left to play still.

It's been somewhat of a slow gaming year. From what I played, WoW ate up a whole bunch of time, and that doesn't count. Still, turns out I just about played 10 new things this year, so here it goes.

10. Subnautica - Good exploratory fun. Completely overstays it's welcome though. Played for 40 hours, but could/should have been 15 tops.
9. The Room 3 - Room games are always fun, and I like the aesthetics. I want my home to look like that.
8. Contradiction: Spot the Liar - Fun game, but does it drag a bit
7. The Unavowed - Started a little slow, but got better along the way. Good puzzling without being overly obscure
6. Vampire the Masquerade: Coteries of New York - More a visual novel than a game, but I really liked it. Short but sweet. Good atmosphere.
5. Anthem - This was both better and worse than I expected. The basic game-play is pretty fun, but repetitive. There is some good story and world-building, but it never really gets anywhere. Halfway through I was really getting into it, but then it all peters out. The final story mission was pretty lame. I feel the mission statement was 'mechanics first, bolt on anything else after'. Too bad, this could have really shined as an epic single player experience
4. Far Cry 3 - I figured this would be a dumb shooter, which it is, but then it's also loads and loads of fun. Most surprising game of the year for me.
3. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey - The ending is incredibly bad. Maybe not ME3 levels of bad, but still... (Haven't played the DLC though, so maybe that will soften the pain.) Other than that, I loved ancient Greece, most of this game was a wonderful experience. Also, somewhat ironically, I did more assassinating in this game than any other in the series.
2. Return of the Obra Dinn - This was great. Unique looks, unique game-play. Engaging story, great puzzling. Lucas Pope is a game-dev genius
1. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines - Yes, a 15 year old game is my game of the year. I still can not believe I never played this before. It was truly magnificent.

Honorable mention:
Law of the West - On my actual, somehow still working, C64C. Of course I must have played it about 30 years ago, but I did manage to get to the end of the day this time. Don't remember ever doing that before.

I'm truly sad about the lack of Baba Is You nearly everywhere.
There is still time!

1. God of War(PS4)
If you have to be a god better to be a god of war than giant blue smurf walking around with his junk hanging out.

2. Assassin's Creed Odyssey (PC)
Mario went on a odyssey but he didn't kill as many people in his game. hmm well actually he murdered lots of people.

2. Dead Island(PC)
Who do you voodoo B#$%%.

3.The Evil Within 2(PC)
There is evil within this machine. You go in and fight the evil within the machine to get back your daughter. You see you have a certain set of skills that you will use to get your taken daughter from the evil within.

4. Detention(PC)
I liked the background story more than the scary story. Governments run by tyrants are the real monsters. Monsters that go around eating children are just misunderstood. We should put the monsters in charge. I mean the real monsters not the human tyrant monsters already in charge.

I fall down the well. I shoot things. Then I go boom,

6. Minecraft Earth (android)
I collect stuff by walking around and tapping it. Just like I be tapping that ass. oh yeah you know what I mean. tap tap tap tappy tap tap. Ok that is lie. There is no ass tapping. I'm so lonely. boo hoo. boo hoo. Someone have a tissue.

7.Lust for Darkness (PC)
Not very good. It wants to be dark and sexy but it failed pretty hard. I think it might be more of a bait game.

Sorry to hear, WizardM0de.

Looking back at my previous Game of the Year lists, it occurs to me that the true test of a game's quality is time. What keeps coming to my mind? What do I develop an itch to return to? What has proven to be most enjoyable to replay? As the years have gone by I've tried to go with my gut rather than some snooty objective evaluation of metrics that make one game supposedly more deserving than another. Even the gut is sometimes wrong or inaccurate, though.

This year is harder than ever, with four or five really solid titles unquestionably deserving of being number-one picks. As you reach the top half, know that any day's whim could drive me to choose a different as number one. All I can do in such a scenario is combine my gut with my tendency to feign objectivity and try to suss out which belongs where as best as I can. Hopefully, come December of 2020, I'll look back and think "Eh, I did alright". After all, even if the rest of the lists are questionable, I was consistently right about my #1 and 2 picks the past two years. Those certainly are the games that still stick with me today.

Prior Years:
2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

The Quick List for Eleima (Ordered Bottom to Top):


10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PlayStation 4)
9. A Plague Tale: Innocence (PlayStation 4)
8. Caligula Effect: Overdose (Nintendo Switch)
7. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Nintendo Switch)
6. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Nintendo Switch)
5. Judgment (PlayStation 4)
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Nintendo Switch)
3. Devil May Cry 5 (PlayStation 4)
2. Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation 4)
1. Astral Chain (Nintendo Switch)

The Long and Verbose (Ordered Bottom to Top):



Would it surprise you to know the number ten spot was more contested than even the number one for me? I shall explain in further detail in the honorable mentions below as to why, but Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order: EA™ manages to just barely edge out its competition to sit firmly at the bottom of 2019's list. I imagine that it is, to me, what Darksiders is to most people: an amalgamation of ideas that fumbles at striking all the powerful chords that its imitators manage to do so successfully. If there is anything that allows me to be warmer on this game than others I've spoken to, it's that I've grown so apathetic towards Star Wars as a brand, franchise, anything that I had no interest in this game as a Jedi Simulator.

I instead ventured forth into its long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away because I like action games with progressive Metroidvania world design and Tomb Raider platforming. Sadly, the game did not manage to be more than the sum of its parts as it always zigged when it ought to have zagged. A combat system involving force powers is a great idea, but the cost of those powers is expensive enough that you are limited in how hog wild you can truly get. This is fine for the early portion of a game like this, but by the end it should be what differentiates it from the competition. There's a wonderful world to explore out there, but the cosmetic trinkets are not compelling enough to force me to return to Kashyyk once more, slipping down mud-slides for nothing more than a poncho, or lightsaber skin, or color swap for my droid companion. That Tomb Raider 2013 was smart enough to insert fast-travel into its explorative wilderness platformer, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption included multiple landing pads on each of its labyrinthine planets over a decade earlier.

Nevertheless, I found it satisfying to deflect lasers back at Storm Troopers just in time to parry and finish off a baton-wielding soldier, completing the dance with a force-pull of a flame throwing unit towards me so that I might skewer him upon my lightsaber. When this game shone, it shone brightly. It's just a shame that it shambled about in the dark so much.

Finally, what puts this game on the list above the others is the simple fact that the story, despite being too reverent to its source material at times, sits comfortably alongside Rogue One and Republic Commando as enjoyable uses of the property. It's flawed and one can even say unremarkable, but Jedi: Fallen Order asks questions of its own legacy in much the same manner as The Last Jedi had. Unlike The Last Jedi, Fallen Order isn't interested in baiting social media or extreme sides of the fandom. It's not a meta-commentary. It's just an effort to tell a decent story in the universe, and as such, it helped me remember what it's like to just... enjoy Star Wars again.


There's a possibility that A Plague Tale: Innocence will become the best game I forgot I played in 2019. I absolutely loved it upon release, championing it here on the forums when it seemed most relevant to do so. However, none of its highs were quite high enough to keep the game resonating in my memory as the months passed and new releases fell into my hands, nor were its lows low enough to fuel me with a rage cementing the game in my memory as a disappointment (again, see honorable mentions for clarification).

A Plague Tale is a well done stealth-puzzler, but that's really about all that can be said about it mechanically. The game is littered with the sort of puzzles that you'd find in a Zelda game, but with added layers of risk due to Amicia's frailty. The need to scavenge for materials to craft ammunition for the steadily growing arsenal of tools encourages the player to explore the environment. This exploration leads to the discovery of documents, trinkets, and even flowers that develop not only the world of A Plague Tale, but the relationship between Amicia and her younger brother Hugo.

A relationship that could have been an absolute disaster. Hugo may be an obstinate child at times, but more often he just seems reasonably and naturally confused in the manner that a young kid would be. I'd love to say that you're not beaten over the head with his innocence – I mean, you most certainly are – but it does not feel artificial. This allows the player to understand Amicia's love and frustration with her brother equally, and though there are times she swings her moods like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, any adult is going to think back on their youth and know that Amicia is suitably acting her age.

Asobo Studio feels like they're in that same vein of AA developer as Dontnod, wanting to make narrative-heavy games featuring deep characters and themes. In terms of both mechanics and writing, A Plague Tale: Innocence surpasses the balance of Dontnod's past efforts, managing to execute on the two well. Unfortunately, it failed to resonate with me deeply enough on either level, but it's most certainly worth revisiting should I find the time.


Y'know, halfway through the year I was confident this was either going in honorable mentions or disappointments. When I considered it beside Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order and some other titles, though, I could not help but honor Caligula Effect: Overdose with greater recognition. Yes, it was disappointing, but at least it was attempting an interesting take on turn-based combat.

You can find more detailed thoughts on my blog, detailing some of my mixed feelings regarding its execution. Lengthy dungeons with no greater feature than being long hallways littered with encounters, each fight a simple melee against a solitary opponent. These gave the game a rather padded feeling, and reduced what could have been an otherwise outstanding experience.

I would be remiss not to recognize that this game's failures sit in contrast to its success in assembling a creative, involving combat system. Playing on the Hard difficulty, I found boss fights in particular to be nerve-wracking. There's nothing like staring at your game screen, chewing on your lip, pondering what set of moves increase your odds of survival and avoiding that total party wipe. With a focus on countering enemy strikes with the right moves, building up your opponent's Point Break, and timing your team's defensive and offensive maneuvers in coordination, Caligula Effect would have operated far better if it involved shorter dungeons with unique, hand-crafted encounters.

The biggest draw, however, and the greatest reason to return, is the narrative. Surpassing nearly every other game I've played this year, it's deceptively typical anime bullcrap is just a masquerade for an introspective examination of some of Japan's favorite escapist tropes. The antagonist is a purely altruistic being whose existence to delight everyone and live for their fandom clashes with the reality of incompatible dreams. Our heroes are forced to face their escapist fantasies and come to terms with the hardship that causes others around them. The true villains are those that yearn for nothing more than the fantasy, avoiding reality as best as they can.

Oddly enough, the more distant I get from the game, the more fond I am of its strengths than I am harsh on its weaknesses. Hopefully any future sequels will address its greater flaws.


Part of me is looking at this list and asking myself if I'm really going to rank a twenty-some year-old Legend of Zelda game higher than new, larger budget and arguably more ambitious releases of the year.

The answer is yes, because I never played The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (2019) before, and I can guarantee you that I'll return to it in the future many times over. Playing this game was nostalgic not in the game itself, but that feeling of wandering an environment with only vague hints to follow, ruminating on the correct path forward, exploring in the hopes of finding your objective only to be delighted by surprise treasures and enhancements. The chatter I shared with friends on Discord was reminiscent of the school lunch room discussions I shared so many years ago, turning a single player title into a collaborative effort. Never did its age show in the mechanics, however, polished to feel appropriate for the modern age.

The real surprise of my enjoyment was perhaps in how much of a lost chapter Link's Awakening feels, caught between the original 8-Bit Legend of Zelda and its 16-Bit successor A Link to the Past. It feels more like "Zelda 2" than The Adventure of Link had in that regard, yet in truth Link's Awakening was simply a free exploration of what it meant to be a Zelda game following the advancements made on the Super Nintendo. Exploration that would become less common once Ocarina of Time had codified much of what A Link to the Past introduced.

There's no doubt that I will replay Link's Awakening. This is a franchise whose entries I crave to return to every so often. It is for this reason I place it seventh on my favorite games of 2019.


I nervously kickstarted Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night despite not having been quite taken with spiritual ancestor Symphony of the Night. I had found that progenitor title aimless in its earliest stages, something I had not been yearning for in a Metroidvania. Nonetheless, Igarashi's proposal was so charming I could not help but fund it, and I am certainly glad I had.

It is true that the game has performance issues. I've had a number of crashes and seen other glitches, watches as certain enemies regularly clip through walls or doorways that they should not, and the Nintendo Switch is easily the worst platform to play the game on. The game is also old school in a manner similar to Link's Awakening, lacking objective markers and relying on the player to suss out their next destination. This unfortunately includes two separate moments where the player may find themselves wandering aimlessly, trying to figure out where they ought to go unless they use a guide.

Despite these flaws, I cannot help but feel like my old self when playing Bloodstained. Some games you play to be challenged and surprised, others you play for comfort. There are no new ideas here – in fact, there's evidently plenty recycled right out of Symphony of the Night itself – but that does not keep the game from drawing me into Miriam's journey each time I boot it up.

There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be returning to Bloodstained in the same manner I revisit the different entries of the Metroid franchise annually. In fact, I think I may finally give Symphony of the Night another try. I can only hope this game is the start of a new franchise or new opportunities for Koji Igarashi.


Despite being on my radar since the release of Yakuza 4 on PlayStation 3, I've never jumped into the franchise until this year. You'd think that Judgment would somehow be diminished due to the immense number of similarities it has. After all, it's more a spin-off of Yakuza than its own franchise, occupying the same city of Kamurocho with Japan's criminal mafia interwoven into its narrative.

The differences are what elevate it above Yakuza Zero and Kiwami for me, though. Unlike Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, Judgment protagonist Takayuki Yagami is a former lawyer turned detective. His adherence to the law means a complete avoidance of sharp weapons, firearms, and killing. He'll even save those combatting him from fatal scenarios, such as pulling a goon from the path of a speeding car before knocking him out cold. Where Kiryu had no problem hitting on the ladies of Hostess Clubs, watching nudey movies, or hanging around the many brothels of Kamurocho, Yagami largely avoids them and instead goes on more traditional dates with select ladies of the city.

More than anything, however, is the nature of the antagonist in Judgment. Each of the Yakuza games embodies some philosophy of masculinity I've struggled to put into words since I finished Kiwami, but the common thread is a man standing firm and fighting for that which is right. The protagonists exist in a system that is often corrupt, but in Yakuza it's largely due to being a criminal organization prone to the darker aspects of masculine behavior and tendencies. Judgment, on the other hand, pits Yagami not against a criminal organization, but against the system of the law itself and the manner in which something intended for good can be corrupted by those intended to uphold it. The ways that a misguided, selfish, yet understandable desire can lead to heinous acts of violence for some sense of the greater good. The man at the root of it all is, well... he's everything that most characters in a Yakuza game are not, and it perfectly represents what makes Judgment stand out from the other games of the franchise I played this year.

This is also the most realized representation of Kamurocho, a small chunk of land as far as open-world games go, and yet so densely packed with characters, quests, and activities. Play a virtual reality board game to get yourself some prizes. Upgrade your drone and put on some nifty lookin' shades as you race against other remote aviators through the alleys of the city. Assist a fortune teller, stop a trio of perverts, help two burger chains with a cross-promotion, chase down a pop star's wig... there's a multitude of colorful characters to help out, both minor and major, some leading to more involving storylines while others remain as silly and simple as they begin. The only thing preventing this game from being a higher contender – and at this stage it's an awfully close race – are the regular bounty hunts of the Keihin Gang. The game tries to guilt the player into taking down the same group of thugs over and over, until finally the player just stops caring and moves on with their lives. It's such a major stumbling block, and I'm shocked that the developers thought it was fine to include in its current state.

Nonetheless, Judgment is, without a doubt, one of my top favorite games played this year.


I managed to complete the final encounter of this game without any of my combat units succumbing to death. It may seem strange to note this as a flaw with the game, but it truly does speak to the rather easy nature of Fire Emblem: Three Houses compared to its predecessors.

However, that ease comes from two separate factors. The first, I believe, is most likely an effort to make this game more accessible to a wider audience. It's the first Fire Emblem available not just to the handheld audience in several years, but the first time on home console since the Wii. Nintendo no doubt walked the tightrope best they could of making the game forgiving to newer players while still maintaining the depth and complexity expected of a tactical role-playing game. The second factor is the ingenious nature of the school system directing players towards deeper knowledge of their individual units. Each character has a special trait, such as boosting the attack power of adjacent units of the opposite gender, or receiving greater stat bonuses without a battalion rather than with one, and so on. Taking the franchise into an academic setting may be a blatant imitation of what's becoming more common in franchises like Persona and Legend of Heroes, but it feels like a natural fit in Three Houses.

It's hard to determine whether the story is worth writing home about, as I found it fairly predictable at parts and otherwise saying nothing original in others. At the same time, I found myself more attached to the characters than any Fire Emblem game in the past, which is a strong feat considering the sheer number we're working with. Support conversations are often rooted in familiar (occasionally annoying) anime tropes, but they actually managed to not only build relationships between characters, but even build the world regarding the different heritage of the nobles and adopted commoners. That some major story information is occasionally hinted at within these pairings is far more than the shallow cringe-fests of Fates, and instead turns the support mechanics into a rewarding activity to take part in (aside: I also observed how the conversations are technically archaic in presentation, yet still feel better executed than comparative conversations in, say, BioWare or Bethesda games).

All of these factors result in superior character builds, greater buffs to different units based on thoroughly explored branches of support, and planned implementation of unique traits. It's no wonder, then, that I'd be wiping the floor with my foes in later chapters than I had managed in Awakening, Fates, or Shadows of Valentia. I was encountering opponents capable of killing a great deal of my units in one or two strikes, yet they had become such well-oiled machines that they could dodge those deadly strikes with ease or simply take out the opponent far faster.

Yet I still saw all the manners in which I could optimize my team far better. This is where the multiple story paths are advantageous, for it means a second playthrough on a higher difficulty will continue to be rewarding regardless of the 90 hours I already spent on the game. So, yes, Three Houses may be "easy", but only because it did such a good job helping me learn how to build a better army than its predecessors had done.


Last year I decided to go through the Devil May Cry series proper, preparing myself for the long-awaited fifth entry in a six title franchise where only four of those games are truly regarded as canonical. With that in consideration, I only played the first, third, and fourth games before Devil May Cry 5 landed in March, and it was one of the better decisions I could have made.

We truly have entered the realm where all the top games are equally deserving of the number one spot. Devil May Cry 5 doesn't just feel like the sequel action fans have been hungering for, it feels like the action game the entire genre has been craving for years. PlatinumGames have proven themselves masters of the craft, but Hideaki Itsuno has somehow managed a game that continues to surprise even after completion. There are small, tiny tricks of combat that can be discovered purely by accident, such as being able to deflect an opponent's down-sing with a well-time up-swing. While many mis-label such titles as "button mashers", to do so would only invite an incessant need to use healing items. It's a game that begs the player to think fast, watching their opponent, and acting with precision and intent rather than the thrashing about of a dead fish.

And it does so with three very different types of characters, all of whom possess a style of their own. Nero's hard-hitting brutality compared to Dante's versatile arsenal and V's frail reliance upon his dark beasts of the underworld. Never does the game get dull or samey by using each character to vary the experience, and yet each character has an accessible enough base-level that less adept players can still endure.

Even so, the game's mid-section is a bit soggy with very uninspired looking environments, relying on two or three chapters of pure action to carry the player forward until the narrative decides to pick back up. This singular flaw is easy to overlook due to the incredible delivery on what Hideaki Itsuno had begun to promise with the third entry. A life-long struggle between brothers comes to an end, and insinuations of legacy will be brought to the forefront. Catharsis is the only word that can describe my feelings during the closing credits.

If this were to be the end of the Devil May Cry franchise, then it would end on the best high note anyone could have possibly asked for.


Resident Evil 2 (2019) feels like the entirety of the franchise's best traits distilled into a single game. The improved controls of 4, 5, and the Revelations games combined with that sense of horror and exploration of the originals, but the improved narrative presentation of Resident Evil 7. It's still the same convoluted story as ever, and the suspiciously spacious subterranean lab begs an unreasonable amount of suspension of disbelief, yet the direction and presentation of cut-scenes are enough to distract the more rational parts of the brain.

Also, Sherry Birkin is absolutely adorable.

Perhaps most important is the inclusion of Mr. X. In the original Resident Evil titles, the world would populate with new monsters after a certain point in order to refresh that tension and risk. After all, once enough zombies had been cleared out, the player was free to backtrack to their hearts' content. In the remake of that first game, Crimson Heads were introduced in order to throw an additional wrench of apprehension into the player's plans. The Police Station of Resident Evil 2 would lose that tension – especially on B-routes and repeat playthroughs – if it remained unchanged. Zombies breaking through windows is certainly a predicament, but in time the player would learn to outsmart the A.I. and be well equipped enough to take down their foes.

The presence of Mr. X is enough to constantly add pressure to the player to keep moving. Even though he can be outrun without much struggle, a careless player can easily back themselves into a dead-end or stumble upon a Licker. That Zombie breaking through the window is now an added complication, blocking the player's path up the stairs and to safety. It really tests the player's knowledge of the Police Station, causing them to plan alternate paths and even forcing them to confront less ideal routes.

Without Mr. X, Resident Evil 2 would still be an incredible game. The surprising tenacity of the undead combined with the recoil and unsteady aim of Claire and Leon prevents the player from being too empowered by superior controls. The Police Station is as creepy and interesting a place to explore as ever, filled with puzzles reinvented and reinterpreted for a new age and perspective. The roaming presence of Mr. X is what allows the experience to feel lively and dynamic, even when coming back for another round.


I had already stated as much before, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that I'd toss the number one spot to a niche over-the-top anime-as-crap game most others would overlook or rate somewhere in the middle or bottom of their lists. For me, though, Astral Chain is the sort of game that proves there's still life in this genre so many others have abandoned as joyless. There is nothing but joy in Astral Chain, even as its story manages to waste any potential its setting builds up.

Whereas Devil May Cry 5 refuses to let the player feel stylish without putting forth the effort to earn it, Astral Chain takes what could have been a complex set-up and instead makes it accessible by removing the emphasis on combos. In fact, the player is nothing more than a human of frail and limited capability. It is the Legion that allows the player – and protagonist – to accomplish superhuman feats. The game allows for players to focus first on using the right Legion for the appropriate task, with a host of customization and move configuration for varied combat options.

Unlike Devil May Cry, there's more to Astral Chain than just one combat encounter after the next. Each Legion also allows the player to navigate the world in unique ways or to break through barriers and uncover secrets. When exploring the setting of the Ark, each of these can be used to reveal new locations or treasures. During adventures in the Astral Plane, they are often used to platform and problem-solve. While not truly open-world, each chapter allows the player to explore the setting in a manner that gives depth to a world that is truly strong enough to carry a new franchise.

The setting is only let down by the story in that every new complication is almost immediately addressed, leaving only the most predictable of plot points to carry forth. The scenario is attempting to punch above its weight class, imitating the grandiosity and visuals of works like Evangelion or Yoko Taro's Nier series, but it is only able to do so by bludgeoning the player with Trigger-style symbolism.

Nevertheless, the aesthetics of the world beckon to a time that anime has currently forgotten in favor of Isekai and Cute-Girls-Doing-Cute-Things. Even if the plot fails to achieve the heights of works like Patlabor or Ghost in the Shell by a wide, wide margin, it knows how to at least pump the player up for the epic battle, and it provides an experience with so many combat options and secrets to uncover that there's just hours of post-game content here to enjoy.

Despite being on the under-powered Nintendo Switch, nearly everything about Astral Chain represents what I want gaming to be in 2019 than any major AAA game on PC, PS4, or Xbox. How can I not award it the top spot?

Top Soundtracks of 2019 (Order From Bottom to Top):


This is a bit of a new one for me, but I loved so many soundtracks this year that I felt like I needed to try and rank those as well. So, here they are, from bottom to top.

Devily May Cry 5: Sixth Soundtrack of the Year
Judgment: Fifth Sountrack of the Year
Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fourth Soundtrack of the Year
Caligula Effect: Overdose: Third Soundtrack of the Year
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: Second Soundtrack of the Year
Astral Chain: Favorite Soundtrack of the Year

Honorable Mentions:


As might be clear, the top and bottom of my list are diametrically opposed in my feelings. While the top five games are all competing in my mind to be my number one, the bottom three were struggling for justification to be listed. The most curious of those is no doubt A Plague Tale, but it has the same symptoms as Luigi's Mansion 3: good enough without being great, and any flaws fail to offend enough to elicit a strong response. The greatest flaw of Luigi's latest spectral outing was simply feeling a few floors too tall, its ideas stretched out a bit too thin. However, it was just as charming as you could hope, with plenty of clever little problem-solvers scattered from start to finish. Some of the boss fights were annoying while others were a delight. Yet I cannot help but get the feeling that it'll share the fate of Super Mario Odyssey in that I'll have had a blast while playing, yet three months later will have forgotten I had played it. As such, I could not bring myself to put it on the list. A Plague Tale was nearly left off as well, but when I do think of that particular adventure, I feel stronger positive emotions than with Luigi's Mansion.

Control, on the other hand, edged out below Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order simply because it lacks a difficulty selection. Not that it'd be as difficult on a second run after having figured out a working strategy for myself, but it was a game whose encounter design felt like a designer spilled a bunch of random enemies onto the map and went with it. That, and played Call of Duty on Veteran and thought "Man, these never-ending respawns were great!" I wrote pages upon pages on this game, but just like Star Wars zigged wherever it should have zagged, Control feels like it's one third good ideas, one third generic modern game design like skill trees and loot drops, and then one third bad ideas intended to justify the generic imitation design. The setting is really nifty, but unlike others, I found the characters pretty forgettable save for Casper Darling himself. An interesting game, and one I may return to, but like Jedi: Fallen Order it was just too inconsistent in its quality. Knowing I can't just knock it down to easy on a second playthrough and enjoy the setting keeps it from being on the top ten.

Only Sekiro, but that was as much my fault with expectations and my contrarian rage nature as it was with the game's own mechanics. Really, I loved the stealth elements of the game, but once you had to fight an opponent with multiple health bars I found the timing too imprecise. While the stealth was enjoyable, repeating the same segment five times was not. Still, my copy went to the HarpoMarxist, which means it went to a good home.

That Which Was Missed:
Oof, what wasn't? Death Stranding wasn't on my list until I watched a friend play it. Suddenly, the game clicked and I desired to play it. Don't think I'll be doing so anytime soon, as I promised a friend I'd finally get to Witcher 3 once I finished Crystar (which did not appear anywhere in this post because it's that noteworthy). Daemon x Machina and Dragon Quest XI S just lost out due to budget and time. Remnant: From the Ashes looked and sound like an enjoyable co-op game. Oninaki will be purchased, but its demo actually somehow lost to Crystar (huh. Guess it was slightly noteworthy?). AI: The Somnium Files was also released, yet I didn't get a chance to try it out. SteamWorld Quest marks the first SteamWorld game I didn't snag day one, and Metal Wolf Chaos XD also arrived at a bad time. I at least managed to snag No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again on sale, and will likely play that after Bloodstained in addition to a purchase of Pokemon Shield. Really, while I commend myself for resisting purchases here and there, I think it's pretty obvious there are plenty of titles I'd have likely enjoyed more than some of the releases I did spend my time on. A shame, but who knows? Maybe I'll somehow manage to beat another game or two (ha ha ha) and knock Star Wars off the list.

And there's my list. Verbose as usual, so apologies to those that went through the whole dang thing for some reason. Thanks, though! I'm curious how the votes will shake out by year's end.

Also: so sorry to hear about the condition of your 2019, WizardMode, but I'm glad to hear that there was joy to be found even during great trials and strife. Hopefully 2020 will take an upswing.

Wow, that is a tough act to follow Anyway, here we go:

10 - Assassins Creed Origins
They made a better AC game, but it's still definitely an AC game. At its best when you're just exploring the world, which has never been more detailed and beautiful, and now also has interesting characters to meet. The worst parts remain the wonky combat and stealth, despite an overhaul which fixed some of the old problems but also introduced new ones.

9 - The Nonary Games
Of course this has to be 9th place! I'm putting 999 and VLR together as I bought and played them as a single package. It took a while to warm up to them but at a certain point it clicked for me, and by the end I was well and truly lost in their crazy rabbit hole.

8 - What Remains of Edith Finch
Gets a spot for doing broadening my idea of what a narrative game can do. I'm not a fan of the genre but this was smart, funny and so well paced that I devoured it all in one sitting on a glum winter's evening.

7- Into the Breach
The little puzzle box that keeps on giving. Just a perfect bite sized game to dive into from time to time. This and Baba is You are the only Switch games I played this year.

6 - Obduction
Something about the way the environment and puzzles are interwoven made this a very satisfying experience, even though it does involve some tedious backtracking and hunting about for solutions. But it's really on my list because of one puzzle in particular, which gave me my best EUREKA!!! moment of the year. It's been compared to the Witness, because both games can be traced back to Myst and the like. I'd say this is more ambitious than the Witness, but also a bit rougher around the edges.

5 - Warframe
Destiny 2? Humbug. Borderlands 2? Obnoxious trash. THIS is the good stuff. Finally, being a space ninja is as cool as it sounds! I must have played for 50 hours before the power curve flattened out and it started to feel a bit grindy. If I could find regular friends to play with on PS4 I'd probably still be playing it now.

4 - Darksiders 3
PS Plus delivers! A much better game than I was led to expect by the unenthusiastic reviews at launch. Obviously constrained by budget but within those limits they made a lean, mean Darksiders machine.

3 - Spiderman
I'm not a fan of Spiderman or open world games, but this one cannot be denied. I didn't intend to put it this high on my list, but to be honest it's one of the best times I had this year, despite being completely rote and unoriginal.

2 - Control
Such a deliciously weird space to poke around in, and surprisingly robust combat. There's nothing like walking through the wreckage of a room collecting loot after smashing some Hiss with your brain powers! Some great set piece moments as well but for me the main story was mostly forgettable - the incidental stuff is where it's at.

1 - Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Looks like a fairy tale, sounds like rapture, plays like a power fantasy. It just flows. No open world here, which means no wasted time (but still plenty of secrets to find). Combat is the meat of the game - once you get a few skills under your belt, it's full on pyrotechnics with tactical pause to set up the next wave of destruction. And the food! Everything on the menu is delicious. Even the operatic plotline swept me along with its 5 swoony leads and "neverending story" framing device. The first game on my list and never in doubt for the #1 spot.

JRPG appreciation time!

Life is always better with a JRPG on the go, and I spent more time playing them than any other kind of game this year. So why aren't there more in my top 10? Because that's not their job. They are the place I go where it's warm and comfortable and I just want to feel contented for a while. 2019s cosiest RPGs were:

1. Dragon Quest XI
2. Ni No Kuni Remastered
3. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
4. The Last Remnant Remastered

Honourable mentions


- Iconoclasts
A really unusual mixture of tones and genres. By the end I could tell it was clearly the vision of a single creator, but I couldn't quite tell you what that vision was.

- Rebel Galaxy
A dozen hours of diligent space trucking, before I got distracted by more immediate pleasures. I will probably return to it sometime.

- Hand of Fate
So close to greatness, which makes me think I should have tried the sequel instead.

- Detroit Become Human
Entertaining enough, but frustrating to think how much better it could have been. It's like watching a Michael Bay movie where you marvel at the display of technical skill, but despair at the boneheaded stupidity of the work it serves.

- The Surge
Sci-fi Souls should be a lay down misere, and I did enjoy the combat for the most part, but eventually the dullness of it all wore me down.

- Soma
I had to know. And I'm glad I played it, even if only to confirm it's not for me.

- Devil May Cry 5
I should like this game a lot more than I do. Bounced off it several times during the year. Will probably try again in 2020.

- Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Love the ambition but it couldn't quite reconcile the game parts with the overall effect they were trying to achieve.

- Baba is You
For a few days it was the best thing ever, then I hit a wall, and almost immediately lost interest. You is sorry!

Jotting my top list and I'll do descriptions later. I'm not even sure I finished 10 games because one game ate all my game time all year.

7- Beat Saber

6- Vader Immortal

5- Sekiro

4- Dead Cells (Switch)

3-Star Wars Jedi Fallen order

2- Ori and the Blind Forest (Switch)

1-Apex Legends : This game is amazing. I don't think there has been a single day this year where I didn't play at least one round. It's the game I'm married to. There is always Apex and one other game I'm playing in the side. It's so well made, frenetic, satisfying and fun to play with others.

I'm amazed to see some older games get top tier love.
Vampire The Masquerade?
Odin Sphere?
Both amazing games, and I'm loving how other people get to enjoy them for the first time this year!


Vampire The Masquerade is one of the best games ever made. And with the new game just around the corner I'm not surprised people would play the old version. Anyone playing it be sure to get the fan patch for it. I think the GOG version has it built into the game.

For reference, here's my 2018 Game of the Year list.

Here's my list for 2019:

10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (XBO)
9. Outer Wilds (XBO)
8. The Division 2 (XBO)
7. My Time at Portia (XBO)
6. Yoku's Island Express (XBO)
5. Control (XBO)
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)
3. Tacoma (XBO)
2. Outer Worlds (XBO)
1. Anthem (XBO)

The list with my commentary:


10. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (XBO)
Fun to be in the Star Wars universe. Some good characers and situations. A good concept for a game - part Uncharted, part Dark Souls. It was never quite good enough at either of those directions, and dragged pretty badly in the middle, but still, this was a fun experience and I'm excited to see where they go next.
9. Outer Wilds (XBO)
I have enjoyed a lot of my time with this game, and I still have more to do in it. I love its approach to exploration and mystery, its unusual storytelling methods, its interesting world. I just wish I had an easier time moving in and interacting with the world so that I could make progress without wasting so many attempts along the way.
8. The Division 2 (XBO)
They made another one of these! It was fun, particularly as a longtime DC-area resident, getting to look up some of my old offices and apartments in the game. The story was nothing, and they didn't really solve the bullet sponge problem, but the shooting is pretty tight, and I like exploring and clearing out areas.
7. My Time at Portia (XBO)
I was looking for something else to scratch that Stardew itch, and this came reasonably close. I don't love the townsfolk or the design, really any aspect of the style. But it provides a satisfying loop of exploring, crafting, building, growing, upgrading.
6. Yoku's Island Express (XBO)
This was a fun surprise. I'd heard about this pinball platformer on its initial release, and it sounded cool, but also like the sort of thing I would never spend money on. Thankfully, it came to Gamepass. This was one of those magical little windows where, over the course of three or four weekend afternoons and evenings, I fell into the world, poked and prodded at everything there was to do, reached the end, and felt satisfied. A neat little game.
5. Control (XBO)
I wish this game were higher on my list. There is a lot to love. The performances, the FMV, the story (where I could understand it), the movement, the powers, all great. If it had, say, 30% less combat, or slightly more aggressive checkpointing, I think I would've rated it even more highly, but I was a bit too frustrated with it by the end, especially after what i felt was an unreasonably difficult penultimate sequence of the game that I eventually had to cheese my way past.
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)
This game was a huge surprise for me. I'd never played a Fire Emblem game before, but I was heading off on summer vacation and needed something for my Switch, so I gave it a shot. I was surprised to find, especially over the first 30 hours or so, that I really loved it. So many fun characters, with such fun interactions, interesting tactics combat, a pretty engaging overall story. It could have been my game of the year if not for the fact that it took me nearly 80 hours to finish. Eventually, over that length, some of the things that I'd spent so much time enjoying, like chatting with every member of my house between missions, started to feel like a waste of time. It took too long to run from one to the next, and whatever boost I could get out of talking to them didn't seem to affect the actual gameplay that much. The game is just a huge buffet of options of things to do, and I didn't know how to pace myself and the game didn't really show me how, and so I got overstuffed in the first 30 hours so that by hour 55 or so I was desperate to make it to the end.
3. Tacoma (XBO)
I'd been so excited to play this when it was initially released, but then just...didn't get to it. So when it showed up on Gamepass, I eventually made time for it, and I'm so glad I did. A fun, interesting story, a good mystery to solve, very well-paced. Hey, where's my next Fullbright game?
2. Outer Worlds (XBO)
I have enjoyed the Fallout games but, especially the Bethesda entries, have felt they're a bit too long, a bit too big, too sprawling. Outer Worlds is the perfect answer to that. Tighter, cleaner, more focused. The companions are great. I like the combat well enough, and, unusually I guess, I like the Time Dilation feature better than VATS--it gives a similar feel of power and control yet I also am still doing the shooting instead of just rolling some dice. I haven't quite finished this yet, so I may regret this ranking, but it's been so nice just sitting with this game, feeling like i can work my way through nearly every quest and yet not being in danger of dumping hundreds of hours in.
1. Anthem (XBO)
Can a game be your game of the year and also one of your biggest disappointments? Well, here's what I think: Although I was open to the possibility of getting into the online games-as-service live experience of Anthem on the scale that some people are into Destiny or other similar games, that was never what I came to Anthem for. I wanted to see Bioware storytelling, interesting characters, new environments, while flying in a cool mech and shooting stuff. I got that! There were technical issues, for sure, and my goodness I don't know that I've ever suffered through more long load times. And the mission structure was so frustrating in the way that it prevented you from focusing on what actually was happening during your missions--characters trying to talk to you about what you're doing while you're either in combat or chasing after your teammates who've just run off to the next objective without listening to the story. But: I have had no more powerful experience in video game this year than getting into my javelin, jumping in the air, and hitting the boost to launch like a rocket. It feels so freaking good. I had a great ~40 hours with the initial campaign. The combat was fun, I liked many of the characters, thought it looked gorgeous. This was the most fun I had playing video games all year.

Honorable Mentions:


Night Call - I really liked the approach of this mystery cab driver visual noveli-ish game that I played thanks to Game Pass. Some technical and structural problems prevented it from cracking my list--the speed of the display of the text and of events was too slow and made me impatient, and I never quite understood how certain layers of the game worked--but it was an interesting experience that stuck with me.
Gears 5 - Thanks to Game Pass, I spent some time with this game that I wouldn't have otherwise bothered with, and had a lot of good old fashioned shooty fun. I played many nights of Horde Mode, and may yet come back to finish the story. It's not amazing, but solid, traditional fun.
What Remains of Edith Finch - I played through this over the summer and liked it a lot. It had perhaps been a little overhyped to me, and there was a moment or two I thought were almost too emotional, in the sense that they felt a bit manipulative.
Slay the Spire - I understand why people love this, and it has sucked away many hours from me as well. I feel like I'm missing some last piece to make it truly click for me. Maybe I'm just bad at it? But a run takes a long time for me and I've never won, it all feels just short of satisfying to me.
The Turing Test - Really fun little walking sim/Portal-like puzzle game. I'm surprised this didn't get more attention when it was released, I liked it quite a bit.



Afterlife - I wanted very much to like this game. I enjoyed the studio's previous game, Oxenfree, like their dialogue-driven approach to storytelling. But I think I should've known from the pitch: every time I heard someone say "omg, it's wild, you're in hell and you're challenging the devil to a drinking contest!" I kind of grimaced. Whatever effect that pitch was supposed to have on me, it wasn't having. It just made me feel embarrassed for them, I think? Like it was trying too hard. I still went in pretty enthusiastic about it, figuring I'd get into it once things got going, but no. All of the writing had that same trying-way-too-had feel, desperately wanting to be clever and funny but missing the mark pretty badly for me. And not only did the dialogue miss the mark, it was so slowly paced, with fairly tedious movement through areas. I sank probably 2-3 hours in it in my first couple of days with it, and then didn't come back to it for a month or so. Since then, I twice tried to force myself to get going in it, hoping I could get over the hump and really fall into it--I like the idea of the drinking mechanic, where you pick different drinks that give you thematically appropriate alternate dialogue lines--but the game just wouldn't let me get there. I sat through 7 or 8 not very funny or interesting lines of dialogue, interspersed among scenes of walking slowly from one part of a room to another, then slowly traveled to the beginning of the area, then talked to my boat guide, who then slowly (and with astonishingly poor framerate for a game that doesn't appear to be a real pixel-pusher) led me in a boat to the next area while unfunnily telling me about what faced me ahead and I just said no, I'm done, life is too short, deleted. Sad.
The Dark Pictures Anthology : Man of Medan - I liked this game okay, overall, and am glad I played and finished it, but it was pretty far short of the standards of Until Dawn, and really seemed to come and go without anyone giving it much notice. I liked the story okay and there were some excellent performances in the game. The gameplay part just didn't live up to my hopes, especially as the way scenes were edited together was often quite poor. This needed more polish, tighter editing, something. Not a bad game, just not what I'd hoped for in the follow-up to Until Dawn.
Crackdown 3 - This wasn't good. At fist it felt comfortingly like "oh yeah, this is what video games used to be like," but that can only be a good thing for so long. After a few hours, you start to wonder how the developers hadn't paid attention to any of the improvements in these sort of openworld shooters in the last, I dunno, 15 years.

Thing of the Year:
Even more than my game of the year, my number 1-with-a-bullet Thing of the Year is my Game Pass subscription. Looking at my list of games played, it's remarkable how much of what I played this year was thanks to Game Pass. What an incredible value. It's why there is no doubt I will be buying a new Xbox in 2020 even while I'm letting my PC stumble into obsolescence and probably won't plan to get a PS5 at launch or anytime soon. There's enough stuff to play on my Xbox to last a lifetime.

Overall, I think 2019 was a very good year for video games. I feel like there weren't very many Great games this year, but there was a wealth of Very Good games, and that's okay with me. Looking forward to what 2020 has to offer!

I can totally get behind the GoTY being Xbox and PC Game Pass.. such a treasure trove of gaming.

OK so here goes. I'm going to keep this short and sweet for the most part as there isn't all that much to say. As I said the other night, I've really only played 2 games released this year, and about 5 in total I haven't played before at all, so lets work through and see how I get on. I suspect for quite a few of these I'm probably the only person voting for them as well. Oh well. All were on PC.

Quick list:
1. Tower of Time
2. Warhammer: Total War
3. Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw
4. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Abscura
5. Mass Effect: Andromeda
6. Endless Space 2
7. Druidstone: Secret of the Menhir Forest

And longer for those interest:


1. Tower of Time A linear RPG built around it's combat mechanic of slowing time. You and your merry band of companions slowly explore an invert tower that's been buried into the ground - it holds the salvation of the planet you live on, and possibly the fate of the universe (hey, this is a computer game after all!)

It's actually really good fun. The story is well told, the level design is good and the abilities of your companions complement each other nicely. The combat is also more than good enough to see the game through, with each "defend against the hoard" encounter nicely balanced and challenging without ever feeling like the game is cheating. Even when things are looking desperate one expertly timed ability can turn the tide and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Anyone interested in something a little different could do a lot worse than play this.

2. Warhammer: Total War I've never played a TW game before this, but I was surprised by just how much fun I had with it. Sure it took me an age to get my head around the combat, and shake off some very dusty memories of what race was good at what and how to play them, but it feels like the most...... authentic recreation of Games Workshop's tabletop game, and It's one I will return to.

3. Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw A game for 90's Space Sim nostalgia kids - this is Wing Commander: Privateer remade - but it is so well done. The combat works, you fly from station to station and explore your little sector of space. The story missions are paced out, but ultimately once you've flown to a handful of space stations and planets in one or two systems, you soon realise you've flown to them all. Maybe it needs a little more variety, but anyone with a itch to play an old fashioned Space Sim in new clothing, this is your scratch.

4. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura - A 20 year old game that still somehow holds up. Sure it has a terrible interface. Sure it has some truly bizarre design choices (It's 100 times easier to be a warrior or a mage than a techno-pistoleer) and sure it doesn't meet the sum of it's ambition, but there is so much ambition here that it more than makes up for all its quirks, foibles and downright broken parts. It's screaming out for someone to do a "Enhanced Edition" ah la what Beamdog have done with Baldurs Gate, but I'll be first in the queue when they do.

5. Mass Effect: Andromeda - or Mass Effect: Inquisition. This is so much better than so many people gave it credit for when it came out, while at the same time clearly deserving of so much of the criticism it received. It takes Dragon Age: Inquisition's approach of large open areas to explore dotted with things to do, interspersed with plot-line and companion missions. While this is done with all Bioware's trademark polish and finesse - the planets all look lovely and varied, and the alien vaults properly epic space opera environments - it too often falls into the trap of being busywork for the sake of being busywork. The central plot is perfectly serviceable, but that's it. If it were considerably more streamlined and did something much more interesting with the Remnant (and ditched the Kett) it probably would have more than been the game everyone wanted.

6. Endless Space 2 A polish, fantastic looking Space 4x that just left me feeling more than a little cold. In the end it just felt like that once you'd figured out how to play to your Species strengths and weaknesses, you were set no matter what happened in each game. I can't quite put my finger on why this hasn't chimed with me, but Stellaris is still my go to Space 4x.

7.Druidstone: Secret of the Menhir forest A tactical combat puzzle game. There is a lot good about this game, which is a shame it so often left me screaming in frustration. You and you companions explore the titular Menhir forest attempting turn back the evil enveloping it, with each location being a tactical turn based map on which enemies spawn. With a limited number of abilities, and a limited number of times you can use them, it's up to you to figure out how to achieve your objectives without getting killed first. There is a lot to admire here, it's clearly well design and thought through but it too often falls into the trap of being not fun. That's probably as much to do with me as it is the game, but this wasn't quite the game I was expecting.

(Dis)Honourable mention:

Phoenix Point


It feels a little harsh reviewing this considering I've only spent a handful of hours in it, but I do think it deserves a mention. It's a solid - very solid - Tactical turn based game developed by the lead design of the original XCOM game from the early 90s. You play as a ragtag organisation attempting to save the world from an alien virus released by the melting polar ice caps, which turns people into mutant crabs with frikkin' lasers on their heads (well, machine guns on their arms but it serves). It's got a solid core, a serviceable strategic layer and a great manual aim system that replaces the XCOM reboot series % chance to hit RNG lottery. Unfortunately, it's just not finished. The balance is all over the place, and there some mechanics that are flat broken or just don't work - the cover system being the prime example. Wait a year and you'd hope that it'll get sorted either by the developer or modders. It deserves to to be honest, but there is some distance to go before it's properly ready