This game is the biggest “I want to play this but keep getting sidetracked by life” game of 2019 for me. It’s just a cool Geocities or fake 90’s internet simulator that is replicating an era of the internet I was first introduced too. I’ve heard there’s a more proper story to it and that it has a lot of heart. I will play this game one day dangit.
I don’t regret the 70 hours I put into Anthem. There’s a small spark of something really cool there, but obviously it did not land a lot of things outside of the base flying gameplay. Making games is hard and I can’t even imagine what it’s been like at Bioware this past year as an employee. If rumors seem to be true, I’m hoping they can right the ship with this proposed Anthem reboot and make this game into something really spectacular.
I’m an absolute sucker for anything Sci-Fi across any medium. So when I saw trailers pop-up for Observation I was hard IN from the start. It’s all atmosphere and tension building, it always knew when to make a reveal or make you ask new questions without the story getting to complex or confusing. I loved seeing it all from the perspective of the AI system on board the ship. It gave a neat perspective on this stranded space station. While the plot did go into some cliche directions, it still made the fate of human characters impactful even though you were just an observer. It was a solid thriller experience and not about jump scares and aliens chasing you down. It was more psychological and I appreciated it trying to tell a story rather than just trying to get a few cheap scares out of me. The twists and reveals were great and surprised me through the whole experience and I loved exploring this true to life looking space station.
9. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust
Anodyne 2 was just a weird little game that I didn’t know I wanted till’ I started playing it. You jump into weird creature’s minds to do Zelda-like dungeons to free their minds from dark thoughts and desires. It got very personal for a game that looks like it belonged on a PS1. I was just surprised when this weird creature I came across ended up telling me emotional stories of how it used to be a benevolent king and is now cursed for eternity and how that reshaped their life. It took some of the weirdest most abstract looking creatures i’ve ever seen and gave them emotional weight I haven’t felt from games with actual humans/voice acting and actors being these characters. Plus you transform into a dope ass car.
8. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled
7. Life is Strange 2
Episodic games rarely grab me and honestly, I’m still not way into the format. Even so I still loved my time with Life is Strange 2. If there was a category for Best Bonding of the year this game would definitely win that award. The brothers’ journey is amazing and really harrowing. I felt like I was always rooting for them to have their happy ending every chapter and it definitely didn’t always go that way which moved me to try to do better for them. There’s not many games that also nail sending a message outside of the game that can impact the way I see things as a white man, or the ways I didn’t see things more so. I appreciated having that part of me challenged and now wanting to be better. It goes in a lot of directions but where it leads I wasn’t expecting, this is one of the few episodic games that has actually pushed me to see the other outcomes to see how one moment would of gone down if I chose another path or had given the younger brother the wrong impression. Having this impact on another character really did make me care about what happened to these two brothers and how I also made that impact on the journey. Diaz brothers for life.
This game is the most untapped energy of 2019. Dreams is WILD. I consistently had my mind blown by the creativity put on display. From complex games with AI and menus. To the absolute weirdest stuff. To straight memes being brought to life. Realizing a human dedicated hours, days, weeks even to just a single project in this is so cool to me and I can’t wait to see what continues to be mad in this bonkers creation simulator.
5. Luigi’s Mansion 3
I just love that Luigi is still scared of ghosts after a decade of living in these mansions.
This game was immediately charming. Me and Alex O’Neill played through the bulk of the game on stream and it was some of the most jolliest co-op I’ve been able to be apart of in a long time. I played the latter half of the game solo and was still impressed by every little interaction with the environment. Consistently clever with its engaging puzzles. On top of some of the best visuals of a Switch game to date. Gooigi is the freaking best. I loved the juxtaposed personalities of overly dramatic Luigi being scared of everything and Gooigi being an emotionless gooey husk. Ontop of how varied and vibrant each floor of the hotel is. I don’t know how they were able to not only fit a whole ass pyramid on one floor but still make a gym (the next floor right after by the way) feel just as fun and imaginative.
4. Risk of Rain 2
I’ll say it again, I’m a sucker for Sci-Fi worlds. I’ve never played a rogue-like that’s engrossed me more in it’s world than Risk of Rain 2. It nails the feeling of loneliness of being stranded on this alien world and the music heightens it even further. Making for an amazing atmosphere and nails an esthetic and vibe. I’ve mostly played it solo but the times I’ve played online with friends brought a more tactical feel to it. Learning characters and team comps added a depth I didn’t know I wanted. But still the core gameplay loop run to run was so engaging for me, Items dramatically changed the run and at any given moment from being able to chain damage between enemies or being able to fly changed my play style on top of a unique move-set for each character. It’s still in early access but i’ve had more fun with this game than a majority of AAA release this year. It’s depth will continue to keep me playing and i can’t wait to see what they do next.
3. Kingdom Hearts 3
What a culmination of a franchise. After my 3rd playthrough this only a few days before writing this I still really love a lot about Kingdom Hearts 3. Yes some of it feels dated. It’s still weird and anime. Yes Mickey wears clothes from a Hot Topic, I don’t know why either. But the beauty of this game is i its look gigantic stunning set pieces. The action is so cool. All the characters that you’ve been following for decades have their personal and real moments. Everyone get theirs, even Xion but maybe not Kairi. The upcoming DLC seems to potentially quell some issues with the game but even so. I can’t say there was any other video games this year that made me feel what I felt playing Kingdom Hearts 3. Seeing Sora come into himself more than ever made me feel like a proud dad almost. Seeing characters fight for their friends and reunite after all the struggle felt earned and no one got left behind. I love this franchise, I loved this next step. I can’t wait to see the new direction it’s going.
2. Pokemon Sword & Shield
Pokemon finally came to consoles and it was amazing. It felt like the most fully realized Pokemon world I’ve ever inhabited.
Pokemon ran free, a giant area to explore filled with trainers to somewhat interact with, Pokemon actually became threatening and I loved it. It fell apart when you took the game online but still, It’s the only piece of media I still love after decades and I’m absolutely overjoyed it’s moving in exciting directions even if it wasn’t perfect. The new Pokemon have never been more creative and full of personality and the cast of characters while all not great had some of the best depth to rival characters pretty much ever. It’s the first time that rival characters felt like they went on a transformative journey with you. Hop was aggressively annoying in the outset. But watching him grow out of the shadow of his brother who is the champion of the region is really endearing.
God, just everything about Control captivated me. I love the introduction, and lack of introduction to it’s world. They crafted and incredible cookie crumb trail and designed an intriguing world within the oldest house. And made Jesse Faden an awesome protagonist. Chucking objects across rooms while soaring through the air was always cool and felt good. You were facing supernatural threats beyond this realm of existence yet, you felt in control of most situations with the powers at your disposal. This game just hit me at the perfect time after a slow summer rut in video games and just in my personal life, Control invigorated me and constantly reminded me why video games fucking rule and can build a cool and immersive world better than any medium can. I want Control books, Netflix series, and obviously sequels. I’m so happy Remedy got to be unleashed.