Some of these took over my life man...
It’s been a bit of a bizarre year for gaming. Most would argue it’s been fantastic, but personally it has felt a bit… average. Yes we’ve had some fantastic hitters which we’ll go into, but we’re at that in between point of the current generation of gaming and the upcoming next generation consoles release next year. It seems as if developers are just about holding back until the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 grace our homes, which I guess is their right, though no doubt some developers are waiting for the sake of waiting just to try and cash in on a game that would have worked out just as well on current generation platforms. But enough of next generation, this year has hosted some fantastic games, so let’s take a gander at my top ten games of 2019.
Disclaimer: This is my opinion alone. These are of games I have finished (hey it's hard to keep up sometimes) as of writing this or continuously play (if a multiplayer only title), so you will not find the likes of The Outer Wilds, The Outer Worlds or Death Stranding on this list… though I probably wouldn’t have put Death Stranding on this list anyway with what I’ve played. Sorry.
10. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
Activision are lucky they bought the rights to this franchise when they did. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and it’s great that they’ve finally learnt this after the train wreck cameo of Crash Bandicoot in Skylanders (and Spyro of course). Crash Team Racing was one trip down memory lane many players appreciated including myself, though I must admit I only remember playing a few rounds of this as a kid, and yet it still left a fantastic impression back then. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled takes the original game and amps it up, bringing in, for better or for worse, the practices of today for a truly modern remake. That’s not to say it’s not without its problems; hard mode is almost damn impossible to beat and often leaves your hands cramping, and microtransactions have strategically plagued the game months after the games release. Yes, Activision made a fantastic game, but it’s just a shame to see how predictable they have become, as we all knew they’d do this.
9. Remnant: From the Ashes
Yes let’s just throw that line out there first: it’s Dark Souls but a third person shooter. But this is what is fantastic about the Souls genre; people are taking an already established genre and finding new ways to work with it, and with Remnant it just did. Yes it’s a little clunky in areas (some of the bosses are absolute bull) but the idea that every players world is random and encourages replaying the game so you can encounter different bosses and a few other branching paths in the story is pretty wild. It’s also a great game to play online with; I remember playing this game and suddenly heard some dudes voice in my game, then played with the guy for hours, which he knew full well wouldn't progress his game, just my own. It’s moments like that which makes for truly special experiences. Best of all, it was made by the developer (Gunfire Games) of one of my favourite games of 2018, Darksiders III.
8. Links Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening is the first Zelda I have ever reached 100% completion with. Yes I suppose it is easier to do so than, say, Breath of the Wild (you really think I’m going to obtain every seed?! Hell no!), but the genuine excitement this game gave me of “gee I wonder what I get for doing everything” was such a great feeling. It’s just a shame there was no real reward for doing so like games often used to back in the day, but I don’t regret doing it. Links Awakening is such an enjoyable journey, and while yes it doesn’t always tell you what you’re supposed to do, part of the fun is trying to figure out that stuff (and then give up and find a guide). If Links Awakening is a new start for Zelda remakes, then I want more. Heck, take it a step further, make new stories too. Just because Breath of the Wild 2 is being made doesn’t mean more games cannot be made set prior to those events in a similar style.
7. Modern Warfare
This is probably an unpopular opinion, but 2v2 Gunfight is probably THE most fun mode in the Modern Warfare remake. There’s something tense about you and a buddy (if you’re playing this with a random, it’s not as fun) having to co-ordinate to find the opposing team and kill them. My friend and I have lost countless hours to just that mode alone. The rest of the game is also pretty darn great, the nostalgic feeling of getting to fight alongside Price in the campaign, the feel and sound of using some of the guns, and the absolute nonsense of some of the multiplayer matches just make for a great damn time. The game might have been higher on this list however if say the multiplayer maps were actually memorable, as since the initial few weeks of its release, I’ve not yet found a reason to return to it even with the Season Pass, but that hasn't soured my previous experiences with the game.
6. Tetris 99
I wish I was in that pitch meeting when someone went "what if we did Tetris, but 98 other players battling you?" Just when you thought Tetris had been done to death with games such as PuyoPuyo Tetris and Tetris Effect, somehow they managed to make the game feel brand new again. Even writing this now, I have this sudden urge to go back and play. Playing a single game is intense, and if you’re a bit out of touch with Tetris, practice up and then play this, because if you somehow manage to get to the top ten, you’re going to need to concentrate. No really, if you even slightly start thinking of anything else when you get to the final two, you WILL lose. Only one other game has made me feel as intense as Tetris 99 games do, which we’ll get into a little bit later. I want them to do more with this game; I don’t know how or what, but I WANT MORE!
5. Super Mario Maker 2
Unfortunately I missed the train when it came to the first Super Mario Maker. Back when that released I wasn’t all that into Mario games, and it wasn’t until I played and beat Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle that I started to see the appeal in them. Back in my late teenage years I had always wanted to be a video game developer, so Super Mario Maker 2 was my chance to see if I would have done well… turns out I might have been okay, but not brilliant. There’s so much to try out that it’s almost overwhelming on what to make. This is a game that allows you to take something you love and try to “Mario it up” (e.g. check out my Super Meat Boy level, code FF2-4ML-BRF). Best of all the game is still receiving updates, allowing more possibilities of creative levels and designs. All we need now is for someone to take Link’s Awakening’s dungeon maker and mix it with Super Mario Maker and we could truly be onto something amazing.
4. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order
Ever since this games announcement it was misunderstood. It’s called Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order… right… its open world but not really… fine… it’s Dark Souls but not really… and yet somehow with all that confusion on what this game is, it worked! Yes the story relies upon being in the right place at the right time, but fantastic lightsaber combat is something players have been clamouring to get for a really long time. There are games that obviously allow you to use a lightsaber like Knights of the Old Republic, but that’s more “choose an ability, slash”. This game requires you to block and think strategically like a Dark Souls game (or in this case more Sekiro). There’s rich lore to find, characters with more depth than any of those in the Star Wars sequel films, and BD-1… I need one of those in my life, screw BB-8 or R2-D2, BD-1 is top tier when it comes to adorable droids. To hear that they’re potentially working on a sequel has me genuinely excited for the future of Star Wars video games again.
3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Speaking of Sekiro, here it is. Back when this was revealed I was worried. Bloodborne, while not as complex as Dark Souls, still had some depth to it to the point you could customise your character and play how you wanted to. When Sekiro was announced, the worry was that FromSoftware were trying to make a quick bit of money by releasing a simple game with simple mechanics and not a lot of customisation. Honestly, I don’t know why I was ever worried. The genuine terror I got from of some of these enemies and their big swords, especially some of the later demons who would crush you in a few hits and then finally beating them after the fiftieth attempt is honestly the best feeling. It genuinely bothers me when players often say “oh but they should make an easy mode”. The idea is that it’s meant to be a hard genre, and it’s meant to teach that it takes a lot of work to reach your goal. You can’t just expect there to be an easy mode in real life to achieve something, you’ve got to properly work for it, which is something Sekiro does right by.
2. Resident Evil 2
Let’s get the small minor issue out of the way: yes it could have done the Leon A/Claire B etc better, but the fact it didn’t wasn’t a massive problem. That said, Resident Evil 2 Remake is quite possibly one of the best remakes ever created, up there with the likes of Shadow of the Colossus and quite possibly even Final Fantasy VII next year. I remember when I was a kid watching my brother play through this game, and to know that decades later I’d be experiencing it for myself… The graphics are truly amazing for a horror title, Mr X is genuinely terrifying (hey, even modded thong Mr X still gives me the creeps), and the thrill, intensity and challenge of having to manage your inventory took me back to a simpler time when remakes weren’t just a measly cash-ins. Now that Resident Evil 3 remake has been announced, I am counting down the days until its release, and you bet I have my three day weekend set for it.
1. Apex Legends
I can’t get over Apex Legends. Back in February when it was revealed to the world, I mildly rolled my eyes. Yes it was from the developer of the brilliant Titanfall 2, but at first it just seemed like “another” battle royale that we didn’t need. I truly believed that too, we didn’t need another Battle Royale game spoiling the industry. But everyone else seemed to have their own version of the genre to play whether it be Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds or otherwise, and I guess part of me wished I had something like that too. So, on release day, I downloaded Apex Legends and thought I’d give it a try; the first character I played as was Bloodhound, who will always have a place in my heart for that reason. After my first game, it seemed pretty decent. Then I played another, and another, and another… three maxed out battle passes later and almost 2,500 matches played as of writing this, I can’t ever seem to get enough of the game. I find myself at work thinking about Apex Legends, I have this urge to throw money at the game every month even though it’s published by EA, hoping the money might reach Respawn's pocket instead. Every so often I’m checking for leaks on upcoming content, excited for new tid bits of lore.
The baffling thing is, Apex Legends is, without a doubt, not as well made as some of the other games on this list and was even a little clunky at launch (and still is to this day). But it’s done something right that it’s made me want to come back time and time again. It blended the battle royale genre and added in some new things. It made things simple enough to get in to but complex enough to make some pro players incredibly happy. Heck if Fortnite steals ideas from your game, you’re clearly onto a winner (and don’t give me that “but Fortnite had those ideas in the works before Apex” because we all know that’s complete bull crap). For once, the Titanfall universe is getting the love it deserves after EA tried to throw it under the bus twice. Yes it’s not an actual Titanfall game, but it’s a small tease on what else may be coming to said universe... now that I've finished this article, time to play more Apex I think. Oh and in case you were wondering, I currently main Pathfinder. I say currently as it changes from time to time.
Here's to 2020!