My Favorite Games of 2019

 

So here we are at the start of the year, where I should have done this weeks ago but well the usual holiday things happen and finally getting things in order that I can write again took this long, unfortunately. But anyway, let’s cut to the chase as I review what I found to be the best games of the year. I would just like to make it clear that this is pretty much personal taste, and mostly are games I had actually managed to play through 2019.

Instead of ranking them I decided to just put them in their own categories, because the titles I really enjoyed are so different from each other that they really shouldn’t be compared.

Piloting: Ace Combat 7

The last time I enjoyed a flight game was around the time of the PS2, it was a title called Deadly Skies 3. Ace Combat manages to make a very standard flight simulator have a lot of kick to it thanks to a large variance of tasks and challenges for almost every mission out there and a pool of aircraft that feel different enough from each other to see how they are specialized. The pockets of missions to be done in 20 minutes or less made for great replayability. The drama during gameplay was also pretty great, and I personally think it does the job better than any of the cutscenes the game had in store.

Monster Slaying: Monster Hunter World – Iceborne

They might as well have called it Monster Hunter World – 2. The game expands in all sorts of directions from monsters to equipment to palico tools and even decorations. The considerable power creep makes it pretty much the G-Rank that veterans have been seeking form this game since it came out. I’ve only started on the post-game content and I plan to pour another hundred or so hours into completing my armory that will allow me to gunlance my way through every situation. Honestly it’s really more of the same, and honestly, it’s all I really wanted out of it.

Action Adventure: Sekiro

It’s not that common for me to agree with the Video Game Awards, but Sekiro is definitely a game that exceeded my expectations. By combining the good old dark souls mechanics with something more rhythm based and adding a new dimension of traversal and stealth, you’re no longer solving the same problem with just a different build or a different tool, you’re literally able to approach your challenges in many other ways, where I prefer to stab everyone from above. Add the masterful fine-tuning of the people who made the genre popular in the first place, and it becomes, well, game of the year material.

Tactical RPG: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

This is my first Fire Emblem game, I totally loved it. While it was a bit of a slow boil at first, the game gradually expands everything you can do. This whole calendar approach, which is a lot like Persona, gave me a good idea of how to maximize my time, a skill I should really learn to apply in real life. The theme of being a good teacher and a good general is expertly synthesized by Intelligent Systems, as doing well in battle will help your kids do better in school and vice versa. While the story was rather predictable, making many of the characters endearing in their own way really carried me through wanting to see how far I can take them, and the hours just sank in.

Online Game: Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers

All the Shadow Bringers ads for this game got me curious, what I didn’t know was that was end-game content. While I could ‘buy’ a shortcut to get to that point in the game, it didn’t feel quite right not raising your character from the bottom-up. It also felt like I’d be squandering a lot of work Square-Enix put in for the rest of the game. So I started from the very beginning, and I have not regretted a single minute of playing this. It has so many inconvenient issues with MMORPGs figured out, and it’s not afraid of changing things up to make things more interesting. Who would have thought that just by playing a tank, you’d have to micromanage mob aggression? So much of this game feels well thought-out. And while I haven’t gotten back in the game for a while and never actually made it to Shadow Bringers, I have strong intent to get back into it.

Notable Oddball: Death Stranding

No, I’m not exactly a fan of the game. But damn this game looks great, not only that, but it also does a lot of things I don’t think has exactly been tried. It also attempts to combine some games that are known to be non-combative in nature. Kojima seriously set out to do something different, and I thought he would have difficulty leaving his usual stealth-espionage action behind. But no, he’s proven himself to be capable of putting something together that’s actually pretty interesting. I just really disagree with the approach of how you get there, but if you can deal with the first half day of virtual cardio, I think you’ll enjoy it. Otherwise, maybe it’s a good chill-out experience that you do maybe 1 or 2 deliveries a day with.

 

Inevitably, people will ask what I believe truly stands on the 2019 throne and before that I’d like to give a quick list of games I haven’t necessarily finished but I’ve seen and heard enough about them to think they can be recommended.

 

Trails of Cold Steel 3 A no-brainer if you like JRPGs
Devil May Cry 5 Haven’t finished it but DMC is without a doubt, back.
My Friend Pedro Fun indie side-scrolling shooter
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order The planets aligned and we finally have a good Star Wars game
Astral Chain Platinum Games’ flashy cop adventure game
Apex Legends The most interesting battle royale game around
Untitled Goose Game If nothing else, play it for the memes
Control It won awards, there’s a reason for that
Resident Evil 2 In case you wanted more RE but have played enough RE4
Kingdom Hearts 3 It’s actually not bad, and has some moments where it shines
Tetris 99 The BEST battle royale game
Disco Elysium A great RPG
Luigi’s Mansion For those looking for more family-friendly fun, or if you’re a fan of banjo kazooie
Ringfit Adventure An interesting reintroduction of motion controls, getting fit is a plus
Outer Wilds You like science? Time loops? Physics puzzles? Yes, it’s all of that.
Fate/Grand Order I’m not kidding, I haven’t escaped this game for 4 years.

 

With that, it’s time to look among all of them and decide which game had stuck with me all year as something that wasn’t quite topped. And without further ado, that would be:

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

 

Sure, we can point out how my tastes are particularly tilted towards the anime flavor. But this game has done something I didn’t think was going to happen anytime soon. It revived my love for tactical games. Adding to that characters that you’ll want to root for and a system that’s not too difficult to get into. Something like Valkyria Chronicles would ideally do the same, but that gave me a fair deal of frustration with how some of its balance wasn’t managed very well.

Thing is, FE3H is something that not only renewed my passion for the genre, but has gotten me to think on how it made several systems work together in an intertwined fashion, and I personally believe it’ll be a game that fans will be talking about for some time to come.

 

And with that, I close the books on 2019 and look to 2020, and may the gaming publishers have mercy of my wallet.

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