2019 was the year that This Week In Video Games was born and it’s been a busy year in games. There have been blockbuster hits, stand out indie games and some downright stinkers. This is a guide to my games of 2019.
I kicked off the year in games with Wargroove. This is similar to Advanced Wars – a top-down strategy game with a good story and creator mode. If Advanced Wars is your thing, then give Wargroove a try. Apex Legends came out of nowhere with a spectacular and surprise launch, followed by a steady stream of updates from Respawn. It’s managed to carve out a niche in a world where Battle Royale games are coming and going on a semi-regular basis (here’s looking at you Radical Heights). Apex remains to this day fun, exhilarating and feels great.
In the depths of winter in 2019 Metro Exodus was released. Considered by many to be the best of the series Metro Exodus is a great example of a stealth survival game set in a bleak, frozen setting this time above ground. This was also the start of the Epic Games Store exclusives saga where publisher 4A Games pulled Metro Exodus from Steam and it went to Epic as an exclusive. This wouldn’t be the last we heard of Epic Games Store in 2019. Metro Exodus was good – atmospheric, stealthy and a little bit janky.
Not long after Apex Legends, EA published BioWare’s Anthem. This flopped hard, with a buggy beta and then awful critical reviews. A lacklustre endgame coupled with grindy gated content campaign and limited loot, the developers scrambled to try and fix it. Anthem launched with a roadmap, little of which was ever realised. It was such a contrast to Apex Legends – Anthem had such a long, hype-build up which released to a flat, disappointing reception. Games as a service are hard, and this will be a good case study for that fact for years to come.
Talking of games as a service The Division 2 launched in February to a good critical reception. It felt like more Division, albeit that was what people wanted. This was followed by a raid, events and other content updates but it felt like it came and went from the media spotlight fairly quickly. There was a bit of controversy where it was impossibly hard for players on console – after 48 hours of trying people just gave up. PC players beat it within a few hours eventually bringing down the time to just 30 mins.
Baba Is You was next up this year which is an innovative puzzle game which gamifies coding in a roundabout way. You are Baba, or perhaps Baba Is You. The game is a top-down puzzle game with different environments containing trees, walls, water and other hazards. Baba Is You got progressively harder as the game went on but it was certainly a stand out indie game this year. Another stand out indie game was Katana Zero where you play as a Ninja who’s having horrible flashbacks and memory issues. You have to clear the room of bad guys with your Ninja skills without dying. Colourful, vibrant and a great soundtrack. This one is definitely one to check out.
In May I focused on a couple of British Indie titles – Heaven’s Vault and Sunless Skies. Heaven’s Vault is a great RPG where you have to piece together an ancient language helped by your robot helper Six. It’s unlike any other game I have played before and has a depth and wonderful world-building. Sunless Skies is a top-down exploration and narrative adventure game where you pilot a futuristic train in the depths of space, searching for survivors and resources in amongst Fallen London. The writing is some of the best writing I’ve come across in games and develops characters beautifully.
Dauntless was released in May after a year-long beta which including collecting a lot of feedback from the audience. This was released with crossplay features allowing PC, Xbox and PS4 players to all play together – something we’ll all want to see more of in 2020. Dauntless is a free-to-play hunting game similar to Monster Hunter. The gameplay is excellent and it’s free. It was followed up later in the year on Nintendo Switch, so if you get the chance dive in.
The Outer Wilds also came out towards the end of May. What an incredible game this is. You wake up, put on your space suit and explore space and then approximately 22 mins in the sun explodes. It’s your job to figure out why in this beautiful adventure and exploration game. This was a surprise, came out of nowhere for me had touching moments albeit some awkward flying.
June started off moving to the beat with Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda a surprise cross-over of those two games. It took a while to get going in this one but one you get into the rhythm it opens up and becomes a lot easier. There’s also been a recent update with DLC content added to the game. Another big indie game for June as Plague Tale: Innocence. You may remember this as “the game with the rats” – really good story and super impressive graphics. It’s an action-adventure stealth game set in 13th century France. It’s a good old fashioned single-player narrative game and it delivered above expectations. A welcome surprise and a good addition to everyone’s steam library.
Super Mario Maker 2 also arrived in June with new items, multiplayer and a variety of new level designs. Players immediate began to create devilishly difficult levels. Super Mario 3D World was added as a new style and some new online modes were added. The story campaign was surprisingly fun with level design experts from Nintendo using the tools to help guide you through the level creation. This has been criticised somewhat with the tools not being quite as easy to use as the Wii U version. If you like the first game, then you’ll likely love this.
July was a big month for some top indie games. Streets of Rogue – a rogue-lite where you can take on many roles in a procedurally created city. It’s top-down with excellent 16-bit graphics and an awesome soundtrack. I was also lucky enough to interview the creator Matt Dabrowski. Blazing Chrome also came out which is like the Contra game we’ve wanted on modern consoles. The 2D run and gun style game was also released on Xbox Game Pass, so if you missed it and love Contra, then you should check this one out. I have to give another shout out to Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet on Nintendo Switch, this was another indie adventure game I played this year and really enjoyed. This is point and click adventure at its best and has great humour too.
2019 was the year that I fell back into love with point and click adventure games. Unavowed has to be up there with the best of them, I also played through Lamplight City and Astrologaster too. Only Astrologaster came out this year and that’s definitely worth a mention on this list.
Remnant from the Ashes came out of relative nowhere this year. Another game with heavy Dark Souls influence, which seems like a common theme in 2019 games (and over the last few years). Dark Souls with guns was it’s billing and it was good fun, pretty tough in places but well worth sinking some time into. It’s a 3rd person shooter where you can play in teams of up to three players to take on some tough enemies.
Borderlands 3 kicked off September. I was new to Borderlands having missed the other games in the series and the wild loot and satisfying gameplay kept me hooked for a little while but I did end up dropping off it. Untitled Goose Game was the indie darling of September and this game developed by House House really caught the imagination of the public. This is Hitman with fowl, sneaking up on the unsuspecting public and causing havoc.
Link’s Awakening remake also landed in September. A classic game no doubt but the cracks start to show on a game that’s decades old. I’m a huge Zelda fan for sure, but I wasn’t compelled and delighted like I was the first time around. The graphic style is a sight to see and the music is classic Zelda, however, it was somewhat wide of the mark. We did get a sneak peek at Breath of the Wild 2 in development though, so there’s lots to look forward to from the franchise.
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep dropped in October and rekindled my obsession with the Destiny franchise. We went back to the moon, fought old bosses and found some great new weapons. Bungie also introduced cross-save and went free to play with New Light, two great decisions. We’re starting now to see the single evolving world Luke Smith was talking about with the Vex and the Season of Undying leading into the Season of Dawn. The future looks bright for the Destiny franchise. I also spent a massive amount of time making videos for Destiny 2 since October, so thanks to everyone who’s watched one of those.
October was a great month for indie games. 80 Days was released on Nintendo Switch from Inkle, following on from their success earlier in the year with Heaven’s Vault. This is a game about Jules Vern’s Around the world in 80 Days and is a fantastic and unique adventure game. NeoCab came out where you’re a taxi driver in a cyberpunk future. What the Golf came out too and billed itself as a golf game for non-golf fans. It’s wacky and zany, really brought something different to the table. Return of the Obra Dinn, one of 2018’s best games, was released on consoles and I picked it up on Nintendo Switch. It’s a detective game where you have to figure out who killed the crew of the Obra Dinn. Finally, in October I played Sayonara Wild Hearts, a pop music video game. Bright, fluid and the music is excellent. This one feels more like an experience than a video game, but it was fun none the less.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare came out towards the back end of October with a new campaign having missed one out in 2018. This is a great campaign and the multiplayer is back to form. Co-op isn’t the best, but the overall package with Call of Duty is excellent. I play these games for the campaign, as I’m much more used to Destiny 2’s PVP. Everything else just doesn’t have the same feeling for me. However, if you like Call of Duty then you’ll enjoy this.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me this year was Luigi’s Mansion 3. This released on October 31st and was a delight to play. Luigi takes centre stage in the third game in the series and it’s fun from start to finish. The worlds within the hotel expand and the puzzles are just about challenging enough to keep you hooked. The graphics and audio are lovely and compliment the game well. I’d not played a Luigi’s Mansion game before and I’ll be queuing up for the next one.
The Outer Worlds arrived in November and was the Fallout sequel we’d been waiting for. Great writing, great characters and a good length of the game. This one topped many’s games of the year lists and for good reason. Also available on Game Pass, another of 2019’s successes.
Death Stranding finally came out after years of build-up and was met with critical acclaim. It’s a marmite game – you either love it or hate it, but what I played of it I really enjoyed it. I didn’t spend the time I needed to truly get a feel for the game, but the Sci-Fi and world-building plus the performances from the actors were a great experience.
Pokemon Sword and Shield was then released and was supposed to be the triumphant console version of Pokemon. It didn’t land quite as expected and perhaps was held back by Game Freak’s instance on having a small team, restricting the scope of the game. The Wild Area delivered a peek into the future, but we really want more from a console Pokemon title. I dropped off this game, although enjoyed what I did play… I wasn’t however compelled to come back to it.
Finally, to round up 2019 I played Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order. This combines play from games like God of War, Sekiro, Metroid and Tomb Raider. This is perhaps the most fun I’ve had with a game in 2019 with the story, game mechanics, pure gameplay and the Star Wars shine on top.
Those are the games I played, but there are some top games I missed including Disco Elysium, Control, Fire Emblem Three Houses and Astral Chain. I hope to get some time to play through these games as we get into 2020.
Here are my top 10 games of the year
- Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order
- Luigi’s Mansion 3
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- The Outer Worlds
- Super Mario Maker 2
- Untitled Goose Game
- The Outer Wilds
- Baba Is You
- Plague Tale Innocence
- Heaven’s Vault