Game of the Year 2019 – Day Two – The Top Ten!

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And it’s here… The final day of the year can only mean one thing. It’s our Game of the Year finale!

Catch up with our “Best of the Rest” in the podcast and video below, for in this piece, it’s our Top Ten, so let’s get right into it!

10 – RING FIT ADVENTURE

Jonny: Nintendo have proven time and again that weird peripherals and hardware are very much their bag *quickly sweeps Wii U under a rug*. I was gripped by the Rig Fit Adventure from the first trailer, a proper game-ifying of the Wii Sports formula that proved so profitable on the Wii. While the new IP on display may not be up to much (a body building dragon called Dragaux is the grim nadir of a forgettable world), the inventive use of two basic pieces of hardware is what’s made this my game of the year. Having clear goals in exercise is key, so having the activity set to a literal adventure with clear progression points is perfect. I never thought I’d be excited about unlocking new exercise techniques to battle enemies in a fantasy realm has provided anticipation unlike any other game this year for me. Also, my bum looks great now. (Editor’s note: This last part is debatable)

9 – SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE

Andy: My most anticipated game of last year only hits 4th place! So Sekiro probably wasn’t the game I was expecting, eschewing most of the customisation and social functionality of FromSoftware’s past catalogue, but it presented a rich world of Japanese mythology and such a good story. Sure, it was hard as nails, probably harder than many games of its ilk, but the level of polish and craft on display here is immense.

8 – LUIGI’S MANSION 3

Kieran: Nintendo makes great games, I don’t need to tell you that, but I have because I’m trying to up my word count. But one of Nintendo’s background brothers – Luigi – really shines in his debut game on the Switch. Luigi’s Mansion 3 takes the tried and tested puzzle/platform formula and creates something that’s suitably ‘of its ilk’ but does so incredibly well. Nintendo games reek of charm and Luigi’s Mansion is no exception. In fact, it utterly stinks of it and this is down to the smaller details. Luigi is a meek character and his nervous persona lends to some incredible character animation which ties the games overarching whimsy into a beautiful little parcel. The environments feel alive, quite literally (but not really because ghosts are dead) in some cases, lived-in and perfectly crafted. It’s quintessentially a run of the mill puzzler yet it’s somehow more than that because of the attention to detail paid to it. It’s a simple game done very well and it makes Luigi’s Mansion 3 an essential purchase for Nintendo Switch owners.

Ben: Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a visual treat, wrapped up with familiar yet surprisingly engaging gameplay mechanics. Taking Mario’s scared sibling through a number of levels of a haunted hotel is a real pleasure, with some laugh out loud moments along the way, and some absolutely gorgeous environments to go with it. One of the year’s best Switch games

Gari: The Luigi’s Mansion series has always been one of my favourite series and when it was announced in 2018, my excitement level reached its peak. Straight off the bat, Luigi’s Mansion 3 does not disappoint. It’s charm is something that shines more than any other game I’ve played in 2019 and with tight gameplay, beautiful art style and solid gameplay, Nintendo has done it again with another 1st party software masterpiece. If you own a Switch, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is without doubt a must own.

7 – JUDGMENT

Robin: The SEGA Yakuza series is fantastic, but it can definitely be accused of feeling a little samey, over the course of the 6 mainline series entries and the three or four spin-offs. That is why Judgment was so interesting. Still set in the familiar Tokyo red light district that has proved a successful setting for all of the other games, but now with a new cast and a set of new detective investigation-based gameplay mechanics that add a new dimension to a game that longtime fans know inside and out. Some great acting, fantastic visuals and the usual outrageous storylines make this a game you can’t afford to miss, despite it’s relative low-profile. Any fan of a mystery or Japanophile will be hooked, and these games aren’t short either – Judgment will keep you busy for the long-haul.

6 – APEX LEGENDS

Ben: Dropping out of nowhere like the characters themselves, Apex Legends cemented its place at the table this year with a phenomenal surprise launch, and a solid gameplay loop to back itself up. Completely taking over the conversation between late February and April, it became the year’s hottest game literally overnight, even dethroning Fortnite on Twitch for a while. The game continues to evolve, with a new map and characters releasing throughout the year, and remains a technically solid Battle Royale game that provides a whole heap of fun. Now, about Titanfall 3…

Kieran: Despite my ongoing down beating of the Battle Royale genre, I’m actually quite fond of it. So colour my dick pink when it was announced that a new Battle Royale game was on its way, developed by none other than gaming deities – Respawn Entertainment. What Apex Legends did right was bend the Battle Royale formula enough to make it unique but not too much that it resembled something hella wonky. It towed that fine line which resulted in a game that quite rightly stands on its own without being labelled “another PUBG clone”. Full disclosure, I didn’t play this game half as much as I’d liked, mainly because a child I made 9-months prior decided to pop-out two weeks after its release (my wife would tell the birthing process slightly differently to me), but my god Apex is a stunning example of a Battle Royale game. My fondest gaming memories of 2019 are because of this game. Whether it was being holed up in a shack, surrounded by multiple teams closing in on our position or taking a sniper vantage point atop a tower and playing on for the win, Apex Legends has given me many memories making it more than worthy of a place on my GOTY list. Just crack on with Titanfall 3 now, please.

Jonny: While Fortnite may be the champion, Apex Legends proved that F2P Battle Royales don’t have to be cheap-looking and aimed at kids. An FPS that would have stood well as a full price title, this provided a great squads experience

5 – STAR WARS – JEDI: FALLEN ORDER

Ben: Respawn proving that they can be trusted with high value IP as well as their own creations, Fallen Order is a game that really shines as a single player Star Wars game in a post-Battlefront 2 era. No Microtransactions, no Battle Passes, no in game purchases, just a bunch of force pushing, lightsaber swinging and wall-running to go alongside a compelling original Star Wars story. Now, about Titanfall 3…

Nico: It’s been a long time since we last had a compelling and breathtaking Star Wars story based game. The previous titles were multi player and didn’t build upon the Star Wars canon. A believable and interesting story combined with brilliant (albeit familiar) gameplay and Fallen Order has me completely hooked until the end. It stood out for me as the best game I played this year.

4 – SUPER MARIO MAKER 2

Jonny: While the pull of the ‘maker’ side of the game for me may have been more in witnessing other user’s incredible creations, there’s at the very least a small amount of fun to be had for everyone in going crazy with the classic mario mechanics. The story mode is nothing spectacular, simply gathering coins to rebuild the castle, but any excuse to tear around some new Mario levels, in a game that ultimately provides endless opportunities to do so, is welcome in any GOTY list. The social integration is also excellent, especially given Nintendo’s reluctance with that area of gaming, with other users being able to leave comments and notifications whenever anyone has played your course.

Gari: I never played the original Super Mario Maker but when the sequel was announced, I knew I had to dive in as this is a title that just feels at home on the Switch hardware. With the game offering endless amounts of 2D Mario platforming until your eyes bleed within the classic Mario 2D gameplay thanks to its super impressive level builder and an online mode to boot, Super Mario Maker 2 is a marvel at what it does in every way.

Kieran: If you’d told 5-year-old me that I’d be making Mario courses on a handheld console I’d have shouted for my mum and dad because why the fuck is there a weirdo in my bedroom? I didn’t have a chance to play Super Mario Maker when it originally came out so you can only imagine my surprise when I found out just how easy it was to whip up my very own creation. The breadth of tools and ease of access is one thing but the ability to create Mario courses across multiple eras, and switching between them on the tap of a button, is some kind of witchcraft and I like it, a lot. But Mario Maker 2s shining crown is its campaign – 100 perfectly crafted levels built purely to tap into the design part of your brain. The level of creativity on show here is incredible and the nods to previous games got me feeling all tingly in my nostalgias. The campaign was essentially a glorified tutorial so it’s also high-praise that what is essentially additional content to the main game is enough to place this game in my GOTY list, but it is and it has.

3 – CONTROL

Ben: Control was a game that stuck with me. From the opening titles that were reminiscent of a quirky surrealist movie, all the way to the ending credits that… Ah no spoilers here, it had a firm grip on my attention and refused to let go. Jessie Faden’s tale is one of intrigue and mystery as she enters the Oldest House, home to the Federal Bureau of Control, only to have her perceptions of what’s real turned inside out. A wonderful mix of clever gameplay mechanics, astonishing visuals (particularly on PC with Ray Tracing) and compelling storytelling combine to make the experience of playing Control something that is altogether unique, and incredibly special.

2 – RESIDENT EVIL 2

Jonny: Having never played the original due to being too young and too scared, the remake of RE2 has been a revelation. Making gruesome horror look gorgeous from the off, the use of one fairly small environment that becomes a character in itself is a huge relief in an industry obsessed with open worlds. The gore damage to the enemies is fantastic, horrendously realistic and grimly fascinating. The QTE battle in the sewers is the only blemish on an otherwise stellar game, and proof that remakes aren’t just cash cows.

Andy: Who’da thunk it? The game that’s stuck with me the most through this year is a remake of a game I first played about 20 years ago. What a game it is, though; a reinvention of a classic formula that sticks to its guns and delivers a scary and solid action adventure experience. With Capcom set to do the same for Resident Evil 3 next year, there’s a lot to look forward to in this franchise again!

GAME OF THE YEAR 2019 – DEATH STRANDING

Ben: I’m not sure what I expected going into Death Stranding. Kojima’s first game since his acrimonious split from Konami has so much unique nonsense in it that it’s very easy to see why someone would hate it. However, I loved it. Sure, there’s some ropey dialogue and contrived plot lines, but for every silly name, there’s a gameplay mechanic that helps you and a bunch of other players out. The multiplayer element of the game really adds to the feeling of contributing to a greater good, and by the time you’re rolling credits, there’s a true sense of accomplishment. Stunning visuals and a soundtrack to die for all add up to what is, in my opinion, the best game of 2019.

Gari: I was sceptical about even playing Death Stranding at one point due to not knowing what the fuck it was all about, but I’m glad I did. It’s a game like no other and that’s what makes it a special title to play in 2019. Unique, rewarding, totally different and to top it off, it’s absolutely stunning from a visual perspective. If you own a PS4, you need to play this.

Deb: I’d like to start off by saying that I didn’t just buy this game to stare at an utterly gorgeous and sometimes naked Norman Reedus, though it certainly isn’t an unwelcome selling point. As a big fan of Kojima’s work, I kept myself away from as much of this game as possible until release, and I’m so glad I did, as Death Stranding has had so much more of an impact on me. The process of reconnecting people, forming bonds and helping other players whilst also feeling some sense of isolation and solitude yet being part of a greater whole is really quite profound. The chilling atmosphere of the timefalls and rain and the company of BT’s often leave me too scared to take another step, whilst stepping out into the clear sunshine to a new horizon and taking in the spectacular views is breathtaking. Everything feels so realistic, not only from a graphical point of view but the acting is superbly done too. The gameplay is unlike anything I have experienced before and there has never been a game that I am so scared of advancing in yet unwilling to give up and persevere. It really is quite special and unique.

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