DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2019 — Allisa's Top 10
My top 10 for 2019 include some obvious choices, such as Fire Emblem: Three Houses and the Ace Attorney trilogy, and a few surprises.
As 2019 comes to a close, DualShockers and our staff are reflecting on this year’s batch of games and what were their personal highlights within the last year. Unlike the official Game of the Year 2019 awards for DualShockers, there are little-to-no-rules on our individual Top 10 posts. For instance, any game — not just 2019 releases — can be considered.
2019 for me is a year filled with surprises. Although the majority of games on this list were ones that I expected to love, a few of these titles truly threw me for a loop with how much I enjoyed playing them. And for me, that’s the most rewarding part about gaming — finding those hidden gems that reignite your passion for your hobby while challenging your notion of what makes a good game in the first place.
So with that said, here are my top 10 games for 2019.
10. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Ace Attorney is one of my favorite franchises of all time, and this collection of the first three in the series–particularly the Switch version–is by far the best way to play it. Not to mention that so many years later the characters, writing, and gameplay still holds up incredibly well.
The writing really is the standout in this series with plenty of heartwarming and hilarious moments conveyed through near flawless story presentation and pacing. With the remastered sprite art, updated translations, and remastered music of the trilogy this already fantastic series has been elevated even more.
9. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
After being so badly burned on the lackluster Fire Emblem Fates, all I could hope for the next entry in the main series was something decent. Instead I got my favorite Fire Emblem game in the franchise. The characters are well-written, fleshed out, and with fully realized character arcs.
The gameplay not only polishes the classic tactical formula we all know and love, but also added in bold new mechanics such as the School system. Instead of worrying about future babies, we get by far the most class depth and customization in any FE title. It’s an absolutely solid tactical RPG that continued to blow me away until the very end.
8. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
Being able to play Final Fantasy VIII, my favorite entry in the franchise, on my Switch was an experience filled not only with nostalgia but with reminders as to why I loved this entry so much in the first place. Though it seriously misstepped with its romance plot (I’m in favor of removing it all together), this is a game of innovation and risk.
It discarded the hugely popular Materia system from FFVII and instead created one that emphasized on character customization without the need for strict class systems. It introduced summons that have an actual impact on both gameplay and story outside of “doing tons of damage.” And the narrative itself was incredibly subtle and thought-provoking, letting players interpret key plot points without spoonfeeding them story beats. It’s an incredible game that still holds up today, and most importantly, the updated graphics finally let Squall be the most handsome guy in the room.
7. Pokemon Sword and Shield
I love Pokemon. So, I knew that I would enjoy Sword and Shield regardless of fan controversies, especially with the quality of life changes, brand new Dynamaxing mechanic, fine-tuned battle system, a truly, uniquely designed region, the introduction of the huge Wild Area, and the best 3D graphics this series has seen to date. But what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the characters so much. The Gym Leaders alone have so much flare and personality, but then we have Champion Leon who’s kind, human, charismatic, and extensively involved in his region.
And of course Hop, the best developed rival character in Pokemon history. His character arc is not only incredibly relatable (living under the shadow of his successful and older sibling) but the way that development is conveyed in the story and gameplay. His animations change to match Leon’s because Hop thinks imitating him is right way of things. He swaps out his first and most treasured Pokemon at one point because a crushing defeat and harsh words damaged his self esteem, and his eventual career choice in the end that’s wholly himself. Hop takes an already fun game and adds tons of heart and that’s what really cemented this game in my heart as one of my favorites of 2019.
6. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
My second favorite entry in the Final Fantasy mainline franchise, its inclusive was also a no brainer. I really, really love Final Fantasy XII. It has a richly detailed and extensive world that’s breathtaking to explore, the characters are interesting and well-acted, and its politically-focused plot is a welcome breath of fresh air that never fails to deliver on its intrigue.
The gameplay is also absolutely phenomenal, as it takes the character customization systems of Final Fantasy VIII and X and combines them together while polishing them to a near-perfect sheen. And most importantly, Vaan’s abs have finally been fixed. If I ever had to recommend a single title in the franchise, this one would be right up there with Tactics.
5. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaire’s Conspiracy – Deluxe Edition
The Professor Layton series is one that I’ve always enjoyed because of its excellent soundtracks, fun and satisfying puzzles, the charming characters and graphics. The latest entry in the series, Mystery Journey, is no slouch, as it still manages to deliver on all these points even as it changes direction with a brand new protagonist and different style of story progression through solving cases.
It also managed to accomplish something I didn’t realize I craved: returning the Layton series back to its more focused and simpler roots of the first game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village.
4. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux
I played this game last year and then replayed it again in 2019. Strange Journey was always one of my favorite entries in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise even, on the DS. It hits my love for sci-fi, so that’s an automatic point in its favor and the endlessly intriguing and dark story starring nothing but adults doing adult things just speaks to me on every level. Not to mention how refreshing it is to play a game that researches and implements its mythological inspirations with a razor sharp accuracy that’s unparalleled in JRPGs.
Redux takes this game and revamps it with some of the best quality of life updates I’ve ever seen in a remake or port. Even then, it also adds on a brand new dungeon, new characters, a new final boss, and three new endings. I can’t sing enough praises for Redux.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux.
3. Octopath Traveler
When I first tried the demo for Octopath Traveler, I knew I was onto something truly special. Not only was the turn-based gameplay fast and strategic, but the story itself has no qualms about submerging its proverbial hands in the grime and muck of its plot, without losing sight of its characters’ motivations and humanity.
Then when the full game released, I fell in love all over again. The plotlines of the eight protagonists are all so varied yet equally compelling, the graphics beyond breathtaking, the battle system even more polished and rewarding while maintaining its strategic depth, and the character customization is rich. This is easily one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever played and it absolutely had to be on my top list for 2019.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Octopath Traveler.
2. Cadence of Hyrule
Despite how awful I am at rhythm games, I find myself addicted to polishing my skills and learning the ins and outs of this game’s battle mechanics. Based off the original Crypt of the NecroDancer, Cadence is set in The Legend of Zelda‘s Hyrule as you dance your way through hordes of foes to save the land either as Link or Zelda.
The 16-bit graphics are richly detailed and colorful while the combat system, although based in rhythm game mechanics, never feels tacked on or out of place. It’s amazing how much I feel like I’m playing a traditional Zelda title.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Cadence of Hyrule.
1. VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
Imagine a world where corporations reign supreme, all human life is infected with nanomachines designed to oppress them, and the terrifying White Knights ensure that everyone obeys the laws. This sounds like the setup for an epic tale of rebellion against an oppressive capitalistic society right? But that’s not it. You play as a bartender who serves her customers whatever drinks they desire while listening to them pour their hearts out. It’s a simple premise that’s executed perfectly.
Between the graphics straight out of a PC-98 Japanese adventure visual novel, killer retro soundtrack, endlessly intriguing and raunchy dialogue, and incredibly unique gameplay centered around making good drinks, VA-11 HALL-A is a real standout title.
Check out the rest of the DualShockers staff Top 10 lists and our official Game of the Year Awards:
December 23: DualShockers Game of the Year Awards 2019
December 25: Lou Contaldi, Editor-in-Chief // Logan Moore, Managing Editor
December 26: Tomas Franzese, News Editor // Ryan Meitzler, Features Editor
December 27: Mike Long, Community Manager // Scott White, Staff Writer
December 28: Chris Compendio, Contributor // Mario Rivera, Video Manager // Kris Cornelisse, Staff Writer
December 29: Scott Meaney, Community Director // Allisa James, Senior Staff Writer // Ben Bayliss, Senior Staff Writer
December 30: Cameron Hawkins, Staff Writer // David Gill, Senior Staff Writer // Portia Lightfoot, Contributor
December 31: Iyane Agossah, Senior Staff Writer // Michael Ruiz, Senior Staff Writer // Rachael Fiddis, Contributor
January 1: Ricky Frech, Senior Staff Writer // Tanner Pierce, Staff Writer // Laddie Simco, Staff Writer