DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2019 — Cam’s Top 10
2019 has been a pretty disappointing year overall for me when it comes to video games, but there was still plenty to love too.
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 has been an insane year for me. After getting my Bachelor’s in Journalism, I’ve been working to get my foot into the gaming industry to write and talk about what I love, and I’m forever thankful for the opportunities that have unexpectedly fallen onto my lap. I’ve traveled the country and have met and made connections with numerous members of the industry that I look up to, and eventually want to stand along side. So much has happened in such a short amount of time that I’ve spent most of the time that I can outside of playing games to prepare myself in big ways moving into 2020. If you are reading this, whether you are someone I know or someone I don’t, you are helping my dreams become a reality so, thank you. Now let’s get into what you came here for.
Depending on who you ask, some will say that 2019 was a great year for video games, while others will say that it was okay at best; I happen to sit on the latter. We have been spoiled with absolutely mesmerizing gaming experiences in both 2017 and 2018. If I’m being honest, I don’t think any game in 2019 would be in a serious discussion for Game of the Year if they came out in either of those time frames. Last year, I was incredibly conflicted about which title would be my Game of the Year between Red Dead Redemption 2 and Dead Cells to the point where I just said both (at this point though, it’s Red Dead).
For 2019, my GOTY immediately sat at my number one spot, and no other game made me question that choice as the year has progressed. 2019 has just been a mixed bag of games that a lot of people genuinely love, but nothing that most people could hold hands on and say is an absolute frontrunner. I don’t want to seem too down on the hard work that these creators put into their games, because I had some great gaming experiences in 2019, and still am going into 2020. I love talking about games, and I’ve been anticipating writing my top 10 games of 2019 so let’s get to it, shall we?
(Notable Games That I Did Not Get to Play in 2019: Ape Out, Astral Chain, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Judgment, Katana Zero, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Link’s Awakening, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order and Telling Lies)
Honorable Mention: Death Stranding
Alright, let’s talk Hideo Kojima for a second. I’m sure it will sound crazy to some, but Death Stranding is my first real crack at one of his games. I’ve always wanted to get into the Metal Gear Solid series, but the stars have never aligned for me to do so. Ever since the fallout of Kojima and Konami to the announcement of the game at E3 2016, all I ever thought was “what’s the big deal here?” while everyone else was dancing their pants off. All I got from him is that he likes to go big and over-the-top while naming his characters way too literally. Regardless, I wasn’t entirely sold on Death Stranding until a few weeks before its release. By the time I pressed start, I still had no idea whether or not I was going to like “a Hideo Kojima Game.”
After trying out Death Stranding for myself, the verdict is I like it. The scary part is that I think I INCREDIBLY love it, and the reason that is scary to me is that I want to do everything this game has to offer. I want to do every premium delivery, earn every absolutely pointless star and I don’t care because I love…delivering packages. I love sorting everything as best I can and keep them clean for the drop off. I’ve played almost 30 hours of this game and I am still on Chapter 3. I just refuse to mainline this game because it is such a disservice to the world that has been made.
Even with all the things I love about this game, there are an equal amount of things that I hate about Death Stranding. I still can’t even say much as to what I think of the story. The stealth mechanics are terrible, even coming from a developer that practically invented the genre. Specific areas of this gorgeous world are just designed for you to want to bang your head against the wall.
While I equally hate what I love about this game, what I love about the game wins at the end of the day. So I will keep playing it slowly but surely, probably until the end of next year along with everything else that 2020 has to offer. I will finish this game; I will complete everything possible because I want to feel that satisfaction and I will likely write a very long article about that entire experience.
Until then, it doesn’t feel right to rank it on my 2019 list. I have no idea where I’m going to be at with everything once the time credits roll. All I know is, Death Stranding is one of my favorite games that I will never play again, once everything is said and done.
10. Creature in the Well
Creature in the Well is the first game from developer Flight School Studio, which focuses on an engineering droid known as Bot-C who awakens from a deep slumber in an endless storming desert. Coming across a small village with a lifeless power plant, Bot-C ventures inside to restore the plant while evading an unknown creature that lurks in the dark. Known as a “pin brawler,” Bot-C travels through different dungeons that involve pinball puzzles.
By charging energy cores and batting them at bumpers I solved engagingly fun puzzles that helped me restore the plant to its former glory. It is a straightforward but challenging experience that makes me want more of that addicting gameplay. Knowing this game was created by a two-man team makes me applaud it even more. Creature in the Well left a lasting impression, and I will be keeping my eyes on what that team is working on next. The game has one of my favorite art styles of this year along with atmospheric music and environments, making it a favorite of mine in the indie sphere of 2019.
Within the first couple of hours of playing Control, I was enthralled with everything about it: the world, the lore, and the aura, which is one of my favorites in any video game. It is beautifully made and feels haunting no matter what part of the bureau that you are exploring through. Being able to throw debris at enemies and levitate across platforms is incredible fun, even if the combat as a whole is pretty one-note.
At first, Control shot up to my Top 3 games of 2019, but as the game progressed and more of the story was explained, I felt like it fell to shambles. By the time I hit the end of Control, it didn’t feel like there was a proper “ending” to the story. It felt like a “to be continued” moment for the game’s upcoming DLC, with the number of things from the main story that didn’t get resolved. Even though the game didn’t entirely land on its feet, I still love the premise of what Remedy brought to the table with Control, along with its fun combat.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Control.
8. Borderlands 3
After waiting far too long since Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 hit all the right notes for me except for what I was looking forward to the most, being the story. In Borderlands 2, I was so blown away by how strong a narrative that Gearbox was able to create in a universe that was so explicit and self-aware. Ending on a cliffhanger teasing the departure of Pandora to travel the galaxy for vaults on other planets encapsulated me, but I was worried about what was to come, especially after the end of Handsome Jack.
The story that was served in Borderlands 3 is such a disappointment on every level, but that doesn’t mean the full package wasn’t still great. With the amount of the quality-of-life changes made in Borderlands 3, the franchise is at the best place that it’s ever been. It is the first entry where I want to play as every Vault Hunter, just because all of them stick out so interestingly.
Even though I don’t get to play in co-op often, when I do it is some of the most fun that I have ever had in gaming. Gearbox may not have gone in the direction that I wanted with its story, but I love shootin’ and I love lootin’, which is exactly what Borderlands 3 is truly about.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Borderlands 3.
Indivisible is one of the few games from that come back to my mind of the most memorable gaming experiences that I had in 2019. When I reviewed it, I said that it was hard to put into words how I feel about the game, and up to now that is still true.
It has my favorite art direction of any game in 2019, all handcrafted and beautifully detailed. There’s a vast and unique set of party members that you can recruit into battle (including a lightning dog!), which gave me nearly endless ways to execute combos. The platforming is incredibly satisfying on so many levels, and it’s easily my favorite in the genre this generation. The story presented makes you truly consider the consequences that you might bring onto others based on the choices that you make.
There is very little about this game that I don’t think works in its favor. Give it a shot.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Indivisible.
6. Pokemon Sword and Shield
Pokemon was the first gaming franchise that I fell in love with. To this day, whether or not I am anticipating the newest mainline entry of the series, I will always pick it up and play the latest installment.
Earlier this year, I wrote about how the franchise has been a far off memory from what it once was back in the first three generations. For the longest time, there was nothing in the recent Pokemon entries that brought back the love I once had, until I played Pokemon Sword and Shield. When I found out that Nintendo was moving away from a handheld-only platform with the Switch, I finally thought we would be getting a new title similar to Pokemon Coliseum or XD Gale of Darkness back on the GameCube.
While Sword and Shield isn’t particularly that, it feels like what a modern-day Pokemon game should be. I’m always going to like the grindy old school versions more, because that is what Pokemon is to me. But with the incorporation of the Wild Area, being able to run into Pokemon from any generation and the variety with which they show up feels fresh. I can run into a Snorlax and then walk a few steps into a Drapion.
I know that a lot of people within recent years have criticized the series for having random encounters, which I still think is a weak criticism being a turn-based RPG, but I like how Game Freak was able to appease all players in that sense. This of course just speaks to the number of quality-of-life changes that Pokemon Sword and Shield made to make the series more accessible, combined with its great new setting. The Galar region–while on the nose a little bit too much–has a fascinating backstory, and how the legendary Pokemon Zacian and Zamazenta fit into that story is much more interesting than previous generations.
Pokemon Sword and Shield may honestly make the best changes that have ever been done in the entire franchise. The best part is, I’m not even finished with the game yet. I’m only five badges in as of writing this, and when I’m not playing Pokemon, all I’m thinking about is wishing that I was, which makes me so enormously happy. The only reason it isn’t higher on my list is that it is still just more of the same (which is not a bad thing at all).
5. Baba is You
I’ve never been a huge fan of puzzle games. There are specific titles in the genre that I live and die for, but as a whole, I don’t go out of my way to play them unless they’re recommended to me. I heard great things about Baba is You and after hearing about its concept, I wanted to try it out. By playing as this rabbit-sheep thing known as Baba, you move words around changing the effects of items and environments around you. I can change a wall into water, or I can change my playable character to a rock instead. All of the game’s systems are new and cool.
Baba is You happens to make me feel like a complete imbecile the majority of the time that I play it, and I love every second of it. I will spend an hour trying to figure out a puzzle and not feel fatigued of my efforts, just stupid. Why is that ok? Well, it’s because after all the trial and error that I ensue by the time I figure it out and win, I can’t help to think that all that time and investment was worth it. It’s one of those puzzle games where you want to YouTube how to beat a specific level just to progress, but you refuse to do so because you’re doing the game dirty and you want to figure it out yourself. It makes me want to feel validated by beating every level so I can say “I beat Baba is You.”
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Baba is You.
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
It is crazy how in-depth and detailed that Fire Emblem: Three Houses is. It includes a massive suite of fleshed-out characters that you get to learn about and build them the way you want to utilize them on the battlefield, or you can let them do whatever they want. While teaching my students, I found out pretty early on that I could recruit kids from the other two houses over to my house (Golden Deer REPRESENT), taking them away from the other house leaders. However, knowing that there are technically four different routes that you can choose from in this 60+ hour game, I decided to stick with my original house members to focus on them because they were in the house I chose for a reason, and I didn’t want to sacrifice their characterization for other unassociated students.
Developer Intelligent Systems decided this time around to get rid of the weapon triangle, which isn’t a bad thing per se. But in previous Fire Emblem titles, I felt more inclined to use every character as equally as possible, and with the absence of that long-running franchise mechanic, it also made the combat feel slightly less engaging. I haven’t gotten to finish Three Houses yet, but with the amount that I have played so far it is probably, in my opinion, the best first-party title on the platform in 2019.
3. Disco Elysium
If I had to make an unbiased, objective choice for Game of the Year in 2019, it would have to go to Disco Elysium. It is simply one of the most well-written games I have ever played (and there is A LOT of writing). Throughout every conversation I have with an NPC, I learn something about them or the world that exists around me while I’m trying to solve a crime about a man hanging from a tree. Each character I interact with has great charisma, and I feel like that fits into the city of Revachol as a whole.
At the start of the game, your character doesn’t know who he is, so you’re figuring it out along with him. As an RPG, your skills speak similarly to how your brain sends messages to you before you decide what to say out loud. Depending on how you build the detective, you can attempt skill checks to get the information you want, whether it is with charm or force. It is all so intricate and fascinating that I wish I had more time to play games, because it is another that I have yet to hit the credits for.
That being said, everything that I have experienced up to the point that I am currently at has been innovative and gripping. I can’t wait to go back to explore more of Revachol and find out its mysteries along with the murderer.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Disco Elysium.
2. Kingdom Hearts III
Oh god, here we go. Listen, Kingdom Hearts III…no matter what people thought of the game whether you loved it, liked it or hated it, it never would have met anyone’s expectations. After waiting almost 15 YEARS it could have been everything fans wanted and there would have still been backlash.
When it comes to me, I loved it. Were there issues? Of course. But where the game succeeded is where it truly matters to me. Kingdom Hearts is about friendship, caring for one another, making connections and how those connections lift us. Even though I think that Nomura could have structured the game better instead of shoving everything that we’ve been waiting all these years for in the final act, I think it delivered in the end. Kingdom Hearts III, especially with being such an acquired taste to many gamers, could have been A LOT worse than people were making it out to be. Even then, it is still a great game, even if it isn’t the great game that everyone wanted.
The combat is exactly as you’d expect from a mainline Kingdom Hearts title (although I wish they kept Limit Commands). There are numerous quality-of-life improvements made, like being able to upgrade your Keyblades and transferring them over to new game saves. Square has already added the much-beloved critical mode and is releasing a patch where players can modify exactly how they want to play through the game.
Kingdom Hearts III is great, and the upcoming Re:MIND DLC seems to be adding a lot of things that fans wanted originally in the main package. There is much still to look forward to as a Kingdom Hearts fan, and I’m incredibly excited to see where Nomura takes me.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Kingdom Hearts III.
1. The Walking Dead: The Final Season
The final season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead can be — and to a degree is — a reprise of the first season, but it is so much more than that. It is a game that teaches you valuable lessons in parenting and how to build up children as they take your place as the future of humanity.
Playing as Clementine one last time felt like a chapter of my life was coming to an end. I’m not a parent yet, but seeing this young woman grow from the girl she once was into a motherly figure must feel similar to watching your own kid in the same way. This was also the first time where I felt like I could build Clementine into who I think she is as a person. I loved that there was an option to romance someone for those who see her having a partner, but I loved it even more that I could decide Clementine doesn’t need that, because she has AJ. She has always walked her path up to this point that way.
Throughout the game you are teaching AJ important lessons about life. These lessons may be focused on the reality of living in a post-apocalyptic world, but they all translate into normal life as well. Constantly I saw myself being presented with challenging questions of morality on what AJ should learn, and constantly I sat by myself in an empty room questioning my choices over and over, just because I didn’t want my choices to affect his decisions poorly. Even if Clem and AJ were partners throughout the story, at the end of the day, he is just a kid who was born into this world that doesn’t know what it is like to be a “normal” child like the other children that he meets, and it is Clementine’s job to show him what is right and what is wrong.
I experienced a vast variety of emotions playing through Clementine’s final chapter. I laughed, cried, cheered, and applauded due to the wonderful, frightening, and heart-wrenching moments that occurred throughout. But it wasn’t just a sendoff for the series, it was a bow of respect to Telltale; the old Telltale who started it all. With everything that the studio went through, it was an utter joy that Skybound was able to bring back a portion of the original team to finish the game. I was continuously invested in the story and characters, not even including Clementine. By the time credits rolled, I was crying ugly tears while smiling cheek-to-cheek.
All I have left to say is thank you. Thank you to every single person who had a part in making The Walking Dead a reality, whether it be the final season or any season prior. Thank you for creating one of my favorite characters in any medium and thank you for telling her story…Clementine’s story.
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