DualShockers’ Favorite Games of 2019 — Ryan's Top 10
This year wasn't short of excellent games that were looking to push boundaries like Death Stranding and more: here's my top 10 games of 2019.
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.
For me, 2019 really felt like the year of there being a wealth of too many great games to play and just not enough time to get to them all. Even in the last couple of weeks leading up to the release of our Game of the Year Awards and our individual staff lists, I still have a massive pile of games from this year that I want to get through. Especially considering the fact that the first few months of 2020 are already stacked with tons of incredible games on the horizon, this is kind of a problem.
But nonetheless, 2019 proved to be a great year in games and honestly, this was probably the most difficult Top 10 list that I’ve had to put together in quite some time. Of course, with the necessities of keeping this to 10 games, there are always going to be some great games that get left on the sidelines, so I’d at least like to give some honorable mentions out. Metro Exodus especially is one that just missed my list as a bold evolution of a series I enjoy (please play it!), and Astral Chain easily proved to be one of PlatinumGames’ best titles of the generation.
There are still plenty of games that I just haven’t had the chance to play yet but are on my radar to dig into in 2020, namely Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, The Outer Worlds, Outer Wilds (yes, that other “Outer” game), Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Gears 5. Hopefully in the new year, a few of these might just make my Top 10 list in 2020, if it isn’t already dominated by the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and so many other games coming soon.
But anyway, with all of that out of the way, here were my favorite games of 2019:
10. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
I had only ever played a brief amount of the original Link’s Awakening when it was first out on the Game Boy, but even within the first 10-15 minutes that I spent playing this year’s Switch remake, it already felt like fond memories of it were coming back to me over 20 years later. As a longtime fan of the Zelda series–and especially coming off recent entries I loved like A Link Between Worlds and Breath of the Wild—Link’s Awakening for me just scratched that itch of a lovable 2D adventure with Link that I could get lost in.
Like Resident Evil 2 before it (which is also on my list), The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening strikes a near perfect balance of honoring a classic entry in a classic series, but with plenty of modern touches (and an adorable visual style) to make it feel fresh. Aside from giving me the chance to finally revisit a Zelda game that I had sorely been missing out on playing previously, Link’s Awakening is in its own right a wonderfully inventive game that harkens back to the classic entries of the series, but presented in a way that feels like it’s just being discovered for the first time.
9. Ape Out
I might just be a sucker for snappy jazz music, but Ape Out came out earlier this year and has stuck with me ever since. Sure, there’s the fact that the game is just manic fun involving a killer ape on the loose, but how can you not forget a game like this when it looks and sounds so stylish?
Taking several elements that I love from Hotline Miami, Ape Out takes its simple but chaotic premise and jazzes it up (literally and metaphorically) with an incredible visual and aural presentation. Having the music and visuals blend so seamlessly with the ape-fueled chaos that you are causing only made me admire the game more, and whether you wind up playing through it on Switch or PC, this is one ape escape that can’t be missed.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Ape Out.
8. Life is Strange 2
Compared to its predecessor, discussion and conversation around Life is Strange 2 has, strangely, seemed a little muted. Whether that’s because of the game’s sporadic release schedule or not, over the course of the last year Life is Strange 2 has evolved in ways that I admired even more than the series’ first season.
The story of Sean and Daniel Diaz and their trek across America to find a new life with family in Mexico not only gave us a heartfelt depiction of a brotherly bond, but also explored new ground narratively that most other games shy away from. Over the course of its five episodes, Life is Strange 2 delved into politics and contemporary issues of today that games hardly ever get the chance to explore, while also looking at maturity and love, family issues, and heritage, especially from the viewpoints of its protagonists.
Episodic storytelling is hardly a new experience in games, but Life is Strange 2 found a way to give it a deeper, more engaging meaning.
7. Untitled Goose Game
Oh, that damn goose. That damn, lovable goose. Untitled Goose Game, by design, is a simple game, but even with the few hours that I spent with the game on Switch, I had a smile on my face the entire time that I was playing it.
Is it the deepest game? No, not at all. Is there much of a challenge? Hardly. But all in all, Untitled Goose Game is one of the funniest and most charming games that I played all year, and it’s truly the type of game that I would encourage anyone–gamers or non-gamers alike–to give it a try and become a chaotic goose for a day.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Untitled Goose Game.
6. Luigi’s Mansion 3
Well, okay; Untitled Goose Game is one of the most charming games that I’ve played recently, but so is Luigi’s Mansion 3. Maybe even more so.
Luigi’s always been in the shadow of his red-suited brother, but with Luigi’s Mansion 3, he finally has a game that can stand alongside some of Mario’s best adventures. Luigi’s Mansion 3 not only shines as a brilliant and funny adventure starring everyone’s favorite lanky, awkward brother, but also shines as one of the best Switch exclusives of the year. That’s saying something considering the fact that this year has been an absolute banger for the Switch with other games like Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Astral Chain, and more.
Even if the game is technically Luigi’s Hotel 3, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is still a stellar, spooky sequel that will have you smiling all the way through, even if is mostly at Luigi’s expense.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Luigi’s Mansion 3.
5. Resident Evil 2
Despite being a longtime Resident Evil fan–arguably one of my favorites–I’ve had a blindspot in the series by never having gotten the chance to play Resident Evil 2 or 3. Thankfully, in 2019 I was able to finally correct at least one of those problems by playing through the stellar Resident Evil 2 remake, and we won’t have to wait too much longer until it’s Resident Evil 3‘s time to shine next spring.
While I hadn’t played through the original iteration of the game, Resident Evil 2 was still an outstanding horror experience made even scarier by its modern tweaks and refinements. Constantly being pursued by Mr. X not only gave us one of the most terrifying game experiences of the year, but also made for some fantastic memes. But more than that, Resident Evil 2 perfectly blended the series’ classic elements of survival horror with the innovations of its modern entries, making me even more excited to see what is to come from the franchise in the years ahead.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Resident Evil 2.
4. Sayonara Wild Hearts
I played through all of Sayonara Wild Hearts in one sitting on the Switch earlier this year, and it’s safe to say that this game, as the kids say, slaps. Part interactive music video and part rhythm game, Sayonara Wild Hearts is an entirely sensory experience that few other games in could match in 2019.
Dripping with style and easily the best game soundtrack of 2019, Sayonara Wild Hearts is flashy and vibrant for days, but doesn’t let that overwhelm substance. At the heart of its stunning visuals and design, it also manages to craft a brief but impactful story of overcoming heartbreak and discovering your true inner abilities.
From the game’s stunning opening moments, to its wonderful surprise reveal at the end, to its soundtrack that I still listen to on a regular basis, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a game that I just haven’t been able to get out of my head just yet.
3. Devil May Cry 5
As a longtime fan of the Devil May Cry series–and someone that thoroughly enjoyed Ninja Theory’s take with DmC–it just felt so damn good to have Dante and the crew back. Devil May Cry 5 was easily one of the games that I was most looking forward to playing in 2019, and it fully delivered on everything that I could have hoped for as a fan and then some.
Aside from finally returning to the series’ mainline story after a decade since DMC4, Devil May Cry 5 came roaring back not only with a kickass story (and incredible soundtrack), but also delivered arguably the series’ best gameplay and combat since DMC3. The series’ stylish action has never looked, well, more stylish, and the amount of ability and input combinations that players have at their disposal in DMC5 is enough to rival nearly any fighting game.
From the introduction of wonderful characters like Nico and V, to a more badass Nero, and finally to Hot Dad Dante, Devil May Cry 5 moonwalked its way into my heart this year, and I can only hope that we’ll see them all kick some demon ass again sooner rather than later.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Devil May Cry 5.
Admittedly, Control is the only game on my list that I have not entirely played through to completion, as I’m currently around halfway through the game. It’s been at the top of my backlog for months now, and though I’m just now starting to dig deeper and work my way to the end, Control has already, well, taken control of my thoughts and emotions since I started playing it.
Much like Remedy’s past games, you can easily point to many of the influences that Control blends together, from the obvious references to works like Twin Peaks to the more subtle inspirations behind it. But even without that, Control builds what is easily Remedy’s most defined and well-realized world to date, with the Oldest House serving as an intriguing setting with endless mysteries and secrets to discover.
Combined with Jesse’s powerful abilities and a roster of memorable characters–especially this year’s MVP, Casper Darling–Control is easily the game that I can’t wait to finish the most during my Christmas break and to really discover just what the Oldest House is really hiding.
Check out DualShockers‘ review for Control.
1. Death Stranding
During the discussions for our Game of the Year Awards, when Death Stranding came up I explained that there are almost as many reasons (if not more) to debate against the game being GOTY than being for it. Death Stranding is, in a lot of ways, incredibly messy and convoluted. It drags significantly in many places story and gameplay-wise, it saves most of its best story moments for the very beginning and end, and its gameplay can feel finicky and not quite put together completely.
But for all of its faults, Death Stranding is still one of the most impactful game experiences that I’ve had all year. As much as I came into the game expecting the typical amount of Kojima Weirdness, I was also taken away by the story’s surprising thoughtfulness and emotion. The game’s themes of connection and working together was elevated by its online elements that seamlessly integrated “multiplayer” into the experience, and understanding the ways in which this world worked kept me invested throughout the dozens of hours that I spent with Death Stranding.
For all its convolution and exaggeration, Death Stranding also managed to be deep and meditative, and was ultimately the game of 2019 that I just couldn’t stop thinking about after I played it. Like its protagonist Sam Porter Bridges, Death Stranding is always on the risk of toppling over, burdened by the layers of gameplay and story it stacks on top of each other. And yet, the game also manages to keep it together from falling apart entirely, in a profound, surprising, and beautiful way.
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