For gamers, 2019 was one wild ride. This past year was filled to the brim with a variety of exciting titles, from cinematic masterpieces featuring Hollywood actors to remakes of horror classics that revitalized floundering franchises. If you’re a gaming fan, there was plenty to get excited about, and chances are you’re still trying to sift through the goodness that permeated the genre in 2019. Now that we’re facing 2020 and a new set of releases that will come along with it, it’s time to take a look back at some of the best, most exciting video games that made 2019 positively sizzle for anyone with a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, or PC.
Here are the games of 2019 that deserve your time and attention, whether you’re a casual fan or a hardcore gamer looking for your next fix. There’s a little something here for everyone, and you can rest assured each title packs a major punch.
One of the most exciting releases of the year came in the form of the PlayStation 4-exclusive Death Stranding, in which video game auteur Hideo Kojima really showed off his creative chops. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where most of humanity has been eradicated by way of an “extinction event” known as the titular Death Stranding, it’s a game about forming connections with your fellow man as you take on the role of one Sam Porter Bridges, tasked with reuniting the fractured remnants of humanity. As players guide Sam across what’s left of the United States, now known as the United Cities of America, they’re forced to take on a series of bizarre, ghostly beings known as “BTs” as time-accelerating rain falls down above them. Guided by a baby in a jar known as a “BB,” they’ve got to connect survivors across the UCA to a space-age internet known as the “Chiral Network” if there’s any hope of bringing humanity together again. It may sound complicated, but it features amazing performances by Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tommie Earl Jenkins to name a few. It’s the pinnacle of cinematic gaming, and an exemplary effort of what can happen when a game is given the same amount of love and care as a Hollywood blockbuster.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 may be a remake of a PlayStation-era classic, but it’s so much more than that. It may as well be a totally new game. Capcom set the bar for video game ports and updates with its 2019 release of Resident Evil 2 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, blowing fans’ minds with some fantastic choices made to improve the survival horror mainstay in every single way. Not only did the entire adventure get a massive facelift, with new character models for heroes Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, but entire segments of the game had additional content injected into them to add longevity and replay value. There were also plenty of fun nods added in for longtime Resident Evil fans to uncover, all tied together with exciting cinematics, excellent voice acting, and satisfying zombie slayage that helped make this version (quite surprisingly) even better than the original. It was a harbinger of things to come for the Resident Evil series in terms of remakes, as 2020 is confirmed to bring us Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Definitely start with this remake if you’re just now getting into the series.
Everyone loves a good detective story. Disco Elysium places you in the role of a detective on the trail of a murderer who’s hanged an unfortunate man. There’s just one problem: the detective is an amnesiac alcoholic trash fire of a man. It’s up to you to help him either beautifully connect the dots or muddle through the actual detective work required to get to the bottom of the case and apprehend a suspect. With that said, Disco Elysium is one of the most exciting games of the year because of all of these details and more put together. It’s an isometric RPG with leagues and leagues of text to wade through, but sticking it out and absorbing all of the absolutely fantastic flavor text is part of the fun. All the while, your detective can get hung up on being a “hobo cop” or a “rockstar investigator,” leading to some brilliant conversational paths. The surreal imagery, funky music, and other creative design decisions involved make Disco Elysium an absolute must-play, even if you aren’t a fan of the genre. You’ll soon find that it trumps your likes and dislikes and pulls you in from the first few paragraphs.
Devil May Cry 5
No game does hack-and-slash action better than Devil May Cry, and the fifth core entry in the series is the franchise at its best. Picking up right where Devil May Cry 4 left off (eschewing the previous DmC: Devil May Cry spin-off), Devil May Cry 5 is a whirlwind adventure that finds you controlling protagonist Nero with a prosthetic arm that can explode or shoot missiles, then swapping over to famed demon hunter Dante or newcomer V for some long-range combat. It’s fast-paced, visceral fun that’ll put you through your paces at every turn — but that’s the beauty of it. Plus, there’s a reward at the end for those who have been following the story since the very beginning, with some very real plot payoff. If there’s only one action game you pick up from this year, make it Devil May Cry 5.
Control’s Jesse Faden is a woman looking for her missing brother Dylan. On her search, she happens upon a bizarre organization known as the Federal Bureau of Control. Operating out of an enormous building called the Oldest House, the FBC is in charge of keeping a group of bizarre transdimensional objects with terrifying powers under wraps. Jesse infiltrates the house and soon finds herself in charge of the entire operation, the new “Director” of the Federal Bureau of Control. As she takes on a series of new responsibilities, she still looks for Dylan throughout the House, a shifting set of corridors that are always changing. This makes for a surreal journey through the mind (and the House), with stylish lettering, trippy areas to discover, and a wealth of secrets that aren’t immediately apparent. Plus, Jesse is a total badass. Control is a must-play because, out of all of the other titles that debuted this year, it’s so much unlike the rest that it feels as though it should be part of a genre all its own. You get a gun that can transform into different forms to destroy the “Hiss,” or a hivemind that’s infected the workers of the FBC. In addition, Jesse has her own host of psychic powers that make her a force to be reckoned with. And how many games can you say let you use people as floating human shields? Thought so.
Love crime dramas? Love whodunits? Ryu ga Gotoku Studio’s Judgment, a spin-off of the wildly popular Yakuza series, is one of the best crime capers of the year, just in video game form. Like the fantastic film Knives Out this year, it weaves a gripping series of interactive “whodunit” mysteries together that come in a fun, Yakuza-branded wrapper. Players take on the role of former lawyer Takayuki Yagami, who left his courtroom days behind to work as a private detective on the trail of a serial killer who’s roaming the streets. With his partner Kaito, he operates just on the periphery of the legal system in an effort to bring the killer to justice, all while picking up other freelance work on the side. There are plenty of juicy investigative subplots to explore, characters to meet and evaluate, and fun minigames to chase after when you’re done with all that. Judgment is a lengthy detective exercise, but one that’ll stick with you for a long time.
If happiness could ever be contained into one video game, it would surely find a home within Wattam. Made by the creator of Katamari Damacy, Keita Takahashi, it’s perfect for gamers of all ages, placing players on a mass of land inhabited only by a couple of colorful characters. As you interact with them and get to know them (the green cube is the “Mayor” who has an exploding hat), you’ll eventually lure others to the land you find yourself on. The goal? Bring everyone together, make new friends, and explore everything that makes you all unique, laughing all the way. It’s a colorful explosion that wouldn’t be out of place on toddler TV shows, and its universal appeal makes it an exciting romp with bright colors, hilariously random happenings like a toilet eating golden poop to make a new character, and much more. It can be completed in a weekend, and there isn’t much to do once you’ve finished the game, but it’ll make you smile more than you’ve smiled all year, and that’s a guarantee.
Of course, there were leagues of other amazing games out this year, many of which are also worth picking up if you have the opportunity. Some honorable mentions include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Catherine: Full Body, Super Mario Maker 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. With such a packed lineup, that leaves little time for 2020’s onslaught of titles on the horizon. Thankfully, when it comes to collecting video games, that’s a great problem to have.