2019 was a year full of gaming for me. I managed to review 59 games over the past 12 months, but actually played through a lot more than just that. It may not have been as great a year as 2018 for me (as my average review score did actually decrease a bit to just under a 5.9/10), but there were several great releases this year that I will definitely remember for years to come.
Given that, I am going to highlight my personal top 10. As this is a personal top 10, I imagine many will disagree, but again, that’s what makes these kinds of lists fun. I played all ten games appearing here on PC, but all of them (with one exception) are multi-platform releases. With that said, let’s go ahead and get started with #10.
10. Sankaku Renai: Love Triangle Trouble
It wouldn’t be a list of mine without some sort of visual novel and Sankaku Renai just happened to be one of the best ones I played this year. In many visual novels, you take up the role of some generic dude in a high school looking for a girlfriend and I’ve played so many of those by this point that they kinda all blend together. Given that, I was surprised that Sankaku Renai was able to take this formula and really make something special out of it.
Not only does it provide some excellent comedic writing (that’s really more of a parody of the genre than anything), but it does this while also providing some actually decent story progression. If you really think about it, it kinda dunks on that genre by doing it better while making fun of it at the same time. It was definitely one of the more entertaining romcoms I’ve played as of late, securing a spot in my list.
9. River City Girls
Having never played a Kunio-kun game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from River City Girls. I generally like beat ’em ups, but feel that many of them fall into the same repetitive cycle of “move here, kill all enemies” and repeat. Although River City Girls technically does do this, it provides so much more on top of that that it hardly feels like it. The combat is satisfying, there’s a lot of variety in each character’s moveset, and the boss fights are some of the best I’ve seen in the genre.
Couple all of that with WayForward’s cheesy, yet fun dialogue and story and you’ve got a pretty good beat ’em up game. Of course, the detailed art style and excellent music are just the cherry on top there. It’s a fantastic co-op experience and one I would recommend to both fans of the genre and newcomers alike.
8. A Plague Tale: Innocence
To me, this game kinda came out of nowhere. I had never played a game from the studio before and when I saw what they had worked on in the past, I was kinda skeptical going into it. Eight hours later and I had come out of the game blown away by just how well put-together it was. Not only has the studio shown that they can do a proper, mature story-driven experience, but they did this with some really good graphics and optimization on an engine they developed in-house.
It may have some issues with regards to it’s AI and ending, but A Plague Tale: Innocence manages to tell a very interesting story, one weaved in and out of the gameplay in an almost seamless manner. Given that, it definitely earns a spot on my list.
7. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
With Trine 4, the series made a return to its 2.5D roots, and what a great return that was. The result is a fun co-op experience that manages to strike a nice balance between puzzle-solving and platforming. When you aren’t coming up with a way to solve one of the game’s many puzzles, you’re exploring it’s beautiful environments or maybe even taking down one of its many creative bosses.
It’s a very dynamic game, with new mechanics constantly being introduced, but at the same time building on older mechanics so as to not waste them. Most of the puzzles can be solved in a variety of ways, it’s just up to the player (or players) to figure out whatever works for them, oftentimes resulting in some very creative solutions. As one of the best co-op games released this year, it would be wrong to not include it on my list.
6. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout
With Ryza, the Atelier series goes in a bold new direction. It drops the traditional turn-based combat that the series has used for the past twenty games and instead implements a cool real-time/turn-based hybrid. It does this while also upping the graphics across the board, revamping the entire crafting system, and telling a story that’s unlike any Atelier game we’ve seen before.
However, it still retains what makes the series great. The combat is still fun, exploring for alchemy ingredients is as well, and the whole laid-back nature that the series has become know for is still present. It may be a tad shorter than previous entries, but it’s still a great JRPG all things considered and serves as an excellent introduction for newcomers to the series.
5. Earth Defense Force 5
So, where do I even begin with this one. At its core, EDF5 is a game about killing giant bugs and aliens over and over and over. On paper, that sounds pretty repetitive, but EDF5 manages to pull it off in the most spectacular manner. The combat is immensely satisfying and is only bettered by the sheer variety of options presented to you. You can take down enemies with homing rockets, snipers, grenade launchers, acid showers, and even nanomachine sprayers, and that’s all just a few of the options available for one of the game’s classes.
EDF5 is a reminder that all a game needs in order to succeed is to be fun. There’s no need for fancy graphics, large open-worlds, or even good storytelling. It takes what it knows how to do and capitalizes on it, providing a fun shooter experience that’s just as fun twenty hours in.
4. GRANDIA HD Remaster
Nearly 22 years after it first came out in Japan, us PC players finally had the opportunity to try out Grandia, this time in the form of an HD remaster. Although the “HD remaster” part is debatable, the underlying game is a fantastic showcase of what I love about JRPGs: fun combat, long and ambitious storyline, large worlds to explore, interesting characters to meet, and, of course, great music.
Grandia has all of this and more, providing a lengthy story that takes our hero all over the world, all while not falling victim to many classic JRPG tropes. It doesn’t fall back on grinding to fluff itself up, for example. Instead, it paces itself just well enough that there’s still a challenge, but you don’t need to waste hours and hours grinding to defeat bosses. Even excluding that, it’s a great JRPG experience overall and definitely one I would recommend.
3. Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~
The Atelier series makes its second appearance on my list, this time with Lulua, the 20th main entry in the series. Although I still like the new direction that Ryza went in, Lulua ended up being the better of the two for me. The combat, although taking the traditional turn-based JRPG approach, is deceptively simple and becomes increasingly more involved as you progress in the game. Alongside that is the alchemy system, which is quite overwhelming at first, but ended up being one of my favorite parts to the game.
And of course there’s all the great characters and the overall Atelier aesthetic. I’m a big fan of overly frilly and quirky character designs, so Lulua struck home in that regard, much more so than Ryza. It may not be as good a starting point as Ryza considering that its the fourth entry in its own subseries, but it is an excellent JRPG overall and my favorite Atelier game to date.
2. Apex Legends
When this game first came out, it consumed my time. For almost two entire months, this is what my friends and I played just about every day. Coming from previous battle royales like PUBG, Apex was a nice breath of fresh air in just about every regard. The movement was fluid and was just as important to winning as the actual aiming and shooting, the map design was really well done in that there was actually stuff scattered everywhere instead of just being a big empty sandbox, and it brought some new innovations to the genre through its unique revive mechanic and complex pinging system.
As someone that was tired of the same old battle royale formula, Apex couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Granted, it has kinda fallen off the radar the past several months, but those first couple months were something I’ll remember for years to come.
1. Halo: Reach (PC)
It took almost an entire decade, but we finally got Halo: Reach on PC. This is not only one of the best games ever made, but is one of the best ports I’ve played in years. It adds several options that massively improve upon the original experience, such as centering the reticle and allowing customizable field of view, on top of the many other graphical enhancements.
Over the past month, I’ve had a blast playing all the classic multiplayer modes (including SWAT, CTF, and big team heavies), starting up the campaign and doing some firefights, and, of course, messing around in custom games with friends. It was fun back in 2010 on the Xbox 360 and it is just as fun, if not better, in 2019 on PC, securing itself as my personal game of the year. And of course, it isn’t even the complete package. The rest of the Master Chief Collection is coming as well, so there’s that to look forward to.
And that wraps up 2019! Lots of great games, but now it is time to look forward to 2020. I have a video coming out for my most anticipated 2020 releases, so do subscribe if you haven’t already. I may even do a top 10 worst games of 2019, so keep an eye out for that one too. Thanks for watching and here’s to a good 2020.