Just like we did last year, we decided to skip crowning a single game as “the best game of 2019.” Instead, we assembled a list of the games each one of us enjoyed playing the most throughout the year.
Here are the AAA and indie games we loved playing throughout the year. Consider this our recommendation for the must-play games of 2019.
From the very first lines of dialogue with your reptilian brain, you know Disco Elysium is going to be something special. It uses classic RPG mechanics, like skill-checks and quests, and mixes them with art, politics, and drugs. The result is a game that is both a sobering hangover and a self-destructive bender.
You start as a sad cop who drunk himself into blissful oblivion, but as the game goes on, you become so much more. The skills you choose to enhance will unlock different things you can say or do, allowing you to take the story in different paths.
You have the freedom to decide what kind of cop you want to be: what you believe in, how you operate, and who you want to help in a world that is desperate for a little compassion.
So don’t be a Boring Cop – be a Superstar Cop; be an Apocalypse Cop; heck, be Boring Cop if you want to! But play Disco Elysium.
Disco Elysium is available on PC.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The Fire Emblem series has always revolved around exciting tactical combat, intriguing characters, and epic, emotional stories. Fire Emblem: Three Houses stands out within this already fantastic series by adding a host of mechanics to welcome new players into the series.
You choose to belong to one out of three houses, and each route lets you experience different stories and connect with different characters. Each arc also reveals only a portion of the overall plot. You’re compelled to keep playing until you experience the whole game, even after spending hours on end in your first playthrough.
Three Houses’ emphasis on human connection is incredibly touching. As you progress, your playable characters form friendships that translate into moving and emotional conversations. You will find yourself on the verge of tears more than once in the course of your adventure.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of the best and deepest role-playing games we’ve played in a long time.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is available on Switch.
Control is such a great game, though it’s a bit difficult to explain why if you haven’t played it (why haven’t you played it?). It could be the meticulous world-building, twisted enemies, breathtakingly beautiful environments, or that one amazing song by Old Gods of Asgard. Mostly, it’s because Control is one of the more imaginative games we’ve played in a long while.
Every bit of lore you uncover sparks your imagination. The expertly-written story opens the door to so many awe-inspiring and memorable moments; you’d want to go right back replay the game the second it’s over. Luckily, there’s some DLC heading our way early next year.
The best part? Remedy uses Control to expand on every other game they’ve ever done, and tie them together into some sort of Remedy-verse. It’s a treat for any fan.
Observation is a bonkers, terrifying, and stirring sci-fi story that’s up there with greats like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, and Interstellar.
The game was developed by No Code, the same studio that brought us the experimental text adventure Stories Untold. Observation is equally as experimental, but tell one cohesive story that profoundly resonates with horror and sci-fi fans.
You’re playing as a spaceship’s AI trying to figure out the source of a mysterious signal that pulled the vessel lightyears off course. The adventure that unfolds is no less than insane, and it grabs hold and never lets you go until after the credits roll.
Like the best sci-fi stories out there, Observation feels grounded in reality. There are no tentacle monsters, no cheap jump scares – just the pure terror and existential dread of the unknown.
Slay the Spire
Welcoming to newcomers as it is challenging to most veterans, Slay the Spire is more than a simple deck builder. It’s roguelike dungeon crawler with a variety of cards and relics to collect as you make your way to the top over and over again.
There are just so many ways to play the game. Most people might prefer to play it as a single-player experience, but you can also enjoy it with friends, debating what cards to pick and what challenges to face. You can also join the speedrunners community and compete for a spot at the top of the leaderboard.
If somehow you get bored with the core game, modders have created new characters, cards, and even new rules to play by which completely change the game. Slay the Spire is truly a game that just keeps on giving, and we’ll be playing it long into 2020 and probably beyond.
Jenny LeClue – Detectivu
Jenny LeClue is a perfect sleuthing game for gamers young and old. It follows the titular Jenny, a sarcastic, grumpy, and wickedly smart detective who’s still in middle school. As Jenny, you investigate every-day mysteries, like the case of the missing glasses, and uncover earth-shattering conspiracies that threaten your entire town.
The story is full of twists and turns that will keep even the most experienced adventurers guessing until the very end. The writing is intelligent, sharp, and often funny, and captures the imagination of younger players without alienating an older audience.
The puzzles could be more challenging, but at the end of the day – Jenny LeClue is an approachable investigation anyone who loves a good mystery will enjoy. Think Jessica Jones meets Nancy Drew and a whole lot of coffee.
Astral Chain, just like Nier: Automata in 2017, proves Platinum Games got their mojo back.
The game features Platinum Games’ iconic touch for action, with an excellent combat system where you control both your main character and your Legion. These creatures act as support during battles, and each one of them brings with it new tactics and moves you can use. Controlling two characters at a time is chaotic but rewarding, and it’s fun to juggle all the things you can do at once.
Outside of combat, the visuals, music, and world-building are extraordinary. Humanity’s last bastion is a beautiful living island. The story is admittedly not as good as we’d like, but everything else makes Astral Chain a must-play for every Nintendo Switch owner.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Once again, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare manages to drag the veteran FPS series back to the top. The single-player campaign is excellent, with diverse, open-ended, and highly replayable missions. Infinity Ward really went all-in on presenting war as a dark, terrible period, where the lines between good and evil blur (with a few noticeable exceptions).
Things are pretty great on the multiplayer front as well and are only getting better with every patch and update. The maps are dynamic and challenging to master, there is plenty of action all around, and the new 2v2 mode is pure, intense fun. Plus, the devs seem to really be listening to their community when it comes to fixes and fresh content.
It’s really no surprise Call of Duty: Modern Warfare broke several sales records when it launched. It’s the best entry in the series this generation, and one of the best Call of Duty games we’ve ever played.
The Death Stranding caused sheer devastation, cutting almost all communication between people. The United States of America – once a powerful country – is now down on its knees against the weird phenomenon. A new technology foundation was deployed across the country to reconnect all the places in America. You are Sam, a legendary porter with a simple task: form connections between the foundation stations and deliver various cargo on the way.
“Still waters run deep” describes Sam very well, and as the game progresses, you’ll find a deeper understanding of him. The characters that accompany Sam are designed, written, and played wonderfully, encouraging you to continue your slow journey to reconstruct the world, even after hours of running around.
Don’t mistake the game for a simple delivery simulator – stepping into Sam’s shoes will unravel a fascinating, deep plot with twists and turns as well as multilayered, challenging gameplay. You’ll experience all that side by side with gorgeous views of a devastated but hopeful world, and a powerful soundtrack that will effortlessly tug on your emotions.
Resident Evil 2
In 2017, Resident Evil 7 brought the series back to its survival horror roots. This year, Capcom decided to go a step further and bring back the best game in the series – Resident Evil 2. Instead of remastering it, as they did with the original Resident Evil game, Capcom remade RE2 pretty much from scratch and created one of the best horror games of the year.
With new graphics, gameplay mechanics, boss fights, and set pieces, RE2 is a prime example of how to reshape an old game for a new audience.
In our mind, the original Resident Evil 2 is still the better version. But if you never played that fantastic piece of video game horror (and even if you did) – RE2 2019 is your chance to experience an incredible mix of classic Resident Evil with the best modern game design has to offer.
Now, join us in waiting for the inevitable Resident Evil 3 remake.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is just how playing as an explorer should be. The game’s roguelike elements make every time you play feel new and fresh, and urge you to keep exploring on and on.
The seemingly endless supply of items and synergies makes the game feel almost like a 3D Dead Cells in space (and that’s quite the compliment). The added verticality of the enemies makes fighting them challenging and exciting since they can pop up from any direction.
After it’s surprise launch on consoles this summer, the Nintendo Switch version shines the most. Playing Risk of Rain 2 on the go is just what the game was missing – it’s a great game to play in short bursts of 30 minutes to an hour. It’s perfect for anyone looking for a different experience every time they commute to work or on a short break.
The Surge 2
Every time we play a new Souls-like game, we have to choose a new favorite. This year, it was The Surge 2. Its interconnected levels, awesome limb-cutting animations, and smooth fighting mechanics make this title a perfect stamina-based action RPG, alongside the great Bloodborne.
The game does a fantastic job of teaching you how to play without holding your hand, an aspect we hold at high regard when it comes to Souls-likes. It can make or break the experience of playing such a game.
Deck 13 even penned an exhilarating story – something that was missing from the previous title in the series, and their first attempt at a Souls-like, Lords of the Fallen.
If you love hardcore action, a fan of a tough challenge, and enjoy futuristic hack-and-slash games – The Surge 2 is going to deliver hours and hours of excitement.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
Pokémon Sword and Shield are much more than Pokémon with a British accent. As a new home console title, Pokémon’s 8th generation takes the formula to the next level, while still appealing to fans of the games and anime.
Your main goal is still to become region champions and “catch ’em all,” but Sword and Shield let you explore the magnificent Wild Area and experience an open world for the first time in the series. You can spend hours looking and interacting with the different Pokémon that populate the area and take in the inspiring vistas.
The games also have very successful cooperative gameplay. Casual and competitive players can go on raid battles and work together towards a lofty goal – completing the Pokedex.
Pokémon Sword and Shield are proof you simply can not, and should not, judge a game before its release, and are most definitely the best Pokémon titles of the past few years.
Yuppie Psycho is one of the most unnerving, twisted, and funny horror games we’ve played in a while. It takes the horrors of the modern workplace and dials them up to 11 thanks to nightmarish monsters, clever puzzles, and dark humor.
Fans of classic survival horror will find a lot to love about this game. It follows the old-school formula, but still manages to surprise, scare, and even make you laugh. The pixelated blood and gore are surprisingly effective, and the puzzles always add new challenges and monsters for you to face.
With hidden secrets to uncover, optional challenges, and multiple endings, there’s more to do in Yuppie Psycho than you’d expect at first glance. If you’re looking for your new favorite horror title – this one is a perfect candidate.
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones is another prime example of the amazing RPGs 2019 brought us. It’s a Lovecraftian game that fully commits to the source material and does it justice. Not only by letting you face horrors from beyond our reality but by squeezing every drop of existential dread out of you.
Stygian encourages you to solve any situation however you see fit but then forces you to live with the (often horrible) consequences.
The dark atmosphere and plot quickly hook you in, and the farther you advance, the more twisted and intriguing the world becomes, so you never want to stop. The variety of characters you can play as gives you a wide range of options when facing a problem. You always end up wondering what could’ve happened if you chose a different path.
We recommend Stygian to anyone looking for a lengthy, exciting RPG experience that you can compulsively play over and over again.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Despite building on the intimidating and somewhat excluding reputation of the Souls series, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice manages to spark interest in both veteran fans and newcomers alike with its more action-focused approach.
Bringing to life a glorious vision of a demonic feudal Japan, Sekiro tells us the tale of a Shinobi warrior fighting to save his young master. The unique combat system is all about precision and timing. It turns every clash into an exciting battle that highlights the detailed animations.
If the engaging combat gets a bit too much for you, you can combine stealth with a variety of tools and techniques to surprise your enemies and turn the tables. One of these tools is a very handy grappling hook that lets you explore the intriguing world freely.
If you let your curiosity drive your journey with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you’ll discover an adventure all players can appreciate – not only Dark Souls fans or masochists.
A Short Hike
You can probably finish A Short Hike in about 2-3 hours, but these will be hours of pure fun, wonder, and curiosity. It has a little bit of Animal Crossing and maybe A Night in the Woods in it, and oodles of charm.
The game follows young Claire, who hikes to the top of a mountain on her quest to find cell reception. Getting to the peak itself is indeed just “a short hike,” but you have the entirety of Hawk Peak Provincial Park to explore along the way. It’s a place full of things to do, people to chat with, and secrets to find.
Reaching the top of the mountain is a magical, emotional moment. But afterward, you can continue playing A Short Hike and just relax. Go fishing, play stickball, take in the sights – enjoy your time with this small piece of video game bliss.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a beautiful game, with stunning character and environment design alongside ungodly amounts of writhing rats on screen.
The rats are not an enemy to defeat or a gimmick – they are a force of nature you have to contend with. Thanks to them, getting through a level is one fiendishly clever puzzle that keeps ramping up the challenge as the story progresses.
And what an epic and compelling story it is. It’s easy to compare it to Star Wars, of all things, if Star Wars had happened in 18th century France, and had rats instead of The Force. You might find the comparison a bit ridiculous, but play the game, and you’ll see what we mean.
If you’re looking for a memorable story with thrilling gameplay (and are deathly afraid of the vicious rodents), A Plague Tale is a must-play.
Devil May Cry 5
11 years after the previous game in the series, Devil May Cry is back in a big way. Devil May Cry 5 stands out thanks to its stunning visuals, intense story, and non-stop action that will melt your face off.
Dante, Nero, and V all carry an arsenal jam-packed with weapons so fun to use, you’ll never get bored seeing them in action. They encourage you to experiment in combat, find the best combos that work for you, and challenge yourself to boost your score, even on harder difficulties.
The fifth game in the series keeps things light and expertly zigzags between over-the-top melodrama and silly humor, especially whenever Dante and Nico are around. It is somewhat on the shorter side, but there’s plenty of reasons to come back even after you see the credits.
Devil May Cry 5 is one of the best action games of 2019, and maybe our favorite entry in the DMC series.
To fans of the Gears of War franchise, Gears 5 will feel like coming home. It’s pure action, with an excellent campaign, addictive multiplayer, and a few more meaty gameplay modes to sink your teeth in. And it’s still one of the best co-op shooters out there.
Most of the time, Gears 5 feels like “more Gears,” which is probably what fans were hoping for anyway. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t innovate within the familiar formula. With big open environments, side-missions, and secrets, the campaign feels more expansive than ever.
And the multiplayer experience doesn’t disappoint either. Competitive matches are as fast and brutal as ever, especially the new Arcade mode. We also have more cooperative options, with a revamped Horde mode and the tactical Escape that feels like a completely original mode in the Gears series.
Gears 5 pushes Gears of War further down a fresh new path, and we can’t wait to see how the trilogy ends.