It feels like 2019 only just started, and suddenly it’s pretty much completely over already. Where did it go? Nobody knows, but judging by the playtime counters on our consoles, a not-insignificant part of this year was spent playing video games. Some were big-budget blockbusters, some small indie darlings, and after trying to experience as many as possible in a year, we here at SYFY FANGRRLS have put together a list of our favorite video games released this year.
So, in no particular order, these are the games released in 2019 we wanted to give a nod to as particularly worth checking out over your next bit of free time.
2019 has been a fantastic year for character action games, and one of the big standouts in that genre this year was Astral Chain. Developed by Platinum Games, the studio behind Bayonetta and Nier Automata, Astral Chain has a really unique combat system where you control two characters simultaneously.
Taking liberal inspiration from Evangelion, the plot focuses on a future where interdimensional beings have crossed over to earth, and the only way to fight them is to enslave some of them and use them as weapons to fight off other alien creatures.
You and your captured ghost creatures are tethered by a chain, and while your “legion” fights automatically, you move around, manually attack, and cycle between special attacks your legion can use. You can also sync up your attacks for flashy bonuses, use the chain connecting you to tie enemies up or unchain your captured creature entirely to do massive damage for a short time.
While it’s not super great playing as a cop, the game does make it easy enough to hide all your cop branding if you want, like we did.
Cadence of Hyrule
A few years ago, a music rhythm game was released called Crypt of the Necrodancer, where players hopped around dungeons to the beat of the soundtrack, killing monsters and finding treasure in randomized challenges, doing every action on the beat.
One of this year’s biggest surprise releases was Cadence of Hyrule, a new game following the same basic template, made by the same developer, but featuring locations, characters, weapons, and music from the Legend of Zelda series.
If you like the idea of a brand new top-down Zelda game, mixed in with some really cool soundtrack remixes and a focus on timed gameplay, Cadence of Hyrule is well worth checking out.
Devil May Cry 5
Another fantastic character action game released this year, Devil May Cry took several years of games about over the top flashy demon hunters, brought their protagonists into a single game, added another totally new playable character, and let players go wild beating up monsters with disposable robot gun arms, magic beast ravens, and literal motorcycles. Yes, one weapon in Devil May Cry 5 is just a man hitting things with a motorcycle, and it’s as beautifully chaotic as it sounds.
For fans of the series, the plot is fantastic and does a great job of feeling like a proper conclusion to the series, and for new players, the combat is compelling enough to make the game super fun to play.
When a lot of game developers describe their games as RPGs, the role-playing part of that acronym is usually pretty minimal. You might be able to make a few choices about what to do here and there, but most games don’t let you fundamentally shape who your character is beyond a certain scope.
Disco Elysium feels like you let a 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons DM who got into the game from narrative-heavy podcasts make a video game, and the result is incredibly freeing. You play a police officer who has gone on such an intense drinking binge that he doesn’t remember a thing about himself, but has to go and solve a murder regardless.
The player gets to shape everything about who the character is through points allocated to parts of the character’s personality, which unlocks better odds at completing tasks, but also shape how the character acts. Drama as a skill, for example, might make you better at detecting lies, but also more prone to lying for no reason even when it’ll cause you problems. Internalizing the idea that maybe you’re actually a celebrity rock star might increase your odds of confidently bluffing, but you’ll also lose logic points because that’s a ridiculous thing for this character to think.
The sheer scope of ways to play your character, as well as the game’s commitment to letting you play through failure in amusing ways, makes Disco Elysium a must-play experience.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is basically Minecraft with an RPG story, and a bunch of neat design choices to help speed up creation over time and encourage working on big projects.
Between each story mission, you go to an open-world island to chip away at making big projects, so at the end of the game you already have a functioning, thriving, and alive-feeling island that isn’t daunting to start making your own creations on.
Luigi's Mansion 3
For the third time in a row, Luigi gets an offer that seems too good to be true, and goes to a huge fancy building, only to find out it’s full of ghosts he has to vacuum up. It’s not an original idea, but the presentation, world design, animation, and boss encounters in Luigi’s Mansion 3 are stunning throughout.
If you’re looking for a silly fun action game about sucking up ghosts while playing as the most terrified man in gaming, Luigi’s Mansion 3 has enough whimpering, shaking, and eventual shouts of “yay, I did it” from Luigi to be worth playing through.
Man of Medan
Made by the developers of the critically acclaimed Until Dawn, Man of Medan is an interactive horror game where players make choices and press buttons to try and survive their time on a spooky old ship befallen by tragedy.
The game features a really interesting plot, made all the more replayable by both its branching narrative status, as well as the fact it supports multiplayer either locally or online.
If you’ve got friends over, you can pass the controller around, each trying to keep your own character alive, while playing online creates some fascinating situations where you and the other players don’t have the same information as each other, leading to some potentially amazing moments to discuss after you’ve finished playing.
Man of Medan isn’t overly long, at 3-5 hours, but makes up for that with its “just one more try” nature.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
Pokémon Sword and Shield doesn't have every single Pokémon from the history of the series, but after playing a couple of hundred hours of the game in just the first few weeks it has been out, we can say we simply don't care, this game is great.
All the new creatures introduced in Sword and Shield are adorable, the refocusing of the plot on completing the gym challenge is refreshing, and the open-world wild area where Pokémon simply roam on their own really help the world of Pokémon feel more real. It’s charming and adorable, and you won't want to stop playing.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Do you like the sound of playing through an hour long, explicitly queer, female protagonist driven music rhythm game filled with an album of really creative and catchy female driven pop, narrated by Queen Latifah, where you fight magic sword lesbians, chase furry women through the woods on a stag, drive a motorcycle after your true love, then get transported inside the VR headset of a cute nerd girl? Well, that’s Sayonara Wild Hearts, and it’s an unbelievably gorgeous and well-made game.
It’s not a long game, so we won’t say much more. Just watch some footage, read our article about it, and go play it right now if it sounds like your jam.
Over the past few years, Battle Royale games have been the hottest thing in gaming, drop 100 people in a map together, let them all shoot it out, the last person alive is the winner. The question, however: why are they always shooters? PUBG, Fortnite, we want something new.
Tetris 99 is an online multiplayer Tetris game that takes the classic puzzle formula of dropping shapes and filling lines and mashes it into the battle royale formula, letting you throw cleared lines at other players, aiming to be the last person left rotating T shapes.
Where most Battle Royale games allow you to win by hiding until the last moment and sneaking a win, Tetris 99 gives you nowhere to hide, always visible and targetable by every other player, and does a great job of mashing two genres together in a way that makes both feel new again.
Also, it’s free if you have Switch Online, and a free game is always nice to see.
Untitled Goose Game
Do you like the idea of being a goose and messing with the not very pleasant characters living in a tiny English village? Well, Untitled Goose Game is a few hours of living out all your cathartic dreams by forcing a small child into a phone box, soaking a farmer, stealing an old man’s newspaper, then spinning in circles honking and flapping your wings real big.
That’s really all there is to it, but the simplicity is where it thrives.