If there’s any theme with the games I really loved this year, it’s that they connected with me on some embarrassing, corny level. Like that PlayStation commercial where that dude’s crying while playing Death Stranding? That was me minus the tears, just thinking about the state of the world and why everything sucks all the time, even as I played games. From the exhausting 2020 presidential race, the general state of the United States, to the recent U.K. election, it’s been feeling bleak out here. Truly.
My 10 favorite games of this year were actually hard to narrow down. My initial list had 27 games on it, including smaller breakouts like The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa and Ape Out. Eventually, I was able to tighten it up and narrow things down to just 10 games. And honestly, my favorite game of the year may be the best game I’ve played since I started at USgamer in early 2017. It’s a game I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I wrapped it up. I even started a second playthrough, which I frankly never do. So what is my favorite game of the year? Lo and behold…
- Disco Elysium
- Death Stranding
- Resident Evil 2
- Apex Legends
- Untitled Goose Game
- Kingdom Hearts 3
Last year, I wrote a tweet-length micro review of every game that landed on my top 10 games of the year. This year, I’d like to do something slightly different. I will highlight one small thing from each of my top 10 games that I loved, and briefly describe why.
- Sorry A Short Hike and Grindstone, Wattam just barely bumped y’all off. Anyway: in Wattam, you can be eaten by a tree, and be shit out as fruit. Every interaction in Wattam feels sillier than the last, and I love it for that. Wattam is the best emergent moments of Noby Noby Boy mashed up with the structure of Katamari and the no-holds-barred silliness of Tenya Wanya Teens. In other words, it’s the most Takahashi game in existence.
- The last world you visit in Kingdom Hearts 3—the one for your actual final battle with Xehanort—ranks among the most beautiful locales in the entire series. It definitely rivals Kingdom Hearts 1’s Hollow Bastion, which is no small feat.
- There is nothing funnier than untying that kid’s shoes and making him fall down in Untitled Goose Game. Absolutely nothing.
- Eliza‘s the most real game I played this year. It made me take a step back and revalue my self-destructive work ethic, which is quite a feat!
- I’ve won at least one Apex Legends game with every Legend, but the very best happened once as Octane. Stabbing him with adrenaline, I then jumppad-ed straight into a firefight with an EVA-8 shotgun that was happening in a building above me. I took out who was remaining of the other two squads, and suddenly, my party was all yelling. I think it’s the only match I’ve won solely because of me, and it felt very good.
- The minigames and all are solid in Judgment, but it also has a great murder mystery in its main storyline. It’s what hooked me about the game the most, and why it’s stuck with me even months later; even with it being “another Yakuza game.” It’s also among the best “Yakuza” games, in my opinion, second only to Yakuza 0 and Yakuza 5.
- Resident Evil 2 is the only game this year that invented its own verb: “torso-ing.” Yes, torso-ing was the word heard around the world when people talked about their strategies to get past those pesky zombies that never seem to die. You shoot off their arms and legs, until they’re just a snapping torso. It’s disgusting, but at least they’re not so threatening anymore.
- I got really into building ziplines in Death Stranding. Maybe I’d see one point in the distance on my map, or maybe on an especially long trek, I would put two points up myself, thinking, I’ll be helping someone out with these. I want to set up ziplines that venture to every point on the map, if possible.
- My favorite moment of Devotion is actually best left unspoiled, so I’ll mention a different part. In one particular era of the family apartment you’re exploring through different years, there are wooden lifesize dolls sitting and standing around. They seem harmless and do nothing. That is until you start turning around, and suddenly they’ve moved spots. I’ve seen this trick before in games, but in Devotion, it’s particularly tense and effective—right up until they’re in your face.
- I love quite a bit about Disco Elysium—the intricate underlying systems that move its gears, the arc of its main character, the class-rooted murder mystery you’re on a journey to solve, the mysterious “pale” that’s absorbing the world, the moaning horns that form its soundtrack… I could go on for ages. But what I love most is the character that serves as your moral compass: Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi. The man who will call out racism for what it is, who will keep you focused on the case at hand. The man who smokes a cigarette, just one, after a long day. The man who will say, “fuck it, let’s have more cryptids,” even if you do have more pressing matters to investigate rather than hearing about mythical creatures that in all probability in this world, do not exist. Then again, more surprising things have happened.
And that’s that, my Top 10 Games of 2019. I also played a bunch of Outer Wilds, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Anodyne 2, and What the Golf, and if I’d have finished any of those, I bet they’d squeeze onto this list somehow. Alas, they did not. But I finished these 10 games, and great games they are. ‘Til next year then!