Wow it’s that time of year again already! As always, it’s about what I played this year, not just what was released this year, because I’m not made of money and can’t afford to buy every release that interests me for full price. Also, DLC counts if it’s an expansion or a similar level of content release to a pre-existing game.
In fact, let’s acknowledge what I was interested in this year but never got the chance to play:
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Devil May Cry 5
Onto what I actually did play, then. I’d say this year’s been pretty good, but every year’s good when you’re looking at your top ten. Games are a lot of fun!
Honorable Mention: The Outer Worlds
This game gets my yearly “I’m sorry I abandoned you” award.
The Outer Worlds was good. GOTY material. I thought that, in my head, as I was playing it. I finished the entire first planet, including a few sidequests, and I was really enjoying my time. But on the way to the next planet I realised that I’d reached a good stopping point, and another release pulled me away.
I swore to come back, but I never did.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
#10 – Beat Saber (PSVR)
Whenever you see clips of people doing amazing things in Beat Saber, just know that they are literal gods who walk among us. The level of satisfaction you get from just watching them work is easily achieved by accomplishing much smaller feats in your own play sessions. The game does exactly what it promises to do in its visuals – it makes you feel like a damn Jedi. When you get it right, anyway. And when you don’t end up punching your bookshelf… I don’t have a lot of movement space in my room.
My only complaint is that there’s no Spotify or Youtube integration, with an algorithm for generating your own levels. Choice of level is sparse, with music that’s personally only enjoyable because of the accompanying gameplay. I’d be way more interested in playing Beat Saber to the tunes of heavy metal, just to see how insane that could get, but it seems like the creators are opting for a DLC method, netting them more money but us far less options in genre. Ah well.
#9 – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS4)
Of all the late discoveries in my GOTY lists, this one must be the latest. Despite the original game having not even been released this decade, the PS4 remaster holds up. Whilst the fact that it’s a PS3 game shines through in some of the flat platform ledges and basic, albeit touched-up faces, the gameplay didn’t feel clunky at all.
I really didn’t know what to expect going into Uncharted. It’s a genre I never cared about as a teenager – I actually sold Uncharted 3 which came with my PS3 – to the extent that I’ve never even gone out of my way to watch gameplay of the series. I was surprised by the amount of cover shooting the game had, though not unpleasantly so. I was even more surprised by the turn the story takes towards the end, into the supernatural. I took my time with the game, playing through a few chapters over the course of weeks, but I had a great time.
If you’re wondering why I chose the first game, which everyone tells me is rough compared to its sequels, here’s the answer: I’m not doing playing Among Thieves yet.
#8 – Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)
One of my most anticipated games of the year. The original’s existence was my one regret for not owning a Wii U, having already been deeply invested in making my own Mario levels years before on a fan-made version called Super Mario Flash.
I love that it’s just always there, on my Switch, millions of levels ready to go. This time around Nintendo also included 100 levels of their own in a cute little story mode, where you can rebuild Peach’s castle and earn some new level parts along the way. I’m also a big fan of the huge variety of themes across all games, with night levels including some fun modifiers. It truly feels like there are limitless possibilities.
I made a couple of levels, and was decently surprised to see them get played and rated nicely. However, my idea of recreating Crash Bandicoot levels in Mario Maker form didn’t exactly pan out, and it kinda crushed my motivation to make levels from there on out. Plus, the issue of the level pool being flooded with low quality content stops Super Mario Maker 2 from being higher up in the list; a flaw of its own nature.
#7 – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)
I’m going to level with you here – I haven’t played this game in months, so I don’t have any sort of fresh take to give you. But from what I remember, it’s my favourite Assassin’s Creed game since AC2. Kassandra is a genuinely likable assassin with a story that I actually give a damn about, and having agency over basic choices in the story makes a world of difference. Plus, the world of Ancient Greece is superbly crafted. And it’s HUGE. I’m still awestruck and bewildered as to how they made such a huge and detailed environment.
It’s a long ol’ game, and it’s one I’ve pledged to return to at some point. I think that point may be coming up sooner rather than later.
#6 – Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr (PC)
Back at the start of the year I played through the preceding Summerset chapter, and considered it to be a gorgeous and well-crafted island with a somewhat dull story riddled with ambiguously magical plot points. Then, in the summer, I began the Elsweyr chapter when it came out, but the story just didn’t grab me, and I ultimately fell off of playing it, not even thinking about it again for months.
Then, last week, I got the urge to resume my travels and discovered that the second half of the Elsweyr story is when shit got interesting. And just when I’d grown attached to the characters, the story ended, and I continued onwards to Southern Elsweyr in the accompanying DLC released this fall to wrap up the year-long storyline. As far as ESO stories go, it was pretty grand! Zapped some dragons, helped some cats, did the hero stuff. I haven’t actually tried any of the side-stories yet, though. I’ve spent my last few play sessions levelling an alt through the Daggerfall Covenant questlines, which I’ve scarcely touched.
This year is the first time I’ve given into temptation and opted into the optional ESO Plus subscription instead of just buying the smaller DLC packs outright. I’ve gotta say, the freedom of being able to loot everything without worrying about the crafting materials eating up all your bag space does make questing that little bit more enjoyable.
#5 – Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4)
CTR:NF is the most generous game when it comes to free content that I’ve ever seen, with one huge caveat: Despite initially promising that the game would have zero microtransactions, season two saw the introduction of the ability to buy Wumpa Coins alongside earning them through play. I’ve kept a close eye on the valuation of store items, though, and nothing’s been tweaked to be more of a grind that I can see.
Anyways, this game is more than just a faithful remake of the original PS1 title. It goes above and beyond, including every track from the PS2 successor Crash Nitro Kart, as well as the aforementioned seasonal content, each bringing with it a free new track that’s unlocked for everyone. It is incredibly generous. Not only that, but I personally find the gameplay more fun that Mario Kart 8’s, and I love Mario Kart 8 (though I am now AWFUL at it).
I’m currently a bit burnt out, having successfully completed my Champion Kart grind in the Halloween season, but it’s definitely a game I’ll be returning to often.
#4 – Pokémon Sword (Switch)
I almost didn’t buy this game.
The last mainline Pokémon game I really loved was Pokémon Diamond. I’ve always been more of a fan of the remakes and spinoffs, like Pokémon Leaf Green, Pokémon SoulSilver and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee Edition. It’s only because I bought the two-game-pass thing months ago that I decided to pick up Sword; I was initially going to go for Dragon Quest XIS, but I fell off playing the demo. (It seems like a really good game, my attention span just betrays me.)
I’m so glad I changed my mind! This has legitimately been the most fun I’ve had in a Pokémon game for years. I love the setting, I love the Galar region Pokémon, I love the story (yes, even Hop), and I love the spectacle of gym battles. When you look at a clip of a Pokémon dynamaxing it looks stupid, but when you’re immersed in the game’s story and challenge, it genuinely feels awesome when you dynamax for the first time.
Hell, I’m even planning on checking out the anime for Pokémon Sword when it comes out. And I never watch the anime! That’s how much I love the Galar region.
#3 – Halo: Reach (PC)
It feels like I’ve been waiting to play a Halo game for my entire life, and I am so, so happy that I finally have the chance to do so.
That being said, Halo: Reach’s campaign didn’t really grab me until halfway through. The somewhat blunt gun-feel took a little bit of getting used to after years of Destiny 2, and the setting of the first few missions isn’t quite the fantastical sci-fi romp that I’ve known Halo to be from afar. It does get there eventually though, and when you’ve spent some time with the weapons they do feel effective in their own way. By the fifth mission I’d fallen fully in love with Halo: Reach.
The multiplayer is hugely refreshing, hailing from an era before ultimates and gameplay tailored to try and give every player their hero moment. There’s obviously still a fair amount of one-shot kills, such as sniper rifles, rocket launchers and energy swords, but these are weapons which you have to fight over to obtain, rather than being a bar which charges up over a set amount of time. I love the Crucible in Destiny 2, and I do enjoy the ultimate based gameplay, but it does lead to more moments of frustration. In comparsion, Halo feels like a breath of fresh air.
I can’t wait for the rest of the collection to come to PC.
#2 – Destiny 2: Shadowkeep
Choosing between this and Halo for #2 was a difficult choice. I have friends who would object one way or the other. But when it really comes down to it, to what I spent the most amount of time in getting the most amount of enjoyment out of, it has to be Shadowkeep, purely by way of design.
As far as the story goes, I made an excellent decision in brushing up on the lore of Destiny before this expansion dropped. (Chapters, DLC, I don’t care what the devs call these things, they’re expansions.) The “oh shit” moment near the start of the campaign was really an “OH SHIT” moment for me. The over-arcing narrative of events on the moon was really fun to explore. To be honest, though, the seasonal story felt tacked-on, and the Vex Offensive event for season 8 had absolutely no replayability. Season 9 has just kicked off but I’m still a little burnt out from reaching the end of season 8’s loot pass, and it’s a little weird adjusting back from Halo.
Nevertheless though, I’ve spent literally 100 hours in the game since Shadowkeep launched and while I may have gotten frustrated with it towards the end there, the majority of time was well spent.
#1 – Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)
I beat this right at the start of the year in January, so my memory might be a little vague, but this remains the best game I’ve played on PS4. One of my favourite fictional worlds from one of my favourite game developers turned out to be an amazing (hah) combination. I immediately fell in love with the story and bought all the DLC, playing to 100% completion. This is legitimately one of my favourite versions of Spider-Man across all forms of media, up there with the Spider-Verse movie and the Ultimate Spider-Man comic line.
I’ve honestly been keeping myself from doing another run through the game until my memory of it is distant. And hey, it is now… and to grab that platinum trophy I need to beat the game on its hardest difficulty. So there’s a good excuse.
Most Anticipated 2020 Titles
And that’s a wrap on 2019!
This list could have looked very different without a few delays, however. Where would Animal Crossing and DOOM Eternal have landed on this list? What if the other Halo games had also launched this year? Let’s take a sneak peak at what the next year holds in store. My most anticipated titles, not ordered because I honestly can’t choose, are:
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
Elder Scrolls Online: Untitled Skyrim Chapter
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
And probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting right now. Looks to be a good year!