Game Of The Year 2019

Game of the Year 2019

Happy New Year! As 2019 has drawn to a close, we have voted on our favourite games of the year. Let us count you down through the gems that made it into the top 20.

20 Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ben: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a 2.5D platformer which feels more modern than the 3D Banjo-nostalgia fest of the original Kickstarter-backed Yooka-Laylee. Playtonic have created a fantastic addition to platform genre which has tight controls, well-designed levels, which have alternate forms you can unlock. Unless you are allergic to puns, don’t miss out on the chameleon and bat team’s latest outing, which is available on all main formats.

19 Fire Emblem: Three Houses Switch

Jorge: Nintendo has successfully turned the once-niche Fire Emblem franchise into a sustainable factory that pumps out waifus and husbandos for fans all over. Three Houses introduces the largest assortment of (mostly) dateable recruits yet, while taking a few pages from the Persona series by including various daily tasks to help level your fellow students up (both in battle and in relationships). For fans of Tactical RPGs, there is no experience more feature-filled and refined this year.

18 Ion Fury Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Linux

Dominic: This was one of the surprise hits of the year for me, since I went into Ion Fury not expecting much from it. What I did find is that I bloody loved the game, and everyone who was disappointed by Duke Nukem Forever, well, Ion Fury has your back, as this is clearly the spiritual successor to that series.

The developer, Voidpoint, has managed to bring to life a retro shooter that takes a beloved style and rigorously craft something so spot-on, so perfectly 90s, but doing so without hampering the experience by adding common gameplay elements seen in modern shooters. Ion Fury’s fast and frantic action is brought to the screen through its brutal weapons and the skill of the player, while the smart, inventive level design is so immaculately thought out, even if the theme of the levels are a little generic, they are built around enhancing every enemy encounter.

Ion Fury is another title that is putting on a damn good showcase as to why 90s shooters were so good, and now joins the list of a few other games doing the same thing. I am glad there is a resurgence of 90s first-person shooter design, as it is showing everyone not just the visual charms of that time, but more importantly how fantastic the gameplay was.

Simon: Some old games hold up and others don’t, but for the most part, it’s in quality-of-life areas that games truly age. If their central mechanics were tactile and satisfying to begin with, their effect on you rarely fades. Only when there’s compromise in the very systems of a game – if the appeal of the game is transposed to some other part of it; be it narrative, exploration, style, et cetera, and that excuses a weak core design – will it feel outdated upon your return.

It is why Super Mario Bros. will always play well. It is why Tetris will always play well. It is why Doom will always play well. It is why Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Shadow Warrior will always play well. And it is exactly why Ion Fury does, too.

But while Ion Fury could play well by simply using the Build Engine foundation from those other games, it leverages lessons learned about level design to make the play area for those mechanics superb. Not only is its high contrast, stark and strikingly sharp retro-future landscape stunning to look at, it is a joy to traverse and deploy 20 year old digital violence across.

It falls short in some areas where those old games excelled. Even though some of the one-liners land successfully, its lead is ultimately forgetable, and the enemy design doesn’t fare any better. Coming from a legacy of larger-than-life personalities and games that were deliberately iconic, that is admittedly somewhat disappointing. But, really- while you’re in it shooting away, it’s gorgeous and all-in-all a complete delight.

17 Baba Is You Switch, PC, Mac, Linux

Ben: Baba is You is an indie pictogram-meets-wordplay puzzler from Finnish indie developer Arvi Teikari that will really get you thinking. You construct rules to control the interaction between Baba and other objects, in levels which can be extremely challenging. Fortunately you can take your time to try out solutions, which sometimes require out-the-box thinking and thoughtful planning. It’s fun to play as a group as it is quite easy to get stuck trying to piece together logical solutions. The graphics stand out for being extremely simple but for me it has a retro charm and keeps the puzzles at the forefront of the experience.

16 Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers PS4, PC

Jorge: It still remains a miracle how Square Enix managed to transform what would have been the worst numbered Final Fantasy entry into one of the very best, not to mention a highly-acclaimed MMORPG that has now become a legitimate contender to the legendary World of Warcraft.

Where FFXIV has WoW beaten in spades is in the story department, and the newest expansion has not only managed to create a fantastically written and paced storyline, it has also created what may be the single best written FF experience of all time. Shadowbringers is an emotional rollercoaster filled with multi-layered heroes (and villains) along with a somber message in how nothing lasts forever and the past must make way for the future.

15 Dirt Rally 2.0 PS4, Xbox One, PC

Dominic: There is something incredibly thrilling about blasting down a dirty road at heart-racing speeds with the unknown laid out before you, a voice to your side shouting out “ Right two, long, don’t cut” and a slab of stone is hiding in the grass to the inside of the corner as you carefully slide around the bend past it. This is one of the reasons why rally games are some of my favourite in the racing genre, and this year’s Dirt Rally 2.0 is a superb follow up to Codemasters’ initial return to the motorsport with the brilliant Dirt Rally in 2015.

Dirt Rally 2.0 is more of Dirt Rally. It comes with new tracks, cars, and gameplay enhancements, such as better weather implementation and how it changes the handling model based on it, and the new track degradation brings a sense of realism to the course based on the position starting, as all the cars before you have altered the ground, changing the grip available. Dirt Rally 2.0 is also the official FIA World Rallycross Championship game, good for fans who enjoy grinding metal on metal on tight, technical courses.

The DLC practice might upset a few people, since all the old existing tracks were brought back through season passes, something which has happened in other video games on the market, but being the norm shouldn’t mean everyone has to follow the practice. Still, this does mean Dirt Rally 2.0 is packed to the rim with content and surpasses its predecessor as the best rally game on the market. Just like the game before this sequel, playing it requires concentration. Dirt Rally 2.0 is a learning game, a challenging, thrilling, quality rally game with a fantastic handling model that portrays the various gravel, dirt and ice under your wheels with precision. For me, this is, no question, the best racing game of the year.

14 New Super Lucky’s Tale Switch

Ben: Ever since Mario 64 I have a fondness for 3D platformers, particularly when the world is bright and fun to explore. New Super Lucky’s Tale is new in the sense that it has been vastly overhauled since its original release to really raise the quality of the experience significantly. Levels have been reworked and the camera functions very effectively. It’s a joy to play, many secrets to find and Lucky is a charming character – not overly difficult and it is a great family game.

13 Ring Fit Adventure Switch

Ian: Ring Fit has not been done justice by the lack of marketing it seems to have received, especially after the success of the Wii Fit, but those who took the plunge have been welcomed by a wonderfully charming experience. Exercising daily is something we should all be doing but few of us are and any game that can get me excited about that is something I praise highly. By combining exercise techniques and turn-based RPG combat elements, Ring Fit Adventure has found a place in my daily routine and over Christmas, as I travel to visit family, I have been really missing it. I feel more energetic, I’ve lost weight, and I’m having a great time battling the dark forces of Dragaux in the process. I’ve recommended Ring Fit Adventure non-stop and I don’t see myself slowing down. With the seemingly endless amount of content and challenges it presents, I’ll no doubt be working my way through the adventure mode for the entire of 2020. I can’t wait.

12 Monster Hunter World: Iceborne PS4, Xbox One

Jorge: Last year’s Monster Hunter World became one of the biggest success stories in modern gaming: a previously-niche franchise in the West that spent most of its career on portable machines, Capcom took a massive gamble by giving Monster Hunter a massive budget increase while moving it to HD consoles. The gamble paid off and then some, finally turning Monster Hunter into a big name all over the world.

The Iceborne expansion simply succeeds in adding more of that excellence with a plethora of new monsters, loot, and some significant gameplay conveniences including a sweet new grappling hook and your very own monster taxi (courtesy of an auto-controlled mount that will speed you towards your latest target).

11 Remnant: From the Ashes PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ian: Remnant was absolutely my surprise of the year. I just happened to stumble upon it one day, noticed a close friend had purchased it, and within 15 minutes we had booted it up in multiplayer. The mix of first-person shooter and strategic dodge-focussed combat work together incredibly well for a beautifully challenging experience that I love both multiplayer and solo. Every world is full of its own secrets, enemies, and bosses in a random campaign layout with random rewards that just screams replayability (even if it requires some grinding). The skill and reaction times often required on hard mode made this game for me and the need to learn, understand, and take advantage of boss weaknesses have lead a lot of people to call it a ‘Souls-game’ but, whilst there are similarities, I personally hope this is a spin-off into a completely new sub-genre. I’m invested in Remnant now and I’m hoping that this debut is only the first instalment as they roll out more adventures and lore going forward. Even with the repetitiveness, the combat was just so satisfying that I’m still planning to go back and re-roll some adventures in order to search out some of the more elusive unlockables.

10 Untitled Goose Game Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

Ben: An entirely different game to pretty much everything else, Untitled Goose Game sees you play as a troublesome Goose. Exploring and interacting with the environment to progress is creative, funny and will appeal to a wide audience, making it ideal for family game time around the TV. Panic’s continued foray into the video game industry is most welcome and hopefully we’ll see further collaboration with House House in future. Untitled Goose Game is available on all major formats so give it a shot.

9 Tetris 99 Switch

Jorge: Truly, there is no greater example this year of a game you never knew you wanted until it existed. Tetris 99 dropped out of the sky with no warning and connected the hearts of players all around the world. It’s such a simple concept that is utterly addicting no matter how often you’ll fail to reach the Top 10. If only Nintendo Switch Online could put out more excellent exclusives like this one.

8 Super Mario Maker 2 Switch

Ben: Super Mario Maker was a hit on the Wii U but with the Switch being far more successful a lot more people can enjoy creating their own levels this time around. Numerous improvements (such as angled slopes, and the addition of the Mario 3D World style) build on what was already a great game and it really feels there are endless possibilities to create any Super Mario level you wish. Super Mario Maker 2 has the potential to unleash the creativity of gamers everywhere – whether for fun or to develop professional level designing skills. There are extensive tutorials to help you learn the ropes and to inspire new creations, you are given immense freedom and a robust, polished construction kit.

7 Death Stranding PS4

Jorge: Rarely has there ever been a game where the divisive reception between “greatest thing ever” and “worst thing ever” are both equally valid. While there have certainly been better-playing and better-written games released this year, Death Stranding still holds a top spot in my personal top ten just for being so vastly, stubbornly different from everything else. Only a director as audacious and possibly insane as Hideo Kojima would create a massive budget title that revolves around keeping the character from tripping on rocks, keeping packages from getting wet and soothing their crying science baby. A truly unique experience that is both wonderful and infuriating.

6 Luigi’s Mansion 3 Switch

Ben: Luigi’s Mansion 3’s vast haunted hotel is a visual feast and a perfect showcase of what the Switch hardware is capable of. The environments are richly detailed and a pleasure to explore. It feels like a significant leap in scale and the challenges and ghosts you come across are well designed and fun – with more variety than ever. The interplay between Luigi and Gooigi is quirky and effective, adding an extra dimension and depth. The multiplayer offering is also a very welcome addition. In our household Luigi’s Mansion 3 has had the most playtime of any game over Christmas. Just ensure you keep up your supply of bones so your buddy Polterpup can revive you in a boss battle!

5 Devil May Cry 5 PS4, Xbox One, PC

Jorge: Capcom has unquestionably had a big comeback this year, restoring a lot of lost faith with their fans by releasing not one but three major new titles, including the very, very, VERY long awaited proper sequel to Devil May Cry. In one of the most notable examples of “everything including the kitchen sink”, DMCV reunites heroes old and new and outfits everyone with the biggest arsenal and widest range of combos ever witnessed, not to mention some of the best-looking and best-playing action in series history. It’s the best possible comeback tour for the franchise, and hopefully we won’t have to wait as long for the encore.

4 Slay the Spire Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux

Ian: Deck builders have been a common board game mechanic ever since Dominion introduced the concept back in 2008 but it was never truly explored in the video game space and failed to gain traction until now. Slay the Spire came out of nowhere to smash the status quo, completely redesigning the core gameplay for a deeper, more involved single-player experience. Plus, with the ability to temporarily edit card values on the fly, something that a physical game can’t do as easily, there’s more room for far better interactions and things like status effects in combat. It has opened the doors to a whole new genre and there are already many titles lined up behind it ready to take on the challenge, it’s going to be very exciting to see how far it can be taken. Streamlined, tactical, and horribly addicting – Slay the Spire is a game I put a lot of time into this year but still nowhere near as much as I would have liked to. With every loss I learn more but with every win it gets more challenging, just how I like it.

3 Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition Switch

Dominic: I initially started playing Dragon Quest XI on PC, but did not get far into it when the announcement about a Switch version was arriving with some great additions to the game. Sure, I’d be dropping the high resolution and frame rate for something a bit more the norm, but the key thing with Dragon Quest is its art style, and that has transitioned well, allowing the Switch version to still be pleasant on the eyes, only having to put up with some jaggies when playing on the TV.

The trade off is worth it. This is still the brilliantly polished and well executed classic Japanese RPG formula from last year filled with an adorable cast of characters and a long twisting plot, but with so much added that it should be its own separate release. So what’s new? Well Square Enix added the addition of Japanese voices, the ability to play the game in 2D, 16-bit mode, something carried over from the Japanese 3DS release that feels like its own game and is a quality nostalgia blast of the 16-Bit era of the genre, something the main 3D element of the game does wonders in hitting those nostalgia feels. It added the much needed orchestral soundtrack (that original midi music was dreadful), new quests and side missions, and quality of life improvements, which simply make the Switch version the best way to play it.

Jorge: Though technically released last year, the Switch port of Dragon Quest XI adds so many new features and improvements that it absolutely warrants a second look, and especially a first look for anyone who skipped the first time. In addition to many quality of life improvements to the gameplay, DQXI S also includes several new story quests as well as an entirely new visual aesthetic that harkens back to the classic look and feel of DQ games (while also featuring several callback quests that reference the entirety of the franchise up to now). Combined with the convenience of the Switch’s handheld mode as well as its suspend feature, there is no better time to experience one of the best JRPGs of the decade.

2 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice PS4, Xbox One, PC

Ian: Adding a layer of verticality to a Dark Souls game was an incredibly bold move. For games that are so focused on brutal face-to-face combat with foes that are more often than not huge in comparison, giving the player the ability to manoeuvre around the battlefield so effortlessly could have easily detracted from that, but instead it ramps up in a whole new way. Where Bloodborne took strides in the speed and range of combat, Sekiro went all in thematically and introduced the concept of ‘posture’; a stamina-type resource that needs to be managed and taken advantage of in order to deal big hits. And whilst it is true that many boss fights still see the player trapped in areas with reduced movement options, the posture combat mechanics take over to shine through in those insanely tense and challenging moments when it’s just skill and skill alone. I spent hours, hours, on the final boss and I’m pretty sure I went through all 5 stages of grief before I managed to finally learn everything I needed and hone my skills enough to come out on top. A feeling I haven’t had with a video game in a long time – that I had truly earned my victory with practice and understanding, and nothing feels more Rōnin than that.

1 Resident Evil 2 PS4, Xbox One, PC

Dominic: Resident Evil 2 was my favourite entry among the classic gameplay Resident Evil releases, so just like a lot of fans, A remake of Resident Evil 2 has been asked for ever since the remake of the original Resident Evil hit GameCube in 2002, but the idea was seemingly going nowhere until 17 years later (damn..that’s like half my age) and Capcom delivered a masterful release of Resident Evil 2. This is probably the best remake of a video game to date, managing to respect the amazing original and bring its gameplay into the modern age to improve it where it is needed for the times.

People might scoff at the idea of a remake be eligible for the game of the year awards, but there is plenty different here with its gameplay that once you look past the same story, characters and location, the actual meat of the game is a brilliant example of horror action done right.

The developer has moved the camera to be behind the character to match with later releases in the franchise, but rather than making this more action focused, this new viewpoint brings more tension as the player is more up and personal with the disgusting, but amazing looking monsters (the whole game is some of the best graphics in 2019) each beast willing to withstand a few shots, losing limbs, but still trying their best to get a taste of Leon or Claire flesh. Resident Evil 2 is a tightly balanced game, ignoring the more action focused sequels and keeping the ammo and health supplies in limited amounts to keep its horror side intact to deliver some of the tenses experiences of the year.

Jorge: One can only hope that Square Enix is taking extensive notes from Capcom on how to properly remake a beloved Playstation classic from the 90s. Resident Evil 2 goes beyond reimagining its most famous moments and monsters, and instead successfully modernizes the original game to make it feel new again, even among hardcore fans of the original. More importantly, it legitimizes the Survival Horror genre for 2019, including the simple-yet-terrifying (and delightfully meme-able) Mr X.



Congratulations to Resident Evil 2 for taking the top-spot, our runner-up Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the other entries too. Some truly memorable games were released in 2019.

Happy New Year and best wishes from everyone at DarkZero for 2020!