It’s the holiday season again, and as I dread another year of reading newspaper headlines through the cracks in my fingers, it’s time to once again document my top and bottom 5 games of the year possibly so that future aliens will think that every human had as great of taste in entertainment as me. As always, the only games eligible are new games from this year, so no remakes, ports or remasters.
5th Best: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order
The final spot on my top 5 came down to Fallen Order and Death Stranding, but while Death Stranding is a more interesting experience, I had more fun with Fallen Order. Jedi Fallen Order was honestly the surprise of the year for me. It’s rare that any game manages to escape the grimy clutches of EA with its dignity intact, and a game escaping the cooperate grinding wheels of both Disney and EA with a glimmer of creativity is a sight as rare as a Republican politician who doesn’t call any substantiated accusation levied at them a witch hunt. The story being even somewhat original is the biggest shock of all given Disney’s fondness for constantly reminding people that Wookies exist. It’s Star Wars Dark Souls mixed with a bit of Metroid Prime and Uncharted to fill in the spaces and I like all those things, so despite the game being unfocused at times, it truly is better than the sum of its parts.
5th Worst: Crackdown 3
I rarely put indie games on my worst list, as some may have noticed. That is because I can understand why a game with a small budget made by 6 people in a basement might be poorly designed or have ideas that aren’t properly fleshed out. What I cannot understand is how a AAA title made by a company with more money than most African countries’ GDP can spend 6 years making a game that turns out like Crackdown 3. Crackdown 3 is just a dated, bland and honestly pathetically small sandbox game. Crackdown 3 is literally Crackdown 1. People, myself included seemed to enjoy Crackdown 1, so why do I hate Crackdown 3? 12 years ago, the idea of a go anywhere, do what you want sandbox game was still a novel concept. In 2019, this type of game is now more popular than a hypothetical Gal Gadot nude photo leak, and even by the standards of your average mediocre modern open world game, Crackdown 3 is lifeless and uninteresting. Just remember that Scalebound died so that Crackdown 3 could be released like an unwanted dog on the side of the road onto Gamepass by Microsoft and then immediately forgotten about.
4th Best: The Outer Worlds
Obsidian must feel like an overworked nanny cleaning up other AAA Western RPG studios’ messes. With Fallout New Vegas, they made a Bethesda Fallout game with all the depth put back into it, and now they seem to be cleaning up Bioware’s mess by releasing a Mass Effect inspired game that didn’t subsist on a diet of lead paint chips as a child. The obvious parallels to its inspirations are too much to overlook, but The Outer Worlds carves its own path by being a cleverly written and often darkly comedic game about cooperate tyranny sucking a space colony dry and basically making its citizens into indentured servants. It’s a swashbuckling adventure that combines the best aspects of New Vegas and Mass Effect with a bit of Firefly to make a rewarding and engaging RPG.
4th Worst: Anthem
You’ll have to excuse me if I’m being a bit harsh on Anthem, because I didn’t get anywhere close to finishing it. But there are just some games I can tell will rub me the wrong way as soon as I start them up, and Anthem is one of them. Besides the fact that the development story behind this game is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard come out of the gaming industry, Anthem is literally just Destiny with somehow even less personality. There’s usually a breaking point for me with games I’m not enjoying where I just give up, and with Anthem, that point for me was 2 hours in when the game that was purported to be a looter shooter gave me a fire based elemental weapon that said it did 0 fire damage for 0 seconds in the item description. It’s sad too, because you can see glimpses of it being a decent single player focused game in the story, which is obviously what Bioware would rather be doing. But they shouldn’t feel bad, that’s just what EA does. They buy a developer, force them to rip off something popular, then they take them out back and euthanize them. I know Bioware is also massively at fault for how Anthem turned out, but they’ve made some of my favorite games of all time, and I just don’t have the heart to focus all my anger on them. So fuck you EA, Anthem is worse than a rat’s reputation during the 1300’s.
3rd Best: Devil May Cry V
Devil May Cry V is a slick and stylish action game developed by Capcom that delivers the type of over the top action you’d expect from a Devil May Cry game. With its different characters, DMC V offers plenty of variety, and matched with a fantastic combo system, high octane soundtrack and a ridiculous story, it all culminates in one of the industry’s greatest modern action games. With Resident Evil 7 and the Remake of 2, Monster Hunter World, Mega Man 11, and now DMC V, we are well and truly seeing Capcom’s redemption arc. The worst thing I can say about this game is that it only plays Devil Trigger a couple of times.
3rd Worst: Wolfenstein Youngblood
I’m consistently amazed at how the gaming industry seeks to destroy its own goodwill by extinguishing its own franchises in the name of profit. We had a perfectly good thing going with the Wolfenstein reboot. The New Order was one of the best games of the generation, and I thought that the sequel The New Colossus was just The New Order but less interesting, but it was still an enjoyable experience. Oh, what a naïve man I was just a few short years ago. Having played Youngblood, The New Colossus looks fucking Game of the Year worthy in comparison. The gaming industry just can’t let the people who want to enjoy games by themselves have anything for too long before they have to make it a multiplayer game for stupid people who are bafflingly allowed to have financial independence. I can count on one hand the number of single player focused franchises that have been improved by adding co-op, and I don’t have any fingers left on either of my hands because I gnawed them all off having to listen to Youngbloods’ insufferable characters talk nonstop. Continuing the story of the reboot by dropping us into an alt-future 1980’s Paris occupied by techno-Nazis seems like pretty great fucking idea for a sequel, it’s too bad they wasted it on this forgettable, watered down trash. “Oh but Satirical, it’s just a spinoff, why can’t you let people who enjoy that type of game have this?” Because, it’s not even a good co-op game. It’s just a shitty single player game with two identical characters, really heavy doors that takes two people to open, and enemies with health bars that would struggle to fit on your average CVS receipt.
2nd Best: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software is one of the very few developers that I get instantly excited for whenever they release a new game. In a day and age where most studios seek to water down their games for as broad an audience as possible, Fromsoft sticks a middle finger up at them and tells everyone that they’re going to make the game they want, and anybody who doesn’t like it can get fucked. Luckily, they make games that I like, because I enjoy games with explorative Metroidvania elements, I like games that provide a satisfying challenge and I enjoy games that have great world building, story telling and lore. Sekiro is everything Fromsoft games usually have, except with a Feudal Japanese twist. I admit, I wasn’t keen on Sekiro when I first played it, but once the combat clicks and the game opens up, it is one of the most rewarding and epic games Fromsoft has made to date, with many of the boss fights playing out more like a big budget samurai film than a game. While this might not be the best game From has made recently, Sekiro is a fantastic addition to their catalog.
2nd Worst: That one Tom Clancy Game
There seems to be running theme with this year’s list, as there’s a ton of generic sandbox games on here. But calling this title a generic open world game is a disservice to how truly awful it is. It couldn’t just stop at doing everything that makes Ubisoft sandbox games insufferable nowadays. No, it also has to embody everything that is laughable about right-wing gun wank modern military shooters, as well as everything that is disgusting about how ludicrous the AAA industry’s monetization of every single aspect of these games is becoming. You can literally pay microtransactions so you don’t have to actually play the game, a tempting proposition mind you, but one that is inherently absurd. The only thing worse than a generic game is a game that is actively hostile to the player while also being painfully unoriginal. I’m not even going to give it the satisfaction of saying its name. It knows what it did.
Game of the Year 2019: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Act surprised. Anybody who knows me knows there’s nothing I love more than a good Metroidvania game, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a classic Castlevania game with the serial numbers filed off of it. But saying Bloodstained is just a knock off of Castlevania is reductive. It plays more like a greatest hits list of all of the best ideas from the old Castlevanias, with the size of Symphony of the Night, the monster ability collection from the GBA games and the sidequests from the DS titles. Much like Outer Worlds, it’s a case of shamelessly ripping an IP and changing it slightly to avoid lawsuits, but it’s undeniable how much love and care went into making this game, as series creator Koji Igarashi shows that he still has the passion and ability to make great games in the series despite the owners of the actual IP treating it like a child they couldn’t get aborted.
Worst Game of the Year 2019: Days Gone
Where do I even start with this mess of a game? Days Gone isn’t just a generic zombie sandbox game, it’s the game that would be used as the example text in a generic zombie sandbox game generator. It was between this and Left Alive but since Left Alive is an indie game, I chose to go with the AAA game instea… Wait, Left Alive was published by Square Enix you say?
Where do I even start with this mess of a game? Left Alive has some of the worst AI I’ve ever experienced in a game. The only thing worse than a bad stealth game is a bad stealth game with shitty AI, and the only thing worse than a bad stealth game with shitty AI is a bad stealth game with shitty AI that can’t decide if it wants to be stealth game or not. Sometimes it wants to be a cover shooter too, which makes my eyes roll back in my head like my brain is trying to show me a picture of a Russian Instagram thot. The game is horribly optimized as well, as it chugs along at a smooth 13 FPS. Do you know how bad a game’s optimization has to be for me to complain about it when I’m playing it on console, where I expect everything to run about as well as a dead cat on a broken treadmill? This was supposed to be a spiritual successor to the Front Mission games, but all it really comes off as is a bland, forgettable, terribly written and horribly programed disaster from the same company that used to make masterpieces like FF 6 and Chrono Trigger. What happened to you Square? You used to be cool.