GOTYLY 2020: Game of the Year Last Year (2019)

2020 was a really strange year, to say the least. It was full of incredibly minor ups and massive, harrowing downs. Due to social distancing and other safety protocols, many of us spent a lot of our downtime playing games in our backlog that we hadn’t gotten around to. And a lot of those games came from the prior year.

Let’s look back to 2019, the prequel to 2020. If your memory needs jogging, here’s a huge list of things that came out!

What is your favorite game of 2019? What was it at the time, and what is it now? If it’s changed, what caused you to change your opinion?

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games? Did more time with, distance from, or new perspectives on a given game change how you enjoyed it?

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return? It’s always hard to keep up with all the releases, so a lot of us ended up playing last year’s best in 2020. What about you?

What games were the underdogs of 2019? With so many incredible titles, there’s no doubt that some of them are getting overlooked. What games just don’t get the love they deserve?

If you could summarize 2019’s year of games, how would you? Was it good? Bad? An antidote? Were there trends or themes you saw crop up in the games of 2019?

How does 2020 look in comparison to 2019? Does it look better or worse in juxtaposition? Or does it look only slightly different? Or entirely the same?

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I’m not the kind of person that feels the need to play games the year they come out, generally. I enjoy playing/thinking/writing about games, and I think it does an incredible disservice to the medium to keep up only with current games. I get why it happens. Consumers care about the new shiny thing, and so writers, YouTubers, and people who generally do analysis and criticism need to talk about new games to make that money. This isn’t an indictment of those who need to do that, but rather a personal philosophy I’ve been trending towards with single-player games. While I played a lot of games that came out in 2019, I also played Undertale, Night in the Woods, and a ton of Smash.

My favorite game of 2019: At the end of the year, it was Mario Maker 2. I loved playing this game. Mario’s verbiage is so ubiquitous in my understanding of video games, and seeing all the different ways such a simple character can navigate levels. It was magical for awhile, and then… the magic was gone. The lack of level curation made it hard to find fun things to play in the game, particularly once the thread on here started to die down. In fact, I haven’t touched it once in 2020.

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games?: This, in hindsight, is probably my favorite game of 2019 one year later: Dragon Quest XI: Definitive Edition. This game has a turn in the last third that was so off-putting I sold the game. I hated it, it was frustrating, and I don’t think it necessarily adds anything to the story. However, the first 2/3rds of the game? Amazing. I still think about the combat, characters, design, and story. It’s really stuck with me, and the sourness of the last turn has slowly dissipated.

I think there’s also a special, rotting place in my heart for a game that beat me, despite my best efforts and intentions: Sekiro. I wanted to love this game. Bloodborne is a perfect game, in my opinion. I’ve written too many words about it, and I wanted Sekiro to be just as good. The only thing I didn’t like about Bloodborne was sometimes it was hard to judge the difficulty, and hard to experiment. Was I doing something wrong? Or was I just too low a level? Is this weapon maybe bad? I want to try Ludwig’s Holy Sword, but is it worth it since I haven’t put a lot of points into skill/have upgraded my axe 9 times? It seemed as though without levels and weapons, Sekiro was going to fix these problems. However, I didn’t understand what that would mean. Sekiro is hard. It beats you down and down and down, until you play the game the way it wants you to or you give up. I put 15 hours into Sekiro. I really tried hard. In the end, it was never rewarding, I had barely made progress past the first real boss. 2 months after putting it down I read this essay by Yussef Cole, which encouraged me to pick the game up again (and read Silence, which is now one of my favorite books). The game broke me down once again. I don’t know how Sekiro has this power over me. Usually I’m able to put a game down without a second thought. But not Sekiro. It sits in the back of my mind, knowing that I didn’t have the mental fortitude to push through and get it. I’m never going to go back, I’ll never play it again. But it will always be there.

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2019 kicked ass, dude.

My favorite game of 2019? Disco Elysium, what else could it possibly be? It’s the best rpg I’ve ever played and literally did nothing wrong, at all.

Did I grow to appreciate any games? Yes! After replaying Control a couple months back, it also became one of my absolute favorite games. The coolest shit I’ve ever seen. Did I sour on any? Well, The Outer Worlds was pretty disappointing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t really played that many games in 2020, so I don’t really have an anecdote about “slept-on” games. I played Eliza right around the end of 2019 and I kinda wish I played that earlier, to participate in the discussion, but that’s it.

Underdogs? Man, I wish more people played Ape Out. I feel like it’s gotten lost among the sheer glut of incredible games, and soundtracks, of 2019, and that’s a shame.

Summarizing 2019? Amazing music. The aforementioned Ape Out, as well as Outer Wilds, Untitled Goose Game, DIsco Elysium, Sayonara Wild Hearts, if last year is defined by anything, it’s the tunes.

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Oh, right, Control was 2019. Yeah, that’s the one for me. Admittedly, I haven’t played a whole lot of other 2019 games, but that one stuck with me in a way that makes me feel confident it would still be my GOTYLY even if I had played other 2019 releases.

Honourable mentions: Untitled Goose Game, Heaven’s Vault

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Devil May Cry V was my goty last year and I’ve not changed that stance, despite the contextual shit like the casting of Dante and Morrison and the guy who almost did vocals for Dante’s theme. It’s a game I was sure would never exist and as such had ludicrously high expectations for, and somehow it managed to surpass those expectations. I guess DMC is a weird franchise to properly care about the way I do but nevertheless, I do.

I’ve also been revisiting Fire Emblem 3 Houses via the DLC story which I never touched on release, which has reminded me of what that game is really good at. These characters are all great and the way the politics of the world underpin every conversation is really well done. I kinda forgot about that after getting to NG+2 and doing the church route, which turns out to be very boring. Gonna finish this DLC story and go streight into a proper Black Eagles playthrough and Do A Big Ol’ Revolution this time.

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2019 feels like it’s ancient history. It took me two trips through the list to remember anything about that year in games at all.

Having had some time to remember, 2019 was a holding pattern in video games (in the AAA space - it was a solid year for indie games). Basically everyone was holding their fire for next-gen. It didn’t take much for a game to stick out because the landscape was relatively bare. MK11 is a game that I’ve been back to a few times and I’m considering taking one more trip back to watch Rambo crawl out of a pile of leaves in the middle of the Cyber Lin Kuei Factory, but the game closest to my heart is Control.

2020, based on my running list of games I’ve finished, is shaping up to be a mighty fine year for games. A lot of the next-gen launch titles have been interesting, at the very least. And also we have Hades, which is easily my favorite game of the year.

Control was my GOTY 2020. In retrospect, I feel like I might have overrated it a tad, I found myself feeling no particular drive to go back and play the DLCs. I don’t think style over substance has to be a bad thing, but a year later I really don’t think much about that game, when it was so damn cool at the time. Maybe the gunplay was just merely okay and while the atmosphere was amazing, the story itself ended on a pretty bland statement (the bad guy sucks and the final “boss” fight was horrible, that’s a sour note to end on).

On the other hand, the DLC for Fire Emblem: Three Houses was just as forgettable, but did not change my opinion on that game. That one holds up. On the other hand, Kingdom Hearts III’s DLC made that game much, much better. Beating Yozora was the greatest gaming moment of the year for me. Action RPGs are only as good as their hardest boss, in my opinion, and KH3 vanilla did not have anything that pushed me.

In retrospect I find myself thinking much more about Death Stranding. That was such a crazier swing into totally uncharted territory. That game comes into my mind virtually every time I go hiking, especially going down a steep hill. Definitely helps that 2020 turned out to be a dystopian year of disintegration and isolation.

I also really miss BB…

Anyway, some other questions:

What games were the underdogs of 2019? First off, AI: The Somnium Files was really awesome, and more people should play that. But at this point you might as well play 13 Sentinels since that’s the current VN mystery hotness. Also, Katana Zero is much better than Ghostrunner. Adding an extra dimension made ninja cyberpunk mindbending games worse.

And Manifold Garden slaps.

How does 2020 look in comparison to 2019? Worse, actually. I think the “big” prestige games were far less interesting this year and in many cases, far worse. The Last of Us 2 is the Oscarbait game and its disgustingly awful. I have nothing but a bad feeling about Cyberpunk. Many of the other big AAA games do not impress me. Nothing is really trying insane experimental stuff like Death Stranding or have the style of Control. I really like FFVII: Remake at least. But like what, am I supposed to be excited by another AssCreed or Sony’s Samurai AssCreed? It doesn’t help that the new consoles feel so inessential at the moment too.

Both 2019 and 2020 feel like the AAA space has been pushed as far as it can go. Games take so long to make now. 2019 was the refractory year to build for the giant releases of 2020, and 2020 just hasn’t had the goods either, has it? This whole year was awful, so maybe that explains why I’m very unhappy about it. The new consoles have yet to offer me anything, and I feel like we’re still on multiple “off” years.

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Gonna think about some of these for a bit longer but here’s my responses to some of the questions.

What is your favorite game of 2019? What was it at the time , and what is it now ? If it’s changed, what caused you to change your opinion?
Far and away my favourite game of 2019 was Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’d never heard of Fire Emblem before and I wasn’t sure if it was really my sort of thing but this forum and the pod sold me on it as I had just bought a Switch and needed something that wasn’t my 12th completion of FFX to justify the expense and hoo boy 400 hours later that was a great purchase. I had to delete it off my hard drive this year because I have a massive backlog of other titles I haven’t touched because I mean I haven’t tried to complete a Black Eagle run with Felix and Lysithea.

Despite playing a lot of great games from last year, this year, I think my opinion is still firmly behind Three Houses. Just a great game all round, a great challenge, great characters with great interpersonal dynamics that were in service to a surprisingly great story. My only gripe with it is that the narrative has ruined a lot of other Nintendo titles for me as I find their narratives to either be lacking or just non-existent in comparison.

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games? Did more time with, distance from, or new perspectives on a given game change how you enjoyed it?

I played the Perils of Gorgon DLC for The Outer Worlds and I really don’t remember the combat in that game sucking so much. I had a really fun time with that world and enjoyed the whole sci-fi B movie vibe going on even if one run was enough for me but replaying this year felt like a chore in a way that for the first time prevented me from enjoying an Obsidian project. The inventory management in particular felt, if anything, worse than 2010’s New Vegas or even Knights of the Old Republic 2 where I had no idea if items were useful, what was better, and whether I needed to hold on to anything which left me over-encumbered all the time. Lots of it felt needlessly superfluous as well especially when it came to stat boosts as I never felt challenged enough to use it.

I know there’s one more DLC scheduled and while I enjoyed the voice acting and vibe of Gorgon I don’t know if I have it in me to play any more of this.

On a more positive note, I definitely 180’d on Death Stranding which I bought on release for two hours and didn’t touch for another 10 months. I know there was a whole raft of takes written a couple of months into the lockdown as once again it appeared that Kojima’s convoluted narrative and themes had somehow conspired to say something prescient about the future albeit far more rapidly than MGS2 predicting memes and the 24 hour news cycle. I think this didn’t resonate with me as much as it did the sheer raft of free time that working from home gave me. I’ve played a few games this year which boasted over 100 hours of content from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to Persona 5 Royal but Death Stranding felt like the game most tailored to lengthy daily sessions. I don’t think I’d have vibed with this game if I was playing it in small chunks but devoting 6-8 hours a day to gradually Rebuilding America and seeing the infrastructure as I listened to podcasts, played some nice ambient mixes or watched chilled streams and TV put me in a nice little relaxed mood that I’ve strived for in my Fallout 4 mods or No Man Sky sessions but never managed.

Kojima Unchained really put the fear of God into me as he’s a man I think has benefitted from having had some external oversight but despite some glaring errors of judgment (Mario and Princess Beach/ any and all combat in DS) I think his independent debut was a lot better than many people, and myself initially, expected it to be.

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2019 was an amazing year for video games. In comparison, I dunno if it’s because of covid or being a generational transition year or what, not too much came out in 2020 that I really enjoyed. I barely have enough games that came out in 2020 on my played list to actually fill out a top 10. Many of the entries will be there just by default.

My game of the year 2019 was Outer Wilds, and I don’t think my opinion on that game will ever change. It was a masterpiece, probably one of the best video game experiences i’ve ever had. There are games that I like playing more or will play again, and there are games that get game of the year some years just because they are default the best video games I played, but Outer Wilds is transcendent.

The Outer Worlds was #8 on my list and i’ve soured on that just in terms of the missed potential it had. I wasn’t that big on it at the time, apparent from it being #8, but looking back and just the fact that I can remember almost nothing of it is really disappointing. Obsidian had a chance to do their own thing and flex their writing muscle, show everyone else how it’s done, and they ended up with a bland predictable take on the evils of capitalism. Don’t get me wrong, i’ll watch people dunk on capitalism all day, but I expected something a bit more from them.

As usual the games from 2019 I overlooked until the later year(s) were mostly indie. Neo Cab, Later Alligator, Heaven’s Vault, Vision Soft Reset, all games that probably would have made it onto my list somewhere had I played them. Heaven’s Vault in particular I could see making it to the top 3.

My 2019 goty list has Outer Wilds, Blasphemous, and Eastshade on it. I don’t think I can summarize 2019’s themes other than it had some real bangers.

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I think my GOTY of 2019 was Disco Elysium, and it remains so now - unlike some commenting here, I don’t think it’s flawless; there are occasional places where it slightly misses the mark, and some checks which are more critical than they should be - it’s probably the best CRPG experience I’ve had.

So much so, in fact, that I can barely remember which other games I played in 2019.- looking back at my notes for the 2019 GOTY thread, that’s partly because I didn’t really play much [I actually only played Disco Elysium at the very start of 2020, and the same with **Baba is You** - on that latter game, I have mixed feelings - it has a lot more “really finicky sequence to solve this” puzzles than I want in a conceptual puzzle game].
My GOTY of games I played in 2019, Noita still holds out now - it’s a very different game to Disco Elysium, but now it’s out of early access, it remains one of my favourite roguelites of the last few years [and is going to be on my GOTY2020 list].

Of the other games of 2019 that people are talking a lot about, I actually didn’t play a lot of them because of them being Epic Store Exclusives (sorry, Phoenix Point, I kickstarter backed you, but really), and I’ve still not played a lot of them now, due to the ridiculous harddisk space that the AAA crowd of games apparently need. (I finally bought Divinity Original Sin 2 recently… and then discovered that it needs twice as much install space as I have free on my primary ssd; so I’m playing SHENZHEN IO instead…).

I think, in terms of opinion changing about games from 2019, mostly I decided that there was a limit to how much I wanted to play Magic The Gathering: Arena, given that at some level it still suffers from the same investment-to-win issues that the paper version does.

In the sense that I’ve played a lot more games in 2020 that I can remember, versus 2019, it does feel like 2020 is a better year for games, for me… but most of those games have either been old games, or not AAA releases [Hades is about as AAA as I’ve gotten this year].
So, from a “conventional games” perspective… I continue to feel sort of meh about the entire thing?

Disco Elysium. I believe last year I said Disco Elysium was the best game I had played, while Untitled Goose Game was my GOTY… I think in 2019, that was a fair statement, but sitting on Disco for a year and enjoying some great podcasts and video essays (RagnarRox had a great one!) has pushed it fully into being my favourite of 2019. (Though Untitled Geese Game is lowkey a GOTY 2020 competitor, so don’t read this as a souring on that lovely little title.)

There are several games from 2019 I didn’t play until this year, including Daemon X Machina, Dicey Dungeons, Mutazione, Wilmot’s Warehouse, Anodyne 2, Mable & The Wood, Conversations with Emma, All Would Cry Beware, Astrologaster, Pikuniku, A Short Hike, The Space Between, and Task Force Kampas. All of them were fairly good, and if you bought the itchio bundle this year, you own everything from Mable & The Wood on.

I soured on Kingdom Hearts 3, which wasn’t exactly a GOTY contender to begin with, because I really did not care for the Re:Mind DLC (or its obscene price tag). The original game was a fun mess, but the DLC’s attempt to resolve the story made the problems I could gloss over last year stick out. Kairi deserves better.

Daemon X Machina was much more enjoyable than the reviews at the time led me to believe it’d be, and I should have picked up Dicey Dungeons myself (a friend gifted it to me for my birthday), it was very much my jam and I could feel it, but still didn’t grab it when it came out like it deserved.

I’m still sleeping on Eliza, I desperately want to play that one.

Hypnospace Outlaw deserves a lot more love; I think it slips from people’s minds compared to the stellar heavy hitter indies of last year, but it really was an absolute gem of a game with an incomparable soundtrack and a perfect aesthetic.

A Bewitching Revolution is free, and not the kind of game most people would play, but I really loved it and think the sorts of people who are on the Waypoint forums would love it too.

It was pretty solid, primarily in the indie scene. Great narratives, interesting gameplay, a horrible goose. Outer Wilds is one of the best games I’ve played and still didn’t make my Top 5 of 2019. There were some big disappointments in the AAA scene, The Outer Worlds and Wolfenstein: Youngblood, but most of the other big games I played were at least decent ways to kill a few dozen hours.

2020 in games was great compared to everything else about 2020, but I don’t think it has as many stand-out games as 2019. More disappointments, fewer memorable titles, not as many games that give me a strong feeling of creativity (Super Mario Maker 2), nostalgia (Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night), that mix of relief and elation when I solve a tricky puzzle (Baba is You), d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-dueling (Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution). There was even a good exercise game (Ring Fit Adventure)! And Link’s Awakening on Switch > Demon’s Souls on PS5.

But I will say, in terms of Tetsuya Nomura nonsense, I liked FF7R a lot more than KH3. So that’s something, anyway.

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What is your favorite game of 2019? What was it at the time , and what is it now ? If it’s changed, what caused you to change your opinion?

At the very tail-end of 2019 got myself wrapped in Jedi: Fallen Order like a childhood blanket. 2019 had been a really bizarre year for me: I’d left two jobs (bad), failed to graduate with my full degree (worse) gotten engaged (GREAT). Fallen Order was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was a return to a universe that I had loved as a kid but with a maturity and sensitivity that I don’t think I’ve found in any other recent Star War media.

It was what I needed to help me decompress and get myself ready for what ended up being a real motherfucker of a year.

The game I played immediately after Fallen Order in January this year was Death Stranding and that basically flattened every AAA I have played in the last 10 years. Everything about Death Stranding is anathema to my sensibilities. I abhor inventory management, I’m not particularly patient, and survival games don’t really hold my attention. But Kojima and his team are absolute pros at mechanical design, something I don’t think is talked about enough. All of Kojima’s games have thoughtful, engaging, and unconventional mechanics that make you think about how you’re playing the game, while you’re playing it. It was such a pleasant experience to have all my usual muscle memory for big games subverted or tweaked by Death Stranding. It got me back into walking as well, which benefitted me more in 2020 that I would have expected at the time.

Just a goddamn sensational true original. I love that Kojima is getting to make these massive, personal experiments at this scale.

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return? It’s always hard to keep up with all the releases, so a lot of us ended up playing last year’s best in 2020. What about you?

I’m currently making my way through Judgment and I feel that this game was heavily slept-on by the non-Yakuza fanatics. Like a Dragon is currently on everyone’s minds as ‘the game they shook things up with’ but I think they already did that with Judgment. Judgment proved that RGG Studio can write a very different kind of story and structure than they have with the previous Yakuza’s.

I also played ALL the Yakuzas this year (bar the OG 1&2, and the Feudal Era Japan games) so I am intimately familiar with how Nagoshi and crew make games. Judgment is an absolute treat for people with that kind of history with the series.

How does 2020 look in comparison to 2019? Does it look better or worse in juxtaposition? Or does it look only slightly different? Or entirely the same?

It’s a huge bummer to me that the vast majority of the discourse has been taken up by the Remake discussion, because that’s basically all that non-indie space has to offer us now. If not for the FF7 Remake (my current GOTY pick), I probably wouldn’t have bought a 2020 release. At least that one was better than every other remake released, before or since.

To be fair, I basically stopped playing games in July because of my job. Being unemployed during a pandemic gives you a lot of time to charge through games (hence the Yakuza binge). I’m almost glad there has been so little of interest to me because don’t really need the distraction from other things going on in my life that need my full and undivided attention.

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Oh gosh, I completely forgot Judgment came out last year (I thought it came out in 2018 for some reason). My understanding is that Judgment wildly exceeded Sega’s sales expectations - enough so to warrant a sequel - but I still don’t hear many people talk about it much. It’s the perfect gateway into the Yakuza franchise and a great game unto itself.

The main character (Takayuki Yagami) is voiced by Greg Chun, who did the voice of Mr. Kaji in the Netflix dub of Evangelion, and also provided a voice to Tacoma. I watched Steve Gaynor of Gone Home and Tacoma (and Minerva’s Den) fame play through Judgment on Twitch and had a very good time.

I had four personal GOTY contenders last year, without any others that really came close, and I still think about those four games as a kind of group. That said, while their order changes around a lot, but Outer Wilds almost always occupies the top spot, and it remains a game that I just can’t stop thinking about. Calamity is such a frequent topic in games as a medium, but the approach that game takes to it and the story it weaves around it moved me on the deepest possible level, and the clockwork way its universe fit together and moved just filled me with awe every time I opened it up.

My other loves from last year were Control, Death Stranding, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. And it makes me happy to see that DS is growing on people in the way that it’s seemed to in this hell year, because, despite some of its more indulgent moments, I found it utterly fascinating and enthralling. I remember getting entirely lost in it for about a month last November, deeper than I have in almost any other game I’ve ever played. Back when its initial trailers debuted, my secret inner hope was that it would be a weird, Kojima-inflected Breath of the Wild, and in some ways that was actually what it turned out to be. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I’d engage with its multiplayer, and how unique an experience that would make exploring its world.

Control and Sekiro meanwhile are a pair of phenomenal games that I wholly enjoyed, the former for its narrative and weird fiction vibe and the latter for its world and feel and impeccable combat system.

Death Stranding has only grown on me due to the specific conditions of this year, and at various points I’ve thought about going back and playing it again. I decided against it for the same reason I’ve never replayed Breath of the Wild (and will probably never replay Outer Wilds) — the joy of exploring and navigating that world was such a big part of it for me that I don’t think the experience would measure up to the memory of it all. But the core of that game has just felt so important, in a way I have a hard time vocalizing, in the midst of the swirling mass of existential danger that 2020 has really forefronted.

There are a few 2019 games I’ve only played this year: Blasphemous being a big standout, as well as Neo Cab and, essentially, Devotion, which is virtually unplayable unless you a) bought it in the week it was available or b) *coughs loudly while glancing at forum rules. Devotion, long story short, is one of the best horror games I’ve ever played. It might be the best, honestly, depending on whether you’d consider SOMA and/or Bloodborne horror games. It’s like a Silent Hill 2 via Edith Finch that’s wrapped up in time and memory and surrealist imaginings of a man’s despair. The fact that it is also a Sad Dad™ game is only just crossing my mind, but it is, and it might be the best of those too.

There are also some games I’ve been meaning to go back to that I still haven’t managed — chief being Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Disco Elysium. I know I would like both, and I already own FE so it’s really just carving out the gargantuan amount of time I’ll need that I need to do. Those might very well end up cracking my list.

Oh, and one final entry: I bounced off of Untitled Goose Game when it was all the craze last winter, but playing it co-op with my partner has been such a fun experience that I’m now much much brighter on it than I was before.

I already talked about my underdog — that being Devotion, though it’s an underdog for different reasons than one might usually be. That said, being pulled off all storefronts because the developers faced retaliation from an actual state feels like an appropriate underdog move, so I think it fits the definition.

Though uh… it’s in no way an underdog because it won the frickin’ Keighley last year, but I also feel like Sekiro hasn’t had the longevity I expected it to? Maybe that has more to do with the internet communities I run in though than anything else. Anyway, fucking love that game, and whenever I try to organize my personal Top 10 I find it impossible to choose between it, Bloodborne, and DS2 for the Fromsoft spot.

For me, it was topheavy. There were a few games I really adored, and then a lot that I was never quite too crazy about. Platformers and metroidvanias have always been my favorite genre, so 2018 set a really high bar in that area that 2019 just didn’t meet (2018 was also, in general, a sleeper year for incredible games and kinda dominated the games I played last year). What it gave me instead were a couple of brilliant, unique experiences in Outer Wilds and Death Stranding that I will always remember from it. It was also the year I finally broke into Dark Souls and played all the Fromsoft games (that I could at least, sorry Demon’s Souls), and I’m also just always going to remember it for several games that didn’t come out in it. Just like I’ll probably remember 2020 more as the year I fell in love with Bloodborne, but that’s another post.

Speaking of…

I haven’t played as many (new) games in 2020, largely because I haven’t felt up to the longer adventures that are usually my taste. The early part of the year was dominated by Apple Arcade games, and then the early pandemic months had me replaying Bloodborne and Deus Ex. And now I’m back in school and have other things taking up my time for the first time in a while, so I feel like I’ve played fewer of its major releases (but also that there have been fewer games in general that I felt like I’d vibe with). There are really only two games I’d consider in contention for a GOTY list — one as the best game of the year (no surprises here), and one for giving me a moment and sequence that still leaves me in awe when I think about it (and one that I think I may be wholly alone on, which is a fun and interesting place to be in). But we’ll see! Maybe I’ll fall in love with some 2020 releases next year, as it seemingly always goes.

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My favorite game of 2019 is still Sekiro. That game is so fuckin’ good that it unfortunately made Nioh 2 feel worse this year.

Generally my opinion on 2019 hasn’t changed very much. I’m still waiting for Disco Elysium to be available on a platform I have access to, and I may as well just wait for the next-gen upgrade of Control at this point.

I think 2019 and 2020 are pretty similar in terms of “number of games that I liked enough to feel strongly about,” but one major difference that I’m seeing at a glance is that 2019 was mostly games that I played through and put away (Sekiro, Fire Emblem, Resident Evil 2, Outer Wilds, Code Vein), whereas a lot of my top games in 2020 are of the Infinigame variety. I’ve put 600+ hours into Granblue Fantasy: Versus since it came out in March. A few hundred hours into Genshin Impact since September. Who knows how many runs/attempted runs through Hades. There have been single player games along the way (13 Sentinels hello), but comparatively 2019 didn’t really have anything where I felt “okay I guess I’m just going to play this forever.”)

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Favorite game of 2019 was Slay the Spire and my opinion hasn’t changed.
Of the 2019 games I played that year, I think I appreciate A Robot Named Fight more now (even though it was in my top ten). It had a lot of content updates and I didn’t see the “final” ending until 2020. Would be closer to Slay the Spire now.
Quite a few 2019 games were slept on! I really liked Death Stranding, one of the best I played this year. Risk of Rain 2 also excellent. Blasphemous and Void Bastards stood out as well.
It generally got attention but I don’t think Dragon Quest Builders 2 got the praise it deserved last year.
2019 didn’t seem like a end of generation year, just kind of business as usual…but I did notice reoccurring theme of the generational passing of the torch, parents and their relationships with their children…but this is more of a trend in the last few years: games like God of War, Yakuza 6, Control, even pokemon sword/shield to some degree.
2020…god knows…maybe in hindsight I can talk about it. new console releases don’t really matter to m3 right now but it is disheartening to read about scalpers basically taking over the online marketplace. Animal Crossing became much bigger than it probably would have and gradually fizzled out (as all games do, this isn’t a knock)

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FFXIV Shadowbringers was the best for most of the year, it put WoW and the last two console generations of Final Fantasies to shame in demonstrating the power of long-term storytelling and operating entirely within its means. The ending is spectacular, and the updates concluding the story through this year have only cemented it as an all-time great MMO expansion.

Outer Wilds just barely surpassed it for showing the value of curiosity-driven exploration in a medium becoming more and more obsessed with carrot-on-stick design ethos. It fits alongside BOTW and Obra Dinn in making you really consider the space you’re in, and the way the thematic core is executed on in the ending is beyond compare.

Control was the most aesthetically focused game Remedy has ever made, outside of some unwelcome difficulty spikes, it’s just plain great. I haven’t finished DMC5 but it’s an unbelievably well made action game in both low and high end game feel.

Most of 2020’s games are “just fine”, Spider-Man MM and Ghost of Tsushima are pure comfort food that at least have resonant stories. Animal Crossing: New Horizons sands down too much of the friction and personality of the series until what we’re left with is a very artificial-feeling diorama creator. Ori 2 is shockingly shoddy in its lack of mechanical focus and meandering story. FF7R has some honestly mediocre combat and is an excellent case study in showing what happens when writers aren’t willing to kill their darlings. Avengers is videogame mush.

The one big surprise was one I was expecting to be a mess, but Half-Life Alyx gobsmacked me in being a true return to form for the great Valve single-player game. Sharp writing and some of the best level design in most shooters (the Jeff level is a GOAT section). It makes me wonder where the Valve capable of games this good had gone, and it’s a shame that the VR barrier will keep most people from experiencing it.

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What is your favorite game of 2019?

Outer Wilds was my favourite game by a country mile and I don’t think that’s changed at all. Nothing has really come this year and given me that same feeling. It’ll probably be a while. It’s just a masterpiece. The kind of game I wish I could go back to and discover for a first time.

**Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year?

I had my moment in Death Stranding fairly early on, when I was attempting to cross a river and it was like this big fable about how the exhausted man tried wading out into the river only to be swept away and all loot swept away. It was enough for me, to appreciate Death Stranding. However, I do think after everything that’s happened this year, the game and it’s message has become resonant. Before it felt like a big statement about ‘everything so unconnected in our connected world’. Kojima probably didn’t know COVID was going to happen but mannn… Death Stranding feels way more relatable to 2020 as most of us are all bunkered down.

Also I started to learn how to code this year so Baba Is You has grown stronger in my appreciation for it.

I’m still trying to play through Control (this time on PC with the Ray Tracing) but I still don’t think it speaks to me. I love all the lore surrounding the bureau of control, I love the Oldest House as a setting and a concept. I love all the kooky videos. But I just don’t know. I find it very hard to just sit down and complete that game. I’ve gotten to the bit in which you find Jess’s brother which was exactly where I left it on Xbox.

I still can’t beat Genichiro. The game is still installed on my xbox so I’ve been dipping in every other week…

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return?

Slay the Spire infinitely. It’s great. I’ve played it more than Hades probably.

Still haven’t played Disco Elysium yet…

What games were the underdogs of 2019?

I played Short Hike on the Switch and loved it. Only learned about it via Patrick talking about how it missed the boat last year. Again, Baba Is You is incredible. It’s such a simple game but really only makes sense when your playing it.

If you could summarize 2019’s year of games, how would you?

My view is that 2019 was a bit of a middling year in general with some standout exceptions. Outer Wilds was fantastic, a game about expoloration and puzzle solving with a small clockwork universe all backed by a beautiful soundtrack. I feel most of the big games were kind of treading water with exception to Sekiro, Resident Evil 2 (with some reservations) and Death Stranding. Apex Legends came out of nowhere and probably still remains my favourite battle royale game. Zelda: Link’s Awakening was marvelous. A couple of diamonds in a pretty middling year.

How does 2020 look in comparison to 2019?

2020 has been better in general. Especially from the triple-A space. Especially Final Fantasy VII Remake, which I couldn’t put down and whose soundtrack I listen to on a daily basis. Doom Eternal took me a while to come round to, but now I am round, I’m of the opinion that it’s the best action game since Sekiro (and one that I actually beat). Ghosts of Tshuma was better than it had any right to be and I’m really getting into 13 Sentinels currently, which is so much more anime than anything I’m used to. So it’s been a great year to own a Playstation 4.

I have definitely had more time to actually play games this year and by that token I’ve grown more critical of the games that demand more time from me. I think the wheels are coming off the whole games as service for me. Destiny 2 just doesn’t hold the same appeal anymore. Even Animal Crossing just became a chore when my friendlist started making daily turnip charts and whatsapp groups. It’s made me appreciate the more story driven games, that give you more agency. A big moment came when my friend group started playing Sea of Thieves every Friday night instead of Destiny. It’s just so much fun, you never know what’s going to happen, we laugh, we cry, we cheer. Our time with the game feels more meaningful as a result.

I feel as if I’m trying to clear my schedule for Cyberpunk 2077. I started the year getting back into The Witcher 3, and there are few open world RPGs that are as good, so my expectations are high for Cyberpunk.

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I still haven’t played a ton from 2019 and so I’ll skip the meta questions about the year itself in games. I suspect that I’ll really get into Disco Elysium but haven’t had the chance to do so yet.

I did play Outer Wilds this year, and it delivered on everything Austin and company promised and more. I consider it to be one of the most uniquely and intricately designed games I have ever played, and also one of the most emotionally affecting. I think about it all the time, and while I may go play and play it again, I know that the second trip through simply can’t replicate that original process of discovery. There is no game I wish more to go back and replay for the first time. Many of my other favourite games, like Dishonored for instance, in some ways get better and better with additional playthroughs. But Outer Wilds delivered for me a specific feeling of awe that is really, really special.

Other games I revisited this year and continue to have mixed feelings on despite being very well received. Sadly Sekiro just doesn’t work for me. I really loved the feeling of 1v1 combat, and I still want to believe that I’ll come back to it one day and see it through. But all of the fighting and stealth between the bosses and minibosses was a huge drag for me. And while I also think it’s a beautiful game, the lore never clicked for me because I feel like I never understood the world at all. Maybe that last bit is on me, I dunno.

I have similarly mixed feelings about RDR2, which originally released in 2018 but came to PC in 2019. It’s a game that doesn’t know what it wants to be, in my view. I really enjoyed the frontier sim of it, hunting, camping, fishing, developing a relationship with your camp and horse. But then every story beat devolves into the same extremely mediocre shooting gallery where you massacre an army of faceless goons. What’s more, the slower paced simulation parts of the game that I vibed with become mechanically pointless when the game’s broken economy gives me more money than I can spend through story missions. Narratively, my gang is always desperate for the means to survive, but secretly my Arthur is the richest dude around. And finally, of course, Rockstar. I got this game as a gift so I played it. But all the prettiness of it has a real human cost that I could never see past.

I’ll just add that I think the Halo: MCC deserves a shout out. The constituent games have rolled out over time, but it originally launched on PC in late 2019. While my tastes have really moved away from straight forward shooters and basically anything ooh-rah military super-soldier blah blah, Halo was one of my favourite things as a kid and for years after I switched to PC I was desperate to re-live the original trilogy. And I now know that 13-year-old me was dead wrong for thinking H3 was the best of the series when H2 is a vastly more interesting game. I don’t love Halo like I used to, but those games still play pretty well and I’m glad I got to experience the romp again. Still debating whether I’ll bother pushing past the first couple levels of Halo 4, which just seems to be More Halo with a different filter. With no sign that Halo 5 will be coming to PC just yet (unless I’ve missed something), there’s not much incentive to seeing through 343’s trilogy.

As far as 2020 goes, I’ve played a handful of really, really great games. I continue struggle with whether DOOM: Eternal is a better than D2016, but I was able to get past the feeling of being overwhelmed and liked it a lot in the end. I don’t know if I will ever truly master Spelunky 2, but I loved my time with it. I am currently obsessed with Hades, having only gotten around to it recently. And finally, Black Mesa went 1.0 this year and is well worth your time, whether or not you have history with the original Half Life.

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Slay the spire. I’m not as into it as i was then but i got plenty of time out of it and would still consider it my favorite

i grew to appreciate Disco Elysium but thats mostly because i barely got a chance to play it in 2019

people slept on DOTA Autochess. sure its a mod and it did have its time but it ended up being eaten up by Teamfight Tactics

i don’t entirely see the difference between slept on and underdog tbh

2019 was eclectic with some top tier games and generally a bunch of stuff in differet genres

i barely bought any games in 2020. might be because of my financial situation and might be due to playing games from 2019 and before but there just haven’t been many that i’ve played

Oh i forgot to mention hypnospace outlaw anywhere. Its a super good game and id highly recommend it. Super funny and has catchy music

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