I did a real quick post of my favorite games for 2019, but the format was inspired after seeing you guys talk about your favorite games of the goddamn decade. It was an especially good format seeing as how I didn't play all that many new games over 2019. I did enjoy a lot of games, no doubt, but not many contending for the 2019 title. Honorable mentions outside of the year go to Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime on the Switch, for allowing easy four-player havoc for a game originally from Steam, and Overcooked 2. My Switch saw mostly good time together with friends but I decided to budget a bit and skip over a lot of the Switch's biggest titles like Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Astral Chain, and Luigi's Mansion 3, but I intend on getting to them soon this year after having some time and money set aside for my Switch. Though with Animal Crossing New Horizon looming to hold my gaze on Nintendo, something is telling me last year was all about PS4 but 2020 will be for Nintendo.
The games below were actually pretty easy for me to pick. They all released between 2010 and now, and they'll all titles I remember clearly for leaving a big feeling of satisfaction that I never quite felt replicated in the samne exact way. From superbly made games that stand alone to games that defined the ecosystem around them with their design or popularity, these games don't quite have any challengers when it comes to what they represent.
Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3
Back when the Marvel Vs Capcom series was a respected intitution, it was also considered an old institution. MvC2 looked positively ancient compared to fighting games we were playing in the decade. It was Marvel 3 that brought the legacy into the new era to be played by a new generation of heroes.
UMvC3 was the hypest shit back in the day, responsible for fast-paced, come from behind matches with the most well known roster of characters known anywhere. We'd already seen Wolverine fight Ryu before, but what about pitting Dante versus Nova, or Haggar versus The Hulk, or even Phoenix Wright versus Rocket Raccoon? Playground arguments were turned into a reality thanks to this series and UMvC3 was the pinnacle of the hyper fighting formula that Dragonball FighterZ has only picked up off the ground.
It amazing to see Bayonetta 1 and 2 together, the difference between the two are literally night and day. The darker tones of the first Bayonetta set this sort of dark, demonic overtones despite Bayonetta's outlandish and boisteress personality. I very much prefer Bayonetta 2 for it's bright blues and greens acting a unifying color scheme. Bayonetta 2 also improves the variety of the game design overall, with more weapons like a bow Kafka or the hammer Takemikazuchi, and more enemy variety extending the enemy flavor from angels to the demons.
Bayonetta 2 to me is the game that brought action games back after the absence of the Devil May Cry series. If it weren't for Bayo, I think there wouldn't be as much hype for DMC5, keeping the engine warm for character action games.
Binding of Isaac
I associate the return of the roguelike to no other game but Binding of Isaac. Sure, lots of people are glad to be free of Isaac's stiff cardinal direction shooting and not knowing what the fuck item you just got is an incredible pain in the ass, but Isaac to me felt like the purest experience of the roguelike with a pool of equal chances for fortune and failure. But if you adept at a certain style and lady luck gave you a taste of your preferred juice, you could start juicing hard.
Isaac also pioneered that feeling of mystery in depth for me. That feeling when you did especially well at the end of the game in the basement, only to see a portal open up telling you it's not over yet, it's time to dip into hell. With a crazy number of items, all changing how you play from move speed, projectile speed, beam weapons, hominh attributes, and more, Isaac was endlessly replayable for me.
Monster Hunter : World
The game that needs no introduction, the title that singlehandedly brought Capcom out of creative mediocrity and into the limelight of beloved companies once again, Monster Hunter: World did the impossible and brought Capcom's flagship cult favorite into the mainstream eye where it flourished like no other title before it.
More than just modernizing systems and mechanics, World is known for subtly influencing the idea of Monster Hunter of being a game about fighting boss monsters 24/7 to being a game about entering a living, breathing ecosystem filled with wild animals, including the kind that spit fireballs. The turf wars especially added a real sense of a food chain and ecosystem dominance by larger, more powerful creatures. So if you thought anjanath was a tall order to hunt, just wait until you get a load of the monster who trumps it, Rathalos. Then comes the monster that trumps Rathalos, Rajang. And I wouldn't wish Rajang on my worst enemy.
Mass Effect 2
Nothing says ambitious like the Mass Effect series. Promising a long-form narrative spanning three games, ME1 was messy, chunky fun time while ME3 fumbled the ball hard with it's ending and payoff. I still loved the ride of Mass Effect 3 before the point of no return and I need a special shout out to multiplayer, as it is much better and developed than what most people give it credit for, but Mass Effect 2 is what made Bioware what it is today.
Everything teased about a greater universe was opened up in much greater detail now in ME2. You learn more about the warlike Krogan, the Quarian space gypsies, the Asaris of galactic Themiscara, and a lot of other galatictic political theaters like between civilized space and the lawless outer rim. ME2 gave me some of my favorite characters of all time like Tali'zorah Vas Normandy, Legion, Grunt, Mordin, and Garrus. In fact, the Quarian-Geth conflict is one of my favorite arcs of any medium, and is defintely the kind of thing I'd watch any one enjoy vicariously through. Mass Effect in its prime was truly a modern Star Wars, before Star Wars happened (again).
I continually come back to singing Warframe's praises because it was one of the first games I played that really did what I thought was impossible right: make a fun free-to-play game. It isn't a mobile game, it isn't a puzzle game, it isn't some resource managemnet game (sorta), but rather it was a fully fledged action-shooter with an entrancing lore behind it.
Warframe in its early game never felt like a game that would be significantly easier to enjoy if I spent money on it. It always has what you want within grasp as long as you manage your time and recognize that Warframe is similar to other farming games like MMOs or hunting games. Nowadays it's feature creep has very tall orders on grinding that really makes me want to slap some cash down, but in the beginning just scraping up a few random materials to turn into a new shotgun was a real joy beyond the strangely engaging narrative that works its way from the background until it is front and center for you, causing you to ask tought quetions about the origins of key characters and the lore of the universe around and after the fall of the Orikin Empire.
Warframe is a great free-to-play game that you'll get so many enjoyable hours out of, spending a buck or two on cool cosmetics will feel like it deserves it and really it does in most aspects.
Breath of the Wild
Nintendo is synomous with the more of the same formula. The fact that Breath of the Wild exists as it does at all is some miracle in risk taking. Instead of the same Zelda game we've experienced time and again, we got something so new and different, it felt familiar all over again.
I'm sure you've seen people compare Breath of the Wild to the original Legend of Zelda. It's a massive open-world with almost zero rails funneling you into a specific direction. You're handed a hang glider after leaving the plateau and that's it, not even a sword. But things like shrines to puzzle over or natural landmarks to see in the distance feed an insatiable wanderlust in all but the most surliest of gamers taking on Breath of the Wild. I still remember seeing one of the great dragons in the distance at night and wondering just how many people at the time had seen such a thing in their copy of the game. That's a feeling you're not likely to feel in just any game, where you feel like everyone is playing the same game and experiencing the same things. Breath of the Wild changed how I view Nintendo games as I knew it.
The holy combo of Yoko Taro's wacky multi-game spanning narrative with Platinum's eye for smooth combat come together to form the mysterious package that is Nier: Automata, a game I love for its gameplay as much as it's story, which is a very difficult balance to do. Even Bayonetta I find incomprehensible but I love playing it. But the story of 2B and 9S, journeying through a descent into war and madness with robots all while sliding and slashing through way through an outrageous blending of gameplay and narrative was enthralling. I'll never forget the first time I had to repel a hack attack which hit me suddenly and the hack gameplay happened so smoothly between fading in and out of actual combat.
The thing that relly stuck to me was the effect it had on me when I finished the game. I never replayed it. Not to this day. The ramifications of what I had just done had me content and I didn't wish to disturb my save file after everything that had happened to it. The only other game to do that to me is the next game on this list.
No game had me laughing or shocked or invested more on first playthrough then Undertale. Like how Breath of the Wild had reinvented itself, Undertale felt like a reimagining of what it meant to be an RPG narrative to me. The way each bullet hell battle was unique to each battle encounter and represented so much character and personality, just from absorbing damaging little dots and sometimes bones.
Every little thing you do, no matter how small or pointless, has rewarding little nuggets of text describing little inane actions and thoughts like I was listening to the funniest DM in the world narrate the most ridiculous game of Dungeons and Dragons to me. And by the time you finish it, everyone has a favorite character, no matter how big or small that character's role is, you'll love that character for who he or she is.
Dead Space 2
The story of Dead Space is both an inspiration and a tragedy. Between two games, Dead Space became something close to perfection to pretty much the peak of survival horror. Then between another two games it went from the peak to a hard fall thanks to exeutive meddling. Dead Space 2 is, of course, the Empire Strikes Back of the Dead Space trilogy, capitalizing on all the strengths of the first while never being pulled in by the mistakes that would only follow in its future. It also helps that sci-fi horror was largely unrepresented in games.
Like any good survival horror, it's all about resource management, and Dead Space always gives you the tools to handle any threat, just not the space. Everyone loves the plasma cutter, the best example of a starter weapon that never loses its luster. You can easily horde tons of plasma cutter ammo but it's still one gun that'll run out eventually. Maybe you can stock extra health packs? Or bring ammo along with a trusty secondary? The line gun? The contact beam? Ripper-chan? But what about stasis packs for your powerful stasis ability? And just what exactly awaits you anyways on The Sprawl?
Grand Theft Auto gets a lot of credit for cinematic, open-world experiences, but I've felt it's always sacrificed a lot of fine tuned movement to get to its scale. I never once thought fist fighting or gun fights were particularly well done, just servicable. Sleeping Dogs however, handles as well as a Honk Kong action movie come to life should. Playing as undercover cop Wei Shen, every segment of gameplay is clear cut and handles like it should. Close combat kung fu is fast and snappy, with a variety of techniques to use. Gun play feels looser than others but that's to emphasize the John Woo-style gunplay.
It's criminal how it came out so early in the decade and now at the end the zeitgeist is mostly GTAV, GTA Online, and Red Dead 2. But I suppose Sleeping Dogs did enjoy a long period of prosperity with multiple DLC packs and even a remaster on current consoles. Sometimes I feel like this game should get more praise and respect but that would mean that a sequel could be made to bring it back into the public eye.
The little indie game that could is now one of the biggest ones ever. Shovel Knight has gone from a goofy little knight character to a respect pillar of the community who even guest stars in other games. All because the initial pitch was so well received that Yacht Club Games ended up with a project far bigger than their initial expectations. But while other devs would be crushed by such expectations, Yacht Club Games has spent the better part of the decade churning out all their promised content, slowly but surely. And they now have the distinction of closing out the decade with their final DLC release, King of Cards.
It's amazing how the same game is basically it's own series. Shovel of Hope introduced us to the lovable world of Shovel Knight but Plague of Shadows and Spectre of Torment continually expand on the formula in new ways to make each character feel unique. It's not just a throwback as the beautiful pixelart would tell you, it's a mastery of what made old games great, executed perfectly.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
There isn't a whole lot to say about Animal Crossing. You either love it's charm or hate its aimless direction. But New Leaf was a success of its time, portable on the 3DS yet capable of visiting other towns online. You can open it up whenever you want, wherever you want, and the Streetpass feature unique to the 3DS gave you a unique way of connecting to new people and seeing their own homes.
Over my time playing New Leaf, it allowed me to connect to so many people and establish a relationship with them. Even barring the social aspect, the likable cast of characters are all charming, including the villagers despite using a varied template. Two villagers may have the same personality but they still weren't the same animal or design. I love all the penguins in the series, but Hopper is my personal fav because he was my penguin.