Illustration for article titled Jason Schreiers Top 10 Games Of 2019
Year In ReviewYear In ReviewWe look back at the highs, lows, surprises, and standouts in and around video games this year.

It’s been a challenging year for many reasons here at Kotaku—well, really just one reason—and I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know that 2019 had a lot of really cool video games. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

From lightsabers to logic puzzles, here are my top ten games of the year, starting with three games that completely blew me away followed by seven games I loved a lot.

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Illustration for article titled Jason Schreiers Top 10 Games Of 2019

Outer Wilds

Combining the time-hopping structure of Majora’s Mask with the ambitious spacefaring of Metroid, Outer Wilds is one of the best games I’ve ever played, period. It’s a treat to play through, a cerebral and rewarding archaeological adventure through deep space and goofy ancient alien civilizations. The controls take some getting used to, but once you’ve started getting the hang of Outer Wilds’s rhythms, unraveling its mysteries is a real joy. And the music! The music! What a game, what an accomplishment, what an ending, what an experience. If you haven’t played this, please do. [Played on: PC]


Illustration for article titled Jason Schreiers Top 10 Games Of 2019
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Disco Elysium

Take the old-school isometric gameplay of Planescape: Torment, strip out the combat, and stuff it full of brilliant stories to create Disco Elysium, a game about decay, communism, and choosing whether or not to stick your thumb in your ass. Although it’s really more of a visual novel than a role-playing game, Disco Elysium should appeal to anyone who loves narrative, great writing, and games that make you really sit and ponder the potential consequences of your decisions. Plus you can have a heart attack from kicking a mailbox too hard. [Played on: PC]

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Illustration for article titled Jason Schreiers Top 10 Games Of 2019
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Baba Is You

One of the fundamental principles of game design is to take an idea, introduce it to the player in as simple as way as possible, and then find ways to make it increasingly more complicated or subverted throughout the game. Baba Is You executes this principle about as well as any game I’ve ever played. The concept is straightforward: every word is an object or state, and every sentence is a rule. Beating a level requires you to make contact between whatever object is “You” and whatever object is “Win.” All you can do is move in the four cardinal directions and push words and objects around. The first few levels are straightforward. Then, things start getting trickier. The words grow more complicated, the objects are placed in tougher locations, the levels start to convince you you’re a genius for solving them. Soon enough, you’ll feel like you’ve ascended to your very own version of the galaxy brain meme. [Played on: Switch]

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Illustration for article titled Jason Schreiers Top 10 Games Of 2019
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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

This was the year I really fell in love with From Software games—after only sort of appreciating them before—so it’s no surprise that Sekiro blew me away, even if I did get stuck on that Genichiro fight (stupid lightning) and had to stop playing for a while. What I love most about this game is the verticality. Hopping around and flinging yourself through the air with a grappling hook is just about as fun as it gets, even when you know that every time you die, one of your buddies gets the plague. [Played on: PC]

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Illustration for article titled Jason Schreiers Top 10 Games Of 2019
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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Whereas most of my favorite games of 2019 were innovative and original, sometimes you just have to appreciate a good piece of comfort food. Jedi Fallen Order takes the best parts of every AAA game out there—the sword fighting of Sekiro, the power climb of Metroid, the cinematic scale of God of War, the climbing of Uncharted—and puts them all in a beautiful, well-designed package that never feels stale. It’s also got the best Star Wars story of the year by far. [Played on: PC]

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Control

I have an appreciation for video games that feel like novels, and Remedy’s Control is up there with the best of them, combining smooth, satisfying combat with a clear artistic point of view. The ending is a little underwhelming, but exploring the Oldest House is really delightful, and the art direction is something to behold. Also, you can fly. [Played on: PC]

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Dragon Quest Builders 2

The first Dragon Quest Builders was a lovely surprise, a combination of Dragon Quest and Minecraft that out-shined them both. The second improves upon its predecessor in just about every way, streamlining some of the first game’s fiddlier aspects and adding some grand new features, like a Breath of the Wild-style hang-glider that lets you soar across the map. Perhaps my favorite part of the game is that you can go explore other people’s creations. I’ll never have the time or wherewithal to build a massive, bustling town in Dragon Quest Builders 2, but I sure am glad other people did. [Played on: Switch]

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses

There are nearly 20 screenshots on the Nintendo Switch page for Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but not a single one contains actual gameplay. They’re all just anime characters in different poses. Really, is there any better way to sum up this game? [Played on: Switch]

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Shovel Knight: King of Cards

This year marked the end of the Shovel Knight saga, which started with a humble Kickstarter in 2013 and somehow morphed into five games along the way. The developers at Yacht Club Games have clearly honed their platforming design skills over those years, as King of Cards is the best one yet. The levels are short, sweet, and full of secrets. The optional card game is better than you’d guess. And King Knight—the petulant, horrifying hero of this prequel story—has a Wario-like heft to his moves that make the game feel weighty and really satisfying. [Played on: Switch]

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CrossCode

This is a bit of a cheat. Technically, CrossCode came out last year, but I didn’t discover it until the end of December, and it became one of my go-to games throughout 2019. CrossCode is a modern take on a Super Nintendo action-RPG (think: Terranigma et al) but adds enough unique twists to feel special. It’s a single-player game, but it’s set mainly within a fictional MMORPG called CrossCode, allowing for some interesting storytelling and many good jokes. (Some of your party members might duck out because they have to log off and do their homework.) The combat feels great, the bosses are tough and satisfying, and the dungeons are full of brilliant Zelda-style puzzles. (The overworld is full of puzzles, too. If you like puzzles, this is the game for you.) This is one of those games that will likely get a ton of attention next year when it comes to Switch, so if you play it now, you can be ahead of the curve. [Played on: PC]

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Runners-up: AI: The Somnium Files, Zelda: Link’s Awakening,

Game I got into this year for the first time and, holy shit man: Bloodborne

Games that might have made the list if I’d had time to play more of them:  Luigi’s Mansion 3, Astral Chain, Judgement, Untitled Goose Game, Guildlings

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Game I know I’d absolutely love if I had the time to play it: Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers 

Game I need to play more for reasons beyond fun: Ring Fit Adventure

Website I wish hadn’t been murdered: Deadspin

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