Editor's PickEditorial

The Best Video Games of 2019

9

We here at The Game Manual have had an excellent 2019. This year has seen some of the best games in recent memory, games which define their respectives genres, some of the best sequels in years, and some of the best remakes ever made. We’ve seen the revival of series we hadn’t seen in a decade and said goodbye to others as they grow and evolve, often into whole new beginnings.

In light of not just the close of the year, but the close of a decade in gaming like no other–one that brought us further from our childhood but just as often closer to our childhood dreams (looking at you Final Fantasy VII Remake)–we have gathered the entire TGM staff to compile a list of our best games of the year.

Choosing a single Game of the Year would be to compare apples with oranges (or Resident Evils with Ace Combats), so we’ve instead paid respect not to an arbitrary metric scale rating, but to the sheer mastery of development and to the sheer skill of the craft. There’s are the games that we loved, that helped us have the most fun, and that we highly recommend you play.

Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 (2019) Remake
Developer: Capcom R&D Division 1
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Release date: January 11, 2019
Title Screen
Resident Evil 2 (2019) is a remake of the classic survival-horror sequel from 1998, brought to a whole new generation of fans.
The Basics
The Resident Evil 2 remake is the absolute measuring stick in terms of how a remake of any beloved game should be handled. Capcom managed to seamlessly blend together both modern and classic styles of the Resident Evil series into one game that feels just as familiar as it does fresh.

REmake 2, as it’s called, offers old-school survival-horror veterans a damned good reason to return to the halls of the Raccoon City Police Department, and for new fans to come see what all the fuss is about. With four main story campaigns, two auxiliary campaigns, and four DLC additions, fans immediately sunk their teeth deep into Resident Evil 2 and had plenty to come back for with each additional playthrough.

Resident Evil 2 is truly a classic reborn for a modern era.

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2
Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 28, 2019
Title Screen
Super Mario Maker 2 lets you make your very own Super Mario Bros. stages and upload them online for people to enjoy or be endlessly tormented by.
The Basics
Ever see all those insane fan-made Super Mario Bros. stages people play online? Well, Nintendo gave us a shot at sitting in the director’s chair, letting us make them ourselves and publish them to the cloud, officially. With Super Mario Maker 2, everything is at our fingertips: Stage layouts, obstacles, enemies, and even the graphical stylization.

You can create stages with entire gimmicks and themes, or include puzzles that’ll leave the player second guessing their every move. Perhaps you want to instill panic and have a fast scrolling stage where every second that ticks away has their heart beating right out of their chest? Maybe you managed to create a stage so difficult that, despite thousands of attempts, oncomers simple can’t seem to best it. The possibilities are endless, as is the potential of the fun to be had for years to come.

Katana Zero

Developer: Askiisoft
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: Windows PC, Mac OS X, Nintendo Switch
Release date: April 18, 2019
Title Screen
Katana Zero is a cyberpunk, neo-noir, side-scrolling instant-death action game that is as unapologetically stylized as it is punishingly and unforgivingly fast.
The Basics
If Katana Zero were just the fastest, most-exacting, most dexterously stylish 2D action platformer we had ever played, it might still have made this list anyway, but that’s not all the game has to offer. The same style that defines the game’s combat bleeds into its every aspect, from its plot, to the narration, to the art style, to the soundtrack (which our hero queues on his cassette player at the start of each stage).

Katana Zero combines sheer brutality with the kind of strategic cunning that can only come from constant repetition. It is, for all intents and purposes, the closest we can imagine to a 2D realization of whatever genre Sekiro molded itself around, and it is crafted and articulated with a level of skill that is truly mind blowing.

If 2019 hadn’t already been so disgustingly saturated with some of the decade’s best titles, Katana Zero may well have won our choice as Game of the Year. It certainly holds steadfast as a contender, with a level of fluidity and depth that is rare even among AAA titles, much less from an independent studio.

Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium
Developer: ZA/UM
Publisher: ZA/UM
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: October 15, 2019
Title Screen
Disco Elysium is an old fashioned, open-world role-playing game with a heavy focus on dialogue, choice, and deduction.
The Basics
Role-playing games are great, but have you ever wished you could take up the role of a raging dumpster fire? Disco Elysium has you covered, you beautiful trash disaster you. An isometric RPG the likes of Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, The Witcher, etc., Disco Elysium is as reminiscent as it is completely different.

Unlike many RPG titles that feign the prospect of making a difference in the world (through dialogue options which almost inevitably circle back on themselves), Disco Elysium tackles the issue of choice-and-change by turning its focus inward. Sure, you can’t change the world, but you can change your place in it. This is, perhaps, the game’s most redeeming quality: Disco Elysium reexamines the idea of role playing, not in terms of the external, wordly influence of that role, but in terms of that role’s subjective, internal evolution.

You are whatever you (and your trashy, alcoholic internal dialogue) think you are. You are not beset by the typical responsibilities and inevitabilities of a protagonist, but you are responsible for the one thing we are all immutably responsible for: Ourselves.

Days Gone

Days Gone
Developer: SIE Bend Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: April 26, 2019
Title Screen
Days Gone is an action-adventure survival-horror game that has you facing against massive hordes of zombies and unhinged marauders in post-apocalyptic Oregon.
The Basics
Proving that good things come to those who wait, the highly anticipated Days Gone released after several delays from what was to originally be a 2018 launch. In Days Gone, you’ll play in third-person as ex-outlaw, biker-turned-bounty-hunter Deacon St. John; an appropriate name, considering the biblical body-count you’ll be leaving in your wake. 

We highly recommend delving into this story driven, open-world title as Deacon bikes, shoots, and stealths his way through a beautiful landscape in search of his wife Sarah. Deacon was separated from her at the beginning of a global pandemic that turned those it didn’t kill into mindless, blood hungry “Freakers” two years prior. Jump in, and you won’t be sorry once you’ve taken down your first horde.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Activision
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: March 22, 2019
Title Screen
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the best of the Soulsborne genre. Sekiro is an action-adventure game set at the end of Japan’s Sengoku period, and it is punishingly difficult.
The Basics
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, is the culmination of everything FromSoftware has learned up to this point. It is their magnum opus, and it is breathtaking to behold. The game will immediately immerse you into its beautiful world; built in such a way, gods, dragons, and spirits do not seem out of place next to the politics of the warring nations.

While Sekiro can be a difficult game, demanding perfect precision input and timing, forethought and stealth, it is rewarding in kind. With a focus on stealth and a call to perfection, every battle ends either in the sweet ecstasy of victory or in brutal death. For those who can go the distance, tales of honor, betrayal, the changing of a nation, and the price of immortality are just the beginning. The sounds of perfect parries, swords clanging off one another in a rhythmic song, will have you salivating like Pavlov’s dog in no time.

Sekiro is more than just a Game of the Year candidate. It’s a life experience that you do not want to miss out on.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Developer: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: July 26, 2019
Title Screen
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical-RPG set on the continent of Fódlan. It focuses on the relations between three bordering nations and The Church, and their subsequent war.
The Basics
The first Fire Emblem title on a console in over a decade, Fire Emblem: Three Houses brings a whole feast of content to the table. With rich RPG mechanics, including a class system, customizable skills, deep strategy elements, and satisfying combat, Three Houses is an amazing title.

The story is rife with twists and intrigue, branching narratives (where your decisions actually change the story), and convincing characters. You’ll actually want to do multiple playthroughs just to see what will happen.

Tying all of that together, there are 33 different characters to recruit, each with their own personalities and goals. You’ll have the opportunity to get to know them all individually.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Developer: ArtPlay
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: Windows OS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 18, 2019
Title Screen
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a side-scrolling Metroidvania title from the mind of Koji Igarashi, creator of Castlevania‘s best titles, including Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow.
The Basics
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a prime example of how listening to the fan base, and delivering what the people want, can lead to an amazing game. A warm blanket of nostalgia, Bloodstained takes all the best ideas from Igarashi’s previous works and blends them into an all new tale.

You’ll spend hours enjoying the beautiful, atmospheric visuals and soundtrack as you platform your way through it’s hellish castle. From navigating the castle, finding secret paths and treasure, and destroying demonic denizens & claiming their power as your own, to discovering the true ending; Ritual of the Night has the level of content we expect from a Game of the Year candidate.

Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: Windows OS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: March 8, 2019
Title Screen
We all know what Devil May Cry is. If you don’t, Google it.
The Basics
The fifth installment into the genre-defying action series smacked fans like a 50-hit SSS rank combo. Long time fans will see many of their favorite characters return as well as newcomers Nico and V to help move the story along.
Devil May Cry 5 provided the internet with Dante boomer memes, which nobody can act like they were anything short of amazing.

One-liners, over-the-top hack n’ slash action, laying waste to armies of demons, flying around on a detachable transforming arm that does damage with each trick you do on it, or riding a motorcycle that can grind enemies into pulp. What’s not to love?

As expected, DMC 5 features a soundtrack worth headbanging to while you stack bodies up to reach the heavens throughout Red Grave City. We may have had a long wait since Devil May Cry 4 came out in 2008, but this was worth the wait. It is easily one of the best entries in the series.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Developer: Grezzo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: September 20, 2019
Title Screen
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a glorious remake of the 1993 Game Boy classic.
The Basics
Nintendo knows better than anybody that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Link’s Awakening is a stellar example of this, having had as little changed in this stunning remake as is technically possible. You’ll find all of the same zany characters as the original, the same cleverly designed dungeons, as well as the same classic items. There has been such little changed to the original’s gameplay that it’s easier to focus on what actually has changed.

Link’s Awakening immediately shows us the largest change in its complete visual overhaul, updating the game’s look to feature much crisper visuals while leaving every bit of the charm of its predecessor. Add in a dungeon builder, update the mini-games to control more realistically on a modern console, allow us to equip more items, and what you have is a true love-letter to die-hard Zelda fans that just as easily captures the hearts of any who never played the original.

BONEWORKS

Developer: Stress Level Zero
Publisher: Stress Level Zero
Platform: Windows OS
Release date: December 10, 2019
Title Screen
BONEWORKS touts itself as an “Experimental VR Physics Adventure” that has you running, jumping, climbing and shooting your way through a virtual city in literal first-person goodness.
The Basics
BONEWORKS is a VR masterpiece by today’s standards and is easily our top VR title of the year. Although it’s described as “experimental,” to us it’s the most fleshed out and immersive game of its kind, with plenty of updates promised to keep the excitement coming throughout the new year. No previous title has had locomotion done so well (say goodbye to teleporting everywhere), making getting around the game a blast rather than a chore.

The game’s story is the least impressive aspect of the title, serving only as a means of providing context as to why you’re wandering through the virtual city grabbing, smashing, stabbing, and shooting every frenzied AI, cyber-soldier, and robo-headcrab you come across.

On that note, BONEWORKS almost seems to draw inspiration for its gameplay from the Half-Life series, which it references throughout, providing a solid combination of gun-play and platforming puzzles. Early footage of the game almost had us convinced that this was the rumored Half-Life VR. Now that we know that it’s not, it provides an excellent taste of not just what’s in store for next year’s Half-Life: Alyx but for the future of VR in general.

Metro Exodus

Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: Windows OS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia
Release date: February 15, 2019
Title Screen
The final installment to a dark trilogy, Metro Exodus is a first-person shooter that pits you against mutant horrors in a world mutated and demented by nuclear war.
The Basics
In a brighter setting than its predecessors, Artyom and his crew leave the tunnels under what’s left of Moscow to find there are people still above ground. Day and night bring their own dangers, and you will battle through abandoned buildings, caves full of monsters, and prowl around groups of thugs, disposing of them until it becomes an art.

It will not be easy, and often you will be trapped in a situation demanding patience and wit. Often you will have to decide what you need over what you want, and will spend much of your time in surprising amounts of tension. Save hostages & free slaves and you’ll come out on the better side of a moral system that determines further outcomes.

Loyal to the books written by Dmitry Glukowski, the Metro series is a story about existential doom, pulling together what you can, and finding hope when there is no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Ace Combat 7

Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platform: Windows OS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: January 18, 2019
Title Screen
Ace Combat 7 is a fast paced combat flight simulator. Spend some time bombing bases to nothing, blowing people out of the sky, and sinking into an animal-like reflex.
The Basics
In a time where combat flight sims have devolved into a rarity, Ace Combat 7 is a light in the dark. Set in what writer Sunao Katabuchi calls a “Strangereal Universe”, this game, like the other Ace Combat games, offers tight controls that allow you to become efficient in making quick work of your enemies. Plus, you fly jets!

There is a lot of variety in the missions, and there are many strange twists. The environments have their own effects, from weather to obstacles, that add challenge to some already intense missions. The effects are explosive, the action is fast, and the combat is fierce.

Ace Combat 7 is available on PlayStation VR as well, and though it is much shorter at three missions, it is an excellent and novel way to experience a combat flight sim.

Remnant: From the Ashes

Developer: Gunfire Games
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Platform: Windows OS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: August 20, 2019
Title Screen
Remnant: From the Ashes is a co-op third-person shooter with Soulsborne and RPG elements, procedurally generated post-apocalyptic worlds, and Lovecraftian horrors.
The Basics
Remnant was one of the games this year that may have slipped under a lot of people’s radars, but launching at two-thirds of the usual asking price of a AAA title, it provided us with an experience that was every bit as good. Starting on a post-apocalyptic Earth, you soon find yourself fighting a horrific race of creatures known as The Root and traversing worlds in your quest to save humanity.

Although there is a set story that will be the same through each run, every playthrough will give the locations new layouts, varying numbers and types of enemies, and different items, armors, or weapons that the player can use. Players looking for specific items or class builds will need to either join another’s game through private lobbies or matchmaking or otherwise “re-roll” your character, resetting the world’s layout and respawning enemies with the chance at getting different items or meeting different NPCs. This mechanic may be a deal-breaker for some, but for the rest of us it gave the game replay value that provided us with more than our money’s worth. 

Control

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: Windows OS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: August 27, 2019
Title Screen
Control is a surreal, often nightmarish, action-adventure that puts you in a universe which ebbs and weaves within a single haunted building.
The Basics
Control is one of those video games one could indubitably call art. You play as Jesse Faden, the director of the Federal Bureau of Control, a government agency that works on problems of more paranormal natures. You explore what they call the Oldest House, a haunted base of operation the Bureau owns in New York City. It is a giant, Brutalist Skyscraper, but within, the rooms yawn into chasms, relocate altogether, and morph as though they have a mind of their own. Random items buzz with strange power. Thresholds to alternate dimensions form and fleet, and the whole establishment is haunted by a foreboding evil known as the Hiss.

With telekinetic and telepathic abilities you can have endless fun with your enemies. The gameplay never loses what makes it satisfying, and the story, dialogue, people, and atmosphere is intriguing, undeniably strange, and will keep you in its grip as it whorls and unfolds like a giant creature out of a fever dream.

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Developer: Next Level Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: October 31, 2019
Title Screen
Luigi once again gets to break out from the shadow of his brother Mario and is back to busting ghosts using his trusty Poltergust vacuum.
The Basics
Luigi once again finds himself up to his ‘stache in another ghost-busting adventure by the same dev team who brought us Dark Moon on the 3DS. Luigi has 17 floors of a haunted hotel he has to make his way through, whittling down the total population of spirits as he attempts to save his friends and family.

New to this third outing is Luigi’s upgraded Poltergust, which now allows him to shoot out a plunger (ala Quackshot on Genesis) to grab, drag, and slam items and enemies alike. His new gust attack can hit enemies all around him and gives him the ability to jump.

Plenty of puzzles to conquer and overcome as usual along with returning faces like Gooigi and King Boo who both play a large role in Luigi’s Mansion 3. Each level of the hotel has its own theme and flavor to it, and the games soundtrack is superb.

Judgement

Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
Publisher: Sega
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: June 25, 2019
Title Screen
Judgement is a action-adventure beat ’em up and a spin-off of the popular Yakuza series.
The Basics
Judgement casts players in the role of Takayuki Yagami, a private investigator on the hunt for a serial killer while kicking the hell out of people in traditional beat-em-up fashion.

Anyone familiar with the Yakuza series already knows it’s heavily narrative driven, combining two parts street brawling with three parts role-playing while weaving in hilarious and silly side-quests. Judgement makes only one change to the tried-and-true formula: Instead of playing as someone in the underbelly of a criminal underworld, you play as a detective trying to solve a series of cases.

Judgement manages to introduce an entirely new cast of fresh faces (with some cameos you’ll enjoy too) to a familiar world. As expected, there’s plenty of minigames to enjoy, areas to explore, and optional characters to meet as you crack cases around Tokyo.

The Game Manual Staff

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9 Comments

  1. […] Ritual of the Night was one of our preferred games of 2019, and was well received by fans, holding an average of 83/100 on Metacritic across all platforms and […]

  2. […] that Katana Zero didn’t win a nomination for the grand prize. It was, after all, one of our contenders for Game of the Year, even when pitted against major AAA […]

  3. […] reviewed Metro Exodus, 4A Games’ latest entry in the Metro series, and listed it as one of our favorite games of 2019. With the first two games coming to Switch, it’s an excellent chance to get caught up on the […]

  4. […] the Resident Evil 2 remake, which we considered to be one of the best games of 2019 (and of the last decade), Resident Evil 3 features updated 3D graphics, a new control scheme, […]

  5. […] Yakuza: Like a Dragon still doesn’t have a certain Western release date, but it is assuredly due on western shores sometime in 2020. In the meantime, the first Yakuza spin-off title, Judgement, has already gotten a western release and we couldn’t recommend it more. […]

  6. […] developers worldwide already have the answer. In fact, they’ve already got the games. Despite 2019’s myriad of unforgettable titles, 2020 is shaping up to be even more densely packed with games that represent the modern pinnacles […]

  7. […] Discounts are substantial, with popular titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s Game of the Year Edition and Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition being sitting at a quarter of their normal retail price. GOG, well known for serving up an abundance of classic titles, has some more recent titles on sale as well, such as Disco Elysium (a contender for The Game Manual’s Game of the Year 2019). […]

  8. […] you got to enjoy our Best Games of 2019 article then you’ll recognize Devil May Cry 5 and Judgement making their way onto this little […]

  9. […] raved about our love of the third entry in the series in our Best Video Games of 2019 article, and we simply cannot recommend it enough. Even if you […]

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