My Top Ten Games of 2019

My ultimate year-end gaming post of lists and accolades.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when game journalists come together to provide their hot takes on Game of the Year! I’ve been doing a personal top ten list for years, and enjoy comparing them to my Most Anticipated lists (from January) and Mid-Year lists (from June). I like lists.

Before we kick things off, let’s review my Most Anticipated Games of 2019 list, published January 2019. Keep in mind many games that released in 2019 weren’t even announced yet, while others were delayed into 2020.

  1. Pokémon Sword and Shield
  2. Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  3. Desperado 3
  4. The Outer Worlds
  5. Warcraft 3: Reforged
  6. Anthem
  7. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
  8. Wargroove
  9. Kingdom Hearts 3
  10. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

I also published a Top Five Games of Mid-2019 list in June, which is usually a pretty strong indicator for my final top ten list:

  1. Wargroove
  2. Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  3. Slay the Spire
  4. Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest
  5. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

Finally, here were my top five most anticipated games for the second half of 2019 (alphabetical) as of June 2019:

  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  • Borderlands 3
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
  • Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield

Now it’s time for my final end of year ranking. It was a heated battle for my favorite game of the year in 2019. For the first time ever I made it through the year without a clear #1, but in the end came away with a satisfying answer.

My Top Ten Games of 2019

10) Remnant: From the Ashes

Remnant: From the Ashes squeaked onto my top ten list at the last second, when my friends and I realized we hadn’t been playing any co-op games in awhile, and picked it up during the Steam Autumn Sale. Remnant is a game I have a yet to play single-player, and have no real desire to try, but I’ve had an excellent time playing cooperatively. It’s best described as Left 4 Dead meets Dark Souls; challenging, intricate third-person combat, with an important focus on watching your teammates’ backs. Some boss battles alone have taken us entire evenings to conquer, but we always have a good time doing it.

9) Planet Zoo

Even an impressive, well-polished zoo theme park game can’t quite compete to my love of dinosaurs with Frontier’s Jurassic Park Evolution (My #6 Game of 2018), but Planet Zoo is certainly good enough to warrant a spot on my Top Ten list. Planet Zoo combines the advanced animal AI from JPE with the advanced park management and customization from Planet Coaster, making it Frontier’s most impressive park sim to date. Planet Zoo‘s animal AI is as impressive as it is maddening, turning a theme park sim into part-time babysitting, but I can’t help but love the attention to detail, the emphasis on conservation and education, the gorgeous graphics, and multiple gameplay modes. 

8) SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

I’ve enjoyed Image & Form’s previous SteamWorld games, and respected the hell out of the fact that they’re all different genres, from Metroidvania to 2D XCOM. SteamWorld Quest is yet another genre, combining satisfying deckbuilding and card battling within a brightly colored side-scrolling RPG. It’s well-balanced and perfectly paced at around 20 hours, leading to one of the rare card games that actually has a legit story and characters.

7) Slay the Spire

Of all the games on my Top Five Mid-Year list, Slay the Spire is the only one I’ve gone back to play since, and I a big reason is because it’s the perfect game to play on the Switch. The rogue-like deckbuilder is incredibly addicting and balanced to a razor’s edge for each of the three classes. I love playing through a run while cooking dinner and watching TV, testing out new strategies and card synergies, and seeing how far I get. I may not end up dumping dozens of hours into it, but I do plan on playing this one off and on throughout the next year. 

6) Pokémon Sword and Shield

It’s no secret that the first main-line Pokémon game on a home console has been divisive for fans. Hell I wrote up a list of all the things I love – and hate, about Pokémon Sword and Shield. But there’s no denying that I’ve enjoyed the hell out of my time with the game. The Wild Area alone is amazing, a tantalizing tease of a truly open-world Pokémon game that I’ve been dreaming about for years, spending hours just wandering around catching pokémon, and the new Gen 8 pokémon are some of the best we’ve had in several generations. If Sword and Shield are the start of a new era of Pokemon games, we have a lot to be excited about.

5) Wargroove

My favorite game of the mid-year fell a few places to the more flashier AAA games of the latter half, but Wargroove is still a phenomenal strategy game. It completely rips off Advance Wars in all the right ways, from its pixelated art style to its hard counter units, but with an original story and fantasy world filled with fun characters and factions. The campaign is astonishingly huge, and that’s on top of skirmish modes, puzzle modes, and a level editor, for all the pixelated warfare you could ask for.

4) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

I didn’t know what to expect from the Switch-exclusive third game in a series that hadn’t seen a release in ten years. I loved the co-op beat ’em up Marvel Ultimate Alliance games and X-Men Legends games from the GameCube and PS2 era. I’m more than pleased to reveal my undying love for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.

MUA 3 captures exactly what I loved about the older games – a customizable team of dozens of Marvel superheroes battling waves of bad guys, with just enough RPG elements, powers, and challenges to keep me locked in. MUA 3 dropped the ball a bit with its horrendous camera when playing couch co-op, otherwise this could have easily been my #1 game of the year.

3) Age of Wonders: Planetfall

As soon as Triumph Studios announced their next Age of Wonders game, it rocketed near the top of my Most Anticipated list. Age of Wonders 3 (2014) was a fantastic turn-based strategy game that revitalized the series, and Age of Wonders: Planetfall did not disappoint. The sci-fi strategy game keeps the solid 4x strategy while streamlining colonization with sectors and expanding the tactical depth of combat, along with a meaty campaign mode. Also, the factions include undead cyborgs and amazons riding laser-mounted alien dinosaurs – hell yes.

2) The Outer Worlds

When Fallout: New Vegas released in 2010, we knew Obsidian Entertainment was capable of crafting an excellent Fallout RPG off of Bethesda’s first-person open-world style. The Outer Worlds is proof that they can make their own first-person RPG, and it’s a damn good one.

The Outer Worlds brilliantly combines the best parts of Mass Effect (memorable party members; zipping around to different planets) and Fallout (snarky world poking fun at capitalism; rewarding exploration and slow-mo combat) to create a game that’s the opposite of innovative, but a very enjoyable AAA experience.  All of this works because it has legitimately great writing, with party members I actually cared about, and a shockingly down to earth story that doesn’t rely on big bad killer robots or genocidal aliens. Best of all, it distills all the good parts of those big RPGs down to a very well-paced 20-30 hour game.

1) Borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 is an amazing game and a worthy sequel to one of the best games of the previous generation. The writing isn’t quite up to the high standards set by Borderlands 2 (and its equally excellent DLC), but the new characters are solid, and the gameplay offers tons of welcome improvements, such as multiple (and customizable) abilities per character, separate loot tables for parties, and alt firing modes on top of the ridiculous amount of guns. The threequel smartly doesn’t try to fix what sure as hell wasn’t broken: fantastic co-op looter-shooter gameplay.

The Borderlands series means a lot to my wife and me, and we actually played through all of Borderlands 2 again before Borderlands 3 came out. I’ve played BL3 for 50 hours so far, and 40 of those hours have been with split-screen co-op, and have enjoyed every minute of it. Borderlands 3 is my #1 game of the year.

2019 End of Year Awards

Most Played: Fire Emblem: Three Houses (68 hours)

Best Multiplayer: Apex Legends

Best Cooperative Game: Remnant: From the Ashes

Biggest Surprise: Remnant: From the Ashes

Most Disappointing: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Best Early Access/Beta Game: Gloomhaven

Best Original Music: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Best Art Design: SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

Best World Building/Atmosphere: Borderlands 3

Best Writing: The Outer Worlds

Best Game Nobody Else Played: Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Most Improved Sequel: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Favorite New Game Mechanic: The Wild Area (Pokémon Sword and Shield)

Most Innovative: Slay the Spire

Best New Character: Parvati (The Outer Worlds)

Favorite Moment: Helping Parvati with the perfect date (The Outer Worlds)

Best Industry Trend: Multiple Big Nintendo Switch game releases in the Summer!

Worst Industry Trend: BioWare, are you okay?

Didn’t Have Time to Play: Phoenix Point

Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Favorite 2018 Game of 2019: The Bard’s Tale 4: Director’s Cut

Backlogged Games and Let’s Plays Finished in 2019

  1. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
  2. The Bard’s Tale IV: Director’s Cut
  3. The Stanley Parable
  4. Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
  5. Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements
  6. The Banner Saga 3
  7. The Banner Saga 2
  8. Rise of the Tomb Raider
  9. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you next year with my most anticipated games list of 2019!

Age of Wonders: Planetfall Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

In 2014 Triumph Studios revitalized the niche 4X strategy series Age of Wonders with the excellent Age of Wonders 3. After two solid expansion packs the studio quietly began working on their next project, and was acquired by Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive, known for big, densely packed strategy games.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the long-awaited next step in the franchise. It’s less of an evolutionary leap forward, but builds upon the successes of Age of Wonders 3 along with several smart and fun gameplay improvements and dozens hours of replayability.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2019

Every year is a great year for video games but as of January 2019 I admit I’m a bit underwhelmed compared to previous years. Most of the big sequels due out this year (that have been announced) aren’t for series I care much about, like Mortal Kombat 11, Devil May Cry 5, and Gears 5.

Thankfully there are tons of exciting indie games that I’m very much interested in, and it’s my first full year with a Nintendo Switch – gimme that new Pokémon game!

Here are my top ten most anticipated games for 2019.

10) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Who would’ve thought we’d be getting a new Marvel Ultimate Alliance game in 2019? And it’s a Switch exclusive? I’m very excited to return to one of my favorite console action-RPG brawlers, even though it’ll most likely feature only MCU heroes and villains.

9) Kingdom Hearts III

I may be in the minority in that I’m not a big Kingdom Hearts fan, but still look forward to trying the very, very long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3. I enjoyed the first one (17 freaking years ago, holy crap), but never actually finished the second, when the series really started getting up its own ass.

8) Wargroove

Everyone knows Advance Wars was a great series and it should be a crime that we haven’t had a proper sequel in over a decade. Beloved indie developers and publishers Chucklefish are answering the call with Wargroove, which looks like the spiritual successor we’ve been waiting for.

7) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

The Igarashi-led Castlevania successor appeared on my Most Anticipated list last year only to be delayed into 2019. With countless indie games aping the metroidvania style, it’ll be interesting to see if Bloodstained can stand out. I’m betting it will and more.

6) Anthem

BioWare does Destiny? I’m not a big fan of Destiny (though I’m actually giving Destiny 2 a shot right now) but something about the mech suits, third-person action, and exotic alien world is making me take notice. Maybe this could be my Monster Hunter: World of 2019?

5) Warcraft III: Reforged

I very much enjoyed the nostalgic trip from StarCraft Remastered two years ago. StarCraft was my high school years; Warcraft 3 was college. Blizzard is the closest thing I have to a fanboy company, and I’m looking forward to revisiting WarCraft 3.

4) The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds was recently announced during The Game Awards just a few months ago. It’s a first-person RPG by Obsidian that looks like a fun combination of Fallout and Borderlands, and I’m definitely here for it.

3) Desperados III

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was one of my favorite games of 2016. Mimimi Productions is trading in katanas for revolvers. I have zero knowledge or nostalgia for the Desperados series, but I’ve grown to love the tactical stealth genre and can’t wait to see how they handle a Western.

2) Age of Wonders: Planetfall

I’ll always carry a torch for Age of Wonders III; no game has before or since captured the satisfying tactical combat, resource management, and exploration from Heroes of Might and Magic III. Triumph Studios has been working on a neat-looking sci-fi sequel, and now their resources include the backing of one of the biggest strategy game companies around, Paradox Interactive.

1) Untitled Pokémon Game for Switch 

most anticipated games

I’m a big Pokémon fan and nearly every year a Pokémon game finds its way onto my Top Ten list. We don’t know squat about the highly teased Pokémon game coming to Switch but given the last few releases I’m expecting good things.

Age of Wonders III: Golden Realms Review | Leviathyn

If you ever caught yourself in the middle of playing Triumph Studios’ Age of Wonders III wondering where all the poo-flinging Dread Monkeys are – fear not. As the first expansion pack released for the turn-based tactical strategy game, Golden Realms introduces an entirely new faction, new skill specializations, new units, two new scenarios, a new mini-campaign and several new gameplay features that tweak and expand an already fantastic game.

But also adds those filthy, filthy monkeys.

I was a big fan of Age of Wonders III when it released last April, and in the months since Triumph Studios have done an admiral job listening to fan feedback and incorporating lots of tweaks and balance changes.

Read the full review at Leviathyn >>