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Dark Aether's Top 10 Games of 2019

Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses

After skipping last year, I’ve resurrected my yearly Games of The Year feature for 2019. Truth be told, I haven’t had much time for gaming; a partial combination of some soul searching and pursuing my writing interests, coping with a few real world issues, and engaging in some other weird activities/write ups with some very strange company.

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Dark Aether’s 2019:

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2019 was kind of a void year for me in that there really wasn’t a definitive game I could call “Game of The Year.” This year did teach me I could afford to be more selective of what titles I choose to devote time to, that it’s okay to not like something (even if you payed for it), and that you can play at your own pace or just quit when you’ve reached a good stopping point instead of trying to 100% the whole game.

Next year is going to be busy as hell with several blockbuster titles dropping in the early months; most of which will probably go untouched or unfinished until I clear some of my backlog below. Here are my top 10 games of 2019, in the order I played them:

Fire Emblem Heroes

Yes, they added a Christmas Sothis, because why not?
Yes, they added a Christmas Sothis, because why not?
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The only game I consistently play everyday. It was on my last favorites list for 2017 so I won’t go over the details again, but the game has grown and changed to the point that it is kind of unrecognizable from the launch version. The real reason I’m including it here is it turns out the RNG goddess is actually Sothis, or I’m just insanely lucky this banner with all of the Legendary Heroes I pulled since Christmas. Still missing Edelgard for my Three Houses team...

Update 1/3/19: Done!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

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A game from last year that probably would have made my 2018 GOTY list had I written one. Technically the 6th Smash title if we count the 3DS/Wii U games as two titles, Ultimate is the definitive Smash experience featuring EVERYONE from every title before it. It’s also the only game to feature Joker from Persona 5 and Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury/King of Fighters fame, so it’s got that going for it over Melee; even if I can’t win online for the life of me.

Hey, I’ve been with the series since the first one. I’m old now. :(

Super Mario Maker 2

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*Counts calendar months to June 28, 2019*

Holy shit, I went nearly 6 months without buying a new game!

And thus Super Mario Maker 2 was the game that broke my gaming slump. I actually skipped out on the first one despite nearly everyone telling me it was a must own title for the Wii U (which I owned!), so I took the plunge to see what the fuzz is all about.

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It is quite literally the Super Mario game of my childhood dreams; some 20 years after the fact. Really fun single player mode, but I don’t have the creativity or imagination to do the level design stuff, and a lot of this game is reliant on the online subscription now, so this one ended up being more of a one and done game. The kart item is so fucking good though!

Bloodstained: Ritual of The Night

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I think I’m beginning to see a pattern, because this is the second game I credit to breaking my gaming slump. A nostalgic Metroidvania was exactly what the doctor ordered, because I played the hell out of this game at launch even with the Switch’s performance issues (it crashed me on very rarely, but it did happen). A Castlevania game in all but name, Bloodstained: Ritual of The Night is a welcome return to the genre that Iga made famous. Though it adds absolutely nothing new to the formula, it neatly fills the void Konami left behind after relegating the Castlevania name to Pachinko and mobile games.

I refuse to give them credit for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

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My unofficial game of the year. On one hand, it has everything I want out of a Fire Emblem game; a captivating story/narrative with stakes, likable characters, engaging combat and challenge, and some new twists to the FE formula.

On the other hand, I despise the monastery activities. To the game’s credit, I kept doing them because I wanted to see the conversations and recruit as many people as possible, as well as maximize my class/skill potential. Until the game locks you in at a certain point and you go up against any students you didn’t recruit. I’m pretty sure I’m going to Hel(heim).

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Blasphemous

Some of the coolest boss fight designs of any game this year.
Some of the coolest boss fight designs of any game this year.
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(Update 12/30, 10:47 am: Almost forgot!)

Another Metroidvania on a smaller scale, but bloody brilliant! Blasphemous is a fantastic hack and slash platformer with some of the best visuals I’ve seen for a horror/dark fantasy title in a pixelated format. It starts out incredibly punishing, but overtime, you grow into a full grown powerhouse that can easily dish out damage. My only real criticisms are the magic system is kind of useless and the game is short, but I actually think the latter works to its benefit of avoiding dragging the game out for much longer than it needed to be. It’s one of my favorite new original platformers this year and my unofficial indie pick of the year. Well done The Game Kitchen!

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Shovel Knight: King of Cards

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What can I say, I’m a sucker for platformers given I’ve bought this game twice (3DS, then Switch). Much like Spectre of Torment, King of Cards is yet another solid spinoff that reworks much of the original game into its own unique story and set of levels; this time mirroring a Wario-esque style of platforming and shoulder bashing. Haven’t finished it yet, but I usually spend a good hour or two on the evenings I can actually sit down and relax. Rarely a bad time until I lose my cards in multiple games of Joustus.

There’s a spinoff fighting game included, but you don’t need to hear about that one.

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***Note on the next 3: I bought these fairly recently and have made some progress, so these will be much briefer:

Devil May Cry 5

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I love the Devil May Cry series, but I have one tiny nitpick about this game. Why the hell didn’t they carry over the excellent lock on system from Ninja Theory’s DMC? Honestly, I wish they took a few pages from their gameplay book, because they did add a few nice touches that would have carried over nicely. Capcom, I get that you’re proud of the formula, but a few modern touches wouldn’t have hurt.

While I’m nitpicking, why can’t I change my Devil Breaker on the fly? Yes, I’m an item hoarder; don’t judge me.

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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Because I needed more punishment after Bloodborne, I stupidly picked up Sekiro. Coming from that game, I appreciate the flexibility From Software afforded this time in navigating the world and giving you the option to stealth kill foes. The game is still freaking hard, but I’m glad they took the initiative to deviate from their formula in unexpected ways from the combat, to the ninja tools, to even the ways encounters play out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go die again to the Blazing Bull.

Judgment

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Very much in line to the Yakuza games, Judgment is in a sense “more Yakuza.” And that’s great! Despite borrowing the same setting as most of those games, it’s incredible to see how much the city has changed and the amount of detail the new engine has afforded the developers (you can enter buildings now, which I’ve been told has been a thing for a while!). There is a social aspect that feels something more akin to Persona. There are investigative and espionage missions thrown in to mix in some variety into the standard combat. There is a drone that you can customize and even race with (haven’t unlocked yet). And there is a deep and engaging story that you can all but choose to ignore and play an abundant number of minigames, engage in side quests and other activities (quite a bit drinking and dining establishments), or just take in the sights and beat up a few hoodlums.

I feel weird jumping into this from Kiwami, but there is a lot to love here even with a few setbacks that I can overlook (not a fan of the lockpicking minigame and some of the investigative elements added).

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You know what, let’s just call this my second unofficial GOTY. :)

Honorable Mention: Astral Chain

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I really wanted to like this game. It’s got all of the Platinum trademarks, cool aesthetics, and Anime AF story. But after playing it for a significant amount of time, I’m starting to dislike the combat systems (chain arts), wonky platforming sections, and the amount of time you spent in the Astral Plane; where most of the combat, platforming, and side quests take place.

So it’s more of a love/hate relationship, but it was either this or Mario Kart Tour. At least this one has a cool opening theme. Fuck Mario Kart Tour.

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Games I still plan to pick up: Death Stranding, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Unofficially Retired(?): Overwatch (2016 - 2019), my online subscriptions?

Game I kept telling myself this would be my first and still didn’t pick it up: Pokemon Sword/Shield

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Games I’m excited about next year: Persona 5 Royal (again?), Ghost of Tsushima, whatever Nintendo has in store for next year.

Games I’m excited about next year, but won’t likely pick up at launch: Final Fantasy VII Remake, Cyberpunk 2077 (leaning towards?), The Last of Us Part II

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So that’s my (incredibly brief) top 10 games of 2019; or probably the only 10 games I actually played this year total. There may have been one or two more I’ve forgotten already, but these were the 10 I remember spending the most time on.

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I guess my New Year’s Resolution is play less and finish less; or at the very least spend your time wisely on the games you want to finish. That’s it for me, but what were your top games of the year, if any?

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