2019 did not have as many massive AAA hits as 2018 but you know what I say to that? Who cares. This year (as did each of the last few years) had an absolutely incredible line up of some of the best video games ever made.
Here are my four games of 2019 that I think literally everyone should play. These games could be taught in schools, have mass appeal, and further push the boundaries of what gaming can be.
It’s hard to believe Baba Is You came out in 2019. It feels like forever ago but I’ve consistently thought about the game since playing it. Puzzles are some of the oldest kinds of games out there. For thousands of years people have challenged each other with puzzles and brain teasers and it’s rare that something so definitively adds to this ancient human tradition. Baba Is You does just that. Its absolutely ingenious multi-layered design continues to surprise throughout its nearly 200 levels. Combined with perfectly chill background music and iconic artistic design choices this game is an instant recommendation for anyone who likes to solve problems. There’s a lot of evidence showing that logic and reasoning puzzles improve your brain health, memory, and just overall make you smarter. I’m here to tell you that after figuring out some of the levels in Baba Is You you will literally feel parts of your brain getting stronger.
Like games, music has been around for millennia. We live in a very media saturated time where music is being pushed in all kinds of interesting directions. Even within that, Sayonara Wild Hearts managed to do something special: it could very well be the first ever true fusion of an album and game. In both concept, play, structure, design, and feel the album and game of Sayonara Wild Hearts flows perfectly together. When listening to music I often want to tap my foot or hand and this game took that feeling and put it into action. It is the first time in my life I’ve ever felt the unique sense of wanting to play an album, not listen to it. Add to that a strikingly gorgeous art design, stylized characters, and tight game levels reminiscent of many classic genres and Sayonara Wild Hearts, much like my favorite albums, is infinitely replayable.
Ring Fit Adventure indisputably takes the title of the number one video game to improve your physical health. That title can not be understated - it’s one thing to spend money on a brand new game that you’ll love, it’s another thing entirely to spend money on something that will literally make you healthier, happier and increase your life span (to fit in more games of course!). I truly believe games like this will have a massive future and will become a standard in gyms all over the world. Its simplistic game mechanics, seamlessly executed, are the perfect match for the repetition of exercise. I won’t be surprised if people look back at Ring Fit Adventure as being an early prototype for a wave of fitness games in the future.
From start to finish Outer Wilds is the rare piece of art that successfully captures the emotional journey of being human. Right from the start you are confronted with the reality of the passage of time - you’ve studied and here you are, your first day of space flight. Then, 22 minutes later, you die. The game quickly enters a cycle of waking and dying - a quantum mystery at the heart of the plot. However, like all truly great science fiction, the game isn’t about solving the mystery, it’s a guide on exploring the nature of reality. Ultimately, none of us truly understands life and existence but games like Outer Wilds remind us that, even in the face of inevitability, there is time for learning new things, exploring the universe, and loving our friends. Outer Wilds is my absolute top game of the year for 2019. It is so fantastic that even my other games I absolutely loved feel a bit pale in comparison. The feeling of travelling its panorama sized solar system will stay with me as a reminder, when times are dark, of what is truly important in life.