I played a staggering number of great games in 2019. It also means I got to enjoy their equally stellar soundtracks.
Honestly, when I think back to all the games I played this year: wow. As per usual, my backlog came into play and so, there are games from previous years on this list. Hey, I like to give credit where it’s due.
With that aside, onwards to my favorite games I played in 2019. The order doesn’t matter—they’re listed in the order I played them.
Composer: Ben Prunty
I began the year with this 2018 strategy game. Finishing it felt like an accomplishment. In between my many failures, I battled my way through a bleak future, rewinding time, and abandoning timelines when gigantic bugs got the better of my mechs and comrades. I loved the limited dialogue that explained so much about its world, while expressing how dire the situation and consequences in the sci-fi setting.
A brilliant game where every loss was a personal mess up that had me reeling, its soundtrack was tense. I can still hear it tracking my every decision as I barreled towards defeat or victory.
Composers: Keiichi Okabe, Keigo Hoashi, Kuniyuki Takahashi
Well, I finally did it. I finally played Nier: Automata. Did I think it was hyped up just a little too much? Yeah, maybe. Was it still a very excellent game that made me traumatized just a little bit? Of course.
There’s one song I hear when I think about this game. The nonsensical one that plays whenever entering the Machine Village. The song, sung by the child-like voices, so free and uninhibited, really does a number on the mind after everything goes to hell in Nier: Automata’s somber world.
Composer: Yoann Laulan
I never really stop thinking about this 2018 rogue-like. Not since I first played during spring this year and at some point again during the summer. It continues to surprise whenever I boot it up, sparking my urge to try to complete its weapon cache but never really getting that far.
While I try to figure out how to resist the urge to start playing again (I’ve got another game I’m supposed to be playing right now), here’s a song—one of many great ones—that I listened to a lot this year as part of my love for the game.
Baba is You is brilliant. It’s too smart: taking words and making them the rules of the game, which players manipulate to solve its tough puzzles. It’s so challenging, that I am not ashamed to admit that I spent many days staring blankly at its mind-bending possibilities, feeling extremely dumb.
I still feel that way but I can admire just how excellent its concept is. Plus, Baba is Cute.
Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
The sequel to the 2016 game, in some ways, is not as good as its predecessor. It’s way too long, with chapters that aren’t as tear-jerking. But Dragon Quest Builders 2 has one of my favorite characters in Malroth. The humor, like most of the games in the long standing franchise, is so good. The lines are delivered by sassy monsters and humans, and oh the glorious things that could be built.
That was probably my second favorite part of the whole game: I spent a lot of hours just building to my heart’s content. Along with my sister, we designed a pretty awesome house on a private island, if I do say so myself.
I should invite you all sometime.
Composers: LudoWic, Bill Kiley
The Hotline Miami comparisons to this colorful, violent game aren’t unwarranted. However, Katana Zero is a pretty great experience in its own right. The weird story is still on my mind months after finishing this gorgeous game, and I hope it gets a sequel to continue the confusing threads it left hanging.
I also did not see the twist coming, and I loved it. Additionally, the stress I felt at potentially choosing the wrong answers, or playing the agitated killer in shortened dialogue trees, really put me on edge. Better still, seeing the consequences of those responses made for that much more of an engaging experience.
With a fantastic soundtrack to get the blood pumping to solve the game’s one-shot puzzles in every level—along with the cool time-slowing mechanic that never felt cheap, Katana Zero should not be overlooked.
Composer: Andrew Prahlow
A sci-fi game where death comes every 22 minutes. A beautiful exploration game that sends players on a journey of self-discovery to gorgeous, dangerous planets. A mystery and execution that’s hard to describe as being anything but absolutely brilliant.
Words don’t do this game justice. And trying to explain it gives away too much.
Composer: Eli Rainsberry
My sister and I played this colorful puzzle game one weekend. Both stressful and relaxing, we sorted the strange items into categories that made sense to us. The fruit went near shopping carts. The purple and yellow items all got lumped together. The sharks lived near the camping equipment.
We were efficient. The game’s not actually terribly difficult, particularly when you have a like-minded person working with you. We got a Borky robot helper to assist us in the warehouse. It didn’t do much as it moved way too slowly. But we loved our Borky anyway.
And then...it ended. I won’t tell you how it ended. But let’s just say, my sister and I feel very betrayed by what ensued.
Composers: Marcin Przybylowicz, Mikolai Stroinski
It was a joy being the gruff Geralt of Rivia for a few weeks in September and October. I don’t know how many hours I sank into The Witcher 3. But I do know I became a Champion of Champions, tried to romance everyone until my sister stopped me and made me settle for Yennefer, and I killed a lot of people for their pork sandwiches (my faves).
My first encounter with a leshen freaked me out even though I knew how it would unfold. I fought a couple of monsters while drunk because I ran out of healing supplies. And I loved the Blood and Wine DLC probably more than I did the main campaign. Gaunter O’Dimm will haunt me for a while.
My Ciri became a Witcher at the end of all it, and there’s a Crone out there I really wanted to destroy.
All in all, it’s a fantastic game that I probably will come to appreciate even more as the months go by while I ruminate on it. Like this song, which makes me think of the game fondly:
This puzzle game about a horrible (questionably....?) goose wreaking havoc in a quiet village has one of the best endings I’ve ever experienced. It was both unexpectedly delightful and a horrific realization.
Until 2020, video games.
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