Top 10 Games of 2019: Nintendo Editor Michael’s Picks

2019 was a year of bizarre adventures and incredible co-op.
Lots of action games stumbled in their stories, but the thrills were delivered
just as I wanted them. In no particular order, these are some of my favorite
games from 2019.

Fire Emblem Three Houses (Nintendo Switch)

2019

Fire Emblem: Three Houses came on the back of the most
disappointing Fire Emblem games the series has seen in America. Fates burned my
convictions that Intelligent Systems could do no wrong and punished me for blindly
dropped eighty dollars on a sub-par package.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses doubled down on multiple story
paths and, at first glance, anime clichés. But while a school setting seems out
of place next to Fire Emblem or Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, it built a
cohesive and interesting world for Three Houses. The characters were excellent
and the story-telling and maps worked together much better than in Fates. While
there were still poorly executed maps and unfinished story elements, Fire
Emblem Three Houses restored my faith in the series.

And for the record: if you root for Edelgard, you need help.

World War Z (Playstation 4)

World War Z is the zombie game I’ve always wanted. Chunky, gorey, meaty zombies that die just as easily in their dozens as in their hundreds are the perfect fodder for video game shooting. While other games have made them frustratingly spongy, World War Z keeps them feeling fleshy. Facing down waves of the undead with friends is just as fun the first time as the last in World War Z, and with persistent leveling and weapon unlocks, there’s all the more reason to keep mowing them down.

The regular updates throughout 2019, and new horde mode, have
only made jumping back in all the more tempting.

Conan Unconquered (PC)

Speaking of regular updates, Conan Unconquered received several in the first few months of its lifespan that turned it from a good co-operative base-building survival RTS with performance issues to a great co-operative base-building survival RTS with fewer performance issues. Such smart changes as 30% faster movement speed, multiplayer saves and autosaves, and smarter AI regarding the spreading and expunging of fires hugely improved the experience.

Not to mention, the overly priced premium DLC character was
made free, alongside a new ranged hero. Giving developers are always
appreciated, and led to us gifting a few more friends a copy in late 2019. It’s
too bad we still can only play in pairs, though.

Concrete Genie (Playstation 4)

Full disclosure: my university friend worked on Concrete Genie.

Concrete Genie is a relaxing, heartwarming game of artistic
expression. Beauty is made easy with an intuitive and magical paintbrush that
lets the player turn every wall into a canvas filled with enchanted genies and
natural marvels. Bringing the manageably open-world town of Denska back to life
is a pleasing joy. The story culminates in a breathtaking finale that excuses
any issues I had with the rest of the build-up.

I highly recommend it.

Ring Fit Adventure (Nintendo Switch)

Ring Fit Adventure is as much a lifestyle as a game, and
I’ve been busting out squats and yoga poses daily since I first fired it up in
2019. I swear it’s the menu music. It gets me jazzed up to work out a sweat
every time, and I hate sweating.

I also hate squatting. And yoga poses. But put a dragon in
it, and apparently that’s all it takes. I freaking love this adventure, even if
I’m not sure my glutes will make it to the end. If you want a fun way to stay
in shape, then be sure to check it out.

Borderlands 3 (Playstation 4)

Borderlands 3 Moze

Borderlands 3 is the game every preceding Borderlands only
aspired to be. The multitude of guns actually feel inventive and varied
throughout the adventure. In the beginning of the game, my whole squad would
switch into brand new common weapons just to share their effects.

By the end, only the legendaries mattered, but each one of
them was a mind-blowing piece of equipment. From snipers that spawned volcanoes
on kill to shotguns that fired bullets across a grid, each gun had to be tried
to be believed. Best of all, they felt impactful through to the end, avoiding
the typical loot-game issue of enemies that got spongier than your weapons
could handle.

The story took itself overly seriously during the main
quest, but we still had the side missions to enjoy the outrageous humor that
has made the series what it is. Borderlands 3 is a fantastic co-operative
shooter.

Risk of Rain 2 (PC)

Risk of Rain 2 brings the rogue-like into the third
dimension. The early-access game launches soon in 2020, but in the meantime has
been an absolute blast of co-operative monster-slaying and stat-stacking. Mods
ease out the competitive nature of hoarding chests and let you build broken
characters that can wipe out foes before you’ve even seen them, and have led to
hours upon hours of risk and rain.

Be sure to bring some friends along for the ride. Like many
games from 2019, Risk of Rain 2 is best enjoyed with company.

Tetris 99 (Nintendo Switch)

2019

Tetris 99 is free for anyone who pays for Nintendo Online, and absolutely worth a download. I typically dislike versus Tetris, and while the issues I have with it are only compounded when you have 98 opponents vying for the same place, the rush is so much that they can be ignored.

The game has received a huge amount of post-launch updates
throughout 2019 that serve to reward the player even further than simply
tracking T-spins and victories. From user emblems to bot fights and team
battles, Tetris 99 is stocked with fun ways to play.

Tetris 99 is the complete opposite of Tetris Effect, which
is incredible when they are fundamentally the same game. The difference making
the falling-block puzzler a battle royale makes is astounding.

Astral Chain (Nintendo Switch)

Astral Chain may over-use clichés in its writing (seriously,
how many times is someone going to jump in front of an enemy attack to take the
fall?), but its gameplay and world are astonishingly fresh. Every combat fight
can be approached in what feels like hundreds of different ways. This is all
thanks for the five different legions and their different abilities and
attacks.

Wearing the arm legion to pummel foes with dozens of hits
before switching to the beast to chain foes into place so that you can land the
arrow legion’s shots never gets old, and neither does any of the other combinations.

The music is some of the best of the year, from the streets
of Central City to the basement of the Task Force base, riveting and relaxing
when it needs to be.

Like many of Platinum Games’ titles before it, Astral Chain
is a game that needs to be played to be understood, and is only more fun the
better you get.

Daemon X Machina (Nintendo Switch)

Daemon X Machina

From Kingdom Hearts 3 and all the way through to Fall’s
Daemon X Machina, 2019 has been all about fantastically engaging Japanese games
with abysmal writing efforts. Daemon X Machina’s every cut scene and dialogue
should be skipped so that you can spend your time shoulder-deep in the stuff
that actually matters: co-operative robot-and-boss-busting action.

While I really want to give a nod to the wickedly sick
customization for your pilot and mech, the best part of Daemon X Machina is
also the best song of 2019.

The main theme that plays on the title screen is absolutely
incredible. The build-up comes in steps, each more impressive than the last. I
remember sitting there in awe when I fired up the demo, and every every play
session I let it sit there on the TV just so I can enjoy it.

Daemon X Machina is impossible to recommend for its story,
but easy to recommend for its OST and co-operative action.

Runners Up

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Feat. The Legend of Zelda: Bite-sized co-op games are everywhere on Switch, from 2019’s Stretchers to 2020’s Vitamin Connection. Cadence of Hyrule stands out for taking the excellent gameplay of Crypt of the NecroDancer and framing it in the wonderful world of The Legend of Zelda.

Ape Out: Short and simple gaming paired with gameplay-centric jazz culminate in a conclusion that perfectly encapsulates the rage of a rampaging gorilla.

Tales of Vesperia HD: Tales of Vesperia is one of the top greats for the Tales of franchise (right up there with Symphonia and Abyss), and finally it’s available on more than just the Xbox 360 in America.

Persona Q2: I skipped Etrian Odyssey Nexus to make room for Persona Q2, the Persona/Etrian mash-up sequel that brought in the cast of Persona 5. The movie motif was a great way to structure dungeon crawling in unique environments.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: I feel like I just mentioned co-op. 2019 was the year of co-op. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 came out in 2019. Therefore, you can guess what makes Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 great.

Link’s Awakening: Link’s Awakening shows its age and Gameboy origins in design, but the aesthetic is so adorable and the fundamentals are so strong that it was still easy to pour my December into this game.

Pokemon Sword and Shield: Pokemon Sword and Shield is fun, but…. Despite Game Freak’s concerning decisions, Pokemon is fun. Hopefully I won’t have to provide disclaimers next time.

Killer Queen Black: If you’re a competitive personality with friends, get Killer Queen Black.

A Year of Rain: A Year of Rain is Warcraft III without the Blizzard name and with a co-operative campaign built for two. This early-access RTS has been fun despite early-access bugs.

2019 Games I Wish I Had Time to Play

The Alliance Alive HD Remastered: Trying to fit in a JRPG is tough, and 2020 doesn’t make it look any easier.

Outer Wilds: The conceit of this 2019 action-adventure sounded mesmerizing when I heard about it during E3, with a world that evolves over the course of 22 minutes before restarting.

The Outer Worlds: Trying to fit in a western RPG is tough too, and despite not being a Fallout fan, The Outer Worlds still made me want to force the issue.

Wargroove: I’m a big Advance Wars guy, and Wargroove seemed to be enough of its own thing to be worth a look.

Wolfenstein Youngblood: Did somebody say co-op?

River City Girls: The timing of this release worked out great. The two-player limit, less so.

New Super Lucky’s Tale: I really wanted to support this labor of love, especially since I’ve well and finished my other 3D platformers, but the end of the year only makes time for so many titles.

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