Gamers were spoiled for choice in 2019, with a strong selection of titles on offer on every platform and in nearly every imaginable genre.
From casual games for smartphones to deep strategy games for PC to blockbuster console action games, 2019 offered plenty of variety. Here is TechCentral’s look back on the games that shaped the year.
There’s an intriguing mystery at the heart of Outer Wilds, a quirky first-person space exploration game with a Groundhog Day-like time structure and a folksy art style. What could be stressful and frustrating instead becomes a voyage of discovery as you tease out the reasons that the galaxy is doomed to end every 22 minutes of gameplay. Outer Wilds offers up many moments of wonder as you travel its six-planet solar system to uncover its secrets. Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows
Baba Is You
Perfect for on-the-go play on the Switch, Baba Is You is a gloriously inventive puzzle game that challenges you to manipulate its rules to complete a level. This usually means moving tiles with words on them to spell out new parameters. It starts out simple, then gets trickier as it goes along, demanding both patience and lateral thinking. Linux, macOS, Switch, Windows
A Plague Tale: Innocence
Following the adventures of a pair of noble children orphaned in medieval France, A Plague Tale is an intriguing blend of stealth, light puzzle solving and cinematic storytelling. Dark and grim — yet leavened with moments of black humour and poignancy — it’s one of the most compelling horror-themed games of the year. It nods in the direction of The Last of Us and Ico, but creates a strong identity of its own through its memorable characters and distinctive setting. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Gears of War 5
The latest Gears of War game is a big, generous package featuring one of the most outstanding campaigns in the series to date, along with a suite of hard-hitting competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. The campaign throws in some side quests and slightly opens up the level design to add some depth and variety to the well-established formula; the cover-to-cover gunplay is as muscular and well-balanced as you’d expect from this franchise. Moment to moment, it’s a consistently exhilarating and engaging experience — plus, it’s one of the best-looking games available for the Xbox One platform. Xbox One, Windows
Respawn’s Apex Legends was shadow-dropped earlier this year and rapidly became one of the biggest competitive shooters in the world. Sure, there are already enough free-to-play, Battle Royale and hero shooters in the market, but Apex Legends borrows elements from the leaders in the genres and comes up with enough new ideas to more than justify its existence. With the best-in-class gunplay you’d expect from Respawn, carefully balanced hero classes, and an innovative approach to squad-based combat, Apex Legends is a polished shooter that oozes personality. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Untitled Goose Game
The titular goose of Untitled Goose Game doesn’t want to wipe out half of the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers, or even to take over a city and become a crime lord. Nope, the goose with the malevolent honk and amusing waddle wants nothing more than to ruin the day of the townsfolk in an idyllic English village. With its simple but charming graphics and slapstick sense of humour, this puzzle/stealth game is an antidote to the grandiose, apocalyptic themes of pretty much every other piece of pop culture out there today. Breezing by in a couple of hours, it’s an entertaining bit of mischief. macOS, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Windows
Resident Evil 2
Endless remixes, resurrections and remakes of the Devil May Cry and Resident Evil games sometimes seem to be all that keep Capcom in business. But this remake of Resident Evil 2 is, for once, no lazy remaster of a classic game. Instead, it’s a comprehensive and gripping re-imagining of the 1998 zombie survival horror game that makes it feel new again with updated visuals, gameplay and controls. Resident Evil 2 is at once a celebration of the franchise’s legacy and a stunning new game in its own right. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software’s Hidetaka Miyazaki pares back the role-playing elements of the Souls and Bloodborne games in Sekiro in favour of a purer focus on action. At the same time, his samurai game ups the ante even more for difficulty and intensity. The result is one of the most challenging and rewarding third-person action games of the year, with punishing boss fights, gratifying combat and stealth, and outstanding level design. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Following the critical and commercial disappointment of Quantum Break in 2016, Remedy Entertainment returned this year with Control, an action game with tasty visuals and a surreal setting. It was made on a lower budget and with a shorter development cycle than Alan Wake and Quantum Break, and seems to be better for it.
While there is a characteristically bonkers story driving the action, the primary focus is on gameplay rather than cinematic excess. Like most of Remedy’s games, Control is a third-person shooter with supernatural and science-fiction elements, but this time with some light role-playing elements, more exploration and lots of side content. Protagonist Jesse Faden develops some compelling supernatural abilities and weapons over the course of the game, setting up some thrilling combat encounters. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Several developers have tried in recent years to recapture the soul of the beloved Infinity Engine role-playing games (RPGs) of the late 1990s. But none of them nail the essence of the classics of that era with the precision of Disco Elysium, a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment from Estonian studio ZA/UM.
Disco Elysium puts the player in the shoes of a substance-addled detective trying to solve a murder case and to piece his memory together. The gorgeous isometric artwork, an atmospheric soundtrack from British Sea Power, and sublime writing add up to one of the year’s most satisfying videogame stories and some of its richest world-building.
The dense plotting, text-heavy storytelling and amnesiac protagonist carry deliberate echoes of Planescape. Yet the game also forges a distinct identity of its own through its neo-noir styling, unique conversational system, player freedom, and some clever twists on the RPG staples of skills trees and branching narratives. Perhaps this conversation-heavy game is not for everyone — but those that love it will still be talking about it 20 years from now. Windows; PS4 and Xbox One to follow in 2020
Also worth a mention
Asgard’s Wrath: This Norse mythology-themed action RPG is one of most the ambitious virtual reality games released to date — an epic adventure with high production values and great combat that sets a new benchmark for VR experiences. Oculus Rift
Astral Chain: PlatinumGames serves up a characteristically intense hack-and-slash action game, with tight gameplay, some neat puzzles and outstanding art direction. Switch
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: The reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-franchise offers the leanest and most focused CoD campaign in many years. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Death Stranding: Hideo Kojima’s first non-Metal Gear game in decades was divisive among critics and fans alike. Maddeningly slow, self-indulgent and bloated it may be, but Death Stranding’s asynchronous multiplayer, haunting atmosphere and intricate gaming systems offer rich rewards for patient players. PS4; PC version to follow in 2020
Devil May Cry 5: With its stylish presentation, breakneck pacing and a superb combat engine, Devil May Cry 5 is one of the best entries yet in Capcom’s legendary action franchise. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Fire Emblem: Three Houses: A deep tactical RPG game that rewards multiple playthroughs. Switch
Grindstone: Capy’s simple but addictive colour-matching puzzle game is one of the standout titles on the Apple Arcade. Apple Arcade (Apple TV, iOS, macOS)
Manifold Garden: The perspective-bending, Escher-influenced Manifold Garden is a rewarding spatial puzzle game with beautiful visuals. Apple Arcade (Apple TV, iOS, macOS), Windows; PS4 and Linux versions to follow in 2020
Metro: Exodus: An underrated first-person shooter that shifts the Metro games’ setting from the claustrophobic tunnels of the Moscow metro to the nuclear winter wastelands of a shattered world. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
The Outer Worlds: Obsidian’s space-themed action RPG is inspired by Mass Effect and Fallout, and features unforgettable characters, sharp writing and interesting quests. PS4, Xbox One, Windows; Switch to follow in 2020
Sayonara Wild Hearts: A mesmerising blend of music video and arcade action, this rhythm game is one of the most stylish indies of the year. Apple Arcade (Apple TV, iOS, macOS), PS4, Switch, Windows
Telling Lies: The makers of Her Story create another fascinating mystery in this interactive video drama. iOS, macOS, Windows
Star Wars: Fallen Order: Developer Respawn channels Dark Souls, God of War and the Tomb Raider reboot for a terrific summer blockbuster of a Star Wars single player game. PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Super Mario Maker 2: A sequel that builds on an already excellent predecessor with interesting new level design tools, a story mode and lots of content, all presented with the usual Nintendo charm and polish. Switch
Total War: Three Kingdoms: A deep and engrossing strategy game with a compelling setting in Han dynasty China. Linux, macOS, Windows — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media