The best video games of 2019 weren’t difficult to find this year: they were pretty much everywhere, in each month, with few dry spells and more game of the year contenders than is normal for the industry. If 2019 was the last full year of the current generation of gaming devices from Sony and Microsoft, then it was an impressive one, with a slew of releases spanning both AAA and indie developers that surpassed expectation and delivered some of the most captivating experiences of the last few years.
While the best video games of 2019 could easily be presented as a laundry list of games that simply delivered on their massive hype, that would be doing a disservice to the indie sector. In 2019, indie games continued to prove that they’re on the cutting edge brink of video game design, with a number of titles staking their claim as the best video game of 2019. Even on our list, which goes ten games deep and makes a concerted effort to put some of indie gaming’s finest on display, there simply isn’t enough room for all of the excellent titles released by smaller developers. The world of video games is changing, and the best experiences aren’t always guaranteed to be from the most well-known studios anymore – an exciting notion for fans and up-and-comers with a big idea who just need a platform to explore it on.
That isn’t to say that the best video games of 2019 were comprised entirely of indie titles, either. There were very few outright disappointments from the biggest releases of the year, save perhaps Anthem, and many of the games consumers weren’t sure about ended up being exemplary. While Death Stranding is probably the best example of the way unknown quantities delivered in the major release market, Fire Emblem Three Houses was another game that smashed expectations on the way to reaching demographics that weren’t on the radar in the build-up to its launch. Incredibly, 2019 produced so many great games that this list could easily be twice or three times as long – but we’ve narrowed it down to Screen Rant’s top ten best video games of 2019.
Fire Emblem Three Houses is a fever dream combination of all of Persona‘s greatest social sim elements and the tactical combat that the Fire Emblem series has become known for. Somehow, it works – Fire Emblem Three Houses was a gripping exploration of growing up on a battlefield, of the way friendships can define childhood into becoming an adult and the way allegiances shift when there’s something new to fight for. Beyond that, combat took some marked steps forward in making the franchise more accessible to new fans, which is perfect timing, given the outstanding critical reviews of Fire Emblem Three Houses and the game’s presence on one of the hottest gaming consoles in recent memory in the Nintendo Switch.
Death Stranding is a wildly divisive game, but that makes it all the more intriguing. Hideo Kojima’s bizarre look at a world ravaged by an apocalyptic, supernatural event and the minute ways in which humanity reconnects with itself afterwards takes some getting used to. After that, though, all bets are off, with many consumers suggesting it’s one of the greatest games of this generation while others believe it’s little more than an Amazon simulator peppered with ghosts. Screen Rant’s Death Stranding review is glowing, however, and it’s suggestion remains true now even after months of the game’s availability – it’s a game that’s a must-play for anyone who wants to know where gaming innovation can be pushed next.
Devil May Cry 5 got lost in the shuffle for some, as the title released to a largely apathetic fan base that felt the series’ best days were behind it. The combined adventure of Dante, Nero, and newcomer V proved that wrong quite quickly, and offered up some of the flashiest and most fun combat of 2019. The story may still be a load of nonsense, but the characters are endearing and the visuals are just as sleek and sexy as the fondest memories of the franchise’s yesteryear. In a year where Capcom kept churning out incredible games, Devil May Cry 5 was sneakily the best one.
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers may be the single greatest MMORPG expansion of all-time, and it offers enough content that it could easily be considered a standalone title – were it not for the immense amount of time required to reach the beginning of its offerings. Fans who sink in that extra time will be happy they did, as Shadowbringers told one of the best Final Fantasy stories in recent memory and did so while also providing a fresh take on MMORPG additions, ramping up the things that make the game feel special – like class quests, the overarching story, and the job system – while also providing more crossover potential with content from Nier: Automata added after the initial launch.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was proof that the Dark Souls style could be translated beyond just grimdark fantasy games and into something more visually stunning. Of course, Sekiro featured the same kind of gameplay that made its competitors famous and challenging, but it did it with a flair that was new and appealing. Sekiro was also at the heart of a debate surrounding accessibility in games and, while that discussion hasn’t been resolved yet, it shows just how popular the title was – it was so desirable and interesting that it finally shed light on the fact that, perhaps, Souls-style games should be expected to come with an easy mode so that more consumers can enjoy them.
The Outer Worlds always felt like it was going to be a great addition to the RPG genre, but few expected Obsidian Entertainment to deliver the Fallout game fans have wanted since, well, Fallout: New Vegas – the game Obsidian famously developed for Bethesda that many still believe to be the quintessential modern Fallout experience. The Outer Worlds isn’t just a replacement Fallout, though, as it handles a tongue-in-cheek critique of rampant capitalism beautifully while also providing some of the most memorable companions the genre has ever seen. Parvati, in particular, is a demonstration of nuanced representation that raises the bar for what fans can expect from developers in 2020 and beyond.
House House’s Untitled Goose Game, on paper, seems like the sort of quick download and play experience that is good for a laugh and a half hour of fun. What it actually is, however, is one of the most sublime indie games of 2019, a title that was as addictive as it was hilariously structured. Something about just being a horrible goose to the poor villagers who have this monster inflicted upon them burnt hours away unexpectedly, and proved that with enough charm and polish, even the most absurd game ideas have traction when they’re executed brilliantly.
Disco Elysium is another surprise hit on the list of the best games of 2019. A psychological thriller in which the player takes on the role of a detective with memory problems and a world that’s scary and strange in front of him, Disco Elysium‘s biggest selling point is its staggering narrative. It’s also got some of the most insightful and heart-breaking dialogue options in RPGs, and is entirely unlike anything else released in 2019. Disco Elysium is especially worth a look for anyone who is growing tired of the standard AAA story-telling experience and who craves something different and special.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is the shortest game on this list, but that doesn’t affect its stature as one of the best games of 2019. While Disco Elysium sounds like it would be a jaunt down trippy beats and eye-popping gameplay, Sayonara Wild Hearts is the actual rhythm title that delivers on that expectation. The soundtrack for the game is simply one of the best in modern gaming and, with gameplay intrinsically tied to such synth-laden and dreamy tunes, Sayonara Wild Hearts is an engrossing experience that only demands attention, not time.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a gorgeous looking third-person stealth adventure that pulls no punches in examining the journey of two children to survive one of the most devastating disasters in history. Are the rats or the soldiers the bigger monsters? Can they survive a world that’s so clearly out to destroy them and their innocence? A Plague Tale: Innocence doesn’t just ask big questions, but it delivers moments that capitalize on those queries’ initial promise, lingering with the player long after the game has concluded. Horror and joy in equal measure, A Plague Tale: Innocence is another unique experience fans will want to make up their own minds about, and is definitely one of the best games of 2019.
Next: Untitled Goose Game: Getting Through The Garden Walkthrough