2019 was the year that I truly indulged myself in playing video games and didn’t even have to feel guilty about it because I can *technically* count it as doing ‘research’ now (and I’m pretty sure playing more video games was one of my 2020 goals)! I’ve been able to play so many games that have completely captivated me and reminded me of why I love video games so much, some of which I have been sharing with you all throughout the year in the form of more video game oriented blog posts. At the beginning of last year, I posted up a ‘Games I want to play in 2019‘ list which I thought would be cool to briefly revisit to see how many, if any, of those games I played before moving on to my best games of 2019.
The 2019 Play List
There were 12 games featured on my ‘games to play’ list last year with 6 that I managed to play.
The games that were featured on my list that I did play were:
Including Far Cry 5 and Hollow Knight on this list is cheating just a teenie bit because I played both of them last January but never got round to finishing them or played them much (if at all) throughout the rest of the year. I *did* complete Let’s Go Eevee, The Outer Worlds, and Rakuen though and have been playing a lot of Stardew Valley throughout the year.
The games that were featured on my list that I didn’t get round to playing were:
There were 6 games that I didn’t get round to playing in 2019, 4 of which were more of a priority than others as I’ve owned them for a while now without finishing/starting them (Ori and the Blind Forest, The Last Guardian, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Dishonored). With the exception of The Last Guardian, the other three are ones that I have played about 30-40% of in previous years but never got round to finishing. Moon Hunters is a game I own and tried to play but the multiplayer didn’t work so I gave up on it, and I sadly still don’t own God of War.
Although I didn’t get round to playing these, I did play a lot of other games this year and many of them have made my Best of 2019 list!
Best Games of 2019
I’ve been lucky enough to play so many games this year that have completely blown me away and enraptured me for many hundreds of hours. I’ve selected 10 games which I loved the most as my “best games of 2019” which I have included below with a little bit of information about each and the reasons why I loved them so much. It would be impossible for me to rank them in any order though so they are listed in random order!
Far Cry 5 (2018) Ubisoft – PS4
Far Cry 5 is a first-person shooter set in Hope County, a fictional region of Montana. The main story revolves around a doomsday cult that has taken over the region and is led by the charismatic figure of Joseph Seed. You play as a junior deputy sheriff who has been trapped by the cult in Hope County and you must work with resistance factions to liberate the county from the despotic rule of Joseph Seed and his siblings, each of whom control a different region of the map.
If I had to pick the best game of 2019 I think it would definitely be Far Cry 5. Even though I never got round to finishing it, Far Cry 5 has so thoroughly stuck in my mind and I find myself thinking about it almost every day. It’s stunning visuals, haunting soundtrack, and enrapturing storyline have me fully in their grasp leading me to dub this not only one of my favorite games of 2019 but of all-time.
Reasons to love Far Cry 5:
🌟 Beautiful soundtrack which reflects the nature of Far Cry’s doomsday cult and ensnares you deep within the game’s narrative. It includes gospel music, country, glam rock, and industrial music, and will have you listening to it on repeat for hours and hours.
🌟 Visuals that feel so real that you feel as though you are in a doomsday cult Montana. Like the music, you can spend hours just driving around to appreciate the beautiful scenery. I’d say because of that Far Cry 5 is not only a first-person shooter but also an excellent candidate for being a walking sim.
🌟 I love each and every character in Far Cry 5 including the terrifyingly charismatic Seed siblings and all of the wonderful companions you bring along for the ride. Special shout outs to my loves Nick Rye, Grace Armstrong, Cheeseburger and Boomer ❤
80 Days (2014) Inkle – Nintendo Switch
80 Days is an incredible interactive fiction game which offers players exquisitely written branching narrative storytelling that will have you coming back to replay the game over and over again. It’s loosely based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days but gives the story a refreshing retelling that challenges the European superiority and whiteness endemic within the story. Playing as Fogg’s manservent, Passepartout, you must circumnavigate the globe: making all of the choices regarding where you go, what you do, and how the story unfolds.
I think at this point I have replayed 80 Days over 10 times yet have barely even breached the surface of the stories which are on offer in the game. The game has a lot of steampunk elements of the game with hovercrafts, sentient automatons, and moving cities which bring the world alive and make it really exciting, and there are countless routes that you can take, decisions you make, people you meet and artifacts which you can buy and trade. 80 Days is a game that I highly, highly recommend especially for playing on the Switch.
Reasons to love 80 Days:
🌟 Recasting Around the World in 80 Days in a way that challenges Eurocentricity. In this way, it reminded me a lot of Everfair by Nisi Shawl in its exploration of the technical innovations of other cultures around the world and gives you some wonderfully written stories about these which, I think, will challenge a lot of player’s assumptions.
🌟 You can do a playthrough in a couple of hours meaning that you can keep picking the game up again and again when you have a few hours to spare. It’s got enough content and difficulty to challenge you whilst being easy enough to play that it doesn’t feel like *too much* when you just want a nice quick game to play.
🌟 I love the game mechanisms and how they are intertwined with the narrative and game’s beautiful visuals that accompany the game.
The Sims 4 (Ongoing) EA – PC
I don’t think The Sims 4 needs much introduction… it’s a simulation game which will devour hundreds of hours of your life but which you won’t regret spending at all? I resisted buying The Sims 4 for a long time (mainly on account of it not being released on Steam and the separation of content into countless DLC packs…) but now that it’s in my life it is firmly in my life.
The reason why I”m including it on my 2019 best games list specifically is that there were a lot of really great expansions and game packs released for the game this year, and a few older packs which I could finally afford to buy, which bowled me away. This year alone we’ve had the Island Living expansion and Discover University expansion which are two of my absolute favourite expansions ever, and the Strangerville and Realm of Magic game packs (neither of which I have played yet).
Reasons to love The Sims 4:
🌟 Now that the game has been out for 5 years there are so many packs which really enhance the gaming experience. There are 8 expansion packs, 8 game packs, and 15 stuff packs which will provide you with years worth of entertainment.
🌟 More diverse sims are something I have always wanted and I am increasingly pleased with the amount of variety there is with hair textures, clothing options, and the ability to create trans characters ❤
🌟 Favourite packs include: Island Living, Discover University, Get Famous, Parenthood, Get Together, and City Living!
Rakuen (2019) Laura Shigihara – PC
Rakuen is a 2D indie roleplaying game which is combat-free and a sprite-based exploration game where the story is told primarily via text boxes. Rakuen centers on the life of a little boy who is in hospital who is able to explore the magical world of Rakuen through a book read to him by his mother on her visits. He learns that there is a Guardian of the Forest who can grant wishes and sets out with his mother to find the Guardian so that he can ask for one wish. The story alternates between the hospital and Rakuen, and the player’s aim is to collect pieces of music for new friends to present to the Guardian and help his friends in the hospital and in Rakuen.
Rakuen is another game that has really stuck with me all year and which I can’t get out of my head (and my heart). It’s one of the most beautiful and fun games that I’ve played though, warning, the overarching story focuses on cancer and really kicks you in the feels. If you want to find out more, you can read my review of Rakuen which you can find via this link!
Reasons to love Rakuen:
🌟 Combat-free and focuses on narrative, puzzles, and mini-tasks. It’s relaxing and also a fairly short(ish) game at about 10-12 hours.
🌟 Everything about this story is beautiful and captivating – the characters, the music, the art, the story…
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (2018) Good Shepard Entertainment – PC
Another excellent narrative-driven indie game, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is set during the Great Depression-era US. Caught out by the devil during a tricky game of cards, you are transformed into a huge skeleton which must travel the US collecting and trading oral stories; following them as they transform into wild things of their own and retelling them to certain individuals you repeatedly encounter to progress through the game.
I discovered Where the Water Tates Like Wine through LudoNarraCon 2019 which was the first online narrative games convention hosted on steam. It caught my attention, unsurprisingly, due to its aesthetics, killer soundtrack and focus on storytelling – three of my favourite things. It’s a slow-paced game that you can pick up on a casual basis.
Reasons to love Where the Water Tastes Like Wine:
🌟 Mixture of 3D gameplay with 2D hand-drawn illustrations which really make the game stand-out and add interesting elements into the depression-era visuals of the game
🌟 Excellent soundtrack which accompanies the game and brings the world to life (very American gothic type music which I LOVE)
🌟 An interesting array of characters that you meet as you cross the States on your mission including migrant workers, travelling preachers, beat poets, and blues singers.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) Nintendo – Nintendo Switch
Another game which I don’t really think needs much introduction… Breath of the Wild is one of the biggest games of this decade that everyone has been talking about and for good reason. I only started playing BoTW this year because I had been fairly good at ignoring it up until then, having never played a Zelda or Link game before and been put off by the expensive price tag attached to the game. However, when I heard that BoTW 2 would be coming out this year and I fortunately received a voucher for Christmas last year which meant that I could actually afford it, I thought I would give it a go to see what all of the fuss was about and loved it. I’m still nowhere near finished (especially thanks to all of the highly distracting side missions and sprawling open-world…) but I have a blast every time I pick BoTW up!
Reasons to love Breath of the Wilds:
🌟 I don’t even think I can come up with a list for this one because just… everything. Everything about the game is a reason to love it!
The Outer Worlds (2019) Obsidian Entertainment – PS4
Imagine the Fallout franchise in space and then imagine a story about the potential futures of capitalism and anarchism. The result is The Outer Worlds – a game set in an alternate future that diverged in 1901 where McKinley is not assassinated, Roosevelt never became president, and megacorporations have been allowed to run rampant in space – colonizing and terraforming planets, working humans to their bare bones, or otherwise causing death through close proximity to hostile alien life.
The Outer Worlds is one of the 2019 releases that I set aside some money to buy when it first came out and it did not disappoint. It was not only a tonne of fun but also had an unexpectedly intriguing narrative where you could choose to bring down or ally yourself with megacorporations, bureaucrats and totalitarian businessmen.
Things to love about The Outer Worlds:
🌟 All of the wit, sarcasm, and humor (and roughly the same mechanics) of the Fallout franchise but set in space with a host of pithy characters and ridiculous choices to be made
🌟 The NPC characters who can become part of your crew are little gems in their own right, especially Parvarti who is an asexual engineer who will capture your heart and make you want to protect her always
🌟 A particularly timely commentary on capitalism, bureaucracy, and middle-management but with big guns, terrifying alien fauna, and anarchy
Stardew Valley (2016) ConcernedApe – Nintendo Switch
Inherit your grandfather’s farm, set out on your new life as a farmer, build your farm from scratch and take down the Joja corporation (or be evil, I guess?) Stardew Valley is an adorable country-life RPG where you farm – grow crops, raise animals, make friends with the local community, go on adventures, and fall in love (if you choose!)
I owned Stardew Valley for the PC but never played very much of it although I really enjoyed it as it wasn’t particularly comfortable (for me) to play on the computer. So, when I bought my Switch in January 2019 it was one of the first games I bought and I have been playing it all year. Stardew Valley is the perfect game to play for a few hours, or all day, and it’s one of those games that you can just keep picking up and putting down to play whenever the feeling takes you. Imo, it’s the perfect Switch game and one that I love.
Reasons to love Stardew Valley:
🌟 Build your own farm – what’s not to love about that?! There’s different farm maps you can choose from, meaning that you can keep coming back to build different types of farms, and thanks to the multiplayer capabilities you can also build farms with your friends!
🌟 There’s something for everyone whether you want to focus on crops, raise animals and make artisan products, spend your days catching and selling fish, working your work deep into the mines, or making friends with everyone in town
🌟 Honestly just so heart-warming, easy to play and the perfect cosy game
Divinity: Original Sin 2 (2017) Larian Studios – PC
A kickstarted indie RPG game set in the fantasy world of Rivellon which is perfect for fans of Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy RPG games like Dragon Age. Gather your party, smite your opponents in turn-based combat, and embark on a fraught journey to ascend to Divinity.
I played and finished Divinity: Original Sin 2 in 2019 thanks to my best friends who kept telling me about this really great RPG game and a certain saucy skeleton boy… Divinity: OS2 has all of the makings of a well-written RPG game with excellent turn-based combat but also serves up excellent witty banter with your companions and NPCs. Play as a snobby noble lizard (like me!) who believes that it is their lizard-born right to achieve divinity over all others, or maybe as a flesh-eating elf who feels called by their god to follow a certain path… There’s so many different ways to play Divinity: OS2 that there are so many different ways to play, and replay, and replay…
Reasons to love Divinity: Original Sin 2:
🌟 A wonderful kickstarted game made by the excellent Larian studios (currently developing Baldur’s Gate 3)
🌟 Incredibly well-written story and characters with branching narratives which keep you coming back for more so you can continue to learn more about the world and experiment with different stories, endings and companions
🌟 A smart turn-based combat system that allows for interesting combat creativity and encourages players to experiment and interact with their environment in unique ways
Heaven’s Vault (2019) Inkle – PC
From the creators of 80 Days, Heaven’s Vault is a narrative adventure game where you play as a space archeologist who uses hieroglyphic language puzzles to uncover the lost history of an ancient space Nebula. The award-winning Heaven’s Vault has been hailed as one of the best games of 2019 and I heartily second this!
Heaven’s Vault is another LudoNarraCon game which I am so thankful to have discovered. It’s an incredibly original, engaging and exciting game that I have poured hours of my time into and can’t wait to finish it so I can fully unravel the curious secrets that I have been delving into. The idea of creating a game that is set in the future and is very much within the science-fiction genre but which is focused on uncovering the past through archeology and linguistics is one that I truly love. Although it seems like a linear narrative game, you also discover that there are lots of discoveries, secrets and characters that you can discover or lose on the way which keeps you constantly on your toes, searching for clues and working out who to trust.
🌟 The lovely combination of ancient history with futuristic technology, including robot race who may the key to unraveling a surprising and secret past
🌟 The use of linguistic puzzles! This is one of the best things about Heaven’s Vault and I’ve had endless hours of fun trying to piece together Ancient translations from artifacts and clues discovered throughout the game. There’s nothing better than the feeling of having your translation confirmed!
🌟 A diverse cast of characters brought to life in Middle-Eastern and North-African futuristic environments where you play as a female archaeologist who wears a headscarf
2019 was such an excellent year for me and gaming and there are, of course, a lot of other games that I played this year which I also really enjoyed that didn’t make this list, such as A Mortician’s Tale. I continue to be lucky to be able to play all of these amazing games (both in terms of having the time to play and also being able to afford them). I’m looking forward to 2020 being another year of gaming for me, especially as I’ll be replaying some of my favorites like the Mass Effect games for my research! I’ll be trying to stick to Fridays as my gaming post days and have a few posts planned for the next few weeks on 2020 game releases to look out for, games I want to play in 2020, and Pokemon Sword first thoughts.
As always, please drop me a comment below or on Twitter letting me know what your favorite games of 2019 were. I’d love to hear if we have any of the same games on our lists or if you have favourites that I haven’t played yet ❤