For the 14th straight year, I’m listing all the games I’ve played in the past 12 months. I’m also offering some recommendations. I’m a little late this year, because of distractions, but I’m not going to let anything end this tradition.
When I first started tracking the games I’d played in a given year, I focused on the number of games I started and the number I finished. I’ve changed my methodology since then. I’m listing more games that are slightly older, because I’ve found myself going back to releases from prior years in order to give them a little more time. I’ve also stopped counting the number of games I finish, because what does it even mean to finish a game these days? Instead, I now bold the games I played and liked enough to recommend.
Some quick observations about what I played in 2019:
- I all but stopped playing my 3DS.
- Apple Arcade got me back into mobile gaming in a big way.
- I barely played any VR.
- Xbox Game Pass helped get me into my favourite game of the year, Outer Wilds.
- I didn’t even start a lot of games I was interested in in 2019, including Fire Emblem Three Houses, Astral Chain, Untitled Goose Game, Mutazione, Sayanora Wild Hearts, Creature In the Well and Death Stranding. I need more time! Then again, I really do like spending a lot of that time with my toddler twins who – shhhh – don’t yet know that video games exist.
- Fun fact: this is the first installment of the list I’ve written from an office in Times Square since 2009, before Kotaku.
Baba Is You. Screenshot: Kotaku
My 2019 Gaming List
(Games I played listed below. The games I can confidently recommend are bolded.)
- Bye Bye Boxboy! - I finally finished this 2017 puzzle sidescroller in advance of the release of its Switch sequel. Having played that new one, I can confidently say this final 3DS release is my favourite of the four-game set.
- Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn
- Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam - I played two more hours of this, but still didn’t finish, on the assumption I’d just let it slide and play the next one. Sadly, development studio Alphadream went bankrupt in 2019, meaning this may turn out to be the last in the series. A huge bummer.
- Metroid Samus Returns - Another year of me not finishing this game in my supposed favourite gaming series. I started assuming it’d just be ported to Switch and I’d play it there. Guess not.
- Yokai Watch 3
Note: My 3DS play time plummeted in 2019, down to just over 13 hours. My peak was 287 hours in 2013. I hadn’t touched the system and figured I was done with it, but then I opened it today and saw a lot of games on the home screen that I still want to play. Time to throw it back in my bag for more 3DS commuter gaming? Oh, who am I kidding?
Shinsekai Into The Depths. Screenshot: Kotaku
- The Bradwell Conspiracy
- Agent Intercept
- Assemble With Care
- Bleak Sword
- Card of Darkness
- ChuChu Rocket! Universe
- Cricket Through The Ages
- Dear Reader - One of my favourite games of the year, and like nothing else I played in that time. This is simply a game about reading literature. Playing it involves getting a lot of good reading done.
- Dodo Peak
- Exit The Gungeon
- Frogger in Toy Town
- Hot Lava
- King’s League II
- Minecraft Earth
- Mini Motorways
- Painty Mob
- Punch Planet
- Rayman Mini
- Shinsekai Into The Depths - The best Metroid-style game I played in 2019 and my favourite since Hollow Knight. I’d love to play it on a bigger screen than my phone’s.
- Sneaky Sasquatch
- Speed Demons
- The Get Out Kids
- The Pinball Wizard
- Way Of The Turtle
- What The Golf?
- Where Cards Fall
- Word Laces
Note: Most of these games were Apple Arcade releases. Before the launch of that service, I’d significantly diminished my mobile gaming intake. Arcade changed that. In September I subscribed to Apple’s service, downloaded dozens of games and went from dealing with drought problems to flood management. I have barely had time to take in a lot of these games, including many of the Arcade releases that interested me the most.
- Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey - Unlike some other people, I really liked this game about controlling generations of prehistoric people, frustrations and all. Its opacity was part of its appeal for me. The process of discovery wasn’t as appealing as it was in my favourite 2019 game, Outer Wilds, but I still found the caveman gameplay fascinating. I’ve played many games with skill trees, but nothing that involved such advances as thinking more clearly or simply being able to manipulate an object with two hands. Ancestors is a remarkable original, and I only stopped playing it so that I could dive more fully into it on console.
Far Cry New Dawn. Screenshot: Kotaku
- Assassin’s Creed III Remastered - I only played a little of the remaster, just enough to help me remember how much I miss classic Assassin’s Creed and how much this controversial installment – what with its slow, surprise-twist beginning – appealed to me.
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: The First Blade - This expansion’s middle chapter, Shadow Heritage, was released in January of 2019 and quickly became notorious for its final twist, which mandated that the player’s character, regardless of their choices, was required to have heterosexual sex and procreate. Among the unfortunate consequences of that design decision was the overshadowing of the chapter’s unrelated main story, a tale of a mother and daughter at odds with each other that wound up being one of Odyssey’s best-told tales. The bad baby stuff, notably, happens well after that story wraps, in a coda meant to set up the next chapter.
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: The Fate Of Atlantis - A visually stunning three-parter that ends with a chapter that finally rewards players who are into the series’ recently-ignored sci-fi-history lore.
- Blood & Truth
- Days Gone
- Destiny 2 Curse of Osiris, Warmind and Forsaken - I had ignored most of Destiny 2 until late this year, then raced to finish the game’s boring main campaign before playing catch-up with the game’s expansions. I enjoyed the Mars-based Warmind a lot and was savouring the vengeance quest and creative mission design of Forsaken until I got distracted by the game’s 2019 expansion.
- Destiny 2 Shadowkeep - I liked Destiny’s newest expansion, even if I’m never sure what Eris Morn is talking about. [Editor’s note: Nobody’s ever sure what Eris Morn is talking about. — Jason Schreier]
- The Division 2 - The game remains deeply flawed thanks to its weirdly grim storytelling, its overwhelming amount of loot and its general failure to recapture the perfection of its predecessor’s snowy-disaster setting. What it has going for it, however, is its stunning use of America’s capital and signature museums (and zoo!) as gameplay arenas and its rendition of a civilian population in resistance against an occupying force. If only its subsequent year of expansion hadn’t been so underwhelming.
- Falcon Age - The concept of a falconry-inspired game in VR is great, but PSVR just doesn’t feel like good enough VR to me. Better controllers, please!
- Far Cry 5 - It’s okay. I finished it in 2019 in anticipation of its sequel, New Dawn, which I wound up preferring. But it was Far Cry 5 that introduced me to the terrain of Hope County, which made me appreciate its sequel’s depiction of how it all changed nearly two in-game decades later.
- Far Cry: New Dawn - In which I discovered how much I like a game that used an old game’s areas in a new and interesting way. Super Metroid isn’t the only game that nails that.
- The First Tree
- A Fisherman’s Tale
- Ghost Giant
- Ghost Recon Breakpoint - I keep dabbling with this one, morbidly fascinated by a game with some interesting ideas, some bad ones and a whole lot of drama around it.
- Ghost Recon Wildlands - I played a lot of this 2017 game in early 2019, in the hope of prepping for Breakpoint and in understanding what it’s deal was. But it goes on forever, and I don’t have forever.
- Hob - One of many games from recent years that I finally finished in 2019. Hob is an action-adventure set in one of the most beautiful clockwork video game worlds I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended.
- The Lego Movie 2: Videogame - The original is one of my favourite Lego games. This, not so much.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man - I took a second swing at this game in mid-2019, hoping it’d finally move me, but there’s something about the activities in its world that leaves me torn about whether to stay on the pretty compelling main path, venture off into the mostly unexciting side stuff or just resign myself to not liking the overall experience enough to see it through.
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- Wolfenstein Cyberpilot
Luigi’s Mansion 3. Screenshot: Nintendo
- Baba Is You - This puzzle game about pushing blocks and rewriting the rules of the game in the process was a revelation and my second-favourite thing I played in 2019. I regret how many times I buckled and cheated to figure out a solution. I nevertheless am wowed that no one had made a game like this before.
- Boxboy + Boxgirl - The weakest entry in the series, but elevated by its third and final campaign. Recommended only if you haven’t played the 3DS predecessors or are interested in playing into the third campaign.
- Cadence of Hyrule - I wanted to like this a lot, but I found it so difficult that I haven’t played far enough into it to make a recommendation.
- Captain Toad Treasure Tracker Special Episode
- Doom - Yes, the 2016 game. I finally finished it but, like many people warned me, there really was no good reason to play its latter half.
- Dragon Quest Builders 2 - Didn’t spend much time on it, as I was partially deterred by its miniscule text.
- Dragon Marked For Death - Wanted to like it, didn’t, saw it was patched a lot and am curious to go back.
- Giga Wrecker Alt
- Hard West
- Luigi’s Mansion 3 - One of my favourites of the year, with some of the best level themes in a Nintendo game ever. If you’re sampling it, at least get to the seventh floor!
- Monkey Barrels
- Pokémon Shield - I’ve never gotten into the series but always try the new releases. The first hour didn’t grab me, and I’m not sure if or when I’ll go back.
- Ring Fit Adventure - One of the best surprises of the year.
- The Stretchers
- Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast - I heard this was great, but I hadn’t played it back in the day. In 2019 it was a hard game to get into.
- Super Kirby Clash
- Super Mario Maker 2 - Just tried some of the campaign. Not enough to go by.
- Super Mario Odyssey VR - I was unimpressed with Odyssey’s surprise VR levels (didn’t think much of The Legend of Zelda’s Breath of the Wild VR mode either).
- Yoshi’s Crafted World - I loved developer Good Feel’s Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and so I’ve wanted to at least really like their Yoshi games. I’ve tried. I’ve tried again. I just don’t.
Outer Wilds. Screenshot: Kotaku
- Crackdown 3 - It felt like a game from another generation, which was more of a good thing than a bad thing in this case.
- Gears of War 4 - I finally finished this 2016 game, just so I could see what happens. Turns out, it has a great ending, one that didn’t leave me hanging for long.
- Gears 5 - I mostly played the campaign and was greatly relieved at how much better it was than its predecessor’s. I’ll take my Gears with Marcus as an old-man sidekick and a large helping of sidequests, thank you very much.
- Outer Wilds - My favourite game of 2019 and possibly my favourite of the past decade, Outer Wilds is everything I both knew and didn’t know I wanted in a game: non-violent exploration of fictional star system in which every heavenly body operates under some strange, distinct rules of physics. A brilliant, breathtaking adventure.
- Void Bastards
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus - I finally started this 2017 game, discovered that its default difficult level is annoyingly hard, dropped it down and had a pretty good time until more recent and urgent releases kept me from finishing it.
That’s 86 games overall, my lowest number ever. Quality over quantity, right?
That compares to:
2018… 102 played
2017… 106 played
2015...138 played; 24 finished
2014...129 played; 26 finished
2013...117 played; 31 finished
2012...139 played; 23 finished
2011...161 played; 28 finished
2010... 195 played; 52 finished
2009... 165 played; 48 finished
2008… 135 played; 37 finished
2007… 118 played; 35 finished
2006… 102 played; 21 finished
And that’s the list for 2019. Tell me: what’d I miss out on? And which games that didn’t wow me should I give a second chance?
Featured screenshot: Kotaku