As with 2018, I’d like to discuss my top five favorite games that I played in the past year. These are the games that I most enjoyed when I played them in 2019; they weren’t necessarily released in that year.
1. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The attention to detail and careful research involved in crafting an accurate and unique depiction of the nexus of mental illness, a specific historical setting, and mythology make this game stand apart. But it’s also just short enough, with a simple enough set of moves to master in combat, that you can plow through it in a day. Even on the Switch, it’s a beautiful game. And while progression was linear, I liked that it still managed to feel like a game of exploration–aided greatly by the use of a variety of mind-bending puzzles to solve. For a game intended to feel like a new AAA title, it offered something special rather than derivative, with a memorable protagonist and story.
2. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
This was like nostalgia come alive. Yes, it was re-exploring Pokémon Yellow yet again, but the new game features and bright, lively graphics made it feel more like a physical manifestation of youthful imaginings of what a Pokémon game was. It was a game aimed squarely at lapsed fans like me, and it delivered an experience that reengaged my interest in the franchise.
3. Batman: The Enemy Within
This might be my favorite Batman story of all time. It is my favorite Joker story of all time. Even otherwise tired relationships, like that between Bruce and Alfred, feel fresh when you’re the one personally making decisions that impact those relationships. I felt like I had choice throughout the narrative, and I also knew that my choices would often bring painful, unintended consequences. I just had to do what I thought was best, even though an ideal outcome was almost never achievable in the end.
4. Untitled Goose Game
I didn’t even make it through the opening titles before I fully embraced the persona of a dickish goose. This was a fun sandbox, and I delighted in experimentation and in solving the various challenges. Beautiful, distinctive artwork and pleasant sound and music design were soothing even as I sowed chaos.
5. Desert Child
This is an incredibly short game. It might turn some people off because of its brevity. But the art style, music, and racing all come together to deliver a cool, stylistic, unique experience. It proudly wears its sci-fi anime influences on its sleeves. It also delivers the sort of experience that plays to the Switch’s unique strengths; I played most of it in handheld mode while awaiting flights in airports over a short trip.