The days are not what they seem. Holidays wane. Video games stack. Downloads fill drive space. The catalogue anxiously fills until we have too many bought for cheap. How is there time to play all the games there are to play? I can tell you with certainty before Game of the Year discussions came about I had never heard of Control, but when I did I was quite interested. Conversely, I fell in love with Baba Is You, and when I pitch it to people I am treated like a mysterious madman.
There is no way for a group of gamers to play all the good games out there, and there’s barely a point in cutting the time out of the ones we enjoy just to be caught up on the twitter conversations. The TYF game staff is a small band of buccaneers and, while passionate about what we do, can’t afford to play games full time. I’m not sure if any games journalist can afford to play games full time. Gotta sleep at some point. Anyway, this is OUR list. OUR list, down here. And I’m proud of it, damn it. – Evan Griffin, Gaming Editor
(You’re damn right I’m quoting Goonies.)
Ok, starting the list now.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (In No Particular Order!)
Mortal Kombat 11 – NetherRealm Studios (PC / PS4 / XOne / Nintendo Switch / Stadia)
Mortal Kombat delivers a thrilling, bloodthirsty cheer for all fighting video game fans with its latest launch. Mortal Kombat 11 finishes its trilogy with an action-packed and polished entry that makes this one of the best in the series. The player’s customization tools are ironed out and expanded with countless options, the fighting is smooth and fun, and the plot connects every MK game together into one seamless story. Brilliant! – Justin Carreiro
Pokémon Sword and Shield – Game Freak (Nintendo Switch)
The Pokémon community has had plenty of in-fighting over this game all year long but having it our hands reveals…it’s good! While the intense streamlining might turn off some, this is pretty much impossible to argue that the choice benefited the first home console release of the mainline series. – Travis Hymas
Apex Legends – Respawn Entertainment (PC / PS4 / XOne)
We seem to be coming down from the age of looter-shooters and while Fortnite might win the Popularity Contest in the long run, Respawn Entertainment’s take on the genre is the one with the most fun. A spinoff of Respawn’s Titanfall series, Apex Legends gets by on its colorful characters containing special abilities that make each round of three-member squad combat unique. Players can thrive on the lightning-fast Octane or the ziplining Pathfinder, whether it be for close combat or far-away sniping. – Jon Winkler
Super Mario Maker 2 (Nintendo Switch)
Lauded by other publications as an incredibly accessible game design tool, this game brings together video game fans of all ages, regions and styles and unleashes upon them a canvas and vast toolbox that is even more overwhelming with options and customizability than ever before. By adding content to build with over time and curating popular or trending levels that are actually playable, it already has a built in community of players looking to challenge themselves creatively by designing traditional, experimental or downright brutal levels for the enjoyment of others. – Evan Griffin
#10 Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order – Respawn Entertainment (PC / PS4 / XOne)
Star Wars video games can be very hit or miss with fans of the series. Some end up being classics like the original Battlefront games, while others like the Force Unleashed games fall short for most fans. This year gamers were blessed with Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order which delivered what every fan has been dying for: a fun and well written Star Wars game! Set between Episodes 3 and 4, Jedi Fallen Order follows a Jedi Padawan named Cal Kestis who is hiding out (and hiding his Jedi abilities) in a post Order 66, Empire controlled galaxy. When the evil Inquisitors track down Cal and attempt to capture him, he is rescued by a former Jedi Master named Cere Junda and her pilot Greez Dritus. Cere wants to help Cal hone his Jedi abilities and go on a mission to retrieve a special relic that holds the key to the future of the Jedi. With the help of your trusty droid BD-1, you guide Cal through gorgeous and challenging planets with massive set pieces and head-scratching puzzles. This game plays like an Uncharted game with elements of Dark Souls and similar Force abilities to the Force Unleashed games. Throw in some amazing lightsaber combat and customization, helpful Force abilities, and a really great story and you have a Star Wars game to be proud to play and enjoy. – Tyler Carlsen
#9 Days Gone – SIE Bend Studios (PS4)
If you’re a fan of zombies and of good survival stories, then Days Gone is the game you need to play! You play as a motorcycle driving, ex-military, badass guy named Deacon St. John who is just trying to survive in post-apocalyptic Oregon. With a pretty helpful arsenal of weapons and a motorcycle that can be upgraded extensively, you traverse the beautiful and dangerous land filled with zombies, wild animals and other survivors who all want you dead. Along the way you become part of new camps and bond with new groups of people who you help out and learn from. On your journey you encounter the mysterious NERO organization who are researching the cause of the virus that created the zombies, but who also may hold the clues needed to solve the mystery of your lost wife Sarah. Days Gone is a wild and intense ride that action, drama and horror fans will all love because of its excellent story that plays very much like a well-done horror film. Whether you blow through the story or just hop on your bike and explore the massive open world environment, this game has something that everyone can enjoy and want to share with their friends. – Tyler Carlsen
#8 Baba is You – Arvi Teikari (PC / Nintendo Switch / Linux / MacOS)
Baba is who? Baba is You. A symbiotic, logical relationship between player and character, with a mutual goal. Sometimes that path must deviate, but you cannot be Baba. But Baba must always be you. Baba is a little sheep rabbit thing. You need to reach a goal on one screen. The game has rules in the form of blocks with a basic “if/is/and” logic. You are always Baba unless you are not. If you are not, this game cannot function, and it lets you even try. Your control only exists with the connection of Baba and you. There are walls, there are flags, doors, keys, sinking, burning, floating and cloning and death. The rules are made, and the rules can be bent and broken and redefined. Baba is You is logic dissected. It’s a nearly perfect puzzle game, and one of gaming’s most spectacular, innovative designs of the year. – Evan Griffin
#7 Fire Emblem Three Houses – Intelligent Systems / Koei Techmo (Nintendo Switch)
After years of trying to recapture the magic that was Awakening on the 3DS, Intelligent Systems finally found the right balance yet again in the Fire Emblem series’ return to a home console after years of being handheld-only. Three Houses plays like the future of the franchise, leaning harder than ever on the bonds players make with its cast while also getting the gameplay into a higher complexity than the peak of the 3DS era.
The key here seems to have been the successful commitment to giving players plenty of choice while managing to maintain a vast and interesting mythology. Picking a house of lovable allies is hard enough, but it was guiding them that made the journey personal and effective. The school setting also added a lot more to do in between wars, and whether these mechanics were lifted out of Persona or not, it was for the best. I think I prefer having extra lessons, meals, and training time with my allies then the combat focus and romantically aimed mechanics of games past.
Plus, all those lovable scamps are so well designed, even the ones designed to suck can win someone over, so it hurts more when you send them to risk their lives in a bloody holy war. Classic Nintendo, you know? – Travis Hymas
#6 Untitled Goose Game – House House (PC / PS4 / XOne / Nintendo Switch / MacOS)
An instantly iconic indie game, Untitled Goose Game puts you in the roll of an asshole goose who aggressively takes what he wants and creates incredible physical comedy with his surroundings. The victims of the goose fall prey to deception and torture in a way akin to old slapstick comedy. It says something about culture in 2019 that people resonate with a narcissistic goose, but here we are, honking at each other on the internet, fulfilling our wildest dreams, flapping wings along the way. Comedy games are really hard to get right, and usually if they do, it’s based on the strange nature of a game’s physics engine combined with the player’s reactions like in Goat Simulator or Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy. Untitled Goose Game is an evolution in which the player is the joke writer, or the game will deceive the player to think they are at least, creating its own special formation of situational comedy not seen yet in the medium. It could have so easily slipped into a mean spirited nature and leaned hard into violence, but because of it’s presentation value, it’s quirky and pleasant enough to air appropriately on BBC1, with a whiff of whimsical animal aggression. – Evan Griffin
#5 Devil May Cry 5 – Capcom (PC / XOne / PS4)
The Devil May Cry series has always been —for the lack of a better word—cool. This classic RPG has always had both style and substance, and this latest installment is no exception. The combat is shockingly simple: kill all the bad guys, move on, and then kill some more. However, this system doesn’t make the game boring in the slightest. In between missions, there are wicked fun cinematic sequences, witty dialogue, and Johnny Yong Bosch acting his most “Johnny Yong Bosch-est.”
There are three playable characters in the game, and each one brings a different strength to the table. The fun part is figuring out how to best utilize their skills in battle. The game heavily rewards you for using as many combos as possible. In a world where traditional button-mashing has taken precedent in video game battles, continually conjuring up combos doesn’t seem like an effective method to approach a fight. But no one said it was easy to look cool, and Devil May Cry makes you work for those style points. – Yasmin Kleinbart
#4 Death Stranding – Kojima Productions (PS4)
Of course there’s way more to Death Stranding than what meets
bridges the eye: It’s a Hideo Kojima game and a chance to interact with a metaphor about connection. Or its growing absence. As a result, it doesn’t matter if you’ve taken on 10 or 1,387 orders as a baby-bearing Norman Reedus across Iceland-esque U.S., each one is a bewildering, wonderful, dizzying and illuminating extending of your arm toward another, some stranger who might also be one ladder, one zipline, one vehicle or one sign away from a less-stranded world. This human mechanic — even more than the grounded performances from a shiny ensemble, heart-pounding encounters with the umbilically beached, chill-inducing score from Ludvig Forssell and pitch-perfect needle drops featuring Low Roar and Silent Poets — is why the game is a whale of a time; there’s a reminder in it that “keep on keeping on” is only genuinely possible when one does it with another 😊 . Not everyone will regard this statement as true — the fact that the game isn’t a complete head-over-heels event somewhat reflects that — but connection, like Rome, isn’t something assembled in a short time. Once you’ve made it, though, notice how it stays knotted with you long after, unlike tears after Timefall. Time to port. 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍 👍 – Nguyen Lee
#3 Control – 505 Games (PS4 / XOne / PC)
Jesse Faden is in search of her brother Dylan and comes across the Federal Bureau of Control, a ghostly organization hidden in plain sight. The building is overrun by a mysterious presence called the Hiss, and it’s up to Jesse to expose the secrets of the institution while also keeping her sanity intact.
The quality of world-building can make or break a game, and it’s safe to say that Remedy Entertainment’s Control completely delivers on that front. Its mysterious and —sometimes—unexplainable lore keeps the player heavily engaged in its single location environment. The game heavily leans into the surreal and fantastic but always keeps the story easy to follow. Control is one title where you will actively seek out any accompanying documents and multimedia simply because you want to know more about this enigmatic setting. – Yasmin Kleinbart
#2 Kingdom Hearts 3 – Square Enix (PS4)
If you click my byline on this site, you’ll see that I mention this game by name. It is, unironically, my white whale. I’ve been waiting for this game longer than I can reasonably remember. Given the chance to interview Tony Anselmo (the voice of Donald Duck), at a convention, I decided to waste my brief time asking him if he where the game was.
Had I known he’d be forced to say “ingredients” that many times I’d have kept my mouth shut.
My point is this was a big deal to me; and I’d never guess that the game I was waiting for was a PS2 game with a better camera. That sounds like a complaint, but it is devilishly brilliant. The best Kingdom Hearts games were pretty good PS2 games with a wonky camera after all, so a better version of that makes sense. Games themselves have evolved quite a bit since then, but they’ve also become bloated, dense, grindy, and way too monetized. Kingdom Hearts 3 takes me back to my own golden age, and frankly speaking deciding to make a pretty fun game instead of worrying too much about explaining its elaborate lore probably helped make everything go down easier when it was actually time to start parsing a story you’d swear was fanfiction. KH3 is far from perfect, but I immediately wanted to play it again once I reached its conclusion. I can’t say that about much from 2019, much less anything from this decade. – Travis Hymas
#1 Resident Evil 2 Remake – Capcom (PC / XOne / PS4)
Resident Evil 2 Remake achieved what all remakes hope to do: (1) honor the original source material, (2) establish its own spot as a successful chapter, and (3) add something new to the series. RE2 Remake did all that and more! The remake has propelled itself to be one of the best Resident Evil and horror games of all time. Which was a heavy feat because the original Resident Evil 2 was also an amazing and loved video game.
Resident Evil 2 (2019) takes everything great about the original game and adds even more elements to expand the gameplay. Claire’s and Leon’s descent into Raccoon City dives deeper in the plot with their individual stories as characters and locations are fleshed out. The gamer develops a greater understanding of the characters’ personalities and their fight against evil, as well as the people they encounter along the way. The locations are visually beautiful as next-generation graphics heighten every little detail in the city, from the rotting corpses to the bloodbath at the police station.
Plus, taking a page from recent RE games, like Resident Evil 7, darkness becomes an enemy. You never quite know what enemy hides behind each corner with its third-person gameplay.
Resident Evil 2 feels and looks scary! This is the best of both old and newer RE games. And it’s achieved new successes, like selling over five million copies (which is more than the original). – Justin Carreiro