2019 is a year that has a lot to prove. We have developers wrapping up a lot of their final projects for the current generation of consoles before moving on to the Playstation 5 and Xbox Next. Some of these projects will be fantastic send-offs to the generation while others may feel like sloppy left overs. Most of the hotly anticipated titles that gamers were clamoring, like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us 2, were pushed back to 2020, making this year feel a little less exciting than it did back in January.
Gamers may be fearing that 2019’s video game offerings will be merely average while the big hitters are being finalized to drop next year. Well, here’s five games from the first half of 2019 that proves this year still has some amazing gaming experiences for us all.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Legendary game designer Koji Igarashi, one of the godfathers of the Metroidvania genre, is back in 2019 with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Igarashi created some of the best Castlevania titles including Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclasia. Unfortunately, Igarashi was unable to get his passion project off the ground with Konami so he left the company and resorted to Kickstarter to get his next game made. The crowd-funded campaign for Bloodstained was a huge success and took the team almost 4 years to complete the game.
A lot of spiritual successor Kickstarter projects, such as Mighty Number 9 and Yooka Laylee, were poorly received and failed to meet fans’ expectations. Many feared Bloodstained would suffer the same fate due to it having a lengthy and troublesome development process and the fact that it’s a Castlevania successor with extremely high expectations behind it from fans. Thankfully, Mighty Number 9 this is not.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is exactly what fans of Castlevania adventure games have been craving for. It takes the stellar Symphony of the Night formula and combines it with modern rendering techniques included in Unreal Engine 4. It’s a lengthy, meaty adventure with a great soundtrack by classic Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane and some great art design. We couldn’t be happier with the results, making Bloodstained one of the most successful titles to come out of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a must play for fans of Castlevania or the Metroidvania genre in general.
Thanks to the success of games like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, every studio is trying to create the next big multiplayer game in the Battle Royale genre. If you would have told me that Nintendo was throwing their hat in the ring with a battle royale Tetris game, I would have totally laughed in your face. How would that even work? Well, it’s here… and it’s incredibly good.
Tetris 99 is a free title given exclusively to Nintendo Online subscribers for the Nintendo Switch. The base game is free and DLC add-ons can be purchased to expand upon it. Up to 99 players are connected together to battle it out as the best Tetris player of the group. As players clear lines on the board, they’re given opportunities to throw garbage blocks at other players in the game to give them a harder time. The last remaining player who can avoid filling up the board wins the game.
It seems like several great games in 2019 have dropped out of nowhere, and Tetris 99 is one of them. The concept is totally silly, but it works very well and ends up being one of the most addictive online games this year. For only $20 a year for Nintendo’s online subscription, Tetris 99 makes it worth the price alone.
3. A Plague Tale: Innocence
Here’s another title this year that had a stealth release and ended up being great. A Plague Tale: Innocence is an action adventure game set in the 13th century during the black plague. The world is infested by rot, the evil Catholic church and swarms of rabid rodents. You take control of Amicia, a teenage girl who must protect her estranged and ill brother after her family and village were destroyed by the French Inquisition. While being hunted by the Inquisition, Amicia and her brother must survive a desolate French countryside full of peril.
One part adventure game, one part stealth action game, A Plague Tale includes a harrowing and emotional story set in a part of history that’s rarely explored in gaming. Amicia is quite possibly my favorite protagonist from any game released this year due to her strength and courage to take care of a child she barely knows in such harsh conditions. The game is full of fun puzzle solving scenarios, beautiful art design and a very compelling narrative. It’s a top game of the year contender for me and a must play in 2019.
2. The Division 2
Many studios have tried to perfect the Games as a Service (GaaS) cooperative multiplayer action game that Bungie made famous with Destiny. Some have succeeded (Destiny 2, Warframe) and many have failed (Anthem, Fallout 76), but typically the success stories do not come to fruition until after rocky launches and fan outcries. Ubisoft and its development teams have sat back, studies the pros and cons of these GaaS titles, and responded with arguably the best crafted game in the genre, The Division 2.
What makes The Division 2 so special is that it includes the smartest online matchmaking in any GaaS title, allowing ALL players to participate in every piece of content included in the game and giving them easy to use tools to match with other players successfully. Not once while playing The Division 2 did I feel left out and segregated off from the community. The game is packed full of content, includes an innovative PVP mode, and shockingly had little to no issues at launch. All content released post launch has been free, with cosmetic microtransactions included to help support future development of the game.
The Division 2 is one of the best online multiplayer shooters from this generation and easily demolished the original game in every way, making it one of the must own games of 2019.
1. Resident Evil 2
Gamers lost their minds when Capcom announced that they would be remaking one of the best selling titles on the original Playstation, Resident Evil 2. The game was widely considered to be the best game in the series as well, so a modern re-imagining of the classic horror game was exciting. The game released very early this year in January and ended up being everything fans could hope for.
Not only is Resident Evil 2 a beautiful game, but it also transforms the original gameplay style of classic Resident Evil games into something completely new and modern without losing the original feel. The story of Resident Evil 2 has not changed much here but the experience still feels fresh while retaining most of the elements that made the original unique and memorable. It’s easily the best looking, best playing and most replayable title in the franchise’s 22 year running. Finally, Resident Evil is back!
There’s plenty more great games to play from the first half of 2019 as well, but these are the five we consider the best of the best. The back half of the year still has a lot of great titles to look forward to as well, such as Doom Eternal, Shenmue III, Jedi Fallen Order and Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. While I wouldn’t consider 2019 the strongest year of this generation yet, it’s still a great time to be a gamer. Listen to our That Pixel Life podcast for more thoughts and opinions on upcoming games this year!