2019 was a great year of gaming for me, in terms of both the number of games played and finished! Not only was I very satisfied with pretty much all the games I played, but I also got my first two platinum trophies ever! So I thought I’d share my top game for 2019…but picking just one is HARD y’all so you get my top 6 instead. And of course, these are the games I played, not just ones that came out in 2019.
First, let’s look at all the ones I did finish in 2019. I finished something on pretty much every main type of platform I have, physical console, digital console (Yakuza Kiwami), Steam, and Epic, except Origin which I use so little I hadn’t realized the install was corrupted at some point and I didn’t even use the “free” membership they randomly gave everyone last month. I’ll probably dump it once I play the one game I have on it. Anyway, here is what I played in 2019:
So, of those, which ones would I say shouldn’t be missed? Roughly in the order I finished them?
1. Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition
I got into the Tales series with Abyss and since then I admit, they’ve either been really awesome or kind of just meh, enjoyable enough to play but not particularly memorable stories (with 16 entries in the series, though, I guess it’s to be expected). Vesperia is not as good as Berseria and Zerstiria from last year, but it is a good solid entry that I recommend in part because it does delve into some great story stuff.
From the same writers of Abyss and Symphonia, it may not be a big surprise that Vesperia is a great exploration of forming bonds and the meaning of friendship. In particular the friendship between Yuri and Flynn, with them on opposite sides of their views of what’s right, and in the cost of doing what is “necessary” even if it hurts you and those around you. The story arc of Yuri’s willingness to do whatever it takes to protect those around him, regardless of the personal cost, is really well done and certainly worth the price of admission.
2. Days Gone
Post-apocalyptic with zombie-like things may not sound original, but Days Gone still manages to put a fresh spin on it, with most of the survivors being motorcycle riding, your main character a former biker gang member, and the zombies not being quite as mindless as you might expect. The hordes, of course, are the big aspect many people focus on and certainly add a whole new level of “oh crap” if you run into one unprepared. Panic isn’t even the word, and of course panicking can then lead to failing to flee and death to follow LOL.
For me, though, the thing that I would say shouldn’t be missed in Days Gone is the story of its protagonist Deacon St. John. I love a complex character, and he certainly is one, having no qualms killing as a whole, but also with a very set code of ethics around right and wrong, a strong protective instinct for those he cares about, and despite his seeming desire to stay aloof from others, he can’t help coming to their aid if stuff goes wrong. I think his story is a great one to challenge preconceived notions of “biker guy” and provides a great reminder that they are still people in the end, with emotions, good sides, and flaws the same as everyone else. The way his love for his wife is shown is both upfront and also beautifully nuanced in little things that drive the point so much deeper if you take the time to explore it. This is also the first game I platinumed thanks to them thoughtfully having online multiply player trophies on a separate platinum line, and making the trophies attainable without spending dozens of hours grinding and shit!
This platformer with a twist is just plain fun! The story is fairly light and mostly implied, with the real fun of FEZ being the platforming elements and puzzles that require you to work within the 3rd dimension instead of two like most platformers. Oh, and that 3rd dimension is accessed by literally turning the world around your character! LOL It was a very fresh take on platforming and a nice challenge without getting so frustrating as to make you want to just rage quit. The graphics are simple but cute, and if you’re so inclined there are lots of hidden bits to add an extra challenge to your gaming fun.
I’ve said lots about this game here so I’ll try not to go on and on, but Yakuza Kiwami is an absolutely amazing game IMHO. The graphics are top-notch, the attention to detail is just amazeballs, and the main character Kazuma Kiryu is just such a wonderfully complex, loveable guy that you can’t help rooting for him! He looks rough and tough and certainly is, he can hold his own in a fight no problems, but he also has a sweet, gentle side, is compassionate, and has a very strong code of honor and ethics.
The story is also extremely well done, and having read up on the differences between Kiwami and the original release, I’d definitely go Kiwami as it fills things out more. This game made me tear up more than once from the emotional weight of everything going on. The heavy drama is balanced out with some really over the top characters, like Majima (who I <3 for all his zaniness), and the wide range of minigames and silliness mixed in.
Another game I absolutely loved! It is world’s better than the first Assassin’s Creed and Ezio’s story is one worth exploring. You take him on the journey from a teenager who has his whole world turned upside down to a young man struggling to find and accept his place in the world, while also wanting to protect those he loves.
So many good emotional moments and great characters, combined with eye droppingly detailed cities of Italy to explore at your leisure and well-handled game mechanics. I’d also recommend the two DLCs and playing its follow-ups Brotherhood and Revelations to get the whole of Ezio’s story, but even without them, AC2 is a game worth playing. (It’s also the game where I got that second Platinum trophy). Note: You do not have to have played AC to understand Ezio’s story, but it would help for understanding the present-day stuff.
6. Yakuza Kiwami 2
It does an absolutely brilliant job of showing how the events of the first game have left Kiryu grief-stricken and torn between wanting to give up and his duty and fondness for Haruka. It also delves into betrayal and provides an interesting exploration of the cost and depths some will go to in the name of vengeance, and at what potential cost.
In terms of mini-games, it adds some awesome ones like the Majima Construction (yes, my fav yakuza is back and running a construction company!), running the Cabaret club, and a mini-golf game. Toylets is just ridiculously hilarious even as it makes you go “really!?” Old favorites are back like karaoke (a little easier), baseball (way harder), and the casino and card games. No mini-car races that I could find The gravure stuff is the only side game that I felt was a very unnecessary and undesirable add on, one presumably aimed to draw in more male players. It’s a minigame that I consciously chose not to do beyond the one substory that introduces it because I honestly felt it would go against Kiryu’s nature to do that sort of thing.
The story is, of course great, and while I figured out a lot of the major plot points before they were revealed, the ending still managed to have me WTFing all over the place and got me tearing up. Obviously, playing this one requires playing the first as it is a continuation of Kiryu’s story and it won’t make much sense if you haven’t played the first. The Yakuza series has, thus far, managed to beautifully balance a dark, heavy storyline with over the top zaniness in some of its characters and the mini-games, and offers a lot of flexibility for the players in terms of how they fight and what they choose to do. Only the main storyline is truly required to play the game, but it’s in the substories (i.e. mini-quests) that Kiryu’s character and bonds with those around him really shine through.