Today we continue our countdown through the best games of 2019, into the final stretch to find out who has claimed the Game of the Year 2019.
In honor of the end of the decade, and the start of the much easier to name ‘20s, we’ve picked out what we consider to be the 20 best games of 2019. You can read our previous picks for 20-16, 15-11 and 10-6 here, but now we’re down to the final few. Of course, like any good season finale, there’s a cliffhanger and you’ll have to wait for tomorrow to find out our ultimate pick for Game of the Year 2019. Sorry.
5. Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Chris: Amazing to think that what was likely game of the year 1993 is back again, challenging for the top spot almost 30 years later. It’s a testament to just how special the world of Koholint Island is that it can captivate a new generation with the same dreamlike story of shipwreck and singing whales. All the new bells and whistles help drag Link into the 21st century, with some much-appreciated polish and a few new dungeon twists to keep things fresh.
But Nintendo’s core game is still here, a mysterious adventure with exploration in spades and secrets to match. The new art style is cute and fresh and in keeping with the game’s theme of an ever so slightly unreal place, with shiny plastic textures and tilt-shift soft focus. Like many of the other games you’ll find in our favorites of the year, Link’s Awakening brings back a certain type of joy that has been missing from many games this decade.
4. Disco Elysium
Chris: At the other end of the spectrum, Disco Elysium is brand new in every kind of way and less joyful than it is hard-boiled. A role-playing game that takes more of its cues from tabletop gaming than Skyrim, Disco boasts an almost crippling level of choice. The freedom to approach any situation in any way you want is usually reserved for text adventures run by an advanced language AI or, failing that, a human DM. With two dozen skills to specialize in, and a unique dialogue choice system, it’s hard to imagine any two playthroughs being remotely similar.
For fans of detective mysteries and noir thrillers, the story in Disco Elysium is bang on, with its own inimitable style. There’s a reason this won big at The Game Awards, with incredibly tight writing and quests to match. We’ll be looking for open world action RPGs to start getting their ideas from this trailblazer in the next generation.
3. Luigi’s Mansion 3
Morgan: Who would have thought a game like Luigi’s Mansion would become as successful as it has and inspire incredible sequels to boot, like Luigi’s Mansion 3? Without a doubt, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the best entry in the series, adding new concepts alongside familiar staples and art direction that’s simply to die for.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 has this wonderful “cartoon horror” aesthetic that few games are truly able to master. You have the cowardly Luigi with his Ghostbusters-inspired vacuum pack, and spooky enemies like Goobs and the formidable King Boo to keep you more than busy as you work your way through The Last Resort.
Speaking of, the decision to base the game around a towering hotel (that reminded us a bit of Tower of Terror) is supremely clever. We love how the ghosts evolve each game, setting new traps for Luigi to figure out. It’s like the series grows with you, and you with it.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 can be enjoyed equally by adults as well as kids, and after putting dozens upon dozens of hours into it ourselves, we genuinely can’t wait to see where Nintendo goes from here. Luigi’s Mansion 4 in a haunted museum maybe? We’ll take 13!
2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Henry: There aren’t many games that get a good cup of tea right. Fire Emblem: Three Houses certainly comes close though, letting you invite friends to sit down and discuss benign topics over a warm mug of their favorite brew. Just like real life, your friends will even grade your chat and choice of leaf (Earl Grey drinkers, we’re looking at you).
It’s not just in its tea parties that Three Houses does things very differently. Battles that were the mainstay of previous entries in the series now share a fairly even split with monastery activities, lessons and character relationships. It was a bold decision to take, but one that paid off by producing a world and narrative we actually cared about between fights.
Claude and his Golden Deer may have stolen our hearts, but each of the three houses is packed with personalities you’ll grow to love over the course of the game, which only makes the fights you take them into all the more meaningful. With three complete narratives to pursue, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is perhaps the most generous package of the year, and easily one of the best games on top of that.
Tune in tomorrow to see what we believe is the Game of the Year 2019!