As part of my Game of the Year coverage, it’s time to talk about the great games that came out this year, that just didn’t make the cut to get on my own personal top 10 list.
This year had a lot of great games, but as with each year, the bar for the games that I love has grown higher and higher. These are games that are amazing, but either had some issues, or just not something that I enjoyed as much as the other games. This allows me to give a shout out to some great games, and somehow turn this year’s award into a top 20. For this set, they are not ranked in order, as I had a hard enough time coming up with the top 10, let alone going to 20.
Age of Empires 2 HD Definitive Edition:
The Age of Empires series I don’t feel got enough respect as one of the big three RTS franchises of the 90’s and early 00’s alongside StarCraft and Command and Conquer. While we wait for hopefully Age of Empires 4, this is the next best thing for RTS fans. Featuring the improvements and expansions in the re-release, but with a touch of new graphics and enhancements.
If you never played an old school RTS, then this is an amazing way to go back and check out one of the best of the genre. The main reason why this isn’t on the top 10 list is the simple fact that it is a re-release, and I can’t compare it to games released in 2019.
Steel Divsions 2:
Going from a trip to the past to something new, we have Steel Division 2. Eugen Systems deserves praise for continuing the RTS fight where other studios have moved on. Their focus has been on creating a middle ground between wargames and RTS, and Steel Division 2 is the latest evolution of that.
If you’re hoping for something high speed or easy to get into, Steel Division 2 is not it. The game is about controlling an entire battlefield and features a unique deckbuilding and match system. You create decks out of the real-world military units of the various sides in the European theater. You’re limited by a point limit for the deck, and having units unlock over the span of phases.
Matches are timed with the phases changing very few minutes and are about controlling points as opposed to base building and managing at the micro level. The game also features a dynamic campaign where units and resources persist across multiple battles.
The reason why SD 2 is not on the main list is that it’s just too big of a game for me to get into. This is not something that you can play casually and try to learn it. I took one look at the deck building and realized that I was not going to learn this game fast. The audience for this kind of game is limited, but if you fall in that category, then this game will probably make your own top 10 list.
Originally Control was going to be in the top ten portion of the list, but recently going through it again, I realized that despite liking it, I didn’t like it enough to go that far.
The latest game from Remedy, the game has some of the best world-building and lore I’ve seen this year. The Oldest House is an amazing locale for a game and gives Remedy a great area for continuing to build the world of Control.
However, the gameplay loop and moment-to-moment action just don’t work without the glue of the story to hold it together. I’ve come to really not like the modding system, and combat is either too easy that it’s boring, or enemies are scaled so high that they are able to kill me in only a few hits without any reasonable countermeasure. I feel like I’m missing something when it comes to the mods, but because they are all dropped via RNG, there’s nothing more I can do skill-wise to compensate.
It’s a shame, as the story itself definitely elevates everything around it, and I’ll be there day one for the next story piece of DLC. But ultimately, any game that has pain points for me cannot be on the top ten list.
Valfaris and Blazing Chrome:
Next, we turn to a doubleheader of modern retro run-and-gun gameplay. From two different developers, Valfaris is the continuation of Slain Back from Hell, and Blazing Chrome was worked on with help from Joymashers who made one of my favorite games Odallus the Dark Call.
Both titles feature great gameplay, and the main reason why they’re not on the top 10 is that the experiences were too short and were designs I’ve already played in the past. They were also going to originally be #10 on the list, but I wanted to give the nod to that game instead.
Since everyone is counting Gris for 2019 despite coming out in December of 2018, I figured I’ll get on the train too. Gris is easily one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever seen. From the opening cutscene to the last credit roll, the world painted here kept me invested until the end. If anyone questions whether games are art, just show them the opening of Gris.
The only thing that keeps it off the top 10 is that the gameplay was too basic. I wanted to explore this world, and the platforming is just simplistic; especially after recently playing Ori and the Blind Forest.
Disco Elysium won big this year from critics and sites alike, and 15 minutes into this game I understood why. This is the closest I’ve seen a game come to reaching the heights of a choose your own adventure or pen and paper campaign in terms of player choice.
After defining your character, you are treated to one of the most surrealistic story and dialogue options ever in a game. The title breaks the fourth, fifth, and possibly sixth wall in terms of how things play out. I can’t imagine the work that went into creating the system needed to extrapolate all the options and choices the player has over their character. If you were one of the many disappointed by the lack of real choice in a Telltale game, then Disco Elysium is the cure for that.
The one thing, and I mean just one thing, that keeps it off the top 10 list is that there is no gameplay loop to Disco Elysium. The entire game is about choosing options and letting the game decide what happens base on your skills. If you were hoping for an emergent gameplay loop like in Prey, there just isn’t anything like that here.
With that said, the level of creativity and vision for Disco Elysium is just too big not to give it some accolades here. This is a game that I feel is either going to be loved or hated due to its design, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
A seven-year project by artist William Chyr, this is a game like Disco Elysium that you can see the passion of the developer in every scene of it. Some of the imagery in this game made me stop to just take in what I was looking at.
A puzzle game first and foremost, this is a title that is perfect for fans of the genre. What keeps it off the top 10 is that it can be on the short side, and some of the puzzles felt difficult for the wrong reasons.
The Outer Wilds
Not to be confused with the Outer Worlds, this was a title that quietly came out during the major rage surrounding the Epic Game Store, and it may have gone unnoticed by the game’s community. This is essentially an adventure game by way of Groundhog Day.
The player has about 27 minutes to explore a galaxy before it is destroyed, and they must figure out what is happening and to try to prevent it with each new piece of information and loop. The story and concept are very original, but I didn’t find the moment to moment gameplay that enjoyable. I’m not a space sim fan, and flying the ship around became annoying.
Despite the time limit and looming destruction, this is a great game that lets you take your time in terms of exploring the diverse galaxy and uncovering the mysteries.
Super Mario Maker 2
Finally, we come to the sequel of what I feel is one of the most important games to come out this decade. The Super Mario Maker franchise should be a must-play for anyone interested in level and game design, and has given players around the world a chance to create their own designs. From brutally difficult kaizo levels, insanely complicated puzzle stages, and everything in-between, the content in Super Mario Maker 1 and 2 would have never come from Nintendo in a million years.
The main reason why it’s not on the top 10 is that at the end of the day it’s not really a game to play for its content, you are either going to be playing custom levels or making your own. The other reason is that it is, of course, a sequel to another game, and I generally favor original games above sequels.
With that said, we’re beginning the top 10 coverage tomorrow with an original take on modern retro gameplay
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