Every year is a year of ups and downs for the Xbox One, but by and large, 2019 was a pretty solid year for Microsoft’s console. While most of the positives were related to things such as Game Pass and the impressive foundations Microsoft are laying down for next gen, there was no shortage of excellent game releases on the Xbox One either. We’ll be recognizing those excellent games here, listing the ten nominees for our best 2019 Xbox One game award, before picking out a winner from that group. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
RESIDENT EVIL 2
Capcom has been on a roll for the past couple of years, and in 2019, they hit their peak. Resident Evil 2 represents this studio and this franchise at their absolute best- literally anything you would want in a Resident Evil game, RE2 delivers in spades. Palpable atmosphere, tense combat, tight level design, amazing visuals, and a litany of thrills and chills. It’s a high watermark for Capcom, for the series, for remakes, and for survival horror games as a whole.
NEED FOR SPEED HEAT
You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that Need for Speed Heat would be yet another disappointing entry in a franchise that has consistently gone downhill for years, but Ghost Games really took us by surprise with how fun it turned out to be. NFS Heat understands that we don’t care about a story, and that unnecessary online shenanigans and aggressive monetization only get in the way of what’s really fun- driving fast, and upgrading your cars. Heat offers both those things in spades, and though it doesn’t break new ground, it’s a great first step on the road to recovery for this series.
KINGDOM HEARTS 3
It’s really easy to hate on Kingdom Hearts, but ultimately, there’s a reason that this series has endured for so long, and a reason that Kingdom Hearts 3 ended up being the most successful title in the series: it has heart. A lot of it. That’s something that’s always been intrinsic to the franchise, and Kingdom Hearts 3 wears its heart on its sleeve too. It backs up that heart with some of the best mechanics in the series, and some of its strongest level design to date. Couple that with its stunning, Pixar-quality graphics, which recreate Disney worlds with a staggering amount of care and detail, and this conclusion to the long running, at times positively incomprehensible Dark Seeker saga is still ultimately extremely satisfying.
We all knew exactly what we were getting into with Borderlands 3- mayhem, as the game itself advertises, and guns. Lots of guns. More an evolution of an established and successful formula than an unnecessary reinvention, Borderlands 3 knows exactly what it needs to do, and how it needs to do it. It brings over the Borderlands experience that we know and love, and smartly improves upon it by making it bigger, slicker, and smoother in all the right ways. It’s not the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s definitely exactly what we wanted it to be.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5
Devil May Cry has endured a rough couple of years over this past decade, but 2019 saw the series gloriously returning to form. Picking up where Devil May Cry 4 left off and delivering an experience that is more in line with what fans of the series expect, Devil May Cry 5 is the perfect sequel. From intense, stylish combat to a startling amount of mechanical depth, from a surprisingly engaging story (especially for series fans) to best-in-class visuals, DMC5 is yet another example of the kind of quality Capcom can deliver when they’re firing on all cylinders.
Control is Remedy Entertainment at its peak. It is, first and foremost, yet another impressive notch on their belt in terms of storytelling, with typically excellent worldbuilding and characters and a narrative that keeps players hooked every step of the way. Beyond that, it also shows how much they’ve grown as developers, because it also delivers a gameplay experience unlike any other, with chaotic, adrenaline-fueled combat, and excellent level design that encourages endless exploration. This is a studio that’s worked on a lot of great stuff over the years, so you can understand just how much we like Control when we say it’s probably their best game to date.
In recent years, Gears of War has lost a lot of the lustre that the series was usually associated with during the Xbox 360 era, but this year’s Gears 5 successfully regained a huge chunk of it. With its deeper progression mechanics and a greater emphasis on exploration, it injected a much-needed dose of freshness to the series, while also successfully delivering the kind of intense firefights the series has always been known for. On the multiplayer side of things, Gears 5 is unsurprisingly packed full of addictive content that you can pour dozens upon dozens of hours into. It’s a great statement of intent from The Coalition, and an exciting new beginning for the franchise.
THE DIVISION 2
The Division 2 is everything an ideal sequel should be- it takes what was so good about its predecessor and brings it over as is, while also identifying the areas that needed improvement and making some much-needed upgrades. From an excellent campaign to an addictive loot game, from its vast ocean of content to its excellent cover shooting mechanics, The Division 2 is one of the best looter shooters we’ve seen this generation. Its post-launch support has been a bit of a downer, of that there is no doubt, but at least as far as the base game is concerned, this is one of Ubisoft’s best games this generation.
4A Games Metro series has never been at the forefront of the zeitgeist, but as fans of the series would tell you, that’s far from representative of these games’ quality- and this year’s Metro Exodus was yet another memorable instalment in the series. Though it’s much larger and more open ended than its predecessor, it still retains the taut tension and narrative focus that fans of the series crave, while that open-ended nature also results in an experience that encourages exploration in the most organic way possible. There’s still room for improvement here, especially with things such as a lack of polish and somewhat flimsy shooting mechanics, but ultimately, Exodus is unmissable if you’re looking for an excellent single player shooter.
STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
After a few years of teases and half-hearted “reveals”, we finally got our hands on Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order this year, and it was all we were hoping it would be. A single player Star Wars game driven by story and a focus on characters is what we’ve been craving for years, and Fallen Order is exactly that. More importantly, it also features excellent combat, as well as an excellent blend of platforming, puzzle solving, and exploration. All said and done, this is the best Star Wars game we’ve played in years, and hopefully, EA will give us more of the same in the years to come.
After the solid yet ultimately unremarkable Gears of War 4, both the series and its developers The Coalition had a lot to prove with Gears 5. In one swift stroke, not only did they prove that Gears is not stale and irrelevant, they also brought the franchise forward in significant ways, delivering one of the best Xbox exclusives we’ve played in years. What’s even more exciting is that, on top of being an excellent new instalment in this beloved franchise, Gears 5 has also laid down some exciting groundwork with its new ideas, and if The Coalition can follow through on these ideas properly, we might be looking at a very, very bright future for the series in the years ahead.