Here’s our countdown for the 25 greatest games we’ve played this past year.
After the rollercoasters that were 2017 and 2018, the entire gaming industry took a collective breath this year, but though things were relatively calmer this year, the past twelve months were still packed with some truly outstanding releases. Across every genre, on every platform, we got to play a number of excellent games, representing developers at the very top of their game. Narrowing that down to just 25 games and then ranking those 25 games was not an easy task, but as always, that’s what we’ve done.
So here, we’ll be counting down our favourite 25 games to have released in 2019, including our game of the year. With all that said, let’s get started.
NOTE: All entries and rankings were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
#25. ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Bandai Namco | Read Our Review
It may have been more than a decade after the launch of Ace Combat 6, but right at the beginning of this year, Bandai Namco finally delivered Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown- and it was totally worth the wait. Snappy controls, slick visuals, thrilling combat, and excellently designed aircraft make the moment-to-moment flight and combat gameplay a blast, while the constantly creative and imaginative scenarios that serves as the backdrop for that made sure that the game never got boring. Ace Combat 7 is a welcome return to the spotlight for the series, and if Bandai Namco can keep up this level of quality with future instalments, the spotlight is exactly where it will remain for some time to come.
#24. CRASH TEAM RACING NITRO-FUELED
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch | Developer: Beenox| Read Our Review
Activision’s revival of the iconic Crash Bandicoot kicked off in 2017 with three excellent remakes for the price of (less than) one, and though some might have figured that they’d want to pump the brakes on revisiting old classics, they instead decided to put pedal to the metal with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Often regarded as one of the few kart racing games to have ever given Mario Kart proper competition, Nitro-Fueled turned out to be a worthy modernization of a beloved classic. Tight racing and drifting mechanics, excellent track design, and a deluge of content are complemented by high production values and stellar visuals in this chaotic trip down memory lane.
#23. NEED FOR SPEED HEAT
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Ghost Games | Read Our Review
For years, Need for Speed has been down in the dumps, with each new game somehow managing to be worse than the last. With this year’s Heat, Ghost Games decided to go back to the basics, and it was a decision that paid off. Free of things such as aggressive monetization, unnecessary forced online, or a story that takes itself too seriously crammed down our throats, Heat is instead focused primarily on the things that matter most- driving fast, running from cops, purchasing cars, and customizing them to turn them into absolute monsters. Need for Speed Heat still has plenty of room for improvements, but this is a step in the right direction for the franchise, and if Ghost Games continue on this track with sequels, they might just bring the series back to its glory days.
#22. THE DARK PICTURES: MAN OF MEDAN
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Supermassive Games | Read Our Review
Supermassive Games instantly cemented themselves as masterminds of horror and choice-driven adventure titles with Until Dawn, and this year, freed from the subpar VR titles they’d been forced to work on in recent years, they took another crack at the genre. And though Man of Medan isn’t nearly as good as Until Dawn was, it’s still really damn good. Still packed with tough choices and campy jump scares, Man of Medan delivers a solid horror story in a great setting. What elevates the game to greater heights was its co-op, which turns the experience into a communal experience much more enjoyable than any of us could have imagined. If nothing else, Man of Medan is a great first chapter in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures anthology, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
#21. METRO EXODUS
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: 4A Games | Read Our Review
Metro Exodus rises above the claustrophobic underground setting of the first two games in the series and takes Artyom and co. on an odyssey across post-nuclear Russia- and though the journey may not have been too pleasant for the ones making it, for the players, it is an unforgettable one. Every place you visit in Metro Exodus is tense, dreary, desolate, and hostile. Every character you meet is complex and wonderfully written. Every narrative beat keeps you on the tenterhooks, as you wait with baited breath to see what will happen next. Though Exodus is lacking in polish, and though its shooting is far from perfect, it is still an excellent continuation of what has been an impressively consistent series.
#20. BORDERLANDS 3
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Gearbox Software | Read Our Review
Borderlands 3 is a game we’d been looking forward to for years, and though Gearbox took their sweat time getting to it, they did finally deliver it this year. And it is exactly what series fans wanted it to be- more of the same. It has an admirable confidence in the strength of its predecessors’ core formula, and rather than looking to reinvent the wheel, it just decides to be bigger and better. More guns, more loot, more planets, more irreverent and silly humour, more everything- more Borderlands. And isn’t that what we’d all been waiting for?
#19. F1 2019
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Codemasters | Read Our Review
This is a series that has quietly been getting better and better, and probably deserves as much recognition as the likes of Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Every year, Codemasters absolutely knock it out of the park with their F1 titles, and to no one’s surprise, they did so yet again with F1 2019. With typically excellent driving and handling mechanics and deep and engaging tuning options, on top of improved weather effects, the moment-to-moment gameplay here is better than it’s ever been. On top of that, a number of other improvements, like an excellent career mode with its dynamic narrative scenarios and tons of Championship modes, it is also probably the most complete F1 racing game we’ve ever played.
#18. CODE VEIN
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Bandai Namco | Read Our Review
There’s been no shortage of developers who’ve tried their hand at the Souls-like genre this past decade, and among all the ones that have done so in the AAA space, Bandai Namco’s Code Vein probably ranks among the very best. With its unique anime aesthetic, it sets itself apart from other games in the genre, and in all other ways, it strikes the perfect balance between aping and experimenting. Code Vein’s combat offers surprising depth with its near-endless customization, which is bolstered by a robust character creator, a surprisingly engaging class system, and a tightly designed map that is a joy to explore. Things such as its lacklustre story and frustrating AI companions leave much to be desired, but by and large, Code Vein is absolutely unmissable for all fans of the Souls-like genre.
#17. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK’S AWAKENING
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Nintendo | Read Our Review
As a remake, Link’s Awakening on the Switch, is very conventional, so playing it feels like you’re coming back home- only home is a crazy island with whacky talking animals and a giant egg on top of a mountain. And that’s really the biggest strength of Link’s Awakening- that it manages to retain the unique personality and atmosphere of the original so well. Koholint Island is a joy to explore, impeccably designed and packed full of interesting sights and sounds, and all of it is elevated by a beautiful and adorable art style that somehow manages to retain the dream-like feel that is so vital to Link’s Awakening as an experience. 1993’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is, to this day, considered to be among the best games in the series, and though expectations from its Switch remake were high, developers Grezzo’s efforts did not disappoint.
#16. MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC | Developer: NetherRealm Studios | Read Our Review
When it comes to fighting franchises, Mortal Kombat is without a doubt one of the most fiercely and widely beloved. Releasing to some insane anticipation and a hell of a lot of hype, Mortal Kombat 11 certainly had its work cut out for it, but as this series usually does, it delivered exactly the kind of violent, over-the-top action that we wanted it to. Mortal Kombat 11 is everything a Mortal Kombat game should be- gory, mechanically sound, bombastic, and drop-dead gorgeous. It’s also got, in true NetherRealm fashion, a spectacular campaign, which boasts of a narrative and writing better than most would expect to see in a fighting game. At launch, the game’s grindy nature and its monetization ruffled more than a few feathers, and for good reason, but thankfully, thanks to post-launch fixes, Mortal Kombat 11 is now radically improved- and absolutely one of the best, most outrageously fun fighting games we’ve played in years.
#15. STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Respawn Entertainment | Read Our Review
The Star Wars license is something that most developers and publishers would do anything to have, and yet EA, thanks to disappointing releases, cancelled titles, and a string of bad decisions, haven’t even come close to doing as much with it as they could and should have. That statement, however, does not apply to Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, because it is exactly the kind of Star Wars game we’ve been craving for years. In delivering a story-focused single player action-adventure experience – one that puts its love for the property on proud display from beginning to end – Respawn have delivered one of the best Star Wars games in years. The methodical combat, the metroidvania level design, and its blend of exploration, platforming, and puzzle solving all come together in an excellent package, and though Fallen Order surely could have done with a bit more polish, at the end of the day it’s a game that no fan of the property – or of action adventure games – should miss.
#14. POKEMON SWORD AND SHIELD
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Game Freak | Read Our Review
Pokemon Sword and Shield were at the centre of a controversy the likes of which this series has never had to endure prior to launch, with things such as the exclusion of a complete National Dex and the game’s seemingly unambitious nature in spite of being a console title rubbing many, many people the wrong way. Subsequent to launch, it’s clear that Sword and Shield could definitely have been more ambitious and polished- but at the same time, it’s also clear that after everything is said and done, they’re still great Pokemon games. From the excellent Wild Area to the incredible spin they put on Pokemon Gyms, from how excellent a setting Galar region is to the various quality of life improvements, Pokemon Sword and Shield are a solid console debut for the mainline series. Is there still room for improvement here? Oh, absolutely. But in the here and now, Sword and Shield are more than appetizing enough for fans who’ve been craving for a new monster-catching adventure.
#13. SUPER MARIO MAKER 2
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Nintendo | Read Our Review
Nintendo may not have created the “Play-Create-Share” schtick, but they sure as hell perfected it with Super Mario Maker, and this year’s Super Mario Maker 2 gave us exactly what we wanted- more of that, but better and more robust. Working within the limitations of Mario Maker to create levels while letting your creativity fly loose is the main appeal of these games, and Mario Maker 2 encourages you to do just that. Better still is the fact that those limitations are less restrictive than before, owing to the various additions Mario Maker 2 makes to its already vast and impressive toolset. And if the promise of infinite replayability and endless content thanks to user-generated levels weren’t enough, it also comes with a full-fledged Mario campaign made by Nintendo themselves. Super Mario Maker 2 is an absolute steal, no matter what price you buy it at, and if there were ever a game that you’d absolutely have to buy if you had a Switch, this is it.
#12. LUIGI’S MANSION 3
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: Next Level Games | Read Our Review
Every once in a while, Luigi is given the chance to emerge from his brother’s shadow and have an adventure all of his own. The Luigi’s Mansion series has always been his time to shine, and in Luigi’s Mansion 3, he shone brighter than he ever has. Next Level Games absolutely knocked the ball out of the park with this instalment, which is far better than most would have expected. The best visuals we’ve ever seen in a Switch game? Check. Constantly varied and inventive level design? Check. Bursting to the seems with charm, whimsy, and personality? Check. Solid mechanics that are used to excellent effect in combat, puzzles, and exploration? Check. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a blast from beginning to an end, and without a doubt one of the best games in the Switch’s already-legendary library.
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Remedy Entertainment | Read Our Review
Seeing Remedy Entertainment’s name on a game’s box is almost a guarantee of quality, and there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that Control wouldn’t buck that trend. But not only does it not buck that trend, it’s also probably the best game this venerated studio has ever made. Combat Control is a fantastical power trip, as you destroy enemies using Jesse’s form-changing Service Weapon and telekinetic abilities while levitating in the air like a Jedi on steroids. The Oldest House is also a brilliant setting, thanks to incredibly tight map design and a barrage of striking otherworldly sights, all of which makes every environment you visit a joy to explore. Best of all is the game’s off-rails narrative, which is proudly bombastic and unhinged in every sense of the word, constantly keeping players on the toes with one bizarre mystery after another. Control is a unique, fresh, and unforgettable experience that has left us wanting for more, and in a game made by Remedy, that really doesn’t come as a surprise.
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio | Read Our Review
For over a decade, across several games, we’d explore every nook and cranny of Kamurocho as Kazuma Kiryu. Saying farewell to the Dragon of Dojima last year was harder than we had imagined, and by all accounts, returning to Kamurocho in the shoes of a stranger should have felt weird- but Judgment feels anything but. It retains that biggest strengths of all Yakuza games over the years, with excellent cutscenes, an enthralling narrative, enjoyable combat, top-notch side content, and a great cast of main characters, but it does so while managing to feel like its own thing. Playing as a private detective in Kamurocho as you apply Yamagi’s legal skills to his new profession feels fresh and exciting. Judgment proves that Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio doesn’t need to lean on any single narrative thread or character to make a great game, and though we can’t wait for the next Yakuza game, we’re now also fervently anticipating a sequel to this surprisingly excellent offshoot.
#9. DEVIL MAY CRY 5
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Capcom | Read Our Review
This was the perfect time for Capcom to bring Devil May Cry out of its prolonged hiatus. The Japanese giant has been firing on all cylinders for a couple years now, and riding that wave to reinvigorate one of their best and most beloved franchises made too much sense. Thankfully, the result was exactly what we expected it to be- a hellishly action-packed and gloriously stylish action game, in true Devil May Cry fashion. Dante, Nero, and newcomer V all shine in this sequel, each coming with their own unique fighting style, complete with deep mechanics that encourage players to dispatch the forces of hell in the most slick, stylish way possible. Add to that an excellent soundtrack, top-notch visuals, the classic Devil May Cry humour, and a surprisingly engaging story that does a great job keeping players hooked, and the end result is a triumphant return to the forefront for one of the best action franchises out there.
#8. ASTRAL CHAIN
Available On: Nintendo Switch | Developer: PlatinumGames | Read Our Review
A new Platinum game is always something to keep an eye on. The purveyors of the action game genre have put out so many titles that have demonstrated a total mastery of that style of game that at this point, even they probably want to try something different. Hence, Astral Chain. The new game, developed in collaboration with Nintendo, is an entirely new take on the action game genre that is breathtakingly unique. The combat system can feel hectic and frenetic, but once it clicks, it’s like a graceful dance that becomes almost second nature to execute. Throw in a surprisingly great story, and some striking art, and you have what is without a doubt one of Platinum’s more laudable efforts in recent years.
#7. KINGDOM HEARTS 3
Available On: PS4, Xbox One | Developer: Square Enix | Read Our Review
For literally more than a decade, fans have been giddily awaiting the launch of Kingdom Hearts 3. But this isn’t just a game that had all those mammoth expectations to live up to. It also had the unenviable task of resolving a massive, often incoherent story that has been told across many years over many games – many of which are surprisingly obscure, but still come with crucial plot points. How effectively Kingdom Hearts 3 wraps it all up is up for debate, but there’s no question that by and large, this is exactly the game series fans had been waiting for. Full of heart, boasting incredible mechanics and level design, and recreating numerous iconic Disney worlds with some outstanding visuals, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a satisfying joyride from start to finish. Every step of the way, it tugs at your heartstrings, and by the time it ends, you can’t help but take a deep breath, with a wide smile on your face. It’s an excellent conclusion to a long, convoluted, and often asinine saga, and without a doubt one of the best games we’ve played this year.
#6. A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Asobo Studio | Read Our Review
If ever you come into a person who refuses to believe that excellent-looking, extremely polished games with a fantastic story and tight gameplay can be made even in the absence of a blockbuster budget or a development team comprised of hundreds of people, just hand them a copy of A Plague Tale: Innocence. French indie developer Asobo Studio did something truly incredible with this game. They crafted a heartfelt tale about a girl and her little brother trying to survive against insurmountable odds, and they backed that creative vision with excellent writing and performances. They conceptualized a game with simplistic mechanics, that would be used in constantly varied and increasingly complex ways to make for solid puzzles and stealth, and they executed that vision to perfection. They crammed their vivid world full of stunning sights to see, ranging from breathtaking beautiful to horrifying grisly, and they propped up that aesthetic with visuals that can put even the best AAA games to shame. A Plague Tale: Innocence is one of the biggest surprises of the year, and by far one of the best games we’ve played these past twelve months.
#5. GEARS 5
Available On: Xbox One, PC | Developer: The Coalition | Read Our Review
The Coalition had a lot to prove with Gears 5. Though they proved that they could make a quintessential Gears game with Gears of War 4, to many, that was all they’d proven, and the common consensus after that game was that the series was in desperate need of an evolution. Gears 5, then, took some bold risks, and it ended up being a smart and sensible expansion of the series, while still retaining everything that defines Gears of War. Gears 5 takes the smartly designed levels and mechanically tight third person shooting that this series has always been known for, and combines them with new ideas all of its own, including progression mechanics that add another layer of depth to the combat and open world maps that encourage exploration in a way this series has never done before. On the multiplayer side of things, it is packed full of excellent content, from Arcade – which is brimming with tons of fun modes – to Horde – which is a blast as always – to the newest addition, Escape. There’s still room for improvement here – especially as far as the open world areas are concerned – but Gears 5 firmly brings the series back on track, and is also one of the best games Microsoft has produced this side of 2010.
#4. DEATH STRANDING
Available On: PS4 | Developer: Kojima Productions | Read Our Review
Hideo Kojima unshackled was always going to be a sight to behold, and on that front, the positively unhinged Death Stranding does not disappoint. Replete with Kojima’s signature storytelling eccentricities and his utter lack of subtlety, as well as his gameplay genius, both of which together made him the big name that he is today, Death Stranding turned out to be hugely divisive – because Kojima, for better or for worse, took an incredible lot of risks in the pursuit of his unflinching vision for the story he wanted to tell, and how he wanted to tell it. Death Stranding is mechanically and narratively dense, and a lot of times, that density doesn’t even amount to anything: but if you stick with it, you get one of the most starkly fresh AAA games we have received in years, and a compelling, addictive experience that is entirely unlike anything else. People will differ on whether or not Death Stranding is actually good – we obviously think it’s excellent – but no one will ever say that it isn’t incredibly unique and incredibly brave.
#3. TOM CLANCY’S THE DIVISION 2
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Ubisoft Massive | Read Our Review
The looter shooter genre hasn’t exactly been the most consistent ever since it broke into the mainstream in the early years of this generation (which is a weird, because it’s been wildly successful), and one of the reasons for that is that such games often launch with a serious lack of meaningful content. The first Division suffered from that shortfall as well, but with The Division 2, developers Ubisoft Massive made sure to avoid that pitfall. The Division 2 chock-full of enjoyable, addictive content, whether you want to play solo, co-op, or PvP, and its lootgrind is appropriately deep and engaging. Washington D.C. is a great setting, and slowly retaking control of the city makes for a surprisingly amazing campaign, which you can have a blast with even if you play solo. And just like its predecessor, The Division 2 also looks great, and displays impressive attention to even the most minute of details. Since launch, many of Massive’s decisions with new content and changes to the base game have been questionable, which have definitely been a knock against the game. But that The Division 2 is placed so high on our list of best games of 2019 in spite of those issues should tell you something about how much we like the game.
#2. RESIDENT EVIL 2
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: Capcom | Read Our Review
How do you take a game that is considered one of the best entries of its franchise and one of the best survival horror titles of all time, and remake it in a way so that it not only does that classic justice, but actually manages to surpass it? You ask Capcom to do it, that’s how. They did it with Resident Evil 1 in 2002, and they did it once again this year with the mind-blowing Resident Evil 2. This remake truly goes above and beyond, recreating the 1998 original so thoroughly and so fantastically that at times it pretty much feels like an all new entry in the series. Its decision to use the over-the-shoulder perspective is nothing short of genius, especially because it somehow manages to return to atmospheric horror, the slow, palpable dread, and the methodical exploration and combat of the original game. It boasts some of the best visuals we’ve ever seen in the game, with every one of it terrifying and grisly sights – be it the blood-stained walls of the ramshackle police station or the bloody exposed entrails of a corpse – rendered in glorious detail. Resident Evil 2 is a blueprint for how to remake a beloved classic, and it’s instantly become one of the best games this series has ever delivered. For a franchise as legendary and as venerated as Resident Evil, that is no small praise.
GAMINGBOLT’S 2019 GAME OF THE YEAR- SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Developer: FromSoftware | Read Our Review
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is fantastic- there’s just no other way to describe it. Every inch and pixel of the game bleeds with style and substance, every second of the experience stands on a foundation of mechanical depth and perfection. In true FromSoftware fashion, Sekiro challenges players constantly, with excellently designed enemies and some typically stellar boss fights. Fighting these enemies is always a rush of thrill and adrenaline, because combat in this game is absolutely masterful, with the clashing of swords and methodical search for an opening to deal a killing blow to your foes that defines Sekiro making you feel like a proper badass shinobi. The level design is – as it always is in From games – impeccable, and traversing Sekiro’s interconnected maps is an absolute joy. With its greater focus on storytelling and its lack of things like corpse runs and build diversity, and with mechanics such as resurrection, it also carves an identity for itself that feels very distinct from Dark Souls. There are many who might argue that Sekiro is perhaps a bit too hard, and there is certainly some merit to that argument, but it is exactly because of that difficulty that Sekiro is able to inject heavy doses of euphoria right into your veins every time you’re able to outmatch the game’s near-constant barrage of terrifying challenges. It is a work of art, an action game defined by spectacular combat, and a test of skill and challenge unlike nothing else out there. For all these reasons and more, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is our 2019 Game of the Year.