While 2019 didn’t see quite as many stellar video games released as 2018 did, there were still a few that impressed me almost as much as my favorites of last year. We may not have had the same incredible level of storytelling that God of War gave us or another stunning superhero adventure like Spider-Man, but we still got one of the greatest video game remakes I’ve ever played, endlessly fun, free-to-play monster slaying, and the return of my favorite all-time gaming franchise. Without further ado, my favorite games of 2019:
Number 5: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Almost decade after Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 launched, my beloved four-player superhero beat ’em up franchise finally returned! Not only that, but it brought an MCU-inspired story and an even bigger, more diverse roster of both classic and underrated characters with it. From the shield-throwing Captain America to the blaster-toting Star-Lord to the in-your-face bralwer Wolverine to the web-slinging Spider-Gwen, there’s a character for every play-style, and all the ones I’ve tested out so far are fun to use in battle. The small army of villains you encounter along the way are great too, with a few of them leading to some of the most memorable and entertaining boss battles this year. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order isn’t a reinvention of the series – aside from its aesthetic changes – but it certainly feels like a reward for fans who had been holding out hope for a sequel for so long.
Number 4: Dauntless
Dauntless is a free-to-play, more intuitive version of Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise with a unique art style, and I think the former is far more fun than the latter. The main reason is because I spend far less time prepping for the hunt and more time, well, hunting in Dauntless. Some people will definitely prefer the deeper gameplay mechanics and crafting system of Monster Hunter: World, but others will love being able to jump in, quickly equip the right gear, and then go straight to bringing down giant beasts instead. There’s no wrong choice between these games though, as it’s all a matter of personal preference. Go with Monster Hunter: World if you want a more nuanced, deeper creature hunting adventure with an equally determined squad, but if you’re just looking for something fun and straightforward that you can play with any of your online friends without paying anything, Dauntless is probably your best bet.
Number 3: Pokémon Shield
After twenty-plus years of fans asking and complaining, Gamefreak finally released a pair of mainline Pokémon games on a Nintendo home console, and even though it didn’t quite live up to the hype I had for it, Pokémon Shield – the half of that pair that I purchased – is still a terrific game. It’s an… evolution of the classic pocket monster formula that removes a huge chunk of the less favorable mechanics that we longtime Pokémon trainers have been forced to endure over the past two decades, like requiring certain Pokémon or attacks to move through specific parts of the world. It also improves upon the series’ best bits, catching wild Pokémon and battling other trainers, as well. The inclusion of cooperative multiplayer raids – where up to four people can try and defeat a super powerful Pokémon for a chance to catch it – and the new Dynamax ability for certain battles are welcome changes. I’ll admit that I wasn’t very excited for Dynamaxing at first, and while it’s undoubtedly gimmicky I have a hard time really being bothered by it when a regular Gym battle can now transform into a turn-based kaiju brawl. Throw in some of the best Mon since 2000’s Pokémon Gold/Silver, and you’ve got a terrific game that every Pokéfan should play.
Number 2: Resident Evil 2
Watching my brother struggle to survive the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City on the original Playstation back in 1998 was one of my first forays into the horror genre in any medium, and left an impression that’s stayed with me for the last twenty years. Needless to say I was extremely excited for this remake, and rightfully so. Resident Evil 2 brings a staple of survival horror video games to a new generation of players, consoles, and succeeds on almost every front in updating it. The visuals range from gorgeous to grotesque, the puzzles are challenging and make you feel like a detective once you solve them, and the narrative expands past the original’s in creative ways that allow you to see parts of the story from the perspective of other characters, one of which ended up being my favorite part of the entire game. It doesn’t quite match the heights of Resident Evil 7, but RE2 is still one of the scariest games of the current console generation.
Number 1: Borderlands 3
It took Gearbox seven years to release a full-fledged sequel to Borderlands 2, one of my all-time favorite games, and oh man was it worth the wait. Borderlands 3 is the best entry in the shoot-to-loot franchise so far because it imoroves upon almost every single thing I love from its predecessors, either streamlining or refining it. Movement is faster and more fluid, making firefights even more fun and frantic. New characters like the Ice-T-voiced AI teddy bear Balex make their quirky marks on the franchise while beloved heroes from previous entries have grown in fun and interesting ways since we last saw them. There’s also far more character customization, both with the varied skill trees of the new Vault Hunters (player characters) and the huge amount of cosmetics that are all earned in-game.
Oh, and there’s literally over a billion different guns and pieces of gear in the game.
You want an equip-able relic that makes your feet shoot homing missiles when you slide? How about sniper rifle that turns the bodies of your enemies into miniature volcanoes? Or a grenade that explodes into lighting arcs that electrify anything in its radius? Maybe just a gun that shoots out other guns instead of bullets? All of those and way, way more are just waiting to be found on the strange, secret-filled planets in Borderlands 3, and all these deadly tools somehow feel different from one another. I’ve put close to one hundred hours into Gearbox’s newest looter-shooter, and I have yet to find two guns that handle the same way. Throw in the huge amount of endgame content and free events, and Borderlands 3 is a game I’ll be coming back to for years to come.