The older I get, the harder it is to find time to game. The irony of having less time to game because I write about gaming is not lost on me, but it has had a tragic effect on my backlog, which is currently approaching 200 games (or so). But there's no judgement here, right? We all have our shame piles.
That said, there's still a lot of fantastic games I played this year, including my personal GOTY, Devil May Cry 5, and the underrated PlayStation exclusive, Concrete Genie. Here's everything that took my fancy throughout my year in gaming.
Devil May Cry 5
It feels like a miracle that Devil May Cry 5 released, and even more of a blessing that it was absolutely fantastic. While I enjoyed the days of the DmC reboot, the true glory of the Devil May Cry franchise lay in the original four games. Finally, in 2019, fans got what they wanted in the return of the original series.
Dante continued in his role as grizzled uncle this go around, with Nero again taking the reigns of the game as the main protagonist — this time sharing the spotlight with mysterious newcomer V, as well as Dante himself. Gameplay is as fun and hectic as ever, the story is brilliant B-grade fantasy/horror, and the soundtrack is killer. Everything about Devil May Cry 5 worked, and it was a worthy triumph for Capcom. This was the game I enjoyed most this year, and one I'm definitely going to replay in future.
Concrete Genie is an absolute joy, and not nearly enough people experienced that for themselves. The game follows the journey of Ash, a citizen of the overrun and gloomy town of Denska. When Ash's art book is stolen by bullies, he uncovers his ability to turn art into life with a magic paintbrush, and sets about redeeming the town from its darkness.
Concrete Genie is absolutely gorgeous, with an art style that feels wholly unique in video games and a brilliant, heart-warming story. It plays like a wonderful little hybrid between the parkour-superhero series inFAMOUS and the Drawn to Life franchise, and anyone who's into sweet action-adventure games should definitely give it a go.
There's a reason why everybody's talking about Disco Elysium, and the simple reason is that it's brilliant. It's witty, sarcastic, sinister and everything in between. Following the misadventures of an amnesia-ridden detective, it's a classic point-and-click adventure with a distinctly European flavour, and deals with serious issues like abuses of power, unionism, Marxism and murder — but it also features a talking necktie, cryptids and thick layers of existential dread.
Disco Elysium is one of the most well-written RPGs of the decade, and deserves every accolade that it's earned.
MediEvil has long been one of my favourite games, and also one of the first I ever played. I was super keen for the remaster to come out, and while it had its problems when it finally released this year, it was still a fantastic reimagining.
Following the adventures of dead knight Sir Daniel Fortesque, MediEvil is a campy and gothic ride through cemeteries, haunted pirate ships, serpent-filled fields and hedge mazes. Issues with the camera aside, the game is gorgeous and fun, and one of the games I enjoyed the most this year.
As a massive fan of Alan Wake, Control was always going to be right up my alley. I don't think I predicted how much I'd fall in love with it, though. Control is positively Lynchian, and filled with myths, lore and mystery at every corner. Set pieces are phenomenal, and visuals are moody, surreal and inspired.
Control feels unique, and it's consistently exciting at every turn. I chewed up the game because I wanted to race to the finish and find out exactly what was going on. Also, because there's apparently an Alan Wake-themed DLC on the way, and I'm going fully bonkers for that.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Many a childhood afternoon was spent on the original Crash Team Racing for the PlayStation One. The remaster took everything that was great about the original and updated it with a shiny modern sheen. Character models were crisp and cartoony, controls were smooth and responsive, and there was even a whole bunch of new tracks, as well as tracks and characters from past Crash racing titles like Nitro Kart, Nitro Kart 2 and Tag Team Racing.
The online component was also a real gem here, making the game endlessly replayable and consistently fun with multiple Grand Prix that included one that was Spyro themed. While the microtransaction options sour the original somewhat, overall, Nitro-Fueled did a fantastic job of updating the original game with new content while keeping the spirit of the original alive.
Pokémon Sword and Shield are both fantastic additions to the Pokémon franchise, and are two of the most enjoyable Pokémon titles in a long while. I bounced off Moon and Sun super hard, so having a mainline Pokémon title that was happy with innovating the formula of the original games was fantastic.
While it definitely doesn't break new ground, Pokémon Sword/Shield were both fun, and featured stories and worlds that was gorgeous and felt unique to the Pokémon franchise. Not housing the classic roster of Pokémon also meant that I had to make some new choices, which is always refreshing in a game series that can start to feel same-ish the longer you play it.
Of course, not every game I played blew my mind, and there were plenty of mediocre titles in my gaming year too. Sadly, honourable mentions in the 'disappointment' category include Kingdom Hearts III, a game I'd spent over a decade waiting for.
All in all, it was a solid year for gaming, and one filled with so many brilliant games. Here's to next year, and all the hits it's sure to bring!
2019 was something of a watershed year for my own gaming life. Not just because of the incredibly wide quality of titles released during the year, but also because I finally acted on something I’d been working towards for years. That was led by the realisation and putting into action of the fact that I can’t play everything.