2019 has provided a large selection of games for the gaming community. From dark and gritty shooters to colorful platformers, players were given all routes possible to play games both inside and outside their comfort zones. We here at KeenGamer are thrilled to be able to express our gratitude to the games that made our year so enjoyable. Without further delay, here are the games that the KeenGamer team hand-selected as the best games of 2019.
The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds feels like the prodigal son, returning to save its genre from the bad practises of rivals. I loved every minute of this game, from the wacky characters that joined my adventure through the Halcyon System, to terrorising my enemies with physics bending weapons. Obsidian’s dry wit can be found in every nook and cranny of Halcyon’s capitalist hell-scape, giving the game an entertainment factor that’s all too lacking in other western RPGs. Having waited nine years for a spiritual successor to Fallout: New Vegas, expectations were abnormally high. Impressively, The Outer Worlds exceeded all my hopes, and for that, it’s my game of the year.
Solid RPG improving on aspects Bethesda failed to deliver with Fallout 76. Runs well technically and art-style is colourful, the game genuinely looks beautiful. Story was great and there definitely is some replayability to it with the choices you can make. Side characters are interesting and there are some good voice actors with some solid performances. The scientific weapons are awesome, personal favourite being the “Shrink Ray”. All in all, I just think it was a solid RPG experience we were longing for, especially since a lot of recent RPG titles failed to live up to hype. It just delivers on the Fallout formula but improves on it with its own unique spin.
Who remembers Fallout: New Vegas? It’s been quite some time since Obsidian schooled Bethesda on how to make an engaging 1st person RPG. But gosh darn it, they’ve done it again with Outer Worlds. Now operating independently, Obsidian is free to make whatever creative choices they darn well please. So along comes Outer Worlds, reminding us all of just what made New Vegas so special. Companion NPCs with distinctive personalities. Choice based quest structure. Actual great writing in a beautifully rendered new IP. Heck, Outer Worlds even adds its own rules to the RPG mix, asking that players choose a negative trait like drug addiction or fear of heights. If Outer Worlds doesn’t stand out to you for these reasons then it will at very least for its value proposition. It’s a single player focused game with zero monetised aspects. What you see is what you get and I must say – that’s pretty darn good.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes to Soulsborne formula to a whole new level. Even though the transition to a somewhat history inspired setting cost it some of the mystical charm present in Dark Souls – it’s almost a perfect game in terms of gameplay. Not only did From Software successfully build upon established Souls foundation, they also made it significantly more accessible. Of course, Sekiro is still not a game for everyone. It requires that you invest yourself in it and if you do – it will return that tenfold in the amount of fun you’ll be having. It’s definitely one of the best action games of the year, even if you don’t manage to see it through to its completion. Growing a badass beard is a guarantee if you do.
A Souls game unlike any other Souls game. If you are a hardcore Souls fan, Sekiro might fall short to you, as it is more action-based and not as grindy as your regular Souls game. The Souls formula of semi-open world is traded for a more story-driven game, more sequential, even. And while that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, if you like investing yourself in the characters and story, you should be satisfied. In addition to a more story-driven game, this is more about action than its predecessors, specially taking combat into consideration, as Sekiro‘s combat dynamic and controls are superb, and way more fluid than other Souls titles. World-building and music are in tone with the story and character at every step of the way, and there isn’t a dull moment, or, at the very least, is less frustrating than other Souls games, which one might argue is the point of a Souls game. And even when the enemies seem to be damage-sponges, I had a great time slashing away.
Is Sekiro the best Souls game overall? Probably not, but it did bring one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I had this year.
Sekiro has a main title and then a subheading, right? It’s not always par for the course but I hope that means more Sekiro subheadings are on the way in terms of future titles. The majority of us really enjoyed adventuring as a grizzled Shinobi. For me, this is just confirmation bias that there’s been a gap in the market for this kind of stuff ever since the days of Tenchu. Feudal Japan mixed with authentic mythology is certainly a good mix too. Hopping from one rooftop to another, learning how to ace an area with speed, precision and stealth never stops being glorious.
For those forever intimidated by the Dark Souls punishment formula, Sekiro would tempt us in with an ever so slightly more forgiving gameplay loop. There’s still certainly plenty of challenge to be had here and boss kill methods still respect player initiative as we look for that one parry opening. Like Outer Worlds, Sekiro is a singular and complete product that won’t mess you about for more money. It offers a good forty hours, on average, for the price of entry.
Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe
I’m pretty consistent in what I play, as I seldom see a new game franchise that really catches my attention. However, this adorable indie game really stole my heart. Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe improves greatly upon its predecessor, filled with new characters, fun customization options, and a huge open-world experience. Chubby Pixel and Fabio Ferrara are constantly updating the game, listening to fan suggestions, and improving the gameplay. My favorite aspect of this game is that it captures the classic platformer feelings of Mario, Spyro, and Ape Escape, but with a modern twist. These are the exact types of new games I look forward to playing, and Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe is no exception.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
I have very little affection towards the debut game in this series, despite playing it quite often in my youth. I skipped Dark Moon entirely and figured the franchise would be over afterwards. To my surprise, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was announced and the more I viewed trailers, the more I felt it would actually be worth buying. Not only was I right, but it ended up overshooting my expectations for the franchise. It made me appreciate the steps taken to get to this point, where Luigi has become as integral to the brand’s identity as a center-stage Nintendo icon.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is all the heart and detail one can expect from a first-party game from the company. Loaded with content, charm, and fun mechanics new and old, it reinvents itself as a major asset to the overall library of great games Nintendo has produced. I had a blast with it, and fully expect to replay the game for years to come, which is far more than I would say about its predecessors. It single-handedly made me appreciate Luigi.
As a child, I absolutely loved Luigi’s Mansion for GameCube. When I saw that a third installment would be out for Nintendo Switch, I knew it was a must-have. However, it exceeded my expectations by a landslide. The gameplay mechanics are very similar to the original, but there are far more levels, as well as new abilities and ghost characters. I never find myself getting bored with this game, as there is always some new discovery or gem to collect, even when the ghosts have been captured. In terms of nostalgia, it is especially nice seeing the brilliant E. Gadd rejoining the game with new inventions and advanced technology. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is great for new players, but I find it especially enjoyable for older fans of the original game.
Refreshing approach to a single player game that takes a creative story and adds combat that I’ve never really experienced in a game before. The feeling of having control over supernatural forces during combat is awesome and compliments the story well. I think Control is genuinely a game that is incomparable to any other game I’ve played and I guess that’s what makes it special?
Control is easily the best Remedy game and one of the best games of the year. Rarely is there a game where its segments synergize as well as here. The story, the visuals and the gameplay come together to create fun experiences in one of the most interesting worlds seen in a game. Like a great episode of X-Files, Control is binge worthy and leaves the player wanting more. Luckily, the mythology it creates is ripe for expanding upon in other media and in future games, which I’ll be eagerly waiting to arrive.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The amount of time I have poured into Fire Emblem: Three Houses is already ludicrous. Hours poured into the community at large, creating even more fictional content and artwork and whatever else, could turn my adoration for the game into an obsession. Buying this on a whim, I figured after enjoying Awakening that I could give the franchise’s first game on the Switch console a fair shot. What occurred was an immediate sensation of understanding: I am going to spend a lot of time playing this.
Never has a Fire Emblem game felt so complete of a package. The freedom to do all sorts of different activities, interact with lovely characters, grind and harvest to one’s content, makes this a prime example of a game being well worth the asking price. I managed to accumulate nearly 300 hours into this game with one playstyle—imagine my fun experimenting with others. Any fans of strategy RPGs should absolutely hop on the
Golden Deer Fire Emblem train right now.
Metro: Exodus builds upon the solid foundation of the previous two games while pushing the series beyond the confinement of the Metro system. The apocalyptic Russian landscape is surprisingly varied as are the folks you meet on your journey, providing one of the more interesting interpretations of post-apocalyptic life in recent memory. There are so few FPS games that successfully combine great gunplay, quality story-telling and horror elements. Metro: Exodus achieves all three of these things with aplomb and deserves a place amongst the best of 2019.
The Metro series has always delivered a kind of formula video games rarely get right. A kind of tight control between atmospherics and well-paced gameplay. Of course, for that to work, it’s a lot easier to condense things into moodily lit corridors. Tension is added effortlessly when the sound design does its thing and you fumble to replace a gas mask filter or recharge your torch. What worried many about Exodus was its bold move to go semi-open world. The three sandboxes we eventually got with Exodus somehow succeeded in maintaining the formula for atmosphere and pacing despite the newly open world. Of course, tense corridor survival can still be found.
Exodus remains a game that respects player intelligence, leaving priorities, area discoveries and playstyle all in your in hands. It’s at its best when it surprises you with events that may or may not have been scripted. Not knowing which doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re constantly in a believable world that never once exposes the limits of its simulation.
- Our Metro Exodus review.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
As a longtime fan of Crash Bandicoot, I always found CTR the most enjoyable. While I love the platforming games, there’s just something about the battles and race tracks that really caught my attention more. So, when Beenox decided to not only remaster CTR but also add in tracks from Nitro Kart, I was instantly sold. Not only that, but the implementation of new tracks, karts, characters, skins, and other additives makes the game feel constantly new.
My favorite thing about the game, as a hardcore Spyro the Dragon fan, is their inclusion of Spyro, a Spyro-themed race track, and other characters from the game with new skins we’ve never even seen before. This gives me hope of future Spyro/Crash crossover material as these two Playstation mascots were frequently seen together in the early 2000s. I like that developers are playing on this nostalgia and creating what players have been asking for. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is constantly producing new content and keeping racers on their toes, or should I say, their wheels?
Untitled Goose Game
The game took flight for many reasons, but to cherry-peck a few; the simple block colours of the environments and characters (who themselves have little more than a distinct nose so you can tell which direction they’re facing) and personality-filled animation begs you to take a gander. The musical score, reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, remains peaceful during calm moments – lightly feathering in instruments until a frantic piano plays over a wild goose chase over knicking a toy and making someone else pay the bill. And, the game’s controls, systems and vague ‘To-Do List’ give the player direction without hand-holding, and experimentation without consequence, not to mention a button dedicated to flexing your wings like a WWE wrestler about to perform a suplex.
Anyone with a moderate knowledge of video game developers needs only hear the name Platinum Games to know the level of combat quality they’re going to get. So, it should be enough to say Astral Chain was developed by the aforementioned studio; but just in case, let’s delve a little deeper. In Astral Chain, you play a fresh-faced police officer of the future who has the technology to capture and harness the power of extra-dimensional monsters that only you, and others like you, can see. It’s also anime as hell, which serves as both a boon and a detriment.
There’s really nothing wrong with Astral Chain’s combat. It’s tight, it’s responsive, it’s deep, and above all it’s fun on the bun. However, the combat isn’t all the game can be judged on. The writing, including characters and story, is textbook anime tropes. Everything you think will happen, will happen, if you’ve seen even one season of Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon. More than anything, what works against Astral Chain’s writing is that the game isn’t aware it’s just one game. There is a lot that’s set up and never resolved because the assumption is that a sequel will pick up the slack. Maybe there will be one, but Platinum Games aren’t exactly known for sequels. Regardless, while it’s not a system seller on its own, Astral Chain acts as another reason, among many, to get a Switch.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Monster Hunter World was a long-needed update to the series, ditching the PS2-era graphics and making it less intimidating for newcomers. Iceborne continues to upon the base game’s successes, adding even more content for veteran hunters to work through. An improved hub area that’s easier to navigate was a more than welcome change, and the endgame loop is far less frustrating. A solid expansion overall that only gets better as more free content is released.
River City Girls
WayForward has become something of an outlet for retro-esque titles to flourish in the modern age. Its latest experiment comes in the form of River City Girls, a beat-’em-up spin-off game set in the same universe as the famous Kunio-kun series. A wombo-combo of old and new, it offers the indie(?) studio a chance to flex its muscles while also adding to their recent string of quality titles.
Its appeal is born through classic vibes, though the conveniences of the current era are apparent. This allows for a steady blend of tried-and-true action rambunctiousness with enough cushion to keep people less than bloodied. Blending the inborn sensation of RPG catharsis with a satirical storyline (and lots of memes), it manages to etch a mark in gaming history with its own unique style. I adore its chaotic colors, its quality pixel design, and the measure of detail injected into every acrobatic maneuver. If not for Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse a few years back, this is the peak of WayForward’s technical mastery.
Indivisible is what I imagine it’s like to have a child. You love it, you care for it, you even paid to help raise it, and then it goes and disappoints you. Regardless, it’s impossible not to see the beauty of it and appreciate it for all it tries to do, even when it fails. Indivisible is a semi-turn-based RPG developed by Lab Zero, the studio that brought you the infinitely polished Skull Girls. Like Astral Chain, the combat has amazing depth and feels great. Like Astral Chain, it fails in other areas, however. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but that doesn’t mean they should have opened the doors before it was finished.
What Indivisible aims to reinvent it almost always does. Using the rarely adopted combat style of Valkyrie Profile, the game doesn’t sport an entirely new combat system, but it may as well have. It’s simple enough to allow you to mash your way through most obstacles, while offering enough depth with its combos and party composition to find hours in theory crafting. 20+ characters, locales based on rarely adopted real-world locations and cultures, and writing that sometimes falters but when it succeeds it does so with flying colors. Indivisible is unique, beautiful, flawed, and a hell of a lot of fun to play.
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
With the release of Shadowbringers, Final Fantasy XIV solidifies itself as one of the strongest games in the series. Offering up a gripping narrative from start to finish, it more than makes up for some of the previous expansion’s shortcomings. Furthermore, the inclusion of the long-requested Dancer job and a NieR: Automata themed raid are sure to please long-time Square Enix fans. There’s more than enough content here for those needing their Final Fantasy fix, whether solo or with friends.
While Astral Chain and Indivisible should be heralded for their combat and scolded for some writing choices, Disco Elysium is just the opposite. In fact, this game doesn’t even have combat! Sure, you can get in fights, but the outcome is based on dice rolls influenced by your skills and your choices. It’s a near-perfect game that, nevertheless, perfectly demonstrates what makes the CRPG genre so amazing.
You play as an alcoholic detective woken from a night of debauchery and destruction. You’re tasked with solving a murder, but you can’t even remember your name, and your coworkers at the station are so fed up with you that they won’t even entertain the idea of helping you with that basic piece of information. The world is filthy and rickety, held together with duct tape and gumption. The lore is so extensive and deep that every statue, book, and rock has some story behind it. Disco Elysium is funny, insightful, and brilliant. It’s engaging and fun and does so without needing a fast-paced combat system (not that there’s anything wrong with one). If you’re curious if this game deserved four awards at The Game Awards, the answer is yes; even so, you should see for yourself.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
After a somewhat shaky previous game, Trails of Cold Steel III is a return to form for the series. As the 8th entry in the long running Trails franchise, this new story brings together a large cast of new and familiar faces. All of this is bolstered by some much-improved visuals, quality of life features and solid English voice acting. It may be hard to get into due to the large time commitment required to play every game in the series, but the payoff is more than worth it.
And that’ll be it from us! What do you think of our choices? Would you have chosen something different? Comment below and tell us your opinion on the best games of 2019. Thanks for tuning in with us, and onward to 2020!