Chris "Atom" DeAngelus
Shovel Knight is a modern classic that takes the 2-D platforming genre and modernizes it. There are minor complaints here and there, but they're easily overlooked when you're having so much fun playing the game. The PlayStation 4 version runs perfectly, and since it's a cross-buy with the Vita version, it helps to make it feel well worth the $14.99 price tag. If you're a fan of Mega Man-style platformers or are looking for something that's both challenging and fair, Shovel Knight is a worthy purchase.
Bloodborne is easily an early contender for game of the year, and it's the best PS4 exclusive to date. It captures the immensely strong design of Dark Souls and mixes it with high-intensity combat. The new setting and mechanics keep the title feeling fresh even while it retains many familiar aspects from the Souls games. Some minor problems, such as an occasionally poor frame rate, lightly tarnish the experience. Bloodborne is a must-have for any gamer who isn't afraid to die. The intense, fast-paced gameplay and grim world combine to create an experience that's both familiar and distinctive. It's time to die all over again.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a modern classic. It does so much right and so easily that it's difficult to believe. The exploration and the sheer sense of freedom bring to the forefront what Zelda used to do. Aside from some frame rate problems and annoying puzzles, it's a solid and enjoyable game. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a Zelda title will find a lot to love here, and anyone new to the franchise couldn't pick a better place to start. Breath of the Wild might be the swan song for the Wii U — and the herald of the Switch — but it's one heck of a note to go out on.
The Witness is a masterpiece of game design and an early contender for one of the best titles of the year. Boiled down to the basics, it's just a series of increasingly complex puzzle-mazes, but the presentation and execution are stellar, and the sense of exploration really adds to the game. It captures just the right sense of maddening and enticing to keep you moving forward. Its high price might scare off some gamers, but those who give it a shot will find it to be a worthwhile experience.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to the name because it's the best Smash game to date. The absurd character roster, immense amount of content, and general amazing gameplay make it fun in a way that's tough to beat. There are minor quibbles here and there, and the poor online component is a genuine black mark on the rest of the game. Still, Ultimate is a joy to play and a must-buy for anyone who has ever enjoyed smashing some bros. Even considering the Switch's amazing lineup, Smash Ultimate is one of the best the system has to offer.
Resident Evil 2 Remake is everything a remake should aspire to be. It captures the feel of the original almost perfectly while updating and improving almost everything. It has its flaws, but nothing detracts from the excellent experience. It's fun, spooky, and everything Resident Evil 2 was — but even better. Fans of the franchise and newcomers should enjoy themselves greatly. If you like killing zombies, you owe it to yourself to try out RE2 Remake.
In my opinion, Disco Elysium is the game of the year for 2019. It shows how you can make creative, engaging, and well-written games entirely using writing and player choice without falling into the simple "visual novel" style. It's biting, clever, and witty, and it deserves to take its place among Planescape and Fallout: New Vegas. It's a must-play for any fans of RPGs and a genuine modern classic that will hopefully set the stage for many things to come.
Overall, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition lives up to its name. The changes are almost universally for the better by taking an excellent game and smoothing out the faults, flaws, and weak points while providing additional content. Considering Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the best JRPGs of the last console generation and arguably one of the best JRPGs of all time, this improves upon an already outstanding title. Fans of the original and newcomers alike should find Definitive Edition a wonderful way to experience Xenoblade Chronicles at its best.
Grand Theft Auto V for the PlayStation 4 is easily the best version of the game available at the moment. At the end of the day, it is still functionally the same game as before, with most of the same flaws and strengths. Some new features expand the gameplay a bit, including a very cool first-person mode, but nothing here will change anyone's opinion of the franchise. Some minor technical flaws, including an inconsistent frame rate, drag down the game a little, but it's largely a step up from the last-gen versions. It's bigger, prettier and smoother, but it's still GTA5.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is the rare Arkham clone that transcends its status. It borrows heavily from Batman: Arkham Asylum but does enough new, interesting and distinctive things that it doesn't feel derivative. The core gameplay mechanics are some of the most enjoyable I've encountered this year, and the game is fun from start to finish. A lackluster plot and odd use of the source material holds the game back slightly but not enough to interfere with the unadulterated fun of the core concept. Shadow of Mordor may not be the deepest or most meaningful game released this year, but it sure is one of the most fun.