MLB The Show 20 isn't a complete replacement for all those lost afternoons at the ballpark, but it's nevertheless a balm for the baseball fan's soul in these trying times. While this year's version largely rests on the excellence of last year's version, it still brings with it plenty of strong additions, including the return of online leagues. As a tip of the cap to conclude the PlayStation 4 generation, it comes highly recommended.
Shovel Knight Showdown takes the popular indie platformer series and turns it into a four-player arena battler, with great results. With a large amount of unlockable content, in-game challenges, and solo modes, it's a deceptively robust package that has the potential to be a long-term party staple. Shovel Knight Showdown is great even if you've never played the original games.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards revisits the formula one last time with new maps and bosses, as well as a brand new card game. It's ambitious, but it's also the least essential of the major Shovel Knight episodes. If you own Treasure Trove, play Shovel of Hope and Specter of Torment first, then circle back to King of Cards if you still want more.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order comes painfully close to being the best action game of the year, but it ultimately falls short due to pacing problems and a host of technical issues. Still, this is the first step into a larger world for a franchise that has persistently struggled since its acquisition by EA.
Death Stranding might be Kojima's boldest game to date. It may also be his most tedious. Either way, its originality outweighs its sometimes exhausting structure and poor pacing... but only just. Maybe not a game I would recommend to everyone, but certainly one of the most interesting games of 2019.
John Wick Hex has a solid enough foundation, but it largely fails to build on its core concept. It's a one-dimensional tactics game that moves at a glacially slow pace and features few unique wrinkles. It offers a slightly deeper look at the lore, but otherwise it adds little to the burgeoning John Wick-verse.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne skimps a bit on introducing totally new monsters, but it's still a large expansion filled with very smart refinements. The campaign alone comes close to matching the scale of the base game, and it wisely ditches some of its more tedious elements. If you played through the original and wanted more, then Iceborne is almost everything you could ask for. It's not a full sequel, but it's pretty darn close.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses soars on to Switch with a fully-realized school setting, deep character customization, and multiple full-length campaigns. While it loses momentum in the second half, it still manages to come off as a striking reinvention of the well-worn Fire Emblem formula. That makes its first real console appearance in more than a decade a triumph.
Slay the Spire cleverly mixes the roguelite and card game genres, bringing with it a deep and satisfying strategy layer that encourages you to experiment over the course of a multitude of runs to the top of the tower. I can only hope that it continues to see regular updates, because it's already one of my favorite games of 2019.
Sony San Diego overhauls almost every single aspect of MLB The Show with this update, with the outstanding March to October and Moments modes leading the way. At least for right now, it seems destined to go down as the best baseball sim of the generation, and maybe as one of the best sports sims as well.