2019 has already been pretty nuts, and with a slew of new releases just around the corner, it’s about to get even nutser. Man of Medan, Control, Astral Chain, and Minoria are this month!! Though I still have roughly a dozen games in my backlog from this year that seem like they’ll be incredible, I’ve spent enough time with the following handful of standouts to know that they’ll almost certainly end up on my end-of-year best-of. Yes, I should probably have finished Outer Wilds and Judgment by now to be able to toss them up here, too, but… Super Mario Maker 2 is out. Fire Emblem and Dragon Quest Builders 2 are out. I… I started replaying Dark Souls 2. I’m only human.
After Hollow Knight, I wasn’t sure that a pseudo-sequel to Symphony of the Night was going to be enough to stand out in 2019. I won’t doubt Koji Igarashi again. A brilliant return to form for 2D Castlevanias after a couple of console generations without one, Bloodstained is everything I wanted and then a little extra love sprinkled on top. Bloodstained combines the best parts of the portable Sorrow games with the sprawling, dense castle of Symphony to make one of the most memorable Metroidvanias of the decade. Iga’s back.
Though Sekiro has plenty of issues (it’s much too punishing, there’s a surprising lack of variety in the environments and bosses) the highs are higher than many other FromSoft action RPGs. The combat is fluid and taking down mobs has never been more satisfying. The grappling hook and abilities to jump and swim drastically change the way any Soulslike has felt in the past. If only there was a bit more to see, and if the game actively didn’t try to stop you from seeing all of it, I’d have more praise to heap upon it. As it stands, it’s my least favorite FromSoft RPG. As I’ve said before, though, the worst FromSoft output still shines above most other games I have on my shelf. Maybe they’ll pull a Bloodborne and vastly improve the game with some incredible DLC. Here’s hoping.
Apex feels like kind of a fad that’s already passed by this point, just as a handful of other battle royales have come and gone. But those first few months after Apex launched? The most satisfying multiplayer experience I’ve had in a long time. Taking the best parts of PUBG, Call of Duty’s Blackout, and tossing in a dash of hero shooter, Apex Legends is my favorite battle royale to date. Each character’s unique abilities along with the genre defining ping system
Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 takes everything from some of the greatest video games of all time and just makes them a little better. After spending…gosh… maybe 500 hours with the original Super Mario Maker since its release four years ago, I was still somehow ready to hop back in for more. Turns out, having Mario Maker on a system that people actually own makes it even better! Whoa! With the myriad of additions that come with Mario Maker 2, like new enemies and items, new ways to structure levels, a new theme from Super Mario 3D World (the second best video game ever made) I’ve already put more hours into the game than I care to admit. And there will be many more on the way.