Just as we prepare to wave goodbye to 2019 and the troubling teens of the century, it’s time to wrap up our Game of the Year awards. The last couple of weeks has seen us chart this year’s many highs, from the breadth and depth of indie game development in 2019, to new narratives and adventurous new blockbuster IPs.
It’s been quite a year for games, where opinions vary hugely over what should be the Game of the Year. For us, it’s a game which has baffled and divided opinions from the very first moment it was announced.
Death Stranding was always going to be a polarising game. With Hideo Kojima seeming to spend all of his time over the past few years either releasing new merchandise, making vague statements about strands, or meeting celebrity friends, there was always the feeling that this would all be hubris and that the worst of his eccentricities would come to the fore. For some people, that is absolutely the case, but at the same time there’s something undeniably compelling about the game’s concoction of elements.
Purely from a gameplay perspective, there’s a very literal interpretation of a walking simulator as you take on what boils down to being a string of delivery quests across a desolate North America. Described like that it’s utterly devoid of charm, and yet with the planning it takes to complete each trip and the challenges you face along the way it works. It gradually grows, giving you new tools like vehicles to travel faster, weapons to fight off the Mules, or letting you encounter the structures built by other players that can help speed you on your way. Strand game, indeed.
What really brings it together is the world and story that constantly keeps players guessing to the very end, stocked full of Kojima-isms, weird tangents and with fantastically well realised characters. Fragile, Sam, Bridget, and Cliff and the others have compelling stories which are interwoven leading to unexpected conclusion. Like the best films the game leaves you satisfied but asking even more questions, some of these can be answered by continuing to play, others are left to the player to deduce.
Death Stranding isn’t perfect, it’s not flawless – believe it or not, a 10/10 doesn’t mean that – but it’s our Game of the Year.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Runner Up
Fire Emblem’s position in Nintendo’s line-up hasn’t always made sense. A fantasy tactical RPG adventure is pretty niche compared to the broad popularity of bouncing plumbers and green-clad elves, but with every release it’s grown in stature, bringing Intelligent System’s masterful strategy to an ever-wider audience.
This year proved that there’s plenty of room for surprises though, despite the series’ storied history, and Three Houses took Fire Emblem back to school. Literally. Casting you as a professor of one of those titular three houses was a curve ball, but then tasking you with getting into the student’s good books by chatting to them or bringing them presents saw it drift closer than ever to relationship sim rather than tactical adventure. Amazingly, it works, probably helped along by the fact that Intelligent Systems didn’t forget about the strategy too, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses doesn’t just give you the option of one run through its time-hopping adventure, but three. It’s another glorious reason to own a Nintendo Switch.
– Dom L
Control – Runner Up
Control should be lauded as a sci-fi great, not just in gaming but the genre as a whole. The Oldest House proved you don’t need wide open worlds to create intriguing environments, and that the pull of the unknown is strong with people. From a main protagonist who was likable to powers that made you feel unstoppable, side characters that were engaging, and stories that drew you in but also indulged in their mysteries, the whole Control experience leaves you wanting more. It’s that feeling that makes it one of the most compelling narratives of this generation.
Remedy Entertainment are not done with the world yet and the hints it has left behind tying Control to its other franchises like Alan Wake teases a lot. Remedy has proven to be a home of master world builders and story tellers, Control being the developer’s masterpiece in an already strong catalogue.
– Aran S
Resident Evil 2 – Runner Up
Resident Evil 2 sets a new high water mark for any classic game remakes planned for the future. Not simply content to recreate the game as it was in a new game engine – as Resident Evil HD did on GameCube at the start of the century – Capcom reconsidered every aspect of the game in a modern light.
They traded in the fixed camera angles for a close over the shoulder view that brings you closer to the action, wrapping you in the unfolding horror, they rewrote the game’s script to ditch some of the mid-late 90s kitsch and embrace the style of horror and storytelling that modern games can achieve. And of course it’s helped no end by the exceedingly pretty visuals that the RE Engine can put out, not to mention the believable human faces that Capcom can now seemingly conjure at will.
Could one of the best games of 2019 really be 21 years old? Absolutely! This stunning remake takes a decades old horror classic and allows it to stand alongside the very best games of 2019.
Untitled Goose Game – Runner Up
A game that will have you honking with delight, Untitled Goose Game captured people’s imaginations from the very first moment House House teased it. Its simplicity was a huge part of that, distilling the stealth genre down to its basics, accompanying the stylish graphics with a cheekily performed Debussy soundtrack, and letting you wreak havoc with failure only ever setting you back a few moments as they people and world resets.
Just the idea of a game in which a naughty goose terrorises a quaint English village was delectable, and the finished game is as riotously fun as it sounds.
To catch up on all of the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out, here’s a handy list:
- Best Remaster/Remake
- Best Visual Design
- Best Soundtrack
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Gameplay
- Best Narrative
- Best Single Player Game
- Best Indie Game
- Best VR Game
- Best PC Game
- Best Nintendo Switch Game
- Best Xbox One Game
- Best PlayStation 4 Game
- Biggest Disappointment
With that out of the way as a kind of palette cleanser from all the positivity and happiness, come back tomorrow when we’ll reveal our overall Game of the Year 2019!