Best Games of 2019 (so far)
Half of 2019 has come and gone, and while it didn’t have the blockbuster start of 2018 — by this time last year, God of War, Monster Hunter, Celeste, and more were already out — there have been plenty of excellent titles. Scroll through this list to see which titles EW will still be thinking about when GOTY season rolls around in a few months.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Since battling my way through Sekiro in March, I’ve played a number of other action games, including revisits to previous FromSoftware games like Dark Souls 1 and Bloodborne. Throughout all these other experiences, my persistent thought has been, “I wish this combat controlled as well as it does in Sekiro.” Departing from the usual Soulsborne hit-and-run style and pioneering a new type of back-and-forth “clashing of swords,” Sekiro’s combat established itself as a uniquely demanding and rewarding task. Paired with the game’s outstanding visual aesthetic, the unprecedented swordplay makes it a standout not just of this year, but of this entire console generation. —Evan Lewis
Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 somehow manages to expertly split its attention between Mario diehards and platformer novices. The game’s story mode missions walk players through the basics of Mario’s movement and obstacles in his various iterations throughout the years, allowing those who may not have been avid followers of the franchise over the past three decades to get a feel for the types of tricks that builders in the game’s fully featured level editor are sure to implement. This is the definitive side-scrolling Mario experience for the Switch, offering the potential for infinite crowdsourced enjoyment. —E.L.
Resident Evil 2
Here’s a rarity these days: a remake that actually has a purpose. Resident Evil 2, a makeover of the 1998 survival game, benefits from modern visual effects that give way to an updated and totally unsettling horror setting. With a finite amount of ammo to face the army of the dead, jump scares at every turn, and only the lonely light of a solitary flashlight to illuminate your path, one of the most beloved old-school installments becomes a horror game for the ages. If curiosity killed the cat, the puzzle-solving exploration is going to eviscerate lead characters Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. —Nick Romano
The Division 2
Ubisoft listened to all those Division critiques and crafted an impressive loot-shooter for The Division 2. The name of the game is post-launch because, while its story is compelling, the developers want players to be gaming for years to come. Enter eight-person raids; an overhauled Dark Zone space; new and intriguing factions, like the Black Tusks; and more customizable weapons and classes to really own this post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. setting. Even now, three months post-launch, the material still feels fresh and satisfying. —N.R.
The battle royale is a dominant genre in gaming, and the untouchable Fortnite still towers over all competitors in the field. Apex Legends, a new FPS entry into the category from the creators of Titanfall, is the closest any game has come to rivaling Epic’s behemoth since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds died down. Featuring mechanically solid shooting and traversal mechanics and interesting team composition opportunities, Apex Legends got a lot of things right that other BRs hadn’t (some of which have since been imitated in Fortnite). —E.L.
This colorful Advance Wars-like did exactly what it needed to do to capture the attention of an audience that was starved for the classic handheld franchise. Intuitive yet suitably intricate unit strengths and weaknesses, tactical resource management and map control, and cutely varied commander designs (including a very good armored doggo) make Wargroove an excellent on-the-go experience for fans of tactics games. If there’s any criticism to be levied against the game, it’s that it may hew a little too closely to its inspiration, but since there hasn’t been a proper Advance Wars in years, that’s no big issue. —E.L.
Devil May Cry 5
Devil May Cry 5 is what the main numbered entries in the series have always been: nonsensical, over-the-top, action-packed fun. The biggest innovation to the franchise in this fifth installment is that instead of the two protagonists available to play in DMC 4, there are now three. Nero has a big sword, a big handgun and a bunch of detachable prosthetic arms with wacky effects. Dante has a variety of weapons, both melee and ranged, and newcomer V has a book and a stick (along with a trio of demons under his control). The game oozes camp (along with some problematic female objectification), but the combat controls are just as fast, fluid and enjoyable as they’ve ever been. —E.L.
Kingdom Hearts III
It hasn’t been 84 years, Rose, but it has been a decade since fans waited for the final installment to the Disney-Final Fantasy crossover event — and it was worth the wait, even if you’re still scratching your head as to what the heck is going on. Kingdom Hearts comes has a massive backstory that can’t be summed up in one of those 30-second explainer videos, but there’s lots of characters from Toy Story, Frozen, Tangled, and the like to keep you entertained with dazzling graphics, updated combat maneuvers, and beloved characters crossing over to the videogame space. —N.R.
Exploration is a common theme in gaming, but games about pure exploration — the type of exploration meant to satisfy scientific curiosity above all else — are rarer. Outer Wilds can be unsettling, since dying in space is basically an inevitability, but luckily, the game is set in a time loop that always sets the player back on the calming forested home world of Timber Hearth, ready for another voyage to explore nearby planets and their ancient mysteries. The game’s solar system feels both vast and navigable, daunting and comforting. —E.L.
Baba Is You
One of the most innovative puzzle games in recent memory, Baba Is You asks players to think about how its rules are written in order to succeed. The rules that make up the physics of a particular stage are displayed on screen, and individual words from those rules can be pushed around to change how win conditions can be achieved. If Baba needs to get to a flag, but there’s water in the way, words can be rearranged to make rules like “Water Is Push,” which turns any water into a movable, solid object, or “Water Is You” which makes the water the player-controlled character. It’s difficult to explain, but delightful in execution. —E.L.
Honorable mention: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
This game just missed EW’s consideration deadline for the best of 2018 list, but it would have been an obvious choice for inclusion. It’s everything players love about the most ambitious crossover in entertainment history (sorry, Marvel), amplified. —E.L.
Honorable mention: Gris
Yes, this game technically came out in 2018, but the release didn’t make the cut for EW’s best of the year selections at the time, and we’ll take any excuse to shoutout the breathtaking visual artistry that went into this indie stunner. This gripping action-adventure story of one girl’s journey to restore color back to a muted world is still on our minds. —N.R.