By Jenae R / January 24th, 2020
At the end of 2018, I didn’t have the highest of hopes for 2019 as far as gaming fun went. I had already caught up on most of what I wanted to play on PS4 and Switch and 2019 wasn’t looking like it’d be the liveliest, most exciting year for gaming. Now that 2019 is over, I think a lot of those predictions were correct. The game releases, or at least the ones I was interested in, were sparse throughout most of the year. Once fall came around there were obviously many more game launches, but a large majority of them were ports. Sure they were ports I wanted to eventually try, but they weren’t completely brand new and exciting experiences. In some ways though, my prediction was wrong. While it wasn’t the liveliest year for new releases, I still enjoyed a good handful of games, both old and new. This list is specifically my top fave games I played for the first time last year and not necessarily games that released in 2019. Although coincidentally, the majority of my favorite games I played last year, did release in 2019.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, as I mentioned in my review of the game, is a Tales Of game I had been waiting a long time to play. While it’s true, I played some of it before on the Xbox 360, I’m going to count it since the Definitive Edition has as much extra content as it does. I was really looking forward to enjoying all of the brand new content we had never seen before in the West. Now, I stand with what I’ve said before about how the Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition was a very lazy and sloppy localization. But that wasn’t enough to prevent me from enjoying it. I spent many hours exploring Terca Lumireis and the additional content made the game even better. Tales of Vesperia really is the last great, traditional Tales Of game. Well, the last great one I played of the older Tales Of style at least, before the series began evolving again and changed in various ways.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 was a welcome improvement on the formula created in the original game (which I loved so much when I played it in 2018). Many of the limitations were fixed this time around. They even added underwater creation and exploration, to an extent. They included one main area you could build up over time gradually throughout the game. And, they increased the building limitations, letting you go sky high and create much larger structures. I could go on forever explaining why Dragon Quest Builders 2 is fantastic and describe all the various little additions added to the sequel. But then I wouldn’t have time to discuss the rest of my favorite games I played in 2019. So the only thing I have left to say, is that the wait from when I finished the original DQB to when Dragon Quest Builders 2 finally came out, was agonizingly long. But in the end, it was absolutely worth it and was as wonderful as I had hoped.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Not long after I was finished with DQB2, the next great entry in the Fire Emblem series had hit Nintendo Switch. Now I know I’ve said before in some article or another, that Fire Emblem Fates, the previous FE title I had played, was an extreme disappointment. It didn’t feel like it had any soul and it was a major rehash of Awakening. And thus, I had my doubts about Fire Emblem: Three Houses. However, the more info that came out about Three Houses, the more interested I was. Once the game was out and I saw review scores and what people were saying about it, plus knowing that it wasn’t censored and the season pass price was actually reasonable, I snagged myself a copy not long after release day. The positive feedback Fire Emblem: Three Houses received, was in no way wrong. I found it exciting and the game had heart. It had a variety of characters who didn’t look like copy pastes from the previous title and it evolved the series in a way it very much needed to if Nintendo wanted to bring back fans who grew disinterested during the 3DS era. Fire Emblem: Three Houses had me absolutely glued, always wanting to see what happened next in the story. Originally I picked the Blue Lions path, but seeing as there is still a lot more story to experience, I do look forward to eventually playing through the other paths you can choose from.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
In 2019, surprising as it is, I played through and reviewed all three Trails of Cold Steel games that were brought to PS4 in the West. It took many hours to get through each one and it was actually a little stressful trying to finish them all in time to get reviews out quickly. And yet, I loved it. Each one slowly builds up until the exciting climax of the story and then you almost can’t even wait for the next entry after you’ve finished it. Trails of Cold Steel III was the best one yet. It took me over 90 hours to finish and then dropped me into disappointment when I knew, now I’d be waiting who even knows how long, to see the exciting conclusion. You can find out why I loved it so much in my review of the game from earlier this year. I don’t really have much more to say about Trails of Cold Steel III, outside of the fact that it was a splendid JRPG and absolutely earned its spot on my list of only the best games I played last year.
Yakuza Kiwami might seem like a surprising addition to this list. Yes, JRPGs are my most preferred game genre and I tend to hop from one to the next. Nevertheless, a couple years ago now I was introduced to Yakuza 0, my very first experience with the Yakuza series. It’s a series I kinda knew existed before then, but didn’t actually know anything about. Now, the reason Yakuza 0 didn’t at least make it into 2018’s honorable mentions, is because I believe it took time to grow on me. I didn’t get very far into it when I initially played and the beginning was really tough. It wasn’t until 2019 that I finally got back into Yakuza 0 and really got hooked on it. Although, because I played Yakuza 0 for the first time two years ago it doesn’t count for 2019, and therefore I’m adding Yakuza Kiwami to this list. I played through Kiwami only after beating Yakuza 0 first. To be honest, if I had played more things this year and had a larger variety to choose from, Yakuza Kiwami might not have even made this list. It has some things that were annoying and made it not as fun as Y0, such as the Majima Everywhere feature. Majima Everywhere has its charming moments, but it also got really obnoxious after a while. Still, I truly enjoyed continuing the story and seeing what happened next. I also had a ton of fun with all of the various minigames and sidequests featured throughout Yakuza Kiwami. Who doesn’t though? It’s a big part of what makes these games great as far as I know. Not to mention, I started Kiwami in November and finished by the beginning of December. Playing right before the holiday season the game takes place during and all of the Christmas tunes played in game inside convenience stores and whatnot, really made it that much better.
This time around I’m not going to add an honorable mentions section to my list. Like I said earlier, it was in many ways a bare year for me as far as gaming goes and if I included an honorable mentions section, it might turn into merely a complete list of the only games I played in 2019. This year, 2020, could be an exciting year for gaming again. But on account of how bare last year turned out to be and knowing there are only a couple of things I’m looking forward to so far, I don’t wanna go counting chickens before they hatch. I can only hope that 2020 is another wonderful year and I have a lot of exciting gaming experiences to come. Overall though, 2019 was a pretty good year for games, even if it wasn’t the most packed year.
Bandai NamcoDragon Quest Builders 2Fire Emblem: Three HousesNihon FalcomNintendoNIS AmericaSegaSquare EnixTales of VesperiaTrails of Cold Steel IIIYakuza Kiwami