Tuesday, December 31, 2019

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2019

With hours left in 2019--at least here in North America--SPC reveals its final list for the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards. We have here the Top Ten Games of 2019! There were so many fantastic titles to choose from over the course of the year; so many that some of them I couldn't even find the time to play. You can bet, however, that those games that I did find time to enjoy are securely placed on this list.

These games were the best designed, most fun to play, and gave me the most hours of gaming pleasure this year. There is a wide assortment of genres on display here from a great number of stellar franchises, so let's not waste any more time with me giving a grand spiel. Let's get to the countdown of SuperPhillip Central's Top Ten Games of 2019!

10) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

After some unsatisfactory Kickstarter stories from some prodigious developers failed to delight, it was nice to finally see a success story. Oh, what a success story it was. After some doubt and some worries, Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame delivered with his team's terrific Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Designed as Metroidvania and inspired by his own directed classics like Symphony of the Night and Dawn of Sorrow, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night made for a fantastic action exploration platformer that brought a nice challenge, plenty of abilities to unlock and learn, monsters to mash, bosses to beat, and secrets to discover. While the game did not do too much new for the genre, fans and Kickstarter backers weren't really looking for that. They wanted a fresh Castlevania-like game from the man behind some of their favorite titles, and that's exactly what players like me got with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

9) Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

Comfort gaming: that's exactly what I consider the Yoshi series. Now, don't get me wrong--I enjoy the original Yoshi's Island greatly, but there are issues with that game that make it for a less than relaxing experience. With Yoshi's Crafted World, the latest featuring Nintendo's adorable green dinosaur, while there were moments in the game that did result in some vexing situations--but those were limited to going for 100% completion--the overall vibe was a calming one. The level design was the highlight for me, offering such clever ways that levels could be designed with everyday objects like sponges for lilypads, egg cartons for platforms, and green paper plates intended as hills for the background. I constantly found myself yearning to see what ideas and concepts the designers at Good Feel would come up with next with regards to levels. A lilypad ride in a bathtub? A jungle expedition to reunite a mother dino with her child? A desert jaunt while being chase by a gigantic skeleton T-Rex? All of these moments made for an excellent platformer that I'm currently playing through again just for the fun of it.

8) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (NSW)

The original Link's Awakening stands as one of my favorite 2D entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise, a video game series that seldom disappoints me. This remake, 26 years after the fact, was a sensational one, offering a warm, cozy, and comforting world to explore, despite nearly everything on Koholint Island wanting to maim Link seriously. That said, playing this remake was a dream. Not only were various quality of life improvements included--such as having more buttons to map items to, so trips to the menu and inventory screens were far less frequent--but new content was added in the form of more Secret Seashells and Heart Containers to collect. The dungeon designer was a bit bare bones and not the true "Zelda Maker" many of us have wanted, but the way the game made making dungeons into puzzles themselves was rather skillful of Nintendo. Then, there was the toy-like diorama presentation and wind instruments serving as the soundtrack of the game, all making for a tremendous looking and sounding game. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening might not completely eliminate the need to play the original Game Boy classic or its Game Boy Color version, but it certainly came close for this writer.

7) Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NSW)

I am not one to partake too much in the Fire Emblem franchise. All in all, I've just played parts of the Game Boy Advance entries that reached North America, as well as have only overall beaten two of the mainline games in the series total: Fire Emblem: Awakening and now Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Featuring three (technically four, but who's counting?) unique story lines based on which of the three houses you align yourself with, Fire Emblem: Three Houses had a surprisingly dark story for the series. Still, what remained unchanged was the tactical RPG goodness that fans keep coming back for time and time again. The abundance of means to customize your characters, ways to interact with them, grow closer with them in and out of battle, and how to overall become a stronger class of students was something that kept me engaged in between the stellar battles that are the strong suit of the series. Wandering about Garreg Mach Monastery between battles could cause some pacing issues at times, but overall, it brought well deserved breaks to unwind and replenish your stock of items, weapons, magic, and more. Fire Emblem: Three Houses also sports one heck of a soundtrack, which I would be eager to purchase if made available. All that cast aside, you have a tactical RPG that delivered in almost every category for every type of fan of the genre in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

6) Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW)

The original Crash Team Racing was a competent kart racer, but I never really found myself devoted to it. I always found it to be a pale imitation of Diddy Kong Racing, a game I much preferred. However, with Beenox's remake of the game, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, I've discovered a newfound love and vested interest in the game and the Crash Bandicoot series as a whole. Beenox could have simply upgraded the visuals and called it a day, but the amount of noticeable, tangible effort they put into the game I can't help but applaud and be enamored with. Old tracks look completely new with the masterful makeovers and new face lifts they have. All of the tracks and characters from Crash Team Racing plus all of the tracks and characters from Crash Nitro Kart-- probably content from a game many players are experiencing for the first time--were included. That's not even to mention all of the new tracks, characters, karts, cosmetics, and more being added on a monthly basis via the addicting Grand Prix events. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled not only nailed the tight feel of CTR's original controls, but it brought with it a high enough skill ceiling that players can constantly find themselves improving. And you'll want to improve, too, because the game is so rewarding to do so.

5) Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Creativity abounded in the levels of this next game, a 2D platformer mixed with a 3D overworld. This added up to an excellent all-around adventure with Playtonic Games' Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Venturing into the overworld of the game, solving environmental puzzles, and using those to access new levels and alternate versions of each level (ones that drastically changed the structure and designs of each) was one of the most ingenious things I've seen implemented into a platformer of this type in a long time. Further, the Impossible Lair was the game's ultimate challenge, and while the implementation proved too challenging for many players unfortunately, the concept was so clever and smart. You took the Bees you collected at the end of each of the game's 40 levels, and then those were your "hits", shielding you from damage. That said, the lair isn't called "impossible" as part of Playtonic's trademark cheeky level of humor. No, it's actually REALLY hard. Most players might not manage it to make it through the 20+ minute ordeal, but for me, it was the journey and not the destination. I enjoyed every minute of going through the game's levels, running, jumping and rolling as the heroic duo of Yooka and Laylee, collecting the well-hidden doodads, and the nabbing the Bees at each level's conclusion. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a highlight of the year for me, and very much scratches that Donkey Kong Country itch many of us have had.

4) Luigi's Mansion 3 (NSW)

After falling out in many Nintendo fans' favor with the unfortunately timed and received Metroid Prime: Federation Force on the Nintendo 3DS, Next Level Games more than proved itself yet again as an excellent developer for Nintendo with its first Nintendo Switch effort, Luigi's Mansion 3. The sheer amount of creativity in the environments and puzzle design were sensational, and each time I completed a floor, I was excited and eager to see what kind of ingenious designs would await me on the next floor of the Last Resort hotel. From veritable jungles to an Egyptian themed pyramid, the level of imagination in the floor designs and concepts were just astonishing to me. Luigi's added helper of Gooigi made puzzles even more clever, and I felt like a genius when I finally stumbled upon a solution after figuratively beating my head against a wall with no luck. Nearly every moment of Luigi's Mansion 3's 10-15 hour ghost-busting campaign filled me with delight, and even its online counterpart, the ScareScraper, gave me plenty of hours of entertainment as well. Busting certainly made me feel good this year with Luigi in his third solo adventure that was Luigi's Mansion 3.

3) Resident Evil 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)

As you can probably tell from the accompanying screenshots, we're moving on from whimsical spooks and scares to downright and outright intense and terrifying scares with Resident Evil 2's incredible remake from early this past year. Striking a perfect balance between keeping things familiar for old fans and making new additions to make for a more modern game, Resident Evil 2 offered one hell of thrill ride. The game nailed its unsettling atmosphere where every encounter was a danger, especially ones pitting Leon and Claire against the immensely intimidating Mr. X, a brilliant new inclusion to the game. From the immaculate visual design, amazing lighting, and excessive detail in the gory goodness of incapacitated enemies, Resident Evil 2 shined brightly in its graphical overhaul as well. Survival horror was remade and re-imagined in a really remarkable way with Resident Evil 2, and it makes me entirely on board with Resident Evil 3's retelling this upcoming April.

2) Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

If I gave the Game of the Year awards to the game that took up the most of my time this year, then Super Mario Maker 2 would definitely be it. As that's not how it works, this accessible creation software to make your dream Mario levels will have to settle for runner-up this year. That said, it truly earned its spot, allowing players to easily create Mario levels in one of five game types, including the new Super Mario 3D World type, and in a dozen level themes. The game keeps on giving, too, with new tools to create more crafty and clever creations with the additions of Link, new enemies, and new objects to interact with in levels. The addition of playing levels with friends online, a much requested feature, has only heightened my love for the game. Apart from the new added content, Super Mario Maker 2 also came equipped with Nintendo's own set of levels set up in a story mode, allowing players to enjoy professionally made content as well as get inspiration for their own creations. Super Mario Maker 2 delivered as both a powerful kit of creation tools as well as a solid Mario experience for playing entertaining platforming levels. It's more than deserving of the number two spot of this list.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2019 award goes to...



1) Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XB1)

Perhaps a big surprise as SuperPhillip Central's pick for Game of the Year 2019, considering that I don't particularly care for the nonsensical story of the series, but Kingdom Hearts III did surprise me with its excellent quality. I loved exploring the more complicated and involved level designs of the Disney worlds--unrivaled in the series by their size, scope, and density, battling tremendous creatures with the multifaceted combat which allowed different approaches to how I wanted to tackle enemies, and I was astounded by just how gorgeous of a game Kingdom Hearts III truly is, even running on just the base PS4 hardware. Moments like sailing an open world sea in the Pirates of the Caribbean world or teaming up with Buzz and Woody to take on the Heartless in the Toy Story Toy Box world hold high in my gaming memories this past year.

I understand that many longtime fans of the series might have felt that the lengthy wait wasn't worth it for Kingdom Hearts III, but for me, as someone who has played bits and pieces of the franchise here and there, I found myself loving nearly every minute of my time with the game. Enough at least to earn the Platinum trophy for Kingdom Hearts III, and eagerly awaiting the DLC coming early in 2020. Like the Attraction Flow attacks, Kingdom Hearts III was a wild ride, and it possessed enough charm, magic, and spectacle to easily keep me engaged from beginning to end.


That's officially a wrap on the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards! What did you think? Check out all of the previous lists of this awards show of SPC's with the following links:

~ See you all in 2020! ~

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