- “Pokémon Sword and Shield”/Nintendo
- This year was somewhat slow for new video game releases, with multiple publishers working on games for the new consoles coming in 2020.
- 2019 still had its fair share of major releases, though, like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” and “Pokémon Sword and Shield.”
- Below we’ve selected our 15 favorite video games from 2019, in the order they were released.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The video game industry is in a state of flux as Sony and Microsoft plan to launch their next generation consoles next year. But even with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X on the horizon, 2019 had its fair share of amazing games.
Many of the year’s best games came from tried and true franchises, with developers growing ever closer to perfecting the formula behind perennial best-sellers like “Call of Duty” and “Pokémon.” Others were total surprises, like Electronic Arts’ “Apex Legends” – the hit battle royale game revealed just hours before it launched for free in February, and gained 10 million players in less than a week.
With major studios looking toward the future, 2019 gave indie games plenty of time to shine too. Kickstarted projects like “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” and short, thoughtful projects like “Untitled Goose Game” were able to capture the industry’s attention.
These were the best games of 2019, in the order they were released.
‘Resident Evil 2’ (Capcom)
- “Resident Evil 2″/Capcom
“Resident Evil 2” reimagines the 1996 classic with a new style of gameplay and cutting-edge graphics, introducing a new generation of players to the survival horror genre. “Resident Evil 2” returns the series to its roots with a focus on puzzle-solving and survival instead of run-and-gun action.
There still plenty of running though – players are pursued by a relentless, unkillable monster named Mr. X that can track their movements and burst through walls and doors at a moment’s notice. The relentless game of cat and mouse helps build even more suspense as players try to escape the zombie infested Raccoon City.
“Resident Evil 2” elevates a classic video game with a high quality remake and offers a complete package with multiple difficulties and tons of replay value.
‘Apex Legends’ (Respawn Entertainment)
- Apex Legends
One of the best games of 2019 is also one of this year’s biggest surprises: “Apex Legends” launched out of nowhere in February, and rapidly acquired tens of millions of players. By the end of the year, nearly 100 million people have dropped into the Outlands – and with good reason.
Part of the game’s wild success is due to the fact that it’s free, no doubt, but far more important is just how great of a game “Apex Legends” is. It takes the wildly successful battle royale concept popularized by “Fortnite” and evolves it into something distinct and new, where players live out their wildest action movie fantasies in a bid to be the top squad.
There’s no building, like in “Fortnite,” and there’s less dramatic suspense, like the kind in “PUBG,” but “Apex Legends” is big on crazy moments of intense action multiplied by the factor of each legends’ special abilities. At its best, “Apex Legends” combines tactical team gameplay with absurd, high-action moments.
“Apex Legends” dared to challenge “Fortnite” at the height of the latter’s dominance, and managed to carve out a massive space. And, for that, it’s not just one of the boldest games of the year but also one of the best.
‘Devil May Cry V’ (Capcom)
- “Devil May Cry 5″/Capcom
“Devil May Cry V” is a stylish, metal-fueled, action game pitting players against hordes of demonic enemies. Horrifying monsters are counterbalanced by the game’s arrogant heroes who carry themselves with the sort of swagger that would make rock stars jealous.
“Devil May Cry V” is unquestionably one of the best looking games of the year and the combat system has an amazing level of depth that rewards players for finishing their fights with style. The sequel is an impressive return to form for a series that has been on hiatus for more than a decade.
‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’ (FromSoftware)
- “Sekiro Shadows Die Twice”/Activision
“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is a new game from the creators of “Dark Souls,” one of the most difficult series of action games ever made. “Sekiro” continues FromSoftware’s tradition of difficult games with a samurai adventure set in a mystical version of feudal Japan.
“Sekiro” is a bit more forgiving than “Dark Souls,” and spends time crafting a time traveling narrative that far surpasses the story of the “Dark Souls” games. The game’s immersive story and steep learning curve left some players upset they wouldn’t be able to complete the game on their own, sparking a larger discussion about how video games should be accessible for players with disabilities.
‘Mortal Kombat 11’ (NetherRealm Studios)
- “Mortal Kombat 11″/NetherRealm Studios
“Mortal Kombat 11” is the latest entry in the iconic fighting game franchise that’s best known for its over-the-top violence and fatal finishing moves. The franchise has clearly grown up a bit over the years, having inspired a competitive gaming tour and multiple film adaptations.
NetherRealm has worked tirelessly to develop the universe they debuted nearly 30 years ago, acknowledging both fan appreciation and the need to progress beyond the stereotypes of the ’90s. The game’s time-bending storyline exemplifies how the series has grown from its arcade roots into a perennial blockbuster.
The game itself sets quite the standard for the fighting game genre, with incredibly responsive online play, iconic guest characters like the Terminator and the Joker, and consistent updates to keep the game balanced and fun.
‘Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’ (ArtPlay)
- “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night”/505 Games
“Bloodstained” creator Koji Igarashi was one of the lead developers who helped turn Konami’s “Castlevania” series into an iconic franchise with legendary games like “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.”
But when Konami shifted toward developing shorter mobile games and slot machines instead of traditional console titles, Igarashi decided to leave the company and launch his own series.
In 2015, Igarashi asked fans to help fund a spiritual successor to “Castlevania.” That game was “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.” More than 60,000 backers pledged a combined $5.5 million to the “Bloodstained” Kickstarter project, more than 10 times Igarashi’s original goal of $500,000.
The finished product was everything fans were hoping for, reviving the classic gameplay of “Castlevania” with fresh characters and an overhauled presentation. Igarashi’s development team is still delivering extra content thanks to the additional crowdfunding.
‘Cadence of Hyrule’ (Brace Yourself Games)
- “Cadence of Hyrule”/Nintendo
This colorful crossover blends Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda” franchise with the indie smash hit “Crypt of the Necrodancer.” “Cadence of Hyrule” is built like a classic “Zelda” game with a huge map and dungeons to explore, but players must follow the music to move through the adventure.
The soundtrack is filled with wonderful remixes of classic “Zelda” songs created by the celebrated video game composer Danny Baranowsky. Each specific area and weapon in “Cadence of Hyrule” has its own rhythm and players are rewarded for playing to the beat.
‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ (Nintendo)
- “Fire Emblem: Three Houses”/Nintendo
“Fire Emblem: Three Houses” brings Nintendo’s military strategy franchise to the Switch for the very first time. The series has typically been reserved for Nintendo’s weaker portable consoles, but the move to Switch encouraged the game’s creators to include more cinematic storytelling, voice acting, and visual flair to bring fresh excitement to the game’s lengthy campaign.
The turn-based gameplay of “Fire Emblem” is as engaging as ever, allowing players to recruit and train their own army of memorable characters. Though the game can take a long time to complete, the steady pace makes it an ideal companion for the portable Switch.
“Fire Emblem: Three Houses” lets players choose between three different factions that define how they experience the story. That also gives the game tons of replay value since each faction has a different perspective.
‘Control’ (Remedy Entertainment)
- “Control”/505 Games
“Control” is a clever psychological thriller leading players through a supernatural mystery with impressive visual storytelling.
The run-and-gun combat is reminiscent of “Uncharted,” but the heroine in “Control” can use telekinetic powers to interact with tons of environmental objects and put the game’s top notch physics engine on display.
“Control” is also one of just a handful of games that make use of ray tracing, a new visual technology that offers enhanced lighting and reflections.
‘Gears 5’ (The Coalition/Xbox Game Studios)
- “Gears of War 5″/Microsoft
“Gears 5” is one of the Xbox’s flagship titles, boasting an involved campaign, tons of online multiplayer modes, and a growing esports community. The gory third-person action of “Gears” isn’t for everyone, but it’s clear from playing how much care, fine tuning, and polish goes into making the franchise unique.
“Gears 5” is also included with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, making it easily accessible on both Xbox and PC. Shooting games like “Gears” are best enjoyed with friends, and no blockbuster shooter makes it easier to team and have fun than “Gears 5.”
‘Untitled Goose Game’ (House House)
- House House/Panic
“Untitled Goose Game” is pure, simple, and fun. Putting players in control as a mischievous goose, the game’s minimalist design encourages you to explore your surroundings and figure out all the silly ways you can harass your neighbors and achieve the goose’s bizarre goals.
Though the experience only lasts a few hours, the game is a delight from start to finish and a satisfying change of pace from the violent action at the core of so many games.
‘The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’ (Nintendo)
- “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” / Nintendo
The original “Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” was released for Game Boy in 1993, shrinking the large scale adventure of the “Zelda” series into a portable package for the first time. This year’s remake refreshes the game with beautifully stylized art, common-sense improvements to the controls, and a dungeon creation system for extra replay value.
While “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” gave Switch owners a massive open world to explore, “Link’s Awakening” embraces the game’s retro design. The remake offers a small but intricate map that’s packed with secrets, and a series of dungeons filled with thought-provoking puzzles.
‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ (Infinity Ward)
- “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”/Activision
With annual releases, the “Call of Duty” franchise has found a best-selling formula. But this year’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” found new heights of success by revisiting one of the most popular games in the series and going above and beyond with its presentation.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” has some of the most realistic-looking graphics in the industry, and its impeccable sound design really brings the battlefield to life.
“Modern Warfare” includes a full story campaign, which was omitted from last year’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4,” and for the first time, players on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC can all play together online.
‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’ (Respawn Entertainment)
- “Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order”/Electronic Arts
While the premise of “Star Wars” is a clash between futuristic military forces, the core theme is a familiar coming-of-age story about power and responsibility that’s a perfect premise for a single-player game.
“Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” follows Cal Kestis, a young man whose Jedi training was cut short by the nebulous Empire’s rise to power. During the journey, players work to restore Cal’s connection to the force, gaining new powers to fight the Empire in the process.
“Fallen Order” will immediately draw comparisons to the “Dark Souls” series or “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” for its intense and punishing melee combat, but the game feels much more flexible thanks to its variable difficulties.
There’s also a greater emphasis on exploration and platforming in “Fallen Order” and less focus on mastering the combat system. You’ll even have to do a bit of puzzle solving when you encounter ancient alien temples.
“Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” delivers a focused experience without the distractions of a multiplayer mode, extra online features, or downloadable content. It’s a surprisingly straight-forward product at a time when video game releases are getting increasingly complex.
‘Pokémon Sword’ and ‘Pokémon Shield’ (Nintendo)
- “Pokemon Sword and Shield”/Nintendo
“Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield” are the first “Pokémon” games for the Nintendo Switch to feature new monsters, following up on a pair of remakes released last year. The move to a more powerful console let the developers revamp the game’s graphics and give the world of Pokémon even more lovable personality.
While “Sword” and “Shield” don’t feature all 800-plus Pokémon, the games offer a focused adventure with enough imagination to satisfy longtime fans and newcomers alike.
“Sword” and “Shield” are simple enough for kids to enjoy, and the delightfully addictive gameplay serves as a perfect introduction to the role playing and strategy genres. Whether you’re dedicated to collecting every Pokémon or to building a competitive team online, “Sword” and “Shield” constantly reward players for the time they put into the game.