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The Eurogamer team's favourite games of 2019

Five of the best.

We've run through the team's top 20 games of the year, you've had your chance to share your own top 50 games of the year and now allow us one final indulgence as members of the Eurogamer team run through their personal top fives. It's been a stellar year all-round, really, as told by the diversity of titles represented across the board. 2019 truly showed the breadth of gaming at the moment - and it means 2020 has an awful lot to live up to.

Christian Donlan

  • Outer Wilds
  • A Short Hike
  • Lonely Mountains
  • Manifold Garden
  • Concrete Genie

I never really know what to do when I'm outdoors amongst nature. I sort of look about, smell the pine needles, marvel at how lovely everything is and then self-consciousness descends.

Luckily, nature, it turns out, is what games are great at. This year has been a lovely rewilding: so many opportunities to walk amongst the trees, to move from rock to rock, to watch as waves wash against sand and then retreat. And because games can do anything, the natural world can take a range of forms, moving from hyper-detail to surreal abstraction.

And in games, that self-consciousness becomes a delight. In games it's too easy to get drawn in and lead around by objectives and quests. To have nature acting as a kind of endlessly distracting befuddlement gives things a sense of pause, a multi-directional richness. The earth is springy underfoot in every direction. Where to next?

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Chris Tapsell

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Lonely Mountains: Downhill
  • Control
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms
  • Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

I may or may not have some minor reservations about CTR, out here in the light of day (and especially after Activision's typically relentless, feverish, vultured wave of post-launch microtransactions), but I do stand by it. And I stand by my reasoning: it is a pretty, faithful, generous remaster of what is still the very best kart racer. Yes it is. No I will not take that back.

Anyway, far above CTR's blissful shonkfest is Sekiro, which is very much my game of the year. For all the justified talk of its world and themes and tone, it's just the best sword fighting game we've ever had - which is now the best genre we've ever had, in my humblest of opinions. In all seriousness it's superlative. Liquid combat dripping in nuance and surgical precision. It's deeply philosophical, challenging you to reimagine your position within this type of game as a ringmaster, instead of head-on wrangler. You project power and psychological force, rather than really seizing it. The aim is to coaxe and corral, to tame its monsters through mechanical nuance, sure, but also mindfulness and force of will. Cracking. Stick with it.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill ran Sekiro close, meanwhile, with a masterly stripping-back of all but the essentials. It's a game about sensation, about forming a bond between you and your world, a connection that can only really be found unconsciously and fleetingly through the pure feel of it in the moment. I get carried away with this one but it's a banger, basically. Play it, and force yourself not to think.

A bit more of a literal one: Total War: Three Kingdoms is a vast and comprehensive grand strategy. It's suffered a little next to the larger-than-life Total Warhammers, which make the historical ones look a little restrained these days, but Three Kingdoms' commitment to capturing the spirit of an era, not just the literal accuracy of it, is a real achievement.

Finally: Control. The best force powers in an age (that's Jedi: Fallen Order well-beaten on both fronts, sorry), the best performances from a cast this year, and a brilliantly off-beat, characterful tone. Also, dearest video game industry: art direction. It's stunning.

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

  • Sunless Skies
  • Sekiro
  • Outer Wilds
  • Disco Elysium
  • Heaven's Vault

Listing things in order of preference is for buffoons and mischief-makers. As far as I'm concerned every game above is equally brilliant, and if you haven't played them already you are clearly an absolute saddle-goose, and unworthy of the very eyes you are using to read these words. As my picks attest, this has been a stellar year both for literary sci-fantasy and for games about the legacy of empire. All the games concerned are very different, too - Outer Wilds fills space with invisible, musical clockwork, while Sunless Skies smooshes it together with Victorian daydreams of the Orient and the jungle. Disco Elysium and Heaven's Vault chronicle the end of history, the former via the mechanisms of a whodunnit, the latter by way of philology. Empires and their aftermaths aside there's Sekiro, aka Dark Souls meets Tenchu, which narrowly outstrips Devil May Cry 5 for the title of year's finest action game. If you /have/ already played these, can I recommend Anodyne 2, Control, Eliza, Devotion and Blasphemous as runners-up?

Emma Kent

  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Apex Legends
  • Sekiro
  • Outer Wilds
  • Fortnite

Fire Emblem: Three Houses came crashing into my life this year with such force I was compelled to construct a Dimitri costume for Halloween with my bare hands. I went in expecting a strategy title with light story interest, and was instead shown a complex tapestry of war, relationships and social hierarchies told through epic battles and moving dialogue. Here's some tea to wash that down.

If you cast your mind back to February, you may also remember a little game called Apex Legends (yes, that was this year), which scratched a team multiplayer itch I'd been unable to satisfy since Team Fortress 2. Apex Legends didn't reinvent the battle royale wheel as much as improve it - focusing on squad play through abilities, merciful respawn cards, and a neatly-designed ping communication system. And with excellent gunplay to boot.

On the topic of dying, Sekiro was a harsh (but fair) teacher, while Outer Wilds's cycles initially brought dread, then relative calm at the inevitability of death every 20 minutes. Yet my most impactful memory was spinning out in a tinpot spaceship: feeling the panic of the sun fading from view as my lights shut down - and sheer relief when I began my return. Even in the tiniest, cutsiest star system, space travel is terrifying. I'm not signing up for any Mars missions, that's for sure.

Ian Higton

  • Resident Evil 2: Remake
  • Pistol Whip
  • Boneworks
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • Baba Is You

Hello, it is I, VR-Man, here again to inject some much VR into this list feature! It's not all VR this year though, because right at the start of the year I was blown away by just how good the Resi 2 remake was. Having only completed the original Resi 2 the day before the remake came out, I was able to see just how much work, love and attention to detail had gone into the project. In VR terms, Pistol Whip has been this year's Beat Saber for me and I loved living out my John Wick at a disco fantasies, while Boneworks felt like an absolute game changer in terms of immersion and physical presence in a virtual world. Untitled Goose Game easily gave me the biggest laughs this year and it was a joy to play it for the first time on stage at this year's EGX. Finally, Baba Is You blew me away with one of the most original concepts I've seen for a puzzle game in years. Plus it made me feel super smart whenever I managed to solve one of the puzzles, which was nice.

Lottie Lynn

  • Control
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • A Short Hike
  • Apex Legends

Usually I have one game that I pick up and return to throughout the year, but, in 2019, that wasn't the case. Instead, I found myself bouncing from game to game, trying out different genres. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Apex Legends, as I don't play a lot of first person shooters games. Yet, I really liked experimenting with the range of characters and their various play styles. Loving the remake of Link's Awakening, on the other hand, wasn't a surprise. The Legend of Zelda is my favourite gaming franchise and returning to Koholint Island, with its wooden toy design, was a treat.

When it came to indie games, my favourites were at opposite ends of the bird game spectumn; where Untitled Goose Game was about unleashing the chaotic goose that lives inside all of us, A Short Hike is about tackling obstacles at your own pace.

Control, however, was my favourite game of the year. I became completely immersed in the world of the Oldest House; spending my time hunting down every collectible, the Tennyson Report was very well hidden, and creating theories about what exactly was going on. The game also looks amazing. I love how, in one game, you traverse an abnormal office building (i.e. the SCP Foundation), a magical maze, a space quarry and a dreamworld motel, which I'm definitely not slightly afraid of.

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Malindy Hetfeld

  • Astrologaster
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Knights and Bikes
  • Mutazione
  • Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney Trilogy

I'm continuing my tradition of “odd one out” games on my GOTY list. There are a lot of games I could've put on this list because as a critic I think their impact exceeds how fun their actual gameplay is, such as Death Stranding and Telling Lies, both made by designers who had us discuss the value (and possibility) of doing your own thing and working to perfect these formulas. In the end I've decided to use this opportunity to be moderately selfish and deliver a list completely to taste. Astrologaster is a great comedy with some outstanding personalities and it taught me a lot about the people of the Elizabethan era, as everyone was in fact a living person and some historical knowledge goes a long way in finding the correct answers. Who doesn't love a game that teaches them something, however inadvertently? Not to downplay the humour of Phoenix Wright, but it's exactly my favourite kind (the worst), and it's so very rare for anything to make me laugh as much as Ace Attorney did. Despite not being wowed by the actual plot, there's probably no game I like better than FE3H this year, Mutazione turned out to be a balm on my brittle nerves while Knights and Bikes delivered exactly on what it promised and I couldn't be any happier with it.

Martin Robinson

  • Devil Engine
  • Tetris 99
  • Darius Cozmic Collection
  • Shenmue 3
  • F1 2019

It's been something of a holding year for the industry while next gen awaits, and I was kind of disappointed that Nintendo didn't make the most of it with a lack of high profile releases on their behalf, but we did at least have the marvelous Fire Emblem: Three Houses and the typically inventive Ring Fit Adventure - but for me it was Tetris 99 that was the real prize, while fans of more esoteric fare were treated to a selection of fascinating curios. M2's Darius collection is as sumptuous as the series deserves, while Devil Engine is as good as contemporary shmups get (it's also worth holding out for the forthcoming Ignition release where some of the unfortunate shenanigans between the developer and publisher will hopefully no longer be an issue).

Racing games were also away from the limelight (though we have the mouthwatering prospect of Gran Turismo and Forza potentially going head-to-head on the next gen frontlines next year), but that just helped put a focus on the good work being done elsewhere. iRacing had perhaps its most momentous year yet with the addition of AI and an all-new damage model, WRC 8 heralded the proper arrival of a major new player in the space and Codemasters underlined its credentials with the superlative trio of Grid, Dirt Rally 2.0 and F1 2019. The latter is my pick of the bunch, seeing as it's the finest F1 game I think I've played.

Oh, and finally Yu Suzuki made a return to the industry with Shenmue 3, which against all odds managed to live up to the reputation of the originals. It's a bit of a shame to be limited to just five games when there were hundreds of incredible titles out there this year - I don't think I've ever seen such a fine selection offered over a single year.

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Matthew Reynolds

  • Outer Wilds
  • Heaven's Vault
  • Shenmue 3
  • Death Stranding
  • Mario Maker 2

You wait years for a new space archaeology game, then two turn up at once. Heaven's Vault and Outer Wilds have you pootle around a solar system in search for clues left by an ancient civilization, but that's where most similarities end; Heaven's Vault has you gradually piece together a forgotten language, and has been my go-to chill out story game for most of the year - Death Stranding and Shenmue 3 are games I'd recommend for this same reason - while Outer Wilds is a different beast entirely; a dense, awe-inspiring detective story where its vital clues can slip away as fast as the solar system it's set in, which dramatically comes to an end every 20 minutes, and a game I likely won't stop thinking about for years. Then there's Mario Maker 2 - the secret best single player Mario game in years.

Matt Wales

  • Pathologic 2
  • Life Is Strange 2
  • Control
  • Sea of Thieves
  • Pokemon Sword

Despite the surrounding controversy, 2019 marked the first year a Pokemon title successfully managed grabbed me - and, boy, did I fall hard for Sword, sucked in by GameFreak's snappier, streamlined take on its long-running franchise. Aimlessly strolling through its open-ended Wilds, whiling away the hours on the hunt for rare Pokemon, has been a genuine delight. Meanwhile, Rare's piratical sandbox Sea of Thieves has continued to keep me hooked, particularly since the arrival of its narrative-based Tall Tales, adding some much needed structure and swashbuckling, mechanically diverse set-pieces to the oceans.

Elsewhere, Remedy's Control stunned with its masterful world-building, endlessly satisfying psychic combat, and sheer, creative abandon - but it's the games with raw emotional energy that have lingered longest for me this year. Life is Strange 2 might ditch fan-favourite characters from its predecessor, but there's an earnest truthfulness to the brothers Diaz, making its devastatingly inevitable tale much harder to bear, while Pathologic 2 manages the breathtaking trick of creating a collapsing community that, while unquestionably odd, is so fully realised you just can't help but fight for its survival, even as developer Ice-Pick Lodge makes the path to its salvation as wilfully gruelling, and deeply unpleasant, as possible.

Oli Welsh

  • Grindstone
  • Death Stranding
  • Lonely Mountains: Downhill
  • Outer Wilds
  • World of Warcraft Classic

Sometimes you have a year when you can't play much, or you're just not feeling it, no matter how exciting the games released are. It was a bit like that for me this year, mostly thanks to a new baby in the family. That meant mobile gaming was always going to rule and the brilliant Apple Arcade came along at just the right time. There, Capy served up one for the ages, Grindstone, an exquisite puzzle quest, as viciously smart as it was toothsomely silly. It's taken me months to clock it. Elsewhere, I was surprised to find Death Stranding really stayed with me after an epic review process; Outer Wilds was a bewitching mystery; and the purity of Lonely Mountains brought some much-needed presence and silence to my brain. If I'd had the time for it, WOW Classic might have claimed me, though I suspect it would have sent me back to the modern game after a spell. But I am awed by what it is: the first and only attempt at online game restoration - a thrilling, almost scary portal back through the years.

Robert Purchese

  • Slay the Spire
  • Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
  • Dicey Dungeons
  • We. The Revolution
  • Erica

I love how Slay the Spire bakes failing into the premise. You try, you die, but you unlock something to help you next time. It makes trying again desirable, which makes putting the game down impossible. Dicey Dungeons is very similar, actually, but based around rolling dice, and the way it riffs so many times upon this theme is ingenious. TABS, meanwhile - or should I say Totally Accurate Battle Simulator - made me laugh more than any other game this year, while We. The Revolution, a small game from Poland about the French Revolution, and FMV PS4 game Erica, were both much better than I expected.

Oh and shout out to Ten Candles, a pen-and-paper role-playing game. It's a tragic horror in which no one survives. Therefore, it's a game about what happens in the dark. You light candles, you burn character sheets. You get scared. It's dark and eerie and cool as hell.

Tom Phillips

  • Lonely Mountains: Downhill
  • Control
  • Life is Strange 2
  • Zelda: Link's Awakening
  • Fortnite: Chapter 2

I'm still finding my feet in Lonely Mountains, but it feels wonderful. There's a breathless acceleration to each descent, even the ones I initially tell myself to take slow. The further I get, the closer each finish line nears, I find myself going faster, faster, until my bike's wheels barely brush the trail round steep cliff corners. It's exhilarating, seat of your pants stuff. In those mountains, I'm reminded of other heights found among my favourites this year: the ascent through Tal Tal Mountain Range to the Wind Fish's egg in Nintendo's brilliant Zelda: Link's Awakening remaster, and even the new peaks found in Fortnite: Chapter 2, whose key art nodded cheekily to Breath of the Wild's exploration-evoking cover. I'm reminded of the quarry section in Control, one of my favourite moments in a game filled with beautiful supernatural twists and turns. And as my mind wanders to the characters filling these spaces, I think of the intimate, honest Life is Strange 2, whose sometimes meandering road movie tale was underpinned by powerful human connections.

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Vikki Blake

  • Apex Legends
  • Resident Evil 2
  • Control
  • Far Cry New Dawn
  • Kind Words

Look, I haven't played Death Stranding, okay? (Actually, I haven't played many of the titles I've spotted on Top Games of 2019 lists this year - there's just too many! - which I fear makes my own list a little, er, bespoke). But whilst it doesn't surprise me I loved every second fleeing in terror from The Tyrant and had entirely too much fun in Far Cry New Dawn's florescent pink Hope County (even though I was left a little 'meh' by the main instalment last year; insert shrug emoji here), I was surprised when I totted up the time I've spent galloping through Apex Legends' King's Canyon... turns out I don't hate battle royales after all.

Yet whilst Control was a stand-out in terms of astonishing world-building, Kind Words, in particular, was a thoughtful social experiment that encourages us to trust our fellow players and think before we type... something, perhaps, we all should be mindful of as we step into 2020.

Wesley Yin-Poole

  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • TeamFight Tactics
  • Disco Elysium
  • Tetris 99
  • Resident Evil 2 remake

What an odd year for video games. In the calm before the next-gen storm, the triple-A community plotted and schemed the coming onslaught. NetherRealm's wonderful Mortal Kombat 11 and Capcom's brilliant Resident Evil 2 remake caught my eye for brief, hugely fun periods of the year, but it was sort of strange games that kept my attention.

Tetris 99 is an unlikely mashup of Tetris and battle royale and it's brilliant in that I never knew I needed it kind of way. I love Tetris. Tetris Effect was Eurogamer's game of 2018, and it was one of my games of the decade. I kind of wish Tetris 99 was Eurogamer's game of 2019, too. It would have been a neat arrangement of things, at least.

Then there's TeamFight Tactics, Riot's quick turnaround take on the auto chess genre. Auto chess is odd, when you think about it, because of what it takes away from the player. You do not fight. Instead, you buy champions from a shop, place them on a battlefield and watch them fight. It's like Football Manager, really, except with more mana. It's really good in a worrying, I'm not sure I can stop kind of way. Please, someone, make it stop.

And then there's Disco Elysium, which I think is my favourite game of 2019. So much of the criticism labelled at this dense, word-heavy, self-destructive mind-melter of a game is bang on the money. And yet here I am, down the rabbit hole, laughing at the main character's internal argument with his tie. This is a game in which I have died twice from a heart attack. This is a game that's made me want to reach into my monitor, wrap my hands around the neck of a teenage scouser and squeeze the life out of his stupid face. And this is a game that knocked the stuffing out of my well-being - for better and for worse.

So yeah, that was 2019. Depressing. Strange. Intense. Fantastic. Finally over.

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