It’s time for my annual Game of the Year (GOTY) Award in which I spotlight the best games I played in the preceding year and then declare one to be the champion of them all. Because it normally takes me anywhere from a few months to a few years to get around to playing a game after its initial release my GOTY awards frequently don’t actually include games that were released the preceding year and this year’s award nominees are no exception. To be in contention for my GOTY award I merely have to play a game for the first time in the preceding year, so we have games from different years battling it out to wear the crown. With all that said, let’s get to the nominees. This year I have six contenders for the throne. Below are the six games that stood out to me from last year, each with links to their respective reviews, and at the bottom of today’s post I’ll reveal my official 2019 GOTY.
Transistor (released in 2014)
Leading off this year’s list of GOTY contenders, Transistor is an action RPG in which you play as Red, a woman without a voice whose story is narrated by a spirit trapped inside the sword she carries. Set in the futuristic Art Deco city of Cloudbank, Transistor features a novel battle system that combines both turn-based and real time gameplay into an interesting fusion that’s simple on the surface but requires serious thought to master. Colorful visuals, a strong soundtrack, and a fascinating tale of a woman on the run from a mysterious cabal compliment the gameplay experience and make Transistor one of the more memorable games I played last year.
Destiny 2 (released in 2017)
The original Destiny eventually became one of my top games of the current console generation, so I am pleased to see that Destiny 2 has turned out as well as it has. Bringing back Destiny’s signature FPS gameplay but reworking some game’s systems, Destiny 2 is a true successor to its predecessor and a ton of fun to play. With the recent release of New Light, a massive chunk of Destiny 2 is also now free to play, making for an absurdly generous value proposition. Time will tell if Destiny 2 ultimately surpasses Destiny 1 in my personal game rankings, but regardless of that I expect to be sinking a lot more hours into this game.
Shadow of the Colossus (released in 2018)
To say that the ground-up remake of Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4 is impressive would be a massive understatement. While the it’s still the same game in terms of story and design, the PlayStation 4 version of Shadow of the Colossus fixes most of the old game’s notable issues and has a dramatic visual overhaul that makes the game’s world even more enchanting than it was on PlayStation 2. Once again you are a nameless wanderer on a quest to take down 16 colossi across a strange and beautiful world and once again it’s an enthralling journey from start to finish.
Dear Esther (released in 2012)
As a fan of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, I was keen to play Dear Esther, which is credited with popularizing the genre of first-person exploration games. Though it can be finished in under 1.5 hours and is the most antiquated game I played in 2019 in terms of visuals and gameplay, Dear Esther’s beautifully desolate world and intriguing narrative make it a worthwhile experience for as long as it lasts. Even seven years after it’s original commercial release, Dear Esther can still make an impression on anyone who plays it.
Injustice 2 (released in 2017)
I’m very much a casual when it comes to fighting games but even a novice like me can recognize Injustice 2’s numerous strengths. Iterating on their previous work with the original Injustice—as well as the Mortal Kombat series—developer NetherRealm Studios continues their tradition of excellence with Injustice 2 and has crafted one of my favorite fighting games to date. In addition to great gameplay, Injustice 2 again sets the bar for storytelling within a fighting game, delivering a legitimately good comic book story that is arguably better than many of the comic book movies that have come out over the past decade.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (released in 2016)
Wrapping up this year’s list of GOTY contenders is the remastered version of one of the most influential first-person shooters in the history of video games. I played the original Modern Warfare on PlayStation 3, working through the singleplayer campaign many times and also dabbling a little bit in the multiplayer, so when the remastered edition was released I knew I’d have to check it out. Even 12 years later, Modern Warfare’s singleplayer campaign still holds up and with the remastered edition of the game there are a ton of small additions that have been made on top of the improved audio and visuals.
And my 2019 GOTY is…
In the end, there can be only one. The remake of Shadow of the Colossus has towered over all other games I’ve played this year and has become one of my favorite games of the current console generation. Not only is it the best remastered/remade game I’ve ever played, but it also is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing that old gamer fantasy of playing a game again for the first time and reliving the magic of that initial playthrough, Shadow of the Colossus is my 2019 Game of the Year and if you’ve never experience this remake of one of the most iconic games from the PlayStation 2 era I’d strongly recommend giving it a try.