Pretendies, for short.
Welcome to the second annual Games I’ve Played this Year of the Year Awards where I hand out Pretendies for the best games I’ve played during the year. I didn’t play as many games as I wanted to in 2019 but that didn’t stop me from having fun with the ones I did play. These games listed below are all excellent and are well worth your time. Enjoy!
Most Nostalgic: Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! (or Eevee!)
This game still resonates with me even though I finished it almost one year ago (and have played many other games since then). This game was an absolute joy to play since I got to relive the very first Pokémon adventure. Seeing all the classic first-gen Pokémon in a vibrant new graphical style; visiting towns I hadn’t seen in decades; and seeing old characters that I had never truly forgotten made this game so special to me. Not only that but Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! also introduced a few quality-of-life improvements that I really appreciated (all Pokémon earning experience from battle was one of my favorites). The nostalgia coupled with the improvements make these games really something special.
Best Game I Missed Back in the Day: Onimusha: Warlords
I did not play Onimusha when it first released back on the PS2. This fact should tell you that, unlike with Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu, nostalgia played no role in the final score. I really, really liked Onimusha: Warlords. It is admittedly a very short game but that didn’t make it any less fun. In fact, I think its length makes it a better game. The story wastes no one’s time. You get in there and start slaying demons almost immediately and the action never lets up. It was so much fun fighting the different demon types and the bosses. The game is a little outdated in a few respects but these anachronisms don’t detract too much from the game. I enjoyed Onimusha: Warlords so much that I hope that Capcom re-releases its sequel on modern hardware in the not-too-distant future.
Most Delightful: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Everything about Link’s Awakening on Switch is delightful; its characters, its dungeons, its overall design, and especially its art style. I absolutely adore this game which is quite the turn of events since I quit playing the Game Boy Color version a few months ago since I wasn’t enjoying it. I thankfully had a much better experience with the Switch remake and I couldn’t be happier about it. Like Onimusha, Link’s Awakening is a game with an old-school design but this only adds to its charm in my opinion. You may get stuck at certain points in the game but always remember to call the tip hotline whenever you need it. The Chamber Dungeons (where you can arrange your own dungeons) were a disappointment but this was never the main attraction of the game in the first place. It was the weird and wacky adventure that drew me in at first and is what makes Link’s Awakening one of the most delightful games I’ve ever played.
Best Side Activity: Yakuza 3 Remastered
There’s a lot to love about Yakuza 3 Remastered (the story, the characters, the minigames etc.) but what I truly love about it is one side activity in particular; the Revelations. Revelations are events where main character Kazuma Kiryu must use a phone to take pictures of wacky and crazy events occurring all around town. After witnessing these events, Kiryu has a revelation which yields a new fighting move he can use in combat. Each and every one of these revelations were hilarious and I couldn’t get enough of them. I don’t think I’ve ever put a main story on hold for a side activity faster in any game before than I did for the revelations in Yakuza 3 (with the exception of Gwent in The Witcher 3, of course). If I had to give one reason to play Yakuza 3 Remastered, it would be to experience the revelations. They were all so much fun to behold.
Best Atmosphere: FAR: Lone Sails
There have been a few reviews that I have written where I have felt that I didn’t do the game in question justice. My review for FAR: Lone Sails is one of them. The biggest reason why I don’t like my review for FAR is because I don’t think I managed to accurately portray the atmosphere of the game. In its relatively short runtime, it manages to be melancholic, hopeful, depressing, and triumphant. While guiding that little red-cloaked figure through a world whose best days are clearly behind it, I couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion. FAR: Lone Sails manages to do way more with its minimalistic style than most AAA games do with their huge budgets and top-tier graphics. I urge everyone to play FAR: Lone Sails since it is a unique experience that is hard to describe.
Game of the Year: Yakuza Zero
In case you couldn’t tell, I have become quite the fan of the Yakuza series. Each game in the series has a great story, excellent characters, wonderful side activities, and delightful surprises around every corner. Although you can’t go wrong when playing any of the fine games in this series, I’m here to tell you that Yakuza Zero, a prequel to the series, is the best one I’ve played so far. And, as a consequence, it is my Game of the Year for 2019.
Yakuza Zero has all the wackiness, seriousness, and delight that every other Yakuza game has but everything is dialed up to ten in Zero. It is absolutely chock-full of content and there is never a dull moment. What makes Zero even better is the fact that it features two protagonists; Kazuma Kiryu and fan-favorite character Goro Majima. This was a huge risk in my opinion since Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio could have ruined Goro Majima with a terrible backstory. Luckily, the studio didn’t miss the mark and delivered a game with an excellent story that kept me glued to my seat for its forty plus hour runtime. Yakuza Zero is a great game and I’m so happy that I finally got to play it and I hope you all do too sometime in the near future.
Thank you all for reading this and thank you especially to all of you who have been reading all year long! What do you think of my choices? Do you agree? Disagree? What were some of the best games you played this year? Let me know in the comments!
The original reviews for each of these games can be found below if you’re interested: