2-12 List Part II: A More Thorough Explanation of My Favorite Games of 2019

Just a week and a half ago I shared my favorite games of 2019. You can scroll down a little bit to see the full list. For those who are too lazy to click/scroll, I’ll re-share here:

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Tetris 99
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Death Stranding
  • Super Mario Maker 2
  • Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • River City Girls
  • Slay the Spire
  • Void Bastards
  • Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled

I loved every single one of these games. That being said, I didn’t really venture into the why or the what of it all. So I’m expanding a bit more on this list and breaking down these games into some more specific categories. I’m also touching on some more games that I left off of the list because I had to make a cut-off at some point. Anywho, here goes.

Games I Wish I had Played More of This Year

Outer Wilds, 2019

It’s not on my list but my first impressions of the game were quite strong (I left if off because it felt unfair to list this game without having played more than a few hours), and that game is Outer Wilds, not to be confused with The Outer Worlds. I need to give myself some time to venture back into this game, it deserves more of my time and attention.

Void Bastards, 2019

Another game I wish I had spent more time with this year is Void Bastards. That did make my list but I need to circle back because it’s a game that I was really enjoying and then set aside because I’m like a small child or puppy that is always distracted by the next thing in front of my nose. I also just want to note that Void Bastards has the most unique visual art style, done like an illustration/comic.

Games That Are Legitimately the Best Games of the Year for Me

Slay the Spire is one of the most amazing rogue-like card based games. It has a very seductive and dangerous game-play loop that will absolutely eat up hours of your life. I should admit, I have a problem (addiction?) to rogue-like/lite games. Don’t even get me started on how many hours The Binding of Isaac has taken from me.

But back to Slay the Spire. Just buy it and play it. If I could recommend a single game to a person that I know nothing about, it’s this game. It’s the type of game that pulls people into gaming even if they’re uninterested in gaming. It’s just that engaging. It’s also very approachable, the mechanics of the game are simple and easy to understand.

The other game that I would consider best game of the year is Super Mario Maker 2. This game is a delight to play whether you are someone who wants to create your own levels, or whether you want to just play an infinite number of levels created by strangers from around the world. If you’re into speedrunning or kaizo-mario (intentionally difficult masochistic levels), SMM2 has hours and hours of game-play to enjoy. There’s just so much variety and so much to consume, you’ll never be bored and there’s always something new being created.

Games I Should Have Added to My List from a Week Ago

Control, 2019

Control. Control should be on my list and if I’m being honest, it belongs in the Top 5. I’ll leave my list unedited but I really wish I had put this in my list because it’s such a weird and lovely game to be inside of. It’s like an episode of Fringe & X-Files with a dash of Twin Peaks, combine that with game-play that feels reminiscent of Prey & the Dishonored series, you have a recipe for one of the greatest games of 2019.

Blasphemous, 2019

How did I forget about Blasphemous. This is a gothic metroidvania side-scrolling “souls-like” platformer. It has this beautifully dark aesthetic and the combat feels good. It should also have been in my Top 5 but it somehow slipped my mind when I was making that list up a week ago. If you can find a way to play this game, do so, it’s time well spent and you will not regret the purchase.

It’s been a great year for gaming in 2019 and 2020 looks to be even better with Cyberpunk 2049, The Last of Us II, Final Fantasy VII, & Ghosts of Tsushima. Too many games, too little time, so much $$. Happy Gaming & Happy New Years!

2-11 List: You're the Best Around Decade Edition

Last week I shared my 2019 list of games that I feel are worthy of your attention and play-time. I wanted to look back a bit further and review the best games of the decade.

I’m reflecting on games that have fundamentally changed the gaming industry, culture, & community.

Also, this list may include games that I myself have not played or are fond of, yet still recognize are important and worthy of noting.

  • Dark Souls (2011)
  • The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011)
  • The Last of Us (2013)
  • Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
  • The Witness (2016)
  • Pokemon Go (2016)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
  • Fornite (2017)
  • God of War (2018)
  • Death Stranding (2019)

I’m sure I’ve missed some and this list is far from comprehensive, I could easily expand it, but looking back at the decade in gaming, I think this list is pretty reflective of the state of gaming/play as we move into the next decade.

2-10 List: Best of the Best of the Best 2019 Edition

It’s that time of year where everyone shares their favorite games. Here is a list of games released in 2019 that I’ve enjoyed playing and think are worth your time.

Note: I am avoiding using a numbered system because these games are all worthy of attention and also, ranking is bullshit. My preference in this moment will change in a few days because my moods are fickle and things change. Good gaming ya’ll.

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Tetris 99
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Death Stranding
  • Super Mario Maker 2
  • Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • River City Girls
  • Slay the Spire
  • Void Bastards
  • Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled

2-4 Unlocking the D6: It Only Took Me 9 Months and 223 Attempts

So I apologize but this next post is going to be a deep in the weeds, very “you need to understand the meta of the game” kind of post. And if you’re not a fan of the roguelike game Binding of Isaac, well then what I’m about to say isn’t going to mean much. Though maybe you can at least appreciate the dedication and the sense of accomplishment for what I’ve just done in this game.

Binding of Isaac, Unlocking the D6 Item

I finally unlocked the D6 by defeating Isaac in the Cathedral using ???. This is not easy. I’ve been trying to do this for months and months and I’ve failed again and again and again. The reason being that unlike most other dungeon runs, you have a very limited number of hits that you can take and the ability to replenish your life is also at a premium.

The Binding of Isaac is my “forever game”. There’s something about htis game that has just taken root inside of my soul and it’s the game I keep on going back to. I may pick up other games but I always return to this one.

I should also note that this is a game that keeps on giving, there have been at least 3 major expansions DLCs, one of which will be released later this Winter. And I’ve only scratched the surface. I still have some characters to unlock and a number of secret endings that I’ve yet to see. It will be a sad day indeed when I’ve unlocked everything this game has to offer.

Thank you Edmund McMillen.

1-1 The Binding of Isaac: Coping with Mental Health

The one video game I’ve played the most in the last 4 years is The Binding of Isaac. For those unaware, it’s a rogue-lite game designed by Edmund McMillen inspired by the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac. It’s a bullet-hell game where you use your tears to battle monsters in a procedural generated dungeon, unlocking items and power-ups to defeat various bosses and finally Isaac’s mom.

A sample of the game-play.

Warning: the game is rather juvenile in it’s theme with lots of body/fecal humor. Expect a fair amount of fart noises, literal poo-monsters, & blood. If you can ignore or make peace with this aspect of the game, then you’re in for a treat because the game-play is highly addictive.

BoI is one of those games that clicks with certain individuals, and when it does, it clicks in such a way that you’ll sink hundreds upon hundreds of hours into the game. Each new “run” unlocks something new: a character, a unique item that you might have the chance of picking up during your next run, new bosses, etc.

I bounced hard off of this game a few years ago. Someone had recommended it to me and told me that it was a lot of fun and so I took a chance and picked it up on Steam. It just didn’t “click” with me and I found myself wondering why anyone would play this game. The graphics are not that impressive (game is originally flash based).

But if you look deeper beneath the surface (beyond all the fecal humor) you’ll find a very deep game and one that is very challenging. The game is difficult but also fair. This is the main reason I keep on returning to the game. This difficulty is tied to my own mental health and it’s something I am constantly exploring.

It sounds absurd to write out, but I do believe this game saved my life. I’ve struggled with mental health for a good portion of my adult life and I found this game (or maybe it is more accurate to say that it found me) at a particularly low moment and it fundamentally changed me as a person.

At it’s core, BoI is about a young boy who is haunted by his demons (though mine are not as maternally focused as Isaac). BoI is a game about perseverance. Every new dungeon run presents the player with a new set of challenges and is that not what our lives are? Each day we head out and face a new set of challenges, we’re given various tools to battle our demons and sometimes we are successful and sometimes we are not. It’s how you react to these losses, to the challenges you encounter that truly defines you.

I’ve learned how to push back against those dark thoughts that crowd my brain from time to time. That it’s ok to fail. Some runs are easy and you find all the right items and the bosses seem easy to defeat. Other times you die on the first floor through some foolish error or bad luck. No matter the run, whether it’s a success or a failure, this game has become a safe space for me. It’s like the back of my hand.

I feel like everyone needs a game like this in their lives. Something they can just dive into on a continual basis, a game where you are still challenged but not overwhelmed. A game where you are both thinking but also un-thinking. That kind of zen-like state where you just flow because you’re so familiar with the game and all that it brings.

I hope you find yours.