In the final days of 2019, I counted down my favorite ten games of the year by writing a solid 500-600 words about each one. But sometimes the fun of lists is more about seeing what’s on them! Here’s a condensed version of my top 10 list, all in one post, with short blurbs and links to my further writing.

10. Baba is You

Baba is You is an adorable puzzle game built on a simple conceit: the rules of each level are actual movable tiles within the world. In order to complete a level, rearrange the rules until a solution is possible! This game has a huge number of puzzles, and its logic quickly gets pretty bonkers and is a lot of fun to unravel.

For more details, read my full review.

9. Vision: Soft Reset

Vision: Soft Reset is a tiny little indie Metroidvania that integrates some really clever speedrunning mechanics into its core loop. It’s rough around the edges, but it’s very playable and the sheer novelty and execution of its core mechanics are such a joy.

For more details, read my full review.

8. Life Is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 is an episodic choice-driven narrative adventure game. It follows the story of Sean and Daniel Diaz, two young Mexican American boys who flee their home in Seattle after a tragic incident. On the run, they meet a variety of interesting strangers and help Daniel learn to control his mysterious telekinetic power. It’s a game that sometimes stumbles but frequently introduces endearing characters and tells poignant stories, all while grappling with heavy subject matters.

For more details, read my full review or my earlier piece about how it managed time between episode releases.

7. A Short Hike

A Short Hike is a small game but it feels like a perfectly-condensed distillation of great open world game design. Mostly, it consists of running, climbing, and gliding around an island park, collecting items to increase your stamina. Along the way, you’ll get to know the park and its other visitors, often helping them out with their own troubles. It’s compact, heartfelt, and a delight to play all the way through.

For more details, read my full review.

6. Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game is a game about being a horrible goose. The game takes place in a pleasant little town full of people going about their lives. As an avatar of mischief and mayhem, you will perform a series of strange and arbitrary tasks, much to the chagrin of the unsuspecting townsfolk. It’s a game about being mischievous, and about poking and prodding at the doldrums of these people’s daily lives. Untitled Goose Game is playful and improvisational, and as much fun to watch as it is to play.

For more details, read my full review.

5. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Jedi Fallen Order is an action-platformer with combat inspired by the Dark Souls series (though not nearly as difficult). It blends a number of familiar mechanics from several subgenres of action game. None of these mechanics are particularly exceptional, but they provide a nice variety of usually functional gameplay with some occasional surprising moments. What makes it really special to me, though, is that it told a story that was sharply written and full of great characters, all while being true to its Star Wars feel.

For more details, read my full review.

4. Control

Control is a third-person shooter that takes place in an inexplicable ever-shifting building, home to the Federal Bureau of Control. It’s a competent shooter, but what makes it special is its fascination with the strange and unexplained. The Bureau is full of unsettling secrets, cryptic documents, and otherworldly spaces, and was a ton of fun to explore.

For more details, read my full review.

3. Eliza

Eliza is a visual novel released (surprisingly) by puzzle-game factory Zachtronics. It follows the story of Evelyn, who begins work as a “proxy” for a AI built for therapy. Her job is to speak the AI’s lines and add a “human touch” to the therapy session. The story this game tells is a meditation on legacy, ethics, capitalism, and personal responsibility. Its characters are grounded and fascinating. Especially if you work in tech, Eliza is absolutely worth your time.

For more details, read my full review.

2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro is the latest from developer From Software, creators of the infamously difficult Dark Souls series. It deviates meaningfully from the studio’s previous works and makes its combat even more tense, explosive, and dramatic than its predecessors. As influential as the Souls series is in its own right, I truly feel like it walked so Sekiro could run, at least with regard to combat. Not only that, but Sekiro is an incredibly beautiful game with a truly evocative world that’s always wonderful to explore.

For more details, read my full review. You can also read some admittedly very messy thoughts I had earlier this year about difficulty in Souls-style games.

1. Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds is a game about exploring a star system and unravelling the mysteries of the enigmatic precursor race that lived there eons before. It’s beautiful and full of strange sci-fi physics that need to be understood in order to progress. But more than anything else, it considers what it means to face the end of the world, and how we process something so monumental. There are moments in this game that give me chills just thinking about them, and moments in the soundtrack that do the same. I couldn’t possibly recommend this game more.

For more details, read my full review.