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Friday, May 24, 2019

The ten best games of 2019 so far


List by Matt S.

As May winds down, we're now nearly halfway through 2019, and with E3 and the like, June is generally a quieter part of the year as far as new releases go. There are certainly some gems to look forward to, but nonetheless I felt that now we are effectively halfway through the year, and it's a good time to list out some of the best games of the year to date.

Looking back, 2019 has certainly produced some gems so far... in fact, too many good games. There's some great stuff that came out at the start of the year that I'm sure has already been unfortunately forgotten.

Here's my pick for a top 10 - but there are plenty more that could have been put in place of these. If you've got any picks of your own, be sure to let me know in the comments!

Observation (our review)

Three of the best ten games of 2019 to date have released in the span of a week (it has been a busy week indeed). The first of these is Observation, which comes to us from Devolver Digital and is basically 2001: A Space Odyssey, the game. An intense, narrative driven space thriller about wayward AI and (possibly) worse, this is a relatively brief game at about eight hours in length, but across those eight hours is more interesting and intense storytelling than you'll see almost anywhere else.



Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland (our review)

The second of the top ten to be released in just the last week, Atelier games like Lulua always warm my heart. They're so good-natured, genuine and sweet that it's impossible not to be cheered up by them, and over the years Gust has really refined the formula into something that is impossible to put down. Atelier Lulua is particularly special, because it brings us back to the Arland world (the best Atelier sub-series), and lets us reconnect with Rorona, Totori and Meruru. Three fan favourite girls that got a lot of people into the series for the first time, and that fans keep coming back to over and over again. Now they have a fourth Arland to enjoy, and on top of that, it introduces us to Lulua, who represents a truly adorable new generation for the world of Arland. I hope there's more to come.



Total War: Three Kingdoms (our review)

The final "new release" within the last week that is good enough to be a top 10 for the year to date, Creative Assembly certainly took a long time to take a look at the classic historical fiction novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It was worth the wait. Bringing the exquisite blend of grand strategy with battlefield tactics that Total War is so well known for, with the fascinating story and personalities of the likes of Cao Cao, Lu Bu, Liu Bei, Sun Ce, and so on, has made for a game that will both inspire you to learn more about the era, and entertain you while it does it. Total War is much more accessible than Koei Tecmo's rival Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, but also different enough that if you're an existing fan of that, you can also play - and love - this one.



Table of Tales: The Crooked Crown (our review)

I've been playing tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons since I was five years old. I've grown up with them, even more than I have with video games, which is why I've loved what Aussie developer, Tin Man Games, has achieved with Table of Tales. This VR-only experience really only works in VR, because it perfectly emulates the experience of a tabletop RPG, with all that entails - from the way that narrative storytelling is recited through to the aesthetic of static playing pieces, Tin Man Games has got this down perfect.



Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (our review)

What happens when you turn Danganronpa into a dungeon crawler? You get Zanki Zero. And it is as wild and brilliant as that concept suggests it would be. In Zanki Zero you find yourself in control of a small group of people that find themselves trapped in an apocalypse. They need to survive the elements, monsters, and even each other as they clone themselves, prolong their lives, and try and work out what's going on. It has all the brilliant psychological thriller elements of Danganronpa (along with the sociopathic sense of oddball humour, too), and matches that up with some very high quality JRPG action.



Chocobo Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy! (our review)

One of the most charming roguelikes that has ever been produced, Chocobo Mystery Dungeon combines that classic mystery dungeon format with moments of pure charm. Chocobo kicks back for a cup of tea, for example. Or goes for a swim. There's no gameplay benefit in taking a break from the dungeons to do either, but you will anyway, because the character is so damn cute. Throw in the gauntlets of classic Final Fantasy enemies, and a soundtrack made up of classic fan-favourite music, and this is one of the very best bits of Final Fantasy fanservice that Square Enix has ever produced. Yes, it was originally a Nintendo Wii game, but the enhancements and improvements to that base game (as well as the HD scale-up), make this feel fresh and new all over again.



Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (our review)

The team at FromSoftware sure do know how to spark debate about difficulty in games. Say what you want about the team's uncompromising commitment to make something so difficult that you'll cry tears of sheer frustration over it (even as you then try the same challenge over and over again), one thing is undeniable: FromSoftware also make amazing games. Sekiro offers a gorgeous Japanese fantasy world, with pristine action, incredible bosses, and an endlessly vivid imagination. It's fast, it's furious, it's unforgiving, and Sekiro is utterly majestic.



Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet (our review)

When Sekrio has driven you to the point of defeat, you'll want something nice and relaxing to recover your spirits. Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is all that. It's a game that's not really a game at all. Rather, it's a chance to chill out with your favourite girl from Dead or Alive, at a tropical paradise. Whether it's playing a bit of poker, going for some rock climbing, getting in a spot of beach volleyball, or just taking photos of women trying out swimsuit in the evening sun, Dead or Alive Xtreme presents a laid-back, sexy paradise. Of course it's silly and nonsense, but it's also a whole lot of fun, and jokes about it aside, no other developer out there has managed to render the human body as well as Koei Tecmo has with this particular game. I'd say it's even a step above the character models in Dead or Alive 6.



The Caligula Effect: Overdose (our review)

The original release of The Caligula Effect, on PlayStation Vita, was that of a game that had some truly brilliant ideas, offset by some issues in execution. On the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, this improved version does away with all of that. Now it's just the perfect JRPG. A brilliant concept, executed with creativity and style, Overdose also includes some other little features, characters, and narrative opportunities to give people that got hooked on the Vita version a reason to play it all over again.



Dead or Alive 6 (our review)

Dead or Alive 6 is such a significant step up over its predecessor. The combat engine is smoother and more refined, which is always important for a fighting game. Dead or Alive has always tried to straddle the line between accessibility and complexity with its systems, and thanks to the quality tutorials and a mode designed to teach you everything you need to know about your favourite characters, this game achieves that with style. It's also a huge step up visually as well, with superb character models, perfectly made to really show off their sexy costumes. Dead or Alive 6 is a fine continuation of the series, and exactly what the fans of the series wanted to see.



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld


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The ten best games of 2019 so far
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