The usual practice of rounding up the past 12 months in gaming feels all the more poignant at the end of 2019.
This was the last full calendar year of the current console generation, with replacements for the PS4 and Xbox One due towards the end of 2020. You can bet that next year’s retrospectives will reflect this shift towards the new and shiny.
The good news is that the current generation isn’t going to go quietly into the night. As the following list demonstrates, the PS4 and the Xbox One haven’t so much aged as matured.
These hardworking machines have been pushed, prodded, and occasionally dragged forward by a vibrant PC gaming scene, while Nintendo’s Switch continues to reach areas no other gaming platform has quite managed before.
Make no mistake, 2019 was a great year to be a gamer. Here’s why. Don't forget to upvote the game(s) you think should top our ranking.
- Best PS4 games you can play today
- The best Xbox One games as chosen by you
- The best PS4 games out now
- The best Nintendo Switch games around
- The best games console revealed
Best games of 2019
1. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Who would have thought a faithful remake of a 26-year-old Game Boy game would be Nintendo’s freshest game of 2019? That’s no reflection of a poor Switch showing, but rather a tribute to the brilliant job Nintendo and developer Grezzo did in sprucing up a lost classic. With its adorable tilt-shift graphics, memorable dungeons and mysteriously dreamy setting, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening pressed home its claim as one of the best games in the series.
2. Cadence of Hyrule
It’s a blessed year indeed when you have two Zelda games vying for your attention. While Link’s Awakening bathes in nostalgia, Cadence of Hyrule attempts something new and daring. The makers of indie gem Crypt of the Necrodancer were unexpectedly handed the keys to Hyrule by Nintendo, and they swiftly set about making a top-down adventure that demanded a sense of rhythm from its players. It’s still Zelda, but viewed through a funky beat-matching prism.
3. Resident Evil 2
The original Resident Evil 2 is generally seen as a high-water mark for the zombie slaying series, but this ambitious remake successfully reworks it for a modern audience. Visually opulent, mechanically modern, and (crucially for fans of the original) still able to surprise, this is far more than a mere HD remaster. Once again, you play through the distinct campaigns of Claire and Leon as they take sanctuary in a zombie-infested police station.
4. Devil May Cry 5
While it would be an exaggeration to say the Devil May Cry series had fallen on hard times, it was undoubtedly in need of a little TLC. Devil May Cry 5 provided it, with a bombastic return to the kind of balletic hyper-violence that defined a whole sub-genre of action games. It may leap between three distinct perspectives (series mainstay Dante being one of them), but Devil May Cry 5 always retains a tight focus on relentless action.
5. Tetris 99
You wait years for a bold reimagining of the finest puzzler ever, and then two come along at once. Following just three months on from Tetris Effect came Tetris 99, a free Switch exclusive that introduced a little Battle Royale magic to the formula. You’re still wringing solid lines out of the same falling shapes, but here there’s the added complication of 98 other players doing the same thing simultaneously, then dumping a load of junk onto your screen.
6. The Outer Worlds
It’s fair to say 2018’s Fallout 76 left fans of the post-apocalyptic RPG series feeling decidedly short changed. Thankfully Obsidian, the maker of the beloved Fallout: New Vegas, was on hand to fill the gaping hole. The Outer Worlds is a compact, colourful slice of first person sci-fi adventuring that scratches all those Fallout itches. Fine writing, likeable characters, and jank-free hybrid FPS combat led us to forget all about our Fallout woes in 2019.
A third person shooter of uncommon beauty and downright mind-trippy weirdness, Control was the most out-there blockbuster of the year. Or at least, it was until Death Stranding came along right at the end. Made by the Finnish developer of Max Payne and Alan Wake fame, Control gave us a TV box set-worthy combination of earsplitting gunplay, telekinetic freak outs, and government conspiracies. Few games took you on quite such a wild ride in 2019 as Control.
8. SteamWorld Quest
Swedish developer Image & Form rarely settles in one place with its SteamWorld games. After tackling tower defence, a pair of roguelike platformers, and team-based strategy, SteamWorld Quest heads into card battling RPG territory. The results are predictability impressive, with familiar deck building and strategic elements elevated by the developer’s eye for detail and charming visual style. It’s a toss up between this and Slay the Spire as to which game did this stuff better in 2019, but there’s no doubting which has the most character.
9. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, EA finally gave Star Wars fans what they wanted: a fully fledged single player Star Wars game free of gimmicks and loot boxes. With elements of Dark Souls to its weighty lightsaber combat and Metroidvania levels of exploration and progression, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order truly has the Force on its side. Having also launched Apex Legends in 2019, there’s a strong case to be made for Respawn Entertainment as developer of the year.
If the overwrought storylines of Fire Emblem: Three Houses left you pining for something simpler, 2019 also provided a zesty alternative in the shape of Wargroove. Far closer in spirit and execution to Intelligent Systems’s beloved Advance Wars series, Wargroove laid on oodles of pacy turn-based battles fought by adorable chibi units. The paper-scissors-stone system at the heart of these scraps is perfectly weighted, while the campaign is both entertainingly varied and lengthy. You can even construct your own battle scenarios and share them online.
11. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Castlevania fanatics had pined for a classic experience in the vein of Symphony of the Night for years. In 2015, series producer Koji Igarashi took matters into his own hands and secured Kickstarter funding to produce a spiritual successor. The result, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, takes everything people loved about the best Castlevania games - a vast multi-layered castle to explore, satisfying 2D combat, hulking bosses, outlandish abilities - and sharpens them up for a modern audience.
12. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
The first Yooka-Laylee game was perhaps a little too faithful to the ’90s 3D platformer template, but Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair strikes out in its own direction. It’s a distinctly modern sort of 2D platformer, with an open structure that lets you tackle the final level at any point. The game’s cute graphics belie a densely packed world filled to the brim with secrets, shortcuts, head-scratching puzzles, and alternate-version levels.
13. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
There’s a certain sniffiness that surrounds Call of Duty, as if its massive popularity and annualised release schedule is an indicator of poor taste. But Call of Duty: Modern Warfare did a lot to fend off such snobbishness with a bracing reboot. Incredibly robust gunplay, stunning graphics, and a striking sense of physicality make 2019’s CoD the best entry in some time, while the new multiplayer Ground War mode gave gamers the large-scale modern combat they’d been aching for since Battlefield 4.
14. Astral Chain
PlatinumGames has built a reputation for making distinctively flamboyant action games, such as Bayonetta and Nier: Automata. In Astral Chain it may just have made its best game yet. Guide a nimble young cop through an anime-esque futuristic world, battling demonic forces whilst being sure not to neglect your duties as a law enforcement officer. You’ll tame fantastical beasts and send them out into battle, employ your detective skills, explore open rich world environments, and much more besides.
15. Disco Elysium
From its hard boiled film noir set up to its distinct lack of combat, Disco Elysium isn’t exactly what you’d call your average RPG. It eschews many of the cliches of the classic role playing game, all while embracing genre staples like dice-rolling decision tree systems and isometric visuals. It’s like an interactive novel and a classic LucasArts adventure game rolled into one, but with a distinct edge all of its own. Disco Elysium is beautifully written, gloriously rendered, and downright funny to boot.
16. Metro Exodus
Most of the hit first person shooters released in 2019 had a multiplayer focus, which makes the single player-only Metro Exodus stand out all the more. Series protagonist Artyom finds himself venturing overland after two games of claustrophobic scrambling through the Moscow Metro. Featuring the same blend of tense stealth and brutal gunplay as previous entries in the series, but with a more expansive world in which to apply them, Metro Exodus is a shooter you can really sink your teeth into.
17. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
For a certain type of gamer, all that needs to be known about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is that it’s the latest game from the genius behind Dark Souls and Bloodborne. For everyone else, this is another epically challenging third person action game of uncommon depth and poise. Set in a fantastical feudal Japan, your ninja protagonist must slice his way through a varied assortment of demons. Stealth plays an important part in proceedings this time, as you grapple from one scenic perch to the next.
18. Apex Legends
Apex Legends was one of the gaming surprises of 2019. Here is a fresh Battle Royale game, from the makers of the beloved Titanfall series, which landed more or less fully formed.
Many games have tried and failed to grab a slice of the BR pie in the wake of PUBG and Fortnite. Apex Legends succeeds through its uniquely pacy combat, thrilling movement, unique character classes, and an intelligent ‘ping’ system that quietly revolutionised squad communication in online shooters.
19. Death Stranding
What would the first big game from Hideo Kojima since his departure from Konami and the Metal Gear series be like? Weirdly compelling and frequently baffling was the inevitable answer.
Death Stranding divided opinion with its enigmatic sci-fi courier ways. But like all the best Kojima productions, it was packed full of memorable moments. Featuring top drawer acting talent (Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux) and a stunningly realised post-apocalyptic world, it showed this console generation was still full of bright ideas.
20. Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is a beguiling combination of dungeon-crawler and card battler. Like all good roguelikes, its true success lies in its inherent replayability. Each successive run plays out differently to the last, with the game’s interlocking systems and insistence that the player think on their feet throwing up unexpected tactical possibilities. It’s a tricky game to truly master, but your repeated failures will be eased by a charming art style and the knowledge the next round will be different.