10. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
With the Metroidvania love at an all-time high, Koji Igarashi chose one of the best
moments to return to the iconic world of gothic action. With his iron grit and a record-breaking
Kickstarter campaign, the ritual was completed and we get perhaps one of the most faithful
additions to the Castlevania lore we’ll ever get. Igarashi was one of the main people responsible
for the success of the cult classic Symphony of the Night and the Castlevania titles that
followed. In this spiritual successor, he brings all that energy back, and more. With its story of an orphan making her way
through the floors of a castle to lift an alchemist’s curse, Bloodstained boasts fantastic
level designs, tactile controls, and even the silliness that we all associate with the
Castlevania series. While its greatest strength has always been
its similarity to its predecessor, this could also be its weakness. It’s a recreation,
but like PC Gamer says, it might be a bit too old fashioned. With its high scores from gamers though, maybe
it’s exactly what it needs to be. It has a playscore of 8.84 9. A Short Hike
In a world obsessed with fast-paced action and punishing difficulty, A Short Hike is
the videogame equivalent of a breath of fresh air. It’s a singleplayer indie adventure
that puts you in the shoes of bird person, Claire, who ventures to Hawk Peak in search
of a cellphone signal. Aside from its incredibly relatable plot,
A Short Hike’s journey to the top is also sprinkled with all things bright and beautiful.
It’s literally just a walk in the park. Sometimes you meet new characters and have
natural yet dorky conversations, Or you can glide around and go on collection sidequests
around its lush pixel environments. It’s this combination of relaxing atmosphere and genuine
interactions that make up the bulk of what makes A Short Hike awesome. The game does struggle a bit with endings.
Destructoid gave it a 7.5, saying that while its two-hour storyline doesn’t give it a
chance to grow stale, “the final moments suffer from a lack of setup and character
development.” But, if it’s a bite-sized vacation you want,
A Short Hike is more than willing to serve. Created by a developer burned out from another
project, Thumbsticks has this to say: “It’s fitting, then, that what began as an act of
self-care…has blossomed into a welcome respite from the modern world.” It has a playscore of 8.85 8. AMID EVIL
Everybody knows nostalgia is one of the easiest ways to make a videogame hit. But, if you
pair that with fresh and original ideas, that’s when you’ve hit the jackpot. For our 8th spot,
we get a game that might be awfully familiar to long-time fans of the Doom series. However,
it’s most similar to the classic fantasy FPS titles like Heretic and Hexen. Indefatigable’s Amid Evil offers frenetic
FPS action in the style of the old MSDOS days. Except, with a much bigger scale than the
games of old. The game spreads across 7 distinct worlds, all jampacked with monsters and mystical
weapons. On the other hand, it’s definitely not the
first to explore the retro shooter formula. Dusk, a retro-style shooter from the same
publisher, earned high praise just the year before. Thankfully, for AMID EVIL, it makes
itself worthy of the same acclaim. This is exactly Destructoid’s view. “I’m not as over the moon as I was with DUSK,
but that’s like saying you didn’t enjoy driving the Camaro as much as the Corvette.” they
said. Game Revolution expounds on the point in their
review, saying “Even if you’ve already tired yourself out on retro shooters, Amid Evil
deserves your attention as a well-crafted and unique entry in the genre.” The verdict is out. Despite the many competitors
in the market, AMID EVIL is just as deserving of its spot on the list, with a total playscore
of 8.93 7. Devil May Cry 5
It took 11 years of waiting but it looks like CAPCOM finally figured what to do with their
iconic hack and slash series. After the slightly polarizing results of Ninja Theory’s DmC reboot,
which changed too many things for comfort, this fifth main installment seems to have
nailed the balance. It brings back the two favorite demon slayers,
Nero–with his new robot appendage–and Dante, with his grey hair. But, DMC5 also brought
a new character in V, whose demon companions give an added edge to the entry. As a series
built on making demon-slaying as stylish as ever, Devil May Cry 5 is definitely equipped
with next-level visuals. However, for most reviewers, what really sets
it apart is its combat. IGN SEA gave it a score of 9.5, praising the depth, variety,
and freedom that the three main characters provide. PC Gamer similarly praised the game
for its “greater variety of combat styles and a higher degree of challenge.” Aside from combat, its renewed focus on story
and characters also makes it a standout in a series that’s mostly been praised for its
straightforward action. All in all, Devil May Cry 5 is a return to
everything we loved about the series and more, and it has a playscore of 8.98 6. SEKIRO: Shadows Die Twice
FromSoftware has built a reputation for punishing, genre-defining action RPGs. But, in their
latest IP, they switch things up just a little to create something that’s hauntingly familiar
yet beautifully fresh in its own way. Putting you in the shoes of a samurai with
the useful ability to come back from the dead, SEKIRO is more of a focused action-adventure
compared to FromSoftware’s traditional RPGs. Without builds and multiplayer distractions,
Cheatcc calls it “a game that asks you to succeed on your own and creates an intimate,
engaging experience as a result.” But, while its story, settings, and characters
were welcome additions to the formula, SEKIRO’s greatest strength is ultimately its enhancements
on the studio’s signature punishing combat. It adds stealth, verticality, and open level
designs into the mix. This means that fights are as complex and grueling as ever but there’s
a lot more to play within how to approach them. As heavy.com notes in their review: “The greater
focus on dynamic, nuanced fights greatly improves over Dark Souls’ hack and slash methodology.” While there may have had some hiccups at launch,
SEKIRO’s recent reviews, especially on Steam, have been overwhelmingly positive since. It has a playscore of 8.98 5. Katana ZERO
Speaking of Japanese combat settings, Askiisoft brings Devolver Digital another impressive
win with their flashy take on cyberpunk action platforming. At first blush, it has all the
markings of a Devolver title. Just like Hotline Miami, it’s got that lush retro aesthetic,
colorful visuals, and fast-paced difficulty. When every hit results in instant death though,
the premise anchors on perfection. That’s when the rewind button comes in handy, letting
you plan out your movements for each interaction and culminating into a surgical but satisfyingly
smooth combat experience. But, Katana ZERO didn’t earn its spot for
action alone. There’s a complicated narrative underpinning it, too. It tells the tale of
a sword for hire and it does so with a timed dialog that lets players project their personalities
into the story. As Shacknews puts it: “Katana Zero dares to
go bolder, with a story that takes more than one left turn, and an innovative dialogue
system that can paint both the story and the main character in a different light.” And, if like most critics, you’re worried
about its short run time and lack of replayability, Game Reactor offers some reassurance: “Katana
Zero is a short experience with very little replay value…but it’s also, without a doubt,
one of the best low-profile games we’ve played.” It receives a playscore of 9.01 4. Baba Is You
Indie games might mean low-budget but what they lack in production value, they make up
for with boundless creativity. And that’s kind of what Hempuli Oy offers in their endlessly
charming puzzle game. In their world, the only rule is that there
aren’t any rules at all. As you push letters and blocks around their pixel-based environment,
you get to be the sole decider of how the world around you works. For Game Reactor:
“It’s not about shifting the pieces in the game but changing how the game itself operates.” When there’s so much freedom involved, it
widens your scope of imagination and forces you to think outside the box. It only gets
harder, as words and conditions continue to pile on. It’s challenging, but it’s the
kind of challenge that puzzle fans will love–the kind that leaves you thinking even long after
you’ve put it down. Baba Is You doesn’t just continually redefine
itself, it’s irreverence to rules manages to redefine the genre too. MeriStation describes
it beautifully, calling it an “orderly anarchy” that “demonstrates the magic of words.” A puzzle that will leave you suitably baffled,
it has a playscore of 9.02 3. Slay the Spire
Released early in January of this year, Mega Crit’s debut title has continued to slay the
charts throughout the rest of 2019. Now, it finds itself at home among the top ranks as
one of the most innovative card games of the year. Slay the Spire offers turn-based strategy,
cardgame mechanics, and roguelike gameplay all rolled into one. It’s not just the unlikely
mixture that gives the game its flair, it’s how well the three combine into an exhilarating
cardgame that’s relatively low-cost. Unlike other deck-building titles, it’s a
level playing field where you choose from three characters, each with unique basic decks
which you build up along your journey. For IGN, its formula “encourages experimentation,
gives you time to make mistakes, and will challenge you immensely.” As a roguelike game, death is an integral
factor but it also means it has replayability in droves. Slaying the titular spire only
takes about an hour, but its balance of chance encounters and tactical depth will keep you
coming back for more. At its earliest stage, it’s been called
“the first great surprise of 2019. ” But with a new playable character in the works,
it shows that the game will only get better with time. It has a playscore of 9.13 2. Resident Evil 2
Though Bloodstained may have been the picture of an all too faithful spiritual successor,
CAPCOM shows them off in their biggest hit this year, creating 2019’s poster boy for
a remake done right. In their effort to bring 1998’s Resident
Evil 2 to the modern generation, CAPCOM didn’t just build it from the ground up–with new
textures for Claire and Leon, and a more immersive over the shoulder perspective–they turned
it into a modern horror game in its own right. In line with the challenges presented by the
big visual changes, CAPCOM had to explore other ways to deliver the series’ signature
scares. But, in doing so, they created a whole new experience that’s packed with content
and provided new insight to Claire and Leon’s adventures in Raccoon City. As IGN puts it: “Capcom did a fantastic
job of resurrecting all the best parts of the classic Resident Evil 2 and making them
look, sound, and play like a 2019 game.” Released in January, Resident Evil 2 bookends
the year with a chart-topping finish and it rightly deserves its spot–here and in the
halls of modern horror fame. It has a playscore of 9.15 1. Disco Elysium
For a game that’s only been out for two months, ZA/UM’s Disco Elysium snuck its way to the
top being called one of the most groundbreaking RPGs yet. RPGs are known for their emergent
quality, customizations, and unique interactions with an unfamiliar environment. And, that’s
exactly what Disco Elysium brings to the table. It follows the footsteps of Larian Studios’ Divinity
series with its intricate role-playing mechanics. Instead of sprawling fantasy settings, we
get a political tale of a detective fighting to solve a murder mystery and to survive the
voices in his head. Ultimately, though, you, the player, will
get to tell the story yourself through the many choices on offer, making each lengthy
run-through a different experience. As PC Gamer notes: “…my experience of it is completely
unique to me, such is the dizzying variety of skills, stats, thoughts, and conversation
options on offer.” Freedom of choice aside, its Disco Elysium’s
story that stands out the most. Only Single Player notes that its characters “explore
highbrow themes such as existentialism, political theory, and psychology, all wrapped around
a twin mystery of murder and identity.” If you want to be engrossed, intrigued, and
awed by a gorgeous, painterly world that’s not your own, Disco Elysium is the place to
be. That’s why it’s our best PC title of 2019, with a playscore of 9.29