There were several games that defined the highs and lows of 2019 for us. But there were also games from 2018, 2017, and even earlier, that just stuck with us. They kept haunting us—in all the best ways. Sometimes its gaming comfort food that sees us through the dry spells. Sometimes it's an older title that we never got to play until now. And sometimes it's an ongoing game with a multiplayer component that keeps hook firmly in jowl, if not a single-player game with seemingly endless content. A good old price drop might have it land in our lap, or perhaps it's a game that's been sitting on our shelves collecting dust for whatever reason. Either way, these were the games that weren't released in 2019, but we kept playing in 2019.
Destiny 2 – While I didn’t play much of Destiny 2 when it launched on the PC back in 2017 and only got back into it at the end of 2018, 2019 saw me finally get an Xbox One—and Destiny 2 was one of the first games I bought since I could actually play with friends and coworkers. I had a friend rush me through the Forsaken story so I could get caught up to the rest of my clan and actually be able to raid. The past several months saw me improve as a Guardian in both raiding and in PvP modes, namely Crucible. With the arrival of Shadowkeep a few months back we got a new leveling system; instead of experience levels we have season ranks which kind of work the same way. After every 100,000 experience points you go up a rank with each rank up bringing at least one reward and sometimes two, the second usually being an Engram of some sort. The ultimate goal is to hit rank 100 by the end of the season to earn the triumph for it but it is possible to go higher. Then you have the various activities on each planet (the new season even makes Mercury worth going to), getting your power level to 950 and then grinding out higher gear, and there’s basically something for everyone whether you enjoy PvE or PvP. If Bungie keeps this up there’s a good chance that this will be a game that I continue to play into 2020.
Various Mortal Kombat MUGEN Games – Mortal Kombat 11 came out earlier this year and it was a good game. A lot better than Mortal Kombat X, that’s for sure. But for someone that has been a fan of Mortal Kombat since the arcade games, MK11 was also pretty disappointing in terms of the roster and the story. It seems like these games went from the NetherRealm crew creating stories they wanted to tell to the story being created by suits in a boardroom. The same goes for the roster. Myself and other MK fans are just tired of the same characters returning game after game after game while other fan favorites from the 3D era, like Sareena, Li Mei, Reiko, Havik, etc., continue to be ignored. That said, I wasn't disappointed in it enough to put it in my Biggest Disappointment list. Now I have put more time into these MUGEN Mortal Kombat games than Mortal Kombat 11. Mainly because these games are created by people with a lot of talent and passion for this series. These games feel like legitimate sequels to the arcade series by including fighters and stages from the 3D era, MKX, and MK11. The best part is that these games play just like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, so if you are a fan of that game you will feel right at home. These games are constantly growing and being updated over time, so I'm excited to see what the creators have in store for MK MUGEN in 2020.
No Man’s Sky – It’s pretty well known that I have a…complicated relationship with No Man’s Sky. I didn’t get completely swallowed up by the pre-release hype like some of the poor souls on Reddit, but I was still dumbstruck, and pretty pissed off, at the so-called “finished product” Hello Games released in August 2016. Since then I’ve maintained a sort of love-hate relationship with the game, checking in to play a few hours whenever Hello Games periodically released fairly massive structural and content updates over the past three years.
Each one of these mega-patches has added a lot, from base building to land vehicles to star destroyers you could straight-up buy, if you were wealthy enough. However, for every new feature each patch added, they typically broke or wildly unbalanced at least two other things. One time a patch reworked all the raw materials and crafting recipes that went with them, meaning I had to learn most of the game from scratch. Another completely re-rolled the procedurally generated universe, putting all the planets in different places and dramatically altering their surface and atmospheric compositions. 2018’s NEXT update added an enormous amount of new mechanics, quests, and even rudimentary multiplayer, but most of this fresh content was horribly disorganized and perilously buggy.
The main persistent problem was the sheer quantity of arduous grind required to access the best parts of the game. I’m happy to report that 2019’s BEYOND update brought the game up to 2.0, massively expanded the multiplayer, and finally, finally made it more accessible. It’s still grindy to a degree, as any survival game is almost by necessity, but No Man’s Sky has finally reached beyond its initial “doing yardwork in space” reality to the “boldly go” vision Hello Games presented way back in 2014. It’s taken over three years, but the experience of No Man’s Sky is finally on parity with what we were all promised.
Except the soundtrack by 65daysofstatic. That’s been awesome since launch.
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes – I have come to the realization that I will never stop playing PvZ Heroes on my phone. I have accepted this, and have moved past shame. If you see me sitting in the local pho shop by myself, staring at my phone, I am battling some plant-loving chump in Serbia with my killer Sports Zombie deck. You're welcome, Serbian fungus-deck-loving loser.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – I know, I know, I know. But we're being honest here, right? We're among friends? I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't make another character in Skyrim a couple weeks ago. In my defense, I'm playing the 2017 Switch version, so it's not like I'm dredging up a game from 2011 for this category, right? Right?
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – After a whole entire year of this game being out, I'm finally starting to nail down my dream team, since I'm usually playing 5v5 Squad Strike with my fiancee: Zelda, Sheik, Ganondorf, Kirby, and ????. ???? is, of course, the wild card fighter that I change every single round because I can't figure out a fifth fighter I'm consistently good at. Of all the people that could strike fear into my fiancee's heart, the most terrifying is Zelda...somehow. I'm not sure how. That and Kirby, but Kirby is a god so he doesn't count.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – I'm 100 percent piggybacking on Kinsey's answer for this one. Because it's true for me, too: I'm still playing Skyrim in 2019. Just like I was still playing it in 2018. And '17. All the way back to its launch on 11/11/11. I've been rerolling characters in Skyrim for so long that I don't even realize when I'm doing it. In between reviews, I play Skyrim. When I need comfort food gaming, I play Skyrim. When I'm gauging one role-playing game against another? You guessed it. We can sit around and nitpick the game to death—we've been doing that for eight years now—but the truth is, I'll probably be playing Skyrim on my deathbed (not to get morbid), since it's my once and future highwater mark for open-world, go-anywhere, do-anything RPGs.
Elite Dangerous – I'm probably abusing this category a little, too. Because this was the year I stopped playing Elite Dangerous. Because I'm an idiot. I'd been walking around the house, handling half a dozen things on my Honey Do list. The secret? WD-40. The loud fan motor, the squeaky bed frame, the groaning garage door—all quiet. Flush with confidence, I took that can of WD-40 to my creaky HOTAS joystick. That's when I learned you don't spray petroleum-based lubricants onto plastic components. I should've used a silicone spray. My HOTAS stopped creaking, but it wasn't responding properly anymore, as the penetrating oils ate away at my joystick's plastic innards. Sure, I could learn to fly again with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard. But that's not going to happen. I've earned this idiot badge and I'm going to wear it.
Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury – What I think happened was, someone in the Paradox offices said, "What if this expansion was called Holy Furry?" and then they laughed and walked away, thinking nothing of it. Meanwhile, Bob in the art department overheard that, and instead of drawing up more shockingly homogenous portraits of historical world leaders, Bob started drawing furry things: dogs, cats, horses, and...dragons. That's how I think the Animal Kingdom easter egg got dropped into Crusader Kings II, which is the first and only thing that's gotten me to play that game for more than 10 minutes without completely giving up.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey – To be fair, this might not qualify since I didn't begin my odyssey until early 2019. That being said, I'm still playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey with an addicted fervor over a year after its release. Odyssey's map alone is a feat. I've played this game for over 100 hours and still haven't explored every province. There seems to be an unending amount of quests and activities to partake in. Hats off to the Ubisoft crew, this will stand as one of my all-time favorite games. Keep dishing out DLC.
Tetris Effect – Tetris Effect is still in my rotation heavily, and would be even more so if I didn't buy it on disc. That's literally the only barrier to playing Tetris Effect more, if I have another disc in the PS4 and can't be bothered to get all the way up, walk over, and swap discs. I've seriously considered buying it a second time as a digital purchase. Yes, I am that lazy. Yes, the game is that good.
Destiny 2 – I'm in a clan with Destiny 2, and it keeps scratching the FPS itch. It also scratches that looter itch. It does a lot of things and does it joined up in fireteams with a group of like minded friends I talk to on a daily basis. What can I say, the endgame is the friendgame...
Final Fantasy XIV – With the new Shadowbringers expansion this game keeps getting better and better. Not even the persistent queues after the expansion pack launch could keep me away from this game. The new music, dungeons, raids, storylines, it was all worth the wait after seeing that first trailer at the Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest last year. With a new patch update on the horizon, there's little reason to stop playing anytime soon for me.
Beatmania IIDX: Heroic Verse – Another year, another Beatmania release, and I, like a sucker, keep finding my way back to arcades so I can get my fix of Konami's music franchise. The new superhero theme is an interesting direction for the series, and the music continues to impress, even if the gameplay has remained the same after all this time. But the quality of life upgrades make this feel like a fresh version.
Tetris Effect – Yup, I haven't put this one down yet. And the recent announcement of a soundtrack release only makes me want to go back and play it again right now. Which, I think, I will in fact do. This game has hit sale prices numerous times. Seriously consider grabbing it if you haven't yet. It's transcendent gaming.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Randy gravitates toward anything open world, open ended, and open to interpretation. He prefers strategy over shooting, introspection over action, and stealth and survival over looting and grinding. He's been a gamer since 1982 and writing critically about video games for over 15 years. A few of his favorites are Skyrim, Elite Dangerous, and Red Dead Redemption. He lives with his wife and daughter in Oregon.View Profile