Surprise! Since it is now getting to the end of 2021 and I still haven’t wrapped up my 2019 games due to an unintended hiatus, I decided it was time to do a two-for-one deal. Therefore, I’m going to wrap up all of my top twenty games in a single post, instead of splitting it up into two. At this point, I mostly have positive things to say about all of these titles, so it probably makes sense.
As per usual for this list, I do want to add my disclaimer that I switched laptops towards the end of 2019, so I am missing screenshots for a lot of these titles. Additionally, since these games were played a long time ago at this point, I cannot promise that my thoughts are going to be particularly detailed here. I just didn’t want to leave this list unfinished if I’m going to return to blogging. Look here to see the first part of this ranking, and let’s get started!
20. Her Tears Were My Light
An ongoing theme for 2019 is that I played a lot of free visual novels. Her Tears Were My Light is definitely one of the better ones that I experienced. This is a story that involves time travel, which reminded me of Life is Strange, one of my favorite franchises. The creator of this game, Nami, made quite a few other titles, so I hope to dive further into some other experiences in the future.
19. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game
The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game was one of many amazing detective titles that I have picked up in recent years. My favorite part of this game was its major selling point, which is that it took under two hours to beat. Short and sweet experiences with a focused narrative are a blessing in a world with so many huge open worlds that take hundreds of hours to fully explore. This is a funny and quirky title that I would recommend to anyone who thinks the idea of a frog solving a mystery is amusing.
18. Ratchet and Clank: A Quest for Booty
I played the reboot of Ratchet and Clank in 2016, so on a free trial of PlayStation Now, I decided to pick up A Quest for Booty and get some more action-platforming fun in with my innuendo-heavy cartoon pals. Overall, since this was a short side experience that takes place between two larger titles, there is a lot missing from this game that would be in other titles, like the ability to deeply customize weapons and purchase a whole arsenal of new ones. Still, it was funny and a good way to pass the time for an evening, so I don’t regret giving it a try.
17. Dream Daddy
I like trying weird visual novels, and the premise of being a neighborhood dad dating other neighborhood dads seemed more than strange enough to make for an interesting playthrough. Overall, I’m not sure that I enjoyed Dream Daddy quite as much as other quirky titles in the genre, like Hustle Cat, but it was still heartwarming and I loved getting to know the different dads, as well as spending time with my character’s daughter.
I adore Forager. In fact, this is a game that I imagine has the potential to move up higher and higher on my overall list of favorite titles as I continue to put more time into it. This is a strange mix between an idle and building game, with some top-down exploration added for even more hectic fun. Coming up with the most efficient production lines to make plastic or electronic scraps effectively is super satisfying and kept me playing for hours with my eyes glued to the screen. I actually (spoilers for my 2021 games list next year) replayed this game this year and love it just as much as I did the first time, if not more.
15. Don’t Take it Personally Babe, it Just Ain’t Your Story
Don’t Take it Personally Babe, it Just Ain’t Your Story is a game that I imagine a lot of people might pass on simply because of what a mouthful the title is to say. Personally, I love this game and would wholeheartedly recommend it to other lovers of visual novels…with some caveats. This title, while a lot of fun, does handle some dark and heavy themes, so definitely look up the content of the story before deciding if this is worth a play or not. The plot, overall, is about a teacher who is able to use an application to eavesdrop on what the students are texting each other. As the students have more and more dramatic things happening to them, the teacher grapples with whether abusing their right to privacy is acceptable or not. It’s a great story that really got me thinking, but I do strongly believe that this isn’t going to be for everyone because of the dark themes.
14. Mini Motorways
Mini Metro is one of my favorite puzzle titles of all time, so of course I picked up Mini Motorways at launch to enjoy. Overall, I don’t enjoy this as much as Mini Metro because I feel like it loses a lot of the simplicity of what made the first title great by adding in unnecessary gameplay complications, but I still enjoyed it a lot and beat all of the initially available maps in a single sitting. Even in 2021, this is one I return to once in a while, even if I still find myself turning to its predecessor more frequently.
13. Cat Quest
Sometimes, I pick up a game just because I know I can beat it in a single weekend. I don’t think this is always a good thing, as I have pushed through a number of games I don’t like just to say I’ve finished them, but I also occasionally get to experience a truly charming adventure like Cat Quest. Cat Quest can be quickly summed up as “baby’s first Diablo“, but it’s so much more than that. The mechanics are easy to pick up and learn, as the cat the player controls can only attack, dodge, and use a small handful of spells learned throughout the journey, but learning the perfect dodge timing and getting though a dungeon alive begins to take a shocking amount of skill over time. I have actually been playing the sequel, Cat Quest II, recently, so my love for this series continues to live on to this day.
12. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Here is a little insider’s look at The Hannie Corner: This post about how much I hate the sirens from Skellige in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of my most-read posts. Apparently a lot of gamers share my sentiments on this one because everyone keeps searching to find like-minded people who hate this infuriating enemy and my website pops up! Anyway, this game is an odd case because I am respecting the 2019 me that put it in the number twelve slot for the year, but the 2021 me doesn’t really agree.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might showcase the most my mind has ever changed on a single game. I started out absolutely hating it and not understanding the hype, and rolled credits thinking it was a really good experience, even if it wasn’t to my taste. Since then, however, I find myself continuing to go back to my old save to wrap up side quests and just exist in Geralt’s universe. My current save has 150 hours in it and I haven’t even touched the DLC much yet. While I may not have loved Witcher 3 at first sight, my respect for it has grown exponentially over the years since and I cannot wait for a full next-gen patch so I can dive into the world again soon.
11. Kingdom Rush
I play a lot of tower defense titles while I watch TV because they’re the perfect idle experience. All I have to do is set the towers and watch them take down every enemy on the screen. Kingdom Rush is one of the more simplistic tower defense games that I have played, but this simplicity is its main selling point. Due to there only being a few types of towers and more restricted funds, the particular placement of every unit becomes critically important. Just placing a random tower down on every single plot of land available isn’t going to help. Kingdom Rush makes me think more than many similar titles, and that sets it apart.
10. West of Loathing
I played West of Loathing because my husband requested it. Since I tend to play story-heavy titles and he prefers gameplay-heavy offerings, he sometimes asks me to play something with a strong story that he has interest in so he can watch me while he plays Call of Duty. He had heard this was funny, so I gave it a try and we ended up having so much fun. It was hysterical, of course, but the story was also surprisingly good and I even started to enjoy the hidden depth in the simple, turn-based RPG combat over time. This is definitely a title that deserves a replay from me soon.
9. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
I had never heard a positive word spoken about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, so I put off playing it for years even though the premise and characters sounded interesting to me. Ultimately, however, this was a hard lesson in trusting my gut because I loved every second I spent in Pre-Sequel and regret not playing it when it first came out. This is the most divisive entry in the RPG shooter franchise and I understand why due to its repetitive mission structure and frustrating enemy respawn times, but the core narrative was the strongest in the series so far and the special powers for each character class gave me a reason to come back and try other builds.
8. Ori and the Blind Forest
It’s strange to come back to blogging in 2021 with a 2019 list and realize that Ori and the Blind Forest, a game that I think about every day, has only been a part of my life for the past two years. This was such a beautiful experience and I don’t know how to even begin to express my love for it. Do I discuss the moving story that had me on the edge of my seat, the music that I still listen to regularly, or some of the most beautifully stylized art that I have ever seen in a video game? All of this comes together to create an absolutely stunning title that everyone should try.
7. Diablo III
This is a weird entry to discuss given all of the news that has been coming out about Blizzard over the past few months, but I still can’t deny that I love Diablo III and that it took up a lot of my time in 2019. I even returned to it earlier this year to try a new class. It’s a shame that a game I love so much now gives me such a mixed reaction when I think about it due to the publisher that made it. Honestly, I don’t really feel like singing the praises of this game and trying to convince people to buy it given the circumstances, so let’s move on to better titles.
6. Return of the Obra Dinn
I don’t have screenshots of Return of the Obra Dinn, so I linked a trailer above because the art style is a huge selling point for this title, as there is nothing else like it on the market. As I stated earlier, I left this list ordered exactly the way I originally did in 2019, but if I were doing these rankings based on my opinions today, this would be my number one game of the year.
Obra Dinn is a murder mystery unlike any other, tasking the player with getting on a boat that was recently found after being lost at sea and finding out what happened to the unfortunate people that were aboard during the voyage. This is a game based heavily on deduction skills, with things as simple as an accent or as complicated as specific positioning on a boat in one scene versus another can help the player identify each person’s fate. My husband and I played this together in a single sitting and had a great time drawing diagrams and arguing about who was where in a given scene to put the puzzle pieces together, and I really wish I could experience this for the first time again.
5. Va-11 Hall-A
Va-11 Hall-A is a mixture of visual novel and bartender simulator set in a cyberpunk universe. I gave this a try initially because I was in the mood for a visual novel and I happened to own this from a bundle deal, but my expectations weren’t enormously high. Obviously, given its placement on my list, this game was way more gripping than I expected. I found myself getting invested in the lives and stories of every character who walked into my bar, wanting to know what was going to happen next. Every day held new surprises as I mixed drinks and listened to the intricately detailed worldbuilding. Hopefully the developers don’t keep me waiting too much longer for a sequel, because I want to be back in this world as soon as possible.
I may have really enjoyed Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, but my heart still belongs to the first entry in the franchise, Borderlands. While I understand that the gameplay is a lot more simplistic, there is something about the heavily Mad Max-inspired world of the first game that doesn’t translate as well when the later titles start leaving the desert to spend time in more diverse locales. Additionally, my favorite character in the whole series, Lilith, gets her start in the first game as a playable character class, so that might also be a factor in why Borderlands is my favorite of the franchise.
3. Mass Effect
I was intending to play Mass Effect in 2019 for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to do a full renegade playthrough to see what it’s like to be a bad guy, as my original journey through the story was as a strict paragon. Secondly, I wanted to try insanity mode. I did play Mass Effect both as a renegade and on insanity…and then never played the sequels. Still, I loved my time with the first game and mixing powers with insanity elevated my opinion of the combat to the point where it is now my favorite entry in the trilogy. Although, like I just said, I haven’t played the second or third entries in a long time, so there may be some recency bias talking here.
2. Final Fantasy XII
I have a long and storied history with Final Fantasy XII. As a kid, my mom bought the game and since it was the next non-MMO entry in the series after my beloved Final Fantasy X, I fully expected to love it. Unfortunately, XII is one of the more tactical titles in the franchise, requiring a deep understanding of several complex systems, including the ability to tweak your companion AI using drag-and-drop code blocks, so the whole experience went far above my head.
This game left a bitter taste in my mouth due to my childhood disappointment for years until I finally decided to give it a fair chance in 2019. To my surprise, I had a great experience and fell in love with the world, characters, and combat. Is it my favorite Final Fantasy title? Obviously not, as X will forever hold my heart, but I still had a great time and can’t wait to dive back in soon and tackle the dreaded super-boss, Yiazmat.
1. The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds is such an interesting case study for me. This is an Obsidian RPG that feels more like Fallout: New Vegas than Fallout 4 does. The combat feels identical and some of the quests and characters feel ripped straight from the Fallout universe. At the time, I absolutely loved that because New Vegas is one of my favorite games of all time and if I’m not getting a full sequel, this is the next best thing. Looking back on it in 2021, however, I realize that because this game doesn’t have an identity of its own to the point where I can’t actually name anything that I liked about The Outer Worlds that isn’t prefaced with “just like in Fallout“, there’s really nothing that special here. Do I still have a soft spot for this title? Of course I do, and I’m sure I will make time to play it again and go through the DLC before the sequel comes out. That said, if I were to re-rank this list in 2021, there are several other titles that are far higher-quality, unique experiences.
Well, better late than never! That was my completed list of 2019 games. I really want this blog to look forwards, not back, so I’m not sure if I will recap my 2020 gaming experience or just skip it. It was actually a fun experience to see how I ranked these titles in 2019 versus how I feel about them now, so I’m glad I decided to commit to finishing this list out.
Have you played any of the games on this list before? Let me know in the comments!