With the year coming to an end in just a few short months, we’re getting that much closer to choosing Digital Trends’s game of the year. So far, we’ve seen plenty of outstanding titles across a variety of genres and platforms, and expect to see even more before the year is out. Until we announce the award-winning titles of this year, take a look at what we consider to be the very best games of 2019.
The best games of 2019
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The Fire Emblem series has grown immensely popular since the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening in 2013, but Intelligent Systems developed Fire Emblem: Three Houses like it still had something to prove to naysayers. With three distinct narratives depending on the house you choose at the starting monastery, Three Houses is among the most replayable and emotional role-playing games we’ve ever experienced.
An open-ended exploration segment allows you to customize your units and build relationships, and when it comes time to fight, Three Houses brings the goods. Classic turn-based action is streamlined and expanded in all the right ways, with difficulty levels for any player and the new “Gambit” system to support your units.
Devil May Cry 5
Less can be more when it comes to action game design, but no one told that to the Devil May Cry 5 development team, and we’re thankful for it. The long-awaited sequel is one of the most bonkers games ever made, starring three distinct protagonists with drastically different abilities.
The young devil-hunter Nero’s raw power and precision allow him to take down larger enemies with ease, while the veteran Dante can juggle many foes at once and cut them in half with a bladed motorcycle. Newcomer V’s Pokémon-like approach rounds things out, as he relies on others to do his battles. The frenetic action is built on top of a surprisingly heartfelt and funny story that has us very excited for a sixth game.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
It’s not Dark Souls and it’s not Bloodborne — From Software’s latest action game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice shares the DNA of its past work, but the formula has been adjusted in crucial ways that make it more satisfying, more intense, and even more punishing.
Set in feudal Japan rather than a fictional world, the gorgeous environments and architecture are contrasted with extreme violence to wonderful effect. Combat has been changed, removing the stamina system and replacing it with “posture,” which requires you to play aggressively in the hopes of breaking your enemies’ guard. They can do the same to you, and this constant tug-of-war is at the heart of what makes Sekiro so fantastic … and occasionally infuriating.
Read our full Sekiro review
Super Mario Maker 2
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We’ve all heard the expression, but is that really true? With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo took the original Wii U game and made it even better with a wealth of new features, including additional building items such as on-off switches and sloped terrain.
These seemingly small changes ultimately allow creators to make even wilder maps, with the most inventive players practically changing the game’s genre in the process. For those who just want to have fun playing Mario maps, you’ll never run out of content, and the single-player story mode is a great place for newcomers to start. It’s also one of the best games for YouTube creators to play, as watching someone else fail is a guilty pleasure that can be just as fun as playing it yourself.
Read our full Super Mario Maker 2 review
Resident Evil 2
Capcom has remastered Resident Evil games in the past and even altered their gameplay, but its 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake goes well beyond that. A completely new experience that retells the same general story as the original title, it switches to a third-person over-the-shoulder camera view that puts it in line with more recent entries.
The horror and atmosphere of Raccoon City remain intact, however, and the most terrifying moments are brought closer to reality with the game’s brilliant RE Engine. It isn’t groundbreaking or particularly innovative, but Resident Evil 2 made a classic game even better.
Read our full Resident Evil 2 review
Mortal Kombat 11
Despite being around for more than two decades, the Mortal Kombat franchise has received some of its highest critical acclaim in more recent years. Mortal Kombat 11 is a gorgeous, fluid, and wonderfully gory fighting game that takes the best elements from the series’ past and games like Injustice 2 to create a brutal competitive experience.
The action focuses more heavily on countering and spacing than it does stringing combo attacks together, requiring you to focus on your opponent more carefully. Customization options and a huge cast of characters give everyone someone to use in a fight, provided they don’t just pick Scorpion again.
Read our full Mortal Kombat 11 review
Metro Exodus took some massive risks with the series’ tried-and-true formula — including taking nearly all of the action out of the titular Metro system in Moscow. Despite this, 4A Games never lost sight of what made Metro so special, with atmospheric environments, terrifying mutant creatures, and a gripping story that had us holding our breath until the final moments.
The scavenging system from past games remains, and works perfectly with the new open outdoor areas protagonist Artyom explores during his journey. What other game features cracked gas masks that you can fix with a piece of duct tape? Exactly.
Read our full Metro Exodus review
Few games can offer both gameplay and storytelling that impress in equal parts, and to do it with such flair and style is what makes Katana Zero truly special. The game’s unique approach to neo-noir mystery involves hallucinations and a cast of unsavory characters, with plenty of twists and trippy moments to keep you guessing until the credits roll. Its stealth-action gameplay is creative and brutal, as well, requiring you to manipulate time in order to quickly strike multiple enemies before they can retaliate. You will truly become a ninja assassin while playing, but your morality will keep each kill from actually feeling good about it.
Gears of 4 was functional enough and harnessed the power of the Xbox One, but The Coalition’s first entry in the series played it too safe. The studio is clearly more confident now, as Gears 5 tells a more interesting, darker, and more psychological story with Kait Diaz that has huge implications for the future of the franchise. The campaign features impressive set-pieces and even open-ended spots with side objectives, but without losing sight of the focused mission-to-mission gameplay fans love. Competitive multiplayer is still as engaging as ever, and Horde and the new Escape mode both help to make it an impressive value, even at full price.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Nintendo’s most lovable scaredy-cat is back for a third adventure in Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Next Level Games continues to show just how well it understands the series’ strengths. Luigi’s latest spooky romp takes him to a haunted hotel that has captured three Toads, Mario, and Peach. With the help of his trusty Poltergust vacuum cleaner as well as new assistant Gooigi, he must rescue his friends from their painting prisons. The core gameplay loop of the series is still intact here, but the added uses for Googi in solving puzzles and even battling enemies keep Luigi’s Mansion 3 feeling fresh, and it looks gorgeous running on the Nintendo Switch.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
An impressive return to the quality standard we had come to expect from Infinity Ward, the rebooted Call of Duty: Modern Warfare manages to build on the sub-series’ existing cast of characters, themes, and mechanics without feeling like a simple rehash. War has never been darker, with a disturbing campaign that ditches the blockbuster moments for more realistic situations, and the competitive multiplayer is the best we’ve seen from the series in years. The ambitious, large-scale Ground War mode is the icing on the cake, delivering an experience similar to Battlefield but with the Call of Duty games’ superior weapon handling.
Read our full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Electronic Arts’ obsession with cramming microtransactions and “live service” elements into its games has led to some truly egregious failures such as Star Wars: Battlefront II during its initial 2017 launch. However, Respawn Entertainment managed to avoid this fate when it created the single-player, microtransaction-free Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Set after Order 66 wiped out seemingly all Jedi and their Padawan trainees, Fallen Order stars secret Padawan Cal Kestis and gives you full access to all the awesome Jedi moves you could ever want. The game also includes elements of popular series like Dark Souls and Uncharted, making it a great action-adventure choice even for those who don’t enjoy Star Wars.
Read our full Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order review
Untitled Goose Game
Your goal in Untitled Goose Game is just to be a jerk to every human you encounter, and that couldn’t be any more fun. Short enough to complete in just a few hours, Untitled Goose Game’s simplicity — both in art style and gameplay — help to make every moment hilarious. As the (un)titular goose, you must disrupt people’s routines by grabbing their objects, surprising them as they are doing something dangerous, or just annoying them so they leave their posts. Their frustration is your elation, and you can always just honk in order to get every ounce of stress out of your system. Honk!
- The best Xbox One games (December 2019)
- The best PS4 games, from The Surge 2 to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
- The best Nintendo Switch games
- The best video games for kids, sorted by age group
- The 20 most underrated games of the generation, from Rage 2 to Sunset Overdrive