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While a bit bland in terms of releases, this year wasn’t such an impactful one as some of the previous. Despite this, some video games did stand out, as an example, of how far gaming has gone. FictionTalk took a broader look at this year’s releases and divided them into multiple categories. These games all managed to captivate us, yet the winners of each category stand separately. As a pinnacle and an achievement of their kind, in which they shine. True outstanding games that impressed us, and had an impact both on the community and industry as a whole. It might not have been such an iconic year, but it managed to capture our attention with these mentioned titles. These are FictionTalk’s personal Game Awards.

Best Indie Game of 2019
Nominees: Darq / River City Girls / American Fugitive / Disco Elysium / Katana Zero

With each passing year, indie games tend to reach the status quo established by AAA titles and even go beyond it. This year they managed to overshadow their big-budget rivals and step out into the fray. Titles that prove time and time again, that even with a humble beginning, you can still go far. Katana Zero demonstrated this to us, all while giving us a fresh dose of pixilated murder.

A fast-paced combat system, an enigmatic and charming protagonist, and a kick-ass soundtrack. While many nominees shook up the industry this year, Katana Zero with its simplicity stood out mostly due to its fast action sequences, and replayability. We had tons of fun with Disco Elysium and River City Girls, but in the end, we kept coming back to our winner. So much in fact that it became a large trophy speedrun rather than a casual pick and play.

Best RPG of 2019
Nominees: Kingdom Hearts 3 / Disco Elysium / Greedfall / Code Vein / The Outer Worlds 

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A lot of people would describe The Outer Worlds as the best Fallout game we’ve had in a long time. And they would be right in many ways, however, simply calling it a spiritual successor to Fallout would be doing it a great disservice in my opinion. The game can easily stand on its own merit thanks to its original setting, solid combat system and unique brand of humor, among other things. It’s easy to see that Obsidian put a lot of love and dedication into this project and I think it really paid off in the end.

The game doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it simply does its best to improve it. And while it’s by no means perfect, The Outer Worlds does succeed at making you fall in love with its strange planets and quirky characters while delivering some hard-hitting (yet hilarious) social commentary in the process. All of those elements mix together nicely to create an interesting, compelling, and well-polished RPG. Or as Todd Howard would put it, “it just works.”

Best Horror Game of 2019
Nominees: Layers of Fear 2 / Man of Medan / Resident Evil 2 Remake / The Blair Witch /
Pathologic 2

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Horror was always a genre that managed to provide a specific dose of fun, besides the horror element. However, what if you peel away the fun from it, and yet, managed to make an experience that resonates way after you sunk 20h into the game? You get Pathologic 2. Created as a sort of a reboot-sequel, Pathologic 2 hits every note right that the previous one didn’t. Jumpscares and exotic monsters aren’t important here.

The atmosphere oozes dread, despair, and a sinister tone that follows you throughout the whole experience. The game is telling you from the start that this isn’t a pleasant experience. And no matter how much you try to save everyone, the grim reality is, you can’t. But that is where its artistic and philosophical aspects shine the brightest. Genuine horror, not what is seen, but what is felt. Pathologic 2 manages just that perfectly.

Best Action-Adventure Game of 2019
Nominees: Control / Resident Evil 2 Remake / Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice / Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order /
Devil May Cry 5

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When you reflect on some of the greatest action-adventure games of all time, the Devil May Cry franchise surely comes to mind, and this new entry into Capcom’s series is no exception. Continuing five years onward from the events of ‘Devil May Cry 4’, it follows Demon Hunters Dante, Nero and mysterious new character V in their endeavour to stop the demon antagonist Urizen, or otherwise known as the Demon King. The game runs on the RE Engine, which brings this gritty but realistic world to life. Furthermore, it really highlights the gameplay fighting sequences.

All three characters have their own unique fighting styles, from Nero’s Devil Breaker to Dante’s Cavaliere and V’s summoning that takes a while to get used to, however, in time it becomes an interesting game mechanic. Progressing through the campaign the player can purchase skills and equipment for their character with Red Orbs. Like all Devil May Cry entries – it has massive replay value, especially if you’re going for S Rank score in higher levels of difficulty. However, if you just want to switch off and enjoy a good old hack-and-slash title with a great campaign, Devil May Cry 5 will satisfy that itch.

Best Fighting Game of 2019
Nominees: River City Melee Match / Mortal Kombat 11 / Dead or Alive 6 / Shovel Knight Showdown / Samurai Shodown

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When it comes to fighting games, we picked our winner wisely. As one of our favorite genres, specific measures must be recognized, for a title to be deserving of an award. SNK was once previously overlooked with the KOFXIV being overthrown by a Street Fighter DLC. Not an entire game, but a damn DLC. This time we think SNK really deserves praise with this year’s Samurai Shodown. Soul Calibur mostly managed to fill the void of sword-based fighters, but something fresh was needed.

A proper transition from 2D sprites to 3D animation really helped Samurai Shodown evolve into something spectacular. No microtransactions (I’m looking at you MK11), no cheap tactics and no pay to win crap – Dead or Alive 6. Just pure PVP action at its finest. While it is was first exclusive to the PS4, the game will be released on multiple other platforms in the upcoming year. And with crossplay being a welcome edition, it’s a perfect time to jump back into this series.

Best Racing Game of 2019
Nominees: Dirt Rally 2.0 / Grid / Need for Speed: Heat / Team Sonic Racing / Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

A power-slide from the past! This summer when Beenox and Activision dropped Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled it was a nostalgic dream come true. It remasters the original ‘Crash Team Racing’ on the unforgettable PlayStation One. Along with content from later installments of the series, ‘Crash Nitro Kart’ and ‘Crash Tag Team Racing’. Essentially three classic games brought back in one title, for old and new fans alike. Crash Bandicoot is back and in top form!

However, with several new additions – including a multiplayer mode. That allows players to race others online to see who is the best around the race track. We also saw the introduction of Grand Prix events. A limited-time event where you accumulate Nitro Points by a variety of challenges and races that allow you to earn or purchase new characters, skins, karts, and customizations. During these events, a new track is added to the game as well. For the most part, it features a lot of content from prior games including adventure mode, battle mode, and time trials. Hmm, Oxide time trials? Were they always this difficult? Dragon Mines might take a while.

Best Strategy Game of 2019
Nominees: Phoenix Point / Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 / Wargroove / Total War: Three Kingdoms / Age of Wonders: Planetfall 

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The Age of Wonders series is one that always managed to captivate the audience, but never fully got the praise it deserved. However, ditching the fantasy setting and going into the far reaches of the space is precisely the fresh coat of paint the franchise needed. Enter Age of Wonders: Planetfall. Much like the previous entries in the series, players are given full control in creating their own empire, leader, faction units, and so on. The most substantial difference is the setting, taking the 4X strategy to new fronts.

New unit types, scenarios, and races stand out from the conventional sci-fi strategies of the decade. Paradox time and time again manages to conceive a great idea and execute it with flying colors. Since the game’s release, we sunk in multiple hours either on multiplayer or on a custom scenario with an AI. Challenging, yes. But once you get the hang of it, rewarding. More than any other game in the genre this year.

Best FPS Game of 2019
Nominees: Borderlands 3 / Call of Duty Modern Warfare /  Metro Exodus / Rage 2 / Apex Legends

Apex Legends

Apex Legends launched out of nowhere at the beginning of this year. The Respawn Entertainment title ended up being a pleasant surprise to players. The free to play game takes its own interpretation of the Battle Royale genre. Apex introduced the ‘ping’ system that allows players to easily and intuitively indicate weapons, armour or other items of interest to another player on their team.

Another unique trait that Apex Legends embodied was having the opportunity of being able to revive a fallen team member when they’re taken out. If one of their squad members can get their respawn banner in the time limit and reach a beacon, of course. This leads to some frustrating but on the other hand rewarding scenarios. There’s always a chance that the underdog can always make the ultimate comeback. This leads you to be invested in every game. These features and an enduring pre-determined character roaster hasn’t just made a strong game – but a game that has longevity heading into 2020 and beyond.

Best Platformer Game of 2019
Nominees: Super Mario Maker 2 / Yoshi Crafted World / My Friend Pedro / Bloodstained Ritual Of the Night / Katana Zero

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While many categories in this list had a lot of nominees, this one was a bit flat in terms of candidates. 2019 was focused more on storytelling games, with new gameplay designs, and platformers didn’t get that sort of attention. Despite this, Katana Zero managed to impress so much that it got a second award here. Devolver Digital had its fair share of great games, mostly with that murderous aspect in mind.

Hotline Miami proved us in the past that fast gameplay, with one-hit kills, can be engaging. A 2D platformer by intentional design, Katana Zero only amplifies this fast-paced slice and dice action. Which is why it is our top pick for this year’s platformer. Though it was a close battle between this and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

Best Art Direction of 2019
Nominees: Outer Wilds / Disco Elysium / Layers of Fear 2 / Darq / Control

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Having Control take place almost entirely inside an office building may not seem like such a great idea when you’re making a game about paranormal events and interdimensional entities. And yet, this rather unusual concept totally pays off because the Oldest House isn’t exactly your typical office building. The brutalist 50s era architecture combined with the constantly shifting rooms and corridors blend together to create a very unique world that looks just as strange as it sounds. But the thing that strikes me the most about Control is the consistency of its art direction.

Whether you’re running around destroying toilets with your psychic powers, reading top-secret documents about a supernatural rubber ducky or fighting giant nightmarish monsters, everything you’re doing feels like just another day at the office for the Director of the Oldest House. Even (spoilers) the Alan Wake Easter Egg and the hilarious music video starring Dr. Darling somehow feel right at home in this bizarre place. In other words, I guess you could say everything weird and paranormal seems very normal in the Oldest House and that’s in no small part thanks to the art direction.

Best Narrative-Driven Game of 2019
Nominees: Control / The Outer Worlds / Disco Elysium / Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order / A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence

John Carmack once said, “Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not important.” We, however, disagree. Narratives in games play a more important role than ever before, and this decade is known for having some of the best. A Plague Tale: Innocence is often overlooked by the likes of other big AAA titles. But at its core, A Plague Tale stood out for its unique approach.

Much like a particular Naughty Dog masterpiece, this gem manages to captivate all of us with its realistic setting, a relatable cast of characters, and a tone that never truly fades away. Invoking both horror and wonder, by the end, some of us almost shed tears. A tale about trust, family, loss, and so much more. There is a lot to be found in this title, and it should stand tall because of it.

Best Multiplayer Game of 2019
Nominees: Apex Legends / Dauntless / Remnant: From the Ashes / Dota Underlords / World of Warcraft Classic

World of Warcraft Classic

Okay, so this might be the most controversial pick on this list, and with good reason. World of Warcraft launched way back in 2004 and Classic is more or less identical to the original version at first glance. However, Blizzard did add a couple of improvements that allow the game to look better and run smoother on modern systems. So can World of Warcraft Classic be considered a new game? Well, kinda. Classic runs on the current WoW engine (not the one that powered Vanilla) and a lot of the game had to be rebuilt from scratch. Not a port but not a full-fledged remake either, World of Warcraft Classic was an absolute blast to play and I can easily see myself jumping into it again in the near future.

Even though the graphics and some of the gameplay mechanics didn’t age particularly well, World of Warcraft remains the quintessential MMORPG and Classic provided us with another chance to experience Azeroth as it was originally intended – grindy, frustrating and punishing, but also very rewarding. I loved every minute of it and I think this was Blizzard’s best work in years, which as a side note, says a lot about the current state of the company.

Best Video Game Character of 2019
Nominees: Cal Kestis (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order) / Dante (DMC 5) / Dr. Darling (Control) / Goose (Untitled Goose Game) / Nero (DMC 5)

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We’ve had quite a debate over who should take the crown for the best game character of the year before we decided to settle on Nero. Although there were quite a few other good ones in 2019, including Dante, Nero was the one that stuck out the most for me. I suppose the main reason for that is because I feel like Nero was the real star of Devil May Cry 5 and had the most amount of character development. We’ve seen him struggle after losing one of his arms but still managing to come out on top in the end and proving that he is just as strong (if not stronger) as the game’s other white-haired demon slayer. And who doesn’t like a good underdog story? I know I do.

It also helps that Nero has an epic intro sequence accompanied by one of the catchiest songs of 2019 and that his arsenal of arm attachments ranges from badass to ridiculous. Anyone who can slay demons with bananas and kitchen utensils deserves some sort of award if you ask me.

Best Musical Score of 2019
Nominees: A Plague Tale: Innocence / Control / Disco Elysium / Kingdom Hearts 3 / Devil May Cry 5

Bang, Bang, Bang – Pull my Devil Trigger! We probably don’t need to expand any further, right? But we will anyway. Music can exemplify mood and emotions, which can add atmospheric tones to any situation. This is why any great game is in the company with an equally great soundtrack. Capcom’s latest entry into the Devil May Cry franchise doesn’t break that tradition. In addition, Devil May Cry 5 focuses on three characters that lead to a great opportunity of diversifying the soundtrack that they capitalize on.

They captured the slow-paced moments in Nico’s shop with ‘Any Special Orders’. But then nailed the fast-paced, head-banging moments from ‘Subhuman’ (Dante Theme) to final boss music ‘Silver Bullet’. Let alone the colossus of ‘Devil Tigger’ by Casey Edwards and Ali Edwards. The best part is you can modify the soundtrack when you go into the Jukebox. Admittedly, you have to unlock the soundtrack first of course, but no matter what is your favourite track, you can customize it as your battle theme. All these things in conjunction truly gave the hack-and-slash title the stylish edge it deserved.

Most Anticipated Game of 2020
Nominees: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot / Final Fantasy VII Remake / Last of Us II / Resident Evil 3 / Cyberpunk 2077

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With a new decade soon upon us, 2020 will have a chucker block of highly anticipated titles ready to set the New Year in style. However, there is one standout game that has compelled fans and the media more than any other, Cyberpunk 2077. The upcoming dystopian title will be adapted from the table-top RPG franchise ‘Cyberpunk’.

However, what’s truly captured the imagination of gamers everywhere is the vast freedom the open-world title has to offer. From being able to customize your character V, what quests you want to embark on, to choosing who you make alliances or enemies with and multiple endings. It sounds like the ultimate futuristic sci-fi adventure, and with the amazing developer, CD Projekt Red behind the game it’s hard not to be excited. Plus, who can forget Microsoft’s E3 conference this year, with the announcement that Keanu Reeves will be taking on the role of Johnny Sliverhand?

Game of the Year
Nominess: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice / Control / Kingdom Hearts 3 / Disco Elysium / Resident Evil 2 Remake
Honorable Mentions

Kingdom Hearts 3

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Players waited fourteen years for the squeal to Kingdom Hearts 2 and even though we’ve had games from the franchise since then, the anticipated moment came when Kingdom Hearts 3 finally arrived. Kingdom Heart’s lore can be convoluted at times but on surface value, we follow Sora, Donald and Goofy pursue the heartless from corrupting the worlds into darkness. In addition, Sora also seeks the ‘power of waking’ in order to stop Xehanort plans.  

It introduced new worlds including Kingdom of Corona (Tangled), Anrendelle (Frozen) and San Fransokyo (Big Hero 6). Along with some classic returnees like Olympus (Hercules) and Twilight Town.

The brand new game offered new battle mechanics in the form of ‘Attraction Flow’ that used numerous Disneyland rides. Along with Keyblade ‘Formchanges’ that are dependent on what Keyblade you’re wielding. These abilities could come in handy if the player found themselves in a pinch.  They also added a modern twist to the series with the inception of Gummiphone. And probably an unexpected favourite, Le Grand Bistro, where you cook ingredients you find scattered throughout the game with ‘Little Chef’ or what more people may be more acquainted with, Remy, the rat from Ratatouille. However, Goofy echoes of saying “This might be a good spot to find some ingredients” still haunt many gamers.

It was a beyond charming and beautiful game that brought many players highs and lows with a satisfying end to the ‘Dark Seeker’ saga. Along with planting the seeds for future installments of the franchise. Square Enix certainly did not disappoint and the story was stupendously executed, thanks to Tetsuya Nomura.

Control

Control

Control was one of the only games of 2019 that resonated with me on pretty much every level. The world-building and the attention to detail are astounding, the combat is an absolute power trip thanks to the destructive environments, and the narrative, although a bit bland at times, is solid enough to keep you hooked all the way through. You’ve got action, mystery, humor, great music, and so much more.

However, I feel like the biggest strength of Control is the exploration. Wandering around the Oldest House trying to uncover its many secrets is not only extremely immersive but also very rewarding, especially if you’re the type of person who loves to explore every nook and cranny of a game.

The Winner of the GOTY
Resident Evil 2 Remake

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While there were some truly amazing games this year, the ultimate game of the year is for us something that managed to innovate, yet pull as back as soon as we put the gamepad down. Both Control and Kingdom Hearts gave us memorable experiences, and stand as monuments as this year’s greatest gaming achievements. Yet Resident Evil 2 Remake, pulled us back more times than we could count.

A cultural icon that is important to this day as it was in the previous decade, Resident Evil shines in many departments. Unlockables, multiple paths, achievements, replayability, narrative, music, characters, and even speedrunning. So much incased into one game. Resident Evil was the final piece of proof that the series is back on its feet, and is for so many mentioned reasons, our ultimate pick of the category.

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