Joel’s Top 5 Games of 2019

This past year I started a new job, became a fan of an esport (League of Legends), and launched a new podcast(Final Checkpoint) with my friend and fellow fanatic Ben Runnings. Although my free time to play games has dwindled, I did manage to get some 2019 games under my belt.

Honorable Mentions

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a game I am still fighting through and it continues to be fantastic and challenging. I haven’t even made it halfway through so I decided to not include on my actual top five. 

Shovel Knight: King of Cards is a very new release, but if you listen to episode 16 of Final Checkpoint (please subscribe and share), it mixes the awesome platforming of Shovel Knight with one of my favorite genres, card battles. I finished clearing the first world and cannot get enough of this game.

Last mention here; The Division 2 almost cracked my top 5 but it really just didn’t quite beat the competition as far as a new game. I love the systems and gameplay in The Division 2 but like most MMO-ish live service games, as soon as I hit the gear-treadmill, I fell off hard. It will be a game I revisit from time to time but other live service/mmorpg games like Dauntless and Final Fantasy XIV Online have really captured that grind spot. 

Okay, on to my Top 5 Games of 2019:

5. Pokémon Sword/Shield

I have played every mainline Pokémon game. Every single one. And they have always been great and fun. Pokémon Sword/Shield were no different, and maybe that’s a good thing. As much as I desired a huge open world with endless possibilities set in a Pokémon world, once I got into Shield I really enjoyed the new things it did bring to the Pokémon series. I became a fan of the Galar region and its region specific Pokémon. 

Pokémon Shield’s story was great and the characters were fun, excluding the rival Hop. The Wild Area continues to bring me back in order to fill in my Pokédex, and Max Raid battles are really fun and feel epic. I ended up really liking Sword/Shields place in the Pokémon games legacy, but there is definitely still a wish for something bigger from Game Freak and Pokémon

4. Kingdom Hearts III

If you had asked me back in August when I started Kingdom Hearts III if it was going to be on my Top 5, I would have said, “Nope!” The issues with Kingdom Hearts III are many, and especially all of the Disney Pixar worlds you travel to, which were the fun in I and II. However, I love all of the other weird anime-ish story bits with the Kingdom Hearts cast. I absolutely had a blast playing this game with my wife and kids. The gameplay is still great and wacky and a little over the top. Summons and ride attractions are insanely fun, and the game is beautiful. The visuals in the Pirates of the Carribean world blew me away. 

I truly enjoyed seeing the Birth by Sleep crew get their chance at redemption, and the epic return of Roxas brought a tear to my eye. Kingdom Hearts gets hate for its convoluted story and it deserves it, but once you’re in it, and you kind of get what is happening, it is really great. Although they didn’t stick the landing, I still want to play more. I want to replay it with New Game plus and play the upcoming DLC, Re-Mind, because over the years I have grown attached to Sora, Goofy, and I guess Donald.

3. Apex Legends

Apex Legends was a great surprise this year.  I really didn’t think I would want to try another Battle Royale, but Respawn really made something special. They made it easy for players that do not like using mics to communicate with their teammates using the “Ping” system. The cast of characters to choose from is incredible. Shout out to Lifeline, she’s the best!

The great thing about Apex Legends is the constant refinement of their formula. They don’t go crazy with rapidly changing their game to keep the attention of everyone like Fortnite. They know what makes their game good and they keep it polished, while adding extra elements sparsely to not interrupt the competitiveness of their game play. The battle pass for Apex Legends leaves much to be desired but the game is great even without it. I revisit Apex Legends constantly and it doesn’t ever disappoint. 

2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Prior to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the only Fire Emblem experience I had was from the mobile game that came out a few years ago. I have always wanted to try Fire Emblem and I feel like Three Houses was the perfect introduction. I played a teacher at a school with a fun and weird cast of students. I was in charge of their training and areas of study. Hot off the heels of Persona 5, I became attached to another game where learning, and building relationships was a key element to leveling up. 

I chose Black Eagles for my first play through because I was instantly charmed by the students. As this was my first Fire Emblem I didn’t quite know what to expect, so make things even more exciting I chose to play Normal difficulty with permadeath. Permadeath made each battle and turn extra intense. I lost a few students throughout my campaign and eventually recruited some new ones from other houses. The final battle was intense and a bit of a spike in difficulty. Once I finished I really wanted a break from Fire Emblem. It was a great ride and I plan on playing through it again as another house and look forward to the next Fire Emblem

1. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

This came as a surprise to me, but damn I loved Fallen Order so much. I was reminded of why I love the Star Wars universe and why Lightsabers are still the coolest weapons to use. As a fan of Sekiro and Bloodborne, their difficulty has always been a bit of a wall for me when it comes to really enjoying a constant play through. I love that Fallen Order gives some difficulty but not enough to make me want to take a break when I run into a brick wall. 

Fallen Order really has a great cast of characters and even Cal Kestus grew on me. We cannot forget to mention BD-1, my new favorite droid. The partnership that grows between Cal and BD-1 was endearing and kept me invested in seeing where their adventure took them. The exploration from world to world was entertaining and the story was really good. Respawn really crushed it this year with Apex Legends and I knew they would do great with Star Wars. From a game I was not expecting to play, to my game of the year, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order surprised me and many others with a compelling story and a great cast of characters. 

And there you have it, my top five games of the year. If you made it this far, thank you for your time and for heading over to Spotify, searching Final Checkpoint, and listening to your new favorite podcast. 

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