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The 30 Best Video Games of 2019 (So Far)

It's been a banner year for gaming, and we're only halfway through.

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Capcom

As we pass the halfway point of 2019, we’re staring down a jam-packed second half of the year when it comes to blockbuster video games. But we’ve already racked up so many excellent titles that it’s hard to keep track.

It was no easy task, but I’ve taken a look back through the games I’ve consumed this year so far, and I’ve handpicked the ones that truly resonated with me. It’s hard to believe I’ve already powered through so many contenders this year with a slew of potential greats like Death Stranding, Borderlands 3, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to come, but here I stand on the precipice of dozens more games that will eventually make their way to store shelves later this year that could potentially blow my mind.

From here, it’s going to be near impossible to name a victor when it comes to crowning the best game of 2019 ahead of when 2020 rolls around. But for now, I’m breaking up this phenomenal year in gaming into manageable chunks and running down the 30 greatest games of 2019 that I’ve played so far. I’m just glad Square Enix and CD Projekt RED were merciful enough to push Final Fantasy VII Remake and Cyberpunk 2077 into next year.

1. Resident Evil 2

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Capcom absolutely knocked it out of the park by not simply remastering and re-releasing the seminal survival horror classic, but by giving fans the best entry in the Resident Evil series it could possibly muster. This isn’t just Resident Evil 2, but nearly a new game entirely. Expanded and altered scenarios, gorgeous graphics, tight controls, and throwbacks to classic moments in the series come together to make something wholly memorable, offering plenty of replay value even for die-hard fans of the series who had gone through the PlayStation original more times than they can count. Out of the crop of remakes on their way, this is by far the best⁠—until, presumably, Final Fantasy VII Remake debuts in 2020.

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2. Kingdom Hearts III

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The final entry in the core Kingdom Hearts trilogy was a brilliant sendoff for fans, especially as they had been waiting 13 years for some sort of closure following Kingdom Hearts II. Given how many spinoffs and side stories we had to get through before some sort of ending for the story of Sora, Donald, Goofy, and fans, it was cathartic to finally see the long journey to the end.

With worlds inspired by Tangled, Toy Story, Frozen, Monsters, Inc. and more, this installment was a flashy, positive story about the power of friendship and overcoming hardships, and oh⁠—an excellent RPG with even more satisfying combat, too. Of course the Kingdom Hearts series as we know it isn’t finished, but if it were, this excellent sequel would be a great place to cap it off.

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3. Metro Exodus

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The Metro series has been a cult favorite since 2010’s Metro 2033, but with Metro Exodus, the series made a go for AAA status, and scored a home run. It’s the first entry in the series to take place mostly above ground and its semi-open world presentation strikes a great balance between giving players freedom and keeping the story rolling along. Post-apocalyptic Russia is a haunting and mysterious place, and exploring it as Artyom with the company of the Spartan Order is one of the biggest thrills of 2019.

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4. Devil May Cry 5

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Devil May Cry fans are used to waiting. Good thing, because we were left hanging for 11 years between the release of Devil May Cry 4 and Devil May Cry 5, but luckily Ninja Theory’s riff on the series, DmC: Devil May Cry acted as something of a holdover between games. The wait was well worth it, however, as Devil May Cry 5 delivered an exciting mix of stylish action, plot development, and plenty of reasons to fall in love with the series again. With some of the most satisfying swordplay since the original Devil May Cry, it’s clear it was a labor of love from those who brought the son of Sparda to life in the first place.

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5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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The Dark Souls series may have concluded, but From Software has pushed beyond it with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Sekiro still carries the brutal difficulty that made Dark Souls such a hit (and a meme), but it changes things up with an emphasis on attacking and the use of abilities. Sekiro’s world also feels a lot more filled out, and its death and resurrection mechanics tie right into the plot. If you liked Dark Souls, Bloodbourne, or Nioh, then Sekiro will likely be your game of 2019.

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6. Yoshi’s Crafted World

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Like Yoshi’s Woolly World before it, this game takes the little dinosaur and transplants him into a family-friendly Nintendo Switch adventure that has something for just about everyone. You’ll help Yoshi and friends repair trains made out of milk cartons and paper towel rolls, flit through underwater scenes fashioned out of shoeboxes, and even outfit Yoshi with fun stickers and crafty costumes as he makes his way through each level. It’s gentle platforming at its finest, and playing co-op with friends or little ones makes it an even better experience.

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7. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

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With games like Detective Pikachu and Judgment out there, you have to give credit where credit is due. The absolutely excellent Ace Attorney series is an addictive treat you’ll keep coming back to time and time again, and now that it’s transcended the Nintendo 3DS, you have got plenty of reasons to jump in.

Following the plucky Phoenix Wright and his pals in the legal world (and that pesky prosecutor Miles Edgeworth), it places you in the middle of some very important investigations that’ll have you scratching your head, even when the solutions for some of the cases feel nonsensical. You’ll still feel like the world’s greatest detective once you press someone for the right evidence and catch them in a lie.

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8. Mortal Kombat 11

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Mortal Kombat X was amazing, but with Mortal Kombat 11, the folks at Netherrealm Studio have outdone themselves. The story is everything you loved from 1990s action flicks as NetherRealm has fully embraced the cheese and crafted a time travel story that combines both the present and past versions of characters together (as well as resurrecting a few) for an all-out war.

The Krypt returns and is practically its own little adventure game, and after a series of patches, fan complaints about grinding have largely been addressed to make the new equipment system (heavily influenced by Injustice 2) an awesome way to customize your Kombatants for your play style.

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9. Days Gone

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Zombie games are a dime a dozen, but few of them possess the production value that Days Gone does. While the creature design isn’t too inspired, the characters and story are engaging, and if you can get past the relatively slow start, you’ll find yourself drawn into the story of Deacon St. John and the torment he feels from losing his wife.

It’s an interesting spin on the typical zombie formula, and once you sink your teeth into Days Gone, you’ll want to ride your hog all the way to the finish. And no, that’s not a metaphor for anything. You’re going to be on your bike a lot.

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10. Rage 2

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Sometimes games don’t have to be super serious or balanced to be fun. Rage 2 exemplifies the spirit of over-the-top action that’s a great antidote to the typical grim shooter. While in game it’s played straight, the plot is just a ridiculous excuse to blast grunts with a plethora of fully upgradable weapons and get some Mad Max-style vehicular combat on.

The fighting is fluid and the color palette and environments are much improved from the oppressive overuse of earthtones in the first one. Rage 2 might not contain the best video game story ever, but it’s definitely got some of the best gameplay of the year.

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11. Judgment

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This side story to the Yakuza series is a great introduction to the franchise if you’ve never played before and will be a blast for longtime fans. As Takayuki Yagami, a fallen lawyer-turned-detective, you find yourself investigating a serial killer. The noir themes here are in stark contrast to the main Yakuza games, but it works, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat until the final reveal.

In between murder scenes and gathering clues, you’ll get the chance to partake in the huge amount of side content the series is famous for as well. It’s a bold direction for the series, and it’s one that makes it even more approachable for western audiences.

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12. Blood & Truth

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It’s been an awesome year for VR games, and Blood & Truth was one of the most exciting releases for the platform by far, especially when we’re talking PlayStation VR. This first-person shooter finds you taking control of former Special Forces soldier Ryan Marks, who suddenly finds himself forced to save his family from a crime boss based in the grimiest parts of London. It’s a gripping, cinematic-style experience that first made its debut in PlayStation VR Worlds as the London Heist level, and it’s come a long way from there.

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13. Trover Saves the Universe

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For fans of the side-splitting Rick and Morty, Trover Saves the Universe is more of the same madcap, irreverent humor. It’s just nearly X-rated this time around, and that makes it even funnier. You’re tasked with following an “eyehole monster” who shoves “power babies” into his eyes to defeat the evil Glorkon, who’s stolen your dogs and stuffed them into his eyes. It all makes sense while playing. I promise.

After chatting with creator (and Squanch Games co-founder) Justin Roiland about bringing humor to VR, it became immediately clear that ensuring people have a great time while playing Trover was the ultimate goal, but of course it had to also be funny. I can’t repeat many of the lines that really “got me” here, but know that if you’re regularly cackling at the intergalactic adventures of Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith, you’re going to be in pain from laughing at Trover from the opening minutes.

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14. Cadence of Hyrule

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Nintendo loves surprise releases, and Cadence of Hyrule is its latest to be dropped on us without warning. You can think of this game as a Zelda-themed Crypt of the NecroDancer, but it’s really so much more. Nintendo has been antsy about letting other studios use its intellectual properties since the godawful Mario and Zelda games were released for Philips CD-i, but in recent years it’s loosened its grip a bit and we’ve gotten some amazing games as a result.

Cadence of Hyrule is awesome just by virtue of its great rhythm-based game, but it’s historic because Nintendo hasn’t has let an outside developer use the Zelda IP since 2004’s The Minish Cap.

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15. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is still a fan favorite 22 years after its release, and its writer, assistant director, and designer Koji Igarashi has channeled all the things that made that SOTN great in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This is classic Metroidvania gameplay at its best with enough tweaks and updates to make it feel incredibly fresh.

Playing as Miriam, a human who can channel the powers of demons, you have to rid the planet of a demon menace that happens to be centered in a castle that is wholly new, yet incredibly familiar. Ritual of the Night is a great introduction to the genre and will have you frothing at the mouth for more.

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16. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth

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This addictive dungeon crawler brings characters from the excellent RPGs Persona 3, 4, and 5 together for a rousing good time. The Persona 5 crew find themselves locked inside of a film that’s connected to a bizarre theater, and they’re forced to adventure through various movies along the way to find a way to escape. Unlike the games it’s based on, however, it’s a different style of dungeon crawler. Players must fight off hordes of enemies, seek out treasure, and map out their paths as they struggle to make their grand escape.

It’s a bite-sized adventure that’s perfect for on-the-go play (especially since we don’t have Persona 5 on Switch yet) and an absolute treat for fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series, as it’s positively riddled with throwback references and Persona crossovers that are worth the asking price alone.

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17. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

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Bandai Namco’s arcade flight series went MIA for almost a decade, but Ace Combat 7 brings it back to soaring with the eagles. AC7’s graphics are amazing, and the campaign is one of the best, with just enough oh-so-serious anime cheesiness to make it fun without being lame. There’s also an awesome multiplayer that pits up to eight players against one another, which adds a ton to the replay value.

Plus, if you’re into anime-centric melodrama, you’ll get a kick out of the story, which has it in droves, much like the rest of the Ace Combat series. Even if you’re not really into flight sims or aerial combat, there’s still plenty to love here.

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18. Crackdown 3

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Crackdown 3 had a rough launch, but it’s still worth picking up, especially since it’s free on Xbox Game Pass. It’s not a mind-blowing title by any means, but it offers up hours of third-person fun if you can look past the fact that it’s not super innovative. Crackdown 3 lets you control a superpowered Agent and fight to free New Providence, the last city on earth with electricity, from the heinous Terra Nova organization. You basically just shoot and punch your way to the end, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that makes it stand out.

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19. Tetris 99

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Tetris was the last thing that came to mind when I thought about the battle royale genre, but Tetris 99 makes the whole thing make sense. In it, you face off against 99 other players who are all trying to sabotage each other. This makes the relatively relaxing game of Tetris as frantic as a round of PUBG as 100 players vie to fill each other’s boards with garbage pieces.

Tetris 99 puts a new spin on a game that has been done pretty much every way possible over the years, and while my favorite version is still Tetris Effect, Tetris 99 is one of the best games of 2019 by virtue of providing a unique experience from a series we thought we had pegged down.

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20. Observation

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The narrative structure of Observation offers an experience that is unique in the gaming world. As an AI aboard a near-future space station, you’re tasked with helping a human survivor after a massive accident. What starts as an intense space disaster becomes something more as you unweave the reason why the station was damaged in the first place. You’re limited in your ability to interact with the environment as you’re mostly confined to stationary cameras and small floating orbs, so you have to use your wits and abilities to interface with the station to make it through.

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21. Outer Wilds

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Outer Wilds didn’t get a ton of attention when it launched, but it’s poised to be one of the sleeper hits of 2019. You explore a solar system in miniature that’s fated to be destroyed by a supernova every 20 minutes unless you can find out why. The story is mostly told through investigating the ruins of an alien civilization that inhabited the Outer Wilds system before your race gained sentience, and their journey to locate an anomaly they believed held the secrets to the creation of the universe.

The whole game is one huge logic puzzle that will test your memory and reasoning skills while delivering an engaging and satisfying story over the span of 15 to 20 hours.

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22. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe

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What is there to say about a Mario game that hasn’t been said before? This “new” version of Super Mario Bros. U brings new characters, new stages, and better controls to the Nintendo Switch, resurrecting one of the best Mario games to have debuted on the Wii U.

It’s nothing totally groundbreaking as far as Mario adventures go (Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Odyssey were serious contenders for that) but there’s never anything wrong with getting to enjoy an earlier Mario game on a new platform, especially one that you can take with you on the go. Long live classic platforming.

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23. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

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Crash Bandicoot is a veritable legend when it comes to mascots, and the PlayStation’s most famous furry had fans zipping around the track back when Crash Team Racing first debuted. It’s back, remastered and reloaded, with kart racing to rival that of Mario Kart in its colorful return to a nostalgic, simpler time.

It’s everything you love about Crash, from smashing into boxes and the guardian deity Aku-Aku to avoiding lava pits and fighting bosses on the tracks. It’s a little more difficult than you may remember, but that’s just part of this version’s charm. And it’s every bit as fun as the original—just way better now.

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24. The Division 2

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The Division 2 had a great launch, which put players in the middle of Washington D.C. years after the Green Poison attack that set off the first game. The country is still in shambles, and citizens of D.C. live in fear from gangs and militias that have filled the vacuum the government left. The game fixes a lot of issues that plagued the first and you have a lot more options to interact with civilians and help them build their communities. The whole game feels more cohesive and is a great third-person shooter MMO.

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25. Apex Legends

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Apex Legends is like if Fortnite and Overwatch had a baby, and that’s a good thing. This 3-vs-everyone battle royale got a surprise launch in February that took the gaming world by storm, and despite the lack of substantial updates, it’s still a blast to play. Each of the characters has unique abilities that encourage teamwork and the movement and gunplay are a lot tighter than Fortnite. The experience is a bit more barebones, but it’s the go-to battle royale for those who are interested in combat and not building.

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26. Hypnospace Outlaw

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I just turned 30 this year, and that technically makes me a nostalgic millennial. I spent most of my life “extremely online” as I stayed up until 5 a.m. most mornings of my teenage years in AOL chat rooms and browsing the Internet via dial-up. Hypnospace Outlaw tasks you with “monitoring” a version of the Internet that feels as though it were ripped straight from the ’90s, complete with Geocities-like guestbooks, music players, and webrings. It’s everything you could want from an early-Internet simulator and more. The only thing I don’t like about it is having to stop playing and returning to the modern web.

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27. Dead or Alive 6

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I’ll always enjoy a good fighter, and the latest round of Dead or Alive was particularly exciting thanks to its addition of new brawlers, “sweat” and clothing damage effects, and meaty combat mechanics. If you’re looking for memorable characters and engaging matches with a twist of the realistic grit that comes along with two fighters beating the absolute stuffing out of one another, Dead or Alive 6, like all of the game’s installments before it, offers satisfying combat with plenty of new additions for veterans and accessible twists for newcomers.

When your blows connect with your opponent, it truly "feels" like you’re uppercutting fools all the way across the world or giving the CPU players a bloody nose. And that’s why we all gravitate to fighting games, isn’t it?

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28. A Plague Tale: Innocence

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Every now and then, you’ve got to play something a little dark, and A Plague Tale: Innocence fits that role quite nicely. This grim action-adventure stealth title explores the world from the eyes of young Amicia de Rune, who lives with her well-to-do family in the rural area of Aquitaine after it’s been invaded by the English army. Her brother Hugo is sickly, and has been locked away in the family estate as their mother searches for a cure. Amicia goes out hunting with her father, but finds her dog mysteriously consumed and signs of a plague ripping through the land by way of rates. I won’t spoil much more here, but it’s a dark, gripping tale that needs to be seen to be believed.

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29. Far Cry: New Dawn

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This trippy riff on Far Cry 5 may have followed the same tried-and-true formula as the previous games, but it had the courage to introduce some very weird mechanics. Exploring a Technicolor vision of the apocalypse, for one, was one of the coolest design decisions I had seen made in some time. As you gun down rebels who want nothing more than to see you dead because they want to hoard their resources, you can’t help but wonder why the sky is so blue and the water is so clear not too long after a nuclear disaster.

That’s part of the excitement of playing this Far Cry, at least for me. You never know which questions you have will be answered and which ones will leave you hanging. Oh, and the gunplay makes this better than the Far Cry it spun off from in the first place.

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30. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition

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The Tales series is highly underrated, and I’m still unsure why. The “definitive” way to experience the excellent Tales of Vesperia includes plenty of new content, costumes, and story elements that should attract even the most discerning RPG fans. It follows popular protagonist YuriLowell, a former soldier who begins working alongside a noblewoman named Estelle as they try to figure out what’s going on with the widespread abuse of a resource called Blastia throughout their city. Its art is decadent and gorgeous, the combat tight, and the voice acting is reminiscent of the best anime dubs out there.

There aren’t enough hardcore role-playing titles on the Switch as it stands, so it’s great to see one with more reasons for even fans who played through the first time to come back.

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