Games We Are Thankful For In 2019

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving every November. It’s a time when families gather, friends reconnect and communities unite. On Thanksgiving you announce what you are thankful for in life. So several staff members decided to let everyone know exactly which video games they are thankful for. It’s comprised of releases from Thanksgiving 2018 to Thanksgiving 2019 and made up of a variety of reasons. Read on to see the titles everyone decided were personally meaningful enough from the past year to make the list!

Jacob is thankful for GRIS (December 18, 2018)

Of all the games I’ve played this past year, it was Gris that impacted me the most. It wasn’t a life-changing experience or anything; my life is more or less the same after Gris than it was before. I did, however, learn something important through playing it: that fact that games truly are capable of affecting their players just as profoundly as any “traditional” work of art. Games have of course been considered “art” for years now, so this probably isn’t a revelation I should be having so late in my tenure as a gamer. Indeed, I’ve been affected by games before. BioShock showed me that games could be philosophically deep, and the beauty of Nier: Automata’s ultimate ending actually moved me to tears at one point. I knew games could be affecting on an ideological and storytelling level, but not in terms of pure feel and emotion. It wasn’t until I played Gris and was consistently moved by its visuals, music and sound design that I learned that. Simply experiencing it was enough to make me feel something, no explicit story or impactful events needed. Gris did and still does move me in the same way that a masterfully-crafted painting or film does; it’s broadened my view of gaming and I’m extremely thankful for that.

Kevin is thankful for Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry 5 (January 25, 2019 and March 8, 2019)

2019 may not be as stylish of a year as 2017 or 2018 were. There wasn’t a big game like Breath of the Wild or God of War, but 2019 was still filled with plenty of success stories. The biggest stories come out of Capcom. Once known as the company that would hide DLC on-disc, the Japanese publisher has come a long way to improve their image, and it culminated in a stellar 2019 for them. First off, they released Resident Evil 2, a remake that managed to capture the horror and tense gameplay for the 90s original in whole new ways. Capcom did a lot to modernize the game, but they didn’t force in any microtransactions or on-disc DLC. Then, they released Devil May Cry 5. Finally, after years of fans asking, Capcom finally delivered the next entry in the DMC franchise and it was fantastic. With smooth gameplay, stellar boss fights and a ludicrous story, Devil May Cry 5 brought the classic series back in style. While there were some initial controversies, Capcom managed to mostly stay out of trouble. It’s been a stellar year for Capcom and I’m thankful they released two great games untarnished by many of today’s practices.

Jordan is thankful for Tetris 99 (February 13, 2019)

May we finally be over the Battle Royale craze? While the genre remains relatively popular — albeit concentrated into but a few, on-going titles — it wasn’t long ago that developers, big and small, were trying their best to hop on the latest trend-setting bandwagon. It’s one thing to chase a crowded market, it’s another to make a name for yourself within it and survive. But what better way to prove creativity and intrigue can persist than to casually slide into proceedings and prove it doesn’t always have to be about guns and shooting necessarily. It wouldn’t be a stretch to proclaim Tetris 99 as one of the genre’s more unique stylings, but then again Tetris’ incredible malleability has never been regarded as a disadvantage. But what we should be most thankful for with Tetris 99, besides the fact it’s one of the few (if only) non-shooter orientated takes, is in its striving to remain fittingly strategic and tense. The one thing that has captivated so many to the genre: the idea that it’s not always the strongest, but the smartest that wins and Tetris 99 takes that to another level. It’s chock full of those delightfully momentary and emergent moments. Whether it’s in the early stages where survival is key or in its fast-paced, hectic climax where things are all too personal between yourself and the remaining nine-or-so faceless players. Do you try and keep low, hoping the figurative “fight” will play out without your involvement, or do you make your presence known and vouch for superiority albeit with a giant target painted on your back. Yet again we find ourselves marveling at the very idea that a Tetris game can instill such non-charismatic ideas, but Tetris 99’s baited simplicity — and perhaps suggestion of yet another name hopping aboard the bandwagon — masked what was an addictive and wonderfully-deep spin on the Battle Royale standard.

Fran is thankful for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (March 22, 2019)

Just when I thought 2018 had some of the best games I’ve ever seen, 2019 served up some spicy additions I just had to add to my library. This year, I’m thankful for FromSoftware’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I’ve been a long-time ‘Souls fan and have played each installment numerous times over. With Dark Souls 3, I even found myself neck-deep in the PVP scene because of my lust for technical proficiency. The Soulsborne genre has now evolved beyond just the Dark Souls and Bloodborne titles and has even been fused with other genres. Yet, despite the numerous other developers that have taken the genre to new heights, my loyalties always lie with FromSoftware. After they announced that there would be no more Dark Souls games (and no other Bloodborne either), it was a difficult pill to swallow. Yet when they announced Sekiro, I was intrigued. A single-player Souls-like that focused on narrative gameplay? This was something far removed from their previous works, but held major promise. When the game came out, I got it day one. I saw the game as a new challenge for me to test all the skills and experience I’ve amassed over the years. My training paid off — to a degree. I appreciate the narrative Sekiro offers as a refreshing take on the genre. More than anything, I appreciated how familiar it felt to a Souls game without being a direct copy. Yes, there are some elements that carried over (like the “bonfires”), but Sekiro’s gameplay was a completely new animal. While I had the necessary instincts required for a game like Sekiro, the gameplay forced me to new technical proficiency that I never thought possible. I’m grateful to Sekiro for showing me that there is still always something new to learn. It’s definitely another title I’ll revisit over again for years to come.

Chris is thankful for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (June 18, 2019)

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the 2019 game I am most thankful for because of a couple reasons. The more apparent reason is I’m a huge fan of Castlevania and have wanted a proper console follow up to Symphony of the Night for roughly twenty years. Bloodstained recreates the magic of Symphony of the Night and also includes gameplay elements from various handheld Castlevania games that included Iga’s involvement. A more personal reason I am thankful for Bloodstained is because someone I am close to across the country who is also a grouchy Castlevania fan. We played through the game during the same period, helping each other when we got stuck or offering Shard load out recommendations for boss battles. Bloodstained is an excellent game when judged on its own Metroidvania merits but sharing the single player experience with someone made the playthrough truly special.

Beck is thankful for Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers (July 2, 2019)

In a year that feels like it mostly peaked early on (with a couple exceptions such as Pokémon Sword and Shield), I’m thankful for an expansion such as Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers to brighten up my summer. This is an MMORPG that came from what seemed like damnation and became easily the best on the market, and the latest expansion helped solidify it. While Stormblood was great, it was far too safe of an adventure, leaving fans wanting more; what Square Enix did with the third expansion was monumental, though, telling a story that will no doubt go down as one of the best in the Final Fantasy series. I’ve not only made friends and close acquaintances over the course of the last few months, but I’ve been able to play with existing friends from across the globe and share this fantastical experience. It brought us together in the best way possible. Where others are more keen to fight one another in shooters and other online competitive games, this ensured we were working together to figure out the various puzzles and mechanics Square Enix has been slowly building on top of. Despite playing it for an ungodly number of hours over the course of the last six years, Shadowbringers was the first time I put in the effort to complete an Extreme Trial legit. It was one of the most satisfying events I’ve had in a game, to constantly die for days on end only to finally put everything together in one cohesive battle. Now I just have to rally up the courage to attempt Savage and Ultimate fights. Of course, there’s still plenty that Square Enix could do to improve the game, such as eliminating data center barriers and reworking A Realm Reborn to be a less of a slog, but it felt like Shadowbringers was able to exceed our wildest desires. There’s no other game during 2019 that had me completely enamored and captivated with than Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. The only downside now is that the developers have set an incredibly high bar for themselves.

James is thankful for Dragon Quest Builders 2 (July 12, 2019)

One of the great joys of gaming is poking around its outskirts and seeing what’s there. The best-seller lists are filled with incredible titles that have earned every bit of praise they get, but they do kind of all run together after a while. It’s not that the mainstream is a creative wasteland or anything so cliché but rather it’s safe, which doesn’t tend to be as exciting or interesting as the wild creative madness on gaming’s fringe (like Dandy Dungeon). That doesn’t mean “safe” can’t be creative, though, as evidenced by Dragon Quest Builders 2. DQB2 is the vastly-improved sequel to what’s now a highly successful series mashing Dragon Quest and Minecraft into an action-RPG, and despite that description sounding like it came out of a shareholders meeting targeting what the kids like it somehow feels smart, clever and most of all fun. The result is an epic quest where putting up buildings is just as important as beating on monsters, if not moreso, filled with charmingly oddball characters in a story set firmly in Dragon Quest lore despite not requiring the player to be familiar with it. The game is a merging of three successful, well-known components that still manages to feel new and exciting, and I’m thankful I was able to lose however many dozens of hours it took to see all that Dragon Quest Builders 2 had to offer (and also Dandy Dungeon).

Kirstin is thankful for Daemon X Machina (September 13, 2019)

This year has been one for a lot of standout titles, with some especially strong new IPs. Daemon x Machina in particular has continued to go somewhat under the radar, but was such an amazing surprise to me who had never touched the genre before. Mech titles are generally very far and few between besides pre-existing franchises like Gundam, so having a brand new one on Switch was like a dream come true for someone looking to try it for the first time. The art style is wonderful and charming while the soundtrack is always pumped up. I knew so little about mech titles before trying it, but it’s easy to say I’m hooked and can only hope more comes from this title in the future. I’m so thankful I got the chance to take it for a spin, because Daemon x Machina is just a wonderful time from start to finish that keeps drawing me back.

Kyle is thankful for Grindstone (September 19, 2019)

There were actually quite a few games I was thankful for this year…I mean, there are quite a few every year, but as 2019 sort of feels like a bit of a turning point for video games with even more successes in “double-A” games, indie titles, and new platforms and services, choosing the one that I’m the most thankful for was a bit tricky. Ultimately, though, Grindstone won out (runners-up: Control, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Knights and Bikes, Hypnospace Outlaw, Slay the Spire, GreedFall). Capybara’s puzzler was not only the type of addictive game that can easily eat up hours of your life in one go thanks to a simple color-matching game that actually conceals a hard core (ba-dum-bum-tish) which requires a great amount of strategy, but in a world where everyone had written off the mobile game scene as being nothing more than a haven for half-assed free-to-play games hunting for whales (even coming from Nintendo of all people), Grindstone brought back the same kind of creativity and first seen when the likes of Angry Birds and Cut the Rope debuted, right down to the vibrant and eye-catching art style straight from Saturday morning. The gleeful feeling as you successfully chain together twenty or more monsters across several different colors and then let loose and watch the cartoonish carnage unfold is something no other game I’ve played this year has matched. In a just world, this would be the poster child for Apple Arcade, and should stand proud as an example of talent and uniqueness that mobile gaming can deliver.

Jake is thankful for Pokémon Sword and Shield (November 15, 2019)

The Pokémon series has been my favorite ever since childhood which is why I am thankful for the release of the most recent versions, Pokémon Sword and Shield. There is an immediate sense of wonder and amazement as soon as the adventure starts. It took me back to my early days as a Pokémon fan exploring Kanto with a fresh start. Quickly, it threw me into the intense battle strategies I experienced in Hoenn, then the fun of mystery in Unova and the variety found in Alola. Everything the Pokémon series and its fans have been through culminates into these enjoyable titles with plenty of added surprises. I appreciate the dedication and care the developers put into such a special part of my life. Sword and Shield exceed the hype and for that I am truly grateful for being able to experience it.

As you can see, there has been a diverse line-up of video games to be thankful for this past year. Let us know one of your favorite releases of 2019 in the comments below and share how this title may have impacted your life in any way!