Game of the Year
A1. Slay the Spire
"This game was on my radar ever since I heard the devs used to run stimhack.net – a website I used to visit often during the height of my mid-2010s Netrunner obsession. I came to it quite late though, intending to wait for the Switch port as I knew I’d end up double dipping. Well, I caved and bought it back in April after the port suffered a delay. Then I bought it again in June or July when it came out on Switch. I don’t regret either purchase.
It’s just most elegantly designed roguelike I’ve ever played. 400 hours in and the decisions you make even in the first minutes of each run are just as interesting and engaging as they were when I was learning the game, if not more so. The way deck building, battle strategy and pathing all so deftly intertwine make for an endlessly replayable and joyous experience.
It also happens to be everything I want from a single player card game – all the satisfying maths and machinations involved in planning a great turn or two or three, but never having to wait for a slow opponent, or have your meticulous plans dashed by a surprise attack or misdirection, as you’ll always know what the enemy is planning. Near perfection."
A2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
"Loved the big spaces and grappling after the claustrophobia of classic Souls design. I also loved how limiting your main weapon to just a simple sword meant that the combat was more tightly designed around a consistent ability set. And once it clicked, it really clicked. I’m a little surprised I haven’t gone back to it for NG+ to be honest, but maybe I’ll rectify that soon."
A3. Dragon Quest XI S
"Felt nice to go back to a really generous serving of meat and potatoes JRPG. An absolute charmer."
A4. Super Mario Maker 2
"Making the levels is more fun than playing them, which is both brilliant and frustrating, as learning good level design is super fun, but finding well designed levels is much harder than it should be. Not to mention the mechanisms in place to get your levels played are still rather lacking. The flexibility of this easy to use set of tools is truly amazing though, and I love the possibilities afforded by them."
A5. Resident Evil 2 Remake
"I didn’t really play all that many games in 2019 to be honest, so maybe something like Control might have taken this spot if I’d played it, but I thought this was just a really solid remake. Felt great in the hands and was a joy to be back in the world I’d spent so many hours in as a teenager."
Biggest Disappointment of the Year (game, hardware, or anything else)
Z1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
"Coming after Hollow Knight this felt extremely shallow, with bland, slow platforming through ugly environs, an unimaginatively linked castle, tedious side quests and bosses that took twice as long to kill than they should have. Aria of Sorrow used to be my favourite Metroidvania, so I was really hoping IGA could bring back the magic. Not to say that the game is completely awful, I did see it through and face all its optional bosses, but it never stopped feeling a bit like a chore to me."
Z2. Dicey Dungeons
"I really like Terry Cavanagh as a game designer, having spent tens of hours on the near perfection of Super Hexagon’s audio-visual overload. This just feels underbaked though, in every regard. It’ll likely feel miles better on tablet since it’s clearly been made for that, but the lack of weight or physicality to dragging the dice about – the single element of control you have in the main part of this game – feels rubbish. Other than that, the deckbuilding never felt particularly satisfying, and the difficulty curve was absolutely all over the shop. The one shining ray of light was the robot’s blackjack mechanic though – that was absolute genius."
Z3. Nintendo e-shop
"Jesus Christ how is this still such a mess."
Sound Design of the Year
S1. Slay the Spire
"Personally I dig the soundtrack, though I know it’s a bit marmite. But one of the greatest and most overlooked elements of this game is how absolutely juiced to the gills every action you take in this game is. The attacks you dish out and receive feel weighty and satisfying, and it’s the sound that really sells it. (Well, alongside some judicious screen shake). Even the sound of your cards being dealt out to you every turn feels fantastic."
S2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
"Just really solid audio feedback for fighting – great clanging and clashing and that sweet, sweet successful parry cue."
S3. Dragon Quest XI
"Okay, the OST can be really repetitive, and Koichi Sugiyama can absolutely get to fuck, but when it’s at its best it’s magical. Best level up fanfare ever!"
Visual Design of the Year
Writing of the Year
Gaming Format (System) of the Year
Publisher or Developer of the Year
P1. Megacrit Games
"Apart from making the best game of the year, their community interaction and continual support are exemplary, especially for a two man team!"
Best Supported Game (released pre 2019) of the Year
Your game of the year that didn't come out this year (basically what is your favourite game you played this year that came out in 2018 or earlier)
Best game character of the year
C1. The Ironclad
"Just the most fun at A20. Big satisfying damage, relatively good chance of getting out of act 1 meaning you’re usually in for a satisfying session, and 4/5 times I make it to the very final challenge, it feels winnable."
C2. The Silent
"Feels really smart to play this character well. The only two problems I have are how difficult act 1 is on A20 and how wraith form can really trivialise much of the endgame."
C3. The Defect
"Really fun when you just get to play a million powers and watch them all bounce around interacting in crazy ways. Less fun when you get a billion focus and frost orbs and just pass your turn over and over as that’s more tactically sound than actually playing cards."
And the big one:
Game of the Decade
D1. Super Street Fighter IV AE ver. 2012
"This is my favourite iteration of the game, before the semi-broken, incredibly annoying characters of Ultra were introduced. It’s this version I remember most fondly as the mutual addiction of the SF thread regulars was at its communal height. Loved reading every quasi-nonsense post in that thread during the days, and hopping online in the evenings and there always being someone to play. Magic."
D2. Breath of the Wild
"This game actually delivered on every expectation implanted in your brain when viewing its gorgeous vistas in a way no other open world ever has. A massively fulfilling experience throughout."
D3. Slay the Spire
"This is an actual contender for the top spot, but is maybe a bit new, and emotionally a little less important to me than the top game right now. Still beyond brilliant though."
D4. Hollow Knight
"My favourite game of 2018 and favourite ever Metroidvania. Almost each new area, searching for the map seller or even just a bench to rest at evokes the knife-edge feeling of being at that bonfire just under the Depths in Dark Souls 1, just before Blighttown, where you’re not quite sure how to backtrack, or if it’s even possible to go back anymore, but the path forward feels so daunting you’re hesitant to push on, especially with your precious souls on the line. Borrowing that particular mechanic was a really smart move too, adding an element of tension to the sometimes perfunctory exploration that defines the genre.
The world is huge, the traversal challenges fun and varied, the combat unforgiving but tight and fair, recalling one of my favourite action game series, Mega Man Zero as well as Dark Souls."
D5. Guilty Gear Xrd: Final Rev.
"I’ve always enjoyed dabbling in Arc System Works games since the first BlazBlue on PS3, but this is the first I’ve ever enjoyed as much as Street Fighter, and has actually become my main chicken since SFV fractured the long SF-dominant FGC. Yeah, the balance is kinda nonsense (though better than BB ever was), and the level of play online is such that it’s hard get over the beginner hump, but it just feels so great to play that it’s entirely worth persevering with."
D6. Doom (2016)
"Just such a breath of fresh air after years of CoD and its legacy of cover shooter roller coaster rides. The rhythm of combat is simply intoxicating."
D7. Kentucky Route Zero
"Still the best writing I’ve come across in a video game. Not to mention the incredible atmosphere. Can’t wait to see the end later this month."
D8. Mario Odyssey
"Maybe it’s not the best 3D Mario game but I love the expanded moveset in this game. Oh, and Boswer’s castle area 2 theme slaps."
D9. Nuclear Throne
"The most JUICY player feedback in a game, ever, maybe? The first roguelike I fell in love with, and a rare marriage of visuals, gameplay and audio that feels for lack of a better word, masterly. Such a shame that this never seemed to take off in the same way that Enter the Gungeon did, which always seemed like a pale shadow compared to the exquisiteness of Nuclear Throne."
"An incredible feat of 2D platform design. The controls feel so right that almost everything feels wrong afterwards, even Mario. Honestly, I just couldn’t enjoy New Super Mario Bros. U after playing this! If only extended play sessions didn’t hurt my thumbs and fingers so much."
Almosts: Spelunky, Horizon Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us, Uncharted 2, Uncharted 4, Titanfall 2, Destiny