There was a time the beginning of the year was a wasteland for good games, or many games at all for that matter, to come out. As gaming has become more successful and ballooned in size, we can all look forward to some pretty great games year round. Even so, when time for Game of the Year discussions come around, games released in the first few months seem to be forgotten. We plan on highlighting great games every quarter.
We had staff vote on what they thought were the best games released in January - March, and this is what they came up with.
5 - Wargroove (Our Review)
By Austin Suther
It's time to give up hope for a new Advance Wars game. I'm saying this, because the game you've been wanting for so many years is finally here. It's developed by a different developer, but for the most part, it's Advance Wars. That game is, of course, Wargroove.
I consider myself a huge fan of tactical games such as Fire Emblem, XCOM, and of course, Advance Wars. Wargroove gave fans everything they could hope for: interesting units, a fun and varied campaign, and plenty of replayability. The gameplay itself is excellent and has a strong focus on positioning. Certain units perform better when they are adjacent to one another or meet another criteria. That's the key to success, along with the help of your commander and their powerful "Groove" ability. The campaign is challenging, and there is a lot of freedom to tune difficulty the way you see fit.
But it would be a crime to forget Wargroove's extra modes, such as its level creator and campaign creator. I looked at six different maps that Wargroove players should check out, and I think these are among the best examples of what's possible with the creative freedom these creators give you. The level of polish in Wargroove is unreal, and Chucklefish outdid themselves. Since release, Chucklefish introduced a lot of QOL changes and are continuing to do so. Wargroove is only going to get better, and I can't wait (and neither should you) for what's next!
5 - Resident Evil 2 (Our Review)
By Jackson Wery
The Resident Evil 2 remake launched this January with fanfare from gamers across the globe. It kept the eerie familiarity of the original 1998 survival horror release and brought it into the modern era. Moving away from the fixed-camera style of older titles, it adopted the over-the-shoulder camera popularized in Resident Evil 4. Though some expressed concern it would dampen the horror, that was certainly not the case. Running around while Mr. X, now an implacable enemy, stomped around stalking the player was an excellent addition.
Resident Evil 2 (2019) also expanded the universe and updated some characterizations. Characters such as Kendo and Annette gained more depth, with Kendo appearing in the Ghost Survivors DLC in February. It also features callbacks to other Resident Evil titles, namely the Outbreak duology. One of File #2’s scenarios, Desperate Times, takes place in the R.P.D. immediately before the arrival of Leon and Claire. It heavily features officers Marvin Branagh and Rita Phillips as supporting NPCs. Phillips has a desk, and her name is required to solve an optional puzzle.
In terms of gameplay, it finally provided a use for the red/blue herb combination with temporary damage reduction. Sub-weapons like grenades and knives allow for more strategy and a get-out-of-pain-free card. Claire’s arsenal is much stronger and effective than the much-maligned bowgun from the original. Ada and Sherry’s segments, particularly Sherry’s exploration of the orphanage, are much more entertaining and tie into the story. Players can change costumes almost on the fly. Characters retain bite injuries and bloodied clothes even through healing.
Put simply, Resident Evil 2 (2019) is a polished and excellent reimagining of an iconic piece of gaming history.
5 - Devil May Cry 5 (Our Review)
By Robert Scarpinito
More than a decade passed since a mainline Devil May Cry game graced the industry, and people were hungry for a new one. Then lo and behold, at E3 2018, Hideaki Itsuno and his team at Capcom unveiled the fifth game in the franchise. Less than a year later, it arrived on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC to glowing reviews. Everyone raved over the unabashedly stylish yet rewarding combat. From start to finish, everything stays cranked up to 11, with cutscenes often acting as a welcome reprieve from the high-octane demon slaying.
When it comes to understanding why Devil May Cry 5 is a stand-out title of 2019, playing it is crucial. When the combat unfolds right in front of you, your quick decisions determine how a fight goes. Each of the three playable characters have a veritable treasure trove of tools at their disposal. For any and every situation, you can do something to improve your style ranking. You can always close any gap, and you often have more than one way to react to enemies trying to hit you. None of that compares to the number of combos you can pull off and chain together at any given time.
The game has only gotten better since launch. At the beginning of April, Capcom pushed out an update that added the Bloody Palace to the title. That game mode throws waves of enemies at you, testing your combat abilities. There's no pretense of story or narrative; it's just unmitigated carnage, because that's where Devil May Cry 5 thrives. Amid all the chaos, you can find ways to become the SSStylish demon hunter you've always wanted to be.
4 - Metro Exodus (Our Review)
By Robert N. Adams
Metro Exodus has been long-awaited by fans of the Metro 2033 series of games (and books!). It wasn't difficult to see why the game was so hotly anticipated. It was more Metro—more levels, more guns, more story, more everything. It was bigger and better in nearly every respect when compared to its predecessors, and it took a risk in changing up some of the fundamentals of the game formula. Gone was the bullet economy. Gone was the stifling, claustrophobic underground (for most of the game, anyways). What remained was something that captured the essence of the Metro 2033 games while breaking new ground.
The story, in particular, made for some nice changes. Longtime fans of the franchise can tell you just how frustrating the morality system is in Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Put simply, it's all but impossible to get the good ending in those two games without a guide up. Metro Exodus, however, only requires that you remember a handful of things and then execute them correctly.
We're now at the point where we're starting to see our first bits of DLC arriving. The inaugural volley has been a whopper of a New Game+ mode called the Ranger Update; it adds all sorts of lovely new challenges and options for players to enjoy. Want to go through the game with the best weapons? You can do that. Want to try to run through the world with just one gun? 4A Games has got you covered. It gives players a genuine reason to replay the game beyond trying to get the good ending or doing a Ranger Mode run and it does it in an interesting way.
Metro Exodus still has a future ahead of it and I can't wait to see what else 4A Games has coming in the pipeline. The next step in the Metro franchise was wonderful and they're not even close to finished.
3 - Kingdom Hearts III (Our Review)
By Sam Guglielmo
It's been 14 years since Kingdom Hearts II released. So to say expectations for Kingdom Hearts III were lofty is kind of an understatement. While there’s been a ton of (honestly pretty awful) spin-off games to hold people over, it was time for the sequel. Thankfully, it was well worth the wait.
While the story is still the same confusing nonsense it has always been, and I’m not sure I want anything other than that confusing nonsense, Kingdom Hearts III is an absolute blast to play. From well-animated combos, to fantastic boss fights, to awesome team attacks utilizing characters from different Disney worlds, I enjoyed my time diving everywhere. It felt like the game was constantly finding new ways to change up the gameplay and continue to impress with fun situations and battles.
I mean, this is a video game where you get to sail the high seas with Jack Sparrow, swing on trees with Rapunzel, fly on Baymax’s back, then listen to Elsa sing songs. It’s the Disney fantasy everyone has wanted for years, combined with some fantastic action pieces. This isn’t even getting into the amazing soundtrack or beautiful graphics that actually rival the movies. Turns out fourteen years was well worth waiting.
2 - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (Our Review)
By Joseph Allen
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not a Souls game. The newest From Software title forces players to rethink everything they know about the company’s design and development philosophies.
Players who charge headlong into Sekiro’s nuanced, fast-paced combat will find themselves on the other end of countless samurai swords. Instead, the game demands careful, deliberate planning on the part of its players, forcing them to truly think like the shinobi they’re playing as.
Each battlefield in Sekiro is littered with vantage points, stealth opportunities, and ways to exploit and out-think enemies instead of meeting them in head-on combat. Only players who truly take full advantage of Wolf’s arsenal of tools and sneaky tactics will find themselves triumphing.
That’s not to say Sekiro is completely devoid of From Software hallmarks. It’s got bosses galore, interconnected worlds to explore, and plenty of dark secrets to find. The game’s boss encounters are as noble and tense as ever. Some bosses can be exploited in the same way as regular enemies, but for the most part, Sekiro’s bosses ask players to engage in honorable sword-clashing combat with enemies who demand respect and dedication.
Like Bloodborne before it, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes a little while to click into place. Many have talked about “that From Software moment” where a player finally gets it and the game starts to make sense. When it comes in Sekiro, when you truly start to think like a shinobi, that’s when the game absolutely shines. Give enough of your time to Sekiro and you’ll get rewards in spades.
1 - Apex Legends (Our Quick Thoughts)
By Ron Welch
Apex Legends came out of nowhere, but its unique pairing of squad-based gameplay and class characterization has made for a game that is more complex, but also more approachable than other titles in the battle royale genre.
Respawn found a way to make teams naturally rely on each other, even if they’re not speaking to each other. The ping mechanic allows silent players to point out anything their team needs to know. Likewise, the revive system and knockdown mode encourages daring rescue missions as you run into enemy territory to grab whatever’s left of your partner. Apex Legends does a fantastic job at creating comradery between players who aren’t speaking to each other, which makes playing with close friends an exhilarating experience.
There’s also a lot to say about the classes. Each character has a well-defined personality and a unique set of skills. I love hearing professional soldier Bangalore describe weapons when she pings them or the robotic Pathfinder saying, “You may want to hold your breath, if you have a respiratory system.”
The care taken into crafting class skills shows a lot of restraint on Respawn’s part. Having an ultimate does not guarantee a win. Skills aren’t designed to blow your enemies to bits. Instead, abilities create interesting tactical situations. Allowing the enemy to make use your team’s skills, such as Wraith’s portal or Octane’s jump-pad was a stroke of genius because a hasty escape can quickly turn into an ambush from behind. You never feel safe playing Apex Legends, but that’s part of what makes it so much fun.
I can’t wait to see what Season 2 has in store.
What were the best games you played in the first three months of this year? Let us know in the comments below!