The Shack staff has today off in honor of Duke Nukem, but we whipped together a breakdown of our favorite games that were released in the first half of 2019. We didn't narrow the list down to any specific number, and the games are not presented in any kind of order or ranking. Please take a look at our list of the best video games of the midyear 2019.
Tetris is having a bit of a resurgence, with Tetris Effect wowing critics last year. Nintendo and The Tetris Company kicked it up a notch with Tetris 99. It was only a matter of time for the battle royale genre to be applied to a puzzle game. Tetris is obviously more than just a puzzle game, as it has transcended video game platforms for 35 years. Tetris 99 was released in February, and I have put more time into it than many other games on our list. The game loop is addictive, and the feeling as the game's music intensifies in the top 20 and final five players is as hype as the being in the top of any battle royale game. What makes PUBG and Fortnite special is also precent in Tetris 99, and it is part of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. You better believe we will be talking about this game during our game of the year 2019 deliberations. -Asif Khan
These days I'm all about co-op experiences, and if there's an open-world survival aspect to them, that's the top of the mountain for my friends and I. Now, we'd been playing Astroneer for quite some time in early access, but the February 2019 full release meant we theoretically had new content and a more polished experience to return to, and Astroneer did not disappoint.
Exploring, mining, terraforming, and just spending time with friends in a relaxing, visually beautiful Astroneer has been a real treat for me this year. Steam lists my play time at 58 hours, and given how System Era Softworks continues to work on adding new content and supporting Astroneer long after its official release, that number is sure to climb much higher. If you haven't tried it yet or still aren't sure, give my Astroneer review a read and see what you think. -Bill Lavoy
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Sega and Creative Assembly have delivered one of the best strategy games of they ear in Total War: Three Kingdoms. Combining the gameplay the series built its reputation on with a fantastic campaign makes for a compelling package that is sure to absorb the lives of RTS and Chinese history buffs. The campaign is loaded with incredible artwork and players can experience it over and over again depending on which leader they choose to begin with. The game even gives players the option to skip the RTS sequences to focus on diplomacy, if that happens to be their bag. A must-play for fans of the genre. -Chris Jarrard
Tom Clancy's The Division 2
While The Division 2 launched with a few bugs here and there, it was still by far the smoothest launch of a looter shooter that the industry had ever seen. Not only that, but Ubisoft took everything that they’d learned from the first game and applied it to the second, making an even stronger and more enjoyable experience. I have logged well over a hundred hours into the game with plenty more to do thanks to the constant stream of content and new missions that has been added with each update. The Division 2 has plenty to offer players in a smooth and enjoyable third-person shooter that’s sure to keep you entertained for hours. You can check out my full The Division 2 review if you’re curious to hear more of my thoughts. -Josh Hawkins
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Hidetaka Miyazaki blessed us with Demon’s Souls back in 2009, and since that day, gamers have risen to the challenge to conquer the worlds he’s created. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice joined the Soulsborne family this year, and it surpassed gamer’s expectations. It had that core Souls-like experience, but with a fresh twist that undermined everything fans had come to expect from the combat. Veterans were trounced as the speed and ferocity of the bosses overwhelmed them. But even as the difficulty of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice claimed its victims, players were left awestruck at the beauty of 16th century Sengoku Japan. It’s another masterpiece by Miyazaki, and a fitting pit stop for players wanting to bridge the gap from Dark Souls 3 to the highly-anticipated Elden Ring. -Sam Chandler
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Game fans have been waiting a long time for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and the final product does not disappoint. I'm huge fan of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night — it's my favorite game of all time, so I've naturally been excited about RotN for years — and now that I've finally played Ritual, I can say with confidence that it's every bit as Igavania as I'd hoped.
Indie developers continue to push the Metroidvania genre, but the new Bloodstained release proves that no one does it as well as Igarashi. The game plays, feels, and even sounds like Symphony of the Night, but there are all manner of added extras. From getting a new ability from nearly every monster in the game to upgradeable weapons, craftable recipes, hidden bosses, and more, Ritual of the Night is exactly the kind of game retro gaming enthusiasts crave. I know I love it — I'm on my third run through the game, I've earned 100 percent shard completion, 100 percent map completion, collected nearly every item, and I'm still having fun. -Kevin Tucker
Mortal Kombat 11
NetherRealm Studios has had its fighting games down to a science for many years, but more so once they rebooted the Mortal Kombat series to start this decade. Mortal Kombat 11 is a culmination of many of their efforts, from the game's story through the intricate fighting mechanics. In fixing the game's meter and removing the Run button, the combat feels smoother and more scientific than it ever has.
More than that, NetherRealm hasn't held back in offering players plenty to do, whether it's rotating Towers or the massive Krypt mode. Even if the Story Mode could stand to be better, there's no arguing with the MK11 package as a whole. -Ozzie Mejia
Trover Saves the Universe
When the co-creator of Rick and Morty announced he was working on a video game, we knew stuff was gonna get weird. How wonderful that weirdness would end up being though, well, I don’t think anyone could’ve seen that coming. Trover Saves the Universe ended up being not only a hilarious non-stop tour de force of improv comedy, but a fully realized game that showed off the mad skills of the freshly minted team at Squanch Games. The final result is a concoction like no other that the world has heretofore not seen that has you laughing your ass off while hacking and slashing away at Glorkon clones. -Blake Morse
Devil May Cry 5
The hotly-anticipated return to the world of Devil May Cry was another high point in 2019, or what's ended up becoming Capcom's banner year. Devil May Cry 5 is excellent in nearly every single way, serving up an inordinate amount of style and substance and even some hot, juicy plot that you may not have seen coming. And while the carnage, stylish combat, and addictive combat are great and all, who could forget about the best new female character of 2019, Nico? I'd go so far as to say DMC5 is a better game with the rambunctious Nico involved – not that it really needs the help since you can beat demons to death with a motorcycle, summon demons to do your bidding, and go Devil Trigger to wipe the floor with anyone that threatens you. It's hard to say what the best part of the game is – I'm just going to have to go with all of it. -Brittany Vincent
The guard never saw me coming. There he was, standing with his back to the entryway, and I just happened to have one of his buddies wriggling in my grip. By the time he turned around, it was too late: I hurled the other guard into him and they made a double-sized blood splatter on the far wall.
I felt bad for the guy. Much like the giant ape his scientist cronies had been experimenting on, I never saw Ape Out coming, and the shock of it—its stylized visuals, its intensely visceral feedback and the heartrate-increasing push deeper into enemy-infested floors—hit me with as much force. Ape Out is more than just a pretty face. It’s one of the most addictive games I’ve played in years, and the biggest (and most pleasant) surprise of my 2019 in gaming so far. -David Craddock
Shacknews loves our team-based arena shooters, and Aftercharge introduced a very unique 3v3 game when it shipped in January 2019. The wrinkle thrown at players is that one team is invisible while the other team is invincible. Both teams have energy bars, but they use and replenish them differently.
The game offers a decent amount of depth in gameplay as there are different playable characters with unique abilities to choose from on both teams. Aftercharge is a fun game that offers a cool take on asymmetric multiplayer gameplay. -Asif Khan
MLB The Show 19
Unarguably the best sports title release so far in 2019, Sony's MLB 19: The Show continues the recent string of excellence for the baseball simulation. Despite a total lack of competition in the baseball game space, the developers continue to evolve and improve the game, resulting in the current high water mark for major American sports league simulations.
When it comes to MLB 19: The Show, the devil is in the details. Just when you think you've seen it all, the game will surprise you with the lengths the development team went to give each player and stadium details that might go unnoticed by 90 percent of the population. It is a labor of love for baseball fanatics and a celebration of America's favorite pastime. Check out my review for another 1500 words of gushing praise for Sony's baseball juggernaut. -Chris Jarrard
For a politically focused city-building simulator, Tropico 6 is hilariously good fun. The game itself is fantastic — everything works the way it should, the detail is tremendous, and the depth of available options should satisfy even the most detail-oriented gamer.
But that isn't what makes the experience so entertaining. Tropico 6 actively encourages players to mess with their nation's citizens, usually in amusing and demeaning ways. Sure, it's possible to create a clean, eco-friendly nation with loads of exports, plenty of money, and a deliriously satisfied population, but where's the fun in that? Instead, players can "encourage" their citizens to work in sweatshops for humiliatingly low wages. Obligatory child labor? Why not. Citizens are unhappy? Force them to leave, or throw them in prison. Protesters taking to the streets? Send in a wave of armed soldiers to keep the peace.
Or, take the sick capitalist route like I tend to, and jam the nation's citizens into hovels and place a TV station nearby. Make them pay for church, pay for cable TV, and force the newspapers and theaters to jam propaganda down their throats. You can even make employees pay to eat while they're at work. Maybe it's sick and sadistic, but maybe that's the point. Love it or leave it, Tropicans! -Kevin Tucker
Kingdom Hearts 3
I walked into Kingdom Hearts 3 expecting the worst, because lord knows that Square Enix had tied itself into dozens of knots with the series' complicated narrative. Whatever happened to just beating the bad guy and conquering the darkness, right? But Kingdom Hearts 3 amazed me in the way it was not only able to tie up many of its lingering loose ends, but also offer enough of a comprehensive recap that it made everything make sense in the end.
This is on top of the tried-and-true third-person action combat, where Square has allowed the total bombast to take over and made every battle with enemies feel like an event. Sora has never felt more powerful, but on top of that, this is a triumph for his companions. For once, Donald and Goofy don't feel like anchors, not only able to hold their own in battle, but able to actively assist Sora for some amazingly theatrical attacks.
After years of waiting and after going in expecting disappointment, I was happy to see that Kingdom Hearts 3 did indeed live up to the hype, still standing tall as one of the best games of the year so far. -Ozzie Mejia
Super Metroid meets a cuddly, cute kitty cat in Gato Roboto, a fun and quirky Metroidvania from the developers at Doinksoft. While the game sometimes struggles to really pin down its own unique identity, it’s still a fun little experience that’s worth the asking price of $7.99. There’s no in-depth story to find, but if you’re looking for something that includes many of the mechanics introduced in games like the Metroid and Castelvania series in an easy to digest experience, then Gato Roboto is just that, with a few of its own quirks. You play as a small kitty with access to a super mech outfit that can shoot, jump, and blow things up. It’s a fun little romp through retro gaming. Make sure to read more in my Gato Roboto review if you’re interested in learning more about Kiki and her super mech suit. -Josh Hawkins
There’s something to be said about a video game that can make you laugh out aloud at the writing alone. Void Bastards had me cackling at its item descriptions and the items themselves. Using a distended testicle to upgrade my gear never ceased to amuse me. Even the perfectly dry wit of the AI computer had me in stitches. But the appeal of Void Bastards extends beyond its narrative. The game looks like a comic book come to life, and plays like a mix between BioShock and FTL: Faster Than Light. Exploring the twisted and hilarious universe that Blue Manchu created was an absolute blast, and one that’s easy to return to. -Sam Chandler
Katana Zero is one of the most clever side scrollers I've played in a long time. Developer Askiisoft took a solid Hotline Miami formula and reimagined it into something compelling, challenging, and undeniably trippy.
Just the premise of running through stages, not in real-time, but in the main character Dragon's mind, makes him feel like an ultra badass. Chaining together kills feels incredibly satisfying, as does utilizing the environment to set up some John Wick-style bloodshed. Beyond the action, the game's story is one to behold, taking numerous twists and taking players to unexpected places. Devolver Digital is the best when it comes to picking out outside-the-box indie efforts and Katana Zero is no exception. -Ozzie Mejia
Dirt Rally 2.0
While its DLC deployment and post-launch monetization has been rightly criticized by players, Dirt Rally 2.0 remains as the best representation of the sport that you can buy. Largely similar to the original Dirt Rally, this year's edition adds control refinement, dynamic track augmentation, and a big helping of graphical polish. No other racing game is capable of inducing the same intense feelings of sheer panic as you wrestle to keep the cars from sliding into trees or off the side of a steep cliff. Each class of rally cars presents a unique challenge to drivers, with my personal favorite B-Class rides offering certain disaster at breakneck speeds. If you own a steering wheel controller, this game is must-buy. -Chris Jarrard
Team Sonic Racing
Team Sonic Racing marks the triumphant return of a beloved series. Sonic and company are back and better than ever. TSR provides what you’d expect from a typical kart racer, and then adds onto it. The team Dynamic and the way it impacts gameplay is what really sets this title apart from others in its genre. Being able to hand off wisps/ power ups to allies in need, or request them when in a pinch adds a layer of strategy to the gameplay. In addition, the fact that your final standings are determined by the placements all three members of your team force players to constantly work together and coordinate efforts. Team Sonic Racing remains one of our favorite titles as we pass the midyear mark. -Donovan Erskine
Picture this: You're an astronaut just hanging out, minding your own business ob a planet near the rocket you set off on. In 22 minutes, the local sun is about to go supernova, which will kill you and effectively end the game. Outer Wilds has you working tirelessly to break this loop, as you uncover deep and intriguing secrets about the galaxy and how it came to be. For fans who love crafting games, puzzle-solving, and uncovering mysterious threads, Outer Wilds is a question wrapped inside an enigma that's relaxing and simultaneously exciting to play through as you keep continuing the same 22 minute loop over and over, retaining your memories with each "reset" and growing all the better for it. It's not like anything you've ever played before, and well worth exploring in its entirety. -Brittany Vincent
Resident Evil 2 Remake
I can count on one hand the number of times a game I waited for, literally dreamed of for years not only met my expectations, but exceeded them. Resident Evil 2 Remake simultaneously pays homage to the 1998 classic and paves new ground. The Raccoon Police Department contains most of the old rooms and paths I remember, with new areas simultaneously woven into its DNA. The way the director-like AI ramps up difficulty by making zombies lurch and weave more just when I’m getting comfortable putting slugs between their eyes never fails to make me sweat. And despite knowing how to lead Mr. X around on a string, he is as terrifying today as he was in January when “RE2make” shambled onto my Windows PC.
In 2002, Capcom set the benchmark for remakes when it bulldozed the original Spencer Estate and rebuilt it on GameCube. In 2019, Capcom raised the bar against. Resident Evil 2 Remake is one of the scariest, most visually jaw-dropping, most immersive games I’ve played in years. It’s everything I wanted from a reimagining and so much more. -David Craddock
The dark story of the Metro series meets a beautiful but sometimes wonky open world in Metro Exodus. As the third title in the Metro series of video games, 4A had to go big or go home, and they definitely delivered. While I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the open world myself, preferring the narrow confines of the tunnels of the metro for the game’s claustrophobic atmosphere, 4A did a great job bringing the series forward. The entire journey is a good one, with the story continuing to be a center piece as you move from place to place. It’s a fantastic additional chapter to the series, and one that fans won’t soon forget. For more be sure to check out my Metro Exodus review, where you can read more of my thoughts on the various aspects of the game. -Josh Hawkins
My Friend Pedro
Who would have thought that a sentient banana could be the forefront of such a raucous good time on the Nintendo Switch? No one, but then here we are. This zany shooter is all about listening to your clearly imaginary (or is he?) friend and pistol-whipping dudes to your heart's content. Seriously stylish and rife with moments where you can slow down and aim in two directions to pick off enemies, it's some of the most fun you can have on your Switch, especially if you're Jonesing for more games like Hotline Miami or you just love carnage. Fly through the air, cap some guys, and then let your friend Pedro tell you what a great job you just did. Seriously. You'll never be the same afterward. -Brittany Vincent
Cadence of Hyrule
I was a huge fan of the original Crypt of the NecroDancer when it hit a few years back. Being given a chance to experience that same wonderful gameplay within the Zelda universe was like waking up in a dream world. Follow the beats as you defeat monsters, complete puzzles, and save the kingdom of Hyrule in one of the quirkiest Legend of Zelda adventures around. Cadence of Hyrule is a fantastic little gem for Nintendo Switch fans to get their hands on. While the game itself is short, randomized world tiles make it enjoyable to revisit and play through again and again. Of course, you can read more about my thoughts in our Cadence of Hyrule review, but it’s a must-play for fans of the Legend of Zelda universe. -Josh Hawkins
Super Mario Maker 2
This game snuck in right before the cutoff for our list of best games of the first half of 2019. Super Mario Maker 2 has been out for one week, and Mario fans are being treated to a cornucopia of levels created by the community. The game also features a robust Story Mode with over 100 courses created by the level design experts at Nintendo. Super Mario Maker 2 is a must-have game if you own a Nintendo Switch. We have been posting daily threads in our Chatty fourm and our Shacknews Community Super Mario Maker 2 Course ID List grows by the day. It is truly a magical experience to create all sorts of levels on the go or in docked mode. While the original game on Wii U will always hold a special place in my heart, Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that I guarantee we will be talking about later this year during Game of the Year 2019 deliberations. Check out our Super Mario Maker 2 review for an extensive look at the game. -Asif Khan
Well that about wraps up our list of the best video games of the midyear 2019. Did we miss a game that you think should have made the cut? Let us know in the comments ection,and be sure to keep it locked on Shacknews to see if any of these worthy games end up taking home the coveted award of GOTY 2019. Only time will tell, but we have seen some amazing games released already this year, and the back half of the 2019 video game release date schedule has some certified bangers still to come, like The Outer Wilds, Borderlands 3, and Doom Eternal.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Best Video Games of the Midyear 2019
Did Shack officially review Layers of Fear 2?
It’d certainly be on my list of 2019 Best So Far.
Cue redshak coming in to diss my ass...
We did not review it, no. Please understand.
I understand you’re covering Blair Witch, at least!
I need the Blair Witch game in my life. I'm so keen.
They didn't review it because shacknews has standards
Manual INF I agree with this poster -redshak (probably)
I still say that’s one game if you don’t sit down and play to the end, you haven’t experienced it. I was on the fence myself through Act 3, but 4 & 5 forcefully tie up the puzzle pieces and make a replay have an entirely different meaning and logic. Very risky tactic, but there are so few devs who take risks. They get my full support.
Dream Daddy ;)
Not true: "Kingdom Hearts 3 lives up to the hype."
An actual quote by Shacknews staff.
Where is GOTY 2019 Slay the Spire? :)
If you count up the hours played, Slay the Spire is probably my GOTY 2019.
Anno 1800 for me so far, but I need to give some other games some additional time.