The Game Awards 2019 is swiftly approaching, and the announcement of its Game of the Year nominees was proof of two things: there were a lot of good games released in 2019, and there were some seriously big snubs in the reveal, although the list of nominees only has so much space on it. The Game Awards is the industry's most recognizable award ceremony, a combination of advertisements for upcoming titles and acknowledgement of some of the biggest releases of the past year.
This year, the competition for Game of the Year felt pretty wide open, but not for the obvious reason. While that would normally indicate a slower year with fewer contenders, 2019 saw the gaming industry overrun by some of the most compelling and exciting new releases of the current console generation, which is going out strong in its last few gasps. The Game Awards 2019's list of Game of the Year contenders is evidence of this, being populated by six different titles that all have a genuine chance to win: Control, Death Stranding, Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Outer Worlds, Sekiro, and Resident Evil 2. Every single one of those titles was praised as a serious contender by at least some of the critics and fans who reviewed them, and it's no surprise to see them present.
This article isn't about the Game of the Year 2019 nominees, however. It's about the many quality games that were snubbed in this year's announcement, and recognizing just how deep the pool of games to choose from this year was for consumers. It's a good problem to have as an industry, but it's also demoralizing for fans of the titles that didn't get a crack at the most prestigious title of the year in gaming, so consider this list a consolation prize for a long list of amazing 2019 releases - and a solid gift idea list for the video game fans in someone's life.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
This is likely going to be the most controversial absence from the Game Awards 2019 Game of the Year list, and with good reason - it was one of the most anticipated holiday releases of 2019, and it has been a return to form for the Star Wars IP in video gaming, something that seemed more and more unlikely as the years went by and EA continued to release terrible games under the brand. Developer Respawn Entertainment also deserves credit for continuing a string of incredible current generation accomplishments, having made some of the better games over the past several years, including Titanfall 2 and Apex Legends.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order reviewed very well upon release, and has provided some dazzling clips of the game's fluid and dynamic combat. On top of introducing a compelling story into the franchise's lore, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order also managed to get fans excited about the license's prospects in video gaming again, which in itself is an impressive feat. Given that the game was tagged by many to be a perennial Game of the Year contender across award ceremonies, it was shocking to see Jedi: Fallen Order not even manage to make the ballot at The Game Awards 2019.
Luigi's Mansion 3
Perhaps it's the fact that Nintendo already has a game in the Game of the Year 2019 nominees, but the fact that Luigi's Mansion 3 couldn't crack the list is yet another indicator that the awards show season in the industry isn't something consumers should put much stock in. Luigi's Mansion 3 was a great return to a franchise that begged for more exploration, and the leap to the Nintendo Switch only improved the series. The game was praised by critics for inventive puzzles, engaging visuals, and a story that's every bit as charming as a standard Mario romp, resulting in a 4.5/5 score from Screen Rant.
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
This one might be tricky, since The Game Awards has a category for ongoing games and FFXIV got the nod there, but Shadowbringers as standalone content was some of the strongest its genre has ever produced, and remains an incredible expansion that told a tighter story than FFXV did a few years ago. FFXIV is experiencing a massive resurgence in interest and a contributing factor has been the positive reception critics gave its newest expansion, which featured deep, interesting content and some flashy new jobs to keep long-time fans interested - just check out our perfect score review of Shadowbringers for more info.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
2019 was a good year for Nintendo. Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be one of the best RPG titles of its generation, let alone 2019, but it's not necessarily for everyone - the game demands a lot of time from its players, and to get the full story experience, fans need to play through all three different routes on top of that. With that said, there's incentive to do so, mostly thanks to the game's addictive feedback loop of social sim elements, tactical strategics, and gorgeous aesthetic, earning it a 4.5/5 in Screen Rant's review of the game.
The Outer Wilds
On top of being one of the most confusing releases of the year thanks to its name confusion partner-in-crime The Outer Worlds, The Outer Wilds was also one of the most breath-taking indie titles released in 2019. The game features a mechanical device that encourages exploration, immersion, and mysteries, without ever tasking the player to fire off a gun. The experience was one that stuck with reviewers, and ended up receiving a 4.5/5 score from Screen Rant.
Another indie title that punched well above its weight, Disco Elysium is a detective RPG that featured some of the industry's best writing in 2019. Tasked with inhabiting the role of a detective who doesn't even know his own name, players are taken down a mind-bending trip that examines some of the darkest corners of the human pysche on the way to establishing one of the most poignant narratives of the year.
Disco Elysium was a surprise, but in the best way possible. Critics near-universally praised it as something special, and Screen Rant's review of the game echoed that sentiment, awarding the title a 4.5/5 score.
Slay the Spire
By now, it feels disingenuous to suggest that the deckbuilding genre is still emerging - it's gone well past a niche and into a serious section of the games industry that players continue to exhibit interest in. In a year that saw more developers target that audience than ever, Slay the Spire rose above the rest with an addictive blend of familiar features and unique, roguelike elements that helped it stand out from competitors.
As one of 2019's earlier releases, it's impressive that Slay the Spire managed to maintain its momentum all the way through the year, adding a fourth character towards the end of it. Slay the Spire earned the praise of most of its players, and Screen Rant awarded the game a perfect review score of 5/5, praising just how easy it is to get into.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Total War: Three Kingdoms released to a lot of anticipation, given that it was the first campaign to be set in China and featured one of history's most interesting periods, the Three Kingdoms era. The game featured more flexibility in how players could tackle the campaign content, and a visual attention to detail that remains the bar for turn-based strategy games in 2019. The game had few flaws and, despite being a standout in a genre that has flagged in popularity in recent years, remained one of 2019's finest releases, getting a 4.5/5 score from Screen Rant.