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My Top 5 Single-Player Games of 2019

My Top 5 Single-Player Games of 2019

With 2019 now placed firmly in the rear-view mirror, now is as good a time as any to take a moment to reflect and look back at some of the best solo experiences that gaming had to offer in the final 365 days of the 2010s. It was a year where console generations began to wane, the Switch went from strength to strength (even after its weight loss), and great single-player games refused to die. And even if the 2019 bunch couldn’t quite match the myriad of modern classics released in the preceding two years, these five games made my time spent alone in front of a screen some of my most enjoyable moments of the year.

5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night



There’s something so comforting about this game focused on demonic forces and sacrificial rituals. Koji Igarashi cements his position as godfather of the metroidvania with this love letter to his previous works - one that revels in its influences while still breaking new ground. Roaming around Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night brings with it the same sense of mystery and discovery that defined Igarashi’s contributions to the Castlevania series, and my nights would sail by as I lost myself in the atmospheric halls of Gebel’s castle.

The mix of RPG elements, combat systems, side-quests, and exploration remain as addicting as ever, and yet I still found plenty of surprises lurking in Bloodstained’s level and monster designs. The train level will be imprinted in my memory for some time and may be my overall favourite section of a game in 2019, and the boss fights were equal parts exhilarating and challenging. Bloodstained grabbed me with its cheesy dialogue and haunting music and showed me that not all crowdfunded games from industry legends need to be complete abominations.

4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening



Whether you played the original or not, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Switch stands as a testament to timeless game design and endearing charm. I had completed the Game Boy Color version, yet I was still enchanted all over again by how modern and alive this remake felt. Koholint Island brims with colour and discoveries as its compact layout allows Nintendo to inject personality into every detail. I once again fell in love with the island’s inhabitants while the airy soundtrack and eclectic enemy collection entranced me in the game’s dreamy atmosphere.

The gameplay feels as smooth as ever with the expanded button-mapping being the single greatest improvement over the original. However, the greatest strength of playing through Link’s Awakening remains what has been left intact. Thoughtful dungeons, hidden treasures, and a liberating sense of progressive exploration that is still nearly unrivalled in the series.

3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice



I hesitated with including Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice on this list as my time spent with it often resulted in a feeling of primal rage as I cursed the name of FromSoftware. Needless to say, my tolerance for difficult games is feeble at best. Yet as I fought through this mythical interpretation of Sengoku Japan, a deep love and respect for the masterful game design on display began to blossom underneath my surface anger.

Combat in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice flows with a rhythmic grace that rewards practice and patience. Every fight feels like an event, and I underwent a process of education as I learned how best to make use of the game’s open level environments and stealth elements to sway encounters in my favour as much as possible. The expertly realised setting feeds into the game’s cinematic tone as the “capture” button on my DualShock 4 got as much use as any of the others. And that frustration I spoke about would always be balanced with palpable gratification when a premeditated plan would be rewarded with success.

2. Resident Evil 2



Is this game really already a year old?

Much like how Sekiro took me out of my comfort zone by throwing me into the deep end of the difficulty spectrum, last year’s exceptional Resident Evil 2 remake finally unlocked the brilliance of the survival-horror genre within me. Therefore, my undying love for this game could be attributed to the novelty of engaging with a type of game that I have barely flirted with previously, but I think it’s much simpler than that. My adoration of Resident Evil 2 is because it is one of the tightest single-player experiences of the generation.

The scares that abound throughout Resident Evil 2 and the desire to eradicate them heightened my drive to explore the game’s memorable levels to equip myself as best as possible for the dangers ahead. That’s the beauty of Capcom’s masterpiece: it engages you with its addicting gameplay loop by forcing you to deal with its horrors. And what creative horror it is, too. Mr. X has been a permanent figure within my nightmares for the past year, and the gloomy, gothic set pieces manage to remain claustrophobic and eerie even with the shift in camera perspective.

This is maybe the best videogame remake ever. Let’s hope Resident Evil 3 can live up to this game’s towering achievements.

1. Fire Emblem: Three House


This is the game that just keeps on giving. Three separate campaigns (technically, four), each bursting with their own memorable characters, cinematic battles, moral ambiguities, friends becoming foes, relationships blooming, and enough twists to make Chubby Checker smile from ear to ear. Its continent-spanning plot is epic in scope, yet the intimate moments of character bonding will be my lasting memory of Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ lovingly crafted script.

The strategic battles each hold some kind of weight, whether their relevance to the story is key or they play a vital role in completing a character-building goal. And I spent hours taking down notes for my class as I inched them towards becoming master units. Three Houses is all about long-term planning and seeing those plans slowly come to fruition as your class becomes stronger. Each system feels like a vital cog to the machine, yet I never became overwhelmed with all the variables I had to juggle in order to create my desired army. Instead, I engrossed myself in the grind, as each battle or lesson or bonding event felt like invaluable progress to my significant aims and dreams.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses was the most complete game I played in 2019. I put the most into it and found it held the greatest rewards. Rewards I hope to rediscover somewhere throughout 2020. Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, The Last of Us Part II, and Cyberpunk 2077 are looking poised to make this year one where single-player games can continue to thrive and excite and fill up my spare time so I don’t actually have to socialise.

Harry Fritsch

Harry Fritsch

Staff Writer

Spends most of his time micromanaging stats in JRPGs, but inevitably just goes with the “optimal” choice anyway

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