The Last of Us Part 2 is an outstanding action game; a darker, more introspective follow-up that seeks to challenge the conventions of big-budget action games. In this it's not always successful, but its execution is impeccable, and its story proves an appropriate bookend to the story of Joel and Ellie. In short, it's some of Naughty Dog's best work.
XCOM: Chimera Squad retains much of what makes XCOM such a special tactics series, in the process adding in some genuine improvements to its already excellent formula. But these improvements are undermined by some strange art choices, as well as a general reluctance to maximize some of its bolder changes. All in all, an interesting experiment, but one that still has a ways to go before reaching its full potential.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake sets out to fully re-imagine a classic RPG with improved combat and an expanded story. Unfortunately, it's hurt by weak side quests and a surplus of padding, and its biggest change is bound to be controversial. It's one of the most coherent and enjoyable Final Fantasy releases in years, but it's also likely to be one of the most divisive.
MLB The Show 20 isn't a complete replacement for all those lost afternoons at the ballpark, but it's nevertheless a balm for the baseball fan's soul in these trying times. While this year's version largely rests on the excellence of last year's version, it still brings with it plenty of strong additions, including the return of online leagues. As a tip of the cap to conclude the PlayStation 4 generation, it comes highly recommended.
Shovel Knight Showdown takes the popular indie platformer series and turns it into a four-player arena battler, with great results. With a large amount of unlockable content, in-game challenges, and solo modes, it's a deceptively robust package that has the potential to be a long-term party staple. Shovel Knight Showdown is great even if you've never played the original games.
Shovel Knight: King of Cards revisits the formula one last time with new maps and bosses, as well as a brand new card game. It's ambitious, but it's also the least essential of the major Shovel Knight episodes. If you own Treasure Trove, play Shovel of Hope and Specter of Torment first, then circle back to King of Cards if you still want more.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order comes painfully close to being the best action game of the year, but it ultimately falls short due to pacing problems and a host of technical issues. Still, this is the first step into a larger world for a franchise that has persistently struggled since its acquisition by EA.
Death Stranding might be Kojima's boldest game to date. It may also be his most tedious. Either way, its originality outweighs its sometimes exhausting structure and poor pacing... but only just. Maybe not a game I would recommend to everyone, but certainly one of the most interesting games of 2019.
John Wick Hex has a solid enough foundation, but it largely fails to build on its core concept. It's a one-dimensional tactics game that moves at a glacially slow pace and features few unique wrinkles. It offers a slightly deeper look at the lore, but otherwise it adds little to the burgeoning John Wick-verse.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne skimps a bit on introducing totally new monsters, but it's still a large expansion filled with very smart refinements. The campaign alone comes close to matching the scale of the base game, and it wisely ditches some of its more tedious elements. If you played through the original and wanted more, then Iceborne is almost everything you could ask for. It's not a full sequel, but it's pretty darn close.