The Best Games of 2019 (So Far)

12:41 PM 7/15/2019

by Brittany Vincent

Zombies, Mario and "eyehole monsters" are just some of the standouts from the first half of the year in gaming.

'Resident Evil 2', 'Trover Saves the Universe', 'Devil May Cry 5'
'Resident Evil 2', 'Trover Saves the Universe', 'Devil May Cry 5'
Courtesy of Capcom; Courtesy of Squanch Games; Courtesy of Capcom

The past few months in gaming have been a veritable blur, with potentially groundbreaking platforms coming later this year in the form of Google Stadia and a slew of exciting game releases scheduled throughout the fall. From Hideo Kojima's inscrutable Death Stranding to the first core Pokémon games to come to the Nintendo Switch with Pokémon Sword and Shield, the latter half of 2019 is set to be explosive for gamers of all stripes. 

There’s so much to look forward to in the world of gaming that it may be easy to forget to reflect on what’s already out there. So, what better time to rewind a bit and take a look back at some of the first half of 2019’s greatest releases?

It's been an explosive year already for games. There were some, of course, that only just missed out on being on this list as well. Some had a strong start but couldn't sustain the finish (looking at you, The Outer Wilds), while others, though strong contenders, were weighed down by too many unsavory elements to truly warrant the title of "best of 2019 so far," including the epic-but-occasionally-stale Kingdom Hearts III. Thankfully, subtracting all the possible fillers that could have been included, we’re left with five absolutely solid games that have fought to earn their spot among the best of the best. Maybe you’ll have some time to take these on before settling in for the next few super-packed months of big releases.

From a remake of a PlayStation classic to a sprightly, feature-rich DIY affair for the Nintendo Switch, here are video game critic Brittany Vincent's five best games from the first half of 2019. 

  • Devil May Cry 5

    Capcom

    Courtesy of Capcom

    After a painful 11-year wait, Devil May Cry fans were finally graced with the latest entry in the action-packed hack-and-slash series. Though Ninja Theory crafted a beautifully slick reboot in the form of DmC: Devil May Cry, fans were clamoring for a return to form. Capcom delivered in droves with March's DMC 5, the direct sequel that further builds upon the demonic family of Dante, Vergil and Nero as they work to puzzle out the demonic blood that courses through their veins and sort out the drama that it inevitably causes them. 

    The game was worth the wait, because this is Devil May Cry at its absolute best. It serves up a heaping helping of visually attractive, stylish action that finds players beating enemies to a pulp with Nero's new prosthetic arm and Dante's tremendously powerful weapons (one of which turns into a motorcycle). The game also introduces newcomer V, a mysterious individual who plays in a completely different manner than Dante and Nero, instead using his creature companions to do his dirty work while he stands by and directs them with his weakened body. 

    Devil May Cry 5 is another strong entry in the series and yet another reason to get excited for Bayonetta 3 whenever it finally debuts, especially if the threequel features even a modicum of the buttery-smooth action DMC 5 contains.

  • Resident Evil 2 Remake

    Capcom

    Courtesy of Capcom

    Video game remakes may be a dime a dozen, but Capcom's ground-up redux of one of the most popular survival horror games of all time took the crown in January. With expanded scenarios, fantastic graphical upgrades and plenty of deliciously gory human-on-zombie violence, the Resident Evil 2 remake ticks all the boxes for an excellent reboot. 

    A modern take on the zombie-slaying goodness of the original, Resident Evil 2 breathes new life into a classic, with originality pouring out of every (bleeding) orifice. No matter how many times you've poked around through the Raccoon City Police Department, it's all new again, giving a freshly horrific slant to every moment that passes in the zombie-ridden halls and stinking, rotten alleyways. 

    Leon and Claire get smart, updated looks, respond to the hellish sights in their periphery appropriately, and explore completely new scenes. The game is also positively riddled with fun Easter eggs for longtime fans to uncover, and when the campaign is finished, players get to do it all again as the other protagonist (or as a giant piece of tofu).

    Resident Evil fans will find the remake is nearly like playing an entirely new game, while newcomers will thrill at the prospect of playing through an entire series that feels just like this.

  • Super Mario Maker 2

    Nintendo

    Courtesy of Nintendo

    No matter how many times you've played a Mario game, there's just nothing like tearing into a set of new levels — and there are exactly 100 of them to choose from in the Switch-exclusive Super Mario Maker 2, which comprise the game's first Story Mode.

    Each course showcases some of this hefty sequel's various new assets and tools, demonstrating how players can use a selection of themes, props and items to craft their very own Mario levels. As they complete each challenge, players will be rewarded with coins and progress toward restoring Princess Peach's palatial estate to its former glory. 

    The main attraction, however, is the ability to "make" your own courses, using themes from games like Super Mario Land, Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros. U, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Though Amiibo support doesn’t return this time around, there’s still an abundance of ways to build creative levels that’ll shock players, whether via the ingenuity that went into creating them or just how ridiculously challenging they are to beat. 

    This iteration also adds local and online multiplayer modes, as well as co-op course creation. Further, four players can team up online to complete custom courses either as competitors or co-op partners. If you prefer to play solo, there is a seemingly never-ending wave of new levels hitting the game every day, so you’ll never run out of challenges to conquer.

    Who’d have thought Nintendo giving us the tools to create games and telling us to make our own would end up so entertaining?

  • Trover Saves the Universe

    Squanch Games

    Courtesy of Squanch Games

    Trover Saves the Universe is proof positive that there's a place for humor in games. 

    The VR-optional adventure is more like one of Rick and Morty co-creator and Squanch Games co-founder Justin Roiland's fever dreams than a game, and that's precisely why it's such a raunchy, hilarious time. Inviting players to set off on an intergalactic quest to retrieve the titular Trover's dogs from an evil creature named Glorkon, this platformer pulls out all the stops to make you question just about everything you see along the way. 

    Trover himself is an "eyehole monster" who uses "power babies" shoved into said eyeholes to gain new powers. Glorkon has done the same with Trover's dogs and is plotting something nefarious. Only you, a chair-bound alien called a "Chairorpian," have what it takes to aid Trover in bringing his dogs back and restoring peace to the universe. 

    With some of the gnarliest gross-out humor you’ve ever seen (“Pee Pee Poo Poo Man” will have you rolling on the floor) and innovative controls that find players taking on the role of Trover as a sort of “remote” protagonist, it’s easy to fall in love with this extremely adult, absurdist adventure, whether you’re a fan of Roiland’s other massively popular work or not.

  • Judgment

    Sega

    Courtesy of Sega

    The Yakuza series is consistently home to some of the most exciting RPG gameplay out there, and its spinoff Judgment is no different. This side story is not only a great way to jump into the franchise, but an exciting affair in its own right. 

    Players jump into the shoes of former lawyer Takayuki Yagami as he pursues a new career: private detective. He soon finds himself on the tail of a serial killer committing grisly murders all around the town of Kamurocho, and it's up to you to figure out who the culprit is — and potentially clear Yagami's name following the case that left him disgraced years ago. 

    Judgment is an exciting detective story that tasks you with gathering clues, investigating murder scenes and helping out individuals around town with their own smaller, less-immediate requests, just as Kazuma Kiryu did in the original Yakuza games. 

    Anyone could be a suspect, and there's a person of interest around every corner, but Yagami is never too busy to hit up the arcade or get in some drone racing, the precise brand of silliness that makes Yakuza, and now Judgment, work so well.