I gotta feeling this year will be legendary
Depending on whom you ask, 2018 was either a great year for gaming or a veritable shit-hole. Yes, the year was lit up by some absolutely wonderful experiences from both indie and AAA developers alike, but there were also loads of misses, some of which made headlines for weeks after their launch. We got God of War, but we also got We Happy Few. Celeste broke barriers while Fallout 76 simply broke. Far Cry 5 ended up as one of the best-selling games of the year, but it’s also one of the least daring titles to hit the market over the past 12 months. Also, Agony happened but nobody cared because we were all too busy playing Fortnite.
2019 could end up being a bit of a mixed bag. Nintendo is sure to have a fire year with all of the known games it has coming our way, but the same can’t be said about Sony and Microsoft. Third parties will once again dominate the landscape beginning in January, but with the hint of new consoles on the horizon, it’ll be interesting to see if that continues for the next 12 months or if some publishers and developers are already moving onto newer hardware. Of course, there’s also PC, a category I ignore far more than I should as I’m not a PC gamer. Many great indies and exclusives hit computers in 2018 and with the launch of the Epic Games store, PC gaming could be undergoing its biggest transformation in a decade.
Who knows what 2019 has in store for PC, Switch, 3DS, PS4, Xbox One, and mobile, but what we do know is the games listed below are the titles we’re most looking forward to this year.
I typically pick a Souls game for this list (because I have no idea what to expect), but for the last several years I’ve been out of luck. Wait! There is one this year! Kinda.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is intriguing precisely because FromSoftware is moving away from the formula they pioneered back in 2009 with Demon’s Souls, but visionary Hidetaka Miyazaki is still at the helm so you know some crazy stuff is still going down. Although the setting seems picturesque, my only worry is that, like Nioh, the team will feel like they need to crib historical inspirations: but in Miyazaki I trust.
I ended 2018 the same way I started it: playing Subnautica and wishing the experience would never end. There’s something so enthralling about combing the different biomes for natural resources, building decked-out bases in dangerous places, and getting to know the world well enough that you don’t need to glance at an online map for directions. Subnautica is phenomenal on PC, and after wrapping up the PlayStation 4 port, I can say it’s mostly great there too (aside from some pesky technical issues).
This year, we’re getting more Subnautica in the form of Below Zero, a standalone expansion that takes place after the base game’s story. It’s set in a frigid new environment, a perfect next step with a lot of cool possibilities. I’m trying to ignore the publicly-accessible production materials, but it’s hard to resist peeking. My imagination is brimming with hopes, wishes, and what-ifs. I’m beyond stoked.
You know something is bonkers about a franchise when the weirdest thing about its storyline isn’t the crossover between Square Enix JRPGs and Walt Disney animated movies. I used to look at Kingdom Hearts with nothing but starry-eyed awe, even having played every game in the series out of order. But by the end of Dream Drop Distance, I finally lost the ability to take its overarching plot seriously. I probably don’t need to mention why, as that reason is either a massive DDD spoiler you don’t know, a revelation you learned from the Kingdom Hearts III trailers, or a joke players keep circulating in conversation. Whatever it is to you, this door has pulled so much ridiculousness out of its keyhole that I have doubt KH3 will fully live up to its buildup, and its history of delays make me suspect rewrites or other development woes.
Despite all of this, I love Kingdom Hearts for what it is. I love the flashy, over-the-top anime combat in Disney worlds. Dozens of scenes through the series still give me goosebumps and teary eyes. And by all indications, KH3 is looking to marry several of my favorite gameplay mechanics from throughout the entire series while building upon the story beats that hit me the hardest.
It’s not even accurate to say I have a love-hate relationship with this series. Rather, I love it both ironically and unironically at the same time. Despite my expectations for KH3 to introduce another laughable plot twist, I also expect the journey before and after that point to be full of joy, tears, and heart-thumping climaxes all the same. No matter how I look at it, January the 25th is the day I’ve waited years for.
It seems almost silly for me to be excited for a game I know hardly anything about, but I really love the Animal Crossing franchise. For the majority of last year, every time a Nintendo Direct would be announced, I hoped we’d hear something about the ever-charming series. I just want an HD version of this life simulator that I can take anywhere. Is that too much to ask?
Then the Smash Ultimate reveal for Isabelle happened and I was ecstatic. Nintendo gloriously pulled the rug out from under us and confirmed that, yes you idiots, Animal Crossing is coming to Switch. What new features will it have? Will the online be worth shelling out for? Is this just a port of New Leaf, but for Switch? I honestly don’t care: I just want Animal Crossing.
Give me more K.K. Slider songs, new types of fruits and a whole collection of fish to capture. Anything else Nintendo adds will just be icing on the cake.
Before the Nintendo Direct that announced Animal Crossing was in development for Switch, I posted a picture similar to this. Riots would’ve been instigated if Animal Crossing, after half a decade or so of nothing, would not get a new game on the biggest console hit for Nintendo in a long time.
Animal Crossing has been with me through most of my life. I raided the junkyard as a high school student, watched the stars through the observatory when I started college, and connected with people by train and boat on my way towards my graduation. Now, in the midst of a sort of midlife crisis where I’m trying to find my way back to a sense of self and stability, I have Animal Crossing for the Switch to keep my hopes and dreams up.
Truly, owning a house and being debt free is the fantasy only video games can help me achieve.
Kingdom Hearts III has been far too long in the making for me to really get that amped up about it. Mortal Kombat 11 has just been announced, but I’m definitely looking forward to that one. Outside of that, I don’t think there’s really a whole lot that’s got me looking forward to buying a new game in 2019.
Except for No More Heroes, of course.
I hate that I’m one of those people who uses the same game two years in a row due to delays, but also, I’m glad Travis Strikes Again got a little bit of extra time in the oven. I feel like gaming, on the whole, has really lost that abstract “gaming” feel since the dawn of HD graphics and the lusty group-fuck developers are continually having as they try to achieve hyper-realism. Sometimes I just want to fall into a wormhole, throw a virtual tiger at some robots, and forget that I’m getting older and closer to death by avoiding playing out real-life scenarios in digital format. Suda understands that. He gets me.
There are probably a dozen games I could be writing about here, most of them destined to appear on Nintendo Switch. Originally, I was going to touch on Luigi’s Mansion 3 or the HD port of Chocobo’s Dungeon. But then I remembered Daemon x Machina and it became the only thing I could write about here.
The build-up to E3 2018 was quite annoying this year with the endless “leaks” of what Nintendo would show during its Direct. Some of what was out there ended up being true though most of it was patently false. Normally, this type of bullshit really irks me as it builds up unsubstantiated hype a developer or publisher has no chance of matching. That could have happened to Nintendo. The Switch was going through a particularly slow period in its early life, with ports filling the release gaps, and you can never be quite sure what Nintendo is going to bring to the table. But when the Direct opened with Daemon x Machina, I knew this would be a presentation that wouldn’t let me down.
Daemon x Machina comes from Marvelous and First Studio. In addition to Armored Core developer Kenichiro Tsukuda, on staff for the title are Yusuke Kozaki, character artist for No More Heroes, Fire Emblem Fates, and Pokemon Go; as well as Ken Awata, the director of the criminally overlooked Monster Hunter Stories. Daemon features customizable robots and pilots engaging in fast-paced action combat that honestly reminds me of the ill-fated Custom Robo franchise. In fact, it looks like an evolution on that concept and I can’t wait for this title to be on my Switch in 2019.
Like everyone else, I’m also excited about Animal Crossing, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry in 2018. Project Indiana has been Obsidian’s worst kept secret for a few years now. The brainchild of Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky of the original Fallout RPG, Project Indiana was a glimmer of hope on the horizon for fans of western RPGs. When it was revealed to be The Outer Worlds at the VGAs last month, that glimmer became a wave of relief. We can see the promised land and it is filled with humor, grey morality, player choice, and an actual dialogue system. The short, two-minute trailer addressed every issue I’ve had with recent western RPGs and looked good doing it. Praise be to Obsidian! It also helps that the reveal trailer was absolutely posturing for the disenchanted Fallout: New Vegas fan who was no doubt suffering through yet another instance where Bethesda stripped their beloved franchise of its properties that made it unique.
All that we really know so far is that the game takes place in the distant reaches of space at the edge of civilization. Corporations have moved in after early explorers established a nice foothold and jacked up the prices so only the rich can survive. There are some gameplay videos floating around out there in the ether that is the internet but like Cyberpunk 2077, I’ve seen enough to sell me on it so I’ve officially gone into lockdown mode. I don’t want to know anything outside of what I already know so that when I play the game it’s all fresh and beautiful and oh god please give me at least a modicum of the feeling I had while playing New Vegas for the first time.
I mentioned in my end-of-year post that I really haven’t played as many games as I wanted to recently. There are a variety of reasons for this, but a side effect of those reasons is my consumption of game-related hype is also much lower. I’ll often see announcements and keep up with news in general, given that it’s still part of my job to remain nominally informed, but staying on top of a game’s development between the time I’ve heard about it and the time it actually comes out is something that happens much less often for me these days. In effect, any game I’m interested sort of gets pushed behind the kind of media lockdown you reserve for your real faves, and as a result, I don’t hotly anticipate any given title.
That said, I am rather interested in none other than BioWare’s apparent attempt to take on Destiny with their own shared-world mech shooter Anthem. Destiny 2 hooked me good with the Forsaken expansion, but I’m always on the lookout for new games I can play on the regular that aren’t as openly competitive as the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, two games I’m very bad at. As much as I enjoy the latter, constantly losing takes its toll.
Anthem, if BioWare can somehow pull it off, might hit that spot; though, between proven properties like Destiny and Warframe and a ton of gacha bullshit I’m already deep into, they’ll have to work extra hard to convince me it’s worth the plunge. Still, I can’t help but be interested, being one of those weirdoes that liked Mass Effect Andromeda and appreciated the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. BioWare’s not dead to me yet, so I’m willing to give it a fighting chance.
Occams Electric Toothbrush
Look, we all know that the Resident Evil remake is the single greatest remake of all time. It’s a masterclass in making something old new again and updating a classic. That’s why folks have been clamoring to see Resident Evil 2 get the same treatment. Now here we are with the game releasing at the end of this month. Using the same engine that built Resident Evil 7, this remake looks to bring that same level of grisly detail and atmosphere that RE7 was lauded for.
I haven’t watched a new trailer since the reveal. I know the game by heart and I want to see the big monsters with fresh eyes. This is my chance to fall in love with a game all over again. And I think the thing that excites me the most is knowing that a new generation of gamers gets to experience this absolute gem for the first time. Those distant memories of the introduction of the Licker and the bishop plug (a personal favorite) are about to become someone’s new, happy horror moment. It goes beyond just a remake and ties what gaming was with what its become. And seeing that, I am truly happy.
When it comes to sure things, Resident Evil 2, Travis Strikes Again, Shovel Knight: King of Cards, Crystal Crisis, Super Meatboy Forever, The Legend of Bum-Bo, YIIK, Samurai Gunn 2, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and the Smash Bros. Ultimate Character DLC Season Pass are the ones I want the most. For games that will probably come in 2019 but haven’t formally been given release dates, Bayonetta 3, Animal Crossing Switch, Knuckle Sandwich, Metroid Prime 4, 1001 Spikes EX, and Knight Club: Deluxe are the ones I’m most hopeful about.
But when it comes to raw anticipation, the thing that has me most excited is the idea of a game based on Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Sony hasn’t announced anything yet, and if they do, chances are slim that this hypothetical game would make it out in 2019, but that does nothing to keep my mind racing about the possibilities. Taking the Spider-Man PS4 engine and giving it a Miles-focused plot, the visual style of Spider-Verse, and the breadth of characters found in the Spider-Geddon comics would be a dream come true for me. Even if 2019 comes and goes with nothing but a five-second teaser trailer hinting at the idea of a game like that, it would still be my #1 moment in gaming for the year.
Much like 2018, 2019 is looking to be another fantastic year for video games. Going in, there are a ridiculous amount of games swirling around my head. Animal Crossing, Resident Evil 2, a full-fledged Pokemon on Switch, but the game I’m the most optimistic for is Judgment.
The next title from Yakuza team takes the focus off the crime families of Kamurocho and moves things to the side of law and order. Yakuza feels like this giant party I was late to in 2018 but the series became something of an obsession for me over the past few months. While part of me wishes Kiryu Kazuma had more adventures ahead of him, I’m excited to see a different and more law-abiding protagonist explore Kamurocho.
Seriously though, this game needs a stronger title.
I’ve been burned by this feature too many times. I’ll pick some ambitious indie or a groundbreaking board game, and it won’t come out the year it’s supposed to, or it flops because it lost the thread somewhere. Not this year. This year I’m going with the safe bet: Anthem.
In the past, I’ve seen a lot of hate directed toward this one, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe some BioWare fans don’t like that the story won’t follow the same format as Mass Effect. Maybe some Destiny fans think this is trying to bite its style. Maybe people on the internet are just jerks a lot of the time. Whatever the reason, I’m not feeling it. If BioWare wants to take on the loot-shooter and I get to ride in a mech and blow stuff up, I’ll probably be happy with it.
Runner-up: the big Gloomhaven expansion might come out late this year. It might get pushed back to 2020. Either way, that thing is going to be a beast.
Pixie The Fairy
Most of what I anticipated last year shifted to this year, such as games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and I’m up for any samurai business From Software and Sucker Punch have planned. Hoping to see some Shin Megami Tensei V and Re: Fantasy news from Atlus, as well as what Nintendo has in store for this year.
Besides those things, I’m readying for and most looking forward to Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. After two years of playing, mounting resistance groups, pushing back imperials and so on, it’s time to walk on the dark side and also see more of what used to be Invalice!
There’s not a whole I can say about Knuckle Sandwich that I haven’t already said. Between my time with the demo and this absolute banger of a song from the soundtrack, I’m one hundred percent sold on the game at this point. For me, it’s not just about the Earthbound-inspired gameplay or the hilarious dialogue. It’s about the shit that Knuckle Sandwich does differently that sets it so firmly apart from its peers.
There’s a touch of this hard to define, surreal quality that all of my favorite movies and musical acts employ on display here. Against all logic, the biggest connection that my brain keeps going back to when thinking about this dorky RPG is a short-lived television series called Fishing With John. On the surface, the show is just a man and random, inebriated celebrities shooting the shit, in a boat, while touring third world countries.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there are these little moments sprinkled throughout both, which only last seconds at a time, that convey a profound sense of awareness and are willing to make fun of themselves almost instantly afterward. It’s like laughing in the face of some dark truth that nobody fully understands but everyone is simultaneously trying to ignore. Then, in an instant, the moment is gone and everything returns to normal. The conversation doesn’t skip a beat and just keeps billowing forward as if nothing ever happened. It feels honest, and that’s exciting to me.
That is one strong list. So many great games coming out in 2019. Let us know in the comments what game you’re most looking forward to. Is it one we listed or something we forgot, like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order that I’m now just remembering as I type this sentence?
Is it too late to change my answer?