Moises Taveras’ Top Ten Games of 2019
BET YOU ALL THOUGHT YOU’D HEARD THE LAST OF ME, HUH?
Hey all, it’s your favorite OK Beast alum here with my top ten games of the year. Boy, has it been a year. It was the year that I decided I needed to step away from all this games media nonsense in order to prioritize my life. That included my job(s), my education, my friends, my girlfriend and my health. Coincidentally, taking care of all of that stuff meant that I couldn’t play much of anything in the later parts of the year or did play through things at a glacial pace. Seriously, I literally have no idea how I plan on getting through Red Dead Redemption 2, which I finally started and am begrudgingly working through. Nonetheless, I think I just barely got through (or part of the way through) enough games to fill this list so I’m gonna list those off and spew a lot about them. Seriously, I’m getting all the way in my bag for some of these. Alright, without further ado:
Pokemon Sword was not part of the dynastic plan, which is how I”m choosing to say that there were a lot of games and so little money in the budget. Regardless, I had a long week of work, work that involved lugging around camera equipment, interviewing people all day and my nerves just absolutely eating me up the entirety of the time. I even butchered my questions and it bothers me still. It was exhausting and also rewarding which is how I could probably sum up my experience with the ever encroaching adulthood. It’s been feeling a lot lately like I’m growing up whether I want to or not, which makes sense because I’m twenty-two and in college training to do what I’ll hopefully be doing with my life. I’m not ready though so naturally, I came home from a day of shooting, ran up my credit card and treated myself to Pokemon Sword because fuck it, who needs good credit when I can catch all 890- er, I mean 400 of the monstrous little rascals and hold onto the feeling of being a kid embarking on the greatest adventure of my life? Certainly not me. So do I have a credit card anymore? Fuck no. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The comfort of a Pokemon game is eternal and money is fleeting. Trust me, I know, considering I have none anymore.
Apex Legends just really ended up being a good ass game. So good, as a matter of fact, that it launched a top 15 podcast called Jump Master: An Apex Legends Podcast from Ok Beast. You probably haven’t heard of em. In Apex, I got a battle royale that:
- Wasn’t janky.
- Was available on a system I actually played.
- Was built around not needing to communicate verbally with assholes on the internet.
- Was built to be played on a skill level I could reach.
- Was trying to carve out a cool identity in the face of a lot of already tired and similar tropes.
A year or so into the BR business, it already felt like the thing hit the damn ceiling, making Apex Legends too good to be true. Months later, it’s still the only one of that kind of game that has ever kept me coming back to play. Mind you, I’ve nary played a game of this with anyone I actually know but it’s the most fun I’ve had playing with other people in a few years now. I don’t know if I need to or want to wax poetic about this game, it’s just handily the best feeling thing I’ve played all year and it deserves all the praise it’s received.
I don’t remember starting Tetris 99, I just remember never stopping. I regrettably missed last year’s hit rendition Tetris Effect, so when this game arrived on the Nintendo Switch, I was absolutely delighted and scared by it. After sinking hours of my life into versions of the game that lived on my cousin’s/uncle’s/parent’s/grandparent’s phone as a kid, it struck me that I myself had never actually owned a version of one of the best games ever. The idea of getting lost in a game isn’t as appealing these days, but I knew I couldn’t resist the siren call of the tetrominoes.
Despite my fears and hesitation, in a year where I’ve frequently needed to disengage for my own well being, this game has been a remedy. Actually, stepping back from everything and zeroing in on this game has been one of the most meditative things I’ve done in a long time. Playing the game, which puts you in direct competition with 99 other people playing it, is the most stressful thing I’ve willingly done time and time again in a year hellbent on killing me, but alas, you can’t kill a bad bitch. So I pushed onward, slowly acclimating to the pace while trying to effectively clear my own board and make a mess of others. Turns out, I’m bad at making a mess of others, but I’m really good at clearing my own shit and taking on others. It’s no wonder winning’s evaded me. In my campaign to dominate Tetris 99 though, I’ve learned what I can do for myself and that I’m pretty good at it and that feels pretty alright.
If Tetris illustrated to me that I’m fairly decent at taking care of myself, Gato Roboto was an affirmation that I just know myself pretty well too. This game, a Metroidvania that’s pretty openly just Metroid with a cat in a mech suit, was the warmest blanket of any game I played all year. Coming off the heels of my (ongoing) obsession with Hollow Knight, I simply had to demo this at PAX and simply had to have it when it launched about a month later. I wanted it so bad, I was anxious I wouldn’t get a press code and pre-ordered it a whole 24 hours before I eventually got my press code. Gato Roboto wound up being one of the shorter experiences of the year but also ended up being a blast that knew exactly when to call it, delivering a flawless execution in tone, complexity and fun.
I can’t broach complexity and tone without giving props to Void Bastards, a game that would always be too intimidating to see through to the end, but one that I had a ball playing for the brief time I did. Every time I’m at bat with one of the immersive sims, something gets in the way of my enjoyment of them. Prey felt too clunky, Dishonored too slow, and just hearing people talk about the wealth of options in Hitman 2 has forced me to leave it at the bottom of the growing pile I call a backlog. Void Bastards felt just right: every level was a microcosm of possibilities and approaches and I was some randomly selected bastard who was almost always at a disadvantage. Every run felt like a randomly generated test, but one designed with having fun in mind. Knowing I would likely lose time and time again, paired with an excellently whimsical style and a fairly casual set of mechanics, dispelled any foreboding I had. For the first time, I was throwing myself into the fires and emerging unburnt. For the first time in forever, experimenting paid off.
Speaking of experiments that paid off, Remedy really did the damn thing with Control. Sure it wasn’t optimized all that well on my PS4, threatened to explode my system, and had its final fight reduced to absolute crap because those checkpoints were horrible…but when it did work, that baby hummed. I’m far from a Remedy stan but I applaud that team for their continued creativity and desire to just make strange games, often enough about stories and the power they hold in our world. Whether it was Alan Wake’s ability to bring fiction to life, or Control’s various Objects of Power or Altered World Events that played with our existing mythos, I love just how real stories and fiction feel to those people and I appreciate that they continue using their space to blur the lines we employ to keep them separate from our reality. I’m also just ridiculously excited to see where they go with it considering -redacted- AND APPARENTLY WAS ALWAYS SUPPOSED TO BE. Make weird shit, y’all. It’s pretty rad.
Considering that I wrote the preview and review of Metro Exodus for this site, and am already writing another end of year piece all about it elsewhere, I will just say that I adored Metro Exodus. In a month lined with supposed killers, it was the little steam engine that could. I have already written literally so many words on the game that I can’t even begin trying to summarize what I feel so instead I can link you to places where I’ve gone on and on about the thing because it’s such a damn affecting game. You owe it to yourself to sit down with this one for a good while.
You know what I haven’t spoken a lot about and am glad I avoided discussion around? Untitled Goose Game. Wow was I glad to see that game blow up the way it did and also man was the discourse centered on it just way too much for me to handle. Is the goose a villain, a hero or an ambiguous character you should feel ashamed to identify with? Is he a domestic terrorist or is he just doing what’s in his nature? Does his non-violent approach to his harassment of the villagers absolve him of his sin? It was all just incredibly heavy and while it inspired some good writing, it also inspired a fair amount of reaching from certain corners. My experience with the game? I plopped on my girlfriends couch, bought and downloaded it, and she watched me beat it a few hours later. I dramatically zoomed in on the goose’s head as it emerged from a bush and she giggled. I chased a young boy until he tripped, flapping my wings behind him shouting “WINGS OF CHAOS” and she absolutely lost it. To this day, we still make the flapping motion and have a laugh. So if it makes me a bad person that I harassed people as a goose for her benefit…well then yeah, I’m the bad guy.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a game I needed. I weirdly enough played this and Alan Wake: American Nightmare back to back and let me tell you that was quite a trip as someone who considers themselves a creative. On one hand was this pulpy, darkly comic look at a man struggling to be free of the hell his creativity had made for him and on the other was a brightly lit journey via motorbike, car or stag in some cases, to rediscover oneself and the drive to create. For months, I struggled to write anything worth putting out into the world. I have a number of half empty word docs to prove it. Week after week I’d tell myself to pitch something somewhere just to know I’ve still got it. I didn’t and began to hate myself.
Then I played Sayonara and remembered what rewarding creative work could feel like. The lyrics to the glittery pop anthems in the game stuck in my head like lines I should jot down on a page. The tarot cards reminded me of how much we draw on what’s already out there and build our own stories, our own mythology. The stunning landscapes I zoomed past reminded me of the worlds we can create and the antagonists reminded me of how often I’m my greatest foe. Bring that all together and you get Sayonara, the trippiest therapy session I’ll ever have and one of the greatest too.
Outer Wilds has had a weird effect on me: It’s made me sleep better at night. Life feels incredibly grand and I constantly feel like a small part in it. I mean, unarguably I am the tiniest part of my community, let alone society, let alone celestial body and galaxy, etc. Sometimes my celestial insignificance, my role in the grand scheme of things or lack thereof scares me. I stay up and wonder what it’ll be like when I stop existing. Sure people will care, but eventually they’ll move on. I’ll just be stories that someone passes on till they’re done talking about me, either from exhaustion or death. And after that, I have only the cold earth as a companion for the rest of my days. It’s a horrifying thing that keeps me up far longer than I want and keeps me up more nights than I’m happy to divulge.
Despite this, at the eleventh hour of my time in Outer Wilds, that song comes on and something comes over me. I stop reading whatever log I’ve discovered, I take to my ship if I can and I fly up into the heavens just one last time. I stare as the end of everything unfolds before me. That familiar blue light threatens to consume me whole and everything is somber and I’m alone. I’m also content. Content in the knowledge that I got to exist while incredible things happened and while incredible people lived. Content I got any time at all, really. Content that even if I go, the world around me will never cease being unendingly amazing and a complete mystery to me. And in that, I find some peace or at least just enough to soundly get to sleep.