With the recent release of several long-awaited titles, annual entries, and sequels, the 2019 holidays almost seem like a gauntlet more than a shopping season. Thankfully, the holiday glut is one of quality as much as quantity.
Maybe the most eagerly awaited and oddest game this season is Death Stranding, the first from Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima after leaving Konami to found Kojima Productions. Taking place in a future after the barriers between life and death are broken, this well-reviewed third-person action-stealth adventure puts you in the boots of Norman Reedus-portrayed Sam Bridges as he tries to deliver packages and reconnect people across a devastated America rife with roving gangs of thieves, rain that ages people in seconds, and otherworldly beings intruding on the world of the living.
Even longer in the waiting, Ys Net’s Shenmue 3 finally came out after a successful Kickstarter campaign and 18 years since the second entry. While reviews have been mixed, people looking for old-school gameplay (the kind that inspired modern open world games like Red Dead Redemption and the Yakuza series) should be satisfied.
The holidays also have their share of surprises. Announced at last summer’s E3, EA’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order does plenty to scratch the itch for some Star Wars action and exploration. A galaxy far, far away isn’t the only space to visit, as the creators of the original Fallout at Obsidian Studios present The Outer Worlds, an action-RPG set amid a wry, class-obsessed, and distressed group of planets.
If sci-fi isn’t your thing, there’s always fantasy, as the remake The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening by Nintendo brings the classic Game Boy adventure to the Switch with colorful and adorable graphics and classic top-down Zelda gameplay.
Then, of course, there are good ol’ sequels. With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, developers Infinity Ward return the venerable FPS title to a more realistic and serious setting, to largely positive reviews, while far less seriously, Borderlands 3 from Gearbox Software brought the loot-and-shoot FPS-RPG series back to fan acclaim.
On the other end of the spectrum, family-friendly games have a strong representation in Nintendo’s Pokémon: Sword and Shield for the Switch, supplying plenty of adorable animal-on-animal violence, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 keeps the ghost-vacuuming fun going, throwing in multiplayer and co-op modes to boot.
Smaller studios and indies have plenty to offer as well. Frontier Developments’ Planet Zoo more than ably fills the Zoo Tycoon void, with a variety of animals and park customization. Koei Tecmo’s Atelier Ryza seems to have finally broken the RPG titles out in the West, earning good reviews for its fun and involving alchemy-crafting gameplay. Black Future 88, from excellently named developer SUPERSCARYSNAKES, supplies frantic rogue-like shooter action.
Those wanting a more laid-back experience focused on beautiful visuals should check out Concrete Genie, a game about living graffiti livening up a run-down town, by developer Pixelopus. If you want something horrible, unique, and replayable, Edmund McMillen returns with a prequel to The Binding of Isaac with The Legend of Bum-Bo, swapping Isaac’s Zelda-inspired, rogue-like shooter for a deck-building puzzle while keeping its grotesquely memorable art style.
Already released games continue to expand with downloadable content as well, the largest addition belonging to Monster Hunter World from Capcom, with its new expansion Iceborne adding a large new area and tons of new and returning monsters to hunt and from which to craft weapons and armor. With its deluge of content, the holiday quarter of 2019 offers more than enough variety to keep any type of gamer entertained, at least until the games of 2020 clog their backlog all over again.