2019 was a great year for RRG fans, simply because of the diversity on offer to fans of all kinds of role playing games. From breakout indie hits to veteran RPG franchises, from action RPGs and loot-driven affairs to traditional turn based RPGs and completely choice-driven narratives- there was something excellent for everyone this year. Here, we’ll be listing out what have been our ten favourite role playing games throughout the course of 2019, before we pick out one game from that group our ten and crown it as the best of the best.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE LEGEND OF HEROES: TRAILS OF COLD STEEL 3
The larger Legend of Heroes saga – which is split across multiple sub-series comprising numerous games that all share narrative connections – can be daunting for most newcomers, but for those who’ve stuck with the franchise and are invested in it, each new game delivers so much payoff. That’s true for Trails of Cold Steel 3 as well. It is a dense game and a dense story, and though it’s hard for newcomers to get into, for fans of the series it is immensely satisfying. Add to that excellent combat that remains consistent engaging throughout the long campaign, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.
With their own take on Capcom’s radically successful monster hunting premise, developers Phoenix Labs put out their own free-to-play title Dauntless this year, and it turned out to better than many were expecting. It nails the most important aspects of any such experience- great monster design, interesting weapons, and tight combat, all of which is put to excellent use in tense and enjoyable encounters. Dauntless does suffer from such issues, such as a lack of polish at some times, but by and large, it is an addictive and well-designed game.
Sunless Skies is a game that has flown under the radars of a great many people this year, but this isn’t one that should be missed. It’s a narratively rich adventure, and its writing constantly delivers on all fronts, from dense world-building to several excellent written and developed characters. Exploring its world is also an engaging process, as you’re constantly drawn into its murky depths to see what’s around the next corner. Its plodding and more challenging nature might turn some people away, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with something truly memorable.
POKEMON SWORD AND SHIELD
Pokemon Sword and Shield definitely aren’t the absolute best they could have been. Game Freak certainly could have been much more ambitious with the series’ console debut, and made their product more polished- but while all that is well and true, what is also undeniable is that even in their current form, Sword and Shield are great, fun games. From the excellent Galar region to the new Wild Area to the new twist on Gym Challenges, there’s enough here that any Pokemon fan can still get plenty of enjoyment out of.
There’s a good, solid chance that you haven’t seen much of Outward, but though it’s not among the most prominent releases of the year, that is in no way a reflection of its quality. Outward is a very unique game, in that it isn’t afraid to present players with some truly tough challenges right from the get go. The game also has a strong survival bent, which really grounds Outward, making it feel like that much more of a rewarding experience. It’s definitely a game that many might not have the time or patience to get into, but it’s a thoroughly rewarding experience if you do.
Choice and consequence is a thing many developers struggle with, but Disco Elysium litters its entire playthrough with meaningful choices and consequences. Every conversation can go multiple ways, and the number of options available at any time is staggering. Disco Elysium is also excellently written, with sharp dialogue and engaging storytelling. It involves a lot of reading, but every word is a joy to read. It is a deep and rewarding experience, and one of the most impressive indie efforts we’ve ever seen.
CHILDREN OF MORTA
Children of Morta’s blend of storytelling, action RPG mechanics, and roguelike structure makes for a unique and engaging experience. Playing as a family of heroes keeps things varied, because of how differently each character works, and it’s fun to see how the game makes its storytelling work within its roguelike framework. Meanwhile, the constant progression of your characters makes sure it never feels like you’re wasting time. Children of Morta isn’t the biggest game out there, and many might argue that it’s even a bit too short- but it makes sure to at least properly implement the things it does focus on.
KINGDOM HEARTS 3
A dense story that is rewarding for fans, a fun combat system, stunning visuals, and an impressive amount of variety in the locations you visit and what unique challenges they present- it’s hard not to have fun when you’re playing Kingdom Hearts 3. It’s a game that always knows how to engage the player. Does it have issues? It could definitely have balanced its too-easy difficulty a little better, and the plot was maybe a bit too convoluted (typically so). But was it exactly what we had been waiting for for so long? Absolutely.
Not many expected Code Vein to be more than a fun but forgettable game, and we were among many people taken aback by how good it turned out. The extensive customization and robust character creator offered great control over your character and progression, while the class system and solid world design also ensured that combat and exploration were both always fun. Code Vein does have issues that can hamper the experience at times, but overall, it’s strongly recommended to all fans of the Souls-like genre.
Borderlands 3 nails the essentials of a looter shooter. It is bursting to the seams with varied, interesting, and well-designed loot, and thanks to some smart additions, combat is a lot more mobile, and constantly enjoyable. It’s also got a ton of content on offer, including a meaty campaign that is characterized by typical Borderlands humour. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel – it is essentially just more Borderlands – but then again, it didn’t really need to.
KINGDOM HEARTS 3
It’s nearly impossible for any conclusion to a long story to be completely satisfactory to all people, and sure enough, Kingdom Hearts 3 has its fair share of detractors as well. But one thing that is undeniable is that it’s an absolute spectacle overflowing with heartfelt fan-service. Kingdom Hearts 3 is explosive, ridiculous, over-the-top, all at the same time, and it’s a ride that you cannot forget. It also helps that it looks stunning, and brings its various worlds to life beautifully. To put it shortly, it is well worth the many, many years we waited for it.