Best of 2019: Top 10 Gaming Moments

Videogames are made up of tiny moments, each one hopefully engineered to keep you engaged in the overall experience of playing. But some unique slices of game design or scenario writing stand out from the smaller ones around them, sticking in our minds because they differ so wildly from our expectations, or because they encapsulate everything that’s great about a game in one neat package, or because they’re just fun to go through. Some moments are carefully set up by the developers; others completely unplanned, based on happenstance and/or the involvement of additional human players.

These are my ten favourite moments in 2019 video games.



This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is rarer than an EA game without microtransactions. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.





10. Out of the Blue – Apex Legends

It wasn’t as if we didn’t have any games to play at the start of February this year. But with barely a week gone since the year kicked off with Resident Evil 2, Kingdom Hearts 3 and Wargroove – each a big deal in its own way – EA decided the time was right to drop a new, free-to-play shooter with next to zero pre-release marketing or hype. Apex Legends represented a new step for developer-of-the-year Respawn Entertainment, previously of Titanfall fame; but diving into the game with a few friends on day one revealed a tasty basket of unexplored ideas in the battle royale genre that made it clear why EA had such confidence in the risky strategy. Using respawning pods, taking ziplines and especially the near-endless slope sliding were all a heap of fun, and they even let Apex take enough of the Fortnite and PUBG audience to rule the roost for a few months.


9. Kingdom Hearts 2.9 – Kingdom Hearts 3

After all the years of spin-offs that weren’t actually spin-offs, unwieldy combinations of numbers and Roman numerals and symbols in titles, releases on multiple consoles, sequel bait, twists that made varying degrees of sense, insights into Tetsuya Nomura’s labyrinthine consciousness, and most of all buckets of good old-fashioned waiting, at long last the third properly numbered Kingdom Hearts game was released in 2019. But that bastard had one more tease in store – within that very game no less. After far too many separate recaps than a game should probably need, our hero Sora sets out for a mission to Olympus Colosseum to complete his training. The music swells as his vessel approaches his destination, and we cut to title: “Kingdom Hearts II.9”. Yep, we’re still not in the main plot. For the next 10 minutes I could not get the image of Nomura cackling maniacally at his writing desk out of my head. In fairness, after all this, it is pretty funny.

8. Oleana Battle – Pokemon Shield

For all their shortcomings, over the decades the writers at Game Freak have become quite good at telling stories and teasing lore through non-dialogue means; a background element here, a strange and unexplained NPC there, an item linked to a quest that carries implications not directly explored in text. It’s almost as if they know that fan theories and room for interpretation give you free publicity or something. One of my favourite recurring parts of this trend is themed battle teams that reveal something about their trainer – Think Lysandre’s prideful Mienshao and Pyroar, Guzma’s physically tough but quick-to-flee Golisopod, Gladion’s stunted Type:Null – but never have I seen such a clever and committed take on the idea than in executive assistant Oleana’s evocative battle squad.

After 15 hours of looking down on the player character as the picture of poised, cold refinement, she hits you with Froslass, Tsareena, Salazzle, Milotic, then… Garbodor. Four elegant powerhouses followed by a literal pile of trash, as Oleana herself becomes more unhinged. It’s an encapsulation of a character and a commentary on those like her, in just five Pokemon. The Garbodor also gets its own uniquely-rendered Gigantamax form, which kinda feels like an extra middle finger to those who use it as an unfair memetic strike against the Gen V Pokedex. Or they’re just leaning into the meme. Either way, I love it.

7. Meet Mr X – Resident Evil 2

As my first proper Resident Evil experience after decades of keeping the iconic survival horror franchise at arm’s length, there was a lot in the 2019 RE2 revisitation that could have made this list. My first encounter with a Licker – that ingenius abomination I first saw in the pages of a gaming magazine in the early 2000s – would certainly qualify. So would the time I didn’t look at the map properly and took a wrong turn out of a prison compound, allowing about twenty zombies time to escape their cells and form a guard of honour for me down the correct passage. But how can I go past that introduction to Resident Evil 2′s most famous new feature – the trenchcoat-clad, stone-faced Tyrant also known as Mr X. Unkillable, steady and tireless, the thing starts its slow and unending pursuit of Leon or Claire by the site of a crashed helicopter, announcing itself with a terrifying Terminator-style show of strength. Yikes.

6. Dormammu Showdown – Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

The main story portion of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 largely keeps pace with its predecessors in terms of difficulty, which is to say it’s a bit of a breeze. The focus is understandably more on spectacle and fun with friends. But there are a few points where things can get hairy, particularly if you’re easily distracted by the shiny new superheroes you unlock as you go and thus end up falling behind the levelling curve. For me and my three co-op buddies, we hit such a wall early-ish with the ninja hideout housing Daredevil, but we really struggled on the Dormammu boss fight in the game’s second half.

After hours of defeating bosses with similar strategies focusing on team-up attacks, we struggled to do any kind of meaningful damage to the big guy’s stagger gauge. We died again and again amidst the utter chaos of spawning rock monsters and deadly lasers, unable to work out where our successful damage spikes were coming from, until my brother picked up on a colour change from one of the orbs his character was holding. One of my mates then called out to try getting hit by an energy attack, and the seeds of a plan formed. We shifted strategies, gave ourselves different roles to keep generating more orbs, and eventually, at long last, Dormammu went down. Moments like these are what co-operative gaming is all about.

5. Hugo’s Power – A Plague Tale: Innocence

By now it has become a bit of a crutch in narrative-driven single player games to mix up the pacing by changing who the player controls for an hour or two, realigning comfort zones, granting new appreciation for the main protagonist, and providing an enriching alternate perspective on story proceedings – Sony’s first-party output in particular loves to do this. But it’s a popular technique for a reason; It really works, as long as you do it sparingly and only when it makes sense plot-wise. Case in point: The ‘Blood Ties’ chapter during the final third of A Plague Tale: Innocence. After Hugo, the young boy companion with a mysterious black vein creeping up his neck that you’ve been trying desperately to protect all game, falls into the hands of the enemy, the stealth focus of the game ratchets up in intensity as you are granted direct control over him trying to make his escape.

But there’s a twist. After you sneak past a few under-qualified guards, the true meaning behind that vein is revealed: It turns out Hugo has the latent ability to control the rats you’ve spent most of the game avoiding, which turns this temporary distraction from the main gameplay flow into a guilty pleasure. Redirecting waves of supernatural vermin from your path into your enemies’ is extremely satisfying, particularly at the very end of the chapter when you need to use Hugo’s powers and a bit of spatial awareness to bypass a miniboss that foreshadows the game’s final encounter with malicious glee.

4. Hometown – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

The new reimagining of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare features one of the best campaigns in the series in my opinion; my favourite since the last game to carry that title, to be precise. It’s packed to the brim with variety and intense, personal moments like the two nighttime ascents up tiny residential staircases, the too-quiet roadside sniper mission, the knife-edge camera-swapping guide tour through a ransacked highrise , and that morally blurry terrorist interrogation sequence. But no sequence has stayed with me quite like the flashback to the childhood of tritagonist Farah Karim. Shortly after she is dug out of the rubble following a bombing run on her fictional Middle-Eastern home country, she witnesses the death of her father and is trapped in a house with her younger brother and a masked Russian soldier hell-bent on finding her. Cue a first-person game of cat-and-mouse involving sharp household objects and a lot of hiding under beds and chairs, leading to a blood-soaked escape. File it away as another deliberately shocking Call of Duty moment if you want, but this one lingers and feels essential to the development of the two siblings’ adult characterisation.

3. Up the Skyscraper – Crackdown 3

One of those emergent gameplay moments that make talking about videogames such a joy for me, this positively Just Cause 2-esque occasion came during one of the many instances in the Crackdown 3 co-op campaign where my brother was embroiled in a prominent enemy encounter nowhere near me – locking me out of fast-travel to join him because of the poorly-considered mechanic that instantly maxes out the game’s enemy attention meters during such battles. Now movement in Crackdown 3 is pretty loose and breezy, so covering huge distances on foot is not usually a huge deal. Problem is, the battle was taking place several stories up a giant skyscraper.

Without the time to fight through the waves of respawning enemies required to catch up, I summoned my all-terrain vehicle, which is supposed to be able to go up vertical surfaces with magnetic wheels, but every time I had tried beforehand the game had struggled to detect any such surface correctly without reorienting the camera in a way that would cause me to accelerate straight off the surface in the wrong direction. Yet for some reason, in this instance, after a couple of runs at the skyscraper’s base, I got a clean connection. The grip animation activated, and three exhilarating seconds later I was disengaging right underneath the fight, ready to unleash a flurry of neon lasers at the enemy. I barely had time to process my victory.

2. The Ashtray Maze – Control

When you first visit the mysterious Ashtray Maze in Control, it won’t let you solve it. Presenting disintegrating and reassembling walls at every turn, it gives you the tantalising impression that you are close to discovering its secrets. But alas, you have no choice but to turn back, hoping to acquire more knowledge and power before returning. When at last you do, you have acquired the power of flight, a walkman, and a new attitude. Re-enter the maze and this already extremely strange game takes an even stranger turn. Enemies spawn, vertical paths open up, and the ethereal soundtrack is replaced by the awesome “Take Control” by fictional hard rock band Old Gods of Asgard (last seen in Alan Wake). Shredding guitars and screaming vocals accompany your shrapnel bullets and telekinetic destruction as enemies attack you from literally all directions. Walls become ceilings and floors become walls as you progress through the maze until the end goal beckons. Then you’re out, the vast indoor expanses and chill synth come back, and you’re left asking “Did that really just happen?”

1. The Emperor Rises – Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I played Fire Emblem: Three Houses wrong.

Instead of taking the standard time of under 50 hours to complete one of the four story paths, I took 80 just to get to the game’s fabled timeskip during the Blue Lions run – which is usually about two thirds of the way through the story. That’s because I got bitten early by its Persona-style friendship sim elements, and became hell-bent on recruiting every possible character from the other two houses. This is possible in your first playthrough, but difficult and annoying enough that most players don’t bother. It meant an awful lot of making sure I got every conversation and gift right, tons of time spent running around the monastery, hundreds of button presses to open the menu, plenty of inter-house support conversations shedding light on character backstories and motivations, and the odd reset for RNG. Long story short, I spent a bunch of time getting to know the characters residing at the Officers Academy, and got real accustomed to how they looked and acted.

So when the end of the school year hit, and twist after devastating twist hit, I felt all that impact extra hard. It went something like: “What do you mean the evil Flame Emperor was secretly Edelgard all along? Nintendo was pushing players towards picking the Black Eagles house in all the marketing! And the polls confirmed that! Did they just sneakily get millions of players to unknowingly support a dictator?! What is that crazed look on Dimitri’s face? Is this what all the foreshadowing about his hidden bloodthirsty side was for? OH NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Wait, Rhea’s secretly a dragon? Am I dead? No, just secretly comatose for five years. Everything’s in ruins! Dimitri looks and sounds terrible; this is heartbreaking. Wait, we shouldn’t be in this fight, we’re outnumbered, this is a massive difficulty spike! Wait, who’s that? IS THAT ASHE?! He looks so cool now! ANNETTE LOOKS AND SOUNDS SO BADASS NOW! MY BOY FELIX, YES! They all came back, like they promised! Am I crying? Oh no, I’ve played way too much of this game. I’ve got to stop and go to bed.”

Or, you know, something like that.


Honorable Mentions

Be Afraid of the Dark – Yoshi’s Crafted World

A level in a Yoshi game has no business being this creepy. Combining a super-dark colour palette with a tense spotlight mechanic and some good-old fashioned demonic clown enemy designs, I was real glad when this stage was over. Even more glad the concept didn’t come back.
A Tough Wasteland – Rage 2

So I was talking to this mobile street vendor in Rage 2, just trying to buy some parts, when suddenly I was ripped out of the menu by a rocket that had just hit his truck. Like, that guy was dead. No more parts for me. Glitch? Gameplay feature? Either way, the game wasn’t messing around.
The First Max Raid – Pokemon Shield

I played Pokemon Shield alongside three friends on day one, for 16 hours. We made discoveries together, we solved problems together, we battled each other, we had a great time. But that’s all tradition for us. The first time the game let us directly co-operate against a common enemy, with that epic music, camera pan, and sense of solidarity? That was new. That was magnificent.
What it Says on the Box – Ring Fit Adventure

Take it from me – this colourful Nintendo game may look cute and fun, but if you get overly cocky and try a tougher difficulty than your fitness level can handle, you may have trouble walking for three days. Don’t let it get you.

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