How many times have you watched the credits to the end after beating a game? If not, you ought to try it. It's a list of all the talented folks who put their love and effort into making something great, and this year there were a few who managed to stand out from the rest. Whether it was keeping up appearances or establishing a bold new presence, these are five studios that really smashed it in 2019.
ZA/UM - There are very few developers, artists or even people who can get things so right on their first try. When you play Disco Elysium for the first time, it would be easy to assume that this was made by a team of highly experienced game developers who have mastered their craft. That's what makes ZA/UM so special, as Disco Elysium was the team's debut title. It swooped in right out of nowhere, shattering our expectations of what a standard isometric RPG could be with some of the most astonishing writing you could hope for along with a phenomenal narrative filled with dark humour, plenty of heart, and even some mind-blowing revelations. Based in Estonia and headed by Robert Kurvitz, we can only hope that ZA/UM's next title is just as amazing.
FromSoftware - Somehow, FromSoftware makes developing outstanding games look easy - which is ironic, considering the infamous difficulty that many of their titles have. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was yet another hit in that regard, following up on their legendary legacy with a ton of smart tweaks and additions to keep everything fresh yet still unmistakably theirs. Gone are the gothic castles, catacombs, dungeons and blood-soaked streets of Lordan and Yharnam, along with the endurance and customisation of old. Sekiro takes advantage of being devoted to Japanse history with ancient temples and fortresses, switching up the combat to focusing on parrying and breaking a foe's posture for the killing blow. Add in some stealth and some exhilarating platforming whilst keeping everything else that makes FromSoftware so famous and you've got another modern classic. From has one of the best hit rates in the business, and its ability to churn out quality games is up there with the very best.
Obsidian Entertainment - The RPG specialist has seen and experienced both sides of the modern games industry. The studio has developed some wonderful independent titles, such as Pillars of Eternity, but it has also worked with licenses and made the fantastic Fallout: New Vegas nine years ago. After the team was acquired by Microsoft and Bethesda decided that Fallout 76 was a good idea, it seemed like we would never be able to return to New Vegas. Fortunately, Obsidian stepped back into the spotlight with The Outer Worlds and gave us the next best thing. The Outer Worlds is an excellent first-person open-world character-driven RPG by any definition, and it succeeded where we hoped it would. There's plenty of choices to make, witty dialogue and goofy moments ahead as you kick (or help) the rear end of an evil corporate conglomerate in charge of everything in what is likely the studio's last multiplatform title.
Remedy Entertainment - One of the more popular trends over the last few years is the emergence of big, popular multiplayer titles and that has inadvertently meant fewer story-driven single-player games - or ones that aren't open-world at least. Enter Remedy, famous for the mind-bending Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break, who has managed to do it again with Control. Indeed, this psychological action thriller has yet another great narrative and a uniquely brutalist look that could only come from them, and them alone. There's plenty of action mixed in with a bunch of crazy telekinetic powers making for some exciting combat, whilst the otherworldly puzzles will keep you thinking long after you put the controller down. Your time in The Oldest House will be a trippy adventure indeed, and thanks to Remedy's shift towards third-party releases, everyone can get lost in this one.
Respawn Entertainment - It's no secret that game development is hard. With hundreds of talented employees, budgets that need to be respected, and high expectations - putting out just one great game is a feat in of itself. That's why Respawn stands out as the best studio this year with not one, but two excellent titles that blew us away.
Straight out of nowhere was Apex Legends, stealthily announced as a new battle royale contender entering a market that many developers had tried and failed to conquer after Fortnite stole the show. Apex, on the other hand, became a titan in no time at all with over 50 million players - the most successful free-to-play launch in history. That could be thanks to the fast, snappy first-person action known from the Titanfall series, which has been adapted well for the last player standing format.
On the other hand, there's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. After managing to make a hugely successful multiplayer game it only made sense for Respawn to develop a remarkable single-player experience too, especially considering how long it had been since the last great solo game set in A Galaxy Far, Far Away. Blending the Star Wars universe with combat inspired by the likes of Dark Souls and a sprawling Metroidvania world design and you've got an instant hit on your hands. How they pulled off both of these games in a single year is anyone's guess, but here's hoping they keep up the good work with whatever comes next.
Loading next content