It's that time of year again, when we look back and celebrate the best of the best. The game industry had a huge year in 2019, as we head closer and closer towards next-gen consoles and even beefier PC rigs.
2019 year saw the return of old school experiences like World of Warcraft Classic, Age of Empires II DE, and Half-Life (albeit on VR). We got a broader push into game streaming with Google Stadia and Project xCloud. We also got the formal announcements of next-gen consoles in the form of Xbox Scarlett and PlayStation 5, accompanying ray-tracing capable graphics cards making our games look more vivid than ever.
And of course, we had piles of awesome games to play. With our Windows Central Game Awards, our gaming writers got together and voted on our favorite gaming experiences, tech, and products of the past year, presented here for your perusal. Do let us know what your favorite games of 2019 were in the comments too, and let us know what you're excited for in 2020 and beyond.
Best Games of 2019
Best Windows PC Game
Disco Elysium is a breathtaking open-world role-playing game that took the industry by surprise. You step into the shoes of a detective as you determine your own destiny. You can interrogate quirky characters to solve murders or take bribes. The ability to shape your story and the world around you is unparalleled.
Disco Elysium will take you dozens of hours to complete and features many side quests, including some that feature curious topics like cryptozoology. It's as unique as it is special, and well-deserving of our top accolade for PC games in 2019.
Best Xbox One Game
Capcom has had an epic 2019, and they kickstarted the fun with Resident Evil 2. Remade from the ground up, Resident Evil 2 offers a masterclass in how a remake should be conducted. RE2 is based on the original PlayStation 1 game of the same name, following a massive viral outbreak in Raccoon City. As you stalk the darkened ruins of the city, all manner of biohazardous terrors skulk out of the wood work, creating one of the most tense gaming experiences in recent memory.
The visuals are stunning, the atmospherics are haunting, and the gameplay is as satisfying and tense as ever. RE2 is a horror masterpiece, and the best Xbox game of 2019.
Editor's Choice Game Award
A Plague Tale: Innocence was a surprise hit in 2019, not only featured breathtaking visuals, but also its powerful story about loss and family. The game combines stealth mechanics with puzzle solving during the backdrop of The Black Death.
While A Plague Tale: Innocence provides a lot of structure, the character building is what really makes it shine. The main character goes from someone who's afraid of the world to someone who can conquer almost any challenge.
Considering the size of the studio, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a wonderful achievement, which is why we're giving it our Editor's Choice Award this year.
Best Indie Game
Children of Morta is an absolutely gorgeous pixel-style top-down action RPG with roguelike-elements, set in a mysical world on the verge of corruption. You take control of an entire family of heroes, each with different abilities, and delve into randomly-generated dungeons full of horrors and treasure. As you die (and die you will) the story gently progresses, revealing more about your family and the encroaching darkness.
As satisfying as it is beautiful, Children of Morta takes the crown for our top indie of 2019.
Most Anticipated Game Award
For the second year in a row, Cyberpunk 2077 takes our award for most-anticipated game. There's little new that can be said about Cyberpunk 2077, suffice to say the enormous amounts of hype CD Projekt RED managed to generate when it revealed Keanu Reeves will be playing a major role throughout the game.
Set in a dystopian tech-addled future, Cyberpunk 2077 follows an up-and-coming gun-for-hire on a cybernetic journey across the corporate hellscape of Night City, and into the deepest recesses of the dark web.
Cyberpunk 2077's gameplay looks revolutionary in its open-endedness, granting huge amounts of player freedom in an RPG experience that seemingly only CD Projekt RED is capable of. Hopefully it lives up to the hype once it finally lands in 2020.
Electronic Arts jumped on the battle royale trend with Apex Legends, receiving an unexpected free-to-play launch to kickstart 2019. The last-man-standing shooter did things differently, embracing Respawn Entertainment's expertise across past Call of Duty and Titanfall entries. The studio once again proved itself among the leaders of the shooter space, differentiated by a diverse range of heroes and abilities, bolstered by the fluidity of Titanfall's movement.
Apex Legends was an instant phenomenon, logging over 50 million players in just one month, making it an unstoppable multiplayer force in 2019.
Best Story Campaign
Remedy created one of the most intriguing worlds we've had the privilege of losing ourselves in this year with Control. The narrative is mind-bending and confusing and mysterious in all the right ways, crafting a supernatural tale we won't soon forget. Control has just about everything; clandestine government agencies, cosmic entities, unknowable and unnatural phenomena, parts where you run through a maze while blasting metal music and killing otherworldly beings. You name it.
By the end of it, you're just as invested in Jesse's journey to discover the truth as she is. One of the best — and most impressive — parts is that it even ties in with Alan Wake, giving us all the more reason to keep a close eye on the universe Remedy made.
Best Art Direction
Age of Empires II Definitive Edition proves that some art styles are timeless, and that instead of an overhaul, all they need is a new coat of paint.
Age of Empires II Definitive Edition lovingly recreates the magic of the 20-year-old RTS, adding some modern flair suhc as 4K resolution, the ability to zoom (shocker) and various other refinements. On top of adding new resolution, the game also enjoys new special effects, and some truly gorgeous building destruction animations that are oddly satisfying, even if it's you on the receiving end.
Beyond visuals, Age of Empires II DE also reconstructs and remixes all of the game's sounds with greater clarity, adding a punch to the nostalgic bleets of your villagers and other units. The sound track is also stunning, retaining the soothing qualities of the original while injecting some modernity. Age of Empires II DE is a clear labor of artistic love, and wholly deserves our top accolade for art and music in 2019.
Best Ongoing Game
Ubisoft's competitive-primed shooter hit the market with a robust foundation, since nurtured over four years of updates, and topping over 50 million players this year. Seasonal tri-monthly updates introduce new playable Operators and maps on the regular, with Year 4 shifting the gameplay meta while diversifying fundamental roles. That concluded with Operation Shifting Tides this December, among the best of Rainbow Six Siege refreshes so far.
Internal shakeups have fostered new opportunities, with dedicated teams delivering truly transformative mid-season events diverging from core modes. Top that with exemplary efforts to halt cheaters, boosting, exploits, DDoS attacks, and general toxicity, it's more competitive and accessible than ever. In short, Rainbow Six Siege sets the bar for Ubisoft experiences — and service-based games across the industry.
Best Gaming Hardware of 2019
Best Xbox Accessory
With Xbox Project xCloud nearing launch, smartphone mounting clips are an affordable essential for on-the-go game streaming. Microsoft teamed up with PowerA for an officially licensed pairing, clamping onto any modern Bluetooth-enabled Xbox controller. Its rubberized spring-actuated clamp maintains a firm grip on any modern devices, with two adjustable hinges for finer angle adjustment. That's a feature set unmatched by market rivals, still at a budget-friendly price tag.
While Xbox Game Streaming remains in development, Project xCloud and accompanying remote console streaming will play a more significant role in 2020. And with a free test underway in the U.S. and UK, this small investment draws more value from your Xbox, outside the living room. Simply put, this provides the best Xbox game-streaming experience.
Best Game Controller
The Scuf Prestige starts life as a regular Xbox Wireless Controller, but through some extreme modification, it ends up being so much more. Not only are the thumbsticks, bumper mechanisms, and other aspects of the device replaced, but the paddle placement on the back is an industry-leading design.
Unlike the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, we've been able to test the Scuf Prestige for months, and we've found that it's incredibly reliable even with heavy day-to-day use. If you want a professional controller for Xbox One or PC, then look no further.
Best Xbox Gaming Headset
The SteelSeries Arctis 9X combines the brilliance of the Arctis headset design with the ultimate convenience of Xbox Wireless support. The result is an incredible sounding, absurdly comfortable, and wire-free headset for Xbox gamers that you can comfortably wear for hours on end during those longer sessions without suffering fatigue. There are no dongles, no cables, and no fuss.
This headset has every important feature you'd ever want for gaming on Xbox, all without the added fuss of cables, dongles, base stations and beyond, exemplifying the convenience inherant of console gaming.
Best PC Gaming Headset
Astro has finally given its flagship A50 wireless headset a revamp for 2019, and what a revamp it is. Sporting a darker, more monochromatic design, all the recent audio enhancements across its product line, and an improved base station, the Astro A50 headset is a true flagship that is excellent for all types of gamers. The fact it can easily mix audio from two sources via USB and SPDIF optical also makes it an incredible wireless option for streamers and content creators, allowing you to extra game sound from a console while simultaneously using a PC for chat audio, for example.
This is a tremendous headset, and well-deserving of our top accolade for PC headsets in 2019.
Best Gaming Laptop
It's easy to create a thin, portable laptop. It's a whole different ball game to create a gaming laptop with similar dimensions. Razer does so with the excellent Blade range of gaming notebooks. Not only do you get the choice between powerful Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs, but also a gorgeous 240Hz matte display.
This beast of a portable gaming rig comes with an 80Wh power plant, Wi-Fi 6 support, and can be upgraded to hold up to 64GB of RAM. Not only is this notebook ideal for gaming, but also video editing. The Blade 15 Advanced quickly became our favorite gaming laptop of 2019.
Game Industry Awards
Tech Innovation Award
Project XCloud takes the crown for our tech innovation award this year, owing to the utterly vast potential of the service for current Xbox users, and millions of people on lower-end PCs, tablets, and phones who currently can't access the latest gaming experiences.
Project XCloud is a gargantuan effort from the Xbox team to bring Netflix-like cloud streaming to gaming, allowing you to access and play a vast library of titles from Xbox Game Pass and all of your purchased digital titles using your home Xbox as a personal server.
Many other companies and competitors have attempted similar features, but by far, XCloud holds the most promise. Microsoft's servers are spread far and wide throughout the globe, and Microsoft's APIs will allow developers to scale UI elements to accomodate any screen type, including touch controls in the future. The fact all of this just works feels like the product of black magic, and makes for an exciting future for anyone in the Xbox ecosystem.
Game Developer Excellence Award
Capcom is enjoying something of a renaissance recently, having one of the most impressive gaming lineups in recent memory for 2019. Devil May Cry 5, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, and Resident Evil 2 all made up for an incredible year for the Japanese company and its internal development studios, delighting millions of fans with high-quality gameplay and incredibly generous ongoing free updates, particularly in the case of Monster Hunter World.
Capcom looks set to continue the trend into 2020, with Project REsistance, a Left4Dead-like Resident Evil co-op survival game, and a remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, which is a true classic, and new instalments of Ōkami.
Hopefully now that we've given them this award, we can bribe them into also remaking Dino Crisis.
Capcom is a legendary brand, and since Resident Evil 7, it really feels like the publisher is back on top of the gaming world, and we can't wait to see what they do next.
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