The 2019 action/shooter game of the year
The action/shooter genre is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) in the entire gaming industry, and thus it’s consequently one of the hardest to stand out in. However, despite these tough odds, 2019 has been a pretty stellar year for action/shooter games, with plenty of developers stepping up to the challenge and proving yet again just how much potential the action/shooter genre still has.
Below we’ve rounded up the 2019 action/shooter games that did more than merely provide a fun and functional gameplay experience. These games kept us on our toes, defied our expectations, and, in some cases, injected new life into beloved franchises. Advancements in gaming technology and development march ever on, and the games we picked for this list prove that there are more than enough developers who can ford the shifting tides while also keeping players ensconced in the familiar trappings of a beloved genre.
If 2019 proved anything, it’s that the action/shooter genre is far deeper and has much more potential than most average gamers realize. Of course, for those who just wanted to dive in and slay enemies with a gun/sword/fist/explosion/whatever, there were plenty of games that fit that bill as well.
For hack-and-slash fans, Capcom released the fifth numbered entry in its long-running Devil May Cry series. Devil May Cry 5 moved the series’ zany, over-the-top story forward while also touching on its roots by bringing back familiar elements and characters from previous games. The game’s three playable protagonists (devil-slaying vets Dante and Nero alongside newcomer V) each came equipped with their own unique weaponry and combat styles, allowing players to specialize where they wanted or see how quickly they could master different characters on the fly.
Over in the shooter realm, Ubisoft gave fans of its Far Cry series a unique treat in the form of Far Cry: New Dawn, a direct sequel to the events (and crazy cliffhanger ending) of Far Cry 5. New Dawn’s scale may not have been as large as its predecessor, but its surprisingly colorful post-apocalyptic world and familiar Far Cry trappings meshed well with new progression mechanics that encouraged replayability and a suitably bonkers story that tied up all of Far Cry 5’s loose ends.
Other action/shooter sub-genres got their day in the sun as well. Respawn Entertainment’s futuristic F2P title Apex Legends proved that there’s room for more than one king in the battle royale sub-genre (sorry, not sorry Fortnite). Meanwhile, those who prefer a more small-scale competitive experience got all that they wanted (plus a decent story campaign) in Infinity Ward’s recently launched Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
While it lacked the promotional backing of a major publisher like Activision or Electronic Arts, Gunfire Games’ Remnant: From the Ashes still managed to stand out thanks in no small part to its unique gameplay premise: third-person shooting combined with Dark Souls-esque combat encounters and character progression. It admittedly had a bit of a rough launch, but Remnant has only gotten better in the months since its August arrival, and its clever combining of two seemingly disparate sub-genres more than makes it worthy of a spot on our GOTY list.
Runner-Up: Resident Evil 2 Remake
It’s hard to argue with the sentiment that Capcom pretty much had a slam dunk on its hands with the Resident Evil 2 remake. The original Resident Evil 2 is one of the most cherished titles in gaming history, and the remake’s strong positive reception proved without a doubt that there’s plenty of value in making what’s old new again.
Much like its predecessor, the Resident Evil 2 remake perfectly balanced the claustrophobic horror of being trapped in a dark monster-filled building with the power fantasy of defeating said monsters in direct combat. Then of course there were the clever puzzles, the thrilling boss fights, the sheer terror of having to evade the unstoppable Mr. X, and the heaps of unlockables that ensured completionists had plenty of excuses to stick around.
Capcom has already floated the possibility of giving a similar remake treatment to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in the future, and if such a game were of the same quality as the Resident Evil 2 remake, we certainly wouldn’t object.
Runner-Up: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
When Dark Souls developer From Software decided it would release a game in 2019, the studio could have played it safe and just done something like a Bloodborne sequel or a Demon’s Souls remaster. But in a move that was both surprising and not-so-surprising, the studio decided instead to challenge itself by making a game that both paid tribute to the Dark Souls games it had made its name on and was also in many ways nothing like those games. That game would end up being Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
One reason why Sekiro is on this list is that, unlike Demon’s Souls, the Dark Souls trilogy, and Bloodborne, it is in no way an RPG. From’s previous works combined brutally difficult combat with stat-based RPG mechanics, but for Sekiro it opted to swap out the RPG stuff for a unique death mechanic wherein the player can revive themselves on the exact spot where they were slain. Dropping the stat-based RPG mechanics may sound like a dicey maneuver, but then there’s the other major reason we put Sekiro on this list: it’s a darn good game.
Yes, Sekiro can be a frustratingly difficult experience. Yes, it’s not a game that was designed with more casual gamers in mind. And yes, it has a final boss battle that expects players to overcome odds which are so incredibly unfair they border on sadistic. But players who are willing to surmount such challenges will find a mesmerizing world full of Japanese mythology and satisfying stealth/combat gameplay waiting for them.
Runner-Up: The Division 2
Ubisoft’s The Division is one of the more notable redemption stories of this decade. After a tepid launch in 2016, the game slowly improved over time and went on to become a pretty satisfying (not to mention unique) tactical shooter/RPG hybrid. When Ubisoft announced a proper sequel, aptly named The Division 2, in 2018, it was clear right from the start that it was aiming to avoid the mistakes of the past. Fortunately for fans of the first game, Ubisoft succeeded in meeting that goal and then some.
The Division 2 wasn’t entirely issue-free when it launched earlier this year, but it was certainly in a much better state than its predecessor. Even better, Ubisoft had taken all the feedback garnered from The Division’s passionate fanbase, both good and bad, and rolled it into The Division 2 to ensure the sequel had both a strong initial campaign and a compelling endgame right from the get-go. Throughout the year, The Division 2 has continued to grow via post-launch updates which Ubisoft will keep releasing well into 2020 and possibly beyond.
Granted, The Division 2’s combining of tactical cover-based shooting with gear-based RPG progression isn’t for everyone, and much like Sekiro it’s not meant to be. Studios like Gunfire Games, Ubisoft, and Destiny developer Bungie smartly realized there’s gold to be mined by combining otherwise disparate genres like RPG’s and shooters, and The Division 2 is just further proof that such experiments can be quite successful when conducted properly.
(Note: Speaking of Bungie, we considered putting Destiny 2’s excellent Shadowkeep expansion on this list, but decided it was best to leave it out since it is technically an expansion even if it does drastically alter the core nature of Destiny 2 itself. Still, we want to give a shout-out to Bungie and the great strides they’ve made in refining and improving Destiny 2 throughout 2019.)
In our imperfect world there is sadly no one game that could be considered truly perfect. But darned if Remedy’s astoundingly compelling sci-fi/horror shooter Control doesn’t come close to being that game. We won’t mince words here: if you’re a shooter fan, a horror game fan, a fan of user-run horror fiction sites like SCP or CreepyPasta, or all of the above, you owe it to yourself to play Control.
With Control, Remedy has built a unique alternate version of our world that feels equal parts Men in Black, Deus Ex, and Silent Hill. Players must explore the hidden headquarters of a secret government agency (the ‘Federal Bureau of Control’) and combat a terrifying alien force called the Hiss using a unique ‘Service Revolver’ weapon that can transform and never runs out of ammo. All the while they also come across other strange ‘Objects of Power’ and ‘Altered Items’ which each have their own characteristics and lore, documented via text entries that look like they came straight off the SCP website.
As we mentioned above, Control isn’t perfect. Its purely single-player format means that its replay value is limited, and its Dark Souls-esque death mechanic of kicking the player all the way back to the last Control Point they used is far more annoying than compelling. However, if you already enjoy the unique brand of horror storytelling Remedy has shown off in its Alan Wake games or in Quantum Break, Control is hands-down a must-play title. And even if it’s your first brush with Remedy’s unique style, we can guarantee that horror/sci-fi/shooter fans won’t be disappointed by what Control offers.