20. Cadence of Hyrule
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Format: Nintendo Switch
What is it? A roguelike rhythm-action game set in the world of Zelda.
Why should you play it? 'Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda' sounds more like a fan album you'd find on OC Remix than an official video game sanctioned by Nintendo. But just like the game itself, the unlikely mash-up works. Keeping time with remixed Zelda melodies (both crowd-pleasing classics and deeper cuts) as you fight familiar enemies and fill in a big, rectangular map is a perfect fusion of the two games. Cadence of Hyrule's softened roguelike elements make tactical combat a must while not punishing you too much for missing a beat, and honestly, I want the singing merchant to be in every Zelda game from now on. Sorry, Beedle. Connor Sheridan
19. What the Golf?
Format: PC, iOS, Android
What is it? A comedy golf game filled with references and gameplay twists that shake things up at every opportunity.
Why should you play it? If someone had told me at the start of 2019 that one of my favorite games this year would be a golf title optimized for mobile devices, I'd have thought they were par-king mad. Initially released via Apple Arcade, What the Golf? is a magnificent take on the golf genre, to the point where it's more like a hilarious puzzle game than anything resembling real golf. Each course requires some serious outside-of-the-box thinking, followed by climbing out of that box and then hitting the box down a 2D fairway while dodging barrels and knocking over cats. It's one of the most creative, inventive games released this year that will have you chuckling at every opportunity. Ford James
18. Metro Exodus
Developer: 4A Games
Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC
What is it? A first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic Russian wasteland, and the third game in the Metro series.
Why should you play it? Metro Exodus opens with the linearity you'd expect from Metro, then seamlessly transitions into an open-world odyssey across a ruined Russia. This advances both the narrative and gameplay of Metro as a whole, literally bringing the series into the light. You wind up asking the same question as the overarching plot: what does the surface hold?
I'll tell you what it holds: beautiful, sculpted pockets of survival sandbox shooter fun. Metro Exodus does not sprawl like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, but it's filled with secrets and stories worth seeking out. It gives the player a series of playgrounds to explore to their heart's content – and then move on from to progress the ever-compelling story, which culminates in a climactic mission that returns to tightly focused encounters. Metro Exodus is expertly paced and exactly as big as it needs to be, and for Metro fans and newcomers alike, it's unmissable. Austin Wood
17. Tetris 99
Formats: Nintendo Switch
What is it? A competitive multiplayer variant on the classic tile-matching game that pits you against 99 other Tetris players in a single match.
On paper, a Tetris-based battle royale sounds like a terrible, terrible idea (really, I can't stress this enough), but that's exactly what makes Nintendo's surprise stealth release all the more miraculous as a 2019 title. Easy to pick up, yet difficult to truly master, Tetris 99 marries simple gameplay with complex social mechanisms in a way that we haven't seen melded so seamlessly since Blizzard's competitive card game, Hearthstone. We don't make that comparison lightly, either, as we're confident Tetris 99 has a healthy future ahead of it, with new updates and content drops being rolled out by developer Arika on a regular basis. Hell, by the end of 2020, it could well be the last battle royale game standing. Alex Avard
16. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Developer: From Software
Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
What is it? A third-person action game starring shinobi, samurai, ninjas, and one hell of a difficulty curve.
Why should you play it? Sekiro proved that From Software can do more than dark fantasy. It took the bones of Dark Souls – bonfire-style checkpoints, EXP as currency, fierce bosses, unflinching difficulty, an evolving world steeped in death – and applied them to a feudal, war-torn, distinctly Japanese setting. The shinobi, soldiers, and samurai of Sekiro breathed new life into a genre filled with monsters and knights, to say nothing of its imaginative take on folklore and mythology.
Sekiro is instantly refreshing, and it never lets you forget that it's a Souls game at heart. Combat is more frenetic than even Bloodborne – a rhythmic dance of dodging, parrying, slashing, and special abilities. Every exchange is exhilarating, and the mobility afforded by the grappling hook, not to mention the utility of stealth, open up combat in exciting ways that instil a tremendous sense of freedom. Sekiro is as punishing as it is inviting, and it's From Software's most replayable game yet. Austin Wood
15. Telling Lies
Developer: Furious Bee Limited
Formats: iOS, PC
What is it? A narrative-driven thriller that tasks you with crawling through illicitly obtained surveillance footage of four people of interest at the heart of a mystery.
Why should you play it? Like Her Story before it, Telling Lies is a narrative thriller which tasks you with searching through a database of video clips to try and uncover a central truth. It's another bold experiment from creative Sam Barlow, where fun is born out of the thrill of discovery rather than any traditional mechanics or systems. You are able to access the private video messages from four characters – a fantastic cast, whose performances compliment sharp writing – and it's up to you to construct a timeline of events and to decide where to point the finger. Telling Lies is untraditional, voyeuristic, and enthralling; it's a captivating drama that will stick with you long after you've stepped away from the computer screen. Josh West
14. Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Formats: Nintendo Switch
What is it? An adorable Switch remake of the much-loved classic Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening that originally released on the GameBoy back in 1993
Why should you play it? Originally released in 1993 on the Gameboy – and later re-released on the GameBoy Color in 1998 with the DX version – Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening made its way to the Switch in a delightful new art style oozing with charm. Stepping away from Hyrule, Link washes ashore on the wonderfully weird Koholint island, which is inhabited by all kinds of colorful characters and creatures. A wise owl tells Link that the only way to leave this strange island is by setting out to wake up the Wind Fish. Complete with talking animals and plenty of dungeons decked out with all manner of traps and tricks, the remake breathes new life into the classic by introducing noteworthy new features, such as a mode that lets you create your very own dungeons. Heather Wald
13. Days Gone
Developer: Sony Bend
What is it? Think The Walking Dead meets Sons of Anarchy with this open-world RPG that mixes crafting, bike maintenance, and destroying hordes of creatures called freakers with napalm.
Why should you play it? Here are some things you didn't know you wanted from an RPG: Riding your motorbike through the forests and deserted towns of a Pandemic-ruined Oregon, stopping occasionally to take on a swarming mass of a thousand freaker monsters, stopping in to drop off bounties or pick up new missions from survivor camps, and being a bit sad about your probably dead wife. Once you try it though, you'll be hooked. Maybe it's that developer SIE Bend leans into the darker elements of a zombie apocalypse – sad little zombie children called newts and self-harming cults – or maybe I just really love men in ripped denim, but whichever it is Days Gone delivers an engrossing storyline mixed with large scale action set-pieces that you won't get anywhere else. Rachel Weber
12. Pokemon Sword and Shield
Formats: Nintendo Switch
What is it? The latest entry in the Pokemon series, introducing new Pokemon, features, location and more.
Why should you play it? Despite what the internet may have made you think, Pokemon Sword and Shield is a brilliant addition to the series. It's a memorable adventure, with a story that delivers enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, steeped in the myth and legends that you forget are a part of Britain's history. Oh yes, this time we're going to Blighty, and each of the towns is beautifully created to imbue an element of British culture or landscape, but it also truly reflects what it would be like to live in a Pokemon world. It perfectly captures the spirit of Pokemon in a way that no game in the series has done before it. Plus, the new Wild Area is an online-fuelled paradise for trainers, which when combined with the new critters and characters, all combine to make the most compelling Pokemon world to date. Sam Loveridge
11. Outer Wilds
Developer: Mobius Digital
Formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One
What is it? An action-adventure game orbiting death and discovery, a game about exploration and rebirth in the far-stretches of space
Why should you play it? Every 22 minutes you'll wonder why you are still playing Outer Wilds. You'll be within reach of a point-of-interest, awkwardly attempting to wrestle back control of your ship from the gravitational pull of a planet, and it'll happen. 22 minutes. You're back to the starting planet, setting back out into space with everything you've learned thus far and an unwavering desire to push a little further into the solar system. Outer Wilds is centred around death and rebirth, pushing you to explore and uncover as much information as you can within a 22-minute time frame before the sun goes supernova and wipes out all life. It's a beautiful designed game, that somehow gets a little better between each 22 minute rotation. Josh West