Yes, it’s that time of year once again – the end. The end of the year brings with it so many things – none greater than relief now that the festive period is over for another annum. You may also be looking ahead to 2020 and setting yourself some of those important-for-a-while-but-eventually-forgotten new year’s resolutions. But here at TheXboxHub we see the end of the year as a time for reflection: particularly reflecting upon the best Xbox One game releases of the last 365 days. You know the drill – it’s time to address the cream of the crop, la crème de la crème, of gaming. We’ve gone for the traditional top 10 format, so without further ado…
- TheXboxHub Games of the Year 2018
- TheXboxHub Indie Games of the Year 2018
- TheXboxHub Games of the Year 2017
- TheXboxHub Indie Games of the Year 2017
- TheXboxHub Games of the Year 2016
- TheXboxHub Indie Games of the Year 2016
In a racing landscape dominated by the likes of DiRT, F1 and of course the behemoth that is Forza, you’d be forgiven in thinking that GRID, the reboot of the original franchise, wouldn’t attract the masses. Oh how wrong you would have been!
With uber-realistic and exhilarating racing, including tense paint-trades and tight hairpin manoeuvres, GRID’s gameplay is close to being unrivalled in the racing department. Throw in the addition of dedicated rivalries, ‘nemesis’ drivers and helpful teammates, and quickly we realised that GRID is as much a racing simulation off the track as it is on it. It’s a tired cliché, but GRID really makes you feel like you have the life of a racing driver.
Particularly through the in-depth Campaign mode is where you can make use of these unique features – you can order your racing teammate to assist you in overtakes, and likewise you can assert bragging rights over your nemesis if you happen to pass the chequered flag before them. All these new features helped GRID to stand out amongst the crowd – something that was very much needed given the reputation of some of the racing video game top dogs.
With these special features as well as the classic online multiplayer, flashback option and a large amount of vehicles and tracks, GRID takes pole position as our racer of the year.
After a brief hiatus during which Gearbox went onto to pursue other avenues, 2019 marked the return of the main series of Borderlands… and what a return to form it was with Borderlands 3!
It was like nothing had changed – you never forget how to shoot bandits in the head after all – and before you know it Borderfans were reacquainting themselves with classic characters such as Mad Moxxi and the loveable Claptrap. Of course, with any new Borderlands title we were treated to a new set of playable characters, each with their own unique abilities that complemented each other perfectly in seamless cooperative play.
Whilst many consider the Borderlands story to be secondary to the sheer wackiness, colour and hilarity behind the gameplay, this time round we were treated to a classic ‘defeat the bad guys’ story that always gave us a motive to blast the bazillions of enemies to hell and back… if we ever actually needed one!
The expansion of the explorable universe, introduction of new characters into the mix and of course the plethora of gun types – elementals and all – simply gave us yet another amazing Borderlands experience, made even better when shared with friends.
And with Titan Books’ The Art of Borderlands 3, we could get even more immersed in the action.
No, not the open-world action RPG that appears to be a love-child of Fallout and Mass Effect (more on the The Outer Worlds later!), Outer Wilds is a similarly excellent title, but in this case has a bit of the Groundhog Day syndrome. You see, Outer Wilds is an open-world mystery game that places you in the middle of a constantly-evolving solar system. It is up to you to travel across the area and investigate your surroundings with a number of handy tools – the main aim is to get to the bottom of why the solar system is so intent on changing constantly. The catch? Outer Wilds will kill you after 22 minutes of game time via means of a supernova, and return you back to the start. However you have all your knowledge and notes from previous playthroughs and thus with each subsequent ‘life’ you can hopefully make a little bit more progress through your quest.
It’s certainly an interesting premise, but one that is all too easy to mess up and produce a mind-numbingly repetitive title. However Outer Wilds in reality plays out as a very relaxing exploration title – of course the player comes to expect death, so isn’t too hung-up on getting far or not making much progress with each set of 22 minutes. The music accompanies this feeling perfectly – it’s mellow tones in combination with the Old-West/space visuals create a sense of awe at your surroundings, and an incentive to push on and explore every nook and cranny of Outer Wilds’ world.
Outer Wilds may not steal the show for the largest playerbase or most action-packed title, but it’s certainly a gem of an indie game that is best played in short bursts.
7The Division 2
The beginning of the year is always a tough window for any release, be it indie or triple-A, but The Division 2 managed to stand out in a crowd that included the likes of Anthem, Trials Rising, Apex Legends and Resident Evil 2.
March’s release swapped the scenery of Chicago for the big-time: the criminal factions of the apocalypse had settled in Washington D.C., and it was up to you as an operative of The Division to settle the score. How, you ask? Well, of course, in true looter-shooter fashion it was a case of exploring the world, taking out a load of bad guys and constantly improving your gear, armour, skills and equipment. Like other titles of the ilk (think Destiny, Borderlands etc.) The Division 2 was at its best when played with friends, but with randoms or as a solo player there was enough story and endgame content to keep anyone playing for the following months.
And that trend seems to be continuing into the new year, with Ubi already dropping hints regarding new content and missions arriving in the future. Who knows – The Division 2 may just prove to be one of the top games of 2020.
6Resident Evil 2
In a continuing trend of Capcom realising that perhaps their greatest games are mostly behind them, 2019 saw the reboot of Resident Evil 2 – this time we were treated to a visual spectacle that really made all the thrills, scares and soil-your-pants moments just that little bit more real.
Titling Resident Evil 2 as a reboot, remake or remaster is somewhat derogatory, as this new edition is a complete re-imagining. Playing out from an over-the-shoulder camera angle, Resi 2 really places you in the boots of either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield, and allows you to experience the zombified horrors of Raccoon City in a more immersive way. Similarly, the use of the new RE engine adds a completely new layer to the game – at times maybe the action was a bit too real for my liking!
At the end of the day though, the main reason that Resident Evil 2 made it onto this list is courtesy of the groundwork laid out in the original release in 1998 – in whatever visual format Resi 2 still has a great storyline and cunning puzzles; the modern features just add the cherry onto the already delicious cake. All we need now is that Resident Evil 4 remake…
5Kingdom Hearts III
What do you get when you cross over the worlds of Mickey Mouse, Frozen, Monsters Inc. and Final Fantasy? The answer is Kingdom Hearts III, and that just so happens to be one of the best action-RPG titles ever released on Xbox One.
Kingdom Hearts is how a game about movie and TV characters should be made – an entirely original story that has a classic good vs bad thread, a number of beautifully designed and thoughtful worlds to romp around, and some of the craziest and most colourful combat around. It’s got the perfect cast of characters to entice younger audiences, but simultaneously has really in-depth RPG gameplay to attract any fans, particularly of the more recent Final Fantasy titles.
The game also introduced a plethora of new combat features to add more customisation and personality to your fighting style. Combine this with the classic bright colours and loveable characters of Disney, and you quickly realise that Kingdom Hearts III is an example of an RPG done right – compelling, in-depth but not too much as to ward off any newcomers, and packaged with a ton of charm.
4A Plague Tale: Innocence
Experiencing the heart-wrenching tale of two young children having to brutally survive the Black Death in 14th Century France may not initially seem like the best way to spend the first few months of summer, but by god you have really missed out if you weren’t playing A Plague Tale: Innocence back in May.
Combining puzzle elements with crafting, stealth and survival, A Plague Tale: Innocence followed the journey of young Amicia and even younger Hugo – two members of French nobility that have been tragically left to fend off plague rats and a hostile inquisition by themselves. Taking control of the former, it’s up to you to guide both characters through the countryside, barren towns and beautiful French landscapes and try against all hope to survive both the rats and soldiers that are always hot on your tail. Of course, given your lack of strength and combat-readiness the only way to bypass your enemies is to sneak around them, making use of Hugo’s smallness to open up hidden pathways – later on in the game you’ll even be bending the rat hoard to your will in order to survive.
Throw in crafting in order to better your handy tools, some pretty tricky puzzles, a cast of well voiced and emotive characters and of course an unbelievably harsh but compelling story, and just after a few hours you’ll see why A Plague Tale: Innocence ranks so highly on our list.
3The Outer Worlds
No you aren’t having déjà vu – this one is The Outer Worlds, not Outer Wilds – easy mistake to make. Instead of the calm exploration that the latter brings, The Outer Worlds is a sprawling open-world RPG in the ilk of Fallout, that will take much longer than 22 minutes to complete. However long it takes you to explore every detailed nook and cranny that The Outer Worlds holds, you can ensure that every minute will be full of intense combat, meaningful choices and well-created characters that combine to produce one of the most realised and detailed universes on Xbox One.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of The Outer Worlds is the fact that your choices and actions within the game will have massive consequences on future events – you’re in the middle of a huge plot to destroy the Halcyon colony, whilst also the only one that can truly put an end to it. It’s a monumental task that will require a large amount of fighting, talking and upgrading of one’s character, but The Outer Worlds has all the systems in place to make these things more exciting and unique than laborious and tiring.
No, it’s not just another Fallout – The Outer Worlds is its own thing that needs to be celebrated as a great piece of video game design.
Ever so narrowly missing out on the title of TheXboxHub’s GOTY 2019 (seriously, it has never been closer) is the narrative masterpiece that is Control, which released back in August.
It’s not so much of a surprise that Remedy, the geniuses behind Alan Wake, Max Payne and Quantum Break, have made another stunning piece of gaming in terms of the story, but Control has the satisfying gun-play and supernatural abilities to let the gameplay speak for itself. On the one hand, Control is an ever-twisting and very complex narrative about the supernatural and a shady agency, but on the other what we have here is one of the best third person shooters on the market.
In few other games can you blast enemies in the face with weighty shooting and morph your weapon into all manner of terrifying threat, all the while ripping chunks of concrete out of the wall and launching them at any opposers in your way. Seriously, it’s hard to put into words just how satisfying Control is to play – it’s the perfect ‘ooooo’ game.
Control is tense. Control is breathtaking. Control is perfect. But not quite perfect enough…
In a world where, let’s face it, the guys over in Playstation world have the better choice in terms of console exclusives, Gears 5 is proof that Xbox still has some life in it, and could really ramp it up in the next generation.
With a beautifully crafted campaign centering around the personal struggles Kate Diaz faces, a strong return to form for classic Gears multiplayer, a new cooperative experience that goes by the name of Escape and the all-important Gears staple of Horde mode, Gears 5 is the complete package for anyone looking to see how a big-budget third person shooter should be made. There’s no messing about with tacked-on online modes, or conversely the campaign being shoved aside in place of what could be a more lucrative multiplayer-oriented focus, but instead The Coalition have instilled love and passion into every single ounce of Gears 5.
And Gears 5 cannot be written about without mentioning the visuals, and there’s a reason as to why it is used in a large proportion of Xbox promotional material. The 4K and HDR graphics look simply stunning, and are another contributor towards making Gears 5 the ultimate in video games.
But, ultimately, for all the fancy-new looks, gripping storyline and in-depth modes, Gears 5 is still full to the brim of all that Gears goodness that we have been getting for over a decade now. And that goodness is blood, chainsaws and gore… isn’t that really all we’re asking for?
Congratulations to Gears 5 – it was a close run, but you are TheXboxHub’s Game of the Year for 2019! Naturally, the Internet loves to have its say on such awards, so make sure you provide your opinion down in the comments section below. Oh – and if you are picking up any of these titles then make sure to head on down to the Xbox Store.
Also if you want to take a look at the opposite side of this coin, the worst Xbox One games of 2019, then we’ve got an article sorted for you.
From all of us at TheXboxHub – have a happy new year and we’ll see you for a massive 2020!