More gamers have come to recognize the faces behind the games we play over the years, and last year was no exception. Whether on journeys to new, exotic alien worlds or exploring environments warped by reality, tender loving care permeated the games we played in 2019. OnlySP awarded Sony Santa Monica with our award for best developer last year, but making the call was extremely difficult—this year was no different.
- Remedy Entertainment, for Control
- Kojima Productions, for Death Stranding
- Capcom, for Devil May Cry 5
- FromSoftware, for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- Obsidian Entertainment, for The Outer Worlds
- House House, for Untitled Goose Game
Following up on some of the most successful and beloved titles of all time would be a difficult task for any developer, but FromSoftware pulled it off with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. With the backdrop of a mythologically bound 16th century Japan that coats the world Sekiro lays at the player’s feet, it is hard not thinking of the game as one of 2019’s standout titles, and FromSoftware continues to prove that it is one of the strongest development studios in the industry.
Just as there is no leader without a team to lead, a team is nothing without someone to take charge. Pulling together all the moving parts of a video game to create one cohesive vision can be quite the daunting task, but 2019 still proved to be a year of games packed with focus and creativity.
- Control, Mikael Kasurinen (game director)
- Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima (director)
- Devil May Cry 5, Hideaki Itsuno (game director)
- Outer Wilds, Alex Beachum (creative director)
- Resident Evil 2, Kazunori Kadoi and Yasuhiro Anpo (directors)
- The Outer Worlds, Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain (game directors)
Death Stranding put players in the shoes of Sam Porter Bridges, a delivery man tasked with crossing treacherous landscapes in a post-apocalyptic world. Every step of Sam’s journey was filled with intent, and this intent was outlined by Kojima’s historic, creative vision. Death Stranding’s focus set it above the competition in more ways than one thanks its commitment to taking bold first steps in gaming.
Though gameplay is ultimately what separates games as an artistic medium, developers still find ways to connect us to the stories of characters we may have never met otherwise. 2019 games made us smile uncontrollably, laugh with reckless abandon, sob, long for escape, and experience new things only possible in the world of video games. Telling a gripping story can be hard, but these nominees managed to do so with ease.
- Sébastien Renard — A Plague Tale: Innocence
- Sam Lake, Anna Megill, and Josh Stubbs — Control
- Hideo Kojima, Kenji Yano, and Shuyo Murata — Death Stranding
- Robert Kurvitz — Disco Elysium
- Christian Divine and Jean-Luc Cano — Life is Strange 2
- Leonard Boyarsky, Megan Starks, Kate Dollarhyde, and Chris L’Etoile — The Outer Worlds
The storyline of Disco Elysium is short but dense; a 20-hour adventure that will have the player ride a wave of emotions. The game addresses some dark themes with brutal honesty, leaving one feeling as bare and exposed as the detective himself awakening in a hotel room with no clothes and no memory. The pace is balanced perfectly, however, with little moments of brightness preventing the experience from becoming unbearably bleak. Disco Elysium is masterful in its storytelling.
Best Art Design
A game’s art can be used to communicate more than just a simple look to be known by. Sure, a post-apocalyptic America may not feel as terrifying without the overwhelming presence of its dark, rain-accompanied enemies from the afterlife, but that doesn’t mean the art style of a game where you play as a rampaging Goose didn’t take advantage of its gloriously cartoonish aesthetic. Without strong artistic design, we might not fully understand what it means to see art in motion.
- Claire Chen — Afterparty
- Janne Pulkkinen — Control
- Yoji Shinkawa — Death Stranding
- Daniel Alpert — The Outer Worlds
- Nico Disseldorp, Stuart Gillespie-Cook, Jacob Strasser, and Michael McMaster — Untitled Goose Game
The design of Control’s world makes it one of the most impressive in recent memory, and one that is incredibly enjoyable to explore. From the case files and multimedia recordings to the correspondences, Control’s world-building showcases Remedy’s creativity in breathing life into the world, and it is more than deserving of this award.
Best Audio Design
The creeping footsteps of the looming undead are enough to send chills down the spine of even the most hardened gaming veterans, just as the crack of a weapon can turn an uninteresting gunfight into something totally satisfying. Audio design is the icing on top of the perfect game cake, and the nominees for 2019 are proof.
- Power Up Audio — Cadence of Hyrule
- Stephen Miller — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
- Ville Sorsa — Control
- Chuck Russom — Outer Wilds
- Kentaro Nakashima — Resident Evil 2
- Hideyuki Eto, Takashi Onodera, Tai Tomisawa, Tsukasa Saitoh, Kouta Hoshino, and Shoi Miyazawa — Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Creating tension within horror games is not a new task, but one that takes a lot of skill to master, and Resident Evil 2 does just that. From the tiptoeing of the characters, to the creaking of doors, to the terrifying approach of zombies, Resident Evil 2’s sound design is incredibly successful in its ability to create and maintain tension in a story that’s over 20 years old.
Best Game Design
These nominees put game design at the forefront of our minds by making our time in their worlds feel memorable in all of the best ways. There is more than one way to approach game design, and somehow the following titles managed to find the perfect medium between fresh, challenging, unique, and creative.
- Paul Ehreth — Control
- Hideo Kojima — Death Stranding
- Robert Kurvitz — Disco Elysium
- Hidehiro Goda — Resident Evil 2
- Masaru Yamamura and Yuki Fukuda — Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
True innovation in entertainment is something of a rarity, as most avenues of storytelling have been explored. What innovation tends to mean in a modern context is the creative flair that allows various concepts to be combined in interesting and unusual ways. The creators of Disco Elysium have taken a stab at inventiveness by combining a distinctive visual aesthetic with tabletop mechanics and evocative storytelling, and the result is something truly special.
Best Original Score
2019 games took advantage of music to such an extent that many of the year’s best tracks found a way to pop up in daily listening playlists across the world. Not only did the games of last year offer music that could stand its own though, as the instruments we listened to elevated each of the following games.
- Danny Baranowsky — Cadence of Hyrule
- Ludvig Forssell — Death Stranding
- Kota Suzuki — Devil May Cry 5
- Yoko Shimomura, Yakeharu Ishimoto, and Tsuyoshi Sekito — Kingdom Hearts III
- Andrew Prahlow — Outer Wilds
Outer Wilds features an incredible score. Check out a quick message from Andrew Prahlow in the video above.
OnlySP’s Amy Campbell had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew last year about his work on the game, how it compares to working on the soundtracks for Madden, and if Masi Oka is really as funny as he seems. Check out the full interview here.
If the compelling stories of 2019 weren’t enough to convince you that games are capable of evoking untold emotion, then surely the actors who portrayed some of the decade’s stand-out characters will. Characters give us a lifeline to connect to even the most uninhabitable scenarios, making their presence and performances vital to the stories told in games. Some of the following nominees were a bit new to video game acting last year, too, but that didn’t stop them from committing to each of their respective roles.
- Mads Mikkelsen as Clifford Unger — Death Stranding
- Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges — Death Stranding
- Laura Bailey as Kait Diaz — Gears 5
- Ashly Burch as Parvati Holcomb — The Outer Worlds
- Cameron Monaghan as Cal Kestis — Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- Logan Marshall-Green as David — Telling Lies
Gears 5 was not the first time that the series has switched protagonists, but it may be the most seamless of transitions—largely due to Laura Bailey. Kait takes the centre stage of Gears 5 as she tries to uncover the nature of her family. As Kait discovers more about herself, she begins to realise that war is not always black and white. Laura Bailey nails her performance as Kait, and is one of the main reason that the game is so enjoyable.