The nominees for The Game Awards 2019 are out, and there are plenty of games you'd likely to expect to see on the list. There are, however, a few notable exceptions already being talked about on social media. Several games with lauded critical reception didn't make the cut, so we thought it best to honor them while also noting the surprising nominations we were happy to see.
Just like any other awards show, The Game Awards has a finite limit to nominations, so it's obvious that at some point, cuts would need to be made. These are also an aggregate; part of a voting process where a readily available list of many outlets—ours included—nominated their choices for each category. (In some cases, a site might abstain; for example, we didn't nominate any esports candidates, if only so our internal chat didn't have to listen to me rave about Arslan Ash's incredible year in Tekken.)
Also, there is a cutoff date for nominations, so if you're wondering where Star Wars or Pokemon is, there's your answer. The last notable game to hit before the deadline, best as I can tell, was Death Stranding, which managed to secure a pretty sizable number of nominations.
After conferring with the USG team, here are some of our biggest snubs and surprises from this year's list of nominees:
The Big Surprise: Outer Wilds Doesn't Make Game of the Year Cut
What's probably the most surprising is Mobius Digital's indie spacefaring adventure missing out on the hunt for the biggest trophy of the night. While Outer Wilds will be in contention for other awards, you would've figured its critical success would've made it the underdog candidate.
Snub: Disco Elysium and Three Houses Also Miss Out
Fire Emblem's stellar debut on the Nintendo Switch and ZA/UM's densely compact detective story also missed out, snubbed in favor of The Outer Worlds. It's an odd choice by voters, to be sure. While Obsidian's capitalism-in-space RPG is a solid game, its proximity to Disco Elysium's launch resulted in a lot of comparisons that didn't go in Obsidian's favor.
Surprise: A Deafening Sweep for Death Stranding
I'm not all that surprised by Control racking up so many nominations, considering it seems like it could be Remedy's finest game yet. The surfeit of nominations for Death Stranding, though, has raised some eyebrows. Maybe its review embargo and launch being so close to the cutoff date assisted it, but I wouldn't have expected such a divisive game to sweep up so many nominations.
Surprise, and a Snub: Some Indie Love After All
I do want to recognize the surprisingly solid wealth of indie games on the nominee list, though. Usually, one or two standouts run the table, but this year, smaller games and teams have much more prominent placing. The aforementioned projects aside, Asobo was recognized for its storytelling in A Plague Tale: Innocence, Simogo for its art and music in Sayonara Wild Hearts, and the Games for Impact section has a few small gems like Gris and Kind Words. Special shoutouts to Wargroove, which got a nod in the strategy game section.
It's a shame that most of all of them missed the cut for Game of the Year, and so in a year of solid indie games, they'll flood the categories but go home without the big trophy. Call this one a surprise with a snub aftertaste, I guess.
Surprise: Strong Mobile Competition
Mobile gaming has been in a rough place for a while. But this year, due in part to the launch of Apple Arcade, we saw some prestige mobile titles start to garner more recognition for the platform. Though last year's Florence felt like the last bastion of mobile, this year sees Sayonara Wild Hearts, Grindstone, and What the Golf all up for nomination. Compared to previous years, where one or two standouts dominated the field, there is some real competition for the category in 2019, and that's something worth celebrating.
Snub: Best Performance Will Get Spicy
The formerly gender-divided categories for male and female performance in games has been consolidated to one discrete, heavily contested category this year. Make no mistake, this looks like a runaway for Mads Mikkelsen, who absolutely stole the show in Death Stranding as Cliff. Matthew Porretta's portrayal of Dr. Casper Darling in Control is also a highlight, but I'm afraid the star power is overlooking both one snub and a strong contender.
To the latter, Ashly Burch's portrayal of Parvati in The Outer Worlds is a highlight, and very, very deserving of recognition here. And Sam Barlow's Telling Lies—also noticeably absent from Best Narrative—had some incredible performances, including Kerry Bishé as one of the four main subjects. (I'm being cagey because, well, knowing names in Telling Lies is a spoiler in and of itself.)
Major Snub: Dragon Quest Builders 2 is Nowhere to be Found
Look, this might be USgamer's hill to die on [Editor's Note: I'm not a fan of this hill], but Dragon Quest Builders 2 rules. That is the stance of USG on the matter, and even aside from a nod in GOTY, at least recognition in RPG or family game would've been nice. Come on folks! It's basically just another Dragon Quest game, which is awesome!
Surprise: Finally, Some Final Fantasy 14 Recognition
Not only is Final Fantasy 14 awesome, but Shadowbringers gave us the excuse to chuck more recognition of that fact in its general direction. Not many can right a ship as well as Square Enix and the FF14 team have; Final Fantasy 14 went through years of transformation and a reborn realm before it got to where it is today, standing at the top of the MMO pile. Considering only a few notable MMOs have managed to garner wider recognition for their success, it's nice to see Final Fantasy 14 get the affirmation that it, too, has achieved a great deal.
In a year that's been sometimes derided for lacking big-name games, it's at least comforting to know that we're at the stage that we can argue about snubs in the same manner as we do for the Oscars. Awarding achievement by group consensus can seem like a Sisyphean task, so maybe let this article be your reason to pick up a snubbed game and find out why it has such vehement defenders. (And seriously, play Outer Wilds.)