Starting Screen is the USgamer staff's weekly column. Check back every Monday as we share our thoughts on the news as well as our favorite game music, movies at the box office, and more.
We've spent a large chunk of time this year looking ahead to what's to come in 2019. Games we're looking forward to. What to expect from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. What games we don't think will be out and about this year. The prevailing sentiment though, gazing at the releases for this calendar year, is one of shrugging. There's no way 2019 can stack up to 2018 and 2017.
As I wrote late last year in a Starting Screen column, not even 2018 could live up to the landmark year that was 2017—arguably the best of this console generation. 2018 still rose up with some highlights of its own with God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 duking it out for the top spot on most sites' game of the year lists, while smaller-scale hits like Return of the Obra Dinn, Into the Breach, and Tetris Effect got widespread acclaim of its own. 2019 as it stands now with confirmed releases doesn't really have its God of War or Red Dead Redemption 2 equivalent.
It's easy to see why: the next generation of consoles is just on the horizon. Microsoft confirmed that it's working on something new at E3 2018; rumors have swirled around Sony doing the same. Next year, 2020, is shaping up to be the year for new consoles, and it wouldn't be surprising if we start to hear in earnest about what's planned next for the companies by the end of 2019.
Looking into 2019, we have the likes of Resident Evil 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Far Cry New Dawn, Anthem, Devil May Cry 5, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which together make for a stacked first few months of 2019. Beyond the spring though, where Rage 2 and Mortal Kombat 11 round off the season, we only have tentative 2019 release windows, and none of the upcoming games are really that big, save for Nintendo's mysterious offerings (Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Animal Crossing, and more).
The tail end of a generation usually sees some of its best releases. The Last of Us released in the same year that the PlayStation 4 launched (as did Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto 5), while Shadow of the Colossus launched a year before the PS2. Two years after the PS3 launched, Atlus released the once-PS2 exclusive surprise hit Persona 4. Rockstar even released its own PS2-exclusive Bully in the month before the PS3 released, before it was ported to Xbox 360, Wii and elsewhere.
As we've seen with past generations, it's likely that a lot of late-released games are setting up to be Even More HD remasters, as if they weren't HD enough already. In 2020, it's likely that we'll see launch year refreshes of Red Dead Redemption 2 and other late-release generation games. As resolute as some developers may be in insisting games are aiming for the current generation—looking at you Cyberpunk 2077—the more likely gambit is that developers are possibly aiming for both: cross-releases, like Breath of the Wild did for the Wii U and Nintendo Switch.
All that considered, 2019 is bound to be a fine year. It's not an empty year by any means, but it's muted in comparison to how loud 2017 and 2018 were. It's simply a sign of this generation winding down, and looking forward to what's next. Who knows: maybe even one of the games on our Games That Probably Won't Release This Year list will shock us and pop up in autumn. In the meantime, we have a busy spring ahead of solid third-party games, as well as the unknown future of the year (in which Shenmue 3 is the only game we know of with a firm release date). Will Psychonauts 2 slip another year? Or will we get a Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes-esque peek at whatever's going on with the Final Fantasy 7 remake? Most of 2019 is still a mystery to us, so let's hope for at least some surprises.
Major Game Releases This Week: January 7 to January 11
- Everything [January 10, Switch]: Everything is coming to Switch! No, not literally everything, but the video game Everything from developer David OReilly. Everything is something of a life simulator, except you're not managing a life, you're just living it—from every atom to every frog to every planet in a solar system. Everything originally released in 2017 for PS4, PC, Mac, and Linux.
- Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition [January 11, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC]: In the long-running Tales of series, Tales of Vesperia is often lauded as the very best. (Personally, I'm more of an Abyss fan myself.) It was only released in North America for Xbox 360, whereas its PS3 edition remained in Japan. Its new Definitive Edition, compiled for its 10th anniversary, will be released beyond Microsoft's platform though, and will see release on PS4, Switch, PC, and of course Xbox One.
- New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe [January 11, Switch]: This week is poppin' off when it comes to Nintendo releases. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, a modern classic in its own right, is being freed from its prison on the Wii U to join the platform everyone actually plays. It's great, that's all that needs to really be said.
- Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story and Bowser Jr.'s Journey [January 11, Nintendo 3DS]: We don't get many 3DS games nowadays, but a remake of a Nintendo DS RPG favorite from the Mario and Luigi series has arrived to fill that void. Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, much like 2017's remake of Superstar Saga for the 3DS, refines and refreshes the DS-bound RPG. Like Superstar Saga and Bowser's Minions, Bowser's Inside Story and Bowser Jr.'s Journey adds a new route where you play as, you guessed it, Bowser Jr.
- Hitman HD Enhanced Collection [January 11, PS4, Xbox One]: Hitman: Blood Money and another game that no one really cares about (sorry, Absolution) are getting 4K remasters, courtesy of IO Interactive. The news came late last week, with a relatively fast turn around for release. The Hitman Enhanced HD Collection will have 4K resolution, offer 60fps, better textures, and more.
This Week's News and Notes
- Happy 2019! It's the first Starting Screen of the year. It's been a relatively slow first week in terms of things happening in games, but judging from this month's releases, we're about to barrel into busy season. All aboard, choo choo!
- It appears that Soldier: 76 just got Dumbledore'd by Blizzard.
- Everything has a battle royale mode, even Stardew Valley. The new "Battle Royalley" mod lets you fight your neighbors to the death, and as Nadia writes, "water your fields with their blood." Ew.
- Over the past few days, we looked ahead to 2019 and what we can expect from the big three consoles. Matt wrote about Microsoft gearing up the Xbox for the next generation, Nadia wrote about Nintendo's exciting and still largely unknown year of games, while Mike wrote about PlayStation's comfy past two years and how 2019 is looking mighty empty for it, as the company's skipping E3 2019 and all.
- Could we be getting a PC port of Catherine? Pictures of sheep popping up across Sega games' Steam pages seem to indicate so, but now we're not so sure.
- Devil May Cry 5 is getting another demo, this time for both Xbox One and PS4.
- Surprise! A new Alien game continuing the journey of Amanda Ripley has been announced. Downside: it's a mobile game.
- If you've been on vacation or living in a media blackout and missed all the hoopla at the end of 2018, you can catch all our exciting end of the year content in a nice little tag. From the entire team's personal Top 10 Games of the Year lists to our sitewide Top 20, you can find it all here.
- Axe of the Blood God: On this week's Axe of the Blood God, Kat and Nadia look ahead to the five big questions they have about the next year of RPGs. Subscribe here for the full podcast!