2019 may not have quite been the worst gaming year of the decade, but it’s certainly in the conversation. While no year is devoid of notable games, this year was marred by delays and the growing shadow of the upcoming new console generation looming on the horizon.
Still, there must be a console winner of every gaming year, and this year was no different. Here is how the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch stacked up in 2019:
Notable 2019 Games: Days Gone, Death Stranding, Resident Evil 2
The PlayStation 4 has been a quality content machine throughout its lifespan, but this was undoubtedly one of the console’s worst years on record.
Days Gone bounced between awful and generic so quickly that it seemingly confused a generation of PS loyalists who don’t understand that the occasional PS4 exclusive can and will suck. Death Stranding is certainly one of the most fascinating games of the year, but even some of its supporters are quick to point out that the title is, at the very least, fascinatingly flawed in notable ways.
Resident Evil 2 was quite good, but it also wasn’t a PS4 exclusive (the game is available, with entertaining mods, on the PC). Kingdom Hearts 3 and Shenmue 3 are also available on other platforms, but we’re not sure we can entirely recommend either game regardless of which device you choose to play it on.
And that’s honestly kind of where the PS4 is at this year. It’s the first year in a long time that we can remember which didn’t demand you own a PS4 in order to play the best games (outside of Death Stranding), and most of the year’s best titles can be played elsewhere if you want to. Sony’s changes to the console’s cross-play capabilities and the functionality of the PS Now subscription service are nice, but the PS4 kind of just rode the wave of its considerable previous success throughout this year.
Notable 2019 Games: Gears 5, Crackdown 3
It’s not entirely fair to say that Microsoft and the Xbox team have conceded this gaming generation, but it’s honestly easier to defend that statement than it is to challenge it.
In terms of exclusives, Microsoft didn’t really come out of the gate swinging this year. Gears 5 was ok and Crackdown 3 was more or less straight-up awful in the worst way. So far as notable exclusives go, that’s about all there is talk about.
By Microsoft’s own admission, though, the company is thinking beyond traditional console boundaries. They’re bringing more of their games to PC, they’re supporting former “rival” consoles, and (most importantly) they’re turning Xbox Game Pass into the one subscription gaming service that you absolutely need.
All of those things are lovely, but if we’re just focusing on the experience of owning just an Xbox One in 2019 and how much you would enjoy that console based on what was released this year, then you’ve got to come away with the conclusion that it was just another dull year for the Xbox brand.
Notable Games: Pokemon Sword and Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Super Mario Maker 2
It was a strange year for the Nintendo Switch. On paper, the delayed release of Animal Crossing, the relative disappointments of Pokemon Sword and Shield, and the hardware problems of the Nintendo Switch itself would seemingly suggest that Nintendo had a bad year.
However, when you take a step back, you start to remember all the good things that graced the Nintendo Switch in 2019. Super Mario Maker 2 and Luigi’s Mansion 3 were underrated major exclusives, Astral Chain is one of the best games of the year, Tetris 99 and Cadence of Hyrule were both brilliant surprises, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening flew a little too far under the radar considering their names and quality. Nintendo even finally added Super Nintendo games to the Switch Online library.
There was a lot of talk this year about broken Joy-Cons and missing Pokemon, but the fact remains that the Nintendo Switch enjoyed its best overall year since it was launched in 2017.
Winner: Nintendo Switch
Honestly, this wasn’t even close.
The Nintendo Switch endured some problems in 2019, but if we’re awarding the most points for exclusives content released throughout the year, then the Nintendo Switch almost objectively wins based solely on the number of great games it enjoyed in 2019.
While the PS4 remains the best overall console to own (at least based on the strength of its library), and Xbox One offers some of the best gaming services out there, no console benefited more from what was added to it in 2019 than the Nintendo Switch. With Sony and Microsoft eyeing the future, Nintendo was the clear winner of the present.