Sometimes a game just comes out of nowhere and seems to light the community on fire. Sales numbers boom, Twitch is filled with streams, and thousands of articles and YouTube videos flood the web. Nobody sees the dark horse coming, but everyone wants to saddle up when a surprising and fun game appears out of nowhere.
There will normally be a few of these each year, but which one was our best Dark Horse game of 2019? Take a look here at which titles we considered, and which took the top spot in the end.
Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 released into Early Access in March, transferring the core gameplay of the original into a 3D world. Excellent execution of the new perspective, the same addictive gameplay that made the first title a cult classic, and a very generous 2-for-1 deal made the game an instant success.
People fell in love with the Survivors, and everyone had their favorite. Consistent support for the game, good updates, and communication with the community ensured that Hopoo Games had an instant classic on their hands, and the game has gone from strength to strength over the year. Releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch followed, cementing Risk of Rain 2’s place as one of the most surprising success stories of the year.
Remnant: From The Ashes
While we had our eye on Remnant: From The Ashes for a while in the run-up to release, it is never easy to predict whether a game will sell well or not. Remnant: From The Ashes did just that, quickly racking up over 1 million units sold across PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game’s embrace of difficulty, fun co-operative play, and interesting weapons seemed to strike a chord with everyone who had never realized that a Soulslike with guns might just be a great idea.
Gunfire Games embraced the idea of regularly patching and updating the game, along with open communication with the playerbase to make Remnant: From The Ashes a surprise hit this year.
GreedFall mixed an interesting setting with some old-school RPG sensibilities to provide Spiders with their most successful launch ever, and publisher Focus Home Interactive with a Q2 financial result that was up 135% over the same period from the previous year.
The game did an excellent job of tapping into a market that was hungry for a single-player RPG game, and Spiders managed to bring their best work to bear with a game that was poised to benefit the most from it.
The Dark Horse of the Year:
We don’t think any game had the impact Apex Legends had when it launched at the start of the year. Despite no marketing in the run-up to the game’s surprise release, Respawn utilized an excellent social media campaign, acquiring the help of some of the industry’s biggest influencers to get the word out. A new battle royale game was on the market, it was free, and you could play it the same day you learned it existed. It didn’t hurt that the game was set in the Titanfall universe, and possessed the same snappy and responsive combat and movement that made those games such a joy to play.
The game quickly reached some insane stats, hitting a player base of 50 million in a little over a month. Despite some shrinkage, the game is still going strong today, and it managed to show it wasn’t all just hype, becoming a worthy contender to genre heavyweights Fortnite and PUBG. The stealth launch, insane success, and cultural impact of Apex Legends combine to make it our Dark Horse Game of the Year.
For more of our Year in Review 2019 series, head to our hub page.