As is often the case with the last year of a generation, 2013 has been a fantastic year for gaming. Throughout the year, tons of great games were released giving us great experiences, fresh ideas, and some amazing moments that will be remembered in gaming history for years to come. Selecting only ten games for this list was difficult, and ranking them was even harder, especially for the top three, which are almost interchangeable. However, I have managed to come up with a list of what I thought were the best games of this year. Hope you enjoy it.
There is a joy unlike any other I get from playing Pokemon games. It’s the only explanation I can think of for why I continue to buy every entry in the series. Pokemon X/Y were the first games in the series to feature 3D graphics, but the visuals are not the only upgrades to the series. X/Y moves faster than any game in the series, setting you up early on with everything you need to start capturing monsters. Online features are integrated into the game, and you can seamlessly connect with other trainers to battle and trade. Other welcome additions such as the new Mega Evolutions and the ability to customize your trainer have evolved the series in exciting new ways that make me excited for the series like I haven’t been in a long time.
Like many others, I was pretty skeptical of DmC when it was first introduced. If they were willing to change Dante so much, would the chaotic and brutal combat not be changed as well? I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case. DmC not only managed to successfully reboot the franchise but improve it, and push it in an exciting new direction as well. The combat was always the greatest strength of the Devil May Cry series, and it’s never been better than it is in DmC. A slew of new weapons and a new system that either pulls you towards enemies or pulls them into you gives the player a myriad of options for creating combos during fights. Throw in new traversal gameplay and fantastic visuals and you have a recipe for the best entry in the series.
As a fervent music fan and frustrated guitar player, Rocksmith 2014 is exactly what I’ve always wanted from a music game. Rocksmith is all about actually teaching you how to play the instrument, and doing it in the most fun way possible. Rocksmith 2014 was a huge improvement over the original game, featuring a more eclectic song list, better minigames and improved menu navigation. I’ve probably spent more time with this game than any other this year, and I can tell it’s going to be that way for the forseeable future.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started playing Gone Home. Despite the fact that I knew there was no combat, or any gameplay aside from exploration, in the game, I was still full of dread as I turned around corners or entered a dark room. Gone Home expertly manipulates your emotions over the course of it’s three hour length, creating a touching experience unlike any other. Relying solely on the things you as the player discover within the house to tell the story was a stroke of genius, creating the kind of story than can only be told through gaming.
I feel as if games like Guacamelee! have become a rare breed these days. A Metroidvania style game, Guacamelee! recalls the best examples of that genre while introducing new and fun mechanics, such as it’s fantastic wrestling based combat, or it’s ability to switch between two worlds on the fly. I loved the Mexican setting, and Day of the Dead inspired art style, as well as the tongue in cheek sense of humor the game possesses. Guacamelee! was some of the most fun I’ve had this year.
NUMBER 5: SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD
In recent years, Nintendo has gone to the Mario well a lot. So much so in fact, that when Super Mario 3D world has announced, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. When I started playing it though, all my cynicism immediately washed away. Nintendo has the incredible ability to take familiar ideas and make them feel fresh. Super Mario 3D World is full of new, whimsical ideas that continued to put a smile on my face as I played through the game. With a multiplayer aspect that finally works, 3D World is not a Mario game to miss out on.
NUMBER 4: FIRE EMBLEM: AWAKENING
I’m normally not one for strategy RPGs or grind heavy games. Fire Emblem has always been an exception, and I put more hours into Awakening then I have any other entry in the series. While I enjoyed Awakening’s story that let’s you create an avatar to put at the center of the events, it was the gameplay that kept me coming back. The new support system that allows you to pair up with units to get bonuses during combat, as well as marry them and recruit your future children (It makes sense in the game), had me obsessively leveling units up so I could have the best team possible. The addition of DLC maps increases the amount of time you can spend in the game, making this one of the meatiest 3DS games on the market.
NUMBER 3: THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS
A Link to the Past is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s the benchmark against which I measure all Zelda games against, having established so many of the conventions of the series. I was beyond excited when I heard A Link Between Worlds would be a direct sequel to A Link to the Past. Between Worlds is full of nostalgia, but it’s what Nintendo did to shake up the traditional Zelda formula that pushed the game into the stratosphere. Having access to your arsenal of weapons from the beginning of the game and being able to choose the order you tackle dungeons was such an incredibly freeing experience. The ability to become a painting to travel across flat surfaces was a fantastic puzzle solving tool, one I would love to see return in a future installment. A Link Between Worlds was the complete package featuring challenging gameplay, memorable boss battles, and a world that was a joy to explore. This is easily the best Zelda game to come out in the last ten years.
Naughty Dog has proven with their Uncharted series that they are at the top of the field when it comes to telling cinematic stories in games. With The Last of Us, they’ve cemented that fact, locked it away and thrown out the key. The Last of Us spins familiar horror tropes in new ways to tell a truly moving and heart rending story, featuring the boldest ending I have ever seen in a game. Joel and Ellie are fully realized, three dimensional characters that you truly come to care about over the course of the game. The gameplay is also incredibly satisfying. I’m normally not one for stealth games, and given the option always go in guns blazing. However, with The Last of Us, I felt like I had failed when I got into a firefight and almost always when back to try it over again. Being caught had true consequences, and every single encounter with enemies was tense and frightening. The brutality of the combat served to reinforce the harshness of the world the characters inhabited. The Last of Us is a milestone game that everyone should play.
I had never played the original Bioshock, but when I saw trailers for Infinite I could tell this was a game I had to play. I had no idea that I was about to play what would become one of my favorite games of all time. Ken Levine and his team at Irrational created a true masterpiece that was firing on all cylinders. The world of Columbia was visually exciting, the music served the story better than any game before it, and the gameplay was a blast. The combination of gunplay and Plasmids created so many combat options that each encounter felt different as I tried out new tactics.
The real draw of Infinite is it’s incredible and memorable story. In a fantastic spin on the classic princess locked in a tower paradigm, we are introduced to Elizabeth, a young girl we watch slowly mature of the course of the game. What impressed me so much about the story though was the debating I saw over the internet about what the it truly meant. Bioshock Infinite is a game that can be analyzed and examined like any novel or film. It deals with themes and concepts as old as storytelling itself, and in my opinion, represents the pinnacle of storytelling in video games. Bioshock Infinite challenges what a game story can be, and it is an instant classic.