Best of 2013: Top 10 Games

Bestof13_light

Man, this list was difficult to put together.

I played a lot of games in 2013 and dare I say finished a higher percentage of them than I ever have in a single year. In fact, unlike last year’s list, I have completed all ten of the games I finally decided on as my top ten. To be eligible for the list and/or the unavoidably lengthy honorable mentions section, however, I needed to have played a game for at least five hours, unless a) the game in question takes less time than that to finish and I finished it, or b) the game can’t really be “finished” because it’s actually neverending and/or is multiplayer-only. With that said, 2013 was an absolutely killer year for games. Excitement is back in the industry thanks to new consoles, thriving blockbuster releases and better indie titles than ever. Without further ado, I present my second-last list of the year, with the platform on which I played each game presented in parentheses:

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VR BEST OF 2013 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine (360)

2013 actually turned out to be a pretty good year for local multiplayer games, particularly co-operative experiences. I was even able to write a post entirely focusing on the juicy co-op offerings in August alone. But the best of the bunch came along a little earlier in the year – Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine. The colourful stealth game – wait, I mean panic game absolutely deserves to be played with four players. Picking the perfect combination of abilities and heading into a new top-down sneaking challenge stays consistently exciting, because you know what’s going to happen – someone is going to mess up and raise an alarm and things will get hectic very quickly, but come hell or high water, you WILL get through to the end by any means necessary.

9. Bioshock Infinite (PS3)

That Bioshock Infinite was so well-received at the time of its release is testament to the immense talent of Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games, who were responsible for the first Bioshock. Say what you will about Infinite’s combat variety or pacing, but there can be little denying that the game crafts a wonderfully realised world in Columbia, the thoroughly messed-up supposed utopia (that never happens, right?) and also packs one of the best endings of any game in 2013 (if not the best). I finished Bioshock Infinite in just two long sittings, something I hardly ever do anymore, because it’s gripping, unsettling, clever and creative. And has Trophies. I joke.
FAKE REVIEW: HERE
REAL THOUGHTS: HERE

8. Pikmin 3 (Wii U)

Among many other things, I will remember 2013 as the year my personal vendetta against the Pikmin series was finally settled. After being delayed way more times than I care to remember, the third instalment in Nintendo’s unique critter-commanding explorative series hit the Wii U to a chorus of favourable reviews, and I was at last able to complete a Pikmin game to bury the demons of my inability to best the first one on Gamecube. I took my time with Pikmin 3 but still finished it, a very rare situation in my life these days, because I enjoyed the beautiful game so much that I just did not want it to end. There had better not be another decade-long wait for the next one, because the third Pikmin game is a bona fide joy and one of the very best games on Wii U.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

7. Tomb Raider (360)

The recent announcement of a next-gen port of Tomb Raider has launched the admirable game into the spotlight once more almost ten months after it launched. The fact that I am considering playing through it again on PS4 is testament to just how highly I rate the game. Tomb Raider is a highly cinematic experience that doesn’t forget it’s a game, balancing exciting high-stakes set pieces with a surprisingly explorable world and some of the best environmental puzzles I’ve ever experienced. All versions of the game are pretty to look at and the new interpretation of Lara Croft as a hardened survivor first and an explorer second provides enough thrust to keep the narrative interesting.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

6. Tearaway (PS Vita)

The charm of Tearaway absolutely knows no bounds. It isn’t just charming sometimes – it’s charming all the time. Its papery aesthetic, complete with lovely little touches like paper ripples and a plethora of surprising fold-out animations, makes you feel like you are playing a pop-up book whenever it is running on your Vita. It uses just about every single unique hardware feature of the Vita better than any other title, making it fit better on the handheld than pretty much anything else you can buy. Its platforming physics are tight, its sense of progression well-executed and its narrative fast and loose, not so much breaking the fourth wall as removing it entirely. Wonderful stuff.

5. Rayman Legends (Wii U)

I have not played a better or more entertaining 2D platformer than Rayman Legends. Ever. It’s essentially that simple. Ubisoft absolutely crushed it with the sequel to 2011’s critical darling Rayman Origins. Using the flexibility of the revolutionary UbiArt engine, allowing artists to place their hand-drawn creations straight into a game, Legends looks great, but it also has my favourite video game soundtrack of the year and most importantly plays like a dream. Slightly weird jump physics aside, this game just keeps throwing new situations and ideas into your path, keeping things feeling fresh all the way through. It also piles satisfying daily and weekly challenges, the entirety of Origins and one of the most addictive local multiplayer sport minigames ever on top of the basic game to approach a level of content adequately described as ridiculous. And when played in co-op on the Wii U, the gamepad integration is seamless and rewarding.

4. Animal Crossing New Leaf (3DS)

I am still incapable of quite explaining exactly why the Animal Crossing series is so universally appealing, or why it steals so much of your time, but what I can tell you is why the 3DS’ New Leaf is the best entry yet in the series, by a long way. Portability. StreetPass and SpotPass functionality. Expansive online options including the Dream Suite. Nintendo game series items for your house. Customisable home exteriors. More shops than ever before. Mayoral control over your town. Landmarks. Custom bridges. Functioning Super Mushrooms. Expansive clothing designs that are shareable online. An always-summery island. Shark and beetle farming. Multiplayer minigames. Swimming. Diving. Pants. Baffled? You probably didn’t play Animal Crossing in 2013.

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

The eleventh Zelda game I have ever finished is also one of my all-time favourites, fitting incredibly well on Nintendo’s 3DS hardware. The 3D feature enhances gameplay rather than distracting from it, much in the style of 2011’s Super Mario 3D Land, and the expertly designed dungeons can be finished rather quickly to coincide with short trips on public transport. The game overall is one of the series’ shortest but also one of its least restrictive, giving you more or less a license to complete its dungeons in any order you please after a certain point in the game. You decide what items to get first and where you want to go. Link Between Worlds’ minigames are some of the series finest and it doesn’t skimp on story either, particularly when it comes to the finale. The seventeenth Zelda game may draw heavily from the legacy of A Link to the Past, but it manages to top the SNES classic in almost every way.

2. The Last of Us (PS3)

You may have already seen this one at the top of many a gaming publication’s year-end countdown, because it is very, very good. The Last of Us is developer Naughty Dog at its absolute best. The game shows off the disappointingly untapped graphical power of the PS3 in a way few developers have managed over the console’s lifetime, painting the picture of a bleak post-apocalyptic situation for humanity without settling for a murky colour palette – it is the overgrown influence of nature that repeatedly shows itself in the game’s gorgeous areas. The game’s story is delivered in an unflinching manner, keeping real, relatable human drama at the centre of the plot and ending in a very ballsy way. But most of all, The Last of Us is a videogame, and it plays damn well, emphasising stealth and resource management that takes on new life in the game’s surprisingly good multiplayer mode.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

1. Pokemon X (3DS)

Topping The Last of Us was always going to be difficult but I just cannot possibly bring myself to drop the latest monster catching effort from Gamefreak from the number one spot on my personal list. For the umpteenth consecutive year I played more hours in a Pokemon game than in any other, but that doesn’t mean that Pokemon X was guaranteed to be number one. It did anything but coast by on its laurels. Pokemon X is brimming with really clever new ways to interact with other players the world over, making a real effort to bring the series’ previously obtuse competitive depths to the surface and get people battling. The game is also really good-looking and boasts the best soundtrack the series has heard in at least a decade. Its pacing is refreshing, its respect for Pokemon’s origins admirable and its sense of wonder still untouchable. It is a phenomenal achievement in a year of phenomenal achievements for the 3DS, and my single favourite game of 2013.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

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Honorable Mentions
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NES Remix (Wii U)
A late addition to this list, NES Remix was released within minutes of its announcement onto the Wii U eShop and in one fell swoop took the title of best eShop exclusive yet as it did so. A lovely mix of nostalgia and modern accessibility, I’m calling it a $13 must-own for just about every Wii U owner. It’s that much fun.

The Walking Dead: Season 1  (PS Vita)
Qualifying for this list due to a very late release on Vita, God only knows what this game would have been like if it had released alongside the other versions. It runs absolutely terribly on the handheld, yet still manages to be one of the most engaging, gripping and emotionally intensive games I’ve ever played.

Guacamelee (PS Vita)
Guacamelee is “Metroidvania”-style gameplay done right; a near pitch-perfect action platformer with vibrant looks and a consistently funny script to boot. It’s also available on Steam and PS3 – play it.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Given how much I enjoyed playing this game with three others I cannot believe I couldn’t fit it onto my main list, but I guess that just shows how good this year was. 3D World is by far my favourite main series Mario platformer since Super Mario Sunshine.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX (PS3)
I finally made my entry into the much-loved Kingdom Hearts series through this convenient Trophy-enabled package and I recommend it to anyone who has ever been intrigued by the hype. It’s pretty good.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
As a game I have already played, I’ve let Wind Waker HD slip a little under the pile of other new games I still need to conquer, but anyone who hasn’t played it absolutely should. It looks absolutely stunning in high def and is still one of the all-time great Zelda titles.

Resogun (PS4)
For those who claim that the PS4 lacks a truly strong exclusive title at the moment, I raise you one Resogun. The game may be a cheap downloadable one but it is more entertaining and better designed than Knack and Killzone Shadow Fall put together. If you own a PS4 you need to have this game. It’s free on Playstation Plus, so you have no excuse, really.

NOTE: For listeners of the Mega Ultra Blast Cast, Persona 4 Golden doesn’t count for me personally this year, as I imported and began playing it at the end of 2012. It was on last year’s list, though it arguably shouldn’t have been seeing how little of the game I had played at the time of writing.

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