See what games made the list of my favorite games of 2013.
With the PS4 and Xbox One stealing the majority of the mindshare of gamers for most of this year, it’s nice to see that the other consoles managed to have a great year with many great games that really made it hard to dwindle my initial list of potential titles down to the 10 that you see below. I think I started with about 25 titles total and I just went back to some of these titles to see what really clicked with me to deserve a spot on the list. It was interesting to see that Microsoft would have had a terrible year if it weren’t for multiplatform titles and some good XBLA releases, which is probably due to the shifting of development resources to the Xbox One to spite their popular predecessor. On the flipside, Sony and Nintendo had great years their first party developers especially dropping some fantastic games on each of their systems to make them worth owning this year.
I also wanted to talk about my piles of shame for 2013, which are the games that I either never got around to playing or didn’t put enough time into to make this list. On the 3DS, I wished I had gotten Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon at launch to play it then instead of waiting until now to see about getting a copy on the cheap. Tearaway is a similar story for the Vita as I just now got a copy on sale since it came out during the PS4/Xbox One launch craziness that took all of my time. The only regret on PS3 is not getting to The Last of Us sooner since I just rented that recently to see if it would grab me enough to make my list, but that was also right around the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One that took all of my time. The regrets on PSN/XBLA/Steam are probably too numerous to list, but I also played a ton of great downloadable games that makes me not so regretful for the time I spent on digital games this year.
Getting back to the games I actually played and enjoyed greatly, here are my Top 10 Games of 2013:
10. Guacamelee! – PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC
Drinkbox Studios may have done well with their excellent Vita launch title, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, but Guacamelee! took them to the next level as they took inspiration from the classics to make a Mexican-themed Super Metroid-style action platformer featuring a luchadore that can also morph into a chicken. With the way that the companies that created this style of game are no longer interested in making them, it’s nice to see that indie developers can pick up the slack and add their own twists to the formula. Guacamelee! fleshes out the combat to be a rewarding deep system to give you a reason to take on every encounter when you come across them. I’d be hard-pressed to not also mention the excellent soundtrack that matches the setting perfectly.
9. Bit.Trip Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien – PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
The original Bit.Trip Runner was a bit too hard for its own good with the great concept of a rhythm platformer where every move you make adds to the beat to let you make the music as you play. Runner2 eases up on the difficulty, adds some new mechanics to make it harder, and moves the whole thing to a gorgeous 3D art style. This is the sort of platformer where you may curse the entire time you’re playing the level, but that final perfect run gives you the best feeling of bliss in the world.
8. Pikmin 3 – Wii U
I hadn’t played a Pikmin game since the original, so it was great to see that Pikmin 3 didn’t mess much with the formula that made me fall in love with the first game about ten years ago. This time around, you take control of three captains as you need to micromanage and work together to find food for your planet, defeat bosses, and throw stupid amounts of Pikmin at every obstacle so that it gets done as fast as possible. They’ve done a really good job of making use of the GamePad to let you quickly scroll around the level to your fellow captains so you can more easily multitask.
7. Saints Row IV – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
After playing through Saints Row The Third over the summer, I jumped into Saints Row IV hoping for more dumb stuff and it delivers in spades. Your leader of the Saints becomes the President of the United States of America and just before an important speech, aliens invade and capture you after you fail to win in a fight against their leader. Of course, he sticks you into a virtual simulation of Steelport and with the help of superhacker Kinzie, you gain superhuman abilities that you try to use to help you defeat the aliens and save the day. Saints Row IV also makes a big change to become more of a sandbox game like Crackdown or Prototype, which helped make this more of a fresh experience after finishing The Third so recently.
6. Papers, Please – PC
I’m not a huge PC gamer, but when I find a great game to play on there, I get hooked in a way that rarely happens elsewhere. Papers, Please is a bit of a different experience as you play the role of a newly-appointed immigration clerk in a fake Eastern European country that has just recently opened up its borders after the end of a long war. You’re tasked with inspecting each person’s papers to make sure everything is in order to let them into the country or deny them for big or even tiny issues, which is bolstered by your need to process as many people as possible to earn the best paycheck each day in order to afford rent, food for your family, medicine to keep them healthy, and heat to keep them warm during those cold nights. This is an extremely oppressive experience that challenges your ability to be a cold-hearted bureaucrat in order to do your job correctly even if you’re presented with heartbreaking stories that make you want to bend the rules just that once.
5. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – PlayStation 3
Level 5 got off to a bad start this generation as the White Knight Chronicles games didn’t quite live up to their potential, but they really nailed it with Ni no Kuni in a way that really reminds me of the greatness that we saw with Dragon Quest VIII near the end of the PS2 era. In partnership with the great Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke), this JRPG is an absolutely gorgeous game that tells a nice story of a boy whose mother dies to save him in an accident and his only hope of bringing her back is to help save another world from the evil Shadar. As JRPGs continue to desert consoles in favor of the more popular portables in their home country, it’s great to see at least one blockbuster come out this year.
4. Puppeteer – PlayStation 3
The best platformer that I’ve played all year long is easily Puppeteer on the PS3. Taking inspiration from puppetry, the presentation is easily one of the best I’ve ever seen in any game that tries to emulate another style of performance art as you see the stage constantly changing once you’re done with the scene and the way the story is injected into every part of the game thanks to a great British narrator and great performances by the characters in cutscenes. You take control of Kutaro, a young boy whose soul is stolen by the evil Moon Bear King and placed into the body of a little wooden puppet, as he sets off with some help to try to restore order on the Moon by bringing the Moon Goddess back to life and defeat the evil Moon Beat King once and for all. It’s certainly great when a platformer offers great controls and mechanics, but when there’s a great story and presentation to go with it? That’s when we really have something special on our hands.
3. SteamWorld Dig – Nintendo 3DS, PC
Remember when I mentioned earlier that it’s great that indie developers are picking up the slack when it comes to making new Metroid-style games? SteamWorld Dig merges the digging and mining mechanics of something like Miner Dig Deep with the mechanics and progression of a Metroid game into one of the most addictive games I’ve played this year. There’s a nice sense of strategy to figuring out how to best dig down into your mine to make it easy to grab the ore that is all around you, which you take back above ground to sell for money that you then use to buy new equipment and upgrade your abilities. Then you can go back down and dig a bit deeper, collect a bit more ore, and then earn a bit more money. This cycle repeats itself until you’ve solved the mystery of what’s in the mines and beaten the game, which then creates a hole in your heart when you realize that you’re done with the game.
2. Hotline Miami – PlayStation 3, Vita
Hotline Miami made a splash last year when the PC version hit Steam and gained a lot of fans, but it really made an impact for me with the PS3 and Vita versions that were released earlier this year. With greatly-improved controls and the same great soundtrack, visual style, and addictive gameplay, Hotline Miami is one of those games that kicks you in the nuts over and over and you’re happy to take it because that moment when you can do the kicking is the best feeling in the world. Hotline Miami is basically a stealth action game where you play the role of a mysterious hitman that gets some odd calls to “take care” of certain situations where you use any weapons you can find, melee or guns, to string together kills as quickly as possible to rack up high scores in such a way that makes you feel like the best player in the world even when you barely survive by the skin of your teeth. The presentation is top notch as the visual style and soundtrack just gives this game the great feeling of being high on cocaine in the 80s in this fever dream where you’re killing tons of mobsters in the most badass ways.
1. Beyond: Two Souls – PlayStation 3
My 2013 Game of the Year is Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls. The epic tale of Jodie Holmes’ life was an experience that kept me hooked from start to finish in a way that I hadn’t really seen since Heavy Rain did the same thing to me back in 2009. It may not have the open ended story that Heavy Rain did, but the focus on telling just one character’s story from her troubled childhood to her attempts to discover her purpose in life as a teenager and adult as her special abilities become less of a personal issue and more of a tool that others want to use for their own gain. The way the story is told in something of a disjointed fashion ends up putting together big and small moments of her life to highlight certain themes of her growth as Jodie comes to terms with the entity’s existence as a part of her while figuring out whether this entity is anything more than a curse that will continue to ruin her life. Much like Heavy Rain, Beyond does a good job of letting you make choices to decide how Jodie reacts to every situation that may not ultimately make a huge difference in the story, but it pays off to really make the journey I went on feel like one that was especially made for me.
This looks to be the final year in which this list will be filled entirely with games from this past generation, which makes me look forward to seeing what wows me in 2014 since we still don’t know a ton about what is now next year. I can see games like inFamous: Second Son and Metal Gear Solid V being big titles for me, but the second half of 2014 is a blur at this point. I’d like to end this with a few honorable mentions for games that almost made the list that I’d like to get in here at the last possible chance, which includes Picross e2 for the 3DS, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Thomas Was Alone, and Toki Tori 2. Thanks for checking this out and have a good 2014.