2013 has been a lot of things to gamers. The Year of Luigi, the Year of the New Console Generation, the Year of the 3DS... you can label 2013 any number of things, but it's hard to deny it being a great year to be a gamer. Especially with game developers pulling out all the stops to bring the last generation to a close with a bang, and an unusual amount of releases for niche audiences, both of which gave gamers a wide range of options for their gaming fix.
All of these games are pretty great of course, but it certainly sucks when you have to narrow it down to a mere ten games to stand above the rest. It's a shame that I didn't get to play some of the most critically acclaimed titles this year (sorry The Last of Us, Super Mario 3D World, Ni No Kuni...), but there's only so much time in the year for gaming.
With that, I'll pick the ten games that I've played that I think are superior to every other game released this year, mercilessly putting the rest in the dreaded 'Number 11' spot. Here we go!
Gunpoint isn't a ground-breaking game, but darn it if this 2-hour adventure isn't fun. A stealth-puzzle-awesome-pants game, Gunpoint forces you to think about how to tackle each area, and gives you a few different ways to do so. Also, hacking into electrical outlets was interesting and led to some fun solutions with messing with guards, even if the feature becomes the main focus of most of the later areas. This title is short and sweet, and with just enough drama and snark to keep you entertained with the plot.
9. Attack of the Friday Monsters!
One of the three Guild-02 games released on the 3DS, Attack of the Friday Monsters! more or less blew my expectations for it out of the water. A tale of a young boy who lives in a town attacked by monsters every Friday, the game takes the magic of a child's imagination and lets us experience it in a surprisingly pure and non-sarcastic manner. While there's very little gameplay to speak of, simply the joy of uncovering the origins of these frightful monsters and the surprising plot twist at the end provide for a great, if short, gaming experience.
8. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
It's hard to describe the appeal of Animal Crossing: New Leaf to one that hasn't played or enjoyed the series. It's essentially a debt simulator, with fussy villagers and always more bugs and fossils to collect, but the simple, cheerful nature of the game makes New Leaf relaxing and fun in short bursts (or longer ones, if you suddenly decide you must perfect some part of the town or another). Add in the fact that you're the Mayor this time around, and can build new buildings and enact Ordinances to shape the nature of the town, and you have a title that can easily suck you in.
7. Megabyte Punch
Megabyte Punch is a crazy combination of Mega Man, Metroid, and Super Smash Bros. Most would think such a combination wouldn't work, but this indie title does so with finesse. This title features a fast and rewarding battle system, where pieces of your enemies literally break off, which you can then equip to customize your character. The title itself came out a bit marred with a huge difficulty leap at the end of the game, but overall it's a fun excursion into an interesting experiment.
6. Rogue Legacy
Disclaimer: I've never been a big fan of rogue-likes. Their difficulty and the way permadeath is handled tends to leave me frustrated and unsatisfied with rogue-likes, which is further expounded upon the fact that I'm a bad strategist. But, Rogue Legacy is different. Permadeath isn't a save-erasing failure; instead, it's an opportunity to take an heir with different traits and upgrade their stats and equipment, making a subsequent visit to the castle easier. Also, the real time combat lends to a more skill-based affair, making an error feel less like a death sentence. It takes the normal frustrations of the genre and make them into fun mechanics.
5. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
Disgaea D2 was a bit of an odd game for me. Having little interest in the relatively grind heavy series after my enjoyable time with the original title, I wanted to play this direct sequel starring some of my favorite characters, but I also wasn't sure how the game itself would play out. Obviously, it was a great experience, featuring all the characterization I loved and a few methods to make the typical grind even enjoyable. Disgaea D2 is the most accessible entry to the series yet, but it still keeps many of the complicated mechanics and features for those that want to delve in beyond the plot.
4. Bioshock Infinite
I was a little late to the party when it came to Bioshock Infinite. I only beat the game late in November, but the title left a very favorable impression for me. While it had a slow start, the plot really picked up and became truly interesting. As many said, the overabundance of combat didn't do the game many favors, but it was at least interesting and rewarding (then again, I played on Easy so I didn't experience much frustration). Bioshock Infinite is a game worth experiencing, if only for the intriguing story behind it.
Puppeteer sort of blindsided me. I had not heard much about the game until it came time to review it, and the game I ended up playing was simply so well-crafted and fun that I came away from it very impressed. The entire puppet show art style gave the title a unique and wonderful feel, and the Moon itself was alive with some great set pieces. The gameplay itself held up well too, making Puppeteer as much a joy to play as it was to watch.
2. Pokemon X/Y
The sixth generation of Pokemon wasn't something I was originally excited for. I was pretty disappointed with Pokemon Black 2, but right near Pokemon X/Y's release I pre-ordered it, the hype of the 3DS title getting the better of me. Surprisingly, Pokemon X/Y held my interest the entire way through, and I enjoyed the game immensely. The fact that this title is far more socially connected than any of the other games before it is nice, and the changes made to make it easier to break into the competitive scene allow for tons of extra enjoyment value. There may not be much in the way of post-game content, but even without it this game brings plenty of ways to enjoy the title beyond the main story.
1. Fire Emblem: Awakening
There's so, so much I can say about Fire Emblem: Awakening. I watched the title very carefully when it was first announced in Japan, eagerly awaiting a chance to play this new iteration to the rather niche SRPG series. When the game finally came out in February, I quickly snatched it up and delved into the new challenges Intelligent Systems had to offer.
I did not come away disappointed. Awakening was a true Fire Emblem game, with an increased focus on character customization with the ability to change classes and choose classes. Even more so, and in ways more importantly, this title made the series more accessible to newcomers, with Casual Mode taking away permadeath and the ability to grind your characters to help offset possible bad stat gains. The Fire Emblem series used to be rather stand off-ish and niche due to its learning curve and difficulty, but Awakening opened itself to a new wave of fans, while still providing the options of challenge and familiar mechanics to not alienate the veteran fanbase.
Fire Emblem: Awakening was an evolution of a series, and one that succeeded greatly. Regardless of all that, this is the game that not only I was the most hyped about, but the one I was most pleased with for the entirety of the year. To me, Awakening being my GOTY was a no-brainer.
The output of 2013 was, without a doubt, impressive. AAA and indie titles alike were well-represented this year, and while some more niche genres were left a little wanting, there is still plenty for gamers to enjoy from 2013. Now, excuse me while I try to catch up on all the great 2013 titles I missed...