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Found 11 results

  1. Jason Clement

    Game of the Year 2013: GP's Top 10

    What can be said about gaming in 2013 that hasn't already been said? The year will go down as one of the best in recent history for its many unique and diverse top-notch experiences. That said, it's finally time to bring an end to this Game of the Year feature. But enough exposition - you've already read through 12 of our own personal lists thus far anyhow. So what has the GP staff selected as its top 10 games of 2013? And more importantly, which game won the coveted Game of the Year title? Read on to find out! 10. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons I hate to sound sensational when describing things, but Brothers is an astounding experience on many levels. Using dual analog sticks to control both brothers feels oddly strange and natural at the same time, and the gameplay mechanics and puzzles formed around that very scheme work brilliantly. But more than anything, Brothers cuts deep to the heart with its story and narrative, the likes of which are enhanced and brought to the next level through the use of cinematic imagery and fantastical locales and characters. Short and sweet yet powerful at the same time, Brothers is a game that undeniably leaves its mark on you by the end and should not be missed . - Jason Clement, Editor-in-Chief 9. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn After a rocky relaunch, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has come out like Iron Man, granting it a huge amount of celebrity status and adoration, having addressed nearly every issue people had with the original title. Not only that, but quickfixes continue to address issues as they arise, and the massive content patch in 2.1 brought in even more new content, showing that Square-Enix has no intention of slowing down. - Marshall Henderson, Editor 8. Super Mario 3D World Say what you will about the Big N, but they still know how to make fantastic games. That much is ever-so-apparent after playing the platforming masterpiece that is Super Mario 3D World, especially when playing with others. Taking some of the best elements from many a Mario game (Hotel Mario doesn't count) and adding new features to make it feel fresh and new, this Wii U title is not only a must-have for any owner of the console, but is arguably one title that makes the Wii U a must-have itself. - Jordan Haygood, Community Manager 7. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch No other game this year has given me even close to the same feeling of adventure that Ni No Kuni has. With a lovely cast of characters, more gameplay than you can shake a stick at, and a story that just oozes happiness and comfort, I can't see why anybody would hate it. - Jared, Features Editor 6. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Few games give you the level of freedom, choice and consequence that AC IV brings to the table. Throwing players into the shoes of a pirate-turned-assassin, AC IV is a massive step over every previous iteration and thrills with excellent naval combat. Coupled with fantastic presentation and a few multiplayer modes, AC IV is destined to devour your time. - Harrison Lee, Editor 5. Tearaway In a year where the 3DS basically dominated the Vita in sheer volume and overall quality of original game content, it's fascinating to see how Tearaway stumbled its way upon the Vita and was by far the most imaginative and creative title on handhelds in 2013. Utilizing every unorthodox feature on the system in surprisingly seamless ways and presenting an insanely captivating visual style, Tearaway brought a real, childish wonderment and a personalized adventure that knew not to overstay its welcome in sharp contrast to many other games nowadays. - Barrel, Moderator 4. Gone Home What is there to say about Gone Home that hasn't already been said? It's important, emotional, and at no point do you have to perform a headshot on zombies, racially ambiguous enemies, or Nazis. Because of its point and click-ish gameplay, some have even suggested it isn't even a game - as if that somehow demolishes its worth. Gone Home is a series of simple stories of one family that you discover by rifling through their stuff. And somehow it manages to provide engaging narratives through these simple mechanics. Without ever coming face to face with anyone else, you begin to care about what this fictional family has been through in "your" absence. Perhaps me being an older sibling to a sister had something to do with it, but the story really resonated with me. It wasn't something I had ever expected to see coming out of the video game medium and I only hope we can see more like it in the future. - Marcus Estrada, Managing Editor 3. Fire Emblem: Awakening Amazing to think that just a short while ago, the Fire Emblem series was in trouble in both Japan and in the West. With dwindling sales and a few relatively poorly received entries made Fire Emblem: Awakening the games that would truly make or break the series. Intelligent Systems went all out with this 3DS release, and their effort shows through. With a fantastic art style and soundtrack, an engaging (if a bit outrageous) plot, and mechanics that welcome the newcomers as well as please series veterans, it's safe to say that the Fire Emblem series will be around for years to come. - Gaiages, Community Manager 2. The Last of Us The Last of Us somehow manages to take a story that affects the entire fate of the world and focus it on the relationship between two very real people. While the game puts you in these harrowing and emotionally torturous positions, it is able to keep the human element intact - all the while forcing you to do extremely inhuman things. However, what makes this game truly interesting are the small moments of quiet in between the bloodshed. Moments where Ellie is reading from a joke book several decades past their prime, finding comic books she likes among the wreckage of towns you visit, the moments Joel places his hand on her shoulder when they are hiding from something. All these small moments add to the value of the characters and it makes you want to go through the nightmare of these monsters just so you can experience them all over again. - Dominic Dimanche, Contributing Writer And GP's Game of the Year for 2013 is... 1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds A Link Between Worlds can best be summarized as a game inspired by the past, but with no intentions to remain there. The newly constructed dungeons are completely unique, providing some of the most thought provoking puzzles of the entire franchise. Link is no longer constricted to a singular progression, something that was once propelled by convenient discoveries in preceding dungeons. New, fully orchestrated arrangements of familiar songs represent a precedent-setting achievement for Nintendo as they set the bar for soundtracks for all of their future titles. While this Zelda title may have initially began with humble origins as an idea for a remake of A Link To The Past, the game blossomed into something much more complex. A Link Between Worlds combines the franchise's past victories with new innovations that will likely have you rearranging your “Best Legend of Zelda Games” list. - John Kidman, Contributing Writer Are you surprised with the outcome of the list? Let us know what you think!
  2. Jason Clement

    Game of the Year 2013: Jason's Picks

    2013 was quite a memorable year in my book. A landmark year, I might add. Much of its import comes from the fact that two new consoles launched, officially beginning the next generation, but don't let that distract you from the fact that the last generation had a huge send-off with games that were arguably some of the best we'd see yet. The rise of 3DS and Vita also proved that handheld gaming was very much alive when many thought they'd be done in by the mobile market. Last but not least, the indie scene continued to grow in leaps and bounds, with more games changing and challenging our perception of the kinds of experiences they can provide. Amidst all of this, however, a number of games in particular managed to come out on top as the most memorable for me, providing unforgettable experiences and, most importantly, capturing my imagination. Here are my top ten games of 2013. 10. LEGO City Undercover Never in a million years did I think a LEGO game with a wholly original cast, plot, and world could outdo licensed titles based on the likes of Batman, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, but that's exactly what TT Fusion did with LEGO City Undercover. They delivered the largest open-world LEGO game to date, the likes of which was a ton of fun to explore; I've already put in some 40 hours doing the side-quests and finding golden bricks. Chase McCain and the rest of the cast were also quite memorable, along with a legitimately funny script and plot that doesn't take itself too seriously; the latter of which also ends in a pretty spectacular fashion. All of this resulted in what I believe is easily the best LEGO game yet. 9. Rain Rain is one of the more interesting games I've played this year due to the nature of its plot. It presents itself as almost a bedtime story of sorts, yet is actually much darker and foreboding in atmosphere. There's a great sense of melancholy to it all, with the sinister invisible being known as The Unknown stalking two children through the rainy night, and a real sense of dread and urgency that comes over you when it's close by. The feeling only escalates in the second half when you feel an impending sense of doom and hopelessness by discovering the fact that the night may never end. But more than anything else, it's the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack and the rainy cityscape atmosphere that will really stick with me for some time to come. 8. The Wonderful 101 No one does action games like Platinum does, and after playing The Wonderful 101, I'm even more confident of that. Partly a satire of the superhero genre and other heroic team-ups like Super Sentai/Power Rangers, The Wonderful 101 is bombastic and relentless in how over-the-top and absurd the action can get. While the beat 'em up and platforming nature of the normal levels is a lot of fun, much of the game's memorable moments come from huge, splashy, and crazy boss battles that are a blast to play through. It's exciting, exhilarating, and one of the most entertaining games I've experienced all year long. 7. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Heart of the Swarm's story had a lot riding on it after Wings of Liberty's cliffhanger ending, and though there are some plot points I wasn't crazy about, it's still very much a worthy sequel. I had a hard time imagining who Kerrigan would be talking to or associating with throughout her campaign since the Zerg weren't exactly known as a chatty bunch before this title, but to my surprise, Blizzard came up with some pretty interesting and unique new characters that not only expand the Zerg as a species, but also give them some much needed characterization and purpose. Of course, the gameplay is as sharp as ever, especially with some great new units that really round out the three warring factions nicely. Now let's just hope we don't have to wait another 2.5 years for Legacy of the Void to bring an end to this trilogy. 6. The Wolf Among Us - Episode 1: Faith Most people may scoff at the thought of putting one episode of an incomplete episodic series on a GOTY list but that's just how good The Wolf Among Us is. Telltale is truly a master of their craft these days, and they successfully managed to bring to life the world of Fables in such a way that exceeds even The Walking Dead in my opinion. The characters themselves may be fairytale characters and creatures, but in an ironic twist, the themes and situations that are tackled in the story make them seem more real and relatable than most reality-based characters in the biggest AAA games. Interestingly enough, we could also actually see The Wolf Among Us make my 2014 GOTY list if the story holds up well in the end. Now hop to it, Telltale, and give us Episode 2 already! 5. Pikmin 3 I didn't expect to like Pikmin 1 so much when I played it for the first time over the summer, but there was an unusual charm and uniqueness about it I hadn't experienced since playing Chibi Robo back in 2006. It goes without saying then, that Pikmin 3 blew my expectations out of the water when it finally arrived. Best described as a strategy-exploration game, Pikmin 3 boasts some of the best level environments and atmospheres I've ever played through, each one unique and vastly different from the last, and it also makes use of the new Pikmin in clever ways. It's unfortunate that this may be the last entry in the series we see for some time since this is easily one of the best examples of Nintendo's timeless creativity and magic at work. 4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Brothers is this year's Journey, in a sense. There are key parallels between both games - both are short, take you on a grand journey, and deliver some pretty impactful moments along the way, but for different reasons. In Brothers, the key theme is the sense of each brother relying on the other, and what they experience on their journey not only gives you a sense of awe and grandeur, but also tests that relationship to the brim, resulting in one of the most emotional climaxes of the year. It's not only one of the most beautiful games as well, but one of the best examples of the sum of its parts paying off in leaps and bounds by the end. Oh, and the dual analog stick scheme for controlling each brother is one of the most unique and well-constructed game designs I've experienced as well. Bravo, Starbreeze. 3. Super Mario 3D World Admittedly, I actually thought Nintendo EAD Tokyo was running out of ideas when we got our first glimpse of Super Mario 3D World earlier in the year, but now I know better than to doubt them. What they created with 3D World is truly special, resulting in what could inarguably be called the best Mario game since classics like Super Mario Bros. 3 and World, thanks to new ideas like the cat suit, a revamped overworld, and some of the best level design this generation. It's one of the only games I tried to play to absolute completion (beyond the main game) this year, and currently the best reason for anyone to own a Wii U. 2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds As lauded as it is, I was never the biggest fan of A Link to the Past. There, I said it. Shocking, right? It's a good game and all, but I've always preferred Link's 3D adventures over it. Needless to say, then, I wasn't the most enthusiastic about A Link Between Worlds when it was announced, but once again, Nintendo managed to recapture the magic and glory of what made the Zelda series great in the first place by opening up the world and giving you more freedom than ever. It also offers the best and most entertaining dungeons the series has seen in some time; there really is a certain quality of Zelda that only 2D games seem to be able to reflect. In the end, I tried to see everything I could in A Link Between Worlds; I didn't want to leave when it was over, and even now I'm excited to start a new game. If that isn't the mark of an amazing game, I don't know what is. 1. Fire Emblem Awakening When it comes to numero uno, there's only one title I spent more time with than any other this year. Fire Emblem Awakening proves that Intelligent Systems is absolutely one of the very best developers Nintendo has; the amount of value, detail, depth, and overall quality in the game is staggering, which includes beautifully-rendered anime cutscenes; great voice-acting; gorgeous, detailed environments; top-notch music; a lengthy, epic campaign; and more. They also managed to take the series to the next level with the addition of the pairing system, adding an additional element of strategy to play, along with an expanded support system that includes the ability to marry characters (and produce children) and the ability to add additional context to the story with the growth of relationships between different characters. Don't be fooled; the gameplay may seem simple, but with all of the variables it throws into the equation, Fire Emblem: Awakening is deceptively deep - possibly the deepest experience yet on 3DS, and I'll continue playing and replaying it for some time to come. For all this and more, there's no question that it's my Game of the Year for 2013.
  3. Harrison Lee

    Game of the Year 2013: Harrison's Picks

    Looking back on launches in 2013 is almost staggering. With the introduction of a new generation of consoles, further advancements in PC tech and hundreds of new games, 2013 may very well be one of the best years in gaming. However, not everything introduced into the market is a worthy, quality purchase; for every great title, there's an awful one that barely functions (looking at you, Ride to Hell). But for all of the crap tossed out this year, there was so much good stuff that it's pretty hard to complain. Here are ten titles that most definitely deserve your time and money. The Last of Us What hasn't been said about The Last of Us yet? The narrative is emotionally-gripping, well written, explosive and packed with human tragedy. It's the best material Naughty Dog's ever drummed up, putting a great twist on the stagnant zombie genre. The presentation is equally masterful, presenting a brilliant depiction of post fungal-apocalypse America. And then there's the creative multiplayer mode that seamlessly integrates campaign mechanics and addictive survivor group mechanics. With the excellent survival-horror gameplay and improvisation, The Last of Us is the definitive swan song of the PS3. Outlast Prepare to crap your pants at least ten times within the first few minutes of Outlast. Developed by ex-Ubisoft veterans, Outlast tells the tale of a journalist investigating the mysterious MK ULTRA experiments at a seemingly abandoned asylum. Players can only run from the psychological and physical horrors within, relying on brains over brawn. Outlast is truly terrifying and shows true passion for a genre long since dormant. State of Decay If you've had the fortune of experiencing State of Decay, you'd know it's the best approximation of what it's like to live in The Walking Dead universe. Players will take on the role of a group of survivors as they attempt to eke out an existence. While central missions do pop up, it's up to you to decide when to make supply runs and build up fortifications. Zombies are deadly and will easily kill the hardiest of your survivors. State of Decay, flawed and buggy as it can be, is one of the best zombie survival RPGs in years. No More Room in Hell I know, it's yet another zombie game that looks like a hack-job of Left 4 Dead. But NMRiH's genius is in the details, stripping players of powerful guns and seemingly endless health. Servers consist of 1-8 survivors holding out against waves of zombies or completing difficult objectives. Ammo is unbelievably scarce, any contact with the undead can mean infection and melee weapons are blessings in disguise. Even a flashlight is precious when survivors can't see what they're shooting at. At the bargain price of free, NMRiH's long-coming release on Steam means you have no excuse not to play it. Shadow Warrior If you told me that the racially-insensitive Shadow Warrior from the '90s would be resurrected into a modern 3D shooter, I'd have called you a cotton-headed ninny muggins. What should be a train-wreck in glorious hi-def is actually one of the year's most entertainingly gory shooters. With protagonist Lo Wang, players will decimate waves of demons and gangsters on the path to glory. The game certainly isn't hurt by the gorgeous, colorful environments and decent writing either. While the action can get repetitive, it's hard to get mad at a game that wants you to listen to "Eye of the Tiger" while on your way to cutting people in half. Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death I really can't describe Marlow Briggs in tangible words. The best I can say is that it's a shockingly self-aware God of War-clone that indulges in poking fun at itself and gaming culture. While the action is just competent, the in-jokes and witty humor really sell the experience. There's very little on the market quite like Marlow Briggs and that makes it a worthy purchase at the meager asking price (which regularly goes on sale, mind you). Company of Heroes 2 Official GP Review War is hell, something the Company of Heroes franchise has never forgotten. Every entry has been brutal, bloody, and painfully difficult at times. Company of Heroes 2 makes subtle visual improvements and tweaks to the gameplay while keeping the fantastic core intact. While very little has changed, nothing needed to. The result is a polished RTS that cinematically captures the Eastern Front in horrific detail. If you're a war buff or strategy fan, this game practically begs your hard-earned scrip. ArmA III War sims are pretty rare these days as the market is sadly niche. Confined to PCs, the genre hasn't had a solid entry since the earlier Flashpoint entries and ArmA II. With ArmA III, developers Bohemia Interactive have vowed to make the experience more accessible, visceral, beautiful and life-like than ever before. The game is still in beta but ArmA III already shows signs of hitting each and every objective marker. In a year or two, this could be the definitive mil-sim that PC owners point to as a Master Race game. Assassin's Creed IV Pirates are the best thing to happen to the Assassin's Creed series since forever. While I thought Ezio was a great character, AC IV finally starts to shed some of the annoying gameplay conceits the series has always had. While the aggravating tailing and surveillance missions persist, AC IV is the biggest, best and most improved game in the franchise. Excellent naval combat and atmosphere help to make this the best Assassin's Creed game yet. I can't wait to see where this series heads next! FIFA 14 Sports games are largely iterative releases, and FIFA 14 is hardly an exception. But with such a great core experience and the addition of deeper animations on next-gen, FIFA 14 is a shining example of what the sports genre can accomplish. It's deep, complex, thrilling, and just as intense as any exhibition match-up and penalty shootout. Even the mobile version is well-done. Need for Speed: Rivals NFS: Rivals is pure car porn. It's all about balls-to-the-wall speed runs between cops and racers in chaotic maelstroms of metal and rubber. While the DNA of Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted is apparent, the results are hard to argue with. The action is tight and the production values are top-notch. AutoLog is great as ever and makes sure other players are ready to unseat your records at the drop of a flag. NFS: Rivals is pure adrenaline distilled into car-on-car violence.
  4. Brittany Vincent

    Game of the Year 2013: Brittany's Picks

    Though there were a ton of great games this year, I wasn't especially blown away by many. True, there were games I enjoyed, and ones I came back to time and time again, but even despite jumping into the next generation of consoles, I wasn't impressed by much. For that reason, I chose five games I enjoyed more than anything else this year. And thinking back, wow -- I can't believe these released in 2013. It all seems like such a long time ago. But enough reminiscing and onward to the games! Papers, Please Official GP Review I remember the first time I laid eyes on Papers, Please during a random streamer's cast on Twitch. It looked absolutely bonkers. She put on some sort of pseudo-Russian accent while allowing people into the bizarre country known as Arstotzka. It was free, she said. I wanted in. Soon, I was embarking on this Carmen Sandiego-like journey as often as I could, though I found myself starting over more often than not because I couldn't keep my family from going hungry or dying from some illness that's miraculously treated with warmth and food. Or medicine. It made my day when the game transitioned to Steam for some tasty Achievements, and awareness spread to the masses who previously hadn't tried it. I still like to visit Arstotzka often, and I surmise things will stay that way. Rogue Legacy Official GP Review I failed, and I picked myself right back up and went at it again. I can't think of many other games that made me feel that way this year (or ever), especially considering its difficulty and how hard it was for me to get used to simple platforming again. Rogue Legacy is genius for changing my mind about starting over and getting me to be serious about bettering myself. And for that it definitely deserves praise. DmC: Devil May Cry Official GP Review Even as a die-hard Devil May Cry fan, I was receptive to all the changes Ninja Theory threw out at us. Dante's design never really grew on me, but awesome boss battles, fluid combat, and an amazingly dapper version of Vergil made me a believer. It may be reviled in many circles, but it was an excellent game, and I'll defend it at every turn. Shin Megami Tensei IV What kind of MegaTen fan would I be if I didn't include the fourth iteration on my best-of 2013 list? I waited for this game for so long, and after it thoroughly trounced me at every turn, I came back again and again with a vengeance, ready to tackle it. Even though it keeps beating me away with a stick. Seriously. I'm extremely awful at this game. I'm pretty sure I'm playing it wrong, too. But I sure do love it. Especially the fact that it was a handheld release. Good on you, Atlus. Outlast Survival horror hasn't been an extremely strong genre for quite some time, but it re-emerged with a vengeance with Outlast, and I was there at every turn to savor it. It wasn't the terrifying game I've dreamt of for so long, but for a game that relies on a camera and recording the events in front of you, it tells a hell of a lot better story than Slender, and brings a lot more chills than those games ever could.
  5. Marshall Henderson

    Game of the Year 2013: Marshall's Picks

    The end is nigh, and we“ve made our offerings to tomorrow, but what have we earned? This year, we“ve been rewarded with spectacle and action and excitement, with more cinematographic precision and open-world-ness than we“ve ever been able to do before, but it“s always been escalation. Where do we move forward? The end of the year always forces a sense of introspection and retrospection, but as the industry gets older, I feel an Ehrmann-esque need to do take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of my youth. I demand different things. Maybe not better, but different. Fortunately, 2013 was a year intent on delivering. Also, note, while I will try to avoid them, it“s hard to talk about some of these games without mentioning some stuff that may be considered spoilers. 6. Fire Emblem Awakening Fire Emblem Awakening is not the most pioneering game. It doesn“t bring much new to the genre of SRPGs, as it is a menagerie of different ideas that have been added, so long as they can easily fit within the constraints of the genre, nor does it necessarily cater to the usual Fire Emblem audience. What it does do, however, is take a genre revered, often enough, for its difficulty and puts the nature of challenge into the player“s hands. Using seals to change classes, and then factoring in the offspring system, Awakening earns its place on the list through a tough-to-start, easy-once-mastered-unless-you-play-on-the-hardest-difficulties-which-basically-cheat system. While it isn“t the groundbreaking-est of games, and while simple competence isn“t, in itself, a worthwhile goal, Fire Emblem Awakening piles in its systems in a surprisingly intuitive game that earns its position in this list. 5. Pokemon X/Y Okay, yes, I know. All that preamble, then right out of the gate, there are two formulaic something-RPGs. But Pokémon X and Y adds, no pun intended, depth to the series in such a way that utilizes all the features of the technology, pulling forward all the features that cause people to criticize the series for being same-y. The series has evolved (huehue) constantly under the hood, but that came in tandem with the utilization of a whole suite of new features and interfacing in X and Y Versions. In short, it stands as the best Pokémon game to date in every circuit but nostalgia. 4. Castles in the Sky Disclaimer: I consider the creative team behind this game to be friends, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Or don“t, you can do what you want, I“m not your boss. Castles in the Sky is positive. It seems like a weird thing to have to point out. After all, games are meant to be fun. At one time, maybe this would have been true, but not today. Gaming has become a boldly cynical culture, through practice and narrative alike. Castles in the Sky does not subscribe to this ideology. There“s unjaded sincerity, as if Castles is telling you that the world maybe is a good place sometimes. Even more bizarrely, it even seems to believe it, coupling beautiful music along with simple-but-soothing gameplay to create a meaningful barrier, a safe space to actually enjoy the world a little bit. 3. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Final Fantasy XIV is the Robert Downey Jr. of video games, without a doubt. When a lot of people found the drunken mess crashed nude in their computer rooms, it was very obvious that Square-Enix had a problem. Almost two years in rehab, however, saw a new game emerge, one without the technical issues and restrictive gameplay elements that made the original such hot street trash. After a rocky relaunch, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has come out like Iron Man, granting it a huge amount of celebrity status and adoration, having addressed nearly every issue people had with the original title. Not only that, but quickfixes continue to address issues as they arise, and the massive content patch in 2.1 brought in even more new content, showing that Square-Enix has no intention of slowing down. Oh, all the hours I“ve put in... 2. The Last of Us I“ve never really been all that keen on Naughty Dog. It isn“t that I ever disliked them, but I felt like they had very little emotional range, and just stayed in comfortable lack of empathy. Boy was I wrong. The Last of Us is a tremendous piece, combining lessons learned from the Uncharted series with some of the most phenomenal characters ever born into the world. The change of dynamic between two believable characters is done masterfully, and every playthrough brings out a little more nuance, introducing sometimes entirely new motives unto actions. Every time I think back on the game, I remember a small detail, or a concept that maybe evaded me the first time through, and the eventual jeers and berating I will receive from now-justified Naughty Dog fans. 1. Gone Home Official GP Review It“s hard to talk about Gone Home. I have always lived my life as a very “put all your emotions in a bottle and bury them, and if that bottle breaks, get a bigger bottle” kind of guy. After playing Gone Home there was no bottle big enough to prepare me for those feelings. In my decades of gaming, I have never felt a game so efficiently eviscerate me with emotion as this did. In all my years of gaming, I have never been so thoroughly engaged with a family, my own included, as I was here. In all my years of gaming, I have never played anything as good as Gone Home. Every facet of Gone Home is an absolute masterwork. In the most organic way, Gone Home tells its story in a very “if these walls could talk” manner. The story feels like a very voyeuristic plot until, at some point in its brief two hour time period, it shifts to being a very personal story. After playing this game, I was a ghost for weeks, wandering my house and sitting on the floor, thinking about it. This was so all-consuming that it“s hard to call this my “Game of the Year.” Rather, it“s hard to restrict it to that title. In my eyes, it is truly peerless, with its understanding of genuine human emotion, the way that simple phrases feel like they can wound, and its incredible attention to detail. Within two hours of gameplay, Gone Home may currently be my favorite game of all time.
  6. John Kidman

    Game of the Year 2013: John's Picks

    Game of the Year discussions are serious business, though nearly every major release finds some way to either put a "Game of the Year" tag on their cover art or release a "Game of the Year" edition. So this list is about giving every game on it some sort of title. As you look for ways to spend your Holiday Gift Cards, these are just a few games that would make great additions to your collection. Best Racing Game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Official GP Review The idea of saboteur racing can be rather thrilling, but there has always been very little space made for those who do not carry credentials of an Italian plumber. The truth is that the Mario Kart franchise has held the title as best kart racing franchise for quite some time despite numerous attempts to push their way onto the scene, from Crash to LittleBigPlanet. Kart games provide plenty of party-environment fun and can offer some of the wackiest races. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is SEGA's most recent attempt into the kart arena, directly following up their 2010 release and it definitely does not disappoint. The roster, one of the game's best features, reaches far beyond the Sonic and Monkey Ball franchises to pull in classic characters from Shinobi, Jet Set Radio and Skies of Arcadia. This game proved that SEGA, much like Namco-Bandai *cough*, has a lot of untapped potential when it comes to a mash-up title. There are plenty of games this year that exceed the overall Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but none that fit so squarely in the racing category. The game may not have the photo- realism of Gran Turismo 6 or the A.I. from Forza 5 with drivatar, but it is fueled by enjoyment and finds its place as one of the best karting games to date. Best Indie Game Gone Home Official GP Review So many indie games are wrought with poor mechanics, designs and execution, but when truly remarkable indie games appear they can transcend budgets or preconceived notions of what makes a "video game." Gone Home is such an experience. It does not have fighting or puzzles, but it does tell a story through exploration. Gone Home topped my list, beating out Papers, Please because of its deep narrative. This title has the feel of a proper detective game while the player grasps to the role of a daughter who is simply looking clues about her missing family. In many ways this game should greatly appeal to those who favor interactive or visual novels. Best Disappointment Shin Megami Tensei IV Shin Megami Tensei IV is a let down; potential-ware at its finest. The game is, for all intensive purposes, an enjoyable experience with a lot of solid content. Unfortunately, it did not make the leap from good to great. Shin Megami Tensei IV continues with good combat, but the vast majority characters feel more like stock characters rather than well-rounded individuals. If you are wanting the better experience, Persona 4 Golden is a much better game. But if you've already delved deeply into the SMT universe, then Shin Megami Tensei IV will certainly be a good game to fill your RPG void. Best Multi-Platform Title Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag The three-legged multi-platform race between Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin's Creed IV and Bioshock Infinite was bound to make an appearance. Bioshock Infinite had the better setting and Grand Theft Auto 5 had the better story (as well as exceeding one's lifetime quota of the N-Bomb), but Assassin's Creed IV was the better overall experience. All of these titles had minor flaws, but Assassin's Creed IV's issues with stealth did not cast as big of a shadow as one might expect. The beautiful imagery from the Caribbean translated quite well to gaming and the wealth of areas to explore will keep you interested for quite some time. This pirate-centric Assassin's Creed offered robust characters and a great open world experience, making sure that the player would not come down with cabin fever. Black Flag is the first AAA title to feature remote play on the Playstation Vita and it performed perfectly, without an ounce of input lag. This installment legitimately has me looking forward to what is on the horizon for the franchise, though I can see Ubisoft tapping ninjas now that pirates have done well for them. Best Reboot Tomb Raider Lara Croft will always be an icon in the gaming industry, but the Tomb Raider franchise was in desperate need of a new direction. Tomb Raider offered some of the most visually stunning graphics which not only broke the mold for Crystal Dynamics, but really set the benchmark for multi-platform releases. Crystal Dynamics even went so far as to change the rules when it comes to Tomb Raider, removing the focus from her disproportionate polygons and shifting it to the development of Lara Croft's character. This Arrow-esque origin with a supernatural-heavy plot is arguably the best in the series, even if it abandons some of the core features from its past. The reboot of Tomb Raider certainly has some parallels to Uncharted, but thankfully there's enough room in the artifact business for both to comfortably exist. Best Wii U Game Pikmin 3 Pikmin 3 was a late pick-up, much later than it should have been. The Pikmin series has been a favorite of mine since the Gamecube days, but I never expected to be so completely blown away. This game follows the same concept as its predecessors, enslave the natives and force them to help you gather resources. The level designs are on par with the quality one would expect from Mario and the new Pikmin overlords are as likable as Captain Olimar or Louie. The Wii U game pad is put to good use, but the crowning achievement for this game would have to be split-screen multiplayer “Bingo Battle” mode. This unique multiplayer mode pits players against each other in a race to scavenge to fill up your card, but you can easily sabotage your opponent by gathering the items your opponent needs, steal items mid-transport or out right attack. Pikmin 3 could have benefited from a healthy dose of online multiplayer, but this battle mode is unfortunately limited to local multiplayer. Best RPG: Home Console Edition Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Official GP Review Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch had a lot of competition from role-playing games this year, but edged out games like Tales of Xillia, Shin Megami Tensei IV and Etrian Odyssey IV to claim a spot on my list of favorite games of 2013. Ni No Kuni is a testament to Level-5's tenacity as they collaborate with one of the most prolific animation studios in existence. Studio Ghibli, responsible for films like My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, lent their artistic grace to this venture and helped breath life into a rather amazing experience. Ni No Kuni follows the travels of Oliver and Drippy, Lord High Lord of the Fairies, as they embark on an other-worldly adventure. In many ways Ni No Kuni is a great fit for Studio Ghibli, a studio who is no stranger to including deep allegorical meanings in the layers of their animation. The player will likely question whether the journey is little more than a coping mechanism for Oliver, who appears to retreat into his imagination following tragedy. This game also offers wonderfully unique gameplay alongside its spectacular animation and story. Ni No Kuni borrowed a few elements from Pokemon-style games, including monster 'capturing' for battling purposes and combined them with more traditional role-playing game elements. The many positive aspects of this game greatly out-shined its negatives, making this marriage between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli result in one of my favorite games of 2013. Best RPG: Portable Edition Fire Emblem: Awakening The delegation of Fire Emblem: Awakening as my Role-Playing Game of The Year for Handheld Systems is disingenuous to its true place on my overall list. The Fire Emblem series is one of the few staples for Nintendo that rarely fails to truly impress and Awakening is no different. Fire Emblem: Awakening could stand alongside every game this year and have a legitimate case to take the Game of the Year crown for 2013. The solid design and narrative stand in a class of their own for this genre, but tack in the deep character base with a healthy amount of character relationships and you have cornerstone for an epic title. The newest installment for Fire Emblem is so much more than just another strategy game, it shall be the point of reference from which to gauge all future strategy role-playing games. Best Home Console Exclusive The Last of Us A “Game of the Year” post would not be complete without an appearance from Naughty Dog, master craftspeople of the video game experience. The Last of Us is a perfect example of why Naughty Dog remains in a class of their own when it comes to making video games. The game features two main characters, Joel and Ellie, who are tasked with traveling across the United States. The unlikely duo's journey allows them to encounter colorful individuals and places them in dangerous scenarios while exposing the audience to some of the most chilling imagery in gaming. An expertly crafted narrative in The Last of Us chronicles the aftermath of an outbreak that threw society into disarray by focusing on the variety of methods individuals used to cope with such a dire situation. The Last of Us offers a gripping narrative that takes a look at the duality of human nature's brutality and the frailty of a human life. The survival aspect of The Last of Us is a key feature of the game play which forces the player to utilize a wealth of weapons in their arsenal, including stealth. Joel and Ellie are not in the game to construct some semblance of a life as we know it today, but instead their goal each day is to simply survive - by any means necessary. Game of The Year The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds The rocky start for the 3DS is well documented; the launch left much to be desired from Nintendo. Let's just say that had somebody suggested, at this point last year, that the majority of my personal top 10 list would originate from the 3DS, I'd have called them crazy. Nintendo's Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds not only stands atop the best games of 2013, but actually has me rearranging my “Top Zelda Games” List. It is still formulaic with boss fights, but the dungeons and the introduction of portrait Link are refreshing additions. The crowning achievement for this game, however, is that it dethrones Ocarina of Time from having the best music of the franchise. A Link Between Worlds features a fully orchestrated music from its prequel. This game exceeds expectations in every aspect and the reason it tops my Game of the Year list. There were a number of stand-out games this year. The unsung heroes of this year like Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Beyond 2 Souls, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Metro Last Light and Dead Rising 3 may have tide us over while we searched for the next potential award winner, but there are simply not enough titles for me to make. As for the Game of the Year? Only three games continued to claw their way into my Game of the Year discussion. Two of those games can only be found on the 3DS. This is the universe's way of telling you that this year is the year to buy a 3DS and the first two games to purchase should be Fire Emblem and A Link Between Worlds.
  7. WildCardCorsair

    Game of the Year 2013: WildCardCorsair's Picks

    That 2013! Am I right? Now with the obligatory year-in-review comment out of the way let us begin. There are actually quite a few titles I wish I had the privilege of playing, stuff like Gone Home, The Stanley Parable and Rogue Legacy that have many PC gamers enamored. Unfortunately I don“t game on PC, so while many of those probably would have appealed to me they“ll just have to be relegated to hypothetical honorable mentions. As for other games like The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V and others… I did play them; they won“t be on this list. Not only would that be easy, but I simply didn“t enjoy them as much as others did. Oops! 8. Steamworld Dig Image & Form really struck gold(anium?) with SteamWorld Dig, a steampunk robot spaghetti western action platformer. Wow, I need a breath after that one. At first, the game looks like a Dig Dug reskin, but once you dig deeper (HA!) into it, puzzle platforming, hilarious characters and an interesting premise make this game a diamond in the rough! 7. Tomb Raider When I first heard about a new Tomb Raider game, I was less than thrilled. Weren“t we all really? But the more Square Enix showed, the more excited I became. When the final product rolled around, I wasn“t disappointed! The game has plenty of great combat mechanics and exploration, paired with a killer “origin” story with lots of great action sequences. Thank you Crystal Dynamics, you made the Tomb Raider name great again! 6. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Considering the train wreck that Final Fantasy XIV was, A Realm Reborn had to really perform if it was going to keep my interest. Well, it did and it has. I“ve been playing since it released and it“s been one of the most continually gratifying gaming experiences this year. The game caters to the hardcore and casual alike, and takes the best designs of other MMOs and enhances them with new gameplay elements like FATEs. It“s the Final Fantasy MMO for Final Fantasy fans, and I love that! 5. Pokemon X/Y What happens when you take Pokemon, add some major online connectivity, spice up the single-player, and shake up the foundations of the world we“ve come to expect? Spoiler alert: It“s awesome. Pokemon X/Y raised the bar for me in ways I never imagined it could, what with all the improvements to EV training, online play, leveling and just plain catching ”em all. In fact, if you don“t love the new EXP share I“m not sure if we can be friends. 4. Guacamelee! Love it or hate it, but you can“t deny that Drink Box Studios did something amazing with the Metroidvania genre in Guacamelee! The combat system not only doubled as spot-on platforming abilities, but as a very clever and well paced gating system, making this title muy caliente. I even scoffed when I heard there would be polarity-based world shifting but it turned out to be, once again, an excelente addition to puzzle platforming and combat. Without a doubt, the platforming, exploration and combat are top tier, making Guacamelee! a Metroidvania that can stand proudly with the greatest the genre has to offer. 3. Fire Emblem: Awakening Awakening wasn“t my first entry into the Fire Emblem series - that would be Sacred Stones - but it was the first one that didn“t turn me away. Yes, I may be a wuss for playing on casual, but that option is what makes Awakening so special. It“s by far the most accessible Fire Emblem to date, which allowed me to see how fantastic the combat, level progression and strategy in these games can really be. Combine great gameplay with an epic story rife with time travel, zombie-things, and even a waifu-sim, and Awakening stands out as a great of the SRPG genre. Now add StreetPass and SpotPass… well, hot damn. 2. Tearaway Games like Tearaway don“t come along very often. Not only does it feature a truly extraordinary design from the get-go, but the world itself is so alive. As you play and navigate the strange world, you can“t help but find yourself growing close to the game“s protagonist. The Vita features that Tearaway implements not only feel completely natural, but make perfect sense given the game“s premise. To top it off, hilarious customizations make each gamer“s experience unique. And when that journey comes to a close, the message is something that can only be described as truly magical. Bottom line: Tearaway is an absolute must for any and every Vita owner. 1. Velocity Ultra In what I can only describe as the game equivalent of a Mr. Miyagi training regimen, Velocity Ultra is absolute genius. The concept is simple - rescue survivor pods bereft in space by piloting a ship that can teleport. What you find out very quickly however is how clever Futurlab is when it comes to game design. So what could have been a great game becomes an absolutely astounding game with amazingly clever mechanics that are continuously evolving. The level design is so good that each one teaches you to think a little differently, a little faster, a little smarter. By the end of the game you are a first-rate Quarp Jet pilot because the game has built you up steadily without intrusive tutorials or hand-holding of any kind. Now add a surprisingly realized world, amazing artwork and smooth controls, and Velocity Ultra is most certainly a game worth every bit of my nomination for Game of the Year. Enjoy it Futurlab - you earned it!
  8. Dominic Dimanche

    Game of the Year 2013: Dominic's Picks

    This year has been a strange and harrowing 52 weeks. With the rise of the next-generation of gaming already upon us and a whole slew of new and hotly anticipated titles coming up in the next few months, it seems that now is as good a time as any to give a little reflection of games gone by. So before the year 2013 rides off into the sunset, let us see what games stood out to me this year. Hotline Miami Hotline Miami was one of the few games that really made me question all the blood I spilled in the digital realm and if what I was doing was actually the mark of a hero or a sociopath. The awesome retro feel of the 8-bit visuals to the supreme soundtrack carried me through this twisted narrative as I butchered my way through every henchman that I crossed, only to kill my target and have the music cut off. I walked back out of the grisly massacre in chilled silence. It's disturbing. It's creepy. It's incredible. Saints Row 4 Just when you thought that the Saints could not possibly get crazier, they break the mold and enter into an intergalactic odyssey. What made this so fun was not just the balanced super powers, or the huge cast of characters, or even the hilarious parodies and tongue-in-cheek references - it was a combination of all these things together. While Grand Theft Auto had begun to take itself too seriously as the series progressed, Saints Row embraced its craziness and absurdities. And for that, I salute them. Shin Megami Tensei IV The original demonic Pokemon hunt fest returned to glory on the 3DS this year. Its overall engrossing story and interesting characters with solid voice acting helped to weave a world of a broken and chaotic Japan with a neat twist of the usual warriors sent to vanquish a great evil. The return of the demon bartering system was just as dangerous and tricky as the battles themselves. A perfect blend of punishing (but not impossible) difficulty and a deep narrative that makes you want to face those challenges makes this game a gem any 3DS owner should have. Bioshock Infinite The Bioshock series has always been a welcome change from the usual cookie-cutter Call of Duty clones, and Bioshock Infinite hit the mark perfectly. Its action set pieces and small moments of a dystopian American paradise were not only rife with social commentary, but also gave you the power to summon flocks of murderous crows and shoot fireballs at giant steampunk hulk-Frankenstein-monsters. The blend of immersive worlds, beautifully flawed characters, and incredible plot twists leading up to the grand reveal; all make this a shooter for the ages. Fire Emblem Awakening In a return to form, Fire Emblem brought back the tough sense of loss in a war torn land. Setting up the punishing permanent death modes and adding a greater focus on bonds and relationships made the party member“s deaths all the more harrowing when you knew that the knight who fell in battle just recently confessed his love to that lovely dark mage. Pokemon X & Y What Pokemon X & Y succeeded in accomplishing was bringing back the excitement and wonder that came when I first loaded up Pokemon Blue and Red. Seeing this strange world open up before your eyes and seeing and catching your very first pokemon, training them, watching them evolve, and FINALLY move with full 3D animations – made this the first in the series that I was truly excited to play and experience. And being able to play as a black trainer was a boon for me too. Tomb Raider What clinched this as game of year material for me was Ms. Croft herself. Lara Croft was the quintessential power fantasy of female video game characters in the Playstation era. But as the years went on, she lost her sense of reality and became a novelty of times gone by. In the latest remake, in order for Lara Croft to become that strong central character she had to be broken down and rebuilt – literally and figuratively. Through the terrors she experiences and the various agonizing injuries she absorbs, she slowly sheds the weak layers of herself to unveil the strong and unshaken core of her being by game“s end. It is that blood-soaked, bone-breaking, trauma-inducing journey that makes Lara Croft my character of the year. DmC: Devil May Cry Official GP Review When Ninja Theory announced their remake of the Devil May Cry series and Dante“s new look, you could almost hear the sharpening of pitchforks and lighting of torches all over the world. But what came about was a more down-to-earth, emotional, yet thrilling and action-packed take on Dante and company. The fighting system was just as tight and fluid as its predecessors and was even a vast improvement in some areas. It managed to bring out the glory of its past while still cementing a place for its own future. I cannot wait to see what they do for a sequel. The Last of Us Does this really come as a great surprise? The Last of Us manages to bring together so many elements – survival horror, action-adventure, strategy, stealth, drama – and makes it work. Its story is top-notch, the cast is a memorable crew of broken souls, and most importantly, it is a blast to play from start to finish. The beauty of The Last of Us is how the story opens itself to the player as they scavenge the ruins of the world. It never explains how the virus spread, but you can see its effect in everything in the notes and letters you find scattered throughout the game. Desperate notes scrawled on walls and dirty notepads, vandalized street signs, broken toys, and even the bodies of those long dead. These small moments add to the bigger narrative between Joel and Ellie as they travel across America and not only learn about the darkness of the world and themselves, but also the glimmers of light that still remain. And just what limits will you go to keep those glimmers of light alive. The Last of Us was less about a world overrun by a terrible virus and more about the people left behind: how do they cope? How do they survive? How do they cope with what they had to do in order to survive? The cast, from main characters Joel and Ellie to the standard grunts that you are forced to kill throughout the game, all carry with them gravity and purpose to their digital lives. Each grimace, hushed cry, or exclamation of terror on their face evoke just the right sense of despair and hope whatever little of it they can find. The swansong of the PlayStation 3 definitely left its mark with The Last of Us.
  9. On the internet, I keep hearing how great 2013 was for games and there are certainly a lot of reasons to back that up: The 3DS made a firm presence after quite a few disconcerting years, a new generation of consoles were launched, AAA titles sent off the last-gen of consoles in a respectful fashion, and plenty of indies made quite an impression. That said, I'll be honest and say I couldn't come up with 10 games, so it'll just be 9 games in numerical order. Not to dismiss the quality of the many great games this year, or the many good games I've played, but I also don't want to shoe-in games that didn't resonate with me enough to be worthy of a personal GOTY mention in my eyes. Whether or not my taste in games is horrible, I'll leave that entirely up to you. 9. Saints Row IV Saints Row IV is dumb. But, it's the smartly made kind of dumb. With a reliance on sharper writing, more clever references (especially for movie and video game fans), and an overall step up in terms carefree open-world fun it helps finally solidifies its own identity while borrowing a lot of the best aspects from games like Infamous and Prototype, and I love it for that. It does have some rough patches in terms of design, which I feel were a product of its very apparent unsteady development history, but I still had a lot of dumb fun with this game and I hope to see a Saints Row 5 one day, even after THQ's demise. 8. Ys: Memories of Celceta Official GP review I'd hate to write something on this so soon after writing the review, because it feels very redundant, regardless of how unlikely people read the actual review. I mean, I don't even read my reviews so how can I expect other people to? (Editor's note: This is so not true) But in concise and comprehensible terms I'll say a few words: "Yo dawg, Ys Celceta iz da bee's kneez 'cause dat combat is hawt! Naught az hawt az Seven or Felghana, but eye'd steel take Falcom and XSEED to dinnerz fore bringing Celceta two da 2013 gaming dance floorz, just az quickly az I'd ask Karna for her digitz if she were realz! YO!!". Note: That excerpt was not reflective of Game Podunk's site management, overall writing quality (not that barrel's writing should ever reflect that), or my opinion. And please do not tell any potential romantic interests I'm affiliated with that I feigned legitimate interest in a video game character as a potential "waifu"... if I knew what that meant, which I don't. (Editor's note: Mhm, sure...) 7. Rune Factory 4 Official GP Review Unlike most people, I don't actually play Rune Factory for digital "waifus", but if I were to pick one I'd say Clorica is the best, but Leon is the best "husbando", and it's a crime that Volkanon isn't romance-able by both genders. But seriously, Rune Factory 4 is a very charming game that is also deviously addictive. It also borrows some things from one of favorite games from last year, Atelier Meruru, that helps make the structure even more engaging. If I were to break the game down mechanically, it probably wouldn't be on this list normally, but the great localization really fleshes out a cast of characters that SHOULD be one-dimensional archetypes (like most RF/HM). That, in addition to it being a noticeable improvement over previous games, made it earn its place on my list. 6. Rayman Legends Official GP Review The original Rayman Origins basically proved to me in 2011 that you can have purity in a platformer that isn't way too easy or try to be fiendishly difficult, just for the sake of it. It also doesn't try so hard to wrangle nostalgia like I feel like so many Nintendo properties do, and brought its own fresh spin to the genre. That said, Rayman Legends does try a little to create nostalgia for a game that isn't old enough to earn it, but thankfully, outside of the optional recycled Origins levels it manages to noticeably expand upon the original with a better and more varied experience, which is no small feat. And seriously, those music levels are ridiculous. 5. Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance Official GP Review I don't like Raiden at all, so... why do I enjoy the game so much? Oh, right. Platinum games. Even as a Metal Gear fan, I can take or leave the campy storytelling in Rising, but man, man do I love the ridiculously frenetic and technical action gameplay. Well, most of the gameplay, except the final boss, because that fight is cheap as heck and [insert string of profanities not appropriate for GP] that guy. Even if it doesn't beat Bayonetta as my favorite action game of last gen, that didn't stop this game from coming rather close to it as well as easily outclassing two other action games I've played this year (DmC and NG3:RE). 4. Fire Emblem: Awakening I've always been huge fan turn-based strategy-RPGs, but personally, I've never considered Fire Emblem to be particularly high on my list due to what I defined to because of its simple and limited overall mechanics. Awakening reinvigorates the series in my eyes with much deeper and versatile strategy-RPG systems that thoughtfully weave together with the relationships between characters, while also dramatically changing my perspective of the series as a whole. It serves as an excellent strategy-RPG, with a great localization, funny writing, and it also has plenty of heart despite it falling heavily on some of its narrative tropes. I'm actually surprised that this game didn't take my GOTY, considering the huge SRPG fan that I am, but I suppose you can't always predict what a year will bring, even at the tail-end of it. Also, Cherche is the best character in the game by far *drops the mic*. 3. Tearaway *dusts off and picks up the mic again* Tearaway is easily one of the best examples of unbridled creativity I've seen in the gaming space. It brilliantly executes its setting and aesthetic (seriously, I can't stress how amazing the origami presentation looks in motion on the gorgeous OLED screen), while also very seamlessly utilizing every feature on the Vita (even the back-touch) in natural and cohesive way, while constantly changing things up despite its straightforward structure. It rewards creativity (something I never thought I had), while doing so many little things to personalize your experience in an extremely pleasant adventure that doesn't overstay its welcome. I can only hope to deliver Tearaway's message to more people and encourage them to check out this criminally overlooked Vita title. And seriously, dat end portion of the game. Soooo good. 2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Official GP Review I could not tell you how much I“ve fallen off this series after being so bitterly disappointed by Twilight Princess and several other games that followed. Still, I thought in the back of my mind that, maybe, just maybe, it“ll win me back. What I didn't expect was for it to be this game, since I honestly don't have much lasting nostalgia to A Link to the Past, regardless of how great it was for the time, and I thought Nintendo was going to yet again rest on their laurels, but in a much more obvious way with this game. What A Link Between Worlds did, however, is not just prove me wrong, but they also made a game that is fantastic on its own merits. It takes a hard-look at the criticism the series has (deservedly) received, by giving you far more freedom with its incredibly clever design and removes most of its mind-numbingly spoon-fed, very excessively drawn-out, recent structure, and is a very strong return to form that makes me optimistic for the series later on. It is a game so good I don't hesitate to say I find myself preferring it over the original A Link to the Past, heck, right now it is wrestling with my favorite Zelda of all-time and that's no small feat. Honestly, without the over-reliance on the A Link to the Past coat of paint - and had it been completely fresh - it probably could've been my GOTY but, alas... 1. The Guided Fate Paradox Official GP Review There are probably a ton of reasons why this game doesn't deserve my GOTY, since it is neither as endearingly creative as Tearaway nor as nearly flawlessly designed as A Link Between Worlds. I also shouldn't like it because it is a Nippon-Ichi RPG (a company that I think overplays a lot of their "over-the-top" gimmicks and level-grinding obsession) and it is a roguelike in a year where Rogue Legacy makes one dominant example, and a Strategy-RPG where Fire Emblem: Awakening does the same. Still, the reality is that I found this game more enjoyable than any of those games and it really caught me by surprise by its immensely fun SRPG/roguelike hybrid, deep mechanics, and varied gameplay scenarios. It's also the only game I've played this year that I continue to chip away at and it has a current hour count that I will not list for... reasons. That said, I still can't comprehend why this game isn't on a handheld (like the Vita it was originally intended to be). I mean, all of the best games are supposed to be there after all - it make no sense at all, NIS! Get with the program! Purely as an RPG fan, 2013 didn't hit me nearly as hard as last year, primarily due to many sequels I found to be disappointing compared to previous installments: like Atelier Ayesha, Tales of Xillia, Pokemon X/Y, and especially Shin Megami Tensei IV. Even though I've played the easy 2013 checklist titles like Gone Home, The Last of Us, GTA5, and Bioshock: Infinite, each lacked a certain something to click with me enough on a emotional level, or just simply in mechanical video game fun, even if I respect many things they tried to do and enjoyed each of them to a certain extent. As a whole, however, 2013 was a far healthier year for gaming in terms of variety. It may have not been my year, as an unapologetic RPG fan who expected possibly too much, but 2013 was certainly a great year for gaming.
  10. Marcus Estrada

    Game of the Year 2013 - Marcus's Picks

    2013 has been quite a year for gaming, hasn“t it? Two new consoles made their debut and without any excellent system sellers. On the other hand, games considered to be huge deals launched on PS3, 360, and PC. Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, and Tomb Raider were just some of the incredibly notable releases. And yet, though I played most of those, none managed to thrill me. Maybe it is due to simply feeling a little too familiar? In any case, without intending for it to be the case, my favorite games of the year were almost entirely independently produced. Here are the ten games I enjoyed the most this year in alphabetical (and unranked) order. 7 Grand Steps Official GP Review So, board games aren“t really my thing. As such, I should have had no interest in 7 Grand Steps which in many ways emulates one. In the game you usher a family line from the earliest human ancestors through a handful of ages. This is all controlled by a board game-like interface where your family is represented by tokens moving across a board. However, in being a video game there are flourishes that make it truly special. For some reason, I grew really attached to my fictional family line and tried to keep them living and grow into powerful positions. It was a lot of fun, and I“m looking forward to a continuation. Gone Home Official GP Review Being a lifelong point-and-click adventure game fan, practically any new game utilizing the style finds its way into my hands. Gone Home might be a modern interpretation of an adventure game, but it still is one. In any case, that“s the main reason I jumped on board. What made me stick around were the little touches to be found within this deserted home. I wanted to know the full story - not just of where the family had gone but what lives they led. I was excited, sometimes frightened, and could very much relate to some of the events. It felt as if someone had made a game with my life experiences in mind, and that never happens. Hate Plus It“s no secret that I absolutely love the work of developer Christine Love. Her visual novels are fantastic and a great example for aspiring creators to look toward. I loved Analogue: A Hate Story and its sequel Hate Plus totally delivers. In it we are given a new look at what happened on a generation ship that led to a great many tragedies. Alongside your AI companion, you gain new insight about the politics, societal roles, and the characters who lived out their lives on the ship. Practically all action is text-based, but the writing is so fantastic that you“re able to get just as wrapped up in the story as any other game. That takes serious talent to make work. Kairo Official GP Review I“ve been playing video games for about twenty years now and have seen a lot. Although I still love playing them, it seems that the special joy I once felt has long since dimmed. After all, games aren“t some grand mystery to me anymore! Kairo managed to rekindle the flames of awe inside me. While traveling through this puzzling adventure title, I became enamored with the scenery and world. It felt strange and unexplored. Uncovering and solving puzzles made me feel like an explorer on some uncharted planet. If only more games could offer such an awesome experience. But then, maybe that would make it less special. Luxuria Superbia I“ll admit, liking Tale of Tales“ work varies from person to person. For me, I“ve loved them since The Path came out and devoured each new title since. Although they usually take a divergent path from most games, Luxuria Superbia is perhaps their most game-like experience thus far. And yet, it“s also something more. In the game, you travel down a flower “tunnel” and simply must make each petal glow with color. As you play, the title responds in kind and urges you onward via on-screen text. The erotic stylings were barely masked before, but these phrases make it obvious. I“ve certainly never loved a computer, but there was something about Luxuria Superbia that hypnotically drew me back long after completing the game. The Novelist If you liked Gone Home, then The Novelist should be your next gaming experience. In a sense, it is similar. You are inhabiting a home and reading the letters of individuals to observe their lives. However, you“re a ghost. As such, this provides the ability to see into the minds of the three family members staying there for a summer vacation. The father must write his next novel to please the publishers, his wife fears an impending divorce, and their young son is bullied and feels distanced from his own father. You make the choices for the family and determine who ends up happy, or sad. Gamers often wield massive power, but in very different situations. Have you ever been able to push someone toward divorce or a mental breakdown? It“s not a good feeling and The Novelist captures these moments skillfully. Rogue Legacy Official GP Review Platformers with pixelated graphics are all over the place these days. So too are roguelikes, which suddenly have come back in fashion. With limited time, I rarely stick with one game since there are so many to experience. Rogue Legacy managed to keep my attention and have me come back to play on a regular basis. As I search the randomly generated levels and die again and again, something just keeps calling me back in. It“s fun to struggle through tough rooms. Being able to select descendants with special traits (and an overarching leveling system) make it worth continued play. Rogue Legacy is too ridiculously fun to put down. Soundodger+ Music games have gone through a few fads over the years and I“ve enjoyed each one. However, perhaps the most interesting music games are only beginning to come out thanks to fearless developers. No longer do we require icon matching or plastic peripherals. Soundodger+ is a very simple title. As music plays, you keep your cursor moving within a circle to keep the rhythmically-moving bullets from hitting you. The soundtrack is divine but so to are the bullet patterns. They dance around the screen in beautiful fashion and the player learns to choreograph their moves in response. It practically feels like you“re dancing with the game. I really loved my experiences with Soundodger+. SteamWorld Dig Most people got a taste of SteamWorld Dig when it launched on 3DS but I only got my hands on it with the far more recent Steam release. All the same, months later, I finally realize what everyone was so enamored with this game for. It“s fun and simple! All you really have to do is dig deeper and deeper into the ground, sometimes checking out caves to find new upgrades. Find loot underground, bring it back to the surface, and you“ll get money to buy other upgrades. There“s something about the simplicity of it all that really managed to draw me in. When I would be working on something else my mind would wander to thoughts of where to search next underground and what tools I“d need to stock up on first. That“s a phenomenon that rarely happens to me anymore, and I“m set to cherish it as long as it lasts. Sweet Fuse Official GP Review Dating sims are a genre that have only recently begun to see any acceptance in Western gaming culture. This is primarily due to Aksys Games bringing a few over. Unfortunately, their continual focus on the Hakuoki series worried me that they would never take another big chance again. Luckily, I was wrong, and they published Sweet Fuse - an action-filled story of a teenage girl caught up in a terrorist plot at a theme park. The bad guy is weird as heck and forces her (and five guys) to partake in strange puzzles. If they lose, they will pay with their lives. Despite all that, there“s still room for romance! It was an entertaining story filled with mostly worthwhile dateable men and we need to see more games like this made available. Well, that's all of them! Many other titles contended for favorites but just couldn't make the cut. These were the most memorable for me in 2013 and I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings for gaming!
  11. gaiages

    Game of the Year 2013: Gaia's Picks

    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! 10. Gunpoint 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! Official GP review 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 Official GP review 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 Official GP review 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 Official GP review 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 Official GP review 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. 3. Puppeteer GP review 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...