2013 was a pretty great year for games. There was a number of positive trends throughout these past twelve months that I hope continue well into 2014 and onwards. Firstly, we seem to have well and truly gotten past the days of having the best games crammed into a three month window between September and November. 2013 saw both big budget and quality downloadable games released throughout the year which meant there was always something exciting and new to look forward to just around the corner. Secondly, we’re continuing to see a convergence in the marketplace between PC and console game systems which introduced me to some fantastic PC titles such as Thomas Was Alone and Hotline Miami which I would have otherwise missed. Lastly, the launch of new game systems (Playstation 4, Xbox One) is a great way to re-invigorate publishers and hardware manufacturers to fight for your loyalty as a gamer and as a result, I was the benefactor of more free games and discount games in 2013 than I could ever recall receiving in previous years.
It’s a good time to be a gamer and these were my ten favourite games of 2013.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V was a game four years in the making and a title released to sky high expectations. Thanks to its cinematic and creative new heist missions, inter-changeable leads and exhaustively detailed new locale, its safe to say those lofty expectations were met and then some. Despite being a billion dollar franchise, its impressive how Rockstar have refused to shy away from controversy and have stayed true to the gritty, scathing roots of this storied franchise.
With its withering sales and lack of support from the more established game publishers, 2013 could have been a grim year for owners of the Playstation Vita. And yet I got plenty of mileage out of the system thanks to Sony’s excellent new strategy of embracing and porting PC indy titles. It may not have translated into big hardware sales (at least not yet) but I was treated to the opportunity to play some of the most creative and interesting games on the PC, none more so than the instant classic Hotline Miami, a sweet retro-styled beat ’em up puzzle game. It’s brutal, intense, has a cracking soundtrack and is perfectly suited to the Vita.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
This welcome sequel to A Link To The Past is an absolute treat to play for anyone who ever played the Super Nintendo classic. A Link Between Worlds revisits the timeless, top-down, action RPG gameplay and gives it a modern twist with the wall-merging mechanic, quick save and fast travel. In short, it’s the best Zelda game in a decade and a perfect tonic for anyone who misses Nintendo gaming from the early Nineties. I’ve recently started replaying A Link To The Past on Wii U Virtual Console and it’s quite possible that A Link Between Worlds has topped it.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies
My favourite franchise on the Nintendo DS gets its long awaited update on the 3DS. There’s five crazy new cases (six, if you include the DLC). Some fantastic new characters that are as weird and wonderful as some of the perennial favourites from the series. And best of all, Phoenix Wright himself is back as the main protagonist. This installment showed that there is still plenty of life left in the Ace Attorney series and hopefully the success of Dual Destinies will pave the way for plenty more new adventures.
Despite being a proud Gamecube owner, the Pikmin series had somehow passed me by in the early 2000s. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to get on board with Pikmin 3, the latest installment which was rolled out onto the Wii U earlier this year. The game has all the charm and quirks you’d expect of a Nintendo real time strategy game. You control the eponymous Pikmin as they explore alien planets, fighting off weird bug eyed insects and collecting food and supplies for your stranded astronauts. You could say that the average gamer is probably more than a little desensitized to violence but I think watching Pikmin sacrifice themselves in conflicts against giant ladybirds will bring about a somber mood to just about anyone.
I believe that the Daily Log feature on the Nintendo 3DS will verify that I played over 100 hours of Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS, making it my most played game this year. As with Pikmin, Animal Crossing is an established Nintendo franchise that I hadn’t had a chance to experience before. It’s a relaxing, chilled out experience where you collect bugs, hang out with friendly anthropomorphic neighbours and decorate your home over and over. It has to be played to be appreciated.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
The tale of an orphaned little boy named Oliver who is befriended by a Welsh fairy named Mr Drippy who takes him to a far away world that needs saving. Ni No Kuni is precisely the game that you would hope for when Studio Ghibli collaborated with veteran Japanese development studio Level 5 to create their first ever video game. There is a nuts and bolts old school RPG at the heart of this game that has its own pleasantly nostalgic charm but the star attraction is obviously the gorgeous cell shaded animation and creative character design.
StreetPass Mii Plaza Games
I first began using the Nintendo 3DS StreetPass function almost a full eighteen months after I bought the system. Its a feature on the 3DS system that detects when another 3DS owner is nearby and the two devices automatically connect and swap user-generated content for games. There are plenty of full-scale retail games that use this functionality but Nintendo also created Mii Plaza Games, a collection of mini games that are specifically designed with StreetPass in mind. The catalogue of five games include a dungeon crawler RPG, an arcade shooter, a gardening game, an turn based battle army game and a tile swapping activity where you collect animated 3D pictures of popular Nintendo franchises. All these mini-games usually take about 2-5 minutes to play whenever you get some new StreetPass hits. It sounds like nothing but I’ve now developed an almost Pavlovian response to that green light on the 3DS, indicating that I’ve walked past someone with one in their pocket. It’s compulsive, addictive and brilliant.
The Last Of Us
Game Of The Year
Who would’ve expected that Naughty Dog’s swan song on the Playstation 3 would be a brand new IP called The Last Of Us, a game that explores new ground in video game narratives and starring the unlikely duo of a middle aged man and a teenage girl? When most other companies were sending off the last generation of consoles at their lowest creative ebb (Halo 4, Gears of War: Ascension, Assassin’s Creed IV, and on and on and on…), Naughty Dog delivered one of the best games of the generation which featured compelling characters, a great story and engaging game play. One can only imagine what they will achieve on the Playstation 4.
Lara’s re-invention in the Tomb Raider reboot sees a welcome return to form for a franchise and character that I had thought was beyond salvaging. This game copped plenty of flack for its questionable scene-setting leading up to Lara’s first kill but despite the clunky narrative trappings, there is an absolutely excellent action adventure game to be had here. The action set pieces are exhilarating and the bow in this game is one of the most entertaining weapons I can recall using. I certainly didn’t expect the game to use Lost as an inspiration for its story telling but I’m not complaining.
Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360)
Thomas Was Alone (Playstation Vita)
Brothers (Xbox 360)
Fire Emblem Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
Ryse: Son of Rome (Xbox One)
Luigi’s Mansion 2 (Nintendo 3DS)
Top Ten Video Games of 2012
Game of the Year – The Walking Dead (Xbox 360)
Top Ten Video Games of 2011
Game of the Year – Clash of Heroes: Might and Magic (Xbox 360)
Top Ten Video Games of 2010
Game of the Year – Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)
Top Ten Video Games of 2009
Game of the Year – Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves (Playstation 3)