2013 marks the release year of the final two contenders in the next-gen console war, and despite the WiiU being out for a year, it feels as though 2014 will be when things finally heat up in that area. Nevertheless, the current systems on the market put out a spectacular performance, as they pushed their technology right to the very limits of what was possible. What follows are what I believe to be have been the best games of the year, although in many cases, number placement doesn’t mean so much, and what is important is that they are acknowledged as just being very good compared to the entire year’s showings. Finally, if my placement here of any two titles disagrees with the ratings they received in their reviews; let it be known that the passage of time can easily play a role in adapting my thoughts, especially when compared to other, now released titles. Well, without any further ado, let’s begin…
10. Tomb Raider (Multiplatform)
This re-imagining of the franchise took it to a darker, grittier and more realistic setting, with a very different Lara Croft to the one we had seen before. While I definitely understand how purists of the series might have shunned new Lara, a stunning environment, a captivating adventure and some very enjoyable combat and character progression kept me hooked. Now if only she could raid more tombs in the sequel…
9. Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
This latest entry in the long running Strategy RPG series kept the hardcore, edge of your seat battlefield commanding feeling from the previous titles, and gave the option to be more accessible to new players at the same time. With interesting features such as a customizable main character, a relationship minigame between party members with endless possibilities, and the same innovative job system, this Fire Emblem title shows exactly how rewarding this sometime overlooked genre could be.
8. Bravely Default (Nintendo 3DS)
Bravely Default snuck in at the end of the year, but was one of my most anticipated titles, ever since it was released in Japan last year. Made in the same spirit as classic Final Fantasies, but separate enough to do its own thing, BD reminded us how turn-based RPGS could be fun, how JRPGS could be engaging and involving for the players. Featuring one of the finest Job systems Square Enix have ever made, this is the Final Fantasy we haven’t had for a decade or so.
7. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
I was hooked on this from the moment I saw it described as Studio Ghibli: The Game. With a beautiful animated world provided courtesy of the famous Japanese animation studio, and featuring a cast of unique and fun characters, along with a unique and involved combat system, with shades of Pokemon of all things; Ni No Kuni’s only fault might lie in being a little too easy sometimes. Which isn’t that bad, for the experience one gets from it in return.
6. The Wonderful 101 (WiiU)
One of the most unique titles of the year; W101 almost completely defies description. In a world where you control 101 of the world’s greatest superheroes, fusing them into different forms to combat an alien invasion, W101 is like nothing I had ever played. But with a beautiful world, charming characters, and one of the best senses of humor in a game all year, this was definitely an experience to remember.
5. Puppeteer/ Super Mario 3D World/ Rayman Legends (PS3/WiiU/Multiplatform)
These three titles are tied here, for all doing a suburb job of reminding us that the side scrolling platformer can still be insanely fun if done correctly. Super Mario 3D World reminded us that despite so many spin-offs, Mario is one of the most recognizable game characters for a reason; and Rayman Legends built on an already fantastic new look at the Rayman franchise. What warmed my heart the most personally was Puppeteer, with its laugh out loud humor, charming characters, beautiful design, and fun gameplay, it was my greatest surprise of the year. But all three of these games have brought life to what other’s might have called dead, so very well done to them.
4. Bioshock Infinite (Multiplatform)
I found myself cooling to Bioshock Infinite as the year went on. When it was released, I found myself mesmerized by every moment, but in retrospect, I realized it pulled the LOST trick, of making something deliberately vague and open ended and pretending that it was deep and profound. Nevertheless, it is still at number 4 for a reason, with a beautiful world, smooth, flowing combat, interesting characters, and a plot that does keep the player guessing right til the very end. It continued the spirit of Bioshock, in my opinion.
3. The Last of Us (PS3)
The Last of Us probably got me the most attached to characters in any game this year. The journey of Joel and Ellie, that seems so foreign, and yet so familiar, took them through a desolate and terrible future, but one that was still somehow so beautiful, in the ruins of our civilization. Their interactions with each other, and with others, and how their relationship grew, were masterfully handled. Added to this was a slick, intuitive, and responsive combat system, where the player feels responsible for each action, and you have one of the best games of the year, along with one of the best of its genre.
2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Multiplatform)
I have always liked the AC series, but I never expected how much I would like AC4. After the climax of AC3, which was of arguable success, it was as though the developers knew we needed a breather. With a game that truly let you believe you were a pirate. A pirate assassin. How cool is that? With a gorgeous setting, wonderful places to explore, a charming story, and some of the finest naval combat ever put in a game, while still connecting itself to the mythos it had created before, AC4 was personally what I had the most fun with this year.
1. Grand Theft Auto V (Multiplatform)
This year, one game stood head and shoulders above the rest, sending all that dared approach its release date scampering into the undergrowth. Main series GTA titles don’t come around often, but when they do, it’s with as much announcement as the industry can handle. And for the most part GTAV delivered in full. With a huge world, a hundred million things to do before even getting into the campaign, and a smooth, engaging storyline with so many interesting characters, GTAV was almost certainly a shoo-in for this place. It’s one of those games with a million tiny little details put into everything, and with a world this big, it’s unlikely that you would ever see them all, which shows true dedication from a developer. Its flaws are minimal; and GTA Online has given it new life for an even more extended future. It may not be the game everyone would enjoy, but it’s very hard to deny its quality.