Best New Console
WiiU. Hands Down.
LOL. Just kidding guys (Sorry WiiU). Now I’m going to throw a cop-out caveat here that the “best” console here is really going to come down to a matter of preference and taste.
That being said, my pick is going to be the Playstation 4. I see a lot of potential with the Xbox One. The fact that Kinect is going packaged in with the console instead of having to buy it separately makes me hope that game makers will be more inclined to include Kinect elements into their games so there are more things I can do with the Kinect than play Dance Dance Revolution (as fun as that is).
But as of right now, that’s all it is – potential. I wasn’t too sold on any of the Xbox launch titles, and although I have one – it’s mostly getting used for its entertainment features. The Playstation 4 kicked off strong with some great games, an interesting controller (a touch pad ON THE CONTROLER?!?)
Best PC Game
I was a very big fan of the first Bioshock game, and System Shock before that, so when Bioshock Infinite was announced I couldn’t wait to dive into every scrap of information they released. The first shot of bright, shiny Columbia in the announcement trailer seemed so perfect, a natural counter to the dark and dreary underwater world of Rapture.
Thankfully, that first trailer didn’t disappoint. Columbia is in many ways the opposite of Rapture, but as you explore the game you find many of the same underlying themes that made the first game so compelling. Gameplay has been touched up and improved, the ability to wield vigors (plasmids) and guns at the same time makes a huge difference in combat, and the skyhook adds an extra element of exhilaration to some of the bigger battles (along with providing a convenient transport). However, what I feel really sets this apart from the first game is Elizabeth. She provides an extra connection between the events of the story and the player, and thankfully is an example of companion characters done well, rarely blocking the way and often tossing helpful items to Booker in combat. Her presence is very much central to the main story, and the interactions between her and Booker create a more compelling experience than the solitary story of Bioshock 1, and oh what a story it is. Fairly easily stands as my favorite game of the year.
Star Wars: The Old Republic “Rise of the Hutt Cartel”
SWTOR is a beautiful game that, for the longest time, has not let you rise above level 50. Finally the burdensome cap is raised…to a mere 55. But this is definitely an improvement for those players whose 50s have been collecting dust.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel
The final DLC for Mass Effect 3 came out in the form of its most amazing story. The Citadel DLC brought to Mass Effect’s many fans a chance to delve deeper into Shepard’s relationships while telling a humorous story that shows the developers are more than willing to poke fun at themselves.
Sins of a Solar Empire Rebellion: DLC
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion has released two DLCs in 2013 that most definitely add to my all-time favorite 4X strategy game. Stellar Phenomena adds numerous random events that can affect the outcome of the game—mostly in the early stages. It offers new stars and orbiting anomalies as well. Forbidden Worlds gives four extra planet types as well as a new system for focusing planet production.
XCOM – Enemy Within
This was technically a stand-alone expansion, but as it basically uses same storyline as Enemy Unknown, I’m going to include it in DLC (plus now I can get two of my favorite games this year listed!). Enemy Within adds a new resource (meld) which allows for research of several new technologies, such as superhuman abilities or even MEC Troopers. Furthermore, they have added a ton more maps and reworked some of the old ones, giving an entirely fresh experience while still keeping what made Enemy Unknown sooo good. As before, I highly recommend playing on ironman mode and classic difficulty. This will make every choice absolutely crucial to your survival, every move you make could be your last, and every man or woman on your team lost will be a stab to the heart.
Best Console Game
The Last of Us
Amazing backstory, acting, and graphics combine with well-designed gameplay to create my favorite game of 2013, even if it is an ‘on rails’ experience. Best moments: The Intro, Winter, and the sewers. There were some puzzles that were few and far between but I was never at a loss for what to do. (Eventually I would like to write an article about the ending.) My favorite moment in the game was seeing wild giraffe roaming free in an American city in shambles. Like many people, I compared it to Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ as I played through the various seasons. I suppose one of the big differences is that this is a zombie survival game whereas The Road is post-apocalypse. Either way, humanity is boned. There’s also the fact that this game utilizes a female lead. Not many games are willing to do that, and here it works.
Runner up: GTA5
My second favorite video game of 2013. Michael and Franklin were kind of throwaway stereotypical characters. The shining star of the game was absolutely Trevor. The sheer amount of things to do in the sandbox environment pushed this game over the top and the amount of interaction was unreal. My favorite moment in this game was when I randomly got got into a discussion with a man cosplaying as superhero Impotent Rage outside a shop, then beat him to the ground and ran away. Minutes later, a broadcast on Weasel News about a cosplay gang fight played on the radio. It’s that kind of level of detail that really makes the Rockstar games shine.
The Last of Us
I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon, but I am going with the crowd (and with Andrew) on this one. The Last of Us is a standout game for console gaming during this past year. It played on most people’s fascination with “zombies” and post-apocalyptic scenarios, but dealt with them in realistic and fascinating ways. The main characters were complex and not sexualized, which is difficult to find when one of the main playable characters is of the female persuasion.
With many video games, the story is secondary to simply completing the mission, but I found myself rooting for Ellie and Joel as much or more than most of my favorite television series or novel characters. The storyline is compelling and intense; I ranged from tearing up to screaming at my TV. The gameplay was easy to pick up but had intriguing aspects I hadn’t seen before (like listening to know where the enemies are) and the graphics and style were gorgeous. If you haven’t picked this up yet, do it.
Best Continuation of a Game Series
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus
The Ratchet and Clank games are just fun—just pure fun. Take the enjoyment of platforming with running around, breaking boxes, jumping on things – combined with some shooting and the Ratchet & Clank guns. Oh the silly, sometimes unpractical, sometimes quite bad-ass, and usually hilarious guns. This game offers that with its signature brand of humor. If it were just that this would just be a great continuation of the series.
However, what I really love about this game is it gives us that and more with the introduction of the “Nether” which are rips in time which offer some break in the gameplay with some fun puzzle-platforming. Although not a next generation game – still one worth checking out.
Best Handheld Console Game
Legend of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds
A blast from the past and a trip down nostalgia lane. Being able to morph into a painting was an interesting new gameplay element and I played it right around the same time as I played Contrast, whose main character was able to morph into shadows and travel along walls. Similar execution but plays differently.
Pokemon X/Y (Near Tie- Zelda: A Link to the Past)
Link between Worlds came painfully close to taking this spot, and I definitely never expected to take the top spot away from any Zelda game ever, but here we are, and I am forced to admit that Pokemon edged Zelda in an absolute toss-up.
When I first picked up my 3DS, I’ll admit Pokemon wasn’t one of the games I listed highly on my list of “must-haves.” I hadn’t played any of the games since the original generation, and each passing game garnered little attention from me. However, things started to change as I read more about what Pokemon X/Y were adding to the formula, everyone in the office seemed to be picking up a copy, and the multiplayer possibilities started to take shape. So once release day hit, I found myself quickly jumping on eshop to pick up a copy, and boy was I ever glad I did.
Pokemon X/Y manages to combine several of my absolute favorite game mechanics together almost seamlessly, bringing an experience very few, if any, games can match. First you have your more traditional RPG fare of experience and leveling, which blends with the more strategical aspect of finding your perfect team that presents few elemental weaknesses, maximizes potential strengths, and creates unique synergies with your choice of moves (each Pokemon can learn a maximum of four). Finally, you add in the mechanic of collecting the absolute massive number of Pokemon (oh and then there are the shiny variants too!). This is addiction at its, well, finest. Plus there is nothing finer than laying down an old-fashioned beat-down on your co-worker while on your lunch break. If any of the above appeals to you, and it should, this is a must-play game on the 3DS.
I picked up my Playstation Vita a few months ago and since then have tried a handful of different games. The best of which I enjoyed was Guacamelle. You’ll come to find that I’m a sucker for Indie games, so this plucky little game made by a small Canadian studio – Drinkbox – definitely helped play a part in getting my attention.
In this game you play as a Mexican farmer who dreams of becoming a Luchador. A visit by an evil skeleton who whisks away your potential girlfriend gives you the chance at doing just that. The Luchador aspect paves a great path for learning melee attacks (GET IT? GuacaMELEE??), and the game has a way of layerin challenges and fun special moves along the way that I really enjoyed (brought on by a crotchety old teacher who can also turn into a goat).
What really brings this home for me is the fact that the game makers didn’t just throw together a game about Mexican culture because Dia De Los Muertos would be a fun and hip theme to have, they really took the time to learn about the culture and to make sure they did things right. That combined with the cross-play offered makes this a 2013 Vita game well worth checking out.
Best Indie Game
If you look online you’ll see lots of reviews panning this game. The big reason for that is because it was buggy as hell when it came out. But the developers took notice, listened to all the complaints, and they’ve fixed all the bugs that I know I had problems with. I would imagine it should be a very smooth experience now. Contrast is the story of a young girl named Didi who with her invisible friend Dawn navigates a Moulin Rouge-esque dreamscape. Along the way, she helps her mom and dad reunite while he bumbles about trying to start up a circus to pay off his mafioso debtors. You control Dawn and you have the unique ability to meld into shadows. This allows you to bend physics and get to locations that would be inaccessible in the real world. The puzzles all rely on your ability to figure out how to move objects from one area to another while utilizing the projections of shadows from objects, some of which you can move to resize the shadow. Now that the game runs smoothly, I can say that this was my favorite indie game of 2013.
As mentioned, I’m a sucker for Indie games, so picking an overall Indie game for me was going to be a tough one. At the same time, The Cave was love at first sight—I just couldn’t figure it out at first what really drew me in (I in fact wrote a whole post about it on my other blog to try and explain it to myself.).
To sum it up—I think the best way I could describe it is by what Justin McElroy of Polygon said “The Cave puts this most charming of cinematic endings to the test by asking what happens when those having their every wish granted are bad people? Like, really bad people.”
This game certainly isn’t without its flaws. That aside—the villainous game play, combined with the unique exploration of several different characters and their stories, and the dark but amazingly spot on humor (helped brought on by a mind that created Monkey Island mind you), this game stuck in my head – in a good way, making it my Indie pick for 2013.
The Stanley Parable
I picked up The Stanley Parable during a Steam sale after hearing Chloe Dykstra mention it during a Nerdist Podcast and after playing through the demo and laughing after every twist. If you don’t know about it, go get the demo and play through. Part of the enjoyment of this game is not knowing what you are getting yourself into and trying everything for yourself. As I discuss the games with fellow TLo42ers, we have to speak in code and not spoil it for each other. “Did you do the part with the yellow?” If you enjoy the humor of Portal and innovative games, this is a not-miss.
Best Mobile Game
Tiny Death Star
An adorable and moderately addicting re-skin of Tiny Tower, adapted for the Star Wars universe. The 8-bit graphic style is endearing and nostalgia-inducing, and the OCD part of me has to arrange the floors in a very specific order for optimum financial growth and efficiency. I can write a whole how-to guide for this if desired. The most important rule is to update your elevator as soon as possible using Imperial Bux.
Best Rerelease of a Game
LoZ – The Wind Waker
I remember when news about this game broke, everyone went nuts. It looks like a cartoon! What the crap kind of game is this? One of the best Zelda games of all time, actually. And with the improvements to the game this Zelda title could very well be one of the best games, period.
Baldur’s Gate I & II Enhanced Editions
Baldur’s Gate I & II have been re-released by Beamdog and I think they are great editions to 2013’s games. Baldur’s Gate is where you’ll see the biggest difference, with graphics having been updated to that of Baldur’s Gate 2. Both games have new characters with unique storylines and a new dungeon crawl mode called the Black Pits.