2013 in Games

It’s that time of year again! 2013 was, in my opinion, a very strong year for the gaming industry (some may disagree) with some very interesting and new indie and big-budget titles making their way into the world, as well as good series installments from heavy hitters
As such, I had a lot of difficulty in coming up with a top 10 and really had to trim some games I really enjoyed, such as Monaco, Tomb Raider, The Swapper and even Euro Truck Simulator 2 (genuinely good, really), but them’s the breaks I guess – I’d rather have a lot to choose from than struggle to get just 6. Anyway, enough prologue. Let’s begin.

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10 – Gunpoint
A very clever stealth platformer with some of the snappiest, wittiest and well-written dialogue I’ve seen for a while. People have complained that the game is far too short but I’d much rather a game pack up and leave early than outstay its welcome with padded story and uninspired levels. Either way with Steam Workshop on the cards in 2014, the longevity issues some found will subside a little.

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9 – Tearaway
The Vita has actually had a pretty strong year with some fantastic cross-buy titles with the PS3 (more on that to come later) and some fantastic ports of indie favourites – Hotline Miami feels like it was designed for the handheld. The best Vita exclusive of the year, though, was Media Molecule’s first foray away from Sackboy. The game manages to use nearly all the Vita’s gimmicks, but does so intelligently. This coupled with so much charm even candy-loving leprachorn’s would feel queasy and an underrated soundtrack means means the Vita may have found a killer app at last.

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8 – The Stanley Parable
“Unique” is a devilish word, used as often as an insult as a complement and generally not really being that inspired. However, I can think of no other word that better describe The Stanley Parable. It’s a game of choices which both matter and never actually mattered in the first place. It’s clever, it’s well-written and not too clever for its own good. It’s unique.

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7 – Guacamelee
I reviewed this on the old blog when it was solely PS3 and Vita and was very taken in by the colourful graphics, challenging combat and the fact that you can eventually turn into a chicken on a whim. It’s neat and tidy, the combo-system is very well done and the world is just plain fun, living in a land of Mexican-themed memes (which are happily just background decoration rather than shoved down your throat).

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6 – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
I’ve recently been trying to fit as many games as possible over the past month to try and give as accurate a representation of 2013 on my list as possible, and this is the only game from that gaming binge to have made it in. The controls can be confusing at first but feel natural after a while (they reminded me heavily of Kuri Kuri Mix) while the slow-burning story and beaitful presentation really fit the tone the game goes for. There’s fantasic pay-off towards the end too, unfortunately I can’t really go any further thanks to spoilers. I’d certainly recommend playing it all the way through in a 3-hour sitting.

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5 – Fire Emblem: Awakening
Before buying a 3DS (which incidentally has an exceptional library of games right now) with Fire Emblem pre-installed, I had never really touched the series. I knew of some characters thanks to Smash Bros., but nothing of the game itself. It turns out that it’s a dating simulator disguised as a turn-based strategy RPG. Yes this is a good thing. The SRPG element is very strong indeed, but its pairing up characters to increase their stats when on the battlefield together or even produce terrifyingly strong child warriors which sets the game apart. Also, the permadeath aspect is dealt with very well in regards to the story, and it still hurts losing characters to this day. RIP Donnel.

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4 – Papers, Please
Role Playing Game is an overused term in gaming. Usually it’s the same role over and over again – man/woman with great strength/mystical powers saves the world from big ugly things which can get pretty tiresome. As it turns out, a real RPG is more akin to Papers, Please – you play as a border control official in Arstotzka and have to check and stamp paperwork correctly to either accept of deny people access to the country. There’s some very good writing in the mix, but it’s the gameplay that tells the story – you get snippets of people’s lives and you control their destiny based on their credentials, the rules and your own morality. The game also has one of the best title screen themes ever.

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3 – Rayman Legends
Another year, another Rayman entry in my top 10. Ever since Origins, Ubisoft have done no wrong with the series, whether on mobile or console and even with a delay of 6 months for this to make the game multiplatform. They needn’t have bothered though, as the original Wii U version is still the way to play as the Murphy levels feel natural on the Gamepad as opposed to the automated nature of the other releases. Simply a great platformer with stunning visuals and magnificent level design – the underwater spy themed world being a the highlight. However, the single best element of Legends are the music levels, which flow amazingly well while looking and sounding a treat.

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2 – Super Mario 3D World
It’s not only been a great year for platformers but also a fantastic year for the Wii U. I was derided a little for buying one at launch but Nintendo have built up a decent (and exclusive) library for it over the past year including Pikmin 3, Wind Waker HD and The Wonderful 101. Cream of the crop, though, is Super Mario 3D World. The level design is fantastic, the difficulty curve is well-balanced with later worlds providing some absolute masterpieces of design as well as (and I’m getting tired of saying it in this piece even though its true) a maginificent soundtrack. It may get scorned upon for being yet another Mario game but it’s absolutely up there in quality terms with Galaxy and should not be sniffed at.

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1 – The Last of Us
And the list was looking so colourful and happy too! I jest of course, but The Last of Us marks a radical departure from the look and feel of all the games on I’ve mentioned so far it’s almost unreal. I’m not a particular fan of cover-based shooters so it’s even more of a surprise that I enjoyed this so much and a lot of it is down to an exemplary story and fantastic voice acting from the cast (as well as some very well written female characters). That’s not to say the gameplay is bad or boring – it isn’t at all, hunting with the bow and arrow feels great, the controls are tight, enemies are intelligent and the crafting system works a treat – but the characters and story steal the show. It’s a shame it’s an exclusives but that’s the nature of first party console development and certainly not something to mark the game down for.

It’s truly special as a game and one I’m proud to showcase as my game of the year.
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