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2013 was kind of a last hurrah for this last generation of systems, and it was a great year! A ton of great games ranging from AAA big publisher games to some incredible indie games saw release in 2013, but I couldn’t play them all! So if there’s a quality game or two that’s missing from this list, it’s probably because I haven’t played it yet! Maybe I’ll get around to them in 2014, but without further ado, let’s kick things off with Number 10.
10. BioShock Infinite
BioShock came out very early this year, and I still haven’t forgot about it! While the combat is still not quite up to par, the real stand out feature of the game is the city of Columbia. Irrational Games did an incredible job creating this beautiful world, saturated with bright hues and grand architecture, and yet once you force a hook into a man’s skull and spill his blood on the cobblestone streets, Columbia’s true self begins to rear its ugly head. It’s a city that you love to look at, yet can’t wait to burn down. Oh, yeah, and that ending. Whoo-boy, didn’t see that coming!
9. The Last of Us
The popularity of The Last of Us is very peculiar to me. It’s stealth horror game, not exactly the most mainstream of genres. I guess the incredible graphics and great character building goes a long way! The gameplay itself is almost built entirely around your likelihood of failure. Sure, like most stealth games, you can go about it through trial and error, but the fun isn’t resetting when it doesn’t go your way. The fun really emerges when you go in with a plan, have it horribly go wrong, yet continue to improvise and somehow make it out of the situation barely alive. It’s truly a harrowing experience, yet also highly entertaining if you’re in the mood for it, as it also happens to be one of the more emotionally exhausting games of the year.
This game technically debut last year on consoles, but this year saw a new release on the PC through Steam!
Probably almost as interesting as the game itself is the tragedy of its development history. Skullgirls was originally published on consoles in 2013, but the development team’s payment got tied up in lawsuit involving said publisher. So the team ran a highly successful crowdfunding campaign to continue development of the game, then PayPal tried to stop the money from going through. The team finally finishes some major updates to the game, only to have their original publisher delist the game from console marketplaces and, in addition, their Japanese publisher dies off. It seems like Skullgirls just can’t ever catch a break, but, hey, it’s getting on this list!
It’s a beautiful game with a striking, if divisive art style, and the emphasis on detailed 2D animation really sells it. Every single frame of animation for each of the characters is just brimming with their own unique personalities. Coupled with the wonderful tunes of Michiru Yamane of Castlevania fame, and you’ve got a game that’s almost built just for me! Oh yeah, the part in which it’s a fighting game is also probably good. The game has some pretty good tutorials that teach some fighting game basics, but when I play online the better players destroy me. At least the game is still pretty to look at while I’m waiting to add another inevitable loss to my record.
7. Hotline Miami
The electric surreal violence simulator that is Hotline Miami technically came out last year, but it made its console and handheld debut this year on Sony systems. After hearing great things about its excellent mind-numbing soundtrack last year, I finally got to experience it for myself on the Vita this year, and it was quite the trip. I got vibes of Killer7 as I went through this visceral action puzzle game, so it’s no wonder how I fell in love with it. The cryptic story, stylized visuals and the electronic tunes really give this game its own unique style that kept me playing for hours.
6. Papers, Please
This was quite a surprise for me. I’m not exactly the type of person to go out of my way to look for indie PC games to champion as masterpieces, but Papers, Please somehow found its way into my Steam library and, soon after, into my own heart. The somewhat serious subject matter expressed through the cartoony visuals with a bit of dark humor had me gripped in the bureaucratic clutches of virtual paper work. It was somehow fun, despite the intention of drowning you with mundane tedious tasks. I just wanted to keep playing ‘til the next crazy story event. Maybe it was our good friend Jorji trying to pass off a fake passport, a suicide bomber that somehow made it past the checkpoint, or the mysterious rebel faction passing me documents laced with poison. I still need to go back and properly topple the oppressive Arstotzkan government one of these days.
5. Tomb Raider
This year’s reboot of Tomb Raider was actually the first Tomb Raider game I’ve ever played, and if the games before it were anything like this game, I should go back and play those as well! While the story was forgettable trash, the exploration-based gameplay had me searching the varied environments for every hidden trinket and treasure, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Every time I spied an icon on my map for a hidden tomb or optional collectible, I would stop whatever I was doing and relentlessly go after those secrets. I cared less for the safety and rescue of Lara’s friends than I did for the potential adventures in the jungles and tombs of the island of Yamatai. Maybe I bypassed the developer’s intentions, but the exploration element of the game was that strong!
4. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Phoenix Wright made his epic come back this year, and it was better than I could have ever hoped for. Dual Destinies expertly juggled three main characters while adding backstory to an existing one and building an intriguing origin for another. Almost everything about this game was instantly engaging, from the writing to the music. I’m even listening the soundtrack as I type this! Seriously, the game went above and beyond my meager expectations after the 5-year hiatus since the last game, which was probably the weakest in the series. The team has announced that they are hard at work on the sequel, and I can’t wait for that, assuming it gets an English release. This game caused me to get excited about digital anime lawyers again. Weird.
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Speaking of subverted expectations, A Link Between Worlds takes the cake. Upon the game’s initial announcement, I was skeptical. It seemed like a quick cash-in on the nostalgia of A Link to the Past. The game couldn’t possibly stand on its own if it needed to build off the base of a 1992 Super Nintendo game. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A Link Between Worlds totally stands on its own as it’s probably the best Zelda game since Majora’s Mask. The puzzle designs are genius, the soundtrack is superb, and, please Nintendo, bring us another 60 fps Zelda game!
2. Grand Theft Auto V
If I were to put a common element to my favorite games this year, it’d probably be “exploration.” I explored the jungles of Tomb Raider, the two kingdoms in A Link Between Worlds, and there’s still so much ground I have yet to cover in the city of Los Santos. This game was the total package: great graphics, brilliant soundtrack, interesting characters, unexpected turns, and varied gameplay. Even outside of the terrific scenarios built by the game developers, I’ve had so many adventures in Grand Theft Auto V with my pals Michael, Trevor, and Franklin. We’ve joined cults, traded stocks, robbed every store in the city, fought off sharks, and just cruised through the desert to the tunes of what I consider the best original score of 2013. Now if only Grand Theft Auto Online wasn’t such a bummer…
1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
This is it. This is the game I’ve spent most of my time playing in 2013. I’ve put more than 250 hours into this adorable town management game. However, most of that time was put into flexing my creative muscle and subverting the original cute, happy tone of the game and creating a nightmarish narrative.
If you thought Los Santos was a crazy town, come visit my town of New Love! I’ve spent weeks playing the “stalk market” to get enough money to fund my insane project. I’ve poured millions of Bells into creating what I like to call a “town of terror.” Sure, New Love has some lovely sites to be proud of, like the local arcade, complete with its own exciting karaoke parlor, but what about the back room that suggests the proprietor’s dirty dealings to keep his business afloat? The derelict cabin in the northwest is said to harbor a nasty criminal, and if you sneak into the mayor’s home at night, you may find his taste in interior design to be questionable. Why does the mayor wear a gas mask anyway?
The fact that you can use the many personalization tools of Animal Crossing to create such an outlandish abomination of the game’s original concept speaks magnitudes of its creative potential. The possibilities for projects are limitless, and you’re free to do with your town what you want. My sister is agonizing over the placement of flowers in her town, and one of my friends went on a grueling quest to fill out her fish and insect encyclopedia (a quest she has yet to return from!).
It’s incredible that a game so simple on the surface can cater to the casual player, the obsessive and fanatic, and all those in between. There’s so much that can be done with Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and that’s why it is my favorite game of 2013.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra