I dunno about you guys, but I had a fantastic year of gaming! What? It's OVER? Already?! Well let's hurry up and get to it, then... in no particular order!
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Wow, what a game. This was the first game in the Fire Emblem series I'd played, and I am hard pressed to find a single fault with it. The story moves at a nice pace; the characters are fun and (most importantly) well-realized, down to the last one. The gameplay is addictive as all get-out, offering a nice and straightforward set of SRPG rules, and yet allowing for a nigh-overwhelming number of ways to customize and configure your army. Much like XCOM did last year, this game blows the stereotype of the "dry, over-complicated and boring" strategy game out of the water.
How is it possible to improve on the platforming-perfection that was Rayman: Origins? Simple: more of everything. More levels, more unique challenges, more varied gameplay. Just throw everything on the screen, and y'know? Against all odds, everything just works. Pure platforming joy. Gorgeous graphics and beautifully balanced gameplay make this a must-own, especially on the Wii U. At first I was slightly annoyed by the Murfy levels, but after tackling a few with a friend's help I came around to enjoying them quite a lot.
Super Mario 3D World
...And speaking of the Wii U, this thing is finally starting to look very desirable! Between this and the Wind Waker HD remake, Nintendo held down its core franchises on the Wii U brilliantly. Sheer joy is the feeling of playing this, even as the levels get more challenging. Compared to Super Luigi U (which was punishingly difficult from the get-go), this is a game that knows how to scale difficulty beautifully, allowing for an infinitely more playful and enjoyable experience. A year later, the Wii U finally has something I can confidently call a "system-seller."
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
This one surprised me. I've never been particularly good at brawlers, and I've been equally entertained and frustrated by the story of Metal Gear Solid over the years. This was a gamble, helped along by a nice sale price of $20. But boy, after playing it I realized I'd have happily paid the full $60. A wonderfully paced, and incredibly enjoyable time. Once you've gotten over the initial hurdle of the poorly-explained parry mechanic, you're in for a real robot-slicing treat. And as many have mentioned before me, the insane boss battles are nearly worth the price of admission alone.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
While my love for this game has cooled off a bit in the last year, the simple fact is that Ni No Kuni cannot be denied. Nitpicks aside, the feel of the world, the characters, the creatures and the music, are so incredibly charming I almost want to disqualify it from the running out of fairness to the other games I played. The combat system is very fun, requiring a good bit of quick-thinking and fast fingers. The familiars give you a great way to customize your gameplay experience, in addition to being snuggly and adorable. This is just a world you'll want to get lost in.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Speaking of worlds to lose yourself in... Where to even begin with this game? This was the first game I played for my 3DS, thanks to a certain wonderful and generous and amazing and lovely twinsie and hold on, I'm getting verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic... What does Re-Tail do with those hundreds upon hundreds of expensive bugs I've sold them? Discuss.
Although this game technically launched in 2012, I couldn't play it until we got the PC port earlier this year. In the world of indie gaming, Fez was the absolute pinnacle of hype: a clever gameplay premise inspired by classic games, and the vision of a single, passionate creator. It was in many ways the perfect indie game before it even existed, which unwittingly opened it up to a sizable backlash as the indie games scene continued growing. While much of this backlash was the fault of creator Phil Fish's inexplicable fondness for the taste of his own foot, what was largely ignored in the pre- and post-release hype/backlash was the actual game. Fish created a fascinating world that begs to be explored, teased, and coaxed into revealing its secrets. The experience is quiet; observational; supremely peaceful. And yet also daunting. The game makes little if any attempt to explain itself, instead relying on the player's ability to synchronize themselves with the game's wavelength. I didn't finish it, and I doubt I ever will, but for some reason that feels just about right...
This one juuuuust barely snuck in! Got a chance to play it over my Christmas vacation, and ended up burning through the whole thing in a single afternoon. In the last few years I've really grown to appreciate tightly-focused gaming experiences like that. Anyways, Gunpoint is a 2D Stealth/Puzzler, and one of those rare beasts that excels in every single aspect I can think of. Each level is a playground for the game's (remarkably fun) mechanics. The story twists and turns, hinging on tough decisions you have to make. The script can be laugh-out-loud hilarious, or straight-faced film noir depending on how you want to play it. The soundtrack is fantastically jazz-inflected, giving the whole thing a great ambience. And the remarkably minimalist design and animation nonetheless really help sell the setting and main character. Also, creator Tom Francis' game design manifesto is essential reading.
Bonus! Favorite DLC: The Old Gods - Crusader Kings II
Paradox Interactive, you magnificent bastards... You took my favorite game of 2012 and basically ensured that I'll never be able to stop playing it. The extra playable years would have been more than enough to keep me entertained, but this expansion also added some truly fantastic Viking-specific mechanics, such as the ability to pillage, or to hold a Great Blot (a ceremonial feast to the Gods that ends with the ritual sacrifice of your prisoners). This also coincided with an overhaul of the game's technology system, improving it hugely and allowing for much more transparency and control over how your tech develops. I haven't even tried out the newer Sons of Abraham expansion yet, but if it's anywhere close to this much content I may never even bother with Europa Universalis IV.
- The Stanley Parable
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Tomb Raider
- Shadowrun Returns
- The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (this would've easily made the main list if it wasn't a remake)
Games From 2013 I Either Haven't Started or Haven't Played Much of Yet, But Plan to!
- Shin Megami Tensei IV
- XCOM: Enemy Within
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
- Dust: An Elysian Tale
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
- Gone Home
- Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves
- Europa Universalis IV
Games From 2013 I Don't Own Yet But Definitely Want!
- The Last of Us
- Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
- Papers, Please
Well, that about wraps it up for me! Thanks for all the good times, 2013! I'll be enjoying your bounty of games for years to come!