31 Games: The Best of the First 3 Quarters of 2013
31 Games: The Best of the First 3 Quarters of 2013
October 18, 2013
Games You Should Play
As time marches on through October, I thought it was time to reflect on some of the best gaming experiences 2013 has to offer so far. This is a guide of sorts and a list of recommendations for one to be best prepared from GOTY 2013. It has been a strong year and Q4 will be delightfully chaotic as usual, but will be extra insane due to two new console launches. The list is presented in alphabetical order in hopes of reducing my personal bias. I have completed all but four of the games appearing on this list, and I will be sure to note them as they come up. Enjoy!
I still struggle to properly describe this game. It is simply something that should be experienced. The well-balanced use of color and non-color, the internal game logic that is rewarding to decipher, and the trippy visuals combine in an orchestra that is truly exceptional (especially in a year so devoid of innovation).
2. BattleBlock Theater
BattleBlock Theater is a platformer that is best experienced cooperatively. There are many “blocks” that have different properties such as being sticky or propelling the players upward. The game demands intense cooperation, but is satisfying at the same time. And since the game is from The Behemoth (Castle Crashers, Alien Hominid) the game is hilarious.
3. Bioshock: Infinite
Bioshock: Infinite is a masterpiece of both storytelling and atmosphere. The combat is not the best first-person shooting around, but the interesting environment and characters are more than enough to carry the game to its mind-bending conclusion. Booker and Elizabeth’s journey throughout Columbia is thrilling, engaging, and perhaps most importantly: thought-provoking.
4. Dead Space 3
In a desperate attempt to appeal to a wider audience and garner more sales, Dead Space 3 could have lost its entire identity as a survival-horror franchise, but the team at Visceral were sure to keep it scary in this horror/action game hybrid. Jumping around through space is fun as ever as is blasting the limbs off of hideous monstrosities.
5. DmC: Devil May Cry
Ninja Theory really nailed this one. Despite fan outcry to the character redesign, DmC proved to be my favorite Devil May Cry game to date. The myriad of weapons and light/dark system suspiciously similar to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow make DmC an excellent romp around limbo and the underworld. Engaging combat, a killer soundtrack, and an interesting interpretation of the characters are the reasons to check this one out.
6. Dragon’s Crown
Yum, I love me some Vanillaware. Truly, art in motion, Dragon’s Crown is gorgeous. It may have an average soundtrack and story, but the artwork is exceptional as is the four player cooperative experience. A beat-‘em-up for Dungeons and Dragons fans, Dragon’s Crown delivers the goods and its six classes ensure an enormous amount of replayability.
7. Fire Emblem: Awakening
This was our Game of the Half-Year. The combination of strategy, excellent writing, and surprisingly addictive dating-sim mechanics made this one easy to be loved by all us here at the Bad Gaming Podcast. It doesn’t hurt that the game is beautiful and has one of the best soundtracks of the year.
8. Game & Wario
Though it presents a questionable value at $40, I find myself continually drawn back to Game & Wario for it zaniness and innovative uses of the Wii U gamepad. Again, in a year desperately needing some fresh ideas, Game & Wario stands out from the crowd. It also possesses an excellent version of Pictionary!
9. God of War: Ascension
The first hour and the last hour are among the best of its generation, but the middle five or so are average at best. Those two bosses alone, however, make the game worth playing and seeing. Ascension still looks gorgeous, has a beautiful orchestral soundtrack, but unfortunately does not justify itself in a narrative aspect. The gameplay modifications were hit and miss, but the multiplayer was surprisingly excellent.
As a wonderful tribute to the Metroid-vania genre, Guacamelee offers challenge, upgradeable abilities, and a fairly hilarious script. The art is also nice and it has some cool boss fights. The color and dimension-shifting gameplay mechanics are where it shines however.
11. Grand Theft Auto V
GTAV is really good game. It is not as revolutionary as previous entries, but more of refinement of IV. It is simultaneously more serious than IV, but also more relaxed and can have fun with itself. The addition of three playable characters and the heists are certainly its high points. I found there to be far too many boring low points (see mopping, see crane, see driving everywhere, see Lamar, see tow-truck missions, see hiding the getaway vehicle multiple times). Despite my numerous complaints with GTAV and Grand Theft Auto in general, GTAV tells a great gripping story that is more than worth seeing. The character of Trevor alone is worth the price of admission.
12. Killer is Dead
Suda at his best? Probably not, but that is okay. This super stylish hack-and-slash is crazy, beautiful, and fun. It has an upgrade system that matters. The gameplay at the end of the game is far superior to how it handles in the beginning. This is a weird and bold choice, but it was nice to see some serious progression throughout the game. Come for the unique visuals and art style, stay for the captivating combat.
13. LEGO City Undercover
This game is pure joy. Free from the shackles of licenses, TT Games made a LEGO Grand Theft Auto game and it is so much fun! It is perhaps the most funny game I have had the pleasure of experiencing. The characters are archetypal and hilarious; the ability of it being consistently funny is extremely impressive. The core gameplay skews a little young, but I still think the game as a whole immensely entertaining.
14. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
After a long wait, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon makes a triumphant return. Perfectly optimized for the 3DS, Dark Moon presents the player with a slew of ghosts to capture, gems to collect, and coins to grab. The boss design particularly impressive with the end of every mansion (of 5) culminating in a climatic boss fight each more intricately designed than the last. It looks amazing, sounds great, and keeps the puzzle/adventure genre alive.
15. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
It has been said, but I will reiterate: This game is so good that the guys over at Platinum Games had to make up a word for it. Completely visceral combat with a unique and excellent blade-mode mechanic that allows the player to slice and dice at will make it a special and memorable experience. Though it probably contains the worst story in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, it still managed to win our “Best Story/Writing” award at Game of the Half-Year. So, what more do you want? A crazy game from the masters of action games, a surprisingly deep story, and you get to play as a cyborg ninja… what are you waiting for?
16. Metro: Last Light
As beautiful as it is crushing, Metro: Last Light is one of the most atmospheric and immersive games I have ever played. The deep, dark corridors of the metro stations and above ground wasteland contrast with the lively and colorful “cities” or populated areas that inject some life into the otherwise desolate surroundings. The gameplay is much sharper this time around and Last Light actually proves to be a solid stealth game. The story is also stronger in Last Light than its predecessor. Overall, it is an excellent first person experience and there are not many games doing what Metro is doing. Its uniqueness provides a good enough reason to give it shot.
17. Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine
A complete breath of fresh air, Monaco provides the ultimate stealth/heist experience for up to four players. It is particularly interesting carefully navigating the floors of a building while keeping everyone alive while trying to dodge guard, cameras, and gunfire. Its unique aesthetic design and its collect-a-thon gameplay make it perhaps the most original feeling game of the year.
18. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
A long JRPG starring Oliver and his friend Mr. Drippy as they attempt to save Ollie’s mom and Drippy’s world. A fairly generic story with a very generic progression, Ni No Kuni makes up for its shortcomings with its absolutely jaw-dropping art direction and animation. The soundtrack is strong and Pokemon like critter razing simulator help it to rise above other recent JRPGs.
19. Pandora’s Tower
Kind of like Shadow of the Colossus, kind of like The Legend of Zelda, Pandora’s Tower combines different gameplay elements to form a unique and excellent identity of its own. The characters and story draw the player in, and the huge (and often lengthy) boss encounters keep them engaged for the 12-15 hours experience.
20. Pikmin 3
Easily one of my favorites of the year, Pikmin 3 innovates on Miyamoto’s now classic Pikmin formula. It is gorgeous and the addition of more playable characters made for days of tense, strategic fruit gathering and monster conquering.
21. Rayman Legends
Much like Rayman Origins before it, Legends refines what Origins began. With better presentation, menu navigation, new types of levels, and outstanding WiiU gamepad support make it a platformer not to be missed.
22. Remember Me
A classy, action game with some lame platforming sections, Remember Me’s greatest strengths reside in its “Memory Remix” section that play out like puzzles and it is fun to see what happens if things happened slightly different. It is beautiful, has an amazing soundtrack, and is a new IP at the end of console cycle, and it deserves some attention.
23. Saints Row IV
This game is blast. I am about 10 hours into this crazy adventure and have been bored for exactly 0 minutes. Incredibly self-aware, Saint Row IV throws in everything and the kitchen sink. There is a constant feed of something new (and more importantly, fun and interesting) to do. The story is complete nonsense and I would not have it any other way.
24. Shin Megami Tensei IV
While I am in the middle of writing the review for this title, I could go on and on and on about all the changes this game made to the universe and made it even better. The presentation, music, App point system, the ability to save anywhere, and many more are just a few reasons why this games takes Shin Megami Tensei to the next level. Though it might not be as good as Nocturne, it remains one of the best and fully featured handheld JRPGs out there.
25. Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Blacklist is like Conviction but harder, and I would not have it any other way. Splinter Cell: Conviction was a reboot the series needed, and Blacklist carries in the similar vein, but it brings stealth back as a more reasonable option. Blacklist can also be a great action game, just be prepared to fail a lot. Sam’s voice being different might suck, but Blacklist, as a game, is one of the best of 2013.
26. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
It’s more StarCraft II! It still looks great and plays fantastically. I have yet to complete the story, but what I have seen is interesting and I anticipate finishing part two of this trilogy.
27. State of Decay
Part Dead Rising, part Grand Theft Auto, part its completely own thing, State of Decay adds much to the zombie open-world genre. The game places a strong emphasis on community management. The player gets to decide where the group lives, if they should move, where they should put outposts, how much food they should gather and whatnot. It is unique despite how much it looks like other zombie games. The choices afforded to the player are many inspiring much replay value.
28. Tales of Xillia
Another game I am in the middle of, Tales of Xillia is a really long JRPG. It looks and sounds great, but the coolest thing Xillia does is its unique shop system. The player chooses which part of a shop (items, weapons, armor) gets upgraded and therefore carries new equipment. This is neat, and solves the problem of going back and forth to specific shops that only carry specific items. The gameplay is strong and continues to get more complex as the difficulty steadily rises.
29. The Last of Us
Easily one of the best and most memorable games of the year so far, Sony’ The Last of Us provides its own take on the zombie apocalypse. In an incredibly detailed world, and a more believable outbreak scenario, The Last of Us carries a very distinct, heavy, and dark tone. The gameplay is not as survival heavy as I would have liked, but it is a good stealth game. Joel and Ellie’s trip across the US is one not to be taken lightly, but one certainly to be taken.
30. The Wonderful 101
I am only several hours into The Wonderful 101, but I can determine two things thus far. 1. It is hard. Expect to die. 2. It is fun and a solid action game that appears as though it will get fairly complex before the credits roll.
31. Tomb Raider
What might just be an Uncharted knock-off, gains its own identity, not from Lara’s heritage, but in rebranding the franchise as something more modern. It still plays super similar to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted, but the grittiness, better cover-system, better shooting, upgrade system, and better weapons make me choose it over Sony’s golden boy Drake every time.
Get out there and get at ’em! It is going to be a busy Q4!