Isaiah’s Top 10 Games of 2013

2013 was quite the incredible year. I have probably finished more games this year than the last 3 years combined. It was both a year bursting with the new, but also grievous retreads of the old. For me, gameplay was absolutely king this year. There were many games that really pushed their genres in exciting and incredible new directions.

10. Dead Rising 3

Dead Rising 3 is quite the interesting beast. It is a game that is absolutely dripping in next gen potential. As stated in my review, there were definitely some missteps near the end and the tedious ending did very nearly ruin the game for me. Despite this though, the fun won out. There was a constant joy of discovering the new, insane weapons and taking them out to murder hundreds of zombies. What other game will let me combine a giant teddy bear with a machine gun and a boom box to create a zombie destroying turret of doom? I am looking forward to seeing where they take this franchise next.

9. Gone Home

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this game. I had heard that the story was extremely touching and would end in tears. The tears never came, but I was incredibly impressed by the story. What impressed me the most was not the narration by the younger sister. The most impressive part was the story that you discovered by looking around the house. I discovered so much about our character’s father and mother just from the things lying around the house. This aspect of the game was so masterfully done. It made going into each room of the house a joy to discover what else you would find. It encouraged you to look through every trash can and open every desk drawer. It never let puzzles get in the way, and the progression through the home was very natural. Gone Home was a true joy to experience.

8. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

As a huge fan of Harvest Moon, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from Animal Crossing. There were no crops, no love interests, and no cows to milk. As an outsider looking at the game, it just seemed to boring compared to other games in the genre. That all changed when I finally got my hands on the game. Animal Crossing’s pace is one of ease and relaxation. For me, the main draw of Animal Crossing is your own unique blend of the animal townsfolk. Animals move in, move out, but generally seem like their own unique individuals. They arrange times to visit and ask you to visit in return. They let you change their catchphrases, and will even give you their own nicknames. Eventually this started to work against the game for me though. When I didn’t turn on the game for a day, my townspeople would worry and ask where I had been. Eventually the guilt was too much and I gave up on my town. No other game has made me feel these types of emotions.

7. DmC: Devil May Cry

This reboot was simultaneously much anticipated but also dreaded by fans. The reaction to early trailers by fans was intense. “This is not Dante!”, they screamed. I had never played a Devil May Cry game before, so this seemed like the perfect place to start. This game came out around the same time as Metal Gear Rising, but I chose to play DmC first. DmC surprised me in a number of ways. The graphics were absolutely stunning, the combat was very solid, and even the platforming worked extremely well. One aspect that grabbed me the most was the setting. Seeing each environment in limbo was captivating. DmC did not meet sales expectations, but I hope that Ninja Theory gets another shot to build on this incredible foundation.

6. The Stanley Parable

This game is completely unlike anything else I have ever played. The game is full of branching paths and is designed to be replayed over and over again. It pokes fun at almost every kind of narrative device used in modern video games. Even though each playthrough takes an hour or less, I have played this game for over 18 hours. There are so many secrets and Easter eggs. I had to discover everything. Although of all the endings in the game, the broom closet ending was my favorite.

5. Pokémon X & Y

I have a confession. I never owned a DS. So I have missed out on every Pokémon game since the Game Boy Advanced games. Pokémon was the reason I ended up buying my 3DS at the beginning of this year. The game looked beautiful and was designed to pull in the old fans that had drifted away. I was overwhelmed with new Pokémon, but still was accompanied by old favorites as well. I have heard that the game features less new Pokémon than past games, but I was perfectly ok with this as I had 2 other generations of Pokémon to catch up on. The game features some very promising online social features that I really can’t wait to see expanded upon. Now that Pokémon has successful transitioned to a beautiful 3d world, they can focus on adding more gameplay features for future installments. The future of Pokémon is brighter than ever.

4. Rogue Legacy

The “Roguelike” genre has been seeing quite the renaissance lately. Developers have been mixing the idea of permanent death with other genres. With games like last year’s FTL and Spelunky, in addition to Rogue Legacy, the genre is stronger than ever. Rogue Legacy takes the idea or permadeath and mixes it with a healthy dose of Castlevania. The hook for Rogue Legacy is that there are persistent upgrades via a talent tree. So yes, you lose your character and all of your money each time, but deaths rarely feel meaningless. You can also replay the game endlessly via new game plus. I ended up playing Rogue Legacy for almost 30 hours. It has mastered the feedback loop of “just one more time”.

3. Shadow Warrior

After Duke Nukem Forever, I was extremely skeptical of Shadow Warrior. This game is a reimagining of the original Shadow Warrior, which was pretty much Duke Nukem 3D, but with a sword and stereotypical Asian protagonist. I loved Shadow Warrior as a kid. The first trailer for Shadow Warrior looked pretty bad. They completely changed the character of Lo Wang. The game the most incredible reimagining of an old franchise that I have ever experienced. Duke Nukem Forever was very concerned with trying to be a generic FPS. It even limited you to just holding two weapons. It was desperately trying to appear to be young and hip. Shadow Warrior sticks much closer to its roots, but with masterful modern touches. One example is how Shadow Warrior handles health. The game actually brings back a health bar and medkits (old school) while simultaneously giving you an ability that lets you actively heal up to 80% of your max health! (new school). You activate this ability by tapping back twice on the joystick and then pressing left trigger. These abilities are the most innovative part of Shadow Warrior. There are 3 different sword abilities that you can use by double tapping in different directions and then pressing right trigger. You also gain experience and have a vast amount of skills to level up. Lo Wang is also absolutely hilarious. Shadow Warrior is a love letter to gaming and I enjoyed every moment of it.

2. Fire Emblem Awakening

Due to my lack of an original DS, I had to miss the last few Fire Emblem games. While it’s true that I primarily bought my 3DS for Pokémon, Fire Emblem was the game that made me glad to own a 3DS. Pretty much everything about Fire Emblem is hilarious. While the combat is and story are both incredible, it is character interactions that elevate the game to the next level. There are over a hundred different characters in the game. Your character can have a relationship with every single one! Other characters can have relationships with normally five to ten other characters! These little side stories are almost all incredibly sweet and awesome. Fire Emblem: Awakening is the complete package. It is definitely a game that I am looking forward to replaying very soon.

1. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

I did not have high expectations of this game at all. It had an extremely troubled development history and seemed to be on the verge of disappearing. And then Platinum Games came in to heroically save the day! In short, the combat feels incredible. The combat quite possibly has the best flow of any game I’ve ever played. When starting the game I was dreading the fact that the game had no block button. I quickly discovered though that this was an incredible innovation. It uses a very sophisticated form of offensive defense. You block by attacking in a counter to the enemy. This creates an intense balance of blocking and attacking. The soundtrack is also quite memorable and really helps get the adrenaline pumping. My favorite part of the game was the boss battles though! They felt less like pattern recognition and chores and more like intense battles against an intelligent enemy. I loved the fact that the boss battles were almost exclusively cyborg enemies not unlike Raiden himself. The game was a little short, but when a game is this well made, that is a concession I am willing to make! I would love to see what this game would look like if it was built from the ground up by Platinum instead of just salvaged by them.

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