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The Games of 2015 Ranked

If one of us played it, then we are ranking it. Below is the list of all the games we played from 2015 ranked in order of worst to best.

164 J-Stars Victory VS+
163 Castle in the Darkness
162 Woah Dave!
161 Zotrix
160 Egg Returns Home
159 Aaru’s Awakening
158 htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
157 Dream
156 Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival
155 Cibele
154 Resident Evil: Revelations 2
153 Harold
152 Time Clickers
151 Adventure Capitalist
150 Knight Squad
149 Five Nights at Freddy’s 3
148 Just Get Through
147 Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball
146 Airscape: The Fall of Gravity
145 Gunnheim
144 Plug & Play
143 Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!
142 Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
141 Citizens of Earth
140 Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash
139 Tallowmere
138 Rise of Incarnates
137 Princess Evangile
136 Project CARS
135 The Magic Circle
134 XBLAZE: Lost Memories
133 HuniePop
132 Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax
131 Sublevel Zero
130 Audiosurf 2
129 Karmaflow: Rock Opera
128 Human Resource Machine
127 OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
126 Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
125 Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell
124 Prison Archetech
123 Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson
122 Read Only Memories
121 Fingered
120 Parallax
119 RONIN
118 Deathtrap
117 Guns, Gore, & Cannoli
116 Swords & Soldiers II
115 Skyshine’s: Bedlam
114 Emily is Away
113 Aviary Atorney
112 Mario Puzzles and Dragons
111 Story of Seasons
110 Chroma Squad
109 White Night
108 Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy
107 Evoland II
106 The Fruit of Grisaia
105 Gunman Clive 2
104 Broken Age
103 Tales of Zestiria
102 Warhammer: Vermintide
101 Volume
100 The Executive
99 Evolve
98 Kingdom
97 Renowned Explorers: International Society
96 Kerbal Space Program
95 MonsterBag
94 Three-Fourths Home
93 Not a Hero
92 Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed
91 Lost Dimension
90 Mushihimesama
89 #IDARB
88 Onechanbara Z2: Chaos
87 Nuclear Throne
86 Zenzizenzic
85 Samurai Warriors 4-2
84 Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
83 Mario Party 10
82 Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
81 Dragon Ball: Xenoverse
80 Contradiction: Spot the Liar!
79 Apotheon
78 Yo-Kai Watch
77 Forza Motorsport 6
76 Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
75 Five Nights at Freddy’s 4
74 Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
73 Act of Aggression
72 Mad Max
71 Just Cause 3
70 The Beginner’s Guide
69 Downwell
68 Stretchmo
67 Dragon Quest Heros
66 Galak-Z: The Dimensional
65 ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS
64 Clannad
63 Crypt of the Necrodancer
62 Grey Goo
61 Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX
60 Titan Souls
59 Hand of Fate
58 Broforce
57 Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
56 Convoy
55 Roche Fusion
54 Jackbox 2
53 Soma
52 Duck Game
51 Affordable Space Adventures
50 Westerado: Double Barreled
49 Mortal Kombat X
48 Rock Band 4
47 Box Boy
46 The Order 1886
45 Yoshi’s Wooly World
44 Super Mario Maker
43 Flywrench
42 Massive Chalice
41 Call of Duty: Black Ops III
40 Star Wars Battlefront
39 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
38 The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
37 Heroes of the Storm
36 Halo 5: Guardians
35 Assault Android Cactus
34 Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late
33 Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
32 Rebel Galaxy
31 Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
30 Grow Home
29 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
28 Runbow
27 Persona 4: Dancing All Night
26 LEGO Dimensions
25 Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
24 Guitar Hero Live
23 Ori and the Blind Forest
22 Transformers Devastation
21 Splatoon
20 Dying Light
19 Inivisble Inc.
18 Rocket League
17 Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture
16 Final Fantasy Type-0
15 Her Story
14 Yakuza 5
13 Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
12 Rise of the Tomb Raider
11 Until Dawn
10 Helldivers
9 Life is Strange
8 Xenoblade Chronicles X
7 Tales of the Borderlands
6 Undertale
5 Batman: Arkham Knight
4 Fallout 4
3 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
2 Bloodborne
1 The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
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Game of the Year 2015: Special Categories

Another year has quickly gone by. There were some games that came out in that time, and here are our thoughts on which were the standouts in our special brand of categories.

Best Non-2015 Gaming Experience (Personal)

We begin today with our personal categories, the “Best Non-2015 Category” encapsulates all games released prior to 2015, Early-Access games that have not yet been released, and episodic games that have yet to release their final episode.

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Isaiah B – Payday 2

Brock – Destiny: The Taken King

Derek – King’s Quest

Zach – Destiny: The Taken King

Alex – Dreamfall: Chapters

Drew – Destiny: The Taken King

Thomas – Persona 3 Portable

Most Surprisingly Good Game (Personal)

We expect a lot out of our games, but some more than others. These are the games that surprised us the most in 2015.

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Derek – Helldivers

Isaiah B – Helldivers

Zach – Undertale

Brock – Life is Strange

Thomas – Rocket League

Drew – Rocket League

Alex – Runbow

Biggest Disappointment (Personal)

In direct opposition to our “Most Surprisingly Good” we have, “Biggest Disappointment.” Games that bummed us out, did not meet the hype, or were at all disappointing.

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Derek – Star Wars: Battlefront

Drew – Star Wars: Battlefront

Brock – Rock Band 4

Zach – Star Wars: Battlefront

Isaiah B – Evolve

Thomas – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Alex – Resident Evil: Revelations 2

Most Addictive (Personal)

What games could we simply not tear ourselves away from? Some games are addictive by design, and here are our picks for “Most Addictive” game of 2015.

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Brock – Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Thomas – Fallout 4

Isaiah B – Fallout 4

Zach – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Alex – Fallout 4

Drew – Batman: Arkham Knight

Derek – Batman: Arkham Knight

Best Multiplayer

2015 might have not been quite as strong of a year for multiplayer as last year, but it was no slouch.

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Winner – Rocket League

Beauty through simplicity is Rocket League’s appeal, and what it accomplishes wish so little is undoubtedly impressive proving to be an obsession for many throughout 2015.

Runners up:

Affordable Space Adventures

Helldivers

Best Voice Acting

This category examines all the voice acting in a game.

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Winner – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’s voice acting is critical to its success at what the game is going for. For being such an emotionally-charged experience, it is amazing what it accomplishes without characters models. The British accents certainly don’t hurt either.

Runners-up:

LEGO Dimensions

Batman Arkham Knight

Best Voice Performance

Where “Best Voice Acting” looks at the entire game, “Best Voice Performance” looks at one singular performance.

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Winner – Viva Seifert – Her Story

In a lot of ways, Viva Seifert is Her Story. Without a solid performance, Her Story lacks the breadth necessary to make it engaging or sell the character on the screen. Viva manages to produce the ambiguity needed to confuse the player just enough to keep going to the game’s arbitrary conclusion.

Runners-up:

Oliver Dimsdale as Steven Appleton from Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Peter Stormare as the psychiatrist from Until Dawn

Most Original/Innovative

As time continually marches on, it gets harder and harder to feel original and innovate in an established place. This category recognizes those who dare to try to be different.

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Winner – Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes definitely feels different in the field of 2015 videogames. Playing more like a board game, one player (or a group) is armed with a bomb-defusal guide, and it is their objective to help the other player disarm the bomb before somebody explodes. It’s fresh, it’s original, and it’s our winner for this category.

Runners-up:

Affordable Space Adventures

Kerbal Space Program

Most Funny/Ridiculous

It is hard to master comedic timing in videogames, we also value a good dose of the absurd on occasion, thus the category of “Most Funny/Ridiculous” was born.

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Winner – Tales From the Borderlands

Tales From the Borderlands is among the most funny videogames ever made. It is continually laugh-inducing and more than suitably ridiculous. It was the easy winner of the category this year.

Runners-up:

Undertale

Plug & Play

Best Looking Game

Combining artistic and technical merit produces our “Best Looking Game” category. Which game was the most visually impressive in 2015?

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Winner – The Order 1886

The Order 1886 shows that consoles can still compete graphically despite aged hardware. The Order is highly directed making the visuals pop, the lighting stand out, and the character models impress. Also, just check out the game’s cloth physics.

Runners-up:

Star Wars: Battlefront

Ori and the Blind Forest

Best Music

Typically one of our more contentious categories due to the subjectivity of musical taste, but we decide which games had the best music anyway. The quality is always raising in this category from year to year.

Winner – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

A clear standout with its choral pieces and string arrangements, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, feature a soundtrack like no other. The music aids in driving home the game’s more poignant moments and always complements what is happening on screen.

Runners-up:

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Undertale

Best Boss Fights

Boss fights are still relevant as a test of player’s’ skills and we always like to reward that.

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Winner – Undertale

Nearly every encounter in Undertale is unique, and the boss fights even more so. From heart-wrenching to maddeningly difficulty, Undertale always has something up its sleeve when it comes to its boss fights.

Runners-up:

Titan Souls

Bloodborne

Best Story/Writing

We combine overarching story and moment to moment writing in this category.

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Winner – Tales From the Borderlands

While having a great culmination of choices at its end, none can compete with the moment-to-moment dialogue in Tales From the Borderlands.

Runners-up:

The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Undertale

Best New Main Character

In what was a weaker year for new main characters, a couple rose above the rest.

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Winner – Rhys – Tales From the Borderlands

Rhys, though he may be altered by the player somewhat, is a defined character that is easy to root for. Stuck under the shadow of Handsome Jack, he attempts to fill the power vacuum created by the end of Borderlands 2. His arch throughout the five episodes is interesting and possesses a surprising amount of depth.

Runners-up:

Jenks – Contradiction

Max Caulfield – Life is Strange

Best Secondary Character

“Best Secondary Character” does not have to be new like with our “Main Character” category. This allows for a wide array of characters new and tried.

21 Joker

Winner – The Joker – Batman Arkham Knight

The Joker is what makes Batman Arkham Knight. His implementation, though lazy in concept, is executed brilliantly. His dialogue makes him unforgettable in a game that might not otherwise be the pinnacle of its series.  

Runners-up:

Gortys – Tales From the Borderlands

The Bloody Baron – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Best Amiibo

Continuing the madness that is Nintendo’s supply shortages, we support amiibo here at the EXP Shared podcast.

AmiiboPalutena

Winner – Palutena

Detail was the name of the game this year, and no amiibo is as impressive as Palutena’s with her shield, staff, and translucent blue aura.

Runners-up:

Green Yarn Yoshi

Ganondorf

Most Memorable Moment (Personal)

What moments stood out as the ones that are still ingrained in our minds? Don’t worry *NO SPOILERS*

Flowey

Zach – End of Until Dawn

Brock – Flowey Fight in Undertale (neutral route)

Isaiah S – Genocide Route in Undertale

Isaiah B – Dying by Old Woman in Mortal Kombat X

Thomas – Besting the Vicar Amelia in Bloodborne

Drew – The Barbara Gordon scene in Batman Arkham Knight

Derek – Sidequesting in Batman Arkham Knight

Alex – The End of Episode 2 in Tales From the Borderlands

2015 was the year of…

What defines the year?

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Winner – Open-World Domination

The Triple-A games industry has been trending towards the open-world genre for a while now with the unprecedented commercial success of games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V. But 2015 witnessed an absolute saturation of the genre with varying success. As someone who plays a lot of games, it was a year filled with long, satisfying experiences, and it proved difficult to get through all them (especially when two come out in December, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Yakuza 5). It says something when our Top 5 games of the year are all open-world games.

Runners-up:

Transhumanism as a narrative device

The Fall of Konami

Most Anticipated (Personal)

Now that 2015 is over what are we pumped for next?

horizon-zero-dawn-screen-01-us-15jun15

Brock – The Witness

Isaiah S – The Oculus Rift

Derek – Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade

Zach – Uncharted 4

Alex – Zero Time Dilemma

Isaiah B – Pokken Tournament

Drew – Final Fantasy XV

Thomas – Horizon: Zero Dawn

Paul – No Man’s Sky

 

 

The Games of 2014 Ranked

If one of us played it, then we are ranking it. Below is the list of all the games we played from 2014 ranked in order of worst to best.

208 Daylight
207 Rougue’s Tale
206 Kung Fu Rabbit
205 SkyPeace
204 Lyne
203 Intake: Be Aggressive
202 dEXTRIS
201 Bug Heroes 2
200 Alien on the Run
199 Final Horizon
198 Leo’s Fortune
197 Mind Zero
196 A Bird Story
195 Titan Attacks!
194 Tap Titans
193 Chariot
192 Gunslugs
191 Thief
190 Insurgency
189 Mighty Gunvolt
188 AeternoBlade
187 The Legend of Korra: A New Era Begins
186 Vibribbon
185 Metal Dead
184 Kinect Sports Rivals
183 Secret Ponchos
182 Tengami
181 Volgarr The Viking
180 Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville
179 Finn & Jake’s Epic Quest
178 JazzPunk
177 Crossy Road
176 OTTTD
175 Loadout
174 If My Heart Had Wings
173 ETHER One
172 Surge Deluxe
171 Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails
170 Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder
169 Kiwanuka
168 Great Little War Game 2
167 Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
166 Boom Beach
165 The Legend of Korra
164 Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
163 Pokemon Battle Trozei
162 The Fall
161 Eidolon
160 Unpossible
159 Senran Kagura: Bon Apettit
158 The Last Tinker: City of Colors
157 Weapon Shop de Omasse
156 Sakura Spirit
155 XBLAZE: Code Embryo
154 JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure: All-Star Battle
153 Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution
152 Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord
151 Deception IV: Blood Ties
150 Doorkickers
149 The Hungry Horde
148 Among the Sleep
147 Tower of Guns
146 1001 Spikes
145 Abyss Odyssey
144 Hitman Go
143 Drunken Robot Pornography
142 Battleheart Legacy
141 Gods Will Be Watching
140 Murisaki Baby
139 Monster Monpiece
138 Hack ‘n’ Slash
137 Defense Grid 2
136 Goat Simulator
135 Ollie Ollie
134 DeadCore
133 Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
132 Monument Valley
131 Fract OSC
130 Toukiden: The Age of Demons
129 One Finger Death Punch
128 Yoshi’s New Island
127 Akiba’s Trip
126 Rollers of the Realm
125 Pix the Cat
124 Five Nights at Freddie’s
123 Age of Wonders III
122 TxK
121 Geometry Wars 3
120 Elite Dangerous
119 Half-Minute Hero II
118 Never Alone
117 Murdered: Soul Suspect
116 Azure Striker Gunvolt
115 Hatoful Boyfriend
114 Hohokum
113 Disney Infinity 2.0
112 Trials Fusion
111 Costume Quest 2
110 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
109 BlazBlue: Chronophantasma
108 Mario Golf
107 Wayward Souls
106 Tales of Hearts R
105 Inazuma Eleven
104 Pushmo World
103 Fairy Fencer F
102 Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star
101 A City Sleeps
100 The Talos Principle
99 The Floor is Jelly
98 Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus
97 CounterSpy
96 Threes!
95 Hyperdimension Neptunia PP
94 The Witch and the Hundred Knight
93 Hidden in Plain Sight
92 The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
91 Professor Layton & the Azran Legacy
90 Gauntlet
89 Smite
88 Octodad: Dadliest Catch
87 Metrico
86 Valiant Hearts
85 Fantasty Life
84 Velvet Sundown
83 Lara Croft & The Temple of Osiris
82 PT
81 Escape Goat 2
80 Road Not Taken
79 Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN
78 Strider
77 Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball
76 Luftrausers
75 Freedom Planet
74 Velocity 2X
73 Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi
72 Shantae & The Pirate’s Curse
71 Fantasia: Music Evolved
70 Five Nights at Freddie’s 2
69 Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
68 Hatsune Miku Project Diva 2nd F
67 Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call
66 Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
65 Sportsfriends
64 Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
63 Drakengard 3
62 Kirby: Triple Deluxe
61 Divinity: Original Sin
60 Diable III: Reaper of Souls
59 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
58 Super Time Force
57 Littlebigplanet 3
56 Samurai Gunn
55 Super Smash Bros. 3DS
54 Neverending Nightmares
53 This War of Mine
52 Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
51 Captain Toad
50 Astebreed
49 Lords of the Fallen
48 The Evil Within
47 Demon Gaze
46 The Yawgh!
45 Mercernary Kings
44 Nidhogg
43 Tomodachi Life
42 Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
41 Zelda: Hyrule Warriors
40 Child of Light
39 Assassin’s Creed Unity
38 Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
37 Tales of Xillia 2
36 Watch Dogs
35 Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
34 Wolfenstein: The New Order
33 MGSV: Ground Zeroes
32 Destiny
31 D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
30 Earth Defense Force 2025
29 Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
28 Mario Kart 8
27 Towerfall: Ascension
26 Lethal League
25 Titanfall
24 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
23 Sunset Overdrive
22 Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
21 The Walking Dead Season 2
20 Alien: Isolation
19 Far Cry 4
18 Transistor
17 Freedom Wars
16 Shovel Knight
15 Steins;Gate
14 Bravely Default
13 Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
12 South Park: The Stick of Truth
11 Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
10 inFamous Second Son
9 The Banner Saga
8 Bayonetta 2
7 Dark Souls 2
6 Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
5 Super Smash Bros. WiiU
4 The Wolf Among Us
3 Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
2 Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
1 Dragon Age: Inquisition

2014 Game of the Year Awards: Special Categories

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Another year has bit the dust, and here we are to sweep up the ashes.  Our winners (and losers in some cases) follow below. Unless otherwise stated, the following categories were debated by a panel of 7 people until consensus was reached. Naturally, some were easier to agree on that others, but either way, we all hope you enjoy our picks.

Best Non-2014 Gaming Experience (Personal)

This category is designed for us to be able to talk any great standouts from our backlogs, any unfinished episodic games, and early access games that have not officially released yet.

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Paul – Spec Ops / Binary Domain

Thomas – Pokémon Omega Ruby

Zach – I Am Bread

Drew – Chrono Trigger

Isaiah – League of Legends

Brock – Dark Souls

Alex – NES Everything

Most Surprisingly Good (Personal)

This category is for going over the biggest expectation buster (in a positive direction).

EDF2025_02-14

Paul – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Zach – Pix the Cat

Drew – Earth Defense Force 2025

Thomas – Lethal League

Alex – Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky

Brock – Dragon Age: Inquisition

Most Original/Innovative

Most Original/Innovative rewards games that strike out and do something different.

2647023-pt

Winner

P.T.

P.T. definitely does something different. Traversing a hallway over and over noting the changes and going mildly insane was certainly one of the most unique experiences 2014 had to offer.

Runners-up

Velvet Sundown

Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball

Biggest Disappointment (Personal)

Time for the sadness, the games that bummed us out and didn’t live up to the expectations we had for them.

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Drew – Destiny

Brock – Yoshi’s New Island

Paul – Destiny

Zach – Destiny

Isaiah – The Legend of Korra

Alex – Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Thomas – Watch Dogs

Most Addictive (Personal)

These are the games that gripped us and wouldn’t let us go.

MiddleearthShadowofMordor_CaragorRiding_Screenshot

Alex – The Banner Saga

Thomas – Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Drew – inFamous: Second Son

Brock – Dark Souls II

Paul – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Zach – Destiny

Isaiah – Tap Titans

Best Looking Game

We combine all aesthetics, technical proficiency, and art direction to form our category for Best Looking Game. It is as simple as it sounds.

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Winner

P.T.

The game looks like some found footage horror movie. We haven’t seen a more realistic looking game making P.T. our Best Looking game of 2014.

Runners-up

Mario Kart 8

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Best Boss Fights

Many could consider this category somewhat antiquated, but we here at the EXP. Shared podcast still love us a great boss encounter.

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Winner

Freedom Planet

Runners-up

Shovel Knight

The Evil Within

Best Voice Performance

A new category for us this year! Who delivered the best vocal performance of the year?

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Winner

Erin Fitzgerald & Amanda Miller as Junko Enoshima from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Junko’s voice performance was no easy task. No spoilers here, but the fact that two people had to voice her character should be a hint to how much her awesomeness cannot be contained.

Runners-up

Mamoru Miyano as Rintaro Okabe from Steins;Gate

Troy Baker as Pagan Min from Far Cry 4

Best Voice Acting

Where Best Voice Performance looks at only one specific voice acting entry, Best Voice Acting examines the game as a whole and rewards the game with the best vocal talent across the board.

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Winner

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa has an edge due to the sheer impressive amount of voice acting in this half-visual novel experience. The cast is varied with no weak links in the 16+ person cast. Again, Danganronpa has both quality and quantity when it comes to great voice acting making it our winner for this category.

Runners-up

South Park: The Stick of Truth

The Wolf Among Us

Best Multiplayer

In what was our most contentious category at Game of the Half-Year 2014, we had much less strife in selecting our winner here at Full Year. We combine both local and online multiplayer experiences for this category.

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Winner

Super Smash Bros. for WiiU

This was not a shocker. We are pretty big Smash fans, but it was experiencing the game’s 8-player mode that made this category go so much smoother for us this time around. Smash’s greatness as a local multiplayer get together staple is undeniable.

Runner-up

Towerfall: Ascension

Lethal League

Best Amiibo

As Amiibogeddon still strikes fear into the hearts of millions with its crippling supply shortages, we tasked ourselves is deciding which one of the first two waves is the best one. There were no clear parameters for how we determined which one was “The Best One,” so we just argued for a while about the little Nintendo figurines.

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Winner

Luigi

…because of course it is. His pose is perfect and encapsulates everything that is the Man in Green.

Runners-up

Zelda

Fox

Best Music

Best Music includes a game’s soundtrack and how a game uses music.

Winner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaVjR-Br0U8&list=PLboZYijCIApfMuc6TBZPoM_a55SyqMazw&index=106

Bayonetta 2

Honestly, I was not overly impressed by Bayonetta 2’s music as I was playing it. This is likely due to how crazy and over-the-top the game is, so there wasn’t room in my brain to process the music as I running through the game’s onslaught of insanity. However, upon listening to the OST on its own, I was floored. Moon River and Tomorrow is Mine easily steal the show, but the game’s soundtrack is surprisingly diverse and we had to give it to Bayonetta.

Runners-up

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Best Story/Writing

We combine story and writing together for this category because they go hand in hand with each other. For example, though a game like Dragon Age may not have the strongest overarching story, the character-to-character interactions display how well written a game can be despite its story.

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Winner

The Wolf Among Us

The Wolf Among Us won this category for us this year due to how well it all comes together. The courtroom like setting at the end brings all of the game’s decisions back and reminds the player that they have made an impact in this world regardless of how they determined to play. It is this feeling of “mattering” that gave strength to the game’s overall story and writing.

Runners-up

Steins;Gate

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Most Funny/Ridiculous

A game doesn’t have to be funny to be nominated or win this category, if it isn’t then it better be pretty ridiculous. We combine the two adjectives to praise games that essentially aren’t boring.

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Winner

Hatoful Boyfriend

Hatoful Boyfriend is a game where the player is a female human who attends a school for all boys… who just so happen to also be birds (mostly pigeons). It is indeed as stupid and ripe for humor as it sounds. The game perfectly encapsulates what we are going for with this category, and though this category appears to get harder to choose a winner every year, it was clear that Hatoful Boyfriend was easily the most funny and ridiculous game of 2014.

Runners-up

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Best New Main Character

A new generation of consoles typically brings a new wave of great new characters, but that was not the case in Generation 8’s first full year.

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Winner

Bigby Wolf from The Wolf Among Us

Bigby’s strength of character and viewing the world through his eyes made him unforgettable this year. Being an established character where everyone had views of him already then choosing to alter them or feed into the expectations made his role in Fabletown an appealing one for players.

Runners-up

Rintaro Okabe from Steins;Gate

Zero from Drakengard 3

Best Secondary Character

A main character cannot stand alone. Most video game protagonists are blank voids for the player to project themselves on, so typically story-heavy games have strong supporting casts. This year was no different. 2014 was full of rich casts and top-notch secondary characters.

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Winner

Nagito Komaeda from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

It was a surprisingly easy decision to give the honors to Nagito. Though one NEEDS to have played Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc to get the most out of Danganronpa 2, it is the continuity between the games that adds so much to Nagito’s character. His name is an anagram for the player character in the first game, and he resembles him as well. Danganronpa 2 is chock full of moments where the player asks, “What is happening!?” And most of those moments come directly from Mr. Komaeda.

Runners-up

Reggie Rowe – inFamous: Second Son

Junko Enoshima – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Most Memorable Moment (Personal)

*SPOILERS!!!* Our most memorable moments of the year follow. Some are sad, some are happy, all are stand-out moments from the year.

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Drew – Reggie’s end in inFamous: Second Son

Thomas – The end of episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us

Alex – Realizing what it means to return to the prime timeline in Steins;Gate

Isaiah – Realizing what it means to return to the prime timeline in Steins;Gate

Zach – The Alien, from Alien: Isolation

Paul – The series of insane happenings that is the end of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Brock – Besting the Dark Souls II DLC

*END SPOILERS*

Most Anticipated Game of 2015 (Personal)

What is going to rev our engine in 2015?

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Thomas – The Order 1886

Zach – The Division

Brock – Hyper Light Drifter

Drew – Kingdom Hearts 3

Paul – No Man’s Sky

Isaiah – Heroes of the Storm

Alex – Persona 5

2014 is the year of …

Our last category (other than Best Game) is what defined the year that was 2014. 2014 wasn’t the best year for games, but what was it that made it that way?

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Winner

Hype Train Derailed

The new consoles brought with them unbelievably high hopes; hopes that were, in many cases, dashed to pieces. Games like Watch Dogs, Destiny, Assassin’s Creed Unity, among others failed to live up to expectations. Even the “good” triple-A games all came with caveats, inFamous: Second Son and Dark Souls II were far from the pinnacle of their respective series; Titanfall had a campaign that was joke, the Halo: Master Chief Collection is a burning ruin of online technical problems, and Platinum Games put out their worst game to date with The Legend of Korra.  The failures at the top of the game’s industry allowed for smaller titles to take center stage, and boy did they step it up. Indie games flourished while the triple-A’s floundered.

Runners-up

The Vita!

Great Multiplayer (both online and off)

Stayed tuned for our ranked list of ALL THE GAMES we played from 2014 coming shortly.

Alex’s Top 10 Games of 2014

It was a fairly weak year. 2014 was filled with broken games, massive disappointments due to outrageous expectations, and sparse few excellent, top-notch games with a positive general consensus. That being said, 2014 was packed to the gills with worthwhile experiences. I could easily list 80 games that are worth playing, and at least 30 that I would consider “great.” So, I have been saying that the year is weak at the top and strong at the bottom. In other words, there were many great games, but few rise above the rest.

Gazing at my personal Top 10 for the year, a couple things become immediately clear. My top 5 games are all mainly there for their strength of narrative. Story is important to me. The interactive nature of video games offers a solely unique experience that cannot be replicated by simply watching something. Feeling like an agent in a game’s world with either immediate or latent results is specific to games, and that is a part of what makes the medium so special to me. The back half of the list (6-10) focuses more on gameplay. These are games after all, and gameplay is still most certainly king, but was the good characters and storytelling that I valued most in the games that I played from the year of 2014.

10. Bravely Default

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One quick honorable mention for Dark Souls II; the decision to cut it was more difficult than the actual game, but it came down to having a worst game of its series in my top 10 or give credit where it is due.

Square Enix finally did something right.  By getting back to their roots, Bravely Default is essentially a Super Nintendo Final Fantasy game in all but name. The game’s deep and rewarding job system allowed for endless amounts of experimentation. Finding the best jobs for each character and seeing the cool outfits went a long way for carrying the game for 40+ hours. Add in a bizarre story with an amazing twist written by one of the minds behind the thrillingSteins;Gate, and you have memorable experience that still occupies headspace 10 months after release.

9. inFamous: Second Son

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There were a lot of action-adventure, open-world games last year, and it wasinFamous: Second Son that I enjoyed the most. I rarely replay games, and I played through Second Son twice. Part of that is due to how little side content was available, but though there was not a ton to do, what was there was an absolute blast. The core gameplay was tight, the powers were fun to play around with, and the game was gorgeous. Of course, the game is not without its problems, but many of the games that came after it were disappointing leaving inFamous near the top of my list of games for 2014. Bottom line:Second Son is just fun and that was enough.

8. Bayonetta 2

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Many games from 2014 inspired mixed feelings. Bayonetta 2 is one of those for me. I typically value a game’s originality and innovativeness in a Game of the Year list, and Bayonetta 2 does not offer much different from the original other than a haircut.

The first Bayonetta is easily one of the best of its kind, and Bayonetta 2 is more of what made the first game excellent. The character-action game is one of my favorite genres and Bayonetta 2 is not only the best one of 2014, but joins the Platinum elite as one of the pinnacles of action games. The story is a joke and the characters are terrible, but the silky smooth action and insane happenings on screen still make for one of the best experiences of the year.

7. Super Smash Bros. for WiiU

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The 3DS version of Smash 4 murdered my hype for the WiiU version. We already knew what was going to be in it, and there we were stuck with an inferior version of essentially the same game. If it wasn’t for it being on 24/7 in the apartment, I’m not sure where Smash would have landed on this list. I kept playing and playing it though. Eventually, my love for the series reemerged, whether it was due to the 8-player chaos, ridiculously challenging amiibos, or lovable cast of new characters, Smash had me wrapped around its finger again by the end of the year.

6. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky

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Atelier Escha & Logy was my first Atelier game, and it seems that I have been missing out. The two previous games in the series have remakes that have either been announced or are already out with the improvements that Escha & Logy added. I’m not sure how much better Escha & Logy is over the other entries, but I do know that it is fantastic game that made for one of the freshest gaming experiences I had in 2014. The diversity of gameplay and emphasis on time management made it an addictive formula that I couldn’t pull myself away from. The characters are interesting, but overarching story is little on the weak side. Mechanically, Escha & Logy is near perfect in my book. If developer, Gust, can tell a worthwhile tale simultaneously, we’ll have a real contender on our hands.

5. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

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I had high expectations for Danganronpa due to the pedigree of the developer. Spike Chunsoft has crafted some of my favorite games (999, Virtue’s Last Reward), and we were fortunate enough to get two masterworks from them this year, plus the decent ATLUS published Conception II. Danganronpadelivered on my expectations. Though, it’s probably not as good as their Zero Escape games, Trigger Happy Havoc takes much of what makes those games great and injects an enormous amount of personality, dark humor, and excellent music. It is the oddball personalities of characters, the strength of the game’s antagonist, and mystery surrounding Hope’s Peak Academy that propels players through this delightfully dark adventure.

4. The Wolf Among Us

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I didn’t think TellTale could top their work on The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us might just do that. The two games are good for different reasons. I feel that The Wolf Among Us tells a much more cohesive and satisfying narrative, but The Walking Dead S.1&2 are chock full of memorable moments and painful choices. Both games are a win for the developer and here’s to hoping they can keep up their momentum, which is certainly no easy task. The Wolf Among Us comes together so beautifully, tying together all the past decisions of the game into one climatic showdown that other games of this type need to take note of how well the finale is executed.

3. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

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That’s right; these games are good enough to take two spots on my top 10 list. Though it was tempting to combine them to make space for another game, each Danganronpa game is enough to stand against the best of what the triple “A” side of the industry has to offer.

Danganronpa 2 edged out the first game for me for just how good of sequel it is. It knows what you know, it knows what you expect, and it will abuse those expectations with no mercy. Outside of maybe Metal Gear Solid 2, I don’t think I have played a game that manipulates its player’s thoughts and emotions so well. It is impressive what has been done with Danganronpa 2, and it easily one of the weirdest and most engaging game stories I have yet to encounter. Some nice gameplay additions, a streamlined investigation phase, and a great remixed soundtrack make Goodbye Despair something everyone needs to say hello to.

2. The Banner Saga

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For a while there, I thought the first game of 2014 that I beat was going to be my favorite. It was close. The Banner Saga presses a lot of the right buttons for me. A unique turn-based strategy system with a heavy emphasis on risk and reward? Check. An amazing story with strong characters, multiple endings, and branching dialogue options? Check (X3). A stunning art style paired with a soundtrack from a Grammy-nominated composer?  You bet.

What made The Banner Saga so memorable for me though was how brutal it was in theme, mechanically, and through its story and choices. Do you upgrade your favorite character to make the battles easier or save your renown to buy food and keep the caravan’s numbers up? That is only one of the multitudes of decision on offer in The Banner Saga, and none of them are easy, but oh, are they endlessly intriguing.

1. Dragon Age: Inquisition

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Well, after thinking on it, 2014 has been the easiest it has ever been for me to choose my Game of the Year. Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favorite games of last generation, and I’m one of those weirdos that actually likes Dragon Age II, so maybe it was inevitable for Dragon Age: Inquisition to take my top honors for the year.

There was no question about it. With most triple “A” titles being at least somewhat disappointing, it was easy for Dragon Age to emerge the victor. Nothing can match its scale, depth of gameplay, strength of characters, story, and breadth of its world. If you take on individual pieces, sure, Dragon Age is not the best. I’d take Atelier on pure gameplay. I’d want Danganronpa’s cast.Guilty Gear Xrd’s soundtrack is awesome. But when taken as a whole, nothing is even on Inquisition’s level, nothing can compare, and nothing comes close.

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.

Derek’s Top 10 Games of 2013

For a disclaimer, these are my top ten games. I chose these games because of the boundaries they tried to push, and the unique experience that you can have while playing them. All of these games impressed me, and I tried to pick different games that were not in the same genre or had the same feel, but here it is: the games that defined 2013 for me!

10. Tearaway

What a game! Short and sweet, and not gimmicky like I was thinking it was going to be. This game throws you into a paper world and it is hard not being curious what is around the next bin. Getting a message to yourself has never been more fun. Bending, poking, moving, and coloring the world to complete your adventure.  All of this is done by using all of the functions from the Vita, this is a must play game!

9.Injustice: Gods Among Us

I love comic books, and I love super heroes! I didn’t think there would be a fighting game that even came close to Marvel vs. Capcom (Since I am a huge Marvel fan), but I was wrong. All the characters play differently and they also have some really cool super moves! Besides the awesome presentation, there is actually a really good story in the 1 player mode! Who would have thunk!

8. The Stanley Parable

Look, It’s a game! It’s a interactive story! It’s… It’s… I don’t know how to explain this. The Stanley Parable is a game that reminds me of playing Portal, with it’s funny quotes and some tongue in cheek humor. This game was a blast to play and it has so many endings. It is a good way to spend the day if you feel like a light-hearted romp through the office cubicles that gradually turns into an adventure. This game is really unique and opens doors to what a game can be.

7. Dragon’s Crown

I will be honest, this game did not interest me one bit when I first heard about it. I was wrong, and I am glad my brother bought this game. Being an artistic person I was drawn to art of this game! It has a pretty good story and the replayability is extremely high. With it being a 4 player game and having a ton of characters to choose from, this game is a must for a unique dungeon crawling experience.

6. Tomb Raider

To reboot a game and try to create a beginning to an already famous character can be a risky idea.  This game does the Tomb Raider series justice, for it never has a dull moment and the graphics are amazing! The story is great and the ending sequence is one of the best parts of the game. This game is just flawless on what it does, and don’t get me started on those death scenes!

5. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

This game could have been the best RPGof all time, but instead it settled for being an amazing game. Having seen most of the Miyazaki films I was compelled to try this RPG out. (I really hate RPGs) The story was great and I really did like the instrumental score that surrounded this game, but my favorite part was the combat system. Instead of sticking with the old turned based style, Ni No Kuni tries something different. Is it perfect? No, but it kept me on my toes and made me concentrate every single moment.  If not, the game would eat me up and spit me out. This game is NEATO!

4. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

After the first Assassin’s Creed game I felt like the franchise was going downhill, there wasn’t much that made any of the games stand out from one another, except for the amount of bugs/glitches. This was true until Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag came out.  This game has so many positives going for it, and that it is one of the best games to get for the 2 new systems. Manning a ship and doing what a pirate does is what this game is all about.  So grab your rum and pour some salt water on yourself, ARRR it should be a good time!

3. Battlefield 4

Man this game should have been tested more….. but other than that this game is amazing! After a handful of patches this game finally sees the light and performs almost smoothly. With HD graphics and 60 fps on the PS4 this game is a power house to be reckoned with on multiplayer. Not to mention that there are 64 players playing on each map! The maps on this game are amazing! There is barely any level that I truly hate and they are all really creative.  I can spend hours upon hours on this game and always find something new, and because of this, this is a game that is a must or if someone is looking for a game worth your money.

2.  Grand Theft Auto V

This game is jaw dropping incredible. Rockstar has crammed everthing you could imagine into this game and more. With a good story and a creative way to play through the campaign, the game pushes boundaries  on what sandbox games can be. After the campaign is done you can jump online with some friends and start a gang of your own. Your buds can steal cars, planes, or even rob banks. The online mode gives this game extra life and is a much appreciated mode.

1.  The Last of Us

Holy cow… That is what I said at the end of this game when the credits started rolling. I haven’t been moved by a game for a while, and this game mad me tear up and laugh. With dynamic character dialogue and wonderful character developments, this game had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. With a wonderfully dark world to rummage around you get to control a character that you like but hate at the same time. I was conflicted many times, but my favorite character was Ellie. I loved her passion and spunk she always seemed to have, and it made the game a lot more believable. Whoever wrote the script to this game, I just want to give them a big hug. The gameplay is great and I found only one bug in the game for the many hours I played it.  This game dug a spot in my gaming heart that can never be moved or forgotten. Just like the first time playing Star Fox 64 or seeing Mario in 3D for the first time, this game is just too amazing to be put into words.

Thomas’ Top 10 Games of 2013

10. Dragon’s Crown

Dragon’s Crown was one of those games that just felt great and looked great while playing it. This is one of the only true local multiplayer games that I have played this year. On top of that reason, I enjoyed it as well. The game had a lot to offer in individual gameplay, even when it came to playing with others. The weapon allocation and ability upgrade systems were both very interesting in ways that the game made every part of your gameplay somewhat strategic. I loved the art style above all else with a detailed depictions of abandoned castles and other medieval era structures. I found the fighting in the game to be very satisfying when your weapons looked powerful and seemed to dish out damage equivalent to their looks. The game’s dialogue between the player and NPC’s were well thought out. This game gave me a sense of extreme power as every medieval-fantasy game should give to its players, and I thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience. This game didn’t immerse me quite as much as I wanted it to, but I do think the music made the game feel more epic at least. This game is by far one of the most underrated games of the year from what I have seen thus far, and it should be recognized by more people.

9. Tomb Raider

I hardly have to convince anyone why this game managed to make my top ten. Tomb Raider was easily in the top side of the visually impressive games of this year. This breathtaking game made an impression on me through its constant drive for the player to survive as a single woman on a very strange and messed-up island. Although I hate quick time events in almost everything, this game presented its in such a way that made the game become more intense, as long as you didn’t miss it repeatedly that is. I found the upgrades and the usage at campfires as a unique system for the player to experiment with.  It was a good way to pause the real gameplay and allow the player to sort through their thoughts and upgrade their weapons and abilities at the same time. The game was easily the most dynamic game I have played when it came to overall presentation, specifically during climatic ending sections of a chapter. Overall, the gameplay, graphics, game designs were superbly done, and the game deserves praise for it.

8. Metro: Last Light

There are many reasons to place Metro: Last Light in my top ten. The first reason on the list of pros is the fact that it was the most immersive FPS I have ever played. The environment and general game quality astounded me from the start. This game took you into the life of a man living underneath the surface of a post-apocalyptic world in every way possible. The game showed the time and work that the developers put into the game through the intense battles between man and beast alike. The game never bored me and mostly kept me on the edge of my seat for the majority of the game. The gameplay was refreshing considering how it is in one the most overused genres in the gaming landscape. The level design, especially with the mutated monsters, was always wonderfully delivered and kept you anxiously looking for the next enemy around each and every dark corner. The writing and voice acting are a large part of what makes this game go from good to great. This game makes you feel like you’re in the game, holding the gun and making the decisions whether to engage the enemies or simply walk around them. The sneaking sections, which happen throughout most of the game, are what make this game just all the better. What Metro: Last Light achieved for me was something that actually scared me. I have always been unimpressed with the games that were meant to scare you, namely Dead Space 3 on a personal note. I have finally found a game that literally forced me to become paranoid and frightened about what was coming up. When I would walk into the next dark tunnel, I would feel some degree of stress every single time. This game maintained immersion better than any game I have played in my life. This game was a surprising favorite for me and earned itself a top spot in my list of favorites.

7. Ni No Kuni

This game holds a special place in my heart when it came to a game that I truly enjoyed tinkering with. This game is on the longer end of titles I have played this year, which I wasn’t too excited about committing to. I guess this proves that I truly am an Omni gamer when it comes to what I like to play, even though I do find myself in one genre more than others at times. I came into this game dreading the length of time I would have to put into it to complete it. I wasn’t necessarily excited to begin it, but once I started to really get into the nit and grit of this game I could not stop. The art style was easy on the eyes and the gameplay felt very open. I enjoyed the freedom to wander about the game as I moved from one town to the next through places like woods and bogs. The game’s music while in the field was soothing and had a feel of adventure to it. I enjoyed the fighting even when the opponents where unreasonably hard to beat or extremely too easy. The story was fine and suitable to the main character. I never once felt bored, and at times, I would find myself doing quests and nearly falling asleep at the controller due to the time I had put in for that sitting. I plowed through this game, all the way up the last section, where I then proceeded to search for side quests to bump up my load outs on each character. I felt immersed and engrossed with the gameplay and every aspect of the game altogether. I cannot express how much I loved playing this game and learning more and more about each and every one of my playable characters. The game was whimsical and almost as if dreamed up by a kid. I loved the design of the duality of the worlds and how they were intertwined with each other. It was overall a great game that I would recommend to anyone and to all ages. I would recommend this title as a good gateway game for anyone new to gaming.

6. Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock has always been a series that had piqued my interest, and I was excited for the third installment that ended up being my introduction into the series. I am relatively new to the series and I was not disappointed in what I got out of the game. I had some expectations coming in, and I found that every one of them was met, if not overly met. I enjoyed the style of the gameplay even for a FPS, and I enjoyed the design of Elizabeth’s rift manipulation ability and the beauty of Columbia as a whole. This game kept me guessing throughout, and I never was bored with any of it. It was engaging and a pure delight to play through. I enjoyed it so much that I beat it in two sittings. I felt the weight of the decisions that the game offered, whether or not the game was actually affected by them or not. I also found the story to be the most interesting of the year for me, due to the “what the heck” side of the narrative. The whole multi-universe idea blew my mind and I still am somewhat confused as to what exactly happened at the end. That may sound like a bad point, but it was something that made the game for me. I liked the change in pace, for a game to not give me a definitive ending and additionally confuse the heck out of me was refreshing and somewhat fun. This game covers so much stuff when it comes to philosophy and mind-shattering logic that I couldn’t keep up myself on most parts, which leads me to loving this game, and the way it makes you think about basically everything.

5. Tales of Xillia

I know this game won’t be in most people’s top five or even their top ten, but something about this game got me hooked, and that’s why it is sitting where it is in my list. I knew once I had beaten it, that I would be putting it in my top ten. I loved the art style, the game design, and the story. I loved the back and forth retorts made during gameplay, and I loved the overarching story that the game delivered. This game had me absorbed into the story of each character.  I also learned while playing it that the viewpoint of the main character really is dictated by the main character you chose in the form of what parts of the stories you see and what parts that you would if you were to pick the other main character. This is the first game that I have played that no matter which gender or main character you pick, they will both be in the main story of the game whether you like it or not. I found it interesting in the story development when I would see the other main character go off with another character and clearly be able to tell that something had gone down while they conversed in secret or off-screen. This aspect of the game made me want to replay the game over again as the other main character. Considering that, the game was considerably long and it still kept my attention every time I played it. There was clear character development, which is hard to see in most games. I have played only a couple games in the JRPG genre and I have to say this is my favorite. The ending seemed pretty conclusive, yet there is a sequel coming out. I cannot wait to dive into that one as I did its predecessor. I have nothing to complain about this game and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a solid story and emotionally provocative games.

4. The Last of Us

The Last of Us is one of those games that can easily get labeled as just another zombie game, but this is no mere zombie game, and it is nothing like anything that has come before it. The game design is beautiful and fully detailed from every area down to every corner. The amount of work put into this title must have been tremendous, and it makes my head spin thinking about the tedious work that had to have been done to make this game look so good. The game’s story was engaging and the whole theme of survival was stressed at every corner.  The gameplay was fluid and felt as realistic as a video game can get, from the sway of Joel’s gun as you shot at man and zombie alike to the reactions of Ellie when something fell over or she saw a zombie. The game’s little touches made this game into one of the best games I have ever played. Although some things didn’t make sense concerning the AI, I enjoyed the company of Ellie and Tess at the beginning and throughout the game with just Ellie. The things that happened around both Ellie and Joel were enjoyable and completely believable. I never once had thought this game was a simple third person zombie shooter. This game transcended its genre stereotypes and rose to become one of my favorite games of the year.

3. Pokémon X/Y

I have always loved this series, and this game came to be another great addition to the list of wonderfully created Pokémon games. I actually bought a 3DS just to play this title and I remember the excitement I experienced when I had finally opened up the long awaited game I had preordered a month ago at the time. This version of Pokémon took the game series I loved and handed me another addition to it with a little variation to make it its own game. This game looked great on the 3DS and the typical trend of going to Gym after Gym was just as I had remembered. Nostalgia was the main reason I had put this one at my number three spot in my list. I have played every title of the series besides that of the last generation. My knowledge on the series is pretty solid and coming back to it on the 3DS provided new experiences all of its own. I had enjoyed that game like every Pokémon title from previous years and found it lacking in content. Besides being on the 3DS and being in 3D, this title had little to offer in new experiences. Just so you know I only critique it because it is in one of my favorite series. I found the elite four rooms to possibly be my favorite parts of this game. The intricacies and time to build such an elaborate entrance to each of the elite four’s “throne” was what made this game for me as a veteran Pokémon gamer. I simply adore this series and all that stopped this game from being number one was the fact it lacked new content that is essential in each and every Pokémon game.

2. Fire Emblem: Awakening

If there was a game that I was simply impressed with everything as I played it, this was it for me. Fire Emblem was one of the most engrossing games you could ever play. I was emotionally involving with every choice I made when it came to the character development in the game. Due to the nature of marriage in the game, it gave it a good amount of replayability. I found the conversations between the characters I had set up to get married were what made the whole mechanic of marriage so interesting and wonderful. The story was solid and the art style was fantastic. The music and writing were both my favorite parts of the game. This game was addicting, and I never wanted to stop developing relationships with the whole cast of characters. One thing that made me love the game was the way they introduced new playable characters, each new character was unlockable through a quick talk with Chrom, the protagonist, and you can only do so through a battle. The game basically gives you the option to kill or take up the character. I hadn’t known this for the first two optional playable characters and I deeply regret my inaction to gain them as allies. I apparently played the game on the easier of two modes where no one on my team could truly die. What I mean by this is that during battles, even if my teammates were to die there, they would still be in my party after the fight was over. The harder mode actually permanently kills the characters for good for the rest of the game. This made the game much bigger when it came to character-character interaction and conversation possibilities. I thought the gameplay was good, but it wasn’t favorite type of gameplay to say the least. I loved this game and every aspect of this game worked perfectly for each function it served in the mechanics of the game.

1. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

My game of the year was a simple one for me to pick. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was the game that stood at the top of my list purely for the amount of enjoyment I had gotten from the game. I cannot properly express the sheer happiness I had experienced when this game came out. I was by far the most hyped person that I knew for this game. Once I had seen this game at E3, I just knew that I must buy this game at all costs. I was so excited for it; I even went out and ordered the limited edition tin and plasma lamp preorder. The first time I sliced a dude in half and ripped out his cyborg spinal cord was one of the best moments I have had in gaming ever. This game’s ability to make everything seem so real and so awesome just made me want to play it over and over. The only remark I have against it is that it wasn’t long enough. I loved everything about this game from quartering dudes to slicing bosses into hundreds of bits and pieces. Even the quick time events that I dislike were done in such a way that I could care less of what they actually were, and I just enjoyed every moment of the game. The story was good and the boss battles were epic. The scale at which Raiden fought bosses was on a scale of its own. One boss was tens of times bigger than him, and yet he could pick it up and toss it across the battlefield. The graphics were among my favorite, but the gameplay is really what sold me on the game. It was purely one of the goriest games I have ever played, and I loved it for that. This game gave me shivers of joy throughout my whole entire body whenever I did a successful zan-datsu and I will always remember it as the game that I just couldn’t get enough of.

Zach’s Top 10 Games of 2013

10. Gone Home

Gone Home is an amazing game that tells a story that involves your character’s family. Your character never talks with anyone throughout the game and it is up to you to snoop around to find out what exactly everyone has been up to. It has really good lighting and sound design throughout the experience. The story is mainly told through your sister’s journal and it is extended by the clues you gather by searching the house. While some players will be able to figure out the ending of the story before finishing, I found that the game had a rich dramatic story that was beautifully voice acted. Gone Home definitely does not have the action or puzzles that are in current games, but it makes up for it with a unique interactive story that will leave you pleased with the results.

9. Dragon’s Crown

One of the games that kept under a lot of player’s radar this year was Dragon’s Crown. This game had an enchanting personality that kept me going back for more. With some new game mechanics like the “loot system” I found myself strangely addicted to this 2D brawler. The game also featured some of my favorite artwork and music of 2013. Another reason that I enjoyed Dragon’s Crown so much was the unique bosses that were at the end of each level. No boss acted the same and challenged the player to figure out their different weaknesses. Whether I was soloing a dungeon or playing with friends, I always enjoyed my time with this game and expect myself to be playing it a few more times next year.

8. Tomb Raider

I have always loved the Uncharted games and regard them as my favorite franchise to date. So when I heard that there was going to be a new Tomb Raider that looked similar to my beloved franchise I was already on the bandwagon. I have never fully enjoyed a Tomb Raider game in my past and when I bought this game I was hesitant to enjoy it. After the first hour of game play it was safe to say this was a not just another game with a fresh coat of paint on it. Tomb Raider is a fresh new game with realistic characters and a harsh new environment. With fluid cover mechanics and upgradeable inventory system, this game never becomes stale to play. As you witness gruesome death cut scenes and travel through various weather conditions, the persona that was created in this game is a dark and fearful one. Even though the story was average and besides Lara, none of the characters were memorable, Tomb Raider stands out as one of my favorite games of 2013.

 

7. Tearaway

This year the PS Vita did not have many games to add to its library, but one of them did steal my heart and turned it into a living breathing scrap book. There are not a lot of problems in Tearaway. Besides Tearaway’s short story and unneeded combat the game could be considered a perfect game. The game has a beautiful world that had me captivated for the whole 4 hours of gameplay. With its use of colors and intuitive gameplay Tearaway can bring joy to all players that are willing to try it. The puzzles and gameplay do have a childish approach to them but once you view Tearaway from a few steps back you will find a really enjoyable lighthearted game. A big part of Tearaway that I fully enjoyed was that you were actually a character in the game that helped out the protagonist. Whether it was creating something new for the environments or interacting with the world around you the game kept you engaged and part of the action.

6. Outlast

Many horror games have strayed from the path of being what they are supposed to be… SCARY! Many current games involve weapons to receive greater audience attraction. This addition of weaponry, in my opinion, takes away from the fear and gives the player a security blanket to fall back on. In Outlast your character has only a camera to defend him. With having just a camera, the character will have to actually think about how to get out of a predicament and not just shoot away his fear. Outlast has one of the best environments that I have seen in a horror game. From dark water filled sewers to a creepy abandoned psychiatric ward, this game will give you scares where you least expect them. Outlast does produce the occasional jump scare to keep your heart from slowing down, but for most of the time you will be playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the inmates. Throughout the story you will have no way to protect yourself except by running and hiding in different areas in your environment. You will have beds to crawl under, lockers to hide in or dark corners to pray that the enemies will not find you. This game is so simple that it is brilliant. Not focusing on any new types of game mechanics, Outlast just brings an intense environment and a scary hide and seek style of gameplay. Like many other horror games the story in Outlast is just ok and lets you know why you are there but can be ignored. Outlast was one of the most enjoyable and scary games I have played in 2013.

5. Grand Theft Auto V

I know in the past I have stated that I did not care for Grand Theft Auto V, but when I was making my list I was surprised to see it in the number 5 spot.  As I look back on GTAV I find myself more and more impressed with the game as a whole. If you look closely, you will still find some bits and pieces of game mechanics dusted off and reused but as a whole this game brings more to the table than a lot of other games in the franchise.  GTA V not only had one main protagonist but had three for the player to control. This was a game changer for me because if I did not enjoy one character’s story I could switch out of that character and play as someone else. Another factor that game brought in was multiple path missions. You can take on missions differently if you switch to other characters involved in the mission giving you some tactics and diversity in a fight. GTA V also had some of the best writing this year not just because of the humor, but of the scale of writing. Each mission had multiple scripts depending on who you were or how you were performing the mission. These multiple scripts kept me entertained even if I died because they were different after each attempt. With an impressive environment to play in and a prodigious amount of side quests to tack on to the other great features included in this game, I can easily welcome GTA V in my top 5 games of the year.

4. Bioshock Infinite

Throughout this year I had a love hate relationship with Bioshock Infinite. This game does many things great, but a couple of instances that become its Achilles heel. First things first, the story often had holes in it but I rather enjoyed the story as a whole. The use of the different parallel universes was a great idea and created some memorable moments for 2013. The main area where I thought Bioshock Infinite did the best was with its environments. Throughout the whole campaign I would slowly walk through every area looking at posters and listening to all the citizens that had something to say. This was my favorite part of the game and most of it was ruined by a ton of shooting galleries.  Most of the latter half of the game had you running and gunning through the environments making some really cool scenes blur by. The shooting mechanics and all of the super powers were really fun to use and play with, but as I progressed through the campaign I just wanted to immerse myself once again in the flying city. The ending to Bioshock Infinite was one my favorites for 2013, because by the end of the story your mind has been blown and you want to go back to collect all of the pieces to see if that really just happened. With a great environment and a crazy story Bioshock Infinite flew in my number 4 spot.

3. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

I will admit that I did not expect much going into Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. After the less than average ACIII from last year, I believed Ubisoft was just going throw another half-baked Assassins Creed game to the players. After starting an hour of Black Flag I was relieved and refreshed on the path the series was taking. In my opinion Black Flag is a better game in all areas compared to all other Assassin’s Creeds. The game has opened up and has turned into an open world game. This world is living and breathing with animals in the water and on land waiting to kill you. The biggest achievement that this game has under its belt is the feeling of connectivity. As I played the game I felt encouraged to perform and collect everything because it helped out many areas of gameplay.  For a long time I have played games with side quests that just gave you a check mark or a percent added to your total save but in Black Flag you will get that and much more. The game’s glitches throughout the story have been greatly reduced from ACIII. I found a few issues, but nothing that stopped me from enjoying the game. This game is so much fun that I am actually trying to complete the whole game which I have never done after playing an Assassin’s Creed story. With this amazing world and enjoyment around every island, it was hard not to put this game in first place for the year.

2. Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening was this first game I have played in this series so I had no idea what I was getting into. After the first cut scene and first battle I found myself enjoying this game immensely. With every match I was encouraged to use pairings of characters to make a powerful team to use against my enemies. This option alone of pairing your allies left my head spinning with so many options. If that was not enough, Awakening also brought in future relationship’s offspring. This let the player have many more options on characters that could join the team. The strongest area that Fire Emblem possessed is its writing. Every character had writing for different relationships which brought a lot of heart and personality to the game. Even the side characters that you acquire have full scripts that talk to each other. Another item that had me enjoying this game for hours is the class system. Every character can change their class with the use of certain items. This chance to choose classes gives the player an incredible diversity for his or her group. With all of the choices, solid gameplay and stellar writing, Fire Emblem climbed the ranks and became one of my favorite games in 2013.

1. The Last of Us

I am a huge fan of Naughty Dog, so when I heard they were making another game I was super excited about it and again they do not let me down. The Last of Us was a visceral experience that had me on an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. This game was beautifully made, well thought out and was enjoyable for every second. The game had an amazing voice cast with a great writing staff to back them up. The story itself is a little predictable, but takes some twists and turns that I really enjoyed. I am so used to zombies and a huge brown and grey wasteland setting that I was amazed to see the setting s in The Last of Us. With plants overgrown and forests taking over cities the game was littered with detail and different colors than I was expecting. The game play is very similar to the Uncharted series so I felt right at home. The main difference to this game is that you are more “human”. No longer is your character making witty comments or laughing through piles of dead men. Instead the kills feel darker and your ammo is limited. This limited ammo causes the player to think before they act, and I thought it made me think differently before engaging a room full of enemies. There is not much to complain about this game except usually side characters are never noticed by enemies. This was a plus for me, because I really did not want to play an escort game. With such a great story, fun gameplay and a mix of horror and stealth elements it is easy to say that Naughty Dog has created another masterpiece.

Alex’s Top 10 Games of 2013

I completed over 75 games and got hands on with over 105 total that were released in 2013.  Narrowing that gargantuan list down to a mere 10 seems silly, but that is how the convention goes.  2013 has been a little weird, and I have been trying to nail down exactly why.  Typically, at least in years past, I am willing to defend my top 10 tooth and nail with conviction and confidence in my choices. This year, however, I was left with my “Solid 7” and exactly 16 other games that I would be completely satisfied with having in my top 10 games of 2013.  Needless to say, it was a strong year, certainly better than 2012.  So it is either there were not enough games to really grab me this year, or too many to easily choose from.  It is probably a little of both.  Well, anyway here it goes.  The following are my Top 10 experiences of 2013.

10. Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Honestly, I didn’t see this coming myself.  I am a very strange person.  I attempt to rank my top 50 games of the year as early as the end of first quarter every week in order to track my opinion of games over time.  When going back over the data, Splinter Cell: Blacklist fell out of my top 10 in October and has not made it back until this present list.  There is a more extreme example of this coming up later, but I was hoping to reveal why this was a surprise to me in the first place.

What it comes down to is that Blacklist had less that I didn’t like about it than other top 10 contenders.  A fairly convincing argument I know, but hey, I told you it was a weird year.  I have enjoyed every Splinter Cell game; Splinter Cell: Conviction was even my number 11 in 2010.  The stealth-action hybrid that Blacklist brings to the table is as engaging as it was in Conviction, but brings back the unforgiving nature of the earlier games.  This difficulty boost made for a very engaging experience.  The games as a whole felt like a large production and that Ubi is putting some deserved faith in their best stealth franchise.  It might want to be Mass Effect at times with the conversation camera angles and the upgradeable ship.  Again, there was very little that I didn’t like about Splinter Cell: Blacklist.  It simply is another entry in a franchise that I greatly enjoy, and apparently that is all it takes to make my top 10 this year.

9. Tomb Raider

I thought I was going insane earlier this year.  First, I enjoyed a Gears of War game. Second, I essentially enjoyed an Uncharted game.  This might make a little more sense with a little context.  I hate third-person cover-based shooters. I mean hate them.  I consider the Uncharted games to the most overrated games of the generation.  The mechanic of waiting for little enemies heads to pop up is basically just whack-a-mole with guns minus the excitement.  Waiting as a gameplay mechanic is not fun or engaging. Period.  That goes for the Thwomps in any Mario game, and waiting for NPCs to catch up in The Last of Us or Call of Duty in order to proceed with the game. Gross. I hate it.

So, what does any of this have to do with Tomb Raider?  I consider Tomb Raider to be the best Uncharted game that I have played.  It might not have as memorable of characters, but at least it was intensely fun to play.  It also innovates in the cover mechanic department.  Lara gently hides behind cover and is never glued to one spot patiently waiting for melon shaped targets to enter her field of view.  She can move freely and more dynamically making each combat encounter infinitely more fun that those of Gears and Mr. Drake’s misadventures.  She could not elude the lame third-person linear platforming that plagues Uncharted and Enslaved, but no one can be perfect I suppose.

Perhaps Tomb Raider’s greatest victory and most compelling element was its setting of the setting.  Aside from maybe Metro: Last Light (which barely missed making this list), it was Tomb Raider that presented the world that I felt most immersed in this year.  I got lost in the island, well, not lost as in not knowing where to go due to the generally wonderful environmental design, but sunk in and absorbing everything the game world had to offer.  I was invested in the atmosphere. I was enjoying the combat.  The story was okay.  I certainly enjoyed my time with Tomb Raider much more than I had anticipated, and it is definitely one of the best games of 2013.

8. State of Decay

What!?  Even after having completing the game, I never expected this game to make my top 10 of the year. In fact, this is the first time this year State of Decay has finished in my top 10.  It was only due to deep concentration and thinking about what it is that I value in games that brought State of Decay to the forefront of my mind again.

I had a terrible first impression of State of Decay.  I played the Xbox 360 demo and was woefully unimpressed.  Technically, the game was nightmare. The pop-in is ridiculous, the voice-acting is below average, and gameplay seemed underdeveloped and worse, uninteresting. Talk about a game that does not demo well!  The demo does not allow for the player to fully appreciate what it is that State of Decay brings to the table.  In looking over the 16 games vying for my last three spots, massive open world games like Assassin’s Creed IV and Grand Theft Auto V did not offer enough that was new, interesting, and entertaining, whereas State of Decay was oozing original ideas in spades.  That is when it hit me that my time with State of Decay was more enjoyable than either of those two mega triple A games.  State of Decay also did not have missions where I had to literally mop the floor, operate a crane, or follow two people talking fifty times.  Again, this is sort of a case of me finding more wrong in games like Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed IV than in State of Decay, but SoD can certainly stand on its own merits.  Its base/community management simulation is nothing short of inspired and is excellently executed in implementation.  State of Decay is a mechanics heavy experience.  Characters control slowly and deliberately, until they level up their respective skills.  This made losing my two best characters within an hour of each other exceptionally painful. Having to start back at level 1 with other characters was a welcomed challenge, however.  The game was never too difficult and despite the absence of my leveled-up super-humans, I managed to the complete the game and immediately start it over again. Thinking of where I will make my base this time, and maybe I’ll try to complete some of the interesting side quest lines I was unable to finish in my initial run.  State of Decay offers unique mechanics in a tired atmosphere at the end of console cycle, and deserves to be commended for its successes, not ignored for its technical shortcomings.

7. Shin Megami Tensei IV

I do not think that I can say or type the name of this game without making an audible “YUM” or “MMHMM” sound.  I really like SMTIV.  I have my problems with SMTIV, and those are only narrative based, due to being compared to the other games in the continually growing Shin Megami Tensei extended universe.  I can easily say that my review for SMTIV is the one that I put the most work and effort into in order to convey why this game is masterful in its refinements of the SMT JRPG formula.  Shin Megami Tensei IV does so much right.  All of the changes the game makes enhances the experience for veterans and makes it more accessible to those not as familiar with the universe.  That by no means equates with this being an easy game.  It is assuredly not as demanding as its big brother Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, but it is no slouch in the difficulty department.  Some would argue that the game needed a subtitle like III did (Nocturne), and I largely agree.  Why Shin Megami Tensei IV resonates with me so hard is the satisfaction that the gameplay delivers.  The constant leveling and fusing of demons means things never get old and something is constantly changing.  The App system allows for such a level of customization that the game then possesses a huge amount of replayability to boot (for more reasons than the multiple endings).  I could go on and on about this one (and I do in my review), but I’ll cut myself a little short here and end with discussing The Passage of Ethics.

The player is in an unfamiliar environment that is hostile territory about two thirds of the way through the game and falls into a trap.  This trap door leads to perhaps the best moments of the game.  A voice comes over the monitor of the person you were sent to kill, and the person begins to bombard the player character with moral dilemmas.  The player answers by walking left or right. These questions and the scenario as a whole play right into the thematic elements present in the game.  An example is as follows: “You are the chief of a village that lived the same way for 1,000 years. One day, a man visits your village, carrying with him revolutionary technology.  This technology would greatly ease your people’s lives, but would also do away with their current lifestyle. What would you do?” Go right, in order to preserve tradition and stability.  Go left, to embrace the technology.  The player’s party members comment on each question and they make a case for each choice.  It is a fun and self-reflective process that more games should embrace.  Mmmmmmm… meaningful choices in videogames, delicious.

6. The Last of Us

Well, I can’t believe I now have to say something positive about a Naughty Dog game.  I suppose now would be the time to also mention that Jak II is pretty good.  I started it earlier this year and look forward to getting back to that strange game that appears to be worlds better than its predecessor.  Enough of delaying the inevitable, The Last of Us is a fine game; one that I greatly enjoy, in fact.  It feels like a response to their Uncharted games.  Uncharted is a colorful Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider rip starring a happy-go-lucky mass murderer, and The Last of Us is a raw and brutal tale of a much smaller scale, but it comes across as much more personal and heartfelt… more real.  It is this incredible sense of sincerity that makes The Last of Us so hard not to like and be impressed by.  Its characters are authentic, their motives murky and unclear, and their experience is crushing and is one of the most genuine the medium has to offer.  I ran into a lot of technical issues with The Last of Us, but none of them matter when compared to the experience as a whole.  Go play this brilliant, dark masterpiece.

BioShock_Infinite_Columbia_Propaganda

5. Bioshock Infinite

As popular as it is to hate on Bioshock Infinite since a week after its release, I liked Bioshock Infinite and still do.  I played through it twice.  Yeah, that triple ghost-boss mom thing was not the best sequence, but at least there was some good narrative back-story and reveals during the 60+ minute section of the game.  And that is what Bioshock Infinite is all about: its world and its story.  Sure, most multiverse theories and stories fall apart under a magnifying glass, but the one presented within Bioshock Infinite was engrossing, entertaining, and engaging.  The romp through a racist Disneyworld is exhilarating with some new gameplay mechanics including the Skyline, which is essentially a personal roller coaster for the denizens of Columbia.  The core gameplay itself, though hardly innovative (outside of the tears and skylines) is more than good enough, and is still defining when compared to most other FPSs.  In short, Bioshock Infinite is among the best examples of what a story driven FPS should look like.

4. Pikmin 3

Pikmin 3 is the game that I gave the highest score during 2013 (9.3).  It is probably the closest thing to perfection that I experienced this year.  There is nearly nothing that I would change about it. My biggest gripe is that there was not enough of it, clocking in around 9 hours; my time with Pikmin 3 went by all too quickly.  It was a delightful and amazing 9 hours though.  The advancement of having three playable characters at once added a great deal to the possibilities that emerge from Nintendo’s only real-time strategy game.  The WiiU GamePad makes up for where many console RTSs fail with simple touch controls and an accessible map in order to best utilized one’s time and gather the most fruit.  The boss fights were fun and exciting, the two new types of Pikmin added a lot to the potentialities in gameplay and enemy designs, and the game is just beautiful to behold both visually and experientially.  Pikmin 3 is a wonderful game that kept me delighted and engaged throughout its entirety, and for me, it does not get much better than that.

3. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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What I said at Game of the Half Year still stands: “If gameplay or fun factor were all that mattered in games, then my Game of the Year will definitely be Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.”  The most visceral, engaging, and absolutely captivating game I played this year was provided courtesy of Platinum Games.  It is just the game is so short.  So, so, very short.  I gave it a second run-through on Hard and have been meaning to go through it again on Very Hard, perhaps some time in 2014.  The “Blade-Mode” mechanic is similar to Bayonetta’s “Witch Time,” but the player can then cut the enemy into literally hundreds if not thousands of pieces.  The brutal gameplay (MGR:R is likely the most violent game I have played) is further enhanced and accentuated by the game’s killer soundtrack.  As a fan of harder rock music, MGR:R’s music is some of my favorite of the year.  The story is unsurprisingly ludicrous when looking at other Platinum and Metal Gear games, it almost seems like a match made in heaven.  Two crazy forces colliding and providing one of the deepest political critiques to come from a game in some time, if not ever is surprising, however.  The writing is solid enough, and certainly insane.  Revengeance probably has the worst narrative in a Metal Gear game, but the worst story for a Metal Gear game is still better than most other game stories. It was enough to win our “Game of the Half Year” award in “Best Story/Writing.”  When putting this all together it becomes quite impressive: insanely fun combat, some of the best music of the year, and some of the best writing/story of the year.  Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an extraordinary testament to what Platinum can do in so little time.  Here’s to hoping they get another shot at the new sub-series.

2. Pokemon X/Y

I love Pokemon.  I always have since I popped in Blue Version in a friend’s Gameboy those many years ago.  In keeping in the theme of “2013, what a weird year for games,” I might go as far to say that Pokemon X/Y is the worst entry in the core franchise.  It would be confident saying that it has the worst story and the worst music of the six generations.  It has the least number of new Pokemon, the stuff with the friends (all four of them) errs on the side of cheesiness, and only half the game is in 3D.  All that being said, it is still Pokemon.  The core gameplay and collect ‘em all itch still very much serve their purposes.  The new Pokemon that were introduced were largely excellent and the new type is a game changer.  So yeah, I’m saying that the worst entry in the core Pokemon series is my second favorite game of the year, weird, I know.  Because I keep track of these things, Pokemon X/Y is the game that consumed more of my time than any other this year.  I completed both X and Y, with different restraints on myself both times.  First, I could only use new Pokemon. Second time through, I could not use any Pokemon given to me other than my original starter.  Pokemon X/Y is a great game that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I was little let down after Black & White’s incredibly strong characters and narrative.  It seems like Nintendo and Game Freak’s minimal gamble on appealing to “lapsed” Pokemon fans has paid off. It is hard to know what they will do next in order to keep them hooked on their “catch ‘em” fever.

1. Fire Emblem: Awakening

As I write this I am halfway through my second playthrough of Fire Emblem: Awakening.  I had to be sure. I am now confident that it is good enough to be my Game of the Year.  I restarted it today and could not put it down.  Fire Emblem: Awakening has so many good things going for it.  My favorite segments being the conversations that emerge between characters that battle together making them stronger together in the future.  The core strategy gameplay when played on “Classic,” demands absolute perfection. I recognize the frustration this may cause. I restarted my 3DS over 100 times on my first playthrough.  The satisfaction that arises from that perfection is what makes the game, though.

Awakening has my favorite writing of the year.  The conversations, as I previously stated, are my favorite part of the game and add much to the loss of each individual.  Aside from mere statistical investment, the player becomes invested in the multitude of characters through understanding their quirks and their relational hijinks.  The dating simulation side of this game is oddly captivating.  Gaining new characters and first thing wondering who they would be best paired with for marriage is a strange feeling upon further reflection.  Story in games has been becoming more and more important to me over time.  Though Awakening’s story is not its strongest component, it has some great twists and turns along the way.

As good as Fire Emblem: Awakening’s story/writing is, ultimately, gameplay is king.  Fire Emblem has always been a strong series when it comes to deep and rewarding mechanics, permadeath being core to that experience.  Awakening is much more accessible and offers a casual mode.  The presentation is streamlined and feedback loop on the gameplay is addicting.  Numbers are flying up constantly and there is always a character close to leveling up urging the player to continue for “just one more round.”  The sound design is terrific, and the critical hit sound always induces excitement.  The level design is a little less varied than Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 1 & 2, but the act of trying to keep all one’s characters alive is more than enough to stress the player.  It is the constant upgrading and visible improvements of the characters that make the game so addicting.  When this is paired with the addicting nature of the marriage mechanics and the desire to see as many hilarious conversations as possible, you are left with a product dripping with drug-like potential.  I could simply say: “Fire Emblem: Awakening is the game I had the most fun with, or most addicting, or best written, or has some of the best and most delightful music.” It excels in every area that a game should excel in and then some.  Fire Emblem: Awakening is my favorite game of the year.  It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Even during second time through as I experienced today.  What is good about FE:A? The one word answer would be: Everything.