Looking back at the games released last year, I can’t help but be amazed at the sheer variety we had at our disposal. From new consoles to PC to mobile devices, there were not only a wide range of platforms, but a huge variety of games to play across them. Thinking through all the games that fell into my hands in 2013, I’ve found that my favorites were just as varied, and there were so many more that I simply didn’t get a chance to play. But just because I missed out on some of the biggest titles this year, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some amazing experiences in gaming.
In no particular order, here are my top ten for the year:
The first offering from Chucklefish Games, Starbound is still technically in beta. However, the developers are taking the Minecraft approach and allowing those who buy the game to get access to the game as it develops.. I’ve already spent far too many hours trying out the different races, building settlements and simply exploring. While the game has drawn comparisons to Minecraft and Terraria, I’ve been able to stay hooked on Starbound for much longer. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of surviving, looting the temples and fortresses of natives, and discovering new items that keep the game interesting. And since the game is constantly updating, I cannot wait to see how Starbound will evolve in 2014.
From the first entrance into Columbia, Bioshock Infinite managed to hook me enough that I ended up marathoning the game. The twists and turns that the story took me through had me stunned, and I still have to occasionally digest everything that happened in this game. I really enjoyed the alternate timelines that the game set up, which allowed it to explore some really interesting topics in the process. As the first AAA title to really capture me in 2013, Bioshock really set the bar high.
Media Molecule has mastered the art of creating fun and amusing environments, and Tearaway is no different. The studio’s first foray outside of the LittleBigPlanet series is filled with charm, and is probably one of the best uses of the Vita’s touchpad controls. I enjoyed feeling like I was interacting with the game in a new and unique way. The papercraft theme that runs throughout Tearaway is a real plus, especially since it directly influences the gameplay itself. Adding the ability to collect, print and make the different models in game is a nice little touch, and plays into the connection between the game world and our own all that much more.
Believe it or not, the newest generation of Pokemon games is the first I have been able to call my own. Having never owned a GameBoy as a child, my experiences with the series have been limited to borrowing from friends, and for whatever reason, I was unable to keep an interest. Pokemon X changed that, and I found that I could not put the game down. The new additions to the game made it easier for me to stay interested, and I actually became very attached to my Pokemon team. New features like Pokemon-Amie definitely helped, and the new battle visuals made everything feel much more dynamic.
Part Tetris, part word search, PuzzleJuice was an iPhone app that I had discovered somewhat on accident. Offered as an app of the week at my local Starbucks, I have kept coming back to it as a time filler, but also as a mental workout. The game’s frantic pace requires you to juggle arranging the falling blocks while also clearing out lines by forming words. Its fun and amusing, and challenges you to test both your reflexes and your vocabulary. And if you find a word and don’t actually know what it means, the app allows you to easily look it up.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Trying to explain Animal Crossing to another person makes it sound like a life simulator, but the latest addition to the series feels like so much more. The new responsibilities of being your town’s Mayor add a new dimension to your game, and make you feel as though you get a lot more control over what happens in your town. Being able to travel to other friends’ towns to check out their layouts, villagers and ideas is just as fun, as is heading out to the Island to catch some bugs that can sell for big bells. Plus, villagers are just as fun to get to know, and are part of the reason I kept coming back. Because the last thing I wanted was to discover that Nan had moved while I was away.
Colorful. The first word to come to mind when I think of this game is always that, but Guacamelee is so much more. Filled with Mexican inspired graphics and an awareness of meme humor, this game is a Metroidvania adventure coated in a lot of character. While I played it mostly on my Vita, the cross-platform capabilities made the game just as fun on the big screen. The small little Easter eggs buried in the background with bring a smile to any player’s face as well.
Rogue Legacy was the game that made me remember how bad I can be at platformers, yet still made me want to play. Yes it’s a roguelike, and the ability to watch your lineage change and grow over time was very helpful. The addition of traits, which ranged from colorblindness to gigantism made the game feel so much more dynamic. Each had its own quirks that made playing each time a little more interesting, and added new challenges to each castle run. I’m still not very good, but in this game the goal is to go a little bit longer each time, which sometimes isn’t very long at all.
The latest episodic offering from Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us is a gritty reimagining of classic fairytales. And while it’s only one episode in, it does a fantastic job of incorporating well known characters into the modern world. For fans of the Walking Dead series, its a great new foray into another universe, and will be familiar in how it plays. You can’t forget about the ending of the first episode. This is another game that I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.
There’s no combat here, just simple exploration and discovery, and that’s what makes Gone Home so great. That, and how the game manages to deal with so many difficult issues, but in a way that makes every character involved feel human. Family issues, sexuality, lust, absence, everything plays out through voiced-over journal entries and the items you find in an empty house. The game’s story will feel familiar to almost anyone, and slowly unfurling the tale’s of the home’s residents will keep you glued to the game.