2013 was a great year for variety. Not only did a ton of games come out, but a lot of different genres were represented as well. There really was something for everyone. I didn’t get to play all the games I wanted to (I imagine a good stretch of 2014 will be me trying to catch up), but I did get to play some games with real lasting power – some of these titles are gems I won’t easily forget.
10. Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Lego games are what they are, and boy, do I love cape books. It also helps that this was my first game of the new hardware generation. A Lego game is a natural fit for the PS4’s early theme (polygons and particles everywhere!), and the Marvel branding allows for an overwhelming number of characters. Sure, I mostly sought after Spider-Man and Wolverine when I could, but seeing adorably goofy Lego forms of unexpected characters such as Howard the Duck made dipping out of my superhero comfort zone a worthwhile endeavor.
9. Pokemon X & Y
I’ll always be into Pokemon. Back in “the day,” it was something that was not only fun to play, but also brought people together (much to the chagrin of school faculty). In my much busier adult life, it can be hard to invest time into an RPG, let alone one that wants you to grind up hundreds of potential party members, so the new mechanics tailored for accessibility were exactly what I needed to be able to continue investing into this series. The new visuals and customization options were icing on the cake. Control and camera issues keep this from being higher on the list, but the renewed focus on the core experience helped X & Y stand out to me over some of the other recent Pokemon games.
8. Dynasty Warriors 8
My fascination with Dynasty Warriors started out as more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. All I was doing was mashing the square button, but I was having so much fun! Then, over the years, the series began to grow. With each entry developer Omega Force added more and more depth and nuance into the ostensibly-simple combat, resulting in something I now regard as an evolution of the beat-’em-up genre rather than a sloppy tech upgrade. Dynasty Warriors 8 is the most ambitious core Musou game yet, boasting a steady frame rate and unique animations for a roster of dozens of characters. You can also fight dudes with a boat.
7. Rayman Legends
I’ll always have platforming in my blood, and even though I told myself not to bother getting all of the things in Rayman Legends, I ended up doing it anyway. It helped that Legends is a bit easier than Origins; Origins sated my bloodlust for platforming challenge, but Legends afforded me a similar experience with more frequent opportunities to relax. Beyond that, the new polygons and shading helped Legends look even better than its predecessor, and the new viking princess character was a great new addition to a goofy world now peppered with an absurdist fantasy aesthetic.
6. Diablo III (console)
I skipped the original PC version of Diablo III for political reasons, so I was very happy when the console version dropped the auction house and all of the tomfoolery that came along with it. The excellent local co-op was really just a sweet bonus. Diablo III succeeds because it trims a ton of the fat that is usually attached to dungeon crawlers, and the extra emphasis on smooth co-op play with the fast equip function and well-mapped controls made it easy for my fiancee and me to sink far too much time into it.
5. DuckTales Remastered
If any game planted a dopey smile on my face this year, it was this one. I always loved the DuckTales soundtrack, but not necessarily the game. Now, I have a new version that handles a little bit better, has a fantastic newly-arranged soundtrack by Virt and sports amazing character art and animations. It was definitely frustrating at times (especially any time ropes were involved), but the care and energy put forth by the folks at WayForward showed the second you booted up the game. More retro “remasters” would be a welcome addition to the current trend of HD remakes and similar reissues.
4. Shin Megami Tensei IV
The crazy style of the core Shin Megami Tensei games has always appealed to me, but I’ve never been able to put the time into mastering the often unforgiving mechanics. Luckily, Atlus took measures to make things a little easier on people like me. The beginning parts of the game still act as a hurdle for new players, but the app system allowed me to tweak the game to my liking, ultimately giving me a way to grind without worrying about resources. By the time I was finished, I had molded the game into a still challenging, but much less stressful, experience.
3. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Revengeance pushes, like, most of my buttons. It’s goofy, it’s over the top and it handles like a dream. The player is in full control of almost everything that happens onscreen, and even when QTEs pop up, they are unobtrusive and fit into the basic controls like an organic part of a whole. The name of the game is speed and fluidity, and instead of enforcing strict limitations like most action games, Revengeance gives players a full arsenal with moves that can seamlessly cancel into one another. The parrying is an interesting way to give the player a string defensive option without slowing things down or risking complacency. The game even manages to do intriguing things with the Metal Gear story between the silliness. It’s a full package, and is concise enough to do what it intends to and leave room for extensive replayability.
2. Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider is my favorite Uncharted game. Seriously though, this game basically rips off Uncharted, but then takes all the mechanical jankiness and makes the whole thing intuitive and a real blast to play. The platforming is responsive and accurate, the gunplay is smooth, and the stealth uses an automatic cover system that makes me wonder why every other third-person stealthy game doesn’t. In addition to the fantastic gameplay, writer Rhianna Pratchett took the character of Lara Croft and transformed her from a joke from the ’90s into a believable human being. The rest of the characters are kind of daft and bland, but the focus on Lara confidently builds her up and lets the world know that this truly is a reboot of the franchise.
1. WWE 2K14
Getting into pro wrestling has probably been the most exciting fandom-y thing that has happened to me this year. Unsurprisingly, WWE 2K14 was probably the most exciting game I was looking forward to. It lived up to my expectations and then some. If you have an imagination, this game is for you: you can run an entire custom wrestling promotion should you wish. If you like interesting fighting games, this game scratches that itch; wrestling games handle like no other, and Yukes refined its tools over the years into something responsive, fast-paced and thrilling. Finally, if you’re into wrestling as a pop culture phenomenon, you absolutely must have this. WWE 2K14 showcases WWE history in a way that is nostalgic, sometimes hilarious and satisfyingly interactive. If you aren’t sick of the game by the time you’ve gotten through all the single player content it offers, the myriad multiplayer options are a riot for anyone, regardless of skill level.