GAF Games of the Year 2013 - Voting Thread - VOTING CLOSED

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Jun 1, 2013
Surprisingly enough, I actually didn't buy that many new games this year (as opposed to my usual 20-30). Still, 2013 saw some of the most critically and commercially successful games of the now last generation of consoles, and while I found roughly ordering the titles I've played fairly easy, actually picking the best of the bunch turned out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated. To make things a bit more straightforward for me, I did 2 things. First, for good measure, I only included games I finished (which in my case corresponds to 100 % single player completion) in my numbered ranking. While this may leave better games out in the cold, it would be premature to praise or dismiss a game based on its first half, only to have that opinion changed when I see the rest of it. Second, I compared the remaining games in various (somewhat arbitrary) categories. The key criterion I considered, however, was how much longevity a game has, ie how long I initially played it and how likely I see myself playing it again in the near and far future.

I should note that my comments may give the impression that some of my chosen games do in fact not belong on my list, but I include criticisms merely to differentiate between all of these in my opinion excellent games. Also, the comments may contain very mild spoilers (I say very mild because I'm not entirely certain whether they're completely obvious to anyone who knows even the least bit about the game).

Here then are my top 10 video games of 2013:

1. Super Mario 3D World ; I will say that choosing between 3D World and The Last of Us was not easy. Both games are crowning achievements of their respective genres and on their respective systems, and I am equally proud to own them. What elevates 3D World over the Last of Us for me is the fact that I can see myself coming back to 3D World more easily in 5 to 10 years than I would to The Last of Us. Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic action game left me thoughtful and deeply emotionally involved, but mostly in a more serious mood. In sharp contrast to this, not a moment passed in 3D World when I wasn't smiling, getting goosebumps or joyfully whistling or humming along to the tunes of the various stages across its many worlds (after over 100 deaths on Champion Road, I still wasn't sick of the Gusty Garden Galaxy remix). To me, Super Mario 3D World is a shining example of what makes video games great in the first place, and what made me fall in love with them as a child. It is the most quintessential, insanely enjoyable and replayable video game of 2013.

2. The Last of Us ; In a way, 3D World and The Last of Us represent 2 very different parts of the gaming spectrum (and in that way complement each other beautifully). 3D World is a very gameplay-focused amalgamation of fun things for you to do, whereas The Last of Us is a deep, thought-provoking and cinematic experience shaped around excellent core mechanics. I can't recall when I have last felt as connected to two characters as I did to Joel and Ellie, but playing this game was not just about the story. There are very few games that are designed in a cinematic and linear way, but still manage to pull you back in because they are just so incredibly fun to play (the only other such game I can think of off the top of my head is Resident Evil 4 (the fact that I make this comparison should speak for itself)). If Uncharted 2 blew me away and pushed me over the edge of finally buying a PS3, The Last of Us fully cemented that decision. It is, without a doubt, the ultimate PS3 game, a result of long years of trial-and-error and optimisation that culminated in one of the finest pieces of software I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

3. GTA V ; I've always been somewhat of a fan of the GTA series (I played the original and quite a bit of III / some of San Andreas). I found IV to be quite a disappointment, but was thrilled about V from the moment it was announced. It is definitely among the games I've played the most this year, and in terms of raw gameplay and things to do, it is also one of the best. However, while its sandbox is flashy and full of fun activities, the campaign feels a bit flat. I've wanted to play as Michael since the first details about the story emerged (the once-criminal trying to make his family work just spoke to me). Ultimately, however, this just amounted to people insulting each other for no real reason more often than not. On top of that, both Franklin and Trevor didn't speak to me as much as I feel they could have (Franklin because his transition from living with his aunt to living the life was a bit rough, and Trevor because he's complete white trash (I know that's the point, but it still bothers me)). I really wish the various issues of the protagonists would have been explored in more detail to make their personalities and actions more believable and relatable. I don't necessarily need for my character to be a good person, but I at least want to be able to empathise with them. In this way, GTA V left some things to be desired, and it is for that reason that it is in my top 3, but not as good in my eyes as the other 2, which just feel near-perfect in just about every aspect.

4. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag ; I really disliked AC 3 and was torn about buying this one for a long time. Eventually, I caved, gave it a shot and was just blown away. It's been quite some time since a game has managed to rebuild my conscience in a franchise in such a spectacular way. Edward is a much more relatable character than Connor could ever have been, and the story felt a lot less incoherent (possibly because a pirate trying to one-up both the Assassins and Templars at the same time is less ambitious than the American war of independence). It also helps a lot that they dialled back the meta-story stuff. Overall, the game just feels a lot more fluent and refined. I found myself going back to it again and again until I had gotten full synch on all memories, explored every part of the world and gathered all collectibles both inside and outside of the Animus. However, Black Flag still has many of the shortcomings that have by now almost become a standard for all AC games (eg the much too simple combat system, the still awkward implementation of the connection between different games, etc.). It is a great game partly because it is not as tied to the rest of the series as the other games, but at the same time, this makes me think that Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag could have just as easily been released as just Black Flag, with no connection to the AC universe whatsoever.

5. Pikmin 3 ; This game was the saving grace for the still struggling Wii U earlier this year in my opinion. It is the first great internally developed game to be released for Nintendo's latest home console in 2013 (and it was about time, too). Even though I had hoped to see this in the launch lineup for the system, I'm happy to have been able to play it eventually, and I like to think that they used the extra time well to make the game the bundle of joy it is today. Like the rest of spots 5-8, Pikmin 3 does what it is supposed to do masterfully, but is somewhat limited by its premise (which, ironically, is what makes it great in the first place). This is what makes it an essential game of 2013 for me, but not one of the handful of titles that are going to define the early 2010s.

6. Rayman Legends ; I'm a huge sucker for both 2D and 3D platformers and thoroughly enjoyed the NSMBU & NSLU combo during the summer, but Rayman Legends has a lot more charm with its playful presentation, great use of the Gamepad and little touches like the music levels (and their glorious 8-bit renditions). Add reworked levels from Origins (an already great game) and you've got yourself an absolute must-play title for anyone considering themselves a fan of platformers.

7. Animal Crossing: New Leaf ; Though I own every Nintendo system to have been graced by a game in the Animal Crossing franchise, New Leaf is the first one in the series I've actually owned myself and thus delved into deeper. To me, these games always seemed like a forced timesink (and in a way, they definitely are). What I've failed to realise for so long is that wrapped around what appears like a merciless grindfest is one of the most charming and addictive games I've played in all my life (and I've been playing WoW on and off for 6 years now). Who knew that catching fish, digging for fossiles, pulling out weeds, and repaying a tremendous amount of debt could be so fun?

8. Pokémon X/Y ; I've been with the Pokémon franchise since its beginnings on the Gameboy and, like so many others, grew attached to my teams of critters in a shockingly short amount of time. After the third generation, however, my interest in the series began to wane. While I bought Diamond, I've never played through its single player, and I never even bothered to buy Black or White (I own White 2 now because I received it as a birthday present). In this way, Pokémon X and Y (and that is correct, I did buy both) are the first Pokémon games I've been fully invested in in a long time, and I feel like I chose the right time to get back into collecting and combatting. Now I find myself messing around with things like breeding and theorycrafting that I never thought would one day be a part of games that are so childlike and innocent on the surface for me.

9. Tomb Raider ; I was sincerely disappointed when Tomb Raider missed its originally intended fall 2012 release date, but at the very least, its delay gave me a great title to play in an otherwise rather slow first half of the year. Nowadays, you don't see many games with female protagonists or protagonists that are allowed to show weaknesses or vulnearbility, so Lara's portrayal is very refreshing. Combat, platforming and the few puzzles strewn in-between are also very satisfying. At the same time, the gameplay can be much improved upon. Although you mostly move through the wilds or ruined settlements, there is very little room to explore and not enough incentive to collect crafting materials. I can't help but feel like this game may have profited from a real sandbox island à la Far Cry 3 instead of separate zones connected by what are effectively narrow corridors. Furthermore, I'm really hoping to see some refinement of the presentation. The game's story and dialogue are utterly forgettable and at times even embarassing, and character animations (especially for Lara) often lead to a disconnection between the player and the game. Still, despite all its flaws, Tomb Raider stands as a true achievement because of the potential it holds. Many times, it is the sequel to a decent, but relatively disregarded title that turns out to be the most critically successful in a trilogy or longer series (eg Uncharted, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed). If the follow-up to this year's Tomb Raider follows that trend, it is one sequel I am most certainly looking forward to.

10. Bioshock Infinite ; As a big fan of the original Bioshock, I couldn't wait to get into Infinite early this year. As expected, I found my first playthrough to be quite enchanting. When I heard the barber shop quartet version of God Only Knows, I knew that I was in for something special. The world of Columbia is beautifully designed and the political, religious and philosophical views of the antagonist are still as initially enticing and ultimately reproachable as ever. I will say though, that, while I greatly like the story and atmosphere of the game, the gameplay is somewhat lacking (the core mechanics feel like more of what we already had in Bioshock 1 and 2 and neither Elizabeth's rifts nor the grappling hook really manage to add that much to it). For the most part, these are not big issues, but they become glaringly apparent at a few points throughout the story (the most notable being the fight against Elizabeth's mother). Ultimately, Bioshock Infinite feels like a bit of a letdown, partly because of high expectations for a sequel to one of the best games of the last decade, but also because of missed opportunities to take the series to the next level. It tries to capture the player in the same way the original Bioshock did, but fails to do so as effectively because it's just too similar.

Honorable Mentions:

x. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD ; While I did beat this game and had a blast with it, I knew what I was getting into beforehand, and this is merely a more convenient way of replaying one of my favourite Gamecube games. Had I not played Wind Waker before, this would probably have been in my top 3, but I can't in good conscience take up a space that could go to a fresh game with one that I'm already very familiar with.

x. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ; I haven't finished A Link Between Worlds yet, and am not sure whether I'll be able to get to finishing it before the deadline, so I can't include it in my numbered list. From what I've seen so far, it would probably feature around 4-6, though. I really appreciate the ways in which the game tries to mix up the proven structure of the Zelda franchise, and it makes me very optimistic looking ahead to Zelda U. It is a great game and hugely enjoyable, but I've always been partial to home console third-person Zelda games, and as such, I would still choose titles like Ocarina 3D over it.

If I can think of a game from 2012 I only played this year, I'll add it later.
Jun 26, 2005
1. The Last of Us ; My favorite game of the year and possibly the generation. Whereas with the other games this year my thoughts about them quickly waned after finishing them, The Last of Us' characters and story stayed on my mind for days, weeks even.
2. Grand Theft Auto V
3. StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
4. Rogue Legacy
5. Bioshock Infinite
6. Don't Starve
7. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
8. Rayman Legends

2012. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Sep 11, 2004
1. Bioshock Infinite; It does not bother me that Bioshock Infinite is a shooter. I played some great FPS games this year, but had the most fun with Infinite. I thought the gameplay was by far the best in the series, despite its shift to a more modern FPS design. Without the vigors and skylines it would still be a very competent shooter, but the encounters are much more fun when you use them. Columbia is beautifully realized so I enjoyed looting/exploring while the story unfolds through audio logs and Elizabeth's dialogue. While none of the plot devices may be revolutionary, the storytelling is still brilliant.
2. The Last of Us; This game feels more "next gen" to me than any PS4 or PC title I've played. It looks incredible, and not just for a PS3 game, with the understandable conscession that the image quality doesn't do justice to Naughty Dog's talent. The gameplay is more mechanically diverse than the Uncharted games, and I thought the survival/stealth/action hybrid was pretty unique. I found the game challenging and tense, and I'd often sneak or run past enemies so I didn't have to use precious ammo or shivs. The story is perfectly paced with lots of downtime for exploring and exposition. The multiplayer is also excellent.
3. Guacamelee!; This might be a better platformer than it is a Metroidvania. It's a great Metroidvania, though it's a bit linear as far as those games go. It's usually obvious where you should head next, and there's warp points in case backtracking feels too tedious, which it never really does. What really makes this game stand out is how the gameplay mechanics for platforming/traversal and combat are married. An uppercut will launch an enemy into the air and break red shields, but in mid air it's basically a double jump. All of the special moves have multiple applications which come into play during clever platforming puzzles.
4. The Typing of the Dead Overkill; A PC Port of a Wii Light Gun game outfitted with typing controls is one of my favorite games of the year. This came out of nowhere on Steam. I had never played HOTD Overkill so the ridiculous, self-aware incredibly vulgar story was all new to me. As I'm typing this I see a DLC dictonary released. Instant purchase.
5. The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds; This is my first 3DS game, and my first Zelda game in a long time. I haven't finished it yet, as I'm savoring it and usually only play on my commute, but it's already earned a spot on my list. The wall-flattening mechanic highlights the insanely deliberate design of this game. The pacing is tuned perfectly so there is plenty of room for exploration but you generally have an idea of where you can go next, and the game achieves this without pestering you with long tutorials or explanations.
6. Gone Home; I'm glad I was able to play this one before the end of the year beacause my votes are THE deciding factor on the internet. I really liked the restraint that the game showed in its narrative and I was impressed that the game guided you through the house on a linear but natural path that somehow didn't feel as constrictive as it actually was. The story revealed itself like an epistolary novel to a degree that I have not otherwise seen in a videogame.
7. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon; This is a vote for $15 standalone (although I think I got it for like $7), short single player campaigns as much as it is for the game itself. This and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger were really fun FPS campaigns lacking much of the padding of typical AAA shooter games. The 80's action movie humor might overstay its welcome in a longer game, but instead the game is nealy constantly hysterical. It takes the great shooting from Far Cry 3, gives you a ton of weapons and stuff to kill immediately, and makes fun of itself the entire time.
8. Batman Arkham Origins; It's a new Arkham game by a different studio with mostly different voice actors. It turns out the new voice actors are great and WB Montreal were able to use the Arkham mechanics (admittedly not adding much) and craft the best story in the series. Now only the characters who are actually on steroids look like they're on steroids.
9. The Stanley Parable; The last time I launched the game, the camera was stuck spinning in circles. I was more inclined to think it was the game fucking with me than anything else. It turns out it was because my controller was plugged in, but still. You will try to fuck with the game only to find the game fucking with you back.
10. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger; Another short but focused FPS game. I didn't like Dead Island, the last Techland production I played, but they really nailed this arcadey cowboy FPS. There's a lot of duel wielding revolvers in slow motion and that's fine by me.

2012. Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed; Technically a 2013 release for me since I played it on PC, but it was easier coming up with my top 10 if I could omit this. This is the best kart racing game I've played since Crash Team Racing.

X. Metro: Last Light; Last Light is an absolutely beautiful game with really solid shooting mechanics. I found the design choice of a silent protagonist was odd considering the otherwise high production values of the game. I didn't care for the story at all, which brought down the overall experience a bit.
X. Rogue Legacy; I suck at this game, but I love it. Perhaps if I stuck with it long enough to beat it, it would have made a place on my top 10. But alas, an embarassing number of hours later and I have yet to see all of the areas the game has to offer. Still, it's a game I will continue coming back to, and its upgrade/skill tree systems ensure that you can still make progress even though the game has permadeath. I was very impressed with the non-accidential feel of the randomly generated dungeons.
X. Grand Theft Auto V; GTA's are rarely "my game" even though I usually buy them, falling for the launch hype. This pretty much happened again with GTAV. I actually really enjoyed my time with the game, and abruptly stopped playing a few story missions in. Perhaps I will pick it up again on PC. It's remarkable that Rockstar were able to craft such a complex, detailed city on current gen consoles.
Jul 17, 2013
1. Shootmania Storm ; Most people probably have no idea what this game is, and the others most likely think it sucks. Which I think is a massive shame because I completely disagree, I got completely hooked into this game. It's probably one of my favourite multiplayer shooters ever. The gameplay is simple yet sublime. Brilliant game and I think undeserving of the hate.

2. Bioshock Infinite ; Little bit different this time. I loved this game. The story was incredible, the aesthetics beautiful and the detail was brilliant. While the combat wasn't incredible it kept me enjoyed throughout the game (except that boss battle against the heart robot thing, fuck that fight) and the story had me hooked the entire time. Excellent game and again I think undeserved of the hate it got.

3. Gone Home ; I played this game through in a single sitting and was completely engrossed. The detail put into the game is outstanding. Every object added to the story and piecing together what was going on was a joy. Very, very good game. The ending however was both great and a bit rubbish. Definitely a bait and switch.

4. Forza 5 ; Great graphics, fantastic sound, really fun driving. Quite addicting really. Really enjoying it so far.

5. Tomb Raider ; I bought this game completely on a whim in a sale for the 360. Turned out a lot better than expected. It was a really fun game with a reasonably intriguing story.

x. Grand Theft Auto 5 ; Initially I was completely in love with this game. However when the hype wore off I quickly grew completely bored. The story was just dull, nothing really happened and you ended up muddling around doing jobs without the game really giving you a reason other than "We fucked up, fix it for us". The ending was also shoddy to say the least. The gameplay, while by far the best of the GTA series, was also meh. I do not understand at all why Rockstar have decided to stick with one of the worst control schemes on any game I have ever seen. Constantly having to tap A to sprint is moronic. Really put me off. The police are also implemented very poorly. However the world is awesome and multiplayer is great with friends. The driving is also fun and a massive improvement over GTA 4.

2012. Forza Horizon ; Probably one of my favourite games ever. Before I got my X1 and Forza 5. I would spend many hours just cruising around the game world in various expensive sports cars listening to music. It was so relaxing yet also really good fun. The driving felt slightly more arcadey than mainline Forzas but was still very good and the song selection is brilliant.
Decided to just do a top 5. Five games that I loved, five games I'm gonna take with me into the future.


The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
Nintendo EAD No.3, Nintendo

The original Link to the Past is much like Goldfinger in the James Bond franchise, the third entry that established the traditions the series would continue to iterate on. Instead of guns, gadgets, and babes, its heart pieces, themed dungeons, and the Master Sword. There’s something about this original game design that resonates with gamers for so many years, and A Link Between Worlds is Nintendo’s big science experiment trying to figure that out. In doing so, they’ve stripped away so much of the fat and bluster that’s accumulated around the waist of the franchise. The game-padding fetch quests, the long story sequences, the boring overworld traversal, the talkative redundant helper AIs; erased in an instant.

Take these away and you see the core of Zelda shining through, an action-adventure game par excellence, that works just as well now as it did twenty years ago.

Link Between Worlds’ overworlds are more or less the Light and Dark Worlds from Link to the Past given a modern polish, like a fast-travel system and 360 degree movement to make traversal smoother than ever. Some may quibble at the cribbing, but personally I don’t mind. LttP is not a favorite Zelda of mine and its overworlds are mostly unfamiliar to me, so its very much like exploring them all anew. And you’ll want to explore them, as not only are your controls fast and snappy, but the overworld is very densely populated. This isn’t like Wind Waker’s endless oceans with sparsely located islands or the large faceless landmass of Twilight Princess. Almost every square of land in Link Between Worlds has something interesting to do, from combat, puzzles, secrets, and just figuring out where to go. Its actually quite possible to get stuck or lost in this one, as I have been I’m afraid to admit. In a refreshing turn of events, many of the game’s items like the Pegasus Boots are completely missable, with no AI helper pointing you in the right direction. When the game opens up in the Lorule dark world section, there’s are several different dungeons and areas to explore and its almost entirely up to you to figure which ones to tackle in what order, and how you go about figuring it out. There’s a level of freedom thats unprecedented in a modern Zelda title, and a real sense of mystery and adventure I feel was missing has returned.

Of course, the game isn’t set fit to just rest on LttP’s laurels and add nothing of its own. The overworld has seen a number of new additions, such as Treasure Rooms with some of the trickiest puzzles in the game, new minigames to try and conqueror, and maybe the best game-wide side quest the series has seen yet in the Maimais. There a 100 of these little buggers spread across the game that requires a good knowledge of the land and your abilities to find. Collecting 10 upgrades your tools making your adventuring more efficient. It’s a good incentive, and because of the condensed overworld and the quick traversal, they’re a joy to find.

The dungeons have seen a complete overhaul as well. These are short but sharp levels, ones that expect you to come in with the item in hand, instead of teasing with you until the halfway mark. Each one makes effective use of its main item and theme, along with a decent mix of combat and hidden secrets. The Desert Palace and Ice Ruins are the two particular standouts with strong atmosphere and tricky traversal, but none of them actively bad. The compact nature speaks well to the overall game design; making lean, efficient Zelda levels that leave you satisfied and are over before they ever begin to drag. It makes for a very breezy, highly addictive experience.

This is a game unlike any other Zelda of the past decade in that has no bad parts. No sections that make you groan and think, “Ugh, this intro is going to take forever!” “Why do I have to watch this slow-ass animation EVERY SINGLE TIME I want to turn my boat around!?” “Who thought this fetch quest was fun!?””My goodness, is this text speed slow, I frigging get it already, Nintendo!” By going back to the source, Nintendo has crafted the purest form of Zelda. Its a laser-focused adventure filled with humorous NPCs, a wonderful soundtrack, a faith in the player’s intelligence, and so many refinements that make the fast-paced mix of combat and exploration more enjoyable than its been in many a year. If its not the best Zelda, its clearly top 3 for me, and I can only pray that the Wii U installment takes some serious lessons from A Link Between Worlds.


Metal Gear Rising (PS3)
Platinum Games, Konami







(best final boss of the year)


Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Nintendo EAD Tokyo, Nintendo

Super Mario Bros 3 represents an end-point for the classic Mario platformer mold. A fully-formed package of sharp level design and well-tuned play controls in a compact package. It must have left Nintendo in a odd predicament. How do you follow up something that feels like the culmination of the series? "By going bigger!", apparently, as Super Mario World sacrificed the tight play controls and level structure for larger spaces to accommodate aimless keyhunts, and with a hilariously overpowered Cape in tow. Super Mario 64 continued this new style, giving you large playspaces to explore, with the occasional SMB3-esque obstacle course in the Bowser levels.

Super Mario 3D World, then, is the alternate universe sequel to SMB3. Instead of abandoning the focused platforming game design, Nintendo built on it, bringing its spirit into the 3rd dimension.

Like SMB3, SM3DW is filled with over a hundred short, clever levels, each one often revolving around a new gimmick or idea. The levels are separated into "worlds" with overarching comforting "themes", but I put those into quotations because they don't really matter. As if EAD Tokyo had a kind of game developer ADHD and soon as they pick something up, they're off to the next wacky thing. The level of creativity on display is staggering; one level has you infiltrating a Japanese pagoda fortress, complete with Goomba disguise. Another, a top-down segment where you utilize your fireballs in Zelda-esque puzzles(and its a nice showcase for the fantastic lighting system). The next one, you're zipping around skinny pathways narrowly dodging spike logs with honed precision, and then the next one have you exploring a sprawling savana, running after SM64's bunnies and wishing there was more time on the clock. Like the Angry Sun and Kuribo's Shoe from SMB3, there are so many ideas here that you'll see once, maybe twice, then never again.

One of my favorite of these new additions is the Double Cherry, a SMB2 reference in aesthetic if not in function. Grab one, Mario gets a clone, one that's controlled with the exact same controls as the original. You can have three, four, five or more Marios all running along, throwing out that much more firepower and covering that much more ground for collectibles. Some of the secrets of these levels only open up with a minimum amount of Marios, so its a fun challenge trying to get all of yourselves to the finish line.

Another big favorite is the much hyped Cat Suit, which may just be my new favorite Mario power-up. Nintendo's track record on new power-ups for our favorite plumber isn't that great; sometimes they're TOO good like the Cape in SMW, sometimes they just kinda stink like Bee Mario's lack of offensive abilities or Tiny Mario being effectively a power-down. Cat Suit Mario is not only stupidly adorable, he makes you feel powerful without breaking the entire level. He can climb up vertical walls, but only for a certain amount of time, and he's got a great dive attack, but you can only do it once without touching the ground. Like the best power-ups, it opens up new areas and gives you an advantage against certain enemies, but it doesn't completely trivialize the game, and it stinks when you lose it.

Even ideas that aren't "new" to the franchise are used to excellent effect. The Giant Mushroom from NSMB, kinda awkward and actually sucky in many areas of that game, has specific, empowering appearances here; its never been used better. The Bullies from SM64 are repurposed in challenging clusters late in the game. With no Wiimote to shake, Flip-Swip platforms from Galaxy return, now activated with every jump, forcing you to think a few steps ahead of your next leap. The entire history of the Super Mario franchise is fair game here, polished and refined to fit into a huge adventure that feels like a celebration of its legacy.

And its never looked better. While New Super Mario Bros U was the first game in the franchise to enter HD, no offense to the NSMB team, but Super Mario 3D World feels like the true arrival. Spooky manors, fiery fortresses, poisonous swamps and snow-covered landscapes; the amount of visual themes in SM3DW is incredible, each one filled with characterful touches and a wonderful new lighting system. The tight focused level design and isometric camera means anything that isn't needed on the screen just isn't there, giving each level a framed feel dripping wet with a level designer's touch.

And the smaller size of levels doesn't mean there are no secrets to find. Every level has three Green stars, a stamp, and other hidden collectibles locked away in difference nooks and crannies, encouraging exploration and skillful usage of all of Mario's moves and various power-ups. Its a giant toybox, waiting for you to find all its gags, and rewards the ones who get the most of each stage with challenging post-game worlds filled with all-new content and harder remixed variants of the main game's areas.

Super Mario 3D World is pure fun; a colorful collection of platforming levels bursting at the seams with creativity and polish, backed by tight controls and clean, crisp visuals. Looking back at the many stage tropes and ideas it tackles, there's no better evidence of Mario's status as the perennial gaming icon, able to slip into so many roles and feel perfectly naturally. It doesn't have Galaxy's bombast, but it wasn't really trying to, and when you're riding inside a Kurubo Iceskate, dodging Goombas and listening to a joyous winter wonderland track, its hard to care about the differences. Super Mario 3D World is EAD Tokyo giving us the 3D sequel to SMB3, standing tall with any game in the series, and thus right up there with the best games of all-time. I can think of no higher praise than that.


The Wonderful 101 (Wii-U)
Platinum Games, Nintendo

The Wonderful 101 has you controlling the titular 101 heroes through a character action-adventure not too dissimilar in form to the likes of Hideki Kamiya’s prior games Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta. The difference here is that the heroes themselves are the method of attack. Like another Kamiya game Okami, players must draw a symbol of the weapon of their choice; a straight line for a sword, or a circle for a fist for example, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The size(and thus, the speed and power) of the weapon is determined by how big you draw the symbol, which is in turn limited by A) how many people are in your group and B) how much Wonder-Meter you have left.

Sound a little confusing? Well that’s natural, because the Wonderful 101 is a bit of an oft-putting game, and despite all the similarities to the games mentioned above, it really has no easy comparison. It’s a game that requires the player to think, to learn, and to experiment with its various nuances and mechanics. A shock for what looks all the world like a Saturday morning kids show, but with a little superheroic perseverance, players are greatly rewarded.

Many modern action games like God Hand or Ninja Gaiden 2 feel they can coast by on just their combat system for a dozen hours, plodding through drab boring levels fighting endless wave after wave of enemies. As evident in Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta, Kamiya has a complete mastery of action game pacing, never letting you do one thing for too long. Big fights with unique enemies are broken up by puzzles or interesting traversal sections. These are further stretched apart with completely unique challenges, like the dual screen scenarios that have you juggling both screens at once, or a surprisingly well-designed shoot’em’up section. Almost every few minutes, the game gives you a new weapon, a new mini-game, a new foe to tackle, or a big crazy set piece to grapple with. The Wonderful 101 is just as lengthy as NG2/GH, but an incredible breadth of well-executed creativity makes it a much more fresh and vibrant experience.

The Wonderful 101 is such a lovable game when you give yourself to its style, from its charming Super Sentai storytelling to its rousing musical cues. This is a game with a lot of obvious time and care put into it, right down to every unique QTE has its own hilarious failure animation. The passion seems to pour from all over, wearing many of its influences on its sleeve. Zelda, Punch-Out, Space Harrier, Devil May Cry, and all sorts of Japanese action games are endearingly referenced in one form or another. It’s a giant love letter to all the video games Kamiya’s created and influenced him.

But despite any of the various similarities, The Wonderful 101 is a special, completely unique action game in its own right, bursting at the seams with heart and energy. It’s a huge, extraordinarily well-crafted adventure that sweeps you along right on through its incredible, Gurran-Lagann-esque climax. I don’t think its my favorite Hideki Kamiya game, but in a lot of ways, I feel like its his masterpiece, his signature on the world of video games. It has his penchant for challenging stylish combat and spectacular boss fights, but taken to a whole new level. It’s got a kind of confident swagger in its game design, finely honed and totally confident in its identity. Its smart, funny, colorful, original, gorgeous, and well, just fuckin’ Wonderful.



The Last of Us (PS3)
Naughty Dog, Sony

On the surface, The Last of Us’ plot sounds like every zombie drama ever made: a hard, rugged man learning to care for a young companion who must grow up quickly in a cruel world. But I’ve always said, execution is more important than innovation, and its that regard where The Last of Us soars. The characters are brought to life through exceptional performances, both from the actors and the animators, but a lot of it comes down to the writing. Neal Druckmann’s script is full of terse, realistic dialog that says so much more with a single line than a giant Kojima monologue ever could. There’s a level of intelligence and subtlety to the characterizations that’s very rare in video games, from our main pair of Joel and Ellie, all the way down to its supporting characters.

Taking its Uncharted 2 ludonarrative dissonance criticisms to heart, Naughty Dog has created a world where violence (or the threat of violence) seems like a natural necessary evil. It asks questions about what exactly is humanity when the entire world is turned upside down, and how far would you go for the things you desire, even when logic tells you otherwise. The artists of Naughty Dog has fleshed out almost nook and cranny of the game with unique art assets and side stories, using the medium’s potential for environmental storytelling to the fullest. It’s a fully-realized, beautifully-rendered place that’s easy to get emotionally involved in.

Almost everything the game does reinforces your average Joe persona, from the mundane every day survival routines of moving planks about or scavenging for supplies(which makes MUCH more sense here in the context than it does in Bioshock Infinite, btw), to the desperate struggle of its combat design. In an industry built on constantly empowering the player, The Last of Us often makes you feel at a disadvantage. You are no Nathan Drake, smiling as you mow down hundreds of pirates. Your aim sways with an imperfect nervous human handle, trying hard not to waste the precious amount of bullets you’ve found. Violence is simultaneously viscerally satisfying and realistically uncomfortable, as heads explode from a bat swing with a sickening tangible fragility. You will NOT win every melee battle, and getting shot genuinely sucks, as your health doesn’t regenerate, and you could bleed out without a rare health kit on hand.

Because of your human vulnerabilities and limited resources, stealth and avoidance is often the first choice in approaching encounters. This is especially true when running into the Clickers, blind zombies that stumble around and use their great hearing to sense you out. One touch by these guys is instant death, and many of the tougher fights had me restarting after being overcome by one. Stealth doesn’t always work out however, especially against the human enemies, and that’s where the fun begins. Human AI is remarkably resilient, flanking your position or pressing up against a wall waiting for you to enter the room. Fights unfold in a spur of the moment improvised rush, with reflexive risky decision making that could easily mean life or death. Filled with suspense and unfolding with brutal desperate energy that is as frightening as it is thrilling, The Last of Us boost some of the best action you’ll find all year. More importantly, its perfectly matches the plot of the game. More so than any Uncharted title, the game mechanics reflect the narrative, and the narrative reflects the game mechanics, creating immersive, exciting, emotionally resonant interactive storytelling.

This is a remarkably confident game, the kind you could only make at the end of the generation with years of attempts under your belt. It’s a big-budget cinematic thrill ride, but its so much more patient than many of them, with a big focus of letting you just breathe in the world. Its in these quieter moments The Last of Us reveals how smart its pacing is, and how treating you like an adult can make such a difference. The characters are allowed to wander and whisper, revealing facets about their personality through what they do or say (and sometimes in what they don’t do or say). The music by Gustavo Santaolla is wonderfully sparse and elegant, intoned with every beat but never overriding the moment. The way the emotional beats are built and doled out are simply on another level than anything else in mainstream gaming. There’s one sequence near the end(you know it when you see it) that is, without question, my single favorite few minutes of interaction I’ve experienced with a game all year. Its something that perfectly captures the lovely beating heart of the Last of Us, a superbly built scene thats beautiful in how it unfolds and what it says about the world.

The game is rarely showy with its humanity though, allowing the player to discover (or miss) its clever side attractions that flesh out the cast and the world. It all builds into a remarkably powerful and bittersweet climax, huge in its ramifications but understated in its denouement. The balls to end on that kind of note are commendable; the fact that it logically follows the established character arcs and motivations is even more impressive.

Without question, The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s most successful attempt at combining its cinematic ambitions with great, challenging game design. If this all “just” a zombie drama, its an exceptionally well-crafted one, with an impeccably designed world with fully-formed characters and shades of grey. If this is all “just” another cinematic linear action game, it’s the best damn one anybody’s made since Valve left us hanging in 2007. And if this is all “just” another video game trying to be grown up like the other entertainment mediums, it’s maturity and power forces you to respect it. From top to bottom, The Last of Us is an incredible achievement, and my favorite video game of the year.


Might do a honorable mentions post later, but I just felt a special love for these five games above all others this year, and thought they deserved their own space. It's been an good year from where I'm standing, both personally and in the world of video games. My love for this interactive method of entertainment is stronger than ever, and I'm excited about the future. I mean, Half-Life 3 has to be just around the corner right!?

For the tally
1. The Last of Us ; Naughty Dog's greatest game, finally achieving that balance between narrative and action game design they've been shooting for with the Uncharted series
2. The Wonderful 101 ; a colorful explosion of superheroic awesomeness
3. Super Mario 3D World ; an alternate universe in which SMB3 was built on in 3D instead of SMW
4. Metal Gear Rising ; NANOMACHINES SON
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ; the fastest, smoothest playing Zelda of them all

Thanks for reading, and thanks Riposte for allowing me to rip off your format wholesale

Mar 6, 2012
New Zealand
1. Dota2 ; Put an appalling number of hours into this game after only 1 year.
2. GTAV ; Excellent visuals, world interactivity, story and characters. Shame there's no PC version otherwise it would be my #1.
3. Tomb Raider ; The definitive Uncharted. Gorgeous on PC.
Jul 29, 2010
1. Super Mario 3D World ; I've always been a person that values pure gameplay and mechanics over everything else, so in many ways it feels like Super Mario 3D World was tailor-made for me. After a short introductory cutscene, the game hits you in the face with a solid 8+ hours of pure platforming action with little interruption. Nearly every level contains either a new idea, or a an interesting and different take on an existing one. 3D World often displays more creativity across a single world or two than most games contain in their entirety. While this is probably an exaggeration, I feel that it's an easy statement to accept while playing 3D World.

3D World's aesthetics are among the best I've ever witnessed. While the game's visuals may not be the most technically-accomplished this year, water glistens and practically invites the player to jump in, curves appear to be perfectly round, environments generally have a colorful, warm, and inviting look to them, and the game runs at a blistering and rock-solid 60FPS. The music also deserves special mention, supplementing the gameplay with often-joyous and uplifting tunes that always put a smile on my face. 3D World is pure fun, never aspiring to be more than it is, and polishing and perfecting its seemingly endless swath of creative levels and challenges. At Nintendo's best, nobody does it better.

2. The Last of Us ; While reading the above, it is clear that I am not a person who places much value on game stories and interrupting cutscenes. Therefore, I feel it is incredibly high praise to say that The Last of Us hooked me early on and had me invested in the plot and characters until the satisfying, if unconventional, conclusion.

Naughty Dog’s efforts here play to the studio’s strengths. The developer’s industry-leading facial animation gives the storytelling a degree of subtlety not often seen in games. The performance capture helps protagonists Joel and Ellie to feel like real people, and ND’s obsessive attention to detail throughout the game gives the world a sense of realism and weight. I honestly cared about what was happening, which again, is very difficult to get me to do.

Gameplay in The Last of Us is not only appropriate to the setting, but is quite satisfying and fleshed-out. The gunplay feels very weighty, and owes much to the weapons’ sound design. Shots often sound terrifying (especially if you don't expect one), as they should, and scoring kills on enemies is as brutal as it is rewarding. The stealth mechanics do a good job of allowing for improvisation and reentry into stealth if the player is seen, but remains challenging and necessary on higher difficulties with listen mode off.

Much of what I dislike about TLOU is related to the occasional menial tasks required of the player. Joel will have to complete a brainless task such as moving a dumpster, or a plank, or a ladder, or ferry Ellie around water with a pallet. I thought that these sections added nothing to the game, and only served to be unwanted, tedious interruptions to the otherwise stellar pacing.

Resident Evil 4 is my favorite game of all time, and a big part of that is its extraordinary length (with minimal repetition) for a single player shooter. Thankfully, The Last of Us contains a similar amount of content, taking me more than 12 hours to finish the game. For a single player adventure in the year 2013, that’s fucking amazing.

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ; A Link to the Past is my favorite Zelda of all time, so this one had some high expectations from me. I can say that LBW fulfilled pretty much all of them. Simply put, LBW is the best-paced and best-playing Zelda ever made. There’s almost no downtime once the game gets going, Link moves quickly through environments, screen transitions are snappy, and the game runs at a buttery 60FPS - even with 3D enabled. I’m a sucker for good pacing and this game is a master of keeping tasks interesting and relevant almost 100% of the time.

There have been a lot of marks against this game for its lack of difficulty, though I don’t really see it as a problem. I come to Zelda games for their exploration and puzzle-solving (those “eureka” moments) more than their combat, and LBW delivered on these in spades. The worlds of Hyrule and Lorule both invoke heavy nostalgia for the overworlds of LttP, while cleverly playing with the player’s expectations in key moments. The dungeons are mostly fantastic, with the Ice Ruins being a particular standout. These dungeons are lean, mean little puzzle boxes. While the dungeons are short, they quickly establish mechanics using the item or technique the dungeon is centered around, and proceed to explore those mechanics in a satisfying way. There is no wasted space in these dungeons and nearly every room contains an interesting obstacle to overcome. I do wish there were more of them, considering their short length.

Rounding out the game is the stellar soundtrack, comprised of many remixes of songs from LttP. These arrangements are thoughtful and often put a new spin on a familiar tune. Old tunes such as the Lorule Overworld hit where it hurts and new themes such as the escalating Lorule Castle theme suit the scenario perfectly.

4. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ; Metal Gear Rising is the hypest game of the year. No, Metal Gear Rising is the hypest game of all fucking time. I hesitate to say much about the game because one has to play it to really understand it. One has to experience the thrill of their little cyborg ninja blocking the shit out of a fucking Metal Gear RAY’s arm slam while the lyrics to Rules of Nature kick in and sparks and other crazy particles fly everywhere. One has to be gripping the controller themselves when Jack thinks it’s time to let ‘er rip, as his combat visor slams shut and The Stains of Time begins playing while the opposing badass boss character grins an evil grin. One has to struggle against the difficult final boss – an insane United States senator that played college ball in Texas (could’ve gone pro if he hadn’t joined the Navy) – while fighting in a pit surrounded by fire and lava and shit while It Has to Be This Way blares in the background. You just...have to play it.

Not ranked higher because the game is sadly far too short and the VR Missions suck :p

5. Bioshock Infinite ; I have many problems with Bioshock Infinite. The combat often has poor feedback, and I hate the shield bleedthrough. There’s some weird tonally-inconsistent shit in the game, like searching trash cans for hot dogs to eat. There’s a middle section of the game that feels padded out and doesn’t service the story meaningfully. Skylines aren’t used enough, despite being one of the coolest and unique mechanics in the game...

...And yet I beat it in one sitting. For over 8 hours straight, I was captivated again and again by the art, story, and music. The game had a firm grip on me.When I finished it, I read GAF for even more hours about the ending. I made some posts, and went to bed. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then I woke up the next day and read some more.

There are games that didn’t make this top 5 that might be better than Infinite on a mechanical level (GTA V, Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3), but they failed to grab me the same way. Infinite’s setting, plot, and characters burrowed their way into my head and wouldn’t leave. Infinite surprised me, delighted me, wowed me, and made me think. It just affected me more than any other game this year. So flaws aside, I think it deserves to be on this list.


1. Super Mario 3D World ; Fantastic, creative, uninterrupted 3D platforming
2. The Last of Us ; Emotional storytelling, well thought-out gameplay, realized world
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ; Great play on nostalgia, tight, amazing pacing and playability
4. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ; RULES OF NATURE
5. Bioshock Infinite ; One of the most captivating games I've ever played. I was glued to my seat for over 8 hours straight.
6. The Wonderful 101 ; Despite feeling a bit disconnected from the action, this is one of the biggest and most varied character action games ever made. Stellar presentation.
7. Grand Theft Auto V ; Los Santos is a massive and detailed world. The mission design is also often clever and exciting, with the heist missions being stand outs.
8. Rayman Legends ; Simply one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I've played. Only Murfy and a lack of challenge compared to Origins bring it down a notch.
9. Pikmin 3 ; On one hand, I honestly have no complaints about the game. On the other hand, it just didn't reach the highs of some of the others on my list.
10. Guacamelee ; The humor hit hard with me and I'm a sucker for Metroidvania design. Controls were tight, platforming was challenging, and the presentation was endearing.

1. Injustice: Gods Among Us ; The fighting system maintains everything I enjoyed about my 2011 GotY Mortal Kombat, with new additions and changes that I also like such as the character specific ability button and joystick based blocking. If only Netherrealm could nail netcode, I would easily sink hundreds of hours into their games. Here's hoping that going into next gen they improve their online quality, and that the improvements made in Injustice over MK carry over, or we get a sequel to this sooner than later.

2. DmC: Devil May Cry ; Make no mistake, Donte the Demon Killer is a douche with a punchable face. So in that regard, Ninja Theory nailed the character. This reboot is by no means the improvement in story that they intended it to be, it is merely a sidestep from one form of terrible to another. Every positive thing I have to say about the new Dante and his story is something that already existed in Devil May Cry 4's Nero and his adventure. What it lacks in story, it makes up for in both environment design (visuals and level design) and yes, combat. DmC has the honor of being the action game that is the least offensive when out of combat (and out of cutscenes). The platforming and collectable hunting are handled well, in that that they provide just enough of a break from the action, without being so lengthy or in depth as to confuse you as to the series you're playing. As someone who hated every moment walking around, platforming, or doing "puzzles" in between combat in Devil May Cry 3, 4, and Bayonetta, DmC stands above these in this one area, at least (and as a bonus, not a single fixed camera to be found). The combat, is frankly, good. Not great, like the aforementioned 3 games, but reports of its lack of quality have been greatly exaggerated. In a world where God of War, Dante's Inferno, Castlevania Lords of Shadow, Batman, Assassin's Creed, and Ryse all exist and feature 3rd person melee combat with combos, the fans of the series as it was need to step back, let go of their vendetta, and admit that DmC is still one of the better action games out there, regardless of an IP it failed to live up to.

3. JoJo no Kimyo na Boken: All Star Battle (Import) ; The most wonderfully crafted love letter to an established IP from a game developer I have ever seen. Gives fans of the manga the chance to see their favorite characters in motion, with color and sound, for the first time (in the case of part 3 through 8). Every frame of animation is painstakingly recreated from the source, with tons of clever touches that fans can appreciate. It is really the opposite of Injustice in this regard. I am no fan of DC comics, I am a fan of Netherrealm Studios fighting games. If I was a DC comics enthusiast, I would probably be pretty disappointed at how Injustice makes no effort to approximate the visual style of the comic books it is adapting, and its original story is based entirely around the premise of characters acting the opposite of how they usually are. All Star Battle continues Cyberconnect 2's trend from the Ultimate Ninja Storm series of bringing the series they are adapting to life with tons of love and care. This game is also my #2 for best soundtrack of the year, right behind

4. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ; The greatest soundtrack in a video game, and if you disagree I'll bring out my boombox and play Rules of Nature while I punch you in the face. Also features some of the best characters of the year, Jetstream Sam and Senator Armstrong (pictures above). The story hits all the right beats of lighthearted and dumb Metal Gear, never taking itself too seriously. As someone whose experience with Metal Gear up to this point was Let's Plays, because I couldn't reconcile my love of Kojima's wacky writing and plot twists with my own inability to get into stealth games, this project was exciting from the beginning, and Platinum's involvement only made it better. It would have been nice to have real time secondary weapon switching though.

5. Killer Instinct ; Like Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat (2011) before it, another 10 years in the making 2D fighting franchise revival has come, and like its predecessors, Killer Instinct (2013) successfully capitalizes on nostalgia and brings back all the warm fuzzy feelings of seeing the original games in its series for the first time. Unlike Street Fighter IV, and more in line with Mortal Kombat (2011) however, Killer Instinct (2013) isn't afraid to shake up the classic returning elements from the past. Like Mortal Kombat (2011), the developers knew they had an uphill battle to fight with their series' reception, and had to try their best to prove they could make a competitive game. Whereas Street Fighter IV was coming off the greatness of Third Strike, ended up as a disappointment compared to its predecessor, and was very hesitant to change anything from the series (the characters with their same appearances and moves from 20 years ago) Double Helix (like Netherrealm) had the opportunity to take the positives of the series they were bringing back, and the base elements that would make people nostalgic, while also updating the game to modern standards. Like Mortal Kombat (2011) before it, Killer Instinct (2013) is a success story of a fighting series that, despite its popularity, wasn't a hit among some enthusiast circles, getting a new entry that proves it can hang with the big boys. And the game design itself deserves praise as well, having been designed in a way to avoid and negate the "one player" aspect of lengthy combos, that other contemporary fighting games suffer from. Of course, there are negatives to the game, mostly Microsoft's apparent rushing of the game to launch, leading to a slightly anemic feeling game when looking at the content numbers. The psuedo free to play model the game uses is an interesting experiment, but could be tweaked to be more beneficial to the consumer, and of course would benefit from a large character count.
Alright, let's do this—a year where the latest revision of my favourite game finally arrived, and I was too busy/broke/hipster to keep up with all the big triple-A titles.

1. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R; (Technically imported from both JPN PSN and US XBL to Canada) Despite already having a 360, I bought a PS3 this year just to grab this latest update from Japanese PSN a few month ahead of the Xbox Live release. (This was a good decision in retrospect, seeing as half of the games on this GotY list turned out to be PS3-exclusives that I wouldn't have touched otherwise.) The bottom line is that GGXXAC+R is the best fighting game ever made, even if it gets no attention on GAF. Every single fighting game fan here should seek out an active, competitive GG scene. Leave your job, move cross-country, or even set sail for Japan if necessary to find competition, for this game is the one true way of life. There is no competitive game on earth more intricate, deep and legit. There is no adrenaline experience like it. Don't wait for Xrd. Don't wait for the American PS3 release (if it's still not out by the time you read this). Don't just settle for the Vita version. Find a way to play +R with people right away.

2. Divekick; Biggest surprise of the year for me. It's weird actually being the blatant target demographic for a niche game and getting all the in-jokes. I've tried to sell my various casual friends on so many fighting games without any success that it hurts, but this one has been different. It's been so easy for me to explain to people what's going on, and level my opponents up fast. I'm pretty sure I could gift this game to my old man and he'd finally "get" why I like this genre so much. Double-dipped without thinking twice. It must always be at my finger-tips!

3. Europa Universalis IV; Besides fighting games, Paradox grand-strategy games have always been a favourite escape of mine. I played EUII and EUIII to death, hovering around the top 25 of Paradox's achievement rankings back in the day. This latest incarnation stands out in my mind as the best Paradox release to date, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with an inkling of interest in history and geography. There is no long-term gaming activity quite like an online EUIV grand campaign with/against a group of close friends. It gets even better because the active developers and community won't let this game fall out of relevancy thanks to all the expanions/patches/mods they regularly release. The only reason I can't rate this higher is that, for all its improvements, it's still the same fundamental game that EUIII was (with the same achievements I completed years ago, damnit), leaving a veteran like me little new ground to forge. Everyone else, however, needs to sink 200 hours into this gem.

4. Dragon's Crown; I completely forgot that a warm corner of my heart was reserved for good beat-em-ups until this game came along. As a bit of a synesthete, the use of colour and texture in this game blows me away, and then it all sucks me right back in with its addictive gameplay. I want to play so much more of this game than I've been able to, to the point where I almost want to sublet a spare room specifically to someone who will drag me out for local co-op play so I can't say no.

5. Skullgirls (PC); It's been a weird year for me with this game. The more I play it, the less enthusiastic I get about the overall game system's design philosophy, despite obvious improvements to how it was when I played regularly, but I can't help but continue to love it for all the little things that remind me how happy I am to have backed such a beautiful piece of art. I think I just need the game mechanics to stabilize a bit and Eliza+Beowulf+Robo-Fortune to roll-out so I can resolve to learning a set, finished game, instead of worrying about its current temporal state of flux. Ms. Fortune is still the best character in fighting games otherwise.

6. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen; I never thought I'd pick the expansion up after failing to complete the original, but, lo and behold it called to me on the shelf... and proceeded to eat up two months of my life. The new dungeons were surprisingly atmospheric and challenging, and little tweaks helped streamline the game so it felt like less of a slog, letting me focus on the character-building and combat that I was there for. A good change of pace from my Dark Souls addiction.

7. Guacamelee!; A well-packaged little work of light-hearted art, especially for a lucha libre aficionado like me. This game's direction delighted me to no end, and, hey, I could play it on my arcade sticks! Dying to get at local multiplayer with someone.

8. Spelunky (PC); There isn't a game I've enjoyed watching streams of more than this one, to the point I could do nothing but cave and snap it up in the holiday sale, not to be disappointed. I can't really comment on what it would be like to discover cold, but the merits of the challenging gameplay on its own keeps me feeling invested while I learn, even if I spoiled every easter egg and secret well-before purchase.

9. BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma; (Imported from Japan to Canada) I can no longer say that I absolutely hate the feel of BlazBlue. They actually fixed the feel of it! Mechanics that I thought were dooming, like the gold bursts and guard-primers, have been resolved. There are still little things that irk me in comparison to Guilty Gear—the tech recovery system, the balance (especially after Kokonoe), the "style"—but I can tell with this instalment that the series is finally starting to come into its own. In a different world with less competition from other great fighting games, I could see myself maining this game and enjoying myself.

10. DOTA 2; I never liked the super-clicky RTS games, and this game was my first attempt at the equally-clicky MOBA genre. I'm going to say right away that I don't see any future for myself in playing these sorts of mouse-heavy games. That said, my foray into learning DOTA was an incredibly fun exercise, even if I ended up hating actually playing matches. I came out of it with an appreciation for a new spectator sport, and a great deal of perspective regarding what it's like to dive cold into a new genre. Getting my feet wet in this game made me a more well-rounded individual in the end, which I'm okay with.

And that's that.

EDIT: New #1! Former #2, KOFXIII:SE, out due to ineligibility!
Sorry Divekick, but after reading the rules more closely, I had to shoe-horn +R in. Any other year you'd have been #1. <3

EDIT2: Putting in quality time with Spelunky now, and it is working its way up my list as expected.
Jul 29, 2010
Actually, regarding my post a few minutes ago, would Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R be eligible for a 2013 GotY? Like I said in my post, it's a port of a 2012 arcade release patched free-of-charge over a 2012 console release in 2013.

EDIT: Nevermind. Disregard. Reviewed the rules more closely and edited my post.


butthurt Heat fan
May 1, 2007
Outside Katy Perry's house
If I got my hands on an Xbox One this year, this list would have been different. Anyways...

1. Asphalt 8: Airborne; This is probably the best arcade racer on iOS today. Mix in the drifting from Ridge Racer, the insane speeds of Burnout, the licensed cars of Need for Speed, and the hang time and stunts of San Francisco Rush, and awesomeness happens.

2. Bioshock Infinite

3. Real Racing 3

4. Rise of the Triad (2013 version)

5. NBA 2K14

6. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+

7. Angry Birds Star Wars

8. Shadow Warrior (2013 remake)

9. Need for Speed Rivals

10. Typing of the Dead Overkill
Apr 10, 2008
I can't even remember what I played this year.

1. The Last of Us ; Loved every single part of this game and my game of the gen. Outstanding story to game play to soundtrack; everything was just simply amazing. It's the only game where I thought about the ending weeks after I finished it.

2. Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag ; I didn't have high hopes for this, turned out even better than AC2. Ship battles are addicting and there is just so much stuff to do in this game to not be this high on my list. Best game on next gen consoles atm.

3. Super Mario 3D World ; The Nintendo magic is there. Incredibly polished all around, just wish it was more like a traditional 3D Mario and not a mixture of the shitty NSMB series.

4. Grand Theft Auto 5 ; Great game and best GTA to date. Online not working left a bad taste though and I haven't played it since.

5. Bioshock Infinite ; Loved the story and characters, got a bit too repetitive though. The world was beautiful.

6. Resogun ; Really fun game and perfect launch title.

7. NBA 2K14 ;

8. Batman Arkham Origins ; Not as good as Asylum or City, but I love Batman and it's universe. I thought they did a pretty good job.

9. Fifa 14 ; FUT is addicting. I know people who have spent hundreds or dollars on this shit.

10. Beyond: Two Souls ; Can't believe these graphics can be done on the PS3. They really need to work on their writing though.

x. God of War Ascension ; Not even close to as good as GOW3. Still pretty fun.
Mar 27, 2010
I didnt see any of them on the list but are the crusader kings ii expansions eligible? Id probably put the old gods on there if so.

Edit: Will just put this here for now and edit later if need be

1. Saints Row IV; Dumb in all the right ways.
2. Civilization V: Brave New World; Further refines an already great game. Ive lost a great deal of the last year to this one.
3. Rogue Legacy; Smart additions to the usual formula for roguelikes makes this game a lot of fun and a perfect skinner box.
4. Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods; Crusader Kings II with the sons of Ragnar. Wont change any minds on this series but adds some good stuff.
5. Bioshock: Infinite; The game has an extraordinarily flabby middle but when it works it works really well.
6. Dota 2; Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, but there are enjoyable depths to plumb here.
7. Diablo III; I barely played the PC version but something about the console version hooked me.
8. Dynasty Warriors 8; One of the best Musou games ever made, if not the best.
9. Tales of Xillia; The first JRPG Ive enjoyed in a while.
10. Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen; Probably my favorite game from 2012 gets an update. Hard not to enjoy more of something I loved.
x. Tomb Raider; a bit too bombastic for its own good sometimes but really solid.
x. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed; The best kart style game ever made.
Jul 29, 2010
Man, re-reading JC's post just reinforces how good The Last of Us was. It would be my number one but I just can't get around certain repeating issues with it. Unskippable real time cutscenes, forced walk sections, tedious animation-driven puzzles, the intro being hold up/follow NPC to win... There are moments where these issues just destroy the otherwise stellar pacing for me. Do these bother anyone else? I don't see them mentioned much. Maybe it's just me. Game would have topped my list easily if they had been omitted.

And to be fair, stuff like forced walks have been pervasive throughout most of the gen. But I still can't excuse it here. Interested to hear anyone's thoughts.
Jul 30, 2013
Man, re-reading JC's post just reinforces how good The Last of Us was. It would be my number one but I just can't get around certain repeating issues with it. Unskippable real time cutscenes, forced walk sections, tedious animation-driven puzzles, the intro being hold up/follow NPC to win... There are moments where these issues just destroy the otherwise stellar pacing for me. Do these bother anyone else? I don't see them mentioned much. Maybe it's just me. Game would have topped my list easily if they had been omitted.

And to be fair, stuff like forced walks have been pervasive throughout most of the gen. But I still can't excuse it here. Interested to hear anyone's thoughts.
These are certainly points which, if that sort of thing annoys you, are valid enough. A couple of times I also thought 'can we get on with it' when I was forced to walk. In fact I thing it says something that one of the most poignant moments in the game (I believe the one JC alludes to) goes on for as long as you let it past a certain point. Once they've shown you what they wanted to you can leave whenever, but I know many people would just stop and stare for a good long while. Going forward onto future projects I think Naughty Dog and other developers should look at the success of that moment and build on it in the future. Give the player a reason to stay and they make their own pacing. (Incidentally I found this kind of thing happened a few times in TLOU and I will mention another when I finally finish my post.
I actually rather liked the slower moments like the ladder/pallet moving and the slow walking segments, but that really depends on how involved you are in what the game is trying to do. It probably makes it less immediately replayable than RE4, but it operates at a much higher level of narrative, both in its dialog interactions and environmental storytelling, that I actually looked forward to all its downtime moments. I think the quieter sections both reinforce the mundanities of day-to-day life as a survivor, and also makes the frequent bigger moments ring that much louder due to their disparity. A know a lot of people hated the opening few hours, but I was completely engaged as they slowly unrevealed the world and its mechanics.
May 9, 2011
I actually rather liked the slower moments like the ladder/pallet moving and the slow walking segments, but that really depends on how involved you are in what the game is trying to do. It probably makes it less immediately replayable than RE4, but it operates at a much higher level of narrative, both in its dialog interactions and environmental storytelling, that I actually looked forward to all its downtime moments. I think the quieter sections both reinforce the mundanities of day-to-day life as a survivor, and also makes the frequent bigger moments ring that much louder due to their disparity. A know a lot of people hated the opening few hours, but I was completely engaged as they slowly unrevealed the world and its mechanics.
I didn't mind it so much on the first time but like you said it really hurts other plays. After the 2nd or 3rd time into the game that narrative stuff kind of loses its luster and I just want to experiment and toy with the AI in the combat situations, but you have to go through a lot of that stuff to get to it.

I know it doesn't fit with cinematic stuff but I really would have liked something like Batman's challenge rooms for TLoU where I can just jump right in and play.
Well, I think they wanted the Multiplayer to be something like that, but I never really got into it. I do believe the mechanics would hold up pretty well stripped of the narrative, so I would definitely check out some combat arena style DLC.

I'm eager to hop into some new content regardless, so I hope we get a release date on that new Ellie DLC soon
Jul 30, 2013
If not the Ellie DLC then some content from the days when Joel was just surviving on his own or maybe with his brother or something could be a way to make levels that have great combat scenarios without needing a heavy narrative to get in the way of replayability. Focus on making the gameplay as good as it can be. Then another DLC that focuses on story as I suppose there are those who would want that.
Jun 9, 2011
Man, re-reading JC's post just reinforces how good The Last of Us was. It would be my number one but I just can't get around certain repeating issues with it. Unskippable real time cutscenes, forced walk sections, tedious animation-driven puzzles, the intro being hold up/follow NPC to win... There are moments where these issues just destroy the otherwise stellar pacing for me. Do these bother anyone else? I don't see them mentioned much. Maybe it's just me. Game would have topped my list easily if they had been omitted.

And to be fair, stuff like forced walks have been pervasive throughout most of the gen. But I still can't excuse it here. Interested to hear anyone's thoughts.
Basically, everything you mention has been a nuisance all past gen and will I'm sure continue as long as some dev has a specific, filmic vision and lacks the talent, imagination, resources, publisher support, or just out and out respect for players to deliver it in a way that works to the medium's strengths instead of just trying to pound their round peg into a game's square hole. To be clear, anyone should be free to make whatever they want, but if you make your vision into a game, you'd better be prepared for it to be judged as one.

As I mentioned on my list, the quality of the rest of the package and general spacing out of the interruptions allowed TLoU to work for me. Much like Bioshock Infinite (which would have been somewhere around 18th for me this year I guess), I find I don't share the criticisms of the meat of the gameplay that I often hear levied against the title. I was unimpressed by the game when it was one-dimensional, but when all the elements came together it created an effective gestalt. My biggest complaint with TLoU remains the pacing through the middle portion of the game, and the interminable shooting portions in the back half which came dangerously close to giving me Uncharted flashbacks.

I know it doesn't fit with cinematic stuff but I really would have liked something like Batman's challenge rooms for TLoU where I can just jump right in and play.
I think you're on to something. I'd pay for that as DLC.
Jul 5, 2012
My picks are in no particular order. I love them all equally.

1. Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) ; I had never played a Fire Emblem game prior to this title, the difficulty having scared me off. Upon hearing this game had a casual mode, I was more interested, and by the time I played the demo, I was sold. I played once on Casual, just to get a feel for the game, then played on Classic and wept many, many tears. Despite all that, the characters, story, and gameplay of this title blew me away. I replayed this game many, many times in the coming months, and I still think about going back to it and playing a different way, or marrying my character to someone else. When a game sticks with you that long, you know it's good.

2. Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS) ; I have never played a main SMT franchise game before; my only exposure to the franchise had been the Persona and Devil Survivor series. When I heard the newest SMT installment was coming to the 3DS, I was excited. I will admit, I got the game via Amazon so I could put the main character in a cardboard jacket. But then I actually played the game, getting beat upside the head with the difficulty and the storyline. It's truly an awesome game, and well worth the time of any RPG fan.

3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) ; Words cannot adequately express how insanely happy I am that this game came out in time, because it is sublime from start to finish. Sub. Lime. This isn't just my nostalgia talking; I love Link to the Past, as it's one of my favorite Zelda games, but it's also been years since I last played it. This game has no hand holding, no forced minigames or sidequests, lets you tackle dungeons in any order you want, and focuses on your ability to use your head to solve puzzles. No annoying fairies getting all up in your shit. The graphics are gorgeous, the rental system works WONDERFULLY, and is probably my top favorite Zelda game, right behind the Oracle games. A must for any Zelda fan.

4. Pokemon X/Y (3DS) ; I've been playing Pokemon since the original Pokemon Red and Blue came out, and I've been faithfully following the franchise since. Generation 5 was good, and I liked it a lot, but X/Y was amazing. Awesome 'evil' team, awesome layout, awesome Pokemon, awesome characters, awesome music... I plowed through the game in three days, because I was that hooked on it. It refined everything that made the previous games great, gave us character customization, and gave us an experience that I adored and can't wait to play again.

5. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) ; I never played the original, though I was familiar with it. People from both GAF and real life pushed me into getting this game, and I'm glad they did. I love the gameplay, the characters (E. Gadd is hilarious), the graphics and the music. I am a wuss, so some things in the game did make me jump, but I can still confidently say this is one of the few scary games I can play.

6. Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies (3DS) ; I've been playing PW since the beginning, so when this was announced for NA, I gave no fucks that it was eShop only. It is soooo good to be playing Nick again; I really, really didn't like Apollo Justice. I like the character in this game, but AJ as a whole just screwed over all my favorite characters and... Sigh. Anyway. Dual Destinies gives PW fans everything they love about the franchise: dramatic courtroom battles, memorable characters, fantastic humor, and more twists than a roller coaster on steroids. It is fantastic, with the only minor downfall being that you need knowledge of the first four games to really appreciate it.

7. Dragon's Crown (Vita) ; I was excited for this game; I loved Code of Princess, and the art being done by the same team behind Odin's Sphere had me on board months before. I have poured hours into this game and I absolutely love it. The gameplay is what kept me coming back, even if the story itself is pretty standard. I love the different playing styles of each character, and I hope a sequel is made.

8. Papers, Please (PC) ; I didn't think this game would be so enjoyable, but it was worth the $5 I spent at the Steam sale. Checking papers, stamping passports, getting caught up in a terrorist plot... This game is a joy, a game I like to boot up my computer just to play when I have some time to kill. I love everything about this game. Glory to Arstotzka.

9. Steamworld Dig (3DS) ; The best original eShop download game I've ever played. The best part of this game is you get out of it what you put in. Minecraft meets robots meets a platformer. It's addictive. I'm still playing it. And not to mention that Image & Form has an impressive rapport with fans that I have never experienced before with any publisher or developer. Four for you, Image & Form. I can't wait for the sequel.

10. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) ; 124 hours is what I have clocked into this game, even though thanks to many of the games listed above, I have drifted away from it somewhat. This game takes everything I loved about Animal Crossing and elevated it. The fact you can customize your town and pick what you want is a blessing, and the familiar mixes with the new. It's soooo addictive.

x. Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP) ; This is a fun visual novel that takes the Otome formula and flips it a bit, adding logic and bombs along with romantic funtimes. I like replaying this game for the endings and the dalogue. Saki is a refreshing female protagonist, not just in the otome field, but in video games as a whole. We need more Sakis.

x. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (Vita) ; This game had some disappointments, that I can't deny. But I enjoyed what I played of the Sly Cooper series in the past, and this game delivered on all those elements. I loved seeing Sly's relatives, and thoroughly enjoyed the playthrough.
Jul 6, 2009
It's that time again! And McNum's votes for NeoGAF Game of the Year are...

1. Fire Emblem: Awakening ; What do you get when you cross the best of Fire Emblem with, well, a dating sim? Something like Fire Emblem: Awakening. It's the solid Fire Emblem SRPG foundation, with the series support system played way up both in story and gameplay, making the bonds between your characters a focal point of the game, both in allowing characters to pair up during combat, and marry each other. The story is... okay, Intelligent Systems tried giving you a player avatar and letting him/her be a focal point of the story, while letting the character be mostly a blank slate. It works okay, but could be better. Maybe next time. I do hope the avatar idea returns, it's a solid idea that just needs a bit more polish to be great. Thanks to having a world map and random zombie fights popping up, the game gains a very fast pick up and play style where you can play a 5-10 minute burst of Fire Emblem, which is great on a handheld game. With the many variations in supports, class changing, and nitty-gritty skill and stat manipulation, if that's your thing, the game becomes very replayable. To the point where three save files seem too few. All in all, Fire Emblem Awakening is a fantastic game and easily holds the spot as my game of the year.

2. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ; REVENGEANCE! Hey, you want to play a game where you can do all the crazy things Raiden did in MGS4? You do? Get this game! And play a Raiden that can do things even MGS4 Raiden couldn't. Then tear out the enemy's spine. Platinum games did what Konami couldn't, and gave the Metal Gear franchise a welcome shot of over-the-top action, complete with the craziness that is the MGS setting mixed with Platinum's unique style. It's even doing a better job of the Codec conversations that MGS4.

3. Pokémon X/Y ; Catch 'em, fight 'em, breed 'em, pet 'em, make a music video with 'em, get a Bidoof in a Wonder Trade for an Eevee. Yup. It's Pokémon, alright. Lots and lots of Pokémon. And that is a good thing. Spent hours just trying to breed the perfect pokémon for my team... still doing that. Fun game overall. I don't think petting an Eevee will ever get old. So cute!

4. Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies ; OBJECTION! Ace Attorney is back in 3D! Joining Ace Attorneys Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice is Athena Cykes, who is quite possibly one of the best new characters this year. The game is witty and insane as always, and shows everyone how last second swerves are done. The new Mood Matrix and Re-visualization parts work nicely and mesh with the Ace Attorney core gameplay very well. Oh, and the DLC case for it is wonderfully nuts, too.

5. Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed ; It has Vyse, from Skies of Arcadia playable. That alone grants it a spot on this list. Also it's one of the most purebred fun arcade racers I've played yet. It controls great (if you have a controller) and the sheer amount of content and developer support this game has gotten, at least on the PC, makes it one awesome little game. What you see is what you get here. Sega arcade racing with a very diverse cast of characters. Mario Kart, beware, the hedgehog has your number now.

6. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX ; "The rest of the world will never get Final Mix." Until we did. And welcome back Kingdom Hearts, and a special welcome to Re:Chain of Memories that wasn't realsed in Europe before. It's, well, Kingdom Hearts. Still as fun as ever. The HD upgrade looks nice and the new Final Mix elements keep the game fresh. It still has one of the best boss fights in video games, too.

7. Bravely Default ; It's not Final Fantasy V, but it sure borrows a lot of elements from it. It's basically a SNES era JRPG made with modern sensibilities. You got your four heroes, you job switching system, and a charming, if twisty story. The Brave/Default system takes a bit to get used to, but think of it as a Guard command that doesn't waste a turn at first and you'll get the hang of it. Also, the game opens with one of the most awesome uses of the 3DS AR I've seen yet. You CAN skip that, but trust me... don't. The US is in for an old school treat with this one.

8. XCOM: Enemy Within ; Last year, my pick for Game of the Year was XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and this expansion pack is a good reason to play even more XCOM. It adds mechs, genetic enhancements, a rival XCOM-like faction called Exalt, and some new twists to the otherwise good campaign that the base game offered. And, well, it's a good excuse to play through XCOM yet another time. And "more XCOM" is never a bad thing.

9. The Sims 3: Into the Future ; Well, it wouldn't be one of my GOTY lists without these, now would it? The final expansion pack for The Sims 3. Time traveling is the new hotness in Sunset Valley, so go grab your hover-boards, holographic phones, and time portal and tear causality a new one. Will the future become a barren wasteland, a glorious utopia or just okay? Will you become your own grandfather? Who will think of the poor old Simbots when we have the new hotness that is Plumb-bots? It's pretty clear that this is the last hurrah for Sims 3, since this pack is all kind of crazy. In a good way. Also, no major apparent game-killing bugs in this one.

10. The Sims 3: Island Paradise ; Island Paradise basically lets you play Sims 3 on a tropical island, go diving, meet sharks, mermaids, the kraken and live on a houseboat. It's a nice little injection of new ideas for the game, but you more or less need to play in the Isla Paradiso world that comes with the expansion to get the most of it.

2012. Long Live the Queen ; E is for Elodie, crown princess of the land. She died horribly. A lot. Imagine a magical anime-style princess is a world as deadly as Game of Thrones. Good luck with that. For the record, my first Elodie died from poisoned chocolate. Not a dignified end...

There are some games I'd like to have played, but sadly did not have the hardware to do. I'm sure if I had a Wii U, this list would have The Wonderful 101 and Super Mario 3D World on it... but I won't put anything on this list that I haven't played, let alone don't have the hardware for. Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is also missing. Just got too much to play on my 3DS as is. It might just end up being the shoe-in for the 2013 spot next year.

I think this is pretty much as it's going to be from me this year, unless there's a fantastic deal coming up on Steam.
Apr 13, 2012
1. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R; (Technically imported from both JPN PSN and US XBL to Canada) Despite already having a 360, I bought a PS3 this year just to grab this latest update from Japanese PSN a few month ahead of the Xbox Live release. (This was a good decision in retrospect, seeing as half of the games on this GotY list turned out to be PS3-exclusives that I wouldn't have touched otherwise.) The bottom line is that GGXXAC+R is the best fighting game ever made, even if it gets no attention on GAF. Every single fighting game fan here should seek out an active, competitive GG scene. Leave your job, move cross-country, or even set sail for Japan if necessary to find competition, for this game is the one true way of life. There is no competitive game on earth more intricate, deep and legit. There is no adrenaline experience like it. Don't wait for Xrd. Don't wait for the American PS3 release (if it's still not out by the time you read this). Don't just settle for the Vita version. Find a way to play +R with people right away.
I was very close to adding this to my list as well, but the fact that it's an update to an existing fighter made me decide against it since I wanted to rep some new games rather than one I already know and love.

But, I totally agree with pretty much everything you said. AC+R is amazing, and incredibly addicting, just like AC. The new patch made the game feel fresh again and it's still as fun as ever to pull off FRCs and crazy combos. I haven't invested enough time to determine whether or not I like it more than AC but what I have played is damn good.

If you've never played Guilty and you're interested in Xrd, you need to try this game out. It's a masterpiece and one of the best anime fighters ever made. You will never find a character that plays like Venom or Robo Ky in any other game. The only real complaint I have is that the netcode is pretty bad, but you will sink so much time in training mode that you'll probably get your money's worth.

Darkstalkers Resurrection was in a similar spot for me. It was a good port job but again, they're games I've already experienced and loved. DS3 is such a great game and one of the best fighters Capcom has ever released.
Nov 16, 2006
And here we go again. Any games past the top picks, which I feel strongly about, are only separated by small differences.

1. Dota 2 ; I could make it easy on myself and simply put this at #1 because it's the game I spent the most time with this year. But that wouldn't be doing Dota 2 justice. It's a game that will have an impact well beyond 2013 - it's a sport, it's something to think about in your spare time, to watch and cheer for with a beer in hand, something to follow well beyond just playing it yourself, almost a hobby all on its own. Given enough space, this thing is good enough to swallow your gaming time whole. Just like with any good competitive endeavour, the depth is there to keep you engaged and learning for years, but Valve goes that one step further and keeps adding incentives to play with their frequent updates, sweeping balance changes and seasonal game modes. Don't take this first place as a representative pick of gaming in 2013, take it as a tribute to the official release of this beautiful, maddening, incredible monster Valve has created.

Oh yeah, and it's free.

2. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate ; Once you get the Monster Hunter bug, it's hard to shake it off. I fell into the hole. Again. Now with the image quality the art design deserved all along and a more robust online mode, this is the game I obsessed over the most in the shortest time - so addictive, so rewarding.

3. Spelunky ; The second high-ranked re-release on this list. Were this year's new games just exceptionally bad? No. These games are just that good. The deceptively simple addition of a daily challenge mode with daily and Top-10 averaged leaderboards for the PC release kept the game a steady part of my gaming diet for yet another year. Still brilliant. Thank you, Derek Yu.

4. Papers, Please ; I'm happy I don't have to spend much time explaining this game to readers - its (well deserved) critical and (surprising) financial success show that daring gaming projects you wouldn't expect to be rewarded in that way can pan out in the current infrastructure. An experiment that piqued my interest the second I saw the free prototype on dukope's website, this game is unique, touching and On top of all that, its serious political and ethical quandaries struck a chord with me like no other game released this year, in no small part due to a connection to my personal history. Thank you, Lucas Pope.

5. Antichamber ; This thing trounces most other puzzle games in ingenuity and sheer cleverness. Add a strong, confident artstyle to the mind-bending non-Euclidean geometry and puzzles that challenge the player to do some extraordinary out-of-the-box-thinking for a video game and it's easy to see how Antichamber fulfils its ambitions beautifully. This game is smart. Thank you, Alexander Bruce.

6. Ni No Kuni ; Japan's still got it? When they're on point, they can still create love letters on par with the RPG greats I grew up with. Maybe it's the pick most affected by childhood nostalgia on this list... but I don't care. It's a powerful thing. Ghibli's appeal is global. A classic RPG fan, a Ghibli fan... this game was a match made in heaven for me and it delivered. Also features the greatest in-game lore book I've ever seen. A great collaboration and a beautiful experience.

7. The Stanley Parable ; Smart, self-aware and genuinely funny. What a rare combination in gaming. Thank you, Davey Wreden, Kevan Brighting and William Pugh.

8. Super Mario 3D World ; Japan's still got it? If Nintendo can make my top 10 with a game that disappoints compared to its predecessor, it can't be all that bad. I do consider the Galaxy games to be no less than the finest videogame ever created, so it's hard to fault Nintendo for not surpassing their previous efforts when the game they did produce is still so well made and so much fun.

9. Völgarr the Viking ; FUCK YEAH, VIKINGS. Thank you, Kris Durrschmidt and Taron Millet.

10. Risk of Rain ; In 2013's resurgence of rogue-like-lite-likes - indie efforts with randomly generated content, RPG elements and permadeath, this one stands above the rest and beats out the Diehard Dungeons, Hack, Slash, Loots, Teleglitches and Rogue Legacies out there with some incredible pixel art and a magnificiently moody/atmospheric soundtrack. All the games mentioned above are good, but Risk of Rain's in-game execution is on point. It's only the host of technical issues (lack of full controller support, rudimentary online and annoying bugs with the sound) that prevent this from being higher on the list. Thank you, Paul Morse, Duncan Drummond and Chris Christodoulou.

No handhelds! Western gaming dominates! PC gaming dominates! Indie ahead of AAA! The trends from last year continue. Or maybe it's just where my tastes are going these days, who knows. This year had a lot of impressive games made by individuals or by very small teams. That's a good thing. That's inspiring.
Nov 4, 2006
Denver, CO
1. Bioshock Infinite ; The combat wasn't as strong as it could have been. The story, like a lot of stories of this ilk, probably breaks down under strict scrutiny. But I didn't care. I had way too much fun playing this game and loving this story to care. It was the most fun I had playing games in 2013.

2. The Last of Us ; This came so close to beating out Bioshock. It really did. But while I feel that TLoU probably has a stronger and definitely more cohesive story...I can't say I was as moved by it as I was by parts of Bioshock, which makes it easier to say the second part...I had more fun with Bioshock's combat than I did with TLoU and this is my game of the year vote, not my favorite story.

3. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons ; Short, sweet, and to the point. This game said so much with so little and the gameplay contributed to the story rather than serving as a contrast between player and narrative. That last sequence is everything to this game and it is absolutely masterful.

4. Rayman Legends ; Maybe this is a little too easy compared to Origins. But it's so gloriously fun, even on the non-touch-enabled platforms, that it's hard to hold that against it. The musical levels are the perfect reward for the end of a world; really the entire game is just a joy to listen to, watch, and play.

5. Grand Theft Auto V ; Yes, GTA Online is a bummer. Yes, Franklin is almost criminally underdeveloped. But the story between Michael and Trevor is why I loved GTA V. The contrast and conflict between those two characters just brought color to that story that I honestly wasn't expecting. And yeah, those heists were something special. Should have been more of them, but what's there is oh so much fun.

6. Pokemon X/Y ; Confession time: I had not played a Pokemon game since the original Gold for the GBC. I honestly didn't really care about this one. But three of my friends dragged me into this generation and I can't thank them enough for it. So much nostalgia hit me over the course of this game you probably could have mistaken the grin on my face for that of a 12 year old boy. There's something magical about this series and I'm glad I was brought back into the fold.

7. Shin Megami Tensei IV; In some ways, SMT is kind of the anti-Pokemon. You don't care about the demons you recruit because you can't afford to. The story is dark and sinister in all the ways Pokemon is light and cheerful. But the battle mechanics and the story are all there and it was honestly a close call between this and Pokemon at the end of the day. They are both fantastic RPG experiences and well worth experiencing.

8. Tearaway ; This game oozes charm and it's depressing to have seen it perform so poorly at retail. However, those sales do not invalidate what Tearaway is in my eyes. It is the best justification for the Vita hardware to date and possibly that it will ever see. It uses everything about that system to achieve something wonderful that you can't get anywhere else. If you have a Vita, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

9. Dead Rising 3 ; The only next gen game on my list is probably the one that looks the least next gen. But the looks are not why you play this game; it's pure, unadulterated fun to just march into a swarm of zombies knowing they are the ones who are hopelessly outmatched, not you. The size and scope of that swarm is what justifies that next gen power, not the higher poly counts yet droll gameplay of so many launch titles on so many systems. This game is why I'm glad I got an Xbox One.

10. Monaco ; There are probably better games to put here. But I haven't played them. Monaco has brought me so much enjoyment with my friends that I can't leave it off this list. That frenetic pace of trying to recover after a gigantic fuck up while your friends cheer you on...or mock your incompetence before they have to come save your's everything that I want a co-op experience to be. And it's pretty damn fun solo, too.

A. Forza Motorsport 5 ; Oh those microtransactions...the bad taste in my mouth from those is the only reason this didn't make my top ten list. Yes, they fixed it. But enough about why it's not on the top ten and more why it's here anyway. Quite simply...I love this game. For whatever reason, the Drivatar system has not impeded my enjoyment of this game at all. My competitors haven't really been jerks. And the driving mechanics are still as solid as ever. Could this...should this be a better game? Yes. Is it a great game nonetheless? Also yes.

B. Saints Row IV ; Keith David is the Vice President. That kind of sums it up right there. It doesn't quite escape the feeling of a cash grab with minimal effort in world part because it is totally that...but that doesn't make the epic moments in Saints Row IV any less epic. And man, are there a lot of those epic moments, both those you create with the incredibly broken (awesome) superpowers and those the game feeds you via the story and loyalty missions.

2012. Virtue's Last Reward ; I'd put 999 here too if I could. I played both of these games for the first time this year and they're some of the most fantastic experiences I've had. I love visual novels and have for a long time, but it's sometimes very hard to divorce my love from that model of storytelling and the issues it can run into because of how it's so often deployed. 999 and VLR largely avoid those issues and stick mostly to an awesome story with some pretty fun puzzle solving. I absolutely can't wait for the next entry in this series.

There are several games that came out this year that I desperately want to play but simply haven't. Gone Home, Papers Please, Tomb Raider, Super Mario 3D World, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. It's been a fantastic year for games, through and through. With that slate before year's LTTP is going to be fiercely fought in my head, I'm certain.
Jun 6, 2011
Cool and different list, Haunted. Lots of titles that, for some reason, I feel a bit intimidated to try sometimes. Maybe because they are unfamiliar. Antichamber, however, does sound like something I want to try, eventually.

I've done a little write up for Papers, Please and it's definitely going to be inserted into my top ten, which is nice because I don't feel Sly belongs. However, I do plan to play TLoU before the deadline and I can go lean back the other direction and see where that falls (assuming it will make the cut, which I would be immensely surprised if it didn't.) So I'll wait til that's played through before editing.
Nov 16, 2006
Cool and different list, Haunted. Lots of titles that, for some reason, I feel a bit intimidated to try sometimes. Maybe because they are unfamiliar. Antichamber, however, does sound like something I want to try, eventually.

I've done a little write up for Papers, Please and it's definitely going to be inserted into my top ten, which is nice because I don't feel Sly belongs. However, I do plan to play TLoU before the deadline and I can go lean back the other direction and see where that falls (assuming it will make the cut, which I would be immensely surprised if it didn't.) So I'll wait til that's played through before editing.

Some of them are daunting, no doubt. But where other time-intensive games can feel like a grind and ultimately a waste, the games in that top 10 really reward the player greatly for his perseverance. And Antichamber is just brilliant in its design. If you like smart games, you'll appreciate Antichamber.

Glad you're liking Papers, Please! Always satisfying if you get to play a game late in the year and immediately know "this one MUST go on my list!". :D
Feb 8, 2007
Erie, PA
1. Bioshock Infinite ; There are few games that really draw my attention and my imagination, this game snagged both and has some of the best moments I have ever experienced in my life as a gamer, and rank up there with one of the best pieces of entertainment I have ever absorbed.
2. Super Mario 3D World ;
3. Dota 2 ;
4. Brothers ;
5. The Stanley Parable ;
6. Metal Gear Rising: ReVengence ;
7. Wonderful 101 ;
8. Europa Universalis IV ;
9. Papers, Please ;
10. Ni No Kuni ;
Jul 16, 2009
Man, re-reading JC's post just reinforces how good The Last of Us was. It would be my number one but I just can't get around certain repeating issues with it. Unskippable real time cutscenes, forced walk sections, tedious animation-driven puzzles, the intro being hold up/follow NPC to win... There are moments where these issues just destroy the otherwise stellar pacing for me. Do these bother anyone else? I don't see them mentioned much. Maybe it's just me. Game would have topped my list easily if they had been omitted.

And to be fair, stuff like forced walks have been pervasive throughout most of the gen. But I still can't excuse it here. Interested to hear anyone's thoughts.
I'm exactly the same way, and it's probably the biggest issue I have with the game and, ultimately, why it won't be #1 on my list. I have absolutely no issues with slowing the pacing down and making me do survival "dirty work," or even sections that are just there for "move and talk" dialogue and simple traversal puzzles, but forcibly slowing me down for NO reason other than the devs just didn't want me to progress at the normal speed is unbelievably annoying. At that point, it could truly just have been a cutscene and nothing of value would've been lost. One of the benefits of "move and talk" is to allow for more narrative with player controlled pacing in a narrative focused, action-heavy game. If you force me to slow to a crawl just because, it's like they want to control the overall pacing chapter to chapter, the gameplay pacing room to room, and the immediate pacing step by step. The first 2 are fine, the last one is not. It can make the player feel like they have no real involvement with what's happening, especially if it occurs frequently.

Another downside to overuse of forcibly bogging the player down with forced walking and unskippable "cinematic" moments is that sections that could've been legitimately intriguing if they were the sole offenders become just another sequence where the player has been restricted. I always go back to the Tibetan town Uncharted 2. The reason that worked is because, aside from a brief amount of time limping as "injured Drake," it's the only extended sequence where they force you to slow down. It stands out from the rest of the game positively because it's unique within Uncharted 2, and bolsters the intensity of the sequence beforehand.

But anyway....ViewtifulJC, you have 4 of my top 5 games in your top 5 except you wrote a ton more than I did, and even though I'd switch the placing of 2 of those games, I still just feel like quoting your list as my own...Would you sue?
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