I’m a gamer. I typically get at least one new video game every month, not counting inexpensive downloadables. I say that only to point out that no this is NOT complete list of all the games I got this year. Anyway, in my opinion 2013 was, above all, the year of high quality PlayStation 3 games, I’ve gotta say! However, there were also a number of games for other systems that certainly rank as favorites of mine. Here are my favorite games of 2013:
1) NI NO KUNI: WRATH OF THE WHITE WITCH (PLAYSTATION 3)
This is what American gamers and critics call a “J”RPG. The Japanese themselves dislike the “Japanese” qualification. For those who don’t know, however, a “J”RPG stereotypically is a more or less traditional kind of RPG that revolves around telling a story, whereas a stereotypically Western-style RPG would instead place almost all of its focus on exploration, action-oriented combat, and *grumbles* online multiplayer functionality. As someone who strongly prefers the more traditional, story-oriented formula when it comes to RPGs, I didn’t really care that much for some of the “J”RPGs the reviewer praises like Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story. They were a little too stylistically Western for my taste. This game, however, genuinely stays true to the Japanese cultural tradition of focusing on telling a high-quality story and, unlike so many other RPGs that have been made in 3D, it does so without sacrificing the quality of gameplay. It matters to me because RPGs are my favorite genre, but only when they’re done in this style. I rarely get into what we might consider more Western-style RPGs, by contrast. Story-wise, the powerful themes here revolve around emotions…and Studio Chibli is on board, need I say more??! Well okay yes I need say more, but for more info on that and the details of how this game works, I’ll direct you to the review below!
2) THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS (NINTENDO 3DS)
This game was originally conceived as a remake of the classis Super NES title The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but wound up becoming an original Zelda title in the course of development. It is indeed thematically very similar to A Link to the Past, but with lots and lots of noticeable differences. For me, the main and most important difference is the emotional depth of the characters. The quality of storytelling here is definitely better than in the original. However, the gamer also enjoys a greatly increased ability to explore and do what they want in their own preferred sequence in this title at the same time, which makes this adventure title all the more enjoyable. Trust me, if you haven’t played this game, you’re definitely missing out! I’ll leave the details to the reviewer below, as he sums them up quite well.
3) THE LAST OF US (PLAYSTATION 3)
I’m not normally a fan of the survival-horror genre, but this is a gigantic exception to that rule! The Last of Us has one of the deepest and darkest storylines of any game I’ve ever played and it’s told with a film-like level of mastery and emotional depth (which is tragically rare for video games). Thematically, the setting is apocalyptic and every detail subtly conveys a very anti-humanist message about the power of nature over people and the overwhelming power of the survival impulse. It also breaks with many traditions in Western game-making, including not only with the prevailing one-sidedly gunplay-centric standard gameplay style of the survival-horror genre, but also in other ways. For example, in keeping with its anti-humanist themes, this game, heaven forbid, does not revolve around player choice and free exploration, but around the telling of a dramatic, emotionally-dense story: the quality that I see most often in traditional RPGs, and which forms the essential reason why I like that genre best overall. The Last of Us shows that this kind of depth can be successfully converted to other genres! THAT’s what’s truly exciting about it! As always, I’ll let the reviewer fill you in on the details.
4) PUPPETEER (PLAYSTATION 3)
YaY, a cute-goth game!! That’s EXACTLY my style! That is to say that this is thematically a highly enjoyable mixture of the dark and the kiddie. Genre-wise, this is a side-scrolling platformer, which is fine by me because I’ve always liked that genre! You (appropriately) play as a boy who has been turned into a puppet and gets his head torn off and finds himself on a quest to resurrect the Goddess who can recover the stolen souls of the Earth’s children from her estranged love, the self-proclaimed Moon Bear King. The whole game takes place on ever-changing play-style sets. The storytelling is great and highly amusing and the gameplay is very fun. THIS GAME SHOULD BE FAR, FAR MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN IT HAS BEEN!! Get it! Check out the review below for more details.
5) RAYMAN LEGENDS (WII U)
As you gathered from my remarks on Puppeteer, there are two well-pronounced sides to my personality: the normally very serious and dark (but good) side…and the completely zany and childish side that sometimes comes out to play, if only to give my default critical thinking mode a well-deserved rest. This game plays entirely to the latter pole of my personality and it does so marvelously! Rayman Legends is an incredibly fun, creative, absurd, cute, and hilarious platformer with both lots of action and puzzle elements thrown in. And, bonus, there are female characters for me to play as! (Not the most common feature in video games even today.)
6) SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD (WII U)
Been waiting for a high quality, MULTI-PLAYER, 3D Mario platformer for ages? So have I. THIS IS IT!! In fact, this is the only Mario platformer that I would honestly say is more enjoyable with two or three companions than it is in single or two-player mode. Specifically, we’re talking cooperative play here: you work as a team to get through levels. Playable characters include not just Mario, Luigi, and a bunch of Toads (like in the New Super Mario Bros. franchise), but also Princess Peach…and my favorite Mario character, Rosalina, who first appeared in Super Mario Galaxy! The cat suit is not only an awesome, cute, and fun addition, but a very functional one at that, and there are lots of other innovations to this game that make it really stand out. You can learn about many of them in the review below. Again though, I must stress: 3D…multiplayer co-op that’s actually functional! It’s hard to get better than that when it comes to platformers!