Monday, January 13, 2014

My favourite games of 2013

Here I am with my top ten favourite games that were released in 2013! I didn't finish all them, which is a bit naughty, so I'll have to make sure I go back to them this year before too many new ones come along.  Before I get stuck in however, here are a few notable absences - you won't find The Last of Us on here because I haven't played it yet.  Similarly there's no Batman: Arkham Origins or Fire Emblem: Awakening because I've barely started them.  Finally, Bioshock Infinite isn't on here because I simply didn't like it very much.  With that out of the way, let's see what did make the cut...

10. Pikmin 3 - Wii U
Now then, I'm actually not all that deep into the single player mode, but I have spent many hours playing the Bingo Battle mode with my brother and his family, which has cemented Pikmin 3's place in this list and ensured it will be in rotation for years to come. Bingo Battle is the perfect mix of strategic planning, chaotic scrambling, and screwing over the other guy that ensures that it's great fun to play. The five or so hours I have spent with the single player mode have been highly enjoyable, and Nintendo seems to have found the ideal mix of time pressure due to the daily limit, yet it gives players who aren't all that good at this sort of thing (me included) enough space to explore, experiment and try again if things go horribly awry.

9. Lego City Undercover - Wii U
This game came along at precisely the right time for me.  There wasn't a lot coming out for the other consoles, and the Wii U itself had been starved of software since it launched, so it desperately needed something.  Thankfully, Traveller's Tales and Nintendo teamed up to deliver a genuinely funny open world Lego game that should appeal both to adults and children.  The single player story is lengthy enough to keep you occupied for some time, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg.  There are hundreds of optional things to do and items to collect, a lot of which aren't unlocked until you get the right item in the main missions.  I hear that Lego Marvel Superheroes is even better, but I haven't had the chance to try it yet.

8. Animal Crossing: New Leaf - 3DS
I haven't picked this game up for a while now, so I expect when I finally do I will discover that a lot of my little animal buddies have moved out.  For a solid three month period though, my 3DS and my ACNL cartridge went wherever I did.  It's a very laid back, relaxing experience, and this entry in the series is arguably more of a proper game than any of the previous versions thanks to the vast array of mini games you can play on the tropical island.  That's just one of many things to keep you occupied - town planning, regular bug and fishing contests, random visits from shady art dealers and confused seagulls - all charmingly written by the Treehouse team at Nintendo.  The ideal portable experience!

7. Super Mario 3D World - Wii U
Now, the reason that this game is only in seventh place on my list is because I am not enjoying it as much as the absolutely mind blowing pair of Super Mario Galaxy titles that came out on the original Wii. The basic idea is just not as fresh, it being based around Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS.  That being said, there is still a lot of creativity in the levels, from the new suits like the cat suit and the double cherry, to the wide range of different environments and task for you to complete.  Finding all the green stars, the stamps and landing on the top of the flag pole with every character is quite the challenge, but definitely rewarding if you have the skill for it!

6. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - PlayStation 3
This is one of the games on my list that remains unfinished, which is a terrible crime as it's so good.  I spent a good deal of 2012 looking forward to this - an interactive Studio Ghibli movie with RPG mechanics!  I did spend a solid 40 hours playing it, and loved every minute of it.  The graphics are absolutely stunning, the soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi is sublime, and the game play is solid if a little traditional.  It seems like great JRPG's like this one only come along a few times a year these days.  We were lucky to get two of them in 2013, another of which you will find further down this list!

5. Tomb Raider - Xbox 360
The Tomb Raider reboot did play quite a lot like the Uncharted series, but in my opinion it was a better game than Nathan Drake's series.  The skillful writing by Rhianna Pratchett ensured that the game was much more believable, even though Lara had pretty much become a gun toting bad ass by the end.  Traversing the world and finding all the hidden collectibles was a fun diversion, and I even spent a little while doing this after I'd finished the main plot (though I didn't get everything).  I'm looking forward to the next entry in the revived franchise now.

4. Grand Theft Auto 5 - Xbox 360
Now here's a game that I actually did manage to finish - and it's a GTA game too!  That's the very first time that I've ever got to the end of one of them (not counting The Ballad of Gay Tony or The Lost and the Damned, as they were quite short). What Rockstar managed to achieve on the ageing Xbox 360 and PS3 was stunning, and some of the design from Red Dead Redemption has trickled down into this series for it's overall betterment.  I still prefer Red Dead by quite a large margin because I don't find it to be as cynical and bitter in tone compared to certain sections of GTA 5, but it is a remarkable achievement nonetheless.

3. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Xbox 360
Ooops, another game I didn't quite get around to finishing.  I wasn't far off though.  This is one game where I do want to try and do 100% of everything though, as it is such fun doing piratey things like sailing your brig across the vast ocean, plundering ships for their cargo, harpooning great white sharks and digging up buried treasure.  Some of the on land mechanics that have been present in every Assassin's Creed are definitely starting to show their age, though on the open sea the game is a pure joy to play.  I am very interested to see in which direction the series will go next, and if the rumours of a spin off pirate game are true!

2. Path of Exile - PC
I love Diablo style loot 'em ups, and in 2013 Grinding Gear Games gave us one for free.  It features everything you would expect from a full price release - seven character classes, tons of levellable skill gems, a truly vast passive skill tree, and three sizable acts to play through.  The whole game has been designed to be replayable as well, with the random map and item generation that you've come to expect from the best games of this type, in addition to a large range of optional ladder leagues with which to challenge yourself and others.  There's enough game in here to keep anyone occupied for months, and you don't have to spend a single penny to get it!  That's deserving of second place in my book.

1. Bravely Default - 3DS
Another game that I'm only about halfway through, though I think I can be forgiven this time around because it only came out in mid December.  Poor players in the US don't get in until February of this year!  I did debate whether or not it had come out too soon for me to feasibly place it in first place on my list, but I think it should be permitted as it is the game I have enjoyed the most in 2013 by far.  Very much a traditional Final Fantasy game in the vein of FF V or FF VI in all but name, it sees you take control of your four warriors of light and set off on a quest to restore the crystals.  There is a vast range of jobs that you can assign your characters, roughly half of which are unlocked by completing side missions, and some innovative uses of StreetPass and sleep mode.  Now that I'm back at work and commuting every day, I will be playing the rest of this game - I urge anybody who misses the "golden years" of Final Fantasy to do the same!

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