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A Top 13 For 2013

The gaming chapter of 2013’s officially one for the history books and with that final note comes the unflinching tradition of the pomp and splendor of the awards that follow. Always one to break with tradition, I take the time to display my very won list, crafted by yours truly appropriate to the year of its debut.

Thirteen games for the year of 2013 is the only list I could make in good faith, either for cheaply fitting in all of my favorites of simply going with a gimmick.. You read that right. No matter the case, it’s all the more my own, no ifs, ands, or, buts. Now, without further ado, my top 13 in all their precious memories.

Honorable Mentions: Luigi's Mansion 2: Dark Moon, Papers Please, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, New Super Luigi U, Guacamelee, Rayman Legends, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Metro: Last Light

13. Sly Cooper 4: Thieves in Time

True, I was a late comer to the Sly series only having played the 2010 HD collection a few years ago, but I quickly became a fan enough to enjoy Sanzaroo Game’s respectful and even creative take on everything that lied true to the Cooper gang’s success over the years. The heists were just as ridiculous and clever as always and the characters as loveably goofy as before and then some. Sly’s time traveling plot-device was surprisingly something that didn’t even bother me and his ancestors’ antics something that generally made me chuckle short of Tennessee’s awful voice-work. I could take points away from the disappointing quick-time-even of a final boss or the bizarre plot twist of Penelope’s, but that would be ignoring the inherent joys of shaking the hips of an anthropomorphic fox with your PS3 controller. Yes, it’s as delightfully weird as it deserves.

12. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Frankly, I’d be lying if I said that Animal Crossing wasn’t the drug that consumed every waking hour of this past summer of mine. Fishing for that one scaled beauty that escaped my grasp or playing around on the island doing silly kids games is as dangerously time-consuming as it sounds ridiculously dorky, but I loved it all the same and wouldn’t take any of it back. Though perhaps not my favorite game of the year but easily my most played, Animal Crossing is the closest thing I can liken to gaming therapy. Far away from the explosions and gunfire of the rest of the industry, Animal Crossing was a little oasis that I could escape to in the palm of my hand and my town of Haven was all the happier for it.

11. Gone Home

Gone Home probably started the most arguments short of a David Cage game this year over what defines a game but no matter what it was, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it to as much of a T as the teen drama that it so surprisingly captures well. Refraining from the drawn out exposition and heart string pulling that too many dramas reach for, Gone Home is likens itself to an interactive mystery novel that you explore and realize each clue at your own pace. The mystery at the heart of the story is one that I can only say is one worthy of more attention in 2013 you won’t regret The Fullbright Company’s talent at creating an atmosphere and attention to detail that speaks to how we live the lives we do in what lies around us.

10. Bioshock Infinite

Games like Bioshock are akin to kaleidoscopes. Just about everyone seems to see it differently, not merely in terms of story but as a quality game itself. While some would claim its clunky gunplay painfully linear level design cramp up its narrative, others would forgive or even ignore those failings for a story that shakes everything we believe in what’s real and not in a game world. Though I could attest to find truth in both, I can’t not include Bioshock Infinite for having one of the most unforgivingly complex and simply mind-blowing stories I’ve seen, well, since the first Bioshock. Elizabeth may be one of the best AI partners you can find in today’s games in capability and spirit while Columbia’s skyline might be the best looking views of this last generation. Its gameplay may be sub-average at best, but the moments I take away from the game’s heartbreaking shanty town to Elizabeth’s surprise solo tune make it worthy of a place on this top thirteen.

9. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Childhood is often a time caught between two worlds; one of the ordinary and that of daydreams. The collaborative genius behind Namco Bandai and Level 5‘s Ni No Kuni speaks to that power in a variety of delightful ways, sprinkling its own magic on the JRPG formula while deriving inspiration from the best of Studio Ghibli. What simple joys can be derived from its heartfelt story further realize an imaginative world full of discovery and while certainly not flawless, its inconsistent brilliance shines through well enough to warrant a captivating time like few others. That about sums up my most thoughts on the game.

8. The Stanley Parable

It’s hard to know where to start with something like The Stanley Parable. A winding, weaving pathway of impossibly mundane choices interwoven with the most sidesplitting hilarity make it an experience more of game, but that’s not a bad thing. After spending hours upon hours getting over trying to unlock every door I came across and every desk I saw in the real world, it’s only then that I realized how much The Stanley Parable truly accomplishes in making you question every value you thought you had in choice-driven narratives. Perhaps a walking simulator of narrative itself, every moment of The Stanley Parable satirizes the experience of video-game instructions in ways you won’t be able to guess.

7. Super Mario 3D World

Only now is it shameful of me to look back at how much I truly doubted Super Mario 3D World’s potential. Only mere months ago did I think it some cheap, desperate cash-in to 3D Land that I’d instantly forget about moments after playing it. Never before was I so wrong about a Nintendo title and I’m more thankful than ever that it turned out to be arguably the best platformer of 2013 not just in its sheer love letter to childhood nostalgia, but to its own batch of creativity. Smart level design and unique power-ups make 3D World a different game each time you play it with one of the game’s five characters, each with their own unique abilities that the game utilizes to its best extent. Though I’d admit the game’s hand-holding and its disappointingly simple boss battles were slight detractors, those weren’t enough to stop me humming that lovely music or smiling every time a catsuit wearing Toad smiled back at me.

My review:

6. Fire Emblem: Awakening

Just about every game franchise teaches us the art of war, but rarely do they ever show so much just from the relationships people can form on that same battlefield. Fire Emblem: Awakening makes that evident in an immersive way few games like it can accomplish. Whether I was worried about “hooking” up Chrom with a deserving suitor to deciding how many people I wanted to sacrifice in the name of love, watching my allies perish for the couples I had shaped made more impact on how I played than I’d ever admit. Combine that with the game’s fantastic pre-rendered cutscenes, deeper child-rearing addition, and still solid combat sequences simply makes Fire Emblem: Awakening one of the 3DS’s gems.

5. The Last of Us

There seems to be an almost unhealthy fascination the entertainment industry has with the apocalyptic genre these days, but if they all end up as much of an emotional thrill-ride like The Last of Us, then they’re better off for it. Already a devoted fan of Uncharted, Naughty Dog again delivered a cinematically driven gaming experience that I felt was simply made for movie fanatics like me. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson’s performances are undoubtedly some of the best of this previous generation and The Last of Us’s hopeless sense of dread rounds its ugly clicker head every time you desperately reach for that plywood in the middle of the night. Its AI kinks and quirrelsome combat present and accounted for, you won’t hear any real complaints about them from this gamer. From its heartbreaking opening to its shocking finale, I like to think of it as Naughty Dog’s Red Dead Redemption, something to be remembered and treasured as a single work that stands alone to be admired or spurred as the provoking art it truly is.

4. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

I seem to have a passive-aggressive relationship with the Assassin Creed series. For every folly the series has delivered this last generation, I’ve always come back for more in hopes of the same triumphs in its storytelling and world-building that made me fall in love with Assassin’s Creed II. If Assassin’s Creed III was an enjoyable experience admist missed opportunities, then Black Flag was a game that might very well have built the best world ever featured in the series thus far. Its past and present day narratives may both fall flat, but Edward Kenway’s intriguing mixture of empathy and selfishness along with the most beautifully realized oceans I’ve seen in a game combine to create the best open-world pirate game I never knew I wanted. Sea shanties and ship-boarding galore, Black Flag’s attention to detail and freedom is the game that renewed my faith in a franchise I’m only worried may have set the bar impossibly high for its inevitable sequels.

My full review:

3. Pikmin 3

As an original owner and fan of the Gamecube, I’ve literally been waiting nearly a full decade for Pikmin 3’s release and can’t understate its importance as the reason I part-owned a Wii U with my brother. Come August, I was not disappointed in the least despite what some might say of its unfortunate length or chaotic final boss. Micromanaging my fruit harvest with my three, plucky pilots and mobbing every butt-ugly varmit I came across only added my love to the breathtaking beauty of Nintendo’s HD output combined with its still powerful art style.

2. Lego City: Undercover

Lego City Undercover is a game that simply breathes nostalgia and kiddish joy in every sense of the word. My years of memories playing Lego Island on my dad’s old school laptop and its sequels on PS1 were fully realized like I didn’t expect in Lego City: Undercover. Though not as interactive as one could hope for, the beautifully rendered city is about as chock full of addictive collectibles and constructions as you could ask of a Lego game and the original storytelling and first class humor are to die for. The movie and tv show references are a fantastic plus, but the game’s near-perfect characterization of dopes like Frank Honey and Chase McCain are what’ll keep it in your heart. It couldn't be more different from that of Naughty Dog's or Rockstar's titles this year, but I couldn't have enjoyed myself more feeling like a kid in a Lego store again.

1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Like 3D World, I considered Zelda a nod to the past while never expecting a revitalization of it in such ingenious and immersive ways. I dare say that I like it better than A Link to the Past and even better for its series tweaks. The dungeons might be some of the best in the series and renting items is a treat to work at your own pace. Though its villain is refreshingly different and disappointingly shallow at the same time, its overall plot kept me plowing through at late hours in the night. It’s not only my favorite game of 2013 but a powerful testament to the undying legacy of one of the greatest gaming series of all time.

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Like the games you see? Like the games you don’t? Comment down below and tell us all what you’d have for your top picks of 2013 and thanks for reading.

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