Wulfy’s Top Games of 2013

So here we are again. It’s always such a pleasure. Another year has passed, and I’ve been looking back at what I thought were the best games of 2013. Which I kinda had to change to ‘most notable’ games. For me there’s a slight difference there.

I tried very hard to cut the list down as much as I could. A lot of good games were left behind because good was almost all they had, and even if they were really good I just didn’t feel like they quite became notable enough. Some had to be cut for the natural reason of just not having been played. A couple I do own, but just haven’t found the time for. And I’ve been really good about avoiding the bad games this year, so almost all of what I’ve played entered my thoughts while thinking about this.

Even after all that, I was left with 15 games that I felt really deserved mention. 16 if you include my little cheat of an honourable mention from an earlier year. There are several more than almost made the list, but these 15 are the ones that made the biggest impression on me personally. A lot of them for very different reasons.

So here we go, here’s my list. Apart from putting my absolute game of the year at the end, and the honourable mention at the start, there is no particular order here except the one I remembered them in.

To The Moon

Honourable Mention

To The Moon

This came out a few years back, but I only played it at the very beginning of 2013. It is honestly one of the most moving stories I’ve ever experienced, and even just thinking about it now, a year later, I can feel the emotions stirring in my chest. It’s one of those rare stories that works extra well because it is a game. I highly recommend you get a copy and play it. It’s very cheap, and well-worth your time.

Metro: Last Light

Strongest Atmosphere

Metro: Last Light

As someone who never played Metro 2033, this one came slightly out of left field for me. Strong writing (albeit with some dodgy voice acting), a world that felt lived in, good shooting, and atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife. This was a delight to play, whether I was visiting one of the Metro’s many ‘cities’, exploring old tunnels, or venturing across the hostile surface. It genuinely freaked me out at times, and I liked it quite a lot.

Gone Home

Most Human Game I’ve Ever Played

Gone Home

That was the impression I was left with after playing this. I’ve seen a lot of talk about how Gone Home “wasn’t that good”, but fuck it, this is my list, so it’s staying. Paradoxically I’d call it a game that exceeded expectations by going under them. I can’t really talk about it too much, since that might ruin the experience for anyone still interested in going into it, but I will say that the story that unfolds is beautiful. The only downside is that they set the asking price a bit high for a lot of people, so I’m sure many let it pass by for that reason.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

JRPG Extraordinare

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West

A wonderful world brought to life through the combined efforts of Studio Ghibli and Level 5. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me cheer. I put quite a lot of hours into this on my nephew’s PS3, and somehow managed to get all the way to the end. The battle-system is curious, as tends to be the deal with JRPGs, and there’s a slight element of Pokemon to building your forces, but it gave me the joy that was Tyke Myson, and Mister Drippy’s accent/dialect is pure brilliance. So yeah, if you own a PS3, I’d say this is worth getting. And if you don’t, maybe consider commandeering one for a week or two. :3

Dust: An Elysian Tail

Metroidvania Art

Dust: An Elysian Tail

This one is a slight cheat as it came out last year on XBox 360, but the PC release was 2013, so to me it still counts. Maybe my view of the game is tinted a little by how much I really wanted a Metroidvania-type game when I got this (I knew next-to-nothing going into it), but regardless I say it’s an impressive game. All the art and programming was done by a single man: Dean Dodrill. So you could say that Dust is his work of art. Okay, the difficulty kinda goes off a cliff after you’ve gotten a certain amount of abilities, and you’re just flying through the levels in a whirlwind of swordplay at that point, but I enjoyed it a lot, and maybe you will too. Though if you come crying about “the furries” I’m afraid I’ll have to ignore you.

Shadow Warrior

Best Shooter/Sworder

Shadow Warrior

This game. This. Game. Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I expected an okay shooter that was probably fun for a romp. The only thing that made me pick this over any other shooter to begin with was the promise of a snarky demon sidekick. What I didn’t expect was the best first-person swordplay I’ve ever experienced and rock-solid gunplay combined with a protagonist who practically cackles with joy at the cool shit we pull off. In this climate of “realistic” and “gritty” action games it was refreshing to find a colourful title that didn’t take itself all that seriously, and loved to give us silly references, dumb jokes and corny one-liners amidst all the slaughter and exploration. And the snarky demon sidekick delivered too.

The Last of Us

Best Sidekick

The Last of Us

I’ve not yet written about this title, and in my current mood I’m not sure I’ll get around to it, so let me just (for now, at least) try to sum up my thoughts here. Yes, it’s another zombie game. Yes, it’s going for a serious tone. But still, this was a great title. Naughty Dog went for a slightly different approach to the whole post-apocalyptic zombie setting, and I found it quite interesting. And exploring the ruins of the abandoned areas reminded me of Enslaved: Odyssey To The West, which is certainly not a bad thing. Though my top reason for including it is definitely Ellie. You help her, get helped by her, talk to her, listen to her, watch her develop as the game events span across a year, and watch as she influences Joel and he influences her. It was kinda marvelous to behold. She is my favourite sidekick of 2013. Possibly of all time.

The Stanley Parable

Best Writing/Best Narrator

The Stanley Parable

I’ve not done a post on this either, for various reasons, but largely because I’m not sure I’m able to. How does one explain The Stanley Parable? There’s a demo that tried. I’m not sure it succeeded, but it was a brilliant attempt. I recommend you just play it. The demo and the game. If the velvet tones of the narrator don’t encourage you to keep going to find every permutation you can, then I think what we look for in games is too different for my recommendations to be of any worth to you.

Saints Row IV

It Takes Hard Work To Be This Dumb

Saints Row IV

First Saints Row game I ever played. Only one I feel I need. I have watched a couple of Let’s Plays of Saints Row The Third, and it looked cool enough, but I have no immediate desire to play it. I’m not sure I can quantify why I felt different about this one, but I’m glad I did. It seems like after The Third, Volition decided they’d exhausted all they could do with the GTA formula, so they made this thing. Saints Row IV is a glorious celebration and ridicule of all things videogames, with too many pop culture references to count, and a kick-ass soundtrack. It makes fun of everything it can think of, including itself. Freedom seems to be another big theme. You want to do a thing? Sure, the option is there. You don’t have to, but you can. Example: why drive when you can run at superspeed? It seems unnecessary, but the option, the freedom, is there.

Hate Plus

Loveliest AI Girls

Hate Plus

The newest visual novel by the adorable Christine Love. I had meant to write about this, but circumstances meant it got put off indefinitely. I got so invested in the characters of *Hyun-ae and *Mute as we explored the mystery of what happened to the Mugunghwa, that it feels like a disservice that I wasn’t able to put together a post, but such is life. I even baked a cake for *Hyun-ae, by Odin’s beard. If you don’t mind the visual novel format, I recommend checking out both this and its predecessor Analogue: A Hate Story.

Deadpool

Most Deadpool Game

Deadpool

As much fun as I had with this game, I will freely admit that it doesn’t really excel at anything except being a Deadpool adaptation. It’s wacky, it’s coarse, it’s violent and it’s dumb. But it’s a similar kind of glorious stupidity to the one that makes Saints Row IV so great. Liking this game depends so much on liking Deadpool himself though. If you don’t, you won’t. If you do, you might. For me personally it was a big hit. As for the actual gameplay, I’d call it above-average.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Best Single-player Coop

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers probably has one of the best implementations I’ve seen of using gameplay to tell the story. Which is extra surprising as it comes from a man who’s made a name as a movie director. Starbreeze have done a good job on making the mechanics feel good, and Josef Fares’s vision shines through clearly throughout the entirety. It feels like a game made with love and passion. I swear, by the end I was crying because of the buttons I pressed. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. (PS! You need a 360 controller or equivalent to play it, even on PC.)

The Wonderful 101

Most Over-The-Top

The Wonderful 101

I had high hopes for this game, even though I was trying not to, and it still went far above and beyond. Platinum are masters at game-making, and The Wonderful 101 is never afraid to take that extra step. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten closer to actually playing an anime, and what a ride it was. If you own a Wii U, I consider this one a must-buy. The art, the gameplay, the soundtrack, it’s all… wonderful.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Best Tactics Strategy/Marrying Simulator

Fire Emblem: Awakening

I’m not sure I even dare check how many hours I’ve put into this by now. This is the best Fire Emblem game I have played, and the most newbie-friendly as well. You don’t need any previous knowledge of the games to get into this one, I can pretty much guarantee you that. The stories of the various games are largely unrelated, and they all make sure to introduce you to the mechanics in due order. And all the characters are so adorable, and you can marry them off to eachother, and you even make your own character, and you can marry the prince and become queen! (Though sadly the game only allows for opposite-sex matches.) I have sunk so much time into grinding up the support levels between the various cuties to see who would make good matches… it’s almost shameful.

Rayman Legends

Best Platformer

Rayman Legends

I’m not sure how they managed it, but somehow Ubisoft took the highly impressive and successful formula that gave us Rayman Origins, and improved it. It’s part more of the same, part better in every way. When it comes to fun and colourful platformers, I would rate Rayman Legends as the very pinnacle. If you want a 2D platformer, I don’t think you’ll be able to find a better one. It even has great co-op, though I believe it’s local only. The lack of online co-op is a bit sad, but considering the flow of the levels, even a tiny bit of lag could ruin the experience. On the upside, you get to play as a selection of badass princesses if you want to.

Papers, Please

Game of the Year

Papers, Please

Even among all these other great games, Papers, Please stood out early as my definite candidate for Game of the Year. Another one-person project, incidentally. I’m stealing a bit from Yahtzee’s #1 justification last year, that it might not be the “best”, but it’s definitely the one that most deserves to be played. It describes itself as a Dystopian Document Thriller, and I’ve never played anything like it. The closest would be point-and-click adventure games, but that comparison doesn’t really do it justice.

This is a game that merits repeat playthroughs, not only because of the multitude of endings, but also because I want to practice, I want to get better, so I’ll have more options. To get so invested in simply checking the passports and documents of hopeful immigrants… I never would have believed it before I tried it myself. Intrigues happen, little stories pop up, situations that might and might not come back to you later. There’s no way to know until you’ve tried. And the exploration of how easily it is to get corrupted in such a situation is masterful. I didn’t even really think about it on my first playthrough or two.

I salute you, Lucas Pope. Both for making such an excellent game, and for how excellent you have been in supporting it and your customers afterwards.

And that was the list for 2013. If you’re still with me, I salute you as well, dear reader. Let us hope 2014 will give us a new batch of highly interesting titles (both good and bad).

~Wulf

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Posted on December 31, 2013, in Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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