Dan Ryckert is a multitalented weirdo from the American Midwest. He currently works as an Senior Associate Editor at Game Informer, is a celebrated author of literature--including the books Air Force Gator, Air Force Gator II, and Former Baseball Player Sucks at Crowdfunding: A Time Travel Adventure--and is a regular contributor to Giant Bomb's Powerbombcast. He often yells about things he does not understand on his Twitter account.
10. Tomb Raider
I’ve tried to enjoy the Tomb Raider series since it began in 1996, but it never quite hooked me. Several reboots failed to get me on board, so I approached this title with more than a tiny bit of skepticism. Once I started playing, I was immediately onboard. The new Lara is more realistic, the world is gorgeous, and the mix of action and puzzle-solving is well balanced. Taking out dozens of baddies with stealth and arrows felt great, as did the sectioned-off puzzle areas. Crystal Dynamics knocked it out of the park with this effort, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store next.
9. The Swapper
There are few things in gaming that I enjoy more than being floored by a game that arrives out of nowhere from under the radar. This atmospheric puzzler from Finnish developer Facepalm Games presents you with one core gameplay concept near the beginning, and it remains engrossing for the entire playthrough. A swapper gun allows you to make up to four clones of yourself, which you can control and swap between to solve a multitude of fiendish puzzles. I was left dumbfounded and staring at the screen on numerous occasions, convinced that a puzzle was damn near unsolvable. When you finally figure out the solution, the sense of satisfaction matches that of some of this generation’s best puzzle games.
Despite featuring every JRPG narrative cliche in the book, this 3DS strategy title manages to impress with deep combat systems and consistently tense battles (helped in no small part by the penalty of permadeath). I’d frequently fail at missions time and time again after dedicating over a half hour to them, but it rarely felt unfair. Like the best strategy games, it simply made me want to rethink my approach and get back on the field.
On paper, the improvements to New Leaf seem somewhat trivial. You can pick from a few city ordinances, build some lamp posts and other crap, and the museum has a new floor or something. That’s all fine and dandy, but the game still boils down to shaking trees and talking to penguins. Somehow, this remained engaging and charming enough to turn my daily 15 to 20 minute sessions into 100+ hours of play time.
Capcom’s action series has been a roller coaster in terms of quality. Its excellent original entry was followed by a mediocre sequel, an amazing third installment, and a disappointing fourth. The publisher took a risk by handing the series over to Heavenly Sword developer Ninja Theory, and it paid off big. Dante may look a bit different this time around, but the razor-sharp swordplay and shootouts are classic Devil May Cry.
Say what you will about the admittedly uninspired gunplay, as shooting my way through mechanical presidents isn’t what I’ll remember about my time with Bioshock Infinite. With Columbia, Irrational has created one of the most instantly memorable locales in gaming history. Its visuals are undeniably pretty to look at, but it’s the script and characters that will stick with me for years. Few moments in 2013 hit me as hard as escaping the tower with Elizabeth, exploring the Hall of Heroes, sneaking past those creepy-ass kids in Comstock House, or unraveling the truth about Booker, Elizabeth, and Comstock.
It’s a surprise to no one that Rockstar created one of the most impressive game worlds ever seen with Grand Theft Auto V. Exploring Los Santos and its surrounding countryside is a blast by land, sea, or air, and exciting, funny, or downright fucked up things to do are around every corner. It isn’t any one element of this game that makes it so good, it’s the fact that it excels in so many ways simultaneously.
My initial reaction to another multiplayer-focused Mario title was that of disappointment, as I wanted a true followup to the stellar line of single player 3D entries in the series. I wound up eating my words, as Nintendo managed to make multiplayer Mario far more fun than it’s ever been in the 2D “New” series. Playing with three friends is an amazing platforming experience, and I found it hard to keep the smile off my face as I explored 3D World’s vibrant courses and brilliant level design.
Zombies aren’t my thing. I remember thinking it was a lazy concept back in 2006 with the original Dead Rising, and I’ve never understood the cavalcade of praise heaped upon Telltale’s mediocre Walking Dead series. With Naughty Dog at the helm, I was prepared to play a unbelievably polished title that was held back by an uninspired genre (I know they’re not technically zombies, but it’s totally a zombie game). It didn’t take me long to realize that the story of Joel and Ellie rises above the limitations of any genre, resulting in one of the best experiences of its console generation in terms of both gameplay and story. I was engrossed from the heartbreaking events of the game’s beginning to its morally complicated ending, and it stands as one of the most impressive games I’ve ever played.
A Link to the Past has been my favorite video game ever since I played it as a child in 1992, so this successor had pretty big shoes to fill. What I expected to be nothing more than a solid nostalgia-fest wound up being one of the most bold steps forward in the history of the iconic franchise. Gone are the old systems that regulated item use and acquisition, and players are no longer confined to a set dungeon order. These steps away from the series’ trademark formula make A Link Between Worlds one of the best Zelda titles for those that love to explore at their own pace. When you couple these fantastic changes with some of the best dungeons and bosses ever seen in the franchise, you’ve got the makings of an all-time classic.