Now that people are all up in their GOTY business, I figure it's time to finally unveil my list after last week's pile of misfortune and sorrow. My other usual list (Games of X that did not come out in X) is still in flux, so that probably won't be for a bit. As you might expect, I probably missed some of the biggest and “most important” games of the year, either because I didn't have the console in question (The Last of Us) or didn't really care (Gone Home). That's clearly my problem, but I might as well tell you now in case you had any questions later.
EDIT: Holy crap list formatting is broken as hell. Oh well. the numbers are right, so at least you have that.
|1. Fire Emblem: AwakeningI am unapologetic in my love of Fire Emblem, and Awakening happens to be a Fire Emblem game that came out this year. Certainly helps that it's the best the series has been in a long while.*|
|3. BioShock InfiniteEven now, it's difficult to decide where I want Bioshock Infinite to be on this list, but I'll go with my gut feeling when I completed it and give it this high end spot. *|
|5. Dragon's Dogma: Dark ArisenI think I might like Dragon's Dogma MORE than when I played it a year ago. Sure, the small gameplay enhancements offered by Dark Arisen are nice, as is the brutal punch in the face known as Bitterblack Isle, but... screw it. I just wanted another excuse to put Dragon's Dogma on this list.|
|2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsMy only complaint about A Link Between Worlds is that I wish it was longer and maybe a little more difficult. Other than those minor quibbles... it might be almost perfect. *|
|4. Super Mario 3D WorldMuch like Zelda, Super Mario 3D World is proof that when Nintendo brings their A-Game, they BRING IT. *|
|9. Saints Row IVSaints Row IV maybe takes a bit too much from its prior incarnations (specifically, it literally reuses the world of Saints Row the Third), but it's still the king of insane, self-aware video games. *|
|7. Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed is skirting dangerously close to burning out with its yearly release schedule, but ACIV succeeds at fulfilling the promise that ACIII squandered as far as gameplay is concerned. Pirates!*|
|8. XCOM: Enemy WithinEnemy Within doesn't fix some of the fundamental problems I have with Enemy Unknown, but it did mix enough up to where I willingly played it again and enjoyed doing so. It's a pity that for all the fantastic enhancements to the mid-game, the end-game is still flaccid and dull.|
|6. DmC Devil May CryThis is one of those times when I will gleefully proclaim "Screw the haters", even as I sort of mourn the part where this game's complete lack of success means that the series isn't going anywhere for the next few years. It's no DMC3, but what is?|
|10. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual DestiniesCapcom's series of Anime Courtroom Antics returns in fine form after the rather underwhelming Apollo Justice (which you can tell was underwhelming because they didn't make a direct sequel for 6 years and instead focused on Edgeworth and Professor Layton related spinoffs). It also might have the best DLC of this year, involving a case where you defend a Killer Whale of murder.|
Aaaaand that's that. Now, as per usual, some elaboration for those who care. I'm tired, so I'm not going to post any screenshots until tomorrow.
Preemptive game of the year 2013: Fire Emblem Awakening
I'm just going to throw this out there: As a long time fan of the series and as someone insane enough to do things like “download translation patches so I can play the SNES ones in English”, I don't think Fire Emblem: Awakening is the best game in the series. It's pretty damn close though, and after the two rather bland DS titles that followed Radiant Dawn (not that Radiant Dawn is all that hot either, but I've already said words about that game before) it's good to know that Nintendo's flagship SRPG series is back on track. (still waiting on that Advance Wars sequel that will knock my socks off) Part of that just comes from throwing almost every notable feature from previous games out there.You've got the world map and alternate promotions from Sacred Stones, the class changing features of the DS games and A marriage/support system similar to that of Seisen no Keifu. Another is simply the presentation, which shows that Intelligent Systems finally got a budget for once, and when combined with 8-4's fantastic localization (the story is kind of ehhhhh but the writing is super well done) it stands out.
But then of course there's the part where it's still a Fire Emblem game, and I've proven to stick my neck out for some of the more mediocre installments. Awakening is far from that, and if you own a 3DS and don't hate yourself (because seriously, the normal difficulty is a joke, especially with all of the grinding available) I would fully and unequivocally recommend it. But of course I would, because I'm the second most vocal Fire Emblem fan on these forums after the guy who thinks he's the king of the moon. Let's be honest: You're far more interested in my number 2 choice.
My Number 2 Choice – The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Despite Ocarina of Time easily being one of my favorite games (because it's an easy, uncontroversial answer that anyone who isn't a hipster bastard would nod their head in agreement with) I wouldn't call myself a unilateral fan of Zelda. I loathed what I played of Majora's Mask, never finished Twilight Princess despite it being the game we got with our Wii, and did not even purchase Skyward Sword (but given me buying myself Mario Galaxy 2 for my birthday last month and having recently “obtained” Xenoblade, Muramasa and The Last Story, I think one last Wii game is not out of the question), so you could say that I haven't been fully on board since The Wind Waker (or maybe Four Swords Adventures if that counts). This is the Zelda game that makes me excited about Zelda again after long being on the internet snark train.
One could be dismissive about that, (rightfully) claiming that it goes out of its way to push at the nostalgia buttons of anyone who ever loved A Link to the Past, but here's the thing: I never finished A Link to the Past. I have a pretty solid memory of those first three light world dungeons from when I owned it on GBA but I was probably too young and dumb to get much further. I recognize enough to know where they're coming from, but not enough to know how far they skirt the line between “Loving Homage” and “Blatant Cash-In”. In the end, it doesn't matter as much as you'd think. While the zero filler, zero condescension, zero bullshit approach is certainly welcome and reminiscent of a SNES game, the non-linear nature of tackling the dungeons and the way items are handled is the most experimental thing the series has done in a long while. It certainly helps that the act of just running around the overworld, looking for Baby Malamai and Heart Pieces is genuinely fun, but the dungeons themselves are universally fantastic and use the items (as well as the merge ability) to great effect.
As I said above, my one problem is that I wish it was a bit longer and a bit harder, because I died around a grand total of 6 times (most of them early on, like twice to the final boss) and was never super stumped when it came to puzzles. So basically, I'm saying that I'd kill for a Master Quest equivalent to this game, but even without that I'd once again universally recommend it to anyone who has a 3DS and doesn't hate themselves.
Most Bioshock Infinite: Bioshock Infinite
Infinite might be my most personally contentious game on this list, if only because I've found myself agreeing with some of the criticism leveled at it in the months after its release. I still think the backlash is (unsurprisingly) overblown, a lot of it the product of sniveling pseudo-intellectuals who write a lot of words on their tumblr (because “Game Journalism” is broken and they're the ones to fix it from their ivory towers) without actually saying a whole lot. But still, 9 months after release I can certainly take a step back and say “Yeah, that ending is sort of pretentious and self-important in its craziness”.
But even when Bioshock Infinite revealed its hand; that it wasn't actually about Race, Religion and Nationalism and instead about multidimensional insanity, I still really enjoyed where most of that story went. A lot of that has to do with the dynamic between Booker and Elizabeth, which holds up even as the plot goes in weird directions and the shooting gets increasingly tiresome when you realize that despite being able to only hold two guns, you'll never have enough ammo to avoid constant switching out, especially when dealing with some of the tougher bullet sponges. I couldn't tell you if this is better than the original Bioshock or not. I'll lean towards “yes”, if only because OG Bioshock blatantly steals a lot of its cues from System Shock 2 (aka: the game that Bioshock was ostensibly the spiritual successor to). Either way, consider this position a rather shaky one at best.
Best self-justification for now owning a Wii U: Super Mario 3D World.
In order to avoid having to write something up later, you can count this as my blog for the next handful of games. Super Mario 3D World is... pretty much Super Mario 3D Land with the added benefit of 5 different selectable characters. It's a little too easy at first, but at a certain point the game decides to tell you “It's on” and then you start losing lives by the truckload. The level design is fantastic, and I can only think of one specifically that I will loathe playing again in order to get all of the stamps, green stars and golden flagpoles. It also uses one-off gimmicks really well, and aside from some of those levels getting harder, faster, more challenging remixes in the later worlds, there are a lot of ideas that are used exactly once to great effect, be it that level that is like Mario Kart, the one that's a single screen, etc etc. While I desperately hope that Nintendo will avoid the temptation to whore this particular formula out the same way New Super Mario Bros was, this is a great follow-up to a great game.
Best game featuring pirates since Sid Meier's Pirates!: Assassin's Creed IV
I'll admit, this one is a little tentative, because much like Dragon's Dogma last year, I have not quite finished AC4 as of this writing. That being said, I think it's a much, much better game than AC3 for a myriad of reasons. It makes side content both fun and worthwhile again, lightens up the tone by including a protagonist who isn't a complete wet blanket and treats the modern day stuff as ancillary, which it should have been all along. It's the best the series has been in... like 4 years, so I'm pretty stoked to play more after some of my open world fatigue has subsided (see below).
Most ridiculous open world game: Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV is a video game, and it's not ashamed of being so. After playing Saints Row: The Third last year and understanding why it was almost Giant Bomb's Game of the Year 2011 (and, by the way, Skyrim still deserved to win if Dark Souls wasn't even being considered), it makes sense that I'd enjoy this new one almost as much. It's still surprisingly clever and occasionally laugh-out-loud hilarious, having superpowers allows for you to feel appropriately overpowered and trivializes a lot of the tedium I expect from games like these, and the supporting cast is still super great. If I have a problem with it, it's with the fact that it takes a lot of its joke cues from SR3, and while having super powers is pretty great, it also means the game is easy in an almost broken way. But if you want proof that I enjoyed it, consider the fact that I did all of the side stuff after pretty much ignoring all of it in the last one. It's a pity that the Enter the Dominatrix DLC was a total waste of time, but maybe the Christmas one is a different story
Game number 11: Pokemon X
The fact that I am here, even acknowledging a Pokemon game says something about the direction my life has taken. Pokemon X/Y does not reinvent the wheel. It's insultingly easy at times, and Klefki is still the single dumbest looking Pocket Monster since Luvdisc or maybe Trubbish, but it is a massive step-up presentation-wise and also serves to make the meta-game aspects a lot easier and more transparent to their own benefit. For the period of a few weeks, I was actively doing stuff like EV training and breeding for nature, something that I never thought I'd sink into. But then the realization that I still wasn't that dedicated sunk in, and I was left with the rather dull postgame stuff as a result. Still, something I thoroughly enjoyed.
Honorable Mentions: Shadowrun Returns, Resident Evil: Revelations HD and Civ V: Brave New World
While I don't think the basic campaign included with Shadowrun Returns is necessarily all that great (in fact, I'd go as far as to say it was middling enough to provoke me into writing a formal review instead of just a blog), its potential is already paying off in the form of fan-made modules in the style of the original Neverwinter Nights, not to mention the Berlin expansion next year that will hopefully be something resembling an actual RPG instead of a linear series of missions that Patrick Klepek would mistake for a strategy game. Now that it will probably be a daily deal on the Steam sale, I highly endorse picking it up, if only to sate your appetite until Wasteland 2 finally comes out.
Resident Evil Revelations is a better game than Resident Evil 6, but I don't think I like it as much as Resident Evil 6, for as paradoxical as that seems. While RE6 is flashy, sort of a mess and occasionally aggravating, Revelations is undeniably decent, even if its roots as a portable game show more than it would like (such as the part where you're constantly followed around by an AI partner, but there is no actual co-op in the campaign). The story is complete nonsense, even by Resident Evil standards, and the enemy design is a bit bland, but I quite enjoyed the 10 or so hours it took to finish the game. That's not even mentioning the several hours I spent playing Raid mode, which I feel like is neat enough that it could be split off into its own thing. It's not quite “putting the series back on track” or anything, but as a hybrid approach resembling the old and the new it does fine for itself.
Much like when Gods and Kings came out last year, I thought that Brave New World would facilitate a lot more poor life choices when it came to spending a lot of time with a 4X game. That... hasn't really happened. The changes are all super smart, making the end game less of a drag, making a culture victory more fun to play towards, throwing in some really neat civilizations like Venice... but still, I have yet to put my hour count for Civ V over the 100 hour mark. It's still somehow my most played game on Steam, but I still have to be in a specific mood for 4X stuff to grab me, I guess.
And with that, I only have one last list to go. You'll possibly see that one next week, but that all depends on if and when I finish some stuff that's been sitting on the back burner for a while. Who knows? Maybe I'll finally beat Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne like I've been threatening to do for the last 3 years. Also I somehow got my hands on Xenoblade, Muramasa and The Last Story, and while the chances of me finishing any one of those games this year is nil, they may make for great material early next year. Until then, keep on windjamming.