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Games Completed in 2013

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  • Strips away all the gameplay excesses of the adventure game genre in favor of focusing on a tight, branching narrative and in-depth characterization.

  • Short, sweet, and to the point. Old-school Contra at its most refined. Though it never reaches the same level of sheer chaos as series highlights Super C and Contra 4, it's as polished and perfect as any other game in the series.

  • Easy boss fights and a weak starting gun make Super C a slightly less polished game than it's Game Boy successor, but it's easily the more impressive package overall, with crazy, chaotic levels and a willingness to bury you in dozens of enemies at once.

  • Boasting a lovely story, a tight, minimal approach to gameplay design, and a surprising (if slightly off-putting) sense of humor, Sword & Sworcery is the kind of bite-sized mini-masterpiece the iOS platform deserves.

  • The Game Boy predecessor to the NES platformer "Mr. Gimmick" has weaker core mechanics but a more mature approach to level design. Rather than trying to stuff a million different ideas into each level like Gimmick, Trip World takes the time to develop and utilize its various worlds to a much fuller extent. Between them, the two games share the necessary ingredients of genuine 8-bit classic.

  • Takes the many established tropes of the JRPG and weaves them into a well-told narrative about dealing with loss. While held back by patronizing design choices and underutilized magic mechanics, a solid (if not perfect) combat engine and a lovely localization make Ni no Kuni well worth tracking down.

  • Condenses an entire game's worth of Resident Evil puzzles into a single two-hour long game, with fantastic results. Great atmosphere and an intriguing narrative make it one of the more unique experiences on the iOS platform.

  • While it's probably most interesting from a purely historical perspective, the many revisions over the years have turned the original Ys into a genuinely fun and playable game, even if it still has a number of odd design problems.

  • I will never grow tired of this game, and it's virtues have been sung sufficiently elsewhere. It encapsulates everything I've ever loved about JRPGs, and indeed, everything I've ever loved about games.

  • The single purest distillation of everything that makes Treasure unique. Dozens of brilliant game mechanics bubbling and boiling beneath a jumbled, chaotic, gorgeous mess of the finest visual effects the Genny could pull off.

  • A wonderfully-executed rail shooter. It has extremely satisfying gameplay, and an almost Miyazaki-level of imagination with regards to the visual design, but what really elevates it is the classiness of the narrative. It's a silent movie of a game, with characters and their motivations being established purely through gameplay, and genuinely cinematic themes that the game doesn't rub in your face. It's honestly hard to think of a single thing wrong with it.

  • Indulgent to the nth degree, Hotline Miami is a game about taking our fascination with violence and playing off it with extremely intense, engaging gameplay. It's a fun game, but ultimately kind of a gross one.

  • Touching, uplifting story told through well-executed casual game mechanics.

  • Beautiful. Not the smartest game out there, but certainly one of the most emotionally fulfilling. (I liked Sword & Sworcery a little more though.)

  • A half dozen brilliant games sewn together seamlessly, and an upgrade system that doesn't feel like a mindless Skinner box.

  • Tricks you into thinking its something less than it is. Ultimately becomes a confident, totally modern bullet hell shooter.

  • What does it mean to have power? Mark of the Ninja takes the typical video game power fantasy -- one lone wolf fighting off dozens of inferior combatants -- and explores the actual consequences that such power would have. A perfect blend of elegant narrative and flawless mechanics, and certainly one of the three best games of 2012.