Best of 2013

*Note: Battlefield 4 would be on this list (most likely in my top 10) if it were actually functioning properly.

Abandoned Prior to Completion: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (360), Grid 2 (360)

List items

  • Entered list: 2/15/13 at #1

    If you'd have told me at the beginning of the year that any of my top 10 games of 2013 would be 3DS exclusives, I would've given you a derisive scoff. Yet here we are at the end of the year and no less than 3 have made it, including number 1!

    Fire Emblem was the first game I put on this list, and it has held tight at number one for the entire year. I'd never played a Fire Emblem game prior to this one and was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The characters are terrific (Kellam is a personal favorite), the gameplay is phenomenal, and the storyline is compelling. Above all, the game is just a true joy to play. No complaints.

  • Entered list: 12/8/13 at #2

    Like a lot of other people, I was seriously disappointed in Assassin's Creed III (see last year's list). That game really suffered from taking itself too seriously and losing sight of the focus on fun that made the Ezio entries (at least the first two) so good. AC4 rectifies that. Even without the AC tie-in, it'd be a damned good pirate game (it does a great job of recapturing the spirit of Sid Meier's Pirates). Indeed, the worst parts of this game are the old Assassin's Creed mainstays. The tail missions (both in-ship and on foot) are staggeringly annoying, guard behavior is baffling, and there is a considerable amount of repetition. But the rest of the game is just so damn fun that those flaws can be overlooked. Sailing into a giant storm in search of bounty while the crew sings Drunken Sailor is just magical. I love this game.

  • Entered list: 9/27/13 at #2

    It's difficult to fully articulate my thoughts on this one. The scope of GTA5 is absolutely staggering. It's huge...and almost all of it works. Truly an incredible achievement from a technical perspective. Then there's the story. I actually quite enjoyed the Michael story arc, enough in fact to offset my distaste for Trevor's and my indifference toward Franklin's. In fact, I think Michael's story is the only one that actually qualifies as an arc. Neither Trevor nor Franklin really go anywhere from where they start. For Trevor it seems like Rockstar just didn't know what to do; for Franklin I'm convinced they just gave up. It's a bit depressing really. That said, I still really enjoyed my time with GTA5...and again, there's just so much of it!

  • Entered list: 6/29/13 at #2

    I'm a bit of an Animal Crossing obsessive. Ever since I played the hell out of the first game, I've made it a point to pick up each new game...and have rapidly put them down again. For whatever reason, they have lacked the appeal of the first game. Until New Leaf, that is. I've played this game for dozens of hours and have enjoyed nearly every minute. Nintendo made enough changes for the game to feel fresh, while retaining those bits of Animal Crossing that made the series so endearing in the first place. Bravo.

  • Entered list: 9/7/13 at #3

    Blacklist was definitely the biggest and best surprise for me this year. I've never really cared much for the Splinter Cell games as, in general, I find stealth gameplay more frustrating than fun. In this case, it was the exact opposite. Blacklist is much more accessible than its predecessors in almost every way. In addition, it has a pretty tight story which, while a bit cliched, is still pretty exciting (it has a really good sense of pacing, a quality often lacking in games nowadays), and some really good voice acting. It's just a really tight, smooth game. Highly enjoyable.

  • Entered list: 10/28/13 at #5

    This is hands-down the best Pokemon generation since the first. The new look combined with Nintendo's crazy streamlining of the traditional formula finally let me get back into a Pokemon game. While series purists may hate the changes, thinking that they make the game too easy, as a more casual player I love them.

    There's no more grind; just fun. Wonder trading is brilliant too.

  • Entered list: 3/28/13 at #2

    I really wanted to love Bioshock Infinite. The original Bioshock is one of my favorite games of all time. I think that's probably why I found Infinite so disappointing. There's not a single element that lives up to the previous entry (or at least my nostalgic recollection of the previous entry). The characters are more shallow, the story lacks direction and depth, and the ending may or may not even make sense. Regardless of the ending's consistency, I really hated it. Like so many other parts of the game, it felt tacked on halfway though rather than integrated into the overall vision of the game. So many great and interesting ideas are introduced at various points, only to be abandoned almost immediately. What's left lacks the coherence and cohesiveness that made Bioshock so great.

    All that said, the game is absolutely gorgeous, the locations are stunning, and the first hour is one of the finest in the history of gaming. But then there's the randomness of Vigors, and the witch fight(s)...and the final battle on the airship...and what is up with the weird Boys of Silence or whatever...ugh.

  • Entered list: 3/25/13 at #3

    Heart of the Swarm took the already great StarCraft II and made it even better. That's no small feat. I love where this series is going. Looking forward to the next expansion.

  • Entered list: 2/22/13 at #2

    This is another instance of my trying out a franchise for the first time and being completely blown away by it. These types of games usually drive me nuts, but I enjoyed the hell out of DmC. I was actually forced to pause this game a few times due to concern about my heart rate. Really good gameplay and some super-creative level design make this game one of my top games of the year.

  • Entered list: 8/12/13 at #5

    I love Papers, Please. Everything about it. The mechanics, the progression, the aesthetic, the music; just everything is pretty much perfect. If you haven't played this game, you must.

  • Entered list: 12/27/13 at #11

    This stupid, strange, magnificent game. You'd think from the title that it would be awful. You'd be very, very wrong. Now, if you need me, I'll be listening to a Dutch radio station blaring Top 40 hits while delivering a load of Ice Cream to Liverpool.

  • Entered list: 12/16/13 at #11

    FIFA 14 is a tremendous game. It is my most played Xbox One title and that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. I'm not even a huge fan of soccer, but the sheer scope of this game, the smart design, and the execution (particularly for Ultimate Team) are just spot on. If I had one complaint, it'd be that there doesn't seem to be that much difference between teams in terms of playing ability. A 1.5 star team on Professional difficulty seems to me to play about as well as a 4 star team on Professional difficulty. Either way, I lose.

  • Entered list: 9/5/13 at #7

    It continues to amaze me that this game works. I cannot even fathom the number of systems operating in tandem to make this game go, yet after many hours of play, it has yet to crumble under its own weight. Considering that the game is basically a renaissance geopolitical simulator, that's a hell of an accomplishment. Paradox is really on a roll with these games. While I didn't find EU4 as fun as last year's Crusader Kings II, it is an incredibly high-quality product and is terribly engrossing once you get into it.

  • Entered list: 8/24/13 at #7

    Saints Row IV is another game that I just found disappointing. On paper it sounds amazing, and it certainly has its moments. That said, looking back on it as an overall product, there's just something that feels off. I can't even tell you exactly what it is; just...something. I enjoyed my time with SR4, just not as much as I wanted to.

  • Entered list: 5/19/13 at #5

    Did Injustice really come out this year? Feels like forever ago. Huh. Anyway, I really liked this game. The fighting mechanics are solid, the stage transitions are a stroke of genius, and the overall feel of the game is perfect (it's just a fun comic-book romp). Add on a story mode that actually made me interested in DC characters outside of the Batman franchise (tough to do), and I'd say that Injustice is quite an achievement.

  • Entered list: 3/25/13 at #4

    Absolutely my biggest disappointment of the year (and probably several years). SimCity is not a good game. It is tremendously fun for the first 6 hours or so...until your city fills up the magical barrier box and you are faced with the choice of blowing up your carefully placed zones, or just up and starting a new city. Given that Maxis has stated categorically that they will not be extending city-sizes, I don't think there is much chance of this game ever becoming what it seemed like it could be. I guess I'll just have to go back to SimCity 4.

  • Entered list: 3/17/13 at #3

    I played Tomb Raider. I liked Tomb Raider. I did not think that Tomb Raider was anything particularly special. It is a perfectly competent, well-executed game. It just didn't really do it for me. Glad that the franchise appears to be back on a good track though.

  • Entered list: 12/16/13 at #16

    The actual racing in Forza 5 is terrific. The cars feel really good, particularly with the addition of the rumble triggers. Additionally, I love the shift to a medal system rather than forcing players to win every race to advance, and am actually a fan of the Driveatar system. While it's true that most Driveatars (god I hate that term, but whatever) act like jackasses, I find that it makes the races much more dynamic and interesting than they were before. Combine that with the return of the rewind button (the greatest innovation in racing games in a looong time) and I don't really get what the fuss is all about.

    Where the game stumbles is in the trappings. Forza 5 feels duller than its predecessors. There is very little sense of actual progression. It's just: select a box, do x number of races, then move to the next box. Not exactly compelling.

  • Entered list: 6/29/13 at #9

    Another game that I didn't find to be anything really special. I liked it. I thought parts of it were incredible (importantly, none of these parts involved combat). Most of it, however, felt like a slog. Some of the mechanics (like having to constantly replenish gas mask filters) didn't help that feeling. And I still don't fully understand the flashlight charging. Oh well, at least the story was really original and the characters were interesting. Mostly though, for whatever reason I just wanted the game to be over.

  • Entered list: 5/26/13 at #8

    More Gears. Hurrah. Not bad. Not great.

  • Entered list 12/15/13 at # 18

    Peggle 2 is a slightly tough game to rank. I do love me some Peggle, but at the same time Peggle 2 doesn't really feel like a sequel. It changes the Masters (I wouldn't say it "adds" new Masters because, with the exception of Bjorn, none of the previous Masters are included) and adds certain pegs that must be hit twice to clear rather than once (which may have been in a previous Peggle game - I've only played the first). This is the extent of Peggle 2's innovation. That's not particularly exciting. At least, not for me. I still had a good time with it though.

  • Entered list: 12/8/13 at #18

    Ryse is an ok game. Mechanically, I'd compare it to the first Assassin's Creed game, which was the most fun game ever for about the first 2 hours, until you realized that counter, attack, counter, attack was the extent of the gameplay. Ryse is terribly, terribly repetitive which, in large part, makes it terribly, terribly boring. Also, the story is utterly bizarre and will give anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of Roman history a mild stroke (as a former Roman History specialist for my High School Latin team - yes, yes I'm a nerd - I can't fathom how they came up with this nonsense). If you're prepared to jettison all reality, however, some of the story beats are somewhat entertaining. And the game is quite pretty. Woo hoo.

  • Entered list 12/15/13 at # 20

    Not my kind of game. I get what they were going for. I respect the game's uniqueness and execution of a singular vision. I just didn't really enjoy myself playing it. I actually thought it was pretty predictable, and that the ending was a bit too...I'm not sure of the proper word...clean? Happy? Dunno. Gone Home was not my cup 'o tea.

  • Entered list: 5/19/13 at #8

    I don't know why this is ranked so far down my list. It should probably be higher. I just can't move it up. Because I was born in '89, a lot of the cultural references just didn't hit me like they probably should have. That's no fault of the game; just a personal thing.

  • Entered list: 5/6/13 at #7

    I hate, hate, HATE Dead Space 3. It is a game that is so unbelievably bad and whose premise is so indescribably stupid that it actually reflects poorly on the previous two iterations. I'm still not sure why I even finished this thing. Maybe in the naive hope that it would have to get better. I was wrong. It gets worse. If you enjoyed Dead Space 1 and 2 (as I did), don't play this game.