Best of 2013
Top 20 - my personal favourite games released and played in 2013
Top 20 - my personal favourite games released and played in 2013
The game I enjoyed playing the most this year. Beautifully balanced strategic gameplay makes the current crop of 'clickathon' realtime strategy games look positively dumb. There is loads to do and collect beyond the main story arc, and it is a joy to spend any time in such a stunningly presented world. Even the story is well told with charm, personality and humour. It's not perfect by any means (some occasional control issues) but Pikmin 3 is my favourite game of the year.
In hindsight, this is probably the most problematic of the series so far. Once again, the world that's created is fascinating, and the time-looping story is intricate and thought-provoking. However, the violence and pacing of the game is often inconsistent, and feels tacked on or at odds with the story. I played this game mostly using Vigours and enjoyed the varied combat because of that, but had I focussed on the guns I'm not sure I would have made it to the end.
On the surface SWAP Force looks like another cash-in sequel to the Skylanders franchise, but it so much more. The gameplay has been given a complete overhaul with 8 new puzzle-game types linked to the new Swap Force characters' abilities, and the addition of the jump action has increased the variety and challenge within the game substantially. The PS4 version has also received a huge jump in animation and graphical fidelity that makes SWAP Force one of the best looking games in the launch line-up. Don't be put off with the prospect of a heavy investment - you can complete the game with just the basic set, and by adding just 5 of the SWAP Force Swappable Characters, you can unlock everything the game has to offer if you wish. The Characters are beautiful models in their own right, and feel far less a con than paying £8 for a digital unlock. Fan-bloody-tastic.
Rymdkapsel was a real revelation to me. This clever abstract strategy and resource management game that appeared on the Playstation Mobile platform initially, and was the game I played most on my Vita this year. It is both challenging and compelling yet beautifully simple - what any strategy game should be. Much like Pikmin 3, this is the way to design a modern RTS.
A technical masterclass in open-world game building; if only it wasn't a narrative mess. Los Santos, whilst lacking the charm of Vice City or Liberty City, has the scale and landscape to create a world you really feel a part of. Everything from the near-life streets, to the parodying TV shows and radio are spot on. Less welcome is the bump-up in sadistic violence and clunky story telling.
Lara's reboot is a brave and bold re-imagining of a video game icon, and is almost a complete success. The violence and obviously gamey bits are sometimes jarring and over the top, but Tomb Raider was an enjoyable roller coaster ride that sees the series create a distinct identify once again.
I'm no fan of 2D platformers. Rayman Legends on the Wii U has such a superb co-op mode - one on the pad interacts with the environment, whilst the other on the controller platforms - that it elevates it into a 2D rhythmic puzzle game.
The game is clearly best on Nintendo's Handheld. Once again my entire summer was consumed with fishing, catching, buying, selling, and paying the evil moneylender Tom - the bastard - Nook.
Brothers seems to be a polarising game, but I thought it was wonderful. More emotion is expressed, without language, in the first 60 minutes of this game, than in the entire back catalog from the likes David Cage or Kojima. Interactive storytelling at its finest and best.
I am surprised by some of the negative comments I'd read about GRID 2. I found this the most enjoyable racer of the year. I felt it really got the excitement of motorsport right. The trend over recent years has been to turn racing games into dry antiseptic car porn; full of statistics and longing sweeps over vehicle models. Whereas its the aggression, chaos and sheer thrill of wheel to wheel racing that makes motorsport such fun. GRID 2 get's it right.
A return to form for Fisher and co. Ubi have finally managed to balance the game so it can be played totally stealthy (Ghost), or full on action (Assualt), or even somewhere in between (Panther). The excellent Wii U version incorporates the Gamepad controller's touchscreen as an interface to access gadgets and other features from sam's arm-mounted computer. It also makes use of the screen and motion controls to highlight enemies through snake-cam, drone and thermal vision. Despite the clunky script and voice acting, it's a highly enjoyable romp. Multiplayer sees the return of the excellent Spys vs Mercs as well as co-op missions.
Better than Mario Party 9, and Wii Party, the Wii U version includes multiple play modes in addition to the 'roll & move' board game. There are nearly 100 mini games and party games, may of which do a better job of playing around with the GamePad than either Nintendoland or Game & Wario. It also comes with a Wii Motion Plus too. Absolute bargain.
It's a genuine 3D Mario Game, packed with the usual charm and challenge. 3D World is a massive improvement on Mario U - the 2D platforming offering - and features both co-op (best with 2) and varied level design to rival Galaxy. Great stuff.
The best Assassin's Creed for years, largely because it dispenses with all the baggage in favour of a high-seas pirating game with occasional satirical breaks in the action for 'current day' exposition. The real star of the show are the sea shanties!
Did not expect to enjoy this game at all, but though it rediscovered my online shooter mojo (multiplayer is great) and enjoyed an intriguing tale in the Killzone canon. The gameplay feels different enough from other shooters to be interesting, and it often allows the player to mix-up their play styles. Level variety is pretty decent, with only perhaps the Helgan mission retreating in physics-based frustration and nonsense. The voice acting and dialogue is often clunky, but story maintained my interest throughout. To cap it all, the game looks and sounds phenomenal, especially in the early missions.
For me, better in almost every way to Arkham City, and thematically consistent. The garish DK64-esque collectables have been replaced with something far more in tone, whilst the city traversal has been immeasurably improved with the addition of the BatWing for fast travel. The new investigation mode is an enjoyable and welcome diversion. Not the cash-in sequel some may have suggested.
The game I was most looking forward to on the Xbox One (along with the exploitative Forza 5), and it wasn't a disappointment. It's a streamlined but challenging zoo-sim mixed with [optional] cute animal interactions. Looks great. Plays great.
Luigi's Mansion 2 starts extremely strongly, and I can't help feeling that it would have been better to have been a slightly shorter game: you do feel fatigued after a while with all the ghost-vacuuming and searching. Still, it yet another sign of Nintendo's incredibly high production values and qualities.
If you can ignore the horrific load times and GamePad gimmicks, this is probably the best Lego game in the entire series: a funny, charming and occasionally biting parody of pop-culture movies. The humour more than complements the open world (isn) gameplay and traditional Lego game tropes. Lego City is an antidote to the violence of GTA unless you include all the Lego dudes you smash apart!
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