My Favorite Games of 2013

January 1, 2014

2013 has been considered one of the weaker years in releases.  I suppose that’s what happens when a console generation lasts well past what it was probably supposed to.  Still, plenty of highly enjoyable games came out.  Despite the lack of big releases, indie games like Stanley Parable, Gone Home, State of Decay, Rogue Legacy and Gun Point, have me feeling less qualified to put a list up than most years.  Despite there being less AAA games out than usual, there are still plenty of games left for me to play from 2013.

10. Tearaway

“This game is charming as fuck.” pretty much sums it up for me, but there’s a lot more going on with Tearaway. Lovely art style, genuinely clever gameplay mechanics based around Vita’s functionality, and simple to do arts and crafts that directly affect the environment, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face while playing this game.

9. Super Mario 3D World

Just when I’m out, they pull me back in! Nintendo really brings it with this installment. It has a lot of things I loved from other Mario games (Princess Peach can float!), and adds much needed creativity to Mario. The worst thing I can say about this game is that I find the way Mario meows annoying.

8. Tomb Raider

This scratches that Uncharted itch for me. I enjoyed Tomb Raider despite it being a huge departure from the original series that I loved. I’m really hoping the sequel has more tombs to raid. Those were my favorite bits in this game and there simply wasn’t enough of them.

7. BioShock Infinite

It’s a fine shooter, but the game’s story is really what makes this game special for me. I really enjoyed the twisted Disney princess setup used to introduce Elizabeth and enjoyed Booker’s relationship with her quite a bit.

6. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers tells an affecting story with visuals, voice inflection, and music, despite the characters speaking gibberish. There’s no real combat to speak of here, just environmental puzzles, exploration, and platforming. One of the few games where the mechanics of the game directly ties into its narrative. One of my surprise games of 2013.

5. Saints Row IV

If you liked SR3, it’s mathematically impossible for you not to like this one. Think Saint’s Row 3 mixed with Crackdown. The comedy is still there too, totally worth picking up.

4. Metro: Last Light

Although I enjoyed Bioshock Infinite mainly for its story, Metro Last Light strikes a good balance between enjoyable gameplay mechanics and a engaging narrative. Although the game’s more interesting survival mechanics (finding gas masks, using bullets as currency as well as ammunition) takes a back seat in the sequel compared to Metro 2033, this game’s level design, story telling techniques, and satisfying shooting mechanics made it one of my favorite shooters in a very long time.

3. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Black Flag totally took me by surprise. Assassin’s Creed III’s ending left a bad taste in my mouth but this game was good all the way through. Not only did it feed my compulsion to want to collect everything in these types of games by giving you some cool extras for doing it (like shanties for your crew to sing, and treasure maps, weapons, and costumes to unlock) but the naval combat stuff has been tweaked and made a bit more full scale compared to the previous game. Oh yea, it also helps that the game looks gorgeous on next gen consoles. It even had a companion app that was well done and added quite a bit to the game. This didn’t feel like it was rushed out to make a deadline. Its polished and full of content.

2. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

This ended up being one of my favorite JRPG’s in a very long time. Not only did this help me understand why so many people like Pokemon, but it used one of my favorite animation studios Studio Ghibli to do it. I have to go back to this and do the post game activities at some point. It’s flippin’ tidy, it is!

1. The Last of Us

Poignant, well written, honest storytelling. That’s what I took away the most from this game. Being a huge stealth fan, the gameplay really spoke to me. There were entire fight sequences I avoided by using stealth. When forced to confront enemies, I felt I had the necessary tools to have a fighting chance. I loved the honesty and audacity the game’s final moments had. There are very few games that use your own life experiences to help shape how you feel about a game’s ending but I felt that TLOU did exactly that. I think those of us that have children can empathize with some of the choices Joel had to make, but very few of us would be willing to make the same choices. At the end of the day, this game isn’t about being the hero that saves the day, it’s about being human and all of what that entails…both good and bad.

 

 

Honorable Mention

10 spots just isn’t enough to highlight some of my favorite games of this past year.  Games like GTA V, Ducktales Remastered, Batman: Arkham Origins, DmC, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, and Guacamelee were among my favorites.

 

 

I Really Liked It Despite Itself

These are games that I enjoyed despite the games having problems that others might not be able to overlook.  Even games with flaws deserved a little attention!

Deadpool-  I enjoyed this game a lot more than I expected to.  The gameplay is mostly brain dead despite there being some fun aspects to the combat and shooting.  More than anything this game cracked me up.  There were a lot of bad jokes, but for every bad joke or two there was one that was genuinely funny.

Remember Me- The art direction, graphical fidelity, voice acting, and general atmosphere of this game was great.  The gameplay however was too simple.  The edit combos together to create buffs for your character was an interesting mechanic but it wasn’t fully fleshed out.  The platforming was also fairly disappointing and reminded me a lot of Enslaved where you were simply given too much direction as to where to go next.  I also found the ending to fall very flat.  You are left thinking, “That’s it?  THAT’S why all of the things in this game happened?”.

Beyond: Two Souls-  Although the story is hit and miss, there were a few moments that were genuinely well done.  The graphics in this game are among the best of this past generation.  The problem here is that the quality of the story is uneven and the although ending doesn’t fail as hard as Heavy Rain, it does stumble a bit.  I still enjoyed my time with the game despite those flaws.

 

 

I Coulda Been a Contender!

These are games that are all quality, but I just didn’t get to play enough of them to give it their due.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes-  What I did play was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to going back.  Love all the Marvel fan service.

Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD-   This will be one of the games I go back to first once the next gen drought hits me (which will be soon).

 

 

Most Disappointing Game of The Year (Brought to you by Prototype)

To clarify, this isn’t “worst game” necessarily, just one that I was really disappointed with.  Only criteria that I have for this is that it has to be a game I beat so I could properly judge the game in its entirety.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance-  I can’t deny that I had fun with this game, but I was surprised by how quickly that fun wore out.  It took me about 8 hours to beat this game and it felt like it wore out its welcome 5-6 hours in.  Fun gameplay mechanics that just weren’t fun enough to carry an entire game.  


My 2011 Game of the Year Awards

December 26, 2011

Best Xbox 360 Game


Honorable Mention: Bastion

It helps that there weren’t that many 360 exclusives on the system in 2011 but let’s face it, Gears 3 would have probably won anyway.

Best PS3 Game


Honorable Mention: inFamous 2

Thought by some to be a downgrade from Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 still has some of the best graphics and set pieces than any other game in 2011.

Best Downloadable Game


Honorable Mention: inFamous: Festival of Blood

I don’t play many downloadable games but when I do, I hope them to be as creative and fun as Bastion.

Best Wii Game



This is a no brainer.  Not only did I not play another Wii game that released in 2011, but Skyward Sword is pretty damn amazing.  Intricate level design, beautiful art direction, and good motion controls gives the series a fresh feel.

Best PC Game

Honorable Mention: The Witcher 2

This game caught me by surprise.  A little bit Deus Ex 1, a lot of bit Metal Gear Solid, I had a great time overall with the game.  DXHR beat out The Witcher 2 because TW2 somehow managed to have worse boss fights than Human Revolution.

Best 3DS Game

Honorable Mention: Pilotwings Resort

Having never played Ocarina of Time when it first came out on Nintendo64, this was a treat.  Well implemented 3D and redone graphics give the game a new coat of paint.  I can see why so many regard this game as one of the best ever.

2011 Game of the Year


Honorable Mention: Portal 2

This is one of the few games that just got better as it went along. The last two hours were fucking great, and that ending!  In just a few short years, Rocksteady has become one of my favorite developers.

Other fun choices:

Best Graphics: Uncharted 3
Best Artistic Design: Rayman Origins
Best Action Game: Saint’s Row: The Third
Best Fighting Game: Mortal Kombat
Best iOS Game: Sonic CD
Best Platforming Game: Rayman Origins
Best RPG: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Best Shooter: Gears of War 3
Best Sports: NBA 2K12
Best Score: Rayman Origins
Best Voice Acting: Uncharted 3
Best Story: Portal 2
Best Online Multiplayer Game: Gears of War 3
Best Survival/Horror game: Dead Space 2


My 2010 Game of the Year Awards

January 3, 2011

Best Xbox 360 Game

Honorable Mention: Alan Wake

Mass Effect 2 took almost every negative from Mass Effect 1 and turned it into a positive. Bioware created a fully realized sci fi universe here that’s as deep and interesting as any universe before it.

Best PS3 Game


Honorable Mention: Heavy Rain

God of War III sports one of the most amazing openings to any game I’ve played. Although the ending left fans polarized, the brutal gameplay, visual fidelity, and cool boss battles make this one of my favorites from last year.

Best Downloadable Game


Honorable Mention: Shank

This was a tough choice for me because to be honest, I didn’t play a whole lot of downloadable games, but Guardian of Light’s fun coop really helped it edge it out over Shank.

Best Wii Game


Honorable Mention: Donkey Kong Country Returns

This was a toss up for me.  You can pretty much flip a coin as to which game was my favorite.  Ultimately, it’s amazing what Super Mario Galaxy 2 does in a 3D space, so that nudges it over Donkey Kong Country.  Between SMG2, Kirby, and DK, 2010 was an awesome year for Nintendo platformers and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Best PSP Game

Honorable Mention: God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Easily the best PSP MGS game to date, Peace Walker looked and played more like a full blown console release than a limited portable game.

Best DS Game

Adjectives, that’s all you need to know.  Super Scribblenauts also added an actual face button control scheme and more of a puzzle oriented gameplay structure.  All of these improvements basically took away most complaints gamers had about the first game.

2010 Game of the Year


Honorable Mention: Mass Effect 2

It was hard to choose between ME2 and RDR, but ultimate I chose RDR because it went from a game I only got because I was talked into it (for the multiplayer), to being one of the best experiences I had with a game last year. The characters, gameplay, and awesome ending really set it apart from most games of 2010.

Other fun choices:

Best Graphics: God of War 3
Best Artistic Design: Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Best Action Game: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Best Fighting Game: Super Street Fighter IV
Best Adventure Game: Back To The Future Episode 1
Best Music Game: Rockband 3
Best Platforming Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Best Racing Game: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Best RPG: Fallout: New Vegas
Best Shooter: N/A
Best Sports: NBA 2K11
Best Score: Red Dead Redemption
Best Voice Acting: Mass Effect 2
Best Story: Red Dead Redemption
Best Online Multiplayer Game: NHL 11


Mastering the Art of the Blind Buy

September 30, 2010

After slaving over and consuming all of the reviews/previews/etc available for every game I was interested in purchasing, I started getting the same feeling I get when I watch a movie trailer that’s way too revealing.  By the time the game actually comes out, I know what the game’s “beats” are, and I knew exactly what to expect.  Sure, I was more informed and knew that the game was worth a purchase, but it left me with a shallow experience with the game in the end.

Being so well informed made the game’s flaws ever more apparent.  Perhaps something that would have been a mild annoyance or perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed at all becomes the main thing on display because I read four different reviews that points out the same flaw.

Sometime last year I decided to say fuck it, and started purchasing and playing games using the same criteria I used to when I was younger…I went with my gut.

The first game I tried this new approach with couldn’t have been a better choice; Batman: Arkham Asylum.  It’s pretty much a given now that the game is awesome, but before its release, Batman: AA’s anticipation amongst fans was positive with a heaping dose of pessimism.  Seeing as there hadn’t been a great Batman game…well ever, gamers had every right to feel that way.

So I literally went into the game blindly, I didn’t wait for any reviews, and didn’t read any hands on impressions.  All I had to go by was the very first screen shots of the game and a gut feeling that told me the game might end up being good.

It couldn’t have gone any better.

Batman: Arkham Asylum became one of the biggest surprise hits of last year and I couldn’t have been anymore blown away by it because I had no clue what the game had to offer going in.  All of the added touches, gameplay wrinkles, and story elements were experienced for the first time through my own two eyes instead of someone else’s…it was fantastic.

Since then, I’ve taken this approach with all of the games that I purchase.  Obviously some games have more hype than others or are part of an already established franchise so it can be easy to spot a good game, but this approach has led me to play quite a few games that I loved that had disparate opinions amongst the gaming press and some that ended up having positive reviews unbeknown to me at the time.

Games like Ghostbusters, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions, and (a game I just picked up the other day and still need to crack open) Cursed Mountain get their due without me knowing exactly how each game will disappoint me once I start playing it.

Not only that, but this method keeps you spoil free!  Experiencing Batman Arkham Asylum and God of War III’s opening with virgin eyes was a great experience.

It’s also backfired a few times (thank you Prototype and to a much lesser degree Final Fantasy XIII) but more often times than not, this approach hasn’t steered me wrong.

I know that some gamers will state that games are expensive and that not everyone has the luxury of taking chances like that with their hard earned dollars and I can totally respect that.  For my money, opening a game and loving, liking, or hating it based on its own merits and solely on your own opinion makes it a risk worth taking.


My 2009 Game of the Year Awards

January 4, 2010

Best Xbox 360 Game


Honorable Mention: Halo 3: ODST

Best PS3 Game

Honorable Mention: inFAMOUS

Best Wii Game


Honorable Mention: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Best PSP Game

Best DS Game (by default)

2009 Game of the Year

Honorable Mention: Uncharted 2

I went back in forth between this and Uncharted 2. Ultimately, Batman surprised the crap out of me while I expected good things from Uncharted 2. Rocksteady Studios really raised the bar for what licensed games should be. This all coming from a studio who for all intents and purposes had never made a “good” game.

Other fun choices:

Best Graphics: Uncharted 2
Best Artistic Design: Brütal Legend
Best Action Game: Assassin’s Creed 2
Best Fighting Game: Street Fighter IV
Best Adventure Game: Secret of Monkey Island
Best Music Game: Beatles Rockband
Best Platforming Game: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Best RPG: Dragon Age: Origins
Best Shooter: Halo 3: ODST
Best Sports: Madden X
Best Score: Halo 3: ODST
Best Voice Acting: Uncharted 2
Best Story: Dragon Age: Origins
Best Online Multiplayer Game: COD: Modern Warfare 2


Ready, Set, Game’s 2008 Videogame of the Year Awards

January 16, 2009

This sort of acts as a test of sorts since this will be my first real post on my blog.   It took me a while to really narrow down what I thought were the best games 0f 2008, but somehow I managed to do so.   Being the gaming nerd that I am, I was lucky enough to play a vast majority of the big name games of this year.  So without further adieu, here are my choices for 2008 GOTY:

 

 

Best Xbox 360 Game:

This was my 2008 Game of the Year.

Fallout 3

This game probably surprised me more than any other game on this list…if only because I originally didn’t even plan on playing it.  I decided to rent it to “try it out” and ended up taking it back to Blockbuster and heading over to Gamestop to purchase it all on the same trip!  The game’s combination of RPG sensibilities with the almost overwhelming task of exploring a nuclear wasteland really set this game apart from other games in the genre as well as other games on the Xbox 360.

Honorable Mention:  Fable II

 

 

Best PS3 Game: 

LittleBig Planet

LittleBig Planet

Every year, there’s one game that feels like it’s a breath of fresh air.  Arguably, Portal was that game for 2007, and the game that gave me that same “so fresh and so clean, clean” feeling in 2008 was LittleBig Planet.  Out of all the games of 2008, LBP was one of the few I played where I literally felt the passion and creativity of the developer with every new level that I played.  Kudos to Media Molecule for knocking it out of the park on the first swing.

Honorable Mention:  Dead Space

 

 

Best Wii Game:

Brawl

Super Smash Bros.: Brawl

It was slim pickings for me on the Wii in 2008, but the game I spent the most time with this year (when my Wii wasn’t collecting dust…I kid, I kid) was Brawl.  Yes it was little more than an updated version of Super Smash Bros.: Melee, but it did what it set out to do.  An addition that I really enjoyed was the  The Subspace Emissary which is essentially Brawl’s answer to having a story mode.  Despite the crap ending, it worked very well and really extended the game’s playability in my eyes.  The only reason I didn’t choose Boom Blox over Brawl was because as much fun as I had with Boom Blox, Brawl gave me a more substantial overall experience.

Honorable Mention:  Boom Blox

 


Best PSP Game:

Patapon

Patapon

This was a tough choice for me.  Although I really enjoyed Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, I had to give it to Patapon for being so fresh and original (not to mention cheap, $19.99 MSRP).   It has the perfect mix of RPG and music/rhythm gameplay.  Patapon is highly recommended if you haven’t played it yet.  

Honorable Mention:  Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

 

 

Best DS Game:

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

Although my 6 year old son has had a DS for a long while now, I never really started playing it until this year.  Still, I don’t think anyone can fault me for choosing this SNES classic as my DS GOTY.  I think they added just the right amount of touches to this revision (including cutscenes from the not-as-good PSone version) to make people that have already played this game buy, play, and love it all over again.  I mean seriously, I can think of much worse games to play on the crapper?

 

 

Best Downloadable Game:

Braid

Braid

It was a close call between this and Bionic Commando: Rearmed, but I had to give it to Braid seeing as it was a completely original experience with an amazing ending.  Some of the mind bending puzzles made me want to break out a FAQ, but I can proudly say that I beat this game FAQ-free.  

Honorable Mention:  Bionic Commando: Rearmed

 

 

2008 Game of the Year:

Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

There’s no other game I was looking forward to more and it not only lived up to the hype I placed on the game, but it also exceeded it in a lot of ways. Overall they retooled the MGS formula to perfection without completely taking out what the fans loved about the previous games. Kojima Productions pretty much guaranteed that I will blind buy any game that they develop from now on. Some of the threads didn’t play out the way I expected which I suppose in some ways is a good thing, but, tying all the games lingering plot threads together was a feat unto itself. This was a surprisingly difficult decision. LittleBig Planet and Fallout 3 made it really hard for me to choose but as far as videogames are concerned 2008 was the year of the Snake.

Honorable Mention:  Fallout 3

 

 

Other awards:

Best Graphics: Metal Gear Solid 4
Best Artistic Design: LitttleBig Planet, Prince of Persia (tie)
Best Action Game:  Dead Space
Best Fighting Game: Soul Calibur IV
Best Adventure Game: Tomb Raider: Underworld
Best Music Game: Rockband 2
Best Platforming Game: LittleBig Planet
Best Racing Game: Burnout Paradise
Best RPG: Fable II, Fallout 3 (tie)
Best Shooter: Gears of War 2
Best Sports: MLB 08: The Show
Best Score/Soundtrack: Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBig Planet (tie)
Best Voice Acting: Metal Gear Solid 4
Best Story: Metal Gear Solid 4
Best Online Multiplayer Game: LittleBig Planet