2013 is at it's end and as a new year dawns there is promise of more great video games on the horizon. 2013 started with a similar promise and while not every game delivered on all the people wanted there were several enjoyable games that ate up hours of my time and today I'm sharing some of my personal favorites with you.
Just a quick note here. This list isn't in any particular order, and I chose them based on the fun I had playing them. I know a couple of the games on this list weren't actually considered good games, and won't likely withstand the test of time. However they still provided me with plenty of enjoyment in the time I had with them. On top of that, this list is limited to the games I've actually played. The sad truth is that there are many great looking games that have released, which I've been unable to set aside time to play. I plan on getting to them, but as such they can't be included in this list.
The highly anticipated next entry in the Pokemon franchise didn't disappoint, and its cartridge has been sitting firmly inside my 3DS ever since. I can't get enough of it. The many changes made to the system were both necessary and exciting. It made the mechanics (which has been in place since the 90s) feel fresh and new once more, giving new players the chance to experience the fun and addiciting gameplay involved in 'catching them all' without feeling like they were playing something dated. It also gave older players, even those who had become jaded with the series, a reason to come back.
In a franchise that's so easy to put a new color (or letter now) on the title and still make a ridiculous amount of money, it's nice to see the company still trying to evolve. I may have wanted a few more changes and adjustments, but on the whole, the game(s) are still incredibly addictive and
Injustice Gods Among Us
I've never been huge on fighting games. I'm an unabashed button-masher, with no real skill in the fighting game arena, but I am a very big fan of the DC comics universe as well as the Mortal Kombat games. Some a combination of DC's coolest characters with the developers behind MK was an opportunity too good to pass up.
It was a little on the easy side but it was a damn fun game to play and had an interesting story (even if it didn't make a whole lot of sense). Not to mention fanboys like myself finally got to take our favorite characters and put old rivalries to rest. The DLC kept the good times coming with new fighters that fans were eager to get their hands on. While it's far from one of the 'best' games that came out this year, it's certainly amongst the most enjoyable.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
To be entirely honest, this was the first Fire Emblem game I ever played and I've been kicking myself for missing out on this franchise since Awakening ended. I love strategy games and the RPG elements with match-making amongst your characters added so much more for gamers to play around with.
Despite some cheesy dialog, I found myself enamored with the characters, eager to follow their personal stories, and pairing them up with one another. It was engaging and it was nearly impossible to put down, one of the most essential aspects to any handheld title. It's also one of the games to utilize 3D without feeling cheesy and unnecessary.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
There's a lot to love in this RTS title, despite a plot line that doesn't exactly jive with the rest of the StarCraft lore. The various missions in the game provided hours of entertainment, while the new features and 'evolution' paths added something new to the tried and test formula, givign fans like myself even more reason to once again become enthralled in the franchise.
My only lament is that it was over so quickly. I'm not big into the StarCraft online scene, as it's filled with people who can easily beat the shit out of me, but I enjoy playing against the computer in the various missions. Now we have to wait for the next (and final) StarCraft II game which will hopefully come out before my son goes off to college in the next 14 years...
Earthbound (Wii U)
Okay, this might be cheating, seeing as how this is an old Super Nintendo game, but the Virtual Console release of this classic game was long anticipated. It remains among one of my favorite all time games, with a RPG system that I think even modern games can learn from. Despite having played the game long ago on the SNES I jumped at the chance to play it once more on my Wii U; and I'm not ashamed at having spent several more hours glued to my Gamepad over it.
Star Wars Pinball
I mentioned this in my review of the game (when it came to the Wii U), but I'm a sucker for virtual pinball. While I totally suck when it comes to playing on a real pinball table, I can certainly rack up the points on a digital table. Couple that with my unfailing love of all things Star Wars, and Zen Pinball's Star Wars tables had me hooked from the start.
It's a lot of fun to play, and more importantly it's quick pick-up-and-play gameplay style made it easy for me to quickly get my gaming fix. As a single parent, it's not always possible (most of the time) to set aside copios amounts of time to get my game on. Star Wars Pinball only requires a few minutes of my time, while still being fun to play.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Lots of people had problems with this game, and for the most part, I tend to agree with them on many of the gripes. While the Metal Gear franchise is all about stealth and silent take-downs, Rising was about over-the-top action set pieces and how bad ass you can look while taking your enemies down. This drastic departure was expected, but most people took issue with the game's odd and muddling plot.
Despite all of these problems, I couldn't help but have fun with this game. I loved the fighting mechanics and played through the game several times over just to have more fun cutting down the enemies in different ways. While the story left a lot to be desired the gameplay provided me with hours of pure enjoyment; even when it shouldn't have.
I won't speak overly long on this one, as for the most part, I think the marjority of gamers assume this is a 'given' on any top list of 2013 games. The main reason GTA V is making my list is due to the fact that it's the first Grand Theft Auto game I actually enjoyed and played through. Yep, I admit it, I'm not a big fan of GTA and it's open-world kind of game. With previous entries, after only a few hours I grew bored with it and never picked it up again. GTA V broke that trend with me. It might have been because of the cast of ecclectic characters, or the vastly expanded ability to do whatever I wanted. No matter the reason, I had more fun with this game than I did any of the other GTAs.
XCOM: Enemy Within
I came in pretty late to the XCOM party, only picking up Enemy Unknown (one of last year's most impressive titles) this past Summer. As a strategy fan, I was impressed at the depth involved in the game. More than just the battles on the field, managing your home base and resources, going on missions to appease council members, and researching pivotal technology were all integral parts of the game.
The game's expansion, Enemy Within, took this even further and offered up enough new (and meaty) content to justify a return to the game's world. I was eager for the chance to dive back into the micro-managing adventure and try out the various new units to see what changes they brought to the battlefield.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
This game took me by surprise. I wasn't prepared for how much I would love this game or it's silly world. The design is brilliant and filled with gorgeous visuals. It's gameplay mechanics were different from what you normally see. It combined the addictive properties of monster hunting/fighting (like Pokemon) with the the magic aspects and strategy of a more traditional JRPG.
While the story was more of a child's tale, and refused to go as dark as you wanted, it was still a very touching story. One that had you cheering for the heroes, and hoping their (your) journey ended as you hoped. I spent a lot of hours traversing the world of Ni No Kuni and never once did I grow bored or listless. There were lots of things to enjoy about this game, and I did my best to explore all of it. My only hope now is that there will be a sequel in the near future.
The Last of US
As I said at the beginning, this list isn't in any particular order, but I saved the best for last. The Last of Us remains one of the most impressive games I've played, not only this year, but ever. It's narrative is engaging and I became emotionally attached to the characters almost instantly. For this reason, the game is nearly impossible to put down, as you feel an overwhelming need to see what happens next.
While the gameplay seemed simple, it was nonetheless fun and suited the needs for the story perfectly. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine tension while playing, not just because I wanted to proceed to the next level, but because I was so invested in all that was going on. It's a highlight for the generation and a game that showcases how far the game industry has come as a storytelling medium.
With the new generation of consoles finally upon us, 2014 has a lot of potential for being an amazing year filled with incredible gaming experiences. But it's important to not forget all that 2013 had to offer as well. These were my favorite games (for better or worse), which ones are yours?