A lot of folks mention how hard it is to narrow down a list of games at the end of the year due to so many good ones being release, but this year I found the problem had changed for me. I won't deny that there were plenty of excelent games, but as the year progressed a lot of the games that I even enjoyed playing at the time just felt very flash in the pan and failed to stick with me, especially in the AAA area. I'm Justin Clouse and these are my five favorite games that I just kept coming back to in 2013.
Every year there's usually one game that I fall in love with that I basically stumble upon by happenstance. Even working in the industry, it's really difficult to stay up to date of every single release, so when something unexpected comes along it's held more dear because of it. Hammerwatch was a game I heard about during Thanksgiving of all things, we were hanging out in post-turkey stupur and I overheard someone talking about it. It's basically classic Guantlet, sans the mechanics to consume all your quarters. You'll pilot you little guy around dungeons filled to the brim with monsters, traps and a fair share of secrets. It's gloriously simple, but most importantly suffieciently challenging. It just doesn't get old to open up a door into some room chalked with baddies or to notice an irregular section of wall and be rewarded with some secret treasure room. It's also the perfect litle companion to play while catching up on podcasts or marathoning your way through Farscape on netflix.
I absolutely love the Shadowrun universe, right behind D&D it was my go-to source for tabletop gaming in my younger years. There's just something about the melting pot of distopian cyberpunk future and high fantasy that hits all the right buttons. This is a setting where elves are just as likely to carry katanas and submachine guns as they are to sling spells, also dragons get elected as president. Not since the days of the Super Nintendo and Genisis has there been really any games released in the Shadowrun universe, let's just agree that that shooter never happened. Funded through kickstarter, Shadowrun Returns first adventure is a twisting tale of an old Shadowrunner buddy of yours contacting you post-mortem in order to have you look into his own murder. It hits all the essential elements of a Shadowrun adventure with some sharply written characters and is only slightly muted by some bugs and a poorly paced checkpoint save system, that's thankfully getting patched soon.
3. Fire Emblem: Awakening
Up until earlier this year I'd been resisting buying into the 3DS. Much like the Game Boy Advance SP before it, I thought the DS Lite was a best iteration of its series. The size was perfect and the battery life would run for days, so it was going to take something special to get me to pull the trigger. Well there's perhaps a poetric systemtry that the original Fire Emblem release was the first game I bought with my SP and so Fire Emblem: Awakening was the first for my 3DS. With decent enough story, fun and varied cast of characters, and enough RPG mechanics to fill two games, Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of those rare handheld titles that isn't just relegated to filling your time while traveling. The permadeath also brings a great twist to the expierence, even if you plan to save scum it's hard to not feel a little bad when your tactical blunders lead to someone's demise.
2. Rogue Legacy
If I had to sum up Rogue Legacy in one word it would be quirky. Other choice words would be controller chuckingly difficult. One the surface Rogue Legacy is a 2D platformer roguelike, imagine the psuedo midpoint between Spelunky and Dark Souls. There's a randomly generated castle to explore, and when you die you're sent back to the start. Here's where Rogue Legecy gets interesting though. Rather than starting from scracth, you take over as one of your previous characters heirs. Gold transfers over from death, so you're encouraged to grab as much as you can and invest it in upgrades giving each subsiquent generation a better chance for sucess. Where the quirky aspect comes in is that your heirs are all randomly generated with their own classes, abilities and most importantly genetic traits. These traits run the gambit from silly to game changing and helpful to hindering. Maybe they have ADHD and move faster or Veritgo and you're forced to play the game upside down. The real dastardly ones are those that appear beign, like seeing in black and white, until you realize that some enemies are color coded to indicate what attacks they use. And you'll need to weigh each generations options between a strong class and ability combination with a delbiltating trait or take the safer but weaker character.
Nothing I could say about Pokemon X & Y more poignantly sums it up than the following. A couple of weeks back I was actually looking forward to the prospect and procedure of heading to the airport, dealing with TSA security and being locked up in a speeding metal tube for a hours on end. This was because if for no other reason I knew I would have stretches of unadultered time to devout to training up my latest team of Pokemon. At its core it's still the same addicting game I last played all those years back with Red and Blue, in fact this is my first Pokemon game since then.
The most immediate improvement with Pokemon X & Y is the switch to 3D, Pokemon finally having hit the limit of what they could do with sprites shaking about on screen. The new battles are now visual feast to enjoy, but ultimately it's the crunchy center not the shiny candy coat that sells the game. With even more Pokemon, greater variety in the starting areas and some more straightfoward approach to the series more arcane mechanics, Pokemon X & Y still retains the simple joy of lovingly building your perfect team. Fans new and old will want to snag this latest outing.
So there you have it, my favorite games of 2013. If you also enjoyed any of these please let me know in the comments, and be sure to check back tomorrow for more of the staff's favorites lists.