Let us remember 2013 as an utterly captivating year for video games, where March became the new game release holiday, the indie scene exploded, consoles were launched, and classics were born. Despite volumes of negativity bounced around and headline grabbing stories snatching the latest furor, it is the moments where video games let us sink into their marvelous worlds creating the memories (not those forgotten flare ups) which define this industry. This past year was truly about consoles coming into their own, unexpected gems, and the best design minds paired together to create these stunning releases.
10. Remember Me – Xbox 360/PS3/PC
Developer Dotnod created a video game with the design equivalence of mid-tier software, and worked it into a mesmerizing future dystopia which is amongst 2013’s most interesting gaming backdrops. Lead Nilin is jittery and imprecise, yet so well realized in a world of corporate memory control as to render the coding flubs void. Counter it all with the best score of the year, and Remember Me clips the edges of 2013’s best as the underdog.
9. Tomb Raider – Xbox 360/PS3/PC
Lara Croft was reborn in 2013, released in a flurry of early year activity and yet walking away unscathed. Croft’s (somewhat) open adventure finds the heroine redeveloped outside of her flaunted sex appeal, creating a character who scratches and claws to survive. While elements of character were often glossed over for the sake of action, generous gameplay and stunningly robust visuals crafted an island scenario of convincing scale with a lead character who could chart its many pathways.
8. Ridiculous Fishing – iOS/Android
Mobile games are dumped onto current platforms by the thousands, but it takes one to fully utilize the breadth of the device to succeed. Existing within the closed boundaries of motion controls and touch, Ridiculous Fishing is locked to its title. It is as ridiculous a concept as mobile flip phone gaming on a keypad, only now it feels right. Snag fish by working a line into the depths, reel one in, and then blow them to pieces with, “anyone can do it” controls. The blood splotches and mayhem are pure, short-lived satisfaction – perfect when you’re on the go. Embedded motion/touch controls were meant for the platform.
7. Pikmin 3 – Wii U
Bizarre yet comfortable. Horrifying yet inviting. This is wholly the Pikmin run, where thousands of living veggies are scrunched and munched in a terrifying scene of mass violence, yet Nintendo turns the whole thing into a beautiful and family friendly adventure with eyes toward the cosmos. Three plump, miniature explorers set out in search of food for their starving planet and find this familiar planetscape full of danger, adorable foes, and puzzles. Oh, and a deep rooted mystery where pieces unravel as the days grow long.
6. Resogun – PlayStation 4
Only one title makes the list from the now current crop of consoles, and it was free for PlayStation Plus users. Resogun is a magical update to the earliest of horizontal shooters, working into the power of PS4 to splurge on explosive particle effects, arguably more impressive than anything released at retail for either console. Fast-paced, human saving warfare is done in a bleak environment with splashes of oozing color, and utilization of the, “the Dual Shock 4 had a speaker?” speaker is a clever technological touch to bridge fictional and real worlds.
5. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – 3DS
In this, the year of Luigi, it seems fitting for this entry – but not by default. This sequel to the GameCube launch title is brisk and inventive with the established formula. Using a vacuum as the core mechanism, Luigi mimics the best ghostbusting routines while sucking up coins to upgrade his paranormal discriminating Poltergust 3000. Generous levels of animation create a Luigi bursting with character, carving out his own identity in this starring role.
4. Ducktales Remastered – XBLA/PSN/Wii U/PC
WayForward harnesses the recognized greatness of the NES icon – a rare licensed achievement – revitalizing it visually and sonically. Hosting the elements which served Capcom’s long standing classic in full for two decades, WayForward’s touch up was smart, losing none of the original’s zest. Voice actors were a modern splurge to play on the nostalgia and make sense of the wacky happenings. Levels sprawled further with invisible additions and a miniature quest system extended play sessions enough to satiate the length-driven modern audience.
3. Tearaway – Vita
What a world, what a world. Tearaway is Vita’s game, much as Halo is to Xbox or God of War is to PlayStation. The console’s new mascot is a plucky envelope, proving boundless as a brave adventurer trekking across a world made entirely of paper. Tearaway is a platformer, but labeling it as such seems disingenuous. Like Pikmin, this rightful Vita exclusive secures its positioning because of its world and how much fun it is to poke around while exhibiting a child-like imagination. It’s wonderful, friendly, and all-inclusive.
2. Rayman Legends – Xbox 360/PS3/Wii U/PC
UbiSoft’s reborn 2D platform series is the closest it has ever been to dethroning Nintendo’s own in the same play space. Fitted with levels from Rayman Origins and a suite of newcomers, there are few moments where Legends is not doing everything it can to make player’s smile. Toss it all together for the game peak – spectacular music themed stages perfectly timed to the beat of known tunes – and this is set to conquer any 2D Mario affair.
1. Super Mario 3D World – Wii U
In 2011, Mario 3D Land took home MPG’s “Best Of” award, meaning it should come as no surprise the improved Wii U follow-up earns 2013’s crown. Mario 3D World captures the effortless blending of 2D and 3D design bottled into themed worlds, invites nostalgia, and lets Nintendo enter the modern technical realms of 1080p and 5.1. Mario and crew move flawlessly through devious and clever level designs to rescue Pixies, all to the beat of the best Mario music since level 1-1 introduced us all to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Steamworld Dig – 3DS/Steam
Just missing the main list was the indie dig-a-thon which fused the likes of Metroid with the addictive searching methods of Spelunky. Dig low and power-up as a robot to rescue a small town while uncovering its secrets below through outstandingly smooth mechanics.
Peggle 2 – Xbox One
Released at the tail end of 2013, this (currently) Xbox One exclusive carried the peg-busting fun into the new generation. With a flurry of new powers and adorable characters, this random puzzler still has its magic.
Knack – PlayStation 4
Sony’s launch day blending of puzzle, platform, and beat-em-up styles was resoundingly criticized. Yet, here sits a title with defiantly challenging gameplay, appealing world, and breakout segments of city destruction to harness Knack’s full potential. It’s too long, but still a blast.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger – XBLA/PSN/PC
UbiSoft sent this one out to digital pastures and despite a brief flare-up, few seemed to notice. With the intensity of a light gun shooter and narrative framing of a tall tale, it’s a rush of crazy violence mixed with precision shooting, fantastic enough to sit on physical shelves should the publisher ever get the itch.
Lost Planet 3 – Xbox 360/PS3/PC
“The Little Engine That Could” for 2013 was Capcom’s burly work simulator which just happened to include alien insects. Lost Planet 3 is a decidedly personal everyman story, and as with every game in this series, hosting a unique identifying quality to separate it from expectations of the previous two titles.
Project X Zone – 3DS
While not much for the dedicated strategy audience, this style over substance tactical RPG (of sorts) brings together Namco and Capcom characters to fend off evil in a pseudo beat-em-up action system within a ludicrous cross-universe story. It’s weird, it’s simple, it’s devoid of strategy, but it’s endlessly mindless fun.