2013 has been a year for the video gaming record books. New consoles, countless amazing games and even some juicy controversy kept the past twelve months interesting. As the year winds down, we here at Entertainment Buddha find ourselves reflecting on the year that was – taking time to think about the games that we played in 2013 and how they shaped our year.
As is natural when reflecting, we couldn’t help but list our five favorites from the past twelve months. There were plenty of great games that came out this year, and the sheer variety seen throughout everyone’s choices is an indicator of a successful year for the gaming world as a whole.
As an end of the year treat, we present to you: Entertainment Buddha’s Game of the Year Staff Picks 2013.
1) Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut (PS3/PC)
Deadly Premonition is not only one of the most bizarre video games of all time, but also one of the most engrossing. A perfect blend of Twin Peaks styled camp and strangely endearing writing; Deadly Premonition is a game that defies description and expectations. Stiff animations and rough textures aside, those who are willing to spend a few hours in Deadly Premonition’s town of Greenvale are in for a game experience unlike anything they have ever played before. Deadly Premonition’s story winds, twists and wraps the player up in a murder mystery that they will not soon forget.
2) Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
Fire Emblem: Awakening’s triumphant appearance on the Nintendo 3DS brought the series’ signature intense SRPG combat to a whole new level. An excellent entry into a long-running franchise, FE:A is exactly what 3DS owners who were raised on classic RPGs are looking for: immersive, challenging and downright fun to play. Thanks to the game’s lengthy campaign and well-written characters, players will have plenty of reasons to keep coming back to FE:A.
3) The Last of Us (PS3)
The Last of Us is sure to find itself on almost every ‘best of’ list this year and for good reasons. Naughty Dog did an almost unbelievable job in creating The Last of Us, nailing down everything from rich atmosphere to pitch-perfect writing. There are plenty of great things to be said about The Last of Us, but discussing the game at length is almost unfair to those who have not yet played it. The Last of Us is undoubtedly one of the greatest video games not only of the year, but also of all time.
4) Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
Atlus’ return to the mainline SMT games took the RPG world by storm this year and rightfully earned a spot as one of this year’s best games. Despite launching on the 3DS, SMTIV is loaded with every feature that makes the Shin Megami Tensei beloved across the world. A near-perfect blend of the brutal difficulty the series is known for and a thrilling story, SMTIV is a must-have for anyone who finds themselves pining after the golden era of RPGs.
5) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a game that feels out of place when compared to many other titles released this year. A visually stunning RPG from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni and its whimsical adventure managed to capture the essence of exploration and child-like wonder in a way that never gets old. Ni No Kuni blended traditional RPG elements with a more modern combat system that felt completely natural while still having plenty of depth.
1) BioShock Infinite
The timing of this game’s release in early 2013 worked against Infinite in regards to awards, but this remains the most compelling title I played this year. It had everything: ties to the first BioShock, a nice variety of powers to break up the FPS action, and an amazing story that left my head spinning for a while after completion. This is the only game I played this year where I was awe struck during and after completion.
2) Spelunky HD (PC)
Low key, but one of the best releases for the PC was the enhanced edition of an old Windows freeware game. For the uninitiated, Spelunky is a platformer with roguelike elements, meaning that each level is randomly generated as the player moves along. Remember the tagline for Dark Souls, “Prepare to Die”? Fits here too. Don’t be fooled by the cartoony graphics – this is a punishing game, one that will challenge even the most hardened of platform veterans. I’ve gotten 25+ hours of playtime of this bad boy, and I sense many more to come. For $15 at full price, it’s an absolute steal.
3) GTA V
Unpopular opinion alert: I’m not as enthralled by the newest Rockstar creation as most of the general public. Yes, this game is staggering in scope, but all too often I was left feeling as though they tried to make things bigger just for the sake of being able to talk about how big it was. Too many empty, worthless areas, too many fetch quests, and I would argue the most anti-climactic ending to a AAA title in recent memory. Flaws aside, though, this game had a lot going for it – the heists were a major highlight, despite their infrequency – and it’s certainly worthy of recognition.
4) Antichamber (PC)
Everything that a puzzle-platformer should aspire to be. From the very start, Antichamber sought not just to challenge your intellect, but the way you played puzzle games. Too many puzzle-based games teach you a mechanic and then just ask you to use it over and over again. Antichamber teaches you mechanics, and then makes you question whether they had become obsolete within 10 minutes of game time. This one is filled with “A Ha!” moments that will leave you feeling satisfied at the finish line, assuming you can make it there.
5) Tomb Raider
Kudos to Square Enix – they knocked this reboot out of the park. Aside from the obvious positives in the gameplay and story departments, the re-imagination of Lara Croft was one of the year’s biggest moments, and something I think is reflective of how far the video game industry has come. Croft has gone from being a caricature best known for her physique to a relatable, realistic woman that men and women alike.
1) The Last of Us (PS3)
Few games come as close to perfection as Naughty Dog’s epic and gritty tale of Joel and Ellie. It is a title that showcases how far video games have come in storytelling and it is a game that exudes maturity from every pore without having to resort to the tired old ‘adult’ themes such as the ‘scantily clad big-boobed female’ teenage boy wank fodder and ‘ultra manly over the top gore & gib fest’. Do yourself a favor and buy it.
2) GTA V (Xbox 360, PS3)
If there was one game that made me question whether to get a next gen console this was it. GTA V is an outstanding technical achievement for hardware that’s as old as most Pagan rituals. But even when you fathom how this witchcraft is possible, you realize that the world, characters and story have been crafted with such meticulous fidelity that it’s nothing short of breathtaking. GTA V is a game that will have you thinking “wow” on so many occasions; its constant surprises will assault all your gaming senses to the point of total submission.
3) Battlefield 4 (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC)
Battlefield has always been about diversity, its multiplayer is unsurpassed in the sheer number of innovative and fun ways to wreak havok against your fellow gamers and DICE’s latest offering is no different. It’s especially great on next gen consoles as they for the first time get to experience the glorious carnage that 64 player servers bring and whilst it still has its faults and some annoying bugs, BF4 remains a visually stunning and ridiculously creative way of killing your digital friends. A must play for any fan of competitive first person shooters.
4) ArmA III (PC)
The third instalment of Bohemia Interactive Studio’s military combat simulation ArmA is a true PC game. It will break your system if you let it off its leash and will send you and your expensive gaming rig to the corner to think about your actions. If you are conservative however, you will find a game that will let you do just about anything want to watch 100 tanks fight another 100 tanks? Do it. Want to play a mission where you have to fend off a rogue militant group of apocalyptic goats (yes, goats) sure – if you build it they will come. It has a massive community that always pumps out new content which keeps the experience fresh – but be warned, ArmA is a military sim and you will fail. Lots.
5) Don’t Starve (PC)
Don’t Starve is a game that forces you to forge your own progress by simply exploring and experimenting. The game has a bleak and melancholy feel from the get-go and more often than not, you will be dead in less than 10 minutes on your first play-through. But the beauty of Don’t Starve is that all the time you are playing, you’re acquiring the knowledge to help your character survive for another day – learning new ways to stave off the hunger, stay motivated and fend off the beasts that lurk not only in the game world but also in your character’s imagination. It’s a fresh, well-crafted and quirky game that won’t bombard you with an hour’s worth of tutorials – it wants you to learn how to survive and stand on your own two feet and it becomes thoroughly enjoyable because of it.
2) Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
3) Animal Crossing: New Leaf
4) Injustice: Gods Among Us
5) Rayman Legends (Wii U)
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