The new year offers a chance for reflection, a time to look back at the previous year and figure out what your favorite video games were.
Well, maybe that last part is just me. Such is a life that revolves around sitting in front of a screen, eating Cheetos and tapping buttons all day long.
When I looked back at 2013 in terms of video games, I realized the year did not exactly pan out as planned. The much anticipated next-gen systems offered no amazing exclusive games (though, in all fairness, there are plenty of good games to play on them). In the meantime, a system that has never been more than a pleasant distraction ended up being my system of the year.
So here are my choices for games of the year. As always, go online and let me know where you think I got it right and where I "couldn't be more of a stupid-head" (my favorite comment from last year).
Action/Adventure: "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag"
It was difficult deciding if this game should be placed in the Action/Adventure or Open-World category. Eventually I settled on this distinction simply because I wanted to give "Black Flag" an award.
Sue me, it's my awards.
"Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" took the amazing series and placed it in the world of pirates. The enhanced sailing and sea battles, combined with great characters, made this one of my favorite plays of the year.
Honorable mention: "The Last of Us," "Tomb Raider," "DMC: Devil May Cry."
Shooter: "Bioshock Infinite"
I'm not sure how it's possible, but Ken Levine somehow managed to outdo his original "Bioshock" and provide a shooter that was both action-packed and filled with a thoughtful, amazingly moralistic story. "Bioshock Infinite" proves that artistic games can still be fun for everyone to play.
Honorable mention: "Battlefield 4," "Call of Duty: Ghosts"
Platform: "Super Mario 3D World"
"Super Mario 3D World" is the one game I don't believe I reviewed fairly last year. I got stuck on the multiplayer, which I found chaotic and not much fun, while not giving the product enough credit for its amazing design, spot-on gameplay and the ability to finally play as different characters again. I still don't like the multiplayer, but as a single-player platform game, it has few rivals.
Honorable mention: "Puppeteer," "Rayman: Legends," "Tearaway"
Role Playing: "Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch"
I love role-playing games, but I cannot remember the last time one enchanted me as much as "Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch." The story, the design, the graphics, the gameplay — everything, really — was perfect. I played through the adventure with childlike wonder, entranced by every twist and turn thrown my way. It is one of the few RPGs I will ever play through a second time, which says a lot. I recommend it unconditionally.
Honorable mention: "Tales of Xillia," "Shin Megami Tensei IV"
Fighting: "Injustice: Gods Among Us"
I was surprised when the revamped "Mortal Kombat" launched in 2011 and I enjoyed the series for the first time. That surprise turned to stunned when the team released "Injustice: Gods Among Us" this year. Focusing wholly on characters from the DC Comics universe, the game provides an astounding amount of gameplay, gorgeous graphics and silky smooth controls. A near perfect fighting game.
Honorable mention: "Killer Instinct"
Sports: "Madden NFL 25"
For its 25th anniversary, "Madden" freshened up its running game, opening up gameplay options and making the game considerably more realistic. The only caveat this year is the exception of the next-gen versions, which don't hold up quite as well. For next-gen sports-gaming goodness, give "NBA 2K14" a try.
Honorable mention: "NBA 2K14," "FIFA 14"
Racing: "Need for Speed: Rivals"
The approach Electronic Arts took with "Need for Speed: Rivals" revolutionizes the way racing games approach single-player vs. multiplayer progression. The world in which players can jump into races and events with others, on the fly, is genius. It gives us the future of racing games today.
Honorable mention: "Forza 5"
Handheld: "Animal Crossing: New Leaf"
Addictive just doesn't seem a strong enough word to describe "Animal Crossing: New Leaf." I started playing at the end of May and have logged in, at least briefly, every day since. I have built my town, decorated my house, stocked my museum, run errands for citizens, built public projects and even built sentient snowmen — and there is still plenty left. Absolutely a bargain for the amount of gameplay you receive.
Honorable mention: "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon," "Pokemon X/Y," "Fire Emblem: Awakening"
Open World: "Grand Theft Auto V"
"GTA V" was a legitimate contender for Game of the Year. Rockstar's magnum opus gave us dozens of hours of gameplay, three great protagonists and the refined gameplay we've always wanted from a "GTA" title. It's difficult to imagine them making a better game in this series, though they never seem to disappoint. Definitely a must-play game for mature gamers.
Honorable mention: "Saints Row IV"
System of the Year: Nintendo 3DS
In 22 years I have never proclaimed a handheld System of the Year. Nintendo nailed 2013 with more AAA games than any other console, and every one of them is an exclusive. "Animal Crossing: New Leaf," "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon," "Mario and Luigi: Dream Team," "Pokemon X/Y," "Fire Emblem Awakening," and "Donkey Kong Country 3D," "Shin Megami Tensei IV" and my game of the year all appeared in 2013. An embarrassment of riches that makes for one of the most amazing years any console has ever had.
Game of the Year: "The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds"
It's at once modern and retro, a sequel to a game more than 20 years old. It isn't as complex as some games (even other games in its series), and it won't last players nearly as long as something like "Grand Theft Auto V." Still, "The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" provides one of the most amazing game experiences of all time. The perfectly balanced gameplay offers just the right balance of familiar gameplay and revolutionary features to compel players to dive in and keep swimming. Every aspect is perfectly designed, perfectly balanced and perfectly brilliant. That's why it lands my Game of the Year award, without reservation.