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It's that time again, where the majority of gamers and gaming journalists like to sit back and relect on the past year ( and as double, this generation) of video games. What has happened across the pages of history, what amazed us, what fell flat, what surprises and unexpected occurrences has occurred. Well, I'd like to take the time to put forth my own thoughts about gaming this year and to look back at the high points of this year for myself. Now for myself, this year was truly a memorable one and not only for the games that were released but also on my backlog & catch-up towards some titles. This past generation has been a stellar one, with not just consoles and great titles, but also the move towards the indie side of things, better publishing and release of content that before may have not made it past the cutting board. But to go more in depth on that would be a bit sidetracking, so without further adieu let's get into the thick of things!For my own personal list I have constructed, labored and thought long about, pertains to games that I thoroughly enjoyed and grabbed me instantly. This is not limited to merely gameplay or even story, not just a single attribute convinced me of my final choosing. I also picked these not because of their critical receptions, or numerical scores that the public & journalists gave. These are my final conclusions to the end of the year and of my own subjective opinion. I expect many to overlook these titles and post disdain for my choices, feel free to leave your own opinion, but please be civil about it :]-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------10. Starting off this list, I have to give this to a game that I did not expect to play, nor actually own. I must give a major nod to Steam and their occasional free weekend events. It just so happens that not too long ago there was such a free deal and with that I decided to give my try at this game and my first choice is Sonic & All-Star Racing Transformed. It has been years since I have played a Kart Racing game, in fact the last own I personally owned was Crash Team Racing. My history of Kart Racers is mostly attributed to Mario Kart and Diddy Kong as well, yet back in my younger years I was absolutely enthralled with them. I think as time and games evolved with new generations that I put them on the wayside until I forgot about them altogether. With this Sonic title, it completely reinvigorated my love of the genre. The crisp style of the game's look, the unique roster of characters, the fluid & seamless controls and most of all, pure unadulterated fun! That fact alone grabbed my attention within the first track I raced, it invoked what game has always been at the core, enjoyment! The aspect of the karts transforming into speed boats and aircrafts was a refreshing nuance that is a new mainstay of the genre and I love it 100%, with a seamless transition o nthe tracks it never felt forced nor a tacked on mechanic. The tracks themselves were refreshing and a joy to race on, with great layouts & designs, invoking nostalgia and joys as most tracks represent past Sega titles ( House of the Dead, Golden Axe etc) I expect to sink countless more hours into this title9. Coming up next is a title of a franchise that has long been a favorite of mine, though it's received critical responses regarding the last two iterations. I remain a fan and can't see myself not enjoying this any time soon! This has been a series that I found difficult to put down, regardless of being griped by anxiety or suspenseful paranoia. This slot goes to none other than Dead Space 3. The first Dead Space was hailed as a new landmark of the Horror genre and boy did it make a name for itself. I was late getting into the first title due to not owning a Ps3 for some time, but when I got my hands on one I went right away to see what all the noise was about and I was not disappointed. After finishing it I was ready for a sequel and sure enough Dead Space 2 was on its way, that title was a major hit for me and I still wasn't satisfied. Along comes Dead Space 3, a title which many were excited for, but a portion of gamers were also skeptical in part to the change of tone and direction, though in my opinion a ever slight one ( many are still content to claim it jumped ship). Given the narrative and story, the natural course was indeed fit for the changes that have transpired throughout the franchise. Dead Space 3 made improvements that not only brought new life without sticking completely to what worked in the past, but as well as issues I had with past titles. Most remarkable for me was the weapon crafting, on it's own merits it's one helluva fun system to craft and make weapons of mini destruction. On the other, it makes complete sense that players can now put parts and pieces together to craft unique weapons, given how Isaac has been hailed as an intelligent engineer, I feel this was a natural change. What really grabbed me was the fantastic atmospheric design of the game, the locations/levels and enemy design. For me personally I just absolutely love every thing about this universe, the lore, the unknown of space and unanswered questions. The Necromorphs have been one of the greatest threats to combat against, an unwavering menace that I haven't experienced in years. Grotesque designs, with fantastic personalities that if ever existed I would probably need a new RIG suit.8. This next game is one that has probably been forgotten or left unknown by a large majority of individuals. This was a unique title that intrigued me from it's concept and beautiful art direction, though in a sublime way. This slot goes to Proteus, a game that helped to further the (now more) popular exploration games, the likes of Gone Home, Stanley Parable and many others. The reason this made more of a impression for me was it's concept, explore an unknown world filled with wonder and magic in the nontraditional sense. Every second an minute was a new found beauty. Sure the actual visual aesthetics to being extremely basic, graphics have long been a powerful point for praise and selling points. Well, I'm here to prove that is far from the truth and not the standard, games have long held beauty and power that are not reflective on graphical quality. Proteus invoked feelings and pure amazement for me, from simple animals going about their life to shooting stars, which accompanied by their own s own unique musical signature that reflect their very pixeled souls. Animals are not the only ones, nature itself has it's own way of expressing themselves, which including flora, seasons changing and events such as shooting stars. It's hard to express my feelings in words alone, so I feel obligated and compelled to share a taste of what Proteus has to offer. Another reason this ones makes my list above the more critically acclaimed Stanley Parable and Gone Home, is that this game doses;t have a story, nor is it trying to convey a big message. This is an escape, a world which to step into and be a part of, and for me it's an experience I won't forget, akin to what I felt in Journey of the previous year.
7. Nearing the half way mark we reach a title of a series that I have been a long time fan of, but at the same time I didn't expect to get this game, nor be as impressed as I ended up being. Number seven has to go to Pokemon X & Y. Long have I enjoyed the simple and addictive nature of Pokemon, hailing back to the 90's Poke-craze I was instantly hooked by Pokemon Blue & Red, watched the shows and even collected cards. Something about the Pokemon designs and the simplistic but invigorating battle system just hit all the right notes. Needless to say for 3 generations of Pokemon games I was hooked, from Blue to Emerald I couldn't get enough. But as time went on I started to play less and became more focused on other games. The previous two generations just never appealed to me aside from a handful of Pokemon I liked the designs of. So, when Pokemon X & Y were announced I initially didn't look twice. However with the coverage of the game becoming more abundant as more information was revealed I reflected back on my past love of the franchise. Taking a second look, something told me that this was worth looking into and ultimately getting. My expectations were as neutral as could be, thusly my mind was pleasantly blown as to how enjoyable this Pokemon generation was. The vast improvements to simple menu design & access, the beautiful ( and long overdue) fully 3D gameplay was candy to a sugar tooth. But what is more is that for once, I felt connected and compelled by the actual story of X & Y. Sure, Pokemon has had a simple plot with side distractions and some format of a overarching story, but aside from moments, I never really felt connected or fascinated by it. With this game, I was completely into the story, the simple meaning and message at the end actually reached past just a video game. For me personally, this was almost a subtle reflection of our own world & society and I feel most overlooked it or dismissed as a cheesy one aimed for kids. Ive sunk in hundreds of hours and I can easily say that this Pokemon is my favorite by a long shot, the extra additives with side objectives, mini games and exploring the Kalso region.
6. Unlike a few games on this list where I was unexpectedly surprised by it, this is one where I knew from it's announcement that I was going to love it. Here enters Dragon's Crown, a game in which had it's hooks into me before it was even close to being finished. Long has Atlus been a favorite company of mine since discovering Disgea: Hour of Darkness in 2003 and with Dragon's Crown I saw another winning title. However, this game was subjected to the hatred of thousands when articles circulated about the game's questionable art design, mainly the female Sorceress' bust size. Dismissing the entire game into questionable purpose and design easily swept away what I consider on of the most addictive rpg brawlers in a long time, one with jaw dropping artwork and easily one of the best soundtracks this year. I can't say enough how addictive the combat is, especially with co-op of up to 4 players, the sheer destructive force and combo potential is the sky's limit! I spent countless hours scrounging the many levels and dungeons to simply defeat the onslaught of monsters. My best friend and I had countless amazing moments and hilarious fun of seeing how many juggles we could get, or harassing the townspeople until getting arrested. The sheer maginitutde of polish and dedication to the game is apparent 100%, not once did I not feel the love and soul put into this game. I especially loved the novelty and abundance of bosses and how large of an entrance each made, harking back to the allure of D&D, with the question of "what foul creature would try to kill us next?". This game hearkened back to my love of arcade style beat-em-ups, especially my love of Gauntlet, which I feel this is ( in a odd way) the spiritual successor of playing a Hero and laying waste to the monster hordes! I feel that the only real attention this game received was for journalistic hubbub, to which is a real shame considering this is such a sleeper hit! There isn't
5. Now this is where we start delving into the big leagues, the heavier hitters on this list and of the year. Where the choices I made here were some of the toughest yet. Coming as no surprise, but not one bit less impacting, is the deceptively serene Bioshock Infinite. I feel that a majority of top lists will include this game and why not? Herald as an outstanding series, Bioshock is one of those titles that makes people question many aspects of video games, society and the possibilities of humanity. More pressing in Infinite, is the realm of possibility and choice though not in the traditional games sense ( Mass Effect style). It has been a long and painful journey waiting for this title to reach it's finished state and it paid off in spades, hitting myself hard with just its audacious social commentary set is such a pristine world. Columbia is nothing short of breathtaking, with it's sky based venues & vistas. The moment I stepped into Columbia I knew I was in for a ride, one both heralding and calming. 2K games made quite a name for itself with the original Bioshock and many had to ponder at how could they ever top that experience. Well, I'm here to say that Infinite doesn't top the first game, it simultaneously melds and flows with the same astounding hold first experienced gave us. Walking around in Infinite was such an experience that was one I had wondered how Rapture would have been like and I wasn't letdown by being completely enveloped by Columbia. The two main characters of Booker and Elizabeth have been perhaps my favorite pairing this year, the chemistry between the two was natural and I couldn't get enough of them. I wanted to know what would happen to either of them, their stories and what they would face next. The combat in Infinite is solid and pleasing, while not ground breaking, it make the steps needed to bring some nuances and changes to the formula. Mixing Vigors, rift tears and the multitude of guns was so satisfying. This was one helluva journey and one I will return to again.
4. Swinging into this position is a character who isn't unfamiliar with being a big hit and while he has been on hiatus for the better part of a decade and even more so with the more well known titles. Who am I referring to? Why non other than the banana eating Donkey Kong Returns 3D!!! While this is indeed a 3DS port from the 2010 Wii release, this came out in 2013 and marked a high note of my getting a 3DS. I've long been a fan of the Donkey Kong series and perhaps my favorite platformer with overall i enjoyed more than Mario and the slew of notable others. When Country Returns first released on the Wii I was beyond excited and eager to jump into the thick of things. However, while I was impressed and enjoyed my time with it, something felt off and ultimately I was quite dissatisfied with the game, to which I could only guess as to what the problem could be. With the release of the 3DS I instantly knew what it was: The controls, plain and simple. I had struggles with the Wii title, dieing constantly, never feeling comfortable with my moves & actions. All of that was alleviated with Returns 3D, I had direct control of all of my actions and by the Gods was the platforming stronger than ever, no more sensitive waggling to try to time my actions. Though the graphical fidelity isn't as strong here, the introduction of the 3D is a nice tradeoff, having enemies and backgrounds pop out were a treat and fits perfectly with the barrel tossing ape! I feel that Donkey Kong is more at home with the traditional sense of controls and my personal favorite on the 3DS. With that said, I truly hope that Tropical Freeze will have a 3DS iteration asasp!
*Ok Ladies & Gentleman, the final three and closing of what I consider to be my absolute favorite games of this year and truly contenders of GOTY status. What made these games stand out the most for me was the pure blissful fun I had playing them, spending many hours and forgetting the time and being completely engrossed to what was going on. For some of these it was how hard I was clutched to every moment, the emotions I felt & stirred with me. Another was how impressive the stature of the game was, it's scope and dedication. Well, without further pause, let us get down to brass tacks!3. Here lies a game that I knew would shake me, that would grab hold of me and refuse to let go until the very end and still have lingering effects afterwards. From a company that surprised me back in the ps2 era with a provocative game that set out to do something different in light of blockbuster title hits and while it has become the subject of heated debates & scoffed at, it's remained a core favorite of mine. I mean none other than Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls. This title was the first to really have me excited with it's surprising reveal, I was beyond excited, full of so many questions as to what I'd take part in. Indigo Prophecy was a breath of fresh air, a somber and inventive experience. Heavy Rain revitalized that with a more pressing story and engrossing premise. What Beyond: Two Souls has done, was made me drop every preconception I have had at what experiences and events can take place to not just games, but even in life. Yes, while many laud David Cage's writing and the direction his games take, the core fundamentals is always strong. I can see past some of the funny moments ( intentional) and some cliches that many are ready to use as ammo to discredit the game, what I experienced, what I played was nothing short of brilliance. The parameters of life and choices, what matters to us and to take control is a strong set of ideals, to which is shown throughout the tale of Jodie. The emotions are further enhanced by second favorite soundtrack of this generation, bringing out the right mood and tone when needed, it never felt out of place or as filler. Quantic Dream's games have always been a house for motion capture and they continue to improve, conveying subtle gestures & facial emotions that make these character more believable. With a fantastic cast including side characters, this pushed past the more awkward moments of past games and immersed me further into the world of Beyond. I just couldn't get enough of this game and intend on multiple playthroughs. The closing comments is that there were key moments where I was shocked, stunned and in one particular, shedding some tears. This game pushed a few boundaries which I wasn't expecting and for all the better experience it made.
2. Here is a game which I had put off due to such a backlog with the multitude of games released throughout the year, a game which piqued my interest but I felt I had to wait for the right moment & time. While this game came into my list of contenders fashionably late, it sucker punched me hard enough to wrest the top spots. I speak of the one, the only Guacamelee! What immediately drew me to Guacamelee was it's vibrant and lovely art style as well as a killer soundtrack. A soundtrack that currently sits as my favorite soundtrack this generation. With such energized tracks that accentuate every facet of the game, from the combat, to story custscenes and even the town hubs. This is a world that is quite alive and bursting with such a love of the source materials made to construct this brilliant game. With the setup and aesthetics aside, Guacamelee is able to achieve what I feel has been a struggle with most games of a similar nature ( Dragon's Crown obviously came close) and I talk of the combat system. Holy Guacamole, this is the most addictive combat I have played in years, seamless transition of moves, combos that are not restrictive and allows you to create devastating results. To which is 100% enhanced with the co-op option and this game is perfect for co-op. I have had no qualms, issues or feeling bored in my playtime. The Metroidvania aspect flows perfectly, with natural backtracking, new abilities and tons of hidden secrets. Speaking of secrets, I must bring out the genius use of references, homages and tributes put into this game! Every where is practically oozing with a nod to classic titles new & old ( Choozo statues for Metroid) posters of Los Casa Crashers ( really, need me to explain this? ;P) to internet memes ( Me Gusta Guavas) that didn't feel tacked on. I had chuckles, laughs and smiles all the way through. Juicebox took a lot of effort and time to tie in the folklore of Mexico and it feels fresh and perfectly set for a video game and it is one of my favorites!
1. The final title. The one that I couldn't put down, that I sunk in countless hours and not notice that a single one went by. A game that has polish and such production values that it smacked me right in the face and had me wanting more...well that's exactly the focus here: more. By more, I mean additional content to which a pre-existing game received and this is the oddball on this list. The game in question is Civilization V: Brave New World. A game that initially released in 2010, had an expansion released in 2012 and has now had it's second expansion back in March 2013. I can't express enough how much effort and careful time has gone into this game, the updates and the expansive additions. With both of the expansions served to fix any problems, introduce new concepts and gameplay strategies. The amount of polish for the numerous Civilizations is astounding, racking up to an impressive 43, each one is rich in it's culture and history. Each of the leaders are based on some of the most well known historical figures of our ages and even some lesser known (looking at you Bismarck!) accompanied by terrific realistic representation of their native languages. It's hard on where to begin with how magnificent this game truly has become and it would be easy to get sidetracked into a full on review. However I digress, the bigger focus is on Brave New World, an impressive expansion that not only rectified a lacking aspect of the previous installment, but enhanced it's already strong core. What BWN changed was the cultural aspect of the game and the effective usage of trade. No longer was a cultural victory to mass producing wonders, instead culture is made and discovered with actual pieces of art, music and such. Being able to have Bach produce his finest music and spread it throughout the Civilizations is such a nice addition that authenticates how events have happened in history. Trade is now actually commenced with trade routes and of actual goods to export & import, bringing a nuance to the life of the world in Civilization V, having the right goods being demanded or caravans being raided brings a new piece to the growing puzzle of managing your Civilization. What this game as a whole has done is captivated my love of history and culture, the glory of victory and the bitterness of defeat. Every new game session was a new mark, a new adventure and story of my life as a ruler of a Civilization and what transpires across the ages. I find it hard pressed to find another game that has received such attention and care that has continued long after it's initial release.
"Will you answer the call? Can you build a civilization that will stand the test of time?"