www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

What's Happening

My Favorite Games Of The Year

Yes, I know it’s only October. Settle down. This list only represents the games I played thus far in 2013. It is by no means complete, and likely won’t be until the end of December.

Why am I bringing it to you so early? Why not? Over the course of the year, I chronicle my game experiences in a notebook. Old school, I know. The first six pages of this notebook are dedicated to the games I feel I need to play. I jot down a game's title and cross it off after I complete it or feel I've seen enough of it. By the end of the year, my goal is to have played all of the these titles.

The games that stand out as the year’s best are jotted down on the last page of the notebook. Yes, I only need one page for this. The pages in-between these two sections are dedicated to individual games. Each game gets at least one page that I fill with notes, opinions, crudely drawn images, and occasionally quotes. A massive game like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim consumed six pages. Resident Evil 6 consumed four pages; the last dedicated to one word: an angrily written "DISASTER!"

What you’re about to read is essentially the last page of the notebook. The only differences are the addition of opinion and screenshots. Oh yeah, you also don't have to decipher my awful handwriting.

These games are not numbered and won’t be until the Game Informer staff is tasked to compile end-of-the-year lists. You won’t know what my top game is until that issue hits newsstands. I know the suspense must be killing you. This blog will be updated whenever I add a new game to my list. Bookmark it, start your own blog with your own list of games, and link it in the comments section below. I'd love to read them!

Without further delay, here are my last-page picks for the year:

Metro: Last Light

Once I started playing Last Light, I didn't want to put it down. The game handles both run-and-gun and stealth particularly well, letting players decide how they are going to work their way through densely populated environments. The storytelling is somewhat of a slow burn until a "companion" is added to the mix. From this moment on, the game doesn't disappoint in its delivery of gorgeous story sequences and towering set-piece moments. In retrospect, Last Light made me appreciate the time I put into Metro 2033. The importance of that "companion" wouldn't hold the same weight had I not played the first game in the series.
My rating: 80 Spooky Spider Tunnels out of 99.9 Candle-Lit Subways

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Charming. Fascinating. Beautiful. Challenging. Wonderful. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch blends the cinematic storytelling of Studio Ghibli with the JRPG expertise of Level-5 to create a journey filled with heart and depth. Seeing how Oliver's soul-felt story plays out is only part of the allure. Side activities are in great abundance, and range from accepting bounties to slay powerful beasts in the wild to helping villagers put their lives back together. Combat sequences are another satisfying wrinkle, and prove to be both challenging and ripe with strategy. Companion AI is a bit befuddling at times, but is a small complaint in an otherwise excellent adventure.
My rating: 9,012 weird nose lanterns out of 10,010 ghost girls

BioShock: Infinite

My favorite moments in BioShock: Infinite occur in the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes. The eight to nine hours in-between these mind-blowing sequences offer great run-and-gun gameplay, but don't hold a candle to Irrational Games’ spellbinding storytelling. Even months after completion, this is one of those games that I still discuss with friends, as I often find everyone interprets parts of it differently.
My rating: 92 garbage can hotdogs out of 99.2 terrifying songbirds

Injustice: Gods Among Us

I’ll let my review do the talking: “NetherRealm clearly had a blast creating Injustice. The team’s appreciation of the DC universe blends nicely with their well-worn Mortal Kombat formula to create an experience that is a success on both fighting and comic book levels. Whether Doomsday is knocking Superman into the core of the planet or Bane is breaking Batman's back, a stratospheric level of violence accompanies almost every fight. The carnage towers over the combat seen in the team's previous venture in spandex, 2009's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.”
My Game Informer Review Rating: 9 out of 10

Tomb Raider


When I first heard about the new “survival” direction Crystal Dynamics was taking Lara Croft in, I thought the game would play out like Lost, with Croft hunting for food and fending off crazed villagers as she searched for a way off of a mysterious island. It turns out that “survival” mostly means watching Lara fall 30 stories, kick wolves in the face, and get impaled a few times for good measure. Crystal Dynamics basically gave her the mutant healing powers of Wolverine. Both brutal and fun, Crystal Dynamics assembled a hell of a shooter. The Zelda-like “return to this area with new powers” design is implemented nicely, and the story is a damn fun ride. I miss the tombs of old, but also dig the direction this series is going in.
My rating: 91 broken bones out of 101 improbable plummets

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

One of my top moments of the year occurs in the final hour of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. The cinematic leads to the acquisition of one of the craziest weapons I’ve ever wielded in a video game. And that’s the point of said weapon – to obliterate foes with ease. I appreciate Blood Dragon most when it's being absurd – usually in any cutscene or story-based mission. I didn’t like that most of the gameplay time is dedicated to securing outposts and completing brief side missions. More story missions would have been nice.
My rating: 86.24 middle fingers out of 102.333 hand lasers

Devil May Cry

The transforming worlds and ridiculous story are worth the price of admission alone. Throw in a deep and satisfying combat system and Devil May Cry delivers big thrills that live up to the series’ namesake. Outside of an anticlimactic last boss, most of the fights are ridiculously fun. Bring me more, Capcom. Lots more.
My rating: 88.8 emo haircuts out of 101.11 people complaining about hair color

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Kimberley Wallace’s review of Fire Emblem: Awakening nails the experience: “My heart raced as I watched enemies close in on an injured character, and I found myself devastated if I executed an action that cost me the match,” she said. “Awakening made me scratch and claw for victory, and I savored every moment.” I couldn’t have said it better. I always cringe when my characters take damage early in battle. Ensuring victory without sustaining casualties is paramount. This is one of those games where you think long and hard about most moves. Carelessness often leads to battle restarts. The intensity of battle blends brilliantly with a tale of war-torn lands. I often played this game late into the night, saying I would end after just one more battle. Those nights turned into mornings, and I paid my price the following work day. Simply put, turn-based strategy doesn’t get much better than this.
My rating: 87.4 strange feet out of 99.2 awkward battlefield relationships

Defiance

Sure, I complain about Defiance at an alarming frequency on Twitter, and yes, I realize the game has more bugs in its code than its missions do Hellbugs. While the game often seems like it's seconds away from breaking or crashing, it can be a rewarding experience when you are playing with a friend or two. A typical 15 minutes of action unfolds as such: BLOW THE LIVING CRAP OUT OF EVERYTHING AND REAP THE REWARDS OF NEW WEAPONS AND SKILLS. Rinse and repeat for hundreds of hours. I like the game Trion Worlds is trying to sell. I just wish the execution matched the vision.
My rating: 300 hellbugs out of 500 game-crippling bugs

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

I'm a sucker for mindless shooters (see Defiance). Call of Juarez: Gunslinger fits the bill of said game. The majority of your time is spent shooting bandits and rival gunslingers across stages that are clearly inspired by the great spaghetti westerns of yesteryear. The gunplay accompanying these moments is beautifully designed, offering precision it its core mechanics coupled with the unfair advantage of being able to slow time to pick off foes. The power Techland put into my hands made me feel like the Wild West version of Rambo. With pistols smoking hot, I sprinted into the heart of danger, bodies falling like rain as I cut deep. Is the gunplay empowering? Yes. Is it overkill even by today's video game standards? Absolutely. Is it the driving force of the game? No. Not even close. Much like the indie-smash Bastion, Gunslinger's tale unfolds mostly through narration happening over the action. Commentary is almost always present, even for mundane activities like ladder climbing and door opening. The narration is witty and a great delivery system for the story. The fuzzy memory moments, where the narrators would bicker back and forth about what really happened to the Gunslinger., are hilarious. When the narrators enter these discussions, the game rewinds (like a VCR tape) and the events ahead are changed to reflect the new wrinkles in their stories. The end result is a shooter that fires off rounds to the beat of its own drum. And that drum is loud and awesome.
My rating: 39 sketchy memories out of 51 arguing narrators

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Thanks to Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the Reiner household now has two 3DS XLs. Kelly and I play it every day. Half of our phone texts to each other are of snapshots from our Animal Crossing towns. I'm addicted to the discovery aspects. I scour the terrain for fossils to unearth, and look forward to seeing what Nintendo-themed item I'll get from my next fortune cookie. Kelly is enjoying the creative avenues, spending a significant amount of time designing t-shirts and themes. New Leaf has been an amazing social game for us, delivering a large amount of fun in short 15 minute chunks.
My rating: 41 raptor skulls out of 50 flower shirts

The Last of Us

The first 10 minutes of The Last of Us deliver more drama and emotion than most games do in their entirety. The adventure that follows is drenched in tension, turning the fight for survival into a brutal ballad of bloodshed and heartbreak. I was on the edge of my seat for most of this game, not just for the combat scenarios, but for the safety of the beautifully written characters. The Last of Us is every bit as exciting as it is emotionally draining. Every step of the way it makes you think: How far would you go to save the people you love?
My rating: 5 head funguses out of 5 collectible comic books

Towerfall

Towerfall has become the game of choice for spur of the moment multiplayer competitions in Game Informer's offices and with my friends at home. Described as an "archery combat platformer for up to 4-players" by the game's developer, Matt Thorson, Towerfall delivers frantic, twitch gameplay, requiring both precision shooting, and the ability to react quickly to split-second developments – such as opponent leaping through a hole at the bottom of the screen and appearing directly over your head, hoping to squish you. Death comes quickly in Towerfall. One nicely placed arrow or a boot to the head ends your life. With a nice variety in stages and silky smooth controls allowing for manic traversal within them, a multitude of strategies can be concocted. This is an uproarious experience, often leading to players (myself included) screaming when insanity ensues onscreen.
My Rating: 82 bomb arrows to the face out of 101.4 bomb arrows to the back

Pikmin 3

Pikmin 3 reminds me why I loved my GameCube. It's a sequel that retains its classic charm. While the new Pikmin types add a nice mix of deeper gameplay strategies, this is still the same "fling those adorable plant creatures at monsters" experience that launched in 2001. That isn't a complaint. I love this series and applaud Nintendo's decision to keep the core experience that made the original title a hit intact. I wouldn't mind seeing another sequel just like this.
My Rating: 81 enslaved plants out of 100.5 fruit-stealing aliens

Disney Infinity

I touched on this briefly in my review, Disney Infinity's Toy Box ignites the imagination with its deep building possibilities, and delivers a unique co-op experience where you are either working with your friend to create a world to play in, or against them to interfere with their creative process. When you want to give your imagination a break, the play sets, which are basically standalone games based on Disney's films and shows, offer another fun avenue of play. The Lone Ranger and Pirates of the Caribbean are the standout sets at launch. The progress made in these adventures directly affects the Toy Box, as new pieces are continually unlocked.
My Game Informer Review Rating: 9 out of 10

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a surprisingly emotional journey that shows the strength of a brotherly bond in a fantasy world filled with danger. Controlling both brothers' movements at the same time on one controller is a frustrating experience at times, but also an immensely rewarding one once both siblings are reacting the way you want them to. The game controls well, and death is usually a result of the player mixing up the brothers' controls. Starbreeze does a nice job of varying the action and making the gameplay seem like an integral part of the story. I even enjoy the achievements, which mostly push the brothers to get into mischief or see things they shouldn't. I won't spoil this adventure for you, but I will say that it has a great ending, and the events leading up to it deliver that feeling that you've fallen deep into a rabbit hole. You really can't predict what will come next.
My Rating: 91 bunnies thrown into ash out of 106 basketballs tossed into a well

Diablo III

I know everyone is going to ask how the console version stacks up against the original PC version. I'd love to give you an answer, but I don't feel I've played enough of the PC version to give you an accurate breakdown of both versions. I enjoyed what I played of the game on PC, but ended up putting it down when my baby was born. With other games piling up at the time, I didn't get back to it. The Xbox 360 version hit at the right time, not only for me, but my go-to multiplayer group. We're having a blast mowing down hordes of baddies and looting their corpses of weapons that make the bloodshed more satisfying. Thanks to the game's new dodge maneuver, we've also taken to rolling through every breakable object we see. If you haven't played Diablo III yet, download it on your PC, or give the new console versions a shot. The frenzied combat is oh so satisfying, and the cooperative experience is handled remarkably well, giving players the choice to stick together or venture off on their own to accomplish the same goals.
My Rating: 4 evasive rolls through tables out of 5 evasive rolls into iron maidens

Gone Home

When I finished playing Telltale Games' The Walking Dead, I found myself thinking about how that experience could lead to the birth of a new "drama" genre. Days after completing Fullbright Company's Gome Home, I'm left with similar thoughts about drama and different approaches developers can use to deliver stories. Gone Home lets the player piece together the narrative in the order they stumble upon it. By the end of the game, an entire arc is there, and it's beautifully penned. For the sake of spoilers, I'll refrain of detailing what the story is about. Just know this; you arrive at a mansion just as a lightning storm hits. Darkened hallways and hand-written notes await. I completed this journey in around an hour and a half, and didn't even think about stopping until I found out what the final room held for me. If you have a couple of hours free, check it out and let me know what you think!
My Rating: 87
rocking cassette tapes out of 98 hidden rooms

Grand Theft Auto V

From the elaborate bank heists to the thrill of roaring across Southern California in a stolen jet fighter, Grand Theft Auto V succeeds as both an intricately crafted action game and a sprawling open-world experience that pushes players to create their own mayhem and memories. Tighter gunplay, improved vehicular controls, and the beautifully executed idea of seeing the game unfold through three sets of eyes make this the best playing GTA game yet. I wanted to see everything it had to offer, and played it to 100 percent completion. The one element where the game takes a step back is storytelling. Trevor’s craziness is fun to follow, but his relationship with Michael bounces out of the realm of believability, and Franklin’s arc never really gets off of the ground.  
My Rating: 47.35777 torn letters out of 50 spaceship parts

Batman: Arkham Origins

I'm on my second playthrough, and I'm enjoying it just as much as I did soaring across Gotham City the first time around. Along with Ratchet & Clank, Call of Duty, and the classic Tony Hawk games, I could probably play a new Batman game every year and not get sick of them. From my review: "Batman: Arkham Origins delivers more of what made Rocksteady's games great, but doesn't break new ground. Like a youthful Bruce Wayne, it isn’t as crafty, and it takes its dings during combat, but still puts on a hell of a show when it needs to. Once Joker steps into the spotlight, it becomes a hard game to put down."
My Game Informer Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Skylanders: Swap Force

Disney Infinity and Skylanders: Swap Force both had strong showings this year, much to the pain of parents and collectors. From my review: "Despite the level designs sapping some of the fun out of this adventure, Vicarious Visions has crafted an excellent continuation for this annual series. The story unfolds across beautifully animated sequences loaded with hilarious Kaos and Flynn banter (and yes, Glumshanks is abused heavily for our amusement). The new roster of characters ranks right up there with the first game's. I got a big kick out of Zoo Lou's summon attacks, and Roller Brawl's speed comes in handy. The most impressive aspect of this installment is the focus to deliver a more challenging experience, one that pushes the player to experiment and find strategies that work best for specific scenarios. And that plays right into this title’s hallmark feature of building Frankensteined monsters to meet these demands. Sure, it may be a design that pushes the player to use more toys (and perhaps buy more), but the result is a more thrilling adventure. I feared of franchise fatigue going into this review, but this installment shows us that a few great ideas can keep this action figure-based experience alive and well."
My Game Informer Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts is the best G.I. Joe game I've ever played. If you watched the '80s G.I. Joe cartoon, I think you'll agree that the only elements that are missing are the enemies yelling "Cobra!" whenever they storm a location, and the rockin' G.I. Joe theme song kicking in when everything in sight starts blowing up. The big, bad villain is every bit as ridiculous as Cobra Commander, and each level calls upon a different skill – whether it be underwater stealth, helicopter warfare, tank battles, and even firefights in space. Heck, the game even has levels designed for Mutt and Junkyard. I haven't had a chance to dive into multiplayer or the new Extinction mode, but the game's excellent campaign makes it a lock on my Favorite Games of the Year list. Yo, Joe!
My Rating: 81 G.I. Joe moments out of 102 unexpected explosions

Shadowrun Returns

Shadowrun Returns is a love letter to both the Shadowrun Super Nintendo RPG that inspired it and the XCOM series. It delivers the best from both worlds: an excellently cyberpunk story coupled with strategic, turn-based firefights. The campaign is a little short, but the quality and challenge remain high throughout it. I look forward to seeing what comes next.
My rating: 79 cybers out of 96 punks

Tearaway

I'm not a huge fan of my horrible-looking face being plastered on the sun, but outside of this slight misstep (which I may appreciate more if I were beautiful) Tearaway's unique platforming gameplay is an absolute riot. Developer Media Molecule uses the Vita hardware in interesting ways to deliver a slightly different platforming experience than we are used to. The best examples are using your fingers on the rear touchpad to poke holes into the world, and the front touchpad to design papercraft objects. Tearaway's uplifting vibe and hilarious objectives further cement it as one of the most charming experiences of the year. One of my favorite moments so far: tattooing a ladybug on a deer.
My Rating: 88 tatted-up deer out of 102 tatted-up squirrels

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

I'm playing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag just like I did The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. That basically means I'm turning my back on critical path story missions to explore the vast open world, which is loaded with side content. Part of the charm is the slow progression to improving Edward's gear and his ship's durability and firepower. And this side content doesn't feel like busy work, either. I'm enjoying the treasure hunts, underwater exploration, and naval battles. Controlling an agile, lethal assassin remains fun, but Black Flag isn't a great Assassin's Creed game. The story (for both past and present arcs) is a complete wreck of Abstergo and templar ideas. Black Flag is, however, a great open world pirate game. Even with one of its major hooks falling flat, I haven't had this much fun with an Assassin's Creed game since Brotherhood.
My Rating: 889 cannonballs out of 1,001 bottles of rum

Need for Speed: Rivals

The best way to describe my delight with Need for Speed: Rivals is to honk my own horn with a quote from my review. "A burst of turbo ignites a blue flame from my Dodge Challenger’s exhaust. At 150 mph, my eyes are fixated on the straightaway ahead. A slow-moving pedestrian vehicle forces me into oncoming traffic. If I can hold onto this lead, I’ll grasp gold in under a mile. The police aren’t going to make this easy. A spike strip forces me back into the right lane. This evasive maneuver couldn’t have come at a worse time; another player-controlled car roars off of a side street and is heading straight towards me. His race is colliding with mine. We’re both towing rival racers and police platoons towards one another. We narrowly avoid exchanging paint, but my quick juke to the left sends me sailing headfirst into one of the other player’s opponents. My car is mangled beyond belief, and I wreck out of the race. I didn’t just miss the gold – I lost all of the Speed Points I was banking. The player I avoided laughs into the headset, thanking me for helping him in his race. I vow revenge. With one click of the button, I switch to my police campaign and begin my pursuit to interfere with his next race." That's the game in a nutshell, and it's glorious.
My Game Informer Rating: 9 out of 10

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds sings of nostalgia, but also provides a tantalizing new puzzle wrinkle with Link's ability to turn into 2D artwork. Many of the elements that we consider Zelda staples are altered in this entry. Items now tap into a rechargeable meter, and they don't have to be found in dungeons before they can be used: Link can rent them. While it feels a little strange to not have to farm arrows or bombs, I like the new format Zelda has in place. It keeps the focus on the immediate action. The adventure itself is nicely paced and ramps up in excitement as it unfolds. While enemy variety is somewhat lacking and familiar, all of the dungeons are wonderfully conceived contraptions filled with clever puzzle designs and fun boss battles. A Link Between Worlds deserves to be held in the same breath as A Link to the Past. It hits all of the notes I've come to expect from Zelda, all while pushing the series forward into new territory.

Email the author , or follow on , , and .

comments
    1 2 3 4 5 Next ... Last