I am ranking 2013 as one of my all-time best for games, up there with the year Mario Galaxy came out, and the year I finally figured out how to get Knights of the Round in Final Fantasy VII (damn you Gold Chocobo). Speaking of which, while I was beginning to wonder whether I'd ever see a killer story-driven Japanese role-playing game again, along came Ni no Kuni in January. Visuals from the legendary Studio Ghibli, a heartwarming story, a wonderful battle system, Pokemon-like collecting of critics, and a soundtrack that will stay with me for a lifetime--I couldn't have asked for anything more.
And then came something completely different. I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Antichamber for review, but it's one of the few games that has ever given me sleepless nights thanks to its incredibly weird and at times painfully difficult puzzles. I haven't played anything quite like it since. Indeed, games like Puppeteer, The Last of Us, and BioShock Infinite all brought something fresh and exciting to the table, and I certainly won't be forgetting the stunning conclusions of those games anytime soon.
But my absolute favorite games? Well, those were sequels, and both in the same genre too. Rayman: Legends is a sublime 2D platformer. The visuals are vividly animated, the levels are intricately constructed, and it's all tied together with a wacky sense of humor that instantly appealed to me. I spent hours doing all the bonus levels, and hunting down each and every coin, not because of any desire to earn achievements, but simply because the game felt so good to play.
Much like how Legends took the 2D platformer to new heights, so too did Super Mario 3D World with its 3D incarnation. I honestly can't think of a game that has ever made me smile as 3D World has. It's so bright and colorful and full of joy that it makes every other game look like a pile of unimaginative brown mush. It helps, of course, that the level design is some of the best the series has seen since Galaxy, and for hardcore platforming fans like me, later levels gave me all the controller-hurling rage-fests that I craved. So here's to you Mario: thanks for ending 2013 in such spectacular style.