Here are my 10 nominations for Game of the Year 2013.
[UPDATED] Since writing this list I have had the chance to buy and play Media Molecule's wonderful Tearaway for the Vita, and I actually think that it deserves to replace BioShock Infinite in this list.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3)
Ni no Kuni proves that as long as a game is enjoyable it doesn’t have to stray too far away from the traditions of its genre. From top to bottom Ni no Kuni is rooted firmly in JRPG tropes; the only one it avoids is random battles. But the game is full of charm, the sort of which I haven’t felt since the glory days of the genre in the 1990’s, when it was ripe with creativity on the SNES and PlayStation. Level 5 are notorious for creating wonderful JRPGs, and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch isn’t an exception.
Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS)
Although I am a big fan of role-playing games, and more specifically Japanese RPGs, one side of the genre that I have rarely played is that of tactical RPGs. I dabbled with Final Fantasy Tactics as a child, and played a little of Shining Force and the Game Boy Advance version of Fire Emblem (the first game in the series released in the west), but that was about it. Then I played Fire Emblem: Awakening. The game was already on my radar before it received its insane acclaim, but the praise it received took it to the top of my list. I’m no expert on this type of RPG, but Awakening blew me away. Of all the games in the genre that I have played, no matter how few, it is the best. I know a lot of Final Fantasy Tactics fans will hate me for saying that, but I can’t help which game I prefer.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS)
Animal Crossing: Wild World was the game that introduced me to Nintendo’s odd life simulation series, and it remains my favourite game in the series as well as one of my top 5 DS games. New Leaf is arguably just as good though. Animal Crossing, despite making its debut on a console, is the sort of game experience that is more at home on the go. It isn’t required that you play it in large stints, but it’s also one of the most rewarding series if you put the hours in to it. New Leaf doesn’t stray too far from what makes the series enjoyable, but it has enough new features to keep fans and newcomers alike coming back for more.
Pikmin 3 (Wii U)
Pikmin was a great game that felt dragged down by its time limit. Pikmin 2 got rid of the time limit, slowed the pace and allowed you to explore at your own pace. It was better than the original in just about every way. Pikmin 3 sees the time limit return, but this time it isn’t a heavy burden hanging over your head. You always know its there, but it doesn’t stop you taking the time to explore and see everything the world has to offer. I still think Pikmin 3 should have been a launch title for the Wii U, and I don’t really know what the delay really added to the game. But any Pikmin fan will fall in love with it. It comes highly recommended.
Rayman Legends (Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Vita, PC)
Rayman Origins is one of my favourite games of the seventh generation. Legends had a lot to live up to, as Origins was a glorious return to Rayman’s platform roots. In many ways Legends is just as good, even if the Murphy levels aren’t as engaging as the pure action stages. I enjoyed Origins more overall, but the fact that Legends comes with all the Origins levels included makes it a real winner.
Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Grand Theft Auto V was the biggest game of the year. It’s as simple as that. But was it the best? It’s a hard one. I love Grand Theft Auto, and V certainly got rid of the bitter taste in my mouth that IV left me with. Grand Theft Auto V was a brilliant return to form, as it corrected everything I disliked about IV. What I liked the most about it was that it brought back the ridiculousness of the early games that IV seemed to lack, and the way its story centred around the lives of three playable characters instead of just the one was great. It’s also probably Rockstar’s most realised open world effort to date. But the competition has been strong this year, so GTA V isn’t guaranteed anything.
Pokemon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS)
The first Pokemon games for the 3DS were also the biggest shake up for the series since Gold and Silver. They are the first to be rendered in full 3D, the first to let players customize the look of their character and the new Pokemon additions were, for the most part, the best in a long time. The games won’t do anything to win over critics of the series, but for fans such as myself they delivered on all fronts.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS)
A Link Between Worlds isn’t just a good game, it is the best Zelda game in over a decade, and a monumental return to form for the series after years of games that were good, but fundamentally flawed in many ways. A Link Between Worlds is everything I want in a Zelda game, and it really felt like Nintendo tailor made a Zelda game just for my tastes. It corrects all the mistakes made with Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword because it rids Link of an annoying side kick, drops the incessant hand holding and has a world that is a joy to explore. It is a magnificent game, and arguably the best piece of software Nintendo has released since Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Super Mario 3D World wasn’t the 3D Wii U Mario adventure we were all expecting, but as usual Nintendo proved its doubters wrong with one of Mario’s finest outings in over 3 years. It’s still the Mario we all know, so it won’t win over anyone who disliked past games. But because of this it is also still a wonderful gaming experience, and proves that Mario is still the king of fun.
Tearaway is Media Molecule’s first game for the Vita, and much like their wonderful LittleBigPlanet it is another magical platformer. But Tearaway is their first 3D platformer, and if it isn’t the best game of the year it certainly is one of the most charming. From beginning to end you’ll find it impossible to play the game without a huge smile on your face, and it is one of the most polished looking and best playing platform games in quite some time. And while past Vita games have tried, but failed, to take advantage of all the hardware’s neat features, such as its rear touch pad, Tearaway is the best example of what the Vita has achieve so far. In fact the features of the Vita are so essential to the experience that Tearaway would never have been created if the Vita didn't exist. It would have been impossible for the game to be on any other format. Tearaway is easily the best original game for the Vita.