This is only the second time I’ve done this kind of thing on this particular blog, but back at 1up at the end of every year I did basically a “categories” section when listing my personal favorite games of the past year. I do it because I feel like it’s the only way I can properly recognize some games I really enjoyed but wouldn’t put on my “ultimate” list.
Maybe I also like analyzing genres and such. I don’t know, they’ve become so malleable I change them every year. It also depends on how many games of a certain genre were even released in a year. Last year was probably the only time I was able to list a favorite stealth game because more than two were actually released in 2012. IGN and GameSpot probably already did stuff like “best Xbox 360 game” and “best indie game.” I’ve stopped doing that for my favorites lists because I stopped differentiating between platforms and release circumstances. In all these sections in my case there really seem to only be two permanent staples. If I played more sports, strategy, or racing games those would probably be up here too.
Favorite Action Game: Metal Gear Rising
Runner Up: Rogue Legacy
“Action game” for me is an umbrella term that includes the shooters I talked about a year ago, though I’m not talking about any shooters this year because none of them, in my opinion, really stood out for their action gameplay. I only actually played a couple of those anyway. Maybe what I’m really giving a shout-out to here is my favorite examples of action game design from this past year.
Metal Gear Rising not only employs a novel mechanic in the zandatsu system, it gives you lots of dynamic uses for it and does a very good job of gradually teaching you how it works throughout the game. MGR also offers classic good arcade action from Platinum.
In contrast to the shooters I played this year, MGR’s enemies felt varied, each one with its own patterns to be learned and exploited. The level design keeps putting you up against new combinations of those enemies to complicate things like a classic action game should. It’s also one of the only action games that tried to achieve 60 frames per second on current-generation consoles even if it didn’t always succeed.
MGR is also almost the only example of really great boss battle design in a 3D action game I’ve seen in the last few years. The later fights in this game felt like real battles of attrition. Learning how to parry and get around their patterns and then successfully executing that was challenging on a level I just don’t see from AAA shooters anymore.
Rogue Legacy is surprisingly demanding of the player’s 2D twitch action skill, even amongst this year’s 2D indie games. The selling point of the game is its roguelike structure and randomly-generated levels, but its enemies and challenges show real craft, and are what you end up spending the majority of your time dealing with.
Again, Rogue Legacy’s enemies are varied and each one mandates its own routines to be learned the hard way. The random level design ensures you always end up facing new challenges which means you can never rote-memorize the game — it will always keep you guessing. Simply put, Rogue Legacy is the first time in years I’ve had to employ the full extent of my 16-bit skills in a brand new game.
Favorite Role-Playing Game: Ni No Kuni
Runner Up: Fire Emblem Awakening
When you think back 2013 was a year when Japanese releases took over the RPG space. Though, most of those were actually games that came out last year (or earlier) in Japan. I wasn’t even able to play the vast majority of them.
Ni No Kuni I think is the only RPG I devoted 60 hours to completing 100 percent this year, and the first JRPG for which I’ve done that in some time. Its exploration gameplay absorbed me like no console JRPG since probably Final Fantasy VI. That nostalgia, mixed with today’s advances, is really why I love the game.
Ni No Kuni is essentially a Super NES RPG with today’s graphics and controls. It doesn’t try to entertain you with minutes-long uninteractive cut scenes or complex lore, but by simply putting you in a large, intriguing world and letting you walk about it. It’s the classic Dragon Quest or Chrono Trigger style of world exposition finally rendered in HD graphics. That’s really why I spent more than 60 hours trying to find every secret tucked away in the game.
Fire Emblem Awakening is the most fun I’ve had with character building in some time. What initially drew me into it was how smooth and playable its interface feels, but I’ve stayed for its relationship system and class system which is almost as engrossing as that of Final Fantasy Tactics.
I think the real reason I like Awakening so much is because I’ve been yearning for a new handheld strategy RPG, particularly one on the 3DS. SRPGs were a staple of the original DS and especially the PSP. The fact that the Tactics port is the only substantial thing I’ve found on iOS frustrates me (unless I can get Skulls of the Shogun working correctly). I think a glut of serious ones on the 3DS has been too long coming, and why are there almost none on the Vita?
Favorite Game Nobody Played: Gunpoint
Indie games get a lot of attention now, but I feel like Gunpoint still got ignored a few weeks after its launch. Maybe it got attention depending on where you look, but this time of year nobody talks about it. It’s one of the most well-rounded games I’ve played all year, period.
But here though I’m just gonna talk about its main gameplay hook — letting players control the electrical infrastructure of an environment to navigate it and trick enemies. It makes for a uniquely fun game that I still have fun picking at months after finishing the main story. What helps it is Gunpoint’s excellent level design. The included level editor gives this game the potential to really be something one day if they can get Steam Workshop support up and running for it.
I feel like the action game category in my favorites this year is basically made up of games that remembered aspects of action gaming that all today’s shooters forgot in their pursuit of trying to be war movies. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t play any of this year’s new multiplayer shooters. Maybe I picked the action games I did because they stood out the most. But I think it’s because they remind me of fundamentals that seem to be getting left behind by the majority of the industry.
To put the RPG category simply, those were just the ones I ended up playing the most. I’m sure there are other 2013 RPGs that would’ve drawn me in just as much had I found the time for them. Maybe that just shows how much better my choices were at drawing me in. Anywya, 2014 looks to be a pretty big year for dark fantasy RPGs.
- BitSummit 2014 is apparently on March 7th.
- New update and details on Broforce. http://t.co/Qb5eJR222o
- Didn’t know Hideki Naganuma (Jet Set Radio) had a Soundcloud. https://soundcloud.com/hideki-naganuma