In an effort to be as fair as possible, this is less a “Top 10” list and more a list of games that I was able to play this year and heartily recommend. Despite being a big gamer, given that I specialize in movies and only have so much time to play video games (while trying to keep a balanced life), it just does not seem fair for me to attempt to rank ten video games, when I may have only been able to play a small portion of the big releases this year. The fact that I have resisted a lot of different genres only emphasizes my process for making this list further. With that in mind, I still wanted to make a post centered on some games that I thought were pretty stellar, so here we go.
Special Mention: The Walking Dead –A Telltale Game Series – If I were to have made a top ten list of games last year, The Walking Dead video game would have been my pick for Game of the Year. Because of that, while it is an ongoing game series, as the first episode of the new season literally dropped this past week, I am choosing not to include it on this list, despite it having the highest of recommendations from me. The Walking Dead Game is a very well done point-and-click adventure game, with an incredibly well told story, and characters that develop based on your choices. (Review of Season 1 HERE)
(This list has been presented in alphabetical order, with one exception)
Batman: Arkham Origins – The Dark Knight’s adventures on current generation consoles continue, as we see a brand new adventure taking place before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City (both great games). Fortunately, this is not a retelling of how Bruce Wayne became Batman; it is really just an excuse to give us a fun Batman story, where the caped crusader gets to meet a lot of his greatest foes. As far as the game is concerned, the biggest complaint may be that is more of the same, but given that the same is still really really good, it is not something that bothered me all that much. The combat and stealth gameplay are still awesome, as it makes you feel like Batman. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil may not be around to provide vocal performances as Batman and The Joker, respectively, but the mood created by the voice performances, score, and other aspects is still very good. If you are a Batman fan looking to play another Batman game, this is a fine choice.
Batman: Arkham Origins is available on PS3, XB360, Wii U, and PC (Order HERE)
BioShock Infinite – One of my most anticipated games of the year (and the previous year, until it was delayed). As a fan of both previous installments of BioShock, getting a chance dive back into another alternate reality world with a sci-fi/steampunk twist was something I was really looking forward to. The result is a fast-paced action game with a great, mind-bending story to go along with it. The fact that the story revolves around two complex characters, with a colorful assortment of other characters as well, only propels this first-person shooter into a higher level for those that want more substance to go with their shoot-em ups. Additionally, the innovation involved in separating this game from being just another BioShock game comes full force when thinking about all that went into the design of Columbia, the city that floats, let alone all of the production values that come with it. An exceptional piece of work for sure.
BioShock Infinite is available on PS3, XB360, PC, and MAC (order HERE)
Dead Space 3 – I have been a big fan of this survival horror series from Visceral Games. Some may have been turned off by Dead Space 2’s decision to increase the run-and-gun aspect, taking away from the horror in the process, but I was actually very satisfied with the various modifications, in an effort to build a better sequel. This second sequel goes an inevitable route: it adds co-op. While that once again diminishes the horror value a bit, I still had a blast playing through another game (with a friend) involving the use of my best engineering tools to take down and dismember Necromorphs. The idea of setting the majority of this game on a snow-covered planet was a great way to introduce a new environment that looked fantastic (this is not the first time I have praised HD depictions of snow). Add to that a story that continues the struggles of Isaac, who is basically a male version of Ripley from the Alien series, and you have a solid continuation of a very graphic series.
Dead Space 3 is available on PS3, XB360, and PC (Order HERE)
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – It may be pretty easy to convince people to pick this one up, if they have not done so, or never even heard of this game. First thing’s first, I have never played a Far Cry game and it makes no difference. As for what Blood Dragon is, this is a game that takes all the best parts of 80s action classics like The Terminator, Robocop, Predator, Escape from New York, and more, adds an awesome synth score, and gives you a hilarious wise-cracking vocal performance from Michael Biehn for the character you play. This is an awesome first-person shooter, with all of the hilarity, sarcasm, and satirical elements that movies like Machete and The Expendables wish they could pull off to better effect. All of that and it is a cheap game that takes only 6-7 hours to complete the campaign mode, despite having an open world to explore. If you want a hilarious action game that knows exactly how to make fun of itself, here you go.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is available on PS3, XB360, and PC (Order HERE)
Grand Theft Auto V – Rockstar Games manages to outdo themselves once again with a game that does not quite match up to the emotional journey seen in the storytelling done in Red Dead Redemption, but certainly expands on everything seen in Rockstar’s previous open world games. GTA 5 is a monster of a game, allowing you to basically do anything you want, in an effort to build your criminal empire. Ambitions grew even larger this time around, as the 3-character system allowed players to switch between individuals near seamlessly and play through different sets of missions separately or work together in spectacular fashion. The heist aspect also provided a new angle to the GTA experience, as choosing a crew and strategies became a large part of the wide varieties of fun to be had in this game. Really though, it is the giant world, full of possibilities, whether it be for racing purposes, upgrading abilities, getting new threads, bounty hunting, or simply playing a game of darts. All of that and there is still an entire online mode to dig into as well. This game is packed.
Grand Theft Auto V is available on PS3 and XB360 (Order HERE)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Admittedly, I am still working my way through this latest Zelda adventure, but that is not going to stop me from gushing over how wonderful it is. As a longtime Legend of Zelda fan, it is great to see how this series continues to find ways to impress. Serving as a sequel to the SNES’ Link to the Past, here is a new adventure that continues to capture the magic of playing as a tiny hero who will stop at nothing to complete all puzzles and defeat all bosses in an effort to save a princess that can’t stop getting into trouble. A great part of this is the way this game utilizes 3D. Designed for the 3DS, A Link Between Worlds very effectively plays around with perspective, making good use of the new abilities, such as turning into a painting and guiding oneself along walls. There is so much innovation put to great use in a series that seemingly has plenty of life left in it.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is available on 3DS (Order HERE)
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time – I am really happy with this pick. I became pretty obsessed with the first edition of this wacky tower defense game and the sequel manages to improve upon it in every way possible. The core gameplay is still here, as you are required to plant various types of vegetation in an attempt to stop forces of zombies from invading your home, but now the game has been expanded immensely. There is a whole world map, upgradable features, and even a time travel element to really make good on this simple, but challenging game. It is also very funny. PopCap Games has done a fine job of providing a cartoony vibe to this game that features zombies leaving notes about impending doom. It does not hurt that there are hours of game to play and it could only cost as much as a buck, let alone free, depending on the day you take the time to download it.
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is available on iOS and Android
Tiny Death Star – I would like thank Why So Blu’s Brian White for mentioning this game to me, as it is an obsession of mine to this day. Tiny Death Star is a business simulation game, using the format of building a tower higher and higher, upgrading the various levels as you go, in order to succeed. The kick of this whole thing is that the game is based all around the Star Wars universe, which I love. Instead of a tower, you are actually building a Death Star, earning credits as you move in new people, assign them jobs, and complete various tasks for the Emperor. It has been an incredibly addictive experience and the 8-bit characters go a long way in keeping me charmed by how everything comes together. Between the tiny clips that recreate certain sequences from the films to the elevator music adaptations of iconic themes, it is a fun and creative experience that may just make me pause from writing all this, just so I can check in on things.
Tiny Death Star is available on iOS and Android (Order HERE)
Tomb Raider – I have never been much of a Tomb Raider fan, despite the digital allure that Lara Croft has provided for many. However, I am a huge fan of the Uncharted series. Given that Tomb Raider is a dark and gritty reboot (*sigh) basically resembling an Uncharted game, I could not help but be intrigued. The solid reviews only helped in pushing me to give the game a shot. Basically, if you are going to copy from someone, copy from the best, because Crystal Dynamics has done a spectacular job at making a great Uncharted game in the form of a very violent Tomb Raider adventure. The visuals are stunning, the action gameplay is very well-handled, and there is a strong story based around the evolution of a young Lara Croft, as she gets caught up in a crazy island adventure. I was very glad to be able to dive into this adventure game and look forward to going on more with the new and improved Ms. Croft.
Tomb Raider is available on PS3, XB360, and PC (Order HERE)
The Wolf Among Us – I may not be including The Walking Dead on this list, but I will include the other new episodic release from Telltale Games. The Wolf Among Us is set in the universe developed by Bill Willingham in his graphic novel series Fables. In it, you are in control of Bigby Wolf, a P.I who gets himself involved in a murder case. For those unfamiliar, the world of Fables revolves around fictional characters from various fairy tales and folk lore that all live in a hidden community in New York. It is that supernatural twist that certainly makes things more interesting and visually dynamic, but it continues to work because of the fantastic storytelling that similarly made The Walking Dead such a worthwhile experience. Only the first episode, “Faith” has been released so far, with the next arriving early 2014, but it is enough to have me very excited to see where all of this goes. As a fan of noir storytelling and the world I have been introduced to, I was very quickly taken by yet another point-and-click adventure. Best of all, it finally gave me a reason to check out the Fables series of books.
The Wolf Among Us is available on PS3, PS Vita, XB360, iOS, and PC (Order HERE)
Game of the Year: The Last of Us – I have already mentioned that I am a huge fan of Uncharted. A lot of that comes from how Naughty Dog’s ability to not only create games that are very fun and exciting to play, but also create a gaming experience that is incredibly cinematic. The Last of Us is something special. It retains gaming mechanics similar to Uncharted, but it puts a lot more emphasis on observing this decayed world that makes up the setting. Taking place in a future where a plague has wiped out much of humanity, you play as a character attempting to deliver what could be the cure. This journey will be based mainly around two characters, Joel and Ellie, and the development of these characters and how this story is told really does a tremendous job of not only showing how far video games have come, but also in really delivering on allowing the player to have a connection to what they are seeing, beyond just the visceral thrills of playing a game. Other games have of course been able to accomplish this as well, but The Last of Us is just flat-out amazing in its presentation, delivery, and various other aspects of what comes with playing a carefully constructed video game. I always know a game is having a great effect on me when I know I can’t stop playing it and The Last of Us most definitely accomplished that, it just also continues to stick with me months later.
The Last of Us is available on PS3 (Order HERE)
Obviously there are a lot of games I have not mentioned, which comes down to time and which platforms I currently own. This is especially the case in regards to the new consoles, though I would be surprised if any of the launch titles could have really been in contention for game of the year. That said, I do have a list of games that I either really wanted to play or only got to play a couple hours of, but am certainly looking forward to continuing on with. Here is the rest:
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Beyond: Two Souls, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Cut the Rope 2, God of War: Ascension, Infinity Blade 3, Injustice: Gods Among Us, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
So that’s it. Glad I could get that done, as it has been a while since I put up any writing regarding video games. Next year I should enter into the next generation of consoles and hopefully I will have more thoughts to share in that regard.