Welcome to the first annual Retro(spective) Games of the Year! I’m going to keep things fairly simple here, so let’s dive right in and check out the best games of 2013 across multiple platforms!
BEST WII U GAME
Ah, Pikmin 3. Years in the making and worth every bit of the wait, this is the sort of game that really represents the breadth this industry is capable of. Beautiful, immersive, quaint, and fun, Pikmin 3 is like an interactive Pixar movie. Super Mario 3D World was certainly a tour de force, but the sheer sense of joy and exhilaration derived from playing Pikmin 3 was unparalleled this year on Wii U. A truly wonderful experience.
Runners-Up: Super Mario 3D World | The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
BEST PLAYSTATION 3 GAME
The Last of Us
No contest here, for me at least. Joel and Ellie’s adventure across the brutal landscape of a world ravaged by disease and violence was unforgettable. Taut gameplay and storytelling coalesced to form one of the most arresting games of the past generation of consoles. It’s not often that a video game can elicit genuine thoughts about the morality of its characters’ actions, but by the end of The Last of Us, players found themselves shaken by the life and death decisions that had to be made. A masterpiece.
Runners-Up: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch | Beyond: Two Souls
BEST XBOX 360 GAME
When BioShock 2 failed to resonate as strongly with fans and critics alike, the impending third sequel became something of a question mark. As hype built, expectations for BioShock Infinite spiked, and luckily for players, it was able to meet them. Set amongst the clouds in the sky nation of Columbia, Infinite is a powerful piece of storytelling and an incredible shooter. Its art direction, specifically the conceptualization and presentation of Columbia itself, is amongst some of the best featured in a video game past or present. A triumph of a game and the best thing anyone could have played on a 360 this past year.
Runners-Up: Tomb Raider | Gears of War: Judgment
BEST 3DS GAME
Fire Emblem Awakening
Even when a series is known for being great, there are individual titles that stand above, and Fire Emblem Awakening is one of them. Nintendo players are not strangers to the highly polished RTS games of Fire Emblem, but Awakening took everything to the next level. The visuals are some of the best on the handheld, the story is engaging, the battle system is intuitive and fun, and tweaks to the formula (like being able to turn off permadeath) made Awakening appealing to both new and longtime fans.
Runners-Up: Animal Crossing New Leaf | The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
BEST PLAYSTATION VITA GAME
Muramasa Rebirth is every bit as fun as it was on Wii on PS Vita, and boasts a stunning upgrade to HD visuals. The gameplay is precise and satisfying, which is important when it comes to side-scrolling brawlers. Not that Rebirth is limited to simple button mashing; far from it. Combat is varied, and combined with the beautifully hand drawn graphics, fluid animation, and excellent soundtrack, made Rebirth the marquee experience on Vita in 2013.
Runners-Up: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate | Dragon’s Crown
BEST iOS GAME
Rayman Fiesta Run
Ubisoft really outdid themselves with Rayman Fiesta Run. Condensing the core gameplay of Rayman Origins and Legends to the touch screen interface of iOS shouldn’t work as well as it does, but what was amazing in Rayman Jungle Run has been pushed to brilliant in Fiesta Run. The graphics look like a living storybook, the controls are precise, and the game is outright addicting.
Runners-Up: Layton Brothers: Mystery Room | Plants Vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time!
GAME OF THE YEAR
Animal Crossing New Leaf
I know that I showered FE Awakening with praise for the 3DS GOTY prize, but Animal Crossing New Leaf, across the entire spectrum of games that I played this year, has been a constant in my everyday life for months now. In previous Animal Crossing games, I would play for stretches but then lose interest, whereas New Leaf has held me captive without losing a shred of momentum.
It’s hard to explain the sense of connection that New Leaf can foster between player and game. Checking in on my digital neighbors (hi, Tex!), building my town, and seeing what’s new every single day has been endlessly fascinating. The game came out in Spring, yet I found myself discovering all sorts of new things as it launched into Summer, Fall, and now, Winter. It might not be as visceral as The Last of Us, or as epic as Fire Emblem Awakening, or as fanciful as Pikmin 3, but New Leaf is the embodiment of wonder and joy that a video game can create.
New Leaf lets the player create a place that becomes the ultimate source of escapism. My town might be a digital fabrication, but it feels alive and genuine. In my little town of Oakland, I love that I’m able to go to a place where I can unwind and feel at home with zero reservations. It’s the game that keeps on giving, and for 2013 it was number one in my books.
Runners-Up: Pikmin 3 | Super Mario 3D World | The Last of Us
With that, Retro(spective)’s Games of the Year has come to a close. What games did I miss? Are you flabbergasted that GTA V isn’t on here? Wish that Pokemon X and Y were number one on 3DS? I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks for reading, and let’s look forward to what games await us in 2014!