The Forgotten Games of 2013
It's that time of year again. People everywhere are naming the best games of 2013, and the results are pretty interesting. What's intriguing to me isn't just the games that get lauded. It's the games that are forgotten.
There's only so much room on a "best of" list, and I understand that some games are going to get left behind. Still, I can't help but feel that the following games deserved a little more recognition than they got. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the forgotten games of 2013.
In many ways, Guacamelee was a blatant Metroid homage.The gameplay will instantly feel familiar to anyone who's ever played a Metroid or Castlevania title. Power-ups are gained from Chozoo statues, and metroids themselves can be spotted within the game. However, in spite of all these references, Guacamelee felt wholly original. It was both a love letter to games past and a great game in its own right.
Guacamelee's world is beautiful, but in a really unconventional way. The sense of fun you get as you trek through the game's world is palpable, and the enemy variety is spectacular. The game can be very hard, but not in a frustrating, controller throwing way. Everything is well designed, and any problems you encounter can be overcome if you spend a little more time mastering the game's combat. Guacamelee is everything I want a new game to be - charming, colorful, and fun - and it deserves heaps of praise.
Dead Space 3
Dead Space 3 is the Resident Evil 4 of the Dead Space series, and I mean that as a compliment. The game shed many of its survival horror aspects, but in doing so, it gained a ton of depth. Weapons crafting made the game constantly exciting, and searching for new parts was a thrill. The excellent sound designed ensured that even though the game took a more traditional action approach, it still could be very spooky.
There's a surprising amount of strategy to the game's combat, and figuring out the best way to take on a foe is immensely satisfying. Dead Space has always been an entertaining series, but with this entry, it's really been honed into something special. It's addictive, exciting, and plenty scary.
Puppeteer is arguably the most original game in a year that was full of innovative titles. The game stars a little boy who finds himself kidnapped and transformed into a puppet so that his head can be popped off and stolen. It's the stuff of the grimmest fairy tales, and the head swapping also makes for a fantastic gameplay mechanic. Heads are how you solve puzzles, how you get through a tough stage, and how you keep yourself alive.
The game is oozing with atmosphere, and at times, you'll want to gasp and applaud right along with the audience. The level design is beautiful, and it's a joy to watch as set pieces change. These days, it feels like everything's been done before, but Puppeteer proves that genuine invention is still possible.
People spent a lot of time talking about Dragon's Crown this year, but very little attention was given to the game itself. That's a shame, because it's a wonderfully designed and has a lot of depth. It's got all the fun of a classic beat-em-up and all the charm of a classic RPG, but it updates these genres in a fresh and appealing way. Lots of games try to deliver an "old school" experience, but few do it as well as Dragon's Crown.
While the character designs were polarizing, the game itself is undeniably stunning, with gorgeous handpainted backgrounds. Each character plays in a completely different way, and offers their own distinct experience. There was so much care put into every aspect of this game, from the animations to the narration to the tiny details that are easy to miss. It's beautifully made, and that deserves some recognition.
I probably would never have played The Cave if it hadn't been a part of the Instant Game Collection, and that's a shame. It's clear from the start that this darkly humorous puzzle-platformer is something special. In many ways, it's a spiritual successor to the 1987 title Maniac Mansion, and it makes for a wonderful follow-up to that classic.
The Cave's puzzles are hard in that old-school point and click adventure kind of way. You'll spend ages experimenting as you try to figure out how to progress, and when the solution finally hits you, it'll feel like the most obvious thing in the world. Even though the game's various characters are silent, there are mountains of story hiding beneath the surface. It's a wonderful reminder of gaming experiences past, and a solid title in its own right.
The Guided Fate Paradox
The Guided Fate Paradox was never going to be a crowdpleaser, but it deserves more attention than it got. The game has a goofy premise - the incredibly average main character becomes God after winning a lottery - but once you get past that, you'll find some amazing stuff. Your character enters various scenarios in order to grant wishes, and there's an impressive amount of variety here. One quest has you helping a zombie unlock his true brain-eating potential, while another has you re-writing fairy tales.
What's great about the gameplay is that it's both friendly to roguelike newbies and incredibly challenging. There's a fair amount of handholding at the beginning, but once you're dropped into the deep end, you'll have a great time figuring out how to swim. It can be very hard and extremely punishing, but figuring out how to get through a dungeon or tackling a boss is a ton of fun. Anyone who's ever enjoyed a good dungeon crawl should give this game a try.
Rayman Legends is the stuff of platforming dreams: practically perfect in every way. You'll put the game down for a while, think it couldn't possibly be as good as you remember, then pick up a controller and get lost in its lush world once again. The controls are flawless, the graphics are beautiful, and every aspect of the game is loaded with personality. It's easy to appreciate how well the game does the big things, but it's the little details, like the invisible audience or the satisfying attack sounds that really take it to the next level.
Legends is undeniably one of 2013's best games. Every level, every jump, and every fight is an absolute joy. If it had remained a Wii U exclusive, it would have been a system seller, and as is, it's a must own. If you haven't played this game, you should fix that as soon as possible. It's being ported to the PS4 and Xbox One in early 2014. Hopefully, the new release will mean this title finally gets the attention it deserves.