2013 was a great year for videogames. We saw a heap of releases for just about every platform imaginable, and a few of those happened to be exclusive to one console.
This list is full of trailblazers -- games that made their mark on their appropriate platform, and in a few cases, were straight system sellers. One attempted blurred the line between films and games. These are some of the titles that really showed what each console could do, and then some.
Super Mario 3D World
There was a moment where I was taking in the beautiful soundtrack, hovering over a tricky jump as cat Peach, and watching the glistening water below where the game really came together. It was then that I realized that Super Mario 3D World had achieved a level of platforming design that's close to perfection, and there was almost never a moment where I didn't have a smile on my face. This is the unequivocally the best Mario game since Galaxy 2, and it shows up anything the "New" series has ever done, and then some.
There is more to The Last of Us than just combat and "emotional" story tropes. To touch on its setpiece moments, to detail its beautiful changes in pace, would be to spoil too much. It cannot be said enough, however, that Naughty Dog's new best creation is complete, and when I say complete, I mean it to pay the highest of compliments. I do not want more from The Last of Us: I do not need more. As the last line was uttered and the credits ushered in the close, I was done. The Last of Us had achieved everything it needed to achieve in order to provide me with everything I wanted.
Indeed, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker suffers from some archaic mechanics, its fundamentals not having aged quite so gracefully as its aesthetics. Its unwieldiness and occasional sluggish pace can, in fact, grow temporarily infuriating. However, the streamlined menu system and map access go some way toward making up for any setbacks, while the unmistakable Wind Waker charisma ensures you won't ever stay mad at it for long.
I still haven't found all the baubles that Pikmin 3 has to offer (gosh darn secret files are so elusive!), and I can't wait to dig back into the game over the coming days, months, and even years to try to find them all. The Pikmin series does things that no other games do, and Pikmin 3 does those things better than ever before.
Rain is not quite the model of refinement that some of its PlayStation Network peers have been, but it's an overwhelmingly amiable, effectively cultivated little adventure. Calming and scary, amusing and sorrowful, Rain is a game that jogs calmly through a gamut of emotions, rather than sprints headlong into mood whiplash, and it's incredibly difficult to ever dislike it, even during its twitchier moments. Rain is, above all, a most balmy experience.
I like Killzone: Shadow Fall for its change of direction from previous series games, as well as its change of pace over other first-person shooters. Guerrilla has tried a few new things this time around, and should be commended as such. I welcome the almost sandbox-ish level approach, and the stealth segments did a nice job of breaking up the standard shooting action. It’s really nice when gameplay concepts win out over big set pieces and cinematic events.
Although it sacrifices a tad of its loveable camp factor and neon style in favor of a few other advancements, the outcome is a much stronger, more involved Dead Rising game. For once, I actually felt overwhelmed in a zombie outbreak, which is a real example of how next-gen technology can be used to do more than simply "make things look better." Out of all the launch titles I've played on both new consoles, Dead Rising 3 is my personal favorite, bar none.
Puppeteer is a bold move for a company as big as Sony, and its presence on the PS3 is welcome. It's worthy of praise that a brand new game property -- a classic platformer no less -- would get a full retail release this close to the end of the console's life cycle. It helps, of course, that Puppeteeris also a genuinely fun game, one that is marred by its sometimes sluggish pace and tendency to be annoying rather than funny, but overall provides some much needed ingenuity at a time when videogames are ramping down in time for the next generation.
If you absolutely positively hate platformers, I'm not so sure you'll enjoy BattleBlock Theater. Unlike Castle Crashers which had the benefit of the simplistic, pick up and play beat 'em up genre, you get more out of BattleBlock the more you're willing to put into it. Positive reinforcement is gained through skill and triumph rather than simply bashing things in mindlessly, so in that regard, the universal appeal is a bit lower than most of Behemoth's older titles.
Watching Jodie get to know these people played out exactly as it would in a movie, which made it very easy to be drawn into the story. There's a lot going on under the hood to make this possible. First, the seamless and nearly invisible system of Beyond: Two Souls had everything from character movement to item interaction looking like a cinematic event. It was easy to forget that this was not a string of cutscenes with button prompts, and that a player was controlling the entire session, making every choice and movement.
[Image by Pitarou]
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