If there’s a common thread that runs through my favorite games of 2013, it’s that the traditional “console gaming” experience just didn’t cut it for me in 2013: a full half of my list is made up of portable games and two of the others are, at this time, available only on a PC. There’s only one console exclusive, no next-gen games, and not a single Xbox or Wii U game to be found. Based on this, I’m left to conclude that my favorite releases of 2014 will only be playable on a Texas Instruments graphing calculator or, God forbid, the OUYA.
Without further ado, here’s my list:
As a LittleBigPlanet fan, it’s fair to say that I knew going in that Media Molecule’s newest game was going to be cute, quirky, and full of character. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was just how massive a leap it would be from what they had created in LBP. Tearaway is easily the greatest argument for owning a Vita at this point because it’s an experience that would otherwise be impossible on any other platform. It’s got a lot of heart, too, with thematic similarities to last year’s Journey and a final act that packs a surprisingly emotional impact.
7. SteamWorld Dig
Repetition and discovery. Dig for gems, sell them for cash to buy new tools and use those tools to dig deeper and deeper. Lather, rinse, repeat. These are gameplay hooks that could otherwise grow tedious in the wrong hands but developer Image and Form combined them with memorable characters and a constant sense of discovery that kept me engaged. There’s a lot of forgettable filler in the 3DS eShop but SteamWorld Dig is truly a hidden gem.
1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
When someone describe a game as “relaxing”, I get a bit nervous. New Leaf succeeds in making things that would otherwise be mundane (chatting with neighbors, decorating your house, catching bugs) into events worthy of great obsession. It’s a living, breathing microcosm of a world where your neighbors just happen to be bears, cats, and a very fashionable giraffe. It’s ridiculous, and I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t stop playing it. This is the dark, sinister charm of Animal Crossing: it’s endless. The Last of Us was amazing but it was finite; I could conceivably play Animal Crossing everyday for the next year (and I probably will) and still not experience all of its banal wonders. It’s not just my Game of the Year, it has the potential to be the Game of a Lifetime.