Top 5 Video Games of 2013

#5 - Pokemon X and Y: The Pokemon franchise ventures forth into a bold new realm of full 3D character models, environments, and dynamic battle animations. At its core, this is the same Pokemon experience you’ve known for years, but the addition of a new Fairy type spices up the routine more than the highly-touted mega evolutions. The new Pokemon feel largely an extension of those introduced in Black and White, and that’s very much a good thing, as the typing combinations, movesets, and designs are wonderful. The post game is, unfortunately, almost nonexistent, and the fact that the game provides more than enough in the way of acquiring experience points means that X and Y will be easier than previous entries into Game Freak’s long-running series. Still, it’s a promising sign of things to come and prove a truly impressive feat for the hardware.

#4 - Metroid Fusion: Following hot on the heels of my playthrough of Super Metroid, Fusion was a game that, despite my high hopes for, I did not expect to come close to the quality of the SNES classic. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while I still regarded Super Metroid as the best 2D entry in the series, that Fusion was a dang close runner-up, thanks in no small part to the extra push of the horror thematic and decent challenge factor. Fusion is certainly a more direct Metroid title, as story comes first and foremost and the exploration factor is downscaled from other entries in the series. But the experience is handled masterfully, and stands as one of the best Gameboy Advance titles I’ve had a chance to experience.

#3 - Mass Effect 2/Mass Effect 3: Building upon the foundation of the first Mass Effect, these two sequels run incredibly close in terms of quality due to the different approaches they take in executing both story and gameplay. Mass Effect 2’s emphasis on gunplay is generally less exciting or tactical than ME3’s more varied and highly specialized squad members, but ME2 does offer a longer, more open-ended adventure as Shepard and company are free to explore alien worlds and derelict vessels without the pressure of fighting back against the impending Reaper invasion of the Milky Way. At the end of the day, however, it is genuinely impressive to discover all the ways in which BioWare chose to tie the titles together, with cameos by allies past and echoes of Shepard’s many important decisions as a Spectre, an agent of Cerberus, and a soldier serving under the Alliance carrying through from beginning to end. It’s a genuinely emotional ride from start to finish, considering all the characters you will become invested in, and serves as one of the most important video game series of the seventh generation.

#2 - ZombiU: Sometime during the years that followed the success of Resident Evil 4, the definition of what ‘survival horror’ meant was lost to the oncoming march of the more highly-marketable, easier to replicate action-horror genre. ZombiU is survival horror in every sense of the word, and is both a phenomenal throwback to games of days gone by when resource management drew a fine line between in-game life or death, and a bold launch title for a whole new generation of consoles. It dares to be intense, terrifying, and just unforgiving enough, carrying a Metroid-tier difficulty to it. Every tiny detail, from dust particles gathering on your gamepad’s screen to the litter lining the London streets, as well as the bevy of unique environment assets, make this a must-play title for any fan of the genre, as it renews faith that survival horror can be done in a most phenomenal manner, under the right development team.

#1 - Killer is Dead: Possibly the single smoothest-playing action game I’ve ever had the pleasure of indulging in, Killer is Dead is a near total inversion of the pop culture references and zany humor of No More Heroes. And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The classic Japanese symbolism, classical-meets-industrial soundtrack, and insanely gorgeous visuals perpetuate a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that is more serious and single-minded in its focus than other Suda51 titles, but also brings to the table one of the most memorable Suda51 villains. The boss battles are wonderfully varied and intense, Mondo’s abilities dynamic and interesting, and the bonus missions aplenty. The clumsy gigolo missions hold this title back from reaching perfection, but I’ll be damned if the final hours of this game didn’t constitute one of the most consistent and satisfying finales of any Suda game I’ve played yet, especially considering the number of big-name 2013 releases that fell apart somewhere during their second halves.

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