OK where do we go from here? 2013 shaped up to give 2011 a run for its money, and that year had Skyrim and Portal 2. But this is just an old fashioned faves list. To remember the year that was...
Best Music Shin Megami Tensei IV
Full of great references to all the previous games this game's score was just feels to the nth power.
Best Adventurer Legend of Zelda: A Link Between World
Just too much fun. Fast and fun combat, great music pushing the action on, and just full of smart ideas. Fun dungeons you can play in almost any order, bosses that while mostly pushovers at least keep the pacing up, and did I mention all the mini games? While not a game with an epic world like a Skyrim there are still great moments to discover in this soon to be classic game.
Best Summer RPG Tales of Xillia
So RPGs break into Summer and Winter style for me. Summer are brighter and a bit quicker while winter RPGs are a bit tougher, lighter on story, and, well, I'm sure people get the gist of it. Dark Souls would be Winter RPG on this scale. Very cold Winter in that one. Anyhow, this addition to the Tales series is lots of fun, full of subquests to follow, monsters to fight, and skits to watch. If you haven't played an RPG in a while I would suggest giving this one a try. It might bring you back into the fold. Or...
Best Winter RPG Etrian Odyssey 4: Legend of the Titan
Well, this game is much more strict and definitely plays "Atlus hard." Getting past each floor in a maze feels like a tiny milestone, every weapon upgrade feels like a deserved accomplishment. Yet you don't have to worry about finding a challenge, the FOEs that wander the map are often as fun as most RPGs boss battles and you can hit several up on each floor. What I'm saying is lots of challenges to explore and see just how far you're willing to go. Maps not included.
Best Story Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
What a great game. A bit problematic on the combat side, but not really that difficult to handle. You'll definitely take your lumps from a few bosses if you actually want to make it to the end. I mean Western games usually pride themselves on having stories that actually mean something while the Japanese games follow an "anti-hero fights evil space wizard" but Ni No Kuni plays with those norms creating a world with a lore that slowly pulls you in and dungeons often having equally as interesting stories. Add to that an interesting monster fighting system and the sheer effort that's gone into the art design and you have a game that I can get behind. But it was the story, in the end, that allowed the game to stand out. This wasn't some Pokemon game with nary a glimpse of the dark in the world, no this was a harsh and yet life-affirming piece of media.
Best Shooter Bioshock: Infinite
While many criticize the game I feel it brought an incredible sense of place and character to a genre whose best selling games now create worlds where, a week later you often couldn't remember where you went and who you fought. I won't fill this mention up with criticisms though: for one brief moment everyone who played shooters was talking about alternate worlds and string theory. Ken Levine is my hero.
Best Art Killer is Dead
Just wow. A great art style though the whole game that makes it something very different from everything else imaginable. Dragon's Crown was a close runner-up, but I think in the end the jiggle really did detract a bit from seeing it as a serious contender. Killer is Dead is twice as silly though, but there's just something about the art direction and how special effects play out in real time that is so interesting to look at. And shouldn't that be the greatest determining factor in game art?
Best Handheld game Fire Emblem: Awakening
The game that saved the sinking handheld device and a sinking franchise all in one swoop. Until this game came out many people wouldn't consider themselves handheld gamers, me among them. Handheld titles have this pacing problem they have to deal with, which means either getting stuck in a dungeon, let's say, or having super light gameplay so every level is short enough to beat in a certain amount of time. Fire Emblem: Awakening shows you can actually use this to your advantage getting the most out of that short time and leaving gamers perpetually wanting more.
Best Full-on Miss Time and Eternity
This JRPG sports the first hand drawn graphics, ever. I think. Anyhow it's a delight of a game at times. Actual good voice acting with actual funny parts. When I loaded the game up the first time and found there were sections just setting around a table listening to girls talk I was worried, but with excellent casting and good writing this is some of the best stuff in the game. Sadly the combat is more memorization based, not quite a rhythm game but not at all about what most RPG games combat entails. And yet, while the combat doesn't grab me I really enjoy the game for what it is thus this title.
Best Roguelike Guided Fate Paradox
Another NIS game this one a roguelike. Really aren't many RLs on consoles. This one combines humor, art style, and good combat to make a game you can really sink your teeth into. While there's a bit too much talking early on in the game, once you open up the extra dungeons it's nothing but bliss for floor upon floor. Can you guide their fates to a revolution?
Best overall game Who cares?
Its been a year with lots of variety and lots of interesting stuff hitting shelves. I'm sure everyone has all sorts of games they feel are their favorites from the year, but what really matters is you got a few good memories. The night is dark and the road is long so find your bliss where you can. It's truly been a fun year for me and I hope it's been one for everyone else. Not fun all the way though, but definitely a good year.
Happy Holidays everyone!