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Best of 2013: Ten Games That Didn't Totally Suck
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 06, 2014   |   Episode 78 (Show Archive)  

   
In case you haven't noticed, 2013 is over. It's the reason people are taking down their Christmas lights and all your checks are bouncing. It's the time of year when everybody is sitting down and compiling their lists of the best games of the year. And because Defunct Games is susceptible to peer pressure, we've decided to come up with a list of ten games that didn't suck.

But just because I made a list, that doesn't mean I'm going to play by your rules. Instead of choosing a game of the year, I have decided to list the ten best games in alphabetical order. That doesn't mean that every single game on this list could be the number one game of the year, but it also doesn't mean that they wouldn't not be the game of the year. Or something like that. I don't know. Here's the list of the ten best games of 2013.
Arcadecraft
[ System: Xbox 360 - Release: January 31, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's Theme Park meets the 1980s video game arcade scene.

What's the Big Deal? The year's best simulator wasn't SimCity, but rather Arcadecraft by Firebase. This Xbox Live Indie Game sounds like a no-brainer, it takes the fun of Theme Park and mixes it with the ups and downs of running a small local arcade in the 1980s. Your job is to buy new machines, keep your customers happy, set each cabinet's difficulty and watch the money roll in. But that's just the beginning. Before long you'll need to think about selling off old machines, hiring employees, sprucing up the place and figuring out how to attract serious gamers looking to break records. The game is surprisingly deep for $3, taking players through the good times and bad. Even though there's still a lot of room left over for a sequel set in the 1990s, Arcadecraft has what it takes to be one of the best games of 2013. [Read full review]

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "Look here kids; I'm not having one of my dementia episodes! There really were things called arcades, where people would walk in and spend shiny coins for a few minutes of entertainment. I don't know why you refuse to believe me; I used to have pictures of the local Tilt before the robot dinosaurs destroyed the house and ate your mother."

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
[ System: PS4, Xbox One, etc. - Release: November 12, 2013 ]


The Pitch: UbiSoft apologizes for Assassin's Creed III and finally makes a game that lives up to the original promise.

What's the Big Deal? After being letdown by Assassin's Creed III, I was skeptical that this speedy sequel would have much to offer. Boy was I wrong. Black Flag turned out to be one of the most surprising games of the year (and the only "next generation" title on the list). If anything, it lives up to the promise of the "Assassin's Creed" brand. It throws you into a world you rarely see depicted in video games, offering an intriguing storyline full of twists, turns and the occasional real life cameo. Beyond the wanton violence, Black Flag also offers the most interesting world to explore. The tall buildings and tight urban settings have been replaced by the open waters and small island clusters in the Caribbean. It's bright and colorful, yet still overflowing with everything you used to love about Assassin's Creed. Even if you hated the disappointing third installment, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is still a must-play. [Read full review]

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "Kids, I know you were too young to remember a time before all the Earth's oceans burst into an uncontrollable fire of death and destruction. That's why I've decided to let you play Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which simulates what it used to be like to swim and play in real water. See there, that's a whale, you can brutally kill it with your harpoon. And over there, do you see that boat full of medical supplies? You should ram into it and take the ship by force. Kill that guy, shove your sword through his face! Huh ... why am I letting you play this again?"

BioShock Infinite
[ System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release: March 26, 2013 ]


The Pitch: BioShock with Tea Partiers in the sky. Oh, and don't forget about string theory.

What's the Big Deal? While some criticized the original BioShock as being a middling first-person shooter, I was fully invested in the underwater world of Rapture. But more importantly, I was in love with the storyline, which often felt like a commentary on the way video games are made. BioShock Infinite may change the era and setting (and altitude), but the commentary remains. Beyond the religious and political satire, BioShock Infinite ends up being more about the two lead characters than the world itself. And then there's the ending, which will keep you arguing with friends for decades to come. No matter what you think of the gameplay, BioShock Infinite's ending is required viewing.

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "Back when BioShock Infinite came out, we all assumed a flying city was farfetched. I mean, who would build a flying city? And then the aliens built one. Maybe out of spite, I don't know. These days, they use it to block the sun and play loud music at all hours of the night. It's really annoying. But what are you going to do? At least they've decided to leave the cows alone."

Dragon's Crown
[ System: PS3, PS Vita - Release: August 6, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's Golden Axe for the 21st century!

What's the Big Deal? 2013 was the year of the 2D brawler. In the last few months we've seen Charlie Murder, Foul Play and Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, each worth owning and playing through. But only one beat-em-up made my year-end list, and that's Dragon's Crown for the PS Vita and PlayStation 3. This is a game that busts any of your preconceived notions about brawlers. Think they're too short? Think again, because I spent dozens of hours completing quests and leveling up several unique characters. Are you afraid that it will devolve into little more than button mashing? Never fear, because the gameplay is surprisingly deep. It also looks great and offers a satisfying multiplayer mode (both online and off). Never before have I spent so much time with a 2D beat-em-up, and even after putting so much time into it, I'm ready to jump back in. Dragon's Crown is the evolution of the brawler we've been waiting for.

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "You all don't get it. There was a reason why some people were offended by the half-naked people in Dragon's Crown. Everybody's perception of physical beauty is so screwed up these days, and it has been ever since the government mandated breast implants. Now Dragon's Crown is no big deal, but back then Twitter was freaking out. Thanks for nothing, President Kanye."

Grand Theft Auto V
[ System: Xbox 360, PS3 - Release: September 17, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's like Grand Theft Auto IV, only this time in fake California and with terrible radio stations.

What's the Big Deal? Grand Theft Auto is the franchise that is easy to hate. People are quick to tell you how much they hate the series, including this brand new, super-expensive sequel. But not me. Say what you will about its cynical outlook and over-the-top violence, I can't seem to resist the way Rockstar puts together their open world games. Grand Theft Auto V is no exception. Never before have I seen a world so rich and full of details. There's so much to the world that it's a shame the main storyline is only 40 hours long. From the sandy beach community to the small towns in the desert, there are hundreds of stories that could be told in Grand Theft Auto V. Thankfully, the main story is fantastic, complete with some of the most gripping heists I've seen in a video game. The cast is also great, as is the bonus (and always evolving) online multiplayer mode. This new sequel may not win over those gamers who are firmly against the franchise, but Grand Theft Auto V gets just about everything right. [Read full review]

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "Do you remember ten years ago when everybody was up in arms about the Grand Theft Auto V torture scene? Who knew that it would get the ball rolling and start a decade-long dialog about torture? It seems like only yesterday that Hollywood was glorifying torture, but Grand Theft Auto V changed all that. Thankfully our thoughts are being recorded 24 hours a day by the NSA, allowing us to go on living in a world where we barely ever torture."

Guacamelee
[ System: PS3, PS Vita - Release: April 9, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's Super Metroid with a decidedly Mexican theme.

What's the Big Deal? Ignore the forced video game references and stupid sight gags; they are the worst part of Guacamelee. If you can get past those minor inconveniences, you'll find the best combat-focused MetroidVania game since Symphony of the Night. Guacamelee is absurd in all the right ways. You play a masked fighter who travels throughout Mexico beating up bad guys and earning new abilities. What makes this game compelling is the combat, which finally adds some much-needed skill to the genre. Players can not only juggle enemies in the air, but use them to defeat other baddies. The bosses also test your fighting skills in a way I wasn't expecting. And to top it off, Guacamelee manages to get emotional when you least expect it.

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "It's been a quarter century since Symphony of the Night came out, why haven't we come up with a description better than 'MetroidVania'? That suggests people remember Metroid. They don't, it's almost 40 years old and the pop culture trend of dubstep opera has reduced everybody's attention span to only 52 words. What was I talking about again?"

Hotline Miami
[ System: PS3, PS Vita - Release: June 25, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's like Gaspar Noe decided to remake Smash T.V.

What's the Big Deal? Hotline Miami is the ultraviolent arcade game you never knew you wanted. Shown completely from the top down perspective, Hotline Miami has you rushing into buildings and killing everybody in sight. But don't get too cocky, because it's not that easy. One shot and you're dead, so you'll need to plan your attack wisely. Regardless of whether you go knives out or carefully plan your kills, there's a rush knowing that it could all go terribly wrong in a split second. And it does go wrong, many, many times. Of course, this wild ride is not for everybody. I can see how some would be turned off by the dark atmosphere and frustrating deaths. But as a throwback to the golden age of arcade games, Hotline Miami is a personal favorite. [Read full review]

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "I remember when Hotline Miami was just a simple overhead action game. Now look at it, Hotline Miami V is the most expensive game ever. It's a 3D masterpiece that perfectly recreates Florida in the 1980s. And to think, it all came from a game that looked like a 16-bit reject. I guess it's true, we all come from humble beginnings."

Spelunky
[ System: PS3, PS Vita - Release: August 27, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's lke Dig Dug, except without the digging and with a lot more dying.

What's the Big Deal? It wouldn't surprise me if one day we discover that Spelunky causes cancer. I mean, anything that is this much fun has to be bad for you. Of all the games on this list, Spelunky is the one I'll still be playing ten years from now. It makes for the perfect portable game, and a must for any Vita owner. The levels are always changing, creating something new every time you play. I have seen hours of my life slip away in a blink of an eye, all because I couldn't take my eyes off of Spelunky. Much like Hotline Miami, a lot of the thrill comes from knowing that you could die at any moment. No matter how careful you are, it's easy to trigger an arrow trap or get spiked. But that's the risk you take every time you play Spelunky.

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "Now that I'm old and frail, every day is like Spelunky. I know that death lurks around every corner, so I need to be extra careful not to piss him off. All it will take is walking out into traffic, falling out of an airplane or wearing yellow on one of the 300 degree days. I'm also beginning to question why I installed all those dangerous arrow traps in my apartment."

Stick it to the Man
[ System: PS Vita, PS3, PC - Release: December 13, 2013 ]


The Pitch: It's a devilishly clever mix between Psychonauts and Bionic Commando. Obviously.

What's the Big Deal? Stick it to the Man is the funniest game in years. It's a weird and convoluted quest about a guy who gets hit in the head by an alien falling to Earth. When our hero wakes up, he is shocked to discover that the alien has transplanted a giant stretchy arm on the top of his head. This sets him off on an adventure to figure out what's going on and, well, stick it to the man. This involves a lot of old-fashioned point and click adventuring. While there are platformer elements, this 2D game places an emphasis on solving puzzles using stickers. And did I mention that you can hear the thoughts of every single person and animal? All this leads to the best written game of the year. It may have come out in December, but Stick it to the Man is not to be missed. [Read full review]

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "No, officer, I wasn't thinking about civil disobedience. The NSA has it all wrong; I was just thinking about the game Stick it to the Man. I know that even the thought of protesting is punishable by a minimum of 20 years, but I swear I was only thinking about how funny that old Vita game was. Did you play it? Do you have a sense of humor? I didn't think so."

Tearaway
[ System: PS Vita - Release: November 24, 2013 ]


The Pitch: The game your Aunt Betty would make if the only thing she had was colorful paper and a pair of scissors.

What's the Big Deal? It took Sony a year and a half, but they finally figured out a good use for every single bell and whistle the PS Vita has to offer. Tearaway is the type of game Nintendo would have made twenty years ago. It's an instantly loveable world populated by trees, animals and plants all constructed from colored paper. You've never seen anything like it before in a video game. The way everything moves, blows in the wind, overlaps and peels off, it's absolutely magical. It's also a great playing game, giving Vita owners a reason to use both the front and back touchscreen. From using the rear touch to mimic sticking your finger through the screen to spinning a record to manipulate the world, Tearaway is full of quirky mechanics you haven't seen before. It's also adorable. It makes me wish that more games had this much personality.

What Will I Say in 10 Years? "Hello, are you the man of the house? I'm calling today to see if you would help me pressure Sony into making Tearaway 2. As I'm sure you already know, Tearaway was a defining game for the PS Vita, and I've spent the last ten years calling every person in America trying to get them to sign my petition. I know you're probably burdened by the 60% unemployment and the unbreathable air in your state, but won't you help me get Sony to make Tearaway 2?"

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