The legend continues
Its that time of year when every website chimes in with awards for the last 365 days of entertainment, and GamesRadar is always ready to join in the fun. Don't worry, we'll still be writing about 2013's best games, including our Game of the Year winner, but before that, let's indulge in one of our favorite, silliest traditions.
As weve done for the last eight(!) years, the Platinum Chalice awards are where GamesRadar pulls out the, shall we say, more subtle gaming accomplishments for the year. This is when we reflect on things like the most satisfying gore, our favorite naked guy, or the flat-out awesomest dinosaur from the last 12 months. Read on to see all the 2013 moments and events well always hold dear.
Our favorite game to pirate - Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Haha! Get it? ...to pirate--because, yknow, this game is largely about pirates. And its ironic, because if you actually pirate these games (DO NOT PIRATE GAMES), youre pirating a game about piracy. Oh, the irony. We need a lie down. On a serious note, Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag is basically the best pirate game ever made, even trumping the excellent Sid Meiers Pirates!, and its only when the preachy, no-fun-having Assassins Creed lore bits intrude that the game loses some of its mojo. When youre on the open seas, tracking down booty, with your scurvy crew singing about Spanish ladies, this game is bliss.
Runner-up - Wind Waker HD Theres a little less morally dubious whaling in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, but no less nautical charm.
Most heart-achingly adorable - Cat Mario
As the internet has so often proven, cats are the best thing ever, and Mario finally caught on this year in Super Mario 3D World. Mario--along with Luigi, Peach, and Toad--wears his kitty cosplay with pride, and each character has a unique approach to furry fandom. Thats already cute enough to make a unicorn vomit rainbows, but Cat Mario secured this award thanks to his charmingly well observed movements. When using the power-up he walks on all fours, meows, destroys things with his claws, and does so many more adorably accurate feline movements that you just want to hug him to death. Its purrrrrrrr-fect (thank you).
Runner-up - Isabelle Animal Crossing: New Leaf is filled with adorable new friends, but mayoral assistant Isabelle is our fave, not least of which for her squee-inducing name. See, bells are the currency of the game, and her head is shaped like a bag of them, so she Isabelle!
Most satisfying gore - Metal Gear Rising
Titles like The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, and BioShock Infinite had some grisly stuff this year, but they seemed mainly designed to make players feel bad. Technically, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeances story also gave gamers a guilt trip over violence, but chopping cyborgs into bloody piles of limbs was far too fun for sadness to really set in. Revengeance let you chop almost anything, practically daring you to mince bad guys into thin, deli slices of cyborgs. Collectibles and combat strategy were built around chopping people up in the right way, and boss fights had dramatic moments where you satisfyingly dissect a difficult boss into pieces fit for a stew. Makes us wonder how good this will look in a next-gen sequel.
Runner-up - Shadow Warrior This FPS harked back to a day when story didnt matter half as much as exploding bodies and gushing blood. Shadow Warrior is a mindless goretastic throwback.
Most potent video game crack - Animal Crossing
Theres no denying little really "happens" in Animal Crossing. And of that little bit, 90% of the content has been seen before on either the DS, Gamecube, or Wii. So why does our Animal Crossing: New Leaf Activity Log entry have hundreds of hours next to it? Have we got nothing better to do? The secret is in the daily ritual. With new items appearing every day and new fish to catch as the months change in real life, theres always a reason to spend half an hour here and two hours there. Dont even think about missing a day--youll only make the pigeon sad. A sad pigeon is unacceptable. Play every day and keep him happily making coffee for you. There ya go.
Runner-up - Battlefield 4 Battlefield 4's online multiplayer is frequently amazing. Whats that? Next game in 25 seconds? Oh go on then, just one more
Chozo Statue for Best Super Metroid - Guacamelee!
Turns out, Samus Aran has the most unlikely of spiritual ancestors: an agave farmer who donned a luchador mask to bodyslam evil. Juan's adventures (with Tostada, if you play co-op) didn't transpire on an alien planet--though they did transcend mortality, given how often you need to shift in and out of The Dead World. But Guacamelee is a Metroid game to the bone, with a captivating, colorful overworld riddled with secrets and side-quests. Of course, you can't discover everything right out the gate; you'll need to gather wrestling moves like shoulder tackles and headbutts to bust through color-coded barricades and spice up your combos. And how do you collect said upgrades? From orbs in the outstretched hands of lovingly familiar bird statues, of course.
Runner-up - The Swapper Sure, it had no upgrades or combat to speak of, but The Swapper's lonely exploration of an open-ended, abandoned space station had a distinct Zebes-like vibe.
Achievement in matchmaking - Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem was (in)famous for being Nintendos hardest of hardcore franchises, but all the series needed to fall more in line with mainstream tastes was to try a little tenderness. Fire Emblem: Awakening had the usual fulfilling strategy combat and permadeath, but what kept pulling us back in was marrying off the dense cast of characters. Choosing potential husband and wife pairings led to stat buffs, enhancements to the branching story, and romantic asides that melted the hearts of even the most tactics-obsessed gamer. Building relationships for the massive ensemble kept us glued to the game long after the campaign ended and all the side quests had been beaten. Despite being fans long before Awakening, we cant imagine another Fire Emblem without this particular approach to matchmaking.
Runner-up - Killer is Dead Killer is Dead's immature Gigolo Mode made us feel pretty gross, but the minigames approach to random hook-ups was certainly... unique.
Okami award for game doomed to die a beautiful death - Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
This is one of GamesRadars greatest honors, and this year we award it to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Released at the very start of the year, Ni No Kuni garnered lots of acclaim, but most gamers couldn't clear off their 2012 backlog to make room for a 50 hour RPG. Their loss, because the game is visually stunning, has great monster-hunting gameplay, and is just the type of big budget experience JRPG fans have been waiting for. And thats not even counting the whimsical beauty of the Studio Ghibli art and music. This wasnt a total failure at retail, but too many missed it when it was new. Its never too late to give it another shot.
Runner-up - Tearaway Tearaway's papercraft style defies the grim and gritty games that control the market, but who would notice a Vita exclusive that launches the same day as the Xbox One?
Opening we wont soon forget - The Last of Us
Lets try to do this without spoiling it for anyone. The start of The Last of Us is brilliantly acted as well as beautifully characterised. And, it offers a very believable account of what it would be like at the start of a zombie outbreak. But its the incident that concludes the introduction that is sadly the most believable moment of all. If youve seen it, youll know exactly what were talking about. If you havent, make it your priority to do so. Not only does it set up the rest of the game, but it demonstrates Naughty Dogs ability to have us eating out of the palm if its hand after a mere 15 minutes of a new IP. And bawling like a baby.
Runner-up - BioShock Infinite Oh wow! What an incredible city way up in the clouds! Its beautiful. Its sumptuous. Its full of racists. Ah.
Ending we wont soon forget - BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinites narrative explores so many interesting places, from the follies of American exceptionalism to the evils of racism, but the ending explodes all that (along with our minds) by living up to its Infinite name. LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD! Elizabeths reality warping powers reach their full potential and we get to see the unending possibilities for the games many worlds. The dialogue on chaos theory was trippy enough, but then the plot twists unfurl at a rapid pace, each more impactful than the last. And it all ends with a truly fitting song over the credits. No matter what reality you live in, BioShocks journey through its many pasts, presents, and futures will be hard to shake for some time.
Runner-up - The Last of Us Joels long trek across America seemed to have one goal, but as the pieces fell into place, we learned it was about what was most important to Joel, no matter what it costs his soul.
Most improved - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Hey, remember how Final Fantasy 14 came out in 2010 and everyone agreed it was basically the worst MMO ever created? That was a pretty big disappointment for Final Fantasy diehards--even more so for Square Enix, which was poised to lose out on millions of dollars in unrecouped development costs. But instead of cutting its losses, Square Enix spent the next three years rebuilding the game from the ground up, resulting in a surprisingly fantastic Version 2.0, dubbed A Realm Reborn. It may not bring anything new to the MMO genre, but ARR is an excellent way to experience massive online gaming, and it's packed with so much fan service that you won't be able to not smile your face off.
Runner-up - Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD This game was nearly perfect in 2003, but the Wii U remake FINALLY fixes the Triforce Quest that added such a sour note to the wonderful finale.
Cleverest use of a naked man - DmC: Devil May Cry
Many games are rightfully taken to task for objectifying women, so it was nice to see a few releases that showed dudes wearing next to nothing for a change. Of all the exposed male flesh this year, our first moments with Dante in DmC: Devil May Cry stand out as the finest. After boldly greeting the morning sun (as well as a hideous monster) in his birthday suit, the immodest franchise star has to hop into action fast. This leads to a spectacular, slo-mo sequence where Dante gets dressed mid-air, all while baseball bats and pizza slices obscure his genitals Austin Powers-style. It was an unforgettable way to meet a protagonist.
Runner-up - Outlast Finding twin monster men in total darkness is scary enough, but spotting them with their penises just a-swingin' is a bit too frightening for us. Thanks for the nightmares, Outlast.
The "It doesn't actually suck!?" award - Ryse
At no point during Ryse: Son of Rome's multi-year development cycle did anyone ever see it and then immediately think to themselves, "You know, this game doesn't look like ass." It looked like ass when Crytek announced it as an Xbox 360 Kinect game. It looked like ass when development went dark for a couple years to port it to the Xbox One. And it looked like ass when Microsoft redebuted it at E3 2013. So imagine the collective shock we all felt this year when the game launched as not only one of the prettiest next-gen games, but also one that was decently enjoyable. Seriously, how the what the hell what?
Runner-up - Killer Instinct It's good that the developers on Killer Instinct had an idea of what they were doing, because the folks trying to market the game made it sound, well, like ass.
Old school kick in the ass - Rayman Legends
In a year in which Sonic and Mario made great 3D comebacks (yes, even Sonic), it was actually Rayman, long-maligned punching bag of the 90s mascot wars, who took total ownership of 2013s platforming duties. And he did it resolutely in 2D. One of the most joyful, imaginative, benevolent, lovingly hand-crafted games ever made, Rayman Legends took the historical best of his Japanese rivals, remixed it in its own whimsical, endlessly imaginative Gallic image, and created one of the funniest, cleverest, most utterly precision-honed platformers in the history of the genre. Which is roughly the history of video games. Its that good.
Runner-up - New Super Luigi U While New Super Luigi U gets points for being part of the first 2D home console Mario game since the SNES, it gets even more for being unremittingly bastard old-school hard. Seriously. The NES would be proud.
Best new characters to ever live, lived, will live - Lutece twins
Like the Chesire Cat of Alice in Wonderland, the Lutece twins are continually have popped up in BioShock Infinite to both tease you and have guided you on your strange path. They served and will serve their plot purpose, acting as living examples of the multiple realities that will be and have been core to the game. Yet the pair is just as ready to play/be playing a game of catch, conducted a brief experiment, or will have found some other way to undercut a tense moment with their dry British wit. In a game that could get as serious as Infinite, we were/will be thankful that the Luteces were filling, have filled, and will fill the periphery with some much needed comic relief.
Runner-up - DmCs new Dante and Vergil Speaking of new universes, this pair of altered twins struck a great balance of order and chaos in Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry.
Much Doge! Wow! So amaze - Call of Duty: Ghosts
Honestly, the image kind of says it all for us, but well elaborate. Even as critics gave Call of Duty: Ghosts a hard time for a lack of innovation, the annual shooter did push forward the cause of mans best friend in video games. Riley, the above doge, was a featured character in the campaign, aiding his comrades just as well as any other soldier. And the multiplayer diversified the dog-based combat considerably. Theres lots Activision should fix in the next CoD, but please, keep this aspect so amaze.
Runner-up - Grand Theft Auto 5 As if there wasnt enough to do in Grand Theft Auto 5, players could spend hours training and leveling up Chop to make him into a doge deserving of his own meme.
Deadliest President of the United States - Saints Row 4
Is he still the US President if there's no longer a US to be the president of? We're going to say yes for two reasons: A) we like the idea of the Boss of the Third Street Saints being the US President too much for us to allow that concept to be abandoned, and B) we don't feel like re-writing the name of this award, because it fits him too well! Now imbued with computer-generated superpowers, the Boss in Saints Row 4 is a killing machine, capable of slaying thousands of enemy aliens without breaking a sweat (because you can't sweat inside of a computer, duh).
Runner-up - BioShock Infinite Infinite's Motorized Patriots aren't as deadly as Big Daddies, but the creepy, animatronic monstrosities are still powerful in their own right.
Most frustratingly fun game - Runner 2
Jump, slide, jump, jump, slide-jump, glide, shield, crap you missed the kick. Jump, slide, whoops you mistimed your jump. Jump, dead OK now you're just getting sloppy. Jump, slide, jump, jump, slide-jump, glide, shield, kick, jump, jump, high jump FUUUUUU you aced the level but you missed the bullseye finale. Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien's rhythmic obstacle courses accept nothing less than perfection--yet despite the ludicrous demands it made on our twitch reflexes, we happily took its punishments till the very end. It's a special kind of masochism, where you thoroughly enjoy the time spent playing each level, yet you thank the Heavens after a perfect run that you'll never have to do it again. Are we gluttons for punishment? No--it's just that fun.
Runner-up - Volgarr the Viking If you can't hang with momentum-locked double jumps or losing your precious upgrades (and probably your life) from a single hit, just give up now.
Best fan service - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
As you stroll through one of Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn's many towns, you'll encounter a slew of achingly familiar sights. Some people are riding around on Chocobos, while others prefer mounting Magitek Armor straight out of FF6. A few bystanders are even walking around in the same Dragoon armor worn by Kain in FF4. Then a fight breaks out, and--OH! By the mustache of Nobuo Uematsu, that's FF2's battle theme music! You quickly slot some Materia into your spear, only to discover your opponent's wielding a Gunblade from FF8. Time to use your Limit Break and summon Cloud's Buster Sword. Then, as soon as the fight ends, the old familiar tune kicks in: dun dun dun dunnnn dunnn dun dun dun dunnnn.
Runner-up - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Few games more beloved than A Link to the Past, so its difficult to service fans better than with a near complete re-creation of that games world map and enemies in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
Most graphics - Ryse: Son of Rome
The PlayStation 4 has more graphics than the Xbox One; we know that because we looked at a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet and it said so. And yet, despite that hard science, the Xbox One's Ryse: Son of Rome was the most graphically impressive game released this year. What sorcery is this? We have no idea, but when we're watching Marius slice the throat of a photo-realistic barbarian we're worrying less about the console wars, and more about that poor barbarian's family. He looks so scared. So so scared.
Runner-up - Killzone: Shadow Fall The PlayStation 4's graphics are definitely good, though--as best demonstrated by Killzone: Shadow Fall, which does an amazing job of rendering glowing orange lights on the helmets of Darth Vader-looking soldiers.
Sweetest psychopath - Trevor Philips
Trevor is, in many ways, the perfect Grand Theft Auto protagonist. He's an amoral psychopath with just about every mental disorder in the book. He'll be totally normal sometimes, and then blindingly irrational, flipping between the two at a moment's notice. And yet, despite that, he's somewhat charming at times. He's a man of his word, has a respect for women not usually found in Grand Theft Auto games, and genuinely feels like he's looking out for the best interests of well, whoever he randomly decided to look out for the best interests of.
Runner-up - Kapp'n Drunk. Angry. Dead inside. Look into his lifeless eyes; black eyes, like a doll's eyes. But when he picks you up in his boat (that has undoubtedly been used to transport corpses on dozens of occasions) and serenades you with a shanty, you'll be hard pressed not to fall deeply, madly in love.
Most satisfying boss fight against a Republican - DmC's Bob Barbus
Honest, this honor has no real political angle; 2013 simply had a number of awesome bosses the were conservative ideologues. And DmCs Bob Barbus was the finest GOP baddies we fought this year. Dantes sortie with the Bill OReilly lookalike first takes players into the red, white, and blue logos of the Fox News stand-in Raptor, and after platforming across the fear-mongering text, youre face-to-hideous-face with Barbus humongous, ugly head. As he spouts right-wing platitudes at Dante, the unbalanced news footage made for one of the most creative boss encounters all year, and its enjoyable no matter who you vote for.
Runner-up - Revengeances Sen. Armstrong Revengeance added several fun bad guys to Metal Gear mythology, but we never expected to end the game fistfighting an indestructible US Senator.
Exploding-est explosions - Battlefield 4
Its a war movie happening all around you. A fighter jet soars overhead, before crashing down just 50 meters away from you. KABOOM! Then theres that building with gunfire ripping from the window KERSMASH! Oh my... the whole walls been blown apart and now every individual fragment is blooming out in an orgasm of physics. Helicopters are spiralling out of the sky, skyscrapers are coming down, artillerys leaving craters in the floor theres nothing like this anywhere else. And its all running at 60 frames per second in full HD on PS4, making this look like real life. Or perhaps even better, because of all the explosions. CRASH! BANG! WALLOP! What a video game.
Runner-up - Resogun So everything on the screen is made up of 3D pixels (sorry, voxels), each with their own physics? What happens when they all explode at once? Ah I see! Again! Again!
2013's best Ellen Page - Ellie from The Last of Us
This year, one Sony exclusive perfectly captured the essence of quirky movie star Ellen Page. Sadly, it wasn't Beyond--the game that actually mo-capped Page after game director David Cage lured her into the studio with a script hed penned with her in mind. Sorry, Cagey-boy. No, it was The Last of Us that gave 2013 its best Ellen Page via Ellie. Although Naughty Dog claim its a coincidence that their young heroine bares a striking resemblance to the star, many think Ellie actually simulates her on-screen personality better than Jodie in Beyond. Hey, Page shouldnt complain--Ellie is one of the strongest, most aspirational female protagonists in any video game ever.
Runner-up - Beyond: Two Souls The official Page role of 2013, Jodie from Beyond: Two Souls, is still impressive (if a little sullen), and she can kick as much ass too.
Greatest prequel called BLANK of War: BLANK - TIE: Gears of War: Judgement and God of War: Ascension
2011 saw a number of trilogies releases their final entries, but those franchises returned with a vengeance in 2013 via a number of prequels. And this trend of digging up ancient history was at its most obvious when Gears of War and God of War had prequels launch within the same week, each with their own bland subtitle. Gears of War: Judgement and God of War: Ascension both had horrific dismemberment, orange skies, hideous monsters, and stories that answered questions no one cared enough to ask. These (whatever) of War games were legitimate entries, but the fun campaigns and multiplayer were coupled with a sense of diminishing returns, which we hope isnt around next time. Also, try to launch at different times. We can only take so much War at once.
Runner-up - Game of War - Fire Age Honestly, this iOS game was just the first Google result for another 2013 game called BLANK of War.
Best worst game - Killer is Dead
Grasshopper Manufacture earned this dubious honor by developing a game that had as many awesomely weird moments as it has tedious repetition and sexist undertones. At its best, Killer is Dead is a game where you have epic sword duels on the moon before eating hard boiled eggs, then follow all that by machine-gunning a monster with your transforming cyborg arm. The cool vibe and episodic pacing reminded us of the beloved anime Cowboy Bebop, until Killer is Dead ruins it all by having crappy framerate or making you search a map for five keys. Better luck next time, Grasshopper.
Runner-up - Lococycle This game nails the so-bad-its-good FMV cutscenes. We just wish Lococycle's gameplay wasnt often so-bad-its-bad.
Realest Game On A Mobile Device - XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Putting aside its recent crash bugs due to updates (which we sincerely hope are fixed soon especially given its price), XCOM: Enemy Unknown is an absolute triumph. Its not some cut-down version of XCOM that borrows a few characters, scenarios or gameplay elements. This is the actual XCOM that wowed us on Xbox 360 and PS3 last year. The one where we couldnt stop playing it for weeks because we were so attached to the characters wed created. Its got all the international alliance features, all the same missions its full-fat console gaming on a mobile device. Sure, it chugs a bit on older devices, but play it on an iPad Air and you wont believe the quality.
Runner-up - Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse One of the most sympathetic HD reworkings of modern times is exactly the same on iOS as it is on XBLA/PSN, only more responsive. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a pleasure to play through (again).
The Best Western Award for the Best Western - Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
NOTE: This is completely unaffiliated with Best Western. Please dont sue us and/or try to give us money. Anyway, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was quite a surprise. We thought the series was done after a couple lackluster entries, but then this downloadable showed true grit by making the Old West exciting again. Slo-mo shootouts and revolver duels made us feel like Clint Eastwood meets Lee Marvin in a cel-shaded trip across the range. And the Gunslingers unreliable narrator led to some very creative level design that shifted as the speaker was caught in another lie. Makes us want to saddle up all over again.
Runner-up - Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger This 3DS sequel is usually more interested in tower defense than six-shooting, but it certainly had its spurs in the right place.
Most Nintendo Magic in a non-Nintendo game - Rayman Legends
Nintendo Magic is not an easy thing to recreate. Thats why weve only just initiated this award. Opportunities to give it dont come along too often. Not merely the result of waving a secret, Kyoto-based wand, Nintendo Magic is the product of immense creative flair, freewheeling, explorative design thinking, and the razor-sharp deftness of technical touch required to pull the maddest ideas together with nuance and cohesion. Rayman Legends is a masterclass in all of the above, being one of the most imaginative, playful, economically bountiful, technically on-point, and utterly, utterly human games weve seen in years. Its a giddy, loving hug on a disc. Play it.
Runner-up - Tearaway Media Molecules colorful look, catchy songs, and creative platforming all reflect what made Nintendo great, but structured in a way that could only be done on the PS Vita.
Best game called Knack - Knacks Quest on iOS
Welcome to the next-generation! Heres Knack. Thats what Sony said (we're paraphrasing here) when it launched the PS4 in November. Knacks last-gen looks and repetitive gameplay felt like a figurative kick in the balls, only salved by the rather lovely Battlefield 4, Resogun, and Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag. Luckily, for all fans of the word Knack (it just rolls off the tongue), the iOS companion game--Knacks Quest--is actually a damn good match-three puzzler. Hey, its got an average of four stars from App Store reviews, meaning that its actually more critically acclaimed than Knack itself. Which is ass.
Runner-up - N/A Honestly, we simply couldn't find a good game to put in the runner-up slot for this one, no matter how hard we tried.
Best dinosaur of 2013 - Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
The fans asked for dinosaurs as Far Cry 3 DLC. Haha, silly fans--always asking for dinosaurs and barrel rolls. Oh wait, Ubisoft actually delivered? Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a sterling example of how to do DLC right. For a start, its standalone, so you dont need Far Cry 3 to play it. Secondly, it completely reskins the game, mixing in a tongue-in-cheek 80s vibe. Thirdly, dinosaurs. Well, Blood Dragons, which are like robot T-Rex beasts on a rampage across the virtual hills of the game. They shoot massive lasers out of their faces, they chase the hearts of your enemies like a puppy sprinting after a rubber ball, they are awesome.
Runner-up - Super Mario 3D World Yoshi might be absent, but in his place we have Plessie! He doesnt eat Koopas, but hes the size of a bus, doubles as a boat, and looks so gleeful when plummeting to an agonising 400ft bellyflop.
Banderas would be proud
Thats another year in the history books, but were not done yet! Obviously we cant recognize every awesome thing this year, so wed really love to see your own suggestions for Platinum Chalices based on this years games. Tell us all about it in the comments!