One for the record books
Decades from now, when students instantly teleport to school with their Jetsons machines, they'll arrive in eager anticipation of the day's history lesson. In it, they'll look back at the 1990s and marvel at how those windsuit-wearing neanderthals thought Caller ID was a miracle. Then they'll reach the 2000s and giggle at the ginormous size of the first-generation iPhone. And when they hit the 20-teens--specifically the year 2013--they'll finish their lesson learning three important facts: the United States' government suffered a shutdown, child-star Amanda Bynes was arrested for throwing a bong out the window of her 36th-floor New York apartment, and video games had an outstanding year in terms of releases.
2013 kicked off with the likes of DmC: Devil May Cry and Tomb Raider before leading into heavy-hitters like BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us. And that was just the first half of the year. You already know all the big-name titles that took a dump on your wallet and siphoned hours away from your life--but 2013 was also host to some incredible gems that slipped through the cracks. So let's take a look back at the year's greatest games that you might have forgotten even came out.
7. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Good ol' Sly Cooper had seemingly retired following 2005's release of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. But as luck would have it, developer Sanzaru Games had been given the reins to the series after proving itself by heading up The Sly Series, ultimately leading to the wholly wonderful Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time on PS3.
Everything from its cartoonish visual style to its catchy tunes and humorous presentation adheres to the series' pre-established aesthetic, making the accessible platformer an excellent reintroduction to Sly and his pals. Its goofy time-traveling premise also makes for some interesting gameplay variety. Controlling Sly's oddball ancestors is a blast, especially since each has unique abilities and tons of personality, and the different eras you'll explore keep missions from feeling overly stale. Plus: buying the game on either PS Vita or PS3 automatically means getting both versions, and you can even use cross-saving to swap between devices whenever you'd like.
6. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ohhhhh yeah, that collaboration between Studio Ghibli and developer Level 5 did happen this year, huh? Maybe it was on your wishlist, or perhaps you simply forgot it existed--but Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an excellent JRPG you won't want to pass up. As with most tales orchestrated by Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away), Ni no Kuni's story of childlike whimsy quickly takes a dark turn, and protagonist Oliver finds himself in a magical world where he basically captures Pokemon--called Familiars--and uses them to fight evil.
You'll no doubt have a great time collecting Familiars, leveling them up, and checking out the crafting and bounty hunts, but what will really blow you away are the vibrantly drawn environments, each imbued with that Studio Ghibli charm, as well as the unforgettable soundtrack composed by the great Joe Hisaishi. Sure, Ni no Kuni may err a bit on the simple side of things, and yeah, it's final hours might drag on for a bit too long, but it's one of 2013's more memorable JRPGs.
5. Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
Poor Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus had the unfortunate opportunity of launching mere days before the PS4 hit retail shelves in North America. Alas, it was all but buried by the next-gen excitement--a shame, considering it was a fantastic return to form for the iconic duo.
Into the Nexus honed in on what made the pair a household name for Sony loyalists to begin with: namely excellent platforming and third-person shooting (with some rather bizarre weaponry, obvs). Of course, just because Ratchet and his pal have grown up a bit doesn't mean you won't hear plenty of crude jokes and sexual innuendos ("into the nexus" is surely a butt joke, right?), though the story has a surprisingly darker tinge to it than what you might be used to. It might be a bit on the short side, but Ratchet and Clank's latest outing is highly entertaining.
4. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
The Call of Juarez series is something of a mixed bag. It had a promising start with the original and its prequel, Bound in Blood, then it got all weird and racist in The Cartel, a profoundly uninteresting game whose AI-controlled characters were just as idiotic as the story's insensitivity to the real-life horror that is human trafficking. Then, as if conjured by some sort of David Blaine street magic, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger came along to offer hours of magical arcade shooting fun.
Gunslinger's cel-shaded visual approach perfectly matches its fast-paced action, and makes the Wild West look as though it was ripped straight from a comic book. As you gun your way toward salvation, you'll feel a ceaseless need to use the slo-mo mode to rack up your headshot count and build up your combo meter as much as you can. Simple but fun minigame duels are also present, and, because the story is told through the flashbacks and narration of a character that likes to embellish the truth, the environment (and characters in it) can change at a moment's notice whenever he's caught in a lie. It's an interesting mechanic that makes an already-decent arcade shooter all the more enjoyable.
They say all the world's a stage--but in the case of Puppeteer, the entire world is... literally a stage. Here, you play as Kutaro, a boy trapped in a puppet's body who must use a magical pair of scissors to explore the world and cut his enemies into shreds. While the premise may sound like nightmare fuel, it makes for an immensely delightful adventure full of challenging platforming.
Each area is packed with detail and charm, and Puppeteer does a great job of using perspective to make it appear as though each backdrop is a diorama encased in your TV. Running around with your scissors and using them to cut through the environment and cross gaps is an absolute blast, as is hunting down each level's hidden secrets. But, as with most games featuring a unique premise and aesthetic that also launch in late October, Puppeteer got lost in the (quality) noise.
2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Like Journey before it, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a bite-sized experience whose moving impressions will long outlast the length of the game. This downloadable gem tells the story of two brothers who must embark on a dangerous journey to save their dying father; it's a tale that constantly shifts between macabre and whimsical, instilling a great sense of both fear and hope in the player.
It also features a rather novel approach to gameplay, as both brothers are controlled simultaneously, each mapped to one of the gamepad's thumbsticks. This makes even the most basic of puzzles seem new and exciting, as you have to manage two characters at once to achieve seemingly simple tasks. Both gameplay and story come together in an incredibly poignant way, making this one of the most emotionally stirring games I've had the pleasure of experiencing this year.
Every now and again, a small game from a small development house comes along and turns you into a blubbering fanboy. And in 2013, that game was Guacamelee. This absurdly addictive metroidvania platformer is meticulously constructed, offering a surprisingly high amount of challenge and an off-the-charts amount of charm. As Juan Aguacate, your world is turned upside down when the love of your life is kidnapped by some sombrero-wearing Skeletor wannabee. Naturally, the only way to save her is by using the power of muscular jumps, authoritative uppercuts, and a magical luchadore mask.
Guacamelee is brilliant in the way it turns every attack and special ability into a supplemental platforming tool. Need to reach a higher platform? Use a mega uppercut! Is a ledge too far away? Try using a combat dash! The rock solid gameplay is made all the better by the vibrant, Mexican-themed visuals and soundtrack, and the game is packed with humor thanks to silly nods to indie games and pop culture. If you haven't already bought at least three copies of Guacamelee, you've made the biggest mistake of your life. At least it's one you can mend.
Rooting for the underdogs
What games do you think were criminally overlooked in 2013? There are plenty others that could've made this list, so be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.