16. Pokemon X / Y
Pokemon isn't about catching 'em all. Yeah, that's in the song and everything and it's the slogan for the franchise, but no one in their right mind makes an attempt to catch every single Pokemon. There are, what, like, 700 now? That's insane. No, Pokemon is about the journey to catch 'em all. The trip through the world, through the gyms, through countless patches of high grass, through hundreds of Pokeballs as you attempt to conquer the region. And in that regard, Pokemon X and Y is utterly triumphant.
In many ways, X and Y's greatest success comes in unification (and 3D, of course). Every Pokemon game has added in new gimmicks, but never before has a game in the series done such a good job of making sure all of these different elements were tied together. This is fueled by the intuitive UI, which ditches many of the franchise's mainstays in favor of an overhaul that makes the new game feel like the most cohesive, socially-connected Pokemon adventure yet.
15. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Like any enchanting short story, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons manages to encompass an incredible range of experiences within its brief, two-to-three-hour length. There's the sincere, brotherly bond between the two young heroes, each with their own unique responses to the fantastical things they encounter. There's a wealth of emotion, from joyous to sorrowful to frightening, conveyed entirely through nuanced animations and expressive, subtextual dialogue. And underneath it all, there's the touching story of two siblings facing hardship in a treacherous fairytale world.
You'll be so captivated by this tale that the unique mechanics almost feel secondary. Controlling both brothers simultaneously turns the game into single-player co-op, where you feel your left and right hands working in autonomous harmony like the hemispheres of your brain. The puzzles convey danger without being punishing, and moments like the rope-swinging section make you feel like giving yourself a high-five. In terms of gameplay and fantasy storytelling, Brothers transcends any limitations of a short duration or small budget.
14: Metro: Last Light
Metro: Last Light was one of the many promising projects in danger of being lost in the closure of THQ. Fortunately, the Ukrainian-developed title couldn't be stopped. The latest entry in the Metro franchise creates an incredibly engrossing vision of post-apocalyptic Russia. It's a world of poisonous air and deadly mutants, and the last humans are warring over what's left in the wreckage. The atmospheric setting fits the dire story wonderfully.
The sequel also improves on Metro 2033 in just about every way, with better gameplay and pacing. As dark as the world may be, you'll still have fun trying out every weapon in combat against the clever enemy AI. With a fraction of the budget of most AAA games, Metro creates a distinct adventure that deserves attention.
Just when we thought to ourselves, "Hmm, there sure is a lack of Mexican-themed Metroidvania games out there," Guacamelee was delivered seemingly from the heavens. In it, you'll experience the sad tale of Juan Aguacate, who happens upon a magical luchador mask that imbues him with the power to swap between the World of the Living and the World of the Dead. Only by doing so can he save El Presidente's daughter from the evil Carlos Calaca.
Guacamelee's extremely smart in its presentation, as all of its special combat abilities are just as integral to the platforming as they are to battling sombrero-wearing skeletons. Best of all, the intelligent combat and platforming are wrapped in a deliciously alluring art style based on Mexican folklore. It's an absurdly fun--and equally hilarious--offering.
12. Pikmin 3
It took Nintendo almost 10 years before the company created another entry in the Pikmin franchise, and Pikmin 3's quality proves the developers weren't wasting their time. It improves on the previous games in virtually every way while still capturing what's always been great about the colorful, nature-loving, action-strategy game. And it came at just when the Wii U needed it.
You play as three different space explorers searching for food on an alien world that's surprisingly similar to Earth. You quickly build an army of multi-colored ant men that help you collect fruit and ship parts while battling back the savage beasts all around you. The battles are brutal, and Pikmin 3's smart design pushes players to use their time wisely. It's is a must buy for anyone that owns Nintendo's newest console.
11. Rayman Legends
Lets forget for a moment the surprise of Raymans astounding comeback over the last couple of years. Lets ignore the temptation to make any jokes about how crap he was and how everyone hated him in the 90s. Lets just look at Rayman Legends as a unique, stand-alone achievement in its own right. Because regardless of the historical trappings and stigmas of the old series, the fact is that Rayman Legends is one of the best platformers ever made.
With more creative surprises in one level than some franchises have in their entire run, a gorgeously human, utterly hand-crafted feel, and an overarching joyful benevolence toward the player and their fun permeating every element of its design, Rayman Legends is one of the finest games seen this year or any year. And as for those musical levels Egad. Rarely have technical design, creative flair, and a sheer lunatic sense of freewheeling fun combined so equally to create something so perfect.
10. Gone Home (Best indie game)
It means a lot for the maturation of video games as a medium when a story-centric game like Gone Home can secure the number 10 slot in our Game of the Year list. Years ago the industry would have questioned whether Gone Home was even a game or not. Now the question that circles everyones mind as they play it is Why? Why did Sam run away? Why was your grandfather so awful to your father? Why was the wife flirting with the destruction of the entire family? And, more jarringly, why did the uncle do what he did?
And that last question is why this game deserves the number 10 slot on the list. It used storytelling that could only exist in a video game; it was a two hour long self-exploration piece of art that gave you nothing if you didnt pay attention. You could beat Gone Home in 45 seconds or in two hours--the game doesnt stop you from missing everything. In a world where we rush to achievements and play games hours and hours on end for the sheer fact that were bored, Gone Home made us slow down and appreciate the smaller, more delicate parts of life.
9. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes the familiar overworld of A Link to the Past and reimagines it through the lens of the best stereoscopic 3D visuals we've ever seen on Nintendo's handheld. Add those impressive visuals to new and incredibly entertaining puzzle-solving mechanics, a revised item-collection system, and the series' return to open-world exploration, and you've got one of the best Zelda games of all time.
Link once again dons his green garb to stop evil forces from conquering his homeland of Hyrule. Like in the game's predecessor, the hero needs to move between the light world (Hyrule) and the darker, more sinister world of Lorule in order to save his friends from the trickster Yuga. Along the way, you'll run into charming characters (like the bunny suit-wearing Ravio), collect cute squid monsters, and conquer challenging dungeons. All in all, ALBW culminates in one of the most enjoyable experiences you'll have on a handheld this year.
8. Fire Emblem: Awakening (Best handheld game) (Best RPG)
While Fire Emblem has traditionally been a franchise that can do no wrong with its niche fanbase, pretty much everyone else found it much too daunting to tackle. The hardcore difficulty, the flat-looking maps, and the muted graphics all made for a hard sell, no matter how bewitching the tactical, fantasy gameplay was. Fire Emblem: Awakening has all those niche features covered, but its approach is far more inviting, making this installment in the long-running franchise the first to go mainstream.
The challenge has been softened by the addition of an easier casual mode, while the storytelling features significantly more interesting writing and cutscenes. And the combat? The straightforward tactical battles played to perfection the idea of just one more turn gameplay. But Awakenings secret weapon was its unexpected emotional edge. Players could marry off the large cast of characters in whatever pairing they chose, and many found themselves more invested in leveling up those relationships than the characters stats. This potent mix of new and old for the franchise is why gamers couldnt put down their 3DSs all year.
7. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag might just be the greatest pirate game ever made. Few things are as liberating as piloting your very own ship through the 18th Century Caribbean, ransacking schooner's and engaging in epic battles with towering English warships. Protagonist Edward Kenway even makes for the perfect pirate. He's allegiant only to his coin purse, and willingly risks life and limb in the pursuit of filling it, whether that means taking on assassination contracts or plundering ships at sea.
The gorgeous open world is immensely fun to explore and was packed with genuinely enjoyable distractions: underwater salvaging dives, plenty of treasure hunts, and more than enough pirating to go around. In fact, the only real souring notes to be found in Black Flag are those spawned from its Assassin's Creed roots--a somewhat lackluster sci-fi story hook, and a few too many tailing missions hinder one of 2013's most refreshing voyages.