Even though I’m not part of the video game press/reviewing scene in an official capacity anymore, I thought it’d be fun to write a little post about some of my favorite video games from 2013. (Yes, I know 2013 isn’t over for 12 more days, but I’ll update this post if anything changes).

And because this is my site, I’m going to broaden the topic to include any game I played for the first time this year, not just ones that came out in 2013. I was fortunate enough to play some truly great games this year, so let’s dive right in.

Best of the Best

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening was my first time with the Fire Emblem franchise. Think fantasy chess/tactical RPG meets dating sim. That’s Fire Emblem: Awakening in a nutshell. I reviewed it for Gamer Limit and it was easily one of the few games I replayed this year. If you want a more in-depth breakdown of how Awakening makes the series even more enticing to newcomers and more casual players, check out my review. Recommended if you like Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, or other turn-based tactical RPGs.

Available on 3DS.

XCOM: Enemy Within

XCOM: Enemy Within

I received XCOM: Enemy Unknown last year for Christmas and never played it. (I know! Shame on me!) Then the Enemy Within expansion came out last month and grabbed my attention. I’m not done with the campaign yet, but it’s checking so many boxes for me (many of the same ones as Fire Emblem), that I feel confident including it on this list. Sci-fi alien invasion setting–check. Tactical turn-based combat–check. Strategic decisions that can lead to you screwing up your chances to win the game for good–check.

Even if you’ve already played Enemy Unknown, check out Enemy Within because the new elements in this expansion (including power armor!) completely change the way you play. Tactics you’ve learned before will have to be adapted or scrapped entirely.

Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Europa Universalis IV & Crusader Kings II

I’m lumping these together because they kind of go hand in hand. Both Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV are grand strategy games by Paradox Interactive. CKII’s set in Medieval Europe (867 AD with The Old Gods expansion to 1453) and EU IV picks up right after (technically in 1444).

I got into these games after watching people like Northernlion, Arumba, and Quill18 play them on YouTube. Also Rowan Kaiser’s CKII Beginner’s Guide helped a lot. The games are intimidating if you’ve never played a Paradox game before, but overcoming that intimidation can be done! I’m living proof. I’ve put over 40 hours into Crusader Kings II and 25 into Europa Universalis IV, but that’s just scratching the surface for how long these games can keep you blissfully occupied.

Available on PC.

Torchlight II

Inspired by the Diablo series. That’s really all I need to say about Torchlight II. It’s the sequel to 2009’s Torchlight. Whereas Diablo III veered away from some of the core tenants of its franchise, Torchlight II stayed true to its roots. The game is a loot-filled clickfest. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but compared to the first game: there are more character classes, more quests, more locations, more loot, more everything. I’d recommend Torchlight II to fans of the Diablo series and any of its subsequent “clones.”

Available on PC.

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins is the first Rayman game I ever played and the only platformer I’ve ever completed while playing multiplayer. This game is gorgeous with a hand-drawn art style that works so well with the gameplay’s fluidity. Some of the levels are hard, especially if you’re trying to collect all the optional thingies and knickknacks, but when you get in a groove, it just works. If you’re a fan of platformer games like Mario, Sonic, or maybe even Bit.Trip Runner, give Rayman Origins or its sequel Rayman Legends a try.

Available on pretty much every platform.

Honorable Mentions

These are games that didn’t quite make the cut. They’re memorable, but I wouldn’t consider them among my favorites.

Dishonored + DLC

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

Dishonored is the best game I didn’t play this year. You read that right. For whatever reason, I find the stealth action gameplay of Dishonored too tense/nerve-wracking to play. But I love the art direction, story, and world building. I think the reason I didn’t like playing Dishonored was due to the fact that the level design and special powers allow you to be a murderous whirlwind, but the story and available endings discourage that style of play. The artificially imposed edict to be a stealthy non-lethal character if you wanted the “good” ending made the game too tense for me to play.

So I watched a Let’s Play of Dishonored and its two-part DLC: The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches. Maybe I truly am missing out by not playing the game for myself, but I finished the series on YouTube with a sense of satisfaction. I’ll be keeping my eye out for a Dishonored 2.

Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

I’ve written about how the inclusion of motion controls in the Wii version of Donkey Kong Country Returns made the game unplayable for me. The 3DS port is an infinitely better game because they’ve been removed. Nintendo and Retro Studios still made a couple of missteps when it comes to Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, but it’s still a very good platformer (though nowhere near my favorite Donkey Kong game). DCKR 3D also doesn’t come close to replacing Rayman Origins on my favorites list.

Available on 3DS.

Worst of the Worst

And here are a few of my least favorite video games from 2013.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity

The combination of Pokemon plus rouguelike, dungeon-crawling elements should be an amazing combination. Unfortunately this game was a boring, boring, oh so boring mess. Full of repetitious dialogue and bland dungeons, Gates to Infinity completely misses the mark on what makes a Pokemon games and dungeon crawlers fun.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite wallpaper

I’ve written extensively about my displeasure with Bioshock Infinite as have other better writers than me. I won’t repeat them all here. I will say this though: Bioshock Infinite is the worst game with the highest production values I’ve ever played.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams starts out as an entertaining platformer, but it soon transforms into an incredibly difficult slog that is nowhere near as cute or “punk” as it thinks it is. I reviewed this one for Gamer Limit too, and I wasn’t impressed. There’s a fine line between difficulty that encourages the player to do better and difficulty that feels like the game is just being a dick. This game’s in the latter camp.

It’s not a definitive list by any means. In fact, I find it kind of funny how RPG and strategy game heavy it ended up. I know there are games I missed out on playing, plus others that just weren’t good–or bad–enough to make this list. Plus with Christmas around the corner, this post might get updated if I’m able to get my hands on The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (and I happen to enjoy it).

Now I turn it over to you: What were your most loved or most hated video games this year?