The wait is over! We officially present to you 2013’s big winners (the little winners are in Part 1), according to the GameCola staff. And honestly, whose opinions do you value more than those of the GameCola staff?
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
John “Rizziman” Rizzi: When we GameCola readers were asked to pick our favorite game of the year for the Readers’ Choice award, there was a lot of debate about which of the options should win. The adventurous landscape of Tomb Raider, the addictive urge to catch’em all in Pokémon X & Y, the beautifully brutal BioShock Infinite, and so on. But what we readers ultimately decided to go with was the engaging plotline and lovable characters found in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. As a longtime fan of the series, Dual Destinies is an incredibly satisfying comeback for the Ace Attorney franchise after its sudden “American cancellation“. The transition from 2D sprites to 3D models is nearly flawless and makes the series look like a well-done 3D anime, and really helps the characters and the world of Ace Attorney come to life in front of the players’ eyes. The characters that come back are lovable as always, and the new characters are incredibly memorable and, for the most part, are written and utilized very well in the game’s clever plotline. The cases are engaging and written well (yes, even the filler cases) and are incredibly fun to play through. Finding contradictions in a witness’ testimony has never felt so good before.
But, wait a minute! BioShock Infinite also has a great story and lovable characters, and so does Tomb Raider which has also made a stunning comeback! And Pokémon made a fantastic transition from 2D sprites to 3D models as well! So that begs the question: what makes Dual Destinies stand out from the rest of the games on the list? As someone who had the chance to actually play all the games listed above, I think I can come up with a reasonable answer. While BioShock and Tomb Raider have fun gameplay mixed in with a beautiful and immersive world and greatly written characters, Dual Destinies‘ storyline and gameplay is backed up with a kickass soundtrack that immerses the player even MORE into the current situation and helps build up the suspense, making more of a satisfying payoff at the end of each case when the player reaches their goal. And, while Pokémon also made a jump from 2D to 3D graphics, its animation lacks in the personality department when compared to the animation in Dual Destinies, and isn’t particularly memorable or stunning. Now, I don’t mean to bash the other games on the list—they are all incredible games that really deserve all of their praise—but what makes Dual Destinies stand out from the rest is its elements of personality and satisfying gameplay. The entire aspect of catching criminals through their lies and using their own words against them has never felt as satisfying as it does in this game. Sure, BioShock and Tomb Raider are satisfying experiences themselves, but Dual Destinies has a personality to it that drives the player to separate the guilty from the innocent and see the villains break down on the witness stand, finally confessing. This makes the entire gaming experience all the more satisfying and memorable when compared to the other games—and to us fans at GameCola, that is what made Dual Destinies stand out to us.
Honorable Mention: Tomb Raider
Best Indie Game
Robyn Tyrfing: Starbound is the sequel to Terraria—A game best described as 2D Minecraft (With more content, if I may be so bold)—which expands upon the gameplay found in its predecessor and improves it in every conceivable way. There are six playable races, each featuring their own unique weapons and armor, over four-hundred quadrillion worlds to explore, randomly generated monsters inhabiting these worlds, and special, pre-generated random structures across the many worlds. To make it better, Starbound has a multiplayer mode that allows you and all of your friends to cruise the galaxy and develop a planet or just plunder the worlds for riches. All this from a small-team indie studio? There’s a reason this game won. Or, maybe 422.22 quadrillion.
Honorable Mentions: Papers, Please and Two Brothers
Best Downloadable Console Game
Stuart Gipp: Arguably the best example of the “Metroidvania” genre since Cave Story, Guacamelee! mixes tight exploration with intricate yet accessible combat, with a sprinkling of platforming for good measure. It’s a huge boost to the game that it can be played in its entirety with a second Luchador in tow, making it unique to its kind in that the whole game is co-op, which also makes it a lot less intimidating to beat Jaguar Javier.
No matter which format you play it on, Guacamelee! is a rare treat. Its amusing setting, characters, dialogue, and striking visuals mean it will pop off the screen and into your heart.
Honorable Mention: Retro City Rampage
Best Mobile Game
Diana Gray: Regency Love was by far the best mobile game I played this year (and with my new iPhone and iPad, I’ve played a LOT of mobile games). It has everything I look for in a game: romance, romance, and…romance. Basically, I just love romance.
Admittedly, this game isn’t one that will appeal to everyone. If you’re not a romance sim addict or a Jane Austen fan like me, you probably won’t fully appreciate it. But the amazing art and music are definitely worth noting and the replayability is very high, with three different options and more on the way. The stories are in-depth and the characters are diverse and memorable. This game never failed to put me in a better mood and honestly, I am never bored by it. It’s one of the best dating sims out there, with no requirement to wait a certain amount of time before continuing with the story. You can just sit there and be wooed by the man of your dreams for hours and hours…wait, maybe that’s just me.
Who knows, maybe I’m just a nerd. But obviously, someone else has to be just as nerdy as me nerd in order for it to win. So, there.
Honorable Mention: Temple Run 2
Best PC Game
Stuart Gipp: BioShock Infinite is a dizzying experience, whirling the player up through a veritable maelstrom of vertigo-inducing set pieces, tactile and satisfying combat, fascinating concepts, and gorgeous environments. It’s a complete triumph for progressive gaming—of course, it’s still a videogame and consequently doesn’t quite manage to break the narrative mould—but it tackles themes otherwise unseen in AAA games and does so with sufficient moral ambiguity to quench any reasonable player’s thirst for a compelling narrative. Probably the first FPS to feel just as good with a controller as with a mouse and keyboard, BioShock Infinite excels in every single area and deserves all its plaudits and more.
Honorable Mention: Saints Row IV
Best Console Game
Super Mario 3D World
Mark Freedman: When I first heard about Super Mario 3D World, I was both excited about how awesome the gameplay sounded and saddened to remember that I didn’t own a Wii U. Simply having a new Super Mario game that isn’t a New Super Mario game is fantastic. Years from now, people are sure going to be confused.
Ah, a throwback to the days of yore. Nintendo sure does this a lot, but they do it well. To have the Super Mario Bros. 2 style of character traits in a beautiful 3D world with improved-upon multiplayer from New Super Mario Bros. Wii—what more could you ask for? It’s so refreshing to have the cast of Super Mario Bros. 2 and not those generic, different-colored Toads. But where is Wart?
Honorable Mention: BioShock Infinite
Best Portable Game
Pokémon X and Y
Matt Jonas: I could just say “it’s a new Pokémon game”. Because, let’s face it, it would have won even if it was a terrible game—but truth is, it’s bloody brill.
So many adjustments have been made to the formula to make the game more accessible. The EXP share has been reworked to suit casual players, you receive two starters as opposed to one, and features like Wonder Trade open up opportunities to get excellent Pokémon early.
The story is bland, and I don’t think we should forgive that as much as we do. In the first two generations the player feels like they’re really on a journey. In X & Y, I just felt like a spectator while everything happened around me.
Nostalgia only takes X & Y partway. The features and changes carry it the rest of the way. It has proved that the series is not beyond help; however, it has also shown us that Pokémon is still relevant and important.
Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Best Game of Ten Years Ago
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Michael Gray: 2004. The last two games in the Zelda series were Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, which are #1 and #2 on the list of best Zelda games, respectively. Everyone wanted to see if Nintendo could top the N64 games, and people were eager to see how the cliffhager at the end of Majora’s Mask would be resolved.
Wait, what? FRANCHISE REBOOT? Zelda is too serious, so they’re making it cartoony? NOOOOOOOO!!!
Wind Waker was the first appearance of Toon Link, who would dominate the entire series for the next ten years. Wind Waker features hours of sailing in empty oceans due to system limitations, a few memorable characters who get loads less screentime than the forgettable ones, and plotlines which waver between “unexplained” and “filled with more holes than a tennis racket”. The few story elements that DO get explained basically set all continuity on fire—apparently, N64 Link was secretly a huge jerk who let everyone die for no reason. Well, that’s ONE way to resolve a cliffhanger.
And that is why Wind Waker is the worst game of 2003. I haven’t even mentioned the poorly-done (but admittedly creative) weapon distribution, or the rush job that replaced dungeons with tedious fetch quests. Why, I could spend a whole podcast complaining about this game!
Wait, I was supposed to explain why it’s the BEST game of 2003? Whoops, my mistake. Um…hmmm…it has Seagull, the best new character of the decade! Everyone loves Seagull. It almost makes up for all of the game’s other problems.
Honorable Mention: Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
GameCola’s 2003 Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Best Game of Twenty Years Ago
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Meteo Xavier: I got into The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening the same way I get into everything—late. Really late. I want to say I owned a copy at one point, but I don’t think I did. The copy I own now was gifted to me by my brother-in-law, and that happened as we were cleaning out a storage unit in Hawaii back in March.
It might sound like a gamer’s dream come true to go to Hawaii and come back with games like Zelda, Super Mario RPG, TMNT 4, a Sega Master System, a Japanese Pokémon game for the Game Boy, another Game Boy Pokémon game, and a few others I probably do not remember as gifts—but, put in the context of going there to lay a father-in-law you weren’t able to even speak to to rest makes it bittersweet on a pretty shallow level.
It was quite a trip, and one that I almost transport myself back to if I close my eyes. Unprecedented levels of generosity from my Hawaiian inlaw family mixing with the sudden and difficult loss create a strange cake. I’m not sure I played Zelda under the right context to see if it lives up to its hype, but it was a sweet experience on the plane ride back—something that was very much needed at that time.
Honorable Mention: Secret of Mana
GameCola’s Best Game of Ten Years Ago, Ten Years Ago: Secret of Mana
Staff Member of the Year
Alex Jedraszczak: His official title may be “Editor”, but there’s so much more he does around here, both on the front page and behind the scenes. You know our YouTube channel, GCDotNet? Yeah, he runs that. Speaking of videos, he personally recorded a Let’s Play of both the Game Boy Color version of Crystalis and the Mega Man/My Little Pony crossover Mega Pony—All while running his own YouTube channel, GeminiLaser. Did I mention that he regularly attends podcasts and leads the Final Fantasy RPGcast? He even edits things sometimes!
And, even further behind the scenes, Nathaniel’s been my right-hand man since my violent takeover of GameCola HQ almost a year ago. I’m always asking his opinion when I have a tough choice to make around the office, and he’s usually good for a quick article in an emergency. It’s no wonder Nathaniel Hoover won Staff Member of the Year this time around. I mean, I can’t win anymore, so who better to win than last year’s Runner Up?! He’s about due for some recognition!
Honorable Mention: Diana Gray and Michael Gray
Game of the Year
Pokémon X and Y
Diana Gray: I refuse to accept this! DUAL DESTINIES SHOULD HAVE—[Editor’s Note: Whoa, Diana, how did you get in here?! Come on, let’s go…]
Joseph Martin: I’ve been with Pokémon since Gen 1…the remake, at least. I have played all generations throughout the years though, from originals to remakes, and while I might not go so far as to say that the 6th generation of Pokémon is necessarily my favorite, what it’s done for the series is really something special. In previous years, Pokémon has always been good, there’s no doubt about that. However, Game Freak really did something awesome with Pokémon X and Y because they decided to change formulas that had been so set in stone as of late that even a Hydropump wouldn’t have been a one-hit KO. (There’s your themed joke I hope you’re happy I put a lot of effort into it.)
First of all, they took the traditional 2D RPG grid and turned the game into a 3D world with much more maneuverability and fancy landscapes. Secondly, they added a new type, the Fairy type, which hasn’t been done since the games of the second generation, Gold and Silver. This new type not only does a lot to help balance the game in some areas, but also, by retyping new Pokémon, has allowed many Pokémon who were irrelevant before to be actually viable in creative new strategies. (Lookin’ at you, Clafable)
I know it’s not saying much to call a Pokémon game great—they’ve always been best sellers. However, I really appreciate how much Game Freak chanced to change this time around and how well they incorporated those changes without losing anything that makes the games great.
Also, Mega Evolutions dude. You can’t tell me that’s not cool.
Honorable Mention: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies