Asura's Wrath is one of the strangest, grandest, most wonderful games I have ever played. It's not the sort of game you'll play for months on end. In fact, you might only ever play it once. The point, however, is that you should play it. The amount of pure, unbridled insanity on display is worth the price of admission alone, with more improbable and impossible things happening than I could catalog here: death duels on the moon, enemies the size of planets, enemies larger than planets, you name it.
It's also responsible for the single best bit of critical hyperbole I've ever come up with, and I stand by it. As I said in my review, "Asura's Wrath is a glittering, golden starchild of incredulity, and I love it."
I don't typically play MMOs, but The Secret World got its hooks into me bad this year. With a modern setting, free-form leveling system and a story strongly rooted in urban legends and horror, it stands well apart from many MMOs. The best parts of The Secret World, however, are the investigation missions. Rather than slaying four whatsits or finding ten thingamabobs, investigation missions charge players with solving riddles. Many of these require real-world knowledge or research. In the few I've played, I had to decrypt Morse code, look up Bible verses and brush up on my art history.
These missions break the fourth wall, helping to tie The Secret World into the real world and offering a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys a good brain teaser. And, of course, The Secret World is now free of subscriptions, so it's a great time to try it out.
I didn't expect New Super Mario Bros U to be as good as it is. 2D Mario games peaked with Super Mario World, and the disappointing New Super Mario Bros. 2 didn't leave me with much hope. To my surprise, however, New Super Mario Bros. U breathes new life into Mario's 2D exploits, offering up a beautiful world map, some fun new power-ups (including adorable new baby Yoshis) and top-notch level design. Not only that, but it's packed with secrets. If you're anything like me, finding every single one will be a necessity.
I'm pleased to say that I'm genuinely excited to see what Mario does next.
Spelunky was a nice surprise for me this year. Game designs don't get much simpler, with players simply trying to reach the exit before time runs out, but Spelunky layers on lots of clever mechanics to keep things interesting. Warp tunnels keep permanent death from becoming tedious (most of the time, anyway) and the ever-shifting random levels keep each play session interesting. On top of that, the adorable character designs make each death just delightfully gruesome.
Now, if I could just keep from hitting myself with my own arrows, I'd be set.
Confession time: I didn't actually play Rain-Slick Episode 2. I did, however, play Zeboyd's hilarious Cthulhu Saves the World, and so I was very excited to learn that the small indie dev was taking the reigns of Penny Arcade's previously canceled Episode 3. The result was an excellent, old-school RPG with a great, Grandia-esque battle system and tons of laughs. Seriously, even the monster descriptions are funny.
The game is incredibly cheap too, and already has free DLC. RPG fans should definitely check it out.