Team Joystiq is barging into 2014 with a celebration of last year's best games. Keep reading throughout the week to see our assembly of ingenious indies and triple-A triumphs.FIFA 14
Regardless of any indicator that 2013 was a "tune-up" year for EA Canada's ongoing soccer sim series, FIFA 14 arguably remains the best sports gaming has to offer for another year. Retaining the elements of unpredictability with the game's ball physic, introduced in FIFA 13, the developer improved teammate AI and slowed the game's pace to force more deliberate, tactical on-field play. The result couldn't be any clearer in the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, which saw significant improvements graphically, particularly in the crowd's character models. While it may not be a top-ten game of the year, FIFA 14 was easily one of the most enjoyable.
Pokemon X and Y's revisions to the series only began with its new three-dimensional graphics. For as much as players were met with many of the same expected tropes the series is known for, the game improved the process of your quest to "catch 'em all," especially thanks to the new Exp. Share item that distributes experience points to your entire party of Pokemon. That item is one of a handful of minor tweaks that join major improvements like the game's bolstered online functionality, which itself brings the series to new heights entirely. Much like our review indicates, Pokemon X and Y is the best the series has seen, and is deserving of praise when reflecting on the year in gaming.
Likewise, Nintendo introduced another entry in one of its popular series, Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Like Pokemon, New Leaf stays true to the foundation of the series and what makes the life simulation/relaxation games fun. Adding in the duties of mayor and other improvements, like wearing pants, places the 3DS game in the conversation of best game on the system. After seeing dozens of friends tweeting endlessly about turnip prices for at least a month after its release, it was clear the game held a special place in many of our hearts this year. To think: All those abandoned Animal Crossing towns might be the saddest story to come out of 2013 in all of video games. What if my secretary Isabelle moved on and found a more deserving mayor for Hayward? I'm almost afraid to turn the game back on and find out.
Klei Entertainment's Don't Starve is a roguelike game in which players have to manage their character's hunger, health and sanity levels by scavenging for items on a randomly generated map to stay alive. The balancing act between fighting hunger by focusing on gathering berries and hunting animals or crafting a new hat or shaving your growing beard to maintain your civility is a constant struggle in Don't Starve. Should you let your character's sanity meter dip into the lower levels, the game introduces a myriad of nightmarish creatures and sounds, which become more lifelike and aggressive as your mental state weakens. Paired with attractive and twisted visuals, Don't Starve is a fun little excursion at worst and an addicting test of your survival skills at best.
Battleblock Theater feels like a bit of a diversion from The Behemoth's past games like Castle Crashers, but it still drips with the developer's trademark offbeat humor. The platformer is simple in its controls and level design, taking the stress away of learning the game's nuances when bouncing across blocks with friends. As divulged in our review of the game, it doesn't take long before your friends turn into your enemies, especially in its few competitive multiplayer modes. Unlocking prisoners and stopping to listen to the narrator's funny quips kept my attention when approaching the game as just one player, though its splendid moments are best digested in groups.
Don't let YouTube's policy change issues fool you: Video game broadcasting isn't going away anytime soon. That's no better indicated than with Sony's decision to launch a video game console with a primary controller that replaces the long-standing, traditional button duo of "start and select" with "options" and "share." That single, latter word is the most succinct way to describe where gaming is today and where it is heading. There isn't one thing I could tell my six-year-old self that would be more impressive about today's current suite of video game features than the notion that delivering videos and screenshots of my experience to my friends would only be a button press away. That truly is "next-gen."
Joystiq is highlighting its 10 favorite games of 2013 throughout the week. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal picks in Best of the Rest roundups.