Before I get to the actual Top 10 list, I have some other business to attend to, some honorable mentions and games left off the list for various reasons. First is that it should be noted that I really only played new games on 3DS and WiiU this year. I don’t have a PS4 or Xbox1 and I don’t have any concrete plans to get either. (The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy XV, the Final Fantasy XII remake, Yakuza 0, 6 and Kiwami and Persona 5 are actually getting pretty close to forcing my hand about picking up a PS4, but I’m not there until at least after Christmas) While the WiiU sputtered into an early grave, the 3DS had a hell of a year. There were more good 3DS games than I could reasonably play. I didn’t end up with time to play Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse or River City Tokyo Rumble enough to accurately rate them. The same goes for Return to Popolocrois and Final Fantasy Explorers, but judging on my limited time with each neither seemed likely to make my Top 10 list.
Now on to the honorable mentions, of which I have four. The first three are all remakes and compilations. I didn’t play much of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD since I just played it not that long ago, but what I’ve seen it seems to a fine update of what was already a very good game. It doesn’t appear to be as ambitious a remake as Wind Waker or the 3DS versions of the N64 games, but it is still a good game. Then there is the Sega 3D Classics Collection and Mega Man Legacy Collection. They are great games, or collections of great games, but they are not new games. The Mega Man Legacy Collection, especially, is an impressive collection of old games. That is a game that does it all right, bringing together some perfectly recreated old games with tons of the packaging and boxing of those games. It does an amazing job of preserving not just the games, but the ephemera around the games.
The last of my honorable mentions is Yakuza 5. It is hands down the best game I played this year. It is also a game that was released in December of last year and 2012 in Japan. If I had managed to play it last year, it would have been my number one. I was tempted to fudge things to make it this year’s number one. No other game I played this year had anywhere close to as many fist fights with bears.
Now, on with the list, with links to any posts I’ve written about these games. (Last minute edit: I’ve spent the last two weeks or so suddenly being enthralled by Monster Hunter Generations which forced me to find a place for it on the list, but I didn’t want to take anything off. So now the last two tie for tenth place)
(tie) 10: Star Fox 0 – I called Star Fox 0 a damn fine game, but not a great one and I stand by that. It is a game that flashes the greatness of this series one truly excellent entry, but the rest of it is full of Nintendo experimentation. The game on the whole is a messy; not all of the new things work and it does more to show what doesn’t work than what does, but it doesn’t stop the whole package from being a lot of fun.
(tie) 10: Mario & Luigi Paper Jam – I might be giving this a little boost over some game competition (notably Bravely Second End Layer) thanks to it being the only dose of Mario and company I had this year, but that doesn’t stop it from being a solid game. The further I get away from it, the less the somewhat tedious endgame dominates my memory of the game, like it did when I wrote it up earlier this year.
9: Dragon Quest VII – This is among my least favorite of the numbered Dragon Quest games, but like the rest of the series it overflows with charm and humor. Clearly, I do like the game, but for every fun bit with Maribel or Ruff there is a baffling decision like hiding the job system for the first half of the game. DQVII is a great 40 hour game that takes about 70 hours to beat. Still, the good 40 hours more than outweighs the bloat that has creeped in.
8: Monster Hunter Generations – More has changed with this game from MH4U than it first initially appears, especially since graphics aren’t really one of the things that are different. Still, the new hunter styles give every weapon even more flexibility than it already had there is so much good content that you could place this game for a year and not run out of things to do.
7: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – This isn’t even close to what I expected from a SMT/FE crossover, but the finished product was a pretty enjoyable JRPG. It is the Persona game people have been waiting for since Persona 4 came out, with just a dash of Fire Emblem thrown in. It is all pastels and nonsense, but shockingly enjoyable.
6: BoxBoxBoy – BoxBoy was simple perfection and the sequel is more of the same. It is the puzzle platformer distilled to its essence and is all the more enjoyable for it. It keeps the same simple concepts of the original, but with a few new wrinkles.
5: Shantae: ½ Genie Hero – Not the best game I’ve Kickstarted, which would be Shovel Knight, but it is in the same league. It has beautiful graphics and it fulfills the promise that was the original GBC Shantae. It uses the same set tools as that game, but fixes all of little problems that crept in thanks to the limited nature of the system it was on. This is a great platform game with solid physics and a great sense of empowerment. It is just so good.
4: Pokémon Moon – A strong year for the 3DS kept what is one of the strongest Pokémon games from landing even higher on my list. It keeps the foundations of the series in place, but shakes up many of the series’ traditions. It makes for a fresh feel to a familiar experience. And since the basics of Pokémon are so well constructed it works very well.
3: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice – I can’t say that the series has really been wandering in the wilderness for most of the last decade; the last few games have all been solid, but Spirit of Justice is easily the strongest this series has been since Trials and Tribulations. It does everything this series does so well.
2: Kirby Planet Robobot – I don’t think Nintendo has a series quite as consistent as Kirby. Yeah, it alternates between normal platform games and oddball titles like Rainbow Curse, but those platform games are all excellent. Planet Robobot is a Kirby game; that is really all you need to know about it. There are lots of powers to absorb. Tons of levels that are easy to beat, but somewhat difficult to master. It is simply a very well made game.
1: Fire Emblem Fates – I am rolling all three versions of this game – Birthright, Conquest and Revelations – together as one title. It is essentially three paths through one game, though those paths share very little other than the same game world. I don’t think this is my favorite Fire Emblem, none of the three paths feels exactly right to me, but I can’t deny the sheer amount of enjoyment I got from this supersized package.