Games of the Year 2013

Andrew Barker's Awards
5) Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)
I've only played a couple of Fire Emblem games over the years, and I often found them as frustrating as I did fun, but Awakening fixed the elements that bothered me and added many more that I loved. The enhanced graphics and 3D models are beautiful to look at, and the solid story and interesting selection of characters created an exciting world to explore. I particularly enjoyed the introduction of the second generation of characters that could be customised based on who their parents were. With stacks of extra missions and side-quests too, replayability is simply massive.

4) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC)
Thankfully, I avoided Final Fantasy XIV prior to its rebirth, but I'm so glad I gave it a shot when it returned. A Realm Reborn features fresh and exciting features that breathe new life into the somewhat stagnant MMORPG market. A wide selection of varied classes that includes fully-featured crafting and gathering classes, all of which a single character can swap between, was a brilliant move. Unlike other MMOs, in FFXIV you only ever need to create one character, who can then access everything the game has to offer. The beautifully crafted world of Eorzea features plenty of places to explore, quests to accomplish and dungeons to raid. Square Enix's customer support and server issues may not be the best, but it doesn't tarnish what is undoubtedly one of the best games released this year.

3) Pokémon X/Y (3DS)
It's no secret I have loved Pokémon since the late nineties when it was first released. I've devotedly kept up with the series through thick and thin and while X and Y may not be the best the series has to offer, the improvements it implements are jaw-dropping. The stunning new graphics bring life to the world of Pokémon like never before. I really felt drawn into each battle as the creatures faced off, and the new attack animations are simply awesome. The online and multiplayer capabilities function better than ever, and the ease in which you can battle and trade trainers across the globe is mind-boggling. X and Y are the revival the series needed, and I look forward to what Game Freak and Nintendo will bring us next.

2) Valdis Story: Abyssal City (PC)
Above even the fun I had with Final Fantasy or Pokémon stands indie action RPG Valdis Story. I sat glued to my screen for the dozen or so hours it took me to beat it, and once I was done, I hit that New Game button and headed in again. The stylish graphics, smooth combat and plethora of collectibles had me hooked as I dashed and fought my way around the sunken city. There were plenty of frustrating moments when I struggled to beat a difficult boss or pull off a perfectly timed jump, but they paled in comparison to all the other aspects I enjoyed. With two vastly different characters to play as, along with two more to come at a later date, Valdis Story is a game not to be missed.

1) Bravely Default: Where The Fairy Flies (3DS)
Yup, it's already out here. Australia: 1, North America: ...A lot more than that. Bravely Default is what we've been waiting for in a traditional, turn-based RPG for quite some years now, and I'm pleased to say it meets and exceeds those high expectations. The setting and world is a throwback to old-school RPGs, but with the best of the flashy upgrades recent years have brought to the genre. The characters are simple but lovable, and the many side-quests help to explore the personalities of various beings throughout the game. The class system is a refinement of past Final Fantasy games, and the Brave and Default commands bring a new tactical edge to battles. I spent hours just messing around with abilities and customisation. Look forward to Bravely Default, America, it's worth the wait.

Best Non-RPG
Tomb Raider (PS3)
I've played a few Tomb Raider games over the years, and even though I have enjoyed them, I felt they always lacked a certain something. When the Uncharted series was released a few years ago, I felt Naughty Dog had perfectly executed what I had always wanted in a Tomb Raider title. The newest entry (well, prequel) in Lara Croft's life doesn't quite match Nathan Drake's efforts, but she gets pretty close. The story and characters are solid, and the semi-open world has so much to see and explore. The combat is thrilling and the upgradeable equipment adds a fun, Zelda-like touch to exploring. Even better, Lara actually develops as a real character. I hope we see more Tomb Raider games like this one in the future.

Missing Link
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
Though it would have undoubtedly made my Game of the Year list, I won't have a chance to play the newest Zelda title until Christmas. Instead, it will be forever remembered here as "game that would probably have made this list if I had played it before the deadline for this feature." Catchy, eh?

Overall Awards

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