Ten Underappreciated Gaming Gems of 2013

December 31, 2013

It happens every year: somewhere on the store shelves, or buried in the digital marketplaces, hidden behind the Maddens and the Call of Dutys, underneath the Assassin's Creeds and the Grand Theft Autos, are great games that don't get the recognition they deserve. It's an unfortunate inevitability of the gaming industry that sees so many games get released each week. Not every title can get the mainstream spotlight (or the marketing budget) of the AAAs from the big publishers, but that doesn't mean that they are any less engaging or enjoyable. Now that the dust has settled on all of the releases of 2013, it's the prime time time to go back and enjoy some of this year's best unsung heroes.

DmC: Devil May Cry
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Capcom
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Released early in 2013, DmC: Devil May Cry brought Dante back in brand new way from a brand new developer. Ninja Theory crafted an amazing game by creating a fresh universe for everyone's favorite demon hunter to play in, while giving the beloved bad boy a new attitude and some explosive toys to play with. DmC got lost a bit in the shuffle, not landing on enough year-end top ten lists, but that should in no way discount just how good of a game it is. Whether you're a fan of the original Devil May Cry games, or you've never spent time with Dante, DmC: Devil May Cry is a great re-imagining of the series, and hopefully something that we'll see more from soon.

Picross Games (e, e2, e3)
Developer: Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS
Nintendo's Picross games that launched this summer arrived to almost no fanfare, and yet they are some of the most addictive and enjoyable titles to be released all year. These three games (e, e2, and e3) all have essentially the same gameplay that can be found in all of the other Picross games that date back to the Game Boy, but their downloadable form makes them great pick-up-and-play experiences for anyone with a 3DS. The franchise has always been described as akin to Sudoku, but with an artistic twist, and all three games deliver on that level. Fortunately for long time fans, the second two releases offer additional tweaks and features that build on the classic gameplay with some new mechanics. Anyone that is looking for some intense logic puzzles to put their brains to the test should spend some time with at least one of these games... and then go pick up the other ones.

Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Developer: Gaijin Games
Publisher: Aksys Games/Gaijin Games
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PS Vita, PC, OS X, iOS, Linux
Bit.Trip Presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is the first follow-up to Gaijin Games' excellent Bit.Trip series, and it builds upon the ideas introduced in Bit.Trip Runner, the best of Commander Video's previous adventures. Taking the infinite runner mechanic to the max, Gaijin upped their game by introducing more of a story (which was narrated by the inimitable Charles Martinet) which wove in quite a bit of humor to the challenging gameplay experiences. Even though it launched early in the year, it's one of those games that should not be forgotten.

StreetPass Games (Mii Force, Flower Town, Warrior's Way, Monster Manor)
Developer: Good-Feel, Grezzo, Spike Chunsoft, Prope
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: 3DS
These four games came out of nowhere this summer, and added to the 3DS' most social feature to make StreetPassing an even more robust experience. The titles that appeared as expansions downloads for the StreetPass Plaza (Mii Force, Flower Town, Warrior's Way, and Monster Manor) were all distinctly different, and offered up new and encouraging reasons to collect StreetPass Miis that were better than just accumulating more puzzle pieces. While it's debatable which of the four is the best game (Mii Force for its classic shmup gameplay versus Flower Town for its longevity), the four games make for a great compilation for 3DS owners who like to obsessively check their handheld for new virtual friends.

Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: SCEA
Platform: PlayStation 3
No matter when it is released, it's hard for a quirky game like Puppeteer to shine. Sony's Japan Studio is known for creating games that fall outside of the box, and Puppeteer is one of them. This release tells the tale of the headless puppet Kutaro who must vanquish the Moon Bear King, using his wits, and a pair of giant, magic scissors known as Calibrus. Needless to say, it's a strange journey, but the game's 2D gameplay, and unique art style make it a joy from beginning to end.

Gunman Clive
Developer: Hörberg Productions
Publisher: Hörberg Productions
Platform: 3DS
Sometimes it's the simplest things that leave the biggest impression. Gunman Clive was one of the first eShop releases in early 2013, and it helped set a high standard for the rest of the year. Even though the game had already been out on mobile devices, the 3DS release was exceptional, expertly taking advantage of the hardware's 3D capabilities to create a gorgeous world with just a few colors. The game is inspired by classic platformers like Mega Man, but is set in the Wild West giving a nice twist to a tried and true formula. It may be a bit on the short side, but it's still an overall satisfying experience... especially when you beat the game as a duck.

Doki Doki Universe
Developer: Humanature Studios
Publisher: Humanature Studios
Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita
Doki Doki Universe got a bit lost in the PlayStation 4's launch and the year end shuffle. The latest game from the guy that gifted the world with Toejam & Earl, Doki Doki Universe puts you in the role of a robot that's trying to understand humanity by helping people out. It's a weird and wonderful journey that looks like a cartoon, and examines the player through a series of personality quizzes. It's completely unlike any other game that came out this year, or any other year for that matter.

SteamWorld Dig
Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Platform: 3DS, PC, Mac, Linux
There is something really addictive about SteamWorld Dig that makes it one of the most compelling games of the year. Maybe it's the miles and miles of digging. Maybe it's the near-constant upgrading. Maybe it's the 2D exploration. Maybe it's the satisfying platforming. Whatever it is, Image & Form's tiny adventure about Rusty, a mining steambot, that takes over his uncle's mine is really enjoyable, no matter what platform you play it on.

Project X Zone
Developer: Banpresto, Monolith Soft
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: 3DS
Fire Emblem: Awakening got a lot of attention this year (and rightfully so), for being the game that helped bring strategy RPGs to the mainstream, but Project X Zone is the game that really showed off how big those games can be. With over 60 playable characters that spanned more than 25 different franchises from three of gaming's biggest publishers, Project X Zone is one of the biggest crossover games to ever hit the market, and players may likely never see anything like this ever again. From Mega Man to Ulala, Frank West to Jin Kazama, KOS-MOS to Chun-Li, Project X Zone brought together some of the biggest names in gaming for a ridiculous and amazing game that was one of the brightest diamonds in the rough this year.

LEGO: City Undercover
Developer: TT Fusion
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Grand Theft Auto V may walk away from 2013 as the most successful open world game, but LEGO City Undercover may actually be the most enjoyable. Released in March on the Wii U, LEGO City Undercover took everything that TT Fusion learned from working on other LEGO games (from Star Wars to Batman, and everything in between) and poured it into the living, breathing Lego City. The story of Chase McCain may have been tailor made for younger players, but gamers of all ages can appreciate just about every minute of Undercover. Whether you're chasing down thugs or going undercover, LEGO City is one of the most entertaining and underappreciated games of the year.