My studio is named after midnight launches. Back in the day I would wait at every midnight opening and just soak up all that excitement. I've always been fascinated by people waiting up in a line with strangers late at night in order to get in on the next great entertainment experience (movie, book, music, or game). The funny thing is that none of the titles on my list this year were launched at midnight. Go figure!
Initially, I was put off by this title because it appeared too similar to A Link to the Past. The old SNES game started out as one of my favorite titles. It's Mode 7 triforce title screen and intro flight to Hyrule Castle had me going bonkers the first time I booted it up. Unfortunately, after some time it became too tedius for my taste as a kid. I found the same when I returned to A Link to the Past years later on the Game Boy Advance.
Fortunately, A Link Between Worlds solves all the problems of it's predecessor by streamlining many of the tedius elements. Initially, a bow that recharges instead of using ammo seems crazy but it's really a tedium remover. I haven't completed A Link Between Worlds yet but so far my holiday season has been brightened by its existance.
Super Mario 3D World, Nintendo
I got this gem for my birthday and the whole family was able to join in on the fun. My favorite games are multiplayer titles that I can enjoy with my friends and family. As we rode on the back of a Loch Ness Monster down a speeding river, my sister-in-law kept screaming "BELLY FLOP, BELLY FLOP" while repeatedly tapping the jump button. The rest of our crew worked tirelessly to overcome her hijinx and in the end we succeeded. That was the most fun I've had in a while with a game and this is the sequel to my favorite Mario game of all time. By the time I finish Super Mario 3D World, who knows... it could end up superscededing its little brother. If only I wasn't such a sucker for the 3DS' stereoscopic visuals!
Infinity Blade III, ChAIR
This little mobile expedition launched up against GTA V, and you know what? I never bought GTA V. It's not necessarily because Infinity Blade III was better but quite honestly, it was a lot more convenient. I'm a really busy guy developing proprietary tech, entertainment games, serious games, coaching (literally a high school coding team), and being a dad. I don't have the time I once had to play games. Infinity Blade III fit nicely into my schedule for a couple of weeks. It's a sublime mobile experience with wonderous graphics, engaging mechanics, and sublte depth. I'm also a huge fan of ChAIR in general. Thanks for another amazing experience!
Curiosity isn't on my list because it was an amazing game. I spent a total of perhaps 15 minutes with it. The reason it's on my list is because it so elegantly captures the power of games. This time waster and its outspoken creator garnered so much attention for something so stupid and yet simultaneously intriguing. What was in the cube? As a player my curiosity was piqued. I knew I had better things to do than find out BUT I love this game just because it demonstrates the power of the medium. I often compare modern game developers to magicians, we're always trying to one up the competition. I think Peter Molyneux pulled off a heck of a trick with this one.
As my list comes to a close, it's easy to see that I'm a pretty nostagic gamer. Three of the titles on this list are sequels to games I loved as a kid. SimCity like Mario and Zelda is just a more polished version of what I played growing up. Some might argue about it being more polished (perhaps the mechanics got out of whack as complexity increased). I went through the trouble of installing Windows on my Mac Retina just to play this. I couldn't wait for the Mac release and I loved every minute I spent in the game. It was beautiful to look at and rewarding to see my city grow. Just like Mario and Zelda, SimCity has grown up and removed much of tedium that plagued ealier titles. The gameplay was still challenging but not tedius.
The most important thing I can emphasize from my perspective as a 30-something is that I don't have time for extreaneous challenges in my life. I want games to be entertaining and just challenging enough to get the gears turning. If it's too challenging, I'll label it tedius (Halo 4 last year springs to mind). I simply don't have time to replay segments of the game. I still beat Halo 4 but I cursed the game everytime I died. I want games that I can play through without replaying segments. So far, Zelda has been nothing but rewarding. It keeps the gears turning but never becomes tedious. It's the biggest surprise of the year for me because although the reviews were good, I simply wasn't that excited about it. Even an hour in, I wasn't all that excited. Now I'm clamoring for more and I must go...
Republique, Camouflaj (I haven't actually played it yet because I just can't bring myself to update my iPad to iOS 7 but I'm close to cracking because this Kickstarter darling just appears amazing in all aspects)
Call of Duty: Ghosts, Activision (It was difficult to find in stores and I thought Activision skipped the Wii U this year, I was so happy they didn't because I love the dual screen multiplayer)
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Nintendo (I'm a sucker for the 3DS and this title pulled me in like a ghost to Luigi's vacuum)