RPG of the Year
Some RPGs are Game of the Year material because they have a fantastic combat system with options for any style of play. Some deserve honors for having a memorable cast with lots of personality. Others are just plain fun. Fire Emblem: Awakening is all of these things and, for that reason, winner of our highest honor.
Typically, tactical RPGs are very focused on their combat. Fire Emblem: Awakening definitely doesn't shy away from this stereotype, as the game's battle systems are fantastic, but this one takes things a step further. If you enjoy the thrill of living on the edge, where one mistake could cost you a valued party member, you have that option. If you'd rather take it easy and relish the experience, that's just as viable. Awakening allows you to play the way you want and doesn't limit you because of it.
Fire Emblem has solid combat, but often this type of a tactical RPG only offers a story as a supplement to action. Rarely do games in this subgenre give much development to their cast outside of a few standouts. Awakening breaks this mold by giving strong development to almost every single character. You create your own avatar who is brought into the mix of a fantastic group of individuals. It's easy to come to care for these characters as you help them care for one another. Players get to decide who likes whom and eventually this leads to marriage between party members. This can lead to some wacky pairings, but almost always leads to hilarity. The best part about all of this is that pairings factor into improving combat abilities. It's the complete package.
With everything that Fire Emblem: Awakening has to offer, it was an easy choice for game of the year. The battle system, the characters, and the writing are all top-notch. With all of the options available, you could play this game multiple times and have a new experience each time. Awakening is fantastic for fans of the series and a perfect jumping on point for newcomers, and RPGamer's Game of the Year for 2013.
When the first version of Final Fantasy XIV released in 2010, it topped RPGamer's Biggest Letdown award. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn shows just how far the game has come by nearly topping the list of our best RPGs of 2013. With a fantastic class system that offers lots of diversity in combat styles and great ways to experience the game solo or with others, playing this game is a joy instead of a chore like MMOs can often be. From the soundtrack to the story, everything about A Realm Reborn just felt right. This isn't only a game for MMO fans, but one that any RPGamer can dive into and have a blast with. It is addicting without being addictive, and best of all feels like a true return to form for Final Fantasy fans. Naoki Yoshida had a lot to overcome when taking over this project, and he proved his worth and more with A Realm Reborn.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds surprised a lot of people when it was announced for 3DS. A direct follow-up set in the same world as one of the most beloved games of all-time was unexpected, but met with incredible hype. As such, this game had some serious shoes to fill. A Link Between Worlds seemingly did the impossible by proving to be a nostalgic throwback and completely fresh experience at the same time. The new wall-sliding mechanic along with being able to rent or purchase items at any time helps breathe new life into the Zelda series, especially the portable entries. This is a game that shows Zelda can still every bit as fantastic as it was over twenty years ago when A Link to the Past was released, and it does so with ease.
by Michael A. Cunningham