OK, so those kitty suits led to some crimes against art and decency on Tumblr, but Super Mario 3D World was yet another demonstration of Nintendo's ability to create a great and engaging game on a franchise that should have been on its last legs by now. It's a throwback, but a great one.
Gone Home is an experiment in storytelling through gaming mixes point-and-click adventure gameplay with a surprisingly compelling plot told through tapes, journals, notes, and detritus you find around an enormous house. But probably its best achievement is its specific sense of place. This game is set perfectly in 1995 without emphasizing how "nineties" it all is, feeling grounded and real, not fake and exaggerated. As storytelling has to change in games, this will be a good example of what to do.
Nintendo seems intent on keeping the Fire Emblem series in Japan: This game was put out in Japan back in 2012 and only was released in the US a year or so later. Which is a shame, because the tactical role-playing this series is known for has been refined to the point of brilliance. It's so intuitive, and the 3DS so oddly suited to the gameplay, that it sucks you in. The fact that the story is pretty good helps.
Assassin's Creed IV was an open world full of jerks to assassinate, ships to sink, bars to fight in, shipwrecks to explore, animals to hunt, items to craft, chests to find, sea shanties to collect, ships to upgrade, buried treasure to dig up, manuscripts to collect, bitchy office politics to chuckle at, forts to blow up, warehouses to rob... the main quest is easily the worst part, but the game is so rich and deep at this point that you just won't care.
Lara Croft gets a big fat dose of Vitamin Batman with a side helping of survival horror, and is a lot better for it. The big-boobed Indiana Jones knock-off of yore got dumped for a young intellectual who, trapped on an island hellhole full of monsters, becomes a terrifying force of nature in her own right. The game's triumph is that it makes you feel like Lara has earned every upgrade, and that she genuinely feels some of the terrible things she has to do.
Check back tomorrow, as Birch will break down the top five.