the best 2D video games of 2013 and give out meaningful awards!
A game by StarQuail Games for PC, originally released episodically in 2013-2014.
Tiny Barbarian DX Episode 2, Ruins of Xanadu, picks up where the first chapter left off, with the tiny barbarian and the rescued maiden lying in a cave near a roaring fire. Then, the bikini-clad woman wakes up to see the barbarian snoring away, and she goes over to try to wake him up. When he goes on sleeping, she kicks him in the gut and walks out of the cave. Your first action is to wake up the barbarian with a button press and then head out of the cave, which is situated in the side of a cliff.
The opening area is all about ascent, as you climb vines to make your way up the cliff face, and periodically enter caves to complete platforming challenges and move ever upward. Outside, a long fall usually means instant death as you drop off the bottom of the screen. Within the caves, however, you are more likely to land on solid ground and lose a bit of progress… and sometimes you can grab a horizontal vine on your way down, which lets you halt your descent and recover to your previous position.
A game by Inti Creates for 3DS, originally released in 2014.
Mighty Gunvolt is an 8-bit style action game that was released alongside Azure Striker Gunvolt. The game stars three playable characters: Gunvolt from Azure Striker Gunvolt, Ekoro from Gal*Gun, and Beck from Mighty No. 9, all of which were developed in whole or in part by Inti Creates. At the time of the game’s release, Mighty No. 9 was still under development, so it also acted as an introduction to that upcoming title as well.
The connection to Mighty No. 9 is also notable due to the fact that it was under development in conjunction with Comcept, headed by Keiji Inafune, who was one of the creators of Mega Man. Mighty No. 9 shares a number of design similarities with the Mega Man series, and Beck’s appearance and abilities in Mighty Gunvolt are very reminiscent of those of the Blue Bomber in the Mega Man series.
A game by Inti Creates for 3DS, originally released in 2014.
Azure Striker Gunvolt stars the titular Gunvolt who is on a mission to silence “The Muse” for an organization called Quill. The game begins with Gunvolt tied to a chair and being tortured by a guy with some sort of electrical whip… which wasn’t a grand idea, given Gunvolt’s electricity manipulation powers. Gunvolt was just waiting for the guy to soliloquize for a bit and give away the true location of The Muse, at which point he makes his escape and fights his way to her in the game’s first mission.
But when he meets her, Gunvolt realizes The Muse is just a young girl, named Joule, who is being used by an evil organization called the Sumeragi Group. Despite this, Quill orders that Gunvolt kill her, but he decides to rescue her instead, and leaves the Quill organization to set out on his own, taking freelance work while offering protection to Joule. Of course, intrigue abounds, and Gunvolt’s string of odd jobs eventually leads him back to the Sumeragi again.
Azure Striker Gunvolt’s developer, Inti Creates, is also the developer behind the bulk of the latter-day Mega Man games, including the Mega Man Zero series, Mega Man 9, Mega Man 10, Mega Man ZX, and Mega Man ZX Advent. There are a number of design similarities between this game and the ZX series in particular, including a blue-clad hero, the aesthetics of the game world, basic environmental navigation, and the use of the touch screen to activate special abilities. Despite these similarities, however, the gameplay in Azure Striker Gunvolt is quite different from the Mega Man series… and from action shooters in general.
A game by Castle Pixel for PC, originally released in 2014.
Rex Rocket stars a former war hero and savior of humanity whose glory days have passed, and he now finds himself escorting a group of scientists as they travel across the galaxy in a starship called the S.S. Montana. In the year 28XX, scientists have bio-engineered a newly-discovered species called Terra Oozlings, and they plan to use them to terraform a distant planet and make it suitable for population by mankind. Terra Oozlings are unique in that they can mimic any life form, making them ideal for the task. But, when the crew enters their cryo-tubes for the long journey, something goes terribly wrong, and Rex finds himself fighting off Oozlings, former crew members who have been converted by the Oozlings, and a mad computer AI.
Players are able to choose the sex of Rex by selecting a captain named Rexford Rexington or Rexanna Rexington. At the start of the game, you awake in your quarters beside your trusty goldfish companion (who is destined for a hilarious end), surrounded by posters of yourself and medals hanging on the wall, reminders of your heroics from 10 years prior. You quickly find yourself needed, as repairs are required aboard the ship, offering up an excuse to explore the command deck and the surrounding area, and to familiarize yourself with the game’s controls.
A game by GalaxyTrail for PC, originally released in 2014.
Freedom Planet is a game that wears its 16-bit platforming heritage proudly, with cheerful character designs, a brightly colored world, varied level themes, charming and silly humor mixed with occasional melodrama, and an upbeat throwback soundtrack. The game’s design and color scheme bring it in line with 16-bit classics like Ristar, Rocket Knight Adventures, and especially Sonic the Hedgehog.
A game by Extend Interactive for PC, Mac, Linux, and Ouya, originally released in 2014.
So Many Me is a puzzle-platformer featuring a green blobby critter named Filo who uses copies of himself to navigate a bright and colorful world populated with a vibrant array of cute yet deadly creatures. Each of Filo’s clones follows his moves exactly, and each of them can be transformed to assist the crew of “me’s” in tasks that include operating switches, killing enemies, accessing hard-to-reach items, and solving numerous puzzles on the way to the level exit.
Filo and his gelatinous replicas come equipped with a 2x nonvariable jump and can bop on most enemies’ heads to defeat them. Killing an enemy requires three bounces, which is a bit slow when Filo is alone, but each new clone adds an additional hit, so having 3 copies of yourself allows you to kill an enemy in a single bounce.
Very early on, you encounter a pickup that generates a copy of Filo called “Me Too”. Once you have a second self, you can press the TRANSFORM button to change it into a stone block. Filo can jump up to the stone block and he will stick to it when making contact with the side or the bottom. Pressing UP allows him to move to the top of the block, which then acts as a temporary platform. The player may recall the transformed critter at any time and it will return to its blobby self and rejoin Filo.
A game by Yacht Club Games for PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U and 3DS, originally released in 2014.
Shovel Knight is an action platformer starring an armored hero with an unlikely weapon: the shovel blade. The eponymous Shovel Knight was once part of a duo, travelling and fighting alongside his companion, Shield Knight, but she was lost to a great and terrible magic in the Tower of Fate. With Shield Knight gone, Shovel Knight sets out on his own and leaves his valiant ways behind. But without these legendary heroes to stand in her way, the Enchantress rises to power, using the Tower of Fate to usher in a new reign of destruction. Aiding her in this dubious endeavor is a band of ne’er-do-wells called the Order of No Quarter. Shovel Knight decides that he can’t stand by while the world is taken by evil, and so he dashes into the fray once more to prove that shovelry is not dead!
A game by Zeppelin Studio for PC, originally released in 2014.
Schein is a puzzle platformer that begins with a man wandering alone in a dark swamp, looking for his lost son. He has returned to the swamp day after day, looking in the place where he last saw him, but to no avail. Eventually, he wanders into a mysterious part of the swamp that has glowing stones and floating platforms, and he continues on until he reaches a cliff edge… apparently a dead end. But just when he is about to give up and go back the way he came, he hears a strange voice that urges him to move forward.
At the base of the cliff, the man meets a floating green wisp who calls herself Irrlicht, and she seems to be the man’s last hope. While she offers to help, her intentions are somewhat nebulous, and it’s unclear whether her purpose favors the man’s search for his missing son. Irrlicht is the German name for a will-o'-the-wisp, a ghostly light that is seen by travelers wandering in the woods. According to folklore, the wisps recede as travelers get near, luring them away from their chosen path and deeper into the woods, eventually causing them to become lost. Throughout the game, the man and Irrlicht exchange words as she continues to direct him toward some unknown destination.
A game by Interabang Entertainment for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014.
Super Comboman is a game about a fellow named Struggles who is enamored with his favorite manga hero, Super Comboman, so much so that his obsession intrudes into his day-to-day life. Everywhere he goes, he thinks he sees Super Comboman in the distance. When Struggles sets out to look for a job at a construction site, he finds himself overwhelmed with the desire to perform “combat training” by beating up everyone he encounters and breaking everything he sees. Struggles himself is a caricature of manga fanboyism; he’s overweight, has a mullet (specifically “mullet nuggets”), and sports a fanny pack.
The game sets itself apart from other brawlers with its sticker presentation, featuring characters, enemies, and objects with white outlines, and some enemy animations feature stickers peeling or spinning. The player may also search the environment to find stickers, some of which open up new purchasable moves in the shop, with the others simply filling out a sticker book. The game offers lighthearted humor and illustrated cutscenes, with an enthusiastic but hapless hero stumbling through unusual situations and larger-than-life set pieces.
A game by Artur Games for PC, originally released in 2014.
Super Cyborg is a run and gun shooter that summons the spirit of Contra to deliver an experience that is authentic to the NES original in almost every possible way, while also delivering its own unique flavor with insectoid enemies and grotesque boss creatures. If the title screen had been preceded by Konami’s twin ribbons, players would have little difficulty accepting this as an official – yet slightly twisted – entry in the shirtless somersaulting soldier series.
A game by FarSpace Studios for PC, originally released in 2014.
The gameplay in Hyphen is built entirely around a spinning stick. Players must navigate various neon-lit obstacle courses with a stick that is constantly rotating, and touching the walls or any other obstacle means instant death. Since the player has no control over the speed of the stick’s rotation, he must instead wait for the perfect opportunity to dodge around moving objects and slip through tight spaces.
The only other notable entries in the sparsely-populated spinning stick subgenre is the Kururin series, but despite their similar gameplay, Hyphen offers a very different sort of experience. The Kururin series features a cutesy design with digital movement, a 3-hit health bar, static checkpoints, and (starting with Kururin Paradise) the ability to speed up the stick’s rotation. Hyphen, on the other hand, features a neon aesthetic, analogue movement, 1-hit kills with infinite lives, player-controlled checkpoints, and fixed rotation speed for the stick. This design makes Hyphen a more challenging and more frustrating experience, while also reducing the amount of time needed to return to a failed challenge.
A game by Michael Todd Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2014.
Electronic Super Joy: Groove City is a mini-sequel to Electronic Super Joy, acting as a standalone game rather than an expansion to the original release, and the premise is every bit as zany as the first… Early in the game, a giant robot stripper named JoJo rampages through Groove City, angered by the fact that Dr. Swinger has stolen her laser nipples. You are tasked with defeating Dr. Swinger and retrieving said photonic areolic protrusions, with the assistance of a returning character from the first game, Pope Boris the Super Sexy.
As before, the world is filled with bright throbbing colors and pulsing electronica, and you control a silhouetted fellow running and jumping through a similarly silhouetted world. While the original game featured numerous movement enhancements, including a butt stomp, a double jump, and even the ability to fly… this game has none of that.
Instead you have only your 3x variable height jump, which makes the gameplay somewhat simpler, but also adds additional challenges by focusing more heavily on precision platforming. Also, without your butt stomp, there is no way to smash swarming missiles into oblivion, and so you must avoid these on your platforming adventure as well.
A game by 8bits Fanatics and Nicalis for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Wii U, Vita, and 3DS, originally released in 2014.
1001 Spikes is an abbreviation of Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes. Including the subtitle, the full name is technically Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes: The Temple of the Dead Mourns the Living, if you aren’t into the whole brevity thing. The game acts a pseudo sequel and enhanced remake of Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes originally released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2011 by 8bits Fanatics. For 1001 Spikes, Nicalis revisited the game and fleshed out the overall experience, adding a bit more than a single spike with a new storyline and cutscenes, a new introductory tutorial area, several multiplayer modes, enhanced visuals, and some extra tough single player challenges following the completion of the main game, making this the definitive version of the Aban Hawkins adventure.
The new story tells the tale of Aban Hawkins whose father, the famous archaeologist Jim Hawkins, recently disappeared while exploring the Antarctic. Years before, Jim Hawkins decided to leave his entire fortune to Aban’s sister Tina, leaving the impetuous Aban with nothing… in the hopes that he would become a “real man” and earn a fortune of his own.