My favorite games of the generation were huge blockbusters like Mass Effect 2, Skyrim and Uncharted 2. This year, though, was different. This year most of the games that caught my eye were small titles that cost $15 or less.

I'm not one of those critics that think consoles or AAA games are doomed. I already own next-gen consoles and I think that they're smart investments. There's always going to be place for game systems that offer a streamlined experience to players that don't want to swap out video cards or install a new motherboard. Likewise, there's always going to be a desire for blockbuster games that exceed our expectations for size or production quality.

At the same time, we can't forget about the little games. They might not have the massive marketing budgets or the photorealistic graphics of the big guys but they're more agile. These games can take the risks that that the AAA titles can't, pushing the boundaries for gameplay or story-telling. They don't have the millions of confirmed fans to satisfy every year; they strike out in new directions and hope there are gamers willing to follow them.

I'm not trying to be a video game hipster with this list. I liked a lot of big-budget games that launched this year, such as Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite. These five games are the ones that are really going to stick with me beyond this year.

The cheerful Mexican music and colorful characters might make you think Guacamelee is a kid-friendly, easy-going adventure but it's anything but. I'm not sure I've ever sworn at a game as much as I've sworn at this one. I greet every new challenge with an "Are you fucking kidding me?" or "Jesus, leave me alone you motherfuckers."

Guacamelee invites comparison to Metroid due to its open-ended 2D structure but after an hour, the similarities are harder to spot. The battles are frantic and taxing, constantly introducing new hurdles. This isn't the sort of game where you can button-mash your way to victory. You're going to face packs of enemies with energy shields that are split across two dimensions. Oh yeah, and some of them blow up if you don't kill them quickly enough. If you're going to make it out alive, you need to well-acquainted with every move in your repertoire.

The platforming is just as demanding, if not more so. After giving you a few stock moves like a double jump or wall jump, you might think you've got the hang of things. You're wrong. The game will soon start asking you to wall jump, double jump, wall jump, double jump, wall jump, double jump, dimension switch, uppercut to get to ledges. The emotional arcs of the combat and platforming are similar: you spend five minutes feeling like a thumbless mouth-breather, take a break to throw your controller, swear to yourself while retrieving the controller, and then sit back down to keep playing. Then you finally nail it and feel as powerful as a masked Mexican wrestler with magic powers.

Other games demand very little of you. Guacamelee, however, wants you to be better than you are. It adds more and more weight to your shoulders, asks you to run faster and faster, and tells you to keep your knees up while you're doing it. They'll make a luchador out of you yet.

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