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Giant Bomb's 2013 Game of the Year Awards: Day Two

Get equipped with Bubble Lead, Best Story, Best Music, Best New Character, and Most Disappointing Game!

Oh, you're still here? Well, that's just great, because we didn't know what to do with all these awards! Oodles of awards! Billions of them!

...actually, there are only four, just like every day this week. But they're good ones! As always, if you want to see all this stuff summed up in a droll video format, or hear how the proverbial award sausage is made, please employ the hyperlink functionality of your Internet web browser.

Best Story

The Last of Us

When Naughty Dog revealed it was creating The Last of Us, there were two reactions. Do we really need another zombie story? If we really need another one, at least it’s Naughty Dog trying to tell it? And The Last of Us proves there’s much to be found in the familiar, especially when it comes to humanizing the characters we play and interact with. The Last of Us succeeds not because it’s just an interesting take on well-worn fiction, it succeeds because we care about Joel and Ellie’s journey across Earth’s hellscape.

The Last of Us is a triumph of everything Naughty Dog has been building on this generation, a not-so-subtle merging of cinematic storytelling combined with the joy of interactivity that only games can offer. In games, character motivations can be justified by the act of play. Joel is not a good person, even if he’s someone you might root for sometimes, and The Last of Us manages to incorporate its horrific violence in a way that underscores the lengths Joel goes to for survival. Not every game character has to be a hero.

That’s to say nothing of the game’s ending. You know what we’re talking about. That moment.

Damn.

Runners-up: Gone Home, BioShock Infinite

Best Music

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

If there’s one thing Nintendo’s become really good at these past few years, it’s complimenting its games with stellar music. Super Mario Galaxy’s interactive tunes were a revelation, and A Link Between Worlds making old favorites feel fresh is equally incredible. These are some of the most covered and remixed musical pieces in games, yet they don’t feel run down here. A Link Between Worlds invokes nostalgia for the right reasons: that stuff’s still good.

It fits in perfectly thematically, as well. A Link Between Worlds itself is a remix, taking advantage of and subverting expectations of A Link to the Past to surprise you. The moment Link crosses over into Lorule (this game’s version of the Dark World), there’s an air of anxious anticipation. Everything is familiar, yet everything is a bit off, enough to put you on edge and not truly know what’s around the corner. The music does a terrific job of selling this “new” world, and every rearranged tune feels like a fuzzy new blanket.

Runners-up: BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V

Most Disappointing Game

SimCity

SimCity. What should have been a high point for EA this year quickly turned into a nightmare as the full nature of Maxis' reboot came to light back in March. It's not just that the game required an online connection and ran into launch-time server troubles. It's that the underlying game had so much squandered potential. The small cities were trivial to fill up with stuff and not big enough to let you get everything out of the game in just one city. This forced players to work together--which would have been fine if that's something players actually wanted to do. But even if you wanted to build the city (cities?) of your dreams alone, you'd still have to connect to the same online servers and hop between cities to make sure that each one was producing the thing you need it to produce. Lame.

Tack on the rough launch that forced the removal of the game's fastest speed setting and the abundance of confusion surrounding EA's statements and you've got a game that looked fantastic prior to release, but one that brought nothing but disappointment afterwards.

Runners-up: Dead Space 3, Forza Motorsport 5

Best New Character

Lamar Davis, Grand Theft Auto V

Lamar Davis is his own man. Yeah, Franklin, it's great that you're paling around with a couple of old men who are getting you into a different type of crime, but Lamar Davis is busy trying to get this kidnapping going. Lamar Davis makes his own money and doesn't need you, Franklin. Fuck you, Franklin.

...actually, Franklin, would you mind going and saving Lamar Davis? He seems to have gotten in over his head again and could use a hand. I mean, it shouldn't be that big of a deal, just keep him from doing anything too dumb and/or shoot the people who want to kill him. Bring your old man posse if you think that would help.

Lamar brings a few much-needed light moments to Franklin's story in Grand Theft Auto V and helps ground that section of the narrative in something that feels real, even if it does get a little outlandish. We'd say that he's the character we'd most like to party with, but that sounds like a great way to end up dead. So instead we'll just save him when he gets into trouble and hope for the best.

Runners-up: The Luteces (BioShock Infinite), Mr. Drippy (Ni no Kuni)

125 Comments
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Posted by jimmyfenix

Big dog big nuts.

Edited by TromboneTony

Cool

Edited by gbrading

Oh yes SimCity for most disappointing. By a mile.

I love the music from BioShock Infinite. I was singing Goodnight Irene and Will The Circle Be Unbroken for months afterwards.

Posted by Mercury45

Pleasantly surprised to see Ni no Kuni at least got mentioned in deliberations. Can't wait to hear the debate over that one in the podcast...

Posted by funkpanda
Posted by DerDevi77

Rising had the best music, sorry

Posted by Efesell

Agree with all of this.

Go Giantbomb Sync.

Posted by sub_o

Great choices there! My favourite new characters are the Luteces siblings, or maybe potty mouth Ellie, or nekkid Ellen Page, or that crazy old man from Papers Please.

And WTF is this ? Is there something wrong with my eyes ?

Posted by Olu

Bioshock infinite runner up for best muisic? What?

Posted by DukesT3

Wow, I thought I was the only one who really liked Lamar.

Posted by DonChipotle

I wholeheartedly disagree with best music (the best music is Remember Me. Someone please remember it!) but I'll give you everything else.

Posted by BeachThunder

@olu said:

Bioshock infinite runner up for best muisic? What?

Are you complaining that it should be higher or lower? Because BioShock did some wonderful things with its music.

Posted by Efesell

@olu said:

Bioshock infinite runner up for best muisic? What?

Are you complaining that it should be higher or lower? Because BioShock did some wonderful things with its music.

I'd nominate it for the category based solely on that optional guitar scene (and its credits rehearsal).

Posted by DrStrangepork

Totally agree with Lamar Davis, he was my favorite character in the game.

Online
Posted by cooljammer00

So I know the byline says Staff, but who ACTUALLY writes this? It's certainly not too collaborative, that'd take too much time. Is it @patrickklepek? @alex?

Posted by RetroVirus

I think I liked the Luteces more, but that's just me. Great picks all around.

Online
Edited by PerfidiousSinn

A true classic.

Posted by Vrikk

Lamar? Really? I'm only a few hours in to GTA V, but so far I find him incredibly annoying and shallow. He's the stereotypical "yeah I'm a hard ass gangsta in the hood".

Posted by SubwayD

I still kinda like SimCity.

Posted by dr_mantas

Best story runner up Gone Home. Sure...

Bioshock had some pretty good music, but I haven't played Zelda, so I can't compare. Wasn't there anything with better music? Seems like a pretty weak category this year.

Otherwise seems pretty OK as a list.

Posted by Video_Game_King

BioShock Infinite? Best Story? But what about that whole "happy fun time shooty gallery" part? The one where you're shooting people and it's supposed to be so fun?

Posted by Efesell

BioShock Infinite? Best Story? But what about that whole "happy fun time shooty gallery" part? The one where you're shooting people and it's supposed to be so fun?

What about it? Not terribly relevant to the particular category.

Posted by lordofultima

@vrikk said:

Lamar? Really? I'm only a few hours in to GTA V, but so far I find him incredibly annoying and shallow. He's the stereotypical "yeah I'm a hard ass gangsta in the hood".

I immediately loved him, and he only gets better.

Posted by jimmyfenix

@perfidioussinn: Poor Frank all he wanted was some peace and quiet until Lamar Laid the smackdown on him.

Posted by Claude

Lamar was in the same game as that Trevor game, right?

Posted by TooWalrus

@olu said:

Bioshock infinite runner up for best muisic? What?

God only knows what I'd be without you

Posted by Humanity

Don't really get the Lamar love but whatevs.

Edited by Dallas_Raines

@perfidioussinn: Yep, that's the scene that really solidified my love of Lamar.

Posted by McLargepants

I'm glad to see Drippy get some recognition, and Ni No Kuni in general. Its on my top 10, but I don't think its hard to see why non JRPG fans would be turned away. I would have liked to see it get mentioned for best looking, but that list was pretty stacked already.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@efesell:

Are you saying that the gameplay to BioShock Infinite isn't relevant to the story? Don't both gameplay and story contribute to the narrative? It's not a good idea to look at these things in isolation.

Posted by darkest4

I mostly liked Bioshock, but it's only top 3 story of the year if you don't understand how many huge plot holes it has and how messed up the time travel logic/timeline they use is.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@efesell:

Are you saying that the gameplay to BioShock Infinite isn't relevant to the story? Don't both gameplay and story contribute to the narrative? It's not a good idea to look at these things in isolation.

So you're suggesting that the story should factor in when awarding "Best Gameplay"? (not that GB does that sort of thing but for argument's sake)

Posted by mrfluke

thats beautiful that Lamar Won,

Posted by Video_Game_King

@starvinggamer:

Quite the interesting question. I would say no, but then reject the reasoning that this means "no gameplay in the story category". How we interact with a game and the world it presents is a huge factor in how the story unfolds. There's a world of difference between watching somebody do something and actually doing something yourself. That's what makes video games unique. Simply ignoring the interactive doesn't do the medium justice.

Edited by hollitz

Gone Home was a story told in an interesting way, but the story was incredibly cliche. Really doesn't belong on a list with those other two.

Edited by Efesell

@efesell:

Are you saying that the gameplay to BioShock Infinite isn't relevant to the story? Don't both gameplay and story contribute to the narrative? It's not a good idea to look at these things in isolation.

I think it's a great idea to look at them in isolation when you are judging those very specific things. If the gameplay were specifically tied to the narrative in some meaningful way then I might think differently, but I don't find that to be the case with Bioshock. So I think how one feels about the shooting or what have you is not particularly meaningful to the discussion of 'Best Story'.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@video_game_king: Well, I haven't listened to the podcast so I don't know if they gave Infinite runner-up despite its gameplay, but like anything it's subjective. I won't argue that the gameplay was so strong that it added to the story, but in my experience it wasn't so poor that it detracted from the story either.

When I think about Infinite, I don't remember the times when I thought, "man I really don't want to fight another Handyman right now". I remember the way my brain felt at "Hallelujah", every time the Lutece twins showed up, as I watched that circle in the wall slowly closing, and the only other games that came anywhere close to that were, appropriately, The Last of Us and Gone Home (and Dual Destinies).

Posted by Efesell

@hollitz said:

Gone Home was a story told in an interesting way, but the story was incredibly cliche. Really doesn't belong on a list with those other two.

Do any of them really belong if you look at it that way?

Posted by SomberOwl

I'm kind of shocked that Ni No Kuni: Wraith of The White Witch didn't even come up for best soundtrack... All in-game music was performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@efesell said:

If the gameplay were specifically tied to the narrative in some meaningful way then I might think differently, but I don't find that to be the case with Bioshock.

But it is, and not in a good way. The explicit story tells you that violence is awful and all you can really do is move forward and live with the guilt. The gameplay, however, elicits none of that guilt, instead giving you a bunch of meaty targets to shoot up for some fun times. There's a dissonance, and you can't just ignore that simply because the game doesn't outright highlight it.

I won't argue that the gameplay was so strong that it added to the story, but in my experience it wasn't so poor that it detracted from the story either.

I'd say it's not necessarily the poor quality of the gameplay that's detracting from it, and more that the gameplay's ideologically opposed to at least one of the main themes.

I have an analogy for this, but it's dumb and sort of invokes Godwin's Law.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

There's no way it was going to be brought up, but Ys: Memories of Celceta was my favorite music of the year. Falcom always kills it with soundtracks. I definitely agree with Zelda and GTAV though.

I'm glad to see Drippy get some recognition, and Ni No Kuni in general. Its on my top 10, but I don't think its hard to see why non JRPG fans would be turned away. I would have liked to see it get mentioned for best looking, but that list was pretty stacked already.

Same here. I haven't finished Ni No Kuni all the way yet, but Mr. Drippy is absolutely fantastic.

Edited by StarvingGamer

@video_game_king said:
@starvinggamer said:

I won't argue that the gameplay was so strong that it added to the story, but in my experience it wasn't so poor that it detracted from the story either.

I'd say it's not necessarily the poor quality of the gameplay that's detracting from it, and more that the gameplay's ideologically opposed to at least one of the main themes.

I have an analogy for this, but it's dumb and sort of invokes Godwin's Law.

What theme is that? I have a response but I want to make sure I'm barking up the right tree first.

EDIT: NM I just read the first half of your reply not directed at me, lemme organize my thoughts and get back to you.

Posted by Bocam

@efesell said:

If the gameplay were specifically tied to the narrative in some meaningful way then I might think differently, but I don't find that to be the case with Bioshock.

But it is, and not in a good way. The explicit story tells you that violence is awful and all you can really do is move forward and live with the guilt. The gameplay, however, elicits none of that guilt, instead giving you a bunch of meaty targets to shoot up for some fun times. There's a dissonance, and you can't just ignore that simply because the game doesn't outright highlight it.

I thought the point of Booker's character was that his only solution for a problem was to meet it with violence.

Posted by Efesell

@video_game_king: This is not a dissonance I felt during the game, so it had no significant impact to the story for me.. so I guess I really have nothing more to add to that.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@bocam:

He wasn't exactly happy about killing people, though. From what I remember, he was jaded and resigned, like this was an act of necessity.

Posted by StarvingGamer

The explicit story tells you that violence is awful and all you can really do is move forward and live with the guilt. The gameplay, however, elicits none of that guilt, instead giving you a bunch of meaty targets to shoot up for some fun times. There's a dissonance, and you can't just ignore that simply because the game doesn't outright highlight it.

I think you can, because if we were to follow your logic, the only fun shooters we'd be allowed to have would have to be written like Bulletstorm, and that would get old quick. And the only games we'd be allowed to have with deeper, more nuanced stories, would either have to be 90% not combat or somehow make the combat elicit guilt and, therefore, be not fun.

I like shooting shit and I like emotionally resonant stories. I don't want to have to feel like shit/be forced to only play exploration/adventure games just so I can experience a story like Infinite, and I don't want to have to listen to people shouting "Dicktits!" or "oorah!" just so I can enjoy fun combat.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@starvinggamer:

Hmmm...maybe you could elicit other emotions from the combat and still have it in there? I mean, BioShock 1 wanted to create a feeling of tension and chaos throughout, and the combat lived up to that. In Infinite's case, fun wasn't in the cards. It's hard to go from Elizabeth shaking in her boots at beating somebody's brains in to swinging from grapple point to grapple point, probably singing One Jump Ahead the whole time. (Don't ask why I thought that. It just felt appropriate, somehow.) There are many solutions available, like making the main character a psychopath or absolutely spelling out that violence is a necessity and even then, doesn't get you very far. It's not black and white.

Edited by Efesell

@video_game_king said:

@starvinggamer:

I mean, BioShock 1 wanted to create a feeling of tension and chaos throughout, and the combat lived up to that.

I dunno, the most effective way to play that game was to gleefully run around like some sort of psychotic Wrench-Ninja who could occasionally shoot bees from his hand.

Though I suppose that is pretty damn chaotic.

Posted by AURON570

You know what we’re talking about. That moment.

Damn.

No I don't know what you're talking about. Please tell me. Ughh I suppose all this "hiding behind spoilers" thing is just another part of trying to get people to actually go out and buy games, and thus support the economy. But saying "sorry I don't want to spoil things" is just an excuse to not try and write/explain things properly, and is just lazy. You can talk about things without "spoiling" them, and you don't have to highlight the fact that you're not telling us everything about the game.

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