Greg Kasavin is a writer/designer at Supergiant Games, the small independent studio that created Bastion. He and the team are now working on a game called Transistor. Prior to joining Supergiant, Greg worked at 2K Games, Electronic Arts, and GameSpot. He's @kasavin on Twitter.
Because one Top 10 list just isn't enough in 2013, I present to you three lists that paint a better picture of my gaming experience this past year, and even then, I've had to make many painful omissions to boil this down. Here we go:
LIST #3: HONORABLE MENTIONS
These are games I really enjoyed but for whatever reason didn't make my top 10. Since my top 10 includes a bunch of obvious stuff, I wanted to call attention to these darker horses here.
Frequently offered glimpses of why Blizzard was for many years among my favorite developers, and a huge inspiration.
This weird, unlike-anything-else downloadable 3DS game captures the experience of being a lonely D&D nerd quite unlike anything else, and it bears the mark of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story writer/designer Yasumi Matsuno, whose work has long been an inspiration to me.
Narration, people. Narration.
This game makes me sad in a profound way. I can't really deal with it. Recommended.
I just played an awful lot of this and really like it as pretty much the pinnacle of the tower defense genre, what with its great personality and tuning.
4. Tomb Raider
My fears around this game were all alleviated when I played it, and it's easily one of the best presented character action games I've seen in the last few years.
I wish I lived in the world of Animal Crossing.
2. Pokemon X/Y
Or maybe Pokemon.
A valuable life lesson in game form, and an amazing feat of skill and perseverance from a solo developer.
This list could have been so much longer, as there were so many other games I enjoyed this year -- a number of which were made by friends, or rather former friends now that they think I think The Crimson Shroud is better than their games. Anyway! Now it's time for...
LIST #2: Top 10 Games Recommended to Me by Future Me
These are games I've played either way too little or not at all but I really ought to and plan to, as something tells me I'll really like them. And that something is a future version of myself, according to this list.
10. Rogue Legacy
Remember how much you liked Assassin's Creed II?
You've got to hand it to Telltale's pure-story approach to games, which is a much more honest and ultimately self-assured approach than all those games struggling to balance story and traditional play.
I know it can feel exhausting setting foot in another GTA at this point, and you can't often play it with two little kids running around the house, but the world of GTA games has never not been amazing to explore.
When Nintendo brings its A-game, it makes virtually all other game studios look like rank amateurs.
A Zelda game that doesn't treat you like you've never played a Zelda game, which is kind of like the original Zelda game if you think about it.
The only reason you haven't played this yet is just the petty fear of how jealous you think you're going to feel once you see how awesome it is, plus you're Russian.
Thanks Future Me! I ought to play those. I'll probably play a couple of them over the holidays. And now, for my third and final list!
LIST #1: My Top-10 Games of 2013
These are the games I'll remember the most fondly of all the games I played this past year, not including VLR, since that came out in late 2012.
10. Dragon's Crown
Shameless entertainment in the purest sense, and a sincere homage to Dungeons & Dragons, and high-fantasy in general. Plus it's riddled with inexplicable design quirks. I say that like it's a good thing because it is.
9. Gone Home
A complete and specific game that tells an unexpected and poignant personal story, plus it's the only first-person game that doesn't make me feel like a bull in a china shop. Many wonderful moments packed in.
The first hour of this game was just incredible, and Irrational Games remains an inspiration. The Lutece Twins are some of my favorite characters from a game this year. I liked how divisive this game proved to be.
7. The Swapper
There's an incredible scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where you see the Monolith at the dig site on the Moon, and are filled with awe and dread at the thing, and The Swapper feels like it was crafted around that particular moment. Unique and challenging mechanics plus great atmosphere and narrative.
Starbreeze holds a special place in my heart for its work on The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay way back when, and this reminds me of just how talented that studio is. This game felt like being in a fairy tale, not the sappy modern kind but the awesome good old fashioned kind where people die.
I just feel happy being in the world of Phoenix Wright even though I'm a lawyer investigating murder trials. The zany tone and endearing characters don't remind me of anything in the best possible way. I liked this game almost as much as the original. This makes me feel how I felt playing classic adventure games in the '90s.
Fire Emblem has grown to become one of my all-time favorite series of games, and this latest installment reinforced this for me. I love the huge ensemble cast and the attention to deep storytelling. I love how it makes you weigh narrative choices with gameplay choices. I also love the overall tone and scope--an epic game in the truest sense. I played this for weeks.
A work of genius, and one of the purest expressions of the medium's raw power in years. What's insane to me about this game is that it's fun. It's a game about having a terrible, thankless job, and it simulates the experience of having that job rather well, down to all manner of bureaucratic inefficiency. And somehow, it's fun. It's challenging and has this great analogue feel. I love the details. I love trying to organize my messy little desk. I was blown away when I realized I started to feel something like pride in the work, and in the organization I was working for. I wish I had half the talent of the man who came up with this game.
What a well-told story, and really the pinnacle of the "AAA game" genre, that particular aesthetic and feature set that so many $60 games keep striving for. The Last of Us is a class act, filled with brave design choices uncommon to big-budget games such as this. It's a game unafraid of being unpleasant in the spirit of creating an emotional experience, even as most cinematic games awkwardly try to reconcile you having fun all the time with telling you the greatest story ever told. In the case of The Last of Us, the story really is great, and the conclusion was just perfect. Wonderful writing.
1. Dota 2
Wait wait wait what is this, 2012? GregK if memory serves wasn't Dota 2 your Game of the Year last year?! Surely this is a copy-paste error by some hack who couldn't even bring himself to finish Kentucky Route Zero. Ah, if only. But you see, I'm a civilian now and I don't have to play the Game of the Year of Thrones like these various gaming publications you frequent. No! Now I get to play whatever I damn well please, and it just so happens that whatever I damn well please hasn't changed much in close to two years and counting. What insight have I gained in playing another year's worth of Dota 2? That is difficult to explain, except to say: I've decided I'm comfortable with spending significant portions of my life on this game. There are not many other things I like better, and at this point I'm at peace with that. I look at Steam and see I've played Dota 2 for 800 hours. I'm 36 years old. What could I have done with 800 hours? Learned a foreign language? Built a tree house for my kids? You know what, brain? I know just the way to shut you up.